All that Firoza Shaikh wanted was to be free again, to head back home to her children in Kolkata. And when the 30-year-old saw eight inmates of Navjeevan Mahila Sudhar Griha in Mankhurd rushing towards the compound wall around 6am on Monday, she took it as an opportunity to leave behind the “hell” the women’s shelter had become and joined the women as they scaled the wall.
But that’s where Shaikh’s luck ran out. She misjudged the landing and fractured her legs, leaving her unable to even move. The police later took her to the civic-run Shatabdi Hospital in Govandi.
On her hospital bed, she minces no words to reveal the alleged ignominy of the life she had been subjected to at the shelter. Shaikh, who had arrived in Mumbai about a year ago, claims that she worked as a domestic help in Andheri till around six months ago. “Then, a few policemen came and forcefully took me to this place (the shelter),” she says as she breaks down.
Alleging that there is no freedom, respect or protection for women at the shelter, Shaikh claims that every inmate there looks for an opportunity to escape. “More than 300 of us were crammed there. Strange men used to barge into our rooms at night and harass us, mentally and physically,” she recalls with a shudder in a smattering of Hindi. “That place is hell!”
Doctors at the Shatabdi Hospital say it will take Shaikh a few weeks to stand up, and a little longer to begin walking again.