Two women students of a prestigious Mumbai research institution, one a European and the other from a northeastern state, were recently groped in the general compartment of a local train. They even caught a pervert with his trousers down, but none of their male co-passengers came to their aid. One of the students later told TOI that their distinctive appearance makes them vulnerable to such attacks.

Both are traumatized. One took to social media on Saturday and narrated the train ordeal, tagging the railway ministry. Last Tuesday, the two women—the European is 28 and the northeastern student is 22—and a classmate, who is from Delhi, were returning from a field assignment. They set out from Rabale station on a trans-harbour local for Vashi between 5pm and 6pm. At Vashi, they changed trains and got onto a CSMT local for Govandi. “It’s our first year in Mumbai and we are not well-versed in train travel. My European classmate and I don’t speak Hindi. When the train halted, we got onto the compartment in front of us. We realised later that it was a general compartment and not reserved for women,” said the northeast student.

The compartment was crowded as it was peak hour in the evening. “After a while, I felt something rubbing against my back. Instinctively, I moved forward but within minutes, it was rubbing against my back again. I looked at the commuter standing next to me and he had an expression of horror on his face. I immediately turned around and saw a man with his trousers down. I was shocked beyond words and yelled at him in English,” said the northeast student. “None of the male passengers said a thing. There was an unknown woman in the coach who spoke to the pervert in Hindi. He said he would get off the train at Govandi, but we doubt he did that. I clicked a photo of him on my phone.”

After the students got off the train, the European national said she too had been groped shortly after she entered the compartment. “We believe that since the two of us look different from local women, it makes us more vulnerable. We were deeply disturbed after the incident and complained to our college. On the suggestion of college authorities, we will approach the GRP to press charges. I will hand over the photograph of the pervert to the cops,” she said.

Clinical psychologist Narendra Kinger said foreign nationals are more vulnerable to sexual assault as it’s perceived that they are less likely to approach the authorities. “This emboldens a would-be culprit who believes he can get away easily,” he said.

Social psychiatrist Harish Shetty said women who are younger are more vulnerable to attacks like these. “There are a lot of hoodlums on trains who are looking for such opportunities. Safety of women on trains is a serious concern,” he said.