Chello Meme called out her harassers. What does it take?

chello meme arunachal pradesh

It is an unfortunate fact that street harassment is widely rampant in our country. Women continue to face ‘eve-teasing’ in public spaces everyday. They encounter sexual aggression from men, ranging in severity but equally appalling incident like sexually suggestive remarks, touching, catcalls, groping, etc are commonplace.

Many women are unable to call out the offenders for a number reasons. However, there are others who confront their harassers and teach them a much-needed lesson. One such instance which has received widespread attention in North-East India is the harrowing experience of Chello Meme. The 19-year old from Arunachal Pradesh was inappropriately touched repeatedly by a man, identified as Shafikul Rehman at ISBT Guwahati, Assam.

Chello, who was on her way to New Delhi via Guwahati to attend the National Youth Parliament 2021 as a representative of her state, confronted the offender right away when he was trying to escape. Afterwards, she posted a video on Instagram, which went viral all over India.

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In a conversation with SheThePeople, Chello Meme talked at length about why such incidents against women continue to happen. 

Could you tell us about the entire incident in your own words? 

I was going to New Delhi to attend the National Youth Parliament 2021. So, I had to go to Guwahati as my flight to New Delhi was from there. I came from Arunachal Pradesh to Guwahati via bus. So, it was 5 am. My bus arrived earlier than the other representatives’ at the Inter-State Bus Terminal, so I had to wait for them at the common waiting hall of the bus terminal.

While waiting, a guy at my back touched my butt. I initially thought that it must have been a mistake, until he started doing it repeatedly. I realised that it was a bad touch. Even the girl who was sitting next to me saw him inappropriately touching me. The third time he groped me, I tried to grab him by his collar, but he attempted to run away. However, I ran after him till the gate of the terminal and caught him. I started searching for a policeman or a security guard, but there was no one present at the spot. So, I was bound to take the matter in my own hands. 

Such incidents tend to freeze many people at that moment. What made you push yourself to call out the offender?

This is not the first time I went through something like this, just like many other girls. Nonetheless, I have always stood up for myself and against such violations against me. I’m not the one who is wrong, the offender is. Standing up for oneself is very important. Why should I fear if I know it is the other side that should be ashamed? Hence, there was no push; it came to me naturally.

I also understand that it is not easy for everyone to do the same. It makes sense as many girls fear that they might call trouble for themselves – Chello Meme

The implementation of laws for women safety are flawed and don’t guarantee extensive security to women after they file a case against such harassers. The harassers might take revenge if they are taken to police or called out for their deeds. Hence, the mentality of such people of our society is also a big problem, apart from the weak laws. Moreover, it’s hard to rely on law and order in our country.

As you already mentioned, many girls are in fear of inviting the unsolicited and troubling consequences if they take action against the offender. What do you feel could be done to empower women in this regard?

Our society is patriarchal, where men wield more power and influence and have a higher ‘social’ status. We are thought of as the weaker sex. In many households till date, a preferential treatment exists between a girl and a boy, where the former is treated unfairly. Even if such treatment might not exist in many families, the conditioning and upbringing of a boy is done very differently than that of a girl’s.

Ladki ho, ladki ki tarah raha karo! Ladki paraya dhan hoti hain. Ladkiyon ko akele baahar nahi jaana chahiye! (You are a girl, behave like one! Girls don’t belong to their birth family. Girls shouldn’t go out all alone.) These are few of many comments we hear from people around us. 

We have been conditioned to feel that we are inferior to men. This has instilled a sense of enslavement and fear – Chello Meme

The responsibility of protecting ourselves is on us. People absolve boys from the responsibility. It’s the girl who has to keep herself safe, because ‘boys will be boys’ is what people think in general. Like a relationship between a prey and a predator. However, it shouldn’t be on womankind to ensure their own safety. Men need to change their mindset. I shouldn’t be learning self-defence for my safety when it’s men who need to control their lustful desires and ensure a safe space for us. 

So, it should start from the family. Parents need to raise their children not inculcating such sexist conditioning where there is disparity between a girl and a boy. Other than that, the existing laws need far-reaching implementation too.  

As we can see from the video, people from the crowd there at the place also supported you. Yet, we have observed how public usually tends to turn a blind eye when such incidents occur. What would you like to say about it?

Yes, many people tend to take such incidents lightly. They feel that it doesn’t bother them, so they don’t want to invite ‘unnecessary’ problems for themselves. They don’t have empathy to feel that their loved ones could also have been in such a situation. I’m sure that almost every girl who matters to them must have gone through such an experience at least once, considering how widespread all of this is. 

The avoidance of people to help women in times of such problems make women apprehensive and unwilling to take actions against such offenders right when such violation takes place.

In fact, I have observed how many people tend to blame the woman and think that she invited such violations against her through her own actions, like wearing short clothes, going out at night and so on. The victim-blaming is a part of the problem. It’s anyway hard for women and girls when they go through such experiences, and society makes it even harder. This is the sad reality, which is slowly changing, but mostly in urban and privileged areas. People fail to recognise that rapes happen at every space, be it at home or a public space, irrespective of time.

Rapes happen to even someone who wears burkha. And even if a girl wears short clothes, it’s not an ‘invitation’ of any sort. 

Your video went viral all over North East India and your courage is receiving support and appreciation. What would you like to say about it?

Many people messaged me applauding my courage. The best part was when there were plenty of messages from girls and women who told me that I was their inspiration. That I give them the fortitude to stand against such violating actions. It makes me feel so good that I was able to impart that courage to many other girls to stand up for themselves.

When a woman does something brilliant, she also makes way for other women to do the same. It’s an honour for me that I could help other girls and women gain courage to stand against abuse. That is how one brings change. Now they will also stand up for themselves and inspire other girls to do the same. This is a chain of empowerment. This is what matters to me and I’m elated about it. 

Chello Meme, what is your message to all other women out there who will read this interview of yours?

A woman is far stronger than what society thinks of her to be. Our lives are full of sacrifices and compromise. Although I don’t romanticise this, but I personally believe in healthy adjustments where we don’t lose ourselves in the process, regardless of gender. And yes, women put up with this far more than men do.

We are innately strong. We might express our emotions easily unlike men do, which is again another problem with the patriarchal conditioning which affects men, we tend to be emotionally undaunted and resilient in times of adversity.

Every woman is powerful, she just need the right push and direction to show her strength, which eventually comes to her. So, a woman should never underestimate herself as the weaker sex. Neither should they undermine other women and partake in enforcing patriarchy when another woman stands up for herself or rightfully listens to her mind and breaks the regressive conventions. Every woman has an essence of Rani Lakshmi Bai in her. 

You represented Arunachal Pradesh at National Youth Parliament 2021 held at New Delhi. In fact, PM Modi tweeted your speech on ‘self-reliant India’. You are empowering women and youth in every sphere. According to you, how can the youth of today work towards making public areas a safe space for all?

Firstly, I feel that the privileged ones like us need to use our privilege to uplift and educate other underprivileged masses about women’s rights. While uplifting their condition, we need to also teach them about how men and women are equal. Also, sex education needs to be given to children so that they are able to identify abuse. Many a time, girls aren’t even aware that they are being abused until they grow up. 

Now, as I already told you that there was no security in the bus terminal, it shows that we lack in enforcing security and police patrolling in public spaces. This enables such heinous incidents against women. So, proper and extensive security should be provided by law and order. Furthermore, public places also need to be well-lit with street lights and lamps to ensure safety for all.

I also feel that the media we consume — the films, songs and all — also perpetuates such sexual violence against women. Munni Badnaam Hui, Tu Cheez Badi Hain Mast and such sleazy songs have objectified women and reduced them to objects of pleasure and for male gaze. We still see so many songs and films with problematic scenes releasing even today. It’s high time we stopped consuming such content and held the creators of such content accountable. 

In the end, the main issue is also with the mindset of the people. This should be changed too. Hence, when you see that something wrong is happening in front of your eyes, don’t be a bystander. Stand against such heinousness. When one raises voice, others follow.

And girls, please stand up for yourself. I know that it is not easy, but please seek help or guidance from a trustworthy person to deal with such abuse. Never endure such abuse in silence. 


Other than this, Chello Meme was applauded by PM Narendra Modi for her speech at the Youth Parliament 2021. In fact, he even tweeted her speech and wished her best for her future endeavours.