BENGALURU – Perhaps there is no end to sexual violence against women in Indian society.
Anarchy prevailed on the streets of Bengaluru, the capital city of India’s southern state of Karnataka and once considered one of the country’s safest cities for women, as revelers gathered in the heart of the city – MG Road and Brigade Road – to welcome the New Year. But despite “elaborate” security arrangements, women were molested, and children scared out of their wits, while male friends and relatives had a tough time protecting them from unruly men.
All this happened in the presence of 1,500 cops deployed in the area.
Night of Shame
As in a CCTV footage, provided to the media and the police by the owner of a house in East Bengaluru, a woman can be seen walking on the road when two men on a scooter approach her. As they get closer, she breaks into a run. One of the men on the scooter lunges towards her. He then gropes and molests her while she fights back.
Seconds later, he throws her hard onto the ground. As the woman picks herself up, the men race away. Eyewitnesses do nothing. Not to stop the men, not to help the woman get up off the ground.
The mass molestations in the heart of Bengaluru took place a few hours before the young woman heading home was attacked. She had taken an auto home and was walking the final stretch to her house when she was assaulted.
Despite photographic evidence and eye-witness accounts, city police officially claimed they have received no complaints but are scanning security footage for evidence of molestation.
Women in India are often reluctant to report sexual assault because of fear of reprisal or social stigma.
“A special team has been formed to investigate the incident and nab the culprits at the earliest. As the victim did not file a complaint so far, we are trying to find her in the area and record evidence,” senior police officer Hemant Nimbalkar told news agency IANS.
An Indian minister also caused outrage by saying groping at New Year celebrations in Bangalore was caused by women dressing “like Westerners”.
As local media published images of distraught women seeking police help, Karnataka State Home Minister G Parameshwara blamed young people for “copying the Westerners, not only in their mindset, but even in their dressing”.
“These kind of things do happen,” he said.
The minister’s comments have caused anger. National Commission for Women chief Lalitha Kumaramangalam said he should apologize to the women of the country and resign.
The federal government’s junior home minister, Kiren Rijiju, described the minister’s remarks as “irresponsible”.
India’s sexual problem
For years, women in India have endured groping and flashing in crowded place, in buses, ticket queues, and have suffered in silence.
Even the popular subculture reflected through the lens of Bollywood cinema, has, over the years, glorified eve-teasing by the hero as an acceptable way of serenading the heroine.
Inspite of the relatively recent 2013 amendments to the Indian Penal Code where Section 154 seeks to have a wide ambit of actions classified as sexual harassment including any unwelcome gestures or advances such as touching, groping, flashing, passing lewd remarks etc. attracting stiff punishment, somehow this particular topic is still not taken very seriously in India.
Possibly the Indian psyche does not consider eve-teasing as sexual harassment – which it absolutely is – and an invasion of woman’s right to privacy. It is possible that this subconsciously encourages or seemingly justifies unwanted advances in the minds of the perpetrators and tends to be either ignored or not given due importance by the police or any law enforcement agency.
Saturday night’s events took place in the central business district of Karnataka state. Crowds of around 10,000-12,000 gathered in the Mahatma Gandhi Road and Brigade Road area to celebrate the New Year.
A year ago, in a much similar series of incidents, police in German city of Cologne received hundreds of complaints from women who said they had been robbed or sexually assaulted by men mostly of North African or Arab origin on New Year’s Eve.
Most of the attacks happened in and around Cologne’s main railway station, near the cathedral.
Photo Courtesy: Bangalore Mirror