Why did Bangalore molestation invoke outrage and not Chhattisgarh police rapes?

If women's safety is really a matter of urgent concern, let's start from the place where they are being treated as less than human - with inconceivable barbarity.

 |  4-minute read |   11-01-2017

As many as 16 women were "prima facie victims of rape, sexual and physical assault by state police personnel in Chhattisgarh" in the state's Bijapur district in October 2015, according to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) report released a couple of days ago.

It said, "prima facie, human rights of the victims have been grossly violated, for which the state government is vicariously liable."

The rights body instituted an investigation team to probe the matter. Women from five villages of Chhattisgarh had accused state police personnel of sexually assaulting more than 40 of them. It was reported that two women were gangraped, including a 14-year-old girl who was reportedly blindfolded and gangraped.

On the other hand, on New Year's Eve in Bangalore, women who were leaving pubs and bars after the celebrations were accosted by drunk hooligans who reportedly tried to molest them. The incident saw a brazen display of sexual violence.

This was followed by widespread outrage from feminists to celebrities - who exhausted their quota of 140 characters on Twitter many times over. Women's groups cried hoarse and the media went into a tizzy over debates about women's rights.

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Courtesy: Hindustan Times story

The NHRC report states: "Almost all the victims in these incidents, covered under the three FIRs, are tribals. However, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act has not been invoked in any of the cases."

The reaction to the Bangalore molestation is in stark contrast to the absence of mass outrage over the atrocities on the tribal women, who neither went to pubs nor to celebrate. They were raped and gangraped in their own houses and fields; within the premises of a police station by the men who had been entrusted with the responsibility of safeguarding them.

But nobody speaks about it. No one has a single tweet to spare for those unfortunate women.

Have they lost their rights to come out of their homes and breathe in the freedom? The contrast reflects poorly on our standing as a society and our concern for those on the margins. Or, don't they matter to us?

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How can we expect someone to not be resentful when they have been treated shabbily - taken for granted?

When we talk about women's issues, why is the focus only on glamorous events in a city, but not a heavily-guarded corner of the country? There, the issue is not about the freedom to roam the streets or celebrate, it is about the basic right to live and be treated with the dignity every human being has a right to.

There, the question is about how the strong arm of the law can trample the very existence of people. It chronicles the deep-rooted and shameful history of violence against the oppressed and the marginalised, and women often find themselves in both the categories. There is a deeply ingrained disrespect for women in the Indian mindset.

When we talk of assimilation, what are we really talking about? How can we expect someone to not be resentful when they have been treated shabbily - taken for granted? How can we ever expect them to become a part of the system? To become mainstream?

The truth is we don't care about them. We, as a society, have let those oppressed women down, because no one takes up the cudgels for them. They lie helpless, raped in fields and streets - often without anybody to pick them up and take them home. They have no hope in sight.

Shouldn't we be fighting their lost cause, or would we again fall for the temptation of highlighting only those wrongs that take place at glamorous events in one of India's biggest cities? Perhaps, we have lost our capacity to think - or is our concern only reserved for the urban-educated, pub-hopping intelligentsia?

If women's safety is really a matter of urgent concern, let's start from the place where they are being treated as less than human - with inconceivable barbarity. And that is what I would call real concern. At the end of the day, that's the call that we ought to take.

Writer

Muqbil Ahmar Muqbil Ahmar @muqbil_ahmar

Writer and theatre activist

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