In India, women’s safety has always been a matter of huge concern. It doesn’t matter which city you live in, because, sadly, lack of respect for women is deeply ingrained in the Indian mindset. Bangalore’s New Year’s Eve celebrations saw a shameful display of sexual violence. Women, who were leaving pubs after celebrating the New Year's Eve, ran into drunk hooligans who allegedly tried to molest them.
According to a report by the Bangalore Mirror, “Anarchy prevailed on the streets after 11 pm as revellers gathered in the heart of the city — MG Road and Brigade Road — to welcome the New Year.” Even with close to 1,500 policemen deployed across the city to ensure people’s safety and overall maintenance of law and order, women found themselves at the mercy of drunk, leery men.
According to former city police commissioner NS Megharikh, the entire city police force, in addition to men from reserve battalions, was to be deployed on the city streets to maintain law and order during the New Year celebrations. But despite all efforts, women became victims of catcalling, pawing and groping. While a lot of people are blaming the police, one has to understand that this, more than a law and order issue, is a mindset problem.
A majority of Indian men grow up in an environment that deems it okay for women to be treated as second-class citizens. In their eyes, women rightfully "belong" to men and they are allowed to have their way with them without any regard for consequences. This mentality is a direct result of brushing such crimes under the carpet and, on the contrary, blaming the victims, thereby normalising the existence of "rape culture".
“We got around 450 calls at the city control room on Saturday night, especially after 10 pm till wee hours of Sunday morning, and not even one was about women being assaulted or molested,” said Nagendra Kumar, deputy commissioner of police, Command Centre, Bengaluru.While the Bangalore Mirror has published a series of photographs, which clearly indicate mayhem on the streets even as countless eyewitnesses backed this up, the city police still claimed to have not registered a single case of molestation or harassment.
According to police statistics, Bangalore registered 714 cases of molestation in 2015, and 171 of them are still under investigation. In 2016, the police registered 756 cases of sexual harassment and 559 of them are still under investigation. This rise in sexual violence cannot be attributed only to lack of law and order.
There is no denying that the police need to take stricter action against hooligans who make women feel unsafe. But no matter how many people get arrested or fined or just slapped by the cops, it is difficult to stop men who don’t respect women and treat them as equals.
This is what former Infosys CFO TV Mohandas Pai had to say on this issue. “Over the past few years, the city has grown at a rapid pace and this has also given rise to a kind of cultural deprivation among the people who are not exposed to a certain kind of lifestyle," Pai said.
It is lack of education, not lack of police that bring about instances of lawlessness like this.
Reacting to yesterday's incident, many, including the Bangalore Mirror report, compared the shameful act with the situation in Delhi.
Delhi is regarded as the "rape capital" of India. If things get bad in any other city, they suddenly become "as bad as Delhi". There is no denying that the city ranks pretty low when it comes to women's safety. The city and its suburban areas have been notorious for violent sexual crimes.
But does that absolve other cities in India? Every Indian city, no matter how cosmopolitan, battles regressiveness on a daily basis. One would be hard pressed to find an Indian city where women can feel safe at any given time. No matter what part of the country you live in, women continue to glance over their shoulders at night checking to see if they are being followed. Women feel the need to hold on to pepper sprays whenever they walk through a particularly dark alley.
Even in broad daylight, women need separate compartments in public transport systems to feel safe.
Yes, this incident was a shameful night for a much-modern and developed city like Bangalore. But when you look at the bigger picture, India has not really done much to make women feel safe enough in this country.