New Year’s Eve celebrations in Bengaluru saw an ugly turn as it neared 11 o’clock at night. In the space between MG Road and Brigade Road, the city witnessed a heartbreaking case of mass molestation.
The drunk crowd was as unruly as they were criminal, thinking that they had the right to touch a woman without their consent. Taking advantage of the inebriated women, they reached out to them with sick intentions. Pawing, groping and making lewd comments- no woman was able to leave the crowd unchanged.
Despite the 1,500 police personnel deployed at the venue, the event still took place. Faced with thousands of people, the police were greatly outnumbered and unable to control the crowd. Forced to chose, the personnel was not able to help each and every woman. They had had to prioritise, helping those in more dire situations first.
Though some had been fortunate enough to be shielded by their male friends and relatives, or had been walking in larger groups, most of the women had not been lucky enough. They were forced to endure the attack, the violation of their dignity and their consent.
The police had urged people to come forward- the witnesses with a survivor’s tale, the journalists and photographers who held record of the violations and the eyewitnesses who could swear to the happenings. In response, a plethora of people came forward with their stories and pictures.
Yet, it is disheartening to see that these cases still cannot be lodged due to the victims not coming forward. Despite the chaos that took place, the police claim that they did not receive reports of the event through the many calls they attended to, nor were there any cases filed. If cases had been filed, it would be difficult for the victims to identify their attackers.
As recent as 5th January, 2017, four men have been arrested for sexual harassment. The police would submit a video of these men violating a women as evidence, collected from a residential camera. The police is currently searching for the victim so that she can give her statement and the violators can be formally charged and punished.
Eyewitnesses have described the scene as “almost a stampede”. They told us about the girls who were crying and shouting for help, helpless in their situation. It is possible to fight off a violator, perhaps even a group of them, but what was one supposed to do in a crowd of violators? Just as one is fought off, another one approaches you and the cycle keeps repeating itself, the heartless and vile minds as they target you, relentless in their approach. What becomes of us then?
Karnataka Home Minister, G. Parameshwara, blamed the youth for “copying the westerners, not only in their mindsets, but even in their dressing.” He was successful in outraging the people who demanded his resignation. As if that was not enough fuel to feed the fire, he added further, “These things do happen.”
Unfortunately, for India, what most people fail to understand is that this is not about the kind of clothes. It does not matter how heavily her eyes are lined, how sultry is her lipstick, how tight are her clothes or even how much skin she is showing. It is not about Western ideals, it is not about patriarchy, this is about you and how you contribute towards the change you want to see. It is about learning from their mistakes, embracing the choices she makes and creating a safe environment in which she can have her freedom.
A utopia, you and others like you, can create in which she is fearless and she is free. Free from the dangers of the world which snare her, free from the constraints which dictate both her social life and her confidence. What about a world, albeit a very ideal one, in which she is safe from all danger? Why is it that we never seem to achieve it?