On January 1, we wake into a New Year – of new hopes and desires, of aspirations and expectations, that would help us overcome the disappointments and failures of the year that has just ended. It is normally a happy, beautiful day.
But Bangalore, known all over the world as a centre of information technology, woke up to reports that hundreds of women were molested, groped and even injured by hooligans on ‘MG Road’. Attempts were made to strip them. They were pulled by hair.
What is shocking is not that these incidents took place. Connaught Place in Delhi, Hazarat Ganj in Lucknow or Lal Darwaja end of Relief Road in Ahmedabad – the list is endless – are all places where new year ‘revellers’ gather, many with liquor bottles, to ‘celebrate’ the start of the new year.
Their idea of celebrating is drunken dancing on the road and shouting ‘Happy New Year’ at all who passes by. But the hooligans and criminals who join them have different ideas.
In the late 1960s, one such New Year Day started with violence by ‘revellers’ at Connaught Place and many were injured. The next December 31 night saw more police than revellers at Connaught Place. The police had learnt a lesson.
The Karnataka police, however, seem to be immune to such learning. The State’s Home Minister G. Parameswar, insensitively remarked that ” such things do happen. During days like New Year or Christmas Day, there are women who are harassed or treated badly.” He made it appear as if there was nothing serious or unexpected.
The new Police Commissioner Praveen Sood who took charge only on January 1, said there was no complaint. Once a complaint was made an FIR would be registered and investigation begun. He said 1500 policemen were posted at the scene of revelry.
It was as if 1500 firemen stand around a building on fire, waiting for a call to the fire brigade. They would then register a case of fire and start taking the statements of the people, After all that they may put out the fire, if the bosses order.
When outrage greeted the remarks of the Commissioner and the Minister in charge, the top cop said if there was “credible evidence” an FIR would be registered. On the third day, when more people expressed their anger, he tried to make amends by tweeting that “credible evidence” was (at last) found and an FIR registered. A private citizen provided a videotape of two scooter-riders molesting a woman alighting from an auto-rickshaw.
If all the 1500 police personnel were not blind, could they not see what was happening?. Was that not considered “credible evidence”?
Why then did the police not act? It is mainly due to the attitude of the political leaders whom they serve. The political leaders want police only as their servants. Most constables are on ‘bandobast duty’ with politicians or as domestic servants of their bosses. Almost all parties are unanimous on this..
A proof of this attitude comes from a politician who, to quote The Times of India, “said women should be punished for being raped.” Senior Socialist Party leader Abu Azmi “blamed women for the mass molestation that occurred in Bengaluru.” It quoted him as saying that incidents like the ‘alleged; mass molestation “happen when half-clothed women are out on the streets late at night”. It was not the first time.he said it.
The National Commission for Women subsequently issued summons to him and Home Minister Parameshwara. Of course, with BJP in power at the Centre, politics would be attributed to the action and the real issue ignored.
However, the chairperson of Karnataka Women’s Commission, journalist Nagalaxmi Bai, visited on January 4 the hospital where the daughter of Congress leader C. M. Ibrahim, Deputy Chairman of the State Planning Board and said to be the politician closest to Chief Minister Siddarmaiah, was admitted.
She was one of the victims. Certainly not a vulgar “half-clothed woman out on the streets late at night”, as Azmi put it. Parmeshwar cannot dismiss it as a normal thing. This is not a matter for BJP to point a finger. Our leaders are adept at politicising everything.
Women’s safety is not a matter to be politicised or trivialised.