For the rest of the country, which has by now sobered from being hit by frequent reports of rape and molestation from its Capital, the above question might be rhetorical. Maybe even hyperbolic or sweeping.
But for women in Kolkata, who had braved its lethargic government officials, overcrowded metros, the flight of jobs and all other accoutrements of a communist governance, the above rings true.
The Times of India reported the case of a woman raped in a moving car, which she mistook for a shuttle cab that would take her to the Sealdah railway station. Shuttle cabs ply as a lifeline in the city’s northern and eastern sections.
Probably also because the regular cabs are truant and difficult to get after sundown. Doubled fares, taxi refusals are nightmares the most Kolkata commuters live everyday. Reports of molestation attempts and misbehavior from shuttle cab drivers keep trickling in throughout the year. However, very few drivers have even been traced or jailed for that.
Molestation, the police might just tell you in Kolkata, is the flipside of being independent or careless.
Roughly four months back, a rape case in Kolkata’s only party district, Park Street grabbed eyeballs after chief minister Mamata Banerjee rubbished the victim’s claims as ‘CPI(M) conspiracy’ and her entourage of ministers launched an unwarranted assassination of her character.
Why was a divorced woman drinking alone that late in a bar? Why did she accept a lift from a gang of men? Why, now, is she cribbing, given that she almost ‘invited’ rape?
The cautious, easily-outraged Bengali morality whispered into Kolkata’s ears. Only, the city’s ministers spoke out loud.
They city, before this, had never been dragged by its hair to face its monsters. Rape happened in films, in Delhiand to people they couldn’t liken to the girls in the family.
Now, it was right there. In the heart of the city where the next door neighbour’s girl partied with her cousins, or the youngest daughter in the family loved eating and drinking out. However, Kolkata chose to hide behind the questions.
The why-s and how-s. Questioned that refused to confront the reality of rape and dwelt on circumstances, possibly unusual or unnatural in the Bengali moral climate, which might have led to the departure from the normal. The chief minister just confirmed the city’s unspoken suspicion.
There have been two rapes in the city in four months. In one the victim was picked up from Park Street, in another from Exide – again heart of the city’s office, partying, multiplex district.
There are news reports. Some noise made on TV. The rest of the city will just do with calling their daughters thrice on her way back home in a shuttle cab. Rape, is still, someone else’s reality.
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