As 2016 turned into 2017, Bengaluru witnessed freedom at midnight. At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world slept, Bengaluru awakened to freedom for molesters and hooligans. With apologies to Jawaharlal Nehru, a moment of depravity comes, which comes but frequently in India's present, when we step out from the human to the beast, when reasoning ends, and when the soul of a molester, long suppressed, finds utterance.
"We the underbelly of Bengaluru, having solemnly resolved to constitute Bengaluru into an unsafe, depraved, rowdy, city and to un-secure to all its citizens."
India owes gratitude to that citizen in Kammanahalli in east Bengaluru who had a CCTV installed for the lane leading to his home. If not for him, the horrific footage of a young girl being groped and molested by two beasts on a scooter on the intervening night of 31 December and 1 January would not have shown a mirror to India. The ugly face of cockroaches on the prowl, desperate to get their hands on female form to quench the lust of their manhood.
This incident captured on CCTV happened within a couple of hours after mayhem had broken out on Brigade Road and MG Road, the heart of Bengaluru. 'Mass molestation' screamed a newspaper, reporting that despite the cop strength of 1500, the city police could not control the molesters who had descended on the area, in the garb of new year 'revellers.'
Eyewitnesses at Brigade Road have reported that several women were groped and pawed at by unknown men, who derived confidence from being mere hands in the anonymity of a swollen crowd. Some of the women, crying, stilettos in hand, rushed to the cops for help. A lathicharge that followed, did not quite help control the situation adequately.
Talk to any old-time Bengalurean and he or she will tell you that Brigade Road does turn into Grope Street at Cinderella hour on New Year's eve. Lewd comments, catcalls, inappropriate touching are known to be a routine occurrence, as if Bacchus provides the leers with a no-objection certificate.
Only a government blind and deaf to this would transfer the commissioner of police out and make 31 December his last working day at the commissionerate. The new top cop, Praveen Sood, who took over on 1 January insisted that unless a complaint was filed, he won't file a FIR. The Bengaluru police needs a classroom session to tell them that police stations staffed largely with cops insensitive to gender crimes are the last resort of a complainant.
India's criminal justice system makes a criminal out of a victim because the woman more often than not, is slut-shamed.
What were you wearing?
Do your parents approve of your attire?
Did you make any suggestion to the accused that may have given him an idea that you were willing?
Couldn't it have been an accidental brushing past in a crowd?
Do you have a boyfriend?
Why do you live-in with a guy?
Do your parents approve of your relationships?
Why did you go to party till 230am?
Shouldn't you be careful about your own safety?''
The rotten icing on the spoilt cake are some of India's politicians, with the "boys will be boys'' mindset. Karnataka's Home minister who blamed it on western influence, almost suggesting that the girls invited it upon themselves, did not cover himself with glory either.
But the politicians are incidental to the issue. The problem is within us. It is to do with inability of families to keep a watch on our sons. It is to do with the inability of parents to teach their sons that if a girl is hugging her partner, it does not mean she is 'available'. It is to do with the inability of parents to ask probing questions about why they are out of home, zipping around on Bengaluru roads at 2. 40 am, most likely inebriated. It is to do with the inability to pick up warning signs that the son and his friends are plotting to shame their families and the city they live in. A look at the Kammanahalli footage will show you the three accomplices who are keeping watch while the two bikers molest the girl in the deserted lane. It is proof that it was a planned crime.
It is to do with the lathi-wielding approach we have to policing. An intelligent approach would have entailed infiltrating the crowd with a large number of women police in plainclothes and a significant posse of mobile police videographers. In-the-face policing is what Bengaluru needed that night. When the Bengaluru police knew Brigade Road had a reputation for trouble every year the calendar changed, it should have moved away from a typical sarkari approach. What they are doing now is to deny any mass molestation happened, even when some of those who were violated have come forward with their versions.
Admittedly, the cops cannot police every lane but if you are present on every main road, doing drunken driving checks, stopping bikers who are creating a nuisance, stalking women travelling back home in an auto (like the two girls in east Bengaluru locality of Kammanahalli were), ugly situations could have been avoided.
The unfortunate incident in Kammanahalli showed a Bengalurean woman is not safe even at her doorstep. Because the wolves have taken over. And the gloves are off.
And bear in mind that we know only about the Brigade Road and Kammanahalli incidents. How many more women were violated that night, away from CCTV cameras, is anyone's guess.
It is not about the Congress or the BJP. The opposition BJP politicians can derive cheap thrills, taking potshots at the Congress but they need to be reminded how the likes of Pramod Muthalik and his goons ran riot, assaulting girls in Mangaluru in 2009 when a BJP government was in power in Karnataka. But there is no denying that the buck stops with Siddaramaiah now since he is power. The CM cannot afford to display the typical disdain that he reserves for most uncomfortable questions.
But it is not as if Bengaluru alone is unable to zip up. This is the story of just about any part of India. A CCTV-equipped Bengaluru is able to spot the disease, in other non-monitored cities and towns, the culprits know Big Brother does not even exist.
It is imperative that the Bengaluru police crack these cases of molestation very soon. If it does not, India will have to declare a curfew for men after 8 pm. Or Prime Minister Narendra Modi could consider De-Menetisation.
Updated Date: Jan 04, 2017 17:25 PM