Mumbai gangrape: It's time to reclaim our city, say protesters

Mumbai: Hutatma Chowk today saw hundreds of citizens protesting the gangrape of the 22-year-old intern photojournalist from a city magazine at a mill compound near the busy Mahalakshmi station on Thursday.

While the protest, organised by journalist organisations in the city, was meant to be a 'silent protest', many were vocal about their outrage over the incident.

Wearing bright red lipstick and holding a placard which said 'Don't Look at my Lipstick. Listen to me!', Harish Iyer, a homosexual and a survivor of child sexual abuse, said he was shocked at the incident. It not only is a rare occurrence but also shocking because  it took place in the middle of the city and very close to his work place.

Shakti Mills near Mahalakshmi railway station is known to be a den of drug addicts and Iyer questions the logic of not having stymied that threat before any damage could be done. "I commend that the police has done something and caught hold of the people but in reality we had drug addicts frequenting that place and we did nothing," Iyer told Firstpost.

"Everytime I hear an incident of rape something churns inside me and it's absolutely devastating to go back to the same memories. I don't see a closure anywhere," he said.

Arlene Chang/Firstpost

Harish Iyer, a homosexual and a survivor of child sexual abuse, said he was shocked at the incident. Arlene Chang/Firstpost

Indians need a mentality overhaul

Anamika, 22,  told Firstpost that her parents were very worried for her after the incident yesterday.

"If we are going to work we must have (a feeling of) security. The protest is not to demand something. It is more to bring awareness in the way people think — that's the most important thing. People say, 'You have worn this and that'. But, we are comfortable. So change your mentality," Anamika told Firstpost.

While Iyer doesn't see incidents of rape stopping anytime soon, he believes awareness,  education and a more open culture towards sex are important for a decline in such incidents. "I think what's important is that we stop debating about sex and sexuality education and we introduce sex and sexuality education."

Policing important, but we must also look within

Iyer also repeated the oft argued point that while the police exists to protect us, we, as citizens, must also be more proactive in reporting such incidents when we witness them and take concrete steps to stymie it. "It is easy to blame others," he said, adding, "But, if you sit in a local train and watch some man letching at a woman, you wouldn't care at all. You would say the girl has to mind herself. Or you wouldn't go to that person and say 'You should stop letching'...We are mute witnesses," he said.

"We are good at playing the blame game, but when it's being done do we go and report it?" Iyer asks.

Anamika agreed. "It's important to have police protection but how much will the police also handle?" she asks.

Reclaiming our city

Aishwariya Malik, a student of Hinduja College, says the gangrape is a very serious issue and Mumbai cannot be called a city that's 'safe for women' after this. "I feel that Mumbai is following the footsteps of Delhi and if no strict action is taken this time Mumbai will be the next rape city," she told Firstpost.

Diksha Brijwani, student Hinduja College, said "If such cases keep repeating I don't think Mumbai will be a safe city — as it is usually called."

While Iyer is not confident that protests like the one today will completely stop such incidents, he says they are important. "Such incidents taking place don't mean that we should stop moving out after 6.30 pm. It means that as a protest we need to stay out till 2 am and reclaim our streets," Iyer said.

Updated Date: Aug 23, 2013 21:40 PM

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