On New Year’s Eve, Bengaluru’s youngsters gathered around Mahatma Gandhi Road, Church Street, and Brigade Road to welcome 2017. There were thousands of revellers ushering in the new year. To ensure incident-free celebrations, the police department deployed 1500 policemen and women.
The police force was visibly outnumbered when drunken men in the crowd started molesting and harassing women. Many instances of assault were seen and heard. Women were molested, pushed, groped, and verbally abused by unruly mobs. Many were seen running away with their footwear in their hands. Some were crying because of the trauma and sought the help of the police to reunite with their families and friends.
The Logical Indian spoke to one of the victims. She said, “This was my first time going out for New Years celebrations. We were a group of seven. We did not have any alcohol were standing at the entrance almost. It wasn’t that crowded even when some guy touched my breasts. I was shocked and threw the coke bottle in my hand at his face. He ran away. My friends had not noticed this. They were angry too, but the guy had disappeared into the crowd. They then surrounded me to keep me safe.
Though very upset, I decided to enjoy the countdown. But another guy groped me from behind. And when I turned, he had the audacity to smile. I chased him down and slapped him. There is no way I was letting this guy think it is OK to keep doing this. Again, my friends did not realise what happened. It all occurred in a flash of a second. We just went home after these terrible experiences.”
On being asked about the security arrangements, she said, “The police were present. But there were so many people that it was not possible for them to keep an eye on everyone. My boyfriend was right next to me, holding my hand, and my friends had formed a protective circle, and still this happened with me. They helped anyone who approached them.”
Despite many such stories, there have been no formal complaints filed with the police.
The Karnataka Home Minister G Parameshwara called the incident unfortunate and promised a further investigation into the cases while blaming women’s ‘western dressing’ for such incidents. He said, “[On] events like new years, there are women who are harassed or treated badly. These kinds of things do happen. They tried to copy the westerners, not only in their mindset but even in their dressing. So some disturbance, some girls are harassed, these kinds of things do happen.”
He made these controversial statements before adding that he could not “force people to dress like Kannadigas”, as reported by The Guardian.
According to a 2016 report by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), Bengaluru is the third most unsafe city in India after Delhi and Mumbai. Bengaluru also has the second-highest cases of reported dowry deaths after Delhi.
What was supposed to be a fun time with family and friends turned out to be a nightmarish experience for many. Such events stain the image of Bengaluru as a modern, metropolitan city. While there was some amount of security failure, blaming the police force is not the solution. Deploying thousands of police personnel alone will not help. What we need is a change in the mindset of the people.
We need to teach children from a young age that consent is of utmost importance. We need to stop victim shaming and victim blaming and punish those who are committing such heinous crimes. We need to stop saying it is ok and to let things go. It should not be normal for a woman or a man to think harassment is the norm. We can change the situation only when we come together as a society and make a collective decision to stop sexual harassment.