Hundreds of women out on the streets of Bengaluru were harassed by a mob of men on New Year's Eve, according to reports. Such an incident of mass molestation, which was reported in Mumbai a few years ago, is uncommon in the southern city, which has always enjoyed a reputation of being safer for women than Delhi, often referred to as the crime capital of the country.
Bangalore Mirror painted a graphic picture of what exactly unfolded on the last night of 2016. According to eye-witness testimonies and information available from other sources, hundreds of men, on foot or in motorbikes, set out on a spree of inebriated merry-making in prime parts of the city like Brigade Road and MG Road. Although the police made close to 500 arrests for drunken driving, the situation on the ground seemed much worse. For women, especially, it proved to be an endless night of horrors.
Across the city, women who had gone out on their own or accompanied by friends and family complained of being accosted, teased, molested, harassed and persecuted. Photographic evidence showed women on the run, pursued by groups of men, or seeking help from police personnel, as a rowdy mob rolled on the streets in a drunken stupor, tried to grope at women and drove around recklessly making catcalls.
Although the police tried to underplay the extent of the disruption by citing the number of complaints it had received and comparing it with other years, the threat was palpable and has sullied the reputation of a city that was once considered several notches safer than both Mumbai and Delhi.
Additional director general of police Praveen Sood, who assumed charge as the police commissioner of Bengaluru on 1 January, said the safety of women, children and senior citizens were his main priorities. "What is the point of calling ourselves a civilised society if our women and children do not feel safe?" he said in another interview with Bangalore Mirror.
Bengaluru has seen a rise in incidents of crime against women over the last year. In December, a lawyer, Jyothi Kumari, was allegedly killed by a stalker, B Madhu, who had been pursuing her for four years. The 27-year-old woman had complained against her harasser, after he had allegedly assaulted her once and stolen her scooter, but he was let off by the police with a "stern warning", without even taking down a first-information report.
Complaints of crimes against women have largely fallen on deaf ears, with the police even saying, days before the mayhem of the night of 31 December, that it was not possible for them to patrol every inch of the city and that the onus of safety equally lies with women.
With more a proactive police chief and persistent protests from civil society, the protectors of law will hopefully resolve to be more vigilant in this area of civic life.
Also on HuffPost