Two groups formed by students and women workers will take to Bengaluru streets to protest the alleged mass molestation of several women on a busy stretch during New Year’s Eve celebrations and to demand a safer city.
Many women were reportedly groped, attacked and stalked on MG Road and Brigade Road stretch during New Year’s eve in the presence of police personnel.
In a separate incident, another woman was molested in a residential area of the city on the New Year’s Day, an assault that was caught on CCTV. Bengaluru Police on Thursday arrested four men, including two delivery boys, for the assault.
However, police commissioner Praveen Sood said on Thursday that they had found no evidence in the CCTV footage they examined of the alleged mass molestation during New Year’s Eve celebrations on Saturday.
“However, based on some media reports and posts on social media we have filed four cases suo motu,” he said, adding none of the people who spoke to media had contacted police.
Many political leaders dismissed the incident with Karnataka home minister G Parameshwara saying that “such incidents do happen” and criticised young women for “copying the Westerners, not only in their mindset but even in their dressing.” The minister later said he was misquoted.
An autonomous group of women called Night in My Shining Armour has organised an event - Night Out in Town - in Bengaluru on January 11 to walk down the stretch of Brigade Road. They aspire to reclaim the streets and remove the stigma attached to women being outside their homes after sundown.
“This is just the beginning; our endeavour does not end here. We plan to organise more events like open debates and neighbourhood walks later. Our primary aim is to make women comfortable and make others realise that it is normal for women to be out on the streets after dark,” Gawry, one of the organisers, said.
Through an initiative “I Will Go Out”, the group has invited people “out on the streets and remove the stigma attached to women being outside their homes after 8PM”. Over 1,000 people have confirmed their presence for the event and around 2,700 have supported the cause.
“The incident on New Year’s eve was disgusting but not shocking. India has one of the lowest levels of recorded sexual offences. There is a need to change our mindset. All the remarks going around about what girls should and shouldn’t do are disheartening. I am going to show my support and spread awareness about women safety through this walk,” Ankita Dhyani, a 26-year-old who works with an NGO in the city, said.
Another group, which did not want to reveal its name to display a sense of united anonymity and echo the voice of women who feel unsafe in the city, has also taken to the social media platform asking people to collect outside the Vidhan Soudha on January 7 from 11am to 1pm and form a human chain.
Under Touch Me Not, they plan to raise their voices through a silent protest which will involve placards but not slogans.
One of the activists in the group, Anita Jerry Ramesh, said the protest is not only to highlight the recent mass molestation incident but the day-to-day harassment faced by every woman and girl.
“Everyday women have to face harassment on the streets of Bengaluru. I myself can recount hundreds of them faced by me and my friends. This is not a problem in just one or two cities, but everywhere. The New Year’s Eve case was also not a one-off incident,” the 26-year-old communication professional in Bengaluru said.
She wants the government to take notice of such incidents, make stricter laws for the safety of women and above all ensure their implementation.
Individuals have also started various online petitions on Change.org to demand justice and safety for women in Bengaluru. While one petition demands safety of women from harassment, another one has called for an effective 100 number helpline, safe transport services and street lights.
One of the petitions is also demanding an unconditional apology from Karnataka home minister over his sexist remarks over the alleged incident.
The December 2012 gangrape of a 23-year-old paramedical student sparked a nationwide movement to improve women’s safety and effected changes in India’s rape laws that widened the definition of rape, and set out stricter punishment for the guilty.
The Bengaluru incidents highlight the persistent violence against women in India despite tougher laws against sexual assault.