Reports of alleged mass molestation of women on a busy thoroughfare in Bengaluru on New Year’s Eve are disturbing.
It is particularly worrying for me: my college-going daughter lives in the city that we are proud of as India’s Silicon Valley, and I am concerned for her well being. I just told her to avoid crowds and revelry at the now infamous MG Road.
But putting emotions aside, it is time to take a clinical look at what’s fast snowballing into the country’s latest collective shame. Politicians have waded in, women’s rights group are calling for quick action, all and sundry are demanding quick justice.
That’s all fine. But where is the evidence?
As a worried father and an inquisitive journalist, I have looked at the proof provided so far and I must say they are inconclusive.
Yes, the paper that first broke the story, has splashed photographs of what seemed to be mayhem. They indeed show crowds of men and a few distraught women. There is also a photograph of a woman surrounded by men.
But do they prove molestation?
I hold no brief for Bengaluru. But to believe the city is as bad as Tahrir Square – Cairo’s protest square where women get groped routinely – I would demand proof.
Till I get some, I wouldn’t even compare what is being reported to have happened on MG Road to what occurred some years ago before Mumbai’s Gateway of India. There, a photographer had diligently clicked the nightmare that women underwent and there was no room for any doubt.
I am a journalist and I demand proof upfront.
I therefore find it incredulous that virtual mayhem has broken out in the alleged incident’s aftermath without an iota of evidence.
Politicians have waded in and the union home minister Kiren Rijuju has added to the decibel level by condemning the Karnataka home minister. While brushing off the incident, the state minister had reportedly said “such things do happen”.
The minister has put his foot in his mouth as politicians routinely do. But would Rijuju have reacted with such alacrity had the state government been of the BJP?
Politicians will indulge in politics and I don’t blame them.
But journalism calls for rigour and that is what I am demanding: from my reporter in the city to my peers.
If women were molested en masse, how come not a single victim has come forward to lodge a police complaint? I find it difficult to believe that Bengaluru women are not brave enough to demand justice.
Bengaluru should be safe so that my daughter, her friends and everyone else can be safe.
Media chasing sensationalism isn’t the best way for ensuring a city’s safety. The politicians have already hijacked the headlines. The real issue is lost, for the want of evidence.
The views expressed are personal. The author tweets from @Rubenbanerjee.