So, I wasn’t planning to write yet another piece about the molestation of women in Bangalore. I read, I listened, I watched and then it got to me. What? The hypocrisy and the hollowness of it all - the rants in public and the rapes in private, the shock on display and the shamelessness in sequestered settings, the audacity to suggest that we should all do something together when all most of us do is to protect ourselves and ours. We, the powerful and the privileged.
Safety is a law and order issue. It has nothing to do with morality and short skirts.
The vacuous nature of it all is truly galling. We live in gated communities, but extoll others to rise and revolt. We have one set of rules for women around us we know and another for others who also hold up the sky with us. We speak of empowerment as if we have the wherewithal to make that a reality for millions of women who have no choice but to travel in crowded busses and trains where groping is normal, live in homes where they may be molested and sometimes even raped, and work in offices where harassment is par for the course.
Safety is a law and order issue. It has nothing to do with morality and salwar kameez.
A few weeks ago, I was asked why I don’t speak publicly about what I write, whether it be about corruption, politics or issues relating to women. The answer is simple. I have made a conscious choice about who I sit next to and I refuse to share space with people who are known to be caught with their hand in the till, turned a blind eye to sexual harassment of women in their presence and serial fence-sitters when a serious fraud stares them in the face. To do so is to legitimise wrong. Sometimes I have no choice. Most times I do. I exercise it without making a noise. For, raising this type of 'awareness' would be to rehabilitate the guilty in full view of the world.
Safety is a law and order issue. It has nothing to do with shirts and pants.
‘We should do something about the image of India’ is a sentence I hear very often. Well, we cannot do better than the original, can we? I tried. In my circle of acquaintances in political and business circles – and I know people in all political parties – every time the issue of women’s safety comes up, I engage and discuss. I have some experience in running large campaigns from my time at the World Health Organisation (WHO). I know what works and what doesn't. When I speak about this in private, interest is live. Send me a mail is the typical answer. I do, explaining in fair detail the policy advocacy campaign that is driven by India’s mobile telephone revolution. It rides on a basic principle of all of us securing the space around us, whether it be our homes, our streets, our schools, our places of work or leisure. To date, not one person – not one – has responded to my mail, testifying to the hollowness of their commitments to ‘save’ women. Mails and reminders have gone out to women politicians and businesswomen who have the resources, time and platform to make a serious contribution. Silence.
Safety is a law and order issue. It does not come in power-points.
The molestation of women in Bengauru earlier this month and the terrible images of the young lady dragged by two men in Kamannahalli has led to outrage because it is happening around us, in public, near where we live. Unspeakable violence is endured by women in India in villages and small towns. The men who molested the lady in Kamannahalli have been arrested, and somewhere deep down a sigh of relief has been observed because the men were delivery boys. If they were children of politicians and powerful businesspeople, everybody would be absconding or admitted to a hospital with severe heart conditions, and the police would be searching for excuses. Politicians in Karnataka have the gall to dismiss the atrocities as once-in-a-while occurrence. Bengluru has been unsafe for women for some years now.
We at The News Minute take this issue very seriously. Ours is a young team, mostly women who make their way to work and back in the city. It is not an academic discussion for us as some of us have friends who have been in similar difficulties. As journalists, we have two responsibilities - report as accurately as possible and pledge to do only what we know we can with satisfactory results. We have run a series of campaigns with groups of women for whom protecting women is the central part of their work.
A politician once told me he respects women like goddesses. It's relevant to me what he worships. I am deeply perturbed by the over-insistence on clothes. The responsibility for the sorry state we find ourselves in, is partly ours because we elect the corrupt and the venal, the greedy and the ordinary. Kakistocracy cannot heal itself. It has to be shred at the very roots. The process cannot begin at the watering holes of the perpetrators.