Just as politicians in Bengaluru were trivialising the horrific molestation of women at MG Road on New Year’s Eve; the Bengaluru police was busy either denying or addressing the allegations; defensive, myopic men were getting #NotAllMen to trend on social media, blaming women for going to a crowded spot in the first place; and some journalists were raising doubts over whether any molestation had really happened, a concerned citizen in Kammanahalli in Bengaluru copied CCTV footage from his street and sent it to the Times of India.
The horrific video captures the ruthlessness with which two men on a two-wheeler assault and molest a woman on an empty road. One of them gets off the bike, runs to the girl who is walking alone, molests her, assaults her, drags her to the bike, after which both of them try to molest her again, and when she continues fighting them, they just throw her off and speed away on the bike.
At a distance, perhaps 100 metres away on the main road, are men who just stare at the assault and do nothing. They are probably men who were with the two molesters, but don’t take a step ahead to intervene. Who cares, right? Let’s have fun looking at this.
In the ongoing outrage cycle over the molestations at MG Road and at Kammanahalli, Bengaluru has been blamed, women have been blamed, police have been blamed, north Indians have been blamed, politicians have been blamed and western culture has been blamed – but very few have taken the blame on themselves.
If there is one thing which is clear in the video, it is that the immediate intervention which could have stopped the assault should have come from the bystanders or friends. What prevented them? What prevents any of us? The Banaswadi police station was just a few hundred metres away, why were they not alerted?
There is no doubt that ineffective policing is an important reason why such audacious gender violence happens on our streets. But police are a part of the same society which doubts victims, blames them and gives a free run to molesters with impunity.
In a country where the Pachauris and Tejpals hold forth on society, we share a part of the blame for the molestations.
I am to blame. For every time I allow a friend to verbally or physically assault a woman, every time a rape joke is cracked without reprimand in my presence, every time I wonder after a gender assault what the woman could have done better, every time I hesitate before intervening in an instance of domestic violence, I embolden a future molester. And I am to blame.
The sad part of the debate is that it continues to be just about the police, open spaces, culture and how women behave, but never about how men behave within the confines of our own homes and friends’ circles. All of us know at least one person who beats the soul out of their female partner, some of us have been there ourselves, but do we intervene or own up?
And if it is not beating up the woman, then it is consistent gaslighting – manipulating women into doubting their own sanity in our servitude.
When a man dares to get off a bike and molest a woman for everyone to see, he is not acting as a lone wolf. His act is a culmination of years of misogyny which is allowed to be festered by all of us, inside our homes and classrooms. He is emboldened by us, as we stand by and do nothing.