BBMP elections are around the corner, but women's safety is not on the radar for political parties. A Frazer Town story of 'unsafety'

Frazer Town Is it any safer for women since last yearMakepeace Sitlhou
Blog Friday, August 21, 2015 - 12:10

By Makepeace Sitlhou

When Haidar (name changed) came to drop his friend late one night, he wasn’t expecting to be interrogated by a bunch of strangers. The 29-year-old advertising professional said that as the cab was reversing to leave Viviani road, three or four men in an inebriated state opened the cab doors and pulled him out along with the driver. “After she went in, these guys standing by the road asked questions like, Who are you? How do you know her? Why are you dropping her at this time of the night? I told them it was none of their business and we ended pushing each other until some people from the nearby wedding hall came, broke the fight and put us back in the car”, said Haidar. His friend, my roommate, told me all about it the next morning.

This incident was the first of it’s kind for us although we have been harassed multiple times in our two years of living in the neighbourhood. My roommate has been cat called by high school students right outside our house. One time, a 12 year old on a cycle physically gestured on the size of my breasts while I was out for a stroll around Richards Park.

However, what happened to my roommate’s friend felt like a minor throwback to the sexual assault case in Frazer town last year. While that was a far more horrendous experience but both stories started off the same – a male friend dropping a girl to her apartment. I suppose strategy no. 34484 to avoid rape isn’t as bullet proof, either.

In the incident last year, the accused had passed by the car a couple of times before they noticed a guy and girl sitting inside. They demanded the victims to get out of the car without explanation and even accused them of being regularly seen together late at night. Apart from dispelling the perception of Frazer town as a safe neighbourhood, this incident gained a lot of notoriety for the feeble attempts by cops at Pulikeshi Nagar police station to read down sections in the complaint.  

What used to be once a small neighbourhood of independent houses, Frazer town has seen increasing commercialization in the last few years, particularly in parts like Richards Town. The transition towards a neighbourhood with shops and cafes, though, has been a cause of worry for the residents, especially since security measures haven’t been upgraded to meet the increase in visitors. Pradeep Sinnas, a resident of Richards Town for the past 60 years, says that builders started targeting residential areas for commercial establishments six to seven years back once space started became scarce in areas like M.G. road. “If you have a shop or any business establishment, you’re supposed to have cameras around. But none of them are willing to put up a camera. Even most of the security men employed in the area are elderly persons”.

Sinnas, who has served as the Secretary of the Richards Town Residents Association (RTRA) for 20 years, blames the recent increase in crime on the lack of effective security mechanism from business owners and police. “This sort of fear of going around in the evening was never there. People now hang around the provision store near Richards Park till 11pm. Going to a pub is expensive so they fill up their bottles and come and sit in their cars, drink and throw the bottles around”, he said. He thinks the patrolling rounds are ineffective if they don’t closely observe and check for people loitering around apartments.  

In 2012, Richards Town residents had carried out a silent demonstration when the Nirbhaya rape happened in Delhi. However, there had been no such collective response in the wake of the Frazer town rape case. In fact, from my interactions with some of the women residents in the neighbourhood, there appeared to be lesser knowledge about the details of the case. Interestingly, most of them hadn’t faced or heard of any incidents of sexual harassment in the area. However, the horrific incident did affect business in what is considered Bengaluru foodie’s paradise to the extent that it was one of the reasons this year’s Ramazan food stalls were scaled down drastically.

The only time that I’ve called the cops in the neighbourhood was when I encountered some loud drunks on Wheeler road. Only recently, a liquor store had mysteriously opened up right below my dance studio, in close proximity to a PG girls’ hostel. The PCR van was fairly quick to reach the spot. The policemen heard me out patiently and reassuringly told me that they frequently patrolled the area. The cops thought they had appeased me by telling the person manning the liquor shop to not serve people at the shop. The shopkeeper, of course, nodded along but the shop was never in short supply of plastic cups and snakes. Now I have stopped going for dance classes, altogether.

Residents said that a lot of incidents in the neighbourhood still go unreported to the police or don’t get formally lodged, despite the media attention in 2014. Jyothi, a resident of Sindhi Colony in Frazer town, said that the paying guest (PG) accommodations in her area have been facing many problems. “In my lane, this one guy used to come and harass these two ladies staying alone. When they went to file a complaint against him, the police said, Forget it, ya’ll are only two ladies. With whom are you going to fight? Close the case. Now the guy hangs around French Corner.

Neither the circle inspector at Pulakeshi station nor the DCP of Bengaluru East could be reached for a comment despite repeated attempts. With the upcoming BBMP elections, residents are certain that they would get new roads but any improvement in security, especially for women, is a question they are skeptical of.

The author lives and writes in Bengaluru. On Twitter, she’s at @makeysitlhou

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