Published On : Fri, Jan 6th, 2017

Lawless at midnight – when rules of the jungle took over

Representational Pic

Representational Pic

After all the hullabaloo one has been hearing of women molested at midnight on 31st December, New year’s eve, in Bengaluru I watched some of the videos of various ‘incidents’ that have gone viral on internet. My curiosity was more intense because I had been at those very spots driving around with my family in our car just before the clock struck 12. We had seen that crowds were intensifying, with cine goers emerging from theatre showing Dangal adding to the crowds on foot.

Ironic that in the climax of the movie we have Amir as father telling his daughter who is about to go in for the Commonwealth games final bout of wrestling ” I have no wrestling tips for you today. No advise on techniques, or whether to play defensive or offensive; I will just say one thing – go there and wrestle for all the women in India who are brought up thinking they are inferior and meant only to produce children; show them what a woman can do when she fights with determination and resolve – ek misal kayam karo!” (Set an example).

But what are the actual ‘misals’ – examples – we are faced with?
Women out in groups trying to enjoy the last day of the year; women coming home from work late at night and even a woman stepping out early in the morning to get to work accosted on Bengaluru main roads and literally attacked,more than molested. Groped, pawed at, bitten on their lips and tongue by bestial men.

Till now one believed that when the roads were deserted, dark,no one was about, a lone woman would be unsafe on the street – any street of India.

But on 31st we had HUGE crowds on the roads, coloured lighting on many restaurant and shop fronts, policemen around and women were still made targets!

Are we seeing a sea change in societal conditions? Is there a breakdown of social rules, dos and don’ts and any kind of inhibition?

Was it the effect of alcohol flowing freely as is the norm for the December holiday season? Is that not what all New Year eve’s ads for hotels tell us? ‘Happy hours’, ek pe ek drink free, special deals when you purchase entire bottles of alcohol! At least that is what the lower strata people who keep the cogs of a metro well oiled perceive.

Let’s face it – a huge city like Bengaluru is kept aloft with many young men coming in to work from other states like Bengal, Bihar, U.P., Assam and Odisha who come to this city to work as delivery men, drivers, salesmen in malls, security guards in buildings, even cooks and menial domestic labour.

They see the highly salaried ‘professionals’ enjoying life, living it up on weekends, going on expensive foreign holidays, throwing lavish birthday parties while their own lives remain where they are. 99% of them live alone without their families; the married men without their wives and children.

So we have great social disparity, and a large mass of migrant/ displaced young men looking in from the ‘outside’. The fringe of society – unseen, faceless people who we need just to do our chores.

In feudal India too, we had class system and domestic servants. But there was a social binding between employer and employees, living together like a big joint family. There is no more of that social binding any more.

And then a ‘national holiday’ like 31st December comes around. The old year is giving way to a new – and the in between period of the 5-6 twilight years are like ‘no man’s hours in no man’s land’. There is a suspension of all civil life laws and rules. Good behaviour, responsibilities of any kind are forgotten altogether.

If you watch the videos of the streets of Bengaluru that night, you don’t see normal people – you see ‘packs of wolves’ in human clothing on the hunt – in search of prey. They shout and howl more like animals than humans, fueled by rum and beer flowing in plenty. Just watching the scenes you see what a hapless job the many police trying to patrol these streets had, trying to separate single women and couples from ‘stags’ out by themselves. This latter number heavily outnumbered the former.

Is there sex-ratio imbalance also at work here?
I remember Dr. Ashok Adhao, prominent Nagpur surgeon who has devoted himself to the cause of ‘beti bachao’ since over a decade cautioning people ” if this imbalance between ratio of men to women continues in 15 years no female will be safe on Indian streets. Not my 6 years old grand child, nor my 70 years’ old mother.”

Is that scary time upon us finally?
I don’t know how this situation will be different next year or the year after that if we continue doing things the same way. As individuals, as society, we need to do things very differently.

We need to stop aping the west and blindly heading out on the streets ” to have that evasive ‘good time’ “.

I know feminists will hate me for saying this, but single women, even couples, should stay at home and enjoy parties in the confine of their four walls. If you have friends over, insist they stay the night.

Law makers and enforcers may have to do the unthinkable – even enforce curfew in trouble prone areas! The Brigade and Commercial street areas would be nightmares for police to control even at the best of times. Narrow main roads with lots of side lanes, bars and pubs everywhere – how do they police such an area?

Let us, as a society, as a nation, think of a better and more Indian way of bringing in the new year.

If we go in completely for the commercial motive, establishments thinking how they can profit from people’s aspirations of having a good time and living it up, these horror scenes will continue.

If possible, they will get worse.