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Bangalore women getting together to confront the goons
Published on 7 Mar. 2009 12:26 AM IST
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Ahead of International Woman’s Day on March 8, women in India’s tech capital have a lot to worry about, as young women are being abused and attacked on the grounds of wearing western attire by youth in broad daylight and in crowded places. Now, the women are getting together to confront the goons. In the state’s coastal city of Mangalore, women, particularly young Hindu girls, have become easy targets for the self-appointed moral brigade which accosts them if found talking to Muslim youth. There have also been instances, though rare, of young Muslim women being harassed for talking to Hindu men. While the moral brigade has been prowling in Mangalore for several years, incidents of young women being punched and slapped for wearing ‘western attire’ is becoming a regular feature in Bangalore with at least six such cases reported in the last ten days. Sanjana, a journalist, was one of the victims of a recent attack despite wearing a salwar kameez. Sanjana was punched in the face as she was about to hire an autorickshaw to go home after work at around 10.30 pm in Vasanthnagar, a fairly busy area even at that time of the night, on March 1. The journalist did try to grapple with the youth who were driving a two-wheeler but they drove away. She could not note down the number of the vehicle. To fight the goons and spread the message against molestation and harassment of women, a group called Fearless Karnataka/Nirbhaya Karnataka (FKNK) has been formed by some women with male activists backing the initiative. Just a few days old, the group already boasts of 100 members. On Saturday, the members of the group will march to the office of Director-General of Police Ajai Kumar Singh here and submit a memorandum. On March 8, International Women’s Day, the members and supporters of the group will march in prominent areas of the city. Christened “Take Back the Night Walk” it is an attempt by women to reclaim their right to be safe at night across the state. “The walk will be staged on various roads, including Majestic Bus Stop, Richmond Road, and Cunningham Road to name a few. The walk will be a silent protest to tell the world that all women have the right to walk freely on the roads at night,” BN Jagdeesh, one of the founding-members of FKNK and a member of NGO Alternative Law Forum, said. “At the March 7 meeting with DGP, we will ask him what steps have been taken by the police to stop the attack on women in Bangalore. Moreover, we would like to know why such things are happening in a city like Bangalore, otherwise known as a safe haven for all,” added Jagdeesh, an advocate by profession. Most of the victims have so far preferred to orally complain to the police, instead of lodging a formal complaint. Some of the victims have also used the internet to narrate their harrowing experiences. “As the violence of the tugging increased, I hit out at an offending hand in self-defence that was trying to disrobe me. In response, he slapped me hard across my ear. Then they began trying to lift my top up while making references to ‘pink chaddi’,” read a post of one of the victims. The first incident took place on Feb 17 at 1.10 p.m. in Indiranagar, an upscale residential area, when a young woman’s car was closely followed by two men on a motorcycle. She was abused but escaped attack as she ran inside her friend’s house. Though only the journalist Sanjana and another victim have lodged formal complaints with the police, women’s groups and other activists say the police is not all that cooperative in tracing the attackers. “So far the police have not cooperated much to bring the culprits to book. At the Indiranagar police station, when the victim of Feb 17 wanted to file a First Information Report, police insisted that she not go for an FIR, as it is a minor incident. Thus no FIR was lodged,” said Jagadeesh. According to a survey done by Vimochana (a women’s rights group), Alternative Law Forum (ALF) and People’s Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL), around 50 women have been attacked on the streets of Bangalore in the past 18 months. Protesting against the crimes against women in the city, Shakun Mohini, a member of Vimochana, said: “There seems to be a set pattern in attacks against women. The whole episode shows the breakdown of the constitutional machinery.” Agreeing with Mohini, Jagadeesh said: “Attacks on women in Bangalore has its seed in the attack on women in a Mangalore pub. It seems that some kind of well-coordinated attack on women has been planned across Karnataka.” On Jan 24, around 40 activists from Sri Rama Sene attacked a group of young women in a Mangalore pub, accusing them of going against the “tradition of India”. A few days later Shruti, daughter of a CPM legislator from Kerala studying in Mangalore, was attacked allegedly by Bajrang Dal men for talking to a Muslim man in a bus. Two Hindu girls and a Muslim boy were threatened, again in Mangalore, by a group of young men while they were chatting at a juice joint. Bangalore police said that “efforts were being made” to arrest the people involved in the attacks against women in Bangalore. “The police are taking necessary steps to arrest the culprits,” said MR Pujar, additional commissioner of police, Bangalore city (Law and Order). However, state home minister VS Acharya expressed his ignorance about the rise of violence against women in the city. Acharya told television reporters last Sunday that he was unaware of the cases of attack on women in Bangalore. “Such cases have not come to my notice,” said Acharya, when asked about the action being taken against the hooligans attacking women in Bangalore.

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