The Big Story: Circus tent
The Bengaluru Police on Tuesday finally filed a First Information Report in the case of alleged molestation of women during New Year celebrations in the city’s busy Brigade Road and MG Road. Details of the incident, when inebriated men allegedly groped, harassed and even attempted to strip women in public, were first published by the Bangalore Mirror following which additional details also emerged. Yet for nearly three days, the local police refused to file an FIR, saying no one had come forward with a complaint.
Worse, the matter became fodder for the usual Indian political circus, with Karnataka’s Home Minister saying such incidents do happen because youngsters are like westerners both in mindset and the way they dress. Samajwadi Party leader Abu Azmi took it even further. “If there is sugar, ants will come,” he said, insisting that women who dress in western ways were a blot on Indian culture.
But Azmi’s remark turned attention away from the investigation at hand and instead took much of the media back into the far-too-familiar discussion of how misogynistic and patriarchal Indian authorities continue to be. There’s nothing new there and, while it might make for easier coverage particularly on television, it simply gives oxygen to those politicians who thrive on headlines, no matter the tone of the coverage.
More important is holding the Bengaluru Police to account. The actions of the immediate authority figure matter most in such cases, because it can make all the difference in whether those who were molested feel safe coming forward. Quick action also sends a salutary message to the perpetrators making it clear that the police will not tolerate any such actions.
Instead, for a few days, it seemed like the state home minister dismissed any question of a case and the attitude of the police, even as they were calling for victims to come forward, was not the most encouraging. The city’s police commissioner now says that his department has credible evidence of “wrongful confinement, molestation and attempt to rob”. He told the Hindustan Times that a citizen has also come forward with details. Instead of giving more airtime to politicians like Azmi, it’s important that our discussions ensure Bengaluru Police follows through on its investigation as we continued to contemplate what India can do to make its public spaces safer for everyone.
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- Pratap Bhanu Mehta in the Indian Express points out how the Supreme Court’s judgment prohibiting religious and community appeals in politics may be a high principle, but it makes for dubious law and reminds us of a paternalistic view of the Indian state.
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- Jairam Ramesh in the Hindu looks back at the life of Peter Jackson, a naturalist who was instrumental in nature and tiger conservation in India.
- “Bangalore’s mass-molestations on New Year’s Eve are another reminder that something is broken in what Indian men are taught about women,” writes Rega Jha in Buzzfeed.
Priyanka Vora reports on doctors ringing ethical alarm bells as more Indian women line up to get ‘designer vaginas.’
“Though several international medical bodies have pointed out that there is no scientific data to show that such surgeries can improve sexual functions, this has not dissuaded some women from opting to go under the scalpel. They include a 26-year-old jewellery designer from Mumbai who has had two vaginal cosmetic surgeries in the last three years. First, she tightened her vagina along with undergoing a labiaplasty. ‘My vagina looked strange after childbirth,’ she said, requesting that her name be withheld. ‘My friend told me about these surgeries and I decided to get one.’
Last year, the woman, who has a five-year-old child, underwent a hymen reconstruction. The procure is promoted as ‘revirginisation’, with even older women opting for it. Sometimes, they are given the procedure as an anniversary gift for their partner. ‘My husband and I wanted to feel the way we felt at our wedding night,’ said the jewellery designer. She has since convinced some of her friends to get the surgery.”