The Centre on Tuesday condemned Karnataka Home Minister G Parameshwara for saying “such incidents happen” when told about the widespread street harassment of women on December 31 in Bengaluru. In a tweet, Minister of State for Home for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju said crimes against women could not go unpunished. “Bengaluru is a vibrant city and women must be safe in a civilised society,” Rijiju said. “It’s not just an incident or a law and order issue.”

On Monday, Parameshwara had blamed “western ways” among youngsters for the harassment and said it was not uncommon for crowds of women to be molested in the city on Christmas and New Year’s Eve. “Youngsters who are almost like westerners, they try to copy the westerners not only in the mindset, but even the dressing,” Parmeshwara told a news channel.

Home Affairs Minister Rajnath Singh, too, condemned the remarks, saying “protecting the modesty” of women was the state government’s duty.

Separately, eyewitnesses said police personnel asked women to stay indoors to avoid being targeted by crowds. However, they then lathi-charged the crowds without distinguishing between the women and the groups of hooligans targeting them, the Deccan Chronicle reported. A 21-year-old witness said only a few people were attempting to help the women in the MG Road-Brigade Road area.

“There was such a big crowd it was impossible to turn and around and pinpoint the culprits. There was nothing we could do,” the witness said. “The police could have done more as well – they were lathi charging, but that’s punishing all of us, not just the troublemakers,” she added.

Meanwhile, the State Women’s Commission sent a notice to Bengaluru Police Commissioner Praveen Sood, asking for an official report on the incidents. In a public statement, Sood called on the women who were molested to register cases against their assailants. “We are investigating the matter. The officers are looking into the CCTV footage,” he said.

Reports on January 1 said hundreds of women were left cowering behind police personnel or male friends and acquaintances as the crowds of men descended on them. Some were forced to run away, the report said, while others wept. The city had relaxed its night-time restrictions and allowed celebrations up to 2 am for new year’s eve.