It was disheartening to read of two girls being molested in Bombay on new year’s day. Far more shocking was to hear that the Police Commissioner of Mumbai was dismissive in his reaction and asked the media “not to blow this out of proportion”, because such things “can happen anywhere.”
There are just so many things wrong with this.
It is downright cowardice to imply that if we somehow lack the resources or motivation to fight crime, we should instead accept it. Especially a crime as degrading, as humiliating as sexual harassment – humiliating not only to the criminals but to the society at large – not long ago, Mumbai used to pride itself on being a “safe” city, one in which a lady could walk alone at night unafraid. And now, even if a couple of girls are walking in the company of men they know, they still aren’t safe. As a democratic society, we have laws against such behavior, and if the police aren’t competent enough to fight it, they just need to be better.
Actually, this wasn’t blown out of proportion enough. The reason this became visible was that media men happened to be at the scene and recorded the proceedings. I wonder how many other cases of harassment or molestation, or worse, happened that night that went by unnoticed because the victims were too scared, too uninfluential, or just too ignorant to report what happened. It’s not like we do not know that this is a problem – we just like to cover it up.
It’s hypocritical to say that this happens everywhere, so lets just put up with it. The Mumbai police are so proud of their offensive against drug abuse that these days they put up neon signs on intersections congratulating themselves for jailing X number of drug users. How come they could find the resources to fight drugs but somehow can’t find resources or even the will to start a fight against harassment? Behind drugs are the most powerful resources that organized crime has at its disposal, because drugs earn them money. Comparatively, street harassment ought to be much easier to combat.
Finally, is it that hard to take a stand and say “No, we do not accept this”? If so, that means we’ve just given up, or worse, sided with the perpetrators. That does nothing but encourage these people to behave in this way. That such a despicable act occurred in Mumbai is partly due to the “look-the-other-way” silence of a society that somehow condones such crimes. Is it surprising that the villians feel increasingly free to encroach upon their victims until their ethics and morals start to define of our society? We don’t want to let this continue, and part of that process is awareness, part of that process is to face that this indeed is a social disease that we’ve failed to cure.
We either work towards awareness and a cure, or the crimes get worse; and history holds our entire society responsible.