January 05, 2013

Reality checkmate: Nothing's changed despite Delhi

Given the uproar of the political and the middle class since the Delhi gang rape, I was thinking that police would adopt a zero-tolerance approach towards sexual abuse of women. That we, as a society, would be more sensitive towards the issue. Accompanying a female friend to a New Year party proved how wrong I was.

It was as if all the hoodlums and ruffians of the city had thronged the Brigade Road-MG Road area to have some 'fun' (read passing lewd comments and groping women). My friend and I realised this no sooner than we came out of the party venue, near Brigade Road. Negotiating the thoroughly pervert-infested place was akin to treading on a minefield: there was danger all around and we didn't know what to do to be safe.

Sleazy men with unwanted "Happy New Years" came a dime a dozen. They were on footpaths, on two-wheelers, sticking their neck out of cars... Shouting, screaming, gesturing. Often, in your face. Avoiding roving eyes, blocking ambitious, straying hands and dodging I'll-jump-in-front-of-you-out-of-nowhere 'revellers', we moved ahead.

Our vehicle was parked about a kilometre away and I was worried for my friend's safety, looking over my shoulder, sometimes succeeding in deterring approaching hooligans by giving them a steely gaze. And then it happened. A guy groped her, in the middle of the street, and took to his feet. Aghast, I gave him a chase, but had to give it up soon because I couldn't have left my friend alone. 

Shocked, we decided to travel the 1-km distance in an auto, hoping it would be safe. And we were proved wrong again. When the auto was waiting for the signal to turn green, two guys coming from opposite direction stretched their hand and groped my friend again. This time too I went after the miscreants, but had to quit the chase after 200-300 metres for the same reason.

Sad truth
I'm not the pessimist kind, but these incidents scream that nothing has changed despite Delhi. Many of the 'revellers' seemed to be students or job-goers. For the members of the fairer sex, there was no security despite the presence of 16,000-odd policemen in and around MG Road and Brigade Road. Perverts had a free run. So much for all the talk about dealing with the culprits with an iron fist.  

A stern, loud warning from the police to the ones passing comments when 'revelry' started would/could have deterred the potential troublemakers from bothering the women. Maybe the police found nothing wrong with 'mild' sexual abuse. Condoning a small offence gives birth to a bigger offence.

My every female friend who went outside either experienced for herself or witnessed the horror. And we are talking about reclaiming the night! Dear women, the law enforcement agency does not seem to be on your side.

Slap 'em young
When I narrated the incident to my roommate, he told me how a friend of his once proudly showed him how to grope a woman. This was when they were in class VI, mind you. It was during Dasara celebration in our small town in Chhattisgarh. The venue was crowded. My roommate's friend put his hand on a woman's behind and gleefully asked my roommate to see what he was doing. The woman turned back in disgust, only to find a grinning 11-year-old pervert. Confused, she just walked away. 

That 11-year-old pervert is a 25-year-old man now and I bet he must have groped many since that day. Had that young woman slapped him hard and made a scene, I'm sure he must have given up his perverted pursuits. Impunity emboldens.

So, women, don't spare anyone. And men, stop being mute spectators. And police, well... God, do something about it.

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