Identify the guilty, punish molesters

Shocking. Despicable. Reprehensible. Words are not sufficient to describe the unspeakable horror that visited scores of young women on the New Year eve on M G Road and its surroundings in Bengaluru. It was a night of shame and barbarity when thousands of men, mostly inebriated, went on a rampage pawing, molesting and assaulting women on the streets, in the guise of greeting them. The police and male escorts were heavily outnumbered by the mobs, which seemed to believe that the night of ‘celebration’ offered them a licence to give free vent to their vulgar instincts. More videos have emerged of women being molested and attacked on that night in other parts of the city too.

While we ponder over Bengaluru’s enlightened, cosmopolitan, forward-looking image taking a severe beating over this incident, what has been equally, if not more, shocking, has been the reaction of the authorities. Initially, the police top brass, including Bengaluru’s new Police Commissioner Praveen Sood and DGP Om Prakash, were not only in denial mode, but tried to brush the whole thing under the carpet. Even when photographs and streams of footage from 40-odd high definition video cameras placed in the area had given them a graphic picture of the horrible incidents, they claimed that they had not received any complaints. They seem to have softened their myopic stand only after public pressure mounted on them. Home Minister G Parameshwara’s reaction that “these things happen” was pathetic and completely outrageous. Instead of offering sympathy to the victims and initiating swift action against the hooligans, his attempt to shift the blame on women and pointing to their “western clothes,” implying that they had invited trouble, betrayed an insensitive, sick mind.

As a former police commissioner of Bengaluru who rose to become DGP mentioned, M G Road–Brig­ade Road junction has been a hot spot during New Year celebrations since 1980s and the police always took sufficient precautions. If matters went completely out of control this time, the government has to take a fair share of the blame. Just a few hours before the revelry began, the government announ­ced the transfer of a number of senior police officers in the city, including the commissioner, which could have affected the planning and management of the crowd. The timing of transfers was bad and inexplicable. Unlike previous years, the celebrations were allowed to continue for two hours beyond midnight, which also proved extremely costly. The police should immediately arrest as many culprits as can be identified from the visuals and ensure exemplary punishment to them to send out a strong message that such behaviour in public will not be tolerated in future.

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