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There is no option but to join hands together

Swar Thounaojam
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Swar Thounaojam.
Swar Thounaojam.

On December 5, following an accident in which my car was hit, I was assaulted by a traffic police constable. He barred me from entering my car and allowed a mob of around 40 men to sexually harass me. I filed two FIRs that evening — one for the accident and another for the sexual harassment and criminal intimidation I faced at the hands of the constable and the mob.

Since then, I have met the DGP, Police Commissioner, DCPs, inspectors — no action has been taken. In fact, DCP (West) Traffic Mahadevaiah went on air on a local TV channel claiming that I am making false allegations. The Police Commissioner blithely remarked that there are no reported cases of harassment of women in public spaces in Bangalore, and the DGP said that my case is a one-sided story. Countering a police force hell-bent on disputing the woman complainant is one part of my case.

A bigger part has been the conversations I have been having with many women. Women who were born in the city, women who have adopted the city, and women who work for women in the city. A few say I shouldn’t be losing my temper on the streets, must adapt my behaviour to the street culture and learn how to fight with gloves on. Some say that it is important for young women to come out strongly and take the responsibility to mobilise public conscience against unconscionable crimes. Many share the horrors they have been facing in Bangalore.

I am not interested in listening further to the few women who want me to behave and fight with gloves on, whatever that means. I want to listen to the women who tell me about responsibility. I want to continue my conversations with the many women whose horrors have gone unreported and undocumented. When a woman’s sense of self and individual freedom is being met with such rage and violence, we have no option but to get together. Solidarity is our only hope.

Bangalore needs to get articulate about the harassment, intimidation and violence women face in public spaces. This narrative can no longer play second fiddle to the pub city, IT city, garden city narratives. We need to work with deeply entrenched cultural notions of who and how a public space should be used. It has to start from families, schools, colleges, and continue in workplaces, streets and public spaces.

What I propose is a series of public hearings where unreported and undocumented cases of violence against women in Bangalore’s public spaces can be heard and made to enter the public conscience. The everyday violence we face should no longer be the daily knocks a woman should bear and shut up about.

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