Bengaluru: State Home Minister G. Parameshwar upset legions of Bengalureans - and the country- when he blamed the city's "western culture" for the hooliganism that surfaces every year — as it did this year — during New Year's Eve revelries in the IT capital's CBD, where young women are pawed and groped.
Instead of pulling up security forces, who were clearly unequal to the task of policing the sheer number of revellers who clogged MG Road, Brigade Road, Church Street and Residency Road, and couldn’t exit easily because of the security arrangements, Mr Parameswar's "These things happen," comment only further tarnished Bengaluru's reputation as a progressive, safe city.
An eyewitness told DC: "The police' s reaction to the spreading panic was to tell women to stay indoors and wait until the crowd had cleared. And then they lathi-charged us."
Said women's rights activist Donna Fernandes: "The men's behaviour that night was depraved - why are we attempting to nurture and encourage this mindset?"
Lalitha Kumaramangalam, head of National Commission for Women, echoed the nation's wrath as she demanded the Home Minister's resignation on Monday. "Are Indian men so pathetic and weak that they lose control if they see a woman in Western clothes on a day of revelry?," she said angrily.
On Monday, State Women's Commission Chairperson Nagalakshmi Bai sent an official notice to Praveen Sood, who assumed charge as Police Commissioner on Jan 1.
"We have asked for the official police report, based on which we will demand strict action against the troublemakers," she said.
Mr Sood called on the women who had been molested to come forward and register cases, which he said would be given the highest priority. “We are investigating the matter. The officers are looking into the CCTV footage," he said.
Those four horrifying hours
The revelry on New Year's Eve far outweighed that of previous years, said eyewitnesses present on Brigade Road on Saturday night. Metal barricades manned by policemen, were set up at either end, restricting entry but also impeding a quick getaway incase an unpleasant situation arose - which it did.
The crowds began to grow as early as 7 pm. "Most of these people were young men," said an eyewitness on condition of anonymity. "By 11 pm, the crowd was so large that people were spilling out of Brigade Road and onto Residency Road," he added.
At midnight, young men and women rushed out of pubs and eateries along Brigade Road to join the revelers outside. The sudden influx of people onto the street resulted in chaos, rendering our police force "helpless," as they tried to tell women to stay inside restaurants and shops until the crowd had thinned. "
Most of the people there were inebriated, but it seems as if our police force, who were "helpless" in the face of such mayhem, had "no choice but to stand back." The eyewitness added, "Their only reaction to the spreading panic was to tell women to stay indoors and wait until the crowd had cleared.
They were all groping us, it was hard to pinpoint them: Victim
21-year-old Sukanya (name changed) arrived at the entrance of Brigade Road around midnight, with a group of friends. "We were four boys and four girls and the only way to enter or exit Brigade Road was through M.G. Road," she said. Traffic had been banned along the stretch and thrown open only to pedestrians.
"The crowd was moving very slowly because there were so many people present," said Sukanya. They were inching their way back toward the Metro Station when a friend turned around and told her that a man had just attempted to grope her. The exit was in sight, well-manned by policemen and members of the Home Guard, who looked completely out of their depth. "A couple of minutes later, we felt people groping all of us," she said. "There was such a big crowd and it was impossible to turn and around and pinpoint the culprits. There was nothing we could do."
Meanwhile, the situation was growing even more chaotic, which provided the troublemakers with the opportunity they needed. "They came in groups of three or four - there were around twenty groups of hooligans at the Brigade Road entrance alone. They were pushing people, adding to the mayhem and getting fresh with the girls in the confusion," Sukanya recalled. The boys in their group came to their rescue, circling the four girls and taking them to safety.
"The police were lathi charging the crowds," said Sukanya. Were these men all drunk? "Everybody was drunk," she said, truthfully. "There were a few good people around, trying to get the women to safety. They were a small number. In most cases, though, the men were there to have a good time with the women present. The police could have done more as well - they were lathi charging, but that's punishing all of us, not just the troublemakers."...