After the brutal gangrape and murder of a 27-year-old doctor in Hyderabad, Bengaluru cops are doubling down on their attempts to reach out to women in the city, asking that they all download the Suraksha SOS App. As many as one lakh women have downloaded the app so far. However, in a city with a population of over a crore, this is still a small number. The app’s panic button will send out an immediate call for help, no matter how remote the victim’s location. The app is a must-have for every woman in Bengaluru city and help, say police, will arrive in under nine minutes.
While the efforts of the city police are appreciated, these are still the most basic forms of protecting women, says senior psychologist Dr A. Sridhara. “Society is shedding crocodile tears for Indian women,” he warns. “As we talk of the Hyderabad incident, we have to observe that one government woman officer was burned to death a little while ago. Incidents involving violence against women are plentiful but women should understand that the entire nation sheds crocodile tears, for these tragedies continue to happen."
Where do women stand in society? This is obvious at many levels, especially at the higher ones. “At the crudest levels, you completely eliminate them. At the highest levels, they are ignored. In one case the discrimination is obvious, in the other, far less so. Over 90 percent of our parliament is made up of men. What message does that send? Girls don’t even have equality within their own homes. Girls should be treated the same as boys by their parents, they are just as capable. But the superiority given to men has also trained women to be helpless. Boys are given more leeway, more power. These things embolden them to take up crimes against women,” Dr Sridhara explains.
IPS officer Isha Pant, DCP, South East, has a different view. “I don’t want to go into whether a girl child is able to fight it out or not. The fact is that such heinous acts shouldn’t happen at all. That is the point. Factors like upbringing, including how the girl is raised to be weak... that is a different matter. Why does such violence happen? That is my question,” she says. The Hyderabad rape and murder is very unfortunate, she agrees. “It shows the levels of mental degradation in our society. We have seen Nirbhaya, we have seen this – every once in a while such tragedies come to light, shake us up and show us which way our society is going,” she underlines.
“Bengaluru city police are always with women. Anytime anything happens please call 100. It is very active, very quick. I encourage everybody to install the ‘Suraksha app’. It is a wonderful app because once you install that app, you can have the numbers of your relatives, also of the emergency control room and if some situation arises they will have to press that and automatically signal will go to all these people along with GPS location of that lady. Our Hoysala, her own relatives will be there for her” she says.
Isha Pant urges women to be confident. “Bengaluru is a safe city and it will continue to be a safe city for women. Police are responsive, no matter how small the incident appears to be. Even if you feel you are being followed, let us know. There will always be a Hoysala nearby, in every year. Approach them and if they are not able to do so physically, call 100.”
The Hyderabad incident is extremely unfortunate. “As a police officer, I say that we should do a proper investigation and ensure that the culprits are put behind bars with exemplary punishment,” she says.
Hyderabad has been seen as a relatively safe city for women so far. But the recent case shows that we need to be more proactive as a society, Pant remarks. Should juvenile offenders continue to get immunity from the law? “We have to follow the law, as officers. But in my personal opinion, not speaking as an officer, I think if someone is capable of such an act – this is not a theft or something small – they should be punished in keeping with that. This is also my opinion as a woman. But as police officers, we have to follow the law of the land without question.” She will not comment on capital punishment for rapists, saying, “The law of our land is already very strict.”
M.N. Anuchet, DCP, Whitefield, says where there are people, there will be crimes. Laws act as a deterrent to some people but not to others. “Perverts will indulge in such crimes, law or no law.”
For some people, measures taken after Nirbhaya acted as a deterrent. For others, those measures did not suffice. “There are many factors including social upbringing, mental makeup and various others that lead a person to such crimes. But there is no one factor or single reason behind why this happens,” he says. “This is why we are popularising the Suraksha app, which more women should have access to in case of an emergency,” he says.
The workforce is also being sensitised on women’s safety, says DCP Anuchet. “Criminal antecedents are being checked, cab drivers’ backgrounds are being verified and if women are being dropped at night, we ensure that a security person is present and that the female workers are dropped first. “
There are other things to be done, which involve cooperation from across the administration. Will the BBMP and other civic agencies come forward to identify dark stretches and illuminate them? Will cops be able to provide foolproof evidence to the courts in such cases? Will the average parent shed his or her assumption that the girl child is inferior to the boy? One will have to wait and see.