Ashita / Shivangee
BENGALURU: P. Chidambaram, Member of Parliament and former Finance Minister will release his book ‘Fearless in Opposition’ on April 1 at 6.00 p.m. in Xavier Hall, St Joseph’s College (Autonomous) on Langford Road.
The Department of Communication, St. Joseph’s College in collaboration with Rupa Publications, India, is conducting the event.
A panel discussion moderated by Mr T M Veeraraghav, Resident Editor, The Hindu will also be held. The panel will comprise Prof. Rajeev Gowda, Member of Parliament, Rajya Sabha, Dr Aditya Sondhi, Senior Advocate and Additional Advocate General, Karnataka, and Dr Fr Richard Rego, S.J., Director, Research Centre, St Joseph’s College.
Chidambaram’s book seeks to analyse deeper into certain political issues like BJP’S definition of Nationalism, MGNREGA as an instrument for India’s transformation, Surgical Strike, political and economic issues.
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BENGALURU: A typical New Year’s eve celebration in Bengaluru reported on the first day of the new year is something that has remained unchanged for the past few years; families on their way to church to attend the New Year’s mass, families having a quite dinner and inviting the new year in oneness, youngsters congregating at establishments that make special arrangements for the evening to welcome the new year and in the company of friends excitedly counting down the last few seconds of the old year and jumping headfirst into the new one, youngsters cruising around on the empty roads of Bangalore, chanting and wishing anyone insight a ‘Happy New Year’. But on January 1, 2017, Bengalureans woke up to news that raked up the issue of the safety of women in the city.
Protesters raise slogans at the protest PHOTO – JEEVAN
The chain of events that led to the ‘Mass Molestation’ of women seemed rather simple when narrated. On New Year’s Eve, large number of people had gathered in M.G Road and Brigade Road, which are home to many popular pubs which see a humungous outpour of patrons on weekends and special occasions, to celebrate the New Year. Also, being the heart of the city, these two prime areas are lavishly bedecked during the holiday season and attract large number of revelers who converge there to welcome the New Year. The victims who later came out and recounted their ordeal to media outlets said that the perverse conduct towards them had already begun within the premises of the clubs. Right from lewd comments to inappropriate physical contact, the ordeal had begun even before the women revelers were on the streets and their protests were of little help they said. As the women moved into the streets to get away from the scene, inebriated men who were dawdling around reportedly tried to make the best of the developing disorder and molested them. The police claim that approximately 1500 policemen were posted in the area to manage the crowd. However, the victims said that the policemen in the vicinity were mute spectators and did little or nothing to protect or help them from the hooligans.
The police claim that there were 45 CCTV cameras in the site in question and no camera captured any ‘molestation’. Post the incident and further investigation N Praveen Sood, Commissioner of Police, Bengaluru said to the media, “The alleged mass molestation of women on MG Road did not happen.There was no evidence of it. The word mass molestation is a great disservice.”
On the same night, in Kammanahalli, a young girl from north-east, who was walking back home after getting off an auto, was molested by two men who drove past her on their bike and turned around to engage in the shameful act. The men present there while the incident transpired were silent onlookers and did nothing to rescue the woman. The CCTV footage of the entire event was provided to the police by one Prashant Francis, which led to the arrest of 4. Further investigation revealed that the miscreants had been stalking the girl for four to five days and acted on New Year’s night.
Youths of Bengaluru protest against molestation at Town Hall. PHOTO – JEEVAN
This however was not the end of the series of attack against women in the city. On January 4, 2017, a 21 year old woman who was returning home from her gym was allegedly molested in Kalyan Nagar by 2 bike borne miscreants. On January 6, 2017, a 25 year old woman who was visiting her relatives in HRBR Layout was allegedly molested while waiting for a cab home at 9p.m. These are just some of the incidents that have been brought to light post December 31, 2016.
There has been much furor over these attacks and has drawn the attention of the media, activists and citizens across the country. A large section of the society have raised their voices against it and openly condemned them. Lalitha Kumaramangalam, Head of National Commission for Women, called these acts ‘unacceptable and regrettable’. But a handful of leaders who are in positions of power and great accountability made comments that dropped the onus and blame on the women for the behavior meted out to them.
G. Parameshwara, Home Minister, Govt. Of Karnataka, told the media that the cause for such untoward incidents is the youth trying to ape the west. Another leader echoing a similar view was Abu Azmi,a leader in the Samajwadi Party who said on a popular Indian news channel that it has become fashionable to show more ‘skin’ and the consequences of that have to be borne.
These shocking comments have raised further reactions of aghast from all quarters. Maya Sharma, a senior journalist said to The Beacon, “It is absolutely atrocious. It shows their mindset. If these are the leaders, if these are the people who are heading, the public figures, then what does it say for the people, the ordinary person on the street? What are they looking to? Then they will fear no consequences. It’s absolutely terrible. They have to be politically correct. They have to think it. If they can’t think it, they have to say the right things. Even if they think in the retrogressive fashion they have to be very careful with what they come out with. It is very important.”
Santosh Hegde, Fmr. Judge, Supreme Court Of India, Fmr. Solicitor General of India and Fmr. Lokayukta of Karnataka, during a personal interview with The Beacon opined that it was totally irresponsible on the part of these leaders to make such statements.
Many protests and marches have sprung since then and gained momentum. ‘Night in My Shinning Armour’, an initiative which was started by a group of students and has been trending with the #IWILLGOOUT, is one such example. On January 11, 2017 a protest was organized by the group at Town Hall. In attendance were senior police officials, students, journalists and activists.
At the protest when asked about the questions, which the aggrieved parties have to answer with respect to their outings and attire while lodging a complaint at police stations, Malini Krishnamaurty, Inspector General of Police, Karnataka Special Reserve Police said to The Beacon, “Nobody will ask like that. Somewhere someone asked something and you are repeating all this.”
Answering a question about the perceived image about the police, DrChandragupta, Deputy Commissioner of Police – Central Division, Bengaluru said to The Beacon, “The opinion about the police is formed based more on hearsay rather than personal experience. And when opinions are formed they must be cross-checked without spreading them.” When asked if the police department has been misrepresented he said, “Nobody is being misrepresented. Things have come to the knowledge of the people and they have spoken. The department is taking action and probing into it.” He further added that youngsters should understand that the society is more complex than what one reads about it.
When asked about the short memory of the media, Maya Sharma agreed that there is a new headline every day. However, it is all incremental.
When asked if Bangalore is still safe for women, Ragini, one of the protesters, who lives in Bangalore and works for ‘Teach for India’ said, “It’s not about one isolated incident. It’s not about now do we feel safe. We have not felt safe as long as I can remember. In whatever city I have been in India. So I don’t think it’s because of this, now women don’t feel safe. Women haven’t felt safe for a very long time. It’s because of this issue that suddenly people are starting to talk about it. And it is going to die down in a couple of months as well.”
Night In My Shining Armour at Cubbon Park PHOTO – DONNA
K.E. Radhakrishna, an educationist and a member of Janata Dal (Secular) said to The Beacon that, “Every Metro has a problem. Whether it is Mumbai or Delhi or Hyderabad or Kolkata, a metro has its own pressures. Metro allows you to have anonymity. If a girl knows you and you know her, you will never attack her. Anonymity as well as fearlessness in big crowds. In a crowd there is a scope to get lost. It all begins with small fun. They don’t realize that fun leads to a crime. Most of the crimes also originate from fun. It’s not only the problem of Bangalore; it is a problem of most of the cities in the world.”
Radhakrishna, who is also the former principal of renknowned colleges in the city viz. Seshadripuram College and Surana College, pointed out that though men and women are equal, they are ‘different‘. He also mentioned that blaming the governance only is running away from facts and no particular party forming the government in any state can be blamed for it.
While much has been spoken about the incident, no clear solution or roadmap to combat the issue has been drawn. When asked about what are the best ways to reduce this Tejasvi Surya, Secretary, Bharatiya Janata Yuma Morcha, Karnataka and an Advocate practicing at the High Court of Karnataka suggested that the solution lies in 2 folds. The first being, making use of better technology and surveillance systems coupled with better policing. The second being, rekindling the ethos of respecting women among young people and sensitizing them about it.
When asked if this could lead us to being called a country with no reported cases of assault against women, he said, “Answering your question specifically, as to whether by better policing and better gender sensitization, this is going to end all assaults on women, I would say that it is going to significantly lessen. Having said that, it doesn’t mean that all these things are going to vanish from the society. The challenge of civilization is to reduce the occurrence of crime. I think we will move towards that.”
BENGALURU: The transgender community is one of the most misinterpreted community in our country. Most transgenders are usually stereotyped as sex workers, beggars or criminals.
In India, transgender people include Hijras (Eunuchs), shiv-saktis, jogappas, Sakhi, jogtas, Aradhis etc. In fact, there are many who do not belong to any of the groups but are transgender.
Hijras from Bapuji Nagar PHOTO – BHARATH
Hijra community is the only one willing to openly express itself; it becomes the most visible form of transgender identity in India. And a lot of stereotyping begins here.In India, due to lack of awareness, people often call an effeminate man Hijra. Even gay people have been often called Hijra in our country. It is not wrong to be Hijra, it’s just very wrong to stereotype all transgender people as Hijra.
Being openly transgender is a very brave thing to do in our society, because it’s not easy. Hence, most transgenders choose to keep their gender status private and live in binaries as constructed by the society.
“I’ve studied MA in English. But I don’t have any job, because no one is ready to give me one. So I do begging. I come here (Nanjappa Circle) every morning and afternoon I’ll go to Vijay Nagar. It’s hard to live now. No one is giving money. You, college students have money to take out your girlfriend but don’t have 10 rupees to give me. I’ve attended few job interviews but no one took me, in cinemas we’ll find the good guy who helps everyone. But I haven’t seen one in real life”, said Sound Saroja, a transgender from Babuji Nagar.
Very few transgenders have been able to overcome the difficulties they face by the society and excelled in various spheres of life like Shilok Mukkati, a renowned poet, and a Radio Jockey in Radio Active CR 90.4 MHz
Being a media student, Shilok approached Radio Active, a community radio where she was asked to do a program on menstruation. Priyanka Divaakar, country’s first transgender RJ was doing a program called “Yarivaru” and she took a break. Shilok stepped in to do the second season of “Yarivaru” in which she expanded the scope of the program by including the community and the responses of people. Now Shilok has got her own slot called “Colourful Kamanabillu”.
“Doing this program has helped me to a great extent, both in terms of stabilizing me and understanding the LGBT community.”said Shilok. Shilok’s life has been a spectrum of all kinds of experience. She started writing in Kannada and began her journey as a poet at the Open Sky, a platform where budding artists showcase their talent in every performative field. Writing is extremely emotive as a mode of communication for Shilok. Shilok confesses to have an abiding love for literature, which she credits for clarifying her thoughts on the concepts of sex and sexuality. One of her favourite authors is Chandani, a transgender poet who is currently working on her autobiography.
“We are recognised legally in this country but only for the sake of law. We’re still not recognized as a human being. No respect is given. There are many people who would help us, take care of us. But the rest, look at us like we are from another planet,” said Shilok.
While conversing with few Hijras from Nanjappa Circle, Sound Saroja, a hijra who resides in Bangalore talked about the Eunuch festival in Koovagam, Tamil Nadu.“I haven’t been to the Eunuch festival, but I’ve heard stories from our community. Some people in my community have been to the festival. Transgenders from different parts of the country come together for this festival 16 days prior to it. Many talent shows and beauty contest happens in the festival. My friends talk about this festival; it’s something all of us look forward to. I hope I can make it to the festival next year”.
On the full moon day of the Chithra (April/May) month of the Hindu lunar calendar every year, transgender and transvestites from all over India gather at the Koothandavar temple for the Eunuch festival at Koovagam village. Every year they participate in the re-enactment of the tale of Indian epic Mahabharata, in which they play the bride of warrior God Aravan.
Aravan is a small character in Hindu mythology that played an important role in the Hindu epic ‘Mahabharata’. ‘Mahabharata’ is a story of two branches of brothers known as Pandavas and Kuaravas, born to different queens of King Pandu. In their struggle to win the throne, the brothers’ group was involved in a historic war called the ‘Kurukshetra’.
On the 17th day, the priest at the Koothandavar temple performs a special pooja by reciting spiritual mantras and decorating the Aravan’s idol with flowers and brings upon the power of Aravan on himself, and ties yellow threads called “Thaali” around the neck of all the Eunuchs as a marriage ritual symbolizing their marriage Aravan. The Eunuchs spend the night merrymaking by dancing and singing. They also involve in sexual relationship with men visiting the temple. “The next morning after the ritual, the Eunuchs rip away the yellow threads and cry out loud beating their chests and mourn Aravan’s death,” added Saroja.
1. As someone who has lived in Bangalore for some time, what was your reaction when you found out about incident that transpired on MG Road on New Year’s Eve?
I wasn’t surprised by what had happened on New Year’s Eve. Though these type of incidents in Bangalore earlier were rare, far and few. But more and more people come out on Christmas Day or a New Year’s Eve or a festival day.
Large gathering of people including women might give rise to these types of happenings. Because people with all mindset come. Many people don’t have any moral values. Earlier days Bangalore was a very quiet place. Maybe Christmas was celebrated in churches and maybe in clubs and there was no celebration of New Years’ on the streets in the earlier days. But as the years have gone by, I think this type of celebration in India has become wider. I would have been happy if Bangalore’s population hadn’t t grown up to such a big level. I came to Bangalore in 1956 to join my college and the population was 4 lakhs. And we are now 120 lakhs +. And the slightest of the possibility (opportunity), people want to celebrate it. It could be winning a cricket match or it could be something else.
People want to come down to the streets. Earlier of course mostly the boys came down to the street. Well, things have changed now. Women also come down to the streets and naturally this type of incidents become more. I am not surprised at that. Because they don’t see the ways and means of controlling that. But law and order cannot prevent this type of incidents at all. These are not pre-planned incidents. These are incidents which occur on the spot. Emotions on the spot. Well, that’s my view in regard to the growing things (incidents).
2.The term coined to address this incident is ‘Mass Molestation’. Your views on that.
That’s ridiculous. When ten thousand people get together in such a small street like brigade road, somebody touching somebody, it could be accidental or it could be on purpose. Some perverts are there. But to say its mass molestation, I certainly don’t agree. It’s exaggerating the incidents that have taken place. As a matter of fact I read what the commissioner of police said. That the (all) CCTV cameras hardly showed one or two persons behaving unbecomingly. It’s not a mass molestation at all. These are exaggerations
3.Your take on the development of this into a movement. #IWillGoOut, etc.
Good thing. I would have preferred the old system of parents teaching the boys and the girls the values of life. How to deal with… A boy should deal with a girl like a mother or a sister. And girls also should look at it from the same point of view. But things have changed very much.
Today it’s become an open society where I hardly find the required values in our life. As a matter of fact we live in a society that condones everything that happens. This earlier was not accepted by the society. I think this is a thing which we got to learn from values rather than by laws.
Laws cannot control this kind of incidents. I have been to more than 900 educational institutions to talk about changing the society in which we are. The society accepts everything. We are into a society which respects money and power. Nothing else. The lack of moral values is not condemned. On the contrary it is condoned by the society.
These values you should learn from the family and from the schools. We used to have moral sciences subject (in school) which used to give us a lot of information about the do’s and don’ts in life. Today you don’t find that subject at all. Today you teach only information about how to become rich, how to become successful in life and not the real values of life. The movement is very good. Because that’s what will create another type of awareness to the people. I support such movements.
4. Do you feel that it is an issue that plagues all the metro cities in this country?
Yes. I think it is. Metros are the biggest victims of these types of things (incidents). Because a lot of migration takes place. People don’t come with the family. They come alone. They stay alone. And the manly desire is always there. And so when a gathering is there people come out. Yes, metros (in) it is much more than the other places. In the rural areas the people will take care of that. Whereas in a metro (people are) totally unconcerned about what is happening. People take advantage of that. You are right. In metros it happens much more than other areas.
5. The moment any untoward incident happens, the general public opinion is that there is a break down in the Law and Order machinery. Your views on it.
I don’t agree with that. These incidents take place without any preparation. Nobody knows about the planning even if it is done. These are incidents that take place because of the mass gathering. It takes place spontaneously. You can’t have thousand policemen to control thousand people. It is impossible. And from what I read in the papers, Brigade Road had a couple of thousands of people all jammed together in one place. How can a policeman stop it? I don’t believe that the law and order has failed in this.
6. Many political leaders and well-known personalities have openly stated to the media that the onus lies on the woman. Right from the way she dresses to the timings of her outings to limiting her interaction with the opposite sex. Does it talk about a mindset?
It talks about a mindset. According to me, it is somewhat of a perverted mindset. You want women to be in burqa inside the house only and not to come out? Things have changed. They have the same rights as men. Why do you blame (them)? There are men who come out in the rural areas with their ‘kacchas’ tied in such indecent manner. But that’s a fashion there in that village.
7. Recently, I had the opportunity to meet Malini Krishnamaurty, Inspector General of Police, Karnataka Special Reserve Police. A friend of mine had written a piece on the helpline number 1091 not working and when we met her at town hall during a protest, she said that she was not aware about it till it was brought to her attention. She also said that there are other numbers through which one can contact the police. If the basic helpline number does not work during any emergency, what does it say sir?
It shows utter lack of responsibility to say that the number is not working! I was watching a program yesterday where they tried every helpline number, which was there and only one answered out of 10.
8. As far as punishment goes, do you think the punishment for violence against women should be more stringent?
As it is, it is quite stringent. Under Section 376, they have amended punishment, which is much more than what it used to be earlier. But nobody is afraid of punishment. We have to have a system especially in criminal law where punishment should be awarded within maximum 6 months time. It is not unknown to have a system like this. We need to increase the number of courts and change the procedural laws. I have been talking from the rooftop that these types of procedural laws have become archaic. You can’t now have it in the system.
One another example I will give you. If 10 people watch an incident that is taking place, maybe a rape, an accident or a murder, the jurisprudence requires that court should be convinced that a person has committed a crime. And if there is a doubt about it, the benefit of doubt goes to the accused. If 10 people are there, 5 people may not be available to come to provide evidence. So you examine only 5 people. 5 people speak about the incident. Then the lawyer will say “why only these 5 people are chosen? If the other 5 were brought I am sure that they would have said something in the contrary. ” So you create a benefit of doubt in the mind of the court and get an acquittal. There are many such loopholes in the systems that have to be controlled.
9. You spoke about power and money. In most of the cases, especially rape cases, even if someone is prosecuted, they belong to the lower income section of the society. And the richer bigger fishes always escape. Is there a way by which the richer people with power and money can be brought to justice?
The prosecuting agency must have a good lawyer. Today that doesn’t happen. The rich and the powerful have money so they engage the best of lawyers. And normally these posts to defend the state cases go to certain people by someone’s recommendation. Normally what happens is that they bring influences and people with not much legal acumen go
Normally what happens is that they bring influences and people with not much legal acumen go into the system. Prosecuting criminals with this kind of legal system is very difficult. Unless you have a competent lawyer who is capable of convincing the court about the gravity of the offense and the need for a higher punishment, it will be a challenge.
BENGALURU: Gender inequality and discrimination continues to exist in our society, though our religious belief put women at the pedestal of a goddess. We still fail to recognize her as human being first. Discrimination based on an individual’s gender or sex, often affects both men and women.
In 2011, Donna Kassman, a former KPMG senior manager filed a 350 million dollar suit against the company for practicing discriminatory pay and promotion policies. The firm failed to investigate and resolve complaints of discrimination and harassment.The preamble of Indian constitution speaks about achieving social, economic and political justice to everyone and to provide equal status and opportunity to all the citizens. Article 15 of the constitution prohibits discrimination on grounds of sex, religion, race, caste and place of birth. However the reality is different. Women are still treated as second-class citizens.
Gender inequality comes from the belief that one gender is superior to another. Such beliefs lead to various stereotypes like a woman is supposed to cook and do housework while men must work and so on. Discrimination further legitimizes traditional stereotypes, beliefs and practices. This reflects in the unfair treatment of women, which is often based on prejudice, ignorance, patriarchal social system and unjust structures. Discrimination in any sphere of life is abominable and unacceptable in the society.
Today women have shown their power and potency in almost all fields of human engagement. For instance, Nirupama Rao is the Indian Foreign officer and former Indian Ambassador to the United states, prior to that she served two years as the Foreign Secretary of India. Kiran Bedi is a retired police officer who joined the Indian Police Service in 1972. Medha Patkar is a social activist and reformer turned politician who is best recognized as the founder member of Narmada Bachao Andolan.
Indra Krishnamuthy Nooyi who is the current Chairperson and Chief Executive Officer of PepsiCo is ranked among the 100 most powerful woman. While speaking to the Great Lakes Institue of Management Students in Chennai, She said “Every one of you has the advantage and opportunity of the much more liberal, modern India with many more professional female role models. I think the future is especially bright for women. Don’t let anything hold you back”.
According to the International Society of Women Airline Pilots (ISA) 2014, there are 4,000 women out of 130,000 airline pilots. Among 3,500 pilots employed by the British Airways 200 are women. Sheryl Sandberg, COO, Facebook said, “I look forward to the day when half our homes are run by men and half of our companies and institutions are run by women. When that happens, It won’t just mean happier women and families; it will mean more successful business and better lives for us all.”
Despite such huge success women have registered in every field of human activity, there still remains gender discrimination and bias. Because they are women, they fail to be recruited for jobs when they can very well perform like any man. They are paid less than their counterparts for performing the same job. In the advertisement market they are used as commodities for selling products rather than persons with dignity and rights. Media portrays women as the ‘weaker sex’ while in truth they are the ‘complimentary sex’.
Gender discrimination like harassment can cause great emotional and psychological trauma to the victim. It includes violence or inappropriate behavior, making sexist comment or making women feel inferior or incapable of doing certain jobs because of their gender.
In the Army women were deprived of permanent commission. They were qualified for only a short service with a tenure of up to 14 years, which made them ineligible for pension and they found it difficult to get work after their retirement. Women who filed petition against this, argued that they have also received the same training as their male counter parts and have same experience as men do. The only reason that they could not go further is that they were women. Now according the latest ruling, women will be able to work until the age of 54 as their counterparts.
For a girl, discrimination starts from the moment she is conceived in the womb of her mother. The parents, including the mother, hope and pray for a boy child. In many countries and societies they perform the sex determination test to determine the sex of the baby and abort it if the baby is girl. In other cases, when the doctor says, ‘it’s a girl’ their countenance falls as if the most terrible tragedy has struck them. Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Bihar are the worst place for women. Uttar Pradesh has the largest number of girls married between 10-19 years of age. According to the Registration survey 2014 and National Crime Records Bureau, there are 38,467 crimes registered against women in UP, followed by West Bengal and Rajasthan. When it comes to crime rate, Delhi has the highest rate(69.6) followed by Assam and Rajasthan. India reports 26 crimes against women every hour.
“In most parts of the world when a girl is born, her wings are clipped so that she is not able to fly,” says ZiauddinYousafzai, the father of the Nobel Prize winner Malala Yousafzai. A girl child is considered an unwelcome entry to their families and so she is treated with bias even in her own home. While a boy gets all the privileges, a girl is supposed to be submissive, and slavishly obedient. Male children are given the opportunities to study and become what they want to, but girls are supposed to confine themselves to serving others by doing the household duties. According to sociologist Sylvia Walby, patriarchy is “a system of social structure and practices in which men dominate, oppress and exploit women”. In a patriarchal society, girls enjoy less privileges and rights because they are considered to be a burden and not an asset. Gender discrimination is prohibited by law and a woman has every right to take action when she feels discriminated because of gender, age or marital status.
The mass molestation of women during New Year Eve celebrations in the heart of the city, Bengaluru is still a shock to the people. The first step to put an end to sexual violence and discrimination begins with speaking about it openly. As a woman one needs to be confident and show that you have zero tolerance for sexist or discriminatory behavior. The more one tolerates, the more difficult it will become to confront the situation.
The stark and shameful reality calls for a change of our cultural and societal values. Gender equality is not a woman’s issue, but it is a human issue. It affects us all. The UN Women Goodwill Ambassador, Nicole Kidman’s words should become a reality in every part of the world, “Imagine a bold plan for a world without discrimination, in which women and men are equal partners in shaping their societies and lives. Let’s picture it!”