Park Street, the name synonymous to the elite echelon of the social strata of Kolkata nowadays invokes a sense of fear and usually ladies are on high alert whenever they walk past the Indian Museum. Those areas are still not safe for women where they are regularly propositioned. So is Kolkata becoming more dangerous for working women returning late at night? Let us find out.
On the eve of Independence Day few years back, in 2016, a lady was returning home from Sector V of Salt Lake City. Being in sales department her job was to attend customers and their different queries which resulted to her late departure from office on a national holiday. Tired? Yes she was. Around 11.10 pm after she alighted from the bus two drunkards harrowed her in a bike, abused her verbally and that’s not the end. These two bikers also started maligning her moral character. Curiously her fault was her unusual working hours. She was working late to keep the flames burning in the kitchen of her lower middle class family. The 24 year old still shudders in fear, helplessness and sheer disgust when recalls the incidents of that fateful day. And mind you, she was neither dressed in a “PROVOCATIVE” attire, (a pink full sleeve top and a pair of beige trouser do not fit the bill of “PROVOCATIVE”) nor was she coming back home from a late night party. Talking of late night parties, whether it is correct to attend such parties or not, is a choice of an individual. We can’t force someone to attend such parties, nor can we force someone not to attend such outings. But we can respect an individual’s choice and decision. Last week, when a lady was coming back home late at night from a friend’s farewell party, she had a cabbies telling her that women like her invite trouble by going out partying alone at night. So safety at midnight is an illusion woman OK Kolkata are chasing. The law enforcers are handling these criminals with a soft cushion in place of iron rods. In the above case of the working lady, a police complaint was filed; the accused was put behind the bars but were released on a subsequent bail. No justice was served; the case is awaiting the Chief Minister’s intervention. In fact, what is more alarming and shameful is that the incident was witnessed by few passersby and a cop, but none of them came forward to offer help. This is the jungle women live in where people or civilians living in the same society do not come forward to help a woman from the offenders; instead they look at the woman from a molester’s gaze. Even a cop, refuses to help. Where will women go? And which door to knock? Politicians only speak in the favor of the victim whenever they find a vested interest to speak up, that’s the name of the political game, otherwise they maintain silence. Clearly the administration is not helping. The Karaya Road police station is a burning example and was on news for all the wrong reasons in 2013. A couple accused the police force of inaction after the woman was molested by a gang of four perverts. One of them was arrested and three of them went back to molest her in the New Year’s Eve and threatened her of a brutal rape if she failed to withdraw the FIR. Harassed the couple went back to Karaya Police station where they were received with a cold shoulder and lame excuses the entire force being busy in the security mapping of the VIP’s in the New Year celebrations. Finally Lal Bazaar Head Quarter had to take matter in their hands.
In repeated cases it has been observed that police refused to accept complains or file a FIR from the victims or they went slow on the investigation on purpose. This is where we stand, where even law discriminates between sexes. This is the prodding miasma of our societal anarchy. On the New Year’s Eve 2014, an illuminated Park Street with 800 police personnel witnessed a nerve wrecking incident. A twenty-seven year old woman was abducted in presence of her father and two brothers and later molested by a taxi driver over an argument on fare. These 800 police personnel stood like zombies and some kind of trophy force. These people are sick, not just molesters or rapists and their perversion is scary, thinks Sunanda Mukherjee, chairperson of Women’s Commission. A social revolution is what we need at the moment and it is not a luxury any longer, it is an urgent call of the moment where a thirteen year old child is raped inside a taxi after she is lured with a fake promise of a hot meal by the driver. A disabled woman is also not spared from them, or her ten year old little daughter.
In 2018, Kolkata was a mute spectator to another appalling hideous atrocity. A school going kid all of five years was raped by a male teacher of a very famous school in Behala. A five year old baby girl was not spared from the claws and fangs of grisly grim debauchery. I as a mother of an eight year old at that time could not believe what I was hearing and my heart cried out for the parents when their faces were flashed on the television. The helpless father and the tormented mother were taking their baby in wreathing pain, to a government hospital for a POSCO test and it was a full blown circus of blame game and crass mindset of people. Nobody cared about the child, her pain, and her sufferings in the hands of a psychopath. The principal of the school was forced to resign overnight and the school remained closed for number of days. Most of the schools in Kolkata started monitoring their male staff and increased the number of CCTV cameras within the school premises
So who is safe in Kolkata? No one actually. The city used to be the safest place for women and it enjoyed its cult status for more than three decades in the past. But not anymore. The sheen and gloss of the safe haven has disappeared and in its place now stands an immoral degenerated skeleton of vice. The zeal and courage of common people are starkly missing and the system has surrendered to malpractice.
The scenario is too bleak to handle, too upsetting for us, who once were proud of their city, but gone are those days, alas!