Is it a parable that Kolkata still offers safety to its women? That is the burning question which is plaguing most of the women, working or housewives of the city.
Two weeks back on a particular thursday the morning newspapers of Kolkata brought a shiver along with other global news and with the raging news of elections and morning turned sour. The front page news of a crime left Kolkata shocked and stunned. The city dwellers could not believe what they were reading with gritted teeth and controlled their jarring emotions to read till the end. A seventy five year old lady, Shyamali Ghosh residing in a posh south Kolkata locale in the top floor of a plush opulent five storey stand alone apartment was murdered and her dead body indicated that the murder took place two days before the crime was detected. The cops discovered the body long after rigor mortis had set in.
It almost took the residents of that area by storm because that locality is home to many aged couples and is apparently safe. But safety seemed just a word when this gruesome murder took place. According to a police officer of Lake Police Station, the predator attacked her when her head was turned back to him and the auto lock of the main door was not broken. Another officer from homicide squad was heard saying that the victim was first hit on the back of her head with the tong (which was discovered with blood all over it), then strangulated with a piece of cloth from behind and then smothered to death.
THIS THE KIND OF SAFETY WOMEN OF KOLKATA ARE EXPERIENCING.
The City of Joy or Tilottama Kolkata is refusing to provide safety to the fairer sex. Everyday women, working or housewife, who are commuting via bus, auto, app cabs, tram, taxi, metro or any other means are groped, humiliated and assaulted, for being women, they are objectified for no apparent reason. Their only fault? THEY ARE WOMEN.
In this era when we talk about equality and say NO to gender discrimination, the practical scenario is far from these preachy dialogues. Does Kolkata practice what it preaches? Sadly NO. A fifteen year old school girl, studying in a CBSCE school in Hazra Road recounted her tales of daily horror which left the city shocked and beyond being shocked responsible citizens were horrified. She told a news channel (face blurred and name withheld on request), teary eyed and visibly tormented that every day when she travels by this public bus from Tollygunge to Hazra in a crowded bus, a particular group of middle aged men, take their chance and manhandle her. When this visibly shocked reporter asked her, “What do they do?” “Didi”, she replied sounding tired and distant, “they fondle my breasts or they rub their genital on my thighs from back”. “Have you informed your parents?” “Yes I did”, she said “But they told me to keep quiet and not to create a scene with those men in bus, else they will be forced to change my school. What do I do? We can’t afford to book an app cab everyday for commuting, we have to count on public bus and so I chose to maintain silence. My school and education are important to me.” People watching this horrific tale of a girl’s trauma unfolding on TV screen must have felt truly nauseated, how can a society let a young girl all of fifteen suffer this trauma everyday in hands of some gross uneducated sociopaths? Does the societal value system allow it? To tolerate this nuisance? The social workers came out in full force to protest but could they offer safety to that innocent young girl who’s every day journey from home to school had been tainted with the nasty untoward behavior of a group of filthy people.
When Kolkata was arguing over this issue and comments from different people were flooding in the sensitivity barometer of the city seemed too fragile.
Next day the city was washed in anger and prostration when a sixteen year old girl in Madhyamgram was gang raped twice. Being a daughter of a Bihari taxi driver residing in Madhyamgram she was first conned out of her home on the pretext that her father was calling out for her and later she was attacked by five or six men who tortured her until she lost her senses to those boorish savage attacks. Later she was again made to face the torture when she dared to lodge a police complain. The rapists had dumped her on a field and fled. Later when the parents heard about their daughter’s plight and took the step of lodging an FIR, the criminals again abducted her on their way home by a bicycle. They forced her in a taxi and sped away to Madhyamgram-Badu road lined with rows of mango trees on either side, where it was pitch dark around 8.30 pm in the night and raped her again with the windows of the taxi rolled up. By then the girl lost all her stamina and strength to shout for help, she had to give in. Tanmay Roy Chowdhury, superintendent of police north 24 paraganas, was quoted saying that they have registered a case of gang rape and abduction on the basis of the victim’s testimony on seven people but they are absconding.
This harrowing incident took the city back to murky memories of sickening and infamous Park Street gang rape of February 2012 which shocked the nation and indicated to the rest of India that things were not the same in Kolkata any longer. It was followed by another gruesome incident of rape in a car in A.J.C Bose Road. A Korean student was molested in bus and a French student was chased and molested in a posh South Kolkata area. So does Kolkata have no law and order? Of course Kolkata has a strewn of police stations and armed forces but the fear of administration is missing, the lack of stern policies against these heinous crimes such as rape, molestation, humiliating a woman in public, eve teasing, groping have made the criminals believe that they can get away doing anything and see women as prey. Women feel insecure while waiting for public means of communication near Park Street crossing and another place of regular crime occurrences is Lake Road crossing where bikers almost pounce on women and on getting a hint of protest from them they dare them to go the police after making a series of cat calls.. These incidents force the women of Kolkata realize that our system is so corrupted and decomposed that law is not a a force enough to put a full stop to these crimes. And moreover, famous political leaders show their insensitivity when, sometimes being women themselves, they comment that the certain violation took place because the victim was dressed provocatively. What a farce! In a democratic nation a woman can’t wear clothes as she wants but a man can lunge on her like a blood thirsty vulture! Are we moving forward or are we stepping into the darkness of the medieval era?
According to National Crime Records Bureau, Bengal has topped the chart in crime against women since 2004. The state comes second only to Madhya Pradesh in rapes. When rapes increased by 33% in 2011, it shot up to 60% in Bengal.
In Kolkata an octogenarian is as vulnerable as a fifteen year old; a housewife is as exposed to crime as a working woman is.
This article has another side to it, which is grueling and the women of Tilottama want the country to stand against these crimes. Its time, we do, it’s time we contribute our share of social responsibilities towards reaching a constructive path of solution and measures to be adapted to fight these predators.