After reports emerged of mass molestation of women on the streets of Bengaluru, Karnataka Home Minister said “Western culture” was to blame and that “these things do happen”.
Here’s my open letter to the honourable minister, who seems to, yet again, place the blame on the victims.
Dear Hon. Home Minister,
Thank you for taking time out to comment on the mass molestation of women that is alleged to have occurred during the New Year’s Eve night celebrations on Brigade Road, Bengaluru. As you yourself have indicated, molestations are a matter of regularity. After all, these things keep happening, and besides, they happen to that section of society that has learnt to bear the brunt with silence.
Perhaps, it would have been a tad bit refreshing if you would have produced an excuse we hadn’t heard before. You see, we’ve heard all of this before – “women should not go out at night”, “this is the influence of Western culture”, “sexual assault is unavoidable if women wear Western outfits”.
Unfortunately, Mr Home Minister, it confuses me when you say Western wear (loosely translated as revealing clothes) causes men to grope women, because my earliest memory of such an incident is from when I was wearing quite an unflattering salwar-kameez, and with a dupatta, mind you. Have I missed something here, or would you rather write this off as a marginal error in your theory correlating sexual assault with the ‘Westernness’ of a woman’s outfit?
Another factor that doesn’t add up is the time you have cited as the peak hour in molestation cases; when the sun is down, of course, those dark hours in the night when men’s minds and a society’s moralities develop serious blind spots. For I remember so well the times when I would visit Mysore with my family to watch the Dussehra procession. Why did I get molested in broad daylight in a crowd of mostly family men? Maybe it was to teach me an essential life lesson, i.e., to always have protective gear on without underestimating any crowd; for, what is day for me might easily be night for them, what is outrageous for me, perfectly normal for them.
You leave me in a daze every time I try to understand your stance on what really Indian culture is. When you are asked about the inefficiency of your police force, you get away by blaming the West-influenced party-goers, but you slap anti-superstition bills on the mouths of those who are the torchbearers of this sacred, fluid and ever-adapting Indian culture. Does this mean that you possibly believe in a different version of Indian culture that is more useful to score political points than to be a cornerstone of our society?
Finally, the point of intoxication as the unavoidable trigger to sexual assault leaves me dazed. As a twenty-something from Bengaluru, I just cannot fathom why the men in my city don’t know how to behave respectfully with women in public. Never did I know that being drunk was such a powerful excuse for hooliganism, an excuse to disrespect fellow beings physically or sexually. But you showed me the way, by refusing to acknowledge that drunken hooliganism is wrong. I was under the impression that the onus to behave cautiously and respectfully lies on those (be it man or woman) who go out drinking. Instead, you advocate alcohol as an excuse for their bad behaviour, an excuse for them to grope someone’s wife, talk dirty to someone else’s sister and scar for life those women who dared to come out that night.
Oh well, it isn’t the men who are suffering. It’s the women – the voter segment whose ‘shaky morality’ is your eternal Brahmastra.