Touch Me Not: Bengaluru's human chain protest against mass molestation
On 7 January at 11AM, citizens of Bengaluru plan to come together and form a human chain in front of the gate of Vidhana Soudha or Karnataka High Court.
The idea is to draw attention to the mass molestations that occurred on Brigade Road and MG Road on New Year's Eve, albeit in silence.
The organisers, troubled at the state of affairs, instead of shouting out slogans in anger, want their silence to be heard. That too, with a sense of united anonymity. For this is the voice of every woman who has felt unsafe on the streets of her own city.
As one of the organisers told Catch, "Mentioning one name will actually lose the meaning of anonymity." In keeping with that spirit, they will remain unnamed.
Here's the full interview with the organiser, as she talks about Bengaluru, the government, and the mentality that governs us all.
Q. Are you a group of people or an organisation?
It is an open protest and has been organised anonymously by people with common interests. There is absolutely no organisation or single person who is organising it.
It will be a silent human-chain protest (will involve placards but not slogans).
Q. Okay, why are you going with the silent form?
Simply because slogans have been raised several times in the past. This time we are expecting our silence to make noise. Above all, our placards should speak loud.
Q. But do you think such a demonstration would keep miscreants away? Or is this more for a sense of unity?
No, I don't think this will keep the miscreants away. This protest is to show support towards victims and to remind the government that justice is lost. That law has failed us. If a protest in Delhi (I'm referring to the gang rape incident) could not knock the government's door, I'm not sure if any other protest will.
Q. A similar human chain protest was carried out in Kerala recently, had thousands participate, and it made little or no noise in national media. Do you think your silence would be heard?
What I'm more concerned is about the safety which CAN be assured. If my Indian friend who recently moved to Dubai is going to tell me that she feels safer in Dubai, I'm going to question my government about the law.
Our silence may not make a difference. If you look at the number protests held, we may lose count. Rape has become a routine and so has protest. But I do hope this incident and our protest acts as a reminder for the central government to ACT.
Act in the sense, do something about the law. Whatever happened to Delhi rapists? In spite of trials proving them as rapists, and sentencing , nothing has been done. This makes rapists safe, and not the victim.
Q. Fair enough. What do you have to say about media making this a city issue, as in the case of Delhi?
I'm not sure why the media portrays it as a city issue. It's a universal truth that such acts are nationwide and the number of incidents are increasing. As long as the central government recognises it as a grave issue and does something about it, nothing else should matter (my personal opinion).
Q. But the way news has portrayed this is that harassment is unheard of in Bengaluru. As a woman, I beg to differ. Do you agree? Has your experience been any different?
Totally agree with you. I was once on a bike and I was stopped by an auto driver - he slapped me which made me unconscious but I was rescued by people around. This happened in Bengaluru. Many such incidents have happened in this city and most of the time we choose to remain silent because we've lost faith in our law and its system. If the government is going to call Bengaluru a safe haven based on the less harassment cases filed, then they need to wake up.
Q. What do you have to say about the inaction against the likes of Abu Azmi who callously comment on women being alone at night after such a harrowing incident?
Such comments always come in. I wouldn't even want to fight such men with such myopic views. If they are taught to think this way, then I would want to highlight the number of rape and molestation incidents that have taken place in spite of women wearing Indian clothing.
Q. After the rest of India woke up to the mass molestation, as it's being called, #NotAllMen trended on Twitter. Comments?
This NotAllMen message that came in on Twitter is something that we already KNOW. We know that not all men act this way or objectify women. But then it's social media and it allows everyone to share their piece of opinion.
But NotAllMen unintentionally suppressed what women had to say and that's sad. Ultimately it's about gender equality and that's a new topic altogether. But I wish, #AllWomen to trend stating that all women have been victims (only to make people aware that this is a bigger issue than men claiming NotAllMen)
Q. Do you think the lack of cases is due to the police? Because even in this case they claimed no harassment case was filed.
If the government is expecting the traumatised women to come out and narrate their incidents, it's a shame. Evidence speaks and the police should take action suo moto. There are many efficient police out there but we all know the kind who discourage us by saying 'Madam, nothing is going to happen. Next time, be careful.' If cases are not being filed, it's a message to the police that they are not approachable. And if I do file a case, will I not fear for my life later? Will police take responsibility for my safety?
Q. What are the measures you expect the government to take if they were to acknowledge your protest? Are there any specific demands that you could share with us?
Demands have not changed since 2012. Laws need to be strict. At this point of time, we cannot change how people think (that's a long process). But all we expect the government to pass strict laws instead of defining rape and rarest of rare rapes. If tomorrow something happens to me, the rapist will be caught and then what? A few trials and then the entire case is lost.
Q. I've had friends from Bengaluru tell me that 'this sort of thing happens every year', that everyone who went there should've expected some sort of mayhem. Do you have a response to this?
I've not heard of mass molestation happen before. Incidents do occur every day. When I walk on Brigade road footpath, I hold my fists tight and I walk with anxiety of being touched. If not a touch, there is definitely a comment. New year night made things easier for such unruly men because of the crowd I guess. But if I'm told MG road is packed with so many policemen, won't I feel safe to be there? After all, it's a night of celebration. Why should I anticipate such an incident if police were present. Regardless of new years or any occasion, crimes against women continue everywhere.
Q. And lastly, how many people do you expect to join you?
I really can't estimate. As of now more than 50 have confirmed to be there. I'm expecting 100 and more.