New Year revelry turned into a nightmare for several women who were allegedly molested despite huge police presence at a large gathering in Bengaluru’s downtown region, drawing widespread outrage even as the state home minister stoked a controversy by blaming the youngster’s’ “western ways” for the incidents.
National Commission for Women chairperson Lalitha Kumaramangalam came down heavily on the police and slammed home minister G Parameshwara’s remarks, demanding that he should resign. The NCW as well as the Karnataka State Commission for Women also sought separate reports from administration and police over the incidents.
Police on Monday said that they were looking for the culprits involved in the alleged incidents on Saturday night in and around the junction of Brigade Road and M G Road, where thousands had gathered to herald the New Year.
Eyewitness accounts suggest that women were molested and groped and lewd remarks were also passed by miscreants late night on December 31 in the posh area even as it was claimed that 1,500 police personnel had been deployed to control the crowds.
While women without any male companions had to seek protection from women police personnel, who were very few in number on the spot, men who had come with female friends had a tough time protecting them, according to eyewitnesses.
Speaking to reporters, home minister G Parameshwara said “It is not good. Definitely we will look into it and see that it is not repeated.”
“There was need to look into how such events can be organised and regulated… We cannot have 10,000 police men,” he said.
Speaking to a TV news channel, he said: “Unfortunately, what is happening is as I said days like new year Brigade Road, Commercial Street, M G Road, large number of youngsters gather. Youngsters who are almost like westerners, they try to copy the westerners not only in the mindset, but even the dressing.”
The minister’s remarks drew an angry response from the NCW chairperson who demanded the home minister should resign and apologise to the women of the country for making such remarks.
“Such remarks from the home minister are unacceptable and regrettable. I want to ask this minister that are Indian men so pathetic and weak that when they see a woman in western clothes on a day of revelry, they get out of control?
“When will Indian men learn to respect women? The minister should apologise to the women of the country and resign,” Kumaramangalam said.
Police claimed that thay had made elaborate security arrangements for the New Year eve with 1,500 policemen on duty and several CCTV cameras installed, besides Karnataka State Reserve Police, City Armed Reserve and watch towers erected to keep a close watch.
Police at the spot were apparently outnumbered to control the miscreants.
“We will try to identify the culprits and take action against them,” Karnataka DGP Om Prakash said.
Police said they had not received any complaints of molestation from anyone.
NCW chairperson Lalitha Kumaramangalam said, “We are absolutely appalled (with the incident)… We have taken suo motu cognisance on it and have sent off the same to the home minister, the head of the police, chief secretary.”
“We want a reply immediately and if the reply is unsatisfactory, we will send a team to find out why the police has not suo motu taken cognisance of the incident,” she said.
“I am told that they haven’t even looked at the footage they may have from cameras etc and the possibility that they are using the fact that nobody has made an official complaint as an excuse, cannot be ruled out,” she said.
Meanwhile, Karnataka Commission for Women Chairperson Nagalakshmi Bai said, “I have taken cognisance of the reported incident. I have sought a report from police. After getting the report, I will take further action,”
Police had extended the deadline allowing restaurants, bars and pubs to remain open till 2 am on New Year’s eve.
They had issued strict warnings to mischief-mongers besides asserting that adequate security arrangements had been made ahead of New Year’s eve.
This isn’t the first time that New Year celebrations have been marred. In 2007, a woman was violently groped by a group of about 60 revellers at the Gateway of India in Mumbai.
Image used for representational purpose only. Photograph: PTI Photo