What do Kalita in Guwahati, Rana in Punjab and a constable in Bangalore have in common?

Would you say that some of the news today was more about society’s lessening tolerance towards crimes against women, and less about increasing crimes against women?

1.

Guwahati molestation: Amar Jyoti Kalita, 10 others convicted; TV reporter acquitted.

… Those convicted included the prime accused Amar Jyoti Kalita who was seen in the footage of the incident, filmed by a local television journalist Gaurav Jyoti Neog, leading the maddened mob. NewsLive journalist Neog, who was made one of the accused in the case, was, however, acquitted by the court on grounds of benefit of doubt. Kalita, say sources, has been sentenced to two years in jail and fined Rs 2,000, while the others have been sentenced to one year in prison and fined.

Two years and Rs 2000/- Nobody thinks this is harsh on Kalita and a lesser number asked, ‘What was the girl doing outside her house after dark?”

2.

Akali Dal leader arrested for allegedly killing Punjab cop who protested daughter’s harassment

Ravinderpal Singh’s daughter had reportedly complained to him that Mr Rana and his associates frequently chased and harassed her…  When the officer, along with his daughter, went to Mr Rana’s house to warn him, the politician allegedly shot him in the legs. On the way to hospital, Mr Singh was waylaid by Mr Rana, who allegedly shot him in the chest with a rifle this time.

A police station was close by, but nobody turned up to help Mr Singh.

3. “You don’t know Kannada. You don’t belong to this place.”

Woman groped by mob, slapped by constable after accident

“I tried to explain to the policeman that the rider was at fault, but he was rude.” She quoted the policeman as having told her, “You don’t know Kannada. You don’t belong to this place.” Worse still, he then turned to the erring rider and encouraged him to leave the scene. Through all this, the mob that surrounded her continued to humiliate her, …

Not willing to let off the rider so easily, she mustered enough courage to physically stop the man leaving. At this, the policeman dragged her to the side and slapped her. The woman immediately took out her mobile phone and started taking pictures of the motorcycle rider. Her ordeal then turned worse, when the mob started pulling at her clothes and jeering at her.

While one among the crowd removed his shirt, another man, wearing a lungi, exposed himself, she said. Many in the mob made indecent gestures, she said. In the melee, the rider escaped.

Her trauma lasted some 15 minutes till a patrol vehicle reached the spot and the crowd melted away.

I hope these Supreme Court directions to States do make a difference to the way cases of stalking, molesting and street sexual harassment are treated.

Related Posts:

Plain-clothed police officers, warning signboards, cancellation of permits, helplines: SC directs States to take serious steps to curb Street Sexual Harassment.

35 thoughts on “What do Kalita in Guwahati, Rana in Punjab and a constable in Bangalore have in common?

  1. All think that girls should remain where they belong – at home serving others. They have no business stepping out of the house and distracting men with their sexuality… Women, especially modern women are only out there to get some attention, but when they get the wrong attention they fuss about it… In fact women are just waiting to make a scene in public, trying to show that they are tough like men

    I am seriously wondering what that policeman would have done if she were a Kannadiga?!
    Hmm, may be he would’ve checked if she was dressed provocatively. If she was wearing a conservative dress, then may be he would’ve checked if she had done something to provoke that rider.. if she’d passed that test too, then may be he would’ve asked her let it go

    But seriously, a policeman thinking that he has the power to slap a women in public is quite scary!!

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    • I so agree with you, you are speaking my mind.

      @IHM, It was great that you found a potentially positive explanation as well.. more report ins and outrage over such crimes. I hope it’s the case but I’m not sure.😦

      I thought exactly what Sushma said, these crimes are increasing because women are going out more and progressing beyond the kitchen. People don’t like that.

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      • Carvaka,

        Women are and have been abused regardless of whether or not they fit into socially sanctioned gender roles.

        This kind of stuff happened with sickening regularity even when I was a kid, although it wasn’t tossed around in the open all that much. Abusive in-laws, uncaring cops and chauvinistic politicians have been around forever. Back in the day, it was considered genteel to cover incidents like this up, so as not to humiliate the abused woman’s family. I remember my father telling me about this aunt of his who his father (my grandfather) had actually witnessed being beaten with a rod by her husband. They chose to do nothing about it. That was how it used to be. A woman who is chained to the kitchen sink is simply easier to abuse, because the abusers know she won’t protest.

        When I was in my teens, and just starting to figure out the whole relationship deal, my family used to treat divorce as the ultimate dirty word, and whenever they heard of a case (precious rare back then), they would simply blame the wife for ‘not adjusting’ and disgracing her family, regardless of what the actual circumstances were. It was accepted that a woman needed to deal with whatever abuse was meted out to her, because that was just how it was.

        How much help do you think the Guwahati molestation victim would have gotten back in the 80s? How much outrage would it generate? Who would she even turn to?

        I think we’ve come a fair way since then. Make no mistake, we have a LONG way to go, and maybe we’ll never really get there – but I cannot accept the idea that things have gotten worse than they were. They haven’t. We decriminalized homosexuality. We introduced harsh laws against domestic abuse. We cracked down on dowry and child marriages. There’s new outrage against public harassment. Yes, these things haven’t been very effective. Yes, it’s easy to be cynical, to dismiss all of this as temporary, a flash in the pan, to say that the more things change, the more they remain the same. I am guilty of doing that myself.

        However, in my heart, I do believe that we ARE seeing something new. This is certainly the first time in my life that I’m seeing opposition to harassment at this level.. Slowly, ever so slowly, the whole infrastructure is being dragged kicking and screaming into the modern age.

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        • Praveen, thanks for your perspective. I really am happy to hear that things actually are getting better in your experience. Its a reassuring thought for me.

          I grew up in the bubble of a happy nuclear family, very far away from relatives and ‘society’ as such. I’m sure things like those you mentioned were happening around us in neighbor’s houses, but I only ever heard muffled rumors, if even that. I knew of what I read in the papers, saw financially dependant all around me who were definitely less equal than their husbands at home and knew of street sexual harassment first hand.

          I remember going to family weddings as a child and asking the grooms, my uncles, if we were taking dowry. They always said no, which they knew was the answer I wanted, but I don’t know how honest they were. I was a child after all. I deeply and vocally despised the sexist or discriminatory practices that I saw or read of and my family happily agreed. So I guess I thought things had improved a lot more than they actually had.

          So now I have friends who tell me horror stories of ‘demands’ from prospective In laws or friends who are trying to fit into traditional roles, it’s apalling to see these things. I read of things in the papers that seem worse than what I read growing up and my younger sister now seems much more scared for her well being when she’s out in delhi than I used to be in mumbai. To be fair, it could be the cities that are different, not the times. Actually my sister had friends in Delhi who were really treated worse than their brothers at home and were married off at 18. I never actually saw this in Mumbai amongst my friends. It could just be a coincidence really, but it was pretty sickening to hear of.

          As you can see, I have a much more limited perspective on this and find it very depressing that things ‘seem’ worse, if not the same. I find it heartening to hear that others think we’re moving in the right direction, even if kicking and screaming.

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        • Also,

          “A woman who is chained to the kitchen sink is simply easier to abuse, because the abusers know she won’t protest.”

          Words of wisdom.

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        • “How much help do you think the Guwahati molestation victim would have gotten back in the 80s?”
          There weren’t any equivalent of the Guwahati molestation incident in the 1980s. Nor was the concept of college having uniforms. So if it were the 1980s, such a crime would have pricked the same conscience as it did today, even if this level of media didn’t exist. The idea that women are uniformly oppressed everywhere in India, regardless of the myriad of cultural differences and nuances, is an generalisation based on the false consensus effect.

          I can say with a good bit of confidence that it is actually a downhill path for the status of women in NE India. Even my sister and female friends agree with it. The city of Shillong, which never witnessed a rape in its 100 or so years of existence was rocked by four rapes in a span of two years. As more and more North East Indian men travel, study and work in the mainland, they’ll come face to face with the biological reality of what being a man implies and assert it by a role reversal of the current status quo. The women, likewise will fall for the social conditioning of a submissive and weak version of feminity of the mainland Hindu cultures. Perfect national integration.

          I don’t want to get into a battle of identity politics here, given that I voluntarily rejected my tribe and culture. But thats the perspective. Unless we can recognise a problem that exists, we will not develop the socio-cultural weapon to handle it.

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        • @AI,

          The idea that women are uniformly oppressed everywhere in India, regardless of the myriad of cultural differences and nuances, is an generalisation based on the false consensus effect.

          True enough, but that was not really what I was trying to say.

          What I was trying to say was that I sincerely doubt that the Guwahati molestation incident would have generated that much outrage in ‘mainland’ India in the 80s. I think we both agree that that is the part of India which really needs improving when it comes to gender relations; therefore, when I talk of an improvement, I am speaking to that part of India alone.

          This assessment is based on my own experiences, and could be entirely inaccurate. Yet, it is what I feel. Sure, there would have been condemnation. I’m not suggesting people wouldn’t have had their conscience pricked. What I’m saying is that these people would probably be far more focused on what the girl was doing there in the first place. There would probably be a fair amount of good old North Indian racism too. North-Easterners are supposed to be loose and immoral, so what the hey, right?

          You might well complain that I am speaking from an overly North, or Mainland India – centric perspective. I admit that criticism and my (possibly inadequate) excuse is that I am limited by my own experiences, and carried away by the relative uniformity of my environment. I’m speaking from and to a limited perspective, because I of the fact that my own cone of experience is a very small one indeed, compared to the immensity of diversity in India. However, I will venture to contend that my generalizations do apply to a substantial cross section of the Indian population. Not all, but a substantial amount.

          Women may not be uniformly oppressed across India, but it cannot be denied that most cultures, they are. Some cultures are more egalitarian than others; highly egalitarian ones have always been and continue to be a distinct minority. As you have pointed out, it is incorrect to make sweeping statements without keeping that distinction in mind. Yet, because of the overwhelming preponderance of the former kind, one tends to do so anyway. In that sense, at least, I stand corrected.

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        • I wonder if the circumstances of men and women have somehow changed in Assam, fueling this change. Or even the law and order situation. Could it just be because of exchange of ideas with a more patriarchal culture?

          The Guwahati incident included many by standers and police personnel involved that did not intervene. The men clearly weren’t scared of the police and continued harassing here even as the police took HER away. All of these mute spectators and lax policeman couldn’t have been influenced by another culture. The molesters displayed a clear sense of entitlement and impunity. It could have been happening in Haryana. So has the Assamese culture changed at such a large scale or is there something else going on? I don’t know.

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        • Atheist Indian, so you mean to say that the men from north-east didn’t step into the mainland for 100 years before the last two years? And suddenly when they ventured into the mainland, the first thing they learned was the biological reality of what being a man implies? And then they rushed back to assert the same on the north-eastern women which resulted in four rapes in a span of two years?

          By suggesting this, you are only portraying that the culture of the north-east is so fragile that a north-eastern male forgets his own culture and gets influenced by evils as soon as he leaves his native land. Please do not use culture as an excuse for weakness of characters of individuals. People with good values don’t fall for evils just because they are in a foreign land. And the people of the north-east are no different. I have always found north-eastern people to be extremely nice and adhering to their rich culture even after they have been residing in mainland India for generations. So please do not generalize your unpleasant personal experiences to label entire populations or cultures.

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        • “All of these mute spectators and lax policeman couldn’t have been influenced by another culture.”
          The Genovese syndrome. This one is univeral, whether it is a gang rape in a Mumbai local train or bullying of a nerd at an English secondary school. When people get bullied or victimised, others don’t intervene because of the potential risks of being a part of it.
           
          There is a reason why people tend that way. If I try to save a woman from being raped or molested for example, the risk is two fold. One, I risk bodily harm and injury, especially if the perpratators are a gang. Two, a traumatic victim who is a stranger might not be able to differentiate me from one of the rapists when it comes to registering a case. Not a good prospect, for even the most chivalrous of man. Besides, helping strangers who get into fights doesn’t come into most people’s idea of civic duty these days, anyway.

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        • @ Nea
          Please do not put words in my mouth. I never said North East Indian cultures are fragile. I never said NE Indian men would forget their culture and become rapists. I simply stated that mainland Indian cultures are starting to influence the psyche of North Eastern people, with some sexist value systems that didn’t exist earlier.

          Cultures are not static and solid objects, but a conceptualisation of many facets of lifestyle. They are subject to influence, erosion or change from a more dominant or popular culture. Like the recent attempt to impose dress codes by the colleges of Guwahati. Or the attempt to impose a Catholic partriarchy on the Khasi society.

          I know the kind of changes my cultures are going through which you might not be aware of, so please, refrain from using such a hostile and self-righteous tone. I’d also appreciate if you don’t generalise that we ‘adhere to our cultures’. Some of us identify more as worldly individuals more than products of our cultures.

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        • @ AI,

          The genovese syndrome is highly contested. Malcolm Gladwell’s book ‘The Tipping Point’ all but debunks the theory that there was any bystander effect in the Genovese case itself. It actually presents a likely alternative that it was an exaggeration by a lax police force and there actually was a call to the police made that it didn’t respond to.

          Studies have also found different inferences, e.g. http://nymag.com/news/intelligencer/catherine-susan-genovese-2011-10/ .

          Although there have been recent cases in India where protesting eve-teasing led to murders, which would be a deterrent for sure, it’s not really an accepted universal effect at all. Local factors seem to play a bigger part than we would like to believe.

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        • @AI,

          I meant contentious not contested. My laptop likes to correct my typos, unfortunately it always corrects to the wrong word!

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        • Atheist Indian, I never generalized anything about people from the north-east. I only mentioned about my own experiences with north-eastern people residing in mainland India. Even then it pricked you so much to think I’m generalizing. But you yourself generalize all mainland cultures to be regressive which appears to be a belief based on your own personal experiences, most probably unpleasant.

          You say people are not a product of their cultures and yet you accuse non-north-eastern Indians to be regressive as according to their cultural background. Please stop generalizing everyone from mainland India just because of your personal experiences with a few bad individuals.

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        • @ Nea
          Please show me where I said mainland Indian people were regressive. I said the cultures were regressive.
           
          @ Carvaka
          Actually, the socio-political circumstances in North East India have drastically altered over the last 100 years. Some of them are mainland Indian influences, some of them British influences and some of them are entirely our home grown business. I wrote an editorial column in the Shillong Times a year ago and would have been lynched for insulting the ‘motherworld’, if one of those matriarch Khas could get to me. I’ll see if I can find it for you.
           
          @ Praveen
          Actually, I did wonder what a bunch of 16 year olds were doing at a bar. Not because going to a bar is sin, but because it is foolish to be out so late at night without taking care of personal security and transportation. I know the risks, because I have been attacked by a mugger once, ages ago.
           
          @ Kay
          Did I defend Kalita? I didn’t say his act was justified, I said his motives might be different from than the one assumed here, because of the whole idea of women belonging to the kitchen doesn’t gel here. If a white person kills a black man – it could be a hate crime OR a murder for territorial conflicts. Discussing the possibility of a personal vendetta does not absolve one of their crime. Serious, get over the slippery slope and straw man fallacies.

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    • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murder_of_Kitty_Genovese the wikipedia article explaining how the bystander effect in genovese murder might be more legend than fact. The tipping point also had quotes from the witnesses (none of whom actually saw the whole incident as it happened over different locations in the middle of the night) saying that they heard noises and thought it was a ‘lover’s spat’, so didn’t bother. One guy yelled out the window to ‘leave her alone’ at which the killer drove away, only to return and finish the kill.

      It’s very interesting how different the facts of this case are to the commonly believed ‘bystander effect’ we attribute to it.

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  2. These crimes are ‘increasing’ because they are more reported these days, compared to how it was in the past.

    I can’t put my head around the projection of desi cultural tropes on A.J.Kalita’s thoughts, as some have done above. While he might be influenced on some level, the whole “women belong to the kitchen” concept was never the norm in the Assamese culture – Kalita’s culture.

    http://lostonthestreet.wordpress.com/2008/06/28/to-all-my-dear-indian-friends/

    There is something else, which we will find out only when transcripts of Kalita’s interview with the police is released. A possible personal vendetta or class antagonism.

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    • @ Atheist Indian,

      The issue being discussed here is about crimes against women. It is about discrimination against women ‘irrespective of their social roles’ and not about certain regional cultures.

      The point to be understood is that people who stood watching while a girl was being manhandled there in Guwahati were no different from ‘similar’ people in Bangalore or Amritsar. But that doesn’t mean Assamese culture is inferior than any other part of India. There are bad people in each region/community/religion.

      A man who expects his wife or any other female to be tied to the kitchen sink and abuses her if she tries to progress beyond the confines of the kitchen, does not do that to uphold his ‘culture’. That is just his warped state of mind based upon the insecurity of losing his control over the other gender.

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      • This. It’s the common control issue. People making rules to stop women from carrying mobiles or going to the market is about control. Culture is an excuse.

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      • @ Kay
        A number of comments here implied that Amar Jyoti Kalita did what he did because he believed women belong to the kitchen. I responded to that. Cooking is considered a unisex life skill in most North East Indian cultures, including the Assamese culture, I can’t figure out how AJ Kalita would be thinking that ‘women belong to the kitchen’. If one applies a loaded culture specific connotations as a universal reality, one cannot use “oh don’t be regionalistic” when such an assertion is challenged. Culture IS the context here.

        @ Praveen
        We can rest assured that Amar Jyoti Kalita did what he did, out of no higher calling. Something ticked him off. As a socio-culturalist, I am curious to know what it is. Also as someone who is familiar with the world he comes from, I find the ‘he didn’t want her out of the kitchen’ trope rather knee jerk and unfounded.

        I never made the assumption that people are product of their cultures. I simply stated that it isn’t likely for someone to adopt a specific alien cultural trope that is too regressive to be a part of his cultural values. That is like an English man who says widows should be burned at their husband’s funeral pyre. Or a Khasi couple who practice female foeticide. We aren’t *that* globalised.

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        • “A number of comments here”

          My comment was one of them and it specifically says ‘these crimes’. The post spoke of a common theme across crimes reported in various places in India. I was addressing that pattern, not just Amar Jyoti Kalita.

          I appreciate that you trying to say Amar Jyoti Kalita’s reasons might be different since his culture is different. I don’t know if that’s true and am not in a position to really know.. I do wonder if young women going to pubs is familiar to even his culture. Whatever his reasons may be, I was not speaking of his reasons and neither was Sushma’s comment before mine. We were responding to the pattern pointed out in this post, as Kay also mentioned.

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        • I simply stated that it isn’t likely for someone to adopt a specific alien cultural trope that is too regressive to be a part of his cultural values.

          But misogyny, gender inequality, and most importantly, the separation of gender roles, aren’t specific alien cultural tropes. They represent a worldview, not a specific act of regression, such as a feticide.

          The phrase ‘Women belong to the kitchen’ has very little to do with kitchens and cooking when used in the current context. It has everything to do with a worldview where women and men are seen as having separate, non-overlapping domains. This is not a specific trope, but rather an idea, which is more common in certain societies than it is in others.

          The examples you provided, don’t fit the context at all.

          We’re not talking about a foreigner who believes in Sati. We’re talking about a foreigner (in cultural, not necessarily political terms) who feels the same way about women as most people in a more unequal culture than his or her own. Is that really so implausible?

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        • @ Atheist Indian,

          Are you serious ??? No one here is suggesting that Kalita did whatever he did because of his Assamese culture. And I hope you stop clinging on to the word ‘kitchen’. The ‘kitchen sink’ reference was to signify lack of respect to women instead of literally handcuffing a woman to the kitchen sink. And it is obvious how much respect that guy Kalita holds for women in general. But that has nothing to do with his being an Assamese.

          How can one sex offense (Kalita’s) be a personal vendetta while another sex crime in Haryana be due to cultural upbringing ?

          And you can’t even defend Kalita on the basis of a personal vendetta. In pictures, the guy Kalita was seen smiling and smirking while pulling the girl by her hair. That is surely not a reaction due to rage or revenge by being ‘ticked off’. No amount of ‘ticking off’ can be the excuse for a guy publicly molesting a girl. And you can’t expect such a man to be respectful towards women in general if he can stoop to such depths by something which merely ‘ticked him off’.

          And even if we believe that Kalita didn’t belong to the ‘women belong to the kitchen’ mentality, what good was it as, in the end, he showed that he is a sex offender with a sick mentality. If he had no contact of other regressive cultures, then why did he commit such a crime ? There is no question of culture here. The guy is sick just as other sick sex offenders throughout the country.

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    • It’s a globalized world.

      Egalitarianism isn’t the norm in my own culture, yet I believe in it, because I’ve been influenced by largely Western cultural paradigms.

      Of course, I’m not saying he was influenced by that particular idea, because I agree with you in that I don’t think these crimes are actually increasing. I’m just saying that it’s perhaps incorrect to assume that individuals always act in accordance with beliefs that are the norm in their own cultures.

      Like

  3. I read a news article a few days back stating that the number of rape cases in the last 40 years have gone up by 800%. So, I do not think it is getting better. It is as if no one is bothered. Why don’t we have very strict laws to tackle such crimes? Why don’t we have fast track courts? Kalita was a start but we still have a long way to go.
    And why is that cop not suspended in Bangalore?

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    • Amit only the number of Reported Rapes has gone up – we do not know, in the past, how many rapes were never reported or even considered rape. Minor girls could be declared to have consented and deserved to be either killed or quickly married; and honor and family name also hushed up many cases, suicides and murders, if honor was involved, were not seen as wrong.

      In the Tehelka sting, cops were heard saying a good/decent/modest girl would not report a rape, only those who have something to gain (apart from justice) report rapes. Those who reported rapes were those who had consented but were ‘caught’; or those who had consented earlier but were forced (raped) one day when they did not consent. A lot of Indians still see rapes this way.

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      • IHM,
        What you are saying is correct but I do feel that men in our country have developed an immunity towards the fear of punishment. I do not believe things were that bad 20 years back. Women were not this much scared to venture out in Delhi. We have progressed as a nation but it seems haphazard and has come with a heavy price.

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        • Most women were not allowed to venture out so freely twenty years ago. That has to be kept in mind when making comparisons.

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    • The guy who rear-ended the NE woman’s car was questioned and his version of the story gives another perspective of the incident.

      His bike has hit her car from behind when she applied sudden brake and he is accepting his fault in this. But after this the woman came out and demanded this guy’s driving license. He told her his willingness to go to the police station, but he cannot give his license to a stranger and the law doesnt say so.

      Then she started abusing him and all others who was honking as she was not moving her car in the middle of traffic. By this time the traffic police came who also was agitated due to the jam created by her.

      All this is the version of the story from the other side. I am not supporting people who misbehaved with her. But the situation here would be the same even if it was a guy in her position. All this could have been avoided if she moved her car and filed a complaint with the police instead of stopping all traffic. These kind of issues are very common in bangalore and this time it got more lime light because a woman was involved.

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        • Also the other men taking off their clothes as she was being molested.. I guess in a manner of ‘preparation’.

          FreeThinker, is this what happens to men in this situation? Does a policeman slap them and then a crowd of women/men molest them while taking off their own clothes?

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      • I agree that the way the crowd or the cop behaved with her was not at all right (provided what she is claiming is right). But again its her version of the story which I am viewing from a skeptical point of view. But if a guy was at her position, he can be properly manhandled and the traffic cop may slap him and I myself have seen such incidents happening in bangalore. Since its a woman here people are venting out their anger in all other possible means. Again I repeat, I am not justifying the actions of the crowd here. But all this could have been avoided if she just acted in a sane manner and followed the rules.

        Like

  4. Pingback: What can we do to ensure that news like this becomes the norm? | The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker

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