Common sense tells us that while committing a crime, a criminalwouldn’t like to be photographed. But the Guwahati incident, where a teenager was groped, violated, molested for more than 30 minutes in full public glare, showed the world that the men committing this heinous act, were neither deterred by the fact that they were in a public place, nor the fact that it was being recorded. They weren’t hardcore convicts with criminal backgrounds. You will even catch a glimpse of pride on their faces, as the camera keeps rolling. Though debates rage on about a probable political agenda, it is possible to believe that they not have may not have had a per-planned agenda of molesting a women when they set out from their homes that night. But the fact that they all decided to turn into monsters by the end of the day, raises a dangerous question. Is there a dormant molester in every person you come across in your daily life?
Those Guwahati men have been described as deviants, criminals, pathological and vile. But sociologist Shiv Visvanathan asks you to perish all these thoughts immediately. “They were as normal as us!” he says, as he explains how in a mob, every individual has the potential to turn into a violent criminal. “When a pick-pocket is caught, everyone around him will slap and kick him. Why? Because of the power it gives them and the sense of piety it provides. The freedom from repression it grants is simply amazing. Even the tiniest, feeblest guy turns into a vigilante, judge and executioner!” The values of our society are misplaced. Victimizing women comes easy in the patriarchal society that tells its men they are right in “putting women in her place”.
Mumbai based photographer Monisha Ajgaonkar’s recounts her recent experience. “Two guys passing by on a scooter started teasing me about my hair color, so I lightly hit their scooter with my umbrella. The next thing I know, they park their scooter aside and start abusing me, so I hit him back. Soon both of them started beating me. There were 1-15 bystanders, but no one helped me.”
Either out of fear, or for the fact that it’s extremely difficult to prove molestation charger, these offenders walk scot free, understand and unrepentant. Nikita Bhatt, a college student, also remembers a recent incident. “There was this guy who was standing really close to me in the train ticket queue. He got pushed and almost fell on me. I asked him to move back and give me space. Instead, he called me ‘r*ndi’. So I lost my cool and slapped him. No one in the crowd stepped forward to support me.”
The cases of eve-teasing and molestation are rising, but the law in our country is ineffective. It gives the perpetrators little reason to back off when they think of committing such a crime. No wonder the molesters in the video didn’t think twice before succumbing to their carnal instincts.
Vishwas Nangra Patil, ACP Mumbai says, “We have section 354 and 509 as per the IPC, but we charge there offenders under sections 110 and 112 as they are more effective. They have to ay a fine of Rs.12,000. But I have observed that over the past few years, at least in Mumbai, such cases have substantially reduced.” Ruben Mascarenhas, founder of Zero Tolerance, a campaign that fights sexual harassment against women, disagrees, “Sections 354 and 509 under the IPC are not strong—offenders easily get away with verbal abuse.” Even Supreme Court Lawyer, Pinky Anand, schoes his sentiments, “Molestation is a cognizable, but bailable offence. These sections don’t act as deterrents. You could see those men laughing away, while they molested the teenager in Guwahati.” Jameen Patheja, who initiated the Blank Noise project, a nation- wide volunteer-led community that addresses eve-teasing, questions, “How case studies have we come across, where sexual harassment offenders have been convicted? This will continue to happen, because people believe that they can get away with it.”
The most disturbing fact