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‘WHAT HAPPENED WAS HORRIFYING’

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MG Road incident was a wake-up call for the govt, says Cong leader Gundu Rao; police chief reassures students, says women in Bengaluru are safer now

In the government’s first admission about molestations on MG Road and Brigade Road in the early hours of the New Year, Dinesh Gundu Rao on Wednesday said that “whatever happened that night was horrific”.

Rao, working president of KPCC, was speaking on the safety of women in Bengaluru at Mount Carmel College as part of Mirror Now’s “The Urban Debate” series.

Thus far, the government and the police have denied that any incident took place on MG Road on January 1. On January 2, Bangalore Mirror had published pictures of women that our photographers had seen running towards the police for protection and complaining about men misbehaving with them. Hours later, then home minister G Parameshwara brushed it off saying such incidents keep happening. He also blamed Western attire for such incidents; both his statements drew widespread criticism.

On Wednesday, Rao said that in the past six months, the police had taken steps to ensure the safety of women in Bengaluru. He said he is a father to two daughters and would feel scared sending them to MG Road alone; this is why it was important that people start teaching their sons how to respect women. Police commissioner Praveen Sood, also part of the panel, said the MG Road incident was a “wake-up call” for the government. “I have a different opinion about it. (But in the last six months) policing has improved; we have provided 272 Hoysalas and Pink Hoysalas for the safety of women. We have launched an app known as ‘Suraksha app’ for women. This helps women in trouble.”

The police chief asked students to download the app and contact police in any kind of emergency. He added that the response time of Hoysalas had been brought down to 15-18 minutes from 26-30 minutes.

He reassured women and asked them to report any sort of crime without fear. “I will take action against any errant policeman. You can approach the ACP or the DCP if you don’t feel comfortable while registering any complaint. If that doesn’t help, you can call me anytime,” he said.

Radio host and comedian Danish Sait said even he was groped on Commercial Street, drawing giggles from the audience. He said it was an open secret that MG Road turns a haven for anti-social elements and molesters on New Year’s Eve. Another panelist, social activist Geetha Menon said: “Women wish to be safe. Respect is what they expect from men.” She cited the case of a minor which was handled poorly by the police. “A girl was raped when she was 16 years old and she was forced to marry (her rapist). The police questioning in the case made her go into depression for 4 years. This shows the bad state of governance.”

A student complained to Sood that she had approached the police when a man was misbehaving with her, but the case was “settled” after the police accepted Rs 100 from the man. “Show me proof and I will suspend them right away,” Sood responded.

Despite all the assurances, the debate made it abundantly clear that it was a long way to go for women’s safety in public places. When asked how many had been groped, nearly every hand in the Mount Carmel College auditorium went up.

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