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Bangalore stopped making news for the right reasons a long time ago. For more than a decade, the city has been hitting the headlines for a number of wrong reasons.
Mind-numbing traffic. Roads that are barely there. Power shortage. Absence of an efficient public transport system. Rising pollution levels. Rising road rage. Rising corruption. Fading greenery, because of wanton and large-scale felling of trees. Artificially fuelled real estate prices. Spiraling costs of education and healthcare.
As if this litany weren’t enough, another one just got added to this list, pushing Bangalore into the hall of shame. Sexual violence against women and children.
Every day, we wake up to fresh reports of sexual violence. Last month, things reached a tipping point of sorts when the rape of a 6 year old girl child at the Vibgyor High School in Bangalore came to light. The incident occurred inside the school. The girl was a student of the school. In the weeks that followed, many of the city’s citizens rose in protest and anguish, calling for action on the part of the Government. They wanted the culprits to be brought to book and punitive action taken against the the school management for covering up the crime. Also, the agitated parents wanted rules to be implemented in schools, to ensure that such a ghastly incident does not recur.
Let’s be honest. Violence against women (sexual or otherwise) has never been rare in India. Thanks to a number of factors, mainly the manner in which girls/women are treated at home and portrayed in popular public narratives like music and cinema, women have been ill-treated and violated in different ways in our country. At home and outside. But what’s shocking, is the frequency with which such incidents are coming to light of late, and the widespread manner of the violence. Also, the impunity with which the assailants carry out these attacks is galling, to put it mildly.
And now, sickeningly, it seems even children are not safe from lustful eyes and groping hands. It is becoming increasingly unsafe for children to do anything out of home. Simple, routine acts such as going to school, playing with friends and buying a cone of ice cream from the nearby store have started to come under threat. Forget accepting a biscuit from a stranger, accepting it from even a known person can be fateful to a child these days.
Adhering to their long tradition of ineptitude and total apathy to really important issues, the powers that be continue to turn a blind eye to these incidents. It will therefore be impractical of us to expect the police, the government and the legislature to shake off their apathy immediately and get to work. Yes, petitions are being filed and protests are being organized. These are necessary steps civil society takes to try and wake the government up. But then, has an elephant ever done anything in a jiffy, let alone dance? Already, six weeks after the Vibgyor High School incident, the protests seem to have died down. Newspapers have moved on to other stories. And the school has reopened.
In other words, it is business as usual.
And so, if you are expecting any concrete action to come forth from the government, be ready for a long, long wait.
So, what do you do in the meantime? The popular art of twiddling your thumbs is simply not an option in this case. As a parent, you have to act. Immediately, and with some force of character. If you think about it, you will realize that there is a lot you can do if you want to ensure that our children are safe.
Here are some steps you can take immediately:
In the final analysis, you can’t guarantee anything in life. But what you definitely can do, is minimize the risk for our children. It will be a crime if you don’t do all that you can. While the axiom goes that child is the father of man, we must know that in this case, the child is simply a child. You are its father and mother.
It is time to step up and act.