so far its been a busy week for women-bashers in the city. two women have been beaten black and blue for what seems to be no fault of theirs. the first incident took place at a railway station called Hridaypur (abt 15 kms from heartland Kolkata), where a woman was waiting with a male colleague at 8:00pm to board a train after finishing some official assignment. suddenly about a dozen drunk hooligans appeared from nowhere and started abusing the lady. her colleague was beaten up and pushed inside a train that was leaving the station. after that the lady was beaten up mercilessly supposedly “for moving around with her boyfriend”. After about half-an hour when the attackers left the spot, some local youth who were watching the action from the sidelines came forward and helped her board a train. last heard no arrests have been made by the local police (although the CM has reportedly taken interest in the matter)and the lady has handed in her resignation.

if the first incident happened outdoors, the second happened inside the victim’s residence. this lady along with her husband and sister-in-law had moved into a new locality. soon after a few local youths said to be members of the DYFI-youth wing of the CPI(M) started abusing her whenever they saw her on the outdoors. her husband went to the DYFI office and threatened the youths that he would report the matter to the police if they did not keep off from his wife. this made matters worse. the next day, when the husband was not around, the men entered their house and for the next 20 minutes molested the 22 year old housewife infront of her 2 year old daughter. the men left after threatening to kill the husband if they reported the matter to the police. all this while the neighbours looked the other way. the woman alongwith her sister-in-law, who was attacked by a knife, went to file a report at the local police-station. no complaint was registered before an opposition party leader raised the issue.

a few days back the chief minister of the state mr.buddhadeb bhattacharya had said that west bengal was one of the safest states for women. as a female citizen of the state who has faced harrasment (verbal and physical) multiple times on the city streets, buses, markets and other public places and this morning infront of my doorstep, i can safely ask the chief minister to reconsider his statement. from the inner precincts of his airconditioned office and car, how much is he in touch with the life on the streets?

once a girl steps out of the house she finds groups of boys/men from the age group of 12 onwards waiting like packs of wolves at every streetcroner, teastall, bus-stop. even worse, some ride their fancy bicycles or scooters and brush past the girls passing lewd comments before speeding off. in case a girl protests then she is first assessed by the clothes she is wearing, the time of the day (western clothes and anytime after sundown can label the victim as one with slippery character) and if she is accompanied by a male familymember/friend/colleague (the relationship is not important only the gender) then God help her!!

so what induces a good chunk of the male population to indulge in such sick entertainment. perhaps some part of the answer lies in the education and economic policies of the government. the infrastructure and methods used in government run schools and colleges begs for more attention. the laid-back attitude of the teaching staff, examination procedures, lack of facilities is not capable of encouraging the students to learn with sincerity and they tend to devote their attention elsewhere. add to this the (everyday rising) number of unemployed youth who are incapable of finding a foothold in the mainstream jobmarket…either because they do not have adequate qualifications or opportunities. idle brains thus give rise to the proverbial devil’s workshops. and not to forget the eternal gender divide that proclaims the male species to be the superior class with an unlimted license.

political affiliations and the relationship that they share with the police is legendary in the Indian context, hence it is not difficult for booked offenders to get off the hook. casing point the second incident mentioned above. sometime last year the only daughter of the chief minister had been at the receiving end of some juicy comments while returning home alone. it created a furore in the press although the incident had been officially denied.

the roots of the problem are byfar many and it could probably be the subject of multiple research studies. the solutions are just as varied. yet speaking from a personal level, it is the mindset of the people that needs to be changed. women are viewed as animate commodities, without any personal choices of their own. personal and family honour are highly attached with a woman and any minor humilation forces them to curtail their movements within a generally “approved safe limit”. this method of self-defence cocoons the women inside a shell but gives a lot of pleasure to the men who consider this a victory. such ego-massages are the much-needed “feel good factor” in their otherwise mundane existance. was that a sarcasm…perhaps. but we as women cannot afford much of it.

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