are going to hear a response from the IGP. We will keep you updated.
7th March 2009
Director General of Police
We approach you with a sense of anger as well as sadness that as we gather to celebrate International Women's Day, there is a growing sense of insecurity and fear in the state as far as women are concerned.
Over the last one month several women have been violently attacked across Karnataka.
In Bangalore alone:
* On 28 February 2009 at 10.30 pm, Sanjana got hit by two men on a bike who slowed down, socked her on her jaw and fled away.
* On 24 February 2009, Vandana was attacked at around 9 pm by four men who punched her, hit her, and abused her for wearing jeans.
On 17 February 2009, two men chased Archana's car at 1.30 pm. One chased her with a large stone as she ran to a friend’s house for refuge.
That same week, Jasmine (name changed) was attacked by four middle-aged men at 11.30 am when her auto broke down. They physically assaulted and tried to disrobe her while yelling obscenities.
More than 70 attacks cases of moral policing have been reported from all over Karnataka in the last six months for supposed violations of the moral code like a Hindu girl talking to a Muslim boy, attack on a dance school, attack on girls and boys from different religions who 'dare' to go out together. ( We annex a summary of these incidents reported in both the English and Kannada press ).
The police have not taken meaningful steps to stop or prevent this violence, to arrest the perpetrators, or to ensure the safety of all women in Bangalore and Karnataka.
In connections with cases reported in Bangalore City, a group of concerned citizens met with Mr. Shankar Bidari, Commisiioner of Police, Bangalore City, on 2th March 2009. We are deeply disappointed with his statement that these incidents do not in anyway indicate that Bangalore is not safe for women. He was dismissive of our concerns and also alleged that women who had lodged FIRs had not provided any proper information to aid in the investigation. We have no other option but to believe that Mr. Bidari is not in a position to ensure that women in Bangalore can walk the streets without fear of assault and molestation. He further went on record to state that the case reported in Indiranagar was one of hit and run and that it was the woman-complainant’s actions that caused the attack on her. This indicates that he is escaping from his responsibility of safeguarding the freedom and dignity of women. Such statements are not at all becoming of an officer who holds such a responsible position in the city.
The stated opinion of the Commissioner of Police, Bangalore city, is that these are but stray incidents and that few FIR's have been filed. We would like to draw your attention to the fact that this viewpoint is itself part of the problem.
Crimes against women cannot be measured merely by the number of FIR's are registered, a fact that the police should realize. We expect the police to acknowledge the reality of violence against women and work in a spirit of co-operation with civil society groups to ensure that more women do indeed begin to file FIR's. We are deeply distressed and angry that the Commissioner of Bangalore Police instead of starting from this premise has reacted defensively and, dare we say, in the best traditions of male chauvinism by questioning the veracity of the complaint and casting aspersions on the motivations of the few brave women who have filed a complaint. In fact, the Indiranagar Police Station have refused to lodge and FIR and instead issued an acknowledgment to the complainant stating that complaint is false.
Our concern is that the police must enable and encourage women to file complaints rather than impede them from filing FIR's. The kind of investigation which the police are carrying out even in the two cases in which FIRs have been finally lodged has been very insensitive to the women concerned. After each aggressive session with the police they come away with the feeling that they are not victims but wrongdoers. If such is the attitude of the police it is not surprising that women do not file complaints. This police attitude needs to change and we need to see change from the very top of Bangalore's police hierarchy.
We approach you in the spirit, that we must start from the premise that we have a problem and then work towards redressing the same. We are confident that you share our concern about the safety of women on the streets of Bangalore .
These attacks are crimes against women. They are legal offences. They are neither isolated events nor trivial incidents of ‘eve-teasing’. They are part of a series of attacks inflicted on women in the name of ‘morality’ and religious intolerance, attacks that are escalating as women resist and fight back. We must bring to your attention that in all the incidents women have been targeted for what they have been wearing, the fact that they were on the road late at night or that they should not have been in a particular location. The motivation behind the attacks is to compel women to subscribe to a narrow definition of culture and modesty. Moral and cultural policing of this nature is undertaken to restrict the freedom of women to live full and meaningful lives. It is unfortunate that police officers in police station are also reflecting the same mindset when women are trying to lodge cases.
It is the core responsibility of the state and city police to ensure that public spaces are kept safe for all. Women across class barriers – from powrakarmikas to garment factory workers to students and young professionals in the corporate sector – have today become vulnerable targets on the streets of Karnataka.
We are also hereby expressing full faith in the Karnataka State Police and are confident that the perpetrators of these crimes will be brought to justice. We would like to emphasize that these attacks on women by the so called torchbearers of ‘Indian Culture’ are a direct attack not only on the women but also an attack on the humanity, dignity & compassion of the people who live in this state.
We urge you do take the issue of safety and dignity of women in public places as of being one of highest priority. Towards this it would be deeply appreciated if you ensure the following:
- Issue a public statement that
- crimes against women are indeed serious offences which are occurring in Karnataka and which the police will take seriously.
- women who file complaints will not be harassed and treated as 'accused' in the name of 'investigation'.
- encourage women to file complaints and promise prompt investigation.
- The cases that have been registered are investigated by the jurisdictional police immediately all across Karnataka
- With particular reference to Bangalore- given that two of the incidents that have been reported are near the Mt. Carmel College for Women, High Grounds Police Station is directed to take adequate measures to ensure the safety of women in this area.
- All police stations Karnataka are sent a notice stating that such incidents of violence against women have been on the rise, directing the police to register and lodge FIRs if women are coming forth with complaints without any delay.
- Karnataka police in collaboration with other civil society organizations undertakes a wide spread public campaign informing citizens of their duty to act when they witness such incidents. As well as publicize emergency numbers that can be contacted.
- To use the hoardings of the Police Department to publicize the fact that so called 'eve teasing' is a serious form of sexual harassment ie. a crime punishable by law and that the police will not hesitate to take stern action in this regard.
- A 24- hour help line is set up specifically for women in distress.
- A list of Police Stations & Hospital numbers in all areas in city editions of newspapers across Karnataka.
- To educate the public on how to file an F.I.R and that it is their right to do so.
- A list of the number of Hoysalas patrolling per jurisdiction & the frequency of such patrols.
Sir, it cannot be stressed enough that Karnataka must be a place where women are not in fear of being harassed and attacked in public places. These attacks on women not only cause fear and panic among women. They also the tarnish the reputation of the state of Karnataka as a place in which women can enjoy their freedom.
We are anxious that you act strongly and decisively so that these attacks on women are brought to a stop immediately.
We will be happy to collaborate with you in any manner towards ensuring a safer place for the women in Karnataka.