Bengaluru made national headlines in 2016, when women were allegedly groped and mass-molested at Mahatma Gandhi Road or the Central Business District. Two years later, even the the city gears up to celebrate the start of another new year, the ghosts of the past refuse to fade away from public memory.
While the central business district is largely dominated with commercial establishments and very few residential neighbours, another popular partying spot in the city, Indiranagar is a mixed neighbourhood. Residences are right next to popular watering holes. The loud music late into the night, drunken partying, parking woes – these issues gave rise to a number of confrontations between the establishments and the residents. I Change Indiranagar – a consortium of eight resident welfare associations in the area – has been fighting the battle against rampant commercialisation of their areas for years. But the problem seemed far from a solution. And the New Year was fast-approaching.
In 2017, when residents heard talk of the new year party scene shifting largely to Indiranagar, safety concerns naturally rose. What if the 2016 episode got repeated? There were families with children, and elderly people who lived in close proximity. The fall out of any untoward incident would have repercussions that would cause unintended collateral damage to the community.
So the residents decided to take a proactive approach to deal with any safety issues that might happen. They approached authorities requesting for strict adherence to the deadlines, even patrolled the neighbourhood so that no untoward incident took place. In ensuring that the residential community remained safe, they also ensured the women who had chosen to party in Indiranagar that night were able to do so with a semblance of order and safety.
So what were the takeaways with this exercise? Aruna Newton and Jayalakshmi Sriguha, both members of I Change Indiranagar, chatted with Citizens Matters about what they learnt and why it became necessary for them do it.
“I think the first thing that we learnt was the people in the area took up this exercise and came together as a community. This wasn’t an individual problem. The ownership of the issue was critical for us. It wasn’t about my house, my street, my area.. We were all focused on created safer spaces,” says Aruna who led the citizen patrolling team. The result was a quiet New Year in their locality. An important reason for the success of this exercise was the responsiveness and the rapport with the police force.
Jayalakshmi points out that the community seems to have had an increased response to any possible disturbance where they perceive a lady to be in trouble. “The other battle can go on. But with an issue like this (women’s safety) it doesn’t matter if she is a part of the partying scene that I am not a fan of. We always try and tell the girls who are out after 11 to at least be aware of their surroundings and where they are going,” says Jayalakshmi.
What has them worried is the increasing cases of solicitation that they see around them. The two women point out that while it is the State and the administration’s responsibility to ensure that public and social spaces are safe for women, the individuals cannot absolve themselves of personal responsibility for their safety. “If there are 5000 people on the street, can you ask for 5000 police personnel to ensure their safety? That would be an unfair ask. We are all responsible adults,” they say.
So how does the responsibility get divided in ensuring safe and happy new year indeed? What about the venues themselves? “Excuse me, but they don’t take responsibility inside their venue. So how do you expect them to take it outside? There is a Supreme Court order on the decibel limit. There is a ban on rooftop music. Yet there are people who flout it. I have their patrons throwing up in front of my house. The smokers are out at the corner where a vendor is selling cigarettes and swell in numbers,” fumes Aruna whose house is just around the corner from one of the most popular bars in the area owned by powerful people.
So as Bengaluru prepares to party this year, the I change Indiranagar will be back on the streets with the authorities on their side to ensure that there will be no untoward incident in their locality. “We will be submitting our letters and doing everything we can to ensure a safe new year” they said.
Despite their misgivings and obvious opposition to the partying scene in their area, both the ladies sign off wishing all of Bengalureans a safe and happy new year. “I love a party as much as the next person. But just be responsible about how you do it and more considerate.” says Aruna.
The Facebook Live with Manasi Pareshkumar on the subject is below:
Citizen Matters Bengaluru ಅವರಿಂದ ಈ ದಿನದಂದು ಪೋಸ್ಟ್ ಮಾಡಲಾಗಿದೆ ಬುಧವಾರ, ಡಿಸೆಂಬರ್ 26, 2018