World | India

Gang-rape a huge blow to Mumbai reputation

Incident has ripped into the city’s reputation as a progressive metropolis where women feel safe

  • By Ranjona Banerji, Special to Gulf News
  • Published: 21:11 August 23, 2013
  • Gulf News

Mumbai: The gang-rape of a young photojournalist in Mumbai on Thursday evening has ripped into the city’s reputation as a progressive metropolis where women feel safe.

The young woman in question was out on assignment, accompanied by a male colleague, taking photographs in the Mahalaxmi-Lower Parel areas of Mumbai. The mill they had gone to was derelict and deserted but not far away is a road famous for its traffic jams and a much-used commuter train station.

They were approached by some men on a pretext, separated; he was tied up and assaulted while she was gang-raped by five. By Mumbai standards, 6.30pm is not very late. The sun sets around 7pm at this time of the year.

Mumbai’s pride in itself as being cosmopolitan and liberal has taken several beatings in recent times. Crimes against women have been rising. Just last week an American aid worker had her face slashed in a commuter train. Women are cautious about wearing gold jewellery in public because of a rise in “chain-snatching” — gangs on motorcycles pull chains off their necks. But Mumbai is also a city with a high proportion of working women of all classes and this gang-rape will now create another kind of fear.

Comparisons are often made with Delhi. India’s national capital has never had a good reputation when it comes to its treatment of women. The women of Delhi have been forced to become aggressive in public and take precautions.

Unfortunately, it looks like women in Mumbai can no longer be as carefree and sanguine as they used to. Mumbai is already just second to Delhi in the official crime rate figures when it comes to rape. Delhi still has more rapes — 414 to Mumbai’s 194 in 2010 according to National Crimes Record Bureau figures – but Mumbai’s rates have been rising every year.

There is an argument that crimes against women always happened but were under-reported. That may well be true. But rapes that happen in public are slightly different from atrocities committed inside homes. And a gang-rape in a public place in daylight signifies a complete lack of fear of the police and the law and order machinery. It is symptomatic of a breakdown of all those systems which help us pretend that we are civilised.

The fact that Mumbai has regressed to such an extent is not just distressing — it emphasises that the problem is dire. The women of Mumbai cannot stop going to work. They cannot stop travelling in trains at all hours. Regardless of the helpful suggestions of Maharashtra’s home minister R.R. Patil, women journalists cannot call for police protection every time they have to go out on assignment.

Instead, Patil and his fellow politicians would serve the city better if they examined how policing in Mumbai and Maharashtra has deteriorated over the years. Earlier this week, Narendra Dabholkar, a well-known activist trying to get a bill against black magic and blind faith passed, was shot dead in the city of Pune. He was out for a morning walk.

Fortunately, the Mumbai police have not behaved as high-handedly or as foolishly as their counterparts in Delhi after last December’s gang-rape in the capital that shook the nation.

But both rapes point to the same problems. There are elements in society who cannot bear women to be independent. And the law and order machinery is not feared across the country, at least not by perpetrators of crime.

The writer is a Mumbai-based columnist

Comments (6)

  1. Added 16:25 August 24, 2013

    One solution for making it safer for the women is to make the punishment harsher for the gang rapists. It is also required to find out why people resort to this type of acts. Are they desperate and neglected in the society so that cannot afford to have legal encounter with women. Until the root cause is treated the rapists will not stop .

    Peter Smith, Brampton, Canada

  2. Added 14:24 August 24, 2013

    People are quick to point out Bollywood as the prime cause of such atrocities, without pausing to analyze. I am watching the same Bollywood stuff, and so are millions of others in India and worldwide. I don't get the tendency to rape anyone, and neither do the rest of the millions. Bollywood is just entertainment, vulgarity is just a matter of personal perspective. Some might argue that not everyone will see it that way, and take it as a free-for-all-access to women when they see "item songs" on screen. Well, there lies your answer, the root of all this: the "mentality" of these sick beings that commit rape. Don't scapegoat Bollywood or women's clothes or anything else for that matter. The real cause is a sick, deformed, evil mind. Education is the key. Everyone should be taught to respect women, no matter how they are dressed, no matter what time they are out, no matter if they are alone. And those that still commit the crime should be severely punished publicly as a strong deterrent for future villains.

    Tousif Saleh, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  3. Added 12:23 August 24, 2013

    I read today three rape cases from India (may be many more, but i did not noticed). My strong opinion is Indian cinema playing a large role to such a incidents. every Hindi films and Malayalam, Tamil & Telugu movies are releasing very vulgarly nowadays. I had sent many emails to the film certification authority and political leaders, but none of them not ready to respond. while watching such exposive films, human will get temptation to have sex and it is natural. so the only one way is to control such films by law.

    Mohammad Shafi, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

  4. Added 11:41 August 24, 2013

    the rapist should be killed imm or death by the government , our government is sick we should not vote if they cannot protect women's. the crime is expanding every day and women are not safe in India they should give the rights to women for keeping the gun for their safety. this rapist can be hanged in public so next time all the man get get fear of raping the girls.

    Anamikalakhiani, Mumbai, India

  5. Added 11:36 August 24, 2013

    Why this happens in India, only thing to say is now everything works over money, even the law which is made in country are boycotted by the money power, peoples are well supported by the politicians, these need to be changed, rather politician must be changed, Hang these wild creatures let it be a lesson for everyone, give respect and take respect.

    Babu, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  6. Added 10:30 August 24, 2013

    The major problem lies in the extensive scenes of obscenity dished out to the Indian audience by Bollywood. Todays bollywood movies especially the songs are much more repulsive and obscene than an adult Hollywood movie.Its funny how the authorities or any activists apparently seem to find nothing wrong with this.Anyways its their funeral.

    Zaid, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates

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