2018 is here, and so are the myriad reports on the New Year revelry of Bengaluru.

A little recap. When Bengaluru was stepping into 2017 on New Year’s Eve last year, apparently the crowd turned berserk and decided to “mass molest” the ladies gathered in the Central Business District. 24 x 7 news channes showed clips, on a forever repeat mode, of police “lathicharge” and of a mad crowd running helter-skelter to save itself from getting caned. It was “international” news, why wouldn’t the news agencies pick such things up when the city itself is trying to be a global city.

So that happened back then. When 2018 was approaching, a PIL was filed in the court asking the revelry to be stopped. The High Court pulled up the city’s police and questioned on their preparedness, the cops assured the court that they are well-prepared. Hundreds of CCTV cameras, barricades, and close to 15,000 cops were deployed in the city so that the citizens can welcome 2018 in a safer way.

So this morning, when I woke up to mostly positive news around the rigid “bandobust” by the police, I wondered how the city’s mob turned saints within a year’s time. What’s more astounding is that when the incident happened in 2016-17, a bunch of women claimed on news channels that they were molested, their faces covered to not reveal their identities, but not a single FIR was filed, not a single complaint was lodged with the city’s police around the mass molestation incident. There were just reports and those CCTV footages. When the police issued a statement that they scraped through hundreds of hours of CCTV footages and found no untoward incident, the “feminists”, the “liberals”, the twitterati, the media questioned if the reports were false and if a girl would ‘falsely’ claim that she was molested. For a moment, they had turned sanskari, or they were just textbook feminists who see feminism as anti-male movement.

The “breaking news” media, to this day, believes or has us believe that the molestation did occur ‘en-masse’ irrespective of the police’s stand. The right-wingers saw an opportunity in creating awareness (in their own aggressive way) around the fallacies of westernization of us Indians. The liberals, the leftists, the anti-Hindutva, anti-BJP and anti-Modi brigade all found an opportunity to attack their favorite enemies all the while tarnishing the city’s image on national news, notwithstanding the fact that it was Congress that was in power when that incident happened.

Congress is still in power and both the police department and the home ministry have ensured peace to a large extent except for a few incidents of caning. However, one news report did claim that there were some molestation incidents this year too. There may be other such reports.

There’s a larger question, though. A question that no one wants to ask, and if some does ask, I’m sure they’ll be labelled as conservationists or even chauvinists. A question I intend to ask.

Why do people need to assemble at Brigade Road every year?

Yes, I get it, people have the right to celebrate. And it happens everywhere around the world, but this is India. While we all should work towards creating a better India, one cannot expect the billion plus populated country to change its mindset overnight. Let’s be practical here.

As an individual, my safety is my highest priority. When I’m with friends or family, especially the female ones, their safety becomes equal priority if not higher. The fact that Brigade road is about 40 ft wide, and close to 5 lakh (half a million) people arrive on that road and around it on New Year’s Eve, should be enough for any sane (even if not educated) person to know in the guts that it ain’t gonna be a paradise there.

It’s good to party, it’s our right. Yes we, the citizens, have a right to be able to visit the downtown at midnight on New Year’s Eve. But, we, the citizens, should also dutifully not add to the chaos there. Every single cop deployed there has to handle 30-35 people with their lathis, not guns, mind you! They can’t be rude, because we complain. They can’t celebrate, because it’s our right to celebrate. They have to just ensure not a single incident occurs in a square kilometre area with half a million people. What are they? Supermen?

Let’s be reasonable with our demands. Let’s think about our own safety first. Find alternative places, celebrate inside four walls or in hotels. Shop if you want to, ensure your group is big enough to handle any melee. Don’t get so drunk that you can’t differentiate between an accident and an incident. Party responsibly.

I still don’t think there was a mass molestation. It’s unbelievable because you cannot expect all the mass molesters to decide not to molest this year just because there were more cops or tighter security. It’s beyond me why not even a single woman living in a predominantly educated / literate city, didn’t lodge a complaint. Nothing happened, if something happened it wasn’t en-masse, if it was en-masse every victim was guilty of something there (lying to parenrs at home, drinking etc) or every victim was afraid of social boycott (which is rare in a metropolitan city given the ease of achieving anonymity). Or, every single cop and police station in the city is involved in a big cover-up, convincing the victims to file any FIR. 

Incidents happen. Especially where a large crowd assembles. There could have been a bunch of such incidents that happened that day, but not the way it’s been claimed. There could be a group or ten such groups, drunk, brazenly showing their “masculinity”.

What happened last year was chaos which probably led to some incidents and some confusion. What happened this year, can be attributed to finding fault with the system when we ourselves are unknowingly contributing to the problem, blinded by our rights.