India

Bangalore New Year: 'People were grabbing, groping'

  • 4 January 2017
  • From the section India
Police hold back crowds in Bangalore (31 Dec 2016) Image copyright AFP
Image caption Some 60,000 people had gathered at the New Year celebrations

Police in India say they have credible evidence that widespread sexual assaults took place at New Year's Eve celebrations in Bangalore.

Several women have said they were molested by mobs of men, though police say they have had no official complaints from victims yet.

One woman, a marketing professional who asked to be identified only as Pooja, was at the event and told the BBC what happened to her.

Pooja's story

On 31 December, we decided to go to a bar on Mahatma Gandhi (MG) Road. At 11.30 I came out to make a call and found that everything was quiet and calm.

At 12:30 my friend who was to pick me up called me to say that the police had put barricades and he had to park his motorbike at the Shankar Nag theatre. He told me to start walking towards that side and he would meet me halfway. I said goodbye to my friends and started walking towards the Brigade Road side.

In between, I saw people rushing and walking but I did not expect them to do anything.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Some men helped women to get away from the mobs, as in this picture

I believed Bangalore was a safe city until then. What happened next shocked me a lot.

People were pushing and shoving, touching, grabbing, groping and everything was happening on that street.

It was not only to me. It was happening to other girls too. They were all scared.

'I felt so helpless'

Suddenly, someone pushed me and I fell down. There was no-one to pick me up. Then a group of girls helped me get up. Their friends had formed a circle around them so they could walk safely.

I asked them if I could go with them. Even then when we were walking, there were guys who were trying to touch here and there.

Image copyright BANGALORE MIRROR
Image caption Police used batons to push back the crowds at points

There was not a single face you could make out or who was doing it. As soon as you turned you would be groped or grabbed. There were so many people there that you could not pinpoint who was doing it.

There was a lathi [baton] charge on Brigade Road so people were running in all directions.

I felt helpless. Although I have hands and legs and I could abuse and slap them, I could not do anything. I didn't know who was touching me and groping me.

When I came and told my friends, they asked me who were the people? Were they from the slum? I had no answer.

'Everlasting impact'

In the pub too, groping was happening.

When we pay 6,000-7,000 rupees ($88; £72) to go to a pub to get entry to celebrate, you expect people to be of a certain class. At least, that they wouldn't do such things. These people weren't illiterate or uneducated.

They don't know what effect it has on a girl's life. It has an everlasting impact.

Who would I file a complaint against? I don't know a face or name. Even if I go to the police, they will ask who the complaint is against.

Image copyright BANGALORE MIRROR
Image caption Police have asked people to send in any evidence of assaults

There were so many people that the policemen were highly outnumbered. It was not possible for them to keep a watch on each and every person.

This has become a big issue in the last three days. Why hasn't any action been taken? What are they waiting for?

Yes, I have been through such situations earlier. But I have punched, slapped and complained to nearby authorities. I have been in Bangalore for three years. I thought it was a safe city.

Seeing this mass molestation was really shocking. When I spoke to some people, I was told that this had happened last year as well. So why weren't arrangements made? Instead of pretending nothing will happen, authorities should make efforts to curb this.

Pooja was talking to BBC Hindi's Imran Qureshi.

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