Yesterday’s horrific Holi report - about the plight of a 50-year-old woman whose lip was bitten off by a reveller - showed us once again how our festivals often turn into excuses to molest and assault women. What is doubly shocking is that this happened in broad daylight and in the woman’s residential compound, no less.
A front-page report in this paper stated that the elderly woman grabbed by a complete stranger who kissed her forcibly and then bit her lip off and spat it on the ground. The police have launched a manhunt for the pervert but are yet to narrow down on any suspects.
A few days before Holi, this paper’s editorial had stated how it is important that the festival be safe for all, especially women. Although the incident took place on the day of Holi and the pervert had colour on his clothes and face, the crime may not be strictly Holi-related, as it could have happened on any other day. What the episode does show though is that different pretexts are used to harass and target women, whether it is ‘festive spirit’ or ‘men being men’.
This sickening act though goes much beyond harassment - this is violence, pure and simple. It is important this sick man is nabbed and dealt with in the harshest possible way. This crime is also an indicator that women are not 100% safe even in their own residential compound. It is symptomatic of a sick society that is bent on getting its cheap thrills any way it can, and the most easily available avenue seems to be inflicting pain on innocent women. Such incidents also highlight the need for good CCTV cameras - let us plug that loophole as soon as we can.
Mumbai’s reputation as a safe city for women is well and truly in tatters, and it will take time, will, force and an absolute change in mindset to bring it back.