Thought vigilantism and moral policing are the sole areas of expertise of saffron-donning thugs? Well, not really. Turns out even educated women from Kolkata’s bhadralok para can be equally menacing, regressive, and violent. A 20-year old Jadavpur University’s Facebook post has brought to light an extremely disturbing account of moral policing allegedly prevalent in the progressive quarters of Kolkata, something hitherto unknown.
Tripti Mukherjee (name changed), a resident of DL Block, Sector II, Salt Lake wrote a Facebook post on January 26, recalling how a group of women of the Residents’ Association allegedly physically assaulted her for sitting in the colony park with a male friend.
On January 25, when Mukherjee decided to call her male friend to the colony park, she had no idea that in the next few hours she would suffer a severe anxiety attack, have questions raised on her character and face mob fury.
Talking to inUth, Mukherjee said that she had invited her male friend to the park because her grandparents, with whom she lives now, don’t allow her to bring friends home. “I had been feeling extremely low and was going through a rough phase. Tired of being confined to my room, I called my friend to meet me,” she says.
Things allegedly went downhill from there. “We were sitting in my block’s park and he had an arm around my shoulder and he pecked me on the forehead not more than twice. For this, a group of ladies approached us and extremely rudely told us to ‘sit properly’.”
Shocked, she she shot back at them and called them regressive. This apparently irked them and they allegedly threatened to come back with a larger group to “teach them a lesson”. And that they did. The crowd kept on swelling, Mukherjee recalls. They allegedly called her baje meye (bad girl) who was up to some “nongramo” (dirty work)” in the park. “At that point I called my father. He advised me to leave the scene,” she says.
But as Mukherjee would realise, there was no escaping the scene so easily. “When I tried to leave the place, the group of women physically assaulted me. They wrongfully detained me and restricted my movement, tore my hair, scratched and punched me,” Mukherjee alleges.
They also called the Police. “Two policemen were present there in plain clothes”.
She says she was already on medication and such a treatment triggered an anxiety attack. “I started moving my legs and hands, to protect myself”. There was no end to her ordeal till her friend “began to record what was going on”, which is when they backed off and allowed her to leave. By then she was in shambles, on the brink of fainting. “This, perhaps, scared them,” she says.
Eventually, Mukherjee mustered the courage to report the incident on Bidhannagar City Police’s Facebook page. “I got a confirmation from them on facebook, they came to talk to me on Thursday and have assured all kind of help.” She admits to being scared.
The Time of India quoted a police officer as saying:
“I just received the complaint and have asked my officials to look into it. In Salt Lake, there are some people who get into arguments with young couples sitting in the parks. We will speak to the block residents and have asked for a report from our officers posted there.”
The Resident Association’s General Secretary KP Shah said: “The girl has admitted to her wrongdoings in her own facebook post; she has admitted to the fact that she was kissed on the forehead by the boy and that that she had kicked a lady in the group (the victim said she did this in self-defence and due to her anxiety). Also, all this is not allowed in our society. There are kids in the park, old people and women in the park. They were sitting in an obscene way. When they refused to sit properly we were forced to call the police.” He doesn’t comment on why the girl was assaulted.
He says, they later figured out that Mukherjee is a resident of the Block and asked the police to leave. “The girl lives with her grandparents and we didn’t want to harm her.”
In her Facebook post, which has been shared 352 times till now, Mukherjee raises some pertinent points on why public display of affection scares those living in gated societies and almost always ends up in public humiliation for young people. She writes: “Even if the accusation was true – is kissing in public really illegal/a criminal offence here like we’re all led to believe? If yes, who’s gonna help me file a petition for a revision of laws? Because how is a person causing any harm at all by showing their affection towards another person?”