Bangalore has hogged the national headlines for three days now. A considerable population of the country has been debating whether the garden city is safe for women or not.
Almost every news channel, newspaper and website across the world has been relentlessly showing pictures clicked on New Year's Eve by a photographer with the Bangalore Mirror.
The Mirror had pictures of three women – one in a black and grey dress, leaning on a woman police officer, another woman in a white dress holding on to a man, and the third photo of another woman in white standing next to the same police officer.
Mirror called these women ‘victims of mass molestation’, and said that the revelry, close to midnight, on MG Road and Brigade Road, had become so lewd that women were forced to “literally take off their stilettos and run for help.”
The pictures from New Year’s Eve and accounts from a few women who were present at these spots during the revelry have intensified anger against the Bangalore Police. Police have been called incompetent and mute spectators.
What has been missing from the narrative, however, is the version of the police personnel who were deployed on the ground, and what the CCTV footage shows.
The News Minute watched snatches of CCTV footage of the crowd on MG Road and Brigade Road, on the night of 31 December.
It is evident that police were outnumbered and the Bangalore Police had grossly underestimated the number of people who would turn up. What is also visible is that it was not an easy job for the police personnel that night.
In one CCTV clip, a few policemen can be seen wielding lathis to control crowds, while a woman in yellow is seen running away from a huge crowd towards a woman police officer. The officer was Anjumala T Nayak, a woman police inspector deployed at the spot, who was also seen in two of Bangalore Mirror’s pictures.
The girl came running to me and she was panicking. She was separated from her friends and asked me to help her look for them. Her friends were right behind her in the crowd and I got them all together and they left soon after.Anjumala, Inspector, Bangalore Police to the The News Minute
Inspector Anjumala told TNM that this woman, however, had no complaints of being molested.
CCTV footage from another camera shows scores of people rushing down the junction of MG Road and Brigade Road at 12.31 am. In the process, the woman wearing a white dress, gets run down by the crowd.
Police are seen clearing the area and a man helps the girl up.
She has a broken heel and takes off her shoes. The woman is hurt and leans on to the man. He helps her walk. The two of them hug and the man consoles her.
The man then hands over the woman to a policewoman and goes away.
According to the police who were deployed on the spot and who also witnessed the incident, the young woman was hurt and the woman police officer was helping her.
The girl in white was handed over to me by a woman police inspector. I sat her down and gave her some water. She said that this was the first time she had come to celebrate New Year’s Eve here. When she saw the photographer clicking her picture, she said that she did not want her photo to be published as her parents did not know of her whereabouts.An officer deployed at the spot.
The officer said that after the woman was given water, four of her friends came and picked her up.
The other two young women were also hurt, the police officer said.
The one in grey had already hurt her foot when she approached the woman police officer. The picture was clicked when she was leaning on to the woman cop as she was unable to walk due to her injured foot. The other young woman in white was leaning on to a friend, the officer added.
“There were thousands of people there and we helped anyone who came to us. I have personally dropped off girls at the metro station and waited until they got into the train. We were not just standing there and doing nothing. It was tough for us too," the officer said.
Another officer deployed at the spot said that he helped over 50 women get into cabs or board the metro that night.
I was on duty and I remember helping so many women get into the metro or look for their boyfriends, cross the roads and get into taxis. We were not helpless spectators. We were up till 4 in the morning. Since the news broke out, we have been continuously watching the CCTV footage to ascertain if such incidents actually took place, but haven’t found any yet.
He further added, “We believed we had done a good job and two days later we see reports of mass molestation. What was shown was only part of the picture that suggested that such incidents had taken place. But that’s not the complete picture. Some of the pictures are of girls being helped by friends or police personnel,” she added.
Inspector Anjumala said that it was not just women who came to her for help, but also men. "I cannot remember the number of people I have helped. There were just too many. There was someone who had lost her phone, people who were separated from their friends, some wanted help getting out of the spot to a less crowded place. I helped all the people who came to me. But there was no one who reported a case of molestation," she said.
While police say that evidence of molestation is not present, one cannot categorically say that there were no instances of molestation on that night. The CCTV footage shows what happened to the women but only at certain points of time. However, one element that media and citizens cannot ignore is that for the police personnel deployed on ground, it was one tough night.