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Bangalore shutdown over rapes hits normal life

Posted on Jul 31 2014 | IANS

Bangalore, July 31 : A day-long shutdown across the city by pro-Kannada groups to protest sexual assaults on minors and rising crimes against women ended peacefully Thursday amid tight security though normal life was affected.

Schools and colleges declared a holiday for the safety of students while shops, eateries, malls and movie theatres remained closed in support of the 12-hour shutdown from 6 a.m.

Though government offices and private companies, including IT firms, were open, attendance was below normal as people preferred to stay at home for safety reasons.

As a result, arterial roads across the city witnessed less vehicular traffic even during peak hours and the grid locks the city is notoriously known for were conspicuously absent on a working day.

"The shutdown was peaceful barring stray incidents of forcible attempts to shut down shops and eateries in some areas," Additional Commissioner of Police Alok Kumar told IANS.

State-run BMTC maintained its bus services while the state-run Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) operated intra-state and inter-state services but with lesser number of buses.

A section of taxi and auto unions also did not operate till evening.

Though train services and flight operations remained unaffected, the number of passengers was less than 50 percent at railway stations and the international airport at Devanahalli, about 40 km from the city.

A dozen pro-Kannada organisations, women's groups, students and lawyers staged a massive demonstration at Town Hall and marched two km to Freedom Park in the city centre, holding placards and raising slogans against rapists and perpetrators of crimes against women.

After an hour-long rally at the Freedom Park, where leaders of the organisations condemned the government and police for their failure to ensure safety of minors and women, its representatives submitted a memorandum to Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and Home Minister K.J. George at the state secretariat.

"The shutdown evoked an overwhelming response from citizens outraged over a spate of crimes against women, including sexual assault on minors and teenaged girls in the city this month. The law and order in the city has collapsed due to the government's indifference and failure of basic policing," pro-Kannada organisations' federation president Vatal Nagaraj said at the rally.

The alleged rape of a six-year-old student in an elite school July 3 by two gymnastic coaches, of a 22-year-old post-graduate student July 12, of a 16-year-old student in a seminary July 16 by two people, and of a seven-year-old student July 25 by the son of a school maid rocked the city and led to massive protests.

Meanwhile, the Bangalore Advocates' Association has directed its members not to represent the accused rapists in courts and vowed to bring them to justice.

In a related development, the state government has set up a 26-member experts panel to amend the law related to sexual assaults.

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