While the National Crime Records Bureau has put West Bengal atop the country in crimes against women in 2012, the recent spate of molestations and rapes in and around the city has led many to believe Kolkata is increasingly becoming unsafe for the female population. They blame a "passive and callous" administration for the situation.
"The fear of the administration is missing. Criminals now believe they can easily get away. Unfortunately, women are increasingly falling prey," activist Anuradha Talwar told IANS.
"What can you expect from the administration when the chief minister (Mamata Banerjee) herself trivialises heinous crimes by calling them fabricated or petty. This callous attitude obviously is emboldening the criminals," said painter Samir Aich.
Some days ago, a French woman was chased down lanes by motorcycle-borne youths, with one of them loudly proclaiming his intention to rape her. The woman was forced to take refuge behind taxis and construction material. In a desperate measure, she scaled the gate of an apartment complex to save herself.
Closely following this, a 25-year-old woman was seriously injured Sunday after she jumped off a moving train near Howrah to save herself from the advances of a molester.
Two days later, again in Howrah, a Mumbai-based TV anchor and her female friend were subjected to a similar horror when an inebriated youth tried to force himself on them. To compound the misery, a motley group cheered on the efforts of the man to drag the women out of their car.
The anchor later described Mumbai as safer than Kolkata.
"This is the first time I faced such a horrifying experience. For the first time, I was crying and begging for help and not a single soul came to our rescue. I have been living in Mumbai for the last several years and girls roam out late in the night without any fear. There is no danger there. But here I experienced what I have been hearing about Kolkata in news reports," she said.
From packed Metro compartments to buses, from busy crossroads to ladies compartments in trains, the molesters are seemingly on the prowl everywhere.
"For me the City of Joy is certainly and unfortunately turning into City of Bhoy. I think twice before going out late in the evening. It seems molesters are on the prowl everywhere," Paromita Mitra, a clinical psychologist, told IANS.
Two people were arrested Tuesday for molesting a housewife in a packed Metro compartment.
People now have taken the virtual route to vent their ire on the Banerjee administration.
"Well done, dear administrative system! Thank you for doing absolutely nothing about it!" Several similar posts attached with media reports of sexual crimes have been posted on social networking sites.
In another shocker, a minor now has come out with the story of her repeated sexual exploitation by a woman and some of her male friends who kept her captive.
In neighbouring Naihati, a girl was found hanging Wednesday with her family alleging she committed suicide unable to bear the ignominy of being molested before her younger brother.
However, there are some still unwilling to declare the city unsafe.
"No doubt, crime against women has increased, but I still can't say the city is unsafe," legendary actor Soumitra Chatterjee told IANS.
Countering the growing apprehensions, State Women's Commission chairperson Sunanda Mukherjee attributed the growing consciousness among women to report the crimes as the reason behind the rising recorded offences.
"It may seem that the cases of crime against women are rising. But the phenomenon is not new. Today, women have become more aware and want to fight out this menace. They are coming out in the open and filing reports," said Mukherjee.
Psychologist Tanmoy Mitra, associated with the city-based National Institute of Behavioural Sciences, however, blamed easy access to pornography for the growing menace.
(Anurag Dey can be contacted at email@example.com)
--IANS (Posted on 26-07-2013)