The molestation of two young women at Juhu, on New Year’s Eve, has provoked predictable newspaper headlines like

, “Is Mumbai Safe?”. The question is asked with a sense of wonder and shock, as if it is a rare occurrence. The truth of the matter is that no major metropolis in the world – especially one with a burgeoning population – can be termed as completely safe. If you are a woman living in a very large city, risk of molestation is an occupational hazard. Old timers will argue that the Bombay of their time was indeed a safe city; where women could fearlessly travel in local trains and walk the streets at night. True enough, but it was a far different Bombay then; more relaxed, with a fraction of today’s population and only a handful of migrants from other state. People felt safe, because most of Bombay’s citizen felt a sense of ownership for their city and took pride in maintaining its good name. Today, almost half the population of Mumbai comes from outside the state. They come for a better standard of living which, often, is more imagined than factual. They feel no sense of obligation towards the metropolis that has given them shelter and employment. The perpetrators of these atrocities on women are despicable cowards, who take shelter and false courage in crowds and anonymity. They are so sexually repressed that any opportunity to grope a female body becomes, in their twisted minds, a momentous occasion, not to be missed. A short skirt or a low neck is sufficient justification for them to go on a rampage. Ironically, the responsibility for their repression – and violent retaliation – can be laid largely at the door of our moral policemen and holier-than-thou politicians and social do-gooders, who do not realize that by suppressing a fundamental human urge, they are affording it undue importance. By banning relatively safe outlets – like dance bars and uncensored films - for these primal passions, they are, in fact, allowing them to ferment until they explode at the slightest provocative opportunity. And they compound the felony by implying that women who are not completely covered up are ‘asking for it’. When the iinevitable does happen, they appear infused with moral outrage. This is hypocrisy at its most sublime. What is most shameful is that the victims of such assaults are usually forced to undergo further trauma in their attempt to seek justice. The victims are exposed to trial by media, with newspapers and television news channels rehashing their shame day after day, in lurid detail – sometimes making up “facts’ as they go along. In the Juhu incident, the police expressed righteous indignation and pleaded helplessness, because the victims had not made a formal complaint. A formal complaint? They have photographic evidence. What more do they need? It is a telling commentary on the attitude of the police that it took the prodding of the Home Minister to goad them into action.