By Ishaan Mukherjee:
A routine casual dinner with friends turned into a nightmare for Keenan Santoas and Rueben Fernandez on the 20th of October, 2011.
After dining with 5 other friends at the Amboli bar and restaurant, the group of 7, which included 3 girls, headed to a nearby paan shop at around 10:30 pm. A passer by and drunkard, later identified as Jitendra Rana passed cheap comments and rude remarks at the girls of the group and purposely made sexual advances towards Priyanka Fernandes, girlfriend of Keenan Santos.
Keenan and Rueben stood up for the girl’s safety and intervened, little did they know that it would bring their lives to an end. Rana left after a heated argument, threatening to kill them, only to return with some 20 odd men armed with sticks, knifes and rods.
Keenan and Rueben were stabbed to death by the men, as many Mumbaikars became mute spectators to the event.Â The incident reminds us of how easy it is for the anti-social elements of the society to over-power the common man, as the two brave hearts of Mumbai fought till there last breath just to stand against eve teasing by rowdies.
A few days back, it were Keenan and Rueben. Tomorrow it can be you and me.
Why do we live in fear at all? Do we really have to go through this?
Police, however, did manage to arrest the four main accused, who were then booked under IPC sections 302 (murder), 307 (attempt to murder), 324 (voluntarily causing hurt by dangerous weapons or means) and 34 (acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention).
It was only after the media pressure that all the 21 people who were part of the salvage killing were arrested.Â Even after the immediate arrest of the main accused, the question of justice being delivered still remains.
The case started with that of eve-teasing, however, none of the accused have been booked under charges of the same. India, having the bulkiest constitution and one the most detailed-interpreted law, there is no provision clearly stating eve-teasing as crime in India. Irony?
Eve teasing is a euphemism used in India and sometimes for public sexual harassment or molestation of women by men. Considered a problem related to delinquency in youth, it is a form of sexual aggression that ranges in severity from sexually suggestive remarks, brushing against a woman in public places and catcalls to outright groping. Sometimes it is referred to with a coy suggestion of innocent fun, making it appear innocuous with no resulting liability on the part of the perpetrator. Many feminists and volunteer organizations have suggested that the expression be replaced by a more appropriate term. According to them, considering the semantic roots of the term in Indian English, Eve teasing refers to the temptress nature of Eve, placing responsibility on the woman as a tease, as though the aggressive response of the males was normal rather than criminal.
We have over 1000’s of sections explaining various acts for entertainment, tax property etc., but not even one section stating eve-teasing which is a serious menace in our society. However, Section 298 (A) and (B) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) sentences a man found guilty of making a girl or woman the target of obscene gestures, remarks, songs or recitation to a maximum jail sentence of three months. Section 292 of the IPC clearly spells out that showing pornographic or obscene pictures, books or slips to a woman or girl draws a fine of Rs. 2000 with two years of rigorous imprisonment for the first offender. For a crime as heinous as eve-teasing, which can leave a psychological scar in a victim’s mind, a minimum of 6 months sentence behind the bars should be a must, without eve-teasing being a bailable offence, which it currently is.
India and the youth – we need a wake up to the death of Keenan and Rueben, and realize that it is worse than we thought.
It’s time to amend the Indian Penal Code which defines the various criminal acts. Let’s not let people like Rana take innocent lives who fight for what is right. The first step is to stop being a mute spectator. I am ready to fight, are you?