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Kolkata Is Growing Up, She Is No Longer Safe: What Happened To The City Of Joy? #PhotoNama

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By Priyanjana Pramanik:

I have lived in Kolkata all my life. Since high school, I have taken to wandering around by myself, often after dark. My mother tells me I should be more careful, that my city isn’t safe anymore. I fight back; argue that I am old enough to take care of myself. It is hard to feel unsafe in a city which feels so… mine. A city where every building, every leaf, every pile of sand by the side of the road seems to belong to me. Kolkata is filled with dark alleys; in my favourite haunts, I know every single one. They are the shortcuts I take, the shortcuts everyone knows. Kolkata’s main roads are not meant for pedestrians, after all. What could go wrong?

kolkata

Jodhpur Park is one of our most ‘posh’ neighbourhoods, with its square blocks and lovely buildings. I walk through Jodhpur Park several times a week; I have for as long as I can remember. My aunt lives in the adjacent neighbourhood of Lake Gardens, juniors from school live down this road, a friend of my brother’s lives down that one; people I know from college are scattered here and there. Everyone knows everyone. A professor of mine lives behind the marketplace, right next to one of my classmates, much to her consternation.

Kolkata1

And yet Jodhpur Park was where a Frenchwoman was chased, men screaming obscenities about what they wanted to do to her, where her male friend was beaten up by the same ruffians, for trying to protect her. The road she ran down is next to the marketplace my friend lives behind; one of those roads which I use so very often. The incident happened at 10:30 pm; by 8:30, half of Jodhpur Park’s alleys are deserted, and even those which are not are dimly lit. The golden lights make the streets perfect for photography; they make one feel uneasy just the same.

Kolkata2

I walked down the path the Frenchwoman took last week (the Telegraph published a map, some time ago). I walked past the tiny shop where my friends and I drink tea, the shop where we get our photocopies done, the corner where we sit and chat. I looked at these familiar things, and I wondered what the poor woman felt when she was here. I wondered how I would feel if my city became a terrifying stranger to me too.

Kolkata3

Those men were drunk, the Frenchman told the police. He could smell the alcohol on their breath. But alcohol isn’t the problem; those men, their behaviour, their bikes, none of these are the problem. The conflict is far greater, greater than them, greater than any of us. Kolkata is changing. She is growing up. And even I, who love her dearly, must say this. My city is no longer safe. She is not safe for men, for women. Not safe for those who have spent their lives here, or for those who are just visiting. She does not discriminate. She does not care. Kolkata is… not a stranger, perhaps. More like a childhood friend who has gone down a dark path. You watch her helplessly; you hope she will come back to you. You worry that she never will.

All photographs are a copyright of Priyanjana Pramanik

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  1. Raj

    Seriously? Per capita homicide rate of West Bengal as a whole is rather low at 2.3 per 100,000 vs India as a whole 3.5. It is in fact almost half the homicide rate of the entire USA which is 4.8! Homicide rate per capita has been falling over the last 2 decades all over India.
    And rape reporting per capita in India is less than 1/15th of USA/UK and far less than many EU countries.Of course there is under-reporting but those are the stats we have to work with.
    So on what grounds are you saying that Kolkata is not as safe as it used to be? Would you feel safer in the USA with its double homicide rate and 15 times reported rape rate?

  2. Ridhi Murari

    I think its true not for Kolkata itself but Delhi. There are still stigmas attached to such behavior and the attitude of people still needs uprooting. People are still afraid to come out of the closet and report cases, in the US this is not the case hence there is more reporting since they have an efficient crime patrol system whereas here in India, there exists corruption at every level and there also exists a lack of efficiency when it comes to such cases. I honestly believe the government needs to allocate more funds to crime control in our country.

    1. Raj

      Agreed

  3. Agemo

    @Raj : What the FUCK is wrong with you …
    Why should there be any rape at all
    And if there was less in the past obviously it is cause for alarm
    Stop talking in terms of statistics which are nothing more than numbers and try to be a little humane

    1. Raj

      Grow up and face the facts. Try to be little humane? Really? You want me to suspend all my critical thinking and join this mindless diatribe and wallow around in pity and despair? No thank you! If you have some good points, bring them up. But don’t ask me to act stupid and play along.

      Why should there be any rape? Ask the sick individuals who commit them.

  4. Priyanjana Pramanik

    Dear Raj,

    I find your arguments terribly baffling. I’m sure they’re very intelligent and interesting, and for that very reason they seem to have gone completely over my head. Though, in my defense, I find it hard to believe that you read my article at all! Thank you for your statistical input; there were a lot of facts there that I did not know. My article was mostly about feelings, feelings that you do not share. That’s perfectly all right.
    I don’t know why you brought the United States up. I definitely didn’t. My comparison was between Kolkata as it is, and Kolkata as it used to be. My grounds? I grew up here. I know what the place was like. I know that the people around me no longer feel safe, that I no longer feel safe walking down an empty road when at one point in time, I wouldn’t have had a single qualm. I don’t really care about USA and how safe it is, I am concerned only with my city. Please try and understand.
    Furthermore, I must ask if you are actually from West Bengal. If you aren’t, then you are not to know what it is like in our neck of the woods, and how it used to be, and that’s not your fault. And if you *are* from around here.. Well, I suggest you pick up a newspaper more often.

    Everyone else: Thank you so much for your comments. It means a lot to me that you read my article and took the time to comment on it. Especially Agemo. I really like your name, by the way. 🙂

    1. Raj

      I’ve read your article and have commented on the points you’ve raised. I’ve lived in Kolkata for a couple of years as a kid and now reside in Mumbai, where we have the same kind of moaning about how Mumbai has become less safe than before.
      If you are talking about the general fear-mongering that is being created in the society and pushed ahead by the media then fine. But you are going beyond that and actually asserting that it is becoming less safe which is completely untrue. It is very anti-intellectual of you to say that hype equals reality, and sensational news articles are better than stats. All of them show that crime per capita is decreasing (especially homicide) except for reported rapes (which are already a fraction of what developed countries have).

      And since you mentioned rape, I’ve pointed out that many EU countries have far higher reported rapes per capita than India. In fact their newspapers would have to be 10 times longer if they decided to report rapes in the way Indian newspapers do. My point is when you are making comparative statements which place/society are you comparing it to? When you say rape has increased in Kolkata, can you back it up with stats? And even so, can you compare it with other similar cities in the developed world and say that Kolkata is indeed far worse?

  5. Sargam Sharma

    Even though I am practically an outsider having spent just a mere month as a resident of the city, I have been welcomed with open arms by the city and it’s people. Kolkata has a glorious past and a charm all of it’s own. Even though you say that the city of joy is changing, I would like to say that your city’s magnificence is a wonder that will not be so easily dilapidated.

  6. Brishti Chakrabarty

    My first comment is to Raj, who I definitely think did not understand the sentiment behind this piece. Secondly, I must condone him for his ability to read between the lines, finding even words and information which were never meant to be there. For example, the mention of USA, which was not present in the article. Further, no comparison was made between Kolkata and any other city of the world. Kolkata cannot be compared to any other place in the world, because it is Kolkata. I was born and brought up in Kolkata and I saw my city of love change in the past 5 years. I have faced bikers inviting me to sit behind them, which I had never faced before. I have seen young boys eve-teasing older women (over forty) which my mother never had to face. Delhi is definitely worse, but some comments make me feel as if they were made by the politicians when they try to hide their incompetence by saying that however bad it is, it is worse somewhere else. We have already forgotten about Barasat. We easily forget about the eve-teasing we face on the road every day, and the child sex abuse as well. I would expect our generation to be more forthright about these types of crimes rather than trying to defend things that are clearly going wrong.

    1. Raj

      I have quoted USA as an example of a developed well-run country.I’m using it as a standard of comparison.
      Why can’t Kolkata be compared with other large and populous cities. And if it can’t then what is your standard of comparison. You are talking about bikers inviting to sit behind them and eve-teasing. Are those the ONLY parameters you are judging the whole city? Seriously? What about homicides and kidnappings? And so many other crimes?
      Also could it be as youngster, you didn’t know much about these crimes and now you are suddenly being affected. Could it be your cognitive bias? Aren’t statistics and objective facts better representation of reality than subjective interpretations?

  7. Priyanjana Pramanik

    Raj: For reasons that you probably do not understand, I am unable to debate with you any further. Clearly, we have very different opinions. Talking to you, I’m afraid, was a little like hitting my head against a brick wall. I am reeling. My head is spinning. Do forgive me for leaving you like this. Oh, yes. I didn’t mention rape, actually. The Frenchwoman in question was chased through Jodhpur Park by men shouting ‘I want to f*** her’. Luckily for her, they didn’t. Goodbye! Have a wonderful life. 🙂
    Sargam: I completely agree with you. To me, my city is still the most beautiful place in the world. But in light of recent events, just a little tarnished in my eyes. Thank you for commenting, and I’m glad that you feel at home here. I definitely do. 🙂

    1. Raj

      Let’s face it, you don’t have any good points and hitting your head against a wall won’t help. Yes you implied rape and I have addressed that in my earlier points.
      The fact remains that per capita violent crime is going down all over India and it is indeed on the lower side in WB.
      I suggest you clear your head and start being a bit more objective.

  8. Prithvijit Pramanik

    Mr. Raj,
    I do not think that you understood article , The entire point is that the city has changed , and you immediately jumped to statistics and whatnot.

    1. Raj

      Obviously it will change, but has it changed for the worse? Not necessarily. That’s what i was saying.

  9. Rudra Pratap Chakraborty

    Raj..naam toh suna hi hoga 😛

    1. Raj

      Hahaha 😀

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