This is in response to a recent Facebook post by Mallika Dua, where she describes a harrowing incident with an Uber Driver in broad daylight in Mumbai. This is a clear case of harassment. It is a grave criminal offence, but this article explores how no one (including Uber) really cares about these crimes.
Hannah Arendt, in her book “Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil”, describes how crimes and evil behaviour become banal. Evil becomes banal when it gets an unthinking and systemic character in society. When it becomes a part of ordinary social behaviour, which is common and justified in countless ways. Evil does not look like evil, and is done without an iota of guilt or remorse.
Arendt may have said this in the context of crimes against Jews in World War II, but it holds equally true in respect of crimes against women in India. These are brazenly done, as a means of correcting the ‘misbehaviour’ of women, to ‘teach her a lesson’ or ‘show her her place’.
In this case, also, people ask innumerable questions about the woman’s dress, male companions, time of travel, relationship status, right up to her Janampatri. By doing this, people are trying to justify this and make women responsible for the crimes happening against them. Some may also try to downplay these incidents, trying to make it seem like they are not a big deal and are unnecessarily exaggerated for vested interests. Neither of this is true.
Uber’s response is equally deplorable in this case. Simply ‘barring’ the driver is making a mockery of such a heinous crime. Uber cannot get away with it by claiming to just be an aggregator – a platform for users and drivers to connect. Their responsibility goes much beyond this, especially in providing safety and security to passengers. After all, people book a cab because of their faith in the brand of Uber, and not the driver.
This incident is undoubtedly a grave criminal offence which is punishable under the Indian Penal Code(IPC). Uber should have lodged a complaint against the driver under section 509 – uttering any word or making any gesture intended to insult the modesty of a woman. I am no legal expert, but I understand that there are enough provisions in our law to protect women from these crimes.
With an annual turnover of $20 billion, it is hard to imagine the reasons why Uber did not file a police complaint and take any other legal recourse. Maybe it wants to shrug off its responsibility by virtue of being only an ‘aggregator’ – or it considers such a crime banal, which does not warrant such drastic steps.
This case shows the collective conscience of society, where we have trivialised these crimes to such an extent, that they do not even require our reaction. Least of all, action. Crimes against women don’t matter to us and let’s not be hysterical about accepting this fact. Except, of course, when the crime is committed against our ‘mother, sister or daughter’.