Not so safe in Mumbai any more
(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)
When the Delhi gang rape made headlines last December, most Mumbai residents thought such a thing could never happen in their city.
A girl raped during daylight hours in a public place in a posh area? Nah! Not possible in Mumbai. This is a city where women can walk the streets alone at night and not feel threatened.
It all changed on Thursday. A photojournalist in her early 20s was gang-raped by five men at around 6 p.m., while on assignment with a male colleague. Her friend was tied up while the men took turns raping her, media reports quoting the police said.
The woman was raped in Mahalaxmi, close to the office district of Lower Parel and a residential area that houses some of the city’s richest.
Mumbai’s reputation as a city safe for women is one that has persisted, though official figures tell a different story. The city is second to New Delhi in terms of the number of rapes reported.
In 2011, according to official estimates, Delhi reported 568 cases of rape while Mumbai was second with 218 cases. But Maharashtra’s politicians and the police have patted themselves on the back, claiming Mumbai was safer for women than most Indian cities.
Thursday’s incident proves them wrong. If a woman can be raped at 6 p.m. near an office district, just a few kilometres away from where some of the country’s richest (including Mukesh Ambani) live, how is Mumbai safe?
The incident also emphasises that a rape can take place anywhere – it is not just Delhi and north India that are trouble spots. There’ll be outrage again over the new rape case and this time Mumbai cannot take a back seat.
A few months ago, on my way back from a late-night assignment, I hailed a cab at 1:30 a.m. from Kurla, a suburb of Mumbai that houses its largest mall as well as several slums and factories. As I settled into the cab, I felt a sense of pride and relief that I lived in a city where I could do this, secure in the knowledge that I would reach home safe. Mumbai inspired that kind of security.
I am not sure I’ll be doing that again.
(Follow Shilpa on Twitter @shilpajay)