India Insight

A safe city no more: what went wrong in Mumbai

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

An increasingly globalized city that has grown indiscriminately, a metropolis where inequality festers, and an urban sprawl blind to the needs of the poor. Mumbai is where a twentysomething photojournalist was gang-raped by five men this month, shattering perceptions that it is India’s safest city for women.

Sociologists and historians say this was not an isolated incident, and warn of more attacks. They cite a growing class divide and pockets of uneven growth as factors linked to crimes against women, who are often victims of socially sanctioned oppression.

“When you see huge gleaming towers coming up in your neighbourhood and you are left with absolutely nothing, you are bound to feel resentment that will manifest itself,” said author and historian Gyan Prakash.

The men who raped the photojournalist lived in slums, and media reports say that they have raped before.

The crime scene was a deserted mill, a symbol of Mumbai’s changing social fabric, one that used to employ thousands of immigrants but was abandoned after a strike forced the owners to shut it.

‘Big brother’ college a ‘jail’ for gadget-loving girls

A Delhi University college has banned the use of cellphones or laptops in its hostels — a bewildering step in a university regarded as a role model for other educational institutions in India. Even more alarmingly, it is only the women students who are the receiving end of this diktat.

Daulat Ram College, a girls’ only college in New Delhi, has barred students from having cellphones or computers in their rooms. While most of the residents are above 18, they say their rooms do not even have a latch and that supervisors can storm into their rooms at 2 a.m. if they suspect them of having sneaked in a mobile phone.

Resentment over these rules led to a student protest over the weekend, but no concrete step has been taken to revoke these rules so far.