‘By­stander ef­fect typ­i­fies In­dian psy­che’

The Times of India (Mumbai edition) - - TIMES CITY -

* Ear­lier this week, a 20-yearold girl’s mo­lesta­tion out­side a bar in Guwahati for a half an hour in full pub­lic view shook the coun­try.

* In 2008, two NRI women were mo­lested by a mob when they came out of J W Mar­riott in Juhu on New Year’s Eve.

* In 2002, a drunk man raped a men­tally chal­lenged girl in the sec­ond class com­part­ment of a lo­cal train in the pres­ence of five other com­muters.

These are not the only cases where by­standers have done lit­tle to raise an alarm or in­ter­vened in any way. Whether it is sheer ap­a­thy that leads to in­ac­tion or fear of get­ting en­tan­gled in long-drawn po­lice and court bat­tles or even fear for one’s own life, the re­sult re­mains that harass­ment of vic­tims con­tin­ues in full pub­lic view.

Chetan Datar’s Marathi drama Ek Mad­havbaug is gen­er­ally re­garded as one of the best In­dian plays to ad­dress ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity. But since it hasn’t been per­formed in years, younger the­atre­go­ers have only heard of it. The city now has a chance to watch Ek Mad­havbaug as The Hum­sa­far Trust, an NGO that sup­ports the LGBT community, has re­vived the play with a Hindi ver­sion that will premier in Mum­bai on Sun­day and have a longer run in Au­gust.

Hum­sa­far has been con­duct­ing read­ings of Ek Mad­havbaug as part of its ad­vo­cacy pro­gramme since 2010. Ac­tor Mona Am­be­gaonkar has trav­elled across the coun­try do­ing “per­for­mance read­ings” of the play in schools, col­leges, cor­po­rate com­pa­nies and among so­cial groups. “It’s a very hon­est play,” says Am­be­gaonkar. “This play makes you look at peo­ple around you and say, ‘ Why is their sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion in­ter­est­ing to me at all? Why is your bed­room part of my con­ver­sa­tion? It shouldn’t be.’ “

Shout loudly and scare the per­pe­tra­tors of crime

Teach kids from a young age to take ac­tion against small­est acts of in­jus­tice

Psy­chi­a­trist Dr Har­ish Shetty calls it a com­plete col­lapse of the community con­scious­ness. The “by­stander ef­fect” that par­a­lyzes on­look­ers from tak­ing ac­tion, he says, typ­i­fies the In­dian psy­che. “We are taught from a very young age not to med­dle in oth­ers’ af­fairs. It’s easy to sit in your draw­ing room and have con­ver­sa­tions on stand­ing up for what is right. But when it comes to help­ing some­one who is not a part of your fam­ily or friends’ circle, peo­ple tend not to in­ter­vene. Tak­ing a stand and rock­ing the boat is not part of our psy­che,” he said.

He likens the “chronic dis­as­ter syn­drome” that In­dia is go­ing through to psy­cho­pathic lib­er­a­tion where peo­ple wreak havoc in a place stricken by dis­as­ter. “Just as thefts are seen in places rav­aged by earth­quakes or wars, there is a col­lapse of the cul­tural super­ego, which is oth­er­wise an in­hibitor in these sit­u­a­tions. The en­tire dis­course of ‘san­skriti’ is largely rit­u­al­is­tic. In a glob­alised world, the child and the woman be­come the tar­get to vent frus­tra­tion,” he added.

How­ever, in­stances like the deaths of Keenan San­tos (24) and Reuben Fer­nan­dez (29), who were stabbed on Oc­to­ber 20 as they tried to pro­tect their friends from an eve-teaser in Am­boli, turned into a ral­ly­ing point against sex­ual harass­ment. They in­ter­vened, but were killed. So what does one do in sit­u­a­tions like this?

“There are dif­fer­ent lev­els of in­ter­ven­tion. Peo­ple need to speak up,” said Reuben’s brother Ben­jamin, who is now work­ing on a cam­paign to ad­dress the es­ca­lat­ing num­ber of sex­ual harass­ment cases, in­ac­tion on the part of by­standers and the preva­lence and influence of a pa­tri­ar­chal so­ci­ety. He, along with play­wright Alyque Padamsee, through the NGO ‘Iz­zat ki Fauj’ will aim to sen­si­tize an “ap­a­thetic” so­ci­ety. The cam­paign, which is still to be rolled out, will be taken to schools and col­leges.

Padamsee said the best way is to use wits rather than guts. “On­look­ers can start scream­ing in uni­son very loudly. That can scare the per­pe­tra­tors of crime. They should im­me­di­ately call the po­lice in­stead of tak­ing the law into their own hands,” he added.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from India

© PressReader. All rights reserved.