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18

This story is about a few months old. Sat in my drafts, so some references may not be current.

I had met a few friends recently. I spoke briefly about sexual harassment and its prevalence and attitudes toward it as telling them what I am up to. Described Violence Against Women Awareness Month and my support for it.

The day after the gathering, the husband of one of the friends called me up and said he felt compelled to speak with me on the subject of "eve teasing". He agreed with me that eve teasing was sexual harassment and that it is a big evil in society (his words).

Then he proceeded to share with me his own story.

When he hit college, he often bunked classes to fool around with friends, watching films, smoking on the street, passing comments at girls. He didn't really intend it as an insult or aggression. In his eyes, it was playfulness. Friendliness even, though with a complete stranger. Slowly, he started getting more creative with it. He often brushed against women when he was walking or mingling. He even brushed against his cousin's bride during their wedding.

Not because he found them attractive or even because he wanted to feel a woman's body, but simply to see them jump in surprise/shock and react. He found their "Over Reaction" bizarre, and thought that such hyperactive women deserved to learn to get used to not making such big deals. It became such a habit, that he often brushed against women without even doing it on purpose - reflexively.

He insists that there was hardly anything sexual about it for him beyond the gender of his victim. It was more a game of skill. Of a teasing that they couldn't prevent. He knew it was wrong, but it didn't "feel" wrong. It felt as innocently mischievous as going "boo" and surprising someone.

A few things happened to change it.

Once, on the street, a girl was sharp enough and made a scene. It was embarrassing and he blustered his way through it, insisting that she had misunderstood and that she was over reacting to an innocent touch. But the incident got him wary.

Then, a girl once hit him when he touched her. It was fast and fleeting like his own touch. There was no scene made, but he caught the anger in her expression and the hate in the way she hit him. It was the first time he probably seriously considered that maybe, just maybe it REALLY wasn't funny for the girls and that it probably made them feel bad.

But he didn't see what he did as wrong. He blames part of this on the normal social upbringing, where growing up, a girl is told to be careful, but no one bothers to tell a guy to keep his distance and be respectful. He knew what he did was wrong, but he felt it as a thing of young blood, hormones and maybe just a little bit bad, like his room being a mess.

Later, he met a girl he liked (my friend) and they were to meet near a cafe where he usually was after she finished college. By some quirk of luck, she arrived when he wasn't there, and got teased by his own friends, though both didn't know that. Upset, she left, but later spoke with him while apologizing for standing him up. She told him about what happened and that she felt too upset and unsafe to wait while he wasn't there and that she was sorry if he waited for her, etc. (the guy is now 45 - this wasn't the era of mobile phones)

Reeling in shock, he realized that it was very likely that it was his own friends who had "teased" her. He didn't really know what to do. He wanted to say that they didn't mean any harm, but found that he didn't have the guts to let her know that they were his friends. He avoided going to that place with her. He felt ashamed to confront his friends, because that was what he himself did too. He felt ashamed to tell the girl because he really liked her, and didn't want to lose her. So he avoided the place. She, with the earlier experience was happy to avoid too.

They got more interested in each other and had a three year affair after which they married. He had started avoiding those friends completely and they too did not suspect anything thinking that his falling in love was the reason he had no time for them.

In the meanwhile, spending time with the girl, he was on the other side of the game. Escorting her, he saw how she was alert to people harassing her. Knowing the "kinds of things" men can do, and think, etc... he started pro actively watching out for her. He noticed other women have the same defensive attitudes too, and they no longer seemed funny when they startled helplessly at being harassed.

Their relationship got into trouble because of his over protectiveness. Knowing how men think, and knowing how it hurt her, he wanted to protect her, but ended up suffocating her with rules about everything. On the verge of a break off, they attended counselling, during which he told his wife about that incident. He was astonished that she barely remembered it. And why would she remember - it was just another day of tangling with creeps. He also told his friends, who were aghast.

For the first time since that day, he invited them home and let them meet her. He got acidity from how tense he was about that meeting. Two of them recognized her, but most didn't, but his story, and his insights, and his guilt and the impact on his marriage left a mark on them too, and they started being more sensitive. Most of them became vocal against sexual harassment, which was an embarrassing transition for the neighborhood bad boys.

They moved abroad, but he says men are the same everywhere.

After his daughter was born, was the time when he really knew fear because people like him were in the world. That day, in the hospital, he vowed that if he could speak with a man harassing a woman on the street, he would spend time and speak with them, in the hope that like his friends, they too would see in him someone who had lived their life and seen another side of it.

~*~*~*~*~*

Two days after the date of this draft, Keenan Santos was stabbed in Amboli.

I was going to write up this draft better because it is still quite abrupt, but too much time has passed, and chose to publish it as it is rather than change details I didn't remember clearly anymore.

I think this is one story that many more men should read.

23

And no simple killer this. Rana already has two murder cases pending against him and yet was out on the streets free to kill more. On arrest he was confident that he would be out in a few months. There is no remorse of any kind.

Why are people supposed to take care of the well being of citizens preventing threats against them from coming to any harm? In other words, supporting people who killed openly on the street?
  • Amboli double murder case , watch what police are doing. Have they arrested who attacked police ? Who's protecting murderers ?
  • As the media in this country, do you not feel any responsibility? You are supposed to be a pillar of democracy. You have been speaking yourself hoarse over corruption. Then why this all pervading silence over politicians protecting murderers over vote banks?
    Even the "allergic to migrants" Raj Thackeray is silent and MNS activists are among those "meeting" residents of Valmiki Nagar along with other parties. What is this sudden political emergency emerging in this area? Why is it that there is no story visible here to you?
    We need you to find your integrity as a pillar of democracy. To find the honor in your jobs. To trump priorities with patriotism. To ask these burning questions and prevent the impunity with which this shocking dismissal of ethics is happening among those who should look after the well being of the people.
    Because you are not journalists only. You are also people who could be stabbed on the street for protecting someone you love. Keenan Santos could be you.
    We need your help. We don't want to become the people we see us becoming with this story. We want you to amplify our voice and help us insist on justice and question protections killers get from politicians.
    Sincerely,
    A Mumbaikar, an Indian.
    Update: since this letter was written, things have changed. Media has indeed picked up the story, several newspapers covering it in detail, channels covering, taking up campaigns, speaking to politicians on behalf of victims… Thought I should acknowledge that here.Update2: Media attention came and went. Nothing concrete has happened. Attention has moved on. The lawyer promised by the CM - Ujwal Nikam - hasn't been approached. The killer's face being shown in the media has actually weakened the case. Four accused are saying they didn't do it. Seventeen accused have families protesting their arrest. The rumors about political support for killers still very much alive. Your efforts will be no use if this ends like this. Read about the developments (long, source referenced research post. don't read on mobile. Give it a minute to open). We need you to stay with this. To see it through. If not everyday, but running reports often enough that it can't be parked under the carpet.

8

A friend called me like she does once in a while (since I never call anyone). We talked about current happenings in our life, so naturally I told her about my posts and attempts to bring attention to the Amboli attack which lead to the murders of Keenan Santos and Reuben Fernandes. Justice for Keenan and Reuben campaign.

She had seen it in the news. She was very surprised to know that we had to try a lot to get attention initially. She comes from an abusive family in slums and had several things she wanted to say and she agreed that I could write them as long as I kept her name out (family complications).

She began with saying there was no need to make public heroes out of Keenan and Reuben. They got into a fight with drunk thugs over eve teasing and won. Then they were the victims of a revenge attack. An attack they had no choice but to fight off how they could.

She said that it is common to make a victim larger than life (she lost a cousin who died trying to save someone) and turn them into paragons. She thinks there is no need. She thinks by making the "heroes" people see them as far better than themselves and thus capable of far more heroic acts than themselves.... and you get the drift?

In other words, she thinks that by making people heroes, a large part of the crowd effectively rules those actions out for themselves. Thus, in her opinion, if people keep making heroes out of strangers they didn't even know, they will end up doing the exact same things they do currently, since they don't see themselves like them. They are usually a part of the crowd, and now they know about the heroes, but that doesn't bring them out of the crowd and wading in to help.

Her words seemed important to me, because as a part of the Justice for Keenan and Reuben campaign, we are also hoping to bring about social change where people take on the challenge and actually make it theirs. I agree with her that it isn't going to help to attribute unknown qualities or intent to Keenan and Reuben and in the process overlook the real significance of their deaths and our own culpability in it.

It is one thing for those who knew them to speak of their courage and quite another for utter strangers to say things about them that they have no clue whether they are true or false, simply because they are touched by their deaths and want to say something. More useful for those utter strangers to look at the consequences of behavior similar to theirs. Keenan and Reuben may or may not have been heroes. Given a choice, they may indeed have taken on the fight faced with overwhelming odds and weapons or they might have ran off to fight another day - which incidentally is not cowardice - it is actually excellent advice EVERY self-defense expert will share and wiser.

I would like to imagine that instead of the bloodthirsty versions I get to hear, the two smart men would probably do the smart thing if they had a choice.

The main point in this situation really is two fold. First - the kind of mentality rampant and rising on the streets that objectifies women and sees nothing wrong in harassing them for cheap thrills. The other is that in the face of crimes being committed, no one came to help. Even if there were non-heroes being attacked with weapons, they deserve the people around them preventing them from losing their life. Or at least trying. It isn't about Keenan and Reuben. It is about you and me.

It brought to mind a tweet I read yesterday. Someone said that they would have been the people watching in the crowd, and that they would not have felt able to do anything in the face of a fight.

This is a problem I had spoken of in an earlier post on how to combat domestic abuse. The problem I see is similar. For domestic abuse, people don't interfere because they see it as the victim and perpetrator's private business. It is an excuse to avoid being unpopular. On the street, the business may not be private between the victim and perpetrator, but the result is the same. Instead of calling it their private business, the common man instead minds his own business. Same difference. Witness wrong, do nothing.

And I think many of the ideas for preventing domestic abuse in that post may be applicable to all kinds of abuse from sexual harassment and molestation to street crime and I may create an adapted post later for practical tips to combat these things.

But it all hinges around speaking up and not assuming that being witness to a wrong means that you can't be a participant. The best way to deal with something gone wrong is to right it. How you can.

Today, as the story of the murder is alive in our minds, it is easy to be angry with the spectators, to be shocked and to create a blizzard of social networking activity demanding change.

Demands for extra-curricular justice abound. But that is our anger. Our impotence eating us up. But falling over to the other side doesn't restore balance. To stand up against a wrong, we can't promote the "equal and opposite wrong", but we need to put our trust in our constitution and laws. Think of it as the civic version of turning to a greater power in times of need.

There are people indulging in hate for the crowd, the restaurant, self hate even. Hate will not help either. As the saying goes, "don't get mad, get even". Fix this inaction over eve teasing, street crime. THAT will be justice for Keenan and Reuben. That will respect it more than any poems about bravery.

My friends, we have to BE the change. We ARE that crowd. It is high time we stopped parroting things we imagine two men we didn't know were, and started talking straight on what we know for sure about ourselves in that situation. To look at it honestly, and hold it to the same exacting standards we held the onlookers of the murder to, and see how we measure up. Would we act like heroes?

If not, what changes are needed in us so that we may find that ability we wished for in the spectators to exist in ourselves? How can we remove our hesitations, how can we think through the viability of taking a risk and still keep this standard we have set higher than our fears and inhibitions paralyzing us?

If we can look deep within and dare to voice those answers, we may be able to devise and promote solutions that can help others (and ourselves) become more proactive and respond coherently as a society in such a situation.

Think about it, because that would be the real tribute. Concrete. Based on something YOU know for certain, rather than offer "mumbai spirit" style shraddhanjalis of words because they sound like something a hero would be. It would be the real tribute if the social change needed for the goals of the Justice for Keenan and Reuben campaigns succeeds.

Unfortunately, that will mean investing yourself for the cause rather than throwing around words. It will mean risk, it will mean soul searching, it will mean confronting the less than admirable within us, and rather than mummifying it as a villain, embracing it and helping it change, by creating an environment where change is possible.

It will mean stopping minding your own business and taking charge of your world. It will mean going through the awkward learning stages of change that are less than superb. It may mean that your voice shakes when you confront someone harassing a stranger on the street. It may mean that you fail and get harassed right along with the victim. And it will mean that you have to do it anyway.

And for that, you have to look deep, deep within, in those ugly spaces of less than ideal qualities and pinpoint those that have to be changed. Non-negotiable.

The key point here being it IS your business, because it is your world too. Keenan and Reuben have added 2 numbers to the statistics of street violence in YOUR city. It is YOUR people unsafe. It is YOUR city's name slipping down on whatever statistics are being kept.

So stop saying things you don't know, just because people who knew them are saying them. Instead, say things you do know that will help.

Two articles today in the Afternoon Dispatch and Courier …. with two articles, one would think that there is some demanding of answers happening. Apparently not.

I suggest you read the story of the murders of Keenan Santos and Reuben Fernandes as we know it first before this garbage confuses you.

Quoting from the first one:

On the day of the incident, Sentos and Fernandez along with five others, including three women, went to the bar to enjoy dinner while watching a cricket match on a giant screen. After a while, they came out of the restaurant and were standing near a paan shop. “One Jitendra Rana (25), who is a barber by profession and hails from Haryana, had reached the shop and asked Sentos to move aside. As Sentos refused to budge, a heated argument took place. Rana was accompanied by Sunil Bote (20) and Satish Dulgaj (35), who attacked the group with choppers.

Where are the 13 rent-a-goons that no one wants to talk about. The altercation is also now a result of hot tempers both ways rather than Rana attempting to molest a woman. So now, it seems Rana didn’t go for back up, 13 goons with sharp weapons didn’t arrive quickly, etc. Nice. Real smooth. AND FYI, the subject of your story is Santos, not Sentos.

…Kenin Sentos was killed and his friend Ruben Fernandez was injured after they were attacked by three persons following a fight outside Amboli Bar and Restaurant…

and

Following the incident, police searched the area for the accused, who were later traced. The three, who confessed to the crime, were subsequently arrested,” police said.

Very informative, except that it is FOUR. So which one is being set up to be overlooked apart from the 13 odd rent-a-goons?

Except that his colleague Kunal Chonkar did a different cover up. So he mentions in his article as:

…a drunken man deliberately dashed against the girls in their group, was roughly shoved off with a slap, and then returned with a gang armed with sickles, choppers, knives and staves from the neighbouring Valmiki Nagar.

That’s an ouch. This article takes care of the inconvenient questions around the MLA though. It describes how said MLA was present for the funeral from beginning to end, etc

There was a strong police presence on the spot as well, and local MLA Ashok Bhau Jadhav, (INC) who has been helping the family with police and hospital processes, was there as well, from the beginning to the end.

It has a section titled “Family commend Jadhav’s help” too (with more words than main story). If you remember, said Jadhav happens to be local MLA Ashok Bhau Jadhav, (INC) who has been the target of a lot of anger in those following this news for sponsoring the lawyer for the killers of the person whose funeral is being spoken about. This information has come directly from the family and friends of Reuben Fernandes, so it is highly unlikely that any of them were feeling particularly grateful – even if the information on the lawyers was wrong and they had been misled.

The article goes on to say:

Meanwhile, the worst kind of politics has entered the scenario, with the Congress MLA as the target. Several texts, mails and blogs have been circulated within social media circles, several of them having formed groups in support of Reuben and Keenan, quoting unknown sources accusing Ashok Jadhav of helping the accused as well, by providing legal help and financial assistance.

Hmm… so we are playing politics now. That doesn’t wash on this blog – zero affiliation. I suppose the lawyer news could be a plant. This should be verified by media if it is indeed true or false.

However, yesterday the Fernandes family came out and set the record straight. They defended Jadhav.saying, “Since the day of the incident, hehas been helping us. He also assisted during the recovery of the body from hospital and with the police This weas stated by Ronny Fernandes himself, standing beside Jadhav at the funeral.

Benjamin Fernandes made a post on the group for Keenan Santos categorically denying that this was said at all or that any family member spoke with the MLA (Ronny is Benjamin and Reuben’s father). Additionally, hereare the comments from friends and family. Read.

Speaking to ADC, Jadhav said, “I came to know about these texts and blogs through my daughter who also received one such text. I have filed a written complaint with the Bandra-Kurla Complex Cyber Crime cell about these messages accusing me. Instead of asking me whether I am helping the Fernandes family, the media must ask the family themselves for the truth.”

How neatly you sidestep the question, dear MLA. The question never was whether you are helping the Fernandes family – it was well publicized that you and an entire parade of politicians went and met them to offer help – which in itself is strange, seeing as how regular murders don’t get this kind of attention. The question was why was help offered to criminals – as quoted in the previous paragraph of same article. I notice (and I read the article several times) that this information about the lawyer, has been attributed to a political conspiracy, but never denied.

So what is really happening here?

Interestingly, a source from the station said that two of the accused belong to a political party and that their pictures had “graced” a Diwali hoarding near Amboli Naka. When this reporter went to have a look, however, he discovered that both hoardings had been hurriedly taken down. Some of Jadhav’s men had managed to grab an image on mobile phones and were keeping them for further action.

Sounds like the thugs didn’t belong to the Congress. Then, if the rumor was false, why not deny it flat out like “I am not paying for the lawyers of those criminals” and finish all doubt? Just asking. Besides, such a falsified PR article focusing on the MLA would be bizarre if there was no need.

Or is it about winning the vote bank over from another party by saving the criminals? Would that explain thesudden profusion of politicians in that area?

Whatever THAT was about, this burst of eloquence based on fiction being sold as news, definitely makes the whole thing look more shady.

If indeed this is not a deliberate cover up by the Afternoon Dispatch and Courier, then it is even more concerning how any news can be fed to a journalist to be printed in a newspaper.

Update: Since then, family and friends of Keenan and Reuben have appeared on Times Now with Arnab Goswami and thoroughly trashed these claims including claims of paying hospital bills on National TV.