Beware! This can happen to any woman or man in Bengaluru. Or anywhere

Photograph used only for representational purpose. Photo: Getty Images
Photograph used only for representational purpose. Photo: Getty Images

At around 2:00 pm on December 11, I was driving towards Marathahalli (in Bengaluru), under the KR Puram Bridge next to the railway station.

The traffic was very slow. While waiting there for the vehicles to move, I heard the driver of a red Maruti Swift car on my left shouting and making some obscene hand gestures.

I chose to ignore and moved ahead with the vehicles on to the flyover that connects to the Outer Ring Road.

While on the flyover, I saw the car tailing me. I still did not think much of it, thinking it could be heading in the same direction as I.

However, giving into my keep safe instincts, I decided to avoid being close to the car at the next signal.

Due to the heavy traffic, there was not much place to manoeuvred my car around and I ended up right in the middle of the road.  As soon as my car stopped at the signal, many men jumped out of the Swift, which was right behind me, and surrounded my car.

They started banging on the car; one guy was clicking my pictures while others hit the car, the car windows, the front windshield, rearview mirror, etc. They kept shouting and abusing in Kannada and demanded that I get out of the car. I just gestured them to move away.

I was surrounded by many vehicles with people in them and yet not one soul dared to question those men, on what they were doing and why they were harassing a lone woman.

Next, I saw two of the men bending down to deflate the front tyres. That's when I started screaming inside the car and asked them to get away. To stop them from acting on their threat, I started to move the vehicle. By this time the signal turned green and I could drive ahead.

I was scared. As soon as I crossed that signal, I called my friend who was the last-dialled number on my phone, to tell her what had happened.

She asked my location and told me that she would get help. I kept watching if I was being followed, but in that bumper-to-bumper traffic I could not make out much. I was very stressed too.

By the time I reached the next signal, these guys, some 6-7 of them, were already there, waiting for me on the divider. The moment my vehicle stopped at the red signal, they came back to hound me.

By this time I panicked and broke down in tears. At that time my friend called and she could hear these guys pounding my car. I pleaded for help, but people around me kept watching silently, as these men kept on harassing me.

The apathetic reaction of the onlookers towards the whole situation scared me even more. And the goons, well, they seem to have absolutely no fear that they will get caught.  They kept clicking my pictures, kept banging the car, trying to break the glass, etc.

At that moment, my only safety was my car. The goons pursued me to the next signal as well, before I finally managed to lose them close to Marathahalli.

Meanwhile, my friend called the police and they reached out to me asking me to come to the nearest police station. On my way to the police station, I was then asked by the police to stop wherever I was, and was met by two policemen who had reached out to me over the phone first.

They checked my vehicle to see if it was a case of road rage, if I had hit the other vehicle, but then they ruled it out as there was no evidence to that effect.

I wanted to file a complaint, but they said since, I could not see or note the vehicle number ( as at no point the vehicle was in front of me) or had clicked the pictures of the attackers, there was nothing much they could do to help.

I bought their argument and allowed them to escort me home. It was only later, after talking to some of my media friends, did I come to know that this was not an isolated incident or a random act of hooliganism.

According to them, this was an attempt at kidnapping/abduction as the modus operandi used by those who attacked me was similar to the one used in other incidents as well where victims are accused of damaging some vehicle and harassed to get out and negotiate or pay up.

Once the victim steps out of the vehicle, the gang members get into the car and take control; abduct the victim (beat them up in many cases) and then demand ransom from the family members or take them to an ATM and force them to withdraw a good sum of money.

In fact, in the recent past, similar incidents have been reported at the same stretch of road, between KR Puram and Marathahalli. On the night of October 4, a software professional was waylaid, assaulted, abused, kidnapped and robbed of Rs 25,000 by a gang of cab drivers.

According to news reports, yet another IT Professional was also waylaid in a similar manner in September 2015. Going by the reports, the general profile of victims so far has been, usually men, belonging to upper middle class, driving decently high end cars and are lone drivers.

While sharing my experience with friends and neighbours, I realized, that everyone I spoke to know one or two people who have been in a similar situation in and around that area. I was attacked on, in broad daylight, on a busy road, in the middle of heavy traffic.

How can these goons be so brazen? They have absolutely no fear of the law and have the audacity to go about attempting such crimes even in broad daylight. Somehow things just don’t add up.

What is surprising is that, despite the rise in the number of such crimes, nothing seems to have been done by the administration to stop the same.

The IT corridor on Outer Ring Road, ITPL and Whitefield has become a godforsaken land even though it is where the heart of the Silicon City work, reside and pay their taxes, living in deplorable conditions. This stretch has nearly 1,400 companies and nearly 5-6 lakh people move in and out of this area everyday.

How many more will need to be victimized before it becomes an area of concern for the authorities is a question that needs to be asked.

The corporate sector and business leaders also seem to be bothered only about infrastructure issues as it is linked to productivity and revenues. Somehow the safety of their workforce outside the company premises does not figure in their list of demands.

The reaction of the general public is also a cause for concern. One does not expect another to fight their battles but with each of us lies a civic responsibility of helping another, if the need arises, possibly without jeopardising self.

I am told, I survived because I refused to get out of the car, despite the instigation. I’ve been in Bengaluru for over a decade and I am yet to see a day like this.

I love my city and there is no other place that I would call home. It pains to see how the city is crumbling on various fronts.

* The woman's name has been kept hidden upon her request.