[First posted on Sunday, December 25, 2005]
This story is about a ‘groper’ in a crowded Osaka-bound train in Japan who eventually died after being chased by a group of co-passengers. Lest there be any ooh-aahs, let it be said that this problem is not theirs alone. Feeling about the contours of woman passengers has been a favorite game of male goers in crowded journey in many places. In Delhi buses, such harassments are pretty common, so much so that members of fairer sex virtually loathe to travel in them. In Kolkata, the problem is much less, though not absent altogether.
Despite what for many is a routine aberration, the incident in Osaka train depicts an alarming dimension to the problem, as brought out in the article by Leo Lewis in The Telegraph, Dec 23 (original reporting at The Times, London edition, Dec 22). What indeed is amazing is how the much-reviled ‘railway gropers’ in Japan, referred to as chikan, use the internet to organize themselves into efficient “groper’s guilds”. Leo’s account further reveals that “Chikan exchange tips on the best times and commuter lines to target, and even run interference for each other so that guild members can undertake a particularly brazen attack..”.
Not that the authorities have slept over these sex crimes. But their best efforts haven’t been able to yield results that matter. Polls among women passengers showed that at least two-thirds of the younger lot have suffered groping on trains at some time. This incident may now prove a turning point, for it demonstrates a certain willingness to counter the problem head-on.