After getting her car stuck in dug-up areas of Bangalore roads, my friend KV yielded the wheel of her car to me. We were going to visit the Gavi Gangadeshwara Temple in Basavanagudi.
What happened as we turned the last blind corner to the temple felt like a sheer accident at the time, but in hindsight, appears to be a deliberately designed racket.
An auto driver came too close to me and hit the right-hand-side wing mirror. I was irritated at his driving, but since we were four ladies (my friend K V, her mother, her aunt, another friend, J V, and myself) in the car, I didn’t want to get into a slinging match. I knew that there had been no damage to my friend’s car or to the auto. I decided to let it go, as one does, countless times. I went further and parked.
The auto driver followed me, parked his auto next to me, and collected a group of other auto drivers (who all hang around with their autos there) and unleashed a storm of invective. Vituperative and abusive beyond belief, it was plain that he was angling to get some money. I refused to respond to his demands and told him I was wiling to go to the police station with him.
Quite magically, two constables appeared…with big grins on their faces, which I could not understand or explain at the time. They talked to the crowd of auto drivers, all of whom had become “eyewitnesses” to the “fact” that I had hit the auto. I stood my ground and they told me to come to the police station, just at the end of the road.
My poor friend, though a lawyer, is of a soft nature, and she did not want to respond to the threats by the auto driver and his cronies. Also, her mother and aunt were very perturbed, and the aunt tried the tactic of apologising to the police and the auto driver, hoping that they would let us go. This only marked us down as being weak, and the auto driver’s behaviour became even more belligerent.
The constable on duty at the police station took down the details of the auto driver. When I said I too wanted to register a case, he was magically reminded that he could not book a traffic case, and told me to go to Basavanagudi Traffic Police Station. If this was so, how was he writing down the details of the auto driver’s complaint? I refused to go to any other police station, reminding the constables that it was they who asked me to come to this police station.
At this point, the auto driver touched me, inappropriately, and yelled again. I told him I would slap him if he touched me, and rounded on the constables who saw it happen and were enjoying the spectacle. By this time, I was indescribably angry.
Meanwhile, my friend called up another lawyer friend of hers, who advised her to book a case of harassment against the auto driver. At this point, she too was extremely angry. She came in, demanded that a case for harassment be booked, and promised to stay the night if necessary at the police station, until the matter was resolved. The police, who were there to protect citizens, were obviously not doing their job, to say the least.
The fact that we stood our ground, and clearly would not pay, and the fact that she was a lawyer, may not have had anything to do with the matter, but the inspector stepped in and asked us to go. And go, we did. We took the car right back to the temple, and J and I watched the car while my friend, her mother, and her aunt went in for darshan.
Whie we were there, the two original constables came back! They asked how we had come away. My friend J, with presence of mind, replied, “Go and ask your inspector that, he was the one who asked us to go.” They pushed off at this.
The person who takes care of the footwear outside the temple informed us that this is a regular happening near this temple, and usually, the frightened passengers of the car pay up to avoid trouble.
Therefore, the way the auto driver hit the car, the way he followed us and created a ruckus, calling in a crowd of other autowallahs, the way the constables appeared, the smiles on their faces, the attempt to intimidate us at the police station…all these conspire to make me feel strongly that this is an organised racket.
Here’s a photo of the auto driver and his auto. No, I could not get pictures of the police constables. I was far too upset arguing with them and trying to deal with the goons.
He’s the one wearing the khaki coat, and the two others in the photos are two of the other auto drivers.