The Nagarbhavi Paradox: NLSIU is helpless against its very own surroundings

By Nivedita Mukhija, student, NLSIU Bangalore

Nagarbhavi is a small area lying on the outskirts of Bangalore city. Surrounded by hilly terrain and thick vegetation at one point, it slowly succumbed to urbanization, in large part due to the construction of the Mysore highway in the region.

Today, it is like any other small urban centre in India: picture small, scattered shops, roadside eateries and tiny congested roads, shabby beauty parlors and a small bank, and that faint scent of festivity in the air during evening, when the market is thronged with people everywhere: eating, drinking, laughing, lingering….

Except Nagarbhavi isn’t quite like any other small urban centre in India. It is an educational hub in its own right, being home to Bangalore University, Dr. Ambedkar Institute of Technology, Institute for Social and Economic Change and National Council for Teachers’ Education.

However, it can be said with some degree of assurance that Nagarbhavi is most famous for housing the “Harvard of the East”, the “mecca of legal education in India”, National Law School of India University, Bangalore.

Established in 1987 and the first of the National Law Universities located all across India, NLSIU is consistently ranked as the most prestigious law school in India. NLSIU has made a mark internationally as well, winning several acclaimed competitions, and its students routinely studying further at the topmost law colleges in the world.

As a student at this elite institution, you get to hear all about liberal theories and ideas. About women’s rights, gender mainstreaming in the Constitution, globalization affecting the feminist discourse, yada yada. In my class, the gender ratio is distinctly skewed towards the women.

The institute has produced various eminent women lawyers, activists, leaders, hotshot corporates, and will continue to do so in the future, I am sure.

However, once you step outside of the four walls of the college and into the very real-world Nags (as we address Nagarbhavi), it is understood that all liberal ideas are to be left behind. For Nags is notorious for its rowdy men, for its unsafe atmosphere at nights, for the occasional crime one hears about being committed.

Men will ogle at you, sitting in groups on the edge of the street, some of them on bikes will be more generous and probably try to touch you as they rush by, maybe even whistle and engage in a word or two.

Abduction cases are not unheard of, and last year’s brutal rape committed near NLSIU campus only highlighted the levels of women’s safety here. Thus, we are advised (first year girls specifically) to not go out unaccompanied at night. There is a general understanding that wearing short clothes must be avoided in Nags.

Except I’m sick of how ridiculously paradoxical it all is. One moment, I’m reading a treatise on women’s empowerment, and the next, I’m changing into full sleeved clothes because I need to go out and buy groceries. There we are, preaching people about how we must stop blaming victims, and there too, advising juniors to not attract attention in Nags?

It keeps coming back, striking me, how a university that is expected to influence the country and drive change cannot even touch the atmosphere of its own adjacent surroundings.

How we are expected to draft laws on women’s safety in the future when we couldn’t do anything about what is happening right outside of campus. Classic case of not practicing what we preach. Being good only on paper. But bothers me so very often.

The prestigious NLSIU being helpless against its very own surroundings.

This was first published here.

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  1. Hey T,
    Thanks for sharing your experience in Nags. I think it’s true of a lot of parts of India. Urbanization arrived at a cost. But what baffles me are the double standards expected of girls, of feminism and demure-ness, separated by a campus wall.

  2. You would be surprised to know that Nagarbhavi was not always like this.
    There was always a little mischief here and there, like there is in every corner of India, but threat never lingered around every corner. Most certainly, men did not form groups to ogle at women passing by.

    In fact, the change came about some time in the mid-2000s, which was also the middle of my stay of law school. I personally witnessed this transformation of Nagarbhavi from a somewhat idyllic suburb to a den of miscreants and crime. I guess what changed was increasing commercialisation of the area. It became a coveted hangout joint for a less-refined junta (sorry to be elitist here but won’t mince my words). I was quite happy to leave college, it had become a choking, claustrophobic environment. The only place one felt safe was within campus gates.

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