When a top editor, some months ago, was charged of molestation, abusing his power and violating the trust of his woman employee, he landed in jail without a bail. How come an ex-minister in Jammu and Kashmir is accused of a similar crime and manages to go into hiding till he is grante interim bail, flown in with full honours for the event and given an extra-privileged to be let off the hook (almost)? Was it because the circumstances of both cases were different? It was well within the right of the accused politician to seek bail and well within the spirit of the law for the court to use its discretion. But has the bail been granted on other considerations? Is it because the minister’s sense of power any less than the editor’s in his organization? Or does this political breed of people enjoy more privileges to evade the special discomforts of a prison? Or is it because he has turned the entire argument of ‘innocence’ on its head by proclaiming to be a ‘nationalist’? The disgraced minister, who resigned in the aftermath of the allegations of molestation and his predatory exploits, has professed to be an” Indian nationalist “and of having opposed separatists in his bail application. There were no facts to counter the complaint and narrative of the lady doctor who has accused him of sexual harassment and bid to molest. Such brazen politicization of a crime to delegitimise it is unacceptable. Which nationalism allows the right to commit sexual abuse, or to get away with it after that?
This, however, is not the first time that such an argument is being used; there being enough documentation to show how security personnel successfully absolved themselves of similar crimes with such a juxtaposition of nationalism to hide their heinous crimes against women. Rape victims/ survivors, both in and outside Kashmir, have often found themselves facing these double edged swords when they come out with their horrifying stories of abuse, not only having had to deal with the trauma of harassment and abuse but also having to deal with the tag of ‘shameless women’ as has been the case of Konan-Poshpora women, still struggling for justice 24 years after the shocking crimes. Rapes, molestations and sexual harassment are essentially and purely gender issues. There is no other prism to view them from – political, nationalistic, morality, dressing ethics or any other. They have to be acknowledged as wrongful and criminal acts, for what they are and what they stand for, without adding any other complexion and layers of complexity to triviliase them, de-legitimise them and put the onus on those wronged.
Unfortunately, the fight against this vital gender issue has got warped in the societal tendency, media and activists inclusive, to create mental categories of such cases, not depending on the heinous character of each crime but on the identity of the victim and perpetrator. A crime committed in a newspaper office is chic, so is a rape committed on an educated woman in a metropolitan city; the gang rapes committed in obscure villages of illiterate Dalit women or the revengeful rapes of 2 CPI (M) supporters by ruling party members in West Bengal not so fashionable. The horrifying acts of sexual violence in north-east, Kashmir and other conflict areas like Chattisgarh do not even deserve an honourable mention. They must be denied unless committed by men of their own kind, with no influence, patronage and power corridors to back. them. Media, which has become a master in manufacturing consent, has learnt the inane ability of so convincingly telling lies and turning this incident of sexual harassment, plainly speaking, into some kind of a political conspiracy where the disgraced minister is not quite the villain but projected as a victim of a ‘separatist agenda’. Obviously all this is done at the behest of the powerful elite lobby of some politicians. All in the name of the so convenient nationalism! How childishly and peevishly are we going to further stoop in abusing this word called ‘nationalism’ to legitimise everything – from sexual abuse to murders!
It is nobody’s case that all complaints of sexual harassment would eventually be genuine. There may sometimes be frivolous and acts of vendetta or conspiracy. But it is facts that can reveal the truth, not misplaced notions. Creation of an unlevel field by invoking the paradigms of ‘nationalism’ and ‘separatism’ convince us even more that there is little that the disgraced minister has in his defence. The methodological manner of bid to shield the accused by allowing him to slip away till he is granted interim bail, produced before police as a formal ceremony fit for a VVIP not as an accused further add to the suspicions of how this discourse is being built up to dismiss the allegations amid all the ugly manifestation of its politicization are forbidding broad based campaigns to be built up not only in support of this lady doctor, who has shown immense courage in breaking the tradition of silently learning to deal with sexual harassment at work places, but also for the larger cause of safety of women in public places and work places. For many women, in this state, caught in their daily wrangles of dealing with predatory men in the markets and public places and predatory bosses giving them a tough time in their work places, it isn’t difficult to believe the story of this lady doctor. It would be a sad reflection of things if this woman’s effort and courage is wasted at the altar of political, religious and regional divisions endorsed through such misplaced and masculine constructs as ‘nationalism’. Which kind of ‘nationalism’, after all, allows a culture of sexual abuse topped with a cherry of impunity!