Some of the young men who allegedly stalked and harassed a girl in Barasat, and then assaulted her father when he tried to come to her rescue, have been arrested. Although the history of sexual violence in Barasat inspires no hope about the aftermath of such incidents, law has at least its token punishments for such offenders. But how should society deal with the menace of an MLA (and local star) who then goes on to declare publicly that the girl’s “skirt size” was to be blamed for such an incident? Chiranjeet Chatterjee went on to explain how women shorten their skirts to “entertain” men, and how this provocation could well lead to the men’s “appreciation” of such gestures getting somewhat out of hand. He went on to suggest a larger historical context for such a reaction, borrowing from the languages of cinema, epic and popular culture. It takes all sorts to make a complete moral universe, Mr Chatterjee believes, because the gallantry of heroes and the lechery of villains together give the true and total picture of things, in life and in art. He assured his alarmed audience that he was speaking as a “father and guardian”.
Mr Chatterjee’s god’s eye view of perverted human behaviour has at its core a shockingly empathetic understanding of a certain kind of twisted sexual violence. His statements enact, with breathtaking comprehensiveness, the process by which such a mentality finds a readymade vocabulary in its immediate cultural environment for transforming its way of seeing into an authoritative pronouncement on the nature of women. Speaking as a father, guardian and legislator, the glibness and gravity of Mr Chatterjee’s words on why women wear short skirts make the attitudes informing them appear truly natural and universal — a matter of common sense, even wisdom. The family protected by such a father, and the society legislated by such a guardian, might have a great deal to be afraid of.