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regular-article-logo Tuesday, 16 April 2024

Pick & choose

Women in Sandeshkhali who have brought charges of sexual violence against local TMC leaders deserve as much justice as any other person who has alleged such acts. But Irani chooses her women

Chandrima S. Bhattacharya Published 01.03.24, 06:56 AM
Smriti Irani

Smriti Irani File Photo

Women of Sandesh­khali or women anywhere do not need to be rescued by Smriti Irani, the Union women and child development minister. What she can do first is explain who, according to her, can or cannot be raped in the country.

Not everyone can be raped, obviously. There are right states and wrong states and right communities and wrong communities. Chances are that if you are a woman living in a BJP-ruled state, or if you do not belong to the right community, despite the extreme violence that has been done to you, it has not happened. Chances are that the violence has been followed by a long silence from her, only broken by a tweet or two. If something had happened, the women and child development minister would certainly have rushed to your side, spoken up for you, tried to get you justice?

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No sir, not here. Irani’s silence has a higher purpose. It echoes the even more profound silence of the prime minister which must have an even higher purpose. Together, they put women in place. In Manipur, for example. How else does one explain Irani’s reticence and equanimity when the most disturbing reports about rape and assault were pouring out of the BJP-ruled state? She only spoke in Parliament on the matter under duress, but was outraged, even as fresh incidents of violence were being reported from Manipur in August, that the Congress MP, Rahul Gandhi, had thrown a ‘flying kiss’ in Parliament, after his comments on Mani­pur had met with adverse reaction from BJP members. Irani spat fire at Gandhi for this act of monumental ‘misogyny’, which apparently was a violation of the honour of “female Members of Parliament”. Only such an act could compel her into speech, which then flowed like molten lava.

Where was Irani when, in September 2020, a 19-year-old Dalit girl died after she was raped in a village in Hathras, allegedly by four upper-caste men? The dying girl had nam­ed the four men. Three of them were acquitted and the fourth was found guilty of culpable homicide not amounting to murder and not of rape. Where was Irani when, in 2017, the BJP MLA, Kuldeep Singh Sengar, was accused of raping a 17-year-old girl in Unnao in Uttar Pradesh, sacred ground for the BJP? Singh was convicted of rape. Where was she in 2018, when an eight-year-old Muslim girl from a nomad community was repeatedly raped and then murdered in­side a Hindu temple in Kathua? This is the most unimaginable form of hatred and violence. This shows how religious violence can coincide with sexual violence and force itself, again and again, on the body of a child, to brutalise it, to tear it into shreds, just to prove a point. To make an example of her to the entire nation, a part of which laughed and clapped. A large group of lawyers in Jammu had come out in support of the accused.

Where was Irani all this time? Practising her speech on misogyny to protect women Parlia­mentarians to be delivered when the nation needed a distraction from actual violence against women?

One cannot compare women who have experienced rape. Sexual violence affects all, all genders, all ages, in the body, in the mind. It can destroy the person who experiences it, even kill, as must be quite evident to Irani by now.

Women in Sandeshkhali who have brought charges of sexual violence against local TMC leaders deserve as much justice as any other person who has alleged such acts. But Irani chooses her women. So mark with concern her eloquence, which has again been provoked by Sandeshkhali, and her words. “Young Hindu married women” are being targeted, she says.

Any woman anywhere does not need to be rescued by Smriti Irani. But unfortunately, some women have her by their side, such as the women in Parliament, whose virtue was threatened by a flying kiss, and now the women in Sandeshkhali.

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