Indian politicians’ apathy toward women
By: Rajeev Sharma
At a time when crimes against women are continuing unabated nationwide, irrespective of which political party is ruling which state, the Indian politics has touched a new low with an actor-turned-politician of the eastern Indian state of West Bengal going on record threatening to murder his political opponents and have their women raped.
The man who shot off his mouth was Tapas Paul, 56-year-old second-time Member of Parliament (MP) of Trinamool Congress, which ended the 34-year-long rule of Communist Party of India (Marxist) in the state in May 2011.
Incidentally, Pal had romanced on screen the Bollywood diva Madhuri Dixit in her debut film Abodh in 1984 where he was the leading man opposite her. These days Pal has been doing roles of a villain in Bangla films.
He acted precisely like a villain when he made a hate speech aimed at the CPI (M) supporters at Choumaha village in Nadia district of West Bengal on June 14. The video of this speech surfaced on a vernacular TV news channel on June 30 and ignited the national political scene as virtually the entire media — electronic, print and digital — played it up. Tapas Pal’s speech has embarrassed West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who is also the chief of the Trinamool Congress party and has been under fire for the rise in crimes against women in her state. Banerjee has criticized Pal for his “big blunder” but not announced any action against him apart from seeking his unconditional apology, which he has tendered.
This is what Pal said in his speech: “If any CPI-M man is present here, listen to me. If you ever touch any Trinamool Congress worker or their families at Choumaha, you have to pay for this. Don’t try to act smart with me. I am smarter than you… Leaders are created by workers. I am also a goonda (a Hindi word which means ‘lumpen element’). I will shoot you guys if a Trinamool Congress worker is ever attacked. If you have the guts, then stop me. Keep this is in mind… If you insult the mothers and daughters of Trinamool worker, then I won’t spare you. I will let loose my boys in your homes and they will commit rape. I will teach each of you a lesson.”
Hours after the video of his speech was shown by all major TV networks at prime time and panel discussions were held Pal tried to wriggle out and said he never threatened rape. Instead, he sought refuge in a phonetically similar word and claimed, “What I said was I will tell my workers to ‘raid’.”
The CPI (M) lost no time in taking on its arch foe Trinamool Congress and came up with a statement.
“This atrocious speech gives an indication of the actual situation in West Bengal where the Trinamool Congress is subjecting the CPI (M) and the opposition to systematic violence, intimidation and threats to their livelihood, with the state administration conniving in such anti-democratic activities,” the left party said. It also demanded that a criminal case be filed against Pal and the Parliament should also act against him.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is currently ruling India and is hopeful of expanding its political base in West Bengal, also castigated Pal. Sensing a political kill, West Bengal BJP president Rahul Sinha said “It is the vilest statement one can imagine. However, coming from a Trinamool MP is not surprising as the chief minister herself wants to settle rape complaints with money.”
The Pal episode once again demonstrates the gutter-level politics that Indian politicians often indulge in, cutting across the party lines. Indian politicians have shown how insensitive they are to the fair sex. The sorry part of all this is that Indian politicians have not learned anything from the shocking infamous mass rape of a young techie in the national capital New Delhi in December 2012 wherein the victim succumbed to her grievous injuries days later. Even more shocking is the fact that the Indian politicians have routinely made insensitive remarks while speaking on crimes against women and they are allowed to go scot-free. Just a couple of months ago, Mulayam Singh Yadav, a prominent regional satrap and leader of the Samajwadi Party which is ruling India’s biggest state of Uttar Pradesh, had made highly provocative remarks on the issue of rapes.
At the peak of election campaign during Indian general elections, Yadav had shocked the nation when he opposed capital punishment for rape at an election rally in Moradabad on April 11. Sample Yadav’s remark: “Boys will be boys. They commit mistakes. First girls develop friendship with boys. When differences occur, they level rape charges. Boys commit mistakes. Should they be hanged for rape?”
In a country like India where there is a surfeit of legislations for every conceivable crime, including crimes against women, there are laws even for making inciting, inflammatory remarks against the female gender. Though Yadav’s remark is of political nature and does not warrant initiation of criminal proceedings against him, Tapal Pal’s hate speech certainly does.
The writer is a New Delhi-based independent journalist and a political commentator who tweets @Kishkindha.