Days after the shocking cases of molestation in Bengaluru, mainstream and social media have been flooded with angry and even some witty and eloquent messages of outrage. As the case continues, with arrests and the same old obnoxious statements from the same old politicians – the television and internet continue to scream ‘Shame! Shame!’
Debates between misogynists and the enlightened, vile and insensitive remarks, anger over the lethargy of the police machinery, hilarious parodies, poetry and art, there is a ‘Carnival of Outrage’ playing out via prime time shows, hashtags, and online posts.
We have been here before, and we have heard the same narrative against the police and political apathy. Yet, can WE, those disgusted by the events in Bengaluru, and the hundreds before it, also be accused of apathy?
Are we guilty of delivering the same message to the nation and the world again and again, taking comfort in ‘Likes’, ‘Shares’, ‘Retweets’ and hashtags? Is our anger in the aftermath of such cases simply meant to trivially channel the blind fury and not move it beyond an ideological battle, which no one knows how to truly tackle?
Much of the outrage has been against police inaction and nasty male politicians, yet no one has discussed the silence of India’s female political leaders. No one speaks of how state women’s commissions are toothless organisations, which never lead or effectively push the course of justice with crimes against women.
Silence of Women in Politics
There are 61 female MPs in the Lok Sabha and 28 MPs in the Rajya Sabha, the highest in the history of India. The Indian National Congress - the second-largest party in Parliament and oldest party in India, is run by a woman, which also controls the government in Karnataka.
The TMC and the BSP, two major political players on the national scene are also controlled by women. Actor and ‘activist’ Jaya Bachchan also serves as a Rajya Sabha MP of the Samajwadi party, the same party of Abu Azmi who sparked outrage with his ‘ants attracted to sugar’ comment, blaming the victims of sexual assault.
All these female leaders are invisible in the battle for women’s rights, driven more by political calculation than the aspirations of the millions of women they claim to represent. Whenever we are repulsed by cases like Bengaluru, we attack the mindset and authorities, but we draw the line there. The women in leadership positions should be leading the fight for gender justice; they are potent and powerful voices in that struggle, but we garb their indifference in the ‘Carnival of Outrage’ – that never seems to anger us.
These same leaders never lead the fight for empowering the National or State Women’s Commissions – which continue to be ceremonial organisations, and don’t have the power or the purse to fight for justice. Sending letters, notices and giving soundbites seems to be the only ‘action’ these bodies can take.
Is Women’s Reservation Bill the Answer?
Ex-NCW Chief Mamata Sharma once said that no police or IAS officer is bound to accept the recommendations of the organisation, and many times they are ignored. She added that without legal power, budget allocations also remain dismal where the NCW is even unable to hold awareness programs across the country.
If the political trend has been the neglect of female political leaders, one must wonder if the popular call for the Women's Reservation Bill will deliver expected results. Will more female representatives in legislative bodies truly deliver greater female empowerment and security? Will they toe the party line or will they move beyond political considerations, and see the resolution of such cases as a matter of great urgency? The question persists.
Cycle of Apathy Continues
Bengaluru is another instance of sexual assault and another instance of media and online anger, which fast fizzles out, only to reawaken at the next case. The cycle continues and we never truly step-up the attack, always punching in the air, never focusing, never sustaining the attack against the usual suspects, ignoring those who are duty-bound to serve women across the country.
Bengaluru won’t be the last case to set up the ‘Carnival of Outrage’. But all those who take part should direct their anger to our female political leaders and ask – ‘You are powerful women in public service. Women are under attack across this country. What are you doing about it?’ Demand the answers.
(The writer is a senior news editor at CNN-News18. He can be reached @Jamwalthefirst. This is a personal blog and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)