If Mark Twain had been alive today, we could be forgiven for thinking that his remark, “To succeed in life, you need two things, ignorance and confidence,” was inspired by many of our political worthies.
A crisis, usually that involving the abuse of women, brings out their true feelings like no other, it motivates in them a desire to display their ignorance and crudity with a confidence that would make most people cringe. At a time when people’s teeth are on the edge over government bumbling and inaction on a number of counts, one would expect our political leaders to weigh their words carefully before making statements.
And that they would be mindful of the fact that their careless, often appalling remarks, are snapped up in an instant on the electronic media and broadcast for all to see. But such discretion is not the better part of valour for our political worthies.
Leading the charge in recent times is the Uttar Pradesh textiles minister Shiv Kumar Beria who has loftily told us, “We will strip any SHO of his uniform in 24 hours… if he doesn’t listen to us.” Adding to this the UP social welfare minister makes the admission, “Crime takes place everywhere.
We cannot stop it.” A senior BJP minister from Madhya Pradesh expressed his scorn for foreign women who drank, danced and wore jeans while piously asserting that this was not good for those in India. Not long ago, the Union coal minister spoke with great feeling about how the joy of victory fades with time like a wife who becomes old and loses her charm.
Given that they are the law-makers in a society that has frightening bouts of lawlessness, we are in dangerous territory. At a time when the rape issue is exercising so many in the country, the Madhya Pradesh Congress general secretary has covered himself in glory by saying that no one will harass a woman unless she looks at the person suggestively.
Perhaps he should say that to the family of the little girls who have been raped and are struggling for their lives in hospitals and to the numerous women who face sexual violence every day.
There has to be zero tolerance for these people within their parties. It is not enough for them to make a half-hearted apology and carry on to make similar remarks another day. They should lose their party positions as people have sought in regard to the callous policemen who handled rape cases badly.
When people in public life make such derogatory statements, they can be taken as licence to further abuse women. The common thread in the statements is that women are inviting sexual violence by their behaviour. All we can say is that these netas are inviting anger and ridicule by their uncouth behaviour.
Fortunately, they cannot retract their words as easily as before since they are captured on camera in most cases. There is nothing they love quite as much as their exalted positions. If that comes under threat owing to their loose remarks, it is almost certain that they will learn to be more circumspect in a trice.