Media trial in defence of a media tried, the Shiv Sena way
At the time that the storm over Saamna, Shiv Sena Marathi daily’s editorial on rape accused IPS officer Sunil Paraskar was gathering momentum on Saturday, the party’s youth leader Aaditya Thackeray was giving away certificates to women participants of the Women’s Self Defence Centre. Through it, he tweeted in defence of the editorial that slammed the woman complainant and sought to shield Paraskar.
Had he wanted to, the young Thackeray could not have scripted anything laden with more irony. He could be more careful, though, in trying to defend the indefensible.
The editorial makes several points but its thrust is simplistically anti-women. It repeatedly questions the model’s decision to file the case against Paraskar, her character and relationship with the cop, her so-called “hi-fi” status in society, the delay in filing the complaint and the loss of reputation and morale of a senior, competent and decorated IPS officer.
In coming out in Paraskar’s defence and against the woman complainant, the paper, as indeed the party, has done exactly what it accused the rest of the media of: taken sides in a police case and conducted a media trial without waiting for the facts to be placed before the court of law. The irony gets richer.
Why is it all right for the party to ask questions that cast a shadow over the complainant, her motives, her method, her relationship, and take this case to reflect some imaginary trend in rape cases filed by “hi-fi” women, but not kosher for the rest of the media to raise questions about the party’s barely-masked defence of a senior police officer, well placed to defend himself both in and outside the court?
It helps to remember that Paraskar has been booked under sections 376(2), rape by a police officer; 376(C), intercourse by superintendent of jail, etc; and 354(D), stalking which interferes with the mental peace. These are serious charges and must be seen against the general reticence of the Mumbai Police to book one of its own in any case. Paraskar is now deputy inspector general (DIG) in charge of Protection of Civil Rights unit. More irony.
The more evolved understanding of rape charges – that the woman’s character or status in society are extraneous to her complaint; her relationship, even with the accused, has no bearing on the accusation; her delay in going to the police, explained by her as waiting for Paraskar to be transferred from his earlier posting – seems to have escaped the party and the paper’s intellectual arsenal.
It bemoans that the rape laws, as some other laws, are biased in favour of women. “Law supports the woman completely,” the editorial lamented. Some sections of the society may find recent amendments unfair but they were enacted after due deliberation and recommendations. The party can challenge them in court; to take it out on a woman complainant is unfair.
Sure, laws have been used to settle scores, and rape cases have turned out to be mala-fide and revenge-seeking. When the court decides on Paraskar’s case, we will know if the model was seeking some sort of a reprisal. Till then, it would be best to wait. In the meantime, perhaps, the party’s leadership would like to ponder over this: rape cases in Mumbai increased by 66.6% in a year, from 232 in 2012 to 391 in the following year, according to the latest National Crime Records Bureau report.
If Aaditya Thackeray had to give the editorial a hashtag, he may have tagged it as #vengefulwoman or #hifiwoman. It would be no better than sections of media tagging the story with #rapistcop. It would be fine if Saamna had picked a bone with the media that sensationalised the case, but in the shadow of slamming a media trial, it went on to conduct one and all but pronounced the woman guilty of “crimes” as it saw fit.