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No means no, Ram Kadam. Say sorry

Kadam’s repugnant remarks have touched upon at least two issues: the incidence of kidnapping of girls even in a city like Mumbai, and the agency that girls/women have in deciding their partner

mumbai Updated: Sep 06, 2018 00:48 IST
Smruti Koppikar
Smruti Koppikar
Hindustan Times
Ram Kadam,Mumbai girls kidnapping,Crime against women
Political activists in Thane protest MLA Ramdas Kadam’s misogynist comments on Wednesday. (HT Photo)

The BJP’s grand campaign called ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ has been liberally criticised and mocked in the last few years. The reality as it unfolded in various parts of the country, involving party members or its infamous and misogynist IT cell, brought home the need to ‘bachao’ women and girls from the depravities of the ‘sanskari’ or cultured party folk. As incidents came to light, the slogan was satirised into ‘Beti Uthao, Beti Bhagao’.

The satire turned real this week in Mumbai when Ram Kadam, BJP’s MLA from Ghatkopar, told his audience of young men who had participated or watched the boisterous and macho cultural sport of Dahi Handi, that if girls reject their marriage proposal, he would abduct/kidnap the girls and hand them over to the boys to tie the knot with. The video clip went viral on social media platforms.

Kadam has since expressed regret but hasn’t apologised. Regret isn’t enough. He is, after all, an elected legislator and BJP’s spokesperson in Maharashtra. The opposition parties have, expectedly, panned him. The Nationalist Congress Party alluded to the Ramayan saying that Kadam should henceforth be called “Ravan Kadam”. The Congress said girls now needed protection from BJP’s leaders. Shiv Sena called upon chief minister Devendra Fadnavis to “take strict action” against Kadam.

The Maharashtra State Women’s Commission reacted with caution. BJP state president Raosaheb Danve has said nothing. Kadam’s repugnant remarks have touched upon at least two issues: the incidence of kidnapping of girls even in a city like Mumbai, and the agency that girls/women have in deciding their partner. In five years from 2013, there has been a steep increase of 15 times in the number of girls/young women kidnapped, according to Mumbai Police’s response to an RTI query.

Nearly 3,390 girls had been kidnapped in these years; 80% to 90% had been found, the data showed. The police justify that a Supreme Court order wanted all missing to be listed as kidnapped. Kidnapping is a criminal offence; it destroys the victim and families. Kadam made it sound like a “cool” thing to do and gave a signal to his large male following.

What of the girls/women who turn down marriage proposals? Enraged or insulted young men, in the past, have responded in the worst possible ways — by stalking, throwing acid, stabbing, morphing videos to shame the girl and the like. Kadam emboldened such thinking.

The inability of young men to accept a “No”, the entitlement they feel to choose girls/women, and the social architecture steeped as it is in patriarchy and misogyny which allows men this choice but denies it to women, are all important issues at which activists have chipped away for decades. They continue to be our challenges. Kadam took the battle back a few steps.

He clearly believes in this patriarchal-patronising set-up. He doesn’t understand that “No Means No”. This is disturbing. That he spoke so brazenly and made kidnapping sound matter-of-fact is even more so.

Fadnavis and Danve would do well to take action against Kadam. Not doing so would be insensitive and unwise. Entrenched patriarchy in politics is inexcusable; this open promise to abduct girls is criminal and deserves reprimand.

BJP’s leaders complain that Ram Kadam is not the typical RSS shakha, trained cultured person; he was an import in 2014 for his winnability. Kadam, a Class 10 pass, was one of Raj Thackeray’s swashbucklers in the 2009 Assembly election. He won as Maharashtra Navnirman Sena representative from Ghatkopar, a mix of wealthy upper-caste business families and a sprawl of lower-middle-class tenements and slums. His “big” moment in the Assembly was when he objected to Abu Asim Azmi taking the oath in Hindi. He was suspended.

In the following years, he attacked a rationing officer, a civic engineer, and civic officials who were taking down his illegal hoardings. He has 12 criminal cases against him. Despite this, or because of it, he was inducted into the BJP and made a state-level spokesperson. In the 2014 Assembly election campaign, he was booked for threatening a rival contestant. Barely 10 days after demonetisation, Kadam gifted his son a swanky Mercedes car.

Fadnavis and Danve are already seen as being lenient on Kadam. Should they not rap Kadam for his remarks, Maharashtra’s top BJP leaders themselves would have ridiculed the party slogan on “betis”.

(This column was written before Ram Kadam publicly
apologised on Wednesday)

First Published: Sep 06, 2018 00:48 IST