Useless feminism

On the morning that I read in my morning newspapers that Preity Zinta had filed a case of ‘molestation’ and abuse against her former boyfriend I also read that a young mother in Madhya Pradesh had been gang-raped and paraded naked in front of her 10-year-old son. A famous actress charging the great grandson of Mohammad Ali Jinnah with ‘molestation’ is a sensational story while brutality against rural women is routine in India that is Bharat. So barely anyone noticed the story of the woman from Khandwa district who, incidentally, was also forced to drink urine to make it absolutely clear to her that in the eyes of her rapists (who included her husband) she was just garbage. Nothing but a piece of trash. This woman from the Bhil tribe had the courage to go to the police and luckily for her the police actually helped her instead of raping her again as often happens in our police stations.  Her rapists were arrested and she was taken to hospital. Blurry shots of her frail, shivering body lying in a green sari on a hospital bed with her little son sitting beside her appeared on some news channels but much more attention was devoted to Preity Zinta’s alleged molestation.
According to the actress her ex-boyfriend, Ness Wadia, abused her physically and verbally in the Wankhede Stadium in full public view and this made her feel shamed and violated.  Compared to what happened to the woman in Madhya Pradesh and to what happened to those two girls in Badaun and to the thousands of other horror stories we hear every day what happened to Preity did not in my view merit the attention it got. The alacrity with which the Mumbai police acted made me angrier still because I know, from personal experience, how reluctantly they respond to complaints of children being trafficked to the brothels in this city. So I tweeted that it was wrong of Preity Zinta to turn a spat with an ex-boyfriend in a packed stadium into a police case. I had no idea that this would result in me being abused on Twitter in unprintable language.
Then Shobha De who has moved seamlessly from writing soft porn to social commentary decided to attack me in a column she wrote for NDTV and I found myself at the centre of a row that played out on national television.  More vicious abuse on Twitter followed  from arm chair feminists who have never raised their voices in support of their less privileged sisters who are routinely subjected to acid attacks, trafficking and rape. What interested me most about the attack on me from these enraged ladies was that it brought out the divisions between India and Bharat more starkly than I have ever noticed them before.
Shobha De and her twittering sisters live in a world that Ms De described as ‘polite society’ on one of her TV appearances lifting her bejeweled fingers to indicate the quotes around those two words. What incenses them are the sort of things that happen in that supposedly polite society where women do not dare talk about verbal and physical attacks from husbands, lovers and exes. Many would like to go to the police as Ms Zinta did but dare not because they are often dependent financially on their abusive spouses. Many have noticed when they try to take their problems before courts of law that judges take an unsympathetic view of women who demand maintenance from divorced husbands.
These are problems that India shares with most developed western countries and although they are problems they are not nearly as serious as the daily horror of being a woman in Bharat. To have to take public transport late at night as Nirbhaya had to on that horrible night in Delhi two years ago or to have to work late nights in a job and face the prospect of being raped by your taxi driver is something that the twitterers who attacked me have never experienced. Nor do they know what it is like to be raped in a village on the orders of a panchayat simply because you exercised the right to choose your own husband. The twittering ladies have no idea what it is like to be tormented and brutalized by husbands just because you have produced daughters instead of sons.  That is what happens in Bharat dear ladies and it is for those very vulnerable women that the law was made more stringent after what happened to Nirbhaya.
When a famous actress uses it to defend herself against an alleged ‘molestation’ in a packed public stadium it amounts in my view to misusing the law. The police will always react with readiness to a complaint such as Ms Zinta’s because in addition to the ease of bringing charges against a well-known businessman there is the thrill of being on national television. But, in a country in which it will take an estimated 300 years to clear the backlog in our courts is it fair to add a case such as this one? Could Ms Zinta not have complained to stadium security and settled the matter? Could she not have shamed her former boyfriend by complaining to IPL officials about his behavior? Could she not have used the protection of going public with her complaints in interviews that the media would have lapped up greedily?
As someone who has often had to report on horrific and much more serious crimes against women and little girls I find it hard to feel sympathy for Ms Zinta.  If the Twitter sisterhood who I have so offended had seen just the ravaged body of the two-year-old girl who died from being raped by her mother’s boyfriend in a Delhi slum.  She was left in the charge of this monster and his friend because her mother had nursing night duty in a hospital. When they found her the next morning she lay dead between her two rapists who had not noticed that she had died and lay on either side of her in a drunken stupor.
This was long ago in the days before Twitter but it is a story that has haunted me ever since. So forgive me dear sisters if I have no time for your ‘feminist’ tantrums and your ‘feminist’ causes. My advice to you is take a deep breath and find out what happens every day in that country called Bharat that is next door to the India in which you live.


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