Indian politicians have a remarkable ability to jam their foot, sometimes even both feet simultaneously into their mouths – we have hate speeches, communally inflammatory speeches, outright lies, and much more being blithely announced from very public platforms with the whole nation watching and listening. What explains this foot-in-the-mouth-itis? Our ‘netas’ could be one or more of these: misguided, deluded, unaware, ill-informed, insensitive, remarkably foolish or quite simply they couldn’t care less.
Mulayam Singh Yadav’s Statement of 10 April 2014
In the series of many, many objectionable (and in many cases plain stupid) statements being made in the course of electioneering recently, we had Mr. Mulayam Singh Yadav make a horrifying announcement yesterday. According to the former Chief Minister and father of the current Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, rapists should not be punished with death.
This would have been a fair statement for someone who opposes the death penalty in general. Even his statement to the effect that there should be punishment for those who report false cases is fair (never mind the fact that most Indian women may and do not report rapes, preferring to suffer the horrors of their experience in tormented silence). But the qualifier added is what is really spine-chilling:
Listen to his words: “ladke hain, galati ho jati hai” (they are boys; mistakes happen). So it is the view of our honourable neta, that rape is evidently a playful mistake that young boys understandably go around making. His implication is that this is some sort of innocent blunder that deserves a far lesser sentence, because you know, boys will be boys.
Apparent reasons why Mulayam’s statement is horrifying
Mr. Yadav is of a mind to undo the legal changes that activists, victims and survivors have worked so hard to bring about. The fact that he is little concerned with the plight of women who have been subjected to violations is in itself appalling. The fact that he is effectively saying that he will do his best to try and reverse a hard-won change in the legal system that is meant to be not only a punitive measure but also a deterrent, is also dismaying and disquieting in the extreme.
But then why should this surprise us? We have always known that politicians such as Mr. Yadav and others of his ilk are of an unapologetically patriarchal mindset that very clearly demarcates and proscribes women’s freedoms, their rights and their place in society. So a regressive statement such as this made by Mr. Yadav should not really have horrified us – we are all familiar with the type of mindset that gives rise to these statements.
What should worry us even more this – why did Mulayam Singh Yadav make this statement? Did he feel that this statement would endear him to a significant proportion of his electorate? If so that is even more scary!
Reasons why the statement is even more spine-chilling
What worries me is that Mr. Yadav evidently thinks there is a constituency out there whom he thinks he is addressing: a portion of the citizenry comprising men who have either committed rape, may commit the crime in the future or who in any way condone the crime.
So Mr. Yadav thinks that there are enough people out there who condone rape – men and perhaps the mothers of men who think that rape is a slight misdemeanor that ‘boys’ shouldn’t be punished for. Mr. Yadav thinks that by issuing a statement such as this, he is evidently currying favour with them! This was nothing short of a tacit reassurance issued to rapists and would-be rapists!How scary is that! How scary is it that he felt his views would resonate with enough people out there who subscribe to this misogynistic and regressive point of view for him to have made this statement!
He was not worried about alienating his electorate with this statement – he was confident of doing the opposite!
By – Reena Daruwalla
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