By Rahul Mehta:
How can a person sexually abuse innocent, sub-normal children over a period of 40 years and get away with it, at least in his lifetime? That is what well-known Jimmy Savile of the ‘Jim’ll Fix It’ fame has managed to do, or so it seems. I am not sure if Jimmy rests in peace now, but what he has done has definitely devastated the peace of many organizations, including and not limited to, the Scotland Yard, as well as the BBC.
For the uninitiated, since the Indian media seems to have displayed colossal ignorance of this depressing piece of news, ‘Sir’ Jimmy Savile was an ‘English disc jockey, television presenter, media personality and charity fund raiser’, as Wikipedia describes him. Jimmy may still have his title, but there have been demands to strip him of his knighthood as a result of hundreds of child abuse and rape allegations against him. He died last year, on the 29th October, 2011, but almost a year after his death; a documentary was released in which five women claimed to have been sexually abused by him during their childhood. Following the release of this documentary, hundreds of alleged victims have claimed to have been sexually abused by Savile, most of them in their teens during that time. The Scotland Yard is currently pursuing some 400 lines of investigation into these allegations. There have also been allegations of a cover-up by the BBC, which employed Savile, as well as against the Crown Prosecution Service, which decided not to prosecute Savile when similar allegations were raised against him in 2009.
When I first came to hear about all of this, I was surprised that the Indian media had completely ignored what I felt was an important piece of news. But then I started looking, and found certain articles in Indian newspapers’ websites related to this scandal. True, they did not make the headlines or the front page, but the news was indeed there. And the comments on those articles were very interesting. Some people asked what this had to do with India. Others raised the question of why these women kept quiet for so long. Some people thought that it was unfair to raise allegations against and defame a person after his death, when he can no longer defend himself and present his side of the story.
What does this story have to do with India? Does it even make sense for Indians to think about such foreign events? Does international news matter? Or, is there any empathy we Indians are supposed to have for fellow members of the human race who happen to live outside our borders? After all, there is absolutely no incidence of child abuse in India — the land of morals. I am appalled that people in my country can profess such isolationist thinking.
Why did the women keep quiet for so long? To be very sure, the British society is more conservative than many associate the west to be. Consider how many Indian women would make such allegations against a popular personality, if a similar thing had happened to them. In fact, singer Coleen Nolan put it succinctly when she said that “But you didn’t talk about those things then.” Even so, there were at least four allegations against Savile during the time he lived which were dropped by the Crown Prosecution Service for lack of substantial evidence.
Is it fair to defame a person with such allegations after he is dead? This is probably the most interesting question of all and gives a whole new meaning to the concept of death with dignity. Jimmy’s own family, out of respect for public sentiment, asked for his gravestone to be taken from the cemetery where he is buried. Two of the most important charities named after him have closed down, giving away their funds to other charities. The University of Bedfordshire has stripped him of the honorary degree it conferred upon him in 2009. The allegations against Savile are serious — they represent crime on an unprecedented scale spanning over four decades — but they have not been proven by any means, and can probably never be proven. Is it fair, then, to have defamed Savile the way the British public has, or is this too less, since Savile still ‘died with dignity’, at least in his own eyes?