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The Jasleen-Sarvjeet Case: “We Shouldn’t Be Siding With Either Of The Two”

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By Shruthi Venukumar

One need not look much further than literature and the dramatic arts to be convinced of humankind’s fascination with the extreme. Our reactions to things in the pages and portrayals of potboilers know no proportionality theorem. So it came as an exhilarating development when the fourth estate broke the glass ceiling and began to include the audience in the process of news collection and dissemination. Journalism of the people. Social media and blogs took the inclusion many steps further. Journalism by the people. It took the idea of democracy, the foundation of our political system, to hitherto unprecedented heights. However, today we see the chips falling away and revealing the underbelly of ‘mobocracy’. If you think the last line was a cliche, wait until you hear the reactions of people to the Jasleen Kaur case.

jasleen-sarvjeet case

 

Here was a girl who posted on social media a picture of the man who had allegedly molested and threatened her. The post went viral with the man receiving a barrage of expletives on social media. With the media taking up the case, the photograph of the man was seen splattered on our TV screens all day long. Once again, the “collective conscience of the nation” had been riled. The girl was hailed as a beacon beaming and making all the right noises for women’s empowerment. The Chief Minister of Delhi announced a cash reward for the girl. She was congratulated by celebrity and commoner alike.

The very next day, in a move Kafkaesquely reminiscent of the fate of babu beacons under the CM’s regime, our lady beacon was pulled down. The man had spoken. Sarvjeet Singh claimed to be innocent and held that the woman had cooked up the story for publicity. He alleged that a minor altercation had led Jasleen to her ‘heinous’ move. The nation saw him coming forth with a witness who attested to his side of the story. The ensuing backlash against the woman was like a turncourt event by amateur debaters. Her affiliation to a particular political party was scrutinised. Her ambition of scaling the heights of a student political career was attacked as motive. A popular actor apologised to Sarvjeet for having reposted Jasleen’s original Facebook post. She said that “being a girl” she had given her “the benefit of doubt” while reposting. As a woman, it makes me uncomfortable to think that my support to a person should be based on our shared gender, instead of the facts of the case. This brings us to the issue at hand. We still do NOT know the facts of the case.

People seem to be rejoicing at their collective morality in having “done the right thing“, having rectified their vilification of Sarvjeet in the face of the man’s claims. Popular demand now wants Delhi Police to file a case of defamation against Jasleen. Sarvjeet has the right to file a case of defamation if he feels he has been wronged. Just like Jasleen was well within her rights to file an FIR. Jasleen’s inability to produce a witness to back her up is not curtains down on the case. That is why there exists a due process of investigation into crimes. Let the law take its course. Let it play out. Dismissing this case because Jasleen could produce no witnesses could escalate into a serious trend. Would we be saying the same to a woman claiming to have been molested at a site with no witnesses? Would we be comfortable tossing it aside without investigation? It takes courage to come out and report sexual crimes. In this frenzy to shut Jasleen down, let us not forget that crimes against women do take place in this country. The public lashing that she received, which included making uncalled for comments on her appearance and comparing her to a frivolously dramatic Bollywood actor in full length articles, would make victims of sexual abuse cringe about reporting their ordeal. The unwarranted comments amount to bullying, just as shooting down Sarvjeet without evidence is a stellar example of bullying.

Nothing in the paragraphs above should be construed as unfairly siding with Jasleen. We should not be siding with either of the two as of now. Till the time a thorough investigation has been carried out into the case, we should not be abusing our role as social media activists. Instead of switching parties at every turn that the case takes, why not take a step back and analyse why we respond prematurely to everything out on social media and in the media. Collective conscience or collective bloodbaying?

We are now outraged that Sarvjeet was defamed publicly. His defamation was the direct result of people blindly believing in the veracity of the claims made on the picture posted by Jasleen in the first place. The woman made a claim on social media. There was no fact file attached. It was up to us to give both of them the benefit of doubt in the absence of any evidence whatsoever when the case first broke. We are getting quite comfy with using public shaming as the means to set someone right. Public shaming is never right. It used to be rape victims not so long ago. Now it is anyone we think has crossed the line. Public shaming psychologically cripples people in coming out with their side of the story.

Many seem to be of the opinion that men are increasingly bearing the brunt of false accusations. The Rohtak sisters and the Nagaland mob lynching are cited as standard cases to defend this second round of blood-baying in the Jasleen Kaur case. How can we be so myopic as not to see that we are repeating the same mob action here as in the two cases referred to? In both these cases, as with the current, a public trial and public judgement were handed out with disastrous consequences. There has been a reluctance to engage in the larger discrepancies of the case involving the Rohtak sisters. Our insistence on seeing everything in black and white blinded us to the deficiencies of the narco test. The case is currently being heard in court. However, it is seen in popular imagination as a shut case.

The word ‘popular’ also alludes to how the law never seems to take its proper course. Shaky faith in the working of the police and the law in the country has led to calls for much needed reform in the system. However, this attitude also seems to drive us to quick justice via social media/media trials. It also leads to selective evocation of law on our part. On one hand, we call for bringing offenders to justice. On the other, we do not have the patience to see the case to its fulfilment through proper process.

Many seem to worry that if it is legally proven that Jasleen is at fault, she would not be brought to book as we as a culture go soft on women. That characterisation of our culture leaves a lot of room for incredulity. In the event that does happen, THAT is when social media and the media should erupt and facilitate correct action. Much like it should if Sarvjeet is found guilty but without a sentence.

Society is abound with deviants of all colours. However, jumping the gun with public trials only serves to empower the very people that our collective conscience cries for. If the treatment meted out to Sarvjeet on Day 1 could have led to the bafflement of men at how it is always a woman’s word against them, then bringing Jasleen down prematurely in a mob-like fashion would be, at this moment, making victims of sexual abuse pull themselves tighter into the cushions in the closet.

Let us give both Jasleen and Sarvjeet the dignity to fight their case. Our activism at this moment should be restricted to:

1) watching the events unfold and viewing them in as rational and objective a manner as possible

2) seeing to it that the case is not dropped due to loopholes or bullying

3) ensuring that due process of law is followed in the case

4) keeping alive a rational debate on gender equality, exploitation, falsity of charges and reform of law.

It is an erosion of faith in the legal system that leads to people seeking out justice through social media. A feeling that the law is unfairly stacked up against men leads to much misguided misogyny. Why not begin a discussion based on statistics, observed reality and myths associated with these claims?

Let us use our power to manifest our collective power into meaningful action to arrive at rational conclusions. Let us be sceptical and not raise a speculative spectre. Let not the collective conscience of the nation turn in its bed only to turn around.

About the author: Shruthi Venukumar holds a Masters Degree in Politics from Jawaharlal Nehru University. She is currently an Editor with Macmillan Education. Engaging with and debating political and social issues, be them burning and on the back-burner, are her calling in life. She loves to go backpacking and is fascinated by the profundity found in psychology and philosophy.

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  1. Mayank

    Exactly !!
    I Seriously think that this crap is going nowhere, and this story has only become a tea time Gossip
    now !!! It should be understood that we have Media as the only source of information and also we
    can never know what really happened ,, so as for now we should not take anyone’s side !!!

  2. Anisha Bhatt

    You are late for this article author. You should have written this on the first day. Not now when Jasleen is found guilty in filing a false case…. First day you all were busy shaming the guy . He lost his job, had to spend 18 hours in jail. Imagine the plight of his parents……. Now also, you are passing the judgement and your views. Media should print only NEWS, not their VIEWS. We public will give our views.

    1. Shruthi Venukumar

      This article is aimed at bringing out the dangers involved in precisely the kind of Day 1 uproar that you take issue with. Please do not assume that everyone was out bloodbaying the day the post was made. The public is not an indivisible unit. On Day 1 there were people who shared Jasleen’s post and there were others who were sceptical about the whole exercise. The media should self-regulate. However, even when it was crying hoarse believing one side of the story, the public had the choice of not being swayed. Whether the media just reports incidents or brings out analysis, the public always has the choice to rationalise.

    2. Anisha Bhatt

      Thats the problem with you people. Your job is reporting. Stop jumping to conclusions. Do you deserve to be called as sensible and intelligent people even when suicide rate of men is greater than women ( according to NCRB) , or SC saying women protection laws misused, or DCW saying 53% rape cases in 2014 were false or the recent judgement in rohtak sisters case? You have stepped out of your boundaries of journalism and have become self proclaimed judges of the country. But this system will fall soon.And the downfall has begun. And no wonder , you people will never change your stand . Since, more shocking the news, the more TRP you get…. So you people will always try to make news more shocking inspite of just reporting it…..

    3. Srinivas

      Problem is, these are not journalists, these are funded JNU leftists. Where there is a victim to be made, they will, and pour forth all their guile and energy in bringing down the villain. Right now, their Mantra is “INTOLERANCE”. Let me go retch myself in the meanwhile.

    4. vaibhav jain

      Don’t decide or suggest what should we say and what not…whether we should wait for courts to decide or not. I didn’t see your article the first day when the guy was hung out dry in the open.
      People will have opinion on every twist n turn of such a high profile case…so don’t play social debate regulator and try to regulate the people’s opinions according to your percieved narrative. Remember its she who brought this case in social discourse..courts n judges were there on that day also. She has brought it upon herself. And people will have all sort of opinions and ITS TOTALLY FINE IF THEIR OPINION ARE WRONG OR RIGHT. You dont pay them to act according to your whims. So dont put such an preachy article down our throat with undertones of regulation of social discourse and debate.

    5. Anuj

      @Anisha, agree with all but the last view. I think media channels should provide their view if it provides a perspective that was not fully explored. For example, a view against ‘Guilty unless proven innocent’ laws would be welcome.

    6. Anisha Bhatt

      No….No……No……. I will welcome a news channel when it says why a particular law was not implemented. But I will never welcome a news channel pushing for implementing a law.. Read again if you dont understand the difference…

    7. shals

      She is not passing her judgement but has a very open ended view on the matter. We should not rule out everything that Jasleen said as a lie though what happened to Sarabjeet was wrong . Let law take its course.

  3. Anonymous

    If anyone wants to dislike this post, like this!! 😛

  4. Vedant

    I am sorry bit I disagree with your call to allow the case to discussed and amicably resolved by the parties concerned especially when Jasleen is consistently indulging in making public appearances on social media like her article on this website to indulge the public. This to me sounds like a clear attempt at either gathering public support or gathering attention. I wish you had reflected more before writing tho article.

    1. Shruthi Venukumar

      Where in this article has a call been made for the case to be discussed and the issue to be resolved amicably by the parties concerned?

  5. Aaditya

    Forget it. I was going to write a few things about the timing of the article and how even though you keep reminding us throughout that this article is impartial, neither the tone nor the words used set the impartial narrative.
    But looking at the past posts’ comments section, it’s fruitless when you guys don’t even bother to reply.

    1. Shruthi Venukumar

      Please go ahead with your thoughts. I would be happy to engage.

    2. Aaditya

      “Sarvjeet has the right to file a case of defamation if he feels he has been wronged. Just like Jasleen was well within her rights to file an FIR. Jasleen’s inability to produce a witness to back her up is not curtains down on the case. That is why there exists a due process of investigation into crimes. Let the law take its course. Let it play out.”
      I think no one should question anyone’s right to file FIR. As you say that let investigation run its course and cautioning people to reserve judgement, Jasleen should have done the same. Her post seemed to invite people to pass verdict and sentence the guy in the picture without bothering to check the facts.

      “In this frenzy to shut Jasleen down, let us not forget that crimes against women do take place in this country.”
      This what makes JAsleen’s actions worthy of criticism. Her charges of molestation and eve teasing do not line up with the facts that have come to light. Her own statements about the incident are devoid of the acts that could be charged with the mentioned crimes.
      Women all around delhi daily face those situations. Her act of misconstruing facts will lead to detrimental effects on such women coming forward with legitimate cases. Rather than empowering women, she has only forced the victims to face further scrutiny from public and police, who will now happily point to her case to justify “getting all facts right”.
      In a country where often a victim of child rape has to answer questions about her assault in details, sometimes with no women support, Jasleen’s actions have strengthened those who will now force victims to back down unless they want to face a public trial.

      “THAT is when social media and the media should erupt and facilitate correct action. Much like it should if Sarvjeet is found guilty but without a sentence.”
      The guy should face sentence but the fate of girl should be decided by how interested social media and media remains in the case.

      This article should have been out on Day 1. But the reason it was not was because we know that crime against women exist and hence we want to believe that women are now ready to fightback. Now the next time such things happen, it may lead to police refraining from protecting the victim thus putting her life in danger.
      Also please post views of Saravjeet on your website, or mention how he has responded to your requests.

    3. Shruthi Venukumar

      “Her post seemed to invite people to pass verdict and sentence the guy in the picture without bothering to check the facts.” Again, the facts here are not very clear. And if Jasleen does come out as having misrepresented the facts, this is precisely why I think we should be more careful while reposting things.

      Part of the answer to the second issue you have brought forth has been answered as response to another of youir comments. Outrightly disbelieving women or children when they report sexual abuse in future will be another example of us jumping to conclusions without proof. I have reiterated that I think the way forward is to give every case the right to proper procedure. We as citizens should be pressurising the system to carry out proper procedure that accrues to the investigation of crimes, instead of declaring the authenticity of crimes. It is only then that we can do our bit in assuring that victims get justice and criminals get the mandated punishment.

      “The guy should face sentence but the fate of girl should be decided by how interested social media and media remains in the case.” Yes, the guy should face a sentence if he’s proven guilty. In the event he’s found not guilty, there are legal provisions he can explore to bring the girl to book. The media and social media should have been objective about it from the beginning. My article makes it clear that I am against media/social media crucifying either party.

  6. Madhu Gowda

    I agree with Anisha Bhatt

  7. Pankaj

    The author tries to appear balanced, but the double standards are too obvious for everyone who is reading this. Why have you suddenly woken up against media trials after holes started appearing in the girl’s narrative only. Did you condemn the posting of Sarvajeet’s picture, and the request to on social media when he was being shamed?

    If feminism was about fairness, to innocent people of both genders, it would have got huge support from men and women. But these kinds of episodes re-enforce the impression that feminism is about privileging women at the expense of men. The cruel, almost bloodthirsty shaming of Sarvajeet, the absolute lack of empathy displayed by gender warriors was depressing. There were no article, no tweet condemning that madness. And now after the eye witness comes forward, we get these big lectures on avoiding social media trials

    1. Shruthi Venukumar

      Feminism is about equality between men and women. It is not a gender-specific thing. There are men who are feminists as well. What was done on Day 1 by many people when they kept forwarding Jasleen’s post was wrong. They took the woman at her word, without bothering to check the veracity of the post. The public shaming was uncalled for. And if you noticed, there were people on news channels who expressed concern about it. They weren’t even given much time to even present their views. When Sarvjeet came out with his side of the story, many of the people who had initially shared the post did a volte face. Again without any conclusive proof. An eyewitness is not the sealing deal in a case. There have been multiple other cases where both sides brought eye witnesses attesting to completely opposite versions of an incident. Let the police investigate. That is their job. How would I have preferred this to have played out? When Jasleen posted that picture, it shouldn’t have been reposted. Sarvjeet shouldn’t have been shamed. The girl should have lodged a police complaint. If she felt that proper action wasn’t being taken, she could have brought out her version of the story on social media or to the media. But it is incumbent upon people to be a little more sceptical about things than they were about this case. This article is no lecture. We cannot believe one thing in the first instant and change it when another takes place, all while there is no evidence of it having been either way.

    2. Aaditya

      “They took the woman at her word, without bothering to check the veracity of the post.”
      In a country where women don’t report crime, we need to take a woman by her word to encourage more people to report it.
      Hanging the spectre of suspicion over a woman’s head when she reports a sexual assault case has lead us to this situation where they’d rather prefer to let the case go than put themselves and their character to question.

    3. Shruthi Venukumar

      When a woman reports a crime, why not just let law take its course, rather than making guesses on the truth of the matter? If the police doesn’t do the needful, we probably should pressurise, through social media or media, them into action. She would not feel any less slighted if her case is pursued by people with supportive words for her instead of declaring war on the person she has accused. That will be a true show of support to justice.

  8. Vim

    Lets accept the truth. Girl was volunteering traffic management at the red light post. She, was not a passerby. As she is not a traffic cop, she can only request the guy to stop and she can not command. Guy might have replied back as she is not a cop to tell when to stop and where to stop details. So, she defames him everywhere on social media, facebook and in twitter. When the evidences comes up, not she is escaping the false case she made. Rules are made to help, not to misuse against personal attitudes.

  9. Kranthi M

    The important trend we are seeing is that when a woman has a fight with someone, or wants to settle scores with someone, she can turn that into a molestation case. This is very dangerous as our society more inclined to the version of the woman. People like Jasleen, Rohtak Sisters & Nisha Sharma (the one who filed a false 498a case long back which was declared false by the court) these people should be punished harshly in order to protect the interest of the actual cases where the molestation happens. These people are making the life of a woman difficult in India.

  10. Ramrsh

    The guy was arrested and lost his job…. Isn’t the system being unfair to him

  11. Amar

    Still, I do not support Jasleen or Sarvjeet but I do point my finger at Jasleen for being a draamebaaz, for defaming a Sarvjeet on national TV (when he is not proved guilty) when police is yet to finish investigation. I point my finger at Jasleen for changing her side of story every day. I point my finger at Jasleen for calling someone trying to be neutral, cheap and imbecile and what not. I point my finger at Jasleen for running away from straightforward questions. She doesn’t have an inch of respect towards others and towards elders. She deserves all the backlash against her.

    Had she stayed calm, let police do their work and then talk on national TV without exaggerating the fact that this is a simple ‘road rage’ case, the situation would’ve been different.

  12. Aman

    Now that the actual character of Jasleen is visible, you are suggesting not to take sides. This should have come on the first day itself.

  13. vaibhav jain

    Don’t decide or suggest what should we say and what not…whether we should wait for courts to decide or not. I didn’t see your article the first day when the guy was hung out dry in the open.
    People will have opinion on every twist n turn of such a high profile case…so don’t play social debate regulator and try to regulate the people’s opinions according to your percieved narrative. Remember its she who brought this case in social discourse..courts n judges were there on that day also. She has brought it upon herself. And people will have all sort of opinions and ITS TOTALLY FINE IF THEIR OPINION ARE WRONG OR RIGHT. You dont pay them to act according to your whims. So dont put such an preachy article down our throat with undertones of regulation of social discourse and debate.

    1. Shruthi Venukumar

      Today, the media need self-regulation, as do people. Please note here that many people changed their opinion from what it was on the first day and were disgruntled about “having been cheated”. Would it not have served them well to have thought things through? Or should I say, think things through? This is my observation and opinion.

  14. NJ

    Finally, some fucking sense in the world.
    I will not let my criticism for the way Jasleen has handled the whole incident blind me from looking at the hard facts of the case to find a verdict. People want instant justice, take pride in making educated guesses and love that “Ha! I told you so!” moments. Yes, my mind pushes me to believe one party is telling the truth because of the unfolding of events and the way the things blew up.
    Do I believe Jasleen is genuine? Maybe not. Do I think Sarvjeet is innocent? Maybe. Intuition is not good enough to sentence someone. The matter of fact remains that there is no concrete proof, and as multiple people have quoted over and over again “Innocent until proven guilty”.
    Sarvjeet is “Innocent until proven guilty” of sexual harassment till proof surfaces that he has indeed harassed the girl.
    Jasleen is “Innocent until proven guilty” of manipulating the system and crying wolf until the verdict says it was all fake.

    PEOPLE, STOP JUMPING THE FUCKING GUN. Provide moral support, help with the collection of evidence ethically and always remember that you carry the accountability of your words.

  15. The Hissing Saint

    You have nailed it!

    Why is everyone assuming that the issue is just straight up black and white and this whole argument about publicity is ridiculous.

    Instead of sparking off a discussion on the right to equal rights, safety and dignity for both genders we sadly choose to make this a Men vs Women debate.

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biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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