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I Support JNU Students Completely, But Not This Display Of Sexism

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By Vartika Puranik:

The in-vogue JNU row has and is making people discern many revealing facts and realities. I myself relentlessly supported JNU, wrote articles and created a series of posts extending my support to it. It was from the beginning an issue of equality of all kinds, be it religious, gender-based, racial, caste etc. We witnessed some people disguised as nationalists disgracing themselves when they showed their prevailing sexist and patriarchal mentality of male ascendancy and entitlement while mouthing off their stance on the JNU issue. Women have been called prostitutes, sex workers, sluts, whores, bazaaru and what not. Now this name-calling is actually not an insult in a feminist’s book but is a clear manifestation of toxic masculinity. People supporting JNU took an immediate stand on it and condemned this.

This discourse gradually brought increasing numbers of people from all sides putting forth their views about it. One of the latest issues raised was by a woman named Kamlesh Narwana, former JNUite and now a teacher in Delhi University, who questioned Kanhaiya’s credentials to speak on the dignity of women. She wrote an open letter to him on her social media account and claimed that Kanhaiya misbehaved and threatened her of dire consequences when she caught him urinating in public to which she had objected. Now, without listening to her side of the story calmly, people instantly started questioning the timing of raising the issue.

To the people who raised this question, if you are following everything on this issue, you must be aware of the fact that she has been openly writing about this instance since the day it happened. So, questioning the motive of the timing of the issue raised shouldn’t make sense. Every girl has the right to come out and boldly talk about any harassment and misbehaviour whenever she wants. We saw many articles that were written in favour of Kanhaiya. One of these had the headline ‘Now the issue is he peed’. No, no and, again, no. The issue is not that he peed. The issue is harassment, misbehaviour and aggressive display of masculinity.

The issue here is not peeing in public, although it should be an issue but not in this context. The issue is this: when a woman raises her voice, people instantly question her credibility. As a JNU student, she reported the incident when Kanhaiya was found guilty and charged with a fine of Rs. 3,000 by a Proctor officer. Now, as feminists, all of us should condemn what is wrong irrespective of the side we’re on. I’m with JNU, but I will not support anything blindly.

The outfit which Kanhaiya belongs to, AISF, stated, “Kanhaiya had no altercation with her and he wasn’t even called by the proctorial committee in the case. While we respect the girl’s decision to criticise Kanhaiya, we find the timing of this news suspicious. All of this is part of a plan to malign him.” The report by Chief Proctor that is out officially clearly states that Kanhaiya was found guilty of misbehaving and threatening a student.

Here, I would like to draw a parallel with the recent Kesha incident. The brave singer finally stood up and made a decision to come out and expose her molester. What happened next? Some people blamed her; said she wants publicity and started questioning her. The ‘victim blaming game’ has been played well by many people for so long. Irrespective of the side we’re on, we should not encourage this as it not only helps the accused avoid culpability but also makes it harder for other people to come forward and report abuse. I am not labelling Kanhaiya a monster. But, the fact that people and Kanhaiya are completely dismissing this very fact is upsetting. People make mistakes. We are all humans and nobody is a saint, including myself. But, one who accepts a mistake is the real hero.

The fight was started for justice and equality for all and of all kinds. I am quoting one of my fellow feminists here. “Somewhere in the fight for social equality they forget the battle for equality of sexes.” Just like we want ‘azaadi’ from fascism, as women and as feminists, we want azaadi from patriarchy, sexism, misogynists, toxic masculinity, homophobia and other forms of inequities. Our fellow Pakistani feminists chanted the slogan of azaadi and it was popularised by eminent and respected feminist Kamla Bhasin. Let’s not forget where it came from and what it means.

“Meri behane maange Azaadi,
meri bachhi maange Azaadi,
naari ka naara Azaadi
From patriarchy Azadi
from all hierarchy Azadi
from endless violence Azadi
from helpless silence Azadi.”

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  1. Manas

    Hi Ms. Puranik,

    You article is interesting but it is fuzzy about what you want to convey.

    “The issue is this: when a woman raises her voice, people instantly question her credibility. As a JNU student, she reported the incident when Kanhaiya was found guilty and charged with a fine of Rs. 3,000 by a Proctor officer. Now, as feminists, all of us should condemn what is wrong irrespective of the side we’re on. I’m with JNU, but I will not support anything blindly.”

    You have your “feminism” glasses on, that is why you see a distorted view of these events. Ms. Narwana’s credibility was not called to question because she is a woman, it was because she sounded like a BJP plant. I hope you understand that BJP is not beneath this type of politics either. Although it is clear that Ms. Narwana is not a BJP plant, she is a vengeful quarrelsome woman; and BJP must be thanking their lucky stars for delivering her to them.

    The way I interpret this incident (given the conflicting and biased reports) – Mr. Kumar was relieving himself in a public place, one morning; Ms. Narwana came by that road during her morning jog. She screamed at him to stop urinating in public. It is human physiology that once started, we cannot stop it in mid act, even if a feminist demands. Mr. Kumar got enraged by this sudden interruption and called her a psycho(path). Ms. Narwana reported about Mr. Kumar to the JNU authorities. He was found guilty and he paid a fine. End of story. She was not a JNU student when the incident happened, but that is besides the point.

    Urinating in public places is quite common in India – although that is not a justification; and Mr. Kumar already paid a large fine for it because of Ms. Narwana. Dragging that issue to public discourse after 8 month, just because a lot of media glare is focused on Mr. Kumar, is unfair. I think it is rather petty of Ms. Narwana to divert and marginalize the message Mr. Kumar is trying to send to the students and liberal people of India. And this is the exact reason why BJP must be thankful to her.

    What exactly constitutes “Display Of Sexism” in your book? Relieving in a public place? Did Mr. Kumar expose himself? (there is no info, at least in the articles I have read so far; and Ms. Narwana never complained about it in any of her posts. And yes, unzipping the private parts is how it is done – either in private or public, that does not mean he was exhibiting himself). Did Mr. Kumar pass lewd comments at Ms. Narwana?

    As a feminist, you would like to enjoy equal rights as men. Ironically, in this case you do not want to enjoy the right to relieve in public, but rather to curb the right of everyone else to do so. This is not “toxic masculinity” as you put it, but calling a spade a spade. Not so long ago, when most houses did not have bathrooms and running water, our mothers and grandmothers would relieve themselves in public areas. Also, read about “sex positive feminism” in Wikipedia.

    I think, it is overzealous of you to compare Ms. Narwana with what happened to Kesha. If you ever meet Kesha, can you honestly look her in the face and tell her – “I am sorry that you were drugged and raped when you were only 19 and nobody believed you, but look at poor Ms. Narwana, nobody believes that she saw a student peeing in campus”? When will the “feminists” understand that unfair comparisons like these alienates the common “man” from feminists movements.

    India needs awareness about a lot of things including women rights and equality, but please, please, please, do not pick the wrong fights.

    – A fellow humanist (and a rationalist)

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