Just Like The Men In Mahabharata, I’m Guilty Of Keeping Silent Against Sexual Abuse

Posted by Shantanu Gharpure in Society
October 28, 2017

I turn to the “Mahabharata” for answers, once in a while, when I’m distressed. Because I feel whatever is happening today has happened in the “Mahabharata”. Today I want to write about the sexual assault on Draupadi by Dusshasana.

The pasts and our own egos affect our present choices. Of course, there are some highly objective individuals like Vidur in Mahabharata but even they can go wrong for sticking to objectivity. Yudhisthir in his ego and foolishness lost all his kingdom gambling and then also staked Draupadi. Even Suyodhan must have thought,”What a fool!”

Dusshasana then dragged Draupadi into the court by her hair. Draupadi, shocked by her husband’s preposterousness and pained by Dusshasana’s act, wondered if she can really be enslaved, if her husband had lost himself before her. As the due process of debate was followed, mob mentality kicked in. Even the most revered Karna called her a sex worker, out of contempt and rejection. And then the ghastly act of disrobing Draupadi was carried out by Dusshasana, as the people who she trusted, her own husbands watched in shame, with their heads down.

They were all complicit in it. They here refer to Suyodhan, Bheeshma, and even Karna. Shri Krishna came and saved her because he was God. There have been some debates that have tried to factor in caste, but that’s beside the point. The point is, caste only increases marginality and access to ‘due process’. But even the woman who had access to due process and courts was disrobed in the court. She was disrobed of her clothes, her character was questioned, she was called a ‘sex worker’. If it happened today, for sure our society would have somehow implied that she ‘asked’ for it.

She lived through the mental trauma, every day for 14 years, constantly reminded of her insult and the coward behaviour of her husbands. In the meantime, at the end of her exile, another privileged dude with access to the position of power, tried to rape her. Draupadi was meted out justice finally when Bhim killed Dusshasana after 14-15 years of penance. That how long ‘due processes’ take.

The fact is, and it pains me, that I have been a Bheeshma, or head hanging Pandava. Their silence was complicit in her disrobing. The silence of all those who never spoke up, their silence will continue to support the existing structures. I know it’s hard, but this movement has made me realise that I have also been complicit with my silence, by choosing not to take sides in my objectivity. I’m not talking about witnessing a sexual assault, I’m talking about in our daily lives when we choose silence over cheap remarks or maybe even participate in such things. Things do not happen out of nowhere, they build up, slowly and steadily.

The “Mahabharata” happened because people chose silence over action, they just contemplated what would be right and wrong. As I end this, I do not know what I will choose always, but I realise my follies. It has never been easy to be a Draupadi or a Shikhandi in a male-dominated world. It still isn’t. Draupadi is now coming out saying #metoo. If we don’t speak up now, Draupadi will have her revenge one way or another.