Travelling in an SUV has its own privileges. Kirron Kher must have realised this by now – at least after facing the heat for being highly insensitive in suggesting that the raped bachchi wasn’t samajhdar enough, because she stepped into a shared auto with two men already sitting in it, in addition to the male driver.
Why do I think that the basic idea behind her comment is both technically and fundamentally wrong?
In Chandigarh, for both autorickshaw drivers and commuters, the shared auto system is something that is highly profitable. This is because the roads in Chandigarh are spread like a grid where a shared auto operates on straight roads, offering their services at a rate as minimal as ₹20 for a distance of up to 7 km. On the other hand, the amount is as high as ₹100 for the same distance when one hires a private auto, which Kirron Kher can afford – but daily commuters can’t.
Also, in Chandigarh (like many other cities), the commuter doesn’t have the golden opportunity to pick an autorickshaw of their own choice. This is because the autorickshaw service isn’t accessible all across the city, especially during the night – and hence, we cannot just skip a suspicious autorickshaw and wait for the next one to come.
But if we consider Kirron’s suggestion and skip an auto which had two men already sitting in it, and get in the next empty one, what are the chances that other men might not share the ride after we get into that autorickshaw. Is a woman supposed to again switch the autorickshaw?
But, let’s be practical here and accept the fact that a seasonal politician like Kirron Kher might not know all these commuting issues. So, giving her the benefit of doubt, let’s ignore the technical flaw in her statement and look at the moral flaw.
By making her statement, Kher failed to understand that she is indeed accessible and accountable as she is a Member of Parliament. So, with huge responsibilities on her shoulders, she cannot afford to say something that deplores the debate on women safety and promotes the ‘patriarchal’ mentality of our society. Such statements will not only hamper the countless efforts of our law enforcement agencies that are dealing such sensitive issues – they will also desensitise our already insensitive population on the issues of rape and harassment.
Moreover, when such statements come from the likes of her, people tend to normalise a heinous crime like rape. The survivors also tend to blame themselves for what had happened with them, making the perpetrators not really feel like a criminal.
This self-blaming and victim-blaming further isolates the survivor, who already finds it difficult to get back to society, making it more difficult for them to get their lives back on track.
She must understand that at a time when feminist movements like Pinjra Tod and Why Loiter are getting huge public support by showing the public that victim-blaming and women safety can never go hand in hand, the option of putting restrictions on the access of public spaces to women does not even exist.
My advice to Kirron ji is “Your patriarchal view isn’t needed here. It is, in fact, doing more harm than good. Toh faltu diyan galan nhi krde and samajhdari nal bolde hain (don’t talk rubbish and talk some sense.)”
So, what should she have said?
She should have either raised concerns on initiating a healthy debate on the efforts of lawmakers to ensure the safety of women. The foremost being why is it so that out of 15,000 autos plying on Chandigarh roads, more than 7,000 autos are either not registered or run on fake addresses and forged documents.
She should have also raised an objection to the fact that many autorickshaws during the night, close their side curtains. Last but not the least, she should have pointed out that Chandigarh’s bureaucracy has allocated more manpower to the traffic police than recommended by the courts,thereby leading to a manpower crunch in police stations.
Lastly, Ms Kher says that parties are politicising her statement on women safety. Ma’am, if politicising is all that it takes to make you realise how stupid and insensitive your statement was – then, as a citizen who cares about civil rights more than your party, I would also happily do that.
According to me, by saying what you said, you have raised two prominent questions about yourself – either you are not familiar with travel options, or you don’t even understand when you should play the role of an elected leader, and when you should be playing that of a typical Indian aunty, which you beautifully enact on the silver screen.