Back in December 2012, all of us were filled with anger, frustration and willing to change the society with an urgency like never before. It was a reaction after reading, talking and thinking about what happened in New Delhi which was later called the ‘Nirbhaya Case’. I was residing in Oslo as a student and wrote an article with another Indian friend who now lives in South Africa, at that time was living in the Middle East. We wrote about the thought process of Indian men. The article was published in a Norwegian daily newspaper Aftenposten and got huge attention in Scandinavia.
Several years have passed since then, a new law has been brought in place, media coverage of stories on women’s rights has increased and a new online movement has taken place- bringing attention to the pressing issue all over the world. Still the place of women in our society, the atrocities against them and the attitude of men have not changed much. I am not even talking about the caste-religion intersection right now; rather I am talking very generally. M J Akbar and Tarun Tejpal belong to the aggressive capitalist class-chasing money and power (as many would put it), so I will not talk about them today.
I would like to mention three specific cases which not just came as shock but also made me rethink my position and views about the so-called progressives in India. The first is R K Pachauri, allegation charges against whom have reached to court and there shall be a judgement probably favoring the victim. R. K. Pachauri is a name, a brand and a leader on environment protection and climate change discourse, but the way such stories have stories started popping up- we got clarity about the duality of him and his alike (my sentences here are based on the allegations against him).
The second is the case of famous documentary film director Stalin K Padma, who happened to be a friend, who I also invited to Oslo to show his documentary and talk about his work in front of Norwegian human rights activists and school children. When I saw stories about him on Facebook, I started calling some mutual friends to find out the truth behind these stories as the way I knew Stalin, it was simply hard to believe. Over the next few days more stories came and Stalin had to step down. Some interns and colleagues accused him of being extra-friendly and sometimes making moves to get into their pants (as social media posts and news stories say).
The third is about a Prof. of Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, who I have met and interacted, who has been a friend and a friendly person- P. Vijayakumar. He has now new shares of controversies against him as a student named him in his suicide note recently. The allegations against P. Vijayakumar first came from a former student and then a few others also directly-indirectly blamed him. Now, he is on leave, while his fate is being legally decided.
I want to wake up tomorrow and imagine all of this never happened, and that it was just a nightmare. But what if it was not? What if these stories were true? What shall we as students, activists and researchers do? It simply changes the whole discourse to another direction. Nisha Susan wrote in her Tehelka article long ago that some of most progressive men in India have the worst attitude towards women in their own homes.
In my opinion, the only way is to keep pushing forward the equal rights movement for women, sensitize men and boys, and not get disheartened by such cases. Fighting is the only way out, therefore we must fight. Things ought to change and they will.
Let there be light!