It is because of the immense courage of two women that we see a man, drunk on power, finally getting incarcerated. How many women, especially from the Bahujan community who are not a vote-bank to political parties, are lucky enough to observe a judgement? Why did it take the courts 15 years to deliver such a verdict? Imagine the horror of the rape survivors, travelling 250 kms to the Panchkula court for every single hearing, protected by a lone gunman, and surrounded by Dera ‘Premis’ who are baying for their blood. With constant threat to life looming over their heads, they persisted.
Their persistence is indeed a source of inspiration for all. As much as I celebrate their consistent efforts in pursuing the case, it breaks my heart to learn that the price to attain justice in this country is still so high. The struggle serves as a glib reminder that women, despite their efforts, may not always be as lucky or worse still, might end up exhausting half their lives fighting for justice.
It is entirely possible that this momentous victory will be written in history to absolve the present political regime of all the injustices and violence meted out against women under its rule. And yet, we must not forget to credit the two rape survivors who testified against a man so powerful, for fifteen years. Despite their brother’s murder for his involvement in the case, despite losing their homes and families out of fear of repercussions, despite the attempts to silence them, despite the courageous journalist who pursued their story, losing his life to an assassination. They struggled and won!
It is because of the immense courage of two women that we see a man, drunk on power, finally getting incarcerated.
Inspite of their struggles, should we continue to remain wilfully ignorant in our approach to ‘nation-building’ which hails and celebrates the display of power at the expense of the weak? A day of rioting, curfew, and loss of life should make us feel a tad bit ashamed of our nonsensical political debates on Kashmir, Chhatisgarh, where violence (on women) in the name of ‘vikas‘ is normalised. Today, let’s not even get into what people like to call, what-aboutery. Instead, let’s focus on the urban cityscape and the internet space which is flooded with tweets about the Ram Rahim verdict. Let’s inspect how rape culture is all too prevalent and pervasive that it remains unseen even when it’s everywhere.
“You are the love charger, billions battery when goes down, you charged up with love.” To the average upper caste/class city-dweller, MSG has long remained a laughing stock. They could laugh at the ‘bizarre baba-rockstars’ of the poor while also making them famous in the web-world, as a figure people “Love to hate because he’s so bad that he’s good.” Up till now, this ‘mock-fandom’ had informed the average Twitterati’s engagement with Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh Ji Insaan.
It’s amazing to see that most of us didn’t care to find out or chose to ignore the fact that there had been an impending rape case against the man. And yet, somehow, we the people, are not complicit. Our anger is pointedly against those ‘uneducated’ masses who follow Ram Rahim. We, who pride ourselves with our ‘progressive’ tweets, are too busy gloating about our ‘civility’ against those ‘unruly’ mobs.
most of us didn’t care to find out or chose to ignore the fact that there had been an impending rape case against ram rahim.
It must have been an exhausting week, typing self-congratulatory statuses that help substantiate our new-found ‘progressiveness’ at the feet of the latest judgments? Of course, we are all suddenly exonerated, none guilty of indulging in and promoting the consumption of ‘crass humour’ of the Baba, whom we all loved to hate for his confidence, megalomania, conceit. Nobody will remind anybody of the open-secret, it doesn’t matter if the memories of ‘Dhinchak Pooja’ sit fresh in our minds.
Megalomaniacal as it is, making OTT (over-the-top) movies about oneself, to most of us, the Baba was an empty signifier, a clown who spoke broken English. He was to be laughed at uncritically. In our distinct separation of ‘high’ and ‘low’ culture— his embarrassment was our entertainment. In our political imagination, he meant too little to be taken seriously, his acts of violence too went ignored and could be snubbed with a mere blanket dismissal of all ‘rogue’ Babas, as frauds. Thereby, making rape and violence an inevitable part of the everyday lives of ‘such frauds.’
Such a knee-jerk dismissal or disregard to concrete realities doesn’t reflect much except our own caste-prejudice, when we expect ‘lower class’ people to be ‘fools,’ with their ‘God-men’ as little more than ‘thugs.’ Contrast that with Baba Ramdev, a demagogue of the Hindu-janta and suddenly— the equilibrium is disturbed with an exceptionality clause added to it— it’s not all too obvious for all Babas to be frauds, after all.
But since we presume that it was ‘so obvious’ to us all along that it was entirely possible for this Baba to be a rapist, we should be taking this moment to step back and not pronounce ourselves the champions of women’s rights and democratic values while judging the ‘oppressive’ Muslim men who indulge in instant triple talaq, the ‘oppressed’ Muslim women who need saviours (and who better than Hindu Messiahs?), the ‘violent murdering mob’ of Baba worshipers, who have zero ‘ethics’ and can even to the extent of ‘defending a rapist!’ It seems, we have entered a special kind of hell, where Modi Bhakts are calling Baba Bhakts stupid, frenzied, and brainwashed. Irony dies here.
When posed in such a way, it is taken a matter of commonplace understanding that there is a nexus between ‘politicians and god-men,’ implying that it is not necessary, at this point for us to talk about the ‘particular’ nexus of ‘Baba-BJP’, because that would amount to digression from the situation at hand. We don’t wish to acknowledge, that PM Modi at Sirsa, Haryana (October 11, 2014, merely four days before the Haryana polls) had saluted Gurmeet Ram Rahim. Wasn’t he aware of the rape charges against him? He was, and yet he chose to make him an icon of the land. This is not unlike what we have been doing by prioritising our entertainment over the narrative of the rape survivors. When will this country understand the need to consider a rape accused guilty until proven innocent? This endorsement of a rape-accused by the PM of the country, especially, cannot be acceptable!
we have been prioritising our amusement at ram rahim’s megalomaniacal films over the narrative of the rape survivors.
I’m in no way trying to alter the fact of the crime committed by the Baba, nor am I implying that we weigh rape against caste dis-privilege. I am merely trying to shift our focus away from simplistically accusing the ‘impotent’ Khattar Sarkar of Haryana, and trying to point the fingers to ourselves. Let’s for once, without shielding ourselves under neoliberal language of ‘incompetence’, acknowledge the deep-seated violence that forms the social fabric of the country. The language of ‘incompetence,’ doesn’t help in correctly approaching the problem, instead, it is a rhetoric invoked to ‘bruise’ the CM’s masculinity and urges him to take ‘strict action.’ His ‘ineptness’ in restoring law and order then becomes a self-justification to violently suppress the ‘criminals’.
It is true that had there have been any other demonstration, the police would have thought little before detaining the protesters preemptively. It is also interesting to see that how the police had detained the activists of Rashtra Dalit Adhikar Manch in Gujarat but did not do so with a Bahujan population of Dera followers. All these complexities get lost when we deploy the language of ‘incompetence,’ as one only gets access to a side of story, desensitised of its political intention and compulsions of the ruling party. Thereby, removing us away from acknowledging their own complacency in not just failing to ‘prevent’ the situation from arising, but also contributing to its rise.
Instead of making the conversation about the fault in our understanding of rape and rape-culture, we want to talk about Khattar’s ‘incompetence,’ and suggest the most violent means available to crush this mobilisation of Dera Premis’ ‘frenzied mob.’ Some even suggested that Baba Ram Rahim be tied as human shield to set a violent precedent, as was the case in Kashmir where Major Gogoi was (wrongly) celebrated for acting against Dar. This only goes on to reveal how normalised it is for us, as a society, to respond to violence with more militarisation. Without realising, we give the State the license to act against rioters, use arms against civilians, as we brand them as ‘brainwashed people’ who ought to be controlled and put in check.
The endorsement of a rape-accused by the PM of the country cannot be acceptable!
Here’s why we need to be vary of simplistic statements such as this one, “Baba is a rapist. His supporters are defending rape. Deal with them as you wish.” To say that the thousands who vented their rage in the streets following the conviction of the rapist Baba were only siding with a rapist and to use that argument as an excuse to defend our militarised imaginations will not do. We cannot simply say that we ought not to worry about the ‘rape-apologists raging on the streets’ and justify the calls for pellet-guns, human shield etc. This precisely is a naive and arrogant exhibition of our blindness to the reality we inhabit in our refusal to humanise the rioters.
For 15 years, we had chosen to not be bothered by the man’s ‘mistakes,’ and chose to look beyond it, gave him the benefit of doubt and continued laughing at his antics. We chose to remain self-indulgent in our perverse consumption of his gimmicks and now we relegate an entire Dera upsurge as nothing but a defence of a rapist. We want to again take the easier route of non-engagement with the problems of the masses, historical relevance of their anti-caste assertion and define our position, by narrowly focusing on the Baba as the Dera.
In overlooking the Dera itself and by justifying the State’s need to violently suppress these ‘bad’ people, we end up ignoring the role of the dominant-caste Sikhs who worked hand in glove with the various political parties in creating conditions for a the vulnerable to seek solace in Deras.
An entire history of struggle happened during to Ram Rahim’s reign – including the rapes, assassinations, castration, etc. The primary guilty party is the Baba – not just for the rapes he was convicted for, but much else, including the violent aftermath of the verdict. Yes, but was he alone in it? In terms of the outcome, the verdict led to massacre is due to circumstances in the creation of which the ones killed were not the main cause. Thus, to me, a feminist position in response to ‘riots,’ cannot be simply a discourse around ‘rape apologist protesters’ but must also weigh in the rape apologia of the society as a whole, which only wakes out of slumber when people take on the streets to further antagonise them, while continuing to believe that eliminating the ‘few rotten apples’ from the society will logically lead to the absence of rape-culture.
Featured Image Credit: The Indian Express