We have heard of the adage ‘politics is the last refuge of a scoundrel.’ For long, we desisted believing in it. But increasingly, India’s political class has started displaying a kind of skewed psychopathology towards women that has left us disheartened and extremely disillusioned with the future of gender equality in this country. The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader and former home minister R R Patil’s comment – that a rival candidate from Maharashtra Navanirman Sena (MNS) should have waited till the 15 October assembly polls before committing rape – no doubt is symptomatic of the kind of thinking that goes on in the infected minds of Indian politicians in general. We haven’t forgotten the rape remark from Trinamool Congress MP from Krishnanagar, Tapas Pal, who publicly declared that he would send his cadres to rape women belonging to opposition parties, or with differing political sympathies. Moreover, offguard comments from ageing strongmen from various political formations in Indian heartlands have time and again brought in caste, religious and gender politics to debase women, dalits and those from minority communities. Not only is the repetition of old sins a matter of habitual disregard for healthy sociopolitical relations, it is equally a sign of entrenched patriarchy reaching its poisoned peaks.
Indian women live with rape, sexual assault, molestation and verbal or physical abuse on a daily basis. That the national capital itself more or less retains the crown of being the rape capital of the country is telling. But when the politicians themselves give public vent to such pathetic sentiments, when those insisting on chastity, purity, morality and thought-policing us at every opportune moment, turn into ogres oozing odious and disgusting ideas, then little can be expected from others. Being at the top of the pecking order, politicians, elected legislators and members of parties, being people’s representatives, are required to speak and act in a manner befitting their posts and positions. Because they are emulated, quoted, misquoted, and their words become talking points, they should be obligated to speak and act responsibly. Yet, it is a truth universally acknowledged that Indian political class, while occupying the top slot in the economic ladder, represent the lowest when it comes to ethics, education and public conduct. Moreover, many of them have criminal cases against them. Institutional legitimisation of gender, class, caste and religious violence is so ingrained in Indian psyche that legal firewalls are routinely breached every day. This is the ugly truth that the Prime Minister’s Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan hasn’t touched. What kind of a hygiene are we aiming at, Mister Modi?