Sharad Yadav, the leader of Janta Dal (United), has practically voiced the concern shared by the shaken but not stirred bastion of Indian patriarchy, who are also love-struck and amorous to boot. Yadav has been wondering aloud whether the provision, in the terribly watered down anti-rape bill, of stalking being a non-bailable offence if repeated, would end up exterminating the vestiges of ‘romance’ in this land which since antediluvian times has been spinning out love stories often bordering on the illicit and thoroughly extra-marital. According to Yadav, stalking is romantic, a part and parcel of the dalliances of man-woman relationship, integral to the playfulness of love. For one, Yadav has a firm friend in Hindi cinema, which has always glorified the persistent adoring pursuer as the ideal, all-singing, all-dancing hero, who doesn’t give up on the heroine despite her repeated admonitions. Alas, that now will no longer be the case, as repetition of such amorous extravagant gestures will be deemed illegal according to the anti-rape bill that was passed in Parliament on Tuesday.
But Yadav is not alone in severely opposing the clause of stalking becoming an offence. Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav has virtually no concept of a woman capable of being harassed, as he was too busy confusing women’s trafficking with work-related transfers! Others consider the stalking being a crime as ridiculous, a law coined by ‘mentally retarded people.’ Most are more worried about the possibility of ‘misuse’ of the clause, as if the fear of misuse is a justified reason to exclude the provision altogether. They are worried that India will soon become a country with medieval mindset that advocates segregation of men and women, as if even the very presence of women drive men into becoming pestilential stalkers or romantic suitors, which they consider as normal and healthy states of being men anyway. Sexual assault and even violence, in this logic, become extensions of hypermasculinity; the more virile the man, the greater is his sexual aggression, which, of course, the women must gratefully accept as regular and vigorous behaviour, and not aberration or transgression. In this light, what was passed on Tuesday as the Anti-rape Bill looks like a pale shadow of what the Justice Verma Committee’s recommendations had in mind and what the spirit popular protests had demanded in the wake of the heinous Delhi gang rape incident. But, politicos are light-years behind gauging the mind of the youth of India.