Millennium Post

Public apology just not enough

Every time our public figures make blunders that are incommensurate with their statures, the easiest track they follow to escape from the muck storm is by issuing either a public apology, dressed as a ‘deep regret’, or, and this is better, they insist they have been misconstrued by the media and quoted out of the context. Usually, their misplaced analogies and utterly insensitive remarks are not exactly examples of occasional and excusable faux pas, but rather, they are the manifestations of entrenched prejudices, be it about class, caste, gender or sexuality. The latest episode in the illustrious history of Indian luminaries having their feet in the mouths is the astonishingly cavalier manner in which the director of CBI, Ranjit Sinha, compared rape with sports betting. He argued since we can’t ensure enforcement of anti-betting laws and because they can’t be possibly monitored completely, one might as well legalise it. But he padded up his defence of betting be made legal by equating it with rape. In his words, ‘If you cannot enforce the ban on betting, it is like saying, if you can’t prevent rape, you enjoy it.’ Not only does the man put a mutually consensual activity like betting at par with an inherently non-consensual, brutal and violent event which is rape, he also fails to see where he has gone wrong. To think that Sinha came up with this analogy at a CBI convention against corruption and at a panel on ethics in the Bureau is just the icing of irony on the proverbial cake of deep-seated patriarchal values that have been internalised by the crème de la crème of our society.

What can we expect from a man who attempts the absurdity of likening sexual assault with gambling and preaching that in case of lack of penal control and other inefficiencies of the state apparatus, we must learn to ‘enjoy it’? Interestingly, this malaise is not at all exceptional; in fact it is so typical of our political leaders, bureaucrats, even authors and artists at times – a certain Chetan Bhagat’s description of the currency devaluation as rape of the rupee comes to mind – that issuing apologies at the end of the hullaballoo seems like a routine exercise in damage control and minimising controversy. They are mostly insincere and superficial gestures that are meant to shrug off the incident and move ahead, trusting the rather short memory of the general public and media’s obsession with breaking news rather than pursuing theme-based interventionist journalism. In any case, the recurrent use of rape as a leitmotif in jocular exchanges, expressions to connote plunder or pillage, etc, testifies to a problem that is not limited to one or two out of turn, innocent comments that have been misinterpreted. It goes towards establishing a heinous offence such as rape as normal, irrespective of the place, time and culture. However, when such casual remarks are voiced by eminent figures holding plum posts in the government and its adjunct institutions, indeed we need to worry. Because such utterances not only reinforce the extremely regressive opinions on sexual double standards, they also go a long way in becoming model code of conduct that’s emulated by others. It’s time to think if such figures are fit to hold the public offices at all.
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