Sunday, November 24, 2013

Phony Cacophony






Washing dirty laundry in public is always fun. As long as it is not yours. Every once in a while, when an incident of harassment (political or sexual) washes up our shores, we righteously lean in favor of the victim. It is heartening to note that we  now applaud the victim for coming out in public. But what after that?

It all begins with good interest. As the event unfolds, the debate intensifies. Soon we begin to lose focus. Personal interests of the powerful come into play. Amid all the din and bustle of charges and counter-charges, the victim becomes a pawn in dirty shadow boxing.



Strange as it sounds, one has to be a victim to know how it feels. A week ago, we met with a minor car accident. As we were about to turn right after the traffic light turned green, a truck carrying liquor bottles rammed into our car. Fortunately, we were safe. The car was damaged. While my husband was trying to untangle the car from the truck, scores of bystanders crowded our car. No, no one lunged at me. No one harassed me either. They were peeping inside the car, some were sneering and some watching out of curiosity.

A bystander offered to be a witness, almost forcing us to press charges against the errant truck driver. His interest? His share.

An auto driver promptly offered me a ride back home. His interest? His share. Sensing urgency he charged thrice the regular amount when I reached home.

The cop? Well, let’s not even begin.

Naturally, we did not register a case. Who wants to deal with a bootlegger? Or a cop who smiles wickedly as if saying, ‘Ab ayeega maaza’.

What happened with me was a snapshot of a different kind. But the feeling was similar.

Sometimes I feel as if vultures are circling over our heads. They promptly descend, the moment they spot a piece of dangling flesh.


If the unfortunate incident unfolds on the national screen, it is soon drenched in political filth. In cases of sexual assault or harassment involving women, the picture becomes so murky that the victim begins to wonder why she reported it in the first place. Is it any surprise that a majority of cases go unreported?

Geetika, Durga, stalked woman in Gujarat, assaulted girl in Goa – all became objects of a bigger fight between political adversaries. In their enthusiasm to lynch the perpetrator, politicians conveniently ignore the voices of the family of the victim. We cannot even imagine the trauma suffered by Geetika’s mother who also committed suicide after her daughter was found hanging. Who cares about the Gujarat victim’s father who is pleading, “Please leave my daughter alone! She is happily married.”

In an election year, the victim becomes a football. Even rape is categorized as secular rape versus communal rape. And the foxy concern evinced is mainly to score political goals.

Milking the incident

Perhaps the victims of harassment (political or sexual) feel the same – that they are being used as bait. Once the last drop of orange is squeezed, the media moves on to squeeze the next juicy one. As I write, news channels are busy dissecting the Tehelka case. Arnab is angry. Rightly so. He seemed particularly peeved because Shoma Chaudhary spoke to all the channels except his channel. Imagine speaking to Rajdeep and Nidhi but ignoring the mighty Arnab? Ouch! Hurts.

The lynch mob on social media was no different. Under the garb of expressing solidarity with the victim, many were interested in the details of what transpired in the elevator. After a woman lawyer divulged the details on national television, I realized that her confidential e-mail had leaked in public domain. It was on social media. I read it too. But saw no point in sharing it.  At one level, I am glad that the CCTV footage of the elevator was unavailable. Else, it would have leaked too. And garnered maximum hits. I am wondering how private e-mails leak in public domain? Everything sells? 
The media needs to introspect. Milking a story beyond a point is detrimental for any victim.

While it is heartening that cases of assault or harassment are not treated with indifference, I think it is time to look inwards. Let’s look beyond self-interest. Let’s be a little more sensitive. Let’s be human.

Picture Courtesy: Google Images (www.123rf.com)

76 comments:

  1. No one could have said this any better, or at a better time than today. The incident that happened to you will find its variants in many other women's lives - differing in degree, maybe, but not in their source and that being the mentality you speak about. Since December last, every time I have written 'Look within first' or 'charity begins at home' I have been side-lined as someone taking the focus away from the bigger picture. Bigger picture being what plays on prime time, night after night.
    I agree with you whole-heartedly, Alka. We need to be human first.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Sakshi.
      I couldn't help but relate my personal story with this bigger incident that has captured media attention. The only thing shorter than public memory is public enthusiasm. People will soon forget. A new story will be milked for public consumption.While it is heartening that sexual assault is not treated with indifference anymore, let's not gain personal mileage at the expense of any victim.

      Delete
  2. It couldn't have come at a better time and we have become by-standers who get sadistic pleasure indulging in laughing at people's misery and mud-slinging. It's sad how people want their share in people's misery and indulge in mud slinging. I saw the Tehelka's victim letter but didn't read it for the simple reason that I don't wanna be a sadist on the misery faced by the young woman. In fact, I complained to FB when the letter was published on a well known social media expert profile and also signed the petition asking media agencies to pull down the letter. It is a gross and vulgar violation of the lady's private details which I vehemently oppose. Being a media person, I feel journalists should report responsibly.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Vishaal, I came to know about her personal letter when a woman Lawyer on national television (CNN) divulged the details. It was disgusting to talk about it on TV. I am not active on Twitter but I hear that the copy of her letter was re-tweeted several times.

      Delete
    2. It's so shameful and people must have acted in a restrained manner. I dunno what people get out of it and it's high time to stop this irresponsible and cheap behaviour to get publicity.

      Delete
  3. real agenda, the one worth talking n discussing, gets lost in midst of this cacophony..

    ReplyDelete
  4. Alka, I had a totally opposite experience outside of IARI gate long time back, before you joined IARI. I was driving a Motorcycle the wrong way and rammed into an auto rickshaw. He demanded Rs50 which I did not have. A stranger from the crowd offered and gave it to the auto driver. I came to know he works at the petrol pump I was trying to enter. When I went the next day to return his money, he said, 'why did you take the trouble?'. Of course, that is a much different period than what it is now.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Times have changed. For the worse.
      Of course, good people are there, like the guy who helped you.But we have become too self centered. Most people think, 'Whats in it for me?'

      Delete
  5. What you have written is true to a large extent..But for the cacophony,media attention and activists pursuing vigorously,many of the high profile offenders would have escaped scrutiny and the victims allowed to wallow in shame and hurt.It is a ticklish point to answer eitherway with clarity.While my heart goes for genuine victims and for quick justice to them,I have no easy solution that avoids the unwelcome publicity these days.Your piece does not also say what needs to be done.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There are no easy solutions. As I said, we need to look inwards - the media, the politicians ( tough task) and social media users. Social media users need to respect the privacy of victims of sexual assault. The media needs self restrain. Milking the story beyond a point is detrimental for the victim and his/her familly.The politicians? Well when they can give names to rape - secular rape vs communal rape, I don't know what to say!

      Delete
  6. The word "vulture" does come to mind and with it, revulsion. I've always admired Shoma - her articles are insightful and courageous. I think she put Tehelka on the map. I've never admired her more than today when, in a video she said she WOULD address all questions that have been raised but in the correct fashion. She asked for time. When the journalist kept trying to barrage her with strident and insistent questioning, she was patient at first and then warned the journo that she'd have to walk away. The journo kept asking quetions asking Shoma to be "reasonable" and answer her questions and finally Shoma calmly and with dignity did walk away.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Shoma's only fault was to not report to the police. Personally, I think she handled the situation well.But now she is caught in between politics, loyalty, police, media, employees, NCW and so on. She has lost face for sure.

      Delete
    2. I think there is more to this case than meets the eye. I would rather wait to hear what Shoma, the person who says she was assaulted and Tejpal have to say in court first. Everything else is speculation.

      Delete
  7. It's unnerving how no one seems to have rights or responsibilities in this country. What kind of a cauldron are we running out here? Why must we all have a holier than thou attitude when it is just a matter of time until we are ourselves caught with our hand inside the cookie jar?
    Sadly, all of this displays our own moral core, or the lack of one. The pols, the media, the powerful and the weak, it is all us, after all.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. True. I couldn't help but relate my personal story with this bigger incident. The only thing shorter than public memory is public enthusiasm. People will soon forget. A new story will be milked for public consumption.While it is heartening that sexual assault is not treated with indifference anymore, let's not gain personal mileage at the expense of any victim is my point.

      Delete
  8. Interesting points raised. I agree.

    ReplyDelete
  9. A moving post, Alka. The swift shift in our attention to different issues that crop up every now and then makes it difficult to stay focused. So, I prefer to stay away from these discussions. Obviously, to be accused of being anti-social and anti-supportive towards the sensitive issues, but I let it be.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Not a bad idea at all. News has become transient- more akin to gossip.

      Delete
  10. Completely agree, Alka! The juicy details, murky conversations all are devoured incessantly. I can't imagine the hell that a woman goes through first with the incident. then fighting the crime and then all this cacophony. For most of us, it is yet another incident, the juicier the details the better. But, who thinks about the trauma of the victim. There is a voyeur in everyone who wishes to at least see that MMS once. Your unfortunate incident reminded me of my own, when a truck had rammed my stationary car. But the truck was driven by goons and a scary looking contractor with a lackey was following on motorcycle. A crowd gathered and couple of guys on motorcycle came to help me. One chap told me to lodge a police complaint. I later complained to the transport commissioner but nothing came out of that complaint. What scared me was that contractor -- he openly threatened me and cursed me. I was so very shaken that day. People said that if you lodge a complaint, the police will impound your vehicle till they investigate. All these are just meant to deter us from complaining while the wrong doer gets away every single time. Such sad state of affairs :(.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Exactly. Another nightmare begins once you file a complaint.

      Delete
  11. When the tsunami stuck there were groups that kept going on searches along the shore- no not for survivors, but yet to be claimed corpses from which they looted the jewellery.Your post reminded me of that. Well said Alka

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Jaish. Yes, a different analogy but the same mentality!

      Delete
  12. Very true Alka. Just yesterday I heard about an incident in Delhi where a motorcyclist was crossing the signal when it was green, just as he crossed it turned red (so he was not really wrong in crossing) when 2 constables came up and beat him black and blue for no reason at all. Later they threatened him not to complain.. which he has. His wife was with him too..
    It is amazing how Indians boast of family systems and a culture highlighted by emotional attachments.. frankly we have none of them, we are a selfish cruel lot, humanity is nothing but an alien concept to us. :|

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Roads are a mirror of our society. And going by what happens on the roads, we are in a terrible mess.

      Delete
  13. It is indeed a very sad state of affairs, Alka. Probably the reason why most people do not even bother to register a complaint, unless it's the last resort. And if the "victim" does raise a complaint, it is almost akin to opening the door to the media and others to enter, speculate and report on every aspect of the "victim's" life, even if none of those may actually hold any relation with regards to the complaint. And now, with social media, while there are certain benefits, I personally feel people have become a lot more callous - they're more than happy to re-tweet or re-share FB links under the "disguise" of "raising awareness" - when in fact, they have no idea how the "victim" feels. Great post Alka, and like you put so aptly -Let’s be a little more sensitive. Let’s be human.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Sid. Glad you echo my thoughts. We need to direct the gaze inwards.

      Delete
  14. This is the very reason why victims do not come forward to register complaints.The whole scenario turns ugly . The çrime/problem is sidelined and vested interests take over milking it for their own good or advancement. In the end the victim may/may not get justice. But is it worth the whole effort? What about the immediate family, their lives and sentiments?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Exactly my point Kalpana. Glad you echo my thoughts.

      Delete
  15. Very well pointed out, we as a society always cross the line of showing concern and taking it to a level of pseudo activism. With the advent of social media, this has become all the more easy for people with limited grey matter and always they are the ones who are most active about any such issue. Referring to your experience, I had a similar experience, I was on my bike and hit by a BPO Qualis, before i could get up someone picked my phone which popped out due to the hit. I clearly remember, one man suggested me to file a FIR saying that driver took away my mobile and some jewellery and i am sure he was the one who picked my phone. God save the human beings.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Most of us have such terrible road stories to share. Sad, for roads are a mirror of our society.
      Thank you Anuj for spending time here.

      Delete
  16. It is very sad. The state of affairs is very awful as far as reporting for accidents, sexual assaults, eve teasing and pick pocketing is concerned. In such cases the protectors of law turn close their eyes and leave the victim in a lurch.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ma, they make it so complex and tedious that no one wants to file a complaint in the first case.
      Thanks for stopping by.

      Delete
  17. Even after all this outburst,nothing will come out of this Tehelka....Tejpal will move on to his next unsuspecting victim.The best part is that Tejpal is all in one,....he is the accused,the judge ( his letter of apology & his decision to stay away for 6 months ,etal ) & he is saying that he is being victimised !

    We all like to watch reality television & such stories give us what we crave.We realise how much the victim/s must have endured when something happens to us.That is why,as you rightly said, we must try to be human.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The viewer is complicit. We get what we want. And that is why I said, we need to look within.

      Delete
  18. As if all the people outraging at Tehelka's lack of ethics, killing off stories for favours have never committed any wrong-doing. Incidents like these just give us the opportunity to feel self righteous.

    But I'm happy that women are finally speaking out against harassment. Pity, the interest in the case is more for the salacious details.

    A wonderful post, Alka.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You summed it up so well. I just saw the Samsung ad relating to this incident. While others find it funny, I feel it is in very bad taste.
      What do you say Purba?

      Delete
  19. A general feeling goes around that media is playing a large role in society.
    My personal opinion is that Media is one which is largely responsible for social unrest in India...Loom at the topics..Is this country' s only problem Arusha!Tejpal,Pradeep Sharma!Amit Shah?.......But,then..as they say!!!!!!
    Everyone for himself and God for everyone.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. True. They are over doing things. A sad case of misplaced priorities.

      Delete
  20. My mom used to say it is easy to wake up someone actually sleeping but impossible to wake up someone only pretending to sleep. This is such a case, Alka! All these people do not do what they do because they do not KNOW the impact on the victim. It is more often than not the case that they do not CARE.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The lynch mob on social media and television studios scare me. It is a reflection of our society. Not a pretty picture at all.

      Delete
  21. It is really sad that nobody actually understands and feels a sense of responsibility while doing things. I think in Tehelka case, too many things came out in the public eye and they shouldn't have and this case is interesting people only because it involves the Tehelka chief whose spearheaded many sting operations in the past.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Once the case gets mired in politics, the victim soon becomes a pawn.

      Delete
  22. Couldnt agree more ..The handling of the Tehelka incident by all parties - be it the organization ,the news channels harrowing Shoma Chaudhury ,the opportunist political party and the overactive social networking community has been quite preposterous . In their enthusiasm to portray Tarun Tejpal as the Villian ,I was shocked to see the very confidential email of the victim being shared very public ally . Everyone wants to be the victims' savior - the BJP ,the National Commision for Women ,the people on Twitter (while from the looks of it the young ,gutsy journalist doesn't need any saviors at all ,her scathing resignation letter to Tehelka is proof enough ) . The out pour of support might actually do more harm than good for her , I feel .

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. She has become a pawn in a bigger political battle. I hope the media respects her privacy and dignity. Unlike the Aarushi case.
      Thank you for reading Gauri.

      Delete
  23. It is opportunism galore, in everything, everywhere, sadly!
    Congratulations for the Tangy Pick :)

    ReplyDelete
  24. Oh no, all I want is to maximize my profit, at your cost of course, the victim. When I find something better, I'll move on to the next victim. If I don't find one, I'll create one. That is how it is supposed to work, and you, are merely helping me. Controversy sells, isn't that what we were taught, to sell ourselves like a charismatic magician in the game of first impressions?

    Nice read Alka, but today, almost everything is corruptible.

    Regards,
    Blasphemous Aesthete

    ReplyDelete
  25. This post has been selected for the Tangy Tuesday Picks this week. Thank You for an amazing post! Cheers! Keep Blogging :)

    ReplyDelete
  26. "Let's be human" - that's exactly what all people are. It is easy to equate human beings to some divine beings, but the fact remains that if there is some benefit people will happily pounce on it - even if it is illegal - as long as they know they will not be caught. I agree with your reading that victims are being used as pawns. In this case, even the perpetrator has become a pawn. Tomorrow, the same politicians will become a pawn when opposition party comes to power.

    Seems like becoming pawns and making others' pawns are two favorite activities of human beings. Even wolves and foxes may have better morality.

    Destination Infinity

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am assuming you read my entire post. Lets be human was in reference to my own experience where I felt that people were behaving like vultures hovering around, waiting for their pound of flesh. Oh yes, any victim is a pawn for the powerful- Durga, Geetika, molested girl in Goa.... But is there an end to this insensitivity? It is getting worse by the day.

      Delete
  27. We all need to practice being human...Sensitivity, concern, kindness - these are all things slowly moving towards extinction

    ReplyDelete
  28. Mob reaction plays a vital role in case of road accidents. If a car & two wheeler are involved, car driver gets abused or beating, if a cycle & two wheeler are involved, the two wheeler person gets the blame, if car & truck or bus is involved the car people gets mob sympathy in general.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. True. But no one abused the truck driver in this case. Instead I felt exploited for personal gains.

      Delete
  29. Ha ha ... I like that...spoke to all the channels except his channel.
    The way the channel anchors speak, it looks like they are the final judge (maybe from the Supreme court) and the decision is already made by them as to who is guilty. They are actually not "reporting" they are judgmental.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh yes, news is more about instant judgement and less about reporting.

      Delete
  30. I read this post on phone 2 days back. Sorry to hear about your accident. It's sad that everyone wants a share of something this country and that too at the cost of someone's misery.

    Congrats on the pick.

    ReplyDelete
  31. Alka, the other day my husband and his colleagues were driving back from work when the same thing happened. When it had happened once before, a truck driver had rammed his truck into our car and we were all in there... mu husband, my kid, my mother in law and a heavily pregnant me.... the driver was so drunk he couldn't even recall his village. He had an expired permit and no license. You know what happened next? Nothing. So this time my husband decided that there was a better way to make the truck driver pay. He picked up a rock and smashed his windshield. then he dusted his hands, and drove our car and came back home.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Most educated people now hire drivers. Plus a majority of lorry, bus, cab and truck drivers are drunk. Most have zero liability. I get what you say. Roads are a mirror of the society. The picture in the mirror is not rosy at all.
      Thank you for reading.

      Delete
  32. Well put. The only point is that how long do people think that they can get away? What goes around usually comes around. And I love the point on Arnab :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I could sense his disappointment Nischala. Plus he just does not accept any divergent view. It's my way or the highway.
      Thanks for stopping by.

      Delete
  33. It's sad that people are not trying to understand the victim's state of mind at any stage - be it at the trauma, during voicing out, making complaints, or fighting for justice. There are dirty opportunists every corner who wait and watch "faidha utane keliye"!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Glad to see you here after a long time.
      Dirty opportunism is the word.

      Delete
  34. Media is like a man while the story is his mistress. The mistress looks good only till the man finds a more interesting one. There is no point in asking them to be human. I don't think humans are allowed there.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What about social media Amit? The lynch mob on twitter was no good either.

      Delete
  35. I feel the same about this. But could no way put it as beautifully as you have put. I have read your article and comments 4 times. Just to keep re-assuring myself that there are people who think the same. Media people are blowing everything way out of proportion and I am happy to see that there are a small number of people who have realized this and I hope many more people do.
    Wonderful post..

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks. The media, I think has gone bonkers. They pick one juicy bone and keep licking it for days.

      Delete
  36. I agree Alka. People who worked with Tarun Tejpal are coming out and lashing against him saying that he was a disaster waiting to happen. If they knew that he was heading the wrong way, they could have distanced themselves or could have advised him. Why talk now? And yes, every thing gets blown out of proportion. My hubby is the chairman of our housing society and at every step he has to face adversity from people so, I can imagine the bigger picture.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. All the disgruntled employees have seized this oppertunity to hit him. The media is interested in milking the case rather than debating relevant issues. Is anyone thinking about the employees who will lose their jobs if Tehelka shuts down? But when everything becomes BJP vs Congress in an election year who cares about sensitivities?

      Delete