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My Favourite Planet > Blogs > Edwin Drood's Column > September 2014
back Edwin Drood's Column
2 September 2014
“Incidents and accidents, hints and allegations”
In which Edwin considers political double-speak, the Indian version of which involves
making a public statement and then issuing a public denial distancing yourself from it.

We get the message: politicians need to tell us stuff that appeals to our gut. That’s how they get votes. They also need to distance themselves from populist gut-appeal, so that thinking people (some of whom also have guts) may reflect on their true position, status and the honourable content of their policies. Hence the extraordinary routine of statement followed by denial that comes in the wake of every rape or rape-and-murder exposed in India.

Now, just in case you’re not quite clear what I mean by gut-appeal, here’s what I don’t mean. I don’t mean that Indian politicians are coming down super-hard on rape and then backing away from their position to engage in a more reasoned debate on public morality. No, because it’s happening the other way round.

First the regional head honcho comes down hard on women for “causing” rape, a tactic designed to deflect conservative religious male voter backlash and maintain a constituency. In a country where so many people believe in karma, it’s always easier to blame the victim. Then, in the wake of a predictable wave of national criticism from women’s organizations, our politician will claim to have been misunderstood, misquoted or even to have spoken off the record, as if that makes it better.

Here are just a few recent examples:

RR Patil, home minister of Maharashtra said: "Even if we provide one policeman per house we can't stop crimes against women. The rise in atrocities against women is due to obscene images used in advertisements." The minister later claimed the media had misquoted him and that issues of women’s security were high on his list of priorities. Unfortunately, the “obscene images” of absurdly wealthy people enjoying the comforts of western civilization while millions starve still persist.

Babulal Gaur, home minister of Madhya Pradesh said: "[Rape] is a social crime which depends on the man and the woman. It is sometimes right and sometimes wrong". The world is still waiting for Mr Gaur to tell us just when rape is so “right” … maybe when it feels, like, really good for the perpetrator? But he has claimed to have been misunderstood and taken out of context. Perhaps the context he was taken out of would have provided us all with some meaningful insights into the ways that rape “depends” on women.

Ramsevak Paikra, home minister of Chhattisgarh said: "Such incidents (he means rape) do not happen deliberately. These kind of incidents (we’re still talking about rape) happen accidentally." Right! They do! They frequently do. Of course, we’re sophisticated people. We don’t need a diagram to see how easily such an “incident” could occur. It could happen to anyone. “Sorry, officer, I tripped over my dhoti and somehow my penis got caught in this girl’s vagina! Oh, umm, the penises of my three very good friends became similarly, how should I put it, implicated in this young person’s orifices while helping me escape from my embarrassing predicament.” And yes, Mr Paikra has also apparently been misquoted. Maybe journalistic standards are so low in India that “deliberately” putting words into people’s mouths is just part of the job, or maybe Mr Paikra was misquoted “accidentally” … which I assume makes it alright.

Kailash Vijayvargiya, a minister in the State Government of Madhya Pradesh famously said, back in January 2013: "If the limit of morality is crossed by women, such cases will happen." It must be comforting for women to have such a sure litmus test of what exactly constitutes a moral limit. “Oh my God, I’m being raped by 7 students and a bus-driver! I must have been at least 5 mph over the moral limit back there. What a relief to get off so lightly! Someone could have been hurt.” Later, a trouble-shooter for Mr Vijayvargiya’s BJP party was thoughtful enough to add that while transgressing moral limits was indeed an incitement to rape, it did not make it an imperative. That must have come as a relief to all those good Hindus of the saffron faction who were terrified at the thought of being obliged to rape every New Delhi socialite in a miniskirt.

And back in 2012, which is hardly pre-history and definitely within any reasonable statute of limitations, Dharamveer Goyat, spokesman for the Hisar Congress of Haryana state, came up with this frightening statistic: "I have no hesitation in saying that about 90% of girls consensually go with men and then end up meeting criminal minds and become targets of rape." He later issued a “clarification”, stating that his intention had not been to “criticise women”. Of course not, he only targeted 90% of girls. Presumably only 10% of girls become women in Haryana. Doubtless their criminal connections prevent the others from living that long.

Mulayam Singh Yadav, leader of the Samajwadi Party currently in power in Uttar Pradesh, said after one famous case that made international headlines: "Boys make mistakes. They should not be hanged for this. We will revoke the anti-rape laws." The “mistakes” Mr Yadav was referring to were the gang rape and murder by hanging of two lower caste girls. He makes it sound like not checking over your shoulder before pulling out into traffic.

Akhilesh Yadav, chief minister of Uttar Pradesh and Mulayam Singh Yadav’s son, recently reacted to a male journalist, who unreasonably insisted on questioning the rising number of rape cases in the state, with the words: "You’re safe, so why are you bothered?" He’s right of course. Rape is a crime that mainly affects women: 50% of the population, yes, but not my 50%. So why should that journalist be bothered? Maybe having a wife and daughters and nieces and female colleagues or friends, maybe being part of the human race has somehow affected his judgement.

We get the message. If you’re raped in India, even after all the recent international press kerfuffle on the subject, it’s still your own fault. But don’t worry. You can always issue a denial. It wasn’t really your fault. Advertisers did it. And it wasn’t really rape. It was an accidental incident resulting from a moral misunderstanding over currently valid dress codes. Let’s call it a debate that got a little out of control.

© Edwin Drood, September 2014

For Drood's previous thoughts on this topic, see:
Sex and the single boy, Edwin Drood's Column, 8 January 2013.
Edwin Drood's Column, the blog by The Mysterious Edwin Drood,

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