November 28, 2013

Baseless, malicious defamation is as big a threat to women empowerment as unauthorized surveillance

There have been so many drafts lingering around but a recent article (link) made me so disgusted that I had to publish this post ASAP. I'm sure by this time around, whole country must be aware of the 'Saheb-Shah tapes' involving a 'snooping scandal' (link) - Given all the mainstream media is covering it in every prime-time show. Now, since the opposition party and the media unanimously stress on behalf of the whole country that this is an issue of the greatest national importance, let's assume that it is so and must be probed into. Please note that my intention here is not to downplay the issue or defend Modi-Shah duo. As a woman and an Indian citizen, I only intend to throw some light on the way the issue is being analyzed by the media and the opposition (or some people associated with the opposition) (link, link).

At first, I thought the issue was about uninformed, illegal, unauthorized surveillance on a woman ordered by Amit Shah. What the father of the woman (link), BJP (link), Congress leaders (link) and Pradeep Sharma (link) had to say do not relate to this. Till now, the woman has maintained a stoic silence about it (link) and Gujarat government hasn't confirmed that the surveillance was authorized through official channels. As the information obtained through such unauthorized surveillance can easily be misused against people under watch, I do understand that this represents certain unaccountable power which the State seems to wield over its people. This, according to me, is a serious issue worth a sincere probe, though I suspect the ugly truth to comprise of many instances of unauthorized surveillance (link) in the functioning of most governments today. By no means do I intend to under-play this as I strongly believe power without accountability is the biggest threat to any country.

To address the concerned issue, we need answers to a few key questions: (1) Was there any surveillance? I believe there was - going by the tapes. (2) Was the surveillance authorized officially? Doesn't look like it - otherwise BJP would've thrown this first line of defense in our faces. (3) If it wasn't authorized officially, why was it conducted? What circumstances necessitated it enough to justify it? As per BJP, it was ordered to protect the woman in question upon her father's request. This claim doesn't seem to be in-line with the content of the tapes which show that even the father was monitored. (4) If the surveillance was done for protection, did the people know that they were being monitored? There's no clear answer on this front as the woman in question has remained silent and hasn't come out in support of her father's claims. Now, from the face of it, Amit Shah is guilty of ordering an unauthorized surveillance (presumably in conjunction with his Saheb, Mr. Modi) probably with the intent to cause mischief if the woman was monitored without her knowledge. We might also be concerned about any pressure which might have been exerted on the woman to control her, causing her to be silent now. Simple common sense tells me that this is what any investigation around this issue should be centered about and this ought to be the focus of any related media-stories.

At this juncture, I must come to the point of my disgust - because the media seems to be coming up with 'intellectual' points whose relevance is beyond the comprehension of mere mortals like me. Let's take a look at what has been unearthed out of Gulail's 'investigation' (link):

"Chief Minister Narendra Modi engaged in a conversation with ‘Madhuri’ Soni even as the then Kachchh Collector Pradeep Sharma and Modi’s security personnel look on." (link)

WTF?!! CM talking to woman (in 'intellectual' words, that's 'engaging in a conversation') is news now? At this rate, I'm really worried for the future of all women employed in any government offices or government related assignments in India.

//According to Sharma Madhuri was also present in one of the tents on the night Modi was there.// (link)

Come on dude - say it - whatever it is that you want to say under the name of 'investigative journalism'!! What are you implying and how is it relevant to the concerns around unauthorized surveillance? Look at the way the sentence was framed: "Madhuri was also present in one of the tents on the night Modi was there" - Almost sounds like 'Madhuri slept with Modi in a tent' no? Re-read it again carefully now and you'll see what a gross distortion of facts it is. Mr. Ashish Khetan or whoever wrote that 'investigative article', let me tell you what this is - Irresponsible, reckless journalism with a malicious intent to defame the woman accompanied by a serious intrusion of privacy - that's what it is!! If women have to run the risk of being defamed like this for merely talking to any politician or a top-shot official, it's a serious threat to our society.

There are more pearls of wisdom from the suspended officer Pradeep Sharma, whose lawyer was claiming a few days ago that Sharma was framed by Modi because Modi suspected Sharma to possess a controversial CD (link). Sharma now claims that he was targeted because he was aware of the 'relationship' between Modi and the woman who was monitored (link). He also claims to hold the woman guilty of receiving SMSes from Modi among other things (link). Now, I'm confused between Sharma's lawyer's version and Sharma's own version - unless the 'controversial CD' being referred to was a sex tape, in which case Mr. Sharma should be prosecuted first for possessing it in the first place. Before this whole issue gets any dirtier, I would like to quickly point out a few important facts to Mr. Pradeep Sharma (and the media which is covering his stories):

  • We as the citizens of the country believe in our right to privacy and have no interest whatsoever as to whether or not there was any relationship between Modi and this woman and any details about the nature of any such relationship.
  • We are bored to death with your interviews posing to reveal 'sensational information' about SMSes of the nature 'Chai piya?'. If you even remotely think that any person asking 'Chai piya?' to any other person is an issue of national importance, we assure you most solemnly that it is not.
  • Everyone who votes in India is an adult citizen most of whom have no problem whatsoever with any kind of consensual relationship between two adult citizens, even if one of those two is a prime ministerial candidate. We have enough faith in our prime ministerial candidate to be cognizant of this fact and hence hold your unproved claims that you were framed for merely knowing about any of his relationships to be completely false and malicious.
  • As responsible citizens, we strongly condemn your malicious act of defaming this innocent woman without any proof whatsoever. In fact, we demand that Mr. Pradeep Sharma be prosecuted for defamation immediately.
Oh God this is so disgusting. I'm tempted to say that women having to risk such outrageous defamation involving adultery for merely talking to any politician is a greater threat to women empowerment in the country than any unauthorized surveillance by the State. But I can't make myself say it - both are equally threatening. Don't you think we need to answer this immediately?

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