Congress leaders with dented heads – Ravi Shanker Kapoor

Wise men speak because they have something to say, fools because they have to say something, wrote Plato 2,500 years ago. The truth of the quote has remained undiminished over the millennia. The dented-painted statement by President Pranab Mukherjee’s son Abhijit is, however, more than a testimony to his folly; it also exposes a mindset that is firmly anchored in medieval mores.

Apparently eager to get some free publicity on the Delhi gang rape and subsequent protests, Lok Sabha member Abhijeet Mukherjee said, “In India, staging candle-lit marches, going to discotheques—we did all this during our student life too, we were students too—I know very well what kind of character students should have. Those who claim to be students—I can see many beautiful women among them, highly dented-painted (sic). They’re giving interviews on TV.”

It’s good for you, Mr. Mukherjee, that you informed us that you were once a student. Otherwise, we might have concluded you are one of those unlettered, Khap-type relics that refuse to coame out of the 15th century and are always eager to make their obnoxious presence felt. For what you have said, however, only brings disrepute to you, your family, your party, and your government.

In one sweeping statement, the Parliamentarian tarred all protesting women as whores, for that is what ‘painted women’ means. And ‘dented’? In the context of his remarks, the word seems to denote ‘having lost virginity before marriage.’ In short, the women protesters are promiscuous streetwalkers who deserve no respect or even attention. And why are they hookers? Well, the Honorable MP has a simple explanation: they go to discotheques.

Women should not go to discotheques—in fact, not even to cinema, especially in evenings.  This is how Andhra Pradesh Congress chief Botsa Satyanarayana put it a few days ago: “Just because India achieved freedom at midnight does not mean that women can venture out after dark. They should ensure that they do not board buses with [a] few passengers.”

And these misogynists are the important members of the party that promised, in its 2009 election manifesto, “to ensure a life of security, dignity and prosperity for every citizen.” Evidently, it does not include security “after dark.”

Responding to the huge media outcry, both luminaries of the ruling party later withdrew their statements and apologized, but the apologies are hypocritical as the statements are shocking. Their thought processes will remain the same, and these have major implications for not only women’s issues but also the concepts and practices of democracy.

In their scheme of things, women who dress up nicely, are fond of make-up, and have the temerity to go out for recreation should not expect security. It’s not that our political masters can ensure, or even try to ensure, that the Meena Kumar kind of bharatiya naaris is spared the horrors of rape, molestation, or oppression. But the dented-painted women are surely not covered by the manifesto pledge. If you are a slut, men have every right to rape you.

Misogynists claim that women wear skimpy, sexy dresses; this excites men who molest or rape them. Ergo, women wearing short skirts are guilty. Unfortunately, nobody has pointed out that the same men behave perfectly well when in malls and five-star hotels; they know that any indiscretion would have serious consequences, as there would be bouncers around and the property owner would be a powerful politician with right connections. But when they come out of the mall, they get excited by skimpy outfits of women!

Similarly, the same men don’t go around raping women in when they go to other countries where most women are scantily dressed. But the women-get-raped-because-they-dress-improperly argument keeps getting uttered by all kinds of politicians, khap leaders, and other busybodies.

Mukherjee’s remarks also betray a growing tendency within the Congress and, to a certain extent, in the entire political class. He said that the protesting women “have no contact with ground reality.” Mukherjee, a mechanical engineer by training who went on to become general manager of the public sector Steel Authority of India Limited, can be grounded in reality, but not the women who sympathize and empathize with the gang rape victim!

Underlying such insolent sanguineness is the belief that the middle class can be taken for granted. Congress leaders and their fellow-traveling intellectuals have convinced themselves that the folks who express indignation at the various abominations in the country are frivolous chatters who don’t vote. So, how does it matter if a few hundred of them show up at India Gate or Jantar Mantar and make bombastic remarks?

Congress leaders’ proclivity to make disgraceful statements is astonishing. Botsa, for instance, called the Delhi gang rape “a minor incident.” He went on to extol She-who-must-be-obeyed by saying, “Soniaji made it a point to meet the protesters when they called on her.”

See how compassionate and magnanimous the lady with a halo is! Her Royal Highness even granted an audience to the dented-painted women!

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