Siding with ye olde patriarchy

Wow, nice one GOI. Just when we were all wondering where you stood on the vital issue of women being molested and harassed in the workplace, you made your stand abundantly clear. By not saying a word in support of the accusations being hurled at your junior minister for external affairs by an avalanche of respected women journalists, and by standing behind him staunchly, you have sent out an unequivocal message that as far as it comes to #MeToo, you stand with the molesters.

And thus, it has been proved that in Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao India, behind every woman who would be successful, stands a man who would molest her if he can get away with it, and behind him stands a government who is chill with this. Good to know.

Illustration: Bhaskaran Illustration: Bhaskaran

So why is the BJP doing this? Surely it could have thrown this man—not an insider, not somebody with deep roots within the party and inconveniently named after a Mughal emperor to boot—to the wolves? Why did it instead decide to not make him into a scapegoat, to not expeditiously shed him like a lizard sheds its tail and to not win easy brownie points from women and the liberal media?

I cannot pretend to know what goes inside the torturous minds of the men who run the BJP. (And rest assured, they are all men, nary an empowered nari amongst them—not Sushma Swaraj, supposedly MJ Akbar’s direct boss, not Nirmala Sitharaman, not Smriti Irani, not Maneka Gandhi—some of whom have made statements saying we must believe the women coming out with names with #MeToo.) But I can hazard a guess.

My guess is that the BJP’s finger is unerringly, as always, on the most populist of pulses. It is siding with the rump. And the rump is comprised of ye olde patriarchy; of old aunties who are querulously asking, “But why have these women stayed silent for 30 years? Why come out now? What is their motive?”; of ‘let’s-be-rational’ men, concerned about the fact that “a man’s entire career and good name could be destroyed by a single woman’s carelessly uttered accusation, one backed with no proof whatsoever”. (Duh, what do you think has been happening to women for millennia? How many of us have had our reputations destroyed by one man’s casual, selfish action? What do you think happened to Queen Sita, cast out of her kingdom in disgrace just because she was careless enough to get kidnapped by a predator?)

Yes, make no mistake about it, the BJP has chosen, deliberately and consciously, to side with the silent majority. With the moral police. With the no-going-out-after-eight-pm status quo. With the ‘sleeveless kurta equals slut’ brigade. With the must-have-slept-with-somebody-to-get-to-the-top chorus.

And so, 97 lawyers from top legal firm Karanjawal and Co will take on one slender woman journalist with nothing to gain and everything to lose. And, in an exact mirroring of the oh-oh-poor-Hindu-majority-being-held-hostage-by-the-evil-Muslim and-Christian-minority narrative, they will set out to glibly persuade us that it is they who are the David and she who is the Goliath.

In that sense, Mr Bathrobe—as he has scathingly been nicknamed by his latest accuser—is correct. #MeToo, can, if correctly massaged, manipulated and stoked, go from being a minor, elitist storm-in-a-C-cup to being a full-blown election issue.

Indeed, by standing silently and stolidly with Mr Bathrobe and others of his ilk, and thus reassuring the patriarchy that all will be well under its reign, the BJP is deliberately ensuring that it does.