I am going to start with one paragraph that denounces the act of BJP MLAs in Karnataka. And I am going to end with one which does the same again. I need to do that to have some chance of convincing my readers that I do not support either pornography, or women’s exploitation, or child abuse, or moral depravity in society, or trafficking of any types or any of several other similar ills of society. I also believe like most others that perpetrators of rape should be dealt with most strictly. I truly do. Please believe me! This post however is to urge a little bit of moderation in our response to such incidents as Porngate. Not all such incidents deserve only the severest form of punishment. There has to be a gradation of response….
Some of the reasons I believe that our response has been too much over the top:
1) Just look at the way the media has gone about the issue. It’s even branded it Porngate. Whole TV shows have been dedicated to the issue. There has been a severe indictment (what’s so unusual?!) of the 3 MLAs with the tonality and manner of anchors being such as if they were demanding that the three be hanged.
2) The BJP has already acted against the three erring MLAs. The three have been forced to resign. The Governor has accepted their resignations. So they won’t remain MLAs any longer (I presume). I would compliment the BJP for acting so promptly. But poor Nirmala Seetharaman (BJP spokesperson) was hounded beyond reason last night even though she admitted that what the three did was wrong and her party president had already asked them to resign. I couldn’t quite understand what the anchor really wanted Nirmala to do? Go down on her knees begging the country for an apology?
3) Just for the sake of understanding the opposite point of view, exactly what illegal (not immoral – this quaint story of these two words – illegal v/s immoral – comes back to haunt the BJP; remember it first used them in defence of the scam-ridden Yeddy in Karnataka only!) thing have the three MLAs done? Is watching porn illegal in India? Sorry to disappoint you readers – but no. Watching porn is legal in India. Yes, the Bombay High Court ruled in 2010 that watching porn was legal in India. Watching child porn is illegal. Distributing porn is illegal. But watching adult porn is legal in India. So really, legally speaking, the three MLAs have done nothing wrong. Whether what they have done is immoral or not is up to society to decide.
4) Have they really done something grossly morally wrong? I do agree that it doesn’t suit our elected reps to be caught doing such things. But honestly, how many people (readers…..I am challenging you here) have not watched porn at least once in their life? Or done something equally “despicable” ever in life? Does that make us poor citizens or parents or children or employees? In the US, porn is a thriving industry as it is in much of liberal Europe. I am not going to advocate watching porn here, but I am surely going to say that we have no right to become moral policemen on this subject. Hounding these three MLAs for watching porn is as wrong a concept as right-wing hard-core activists lashing out against Public Display of Affection (PDA), Valentine’s Day etc. Do we want to make India like Pakistan, Iran and the other orthodox neighbors we have?
5) We often forget that our leaders are mere human beings. While it’s ok to expect them to be above petty depravity, we cannot forget that they will have shades of gray. Even Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Atal Bihari Vajpayee had shades of gray. That does not make them poor leaders. Or leaders who are incapable of representing society.
6) Do we have no regard to due process of law? Sure if someone feels that these MLAs need to be prosecuted, please do so. But should we be taking the law in our own hands and deciding that someone is guilty or not? And will we give time to the powers-that-be to act or do we want instant justice all the time?
7) What about the privacy laws? Do we even understand the concept of privacy? One may argue that the MLAs were watching the porn on their private mobile screens, not in a cinema hall with thousands others. Isn’t it within their privacy rights to do so? How does it matter what a person does with his own mobile phone?
8) Further, I cannot understand what right Anna has to get into this subject. He should stick to his anti-corruption tirade and resist the temptation to become the guardian of morality of the entire Indian society. This society is thousands of years old and can take care of itself.
9) And lastly, is the punishment for everything only the most extreme form possible? Why cannot we say that these three MLAs will be suspended for one session? Or be forced to go without pay for three months? Or something like that? Why does it have to be the ultimate step always?
I have no sympathy for these three MLAs. Or for anyone else who treats women with such lowliness. One of these MLAs apparently has been an activist demanding that women dress “appropriately” and so on. I cannot tolerate such orthodoxy and anti-women positions. I have been an active supporter of slut walks which taunt and mock men who seem stuck in a cultural time warp. But equally, I don’t believe we should take a moral stand so strict that none of us would be able to clear it ourselves.
To repeat, I denounce all men who treat women unfairly. I am totally against all those who look at women as objects of desire rather than as equal members of society. I hope readers, you won’t think I am protecting these three MLAs. I am only requesting for moderation in response.
The real truth is that MLAs reflect the culture that prevails in our society. The sad reality is that in most parts of our society, women are treated like toys for men to play with. The law of adultury in our country also treats women as such. By condemning these MLAs, we are in truth condemning ourselves. If we want to avoid such incidents again, we need to reform society. We need to modernize; grant equality to women; and only then will this kind of depraved behavior not happen again.