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July 25, 2012

Molesters in media: Editors who can tell a prostitute from a woman!

[From my column OBVIOUSLY OPAQUE in the UTS VOICE,16-31 July]

Atanu Bhuyan has an uncanny ability of telling prostitutes from women. Go through his tweets and you will recognize how gifted he is. You can call him ‘spotter extraordinaire’, for all he needs to do is look at the woman and behind her. Not her behind, dirty mind, though all of us know people who excel at that. Don’t get Atanu wrong, what he means by looking at the woman and behind her is the door behind her. If the door opens into a bar or a night club, he is doubly sure. The woman can be nothing but a prostitute.

One would have to concede, though, that Atanu was not catapulted to national spotlight for this special ability of his. He has shocked his way into the national conscience, or the lack of it to be more precise, by first broadcasting a video depicting a teenage girl getting molested by a mob and then uploading it on the Youtube where it went viral. That the ghastly molestation went on for almost fifty minutes was shocking in its own right, that the last twenty of it happened in presence of police was plain disgusting. Think of more than fifty men mobbing a girl with more than a dozen actively involved in brutalizing her physically. One would definitely not want to sing the national anthem, will one?

Atanu would not think twice before making that video public. For him, this was the evidence that would eventually help nabbing the perpetrators. Though, he would try his best concealing the fact that his cameraperson was not the lone person of his team present there. That this reporter is a friend of the main accused is a personal secret that he will want to take to his grave. It would take Akhil Gogoi, an activist of national repute, to disclose this truth to the nation.
But then, even this was not the reason behind Atanu’s fifteen minutes of fame, or notoriety. Most of the cases of molestation take place in front of bars and night clubs, he would reveal to a nation struggling to get out of the shock of grisly state of safety of women in our country. Atanu would not let the citizenry stabilize itself; he seems to be quite averse to the idea. He would declare, nonchalantly, that most of women frequenting bars and night clubs are prostitutes. The nation is bound to take note of such a messenger.

If this has made you wonder whether he is psychologist, behavior analyst or something of that sort, be assured he is not. Neither has he been ( to public knowledge but you never know) involved in trafficking women, which could have given him the exposure enough to be so confident of his skills. Neither has he earned his money pimping hapless, vulnerable women into prostitution. He must be against trafficking, at least publically. Yet, he is not into any kind of behavioural sciences.

For, he is (goodness gracious!) a journalist; an editor-in chief on top of that. He heads Newslive, a local news channel in Guwahati. Whether he has used this particular qualification to land this job is not something I am sure about. Incredible India, is it not? Not because of all the diversity. ‘Incredible’ because we have “editors’ such as these. Over with Atanu Bhuyan on that note. For now, I mean.

You must be thinking, though, why the term being used continuously is women and not the pronoun ‘she’ should ideally follow the first usage. You might also be attributing it to englishtically-challenged writer of this piece; but in that case you have got it terribly wrong. You have also missed a very important development in the beautiful Darwinian saga of evolution, which includes that fanciful transition from ape to human which explains us being here in the first place, you laggard, and let me educate you on it.

It seems that sometime around the last decade of the 20th century, a section of the species called Homo Sapiens (that is us, humans, if you do not know) branched out into something entirely different. In fact, it was not merely a branch outing but an outright mutation engineered by a ‘holy’ alliance of corporations and corporate media. The alliance, like all such alliances, was hell bent on saving the human beings and delivering them to the true path. Now, the only way human beings could be convinced about this is by giving them access to a different path, the path of evil or Satan. They did that in several ways and turn women into gettable and buyable commodities.

Thus started the project that would lead to the mutation. The media started delivering highly sexualized pictures of the female bodies first in its supplements and then as pure and pristine news. (Check out some of the best newspapers of India if you have any doubts about plausibility of this theory. Checking their web editions is definitely not advisable though as there you would be really hard pressed to extract news from these pictures). Getting back to the story, the experiment went beyond all the expectations, and money, riding on it and ended up with even a welcome byproduct of its own. It had led into mutation of the genetic code of Homo Sapiens, giving birth to something that could, in absence of a better name, be called as ‘Homo Erekshans’.

For this species, women became nothing other than being women. Being a woman, in turn, was being nothing more than the anatomy. One could never have any relationships with them other than the most instinctive one. There was never going to be a sense of belonging that could turn a woman into someone known, ‘she’ in easier words. The women were now to be preyed upon. They were to be pounced at. They were now to be dealt with in most primitive, most banal ways. And the species took this task rather seriously. More so in our country with repeated instances of such attacks.

Nothing to suggest that the Homo Sapiens were any better than these Homo Erections. From Mathura to Bhanwari Devi, one can recount a thousand instances of them preying on women. Similarly, right from dowry murders to ‘(dis)honour killings’ they too had treated ‘their’ women as nothing more than property. Yet they were remarkably different from this new species. Their attacks on women were mediated by a host of factors like caste, clan, class and so on (not that this mitigates the criminality implicit in such attacks to any extent). Yet, they did belong to ‘some’ women.

Then, all their ‘bravado’ against women depended upon anonymity of their role in it. Tell them to mob a woman, molest a woman in a crowded bus, tell them to rape her inside closed walls and they would be at it. In fact, it was the anonymity that made them more male. It brought ‘mardanagi’ out of them. Bring in the possibility of them getting spotted or identified and their ‘manhood’ would vanish into thin air. Bring in the cameras, and they would lose ‘it’, sometimes for good with no Viagras capable of restoring ‘it’!

The new species, the Homo Erekshans, however, is made of some different material. They fear none. They fear nothing. They rather thrives on the public attention their (mis)deeds brings their way. No media, and they might be content just with physically molesting the girl. Bring a mediaperson with a pen, and they would want to rape her. Bring in a camera with all its paraphernalia, and they would stop at nothing less than raping the woman. That too in style, waving at the camera and smiling their way through the act. They are the ‘just do it’ generation you know.

They do it for they know that they have got away with it in the past. They do it for they know that they will get away with it. Remember Jessica, they have almost gotten away with killing her. And then, how does it matter that they could not, for being imprisoned does not stop Manu Sharma from dancing in Night Clubs while on parole. How does it matter when it takes nothing less than him picking up a fight with the son of Delhi’s Police Commissioner for the matter to get noticed in media? How does it matter when he was on parole for taking care of his ‘ailing mother’ in Chandigadh who, in turn, was busy inaugurating this beauty parlour after that boutique?

They have gotten away with it in Patna where they stripped a young girl naked and made her run, din’t they? That no one responded to her cries for help in a state epitomizes ‘good governance’ is beside the point. That girl must had been someone’s stooge, someone who does not want Bihar to ‘progress’ the way it is. It must be the same ‘someone’ who is trying to stop the juggernaut of Nitish ‘Sushasan’ Kumar by demanding an impartial inquiry into extrajudicial killings of innocent Muslims in Forbesganj. Wondering how does stripping a woman get connected to killings of minority? Seem you have forgotten a venomous Mamta Banerjee rubbishing the Park Street Gang Rape as CPIM’s conspiracy of destabilizing her government.

This is all linked you know, and linked in such a way that the new species always gets away with it. In fact, it does not merely get away with as it had gotten away in Mumbai on the eve of the New Year in 2008. There were cameras, and there were the police. Yet, nothing could stop a mob from molesting two women coming out of the pub in a five star hotel. Aah, there lies the reason. Were they not coming out of a bar, like this young girl in Guwahati?

Did Atanu Bhuyan not tell you, then, that most of the cases of molestation take place in front of bars and night clubs? Did not he follow that up with dutifully informing the world that the molested girl was drunk and fighting with her friends? And that she was not a minor but a married lady and that too with a daughter! Forget that this does not alter either the sexual assault on her or the culpability of those involved. Forget also the fact that he did not apologize even after this ‘fact’ was found to be completely baseless.

The species I am talking about has got away with gang rapes. Police officers have got away after questioning victim’s character as if that has something to do with the assault. Reporters have got away with disclosing the name and identity of the victim. Chief Ministers have got away with issuing 48 hours deadlines to arrest the accused, three times in a row. Back to back. Those who molest women in buses, metro, trains and markets, get away with that. And those like us who did not molest have gotten away with looking the other way when it was happening.

So what is the big deal in a journalist being there in the cannibalistic mob that feasted off the body of hapless teenager? So what if the editor-in-chief did not tweet this even while tweeting everything else, including the TRP his channel got for broadcasting the footage. He would celebrate that, again, on twitter. And then, he would do the unthinkable. He would tell the nation that girl was drunk when she came out of the bar. She was fighting with someone and was using filthiest possible language, he would add for extra effect. He would get away with this, for he had gotten away with calling Assamese women the same. It is just that and none of his fault.

Neither is it a fault of Alka Lamba alleged to be a women’s rights activist. She did not choose to be let loose on Guwahati as a member of fact finding committee appointed by the National Women’s Commission. Neither had she chosen to learn anything about procedural and ethical norms to be followed while inquiring such cases. How can one even expect the poor youth leader, a kid if judged by the age of other youth icons of her party, to have troubled herself over such trivial issues. If anything she should actually be praised for being much more sensitive that Mamta Sharma, the chairperson of NCW and her boss. Had Mamta not told young girls to take the word ‘sexy’ as a compliment and not to make a fuss about getting ‘teased’ by the boys? I concede that she revealed the identity of the victim on national television against all norms, but then why to single her out on that?

Did Tarun Gogoi, Chief Minister of Assam not do the same, later? Remember also,that the state women’s commission had not had any time to meet the victim before the team from Delhi came and was welcome with all those hats and garlands.
How can one set aside the tradition of welcoming guests? That too for a girl who had not taken NCW’s chairperson’s advice seriously and fought back on getting molested instead of taking it a compliment?

Poor Alka! Everyone is taking on her because she is a woman. People would otherwise have taken on that Atanu Bhuyan who can tell a prostitute from a woman. Did he not make the cctv footage revealing girls identity public too? That too, well after Alka did? They could not.

They know that these are the times of the rise of a new species. The species called Homo Erekshans.

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