Saturday, April 13, 2024
HomeOpinions'Incoherently coherent' thoughts on MeToo and Hindu-Right

‘Incoherently coherent’ thoughts on MeToo and Hindu-Right

Also Read

At the onset itself, I must state that this is an exercise in ‘churning’ thoughts. So in likelihood, you will find mainly questions here and very few (if any) answers. Maybe that is how we ‘discover’ truth, or (very likely) I am not very smart or maybe I am just a fan of what Dr. Sheldon Cooper so fondly described to Dr. Hofstadter, ‘The Anthropic Principle’. But, I digress.

In recent weeks twitter and media, pop-culture world has been under the storm of #MeToo. The allegations, the revelations, the reactions, counter-reactions; we are witnessing it all.

But now for something completely different (believe me we will come back later to ‘MeToo’).

In Yes Minister, Right Honorable Jim Hacker asks a very pertinent question: What is it all for? What are we all doing? What’s the point of it all? This is the question I ask in the context of Dharma. I consider myself part of people who want primacy of ‘Dharma’ in this divine land of Bharatvarsha.

Sometimes we are called ‘Hindu Right’, ‘Right Wing’ or ‘Conservatives’, but what are we trying to do?

Apart from looking at Dharmic civilization as our root and our devotion to it as our primary identity; we hold some values and principles dear and we want a society in which those values are placed in high regard.

We want a society built on and living with these high values and principles.

One of the primary values for a ‘Dharmic’ is respect and dignity of women. We all know of ‘Shakti’ and we all know of our teachings of how Devas dwell at a place where women are respected and worshiped.

So, the way I see it we fight two battles:

1. We fight for establishing (rather re-establishing) and protecting these values, and that the changes and evolutions that happen in society should be attuned with our Dharmic roots and should have constructive tones (not revolutions seeking to destroy without adequate thought on what they’re replacing it with).

2. We fight when Dharma is falsely attacked for not having ‘respect for women’, ‘misogyny’ etc while we can see the evidence proving such accusations wrong and bogus, clear as daylight.

Another way of looking at ‘what is it all for’, is that we’re trying to find solutions to social problems in our own way and based on our heritage.

Now, women’s safety is universally a serious problem. We often debate how India fares in terms of women safety with other countries, but any sane person would accept we have issues.

Let’s take a case where a hypothetical country X tries to solve its ‘women safety’ question by putting out laws which basically restrict women to the four walls of their homes. In all likelihood this would reduce many crimes against women (not those that happen within the permitted confines though, obviously).

But has ‘X’ solved the problem of women safety? If we step in the middle of the problem, the problem included the aspects that women were not safe outside, on the streets, markets, public transports, workplaces; thus the solution that was being sought was how to make women be and feel safe in these places.

So, ‘X’ did not solve the problem. In fact looking at the solution in all likelihood ‘X’s ruling class probably never placed the right problem before them while designing solution, hence they were bound to reach bad (or wrong) solutions.

A common criticism of ‘progressives’,’ liberals’ by ‘conservatives’ is that they have thrown away social wisdom, for basically good-sounding delusions.

There is such a thing as wisdom. To keep oneself safe (irrespective of gender) requires one to be wise.

There is wisdom in knowing that there is evil lurking around in society, that dark alleys are unsafe, that losing one’s control by over-consuming alcohol makes one more susceptible to unwise decisions which can lead to bad (even traumatic) experiences.

Just as #MeToo unfolds, there are more and more voices who point out that many of these ‘victims’ threw away what was supposed to be ingrained ‘social wisdom’ and many on ‘right’ suspected they did it because of what they learned from the high priests of ‘liberalism’/ ‘modernity’.

But I think this throwing them off the cliff and shrugging our shoulders is a mistake.

So let’s hold on a second, and let’s bring in John O’Sullivan for our guidance here. In the aftermath of 2012 loss to Obama, while discussing single mothers issue and how American conservatives can win them, John says (am paraphrasing of course) .. we’re more compassionate moral-traditionalists now, society has changed, unlike Victorian times when such women would have been treated badly .. that you made mistake ,pay the price.. people now are more accepting at least more tolerating.. caring about those who have done wrong is very important in social life.. even if we need to give them a stern-talking-to we must make them feel that we care for them and their problems and don’t look down upon them but want to help them get it all together.. only then can our tough love be accepted.

What I take away from it in the context of #MeToo is the following :

The fact that we have ‘learned’ Social wisdom does not mean that people won’t make mistakes or will not fail in following these wisdoms. So dealing with those who made mistakes is a critical issue. Being conservative we resolutely try to follow these rules, but it does not mean we should throw away compassion for those who didn’t, those who made mistakes (and not merely victims of circumstances).

In that sense, many people are stuck in their own ‘Victorian’ la-la-land.

A wise fellow on twitter said that, because conservatives often espouse policies and politics of ‘mind’ over ‘heart’, they must personally live a life full of kindness. What does ‘Dharma’ say here, I’ll leave that up to you.

Amid all this, we can’t forget ‘justice’. Somehow people whose first reaction is to point out the violation of social wisdom manage to ignore the fact, that everyone deserves justice.

Social Wisdom is not a substitute for justice. These are basically rules that if followed individually will decrease the chance of anything untoward happening, and if followed widely in society will reduce social problems. Thus they are design inputs, they are strategic.

The thought that some woman does not deserve ‘justice’ because she got out late at night, wore short dress etc is not just unkind, it is also against Dharmik principle of ‘Nyaya’ stands above everything.

I recently read Mona Charen’s book ‘Sex Matters’, there are a few lines in that book that attracted my attention.

Referring to conservatives response to campus rapes and assaults she writes,

“I believe it is wrong for conservatives to categorically deny concerns about rape and sexual assaults on campuses. Sex crimes are real. … I find it surprising that more conservatives have not stepped forward to uphold traditional values, because taking rape (and sexual assaults) seriously in one of those values.”

I think this applies even to parts of our response to #MeToo as well. I mentioned above how our shastras refer to women and her role as ‘Shakti’ in society, and the fact that ‘Nyaya’ is integral for Dharma.

In light of this, how can we be people whose response to sexual assault cases (#MeToo and otherwise generally) be to point out wrong on the part of victims while not stressing on justice? We must be the people who take sexual misconduct, harassment, assaults seriously; this is a core value both by our traditions and by what we consider to be decency.

We must not internalize this is how it is, We must look actively for solutions, not merely prescribe safety precautions. If we have to stress on adherence to social wisdom, we must impart this message with care and compassion, and we must be the torch bearers in the deliverance of justice.

We must have in our thoughts a road map on how to go about providing justice to a victim of sexual crime irrespective of whether ‘social wisdom’ was followed or not. Doing anything short of that reflects that we don’t take sexual crimes seriously, and ‘Dharmiks’ must not be such people.

As stated above a core principle of Dharma is ‘justice’. And, it is here that arguments about MeToo become complex.

Is it ‘just’ to consider a man guilty when the only evidence against him is the word of a woman accusing him?

Would it not be unjust to that man, if his career is ruined or significantly hurt based only on an accusation that does not have a backing evidence?

These are two legitimate questions asked by those critical of MeToo (and there are many who are in no way part of ‘Hindu Right’). There are those who think this is a moral panic and something that aims to destroy ‘due process’ of law and removing ‘presumption of innocence’, and thus will hurt the foundations of the modern justice system and also of society.

Then there is not as strong an argument of ‘why did they brought forward these accusations after such long time?’, to some this delay itself reduces the legitimacy of these accusations significantly enough and in fact, it puts the motive behind these into question.

Now, why I consider this to be a weak argument is for the simple reasons that ‘sexual harassment’ and ‘sexual assault’ are not only crimes but evil acts, and as a twitter user right pointed out they are not lover’s quarrel that you can’t mention them afterwards. They can be brought forward whenever justice is sought, till the time justice gets served.

A basic principle of ‘justice’ is ‘everyone should get a fair hearing’.

At this point, let’s list what #MeToo proponents have often pointed out:

1. Women historically and even today, don’t get a ‘fair hearing’ when they bring out such accusations in real life, in their workplaces and even families

This is a very legitimate point, denying this would not only be insensitive but just plain wrong. A Twitter user brought out her own experience with the medical fraternity when a colleague behaved in a sexually inappropriate manner in front of her. She had to face everything from attempts to attack her character, to a flat-out rejection of her concern.

Not only is this one of the social problems that we Dharmiks have to provide a solution for but it is also connected with (as far as our response is concerned) the question of sensitive handling and ‘taking sexual harassment’ seriously. Hence I see no reason why Dharmiks/Hindu-Right would or should find itself in opposite camp on this.

2. Men have traditionally gotten away with such acts, hence it is only justice if ‘presumption of innocence’ is discarded as an attempt to bolster women’s confidence in order to enable them to come out with their own harassment stories

This is, in fact, a reaction to not getting ‘fair hearing’, because we were never believed we are going to ensure now that any woman is by-default believed, which would obviously mean that the man she has accused would by-default be considered guilty.

Implicit in this argument is that it is a reaction of the pain women felt when they faced sexual harassment but they were not believed and in fact had to face hostility.

3. Men have oppressed women for so long, that it is only fair if they get a taste of own medicine here by having to face ‘presumption of guilt’.

To be fair, this argument has been made more by ‘activist’ types but it also needs an adequate response. This is a left-style ‘social justice’ argument, ‘men’ as a group/class is the oppressor and hence they must be targeted as a group.

No amount of reaction would give justice to the women who have faced harassment and grave injustice in history. We can deal only with the present. While it is true that the men did get away, we can’t forget that ‘justice’ is ‘individual’. It is the first demand of justice that there shall be no injustice with the innocent. Because X,Y,Z got away with it, it does not make it just to treat A as guilty without evidence.

Now let’s combine 2 and 3, and see if we can come with some response.

Everyone deserves ‘fair hearing’ but only that. That means that though we accept that women who came forward with such accusations were not treated fairly, we still are dealing only with ‘fairness’ of hearing.

Asking for evidence in itself doesn’t violate ‘fairness’. In my view, what we’re dealing with is the tone and tenor of response. Women must get a sensitive hearing, which from outset itself isn’t hostile and aiming to prove them wrong, lying or somehow as their own fault, via hook or crook.

Reacting by pointing out how she drinks, wear mini skirts, did steamy scenes, etc is, for example, this hostility that these women must not receive. Achieving this would be no small victory.

4. The questions like ‘due process’, ‘presumption of innocence’ etc come into picture when there is a legal proceeding involved. Here in #MeToo, women are only putting forward their stories in open, this is not ‘legal action’. Moreover, while it may have hurt some men’s reputation, there are enough examples of men doing well even after their reputations were supposed to have been maligned in past.

This I think is more of a ‘legal’ thing and can’t be dealt with properly without some legal knowledge, which I don’t have. Of course, the men who have been accused can take to courts on Defamation grounds and the accusers will then have to present the evidence.

However, this also brings out certain settled legal principles/precedents to the arena of examination. For example, if someone did commit sexual harassment 2-3 decades ago but has lived a reformed life since, what would be the correct punishment in this matter; this is a settled legal question, there would be precedents to proceed in accordance with.

Another issue with ‘non-legal’ ‘guilty has obligation to prove innocence’ approach is that again due to the nature of these crimes it could very well be very difficult for a man falsely charged to prove his innocence, No?

Another issue is the difference in inappropriate behaviour (which can be harassing to the victim) and outright sexual assaults, legally they are treated differently. But since MeToo is not legal action, combined with the insistence that any attempt to differentiate ‘inappropriate behaviour’ from more serious offences is akin to condoning harassment done by inappropriate behaviour or asking women to live with it, it leads us into unsettled ground because if it is not ‘legal’ the cost that the culprit has to pay has to be decided on the go.

Today in the day and age of social media sometimes the damage (including to people’s jobs) is instantaneous. In some cases as more and more corroborating evidence emerges (eg: AIB) the cost must be paid even without any legal proceedings, but in some cases we are bound to run into mal-intent charges, especially when charges themselves carry enough power to inflict costs and I am not convinced that the fact that many men have managed to do well despite being charged, is a good enough reason to nail some other new person.

This thus connects again to individual justice, and justice in itself is not merely a legal matter (which works both ways, that’s why for example companies in cases of sexual harassment at workplaces have to take action on their end apart from legal proceedings).

These are some of the complexities we are bound to run into.

5. I kept this for the last because I think this is the trickiest one. The point made is, it is in fact very difficult to produce evidence in many cases of sexual harassment and assaults because of the nature of these crimes.

A second part, if you will, of this very point is that there are many jobs which are not 9-5 office types which require women to stay late, many vocations require networking which means they have to go to parties where there is booze, they have to even carry work to apartments with colleagues for all-nighters etc, or else, there are career costs as women may find themselves cut-off from decisions made in many informal settings.

The second part is actually an argument again about the ‘social wisdom’, it challenges this wisdom. If we state the problem we have in our hands here: women should be able to do these jobs, they should not get cut off from decisions, they certainly should be in ‘jobs’, and they must remain safe at all times; we do have a complex problem.

But from the perspective of response, this is basically tied into social wisdom vs justice {social wisdom as only ‘strategic’ principle of design}. However such vocations do present a design challenge for social thinkers.

But on the whole, for the people against whom MeToo brought corroborating evidence, if it can bring about a change where it is almost impossible for them to revive or continue their career without incurring some serious enough costs, it would be a change for good.

The recent #MeToo episode began with Tanushree Dutta’s allegations on Nana Patekar, followed by allegation against Vivek Agnihotri.

The merit of these specific allegations is not my point of discussion here, what I found rather interesting was how many Dharmiks/Hindu-Right reacted to it.

Some very prominent ones were seen believing that this is an operation to derail the validity of movement against the urban naxals and a ploy to attack Hindu/’Right’ minded celebrities.

I mean, when we’re constantly being attacked as ‘regressive’,’misogynist’ etc etc, not that we should cower down just because of these attacks, but here many of our movement’s faces were seen being hostile to those who made sexual harassment charges based on little evidence and that too publicly.

It compels us to think more about why did ‘we’ (or at least many of us) reacted this way.

Apart from some expected reactions which are rooted in ‘traditional’ mindset {whose tradition or, when and how some of it became our tradition is in itself worth discussing, but I digress!}, we can explore more reasons.

1. I think many of ‘us’ who reacted in ways that I do not support or am fond of, are also largely well-meaning people, and they do at some level care about these women. It is a frustration that social wisdom has been dumped for liberal delusions sold by high priests of liberal pop culture and media.

This is like when you see someone making stupid mistakes and you want to stop them but you can’t. So it is an anger as a reaction to what ‘conservative people’ felt was high-headedness of these ‘liberal’ people who are now ‘crying’ that ‘terrible’ things happened with them. There is an element of ‘we told ya’ in this.

What aggravates this frustration is that while conservatives are constantly maligned for ‘dominant’-‘patriarchy’ and as ‘traditional strongholds’, in the popular culture propagated by elites for us commoners and the institutions by which this propagation is done (media, films), conservatives have no power.

Most MeToo stories are experiences of industries and people who are somewhat in these ‘elite’ or ‘high-fi’ groups. Conservative people have long felt an anger that these very people are taking ‘their’ people on the wrong path, but have frequently found themselves helpless in preventing them from doing so.

What especially makes it worse is the ‘sanctimony’ of left-liberals. They don’t introspect what is going on in their own clubs, but are always ready to lecture us ‘little’ conservative ‘commoners’ about ‘high values’ of ‘respect for women’ and ‘new age’ of women empowerment and her independence, bashing of traditions etc.

2. Another pillar of liberal establishment is ‘Judiciary’ which again tries to take up ‘civilizing’ mission for Indian masses with much gusto, yet the same judiciary has proved one of the biggest obstacles in women getting any meaningful justice via legal mechanisms.

The Law and Order system in India is dysfunctional for its large masses but works ‘very well’ for elites. But elites who enjoy its ‘services’ and enjoy even more lecturing the masses, they almost never take up the cause of meaningful reforms in Police, Criminal code or Judiciary.

The elites enjoy the security of ‘functioning’ law and order system for themselves but preach lifestyles and decisions to common people who do not have this security and will have to deal with a system completely set against them.

A functioning Police and a swift judiciary will make the life of women much safer than rather abstract missions of ‘civilizing’ men (‘Hindu’ ,’Swarna’ men etc), not that these efforts should not be made but it seems what can help right away is simply not in priority.

3. It is an open secret that most narrative in India is controlled by left-liberals via their stranglehold over media. And, they have been absolutely hypocritical about social issues.

Whether it is about sweeping under the carpet the news that would be a ‘bad colour’ on ‘minorities’, or whether it is about protecting their own ‘club’ members when they stand accused of committing something sordid (a certain Mr. Tejpal comes to mind, right away).

They have not shied away from fighting dirty battles, by either elevating seriousness of something that can potentially hurt opponents (Bangaru Laxman etc) or even building whole fake narratives (church attack etc).

So, ‘Right’ in response has also learned to be extremely sceptical of whatever comes out from these clubs and be constantly vigilant. And, yes sometimes Right does get carried away. Unlike ‘Left’ , ‘Hindu Right’ isn’t a particularly organized group, it is a ‘rag-tag’ group of individuals, it is virtually impossible to prevent anyone from making an ‘unhelpful’ comment.

Getting back to what some prominent ‘Right Wingers’ did, I still strongly believe that a matter of principles it was wrong, but also as a matter of ‘tactics’ it wasn’t smart. It is not smart if people who are faces of ‘right’ attach themselves with somewhat ‘conspiratorial’ notions aimed at putting down a sexual harassment victim/accuser.

Let’s imagine for a moment that it was, in fact, a plot to ‘get’ a few ‘Right’ oriented men, so what was our ‘play’ meant to achieve here? At best, that general people on ‘right’ remain vigilant about what they are being told and don’t throw off these men. OK, but this is something that could have been done via anonymous accounts. If the aim was to destroy the credibility of the accuser, who are we kidding? We don’t have that kind of narrative power. If left-liberal media is dead set on something, we can’t prevent it anyway.

It would have been much better had they at least ‘voiced’ neutral (if not enthusiastic) support, while maintaining strict vigilance on what left was peddling. Cutting out Left’s BS is a job that faces of right can do best, and not ‘trolls’.

Anyway, I end this what is now a rather long essay with a simple point that after every Mahabharat there is a Shanti Parva where Yudhishthir has to put forward his own solutions to the problems of state and society. Dharmiks also need to prepare for Shanti Parva, though we are still in battles with ‘firmly-in-power’ Kauravas of left-liberal ideology. We are fully capable of doing that, so ‘Utthishtha Bharata’.

  Support Us  

OpIndia is not rich like the mainstream media. Even a small contribution by you will help us keep running. Consider making a voluntary payment.

Trending now

- Advertisement -

Latest News

Recently Popular