By Prarthana Mitra
The resounding response to India’s #MeToo movement from all quarters has not hit home with the political sector yet. Stoic silence and lukewarm responses describe, at best, the government and opposition’s reactions to a defining moment in Indian women’s struggle for safety in the workplace. As the battle shifts base from social casting couches and newsrooms to social media and courtrooms in some cases, here’s a primer on what our politicians think about breaking the glass ceiling.
Although several leaders commented on the movement as a whole, it was MJ Akbar which forced senior politicians to come out from their woodwork of neutrality, stop feigning ignorance and take cognisance of the multiple allegations levelled against the former Union Minister, who resigned earlier this week. The former senior journalist, accused of gross abuse of abuse and predatory behaviour by several female journalists who worked at The Telegraph and Asian Age, has now armed himself with 97 lawyers to fight a defamation case against Priya Ramani, the first women to call him out on Twitter.
Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi, the first minister to acknowledge the growing movement, called for an investigation into the allegations as soon as Priya Ramani’s account of sexual harassment surfaced on October 10.
However, other BJP ministers like Smriti Irani remained non-committal about her stance on the matter and spokesperson Sambit Patra refused to address the issue when probed by journalists at an event themed around Nari Shakti.
Last week, The Congress promptly demanded that Akbar, who was accused by at least 20 women by the end of the first week, provide an explanation or hand in his resignation. Congress president Rahul Gandhi came out in support of the #MeToo movement, saying it was time women were treated with respect and dignity. “The truth needs to be told loud and clear in order to bring about change,” Gandhi tweeted along with the MeToo hashtag on October 12. After NSUI (Congress’ student wing) leader Fairoz Khan faced allegations of sexual harassment, he quit keeping the party’s interest in mind. Sources told PTI that Congress president Rahul Gandhi accepted Khan’s resignation last weekend.
The most egregious remark, by far, came from Union Minister Pon Radhakrishnan, who devalued the movement by calling it a product of perverted minds. The BJP leader also publicly mused if it would be right if men started “making similar accusations like them”, and questioned the point of dredging up an incident that occurred years ago. Party chief Amit Shah broke his silence days of the first allegation against Akbar, promising to examine the veracity of the post first. “You can also post something using my name,” he told the press.
The #MeToo movement has exposed the dark underbelly of the systematic abuse and sexism in India’s media and entertainment industry, as women continue to name these abusive figures over social media. Some of the noted personalities include Vikas Bahl, Rajat Kapoor, Nana Patekar, Kailash Kher, KR Sreenivas, Sajid Khan, Chetan Bhagat, Alok Nath, Utsav Chakrabarty, and scores of high-profile journalists.
Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius.
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