Social media warriors, why are there no trending hashtags on this girl being slapped by a BJP leader?

Are we so dead inside that a girl being slapped for making her own choices, fails to make us angry?

What kind of society allows its adults to be slapped and humiliated publicly without repercussions? What kind of a society splashes this public humiliation on television and sells it like sensational news? What kind of a society amplifies the regressive opinions of the political perpetrator while silencing the voice of an adult girl whose only fault was to go out with her Muslim friend ? What kind of a society lets down its young blood each time, every time they are manhandled, thrashed, moral policed by family, society, college and state administration and pseudo political outfits? And what kind of a society doesn’t outrage over any of this?

For those, who have no clue about where this is coming from, kindly watch this video.

We have blurred the face of the girl while most channels chose not do so. Imagine the consequences of this on the girl’s life. The woman you see here is BJP Mahila Morcha leader Sangeeta Varshney. She slapped the girl because she thought having Muslim friends is blasphemy. She slapped the girl because she thought her position of power allows her to slap someone. She slapped the girl because she felt her opinion mattered more than the independent choice of the girl and her free will; she slapped the girl because she is a bigot, a misogynist. Yet, she continues to sit in her position of power. She hasn’t been rebuked by her seniors. You ask how I reached this conclusion? Well read on.

So, how did the girl make her way to Varshney?

Members of Hindu Yuva Vahini – an organisation founded by UP chief minister Yogi Aditynath – picked her up with her Muslim friend from Naurangabad area of Aligarh. First, they took them to the police station. The girl had told the activists that the man was her boyfriend and the duo had been in a relationship for a couple of years. Then they brought the girl to Varshney. The guy has been detained and Section 294 (charged for indecent act in public) has been slapped on him. Varshney tried to tutor the girl first.  But when the girl stuck to her decision and apparently said she was in love with the man, Varshney  lost her cool and slapped her. Listen to what she had to say:

“Tu itni badi ho gayi, itni samajh nahi hai ki kaun Hindu hai aur Musalman hai (Aren’t you mature enough to understand the difference between a Hindu and a Muslim)?”

Varshney later told the reporters,

I was persuading the girl that whatever be the reason, we are Hindus. I will not tolerate that a Muslim boy harasses a Hindu girl. He could have done anything with her. I told her that you should not forget your religion. And please keep in mind that you befriend a Hindu boy.

If the boy was a Hindu, I wouldn’t have told her anything and send her home. I lost my cool when she said that ‘I love him and was accompanying him’. I cannot tolerate this. I had informed her parents, who claimed to be ignorant about the issue. They were also angry and their daughter had pleaded that her relationship should not be disclosed before her parents as they would hit her too. The only thing that irks me is the religion issue and nothing else.

She said even the girl’s parents would have beaten her if they came to know about it and that she would have taken the same course of action if her daughter was in the girl’s place.

Her views on Hindu-Muslim relationship borders on hate mongering.

Muslim boys should befriend girls from their faith. Aren’t there enough Hindu boys for the girls from the same religion? If the boy was a Hindu, I would have never objected. But I am strictly opposed to the relationship between a Hindu girl and a Muslim boy.

What about their Right to Privacy?

We can’t even imagine the implications of this incident on lives of the girl and the boy. Being slapped on national television and being put behind bars is only the beginning. How will their family react to it? Will they understand that their children fell prey to bigots and moral police or will they be punished further for bringing ” bad name” to the family. In the “Meerut love jihad case” a Hindu-Muslim couple were tormented and a false gang-rape charge was slapped on the boy. It eventually however ended in a happy marriage for the couple. I won’t even go into the many other cases of moral policing, the Romeo Squad, fake stories on love jihad that have put the lives of youngsters under 24×7 surveillance.

And jut a few days back we were celebrating the Right to Privacy judgement of the Supreme Court. What Right to Privacy do the young have?  Government surveillance is not the biggest threat that these gullible young lives face. It is the threat of moral policing by an aggressive brigade with political patronage that is affecting the lives of young Indians, particularly in the hinterland by taking away their right over public space.

The irresponsibility of the media and the silence of “hashtag humanists”

Amid all this the irresponsibility of the media in reporting the incident and their failure in holding Varshney responsible makes it clear where our priorities lie. News organisations saw it just a sensational story. They are not interested in protecting young people from them. Varshney hasn’t yet issued an apology or repented for her actions. Her party didn’t think of issuing a statement on this either.  All the BJP media in-charge in Aligarh, Shailendra Gupta, said is “Varshney was earlier the city president of the Mahila Morcha, but not at present”. Although, she still continues to be a member.

The most appalling bit however is the utter silence of those on social media who claim to be champions of women’s and human rights. Just because she is no Deepika Padukone who can stand up against a media house exploiting her body, just because she is no Kangana Ranaut who has the power to tackle the bad guys in her life, because she is not as empowered as Gurmehar Kaur who knows how to use the social media to put her point across — you will not outrage for her. While we write posts after posts standing up for celebs giving it back on being fat-shamed, body-shamed, slut-shamed, we will do nothing to protect this girl who had her dignity torn apart.

It’s a shame that we — the social media warriors – choose to speak for the already empowered while shutting our eyes to all that is happening outside confines of our privileged homes. Imagine the outrage if a girl from DU with full access to Instagram, Twitter and Facebook was slapped this way. Everyone would have been out on streets by now. Why don’t we extend the same solidarity to young boys and girls from small towns. I am sure we aren’t so dead inside that a girl being taken to task and punished for being brave enough to make her own choices in life fails to make us angry.

With inputs from Aryan Prakash