Troll armies of the Right are happy to selectively target prominent Left-liberals but are not extending support to #MeToo in general.
The rising tide of the #MeToo movement on Indian Twitter is becoming a tsunami. Names are being constantly added, screenshots are flying in the air, reputations are being destroyed, internal complaint committees are being set up.
Yet the Right-wing is curiously silent. The organised troll armies aligned with the ruling party have given attention to #MeToo allegations only in the context of two organisations: All India Bakchod (AIB) and The Wire.
Serious allegations of sexual harassment have been levelled at stand-up comic Utsav Chakraborty, who was associated with the All India Bakchod group for a while. AIB has admitted they were told about his sexual harassment and did not do enough in response.
Siddharth Bhatia, a co-founder of news website The Wire, has been accused of sexual harassment with unspecific charges. The website has instituted an internal investigation committee.
In both these cases, the Right-wing has trended hashtags, created memes, trolled people who work in the organisations. This apart, they have been mostly muted on #MeToo, not offering support to the movement in general. I called up a deep throat in the trenches of the BJP social media army. What gives? I demanded to know. Itna sannata kyun hai bhai?
He replied, “See, most of the feminists are Leftists. They go into a hotel room with a guy and then say he did this and he did that. Why did you go to the hotel room? This #MeToo is going too far. Even a guy asking a girl out for coffee is harassment now….”
You get the drift. The Right-wing can’t support #MeToo, because misogyny is their agenda. They are happy to score brownie points against people seen as being hard secular-Left and anti-Modi, but that’s about all.
There’s been an FIR for rape against a sitting minister in the central government, Rajen Gohain, but the BJP does not think it needs to ask him to step down. The BJP’s ministers in Jammu and Kashmir were openly supporting the rape and murder accused in Kathua for weeks. They patronise religious babas like Asaram Bapu who turn out to be rapists.
Why aren’t you guys going after that famous author or that political editor, I asked.
“See, we feel they are pro-BJP so we don’t want to go after them.”
Missing the woods for the trees
This is missing the woods for the trees. The whole point of #MeToo is to bring the issue of sexual harassment to the forefront. For far too long, conversations on sexual harassment have been undermined by using class, race, religion, or political ideology.
Men don’t harass women based on their caste, class, political ideology. The disease of sexual harassment transcends these boundaries. That’s why it’s important that this issue should have only two sides – one, which is sensitive to what women are saying, and the other that wants to dismiss them. There should be plenty of space for nuance between those two positions, but this nuance cannot include Right and Left, secular and communal, the BJP and the Congress.
A key line in my interlocutor’s answer is that “most feminists are Leftists”. So, women who are ideologically Right-wing don’t face sexual harassment? Of course they do – all women do, in varying degrees. But perhaps their ability to speak out is being suppressed in the name of tradition and conservatism.
Failed filmmaker Vivek Agnihotri coined the term ‘Urban Naxal’. Actor Tanushree Dutta has accused him of sexual harassment. According to Dutta, he told her on a shoot, “Kapde utaar ke naacho. (Take off your clothes and dance.)”
But obviously, the Right-wing is not going to trend hashtags targeting Vivek Agnihotri. They won’t go after an Alok Nath or M.J. Akbar. This hypocrisy is in stark contrast to Left-liberals who call out men who they share ideological views with. While the Right loves to use the word ‘hypocrisy’ for liberals, nobody seems to be showing them the mirror.
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