India has a rape culture. When not making “victims” out of women — young and old, newborn and dead — it breathes life into Indian boys’ and men’s everyday public conversations and private group chats. One such private group on Instagram, Bois Locker Room, was outed on Twitter Sunday. Screenshots of Delhi school boys sharing images of underage girls, with conversations ranging from ‘jokes’ about their private parts to planning a gang rape, went viral. They finally drew the attention of the Delhi Commission for Women, which sent a notice to both the police and Instagram demanding a probe.
But while this Instagram group had about 30-35 members, thousands of locker room boys grew up into same sexist and misogynist adults a long time ago, and no one took note. As members of Indian political parties’ IT cells, they are doing publicly what Bois Locker Room boys did privately. They log into their social media accounts every day and go after women who wear ‘short clothes’, speak their mind, talk back to them, don’t worship their political leaders, or don’t ascribe to their political ideologies — everything that hits at their masculinity. IT cells of all political parties — BJP, AAP and Congress — are part of this big boys’ club. But the BJP IT cell is most notorious.
The tools deployed by these men to target women are the same — threats of gang rape, mutilation, reminders of past heinous crimes, body shaming, slut shaming, character assassination, and spreading rumours. These men reduce the existence of women to sexual intercourse and their body parts, and want to teach them a lesson by circulating their nude pictures. They don’t spare their target’s mother, sister or any female relative.
Right wing Hindutva Terrosists are trolling #सफूरा_जरगर .These are dangerous to society.These Hindutva goons posting about a pregnant women who is in jail for peaceful protest.
We are with you Safoora!
— Mohammad Hasir (محمد حاسر) (@Hasir_alig) May 4, 2020
Almost all these men swear by their religion, are “nationalists and patriots”, and are followed by leading politicians of India, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Some are politicians themselves, like former MLA and BJP leader Kapil Mishra, who has targeted public figures such as Swara Bhasker, Kavita Krishnan, Shehla Rashid, Barkha Dutt, Alka Lamba in the past and most recently, directed his vulgarity at Jamia student Safoora Zargar over her pregnancy.
Please don't connect her pregnancy with my speech
It doesn't work that way https://t.co/WtKokksIqR
— Kapil Mishra (@KapilMishra_IND) May 3, 2020
The ‘shock’ is shocking
As the screenshots of ugly conversations of Bois Locker Room began to emerge on Twitter, many expressed shock over the language, the sexualisation of underage girls as well as the fact that they were casually planning to rape a girl.
Thread: Students who are 16, 17 years old, are casually talking of gang raping girls and women, swapping nudes without the consent of these women on Reddit, with not even a hint of fear of exposure. The dire crisis of rape womxn face, starts with this rape culture #boyslockerroom
— #MeTooIndia (@IndiaMeToo) May 4, 2020
But if the locker room boys talk mostly about girls’ breasts, the big boys of IT cells are obsessed with women’s vagina. Every other day, there’s a Twitter hashtag targeting the genitals of the mother of the person in whose name the attack is trending. But these rarely draw anyone’s attention — be it of Twitter authorities, the Indian police or the government. It’s part of men’s everyday conversation to refer to a mother or sister’s vagina; men’s abuses directed at other men are centred on telling them they rape their mothers and sisters.
Tipu was a staunch nationalist and freedom fighter. It's wrong on Right Wing's part to trend #TipuSultanKiMKB.
Here's Tipu with two of his trusted aide going to attack James A. Scott to take revenge of Lala Lajpat Rai's death (1928). Bhakts won't tell u this.
Source : Sources. pic.twitter.com/WwnLPQVvX3
— THE SKIN DOCTOR (@theskindoctor13) May 4, 2020
The sex lives of women are also of great interest to these men who use sex as a tool to ‘shame’ their targets. Take for instance the recent case of Safoora Zargar, a Jamia scholar, who was arrested in connection with anti-CAA protests. Zargar is more than three months pregnant and continues to be lodged in Tihar Jail despite social media activists and Amnesty International calling for her release.
I am short of words to express my disgust. @TwitterSafety @DelhiPolice@DCP_CCC_Delhi if u can't take action against these shameful trends and people then you are complicit. Commenting on a women's modesty in a country where women are worshipped as Devis. SHAME. #सफूरा_जरगर pic.twitter.com/aqKsHpGMZt
— Nabiya Khan | نبیہ خان (@NabiyaKhan11) May 4, 2020
A barrage of tweets have been directed at her over her pregnancy by the IT cell, which picked pace after BJP’s known rabble-rouser Kapil Mishra put out a nasty tweet. Safoora Zargar has been trending on Twitter for the past couple of days. Her pregnancy has been questioned, with some bigoted trolls accusing her of becoming pregnant while still not being married (which she is).
Because of her association with Shaheen Bagh protests, the IT cell trolls, most of whom hide behind the cloak of anonymity, started memes on Azadi. She was linked to various men and even to a Sikh man who sold his flat to feed the anti-CAA protesters.
No difference between boys and men
The modus operandi of the IT cell and Bois Locker Room is the same. Some random guy makes a random comment about ‘a night at Le Meridian Hotel’ or ‘an incident in the park’ or some such tales. Soon, a flood of comments pour in with abuses and invoking ‘Bharatiya sanskriti’ (Indian culture). Then a person with a verified account on Twitter or Facebook publicly chimes in with his (or her) two cents and the character assassination process of the woman is complete. Everyone in the IT cell thereupon starts writing anything about the woman as others laugh, mock, and amplify the attack with cheer.
What sympathy 🤔, in name of Protest she was just enjoying honeymoon at #shaeenbagh😉
— Mohit Saxena (@mohitsaxena0786) May 3, 2020
Safoora Zargar faces added vehemence because of her religion. A quick look at the comments people like journalist Rana Ayyub or activist Shehla Rashid receive on a daily basis will make it clear the kind of trash that women from Muslim community face on a daily basis simply because of their religion.
Then there are the abuses that 75-year-old Congress president Sonia Gandhi gets from men who chant ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ and claim India to be a country where women are worshipped and respected.
— Abe Tu He Kon (@Po_intBlank) April 23, 2020
Turkish author Ece Temelkuran writes about this horror in her book How To Lose A Country: The 7 Steps from Democracy to Dictatorship. She says these groups terrorise the language towards women and laugh at the horror. They make abuse a new normal. In a patriarchal society, women who are vocal or speak up against harassment are targeted on social media in the same language that women who battle domestic abuse face at home.
India’s rape culture is built on loose talk where women are perceived as sexual objects and men of all age and group denigrate them regularly, whether happy or angry. And those who don’t indulge in outright abuses provide a ‘support’ system.
Check this out then pic.twitter.com/c64pQx44zV
— Nishu (@nishicone) May 4, 2020
They defend locker room boys as ‘kids’ whose lives shouldn’t be spoilt because of a ‘mistake’. As for the grown men, they are forever-boys — which, in a country where public rallies are taken out in the defence of rape accused, has time and again said: “boys will be boys”.
— K (@annoyedcatlady) May 4, 2020
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