Ranjona Banerji: Loyalty to tribe matters, gender equality can take a walk!

04 Feb,2020

By Ranjona Banerji

 

Patriarchy has killed the #MeToo movement, in India at least. After all the hope that women were given, or gave themselves, as they spoke out about serial sexual harassment at the workplace or at home or on the streets or anywhere they went, and after all the conversation and supposed “action” against those accused, we are back to the beginning. Many of the accused are reinstated, carrying on with their lives and the women who spoke up are shunned, ostracised, jobless. It was within the Indian media that most of these complaints were made and it is here that sexual harassment remains an unspoken, papered-over, lip-service-paid problem.

The most high-profile of the reinstated is of course BJP politician and former journalist MJ Akbar. He filed a criminal defamation case against only one of the women who spoke about sexual harassment at his hands when he was editor of Asian Age and let us not forget that there are more women who have spoken up against him than against anyone else. Priya Ramani has been bravely fighting against the aggressive, demeaning questioning by Akbar’s lawyers. She has the full support from the other women who accused him and from many women in the media in general. Not to forget her own formidable legal team.

But when it comes to the other accused within the media, who remembers any more, eh, even if so many of them were colleagues and friends? The Silence has draped itself around us once again. The subject has apparently run its drama and novelty quotient, forget any regurgitated pap about justice and gender equality. The same journalists who hotly debate the penalties for rape and justice for women as “victims”, do not apparently consider molestation a crime any more when the accused is someone close.

And so when former journalist and BJP politician Swapan Dasgupta’s son is accused of molestation by three women while they were at the prestigious St Stephen’s College, and the story is carried in the news website Quint, there is that deafening silence again.

https://www.thequint.com/news/india/swapan-dasgupta-son-accused-of-molestation-in-st-stephens-college-alumni-group

The story has been picked up, if you do a Google search, only by HW News and Newsd. So has the media banded together to protect one of their own – Dasgupta – or has it buckled down to pressure from the BJP to protect Dasgupta and his son? One can understand the media group where Dasgupta’s wife works staying loyal to her, but everyone else?

The Delhi journalists’ club is a daunting collective. No matter what horrific things its members do, they band together and defend each other. Most, er, inspiring, especially when one of them breaks the law and defies all known notions of what constitutes journalism.

That this story – so far – has been largely ignored demonstrates the strength of these bounds of loyalty. It has all the elements of a great “story” otherwise – son of well-known person accused of salacious, sleazy activity, famous college involved, more than one woman makes the accusation and so on. If there was no journalist involved, one can imagine it would have been splashed everywhere in every sordid detail. Add to that if no one connected to the ruling BJP was involved, imagine someone connected to any other political party being involved and then extrapolate on how the same media would have gone to town on this.

So far, loyalty to tribe breaking rules: 1. Journalism: 0. Gender equality: 0.

 

Ranjona Banerji is a senior journalist and commentator. She is also Consulting Editor, MxMIndia. Her views here are personal

 

 

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