And what freedoms for us, the citizens?
The women sexual harassment cases put everyone in great embarrassment!
The developments shame the Indian society and culture and shows in a very poor light to the outside world. And the day we write these lines, the Indian media is full of such stories. After the Tehelka case comes the Supreme Court retired judge. Then the DRDE scientist, then the Uttarkhand additional secretary. The last of all, is the global survey of women journalists where the majority say they were harassed at work place. The most common place is the office, the work place.
In all these allegations, there are various stages of harassments. Now, the crucial point or points concerns about what is the way out? What are the satisfactory solutions?
The Supreme Court guidelines, the so-called Visahka guidelines, the latest Nirbaya Act etc might help us to navigate this murky water. But there are some broader and general issues on which we like to comment. First, there is the great issue of freedoms. Freedoms of the citizens and the rights of individuals.
The concept of individual freedoms is not well-developed in India. That is our assumption. We might be right or wrong. It depends upon whom you have in mind.
For the normal, educated middle class citizens this concept of personal liberty is very undeveloped in India.
In the West, in Europe every citizen knows his or her freedoms. There, they take their individual freedoms and rights very seriously. They fight for their freedoms and rights. In India the women’s rights are developed in so far as we like to have our own wish-list.
Yes, there are any number of formal rights and formal freedoms. As many of the progressive lady activists pointed out on the TV screen since the Tehelka case broke out that yes, there are now the new rights that give women complainants to do all the rights and freedoms to fight for their freedoms.
Then, as we have seen on the TV screen debates, is this issue one of pure legality, as many of the learned gentlemen and ladies point out. Or seem to point out or hold such stands?
If this is just a pure legal right then, we are afraid then, the complainant might not have all the powers, rather the accused, mostly males, can equally in the process take to a strictly legal course and thereby can do immense damage to the complainants. In most cases it is accusations that catch the headlines.
It is the sordid drama thereby that breaks out, likely to come more and more in the process of FIR and enquiry and finally the trial, the real sufferers might the complainants. In some of the on-going cases, the Asaram Babu case for instance, the greatest damage had already been done to the accused before any trial had begun. The trial by media in India as it is today, mostly by the TV channels is really out of proportion to the limits of one’s fundamental right to freedom and privacy. In the instant case where is now the privacy of the accused left?
There is no space for privacy for the really much-maligned accused. And as in the Tehelka case, the real story seems to have been lost or left out. The complainant sent an email to the managing editor of the magazine and demanded an apology. And an instant apology was given. Then, why the case took such bizarre turns?
It is just a vicarious pleasure on the part of the media to sensationalise the case or the cases of similar types?
And much more seriously print media like the much respected Hindu daily wrote the very next day a full-length editorial fixing Mr.Tarun Tejpal, the accused as guilty?
Is this a fair stand to be taken by a respected media editorial?
We leave it to readers to ask this question themselves. Freedom is such a noble concept and we in India don’t seem to have no any high charged emotions attached to the concept of freedoms. Much more so for the concept of personal freedoms and the right to privacy. Is there the very concept of the right to privacy in India? We are not sure.
As for the ex-apex court judge there is the allegation after a very long gap of time. If the legally inclined are to argue, is this not a lapse on the part of the complainant to allow such a long time gap?
And as some had argued, all accusations can’t be taken as proven. Allegations anyone can make on anyone for various reasons. Simply one makes allegations a person, he or she, might not be expected to resign and give room for further suspicion.
And surely, there have been debates since the Tehelka case broke out how far the in-house Visaka guidelines, in-house enquiry committee can be really effective?
Or is this just a case of formally observing a routine enquiry and the outcome of such in-house enquires are just an anticipated no-solutions with as expected most of such internal committee members might not be as objective as one imagines.
The point is that we have to live with some social and economic realities.
There are jobs and social security and family responsibilities for every employee.
There are also the question of social approbations and disapprobations.
One has to take a more balanced view.
There must of course be room for conciliation. A chance must be given, a fair chance and the in-house committee itself can resolve most of the case, we hope. The whole question must be seen, in our view in its totality. The problem must be seen in its natural settings, working conditions, and the likely excesses or otherwise.
There is also the need to see things in total reality. One has to be objective, natural and also realistic.
Some minor lapses can be overlooked and corrected. One must also take a humane attitude and there must be some sportive way in which some work-related mixing of the colleagues. To rush and make wild allegations is also possible in many of the current highly competitive environment. There is also the role for pure blackmail.
The point here is it is unwise and there must be a great deal of restraint on the part of everybody who rushes in where there is need for restraint. It is very easy to sensationalise and scandalise people in positions of power and reputation.
Let us be more objective and a bit open-minded.
Let us respect everyone’s right to freedom and privacy.