There is simply no excuse for UPCC chief Rita Bahuguna Joshi's vicious words:
“The Dalit women [victims of rape] should throw the money [offered as financial aid by UP government] back at Mayawati’s face and she should be told, 'May you be raped and I too would give you one crore rupees'"
The newsclips showing Ms Mayawati using similar language in the past, such as the above, are no justification or rationalisation. Nor do they mitigate Ms Joshi's totally unacceptable and indefensible choice of words, even though they show this whole fracas for what it is: a highly charged political drama. Ms Mayawati taking umbrage would have carried more credibility and not sounded so rich had she apologised for her words.
But, the violence of Ms Joshi's words wreaks indescribable damage to the very cause she avowedly claims to have been espousing. While the "vendetta violence" unleashed by Ms Mayawati's party is not to be condoned, and, far from being justified, needs to be condemned, the Congress party would carry more conviction if it unequivocally condemned the remarks, dismissed Ms Joshi from her party post and then talked abou the legalities or otherwise of her arrest.
Much has been made of AICC general secretary Janardan Dwivedi's statement:
“whatever has happened in UP is very unfortunate. The Congress president has expressed her deep pain and anguish over the events that have taken place in UP.”
It is eerily reminiscent of the Varun Gandhi episode to be told,
“In any political organisation, decisions are taken only after considering all aspects of the problem, and not in a hurry. She is in jail right now. Any decision will be taken only hearing her version and explanation. The same thing could have been said without using those words.”
Besides, Ms Joshi has already offered her version:
“My intention was to expose a chief minister who has no sympathy for women... to remind Mayawati that being a woman she should realise that a paltry monetary compensation cannot make up for what a woman loses on account of rape.”
While that sentiment by itself is unexceptionable, and while one would agree with her that a dole of Rs 25,000 to every Dalit rape victim “was quite ironical as the state police chief was spending lakhs on the helicopter ride that he undertakes to hand over that paltry amount to the victim,” she and her supporters would do well to realise, as Ms Mayawati pointed out, the act under which she was giving financial aid to the Dalit rape victims has been enacted by the Centre and it can be nobody's case that it is meant to be a "compensation" for rape.
The policy is adopted by almost all state governments, including those ruled by the Congress, particularly in case of victims from deprived sections who are in dire need of rehabilitation. Apart from their tragedy being used as yet another occasion for politicking, in this case, instead of being offered any practical help, the victims are being further brutalised with the stigma of receiving money, paltry as it is, from the state, and are being exhorted to return it.
Much can be said against Ms Mayawati and her ways, but for now Ms Joshi would serve her and her party's cause better by offering an unequivocal and unconditional apology and not the likes of the following:
"I regret what I said in a fit of anger. If it is being misconstrued, if it's being misinterpreted, it is being taken out of context, then I regret it... I am myself a woman and I should not have spoken these words ... I really apologise."
The top leaders of her party too need to rise above cynical political calculations. Perhaps they are waiting for Ms Joshi to help them find their inner-voice -- and the higher moral ground -- by resigning herself?
Ms Mayawati too needs to ensure that those behind the arson and attack on Ms Joshi's residence are brought to justice. While Ms Joshi's choice of words was particularly unfortunate and have no place in our public discourse, no words can be cited as "provocation" for unleashing anarchy and mayhem.
One would have thought it would be obvious to all, but given what we keep hearing when discussing the seminal dates in our violent history, perhaps it is worth repeating over and over and over again like a mantra that two wrongs do not make a right.
- Ms Mayawati making similarly sick statements about Mr Mulayam Singh in 2007 does not justify Ms Joshi making such statements about Ms Mayawati in 2009.
- Ms Joshi making such statements does not justify burning down her house.
Ms Joshi has been booked under Sections 153 A (promoting enmity between two groups on ground of religion or caste) and 509 (word or gesture aimed at outraging the modesty of a woman) of the IPC, the Scheduled Castes, Tribes (prevention of atrocities) Act, 1989 and Section 7 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act. While fighting this detention legally and politically, the Congress would do well to send out a message that it stands for decency in public discourse.