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FROM TRUMP TO BIDEN TO BARNALA TO PUNJAB UNIVERSITY CAMPUSES TO OUR POLITICS

Start talking now, or they will do this to our women
- S Pal
Start talking now, or they will do this to our women



WITH THE MAN who boasted how he grabbed women by their private parts and that "when you're a star, they let you do it" — Donald Trump — as President of the United States of America, a lot of the world now fondly recalls his predecessor, Barack Obama, always respectful of women and a personification of decency in public life.

And Barack Obama always said he loved Joe Biden, his vice president.

In fact, everybody loved Joe Biden.

Loving Joe Biden became the gold standard of being right in politics.

Till, on March 29, a former Nevada assembly woman, Lucy Flores (in pic with Joe Biden), published an essay in The New York Times describing how the US Vice President, who everyone loved, touched her inappropriately and kissed her on the head and made her uncomfortable.

Since then, two more women have come forth claiming the former vice president’s touches made them uncomfortable.

Joe Biden is now set to make a serious come back. He is expected to run for presidency to rid the United States of Donald Trump, a president lecherous by any standards. 

In India, where the media has put out reams of propaganda about Prime Minister Narendra Modi hugging and being touch-feely with President Trump, without raising any questions about what signal does it send to women, to decent people anywhere — "you idiot, you know the Americans elected their president, we didn't, and we have to deal with whoever is the president of the US!" (That's on behalf of those of you who can't see a point) — there has been very little coverage of the Joe Biden controversy.

My guess is that in a lot of homes and a lot of minds, you would hear words to the effect that if all that Biden did was to grab a woman by her shoulders from behind and tried clumsily to kiss her on the head, then what's the big deal? (Sure, you're right. Just do not shake my hand next time I meet you.)

He did it in public. He may be doing it in a fatherly way. He is such a decent person. She had called him to canvass support for her. He was not, you know, grabbing her the way Donald Trump described grabbing. 

After all, poor 76-years-old Biden is being thrashed around in a controversy over his longstanding habit of affectionately putting his hands all over women he meets.
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Horrible tales of university and college professors exploiting or looking to exploit women colleagues and subordinates, including research students, are the stuff of everyday talk in university campuses. 
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This, and seventy-nine other arguments apart, all that Joe Biden could afford in the US politics was a silence of three days. Even during those three days, his spokespersons continued to say stuff, trying to do damage control.

On Wednesday, April 3, Biden felt enough pressure to decide that he will have to address the matter. Any chance of a possible presidential bid depended on that. He made a home video, wherein he vowed to "be more mindful and respectful of people’s personal space.”
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Also Read: BAD, BAD WOMAN! 
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Sitting on a sofa, his legs crossed, he said, "I shake hands, I hug people, I grab men and women by the shoulders and say, ‘You can do this’...(but) social norms have begun to change, they’ve shifted, and the boundaries of protecting personal space have been reset and I get it. I get it. I hear what they’re saying.

The two-minute video was a clear and tacit admission that he did exactly what Lucy Flores had accused him of. Biden seemed to be preparing to join the race to take it away from Trump. "Folks,” he said in the beginning of his home video, "in the coming month I expect to be talking to you about a whole lot of issues, and I’ll always be direct with you.”
 
But we must talk a lot more about this issue. How do we react when a woman in India makes serious allegations about a politician, allegations much more shocking and horrendous than what Lucy Flores alleged against Biden?

Late senior Akali leader Surjit Singh Barnala's son and politician Gaganjit Singh, who was then 46, was accused by a middle-aged maid-servant in 2006 of raping her at his then official residence in Sector 3 in Chandigarh. 

Senior journalist Ramesh Vinayak, who was then working for India Today, said in his report that "(f)or the police, the victim's statement and the medical report were damning enough for them to book him under Section 376 of CrPC."

He quoted a police official as saying that "prima facie, it's an open-and-shut case of sexual assault."

Now and then Chief Minister, Amarinder Singh, was in those days courting the Barnalas to lend their weight to a fledgling third front of runaway Akali factions to damage Badal's support base. But neither Amarinder nor Badal said a word about the episode. Gentlemen that they were, they decided to prefer silence. Amarinder Singh, in fact, said he "will not use this unfortunate incident to demolish the Akalis."

Three years later, Additional District and Sessions Judge Ravi Kumar Sondhi acquitted Gaganjit of rape and other charges because the woman, who, three years earlier was rushed to hospital with injuries and severe bleeding from her private parts, told the court that she had suddenly remembered how she was injured; actually, she had received injuries after falling off a bicycle. 

There was a video of her initial statements given to the police, but the woman told the judge: "I was not in a proper state of mind and have no idea about what I said."
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It is always easy to hit back at any woman and claim it all part of a controversy to fix the person named by a woman. It is difficult to engage with a paradigm in which we render invisible even those women who dare to speak out. 

That's why it is important to see how American politicians and intelligentsia responded to the latest row. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (pic), a longtime friend of Biden, has said that "people’s space is important to them, and what’s important is how they receive it and not necessarily how you intended it.”

Senior commentators, including even those sympathetic to the Democratic Party, have noted that Biden has still not offered a direct apology to the women who have come forward. 

But the problem is even more serious. Biden is framing the issue around changing social norms, saying he comes from an old world where he always had a tactile style of politics — shoulder rubs, hugs and kisses thrown in. 

"Scores, if not hundreds, of people have come up to me and reached out for solace and comfort — something, anything that may help them get through the tragedy they’re going through...It’s just who I am. I’ve never thought of politics as cold and antiseptic.

So, he hugged and kissed. 

"I worked my whole life to empower women...the idea that I can’t adjust to the fact that personal space is important, more important than it’s ever been, is just not thinkable. I will. I will,” he said in the home video. 

So a woman tells the world that you acted funny, and then you realise that the world's idea of respect for personal space has changed? You think it all happened after #MeToo in the world? After Nirbhaya rape and death in India? 

At the 2006 G-8 summit in Russia, then US President George W. Bush came up behind German leader Angela Merkel and ran his hand on her back, a sort of back rub. Did Merkel like it? Did Biden miss that controversy?

Punjab's politicians have never ever cited the Kiranjit rape and murder case to underline how our politics failed to stand up for our women. A strong fight put up by the brave girls and boys of the Punjabi University, Patiala to stop turning women hostels into prisons and cages did not get the political backing. Worse, it finds no mention in our political discourse.

Horrible tales of university and college professors exploiting or looking to exploit women colleagues and subordinates, including research students, are the stuff of everyday talk in university campuses. Our politics is being blind to it all.

What are our politicians waiting for? For a bombastic story about when someone pulls a woman inside a secluded room and assaults her so that the issue is good enough to announce that we are for women security?

The girls and boys at the Panjab University have defeated this politics of rendering their issues invisible. They made sure to take the authorities by the scruff of their neck and made them see the issue. The women hostel gates now stay open, and the sky has not fallen! But where is the engagement of mainstream political parties?

Remember the little girl in Kathua? Why is Kathua not figuring in the conversations now when India is debating politics every night on television? If it does, a lot of us will be reminded of what our politicians and political parties said about the Kathua rape and murder of a kid. Also, we will then talking about the role of Jammu Bar Council, a group of the most educated and law knowing elite of our society, and about the political support it received.

From "Dhiyan da satikar karo, putran vaangoo pyar karo" song playing on the loop in praise more of Harsimrat Kaur Badal than of India's daughters, to the Congress' promises in its manifesto to reserve 33% central government jobs for women and have women hostels in Special Economic Zones, we see lip service and little action.

The time to make noise is when someone places his hands in a manner a woman finds offensive. If we remain silent then, we start learning how to stay silent. Then we need something as gory as a Nirbhaya case to go light candles at a traffic intersection downtown.

And we can't even do that all too frequently.

So, it's important to start talking about Joe Biden. Or we will get out own Donald Trump. 
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We need to send a message to politicians that if you do not see women's issues, issues of gender justice, of access to public places, of right to a life with dignity, if you try to reduce women's issues to merely issues of women's security, if all you can offer is more CCTV cameras and bulbs atop poles, then you have lost us. 

Then you have lost the plot, and with it the votes of women, and of all decent people.

We need to stop accepting a politics in which a woman gets confused whether she was raped or if she fell off a bicycle. It wasn't the woman's fault; it wasn't the bicycle's fault, and it wasn't just the shoddy justice dispensing system. It was us who failed that woman. It is we who are failing a hell of a lot of women.

We are then the brothers of Sucha Singh Langah, an honourable citizen of Mother India who was falsely accused by a woman of repeatedly raping her and who figured in a blockbuster video clip made by the woman and handed over to the cops, but who was later found to be such an innocent man.

It's time to stop being a culprit in a rape case. It’s time to stop being the culprit’s aides. It's time to start talking.
 

Disclaimer : PunjabToday.in and other platforms of the Punjab Today group strive to include views and opinions from across the entire spectrum, but by no means do we agree with everything we publish. Our efforts and editorial choices consistently underscore our authors' right to the freedom of speech. However, it should be clear to all readers that individual authors are responsible for the information, ideas or opinions in their articles, and very often, these do not reflect the views of PunjabToday.in or other platforms of the group. Punjab Today does not assume any responsibility or liability for the views of authors whose work appears here.

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Punjab Today believes in serious, engaging, narrative journalism at a time when mainstream media houses seem to have given up on long-form writing and news television has blurred or altogether erased the lines between news and slapstick entertainment. We at Punjab Today believe that readers such as yourself appreciate cerebral journalism, and would like you to hold us against the best international industry standards. Brickbats are welcome even more than bouquets, though an occasional pat on the back is always encouraging. Good journalism can be a lifeline in these uncertain times worldwide. You can support us in myriad ways. To begin with, by spreading word about us and forwarding this reportage. Stay engaged.

— Team PT
 






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