29 Aug 2015

Why We Loved Jasleen Kaur

By the time you read this, the dust will almost have settled on the Jasleen Kaur-Sarvajeet Singh incident. Mainstream media has already torn the guy to pieces, and social media has torn into the girl. People are bored now, and must be busy oiling their ‘outrage’ guns to point and shoot at someone else.

When Jasleen posted about Sarvajeet Singh on Facebook, it didn't take long for the post to go viral. Yes, we supported Jasleen because she was (is) a girl. Apparently reality was exactly the opposite of what she posted. But this gender bias is not exclusive to India. I remember reading about an outrage caused by a woman who tweeted about a guy. Apparently he cracked a sexist joke while sitting behind her at a tech conference. The joke was not aimed at any gender. It was something innocent and typical that guys would laugh over. But her tweet led to an outrage and cost the guy his job. He was married and had three children at that time.

Let’s look beyond this gender bias. There is a deeper layer. We stood in support of Jasleen for the same reason that we loved Rahul Dravid and Manmohan Singh. The same reason why, even now, there are many supporters of Arvind Kejriwal.

They play the victim card.

Image courtesy: MensXP

See I think mediocrity and internal dissatisfaction are deeply rooted in us because of the way we are treated. Whether while travelling to work, or at our workplaces, we are constantly exposed to situations and people we don’t like, and feel disrespected. Somewhere, everyone of us has felt, or still feels, victimized. And when someone appears to be victimized, when we feel like the person is helpless, our protective instincts go into overdrive.

We believed Dravid was a victim when Ganguly was dropped from the Indian squad after altercations with Greg Chappell. We believed Manmohan Singh was a victim when politicians around him indulged in scams that bled our country dry. We still believe Kejriwal is a victim because of his relentless rants of not having control of Delhi - who cares about the fact that he is busy plotting against the government rather than taking care of his own constituency! We believed Jasleen was a victim because she said that she was harassed by the boy. Arnab Goswami went insane (went?), India outraged (#FightBackIndia), and a police case was lodged against the boy. Well done outragers. And this is precisely why leaders like Narendra Modi and MS Dhoni have countless haters… because they stand for what they believe in, and refuse to answer for their actions to idiots. They refuse to be victims, and that makes us uncomfortable.

Do we know the real story before we outrage? Do we think about the possible repercussions on people before slinging mud on them? Haven’t we shamelessly forwarded WhatsApp jokes like ‘God Bless Sunny Leone’ when Abdul Kalam died, or during the bomb blast in Bangkok, or the crash of MH370? What gives us the right to point fingers at someone else and demand that they be punished? What gives us the right demand that people get scarred for life? 

The media simply sensationalizes these cases for ratings. And we, who have nothing better to do than peek into others’ lives, play along, living our days one outrage after another. All this while the media laughs its way to the bank, politicians quietly indulge in hopelessly immoral acts, and real issues lie suppressed and unaddressed.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that we must ignore issues. But there is a difference between an outrage and a protest. In the former, we simply say slanderous things and call for punishment of those whom WE consider guilty. In the latter, we step out of our houses, leave our phones behind, and do something that makes the relevant people sit up and take notice.

If you want to place your faith in people, place it in those who work quietly, rather than those who keep complaining, or leading outrages, or Cinderellas waiting to be rescued. Remember the proverb you learnt in school: ‘Empty vessels make the most noise’? Maybe our teachers were preparing us for today so that we could behave like mature individuals rather than play ball with people who whip out the victim card more than Arnab Goswami says “The nation wants to know.” Start by looking at your own life and improving it. Reduce looking at the lives of others. Stop whining. Do things that make you happy. You will find that you don’t have the time or patience to participate in outrages. Gradually, you will prefer keeping whiners at a fair distance. And yes, choose your role models carefully. Make a poor choice and you never know when you will wind up at the wrong end of the outrage trend.

I was deeply disturbed when people started sharing the video where a TimesNow journo misbehaved with Sarvajeet Singh. But I was heartened by his courage when he didn’t back down and stayed calm throughout. And gradually, I was also heartened by the fact that websites and people were critical of the appalling behavior of the journalist. Just like the tech conference incident mentioned above, where the woman got a fair bit of flak too, people fought back here, showing that good sense does prevail sometimes.


Jasleen, if you are reading this post, I want to ask you one question: Are you a bully? And you, dear reader, I want to know what you are going to do to stop siding with those who demand sympathy and choose to look at both sides of a story.

8 comments :

  1. I remember an incident I witnessed a few years ago at Thane Station. A mob had lynched a young man aged 20-22 yrs for allegedly “groping” a middle aged woman during the rush hour in the evening. The poor man was thrashed so badly, he was in tears unable to talk and had urinated. All because this man must have accidentally brushed past her in a crowded public place and the woman created an outcry screaming attention. I cannot say who was at fault.

    Our mentality has become a lot like those of the blood thirsty spectators who used to view the Gladiator battles at the Colossuem in the Roman empire of the middle ages. Random street fights are recorded on video and become viral on youtube and other social media.
    Like in the above case, where people were livid just because a woman screamed and demanded attention, instead of probing the matter, it was a lot easier for the crowd gathered to take the matter in their hands and lynch the poor bloke instead of asking the RPF or the GRP officials to intervene and resolve the matter through the right channels.

    The media is also responsible as they have given undue importance to a non issue instead of focusing on more pressing matters. The media cannot act like a self appointed court that decides who is the perpetrator and who is the victim. We have law enforcement agencies like the police and courts who will decide that, even though there is no guarantee how soon justice will be dispensed.

    A huge learning for me from this whole lesson is that one should not completely believe whatever one reads on social and print media and it should always be taken with a pinch of salt. Before forming an opinion, one should always investigate the matter in depth and look at both sides of the story. The media will print what they want to print and people will believe what they want to believe.

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    1. So well written Ashutosh. You should start your own blog :)

      It's a pity that people become men when it comes to protecting women outside, but mistreat them inside their houses.

      We know what the media wants. Unfortunately, we play along every time. It's like knowing that a lion eats humans, but standing in front of a hungry one anyway.

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  2. There are many layers to what you have written. I do agree that somewhere we all feel victimized. As a woman, I have faced umpteen situations where I have been harangued and harassed just because I am a woman. Most times, I am unable to do anything except ignore the cat calls or lewd comments. So, yes on that level, one can believe that a woman can face such a situation. Also, we are all warming up to the benefits of social media. We know that something going viral can get us instant justice where our law and order system fails miserably. Since we are used to trials by media, we see nothing wrong with that either.

    About your point of outrage versus protest, from a practical point of view, it is impossible to get up and protest every time and for every issue. And seriously, what will come of it? Women's safety and abuse have been going on since time immemorial. I was happy that the journalist video was shared. That showed the ugly side of journos and media.

    You know these cases are often my word against the perpetrator's. If the eyewitness had not come forward, no one would have known. What can be done is that there ought to be some punishment for women who misuse laws or social media that gives them protection. What is even sadder is that this will actually affect someone who has undergone harassment and will not be believed in the future. That is what makes me sad.

    When you say that the real issues are neither addressed nor acted upon, you are bang right. Often, we all just do lip service to a cause because it is hep but actual change in mindsets is not happening.

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    1. Agreed Rachna, that women have it much tougher out there because of shameless behavior by men. And also that we cannot stand up and protest for everything.

      Men get marked because some of our kind behaves badly with women. But most people post on social media either for attention or because they have nothing better to do. So, the few who are trying to make a difference suffer the wrath of people calling them attention-seekers too.

      I am not saying that we must protest for everything. Neither am I denying that women are harassed, or that there is a lot going on in our country which is wrong. All I'm saying is that we need to make more meaningful use of our time and pick the battles we want to fight. That way, we will know which issues (women's safety, agriculture etc.) need attention and which issues (like Salman Khan, Indrani etc.) are not worth our time.

      Thanks for this insightful comment Rachna. Gave a whole new perspective to this post.

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    2. Your post is very pertinent, Vishal, and sensible too. But, often the two sides of the story are not really there for us to see. Have you seen the movie -- "Gone Girl?" It is shocking how some women can manipulate and literally get away with murder. Of course, that was a fictitious tale but it shows the fickle nature of humans to follow for sob stories.

      You are absolutely right; we certainly need to choose the issues that we need to side with. There is a lot of noise on social media that we need to sift through. News channels -- I have stopped watching them. Sigh!

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  3. Yes we do empathize and sympathize with people who play the victim card. In this case, there was a lot of positive hype followed by negative publicity. Not sure if the eye witness was speaking the truth, but the fact is that in Delhi harassment is common, and women just live with it. That too needs to change.

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    1. Let's hope we see the day when real victims get rightful justice. Thanks for dropping by Somali :)

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