Bravery is a great thing in women and is to be encouraged; modern technology and laws provide them with the tools to cloak themselves in it – apps to call for help, cameras to record, connectivity to upload, and the unquestioning protection of the law. Jasleen Kaur, a 20 year old female Delhi University student used social media in a different way to get publicity, and let us check how an entire nation went crazy for 24 hours.
Call it the influence of cinema, but every time we think of courts, we definitely think of these three things: 1) Order order, 2) Saboot, and 3) Gawaah. The first is probably an exaggeration, but the other two, which are Hindi/Urdu terms for proof and witness, are certainly pillars the entire law process in this country stands on. No one can be convicted without evidence nailing him or witnesses testifying against him.
But that’s so 20th century. Times have changed.
Jasleen Kaur, a 20 year old female Delhi University student, accused a boy Sarvjeet, also a Delhi resident, of molesting her at a road intersection in Tilak Nagar. She filed a police complaint and also shared her version of the incident on Facebook and Twitter. She posted the photo of the boy sitting on his motorbike, and no other evidence was provided. Fair enough, it is not expected from a victim to provide proof, that responsibility lies with the police. However, in the olden days, a judgement would be impossible without evidence. Not anymore.
This girl’s version of the story was endorsed by three precious gems of our great nation within 12 hours of it being posted on social media (no further evidence was provided by anybody):
1. Justice Arnab Goswami – investigator, judge, executioner. I won’t be surprised if one day he closes his eyes and the fire animation on Newshour gets put out and he is declared the Lord Almighty.
2. Delhi Police Commissioner B S Bassi, who didn’t feel the need to see any evidence before declaring a Rs.5,000 award for the “braveheart”. All he seems to be doing justice to is the abbreviation of his first and middle names.
3. Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, who congratulated the girl on Twitter as if he was lurking around hiding behind some bushes observing the whole incident unfolding.
Now, I was thinking that day what must be going on in the mind of Sarvjeet. There could be two scenarios. One, he is guilty – in which case it’s not my job to think what’s in his mind – criminals ought to be punished, not sympathized with. But since there was no evidence of his guilt, there was another possibility – he could be innocent. He probably would have thought, “the media will support the truth; hopefully they’ll urge the police to find proof.” Nope, the screaming mouth declares, and having done so, moves on: to other things to judge.
“Okay, the police would know what to do – they must deal with such cases all the time.” Well, no. When police saw this case coming their way, they were not reminded of their duty or responsibility – all they thought of was how good a PR opportunity this is. “We’re women empowerers, folks! Let’s reward the girl first, because she’s a girl, duh, we’ll concern ourselves with small matters such as the truth later.”
“Guys, guys,” the boy probably thought, “come on! Arvind Kejriwal!! The muffler man we voted for! He would certainly talk sense.” Well folks, muffler comes from the word muffle, which means “to cover up”. Arvind Kejriwal saheb, of whom I have been an ardent supporter since last two years, congratulated the girl for her bravery without seeing any proof. He went on to urge other girls in his state to act just like she did.
The boy was arrested, and in stark contrast, Jasleen was the star of Newshour the night of August 24th. She looked confident and poised for the most part, except when she teared up – sorry, I mean started crying, because I can’t say for sure I saw any tears in the 480p YouTube video on Times Now’s page – after
Meanwhile, people on social media showed some restraint – quite uncharacteristic but heartening. The top comments on almost all pages where this “news” was shared were skeptical about the genuineness of the accusation, and criticized the pages for reaching conclusions without proof. Almost all of them were wary of believing the girl without any proof – most mentioned the infamous Rohtak incident, where two girls (also hailed by Arnab Goswami as bravehearts) were captured on film beating up two boys in a bus, and were later found to be fake – it was all just a petty altercation for bus seats, and not a molestation case at all (as per numerous eyewitness accounts, the case is still subjudice). What’s the truth, people wondered.
Late that night, the boy Sarvjeet got bail and posted this on his Facebook profile.
Next morning, something a lot of people were waiting for finally happened – an eyewitness emerged. Vishwajeet Jha, a middle aged father of two children, a son and a daughter, claimed that he was on the spot when the entire incident unfolded, and repeated several times on national television that it had just been a small fight between two impatient youngsters, and there was no molestation or obscenity involved.
This changed everything! Remember, nothing changed if you consider the police investigation or the legal process – those things possibly haven’t even started yet – but since everything till now was playing out on the media, both social and conventional, the revelation changed the entire narrative. Following are the before-after posts on major social media platforms:
Yes, DNA skipped the boy’s version altogether.
So when the story first broke, was it out of the realm of possibility that there would be two sides of the story? Was it completely unthinkable that one of those people Justice Goswami derided as onlookers would come forward and enlighten us on what actually happened? Then why did these media outlets jump the gun and pronounce the boy guilty? What was the pressing need to pronounce the boy a molester without any evidence? Here is the simple reason: why settle for one clickbait post when you can have two.These Facebook media pages care for one thing and one thing only: clicks. They are clearly comfortable with destroying lives as long as it fetches them likes and shares.
There is a weird women-empowerment wave that seems to have engulfed the nation. Don’t get me wrong, there must be equality of the sexes. Women that are exploited and are not given rights equal to men must be empowered. But everyone seems to be doing what’s easy rather than what’s needed. Who has the time to go into rural places where women are burned alive on orders of panchayats, or listen to the countless women who are groped in the middle of big cities but don’t come into the media eye, when you can become a feminism-crusader from the comfort of your air-conditioned office by giving away awards in cases already picked up by the media? These pseudo-feminists want to empower the women that are easy to empower. Any guesses who those women are? The ones already empowered!
I can think of two instances when the nation went crazy for the cause of the exploited – one, the backward castes, and the other, dowry victims. Both were good intentions, but neither ended well. The former gave us caste based reservations, and the latter brought into the IPC ridiculous misandristic laws such as section 498A (which today is the most misused law in the country according to uncountable statistics). We need to exercise restraint with women-empowerment – carefully analyze the situation, ascertain who are the women who truly need empowerment, and then work towards that.
The craziness, the assumptions, the exploitation – need to stop.
Anyway, with the picture changed, Jasleen’s behavior changed too. Gone was the calm sophisticated Jasleen, and we saw the screaming angry Jasleen on national television. On Zee News, when she was together with the eyewitness in a programme, she left the programme mid-way accusing the anchor of running a “media trial”. Pretty absurd, considering she had no problem with the huge Times Now media trial the previous day, as long as the unfairness was directed at the boy. Links to both the TV programmes are at the end of this article.
It took her a while and a drastic change in the public perception to realize this, but she did realize the right thing. There should be no media trials. An accused is an accused, and everyone is innocent till proven guilty. It is absurd when the media blurs faces of only women, as if dignity is something exclusive to women. It’s high time the media, whether social or mainstream, realize these things. In the mean time, we, as viewers, need to protect ourselves from these biased, irresponsible sources of skewed information, and become wise enough to think and analyze every situation and reach an intelligent conclusion.
Also, “I don’t know” and “I will wait for more details before I judge” are perfectly valid positions.
In the end, as a personal note, I’d like to add that I have been an admirer of both Arvind Kejriwal and Arnab Goswami in the past. I think their caliber is something the country needs, given it is applied with care and prudence. A clarification from both of them will go a long way in restoring my faith, and that of millions others, in these highly talented men.