The case involving Trinamool Congress’ Mahua Moitra and her expulsion from the Lok Sabha has given me pause to ponder over the various issues confronting women in this country. If a Member of Parliament can be subjected to a witch-hunt and ignominious exit from the Parliament of the nation, then the condition of other, ‘less empowered’ women in our country can be gauged for what it is — wholly disempowered. This is misogyny at its worst.
What makes the case even more shocking is the nature of allegations levelled against Moitra. The inquiry committee set up to probe whether her ‘actions’ are commensurate with the decision to expel her from the Lok Sabha, asked her questions of a deeply personal nature that had nothing to do with her professional conduct and performance as an elected Member of Parliament.
If anything, those questions reeked of the kind of insult and mockery that victims of sexual assault and abuse/harassment are subjected to in the courts of our country, on a regular basis.
According to unconfirmed sources, Moitra’s ‘crime’ — sharing login and password details of her Parliamentary email account with members of her office team, and ‘cash-for-query’ allegations — was deemed so serious as to warrant her expulsion, through an inquiry committee that was believed to be biased and pre-determined to effect her ouster.
Everything she did and did not was thrown open to unwarranted scrutiny. Her choice of clothes, her handbag, her sunglasses and so forth were considered fair ground for mockery. Her very character was called into question on account of being ‘divorced’. This cements the belief if that asking for a divorce in our country is still anathema.
In all this, the role of her jilted lover is also being called into question, highlighted, even. The said ex is believed to have been working dedicatedly towards bringing down Moitra, by any means possible. The joint custody of a dog they shared was also brought into question and subjected to endless ridicule. This speaks volumes about the ‘conduciveness’ of our countrymen ‘owning’ pet and then using these sentient beings in ugly custody battles.
Meanwhile, the mere fact that Moitra is not allied to or answerable to a man seems to have worked against her and put her in disfavour of the powers that be and even the inquiry committee that ordered her expulsion.
This is a sad commentary on the beliefs and motivations of our compatriots, in general and men in positions of power, in particular. One is forced to surmise what would have happened had there been a man inside of a woman caught in this rigmarole. Would roles not have reversed? Instead of the inquiry committee coming up with derogatory comments and objectionable questions, would the person in the dock not have accused it of bias and injustice?
It is with profound sadness that I have come to the conclusion that Moitra was forced to endure derision and caustic jibes of a personal and sexual nature solely because of the fact that she is a woman. That she comes from an affluent family and had a successful career abroad — and thus could easily afford that fancy handbag and those chic sunglasses — seems to have been conveniently overlooked during her witch-hunt.
It reminds me of the differing treatment we subject our women to in all walks of life and at the risk of repeating myself, if this is what they make a high-profile MP endure, one can only surmise the completely powerless position ordinary, average girls and women of our country would find themselves in, on a daily basis.