Should 'rich girls' not file FIRs? Tavleen Singh's attack on Preity Zinta

It seems there is no shortage of fools who rush in where even film stars fear to tread.

Shah Rukh Khan probably had one of the more sensible responses to the Preity Zinta molestation case.

“It’s a personal issue. It’s an issue she has brought up and I assume it will be dealt legally. As a friend of hers, I will just talk to her.”

Contrast this with the instant-judgement tweets from the likes of Tavleen Singh. "Shame on Preity Zinta for making a molestation out of a tiff between ex-lovers. When little girls are raped and hanged for nothing."

 Should rich girls not file FIRs? Tavleen Singhs attack on Preity Zinta

AFP

Mind you, Zinta’s FIR is not about “sexual molestation” which is something many in the media missed initially even though it invokes sections of the IPC that deal with insulting “the modesty of a woman”.

But after Singh got a lot of flak for her tweet she tried to clarify herself but just dug her heels in further.

"Clarification: In a country with vile, daily crimes against women it is wrong for privileged women to file trivial cases."

Perhaps Twitter is not the best medium for nuanced position on sensitive issues but Singh’s response is just plain nonsensical. Just recently she had excoriated Nehruvian liberals for an “elitism concealed in a socialist tradition” where poverty seems almost “romantic and alluring” as viewed from their Lutyens bungalows. This, she says, is the big difference with Modi who has known the indignities of poverty first hand and not as a tourist.

“Human beings, no matter how poor, want a life of dignity and this is something the Prime Minister understands well,” writes Singh.

Yet when it comes to the Preity Zinta case Singh blithely conceals her reverse elitism in some kind of liberal tradition of speaking up for the less privileged. It’s as if she is saying human beings who happen to be wealthy have no right to expect the same “life of dignity” she wants to so magnanimously accord to the less fortunate. Singh ends up playing exactly the same “Lady Bountiful” she scorns Sonia Gandhi for being, the one who determines who gets what crumbs of comfort thrown their way.

The fact of the matter is all we know is that Preity Zinta and Ness Wadia had a relationship. That relationship ended but they remained co-owners of their cricket team. Unfortunately some kind of ugly altercation took place inside their box at the Wankhede stadium that resulted in this FIR. Zinta claims something. Wadia claims something else.

It is for law enforcement to determine whether the charges made in the FIR are trivial or not. It’s not for Tavleen Singh or the rest of us pontificating on Twitter to know or pre-suppose. If Singh has proof otherwise she has plenty of forums to expose it instead of tweeting unsubstantiated allegations.

Sure, it was not the smartest move by Zinta to take off for the US before her statement could be recorded. It would have made more sense to stick around for follow up instead of posting earnest messages on Facebook about it. But to offhandedly dismiss her charge as “trivial” is to trivialize the issue itself.

The reaction also nakedly exposes what we routinely think of actresses in show biz. Zinta faces a double whammy.

One, she is an actor and therefore automatically assumed to be of loose morals and prone to nautanki. As @SanjayRRai tweets “Priety Zinta started her acting career today…. Nice acting. #PreityNessMess.”

(That hashtag incidentally is an Indian television channel’s contribution to the story – another shining example of thoughtful responsible journalism, all rhyme and no reason.)

And two, Zinta has once been in a relationship with the man she’s filing the complaint against. Therefore any claims of molestations are ipso facto nonsensical. @raggedtag rues “Seeing tweets on PZ doing this for badla I understand why marital rape will never make sense to Indians.”

Of course, it’s entirely possible that Wadia is right and Zinta has vindictively pushed a false case to teach him a lesson. Or Zinta is being honest when she says “It saddens me that no one at work or around ever stood up for me in the past when i was abused and insulted publicly. This time i was left with no option but to take this stern step.”

The point is that is not our call right now to anoint her either as the patron saint of the harassed women or a publicity-hungry golddigger.

When the infamous Delhi gang-rape spurred protests and candlelight vigils across the country, Arundhati Roy complained that the same sense of outrage was missing when tribal girls were raped and killed in villages and forests.

“However, the real problem is why is this crime creating such a lot of outrage is because it plays into the idea of the criminal poor, like the vegetable vendor, gym instructor or bus driver actually assaulting a middle class girl. Whereas when rape is used as a means of domination by upper castes, the army or the police it is not even punished.”

But the reaction to Zinta turns Roy’s logic on its head basically creating a reverse hierarchy where the privileged woman is supposed to suck it in and ignore harassment because of the horrors of what happens in Badaun. Many who complain about how a molestation survivor is shamed into silence and how those crimes are underreported as a result do not see how they are doing exactly the same silencing to Preity Zinta. Badaun was supposed to open up the conversation not shut it down.

Even if Zinta concocted the entire story, the message the social media attack on her sends out to some other woman out there in a similar predicament is noxious. One wonders if a Tavleen Singh would have been so quick to tweet to judgement if a Ness Wadia had had a molestation/harassment charge filed against him by a maid servant ala Shiney Ahuja instead of a Preity Zinta.

The irony is if Preity Zinta had actually been turned away by the police when she went to file that FIR many of those now mocking her would be pointing fingers saying “Look if a famous actress and co-owner of an IPL team cannot get an FIR filed what hope is there for a poor Dalit family in the back of beyond?”

The law ideally should demonstrate equal alacrity and fairness when it comes to a poor family in Badaun and a Preity Zinta. But to use the plight of one to dismiss the claims of the other does no one, least of all women, any favours.

Updated Date: Jun 17, 2014 16:43:35 IST