A lout, a slap and Nagma: She owed it to women to act tougher

It has been three days since actor-turned-politician Nagma was shown on television slapping away the hand of a man, reportedly Congress MLA from Uttar Pradesh Gaj Raj Singh, as he walked up from behind her amid a large crowd, grabbed her face and appeared to either plant a kiss on her cheek or say something into her ear. Head covered with her saree, you can see the Congress candidate from Meerut whip away his hand immediately but she seems to not say anything to the offender, who falls back into the crowd as she enters a campaign vehicle, a thick crowd still milling around.

Between that incident and Thursday evening's video footage where the actor appears to slap a man who apparently got too close for comfort as she walks in a large crowd of men, nobody from the Congress party has said anything about MLA Gaj Raj Singh.

 A lout, a slap and Nagma: She owed it to women to act tougher

Actress and Congress candidate Nagma. AFP

Not the spokespersons who speak on women's issues on television, not senior party leaders and not Nagma herself, who actually reportedly denied that anything had been amiss.

Instead, a local Congressman who spoke out against Singh was reportedly expelled.

Nagma joins millions of other women who face sexual violence and violation of their bodies and personal space every day, but in her case, there are more reasons than ever to be outraged.

The harassment — regardless of what the actor herself claims, the footage proves otherwise — comes just alongside Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi's repeated exhortations to women to place their trust in the UPA. The Congress party believes in empowering women, that women are a major workforce, that national progress is impossible unless the lot of our women improves, he has been repeating. He's reportedly walked among women workers collecting tendu leaves, extolled the virtues of reservation for women and prevailed upon the manifesto committee to throw in some gender-sensitive election ideas.

Really, now is the time to walk his talk and act against Meerut's Congressmen, their behaviour described mildly by local party leaders as overenthusiastic supporters of Nagma.

Of course, Congress rally-goers are not the only thugs in election season. The BJP actually has to make separate enclosures for women at some of its multi-crore Modi rallies.

This is also not the first time that a Congress leader is in the eye of a controversy over manhandling a woman. In October-November 2013, actor Malayalam actor Shwetha Menon told police that a Congress MP from Kerala had repeatedly touched her inappropriately during a public function. She would later mysteriously withdraw her complaint.

Firstpost wrote that several power centres had worked overtime in persuading Menon to withdraw her charges, "including through direct threats by politicians in the media". The message was that she would have to pay a huge price for her complaint.

In that instance, a local Congressman had reportedly said of Menon that a woman who allows herself to be filmed giving birth to child has no right to play victim in the incident she had described to the police. Ever.

It's not difficult to see that ugly logic applied to Nagma -- an actor with a personal life that does not conform to any pattern has got to be fair game, right?

That women politicians do not speak out more openly is inexplicable.

Just why didn't Nagma follow the example set by Smriti Iraani, who decided to pursue her legal options when a Congress MP called her a thumkewaali?

A slap, brave as it might seem on television, is a poor example to set for millions of women who gather at political rallies and in front of television screens to find leaders to put their faith in.

A slap is no deterrent, the offender probably wears his punishment as his badge of honour. Men who paw women are not waiting to be chastised, they are committing a crime that's viewed seriously by the law of the land. And who better than my aspiring Parliamentarian to drive home the point that the law is sensitive to women?

It would have been spunkier by far to drag her "overenthusiastic supporter" to the nearest police station and then return to her campaign with a new message of zero-tolerance for sexual predators, roadside Romeos, peeping toms, elbowers and assorted louts.

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Updated Date: Mar 28, 2014 16:01:55 IST


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