Mallika Writes: Just Speaking

10th June - DNA

An ordinary educated woman gets a non medical job in a hospital, a good one. She is befriended by someone from the same caste, someone much higher up in the pecking order who promises to show her the ropes. She is comforted. They soon start up a normal friendship, chatting at tea breaks. If they get off work together he offers to give her a lift home. One day he says he has to stop somewhere before dropping her, to give something to a friend. “Come in, its only for a few minutes”. They go in. She is offered a drink. The next thing she knows is that she is sitting outside her own home. She has no recollection of what happened in between. The next day at the tea break the man sits besides her and shows he a video taken on his phone of her ( or maybe it isn’t her?) performing fallacio to him. She is traumatized. How could this be? She is happily married. He smiles and says “meet me after work at my friend’s place.” Terrified of going, terrified of not going, she goes. He forces her to undress and rapes her. “ Remember, I have the video. I can send it to your husband or to the hospital or to our entire community”. She lives in torment, acceding to his wishes. Unable to bear it she resigns from her job. She has nightmares, Finally she decides to tell everything to her husband. He is supportive. They go to file an FIR. But the man has long arms. The police at Paldi refuse to take one. She goes to the SI and then higher. But the man is more powerful than she realized. No one will take her complaint. Blackmail.

A young girl is out on a picnic with her friends. It’s a group of girls and they started playing around, being Sheila and Munni, showing cleavage and jutting out their hips. Its all good fun. But one of them has shot this and shows it to her boyfriend. Within days the girl gets a phone call from a boy in college she doesn’t know. “I have your video. If you don’t want me to make it public, meet me this evening”. Blackmail.

An extra marital affair. A tiff. She wants to break off. But he has recorded their amorous conversations. He has her sms messages.  He will show these to her husband and children. Her life will be finished unless she continues the affair. Blackmail.

We are surrounded by cases like this. Disaffected lovers. Men whose passes girls don’t respond to. Workers with a grouse against a boss. And with our police and justice system as lethargic as it is, or as prone to being swayed monetarily or politically or by other pressures, what hope does a victim have?

But there are other cases of blackmail by public bodies, often well known, that remain unpunished. Take the case of the media. Here in Gujarat there are several newspapers who regularly blackmail people to be bought off by them. Some of them are even considered, or were once considered “prestigious”. They dig up dirt on people, real or imagined. They publish a little piece hoping that the fish will catch. Then they either call and ask bluntly for money if the party wants the piece withheld, or they continue printing, knowing that in 95% of cases there will be some truth in the story and the party will succumb. BLACKMAIL.

But what if some of us don’t succumb? If we call their bluff? What is in store for us then?

Well over the last decade one Gujarati paper has tried this with me, calling me and my family all kinds of names. I have taken them to the Press Club of India which is supposed to be the regulatory body, but has no teeth whatsoever. Apologies have been printed, but in such innocuous ways and in such small print that they are of no consequence. And what about our libel laws? Well they go through the same courts with the 20 year delays, and the judges often open to “persuasion”. (And of course the judge is also frightened that the same dirt will be flung at them if they give a fair judgement). So what is to be done? Do we all sit and silently let the dirty bullies who control these papers do what they want? Certainly not. For all our sakes it is time to bell the cat. More of this later.


June 10th, 2011, DNA


About Mallika . Mallika Writes . News & Events . Gallery . Contact Mallika                                                                                                           © 2008 Mallika Sarabhai