With the allegations of sexual harassment by actress Tanushree Dutta against her co-star Nana Patekar on the sets of movie in year 2008 it seems whole India is on a sexual rampage with daily new allegations and Bollywood is not the only one hit by this shocking bug as even Central Government minister, private company’s CEO to police officers to bureaucrats ,all are right now engulfed in this fire so much so that Union Minister Maneka Gandhi announced four member committee headed by a retired judge to look into all allegations of #metoo. All the hidden secrets of bollywood, Government, policemen, bureaucrats are out and there is no place for predators to hide themselves from this line of firing. It’s not that in the past no such allegations were made, in fact Tarun Tejpal, editor-in-chief of Tehelka magazine, case is a classic example how confidently , without any fear of law, these high positioned personalities force themselves on their subordinates and then brazen it out in public by character assassination of the victim.
But as they say every crime has a limited shell life and right now Tanushree has broken this shell and her guts to expose the mighty has a morale boosting effect on others and every victimized woman is exposing the guilty and fighting bravely to bring habitual culprits under the glare of law. The most noticeable thing is that all these women have chosen social media to name, blame and shame these powerful men without a fear of backlash, their identity is an open secret now and each and every culprit is searching for a cover to hide.
Coming to our own State of Jammu and Kashmir, #Me Too is not a new phenomenon as daughter of the soil, a leading journalist right now with a reputed national newspaper disclosed on her FB page how in the year 1999 during her tenure with a local English daily of J&K, a top bureaucrat and now a leading theatre personality misbehaved with her during the interview. Recalling the event, how on reaching back to office crying she narrated her ordeal to her editor in chief and the whole incident was covered on the front page of that newspaper but no action was taken against the culprit and in fact he was awarded Padma Shri , fourth highest civilian award, later on and this itself speaks about the insensitivity shown by the respective Governments during selection of awardees. Another case of #Me Too surfaced in the year 2007 when one lady constable broke her silence and explained how an ASI of police Feroze Ahmad Najar, who during his tenure as in charge of deployment of woman constables had allegedly sexually exploited them. Najar was demoted to the rank of a constable after a departmental inquiry found him guilty and a case had been registered following directions of the state High Court.
The inquiry stated that Najar, who was in-charge of deployment of women police contingent, had sexually abused woman constables and charged money for keeping them off duty depending on the period they wanted to avail as free holidays. Another case which rocked not one individual but covered the entire so called elite class; bunch of politicians, high police officials, bureaucrats, advocate general, you name the profession and persons were involved. The case, known as the J&K Sex Scandal, made news headlines when police came across CDs of two minor girls sexually exploited in 2006. When questioned, the victims lead investigators to the racket’s kingpin Sabeena, who died during trial itself. Victim revealed how when she approached Sabeena for financial help, the latter gave her a sedative-laced drink and forced her to indulge in sexual acts. The victim was given a meager Rs 500 the first time. Investigations led police to 56 people, some of them high profile men of power, two ministers, one Principal Secretary, one DIG, one Additional Advocate General and others were also arrested and ultimately Supreme Court transferred the case to Chandigarh in 2006. Even J&K Chief Minister Omar Abdullah resigned from his position in July 2009 when his name also came up during investigations, however his resignation was rejected by the Governor and CBI later cleared him of the charges. Several other suspects were also acquitted as trial progressed for lack of evidence and witnesses turning hostile. Ultimately a special court this year itself sentenced five convicts—two high-ranking police officers among them—to 10 years imprisonment for raping a minor in a 12-year-old case from Jammu & Kashmir. This is a classic case which at last has seen some conclusion though majority of the initial accused got scot free due to lack of evidence.
Another incident of #Me Too that rocked our state was of MoS , Health and Medical Education, Shabir Ahmad Khan in the year 2014 after a subordinate working as a block medical officer in the state capital Srinagar charged him with molesting her. The woman doctor, said to be a close relative of a senior Kashmiri separatist leader, alleged that Shabir Ahmad Khan, a Congress minister in J&K’s National Conference-led coalition, made lewd verbal suggestions and “advances amounting to molestation.” According to the victim, the minister summoned her to his chamber in Srinagar on the pretext of seeking details about Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad’s health sector announcements during a visit to the Valley. She recorded that she was made to wait for the minister in a tiny cubical adjacent to the ministerial office , asked to make Kahwa and subsequently subjected to what she claimed was “sexual harassment.”Acting on the woman doctor’s written complaint, the Srinagar’s Shaheed Gunj police station booked Khan on charges under Sections 354 (assault or criminal force on a woman with the intention to outrage modesty of a woman) and 509 (act intended to insult the modesty of a woman) of the Ranbir Penal Code (the criminal statute in force in J&K). Subsequently Shabir Khan resigned from the cabinet and the case is still waiting to be concluded. Even before dust of this case can settle another major scandal broke out in Health Department, this time it was Director Health Services Kashmir himself.
The FIR 46/2014 was again lodged at the Shaheedgunj police station under section 354A of the Ranbir Penal Code (RPC) against Director, Health Services, Saleem-ur-Rehman, Anantnag CMO, Nazir Ahmad Shahdad, Anantnag BMO, Arshad Tak and MS Muhammad Ashraf as the nurse approached the police station, complaining that the Director tried to molest her after calling her in his office. The nurse, said to be working at a Health Centre in South Kashmir, has also leveled serious allegation against the CMO and the BMO and the medical officer. Meanwhile Health Minister Taj Mohi-ud-Din also ordered a departmental enquiry in the case. The nurse also complained that these senior officials have placed her husband, serving in the same department as a doctor, under suspension after she refused their sexual advances. Case died its natural death as many more in the past. Not long ago another instance of # Me Too was making headlines, two IAS officers were involved with one attempting suicide but the matter got hushed up with transfer of one of them outside the state. A senior officer from Jammu and Kashmir Animal Husbandry Department has been suspended recently after he was arrested in Rajouri district on the charges of sexual harassment.
The latest in #Me Too is the allegation of a DySP against a retired ADGP, who happened to be Vigilance Commissioner as well as IGP Crime and if the allegations are found true the matter becomes more serious as famous Rasana case FIR and constitution of various investigating teams were done during his tenure itself.
Tragic part is that lady officer has approached every so called official channels, right from IGP,DG, CM , SAC and ultimately she has filed a writ in High Court also but justice eluded her. Time and again names of police officials have surfaced in land grabbing cases as recent as land retrieval near Sidhra Golf Course recently and a thorough investigation needs to done to get to the depth of the case but as the allegations are against a retired police official of the rank of ADGP who happens to be a close relative of one of the advisors of the present Governor, it will be interesting to see how the justice is delivered. The whole administration from police to CID to bureaucrats are all on tenterhooks to collect the related information as allegations are of too serious in nature to be just kept under the carpet.
This # Me Too case is not going to be the last in our state also as women of our state have also decided enough is enough and it’s better to face the consequences and each and every such case is going to act as a deterrent for these predators who are always on a look out for their next victim. Social media has played its role and let’s wait and see whether society and our judicial system deliver this time as legal procedure is a very long battle involving lots of money which an ordinary citizen cannot afford and ultimately the culprits get off the clutches of law. In short our society should salute and support these women who have taken off the masks of the faces of these serial and habitual offenders.
“Truth is the daughter of time and women should feel no shame in being her midwife.”