21st May, Bengaluru: National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) unequivocally condemns the abusive and misogynistic behaviour of Mr. Madhuswamy, the Minister of Law, Parliamentary Affairs, Legislation and Minor Irrigation in Karnataka towards Nalini Gowda, a young woman and farmer’s rights activist in Kolar yesterday. Videos (that went viral, link and English transcript below) show the extremely demeaning and threatening manner in which the Minister spoke to Nalini, while she respectfully demands that the Govt address the grievances of the villagers.

Nalini questioned the Minister as to why Pahani (land title) was given to an encroachment of the lake bed. The minister is seen shouting back at her asking, ‘What was she doing?’! Nalini retorts asking, ‘I am doing what I can do, but what is the government doingWhy is pahani being given?’ The young woman standing up in public, even when done respectfully, seems to have rattled the Minister. He starts hurling abuses at Nalini, “You should request, not command. Why are you telling me about clearing encroachments? I am not like others; I am a very bad person. Shut up, rascal!”. Soon thereafter, she was not allowed to speak and one can see a male police officer trying to physically pull her away! When some of the other farmers present on scene protested, the police apparently tried to shout them down as well!

Nalini is a well-known youth leader in the region and in the state-wide Karnataka Rajya Rytha Sangha (KRRS), a decades old mass organization of farmers. She has been active in organizing farmers and farm workers in the state, especially in the southern Kolar district for many years. Mr. Madhuswamy, the Govt of Karnataka Minister was visiting Kolar as part of his inspection tour of the KC valley project. He was requested by a group of farmers, including Nalini, to take action against the encroachment in the lake bed in the village, causing damage to the water body.

NAPM notes that the behaviour of the Minister is clearly unbecoming of a public representative and that he is the ‘Minister for Law’ makes this even more unacceptable! Given the positions of power he holds, such demeanour reflects not just on the individual, but also on the ruling dispensation. Such acts by ‘men-in-power’ across political hues is nothing new. However, BJP leaders across the country have been way ahead of those from other parties when it comes to making vile, sexist and condescending comments against women, especially women active in public life.

While we acknowledge that the Minister has issued a public apology today to Nalini, we feel such behaviour is unpardonable. The Chief Minister should take note of this incident with the seriousness it deserves and initiate appropriate actions on his cabinet colleague to ensure that the general public seeking answers from their representatives and ministers are encouraged and their voices strengthened. If appropriate action is not taken, the CM would then appear to be endorsing his ministers and representatives hurling abuses on young women who are working for the benefit of our society. An FIR must be registered by the police under appropriate sections of law for indecent and abusive behaviour against a woman. We stand in solidarity with Nalini in her fight against the anti-women and anti-farmer policies of the Government.

The government that professes ‘beti padao’ should also have the courage and humility to listen to their ‘betis’.