Originally Published 2016-02-18 11:34:25 Published on Feb 18, 2016
JNU and TERI rows: A parallel in the politics of bias in the society

Social commentators are going berserk suddenly finding themselves deluged by too many issues to muse, outrage or pontificate on. Like the avalanche in Siachen gutting 10 of our bravest men, two stormy events have exposed our sheer vulnerability.

The events in question are TERI’s rehabilitation of Dr RK Pachauri and the JNU fracas.

The above two events have remarkable parallels and are most disturbing.

Last month a friend pointing to a man whispered in my ear, “Doesn’t he look like the younger version of TERI Pachauri?” I promptly announced the observation and the man in question, an old friend, was ready to drown in the flute of champagne he was holding.

Today, however, I strongly feel there is nothing more enviable than being TERI’s Pachauri, even though he may sashay as a bête noir of our collective conscience. While his sense of entitlement comes next only to that of the State, his supporters paradoxically resemble the fashionable liberal-leftists, who defend the coterie while being criminally cavalier about leftism’s first commandment: regard for the alternate viewpoint.

Did I mention collective conscience? Dr Pachauri and friends have openly made a mockery of the same. The governing council of TERI, staying true to his victim’s apprehensions, has successfully rehabilitated the poor “much-maligned” man by promoting him as the executive vice-chairman.

Of course, “trial by media” should not dent the growth and glory of a powerful man.

His victim, naturally, should not only be silenced, marginalised and maligned, she must also be made to realise how taking legal recourse in the face of sexual harassment can be like homoeopathy, a long drawn spell of placebos. Of course, many of us liberals are fond of the sugar pills.

Coming back to JNU, it is unfortunate to see how one of our finest universities is being held hostage to electoral gains and romanticism of revolution on one side and that of nationalism on the other.

The homoeopathic vials are being distributed by netas acting like men while the regular people continue to get their bottoms pinched like women.

Let’s talk about the politics of bias now. Those in power hate to pay attention to women, or the regular non-neta folks, unless they have ulterior goals in mind.

The sexual harassment laws are soft on perpetrators and the latter seem to be thriving despite grave allegations against them.

In a Kafkaesque travesty of justice, the internal committee mandated by the Vishaka Guidelines at TERI chose to send Dr Pachauri on a long leave. After the furore over his rehabilitation, he’s again on a long leave. The victim, however, had to quit the organisation.

Congress’ sympathy for JNU students and faculty facing state action reeks of a similar bias and opportunism. While in 2013, it had no qualms about hanging Afzal Guru-the terrorist, the party now bemoans Afzal Guru-the martyr. The change of heart is facilitated by change of regime.

The erstwhile nemesis is now comrade in arms.

Both in the case of JNU and TERI, the incompetence or selective deployment of internal mechanisms has endangered the institution. While TERI is on the verge of losing all credibility, JNU stands in danger of being perceived as anti-state despite significant contribution to central and state services.

In the case of Dr Pachauri, as with many such cases, the evidence seems to be enough to incriminate him. But the TERI management refused to respond to ocular proofs.

JNU authorities on the other hand did not seem to act in time to contain the rabble-rousing sloganeers.

Semantic vagueness and ambiguity of the letter of law has been exploited to the hilt to shield Dr Pachauri and in initiating disproportionate state action in JNU.

Invoking sedition charges against undisciplined sloganeers is a mockery of law. So is the use of loopholes in Vishaka Guidelines.

It would be nicer if the Pachauris stayed away from the woman. For it is the woman, real or metaphorical, that suffers in the battle of entitlements in all theatres.

This commentary originally appeared in the Daily Mail.

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