When Yogi Adityanath took oath as the chief minister of India’s largest and most populous state, Uttar Pradesh, media professionals went on a propaganda overdrive. The honourable CMs dedication for rapid, firm action was matched only by the tireless virtue signalling, condescension and ranting of most news channels and online news portals. Added to the madness were random social media stars who posted tweets after tweets, posts after posts on how the extremely popular Mahant of Gorakhspeeth was the worst candidate for CM. Issues that concern these virtues signalling celebrities were almost all actions taken by Yogiji, from ban on illegal slaughter houses to formation of “Anti Romeo” squads in UP to crack down on nepotism and favouritism and when they run out of all issues, even his sartorial choices.
Now, I am no expert on politics, governance or even law and order. But roughly 9 months back, when I saw social media superstars peddle post after post criticizing Yogi Adityanath’s newly created “Anti-Romeo squads” (which I am sure was not the official name) something stirred in me. If I were to ask them the following questions, I am not sure how many would actually answer in affirmative!
1.How many of them have ever lived outside Delhi or Mumbai?
2.How many of them have actually seen or experienced the day to day problems of millions of rural or small town girls?
3.How many of them have walked to school /college or tuitions?
4.How many of them use public transport?
Considering roughly half of these so called celebrities and journos were women I am sure not many can answer the above questions in “yes, I have”.
Millions, yes, millions of school going girls were harassed every day. In small towns and rural areas where, (to the big surprise of these celebrities) most Indians live, the existence of a girl who gets to go to school was a blessing in itself. Yes, even after 70 years of independence. Because when a family struggles to make ends meet, girls were needed for household chores, for looking after their younger siblings while their parents go looking for daily wage and for working in the fields if her family owns some land. So, for the poor, a school going girl was a luxury they were only barely starting to afford.
The lower middle class was slightly better off. Their girls do not have to labour in fields. So, when the girl steps out of the house after so many hurdles, imagine her mental state when on the way to school, neighbourhood “Romeos” wolf whistle, sing cheap songs and pass lewd remarks on her. Some were lucky, they learn to ignore these Romeos and continue, escaping assault and rape by mere chance. Some were not. If they complain to their parents, half will be asked to sit at home and help their mothers; the other half will have a brother or cousin accompany them. So, no school when the brother has to go to work. And this was only a small part of the countless other problems.
Years ago, when I landed in Lucknow, to pursue a training programme at a research institute, the first piece of advice I received was, “Beta, din ka ujala rehte hostel wapas aa jana”. I was a postgraduate student from Visakhapatnam, a city which, thankfully, was a lot safer than Lucknow. A couple of days later, my roommate, a bubbly, chirpy girl studying in Lucknow university, came back in the evening and burst into tears.While walking from Lucknow University to IT Chowk, two guys came out of nowhere in a speeding bike and slapped her hard on her back. By the time she balanced herself, they were gone. Her skin was red where they had hit, and her ears were still ringing with the filthy words shouted at her. Everyone knows what those common filthy words are.
Harassment,” eve-teasing” and molestation are the ugly reality of millions of poor and middle-class girls. The men doing it are no Romeos, they are one darkened alley and one lonely girl away from becoming rapists and killers. I have had my breasts touched, my waist pinched, and my dupatta pulled. I have heard filthy words hurled at me, men shouting they would like to squeeze me and taste me, and men calling me “whore”. My fault in all the above scenarios was the same; I was walking on the road.
So when the honourable CM of UP ordered police to take Suo moto action on these “street-Romeos”, I felt an immense sense of relief and gratitude. I thought about the countless girls in UP who won’t have to suffer embarrassment from now on for the crime of walking on the street. For contrary to what Ms Barkha Dutt believed, if the girls of India try to complain to the police for every incidence of harassment they face, every filthy expletive they hear and every time they were pinched or groped in crowded places, they would be spending most of their lives inside police stations.
These virtues signalling social media journos have one common disease, they suffer from severe metro -city, rich -life myopia. See, it’s simple, when you are rich, you go to school or college in cars, and you have your “drivers”. So, your chances of getting molested are drastically reduced. Also, street Romeos seldom dare to harass the woman in a car, because they know, there will be consequences. She will have a rich father who will get them arrested.
So, dear SM journos, the poor and middle-class girls were actually very happy. Because now they had a protector. Their CM. A leader who has lived the life they live, who knows the situations millions of Indians face and who doesn’t see the world from behind an expensive wine glass. I wish with all my heart that Yogi Adityanath continues his crackdown on these Romeos. Hopefully, in a few years, we will have many, many girls who will be proud that they can walk the streets without fear, without guilt and without shame. Hopefully, eventually, they will grow up to become strong, proud women and break every glass ceiling that has been weighing down upon millions of their elder sisters, aunts and mothers .
Yogi Adityanath ji, I hope every state in India gets a CM like you.