Debating #MeToo

Dark and gloomy the days are, yet I must stand up for myself – this is the confidence that women are exuding these days (“India’s #MeToo: Some of the sexual harassment charges that have surfaced this week”). Women have been subjected to much sexual harassment day in and day out. This is not a recent issue. But what’s new is the strength that they’ve evidently gained. #MeToo has been on the go since a year, nevertheless allegations keep propping up now and again. Workplace safety has to be ensured strictly. How though? We are clueless on identifying who will harm others and who will respect others. What can be done then?

What these media professionals, whom we look up to, have allegedly done is unfair and abominable. Not a good sign at all, especially when these are the very people who preach women empowerment and safety. Whom can the public trust and view as role models? – Swetha Vimala M


The proponents of the #MeToo campaign have put forward four primary arguments. One, that all accusers must be believed and doubting any accuser is tantamount to victim blaming or being a rape apologist. Two, that the impact of such crimes on victims is so devastating that basic protections for the accused are obstacles in the way of justice, not only for the particular accuser but for women as a whole. Three, isit a mark of unfairness and gender bias that the accused have the right to cross-examine their accusers and four, the presumption of innocence is not a democratic principle but a mere legal technicality, and as such it applies only in a criminal prosecution.

The right to the presumption of innocence until proven guilty is among the founding principles upon which many other significant legal protections depend. If the accused are presumed guilty, then the right to counsel, the right to cross-examine witnesses, and the right to remain silent would be substantially weakened. Because rape and sexual assault are among the most brutal and degrading crimes, accusations generate a degree of emotional fervour that makes the facts underlying each accusation irrelevant for those involved. Appeals to due process are viewed as “tricks” by lawyers.

In the US, many prominent actors, artists, comedians, writers, politicians and journalists have lost their jobs with little recourse to defend themselves against summary dismissals, based on allegations aired in the media. This disturbing trend is repeating itself in India. Contracts and shows have been cancelled, artists’ works have been purged from websites, instantaneously reducing them to non-persons. This kind of response to allegations of sexual crimes causes more harm than good to the democratic culture of a country. Trial by media can’t be a substitute for a court trial.

The modern-day opponents of due process can claim all they want that they wish only to presume the guilt of the rich and powerful, not the oppressed. But the common law is based on precedent, and instigators of attacks on democratic rights do not have the luxury of deciding whose democratic rights will be violated and whose will not. Whatever rules are established against the wealthy and powerful will be brought down upon the backs of the poor and defenceless with the ruthless force of the power of the state and public opinion.

In India members of Minorities, Dalits, tribals, innocent people, have been lynched based on allegations and mob hysteria. A horrific crime in Gujarat against an infant is being used to drive out a large number of North Indian migrants. This may seem unconnected and different from #MeToo, but this is all happening against the larger backdrop of a lack of understanding of and respect for the rule of law, due process, a presumption of innocence of the accused and a democratic ethos among all sections of society.

Thinking people must reject the efforts of the #MeToo campaign to undermine democratic consciousness and the attack on the presumption of innocence with all the old arguments of the past. – Shreyas Raghuram

Media freedom

This is a classic case of misuse of power by the government to silence the dissenting voices (“Income Tax raids on Raghav Bahl, Quint and News Minute raise questions of media intimidation”). The media houses that follow the government line are being rewarded, while critical voices are being silenced. The Quint has on many occasions shown that the current ruling dispensation is no better than the earlier one. But the government’s action may suggest that the situation may be worse than imagined. I strongly support the stand taken by The Quint and expect that the government will allow the press to work freely. All media houses should come forward to protect their right to freedom of expression and people should support them. – Rehan Ansar

Temple row

Constructive criticism will always be welcomed by the society at large and even by the judges, whose judgement the author is criticising (“‘You will be secure in jail’: Why Supreme Court’s comments on Abhijit Iyer-Mitra’s plea are worrying”). The take is good overall in that that the comment made by CJI may (but shall never) set a wrong precedent, but Abhijit Iyer Mitra’s comments cannot be taken lightly, as they were made without context and not as satire. It mocked a culture. – BR

Displaced communities

On behalf of the entire Bru/Reang community, I would like to extend my heartfelt thanks to for reporting on the ground reality of our people and their issues (“‘There’s nothing to go back to’: Bru refugees in Tripura would rather starve than return to Mizoram”). Hardly any media outlets or journalists are interested in the issue it is not commercially or politically of interest. I wish the reporter and a bright future. – Boby Reang


I sincerely believe you should consider reporting about the Bru issue from the Mizo perspective as well. – Stephen Auhmun

Republic of noise

Arnab Goswami’s style of journalism and news reporting represents an irritating, disturbing, disrespectful and smothering trend in TV news (“Republic TV ordered to apologise for Arnab Goswami’s remarks by broadcasting standards authority”). He creates an atmosphere of hatred, insult and humiliation among the participants of his debate. As a moderator, he is always shouting at the top of his voice and silencing voices that disagree with him, often brutally and oppressively. There is complete and utter disregard for the journalistic ethics of objectivity, impartiality, neutrality and fairness mandated by the Code of Ethics and Broadcasting Standards, News Broadcasting Association. His conduct is deplorable and repulsive, but he seems to be completely remorseless of his objectionable acts.

I’m also astonished at the participants who, knowing the toxic debate environment of Arnab’s show, wholeheartedly consent to participate in the debate. There are always at least three or four people speaking at the same time, trying to win over their opponents by shrillness and volume and not because of the content, logic or brilliance of the argument. It is like a World Wrestling Entertainment of voices, the more one shouts, or gets agitated, the more he gets the backing of Goswamy, and that, sadly and unfortunately, seems like the only purpose of the debate.

Surprisingly, this unsavoury method has been embraced by almost all other news channels, and has become quite a norm. This harmful and obnoxious trend has spread like a virus in the TV news debates and thereby, straight into our homes and personal spaces. Instead of analytical, enlightening and fulfilling debates that present various perspectives in an objective and informative manner that allow the viewer to make an informed decision and raise the bar of public opinion, these Arnab-style debates only raise one’s blood pressure. All other relevant issues are side-lined and blurred. The hard truth is that we, the people of this great nation, have tacitly accepted this style and emboldened this type of reporting. – Jasraj Dhanju

Goan limbo

The situation in Goa is bordering on the ridiculous (“BJP’s Goa headache grows despite reshuffle as leaders and allies make the most of Parrikar’s absence”). BJP and Manohar Parrikar will be held responsible for the mess. By trying to hold on to power at all costs, the BJP high command is playing with the future of Goa.

If they have no alternative in lieu of a gravely ill chief minister, they should quit. As it is, this government with Parrikar was illegitimate from the beginning. The puppet governor invited Parrikar, who resigned as Defence Minister after an inglorious stint, to become chief minister again last March after the elections resulted in a hung Assembly. He cobbled up an opportunistic alliance of disparate forces, just to secure power. Now the chickens are coming home to roost and the whole plot is unraveling. – Albert Colaco

NRC debate

In her response to Tanwar Fazal’s article on the NRC, Sanghamitra Misra says that had the author consulted Udyon Misra and Sanjib Barua’s works, he would have learnt that migration from East Bengal did not begin in the mid-19th but at the turn of the century (“‘Misleading and factually incorrect’: A response to an article linking NRC to Assamese chauvinism”).

Not only these two, many scholars from Assam have written about the migration of the Muslim peasants from Bengal (later East Bengal). Fazal is right when he says that the migration had begun in the mid 19th century. We have to remember that Bengal was divided in 1905 and the province of East Bengal was formed. But the migration of the Muslim peasants had begun long ago. After 1859,the British began to bring tea garden labourers from the famine-striken provinces of Orissa and Madhya Pradesh. The migration of the Muslim peasants also began at the same time.

The zamindars of Goalpara district started the process of bringing the peasants from Bengal to cultivate their uncultivated land.The British rulers had no role in it. In the last few decades of the 19th century, the employees of the steam ships (which ran between Assam and Bengal) also brought hundreds of their relatives from Bengal and settled them in the uncultivated land of Assam. One of the employees of such a steam ship, Nazrul Ali, brought two of his nephews, Osman Ali Saudagar and Moluvi Oli Ullah from Bengal, and settled them in Nowgong and Darrang districts respectively.

Osman Ali Saudaghar established a primary school in Alitangani of Nowgong district in 1902. He was also elected to the Assam Legislative Assembly. Moluvi Oli Ullah fought against the British and took active part in the Peasant’s Revolt in Pathurughat in 1894. He was wounded when the British police fired on the revolting peasants. One of the migrant peasants , Hussain Ali, established the first primary school among the migrants in 1999 in Mairabari of Marigaon district. Again,many Muslim traders from Dhaka also migrated to Assam at that time and settled in different parts of Assam.

In the census of 1891 ,a special provision was made to enumerate the people who had migrated from other provinces of India to Assam. According to this census 85,207 people had migrated to the Goalpara, Kamrup, Nowgong and Darrang districts of Assam. According to the census of 1901, the number of the migrants from other provinces was 7,66,000 and 83% of them were tea garden labourers. The remaining 17% were mostly Muslim peasants from Bengal. So it’s clear that this migration began before the 1905 partition.

Some of our scholars, of course, propound that migration begun only in the beginning of the 20th century. – Hafiz Ahmed


What Tanveer Fazal calls Assamese chauvinism is actually systematic economic and demographic exploitation of Assamese people by the Bangladeshis. No other state faces as huge a problem as Assam. So comparing the citizenship situation with other states is futile. I’m waiting for the time when this writer will take up his pen to write a bout the situation with Kashmiri Pandits in Kashmir but doesn’t seem to have any interest in that issue. – Prasanta Chakrabarti