The Crime:Last week the floodgates of hell opened after actor, Shruti Seth, critiqued India's prime minister for promoting a #selfiewithdaughter campaign. Shruti made the grave mistake of expressing her opinion (assuming living in a democracy entitled her to freedom of speech) that the man who was expect to usher in an era of change needs to go beyond a selfie campaign and institutionalize reform in a more meaningful way.
The Punishment: The backlash Shruti received as someone's mother, wife, daughter and more importantly, as a women, took hatred to a new level. She was torn apart on social media for daring to ask for more than a selfie. For daring to suggest that Mr. Modi needs to do more so that the nation's daughters'are not just smiling in photographs. When Emma Watson implored the United Nations of going beyond discussion and launched #HeForShe she was showered with praise across the world and celebrate as an ambassador for women's rights and equality. When Shruti Seth critiqued Modi imploring him to do more to empower women of her country, she was accused of trying doing this merely to promote her career.
The Appeal: Shruti Seth has handled the wrath of twitter with the courage of lioness. She has not backed down for a moment and has written a beautifully articulated letter to the nation (as linked below) - highlighting the hypocrisy of men posing with their daughters one moment and accusing her of being a prostitute the next because she dared to differ in opinion with a man in power. Perhaps more painful to see was an equally bitter response from other women asking her if she planned to make her (11 month old) daughter a prostitute as well - these are the women who are bringing up sons with a mindset that leads them to insist that rape is entirely a women's fault, that she 'asked for it' and that 'boys will be boys'.
The Verdict: India may be the world's largest democracy but it is no country for women. India is rated the worst for women among the G20 countries, with 96% of women in the capital, New Delhi, reporting feeling unsafe and new cases of violence against women surfacing every second. This isn't about Modi's approach to empowering women - personally I have no issue with #selfiewithduaghter. This is about how Modi's followers treated a women who dared to have her own opposing views.
But Shruti Seth does not stand alone - there are thousands of women who are become more vocal everyday about our rights to dignity, respect and security. This is the first step in what, in my opinion, is a shift of the paradigm for women in India wherein there is at least a recognition that there is a dire need for drastic change and that we are not afraid to fight back. We are with you Shruti Seth - we will redefine the dominant narrative in India to make it a country which women can once again celebrate being a part of. Thank you for being strong, for being vocal and for being fearless.
[Share your thoughts with me on Twitter: @NatashaGarcha]
I had made an unsavoury comment about our Prime Minister by calling him – *gasp* – #selfieobsessed and asking him to choose reform over gimmickry. Was I wrong? Was I too harsh? Apparently, for those who support him, unquestioningly so. I, as a member of the tax-paying electorate of India, did not have the right to comment on his policy. I had dared to challenge his authority. And so I deserved to be punished. And punished In a manner commensurate with the vitriol that the anonymity & access of Twitter so easily provides. Men and women alike said the most vile things about me, stripping me of all my dignity as someone’s daughter, wife and mother and most importantly a woman. Men who were busy hash-tagging their selfies with their daughters one minute called me slanderous names the next.