Gyan Dev Ahuja, BJP leader from Rajasthan and its Ramgarh MLA, is an enterprising man. He has counted condoms outside JNU. He has justified, encouraged, and in his own words, funded cow vigilantes. Now, he has announced he will organise attacks/ abductions on women.
In a rather bizarre statement, Ahuja has asked men of a certain other community to “return women they have lured away in the name of love jihad”. He has charitably given them 15 days to one month to return “our girls’. Failing which, Ahuja says, “double the number of daughters — 20 for 10, 80 for 40 — of the other community will not be safe”.
In the quest, the MLA says, he is willing to face any challenge, use treachery, and step out of the bounds of decorum, if need be.
So, we have an MLA from the party ruling both Rajasthan and the Centre openly threatening to carry out violent crimes, and use women as currency of community honour — to be traded, exchanged, or stolen.
When the BJP spoke of beti bachao, beti padhao, Ahuja clearly did not get the memo.
The bogey of love jihad is a useful one, combining as it does appeals to Hindu as well as manly pride. Ahuja is only using a trite and tested formula when he calls to arms proud, virile, Hindu blood, that should boil at the thought of “our girls” being taken away by men of another community.
But his statement makes it clear the place women occupy in his worldview. Women have no agency, no identity, no individuality. The concept that women can willingly choose husbands, of whatever community, seems not to exist for Ahuja. For him, “our daughters” seem to be a faceless mass, repositories of honour, which, if defiled, need to be avenged.
And what better revenge, what better victory over the “other men”, than attacking women of their community.
This, in a country that is battling crimes against women every day. Is Rajasthan CM Vasundhara Raje listening?
Ahuja’s statement is reprehensible in multiple ways. First, it seeks to pit one community against the other, through a totally unsubstantiated, highly emotive allegation. Second, it dehumanises women, apart from openly threatening them.
Yet, no one from the BJP seems to have yet woken up to the statement.
This is by no means the first time Ahuja has said something outrageous, ranging from the ridiculous to borderline criminal.
On July 31, he had said killing a cow was worse than terrorism — while a terrorist attack “killed only a few people, a dead cow hurt the sentiments of millions of Hindus”.
Before that, in the wake of a lynching, he had said: “I am laying it down straight: if you kill cows, this is how you will die”.
And who can forget his amazingly data-rich description of JNU’s misdemeanors: “More than 10,000 butts of cigarettes and 4,000 pieces of beedis are found daily in the JNU campus. 50,000 big and small pieces of bones are left by those eating non-vegetarian food. They gorge on meat... these anti-nationals. 2,000 wrappers of chips and namkeen are found, as also 3,000 used condoms — the misdeeds they commit with our sisters and daughters there. And 500 used contraceptive injections are also found.”
Here too, note the misogyny: the active “doers” of all the meat eating and beedi smoking are men, the “sisters and daughters” are passive recipients of “misdeeds”. Even in his wildest imagination — the claim can be little else — Ahuja seems incapable of assigning a more active role to women, or see them as individuals, and not as “sisters and daughters”.
This happened in 2016. Ahuja has since gone from strength to strength, and his party has neither chastised nor stopped him.
Which is why, possibly, we the people — sisters, daughters, sons and lovers — need to play a more active role.
The likes of Ahuja get away with such remarks because the political establishment assumes people want them. Ahuja has won elections thrice — in 1998, 2008 and 2013.
Rajasthan will go to polls in a few months, and next year will see the General Elections. Such statements are only going to increase, from members of all political parties.
Voting rights, however, come with an assumption of intelligence and responsibility. The vote we cast at the polling booth is a conscious decision, and we can choose whether or not we wish Ahuja and his ilk to represent us.
If political parties play deaf to outrageous, irresponsible statements made by their leaders, it is time voters give them their message, loud and clear.