Hardik Patel 'sex scandal' shows Indians understand neither consent nor privacy

Those airing the clip and trending it on social media with dollops of moral policing are pathological hypocrites.

 |  Angiography  |  6-minute read |   14-11-2017
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The age of consensual sex in India is 18. The age to contest elections is 25. The age of a brilliant judgment on the fundamental right to privacy that is a bulwark for dignity, consent, bodily and sexual autonomy, is just over two months. But the age of patriarchal hypocrisy on all matters sex mixed with sickening electoral stratagems is perhaps forever.

The 24-year-old Patidar leader, who's one year too young to contest elections, but has a sway on the 14 per cent Patel vote-bank in the poll-bound Gujarat with a hold on 45-50 seats, is the subject/victim of the latest "sex scandal" that's hit home. A four-minute clip of a man resembling Patel with an adult woman in a tubelight-fitted hotel room is the source of the "scandal", that was anticipated by Patel himself about a week back.

Patel has tweeted saying that the video is fabricated, attempts to defame him are on, that this is political "dirty tricks" in action, which is also insulting of Gujarati women. He also posted that he wouldn't be scared, while giving a media statement that "friends in the BJP" had warned him of a CD being made to disgrace him.

Adding that he's "amused" BJP is "petrified" of him, Patel said: "They have ruled Gujarat for 22 years and I am not even eligible to contest the polls. But, saheb is so concerned about my presence that they have to resort to these cheap tricks to defame me. It does not matter. They are actually making me bigger than even I consider myself to be. But, I also know that in the coming days more such videos will emerge trying to malign other PAAS leaders too."

But what is interesting is the content of the "sex CD" that shows two adults - one male and one female - in a moment of intimacy, with hardly any "sex" in it. The mannerisms indicate comfort, consent and familiarity. Whether or not the man in the clip is Hardik Patel is really an irrelevant question even though the video "went viral" riding on the young Patidar leader's name. The actual question is this: How is it that a video of a private moment of consensual sexual intimacy between two adults has been filmed and circulated on social media to create pseudo-moral outrage?

Those who "leaked" the clip on YouTube, and those who aired the clip on their channels, those who tweeted out the clip expressing pious horror, to them we need to pose just one question: What is it about consensual sex between adults that they don't get? Why do they have to be such pathological hypocrites to be constantly harping on a person's private moments of intimacy to "discredit" or "shame" him/her?

This is not the first time a footage showing Hardik Patel has been selectively leaked. Two weeks back, Patel was shown inside a hotel premise, ostensibly to hold a secret meeting with Rahul Gandhi, for whom he has now announced public support in the upcoming Assembly polls after accepting the Congress proposal on Patidar quota, though the 24-year-old clarified that he had come to meet Ashok Gehlot, and not the Congress VP. Gehlot alleged snooping and organised surveillance machinery at work in gross breach of individual privacy.

Much like the "sex scandal" of last year involving AAP MLA Sandeep Kumar, who was promptly sacked by chief minister Arvind Kejriwal with a ridiculously mystifying tweet, consensual, non-marital sexual activity in India, seems to be fair game for petty politicking. This is why the questions that follow upon such a "news break" are hardly ever about privacy, consent, autonomy and the illegal breach of all those aspects through the act of filming without consent, but rather along the fake moralistic line taken by the TRP-hunter-gatherers of a sensationalist, infantile TV media.

Patel is not alone in being targeted over perceived sexual turbidity and innuendo-driven turgidity of the media. As Jignesh Mevani, the lawyer-cum-Dalit leader in Gujarat putting the subaltern on the stage, said, this was a breach of privacy, and right to sexual autonomy is guaranteed under the fundamental right that's now constitutionally enshrined after the August 24, 2017 Supreme Court judgment.

From maligning India's first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru as a "sexual pervert" by indulging in heavy-duty photoshopping, to hinting at Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi's "relationship with white women" every now and then, trolls keep the pot boiling. However, when it comes to an alleged sex CD of a BJP neta, a senior journalist who was on a fact-finding team from the Editors Guild of India last year, investigating the intimidation of journalists in Chhattisgarh report on human rights, is promptly arrested over circumstantial or planted evidence.

If this doesn't drive home the double-standards of those at the helm in Gujarat and Chhattisgarh, we need to ask why isn't an investigation being ordered into who filmed the video that allegedly shows a man resembling Patel in that hotel room, and who leaked it on social media? Why are there separate standards for BJP leaders and those from rival parties or organisations?

Consensual sex is an alien concept to those who derive their ideological substance and sustenance from the well-spring of Hindutva. Hence, we have had anti-Romeo squads harassing couples in Uttar Pradesh under the aegis of chief minister Yogi Adityanath, who's on record opposing Women's Reservation Bill in Parliament. Consensual sex is also foreign a concept for the RSS ideologues, who say women should be just housewives, who can be abandoned if they "fail to do their duties", who must bear four children to "protect Hinduism", to whom the ruling BJP is linked via an umbilical cord that gets thicker by the day.

Little wonder then that trolls, who regularly issue "rape threats" to liberals, seculars and committed journalists, have no idea about consensual sex. For them, sex is essentially a rape, non-consensual, forced bodily domination of a woman (or even a man), with no scope for equality, reciprocity and pleasure. The sexually repressed troll and their alleged backers in the state, against whom allegations of gross abuse of the government machinery for nefarious ends too had once surfaced, are now scoring moral brownie points outraging over a young man's moment of consensual intimacy. That the young man happens to be the political David to their anti-incumbency ridden Goliath is of course a crucial reading of this theatre of viral absurdity.

Much like the fear and envy, the systematic demonising of black masculinity by white male institutions and their ideological state apparatuses in media has been going on for centuries, the male Dalit, Muslim, secular or just someone in the political opposition, now has to face the machinery that would auction off the individual's privacy to the highest bidder. That this is only about the political all-out war over Gujarat elections is only a surface assessment of the situation, for the malignancy runs much, much deeper.

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Writer

Angshukanta Chakraborty Angshukanta Chakraborty @angshukanta

Opinionator at DailyO. Because criticism is the opium of the classes.

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