The attacks on former journalist and Aam Aadmi Party leader Ashutosh for an article he wrote in a news website in defence of former minister Sandeep Kumar – removed last week and expelled from the party after a CD showing him having a sexual encounter with two women surfaced – are showing no signs of abating.
After being targeted by the opposition BJP and Congress in Delhi, Ashutosh was served a notice on Monday by the National Commission for Women (NCW) and a police complaint was also filed against him at a police station in North East Delhi.
In a hurry to name and shame Ashutosh, what everyone is forgetting is that his article was written before one of the women who appeared with Kumar in the video had lodged a complaint of “rape” against him for having forced her into sex by offering to get her ration card made.
She has also alleged that the video was made without her knowledge after the minister had offered her a drink that was spiked with some drug.
A day after Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal sacked Kumar over the objectionable video, Ashutosh wrote an article for NDTV that appeared with the title: “The Sex Was Consensual, Private Act. Why AAP Punished Its Man”.
In the post, Ashutosh had assumed that Kumar and the woman who was with him were “consenting adults” and questioned if physical contact between them was therefore a crime. With the woman complainant not having approached the police by then, Ashutosh had further asked if it was right to proceed against Kumar.
“The woman seen in the video is not coerced by any stretch of imagination. She has not even complained after the act to anyone. She has not gone public complaining of any wrongdoing. She has not registered any complaint either to the police or to the court. She has not even approached the family of the man. Neither has the wife of the man expressed any divergent view on the conduct of the man. He has not blackmailed the woman. He is not seeking any sexual favour for any obligation. He has not pressured her to get in the act. It’s not rape. It’s a case of two adults with their consent indulging in sex,” he wrote.
His article also drew a parallel with the lives of other prominent leaders in the past, once again in the belief that there was no coercion involved. “With all its social infirmities, India in its larger consciousness has never questioned its leaders about what they do or have done in their private moments.” He added, “Indian history is full of examples of our leaders and heroes who had lived with their desires beyond social boundaries.”
It was his naming of several prominent leaders like Jawaharlal Nehru, Mahatma Gandhi, Ram Manohar Lohia, George Fernandes, Atal Bihari Vajpayee and even Chinese leader Mao Zedong, which got the opposition in Delhi all charged up.
While the Delhi Congress president Ajay Maken said Ashutosh’s comments were “in bad taste, not even worth reacting,” he also observed that after Kejriwal had removed the minister and the latter had said “he was sacked for being a Dalit”, Ashutosh had compared him with Nehru and Gandhi. On Monday, party leaders also organised a silent protest at the site of Mahatma Gandhi’s samadhi at Raj Ghat to protest Ashutosh’s comments.
The BJP, which held a similar protest at Raj Ghat on Saturday, also demanded Ashutosh’s ouster from the party. Satish Upadhyaya, president of BJP’s Delhi unit, said that Ashutosh had defamed and insulted Mahatma Gandhi, while party leader in the Delhi assembly Vijender Gupta termed the write-up an affront to all women and urged Kejriwal to get a police complaint registered against Ashutosh.
Neither of the two parties, however, spoke about the points raised by Ashutosh against the prominent national figures.
But then came NCW’s notice to Ashutosh, in which its chairperson, Lalitha Kumaramangalam, described his article as “very objectionable and obnoxious”. She charged that in the article he had “almost given a clean chit to the alleged accused of a rape case”. She also mentioned that in the article, Ashutosh had “referred to great leaders like Jawaharlal Nehru, Gandhiji, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, etc.”
Recd notice fm NCW.Is any freedom of expression?Is india turning into a fascist state? pic.twitter.com/WBVkBk5EL5
— ashutosh (@ashutosh83B) September 5, 2016
Noting that the victim has filed a rape case, the NCW notice said that the commission was “therefore extremely upset with such irresponsible, misogynist, disparaging views by persons holding responsible positions.” She therefore sought an “explanation” from him for “issuing such statements that compromise the status and dignity of women” and called for his appearance at NCW on September 8.
Commenting on the notice, Ashutosh questioned if there was any freedom of expression left in the country and if India was turning into a fascist state. He also charged that Kumaramangalam was a BJP national executive member and wondered if such summons were being sent to all those writing about consensual sex.
I hope Lalitha Kumarmangalam, member of BJP Nat Ex/chairman NCW is summoning every writer who wrote about consensual sex.NO pick and choose.
— ashutosh (@ashutosh83B) September 5, 2016
The summons also drew a strong response from the media with some, like senior journalist Rajdeep Sardesai, slamming the NCW’s decision.
Time to wind up 'sarkari' NCW? Summoning @ashutosh83B over a column? Nothing better to do?
— Rajdeep Sardesai (@sardesairajdeep) September 5, 2016