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Habits Betray

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Bad habits eventually catch up with one at the most inconvenient time. Actor turned politician Jayaprada had been complaining about SP leader Azam Khan’s sexist ways for years, but it did not affect him much because he is powerful and rich. Unfortunately for him, his bad habit got the better of him and he did it in the Lok Sabha. He revealed his male chauvinist mindset when he interacted with Deputy Speaker Rama Devi as a ‘woman’ who had to endure being the butt of his remarks, and not as the presiding officer of the August House. The content of the interaction revealed his attitude towards the other sex. For someone who has been a minister in UP for many years, one can imagine how overbearing and crass he must have been with women subordinates through his career. The tragedy is that he does not understand his transgression; nor does his party ‘leader’ Akhilesh Yadav. And how can they? They have been immersed in a regressive tradition in which SP Supremo Mulayam Singh had once commented on rape thus: ‘Boys will be boys, they make mistakes.’ Unfortunately, Azam Khan made his mistake at the wrong place. If some man harassing a woman is not to say – ‘What are you complaining about? This happens in the Lok Sabha, too!’ – the principle will have to clearly enunciated and a precedent established that will firmly draw the line not to be crossed. The members of the Lok Sabha on Friday were at least overtly unanimous in demanding strict and exemplary action. Speaker Om Birla promised to do just that after consulting all sections of the House. The outcome is not going to be good for Khan. Outside the House, though, the counter narrative has begun with the usual ‘whataboutery’ and claims of victimhood. It will not be long before it is claimed he has been targeted for being a Muslim. Even in the House, Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhary made a clumsy attempt to present the ‘other side’, even against the sentiment of women members of his party. Asaduddin Owaisi asked what had become of the allegations made against former BJP Minister MJ Akbar. Whatever the attempts at diluting the offence or painting it in different light, the incident should come as a lesson for men of all descriptions. There is no doubt that popular culture has a strong dose of misogyny in it that is transferred from one generation to another. The message that needs to be communicated is that even the most powerful will face retribution if they do not change their ways. There is no escaping the fruit of Karma.