Tuesday, November 28, 2006



“I have given her some character & I hope she deserves it”, rasped senior lawyer Ram Jethmalani on national television when asked why he was maligning Jessica Lal’s character to defend Manu Sharma. His shaking, bull dog cheeks emanated the kind of disdain & disrespect that countless women have faced while taking on their rapists, assaulters & belligerent lawyers in courtrooms. A rape or murder case is never complete without the mention of the character of the woman. More important than the crime is the question whether she asked for it.

Think back & remember some of the recent cases concerning women & you’ll be enlightened by this cause & effect theory. Mika kisses Rakhi Sawant in public gaze, yet it is she who is dragged over coals because she was dressed inappropriately & because she pecked him on the cheek first. Bipasha Basu spoke against alleged assault on her dignity in New York & people posted messages on the internet to ask, “What dignity is she talking about, wearing the kind of clothes that she does?” A few years ago, when a mother of two was murdered in her Bangalore house, a leading newspaper asked why she was wearing shorts & not something more decent at the time of murder !!! Dhanonjoy Chatterjee, who was hanged after more than a decade after he raped & killed a teenager in Kolkata commented a few days before his sentence, “She was not as innocent as she looked.”

Now Ram Jethmalani is implying that Jessica Lal was not killed for her refusal to serve a drink to Manu Sharma. And that someone killed her because she refused to part with something she had given to others but not to this unnamed man. He is implying that Tamarind Tree was a pick up joint where people came thirsting for more than just a drink. So Jessica Lal got shot by someone who wanted more than just a drink from her. The rest is easy to deduce. Manu Sharma was not even present at the scene of the crime but Jessica was playing a bar girl at an unearthly hour, interacting with strangers, bestowing favors to some & refusing others. When a thwarted man’s ego couldn’t take the insult, Jessica was hot in the head. Guess whose fault it was?

Meanwhile, Jethmalani is doing to Jessica exactly what every woman has experienced in some form or another. Sita was abducted by Ravana because she crossed the Laxman-rekha. She was abandoned by Ram because she had been rendered impure by supposition. Draupadi was accused of starting the Mahabharat because she had laughed at Duryodhana’s clumsiness. History blames her & not her weak, gambling husband or Duryodhana for the bloody, epic battle that followed. If a woman wearing a skirt is preyed upon, it is assumed that her dress is provocative. If a woman in Hijab is attacked, it is because she is different from others & evokes curiosity & resentment. How dare a woman step into certain temples or mosques & sully the pure minds of praying men who may begin to entertain impure thoughts about her body! She is the one who needs to be wished away so that the world can run peacefully. If she relents to male attention, she is cheap. If she resists, she is stubborn & needs to be taught a lesson.

Character assassination is the oldest weapon in the world, and when used cleverly, it can harm a woman more grievously than any physicalinjury because it dilutes the intensity of the crime against her & justifies it. It creates a grain of doubt in the mind of law enforcers & bystanders whether she was actually instrumental in attracting harm , whether she was a victim or covert aggressor, enticing or provoking a man to forget himself?

Why is that in our society all responsibility lies with the woman? Why is our law so ineffectual & biased, and our cities & villages so unsafe and our society so prejudiced that even a dead Jessica Lal is put on trial while her murderer roams free?

Excerpts from “Murdered, over & again” – Indian express, 28/11/06

A classical case of justice delayed, and denied. It is disheartening to know that democracy has come with a price, with the balance tilted unfairly towards the wrongdoer. A casual chat with my lawyer friends makes me see the grim picture of the decrepit condition of Law & Order in our country. So much so, that the term "Law & Order" baffles me. Whose law? And what order? Its all kaching! Those in an influential position & with cash-flow to divert can easily get away with murder & other heinous acts of injustice. The poor & innocent have no where to go. Amidst the disillusionment comes this sullying of character. Everyone has a right to defend themselves, and the Indian constitution provides for that one is innocent until proven guilty. Unfortunately, this clause is abused to the hilt by corrupt individuals & many criminals. Not only that, did you know that Police officials arrest many people under the anti-terrorist law & for promotion basis. These innocent people languish in jails, with no one to defend them. These are the so called "disappearances" from the face of the earth. No explanations, no traces. The Jessica Lal and Priyadarshini Mattoo cases have still got a lot of mileage, it being a high profile case (atleast we are waking up to reality). But there are millions out there, who have no one to speak to, and no one to listen to them.

Justice is BLIND...


  1. As a woman, its heartening to read, issues relating to women on ur blogspot. And u r right..."But there are millions out there, who have no one to speak to, and no one to listen to them."...one feels really helpless when justice is blind to such cases.
    If i recall...i think i came onto ur blog reading a similar instance of feeling helpless abt another issue.

  2. This piece was wonderfully written. The debate goes on and on if capital punishment is the solution for such crimes as Dhananjoy chatterjee. Loved your thoughts on this blog!