Thursday, November 28, 2013



Shoma Chaudhury: A modern Madame De Pompadour

By Jay Bhattacharjee on27 Nov 2013

Shoma Chaudhury: A modern Madame De Pompadour
Rape for your lot is never a crime
Since you are doing it all the time
(with my apologies to Ogden Nash)
Rest assured, young lady, that I write this letter with the greatest possible distaste swirling in my mind, and with the utmost reluctance. However, there are some tasks that are quite unavoidable. To let you know the feelings of the vast majority of Indian citizens is one of them. I assure you I am in the good company of millions, but most of them find it impossible to get over their disgust and pen their thoughts to you.
It is also likely that you may not read this epistle. However, people like you always have sounding boards who will do your spadework and report to you. So here it is, barbs and all.
Let us start with your entire charade of defending the shenanigans of your boss and colleague Tarun Tejpal in every-which way – an Americanism that you will relate to immediately. At this stage, we should ask you about your concept of loyalty. Anybody who has had even a rudimentary education, domestic and institutional, will tell you that there is loyalty, misplaced loyalty and then cover-up of crimes and transgressions. You, madame, have been in the third category for quite some time. And this has been amply demonstrated for the Indian public throughout this grotesque episode.
The second question relates to your moral fabric or an ethical framework, or a lack of either or both. The third query, connected to the second, concerns your disingenuousness and your infinite capacity to dole out fertiliser. The last issue is your enormous desire for grandstanding and the size of your ego. Honestly, in recent times, I have yet to come across overweening arrogance of the type that you have been displaying on the small screen (and everywhere else, I can safely assume).
Let us deal with these themes sequentially. The first is your loyalty to your boss, your chief, your CEO, whatever you prefer. Clearly, you made a seamless transition from the morally-defensible position of loyalty to “cover-up” at some stage of your career and life. Given your lamentable standards that have been on display on the idiot box during the last few days, my surmise is that this leap of faith took place quite some back. That is because you are now so proficient in your new habitat, and above all, you look so comfortable in this role.
There are, however, some occupational hazards with this chosen role of yours. Cover-up artistes face flak in real life, not just from a disgusted public, but also from the law. In fact, the Anglo-Saxon legal code that we have inherited from our erstwhile colonial masters imposes severe penalties on people like you. The folks who actually commit crimes are the primary accused, but those that conspire with them, prior to the commission or post-facto, also face the long arm of the criminal justice system. For heaven’s sake, there is an entire section in the Indian Penal Code (IPC) that exactly covers the lamentable conduct of yours in this saga. Section 202 says the following : “Whoever, knowing or having reason to believe that an offence has been committed, intentionally omits to give any information respecting that offence which he is legally bound to give, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to six months or with fine or both”.
Now, you entered this twilight zone exactly when you deliberately did not report the complaint of the hapless young colleague of yours to the appropriate police office as soon as she E-Mailed it to you. You were under a legal obligation to do so, under the terms of a landmark judgment of the Supreme Court delivered sixteen years ago. I will deal with that a little later in this missive. Instead, you initiated your pathetic ruse of an “enquiry committee”, very conveniently headed by a friend of the Tehelka family. This is such a huge eye-wash that I am surprised you thought you could get away with it.
This brings us to the second issue, that of your moral fabric or ethical framework or, more appropriately in your case, a lack of either or both. I am sorry to say, Ms. Chaudhury, you represent the Bengali bhadralok (or Bhadramahila) culture in its terminal stage. You are a convent-educated version of Mamata di, with a more sophisticated façade but representing the same shabby ethos. There is a more apt comparison – you are a mirror image of that other abomination, Sarmila Bose, who claimed that the Pakistani Army was actually carrying out a philanthropic mission in East Pakistan during the 1971 Liberation War.
You had the unmitigated gall to term the alleged offence of your boss as a “transgression”. Did you really think you would get away with this drivel ? This is like General Dyer referring to the Jalianwalla Bagh massacre as the weekly “target practice” of his boys in the regimental shooting range. This is the archetypal behavioral pattern of an amoral person – one who has no moral compass.
The third element in your psyche is your disingenuousness and your ingrained ability to dish out fertiliser. One example will suffice, because it is so egregious that there will be no demand for any more samples. This is your claim that you thought the victim of the alleged assault was seeking “justice outside the penal system” and that she would be satisfied with a mere apology from Tejpal. This is so grotesque and bizarre that it places you in that rarest of rare category : the mistress of guile. Here, I have to quote one of my favourite writers, Lillian Hellman : “Intellectuals can tell themselves anything, sell themselves any bill of goods, which is why they are so often patsies of the ruling classes.”
Coming now to your last attribute : your grandstanding and your monumental ego. You are truly a cotemporary desi version of Madame de Pompadour, the one who grandly proclaimed : “After us, the floods”. No, I will not give you the satisfaction of writing the original French version here, because I am sure that is the sort of posturing you absolutely love. Why I equate you to the other woman is the incredible declaration of yours on the box “If the case against Tarun is proved in court, I will accept that his offence is one of rape”.
It is crunch time now. The moment when you get to know how perversely you violated the law of the land by not taking the young colleague’s complaint to the appropriate police authority and why your statement that it was not your responsibility to do so, is a direct contempt of the apex court.
Let me reproduce for you the Supreme Court’s judgment in the Vishaka case which will tell you what your duty and obligation was and is in a situation that you faced a few days ago:
(A) It shall be the duty of the employer or other responsible persons in work places or other institutions to prevent or deter the commission of acts of sexual harassment and to provide the procedures for the resolution, settlement or prosecution of acts of sexual harassment by taking all steps required.
(B) Where such conduct amounts to a specific offence under the IndianPenal Code or under any other law, the employer shall initiate appropriate action in accordance with law by making a complaint with the appropriate authority (emphasis added).
(C) Whether or not such conduct constitutions an offence under law or a breach of the service rules, an appropriate complaint mechanism should be created in the employer’s organisation for redress of the complaint made by the victim. Such a complaint mechanism should ensure time- bound treatment of complaints.
(Vishaka and others V. State of Rajasthan and others.)
This, fortunately, brings me to the end of my letter. Having commenced it with my own attempt at poetry, admittedly an amateurish version of the inimitable Ogden Nash, I must end with genuine verse, the immortal words of Walter Scott. Do try and grasp what the titanic person wrote – it might, just might, suggest some salvation for folks like you :
Oh what a tangled web we weave
When first we practise to deceive!
(Marmion, Canto vi. Stanza 17)

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