I know Jothimani more as a writer. She was a promising one in what seems like another era. The kind of sensitivity and depth she lends to her words always made me believe that Jothi, as we all call her, would
be more successful as a writer. But she had different plans. When she became serious as a political activist with the Congress, Jothi and I, among many of her other friends, had many differences. But there was one thing that we had always agreed: Jothi was here to stay.
She is courageous, in a very rare way. On December 31, when Jothi put up a Facebook post with screenshots of a Whatsapp group that was abusing her in filthiest of words, Jothi knew what she was doing. The trolls were responding to a post from her on social media platforms asking if PM Modi will resign now that the 50-day period had passed and things were still worse due to the demonetisation mess.
Honestly, the Whatsapp messages, in their entire perverseness, failed to shock me. Jothi is not the first woman to be abused that way. Any woman who had dared to speak her mind, any woman who had
sought to assert herself politically, has always had to face this. Social media is just the new tool.
Responding to Jothi’s allegations that the BJP’s IT wing was orchestrating the attacks on her, a young BJP leader cited instances of other leaders abusing other women. He recalled how EVKS Elangovan had made a remark in bad taste about Narendra Modi’s meeting with J Jayalalithaa.
The Tamil political space has enough of such remarks. We have had a seasoned politician taking a nasty dig at the private life of a Chief Minister, we have had a woman chief minister speaking of two opposition leaders in a very disparaging way in an election meeting and we have had a woman leader talk about how remaining unmarried has made another woman leader a dictator.
No remark can be condoned. None looked over.
But what set apart the attack against Jothi are the ideological undertones that they seem to bear. The immediate provocation to the attacks on Jothi is her consistently strident criticism of Narendra
Modi and demonetisation.
In a particularly revolting post, a seemingly young right-wing person uploads a picture of a naked woman apparently being raped and tells Jothi “this is what would happen if she dared to
speak against Modi.”
I went back to Jothi’s posts on demonetisation and read them in full.
None of them had any personal reference to Narendra Modi or anyone in the BJP. Jothi was basing all her allegations on facts and her ideological beliefs. Should I not rightly infer that the responses of
those who attacked Jothi are also based on ideology? After all, the ideology does believe that women should not have a voice of their own.
Every post in the Whatsapp group was delivered with the exact intention of making Jothi stop and step back. To make her pause, bite her tongue, and rephrase it to being more ‘acceptable’. Or better still, to be silent.
That she refused to do so is perhaps the anti-climax that they hadn’t expected. For two whole days after her post was up and viral, Jothi was part of the group and the abuses continued. She was removed from the group only after two days, and Jothi says such open aggression was not possible without some kind of support.
The support might not be party-based as BJP leaders claim, but the trolls do certainly have a shared ideology. The ideology trains them to troll their critics into silence. Journalist Swati Chaturvedi’s book says just that. Ever since the BJP took over, this seems to happen everywhere, and more on social media. Troll them into silence if you cannot answer their questions. Trolling a woman becomes that much easier.
But the trolls should perhaps realise that the silence they have successfully managed to create is not just uneasy, it speaks more eloquently about their ideology.
To all those who think they could silence Jothi and other women who dared to criticise them by abusing them as women, I have just one question: Our ideological beliefs are in our brains, are yours inside your pants?
Source: The News Minute