Storm after the silence: Now it's Tapas Pal

Think about it. Why was the Tapas Pal clip not aired earlier, or why did it not go 'viral' on June 14 when he made the rape remarks? Is there a PR lobby that ensures some people stay in the news, or their leader gets an opportunity to be "shocked", an emotion recollected in tranquility?

That comment should have died and been buried. Exhuming it serves no purpose other than to confirm what we already know. This business of shaming those who have proven they are shameless simply gets them mileage.

Tapas Pal is a Bengali actor from the 80s. He is also a Trinamool Congress Party leader. A week ago he had said:

"Ekta jodi kono birodhi aajke Trinamuler kono meye, kono baap, kono bachchar gaye haat dey, tader gushti ke ami jaa taa kore chole jabo. Amaar chheleder dhukiye debo rapekore chole jabe, rape kore chole jabe…(If anyone from the Opposition dares touch a daughter of Trinamul, a father from Trinamul, a child from Trinamul, I will do whatever I can to their entire clan. I will set my boys on them, they will rape them, they will rape them.)"

This particular statement is more political than gender-related, although some reports have mentioned that the target would be women cadre of the opposition. The TMC and Communists are old rivals, and both have a history of violence. Some have explained it as a response to some CPI (M) workers getting violent. It is no justification.

This does not need any analysis. He himself said so:

"I am a ruffian and have committed many such acts. Let anybody dare stop me," Pal had said, much to the applause of his supporters.

The worrying aspect is that his supporters applauded him. His statement has to be seen in the context of how the public responds too.

Demanding his arrest is becoming a showpiece for his party leader Mamata Bannerjee to express shock, quite forgetting her own attitude when she had accused a rape victim of faking it. A spokesperson told the media:

"The chief minister is shattered by the comments. The party has already cautioned him on Monday and demanded a written explanation from him in 48 hours."

This is beyond ridiculous. What is there to explain, and why would it take 48 hours for what is on record? He has already denied it, saying that he used the word "raid" and not rape. Irrespective of it, there is threat of violence. His wife has apologised on his behalf. He should be isolated, instead of getting an opportunity to speak.

Before anointing our commentators for their concern, let us ask where was the media when the statement was made? Are there reports or opinion pieces on this soon after the incident?

That this clip has become a talking point now also reveals the total disconnect between national and regional news. Unless, it creates a buzz, the big news channels won't pick it up. When they do, it is to sensationalise it, run a kangaroo court, and hammer at it till 'justice' is done.

What has happened to such remarks earlier? They took up primetime space, brought in a few new faces, and objectified rape again in the studios. Till the next celebrity case took over.

All those who think they are sensitising the public, I am afraid nothing of the sort is happening. If that were important, then those listening to Tapas Pal's speech would not be egging him on. These are ordinary people who adhere to a similar pugnacious attitude to claim space. Women have traditionally been considered territory. Is there any newspaper or TV channel ready to run a campaign against this topic, which is not controversial but can have a long-lasting impact?

That's when we can talk about concern. Now it is just another gravy cart. Or, a storm after the silence.

© Farzana Versey