Sexist barbs threaten to divide poll-bound AAP in Goa (Election Special)
From the looks of it the AAP in Goa will be in a position to take on its foes, the BJP and Congress, only if its members stop fighting among themselves.
The party's south Goa candidate Swati Kerkar, a woman activist, is now the target of a campaign by er... men's activist Michael Ferns, who runs the Dadleancho Ekvot, a state's only men's collective. Kerkar at a recent party meeting in Margao, 35 km from here, was accused by Ferns of wrongly implicating a teacher in a criminal case for sexually harassing a student, also protesting her candidature for the South Goa seat.
"Do we want such a type of woman to represent the state in parliament," asked Ferns, claiming he was convinced that the teacher in question - Yogesh Khandeparkar - was innocent and the complaint was false. Back in 2012 also, a student had complained that Khandeparkar was sexually harassing her.
The student's statement was recorded by the police in the presence of Kerkar, who was summoned by the police, as procedure demands that a statement in such cases be recorded before a social worker or a counselor. However, the following day, the victim's father sought withdrawal of his daughter's complaint and accused Kerkar of coercing her into filing the case against the teacher.
When Tehelka editor-in-chief Tarun Tejpal was booked for rape by the Goa Police last year, Ferns had also claimed that something was "amiss" in the case.
Ferns became a member of the AAP in Goa quite early. His Dadleancho Ekvott was started last May to protect the rights of "innocent men and boys". Kerkar, on the other hand, claimed she wasn't personally involved in the case and went to the police station on being summoned.
"I was there in the interest of the girl child who feared that she would become a victim of politicking. She was also surprised by the manner in which her father had refused to back her," Kerkar told IANS. "The case is being investigated by the police. Let it reach its logical conclusion," Kerkar further said, adding that she didn't want to play up the issue - while also questioning the credentials of her party colleague.
Other AAP members too have accused Ferns of making allegations without having evidence to substantiate them. "If he thinks there was a frame-up, can he tell how the frame-up happened? The sequence of events, the reason for the frame-up, why these girls were chosen, how they were harassed, how did the parents so easily fall for the frame-up? And then, how did the parents finally realize the truth," AAP party member Samir Kelekar said in a Facebook post.
However, party convenor for Goa Rajashree Nagarsekar would have none of this. She has termed the campaign as an instance of a woman's victimization in public life.
Nagarsekar took to Facebook to vent against the campaign. "The smear campaign faced by women who enter public life is hardly new... does the constant scrutiny under which they are placed, including a microscopic examination of their lives past and present, act as a deterrent to more women entering politics? Definitely yes," she said.
There hasn't been a loud enough uproar from political leaders - mostly men - against the sort of blatant misogyny reserved for women politicians (and politicians to be)," she added.
The party, which has failed to make an impact in Goa just yet is expected to contest both the two Lok Sabha seats in Goa. While Kerkar will contest the South Goa seat, Dattaram Desai will contest the North Goa seat.
(Mayabhushan Nagvenkar can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
(Posted on 24-03-2014)