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The Rediff Interview/Senior Advocate Pramila Nesargi

'The Congress is using the Mangalore attack to tarnish the BJP'

January 28, 2009

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The attack on a group of women in a Mangalore pub, allegedly carried out by members of the Shri Ram Sena, has sent shockwaves across the country. The 'moral' brigade allegedly assaulted and molested the women, claiming that their actions were against Indian culture.

Pramila Nesargi, senior advocate and former chairperson of the the Karnataka State Women's Commission, terms the attacks as 'horrific', but feels that the issue is being blown out of proportion. In an interview with rediff.com' sVicky Nanjappa, Nesargi stated that the law should be allowed to take its course in this case.

You are attached to the Bharatiya Janata Party and you are saying that this issue is being blown out of proportion. Why are you turning this into a political issue?

Who is making this issue a political one? When Renuka Chaudhary (Union women and child welfare minister) made a statement on the attack, it was treated as the gospel truth. When we try to make our point, you allege that we are defending the BJP.

An unfortunate incident has taken place and we condemn it. The government is doing its duty and several arrests have taken place. However, I would like to add that such incidents have taken place many times across the country, and the Congress has chosen not to react.

Where was Renuka Chowdhury when the Aarushi case took place? Why wasn't she vocal at that time? What about the time when thousands of Sikhs were massacred after Indira Gandhi's [Images] assassination? Did she say anything at that time?

Why do you feel that this issue is being blown out of its proportion?

The Congress is using this incident as a tool to tarnish the BJP's image. I think that this entire case has been framed. How did the media turn up at the spot during this incident? Someone called up the media and informed them about it.

You seem to be justifying this 'moral policing'.

No. In the legal framework, there is no place for moral policing. I firmly believe that the right to life of these girls has been affected by this incident. Right to life and right to earn a livelihood are enshrined in our Constitution.

The right to privacy has been recognised by the Supreme Court of India. A woman has the right to do whatever she likes and no person has a right to question that.

But you led the protests against the Miss World contest when it was held in Bangalore? Wasn't that against the right to life, profession and privacy of the participants?

That was a completely different issue. Our protests were based on the principle that a woman's body is not available for sale. The women taking part in the Miss World contest were selling their bodies.

Why should women come out in public and display themselves in swimsuits? Swimsuits are meant for swimming competitions and not for display in beauty pageants.

Those girls in the Mangalore pub were not wearing swimsuits. But the Shri Ram Sena made an issue about the kind of clothes they were wearing.

The issue is not about the clothes those girls were wearing. I have heard complaints against the character of girls who frequent these pubs. But I can't confirm such reports.

Do you think the Shri Ram Sena had the right to target these women?

No. Their action was shameful. No person has the right to assault a woman. In Karnataka, we follow the life of Basavanna, who had said during the 12th century -- 'who is anyone to correct the public? We must correct and protect ourselves.'

As a women's rights activist, do you think that women will be safer if pubs are shut down in Karnataka?

Shutting down pubs is not the answer to this issue. Girls should be taught better values and their safety should be ensured. If the Shri Ram Sena is demanding the closure of all pubs, then they are speaking rubbish.

Let law enforcement agencies keep a check on the kind of activities that take place in these pubs. If these agencies find something illegal going on, they should act against it. I would like to reiterate that nobody has the right to act as a moral police.


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