'For the RSS, which is supposed to be the standard-bearer of plain living and high thinking, to be as quiet as a mouse suggests that it, too, is playing a political game like its political wing, the BJP,' argues Amulya Ganguli.
Illustration: Uttam Ghosh/Rediff.com
For a self-proclaimed upholder of Bharatiya sanskriti, which apparently entails high respect for the saree-clad Bharatiya nari, the RSS's muted response to the #MeToo movement is revealing.
So far, only two of its apparatchiki have spoken up.
One was Dattatreya Hosabale who only endorsed what a female contributor to Facebook had said about how the movement involved not only women, but all those would could distinguish between right and wrong.
The other was Indresh Kumar who said that while the allegations against sexual predators had to be looked into, it was 'inappropriate' for the alleged victims to have remained quiet for as long as 15 years.
Given the background of the RSS as a male-dominated khap panchayat-style outfit, it is understandable why one of its functionaries could not fathom how long it can take for a young woman to recover from the shock and humiliation of being propositioned by a lascivious male boss or a co-worker on a film set.
Besides, India was more conservative a decade-and-a-half ago when there were fewer women who ventured out in jeans, shorts and T-shirts.
It was also a time when the concept of gay rights and adultery were frowned upon by the judiciary and society.
It wasn't easy, therefore, for a young woman in need of employment to accept the possibility of being dismissed if she resisted the advances of the boss.
Or for an actress to quietly acknowledge the reality of the casting couch.
The #MeToo movement hadn't yet been conceived in those days.
But even if the RSS is unfamiliar with the norms -- or the lack of them -- in a workplace or the film world, why are most of its members (except for one honorable exception) hesitant about spelling out what is right and wrong.
The BJP can depend on a legal solution to the issue of the harassment of women while ignoring the moral aspect, but for the RSS, which is supposed to be the standard-bearer of plain living and high thinking, to be as quiet as a mouse suggests that it, too, is playing a political game like its political wing, the BJP.
The RSS probably thinks that if it is forthright about penalising the accused, it will leave the BJP with no option but to sack M J Akbar.
So, only one political commentator belonging to the saffron camp has gone out on a limb to say on television that if he had been Akbar, he would have stepped down.
The others are looking to the law as an escape route from prompt action.
The #MeToo eruption has come at an inconvenient time for the RSS.
Just when it is trying to enter a new phase of its 'cultural' life in the 93rd year of its existence by incorporating Muslims within a Hindu rashtra, the articulate and aggressive modern women have made it realise the imperatives of gender equality.
Who knows whether this will lead to the equality of castes and creed as well?
Both the RSS and the BJP know that retreating before these women will entail more social changes of a kind which were hitherto anathema to the two Hindutva organizations.
Marital rape is one such issue which has been stoutly opposed by the saffron camp.
Privacy is another which the Union government said was an 'elitist' concept before the Supreme Court.
The #MeToo movement, therefore, can be said to have set the cat among the pigeons.
It is bad optics for the RSS (and the BJP) in the poll season to be seen on the side of the predators.
Amulya Ganguli is a writer on current affairs.