The way men wildly grapple at straws when trying to smear women would almost be hilarious, if it wasn’t so hateful and dangerous. You know what I’m talking about: it’s when men accuse women of being witches and beat them to death because their crops failed. Or when the Gujarat government goes all guns and trishuls blazing to destroy social activists who criticise the Supreme Leader, Narendra Modi.
Back in 2015, the government began its vengeful mission to bring down activist Teesta Setalvad, who has been one of Narendra Modi’s most vocal critics for years now. At the time, the Gujarat police submitted evidence that Teesta and her NGO had committed “colossal fraud” and were threats to national security (like Greenpeace, apparently). Included in this evidence was the fact that there were bills charged to her NGO’s account for “wine”, and that she had incurred expenses for hairdressers in “Rome and Pakistan” (*yawn*).
Yesterday, the Gujarat government again asserted to the Supreme Court that Setalvad had used funds for “liquor consumption”. Her lawyer, of course, told the court that she had charged around Rs 7000 in seven years for alcohol expenses, and that this was by no stretch of imagination a crime. In fact, it was approved by the Ford Foundation, which had donated the money to her NGO in the first place. Her lawyers mentioned, rightly, that all of the references to alcohol were just a means to target her for “known reasons”.
And so it is. It’s the patriarchy’s go-to response when trying to bring down women: to say they drink, or smoke, or sleep around, as if these are bad things that women need to be demonised for. Never mind, of course, that if you look into the expenses of any international NGO, you’re bound to find expenses charged for alcohol that amount to much more than Rs 1000 a year, but I guess that isn’t even the point.