When news of death of Sunanda Pushkar, wife of Shashi Tharoor went public, there was an online storm on Twitter and Facebook demanding arrest of Shashi Tharoor and also that he be booked under section 304 B of the IPC.
Ironically, this demand came from none other than the men’s rights activists. A close scrutiny of the posts clearly revealed that it was a sarcastic take on the double standards and hypocrisy of the society that is generally ill disposed towards the man when a relationship breaks down or the woman (wife/live-in partner/girlfriend) in the relationship dies.
However, contrary to other cases, what we witnessed was a complete violation of law and general practice. Instead of arresting Tharoor, the media and the government wanted to investigate the case first (unlike other cases) and that too, on a letter from Shashi Tharoor to Sushil Kumar Shinde, Union home minister.
In fact, an inquiry under a sub-divisional magistrate (SDM) was also conducted which finally gave a clean chit to Tharoor. But there are some more interesting points about Sunanda’s death: There was clear evidence of an estranged relationship between the two given the nature of their tweets days before her death, there was an alleged affair between Mehr Tarar and Tharoor leading to the conflict; there were media reports indicating that both of them had had arguments at the airport and the hotel with Congressman Manish Tewari trying to intervene. Importantly, people had seen Sunanda entering the washroom crying; the same day she died mysteriously.
Notwithstanding these facts, if Tharoor can be given a clean chit, why not other men who are facing similar criminal charges? Had it not been for the fact that Shashi Tharoor is who he is, the man would have been immediately arrested under Section 304B and would have been sent behind bars for months together.
Now, let us have a look at some other such similar cases.Bollywood actor, Navin Nischal was arrested for his estranged wife’s suicide even after separation when they were no longer living together. Yet, when his wife committed suicide, he was charged under Section 304B and was sent behind bars.
Upcoming Bollywood actor Sooraj Pancholi, son of veteran actor Aditya Pancholi, was arrested and packed off to prison and has now been charged under section 306 – abetment of suicide – when Jiah Khan had committed suicide last year. At the time, both of them were not even in a relationship; they had broken up and were out of touch. Yet, there was a huge hue and cry being made by feminists and media to arrest him and ultimately, he was picked up. Even with incriminating evidence that he after all is not responsible for her suicide and Jiah Khan was a patient of depression, Sooraj is still not spared.
The pertinent point to be observed is the severity with which these sections are applied on men who go through a relationship crisis as the society views it through a prism belittling the pain of the male and trivializing the emotional turmoil of men.
These double standards apart, the clear difference in the treatment meted out to powerful and influential men vis-à-vis powerless or not so powerful men is jarring. We have already seen and it’s a known fact that if your girlfriend or wife commits suicide, your life, career and reputation will be at stake. It won’t matter as to why she committed suicide or were you even the person responsible for it? The needle of suspicion shall point at the man, constantly and at all times.
Another harsh reality: society looks down upon men who don’t have women in their life. Mostly, such men are tagged as losers, if they haven’t achieved extra-ordinary feats in life like Ratan Tata, Atal Behari Vajpayee or Abdul Kalam Azad. If an ordinary man decides to stay away from women – given the risks – then the standard flurry of titles flashed at him are: gay, impotent, incomplete, loser, womanizer and misogynist- thus discouraging men from being single. A man without a woman is up against social problems like getting a house for rent. Society generally tends not to let out houses to single men. When a single man wants to buy a house, most banks coerce men to add their wife’s name as a co-applicant. Men live such lives primarily because society does not accept single men who also happen to be commoners. Currently, male spaces are very limited for single men and till the time there isn’t enough recognition of their rights, it will continue to be a sad reality that a relationship with a woman would be a double edged sword for men.