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Viewpoint: Assault on Swati Maliwal, a stark reminder of the perils women face in politics

Earlier this week, AAP MP Swati Maliwal called the police and alleged an assault by Arvind Kejriwal's aide Bibhav Kumar.

Swati Maliwal at a press conference after the alleged assault. / X/@swatijaihind

In a deeply troubling incident that has shaken the political landscape, Swati Maliwal, a member of parliament in the upper house and a prominent women's rights advocate, was reportedly assaulted inside the residence of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal by his secretary.

The alleged assault and abuse of women Members of Parliament (MPs) has cast a dark shadow over Indian politics. The episode, which reportedly occurred at the behest of the Chief Minister himself, has raised serious questions about the safety of women in political circles and the moral integrity of our leaders.

The Incident and the Aftermath

For 32 hours, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) remained silent, neither confirming nor denying the incident. The silence was finally broken with an acknowledgment of the assault, accompanied by promises of strict action. However, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal's public appearances with the implicated personal secretary have fueled suspicions and outrage. This blatant disregard for accountability has undermined public trust and highlighted the party's double standards.

The AAP's response—or rather, the lack of it—was both disheartening and telling. The party and its spokespersons maintained a deafening silence for nearly four days. After Swati Maliwal came forward, filing a First Information Report (FIR) and providing a statement to the police, the party hastily moved to defend the incident. This sudden change in stance was followed by tweets, edited videos, and false narratives aimed at discrediting the victim and obscuring the truth.

Political Reactions and Double Standards

The response from various political leaders has been tepid and hypocritical at best. When questioned about the incident, many leaders from the India Alliance chose to downplay it as an "internal matter" of the party, thereby sidestepping the pressing issue of women's safety. Sanjay Singh of AAP assured the public that the party would take decisive action, yet his words seem hollow against the Chief Minister's inaction.

Priyanka Gandhi voiced her concern, emphasizing the need for stringent measures to protect women in politics, yet refrained from direct criticism of the Chief Minister.

In a recent press conference, Akhilesh Yadav's remark that "there are other important things than this" starkly reveals a mindset that sidelines women's safety and empowerment. Such dismissive attitudes are unacceptable and highlight the urgent need for a shift in political priorities towards protecting and empowering women.

Vandana Singh, a prominent Delhi Women's Commission member, condemned the incident, highlighting the irony that even the former head of the Delhi Women's Commission is unsafe within the political sphere. Could the assault on Swati Maliwal have happened without CM Kejriwal's knowledge, questions BJP's Shazia Ilmi. Nirmala Sitharaman also voiced her concern, calling for a robust and impartial inquiry. However, these calls for action seem to be falling on deaf ears. 

The Question of Safety for Women in Politics

This incident raises a fundamental question: How safe are women in politics? Despite advancements in women's representation, the political sphere is still rife with hazards and ingrained misogyny. Swati Maliwal's experience is a clear demonstration of the physical and psychological abuse that women in positions of power still endure.

The hypocrisy displayed by the AAP in this matter is glaring. Here is a party that has built its identity on the promise of transparency, accountability, and the fight for justice. Yet, when one of their own is assaulted, their immediate reaction is to retreat into silence and then engage in victim-blaming and misinformation. This not only undermines the party's credibility but also highlights a disturbing double standard when it comes to the treatment of women.

Restoring Confidence

Considering these events, the question arises: How can we instill confidence in women to participate in politics when they are not safe even within the halls of power? The assault on a woman MP at the Chief Minister's residence is not just an isolated incident but a symptom of a deeper malaise affecting our political system. We need to take urgent and specific actions to rebuild trust in the system.

It may include the following:

  1. Transparent Investigation: A swift, transparent, and impartial investigation must be conducted, with regular updates to the public. 
  2. Accountability: The Chief Minister must be fully accountable for their actions and staff conduct. This unequivocally includes the potential for resignation or suspension pending investigation outcomes. 
  3. Institutional Reform: It is imperative to strengthen the Women's Commission and guarantee that law enforcement agencies are equipped and committed to handling such cases with the seriousness they deserve.
  4. Judicial Oversight: The judiciary must take a proactive stance in ensuring that cases of assault, especially involving high-profile individuals, are not swept under the rug.

Conclusion

The assault on a woman MP in the Chief Minister's house is a stark reminder of the challenges women face in politics. It calls for a united front against misogyny and violence, demanding accountability from our leaders and institutions. Only then can we hope to create a safer, more inclusive political environment for all.

The assault on Swati Maliwal is not just an isolated incident; it is a symptom of a more significant problem within the political system. Women's safety, respect, and political status should precede party loyalty and political maneuvering. Without addressing these fundamental issues, the promise of a genuinely inclusive and secure political environment for women will go unfulfilled.

 

(The author is the founder of "Five Global Values," which raises awareness about the importance of living by and teaching our children these five values to gain respect, self-confidence, trust, happiness, and wisdom.  He is also the founder of Global Indan Diaspora and past president of the Federation of Indian Association. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of  New India Abroad) 

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