Across India, the MeToo movement still remains largely confined to English-speaking media and sections. Very few MeToo confessionals have come from Indian language journalists, for instance. In Tamil Nadu, adding to that is the question of whether Vairamuthu is being unfairly targeted because he is sympathetic to Dravidian ideology. In the state, the MeToo debate has tagged along itself wedge issues such as urban vs rural, elite vs masses, Dravidian vs Brahmin and so on. Cutting through these questions, lawyer and Dravidar Kazhagam activist A Arulmozhi fleshes out some interesting perspectives in a conversation with M Subramani.
What is your view on the MeToo movement?
It is a platform where women can boldly voice the atrocities being perpetrated on them. Yet, we have to be a bit apprehensive about it because too often in India, individuals are selectively targeted through planned, motivated political strategies. Having said that, it is clear that the MeToo movement will put some fear into those men who wear the gentlemen garb in society that their true side may be exposed.
Is the MeToo movement only for urban feminists?
It is not just for feminists but all women. This movement started in foreign countries. In India, it started in the north and is now being talked about in Tamil Nadu. It is the voice of educated women of today who go for jobs. In villages there is not much awareness about this. In my opinion, this will be talked about among women across sections.
Are celebrities being targeted?
The MeToo movement started with an American actress accusing a famous film producer. If men who are well known and have a social status do wrong in the belief that it will not be come into the open and if their conduct is publicly questioned, then it is only a matter of time before ordinary people will think twice before committing such acts.
Why is the MeToo movement not discussed in Tamil media much?
What gets played in the media is determined by the party that rules in the Centre and the tendency to support the ruling dispensation. Each media outlet has a position and it is possible that they find it worthwhile to play up other issues. Or it could even be due to compulsion from the ruling party.
Very few women from Tamil media have come out. Why?
Right now, mostly women from higher strata are coming out. They are the ones who are aware and know the laws and their rights. Either they have a supportive family background or are ideologically trained and strong. Those who are from a professional background don’t come out publicly initially but with family support they do. Their husbands or parents should be aware and mature and support them when the women face humiliation.
Vairamuthu was criticised by brahmins during the controversy over Andal. Is there any link to that?
See we are not trying to save Vairamuthu. But RSS folks are portraying Vairamuthu as the representative of Dravidian parties. They portray him as the reflection of the nature of Dravidian parties. If an individual faces charges that individual has to respond to those charges. But in self-defense those with Dravidian thought then talk about charges against Carnatic musicians. When some say that Vairamuthu is facing these problems because of his views on Andal’s life, then to counter this some try to poke holes in Chinmayi’s accusations and try to find inconsistencies in it. But the fact is that Chinmayi has also made accusations against Carnatic musicians. Before Chinmayi, Anuradha Ramanan made similar charges. Those who are attacking Vairamuthu now were silent regarding those.
Though I grew up in the backdrop of the Dravidian movement, my father loved Carnatic music. When I was young, he got musicians like Madurai Somu and U R Jeevarathinam to perform in Salem. So, I was shocked when charges were made against musicians like Seshagopalan.
We really don’t know how individuals are in their private lives. But we should not jump into criticism of them. These charges have to be proved. Others cannot decide for themselves whether they are guilty or not and weigh in with their opinions. It is up to them to prove that this didn’t happen. Others cannot
The MeToo movement has been started by women so they get justice. It is unfortunate that some politicians are trying to get political mileage.
Going beyond celebrities, we should look at the silent killers among men. When we take our child to the music or dance teacher we have to consider their character. Instead of looking at Iyer, Sudhra etc, we should be concerned about our children and create awareness.