Smriti Irani’s comments on carrying blood-soaked pads into a temple have added further fuel to the raging Sabarimala issue. The Union Textile Minister was speaking at the Young Thinkers’ Conference, when the conversation veered to government’s stand on the Supreme Court’s Sabarimala verdict. On this, she said, “I am nobody to speak on the Supreme Court verdict because I am a current serving Cabinet Minister. But plain common sense. Would you take sanitary napkins steeped in menstrual blood and walk into a friend’s home? You will not. And do you think that it is respectful to do the same when you walk into the house of God? So that is the difference. I have a right to pray. I do not have the right to desecrate. That is my personal opinion.”
#WATCH Union Minister Smriti Irani says," I have right to pray,but no right to desecrate. I am nobody to speak on SC verdict as I'm a serving cabinet minster. Would you take sanitary napkins seeped in menstrual blood into a friend's home? No.Why take them into house of God?" pic.twitter.com/Fj1um4HGFk— ANI (@ANI) October 23, 2018
Before anyone could comprehend what prompted Irani to make such a bizarre comment, the damage was already done. Within minutes, social media was shredding her statement to bits. People began condemning her for passing a derogatory remark against menstruating women. How could a minister, and a woman nonetheless, say such a thing? Don’t all women wear blood-soaked pads when they are on their periods? So, does she expect women to stay confined to their houses when they are menstruating?
But then someone pointed out that Irani made the comment in reference to the “news” that an activist had allegedly tried to carry a blood-soaked pad into Sabarimala. Even Irani loosely affirmed to this in her tweet, in which put forth her side of the story.
As far as those who jump the gun regarding women visiting friend’s place with a sanitary napkin dipped in menstrual blood — I am yet to find a person who ‘takes’ a blood soaked napkin to ‘offer’ to any one let alone a friend.— Smriti Z Irani (@smritiirani) October 23, 2018
Irani’s defence would have earned our nod, had we not found out later, that the very news to which she reacted was fake.
Who started the #FakeNews that a Muslim woman tried to carry a blood soaked sanitary napkin into #Sabarimala? Why did @smritiirani feel the need to confirm and spread it?She is either spreading a lie or she has not been misinterpreted about menstruation. Which one is it? https://t.co/Uc2qCFEGii— Siddharth (@Actor_Siddharth) October 24, 2018
The disturbing trend of reacting first and questioning the authenticity later
In an interview to The Quint, activist Rehana Fathima Pyarijaan Sulaimaan, the activist accused of allegedly trying to carry sanitary napkins in her irumudi to offer at Sabarimala, says that the rumour was spread to misguide people. She clarifies, “I left my irumudikettu with the police when I left. Usually, a person who goes with the irumudikettu should be able to complete the journey. When this allegation surfaced, the police checked my irumudikettu and my partner’s and even took photos of it.” The strategy seems to have worked, since a Union Minister bought it without any hesitation or doubt.
- Many people outraged over Smriti Irani’s comments on carrying blood-soaked pads into a temple, without understanding the context.
- The Union Minister herself seems to have fallen prey to the fake news about an activist allegedly trying to carry sanitary napkin into Sabarimala.
- This entire blood-soaked pads comment saga warns us about how fake news is increasingly influencing mainstream media today in our country.
- The trend of sharing and outraging over any information first, and confirming its authenticity later is dangerous.
This entire blood-soaked pads comment saga warns us about how fake news is increasingly influencing mainstream news today.
It is a dangerous trend where people share and outrage on any information first, and confirm its authenticity later. They are so blinded by their political and religious agendas that they readily believe a piece of news which they want to. A minister falls for whatever bit of information comes their way. Media houses do not bother to cross check information. In this case, most of them chose to sensationalise Irani’s statement, without giving the readers a proper context. Did they themselves understand that Irani was referring to alleged accusations against Fathima, and not the Supreme Court’s verdict on Sabarimala?
It is as easy to manipulate our views now, as it is to trick a four-year-old into gulping medicines by hiding it inside a sweet. Why doesn't this naivety bother us?
There are many who are still arguing that the sanitary napkin rumour is in fact true. I do not blame them. It is becoming increasingly difficult to separate fact from fiction. But this excuse isn’t enough reason for a Union Minister to go around making provocative statements. Irani owes it to her position, to verify all the news that comes her way, before giving a public comment. Similarly, the publications shouldn’t have gone trotting to print with her statement so hastily. Not many bothered to understand the context of her statement, even if it was a fake news, before crucifying her.
The inference here is that this entire uproar could have been easily avoided. If only Irani had bothered to verify her facts before making a statement. If only people had not believed in rumours about Fathima, which are being spread to evoke outrage. Also, if only media houses had published Irani’s comments with some context. This is also not the last time a concoction of fake news and misinterpretation has created an atmosphere of hostility and outrage. However, we can put a lid on this trend. All we have to do is to confirm and understand first and react later.
Picture Credit: vagabomb.com
Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.