A few days ago, when comedian Jeeveshu Ahluwalia was accused of date rape by an anonymous account, writer Varun Grover asked for the comedian to be boycotted. A day later Varun himself was accused of harassment by an anonymous account. Both vehemently denied the charges and people began to question the authenticity of such unsubstantiated reports. It was a teachable moment in India’s #MeToo of what the movement is asking of us.

If anything we’ve learnt that #MeToo is a complicated process. It’s not black or white. It’s grey.

We are in unchartered territory and things are going to get messy.

Yes, at a time when women around the country are courageously relieving their trauma and baring their soul, a few women (very few, mind you), under the guise of agency, are pushing their own agenda or exacting revenge. Some are calling out mild flirtation as sexual assault, some are making things up, some are seeing men in places they’re not, and some are even appropriating money in lieu for activism! The line between truth and falsehood is becoming blurry.

Yes, at a time when women around the country are courageously relieving their trauma and baring their soul, a few women (very few, mind you), under the guise of agency, are pushing their own agenda or exacting revenge.

Worse still, their actions are granting impunity to those accused. These men now have an easy defense mechanism that allows them to act like “victims” who are being vilified. We’re literally giving ammo to sexual predators!

If literature is doomed by Chetan Bhagat’s mediocrity, poetry by Rupi Kaur’s plagiarism, then #MeToo is doomed by these wolf parading in sheep’s clothing. Toxic feminism is as much a reality as toxic masculinity, empowering a bunch of bullies to oppress others. They forget that no one is bigger than the movement. And that truth is determined by fact not opinion.

#MeToo is bigger than one person, one story or one false allegation. While supporting #MeToo does not amount to supporting lies, between ‘he-said-she-said’ veracity is often the real casualty.

We must believe women. It is now or never. At the same time, can we let a few good men be victimized by the same discourse that protects our victims? Can we let a few be sacrificed for the larger cause? Should we follow the dictat of the court that it’s better to let ten guilty men walk free than to punish an innocent man? Or are we so fed up of being diminished and silenced that we no longer care for what is wrong and right?

We must believe women. It is now or never. At the same time, can we let a few good men be victimized by the same discourse that protects our victims?

What can we do?

First, if you are making false allegations to settle scores, don’t. Think of the repercussions. You are undermining the women who have undergone serious trauma. You are derailing the entire movement by lending it an air of inauthenticity. You are destroying a man’s reputation and career, as you intended, but you’re ultimately creating seriously bad karma and falling in your own eyes. The truth will not stay dormant for long. You will be caught.

Secondly, let’s get over our conditioning. Let’s stop being “shocked” when someone we know is called out. For too long we’ve given the benefit of doubt to the accused. Today, we are asking not to let women be questioned about what they were wearing, why they were out at night, whether they were drinking, because, in a way, there is no perfect victim. Similarly, can there be a perfect perpetrator? Can a man who is otherwise respectful and respected be a pariah in a different setting? Like Alok Nath the sanskari babu being Alok Nath the rapist? Can we start separating the act of sexual violence from the image we have of a man? This will help us get closer to the truth.

Can we start separating the act of sexual violence from the image we have of a man? This will help us get closer to the truth.

Lastly, let’s not turn #MeToo into a spectator sport. People’s lives, relationships and careers are determined by what’s coming out. Until we stop giving impetus to false allegations, we will not be able to change anything. Meanwhile, all we can do is give time to let the truth prevail. Due process must be followed to distinguish false cases from true ones. A man falsely accused should seek legal recourse. He should be allowed to defend himself. He should go to the police, demand an investigation, hire a lawyer and press defamation charges. An accused has as much right to defend himself, as the accuser has the right to seek justice.

An accused has as much right to defend himself, as the accuser has the right to seek justice.

Today, we are all united by a cause to fight injustice and dismantle the power dynamic that has suppressed women for too long. Let’s not get derailed. Let’s be supportive of one another.

This is probably the first time in India’s history that it is good to be a woman. This is the first time that we are being heard. This is the first time that we are being believed. This is the first time that our voices are carrying weight. Let’s make sure that this exception becomes the norm.

Meghna Pant is a multiple award-winning author, columnist, feminist and speaker.

The views expressed are the author’s own.

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