mid-day’s front page report yesterday on Shiv Sena MLA Prakash Bala Sawant publicly abusing and threatening to strip and thrash an elderly woman has attracted the attention of several women’s rights activists, and even the head of the Maharashtra State Commission for Women.
The outraged activists have demanded that Sawant should be severely punished if the woman’s allegations are true and that he should be made an example of, so that people think twice before abusing a woman.
Some activists, speaking off the record, also wondered if the police, in the name of proper investigations, are shying away from arresting Sawant only because he is an MLA.
Around 8 pm on Monday, Sawant allegedly told the woman, who is in her 50s, that he would strip her in front of everyone and beat her up.
The woman and Sawant have been sparring over the redevelopment of the Bandra housing society they reside in, but this outburst allegedly came without provocation.
Sawant’s sister, however, said that he has great respect for women could never use such language against a woman. She said there must have been a misunderstanding.
A Shiv Sena spokesperson said, “A police case has been registered. It is a sensitive issue, as a publicly elected representative has been dragged into this at a time when elections are approaching. Sawant’s record has been spotless for the last 40 years, and he is well-known for his work in his constituency across all communities and in every household.”
“Let the police investigate fairly and freely and follow due legal process. He should not be a victim of allegations and defamation due to a politically motivated conspiracy. It’s too soon and defamatory to pass judgment on anyone before the police investigation is over,” he added.
Action should be taken against the leader if he is guilty. Section 509 (word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman) of the IPC, which Sawant has been charged under, is cognisable and is punishable with five to eight months of imprisonment. Proper action should be taken against him to set an example. Being an MLA and a public figure, Sawant should be careful and never use such language. What he has allegedly said to the woman is bad. While arresting him and putting him behind bars may be a little too much, a symbolic arrest could be made so that such a thing is not repeated by anyone else. I leave it to the police to take action. - Abha Singh, social activist and lawyer
Abusing women and saying whatever comes to mind to them in public is becoming increasingly common. The fearlessness with which it is done indicates that it is becoming a habit. It is very necessary to stop all this to build a better society. The woman should approach the women’s commission and demand action. - Flavia Agnes, feminist and activist
I am completely against politicians who use such language against women in public. it is extremely condemnable and irresponsible. They talk about women’s empowerment, dignity, respect and protection, and then make such comments. Sawant is a public figure elected by the people, and should behave in a manner befitting his position. In fact, no one should humiliate women like this. Police should act without fear or favour while investigating the case and proper, strong action should be taken to set an example. I appeal to all women to come forward and not ignore such incidents. - Susieben Shah, chairperson, State Commission for Women