Disclaimer: The slapwala mentioned here is a complete idiot. Nowhere in the article will you find him “cute” or “mannchalla” like the legendary chai-wala. This article has been written on public demand. Sorry, but the author couldn’t keep up with public wish at large to hold everyone else responsible for their actions and idiocies. No security guard was harmed while writing this piece. And this is not funny.
There is enough proof out there that we have crossed all our civility and sensitivities to issues that impact us deeply. This is about a particular incident that prompted a twitter trend “thapparwala”, inspired by the “chai-wala” phenomenon recently.
The trend originator called on people on twitter:
“Grab your keyboards and start trending. Let’s show our support to the FC soldier”
I wouldn’t comment on the “fauji” thing here because I have no intention of coming under the radar of cyber crime laws. The stride in which the ‘Thapparwala” is taken as something funny and comical is disturbing at many levels. As if what he did was something very “heroic”.
But first, I’ll have the readers recall this incident.
At a NADRA office in Sindh (and believe me, NADRA visit is never a pleasant visit), a woman anchor of a private TV channel was reporting on the woes of the people waiting in long, endless queues and an appalling insensitivity of the staff towards them. The emotions were running high along with the temperature in the city, and with it an altercation broke between the reporter and A security guard, apparently from Frontier Constabulary, when he started abusing and harassing her cameraman. She yelled at the guard to not do it. When he didn’t stop, she too lost her cool and literally pulled him by the collar. In a fit of rage, he slapped her across the face and threw her camera down in retaliation. Maybe it was his way of giving a woman a shut up call. How macho!
All this was recorded and the footage made rounds in the social media, sparking many a debate over it. The authorities too had taken notice and booked the guard. The Interior Minister has called for an inquiry report, and it looks like this will not be let go unnoticed. But the probability remains high that it will meet the same fate as that of the case of the rangers roughening up the traffic police on motorway. This is concerning, because this actually means anyone with authority and with a gun can behave anyway they want with an unarmed civilian.
While all mummy-daddy foreign educated modern social media activists have in general condemned the act of the security guard, but in the same breadth, a huge majority of these commentators resounded with the conservative, misogynist “jahils”, who hold the view that this woman was “asking for it” and that she was “responsible” for this assault. It sounds familiar to us in cases where we witness misogynist attacks against women and the victims of male aggression themselves get blamed for it. This is a ridiculous assertion. An assault is an assault, and there is absolutely no justification for it.
And to me, the case is not just about a reporter getting beaten by an armed security guard, it is also about an assault on a woman which is a more a serious deed, whether it is considered a felony or a serious criminal act by law.
Let’s for a moment, take out the gender binary. Let’s just assume that it was a male TV reporter who stood up against the security guard for abusing his junior staff. Would this guard’s reaction be the same towards him as it was towards this woman? Doing so might become more violent, that might invite even more violence—or perhaps the guard wouldn’t really bother to get into a brawl with another male, or maybe, the other would restrain himself seeing that this guard has a gun and is nuts. Whatever the outcome, abuse of power and intimidation coming from an armed guard is a scary thing in public. And in the actual case, he slapped the woman because he knew that she would dare not retaliate to male aggression as a man would do in her place. It’s a cultural thing to tame women here after all.
Now let’s talk a bit about work ethics and professional expectations. Yes, a code of conduct should be defined before one is sent to cover issues in public in tensed environment. The anchors should be trained to tread with caution without becoming judgmental and by remaining objective. An anchor should also be trained to exercise caution where they sense danger and leave the ground if things appear to be getting out of hands. Perhaps it would be better if the reporter was trained to thoroughly investigate a matter before drawing a haphazard, sensationalist conclusion. All these were obviously missing in this TV reporter. Perhaps, she was not even a professional and had no idea how to deal in such situation without compromising on her safety. In fact, when I saw the video, it reminded me of seeing on multiple times how people plunge on the staff, verbally or physically, to vent out their grievances over frustratingly poor service delivery. To me, she was not a reporter at all. She, like any other person had just lost her cool in a brawl.
No, there is no justification for a person supposed to be a professional behaving like that. But the physical assault by the guard is no comparison to the insult he suffered at a woman’s hands. It was his ego that got hurt. And this is far from any professionalism. A security personnel’s job is to dissuade any aversion and pacify public in high pressure environment to prevent any untoward incident. In fact, the temperament of the security guards should be assessed carefully before giving them the charge. Yes, that reporter was unprofessional and that’s a separate issue. It surely doesn’t mean the security guard start assaulting others for their unruly public behaviour. He’s the one who started the brawl by abusing the camera man after all.
However, if we are to play game, we must also hold the guard responsible for getting the woman provoked. Why should this not be debated as well by the very people holding the woman responsible for this act? I know why, because slapping women is easy and it is very much a cultural norm for us, not the other way around.
The author is based in Lahore. She may be contacted at email@example.com. Follow her on twitter @zeebahashmi