Activists in the Telugu states have criticised TDP MLC Buddha Venkanna after he made personal remarks against YSRCP MLA and actor Roja during a press meet earlier this week.
Venkanna said that the Nagari legislator Roja had ‘no shame’ and claimed she had acted in 'blue films'. He also tried to paint her as an ‘immoral woman’ by claiming she consumed alcohol before press conferences.
Ironically, the TDP leader’s distasteful rant came even as Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu led a march to protect women and girls, titled 'Aadabiddaku Raksha ga kaduludam'.
However, activists are not too happy with both the MLC's comments and the Chief Minister's statement.
They say that while Roja is an aggressive politician who has made controversial statements, the response should not be personal attacks.
"The problem is that targeting women and indulging in character assassination is easy in India. Why only target women? Do men not drink? Even if Roja does use strong language, it is not advisable to use personal attacks against her," says Sujatha Surepally, an academic activist.
"Another big problem is that the issue at hand gets sidelined if you target the person. This is one of the challenges that women in politics face. They are targeted because they are women," she adds.
In December last year, Sujatha had to approach the police after a vicious online campaign accused her of being ‘anti-national’ and also insinuated that she was spreading naxalism in Satavahana University in Karimnagar in Telangana, where she is a professor.
The activist later approached the police and accused the BJP of running the campaign.
"It is easy to target women, especially once they come into politics," she says.
When asked about Naidu's rally, Sujatha says, "We don't want rallies. We want arrests and a safe environment for women. That is what we expect from a state government. Activists are there to hold rallies, but we never get police permission at that time."
Cultural activist Devi also echoes Sujatha’s views and says that a statement should be countered politically.
"If someone makes a political statement, you counter them politically, irrespective of whether you are in the ruling party or opposition party. Instead, making personal remarks like this is not right,” she says.
Devi had filed a complaint with the Central Crime Station (CCS) in Hyderabad earlier this year after controversial filmmaker Ram Gopal Varma made derogatory remarks on another woman activist during a television debate.
Speaking about the rally taken out by the Andhra Chief Minister, Devi says, "I condemn the statement he made - ‘That Dachepalle incident will be the last’. How can a Chief Minister make such a statement? You run the government and you have the police department under your control. Instead of being productive, how can you indulge yourself with rallies like this?"
On Monday, while addressing a press meeting, TDP MLC Buddha Venkanna attacked YSRCP MLA and actor Roja.
"The youth are watching your 'Jabardhast' shows and blue films on the internet and getting spoiled. What about your blue films on the internet? You have acted in a way which hurts Telugu sentiments. Are you the one to talk? Do you have any shame?" he had asked.
In an attempt to paint her as an immoral woman, Venkanna also said that she would consume alcohol before press meetings.
This remark came in the backdrop of the rape of a minor girl by a 50-year-old rickshaw puller in Dachepalle in Guntur district, which caused massive public outrage. The accused later committed suicide by hanging near the village.
Just days after the incident, Andhra Pradesh CM Chandrababu Naidu on Monday said, “Dachepalle incident should be the last one and for those resorting to such crimes, it will be their last day on the earth. Everyone should condemn such incidents. Change in the mindset of the people is the need of the hour. We should not treat a woman as a plaything. We should respect them."
Several politicians, bureaucrats and police officers also participated in different rallies held across the state.
However, the Chief Minister and the TDP government came under criticism from the opposition and Roja accused the TDP of politicking over the rape.
The TDP meanwhile accused Roja of personally insulting the Chief Minister. Venkanna’s press meet on Monday was in this context, where he decided to launch a personal attack on Roja.