Why Deepika's visit to JNU is a lost opportunity

Yesterday was a big day for women in the country: Nirbahaya’s pursuit for justice finally  made it to the last lap of the marathon that her parents have run for justice. 

The Patiala Court delivered death warrants for her barbaric rapists and murders. They are to be hanged at 7 am on the 22nd of January, subject to their remaining legal options being exhausted.

For the past seven years the country has followed her mother Asha Devi’s struggle for justice. The public was pained and frightened in equal measure at the daunting task it is for women to  achieve justice, even in a case as ‘(in) famous’ as Nirbhaya that had the global media fixated on it for its brutality. 

As someone who has appeared on numerous TV discussions with Asha Devi, I have witnessed first hand how the ‘human rights’ activists and lawyers have through the years tried to shame this mother for seeking the death penalty, because it does not fit into their idea of justice. 

Their nauseating moral superiority and condescension have on more than one occasion made their attacks vicious and personal against a mother who saw her daughter fight for her life for days and had to feed her water with a teaspoon. 

Their façade of ‘compassion’ eroded by every word they directed at this woman who found herself in the unfortunate situation of fighting for a dead and brutalised daughter, when she should have instead spent these years planning a wedding and probably welcoming the birth of a grandchild. 

Nirbhaya was only 23 years old when she was brutalised and would have been a 30-year-old woman today, on the cusp of a new journey.

Later this week, the film actress Deepika Padukone will release a film about the life of acid attack victim, Laxmi Agarwal, who was attacked as a minor and has since then led a life of incredible bravery. 

Thrust into adulthood by a tragedy that could have defaced her future, Laxmi has been an inspiring young lady who has bravely confronted her attackers and society as she built a life for herself, and stepped up and out.

Bracketed between these two events, this could have been an important week for women in the mainstream narrative, a necessary space that is denied to women in discourse and policy-changing politics. 

However, Deepika Padukone’s decision to visit the Jawaharlal Nehru University protest site, featuring sloganeering by former JNU student Kanhaiya Kumar, overshadowed the Nirbhaya verdict on the future of her brutalisers. 

It was an inevitability, as theories abound, that this was a promotion stunt for her film, if so the move has diluted the impact of the Nirbhaya verdict, one that was keenly anticipated. And is a lost opportunity for women to capture the mainstream narrative and highlight their fights, which very often presents itself as an existential one.

Furthermore, Padukone’s intervention is being viewed as partisan since Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) students and students registering for classes have also been injured in the clashes allegedly by the Leftist students she chose to express solidarity with. 

It is quite possible that this may not have been a publicity move advised by PR companies and Deepika feels a genuine political affinity with Leftist politics, the CPM’s official Twitter handle commended her appearance. And there is no issue with a celebrity being a Leftist or a communist: in a democracy it is her right to be so.

However, the move has led to counter protests against the star, an inevitability since the issue is a clash between two student groups with differing ideologies and there have been calls to boycott her film. 

This is indeed a pity because the movie is about an admirable young lady who has fought the odds and through her personal journey highlighted the devastation caused by acid attacks and the negation of the concept of consent in our society.

However, one cannot condemn the calls to boycott just as one cannot condemn Padukone’s political choice. What we, as witnesses to this real drama, can lament is that an opportunity to bridge gaps between students by a major celebrity who has a fan following across the board has been lost. 

What JNU needs today is peace and security for all its students and a reconciliation between young people who have their whole future ahead of them and need not be embroiled in violence and the circuitous travails of FIRs and a long legal system.

However, this opportunity is now lost: will another celebrity with the social capital of a Deepika Padukone stand up and make an overture for peace and reconciliation? 

It will be a move which will be truly welcomed and provide a healing touch to young people who are setting out on futures that deserve to be free of the compunctions of campus violence and its lengthy aftermath.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author and do not reflect the views of Yahoo.