The witch-hunt of Shilpa Singh  

Social media is replete with hateful posts, rape and death threats directed at an Assistant Professor at the VM Salgaocar College of Law in Goa, where she teaches political theory

 The witch-hunt of Shilpa Singh  

Sanjukta Basu

Social media is bursting with hateful posts, rape and death threats directed at an Assistant Professor at the VM Salgaocar College of Law, where she teaches political theory. Demands have been made for her arrest and for her sacking and the police, under pressure, have lodged an FIR against the single working woman for hurting religious sentiment.

Being a woman and being opinionated in India is dangerous as she has discovered. In 2018 she had commented that women becoming fighter pilots in the Air Force was hardly a sign of empowerment. It made little difference to gender and power dynamics and left women where they were, she felt. The comment was pounced upon and a demand was made to sack her even then.

This time umbrage was taken at her online lectures when she referred to the suicide by Rohith Vemula and murders of rationalist activists MM Kalburgi and Narendra Dhabolkar and criticized the Manusmriti.She was discussing the feminist perspective on power relations, feminist jurisprudence and sexual politics by Kate Millet. The complaint held that this was socially hateful thought. Defending her (she declined to be interviewed), a colleague said, “She does bring in various political debates in the classroom and contextualizes her teaching with examples from contemporary politics. These are legitimate teaching methods prepared after years of research and development.” One of her social media posts from April, 2020 has now been cited in a fresh complaint. She had sarcastically said that in middle class Indian homes, electronic goods are covered while women are also forced to go out in hijabs and burqas. She also frowned upon the practice of women having to carry their ‘mangalsutra’ round their neck.

Shilpa Singh is the sole breadwinner of her family comprising her widowed mother and a specially-abled sister. Her colleagues believe she has been singled out for being outspoken, an unapologetic Marxist, feminist and a ‘rebel’. While Goa turns more and more into a Hindutva laboratory, the complainant’s ire has less to do with religion and is rather full of personal accusations and judgments about Singh’s identity and character.

“…It is no more a fight about me, it is a fight with reactionary dark forces of unreason, dogmatism and who want to eliminate every single human being for thinking and analyzing social reality critically…every person with social consciousness and critical mind is a threat for them,” Singh posted on her Facebook wall.

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