NCW’s Rekha Sharma called ‘bigot’, ‘misogynist’ after “love jihad” tweet

After Twitter users re-post her old tweets, she restricts her twitter account and removes old posts

Updated - October 22, 2020 04:34 am IST

Published - October 22, 2020 02:36 am IST - NEW DELHI

Rekha Sharma, the chairperson of NCW. File

Rekha Sharma, the chairperson of NCW. File

Head of the women’s rights panel, the National Commission for Women, Rekha Sharma, has been variously decribed as ‘bigot’, ‘misogynist’, “garden variety troll”, after she tweeted on Monday about her meeting with Maharashtra Governor B.S. Khoshiyari over the “rising number of love jihad cases”.

The term “love jihad” is a derogatory reference made by right-wing activists against inter-faith marriages. Many Twitter users attacked Ms. Sharma by re-posting her old tweets dating between 2011 and 2016 where she made repulsive remarks about Mahatma Gandhi, former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru as well as sexual innuendos about women politicians like Sonia Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi. Ms. Sharma told The Hindu that she doesn’t regret using the disparaging reference and that she was being trolled because of her work at the NCW.

But an old tweet purportedly from her account in 2012 against Prime Minister Narendra Modi forced her to spring to her defence on Tuesday and she replied, “Someone hacked my account and tweeted against Narendra Modi. How mischievous people are. Coming from Maharashtra and can understand why this happened.” In her tweet against the then Gujarat Chief Minister, she had written, “Narendra Modi is deaf and mute whose life revolves around mentally challenged women.”

Since making the hacking claims, Ms. Sharma has protected her Twitter account, which prohibits anyone apart from her followers from seeing her tweets or tweeting to her.

Pratik Sinha, co-founder of fact checking portal AltNews, says Ms. Sharma had soon after started to clean up her twitter history and removed 470 tweets.

“After she protected her Twitter account, NCW Chairperson has deleted nearly 460 tweets. Often the first thing Twitter users do after protecting their account after such controversies is to delete old tweets. So, we started monitoring her Twitter account and we kept archiving her account at regular intervals and found that her total tweets dropped down to 16,461 from 16,937 at the time she protected her account.” He adds that it may be difficult to determine the content of tweets deleted besides the ones which are already in public domain.

“The tweets that have been highlighted on social media are only a small number of these 470 tweets, but clearly are those that she, or whoever is behind the clean-up act, thinks should not exist on her account.”

When The Hindu spoke to Ms. Sharma she said she didn’t regret using the term “love jihad”, but added that she could have used the phrase “forced conversion because of marriage”. “I have been trolled badly for the past two days. It is because people don’t like NCW working so hard.”

“When someone uses the term love jihad they are saying that Hindu woman is the property of her community and she can’t choose to love a Muslim man and if she does, we can’t listen to her and she is a victim of love jihad. Her autonomy is not respected by those who treat her as property and hate Muslims. For NCW as an institution to have tweeted this and for Rekha Sharma to have done this is of course the lowest of the low,” says Kavitha Krishnan, a woman’s rights activist and a member of the CPI(ML).

“When it is the RSS or the BJP appointing someone to the post of the Chairperson of NCW, they pick up someone like Rekha Sharma who has posted a series of tweets, where she behaves like a garden variety troll towards women in public life. They probably think she qualifies for this position because they don’t want a feminist, but someone who is absolutely patriarchal, preferably casteist and of course, communal.

Mohini Giri, chairperson of the second NCW Commission constituted in 1995, rues the deterioration of the NCW, which she says was a result of the women’s rights struggle of the 1980s.

“The NCW Act which was passed in 1990 in Parliament was a result of a lot of hard work and women’s rights movement of the 1980s against dowry deaths and bride burning or Sati. The likes of Veena Majumdar, Geeta Mukherjee, I as well as the seven sisters [seven women’s rights organisations including the AIWC, AIDWA, CWDS, NFIW, Mahila Dakshata Samiti, Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) and Joint Women’s Program (JWP)] had pushed for a women’s commission to safeguard women’s interest. When I headed it, we didn’t serve the cause of a particular party, but those of women. The NCW Act requires that the head of the Commission should be a women’s rights activist, but the current Chairperson has no such background. The problem is that the NCW receives funds from the Ministry of Women and Child Development, while to be fully independent it should perhaps be allocated funds under the Consolidated Fund of India like NHRC.”

A government proposal in 2014-2015, floated by former Minister for Women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi, to give teeth to the NCW was quitely buried. The proposal was to give the NCW powers on par with civil courts so that it could issue warrants and conduct judicial proceedings and was submitted to the PMO.

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