— Shashwat DC
Throughout history, it has been the inaction of those who could have acted; the indifference of those who should have known better; the silence of the voice of justice when it mattered most; that has made it possible for evil to triumph — Haile Selassie
On an unusually hot day in February 2015 (possibly as a result of changing climate), one of the biggest scandals broke out in the Indian climate space. It was the day when a 29-year old research analyst working at the prestigious TERI (The Energy Resource Institute) accused the head of the institute Dr. Rajendra Kumar Pachauri of sexual advances and sexual misconduct. The super environmentalist was embroiled in the scandal and a police case was registered against the Nobel Laureate. In the light of the ensuing scandal, Pachauri had to quit as the chairman of IPCC (The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) and then went on to proceed for a long leave from his office.
Before the news of the dishonourable deeds of the honourable septuagenarian broke out– who was apparently fasting for love, or making promises of sublime and wholesome love, or penning emails that began with “Dearest meri jaan” — Dr. Pachauri was the toast of the nation. By his singular position as the head of TERI and IPCC, he had the eyes and ears of the who’s who of the world. He was the pasha of green, the glitzy star of every green gathering. But in a scornful swipe, the pasha turned into the pariah.
Pachauri’s feeble attempts at his defence, first his rather inane claim that his email, mobile and Whatsapp was compromised and hacked, seemed rather silly, if not pitiful. And then just when the cops were getting hot on the trail, the man got himself admitted in a hospital complaining of chest pain (the most typical Indian escape). When he got relief from the courts in the form of anticipatory bail, the gentleman moved back to his house, contemplating the defence with his battery of lawyers. The result is that he is now out with a new theory, from talking about a hacked email account; he is now claiming that his accounts were accessed by many juniors in the organisation. Yet, even as serious allegations have been cast on Pachauri, he has yet not resigned as the head of TERI, the very place where these incidences took place. He is currently on a ‘long leave’, something which even the poor victim pointed out in a letter to the institute as an example of how the institution was taking sides.
Through all the development, there has been a strange muted silence on the whole Pachauri affair. The Indian media has been largely quiet, and so have been all the high-flyers who courted him. In fact, there are two very senior women on the board of TERI, Naina Lal Kidwai (Country Head, HSBC India) and Kiran Majumdar Shroff (CMD, Biocon), who haven’t yet spoken a word on the issue. In fact, Ms. Shaw regularly keeps tweeting about all sundry things in the world, but maintains a stoic silence on the issue. Even when the lawyer (Indira Jaising) representing the victim wrote an open letter to TERI, the senior members on board have yet to utter a word.
Similarly, people like Bittu Sehgal or Sunita Narain, who will readily opine on many issues, too have ziplocked their lips. The media too is treating the issue with kid’s glove, not really surprising considering the deep relations Pachauri had forged with them through various programmes, like the ones he used to do for NDTV. No one has truly come out in the open, not even to demand or advise Pachauri to resign from TERI, which seems like a very reasonable demand to make till the allegations are disapproved. In fact in the one singular instance where ET had carried the news on the front page, it was taken down in a short time, with the publication defending the step in some absurd legalese.
Ironically, the international media is having a field day, ripping apart the veneer of sobriety that Pachauri had created so far. His emails are being published, and so are excerpts from his fictional biography Return to Almora, especially all those parts that deal with the hero’s sexual dalliances. News sites and blogs are regularly writing on the issuing and highlighting the hypocrisy of Pachauri.
It is sad state that in these times, serious allegations like sexual exploitation at work are not being raised, just because the alleged perpetrator belongs to the elite section of the society. The duplicity is for all to see. Recently, in a documentary shot by Leslie Udwin, the lawyer of the rapists had blamed the girl for the traumatic incident, stating that it is the woman who tempts the rapist. The comment resulted in a huge outrage, as people across the board were scandalised by the sheer pettiness of the thought, and there was a universal condemnation of the same. But here, we have Pachauri, who apparently made sexual advances, and allegedly used his position and influence to bear upon a girl less than half his age and yet no one really bothers to say a word. That is what is damning about the affair. As Gandhi had famously said once that ‘silence becomes cowardice when occasion demands speaking out the whole truth and acting accordingly‘.
And this is where the Green Brigade in India falters. They will readily shout from the rooftops when a tiger is killed or mining allowed in forested place, but will turn into rank cowards when one of their ilk is caught with the pants down. This isn’t merely cowardice, but is almost like joining hands with the accused, just because he happens to be one of the most influential souls in India, at the moment. And this is the reason, why the Pachauri case is much bigger that it seems. It reflects the dubiousness of all the enlightened lot, who talk about gender diversity and all that, but will be extremely quite when it is needed they shout. Don’t really know whether the Himalayan glaciers are shrinking or not (as the IPCC had claimed), but the respect of Indian environmentalists sure has shrunk much, ever since the big man from Almora was shown for what he is, or rather what he is not.