Filmmaker Anusha Rizvi Whose Husband Mahmood Farooqui Was Acquitted By The Honourable High Court Last Year Has Now Been Exonerated By The Honourable Supreme Court. She Talks With Subhash K Jha On Her Trauma Of Fighting For Her Husband’s Innocence and On The Current Atmosphere Of Witch-Hunting.
Anusha, has it sunk in, that your husband is finally and irrevocably a free man?
(quietly) No. No not yet. It hasn’t sunk in. Mahmood and I were sitting together at home when the lawyer called to tell us the Supreme Court’s verdict. I can’t put into words what I feel..what we feel…These last few years have been….
Yes, to say the least. And I’ve learnt so much about the laws of our land. You and I don’t understand the language of the law at all. We are not supposed to. There are experts who are supposed to understand the law. In the past few years I’ve tried to understand the legal process. I am not fully clued in. But I do know that we really must stop misusing the legal procedure.
What do you mean?
I mean,what has changed since the Nirbhaya case?Little children are being brutally raped and murdered in Haryana. What are we doing about that? Instead the focus is on celebrity cases because they get the eyeballs. But many of these celebrity cases are nothing but relationships gone wrong or as in the case of Aziz Ansari, a date gone wrong…I mean look at that whole thing with Aziz Ansari.What are we doing?
Did you at any time feel your husband may be guilty of the rape that he was accused of?
(falls silent). Look, anything I say will make me sound like one of those defensive wives of rape accused who insist on their husband’s innocence even when all evidence indicates otherwise. In my husband’s case there was no evidence at all of any crime.
You mean, you feel it was a consensual relationship gone wrong?
I am not even saying that.I am not saying that at all. The courts could find no evidence to support her claim at all.And mind you, the courts didn’t even consider our arguments. It was only her allegations that were studied by the courts and these indicated no guilt .
Anusha, there is a lot of witch-hunting going on .Men are scared to even pay a compliment or crack a joke with women they’ve known for years?
Look, I am all for women coming forward to speak of sexual harassment. Why should they not speak? For centuries now women have been given a raw deal.But how do we define sexual harassment? What are the boundaries and the restrictions that must not be crossed?And who decides these boundaries? I am a feminist, and not just in theory.I’ve spent a lot of time fighting for gender equality. But gender equality doesn’t men should be hauled over the coals for relationships gone wrong, or even a date gone wrong. When Mahmoodwas in jail I would visit him and meet so many young men from well-to-do backgrounds , holding terrific jobs blessed with dreamy lives, now in jail because their relationship ended badly and they were accused of rape.
It is terrifying?
It is. I truly believe 2013 was a watershed year for rape laws.Suddenly the equations changed. But you can’t make victims of men just because the rape-count in the jails is low. A woman should think of what she is doing when she accuses a man of a sex crime. When a man goes to jail his whole family goes to jail with him. The women in the family go to jail with the man of the house. The wife goes to jail.I was locked away with my husband. That’s how it felt.
How have you come out of the ordeal?
She(the rape accuser) had a powerful money machinery and international organizations working behind her in the courts. We had no money.If I had to spend money on fighting the case I’d be financially ruined. Luckily for me and Mahmood our lawyers fought our casepro bono. They didn’t charge a single penny.Yes, that’s how they believed in my husband’s innocence after studying the case.But we both lost something much more valuable than money during the legal crisis.
What is that?
Mahmood and I both lost our fathers. My father saw me suffer but went knowing that my husband was declared not guilty by the courts.But Mahmood’s father went without knowing his son was cleared by the courts. It is a burden we will all live with all our lives.Who is going to give us back the time and loved ones that we’ve lost?
How has this experience impacted your marriage?
How do I explain this to you? I’ve known Mahmood for decades. He was my friend before he was my husband. He is not capable of any violence. When I say this, I speak not as a wife but a friend who knows everything about him.He cannot hurt an animal, let alone a human being.My marriage could never be affected by this. We are two friends married to one another.We know each other in and out.
Let me end where I started. Do you think the current campaign in Hollywood against sexual harassment is a good movement?
It is great that women and men are addressing the issue of gender politics and sexual boundaries. But somewhere we need to draw a line between sex crimes and imagined versions of it. Please think it out before making an allegation. When a man is accused of a sex crime his entire family suffers with him.