Yesterday, a short video made its public appearance. It ostensibly showed the late Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, J Jayalalithaa, as she lay in her hospital bed, sipping juice and watching TV. Her clothes were in disarray, as ours get when we are relaxing, thinking we are alone.
This suggests that the video was shot without her knowledge, and shot by someone who did not care about her sense of dignity or her privacy. It was shot without her consent.
The video was meant, we are told, to convince voters that she was well taken care of and to tip the balance in favor of the Shashikala faction. In fact, it tells us that these were people who did not and do not care about JJ and what she would want. She was and is an instrument for them. But that is a different discussion.
Suppose this were not a hospitalized leader but a young woman changing clothes or a teenager in the shower. What would we call this video? There are penalties in the law for shooting photos and videos without consent. It is a violation of rights, privacy and the law. A crime.
The law uses old fashioned language like 'outraging modesty' and we are wont to smile. But what else is a video like this and who is going to file an FIR on behalf of a leader who fiercely guarded her privacy and public persona?
Last night, CNN India played the video over and over. What is the penalty for that?
We will not ask. We use and lose the leaders we claim to idolize. Like we do all other human beings.
If this is the fate of someone who was so powerful, what can the truly powerless expect? How meaningless are the memes that dominated 2017 for the elite? Consent? #metoo?
Where do we begin to change thinking about respecting each other, about rights, about borders, about privacy?