note demonetisation

RSS has endorsed demonetisation, but is in a bind over the impact on its financial backers

Small traders, the organisation's core support base, have been hit hard by the government's decision.

Despite its endorsement of the government’s demonetisation decision, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh finds itself in a bind. While the move has evoked massive support among its cadre, it has left its financial backers – traders and small businessmen – gasping for breath.

For almost a fortnight now, the RSS has been trying to look for ways to strike a balance between the enthusiasm of its cadre and the fury of its backers. It finally broke its silence on Thursday, when it issued a statement calling Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision “a noble endeavour” and asking the “patriotic people of Bharat” to cooperate with the government, “irrespective of the temporary but unavoidable inconvenience being caused”.

Yet, the confusion within the RSS – the ideological parent of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party – was so intense that it took a clear two days for it to complete the process of issuing the statement. According to those in the know, the statement was prepared on Tuesday, the day an emotional Modi defended his government’s decision during a meeting of the BJP’s parliamentary party. However, the release of the statement was delayed as a section of RSS office-bearers were in favour of moving cautiously, so as not to hurt the sentiments of small businessmen reeling under the impact of the withdrawal of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes.

Perhaps as a result of this nervousness, the RSS forgot to change the date of the statement that was issued by its prachar pramukh Manmohan Vaidya. “It is because of this reason that the statement issued on November 24 carried the date of November 22,” said a senior RSS office-bearer.

Big blow to traders 

Traders and small businessmen have traditionally formed the core support base of the RSS, helping it financially while also providing a regular supply of cadre.

The November 8 demonetisation decision has hit cash-based retail businesses in India hard. A week after the decision, the Confederation of All India Traders, one of the country’s largest trade associations, announced that businesses “in markets across the country” had “reduced to 25%”.

Many in the RSS fear that unless the government immediately gives traders and small businessmen some tangible relief, their relationship with the Sangh could chill.

The organisation is aware of the vitality of its bond with the trading community. This is perhaps why the RSS, which generally refrains from speaking in public on the government’s policy decisions, has consistently maintained that the country should not open its doors to foreign direct investment in the retail sector. In May 2015, when the Modi government decided to allow foreign retailers a 51% stake in multi-brand retail stores, the RSS not only criticised the move openly but went to the extent of registering its protest with Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh.

“Patriotism is all fine,” said an RSS office-bearer who is himself a small businessman. “Most of the traders and small businessmen are severely hit by the manner demonetisation has been done. They cannot live by patriotism alone. They have to run their families too.”

That, however, is just one side of the story. For, the government’s decision is said to have gone down unusually well with RSS cadre across the country, particularly in poll-bound Uttar Pradesh.

“The decision has all the support from our cadre,” said a senior RSS leader who did not want to be identified. “They think the present hardships are ephemeral and that it would hurt only those sitting on large amounts of cash. They have a point, but this could have been done without hurting the trading community.”

He added, “If you ask me how it would affect the Sangh, I would simply say that we all are clueless. We have to wait, just as everyone else is waiting.”

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Swara Bhasker: Sharp objects has to be on the radar of every woman who is tired of being “nice”

The actress weighs in on what she loves about the show.

This article has been written by award-winning actor Swara Bhasker.

All women growing up in India, South Asia, or anywhere in the world frankly; will remember in some form or the other that gentle girlhood admonishing, “Nice girls don’t do that.” I kept recalling that gently reasoned reproach as I watched Sharp Objects (you can catch it on Hotstar Premium). Adapted from the author of Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn’s debut novel Sharp Objects has been directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, who has my heart since he gave us Big Little Lies. It stars the multiple-Oscar nominee Amy Adams, who delivers a searing performance as Camille Preaker; and Patricia Clarkson, who is magnetic as the dominating and dark Adora Crellin. As an actress myself, it felt great to watch a show driven by its female performers.

The series is woven around a troubled, alcohol-dependent, self-harming, female journalist Camille (single and in her thirties incidentally) who returns to the small town of her birth and childhood, Wind Gap, Missouri, to report on two similarly gruesome murders of teenage girls. While the series is a murder mystery, it equally delves into the psychology, not just of the principal characters, but also of the town, and thus a culture as a whole.

There is a lot that impresses in Sharp Objects — the manner in which the storytelling gently unwraps a plot that is dark, disturbing and shocking, the stellar and crafty control that Jean-Marc Vallée exercises on his narrative, the cinematography that is fluid and still manages to suggest that something sinister lurks within Wind Gap, the editing which keeps this narrative languid yet sharp and consistently evokes a haunting sensation.

Sharp Objects is also liberating (apart from its positive performance on Bechdel parameters) as content — for female actors and for audiences in giving us female centric and female driven shows that do not bear the burden of providing either role-models or even uplifting messages. 

Instead, it presents a world where women are dangerous and dysfunctional but very real — a world where women are neither pure victims, nor pure aggressors. A world where they occupy the grey areas, complex and contradictory as agents in a power play, in which they control some reigns too.

But to me personally, and perhaps to many young women viewers across the world, what makes Sharp Objects particularly impactful, perhaps almost poignant, is the manner in which it unravels the whole idea, the culture, the entire psychology of that childhood admonishment “Nice girls don’t do that.” Sharp Objects explores the sinister and dark possibilities of what the corollary of that thinking could be.

“Nice girls don’t do that.”

“Who does?”

“Bad girls.”

“So I’m a bad girl.”

“You shouldn’t be a bad girl.”

“Why not?”

“Bad girls get in trouble.”

“What trouble? What happens to bad girls?”

“Bad things.”

“What bad things?”

“Very bad things.”

“How bad?”

“Terrible!!!”

“Like what?”

“Like….”

A point the show makes early on is that both the victims of the introductory brutal murders were not your typically nice girly-girls. Camille, the traumatised protagonist carrying a burden from her past was herself not a nice girl. Amma, her deceptive half-sister manipulates the nice girl act to defy her controlling mother. But perhaps the most incisive critique on the whole ‘Be a nice girl’ culture, in fact the whole ‘nice’ culture — nice folks, nice manners, nice homes, nice towns — comes in the form of Adora’s character and the manner in which beneath the whole veneer of nice, a whole town is complicit in damning secrets and not-so-nice acts. At one point early on in the show, Adora tells her firstborn Camille, with whom she has a strained relationship (to put it mildly), “I just want things to be nice with us but maybe I don’t know how..” Interestingly it is this very notion of ‘nice’ that becomes the most oppressive and deceptive experience of young Camille, and later Amma’s growing years.

This ‘Culture of Nice’ is in fact the pervasive ‘Culture of Silence’ that women all over the world, particularly in India, are all too familiar with. 

It takes different forms, but always towards the same goal — to silence the not-so-nice details of what the experiences; sometimes intimate experiences of women might be. This Culture of Silence is propagated from the child’s earliest experience of being parented by society in general. Amongst the values that girls receive in our early years — apart from those of being obedient, dutiful, respectful, homely — we also receive the twin headed Chimera in the form of shame and guilt.

“Have some shame!”

“Oh for shame!”

“Shameless!”

“Shameful!”

“Ashamed.”

“Do not bring shame upon…”

Different phrases in different languages, but always with the same implication. Shameful things happen to girls who are not nice and that brings ‘shame’ on the family or everyone associated with the girl. And nice folks do not talk about these things. Nice folks go on as if nothing has happened.

It is this culture of silence that women across the world today, are calling out in many different ways. Whether it is the #MeToo movement or a show like Sharp Objects; or on a lighter and happier note, even a film like Veere Di Wedding punctures this culture of silence, quite simply by refusing to be silenced and saying the not-nice things, or depicting the so called ‘unspeakable’ things that could happen to girls. By talking about the unspeakable, you rob it of the power to shame you; you disallow the ‘Culture of Nice’ to erase your experience. You stand up for yourself and you build your own identity.

And this to me is the most liberating aspect of being an actor, and even just a girl at a time when shows like Sharp Objects and Big Little Lies (another great show on Hotstar Premium), and films like Veere Di Wedding and Anaarkali Of Aarah are being made.

The next time I hear someone say, “Nice girls don’t do that!”, I know what I’m going to say — I don’t give a shit about nice. I’m just a girl! And that’s okay!

Swara is a an award winning actor of the Hindi film industry. Her last few films, including Veere Di Wedding, Anaarkali of Aaraah and Nil Battey Sannata have earned her both critical and commercial success. Swara is an occasional writer of articles and opinion pieces. The occasions are frequent :).

Watch the trailer of Sharp Objects here:

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This article was published by the Scroll marketing team with Swara Bhasker on behalf of Hotstar Premium and not by the Scroll editorial team.