law and order

In court complex where Kanhaiya Kumar was attacked, police say they can now tackle any situation

A year after the Patiala House Court incident, police and lawyers say security at the complex has been heightened.

In February last year, the Delhi Police came under criticism for standing by as a mob assaulted students, professors and journalists gathered at the Patiala House Court, where then Jawaharlal Nehru University Student Union President Kanhaiya Kumar, arrested in a sedition case, was to be brought for remand proceedings. Just a little over a year later, the city police went a step ahead when they not only failed to control violent clashes between student groups in and around Delhi University’s Ramjas College but also reportedly participated in them.

Despite their poor show at Ramjas, police officials insist that the probability of a similar mob attack breaking out at the Patiala House Court when the sedition case is next take up for hearing is close to zero.

Mob memories

In February last year, three JNU students – Umar Khalid, Kumar and Anirban Bhattacharya – were arrested in a sedition case after members of the Right wing Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad accused them of chanting anti-national slogans during an event on campus. On February 15, a mob that included several lawyers attacked students, professors and media persons who had gathered at the Patiala House Court, where Kumar was to be brought. Some fellow laywers were also beaten up. Violent scenes were reportedly witnessed inside the court room too, despite heavy police deployment in the Patiala House complex. A repeat of this was seen on February 17, when a group of lawyers assaulted Kumar while being brought to court.

A year later, the Delhi Police, who were heavily criticised after the assaults, claim that they have increased security measures at the court complex and maintain that such an incident will not take place again.

“At Patiala House Court, we have intensified security in the past one year, which is regularly monitored by senior officials,” Special Commissioner and Delhi Police Spokesperson Dependra Pathak told Scroll.in. “We are ready to deal with any situation.”

Senior lawyers at Patiala House Court said security arrangements at the complex – including increased deployment and equipment such as a baggage scanners and CCTV cameras – has been at an unprecedented level since last February’s violence, which they insisted was a one-off.

“The possibility of something terribly wrong happening can never be ruled out,” said advocate Manoj Taneja, who has been practicing at this court for more than 26 years now. “What matters are the arrangements and strategies of the security apparatus to deal with such situations. And the picture now seems to be much better than what it was till one year ago. There is no reason for lawyers to feel unsafe.”

R K Wadhwa, who was the president of the New Delhi Bar Association when the Patiala House Court incident took place, said that over the past year, there has been “tremendous change” in the security arrangements in the court complex. “The police have definitely learnt a lesson after the February incident in the court last year which has led to much higher police presence in the court,” he said. “I believe that now the police are in a position to handle any unexpected situation much better than what they did in 2016. Lawyers are safe.”

Lawyers clashed in Patiala House in 2016.
Lawyers clashed in Patiala House in 2016.

Nationalism debate

Scroll.in also spoke to the three lawyers – Vikram Chauhan, Yashpal Singh and Om Sharma – who had been chargesheeted for their alleged role in Patiala House assault last year. The three, who are yet to receive court summons, did not speak about last year’s incident as the matter is sub-judice.

According to Singh, the events in JNU last year had led to a “wave” of nationalism across the country. “This is a good thing,” he said. “And later we witnessed the Supreme Court guideline on National Anthem too. But there was a negative impact too. We have witnessed the anti-India rhetoric being dragged with regard to several issues, including the Kashmir issue, in universities across the country. There is also a wave of dissent – like protests even against the guideline of standing for the national anthem. Such subjects are not meant for debates.” The apex court in November said it was mandatory for cinema halls to play the national anthem before screenings, and that moviegoers must stand up for when it is played.

Sharma, meanwhile, said he had done nothing wrong. “I will boycott all those who speak against the country,” he said. “I have not done anything wrong and I have full faith in the judicial system.”

Chauhan said he was a a victim of media trial. “If an entire group shouting slogans against the integrity of India inside a courtroom is not considered a crime, why should I be treated like a criminal for chanting slogans in praise of mother India?” he asked. “There is nothing wrong in anti-nationals getting beaten up for the things they say.”

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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.