The Daily Fix

The Daily Fix: If vigilante violence is spreading in India, it’s because it has state approval

Everything you need to know for the day (and a little more).

The Big Story: Cowed down

In Rajasthan’s Nagaur district on Thursday, two persons were arrested for thrashing a mentally-ill woman. The incident came to light after a video of the incident was uploaded on social media. In it, the two young men beat the woman as she pleads on the ground. In the end, they force her to say, “Jai Shree Ram” and “Jai Shree Hanuman”, as the crowd around breaks into laughter.

This video comes in a long line of incidents of vigilante violence captured on mobile video – often by the perpetrators themselves. Much of this violence occurs under the cover of religion, most notably cow protection. To dismiss this as a routine law and order problem would be a mistake. With the large social sanction these acts enjoy, they present a grave danger to Indian society. In many cases, vigilante groups enjoy the support of state governments headed by the Bharatiya Janata Party. Moreover, the Union government itself has said or done nothing to prevent this sort of violence. Instead, it has supported rules to curb cattle slaughter that only seem to encourage this sort of violence.

In the BJP-ruled state of Maharashtra, Haryana and Gujarat, there are plans to hand out gau rakshak IDs. The Union government is playing its part too. All the new Animal Welfare Board members picked by the Modi government had one thing in common: they worked on cows.

On Wednesday, an All India Hindu Convention organised in Goa featured a preacher openly calling for people who eat beef to he hanged. The organisers, the Hindu Janajagriti Samiti, is allied to the Sanathan Sanstha, a far right group accused in the murder of anti-superstition activist Narendra Dabholkar in Pune in 2013. So far, there has been no action against the preacher nor has the Goa government been questioned about why it gave permission for such an event, given the background of the Sanathan Sanstha.

In Pakistan, where violence by Islamist militants is not only common but enjoys some measure of public legitimacy, the state is struggling to ensure that its writ runs though the country. India is some way off from Pakistan’s situation. But with the hysteria around cow protection and the backing it receives from the state itself, gau rakshak violence enjoys startling legitimacy. By normalising violence from non-state actors, the Indian state will in the end only end up reducing its capacity for action.

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Punditry

  1. Industry has dominated the development discourse but the distress in agriculture is real. The Modi government can ignore it only at its peril, argues Raghuvir Srinivas in Business Line.
  2. In the Indian Express, Jyoti Malhotra explains why China’s growing footprint in Nepal is a concern for India.

Giggle

Don’t Miss

“We are villagers, that is why no one cares”: Rayan Naqash reports on the anger in South Kashmir after raids by the Army.

“Bilal Ahmad Rather said that around 10.30 pm on Monday, a band of about half-a-dozen preteens burst crackers after Pakistan won a cricket match against Sri Lanka during the ongoing ICC Champions Trophy. The Army personnel arrived shortly afterwards. ‘All of us slept in the lobby the whole night,’ said Rather.

Local residents alleged that the Army men were accompanied by paramilitary soldiers of the Central Reserve Police Force, and that the local police were not involved. The residents alleged that the security personnel went on to damage at least a dozen automobiles, including commercial vehicles. The windowpanes of few houses were smashed with stones while at least two shops were broken into. The residents added that the soldiers left the village by 12.30 pm and headed back towards their camp.”

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Sponsored Content BY 

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.