The Daily Fix

The Daily Fix: If BJP is against corruption and dynasty, it should welcome scrutiny of Jay Shah

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

The Big Story: Same old

Despite all the bluster over the weekend – trotting out a Cabinet minister and, on television, a dozen other Bharatiya Janata Party leaders to defend him – Jay Shah, businessman and son of BJP President Amit Shah, did not turn up in court for the hearing of the criminal defamation case he had filed against news website The Wire. His lawyer was not there either, prompting the magistrate to adjourn the case until later in the week. Shah would do well to dispense with the case altogether.

The criminal defamation complaint was filed on October 9, after The Wire published an article that reported on the fortunes of several of Shah’s companies. One in particular, Temple Enterprises, saw its revenues go from Rs 50,000 in 2014-’15 to Rs 80.5 crore the next year, which also happened to be just after Amit Shah took control of the BJP and Narendra Modi was elected Prime Minister. The article also mentioned that this spike in revenues came even as the company posted a loss of Rs 1.4 crore the same year, and also reported on loans received by Shah’s companies.

Immediately after the piece was published, Union Rail Minister and senior BJP leader Piyush Goyal held a press conference denouncing the article and calling it baseless, although he did not point to any error in the piece itself. Jay Shah then filed a criminal complaint against The Wire alleging that it had highlighted only certain facts “to make it a spicy and selling story at the cost of the reputation of the complainant”. According to news reports, he also filed a civil defamation case demanding damages of Rs 100 crore, though there is little information about this suit so far.

Criminal defamation is a deeply problematic tool that remains on the lawbooks in India and is frequently used to harass the media and suppress dissent. Its use in a matter like this seems even more egregious. The BJP came to power on the back of an anti-corruption campaign and has insisted that it has been transparent and yet maintained a spotless record of governance without any allegations against it. Much of this is rhetoric, since there have been credible allegations, but it is evident the party takes pride in this image, whether accurate or not.

With this in mind, the party should welcome scrutiny of its leaders and their families, since it is certain they have nothing to hide. Indeed, the appropriate response to an article like this – especially since it touches on the immediate family member of the party president – could simply have been responded to by throwing open the books of the business for all to see. Instead, Jay Shah’s lawyer did not just take issue with the article, he also told the Wire that any reporting on these businesses would constitute a violation of Shah’s privacy and attract a lawsuit.

The BJP also campaigned on the idea that the Congress represented dynastic politics, something that it would seek to end. Yet on Sunday we saw a Cabinet minister be trotted out to defend Jay Shah, a private person, followed by scores of other BJP leaders all over television. Additionally, it turned out that the Law Ministry made an exception and gave permission to the Additional Solicitor General to represent Jay Shah two days before the article was even published. This would potentially violate rules. But more importantly, it shows yet again how the family members of important leaders are treated as royalty, even by a party claiming to be opposed to dynasties.

If nothing else, this episode has proven how, despite its claims of probity, the BJP behaves just like the Congress or any other party when it is questioned. It does not even matter what the actual allegations are here. The immediacy with which the party resorted to criminal defamation, and used a Cabinet minister to do so, when the case involves a private person, is proof of how the BJP’s promises of being a party with a difference ring hollow.

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Punditry

  1. “Till recently, atrocities were often motivated by caste consciousnesses, but the current wave seems to be driven by an ideology which expresses faith in a hierarchical social system, although there is an occasional symbolic display of concern about the persistence of caste and untouchability,” writes Sukhadeo Thorat in the Indian Express. “It is this ideological boost which has, perhaps, revived and lent moral support to the denial of rights and the use of violence against Dalits.”
  2. “The takeout is simple: the BJP has a fight on its hands. And if it hopes to keep its winning narrative alive until 2019, it has to win Gujarat with a clear majority,” writes R jagannathan in Swarajya. “Right now, it can’t be certain of that, given the groundswell of discontent over the treatment of Dalits, the goods and services tax uncertainties, and demands for job reservations.”
  3. “PM Modi must study the maze before recommencing his ‘huggy-feely’ journey through [Gulf politics]” , writes KC Singh in the Tribune.
  4. “This lesson, the religious right, indeed fundamentalists of every hue, need to learn. We do not tolerate others because we alone know the truth, we tolerate because we do not know enough. Confidence that we know the truth leads to violence, doubt that we know enough leads to non-violence. We come to terms with history by learning from it, not by erasing it,” writes Neera Chandhoke in the Hindu.

Giggle

Don’t miss

Vinita Govindarajan writes about the Maruthu Pandiyar brothers, who were the leaders of a rebellion against the British in 1801.

More than 50 years before the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857, the Maruthu Pandiyar brothers had led a concerted struggle against the oppressive practices of the British. On June 16, 1801, months before their death, the brothers issued a proclamation of independence from the Tiruchi fort, calling for people of all castes and communities to unite their fight against European domination.

“An all-Indian concept inspired the proclamation, for it not only made a direct appeal to the entire country but expressed an anxiety that if the political malady persisted, India would fall under alien rule,” wrote K Rajayyan, author of the book South Indian Rebellion: The First War of Independence 1800-1801.

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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.