Price of development

In Varanasi, a plan to build corridor from Kashi Vishwanath temple to river Ganga sparks anger

Residents claim that the Uttar Pradesh government wants to raze over 160 houses for the project.

The Uttar Pradesh government’s plan to construct a corridor between the Kashi Vishwanath temple in Varanasi and the river Ganga has run into opposition from local residents.

The 400-metre long corridor, estimated to cost around Rs 450 crore, is supposed to provide devotees “clear access” to the temple after taking a ritual dip in the Ganga. The residents allege it is designed merely to make it more convenient for VVIPs to visit the temple, which is regarded as one of the holiest Hindu shrines in India.

Varanasi has played host to several high-profile visitors in recent years, most notably in December 2015, when Japanese premier Shinzo Abe attended a grand Ganga Aarti ritual with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The plan would require demolishing over 160 houses and possibly several smaller shrines, many of them of historical and cultural significance, residents contend. City authorities, however, refuted these claims, stating that only encroachments will be removed.

Padampati Sharma, a veteran journalist who lives near the temple, articulated the anger of many of his neighbours when he wrote a Facebook post describing now the project would imperil the city’s cultural heritage. “What even Babar and Aurangzeb could not do, Yogi Adityanath’s government will,” Sharma wrote in Hindi, referring to the Mughal emperors who are alleged by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and other Hindutva organisations to have razed some Hindu shrines, including in Varanasi.

Sharma said he realised his 175-year-old home was marked for destruction when officials of the Varanasi Development Authority arrived for a survey on January 29. He has threatened to immolate himself if his home is demolished to make way for the corridor. “Now there will be war, enough of begging,” he wrote on Facebook.

Sharma and other residents of the area have formed Vishwanath Mandir Virasat Bachao Samiti, an organisation dedicated to “saving the cultural heritage of Varansi”. They have also held a series of protests over the past two days, and more are planned, demanding the government abandon the project.

“This is Kashi, it is not any other place,” explained Sharma. “How can you develop it on lines of Sabarmati riverfront [in Gujarat] or Gomti riverfront [in Lucknow]. Every place in this city has history, this is not development but destruction.”

A protest against the proposed development. Photo credit: Facebook/Padmapati Sharma
A protest against the proposed development. Photo credit: Facebook/Padmapati Sharma

‘Staying illegally’

The Kashi Vishwanath project was apparently formulated eight years ago, only to be shelved by the successive governments of the Bahujan Samaj Party and Samajwadi Party. It was revived when the BJP under Adityanath took over early last year. “This project was rejected by Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav and it is ironic that it is being taken up by this regime” which has always projected itself as a defender of the Hindu religion and culture,” Sharma said.

Nevertheless, the BJP government seems inclined to see the project through. Adityanath visited Varanasi on January 31 and spoke to the officials about it. “The project was conceived years ago,” said Vishal Singh, secretary of the Varanasi Development Authority who is nodal officer for the project. “Only now there is political will, so it has been revived.”

Refuting residents’ allegation that the proposed corridor will displace scores of families that have been living in the area for ages and destroy historical places, Singh said, “It is just wrong information spread by vested interests. A lot of people are staying there illegally. They have build houses within historical monuments, some people are even living in temples. Anything that has any historical importance will be protected.”

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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?”


“Like what?”


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!”




“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:


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