Act of protest

‘Landless Adivasis’, ‘urban Maoism’, fake Twitter trends: BJP is still in denial on farmers’ plight

Adivasis or other landless agricultural workers, the BJP leaders seem to say, cannot be regarded as farmers.

A day after nearly 35,000 farmers reached Mumbai, walking 180 km from Nashik, the Maharashtra government started dissembling. Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis in the Legislative Assembly on Monday, while praising the protestors for their consideration in ensuring as little inconvenience to Mumbai as possible, said they were landless Adivasis, not farmers.

“Of all the adivasi issues, the most important is that of land,” Fadnavis said. “95% of them are landless and they need to get the rights to the forest land. That is why they are unable to become farmers.” He used the Marathi word “shetkari”, which can be literally translated as someone who possesses a farm.

Adivasi farmers might not possess titles to the land they have been tilling for decades. But that does not mean they are not farmers. One of their demands is that the land they are already cultivating be transferred to their names.

Meanwhile, Poonam Mahajan, a Bharatiya Janata Party member of Parliament too appeared to be dismissing the protest entirely as being orchestrated by what she called “urban Maoism”.

“Sadly in Maharashtra, tribals have been captured by urban Maoism,” Mahajan said, adding, “This cannot be misinterpreted. You have seen urban Maoism in many cities of India where they go to these districts which they call Naxal affected.”

Elsewhere on social media, a Google document with templates of messages of thanks purported to be from farmers to Devendra Fadnavis has been circulating, reported Pratik Sinha of AltNews.

One of the messages, in evident ignorance of Fadnavis’s Assembly speech that praised the marchers for their consideration for the city, said the march “will not only shatter peace, law & order in the city, but also increase pains of common people and farmers participating in the march under the aegis of AIKS [All India Kisan Sabha].”

Apart from the fact that there is no Naxal presence in Thane and Nashik, from where the marchers have come from, both Fadnavis and Mahajan seem to be saying that farmers are only dominant caste landowners, such as the Marathas who marched across the state to demand reservations and agricultural relief in a series of rallies culminating in Mumbai in August 2017, or the farmer strike of June 2017, which was also dominated by Marathas.

Adivasis or other landless agricultural workers, Fadnavis and Mahajan seem to say, cannot be regarded as farmers in their own right, with legitimate enough concerns to make them want to walk all the way to Mumbai of their own volition.

While the protestors in Mumbai are also demanding loan waivers, many of them are indeed demanding the implementation of the Forest Rights Act, which allows for land up to four hectares to be granted to families that have traditionally cultivated those plots. The Indian Express’s collection of voices from the rally makes this clear.

With land in their names, these farmers will become eligible for institutional credit from banks. Only those who have taken credit from cooperative and nationalised banks are eligible for farm loan waivers. In June 2017, Maharashtra government announced a loan waiver of crop loans to farmers across the state.

But many farmers at the march, even those who have land titles and can access institutional credit, said the loan waiver had not yet reached them.

A total of 46.52 lakh farmers had been found eligible for the loan waiver and the state government had estimated the entire procedure would cost it Rs 34,022 crore. But so far, the government has distributed only Rs 13,580 crore to 35.32 lakh farmers, reported Firstpost.

The protestors also want electricity and water and secure access to the public distribution system as well, an indication of just how low public investment in rural infrastructure has become.

In the last five years itself, the All India Kisan Sabha, under whose flag the marchers walked to Mumbai, has organised protests in Nashik, Thane, Aurangabad and even outside the Vidhan Sabha. The All India Kisan Sabha also has a much longer history, particularly in Thane district, of demanding land rights for those who actually till the fields.

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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.