India is progressing in terms of gender and sexuality. Or is it?
Election season rarely brings out the best in a country. Especially in India where polls and the run up to them are routinely characterized by a shameless display of strength, false promises and opportunism, even as real issues take a comfortable backseat. While these are so called run-of-the-mill occurrences that could arguably plague any election in any country, India also bears the distinction of being deeply sexist.
In a country like India, elections can very quickly be turned into misogynistic, anti-woman narratives at the hands of an entitled few.
Take, for example, a recent election campaign by certain individuals that allegedly aimed to promote voting but was actually an unveiled and pathetic attack on Bollywood actor Swara Bhasker.
As Phase 4 of trolling ... er, polling, began on Monday, some photos started doing the rounds — photos of men and women holding a placard with the following words — "This election, don't be like Swara Bhasker. Use your finger well. Vote well".
For those of you missing the context here, let's refresh our troll-sheets a bit.
Some time ago, Swara Bhasker, who is known for her meaty roles, firebrand temperament and lack of patience for internet trolls, appeared in a film called Veere Di Wedding, a modern, 'feminist' take on women's sexuality. In it, Swara broke the proverbial glass ceiling by masturbating on screen (her character, obviously. Swara was ACTING to masturbate as per the demands of the character she was playing. Calm your keyboard).
Too much, decided uptight (read sexist) Indians who promptly burst out on social media and off it, trolling Swara with every possible insult in the book. They called her a prostitute, they called her shameless, they asked her if she would watch the film with her grandmother.
Swara's 'allegiance' to the so called 'tukde-tukde gang' (Swara recently campaigned for former student leader and CP's Begusarai candidate Kanhaiya Kumar and is a vocal proponent against intolerance and sexism) made her an easy target for right-wing trolls that rule Twitter India.
The crass and undignified (and completely unprovoked) attack is glaring proof of the mental degeneration of Indians. It is yet another reminder that Indians understand nothing about women's sexuality and would just as easily brand her with the a red 'A'* sign before locking her up if they got the chance, much like the misogynists of Puritanical England or present-day UAE.
It is no surprise that the accounts sharing the anti-Swara content mostly carry the 'Chowkidaar' prefix, meaning they all are vocal supporters of the Bharatiya Janata Party. Not satified with subtle hints, some of them go on to clarify their preference in the tweets too.
Don't be like Swara Bhaskar— Chowkidar दिलीप Dilip (@dilipjain1979) April 29, 2019
Use your finger wisely, vote wisely pic.twitter.com/aBhNe5oyDl
We understand your frustration ..But at least this time use your finger wisely pic.twitter.com/IimzEY6DGo— Chowkidar Teamodi (@Pappu4201) April 29, 2019
In fact, the man who seems to have started the placard campaign has recently achieved 'fame' as an ardent social media campaigner for the BJP. A placard campaign video he made in support of the BJP recently went viral, propelling the young man to the heights of troll star-dom.
And now, it seems the trolls have found the best way to appeal to a majority of Indians. Using slut-shmaing to fuel election fever is pure genius. Because who hates an independent woman aware of her own sexuality? Apparently everyone.
Incidentally, Begusarai is one of the 72 seats that went for polls in Phase 4, a convenient time for trolls to earn some brownie points by demonizing Swara (who herself, mind you, is not a candidate but only a campaigner for Kanhaiya).
With four phases of polling almost concluded, the country is soon heading toward a new government. But questions regarding the safety of women - both physical safety as well as safety of rights and equality - remain rife. On would think that such campaigns (and the individuals indulging in them) should instantly be picked up by the Election Commission. One would think that politicians and if not them then at least the film fraternity would raise their voice against what is clearly a baseless (and sexist, so so sexist) smear campaign against a critically acclaimed actor. One would think ordinary individuals would lose their minds at such depraved maleficence.
But this is India - the land where freedom of expression reigns supreme (only if what one is expressing is the 'popular opinion, God help you if not). The land where equality is king (because queens are killed at birth or slut-shamed at puberty and maritally oppressed as adults ). The land of the virgin truth (one who obviously does not masturbate).