Bollywood actress Swara Bhasker has so far been arguably the least shy out of anyone in the Hindi film industry to voice their political opinions since the Narendra Modi government came to power in May 2014. She has made her opinions known on many politically charged issues in recent times – the suicide of University of Hyderabad PhD student Rohith Vemula in early 2016, the slapping of sedition charges against JNU student Kanhaiya Kumar in February 2016, the mob lynchings against people belonging to the Muslim community, the murder of veteran Kannada journalist Gauri Lankesh, amongst many other incidents. For voicing her political opinions, she has been at the receiving end of online trolls on Twitter quite a number of times before.
She said in an interview, “Whenever a society goes through a terrible phase, as ours is going through, then the path to stand up for whatever is right will always be harder then to stand up with the dominating narrative. I keep on reminding myself that this is a good fight. I do take on trolls head on.”
Recently, she again made her stand clear on both the alleged rape in Unnao of a 17-year-old girl by a BJP MLA and the rape and murder of an 8-year-old Muslim girl in Kathua, Jammu in the month of January. Again, for this, she was heavily trolled. In the second incident, the outrage was not just because of the brutality of the rape but also since ministers from the governing party in the Jammu and Kashmir government had rallied for the accused to be let free.
Both the incidents received large media coverage and were heavily condemned by citizens of the country.
One of her tweets which went viral regarding the two incidents was this one:
I am Hindustan. I am Ashamed. #JusticeForOurChild #JusticeForAasifa
8 years old. Gangraped. Murdered.
In ‘Devi’-sthaan temple. #Kathua and lest we forget #unnao Shame on us! #BreakTheSilence #EndTheComplicity #ActNow pic.twitter.com/O8rABOrZq9
— Swara Bhasker (@ReallySwara) April 13, 2018
However, this time, things seem to have gone even more overboard. The actions of the trolls have not just impacted Swara Bhasker but perhaps Amazon as well since she is currently doing a campaign for the company.
So as part of her professional duties, she tweeted out an endorsement post for Amazon:
When I made the big move to a new city, all I wanted was a swanky music system, music being my passion! No matter how much I hunted for it, couldn’t find anything of my choice. In fact, I only got confused! #AjnabiShaharKiGoogly #ChonkpurCheetahs @amazonIN https://t.co/dQcI3z3zww
— Swara Bhasker (@ReallySwara) April 19, 2018
After Swara’s tweet, Amazon retweeted it as part of its campaign. However, it was later deleted. Amazon has not given any explanation for its actions but it is being speculated that it was because Amazon was heavily trolled and users were boycotting its services since it was being promoted by the actress.
These are some of the tweets which were made in protest against Amazon:
I have uninstalled the @amazonIN app, and I urge you to do the same until @amazon disassociates itself from India hater Swara. Also, support hash tags #BoycottAmazon #UninstallAmazon pic.twitter.com/PNVnzc2GmX
— हम भारत के लोग (@India_Policy) April 19, 2018
Hi @amazonIN Just uninstalled your app for supporting anti-hindu fake feminist @ReallySwara . Attaching the screenshot of my review. I urge all hindus to boycott this app in large numbers. Show your strength by uniting for DHARMA#BoycottAmazon pic.twitter.com/yz0orysd88
— Shubham Doneria (@Shubhamdoneria) April 19, 2018
Dear @amazonIN ,
I am a frequent customer and purchase goods worth of Rs 10000 per month
if You don’t remove antinational @ReallySwara from your campaign I will not buy anything from you.
Choice is yours, country is mine.#BoycottAmazon
— Mukesh (@mann_mukesh) April 19, 2018
However, it must be noted that many actually came out in support of Swara Bhasker:
I have decided not to renew my @PrimeVideoIN account or buy anything from @amazonIN until they bring back @ReallySwara‘s endorsement…. This si censorship of worst kind. Amazon should learn from Ola how to hit back at bigotry #BoycottAmazon
— Agnivo Niyogi (@Aagan86) April 24, 2018
Oh my god. When I saw the trend #BoycottAmazon I thought some cheating or fraud has happened with customers. I couldn’t even think pro Rapist bhakts could be behind this. I shop frm @amazonIN n would continue doing it. @ReallySwara #ISupportSwara
— Sakshi Joshi (@sakshijoshii) April 19, 2018
This is not the first time that a large corporation was forced to be on the backfoot for associating with a Bollywood celebrity. Snapdeal in February 2016 had decided to not renew the company’s contract with Bollywood actor Aamir Khan as its brand ambassador. This had happened after the veteran actor had made comments on the perceived intolerance taking place in the country, a year and a half after the Narendra Modi government had come to power.
Aamir Khan had said, “As an individual, as part of this country as a citizen, we read in the papers what is happening, we see it on the news and certainly, I have been alarmed. I can’t deny. I have been alarmed by a number of incidents.”
The background to Aamir Khan’s comments were the killing of Mohammad Akhlaq, who had been lynched to death by a mob on the suspicion of consuming beef in September 2015 in Dadri, Uttar Pradesh and the assassination of Kannada scholar, academic and critic of Hindutva, M Kalburgi in August 2015. There were other instances of censorship of writers whose works were anti-Hindutva in nature. These incidents had angered many intellectuals from different walks of life. Before Aamir Khan spoke on the perceived intolerance more than 75 filmmakers, writers, playwrights, etc. had already returned their awards as a mark of protest.
Similar to what happened with Amazon, the statements of Aamir Khan had troubled trolls so much that many of them went public with their decision to uninstall the Snapdeal app from their phones. Snapdeal came out with a statement saying that Aamir Khan had made the statement in his ‘personal capacity’, before finally choosing to not renew their contract with him as the brand ambassador.
In India, Bollywood stars are usually treated with lots of respect, fanfare and adulation. However, the recent incidents which ensured that even large companies such as Snapdeal and Amazon were put under pressure to let go of such popular stars due to them voicing their political opinions, highlights how communally charged and polarised the country is at the moment.