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Aamir Khan In 2016, And Swara Bhasker Today: How Trolls Are Bullying Brands

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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:

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:

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:

However, it must be noted that many actually came out in support of Swara Bhasker:

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.


Image source: Swara Bhasker/Twitter, Wikimedia Commons.
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Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

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The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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