I once heard Swara Bhasker speak about how misogyny and slut shaming have been used as twin missiles against her on social media by organised troll armies. She said someone once asked on Twitter: ‘LaWhore is trending. What did Swara Bhasker do now?’
She’s trending again today because in a time when interfaith marriages are being criminalised and censored across India like never before, Swara just gave anxious lovers hope by joining the ranks of Hindu women who have married Muslim men. This is a booster shot for interfaith and intercaste lovers who are often forced to sacrifice their relationship at the altar of parental control.
More importantly, it’s a notice to all young people that you can and should be in charge of your own love story. Bonus, Swara had a no-fuss, no-fancy functions wedding. She didn’t wear Manish Malhotra or Sabyasachi.
At her talk in Michigan last year where I was in the audience, Bhasker said speaking up for basic rights had resulted in “reputational damage” that was “huge”. As a Bollywood star, the industry expected her to be likeable. Instead, they viewed her only as ‘controversial’. These past few years she has lost countless gigs just for speaking up.
Today, Swara and Fahad released a video of their romance, that began at a CAA protest—and showed Indians once again how to speak up.
“For me, asking questions to my government is the most patriotic act,” Fahad says at the start of the video. This, dear friends, is how you combine Mohabbat and Kranti and not the Almost Pyaar version of revolutionary love that I saw in the theatre recently.
Four years after Veere Di Wedding, the trolls still get apoplectic about her infamous masturbating-with-vibrator scene. Even today, replies to any of her tweets have ghastly responses referencing that scene. Of course, it’s organised trolling, but the thinking behind it is classic Indian patriarchy – these gents don’t know how to give women orgasms and get outraged when we take ownership for our own pleasure.
Swara’s marriage is reiteration of the fact that she is in charge of her own pyaar and her own pleasure.
In 2017, I argued that since the phrase ‘love jihad’ wasn’t going to disappear any time soon, we should own it and rebrand it. By now you know that this is a conspiracy theory used by Hindu extremists that posits interfaith marriages between Hindu women and Muslim men are an “Islamic campaign to deceive Hindu girls into love, compel them to accept Islamic religion and later use them as the instruments for bearing Muslim offspring.” I swear I read this in a booklet by one organisation.
So essentially, deception, conversion, procreation. Women of course are not seen as having any agency. We have no ability to choose, think, or look out for ourselves. We must be protected and saved from ourselves by the patriarchy at all times.
“Why let anyone else set the agenda for love?” I argued. “It’s time to make the power of Love Jihad work for us, instead of against us. Love Jihad should be the name of the ongoing Great War to win the right to love and have sex with whomsoever you want – gender, religion, frequency and marital status no bar.”
Congrats to Swara and a big kiss for showing Indian lovers the way forward.
This article was originally published on the author’s blog.
Priya Ramani is a journalist.