Sameera, a Central University student, accuses the captain of the University Cricket team and his younger brother of sexual assault. She is quickly thrust into the spotlight of media and social media as her motives and character are put under the scanner.
Did she fabricate her story to gain social media fame, or even if it did happen, did she bring it on herself? The details of her case are quickly forgotten as she finds herself at the center of a fight about religion, sexual equality and moral behavior expected of a woman. Even well meaning allies end up overlooking the real live person at the heart of the situation, whose basic human rights of equality and justice have been crushed, as they passionately voice their personal opinions and ideologies.
A snapshot of India of 2016, Lakshman Rekha explores the growing polarization of communities divided on the basis of religion and sexuality, and the role media and social media end up playing in propagating inaccurate and misguided prejudices.
Over the last few years there have been multiple occasions when an individual has taken to social media to air a personal grievance. Often, the social media, and then media attention spirals out of control. The public, journalists and celebrities quickly insert themselves into the conversation. They firmly pick a side, either for or against, and rail against anyone who picked the opposing viewpoint.
These incidents escalate from a personal ‘he said – she said’ accusation, to much larger arguments: liberal vs conservative, tradition vs progress, patriarchy vs equality, urban vs rural, caste vs caste or religion vs religion. Dubious ‘experts’ appear on talk shows and political and religious leaders seize the opportunity to push their own agendas; media and social media end up propelling junk opinions as hardcore facts. Within days, the volume fades and everyone moves on the next outrageous story. When the truth finally comes out, everyone has forgotten about the individuals who were the real victims, and whose reputations now lie in tatters.
In these hooplas, I saw a parallel to the way we view and discuss our Indian mythology. Characters, on the basis of race, are firmly sorted into good and evil, angels and demons. If a ‘good’ character does something bad, it is because of destiny, duty or outside influence. If a ‘bad’ character does something bad, it is because they are inherently wicked.
As a society, we simplify our understanding of these great epics into children’s tales and street theatre. We all know the stories, but we do not stop to question their moral and ethical ambiguities or assess how they should be viewed in a modern context.