Agent Rana is a daily comic in The Times of India, and depicts the adventures of a moustachioed detective Rana who “loves women, fighting and his country in no particular order”. It’s been described on social media as “a serialised graphic novel tinged with soft-porn”, and was launched in September. It regurgitates all the nastiest stereotypes about women, Muslims, nationalism and Pakistan, and has even been petitioned against by some enthusiastic parents for its sexually explicit depiction of women.
Five days ago, though, the series took a new, sick turn that’s a bit surprising even by the standards we hold TOI to. A new character named Sameera was introduced into the series, and she was widely understood to be modelled on JNU student leader Shehla Rashid (or some say a combination of Rashid and student leader Sucheta De).
As tech journalist Prasanto K Roy pointed out on Twitter, the twisted evolution of the comic’s supposed plot around Sameera is reflective of the deep, violent hatred people are able to muster against young women political figures.
Fascinating. Agent Rana, TOI’s serialised graphic novel tinged with soft-porn now features an (anti-) National University with a firebrand female student leader about to be funded by an Enemy Agent and fake currency. pic.twitter.com/ZXMx7DRr4F
— Prasanto K Roy (@prasanto) January 22, 2018
And a bizarre, sick twist to @timesofindia‘s Agent Rana, with a character based on Shehla. TOI is playing out a sanghi-bhakt wet dream: rape and kill JNU ‘antinationals’. Seriously sick, @vineetjaintimes pic.twitter.com/5Uuh7f3AF3
— Prasanto K Roy (@prasanto) January 24, 2018
Sameera made her way into the comic as a young “firebrand” political activist leading “anti-national” student protests (of zombie-like kids) against the vice chancellor of National College in Delhi that’s also meant to divide India on Pakistan’s behalf. She’s approached by an ISI agent disguised as a sympathetic ex-student, and offered 50 lakhs for the movement. The not at all subtly named Timur, the ISI agent, then accompanies her to her room, “violates her modesty” and kills her.
As far as the actualisation of hatred against women, especially liberal, young and political women, goes, this is pretty rare, extreme and horrifying. While Indian student leaders are of course not strangers to violent death and rape threats, there’s something particularly disturbing about a leading Indian newspaper depicting these violent rape fantasies in a comic read by millions of people. It doesn’t feel like an accident or artistic licence, or really anything but an attempt to contribute to the ongoing narrative around nationalism and student leaders by showing you what happens to girls who go to protests the government says they shouldn’t go to.