Inside The Congress

Congress is raising questions about Loya's death – but its real hope is to delay Ram temple case

The party thinks that the threat of an impeachment motion against the chief justice of India will work in its favour.

Soon after four senior Supreme Court judges called a press conference last month and accused the Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra of assigning important cases on a selective basis, the Congress demanded that the death of judge Brijgopal Harkishan Loya, who was hearing the Sohrabuddin encounter case, be probed by an independent special investigation team.

Ten days later, Communist Party of India (Marxist) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury told media persons that his party was in talks with other opposition leaders to discuss moving an impeachment motion against the Chief Justice in the budget session of Parliament since the issues raised by the four senior judges were yet to be resolved.

On Wednesday, the Congress fielded the party’s top legal experts to reiterate its demand that judge Loya’s death be investigated by an independent special investigative team, failing which the party would go to every village to tell the people about how justice was being dispensed in the country.

Former minister Kapil Sibal, flanked by colleague Salman Khursheed and head of the party’s legal department Vivek Tankha, alleged that information gathered from whistleblowers and activists revealed that judge Loya was under pressure to pass an order in favour of an accused and that he had also received a draft order for him to sign by October 2014. Pointing to the contradictions in the post mortem report and other hospital documents as well as the police records pertaining to judge Loya’s death, Sibal underlined that the mystery could only be resolved if it is entrusted to an independent investigative team which should not comprise of any officers from the Central Bureau of Investigation or the National Investigation Agency.

The case pertaining to Loya’s death is currently being heard by a bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra. Loya was hearing the Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case in which Bharatiya Janata Party president Amit Shah was one of the accused.

The real focus

The sequence of developments over the past few weeks suggests that the real intention of the opposition is to build pressure on the Chief Justice. While the CPI(M) has proposed his impeachment, the Congress is planning to up the ante against him in a calibrated manner. Party leaders said they would be placing fresh material in the public domain in the coming days.

While the opposition has an obvious interest in the Loya case, the party is also aware that the chief justice could play a crucial role in the other politically sensitive important cases being heard by him, which includes the Ram Janambhoomi-Babri Masjid title dispute in Ayodhya. The final hearing of the case is to begin on February 8.

Senior party leaders, involved in drawing up the party strategy on legal matters, admitted privately that while the Loya and Aadhar cases are important, they are chiefly concerned about the Babri Masjid case.

Chief Justice Misra, who is to retire this October, is said to be keen on delivering a verdict in this far-reaching case before he steps down. The Congress and other opposition parties are convinced that the judgement delivered by the bench headed by the chief justice is likely to pave the way for the construction of the Ram temple at the disputed site in Ayodhya. This could prove to be politically disastrous for the Congress as the BJP will want to use the emotive mandir issue to fight the growing disenchantment with the Modi government. In such a situation, the Congress will first feel the heat in the year-end assembly polls in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh where it is currently confident of faring well against the BJP governments.

“We basically want to pressure the chief justice to become more independent. We will back off if we believe he is acting in an impartial manner,” remarked a senior Congress leader.

Threat of impeachment

In fact, this is the main argument being put forth to move an impeachment motion against the Chief Justice in Parliament. Though Congress legal experts have advised party president Rahul Gandhi against supporting such a move on the plea that they do not have the numbers in Parliament to see it through, it is being argued that the threat of an impeachment motion will deter the Chief Justice from being partial in the politically-important cases he is handling.

Even in the Wednesday press conference, when a specific question was asked, Kapil Sibal refused to give a categorical answer and said that while the Left parties have made their position very clear and have spoken to the Congress about it, the party is still talking to others and is yet to take a view on the subject.

“It will become difficult for the Chief Justice to hear important cases if an impeachment motion is pending against him,” explained a senior Congress leader. “The idea is to make him a lame-duck chief justice,” he added.

Party insiders say that while they cannot openly put pressure on the Ram temple case, they can go to town on the Loya case to make things uncomfortable for the chief justice. Their hope is that he will decide to go slow on the Ramjanambhoomi-Babri Masjid case but so far he has shown no inclination to delay the matter. Much heat was generated when the case was heard last December. Sibal suggested in court that the the hearing be postponed till after the 2019 Lok Sabha elections in view of the political and social ramifications of the case. Harish Salve and CS Vaidyanathan, representing the Hindu organisations, had countered this plea, saying that this matter be treated like any other and should be heard soon as it has been pending since 2010. The court had rejected Sibal’s plea.

The case was then heard in the midst of the high-decibel Gujarat assembly polls. Sibal’s plea for a postponement was seized upon by the BJP to paint the Congress as anti-Hindu on the ground that it did not favour the construction of a Ram Temple. Pushed on the back foot, the Congress had a lot of explaining to do during the election campaign. It, therefore, does not want a repeat of the same and would prefer that these issues do not surface in the forthcoming polls, leaving the Congress free to focus on the deficiencies of the BJP governments in the poll-bound states.

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Swara Bhasker: Sharp objects has to be on the radar of every woman who is tired of being “nice”

The actress weighs in on what she loves about the show.

This article has been written by award-winning actor Swara Bhasker.

All women growing up in India, South Asia, or anywhere in the world frankly; will remember in some form or the other that gentle girlhood admonishing, “Nice girls don’t do that.” I kept recalling that gently reasoned reproach as I watched Sharp Objects (you can catch it on Hotstar Premium). Adapted from the author of Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn’s debut novel Sharp Objects has been directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, who has my heart since he gave us Big Little Lies. It stars the multiple-Oscar nominee Amy Adams, who delivers a searing performance as Camille Preaker; and Patricia Clarkson, who is magnetic as the dominating and dark Adora Crellin. As an actress myself, it felt great to watch a show driven by its female performers.

The series is woven around a troubled, alcohol-dependent, self-harming, female journalist Camille (single and in her thirties incidentally) who returns to the small town of her birth and childhood, Wind Gap, Missouri, to report on two similarly gruesome murders of teenage girls. While the series is a murder mystery, it equally delves into the psychology, not just of the principal characters, but also of the town, and thus a culture as a whole.

There is a lot that impresses in Sharp Objects — the manner in which the storytelling gently unwraps a plot that is dark, disturbing and shocking, the stellar and crafty control that Jean-Marc Vallée exercises on his narrative, the cinematography that is fluid and still manages to suggest that something sinister lurks within Wind Gap, the editing which keeps this narrative languid yet sharp and consistently evokes a haunting sensation.

Sharp Objects is also liberating (apart from its positive performance on Bechdel parameters) as content — for female actors and for audiences in giving us female centric and female driven shows that do not bear the burden of providing either role-models or even uplifting messages. 

Instead, it presents a world where women are dangerous and dysfunctional but very real — a world where women are neither pure victims, nor pure aggressors. A world where they occupy the grey areas, complex and contradictory as agents in a power play, in which they control some reigns too.

But to me personally, and perhaps to many young women viewers across the world, what makes Sharp Objects particularly impactful, perhaps almost poignant, is the manner in which it unravels the whole idea, the culture, the entire psychology of that childhood admonishment “Nice girls don’t do that.” Sharp Objects explores the sinister and dark possibilities of what the corollary of that thinking could be.

“Nice girls don’t do that.”

“Who does?”

“Bad girls.”

“So I’m a bad girl.”

“You shouldn’t be a bad girl.”

“Why not?”

“Bad girls get in trouble.”

“What trouble? What happens to bad girls?”

“Bad things.”

“What bad things?”

“Very bad things.”

“How bad?”

“Terrible!!!”

“Like what?”

“Like….”

A point the show makes early on is that both the victims of the introductory brutal murders were not your typically nice girly-girls. Camille, the traumatised protagonist carrying a burden from her past was herself not a nice girl. Amma, her deceptive half-sister manipulates the nice girl act to defy her controlling mother. But perhaps the most incisive critique on the whole ‘Be a nice girl’ culture, in fact the whole ‘nice’ culture — nice folks, nice manners, nice homes, nice towns — comes in the form of Adora’s character and the manner in which beneath the whole veneer of nice, a whole town is complicit in damning secrets and not-so-nice acts. At one point early on in the show, Adora tells her firstborn Camille, with whom she has a strained relationship (to put it mildly), “I just want things to be nice with us but maybe I don’t know how..” Interestingly it is this very notion of ‘nice’ that becomes the most oppressive and deceptive experience of young Camille, and later Amma’s growing years.

This ‘Culture of Nice’ is in fact the pervasive ‘Culture of Silence’ that women all over the world, particularly in India, are all too familiar with. 

It takes different forms, but always towards the same goal — to silence the not-so-nice details of what the experiences; sometimes intimate experiences of women might be. This Culture of Silence is propagated from the child’s earliest experience of being parented by society in general. Amongst the values that girls receive in our early years — apart from those of being obedient, dutiful, respectful, homely — we also receive the twin headed Chimera in the form of shame and guilt.

“Have some shame!”

“Oh for shame!”

“Shameless!”

“Shameful!”

“Ashamed.”

“Do not bring shame upon…”

Different phrases in different languages, but always with the same implication. Shameful things happen to girls who are not nice and that brings ‘shame’ on the family or everyone associated with the girl. And nice folks do not talk about these things. Nice folks go on as if nothing has happened.

It is this culture of silence that women across the world today, are calling out in many different ways. Whether it is the #MeToo movement or a show like Sharp Objects; or on a lighter and happier note, even a film like Veere Di Wedding punctures this culture of silence, quite simply by refusing to be silenced and saying the not-nice things, or depicting the so called ‘unspeakable’ things that could happen to girls. By talking about the unspeakable, you rob it of the power to shame you; you disallow the ‘Culture of Nice’ to erase your experience. You stand up for yourself and you build your own identity.

And this to me is the most liberating aspect of being an actor, and even just a girl at a time when shows like Sharp Objects and Big Little Lies (another great show on Hotstar Premium), and films like Veere Di Wedding and Anaarkali Of Aarah are being made.

The next time I hear someone say, “Nice girls don’t do that!”, I know what I’m going to say — I don’t give a shit about nice. I’m just a girl! And that’s okay!

Swara is a an award winning actor of the Hindi film industry. Her last few films, including Veere Di Wedding, Anaarkali of Aaraah and Nil Battey Sannata have earned her both critical and commercial success. Swara is an occasional writer of articles and opinion pieces. The occasions are frequent :).

Watch the trailer of Sharp Objects here:

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This article was published by the Scroll marketing team with Swara Bhasker on behalf of Hotstar Premium and not by the Scroll editorial team.