The Daily Fix

The Daily Fix: BJP must not put electoral gains ahead of a long-term Nagaland solution

Everything you need to know for the day (and a little more).

The Big Story:

The Bharatiya Janata Party is treading tricky territory in Nagaland. On Monday, 10 political parties including the ruling Naga People’s Front and even the BJP signed a bond saying they would not contest the state elections slated for February 27. This agreement came in the aftermath of an appeal from the Core Committee of Nagaland Tribal Hohos and Civil Organisations calling on political parties to stay away from the elections and instead insist on a resolution to the peace process first. The appeal was endorsed by the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah), the largest armed group in the state and the primary stakeholder in peace talks. “No election without solution” was the refrain of all in support of staying away from polls.

Yet the following day the BJP issued a clarifications, saying that its representatives in the state did not have the authority to sign the bond and that it would go ahead and contest elections anyway. It even suspended the two representatives who were at the meeting. Though many in the BJP state unit seem concerned about having to contravene the demands of the Core Committee and all other political parties, the national leadership seems determined to go ahead with the elections. Ram Madhav, the party’s general secretary, has said there should be “elections for solution”.

After the elections were notified on January 31, state BJP leaders headed to Delhi to discuss its approach with the national leadership, with others presuming that no candidates would file nominations in the meantime. Meanwhile, the Council has called for a bandh on February 1.

The BJP must act very carefully here, in part because this tense moment is a result of its own actions. Three years ago, Prime Minister Narendra Modi signed a “framework agreement” with the NSCN (I-M), and all but announced that the conflict was over. Yet ever since, there has been little clarity on what actually is within that framework, and the rumours around it have led to violence. The BJP’s lack of transparency on the matter has contributed to the tense situation.

But there is also a tremendous opportunity here. Despite some tensions, the situation seems poised for an actual solution. Almost all armed Naga groups, which were often fighting each other, as well as tribal bodies and civil society groups have all managed to come together to present a unified front. A moment like this is not to be frittered away in pursuit of short-term political gains. Even if the BJP believes it will be better poised to offer a solution if it controls all the states where Naga populations live, there is no guarantee that this degree of unity will continue to hold.

The BJP has always claimed that, unlike the Congress, is a party that is not run by a High Command. Yet, here this is exactly what has happened. The party would do well to listen to its state leadership. If the elections do proceed, there is the very real danger of violence. The BJP must be careful not to put petty electoral gains above the chance for something more lasting.

The Big Story:

  • Ipsita Chakravarty reports on the BJP’s mixed signals, after the Naga groups united to demand Assembly polls be deferred.
  • A final settlement of the Naga question may be around the corner. What shape will it take? Arunab Saikia examines the issue.

Punditry

  1. “One would have expected the Survey to devote a chapter on the cost of two major reforms that have been undertaken by the Government which have cleansed the system for sure and made it more efficient, but left a cost-trail which ultimately gets reflected in the lower GDP growth number,” writes Madan Sabnavis in Hindu Businessline.
  2. R Jagannathan in Swarajya says it is time for the Bharatiya Janata Party to quit the ruling alliance in Jammu and Kashmir, saying “power without purpose is the worst form of self-delusion and totally self-destructive too.”
  3. Narendra Modi might be the only world leader whose Twitter use is more problematic than Trump’s, writes Tim Hume in Vice.

Giggle

Don’t miss

Vinita Govindarajan writes about the Nagaswaram, an instrument that took South Indian temple music to its pinnacle, but is now dying out.

“But today, nagaswaram artists are hardly allotted prime slots during the concert season at music sabhas. The artists earn their living by performing primarily at marriages and functions outside the temple. ‘The artists who aspired to make a living through the art were forced to move out of villages,” said Ram. Now, in most temples, the appointment of temple artists is merely perfunctory – done with little consideration to music, tradition or meaningful livelihood, he said. “They [the artists] are just nameless placeholders. The carefully chiselled out traditions have suffered a slow death.’

According to Krishna’s book, the reduced influence of Brahmins in temples after Periyar’s self-respect movement in Tamil Nadu eventually culminated in the takeover of temples by the government of Tamil Nadu. While the movement was a necessary social awakening, he notes, ‘It did not lead to a more egalitarian Karnatic music environment, instead spurring it to become even more insular… The government, which took control over the temples, hardly contributed to the development of quality nagasvara or tavil vidvans. The end result has been tragic – lack of support for those Karnatik musicians who once breathed musical life into the temple and society.’”

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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.