The Daily Fix

The Daily Fix: It is important to distinguish the 2003 ceasefire from Kashmir’s Ramzan ceasefire

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

The Big Story: A tale of two ceasefires

As Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh prepared to visit Kashmir to review the Ramzan ceasefire declared by the Centre, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman made a significant statement on Tuesday. It was not the defence ministry’s job to assess whether the Ramzan ceasefire was successful, she said, but to guard the border and retaliate when provoked. Over the last few days, the distinction between the violence at the frontier and the violence in the hinterland of the Kashmir Valley has not been so clear. This week, for instance, Minister of State for Home Hansraj Ahir said the Centre would be “constrained” to revoke the Ramzan ceasefire if Pakistan did not stop crossborder firing. Yet there are two ceasefires in the mix: the 2003 ceasefire declared on the frontier, which now lies in tatters, and the unilateral ceasefire declared by the Centre last month. Both have their own ambitions and terms of reference.

The Ramzan ceasefire was aimed at militancy in the Valley. It was conditional, and has been described as the “non-initiation of combat operations” rather than a complete ceasefire. The security forces reserved the right to retaliate, the Centre warned. In effect, it meant that the large scale cordon and search operations undertaken by security forces over the last year would be suspended, pausing the cycle of gunfights and killings that had become the norm in the Valley. Most of the militants killed in these operations were local Kashmiris, as were the civilians who died in clashes around the gunfights. It was meant to be a salve to the local anger that has been driving youth to militancy almost daily, perhaps even the start of a tenuous truce with local militant groups.

While one security report is said to claim that the ceasefire is a success, there are reasons to believe otherwise. Two days later, two girls received bullet injuries after the army opened fire during an iftar party organised by the army itself in South Kashmir’s Shopian district. There are also eyewitness accounts of paramilitary vehicles mowing down a civilian protestor. While alleged infiltrators were gunned down in the forests of North Kashmir, militant violence was scaled up, with almost daily grenade blasts in various parts of the Valley. Last night, heavily armed militants attacked an army camp in the troubled town of Hajin in North Kashmir as local residents took to the streets in support. Local recruitment to militancy has also continued unabated.

Meanwhile, guns boomed at the international border and Line of Control, taking a heavy toll on lives and property in border villages and also killing security personnel. The ceasefire that this violated was announced by Pakistan in 2003 and immediately reciprocated by the Atal Behari Vajpayee government. For a few years, the ceasefire held, providing a vital window for talks with Pakistan. Over the last three years, it has been rendered virtually non-existent, and the Indian Army has cited infiltration bids at the border as justification for opening fire. It is this ceasefire that the directors general of military operations from both sides have frantically tried to restore over the past week, vowing to observe it in “letter and spirit”.

It would be naive to assume that the violence at the frontier and in the Valley is not connected: according to local residents in Jammu’s border villages, crossborder firing escalated after the Centre’s Ramzan ceasefire. Besides, according to the reigning common sense, when India and Pakistan talk, there is relative peace in the Valley. Recently, Kashmiri separatists said they were ready for dialogue with Delhi but with the old rider: involve Pakistan. But conflating the two ceasefires would defeat the purpose of both. It would also repeat the old fallacy in Delhi’s dealings with Kashmir, of treating all dissent and disruption in the Valley as the machinations of Pakistan. Crossborder infiltration and the violations of the 2003 ceasefire may be taken up separately. As Rajnath Singh visits Kashmir this week, he needs to listen carefully to the various and specific grievances that have prompted local youth to take up arms in Kashmir and the virtual rejection of the Ramzan ceasefire.

The Big Scroll

The ceasefire in Kashmir is an opportunity to reflect on the futility of perpetual conflict, writes Raghu Raman.

Rayan Naqash reports on the response to the ceasefire in the Kashmir Valley and visits villages in Jammu battered by constant cross-border firing.

Punditry

  1. In the Indian Express, Pratap Bhanu Mehta examines Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Shangri-La speech and what it means for Indian foreign policy.
  2. In the Hindu, Suhasini Haider interviews AS Dulat, former chief of the Research and Analysis Wing.
  3. In the Telegraph, Sankarshan Thakur takes note of the high-octane insertion of Modi into the Indian Premier League.

Giggles

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Shoaib Daniyal asks what makes the politics of West Bengal so violent:

In 1977, the Congress lost power – it would never regain it – and the Left Front took office. Soon after, the new regime launched Operation Barga, which finalised land redistribution, and instituted an expansive panchayati raj system through which the party could exercise power in rural Bengal. Both measures all but ended the old feudal order with West Bengal now having the lowest proportion of large and medium landowners in the country. Even the few large landowners who remained had little political power in the countryside. In 1988, for example, 58% of panchayat members were poor peasants or agricultural labourers.

The power vacuum left by the exit of the landlords was filled by parties. So while in other parts of the country, politicians distributed patronage by caste or religion, here it was done by party affiliation. And while landlords or caste elite controlled the elected panchayat in other states, political scientist Atul Kohli noted that in West Bengal, party members dictated to local governments.

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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.