The Daily Fix

The Daily Fix: Ten questions to put to Modi government in today’s no-confidence motion

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

The Big Story: Question time

Given the Bharatiya Janata Party’s numerical strength in the Lok Sabha, few expect the government to lose the no-confidence motion scheduled for Friday. Indeed, one of the government’s stated reasons for accepting a no-confidence motion is that it wants to “stop the lies of the opposition” that it does not face questions. But this motion is about more than the government winning a battle of perceptions. It is a chance for the Opposition to ask vital questions about the health of our democracy. It is a chance to make Prime Minister Narendra Modi question his own catchphrases, from “sab ka saath sab ka vikas” to “acche din”.

Here are some of the questions the Opposition should be asking:

  1. Could the government give a true picture of the economy? In spite of the BJP’s promises of development, there are signs of grave agrarian distress and rural wage growth is negative, manufacturing growth and investments in new projects are falling, the job market looks bleak and even daily wage jobs are increasingly scarce on the ground. Meanwhile, there is still no clarity on how badly demonetisation hit the economy, though its lingering effects are still being felt.
  2. There has been an alarming rise in the number of mob lynchings in the last three years, usually hate crimes committed by the majority against the minority community, and most of these cases have gone nowhere. How serious is the government about tackling these crimes of hate? What does it say when its own ministers are seen garlanding men accused of lynching?
  3. In cases where lynchings have been fuelled by rumours of child-lifting, is there a plan of action besides asking WhatsApp to regulate the spread of fake news?
  4. How does the BJP justify its repeated use of communal statements, from the prime minister himself in election campaigns to members of Parliament who have reinforced the myth of the majority being under siege to the party’s senior leadership, which launched a concerted attack on the Congress for being a “Muslim party”?
  5. Is there a plan to reverse the foreign policy failures of the past few years? Relations with neighbours such as China and Pakistan have nosedived, as India saw border frictions with both. And for all of Modi’s bonhomie with United States President Donald Trump, India finds itself manoeuvring for room between America and Iran.
  6. How the Centre explain its failures in Kashmir, which has seen a rising graph of violence in the last three years, where all attempts at dialogue have failed or been abandoned, where government seems to have ceded ground to the military, allowing it to set the course for a new belligerence?
  7. Could the government clarify its position on Aadhaar, the 12-digit unique identification number, addressing concerns about privacy, misuse and errors which have tragic consequences for the poorest of the poor who depend on it to get vital food rations?
  8. How does the BJP respond to allegations that the autonomy of vital institutions, from the judiciary to the Election Commission to the Central Bureau of Investigation, is being eroded?
  9. How does the government plan to tackle the growing concerns that freedom of speech and the right to dissent are being curbed, with a slew of internet bans and sedition cases over the past few years?
  10. How does the BJP defend the upheavals in the education system, including systemic changes like disbanding the University Grants Commision and the dubious award of “institute of eminence” tag to universities yet to start functioning? How does it respond to allegations that political appointees have been placed in universities and other institutions of higher education in an attempt to control them?

The Big Scroll

Vijayta Lalwani tells you all you need to know about the no-confidence motion.

Punditry

  1. In the Indian Express, Sanjib Baruah weighs in on the debate around Arunachal Pradesh’s anti-conversion law.
  2. In the Hindu, G Sampath writes that the campaign, #TalkToAMuslim marks a symbolic victory but it is shameful that Muslims should have to start such an outreach.
  3. In the Telegraph, Anup Sinha looks at a history of trade wars and national interest.

Giggles

Don’t miss...

Anita Katyal explains why Prime Minister Narendra Modi did not want a no-confidence motion in March but is fine with it now:

This time, the Congress has joined the battle as a lead player and is more proactive in taking on the government. This has spurred the BJP leadership to go ahead with the debate as the saffron party views the Congress as its chief political adversary and would rather battle the main opposition party than the others. The BJP is confident that the prime minister’s oratorical skills will carry the day and also succeed in showing the Congress in poor light.

In March, the government also wanted to avoid questions on the Nirav Modi bank fraud case as it was clearly on the back foot on this issue. Now that four months have elapsed, the case has, by and large, faded from public memory providing some relief to the government.

Once it wins the no-confidence motion (a foregone conclusion given the superior numerical strength of the BJP and its allies in the Lok Sabha), the BJP plans to shift the focus to issues from which it can draw political mileage. To begin with, the saffron party will seek to turn the tables on the Congress on issues such as so-called minority appeasement, Kashmir and triple talaq.

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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.