Monday Briefing: Big State Victories for Modi

Elections in northern Indian states were seen as a big test for Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party, or B.J.P. Results showed that the party expanded its dominance in a key populous area.

The outcome was another blow to the main opposition party, the Indian National Congress, which lost in three states — Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan — where it was pitted against Modi’s B.J.P. Congress only won against a smaller regional party in Telangana, where Modi’s Hindu nationalist politics has faced resistance.

Modi is now in an even stronger position ahead of general elections in the spring. Next month, Modi will further galvanize his base with the inauguration of a new Hindu temple that is being built on the site of a destroyed mosque in Uttar Pradesh.

Manipur: After months of ethnic violence — and government efforts to shift the focus away from the northeastern state — morgues there are still full of unclaimed bodies. Families say they are too afraid to go claim their loved ones.

Sikh assassination plot: An elaborate sting operation foiled a suspected plot to kill a Sikh separatist in the U.S. and involved an undercover agent, posing as a hit man, and a wad of $15,000 in cash bills. Read our detailed picture of how the episode unfolded.

Strikes at sea: The Pentagon said that a U.S. Navy destroyer came under attack in the Red Sea yesterday, a potential signal of an escalation in tensions with Iran-backed militias.

Intelligence failures: The Times found evidence suggesting that senior Israeli officials ignored or dismissed intelligence reports about Hamas’s plan to attack. They may resign or get fired, once the war ends.

Knife attack in Paris: The authorities said the suspect had psychiatric disorders and had told the police he was upset over the deaths of Muslims around the world, including in Gaza.

The Islamic State claimed responsibility for an explosion that killed at least four people and injured dozens of others who were attending Catholic Mass services in the southern city of Marawi in the Philippines, according to Site Intelligence Group.

The explosion, thought to be caused by a grenade or a homemade bomb, ripped through a gymnasium at Mindanao State University, which was at the center of a fierce battle with militants in 2017. The armed forces’ chief of staff said that the bombing “might be a retaliatory attack” after clashes with militants in the south over the past few days.

Japanese parents are picking unusual names for their babies, often to help them stand out in a society that values conformity. But the government is moving to rein in the trend, saying that people with such “glittery” names face challenges.

Lives lived: Sandra Day O’Connor, the first woman on the U.S. Supreme Court, died at 93.

Our critics agree: This was a great year for film. Viewers looked for movies with originality and freshness, instead of just an action-adventure blockbuster.

The year’s top-grossing movie was Greta Gerwig’s “Barbie.” But it didn’t make our critics’ lists of best films. “Oppenheimer,” its release-date twin, did. Here are a few of their other picks:

  • Martin Scorsese’s epic, “Killers of the Flower Moon,” topped both of our critics’ lists. It is about a spate of murders against members of the Osage Nation in the 1920s.

  • “Past Lives” tracks an unrequited love from South Korea to the U.S.

  • The Chinese film “Stonewalling” is an understated portrait of a young woman at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Read the full list.

Bake: Browning butter gives these gingerbread blondies a deep, caramelized flavor.

Read: “Prophet Song,” which won this year’s Booker Prize, is a dystopian Irish novel by Paul Lynch.