Among the more interesting recent developments in Indian politics is the attempt to regroup fragments of the old Janata Parivar and launch a new, reunified party which recreates the once-powerful Socialist current in politics. Long a part of the Left, this current was second in importance only to the Communists until the 1970s.
Eighteen years after it rejected the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, the Indian government remains implacably hostile to it, and bristles even at attempts to raise the issue of its entry into force (EIF). This was demonstrated again last week when a member of an eminent persons’ group, established by the Preparatory Commission for the CTBT Organisation to promote EIF, visited India. He was given the cold shoulder by the foreign ministry. India professes a commitment to global nuclear disarmament, but doesn’t support an important, indispensable, step towards abolishing these mass-destruction arms — the only weapons which can exterminate all life on earth, and against which there’s no real defence.
Nobody has made a greater contribution to building such a grassroots movement than Medha Patkar who turns 60 on December 1. Patkar is best known globally as the leader of the Narmada Bachao Andolan, one of the world’s greatest ecological mass mobilisations. She is also the founder of the National Alliance of People’s Movements, comprising over 250 grassroots groups active in more than 15 Indian states on a range of civil-political and social rights issues.
Nothing in Indian politics has dismayed me recently as much as a report (The Hindu, November 22) on the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s success in attracting 600 middle-class professional families in Noida to a late-night education-cum-entertainment event featuring preacher Satyanarayan Mourya. Each family paid Rs300 to attend it. Mourya is a crasser version of Ritambhara. He speaks (http://communalism.blogspot.in/2014/11/india-rss-outreach-show-with-baba.html) execrable language while attacking Muslims, and invokes Hindutva pride by claiming that ancient India gave the world geometry and airplanes, besides mastering space and nuclear technologies, achievements that today’s youth have all but forgotten under the evil influence of modern Western culture.
All those who expected Prime Minister Narendra Modi to deliver on his election-campaign promise of cleaning up Indian politics of money power and crime, making a break with short-term caste-and-community calculations, and placing merit above personal loyalty, would be sorely disappointed at his cabinet reshuffle, including the induction of 21 new ministers.
The collapse of the Berlin Wall 25 years ago abruptly brought to a close what the historian Eric Hobsbawm famously called the “Short 20th Century”—short both because it began late, with the Russian Revolution of 1917, and because the historic epoch it marked ended a decade before the century’s close. Humanity’s greatest success in overthrowing capitalism in one country, and making its working people arbiters of their own fate by creating new modes of organisation of society and economy and a novel state form, ended in catastrophe as the USSR disintegrated and international socialism effectively ceased to exist.
When Bharatiya Janata Party leader LK Advani famously said of the media during the Emergency that “when asked to bend, they crawled”, he received widespread praise from the intelligentsia and even from people opposed to the BJP’s ideology—because he spoke the truth about the loss of independence and professional integrity on the part of the Fourth Estate and other institutions. Today, not just the media, but leaders from the fields of education, culture, healthcare and law, are crawling before the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh without even being asked to bend
I’m glad to be an Indian, but I’m not a chest-thumping nationalist. I can understand and appreciate why many Indians (or for that matter, other nationals) emigrate and become naturalised citizens of other, typically developed, states. What I find it hard to understand is why some of them choose to represent their adopted homelands’ governments as officials, even ambassadors, to the countries of their origin.
With its impressive performance in the Maharashtra and Haryana Assembly elections, the Bharatiya Janata Party has clearly reconfirmed its status, established by the Lok Sabha elections, as the principal pole or central point of reference in Indian politics. Behind its latest success, and not least its marginalisation of established regional parties in the two states, lie medium- and long-term factors which are likely to influence Indian politics for some time to come.
The contrast between India's two recent science and technology (S&T) projects couldn't have been starker. One, by delivering accurate early warnings about Cyclone Hudhud, saved thousands of human lives, and prevented destruction of property on a monstrous scale. The other put India's Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) Mangalyaan spacecraft successfully into a distant orbit around the planet-a technological achievement, but without much scientific, leave alone social, consequence.
The award of the Nobel Peace prize to Kailash Satyarthi and Malala Yousafzai has been widely welcomed in India. This is doubtless positive for the cause of children's rights. But it's also a comment on how the world looks at the social reality of an India that struts about as an "emerging power" but tolerates large-scale abuse and merciless exploitation of children. Satyarthi got the prize partly for the same reason why Slumdog Millionaire was a hit in the West.
the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (the RSS’s overseas affiliate) mobilised 19,000 people, each of whom paid $5000 to $10,000 to attend. Most were non-resident Indians (NRIs), who are culturally insecure and divided over their identity. They long for the country they have left behind and try to manufacture its images through arcane rituals and obscurantist practices, which resident middle class Indians discarded long ago.
How does Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s lofty slogan Sab ka Saath, Sab ka Vikaas (inclusion and development for all) square up with India’s social-political reality as vulnerable groups such as the religious minorities experience it? The honest answer is that these groups had the most to fear from a Bharatiya Janata Party election victory, and some of their fears are coming true. The BJP’s leaders, Mr Modi included, have done very little to allay them although it’s their duty to do so.
Within weeks of winning the Lok Sabha elections with a surprisingly large margin, the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance has suffered major setbacks in Assembly byelections in four states. Of the 18 seats for which elections were held—10 seats in Bihar, three each in Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka, and two in Punjab—the NDA won only 8, down from its victory in 14 Assembly segments earlier. A majority, 10 seats, went to the Congress and its allies.
If the Narendra Modi government wanted to dismay and embarrass many of its supporters even before completing a hundred days in office, it could not have done so more effectively than by announcing two major decisions: Cancelling the foreign secretary-level meeting with Pakistan scheduled for August 25, and abolishing the Planning Commission at home.
More than a month after Israel launched a murderous onslaught on the Gaza Strip, with over 2,000 casualties, there’s still no clarity about when “Operation Protective Edge” might end—despite the recent extension of a ceasefire. Israel has destroyed 10,000 homes, turned a quarter of Gaza’s population into refugees, and repeatedly targeted civilian installations, including schools, hospitals and United Nations-designated shelters—in flagrant violation of international law.
Mr Singh sheds very little light on a tumultuous period in history which saw the end of the Cold War and the emergence of a newly aggressive United States, and a drastic re-alignment of India’s foreign policy towards it, in which he himself played a part. He presents himself as a staunch defender of India’s independent foreign policy and Non-Alignment, when the recent record shows the opposite.
India’s former foreign minister Natwar Singh is no ordinary diplomat-turned-politician. A part of the Establishment for half-a-century, he is well educated, widely travelled, a close witness to major events, and capable of reflection. So when he published his memoirs One Life is Not Enough, readers expected more from him than from the recent book on Manmohan Singh by his former media adviser, Sanjaya Baru.
The Lok Sabha election has produced what was easily the worst conceivable outcome by giving an outright majority to the Bharatiya Janata Party under a man who is widely believed to have been complicit in mass killings of Indian citizens belonging to one faith, and who even 12 years on has not been fully exonerated by the country’s legal system despite its compromised, semi-functional nature, and vulnerability to diabolical manipulation. Make no mistake. Despite a limited (31 percent) national vote, Narendra Modi’s victory is the result of a Rightward shift in society, and the triumph of Hindutva combined with neoliberal capitalism.
It’s a sign of the pathology of much of India’s mainstream media that it displays the rise of the speculative-trader-industrialist Hinduja brothers to the top of Britain’s (not India’s) billionaire list on the front page, as many papers did on May 12, while blacking out the shamefully persistent phenomena of grinding poverty and rapidly growing income inequalities in this country.