The people of Sri Lanka have made the cause of democracy proud by handing a humiliating defeat to President Mahinda Rajapaksa, ending 10 years of authoritarian rule. Mr Rajapaksa called an early election, and lost to his former health minister Maithripala Sirisena-despite his last-minute attempts to rope Bollywood stars into his campaign and desperate appeals to vote for the "known devil".
If there’s one thing that the 102nd Indian Science Congress, held in Mumbai, will be remembered for, it’s the outrageous claims made at it about the achievements of science in ancient India, including the assertion that Indians between 7000 and 6000 BC knew how to make airplanes that could undertake “interplanetary travel”, and fly backwards and sideways, as well as forwards!
The Bharatiya Janata Party’s national leadership has officially confirmed that it’s in talks with the People’s Democratic Party to form a coalition government in Jammu and Kashmir. This proposal is endorsed by a surprisingly large number of self-avowed well-wishers of the Kashmiri people, as well as cynical “realists” who believe that such a coalition of extremes, between India’s unitarian-nationalists and the Kashmir Valley’s “soft-separatists”, is J&K’s best chance of having a stable government which paves the way for its greater integration into India. The parties’ respective core-bases, Jammu and the Valley, they argue, “complement” each other. Arithmetically too, the two — with respectively 25 and 28 seats — would command a solid majority in the 87-seat Assembly.
By allying with the BJP, Mufti risks becoming Kashmir’s version of the Palestinian Authority’s Mahmoud Abbas, powerless against Israel’s occupation, yet legitimising it and dependent on it. The PDP will almost certainly suffer a rout soon. But it will have helped Modi to strut about the world for having fully coopted J&K’s Muslims in an “inclusive” arrangement, and whitewashed his own terrible record in Gujarat and beyond. What a coup that would be for the RSS-BJP!
Some commentators have deplored the conferment of India’s highest civilian honour, the Bharat Ratna, on Madan Mohan Malaviya, but many have welcomed its award to the Sangh Parivar’s first Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee. The latter include even Amartya Sen, himself a Bharat Ratna and Nobel Laureate, who called Mr Vajpayee a “great statesman” while expressing some reservations about his policies, but praising the “human quality” behind “his leadership”.
A hallmark of the Modi government’s first 200 days in office is the beginning of the Sangh Parivar’s Long March through the Institutions of the State, in particular bodies that deal with education and culture. The Parivar’s agenda is to influence their working to reflect its own specific brand of “cultural nationalism” by engineering long-term changes in their programmes and priorities, and making key appointments of personnel who will loyally execute such changes.
It’s humanly impossible not to be revolted by the killing of 134 innocent children in Peshawar by Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and not to feel a surge of empathy with Pakistani citizens. This barbaric attack galvanised unprecedented solidarity demonstrations and vigils in South Asian cities.
India can make this a unique moment for South Asia too by reaching out to Pakistan with earnest proposals for cooperation—whether in fighting terrorism, aggressively promoting trade, or stabilising Afghanistan. This entails a sea-change in the official mindset—from regarding Pakistan as an enemy to be vanquished, to a potentially friendly neighbour, with whom contentious issues can be peacefully resolved. India must not squander this opportunity.
The Sangh Parivar has made a habit out of raking up divisive issues which most people thought were settled at the time of Indian Independence or shortly thereafter. For instance, India adopted Parliamentary democracy in preference to the presidential system after much debate. But the unitarian, pro-centralisation Bharatiya Janata Party has always been partial to the presidential form despite its unsuitability for a huge and diverse country like India.
A la question “Accepteriez-vous qu’un dalit entre dans votre cuisine ou qu’il utilise vos ustensiles de cuisine?”, 27% des Indiens répondent NON! Telle est une des réponses qui ressort de l’Enquête sur le développement humain en Inde (IHDS-2) dont les premiers résultats sont diffusés dans la presse indienne. Le texte qui suit se base sur un article de Praful Bidwai (*) paru le 15 décembre 2014 dans le Kashmir Times.
It’s fashionable in some circles to claim that discrimination based on caste has steadily decreased in India, as it’s bound to, thanks to modernisation, urbanisation and industrialisation. The character of caste is itself changing from a system of social hierarchy based on birth and ritual purity, to a political phenomenon. As India evolves into a “merit-based” society, the argument goes, there can be no place for untouchability vis-à-vis Dalits (Scheduled Castes) in it.
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.