More than two weeks on, the debate on the barbaric killings of Charlie Hebdo journalists and the freedom of expression has become a conversation across time-zones and political, cultural and legal divides. This is probably the first time that such a debate is taking place in a world connected by Facebook, Twitter and U-Tube.
"Mike Marqusee (61), who died of cancer in London last week, was one of the finest products of the Anglo-American world’s “‘60s generation”, with a brilliant intellect and a passionate commitment to social justice and human values."
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.