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An Indian implosion fast spreading beyond its borders

Shahid Islam
 
Indian neighbours are on the edge as the world’s largest democracy and its national cohesiveness is crumbling under the multiple-onslaughts from religious extremism, Maoist revolutionaries, and the revolting people of the Indian occupied Kashmir (IOK); cumulatively constituting three major fault lines that had triggered an internal implosion and begun to impact neighbouring Pakistan, Bangladesh and China.
Full Story
Shahid Islam
 
Indian neighbours are on the edge as the world’s largest democracy and its national cohesiveness is crumbling under the multiple-onslaughts from religious extremism, Maoist revolutionaries, and the revolting people of the Indian occupied Kashmir (IOK); cumulatively constituting three major fault lines that had triggered an internal implosion and begun to impact neighbouring Pakistan, Bangladesh and China.
Inside Bangladesh, anti-Indian sentiments are all time high due mainly to the recent signing of a Dhaka-Delhi defence collaboration agreement and Indian negation to sign the long-awaited Teesta water sharing agreement, which was overdue for signing since 2010.
 
Communalism & BJP-RSS nexus
Since Narendra Modi’s coming to power in 2014, Hindu fanatic RSS had launched a virtual war against the religious minorities. Communal violence witnessed a 17% rise in 2015, with 751 incidents recorded across the country, against 644 in 2014, according to data compiled by Indian central government.  Massive casualties from communal unrest also increased in 2015, with dead and injured totalling 97 and 2,264 in 2015, from 95 and 1,921 in 2014. According to Union Ministry of Home, 278 communal riots took place in the first five months of 2016.
These days, it’s difficult to keep a tally of communal and hate crimes in the professedly secular India, and the  man behind these increased communal riots is Mohan Madhukar Bhagwat, chief executive of the Hindu extremist outfit RSS (Rastriya Swayamsevak Sangh), which is closely aligned with the ruling BJP and its leader, Norendra Modi.  Bhagwat had declared recently ‘whoever is born in India is a Hindu.’
In June 2015, the Modi government ordered the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) to provide round-the-clock protection to the RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat who, with state patronization, vowed to create 10 million volunteers and 100,000 branches across India within the next five years to turn India into a Hindu nation.
This new war for the creation of an exclusive Hindu India will end up Kashmir and Punjab wriggling out of the Indian union due to their different religion and ethnicity and, a 1947-type massacre will unleash many more internal and regional hazards. During the partition in 1947, 25,000 Muslims were slaughtered in Delhi alone and over one million Muslims displaced.
 
Cow vigilantes
Those tragic days are back again. In reality, the war for a Hindu nation creation had already started in earnest since the BJP’s winning of the Uttar Pradesh election in March and, the appointment of a Hindu nationalist priest, Yogi Adithyanath, to run the state.  For weeks now, cow vigilantes have been operating, with huge police force accompanying them, in various animal slaughtering houses. Nationwide, animal slaughtering has also been banned in 24 of the nation’s 29 states.
According to a Bloomberg report, “Representatives of the meat industry say cow vigilantes, emboldened by BJP election promises to shut illegal slaughterhouses and ban mechanized abattoirs in Uttar Pradesh, are stopping vehicles, extorting money, beating people up and in some cases stealing the valuable animals.”
Things are turning inhuman, needing international pressure to stop such rights violations. On April 20, a nine-year-old girl and four of her family members were attacked by the so called cow vigilantes in Jammu and Kashmir’s Reasi district. The family were beaten and their livestock confiscated.
Earlier, on April 5, a senior Indian politician, Rajasthan Home Minister Gulab Chand Kataria, defended the cow vigilantes following an attack on 15 Muslim traders in the northern Indian district of Alwar for carrying cows. And, on April 3, a Muslim man, Pehlu Khan, was brutally beaten up and killed by the same group in Rajasthan’s Alwar district. His two sons, Aarif and Irshad, were mercilessly beaten and injured.
Ironically, India overtook Brazil in 2014 as the world’s largest bovine meat exporter. The industry is about $4.8 billion strong and employs over 2.5 million people. “The industry’s capacity has been reduced to less than 40 percent in recent weeks,” according to All India Meat and Livestock Exporters Association (AIMLEA).
 
Kashmir and Pakistan
Meanwhile, the security forces are exhausted in the IOK which has been on the boil for nearly a year now and saw violence further intensified since 9 April when a mass boycott of Srinagar Lok Sabha by-election threw eggs on the face of the Indian democracy by making only 7.14 per cent of the voters turn out for polling. This came on top of the ongoing unrest that had begun since July 8, 2016 when a separatist leader, Borhan Wani, was murdered by security forces; triggering a brutal backlash that resulted in the death of 11 protesters and over 120 persons injured, including 96 security personnel, within 48 hours.
Curiously, India never blames itself for the Kashmir occupation and unrest, and prefers to call it a Pakistan-sponsored crisis. On April 23, BJP MP Kulbhushan Jhadav said: “India should recognise Balochistan as a separate country if Pakistan went ahead with the execution of Indian national Kulbhushan Jadhav.” Jhadav has been caught red handed while spying for India inside Pakistan and faces execution under Pakistani laws.
Another BJP MP, Subramanian Swamy, said on the same day:
“Pakistan should be taught a lesson by recognising Balochistan if it executes Jadhav. Not only that, Pakistan should be divided into Balochistan, Pakhtunistan and Sindh to teach it a lesson for encouraging cross-border terrorism.” He added: “India should not worry about Pakistan’s threat of using the atom bomb in case of a troubled situation on the border as the button of this bomb is in the hands of the US, which has full control over the affairs of the neighbouring country.”
As the crisis exacerbates, some reports suggest that the onslaught against Muslims across the country by the so called cow vigilantes may have already triggered a Muslim exodus toward Pakistan and Bangladesh while an intensified Kashmir unrest had alerted a leading Indian daily to warn: “It is time our rulers realise that the stage is getting set in Kashmir for hostilities more intense than any since early November 1947 — when tribesmen from Pakistan were pushed back from Srinagar.”
 
A Naxalites revolution?
Add to it the danger of a Naxalite revolution that rarely gets the media attention it deserves due to the Chinese connection. It was only miles away from then East Pakistan borders that the Naxalites first waged their armed struggle against Indian security forces in the 1960s from the state of West Bengal. Former Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Sigh termed it the “greatest internal security challenge” for India decades later.
Today, the Maoists, also known as Naxalites, control huge swathes of land in central and eastern India by imposing the so called “red corridor” that stretches from Jharkand to West Bengal, Orissa, Bihar, Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh, and, reaches up to Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka.
Simply put: the Maoists control more than one third of India’s 600 districts where local and central security forces are murdered mercilessly almost daily. In its latest thrust, the Maoists had killed on April 24 at least 30 soldiers from the 74th battalion of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and injured many more in Chhattisgarh’s Sukma district.
 
Military doctrine as saviour
Amidst such internal vulnerabilities and external dangers, Delhi is aware that another war with Pakistan is just waiting in the wings.  Delhi also believe its 1.4 million active military personnel, 2.1 million reserve, and about 1.3 million paramilitary personnel will preserve national and territorial integrity by putting into practice a military doctrine exclusively tuned to meet the Pakistani challenges while China is expected to be pacified diplomatically.
Viewed critically, the ‘Cold Start’ doctrine of the Indian armed forces may fall flat in the face of a greater challenge emanating from a bigger war in Korea and, the Indian collaboration with the USA against China which is North Korea’s closest regional ally.
The doctrine is also obsolete due to Pakistan’s obsession to invading the IOK and Indian plan to stop any Pakistani advance by conventional forces performing holding attacks in order to prevent a nuclear retaliation from Pakistan.
Besides, the doctrine’s reliance on seven defensive holding corps of the Indian army countering Pakistani advance while “strike corps” made up of mechanised infantry and artillery conducting main offensive against Pakistan may turn to naught upon a nuclear first strike by Pakistan, or use of battlefield nuclear weapons by the advancing Pakistani forces.
As an Indian commentator wrote in the wake of the latest Maoist attack in Sukma that “China and Pakistan are bleeding India red by supporting the Naxalites and the Islamists, respectively,” recently concluded Dhaka-Delhi defence agreement will do precious little to save India from a calamitous internal implosion that is proving more dangerous than any external aggression. No wonder the regime in Dhaka too is cuddling the Islamists to ward off a major backlash from Muslim-predominant Bangladesh.

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VIEW FROM PAKISTAN
CPEC and peace building in Kashmir
Muhammad Adil Sivia
Eurasia Review
 
Dispute resolution mechanisms anchored on economic interdependence and developing mutual economic vulnerabilities has delivered even in case of worst enemies that repeatedly fought for territory. Germany and France twice went to war over mutually contested territory during the first half of 20th century. Both states claimed Alsace-Loraine as theirs and employed military power to settle the dispute. Control over disputed territory switched hands between the two parties depending on the outcome of war. The defeated state that lost territory would prepare for next war to win back and gain territory.
Full Story
Muhammad Adil Sivia
Eurasia Review
 
Dispute resolution mechanisms anchored on economic interdependence and developing mutual economic vulnerabilities has delivered even in case of worst enemies that repeatedly fought for territory. Germany and France twice went to war over mutually contested territory during the first half of 20th century. Both states claimed Alsace-Loraine as theirs and employed military power to settle the dispute. Control over disputed territory switched hands between the two parties depending on the outcome of war. The defeated state that lost territory would prepare for next war to win back and gain territory.
Nuke induces status quo
This bloodbath for disputed territory between Germany and France continued until leaders and people in both states realized such territory grabbing approach through military means was not going to settle the dispute forever. The United States helped building peace in post World War II in Europe and developed the Western Europe through Marshal Plan. The US helped create an enabling environment for Western European countries that changed the perspective of leaders and people for adopting economic approach for dispute resolution especially territorial disputes.
Confidence building measures, resource sharing and joint administration of disputed territories coupled with initiation of economic integration process eventually created mutually accommodating environment that gave confidence to the leaders for making concessions without being termed as traitors.
Kashmir is unresolved territorial dispute involving Pakistan and India. Both states have resorted to war for resolving the dispute.  Conventional military force failed to deliver the political outcome that both states expected to manufacture through war. After becoming overt nuclear power states, there can be no rational consideration for war on Kashmir fourth time.
Even though there is war mongering attitude by Bharatiya Janata Party government towards Pakistan, the possession of nuclear weapons by Pakistan works to instill rationality in the minds of political and military elite of India. Nuclearization of both states has essentially frozen the territorial status quo prevailing in Kashmir state.
The US has maintained the non-interference stance on Kashmir, encouraging both parties to negotiate directly, but such approach essentially means shying away from moral responsibility that the world leader has for building peace around the world. The US has failed to create enabling environment whereby India and Pakistan could resolve this disputes according to wishes of the people of Kashmir.
 
US failed, CPEC offers opportunity
While making demands especially on Pakistan for economic integration with India, the US and Western leaders hoped that Franco-German Economic Interdependence Model could eventually lead to bilateral approach that would help resolving the Kashmir issue. The US failed to provide specific economic incentives to both states for moving towards resolution of Kashmir dispute. However, China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) provides opportunity to both states for creating enabling environment through economic integration for eventual resolution of Kashmir dispute.
Within South Asia, India is the biggest trade partner of China. Though China has proposed Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Economic Corridor (BCIMEC) under One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative, the real incentive for India will be connectivity with Central Asia. For India, relative economic advantage will be degraded by preferring any regional connectivity strategy ignoring Pakistan.
Within Indian Administered Kashmir (IAK) there is popular support for joining CPEC and connectivity with China and Central Asia. Even the puppet government of IAK has given friendly gestures to the idea of IAK becoming part of CPEC.
Detractors of CPEC in India who are hostile to the idea of IAK becoming part of this economic initiative argue that such action will give legitimacy to Pakistan’s control over Kashmir. Such extremist constituency that right wing nationalist political parties have fostered in India ignore the fact as recognized in United Nations Security Council resolutions that Kashmir is disputed territory.
By making offer to India to be part of CPEC, Pakistan is not trying to seek any legitimacy for its part of Kashmir. The purpose of such offer by Pakistan to India is improving the condition of people of IAK.  Instrument of accession that Hari Singh signed with India is not acceptable because he had ceased to be legitimate rule of the state.  The people of Kashmir state through massive indigenous uprising delivered their verdict on the legitimacy of the ruler.
 
IAK may welcome CPEC
Oppressive tactics that Indian Armed and Paramilitary Forces have been using against the people of Kashmir have failed to break the will of the people to fight for right to self determination that is corner stone of Human Rights Law. Holding Kashmir by India through force is wastage of economic resources and cruel joke with millions of people living under poverty line inside India.
Full potential of transit trade agreement that India has signed with Afghanistan using Pakistan’s land cannot be realized till India starts taking meaningful steps towards economic integration with Pakistan.  The Indian designs for connecting with Central Asia can be economically feasible only if there is peace in the region especially in Afghanistan.
Economic development of China offers opportunity to Pakistan and India to benefit from this miracle. With increasing economic stakes in stability of the region, imperatives for peace building efforts by China through economic development projects will increase. Status quo on Kashmir can be maintained while developing economic links between the two Kashmir. With political will, such a framework for visa issuance can be agreed between the two countries that will not undermine the status of the disputed territory.
Pakistan’s offer to India for joining CPEC if utilized can become boon for improving the condition of people of Kashmir. Mutual trust building by enhancing economic development of Kashmir through CPEC can help create right conditions for resolution of Kashmir dispute.
The indigenous movement of Kashmiris for right to self determination has shown to Indians that business as usual cannot continue in IAK.  CPEC provides opportunity for demilitarization of Kashmir. Instead of using brutal force against the people of Kashmir, India should give nod to IAK becoming part of this economic mega project. Conflict transformation and improving the condition of the people of IAK through CPEC should be focus of New Delhi. CPEC has the potential to bring peace not only in Kashmir but in Afghanistan as well. The future belongs to regional connectivity, economic integration and regional trade.
 
The author works as Research Associate with Strategic Vision Institute (SVI), a think tank based in Islamabad, Pakistan.

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VIEW FROM PAKISTAN
CPEC and peace building in Kashmir
Muhammad Adil Sivia
Eurasia Review
 
Dispute resolution mechanisms anchored on economic interdependence and developing mutual economic vulnerabilities has delivered even in case of worst enemies that repeatedly fought for territory. Germany and France twice went to war over mutually contested territory during the first half of 20th century. Both states claimed Alsace-Loraine as theirs and employed military power to settle the dispute. Control over disputed territory switched hands between the two parties depending on the outcome of war. The defeated state that lost territory would prepare for next war to win back and gain territory.
Full Story
Muhammad Adil Sivia
Eurasia Review
 
Dispute resolution mechanisms anchored on economic interdependence and developing mutual economic vulnerabilities has delivered even in case of worst enemies that repeatedly fought for territory. Germany and France twice went to war over mutually contested territory during the first half of 20th century. Both states claimed Alsace-Loraine as theirs and employed military power to settle the dispute. Control over disputed territory switched hands between the two parties depending on the outcome of war. The defeated state that lost territory would prepare for next war to win back and gain territory.
Nuke induces status quo
This bloodbath for disputed territory between Germany and France continued until leaders and people in both states realized such territory grabbing approach through military means was not going to settle the dispute forever. The United States helped building peace in post World War II in Europe and developed the Western Europe through Marshal Plan. The US helped create an enabling environment for Western European countries that changed the perspective of leaders and people for adopting economic approach for dispute resolution especially territorial disputes.
Confidence building measures, resource sharing and joint administration of disputed territories coupled with initiation of economic integration process eventually created mutually accommodating environment that gave confidence to the leaders for making concessions without being termed as traitors.
Kashmir is unresolved territorial dispute involving Pakistan and India. Both states have resorted to war for resolving the dispute.  Conventional military force failed to deliver the political outcome that both states expected to manufacture through war. After becoming overt nuclear power states, there can be no rational consideration for war on Kashmir fourth time.
Even though there is war mongering attitude by Bharatiya Janata Party government towards Pakistan, the possession of nuclear weapons by Pakistan works to instill rationality in the minds of political and military elite of India. Nuclearization of both states has essentially frozen the territorial status quo prevailing in Kashmir state.
The US has maintained the non-interference stance on Kashmir, encouraging both parties to negotiate directly, but such approach essentially means shying away from moral responsibility that the world leader has for building peace around the world. The US has failed to create enabling environment whereby India and Pakistan could resolve this disputes according to wishes of the people of Kashmir.
 
US failed, CPEC offers opportunity
While making demands especially on Pakistan for economic integration with India, the US and Western leaders hoped that Franco-German Economic Interdependence Model could eventually lead to bilateral approach that would help resolving the Kashmir issue. The US failed to provide specific economic incentives to both states for moving towards resolution of Kashmir dispute. However, China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) provides opportunity to both states for creating enabling environment through economic integration for eventual resolution of Kashmir dispute.
Within South Asia, India is the biggest trade partner of China. Though China has proposed Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Economic Corridor (BCIMEC) under One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative, the real incentive for India will be connectivity with Central Asia. For India, relative economic advantage will be degraded by preferring any regional connectivity strategy ignoring Pakistan.
Within Indian Administered Kashmir (IAK) there is popular support for joining CPEC and connectivity with China and Central Asia. Even the puppet government of IAK has given friendly gestures to the idea of IAK becoming part of CPEC.
Detractors of CPEC in India who are hostile to the idea of IAK becoming part of this economic initiative argue that such action will give legitimacy to Pakistan’s control over Kashmir. Such extremist constituency that right wing nationalist political parties have fostered in India ignore the fact as recognized in United Nations Security Council resolutions that Kashmir is disputed territory.
By making offer to India to be part of CPEC, Pakistan is not trying to seek any legitimacy for its part of Kashmir. The purpose of such offer by Pakistan to India is improving the condition of people of IAK.  Instrument of accession that Hari Singh signed with India is not acceptable because he had ceased to be legitimate rule of the state.  The people of Kashmir state through massive indigenous uprising delivered their verdict on the legitimacy of the ruler.
 
IAK may welcome CPEC
Oppressive tactics that Indian Armed and Paramilitary Forces have been using against the people of Kashmir have failed to break the will of the people to fight for right to self determination that is corner stone of Human Rights Law. Holding Kashmir by India through force is wastage of economic resources and cruel joke with millions of people living under poverty line inside India.
Full potential of transit trade agreement that India has signed with Afghanistan using Pakistan’s land cannot be realized till India starts taking meaningful steps towards economic integration with Pakistan.  The Indian designs for connecting with Central Asia can be economically feasible only if there is peace in the region especially in Afghanistan.
Economic development of China offers opportunity to Pakistan and India to benefit from this miracle. With increasing economic stakes in stability of the region, imperatives for peace building efforts by China through economic development projects will increase. Status quo on Kashmir can be maintained while developing economic links between the two Kashmir. With political will, such a framework for visa issuance can be agreed between the two countries that will not undermine the status of the disputed territory.
Pakistan’s offer to India for joining CPEC if utilized can become boon for improving the condition of people of Kashmir. Mutual trust building by enhancing economic development of Kashmir through CPEC can help create right conditions for resolution of Kashmir dispute.
The indigenous movement of Kashmiris for right to self determination has shown to Indians that business as usual cannot continue in IAK.  CPEC provides opportunity for demilitarization of Kashmir. Instead of using brutal force against the people of Kashmir, India should give nod to IAK becoming part of this economic mega project. Conflict transformation and improving the condition of the people of IAK through CPEC should be focus of New Delhi. CPEC has the potential to bring peace not only in Kashmir but in Afghanistan as well. The future belongs to regional connectivity, economic integration and regional trade.
 
The author works as Research Associate with Strategic Vision Institute (SVI), a think tank based in Islamabad, Pakistan.

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City streets returned to chaos as BRTA gives in
Faruque Ahmed
 
The abortive government drives to stop special bus services in the city streets using signs like ‘seating service or gate lock’ which are attractive to commuters, though the operators illegally realize at least extra 20% to 25% fare reflects how helpless the government is to the organized lobbies in the transport sector.
Full Story
Faruque Ahmed
 
The abortive government drives to stop special bus services in the city streets using signs like ‘seating service or gate lock’ which are attractive to commuters, though the operators illegally realize at least extra 20% to 25% fare reflects how helpless the government is to the organized lobbies in the transport sector.
The government announced the drive by the middle of this month (April) that the special service will stop in city streets and transport owners can’t realize extra fare. A bus claiming the offer of seating service was realizing Tk 25 for a ride from Mirpur to Motijheel as against Tk 20 fare fixed by the government. Similar exploitation was at work in other routes.
 
The nexuses at work
It shows the extent of their manipulation while they were stopping at all regular stoppages and picking up passengers breaking their promises. A total chaos was reigning and Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA) attempted to discipline city transport system by eliminating such services.
It appears that transport owners and workers bodies agreed to the move as the communication ministry threw its weight to make it a success. But from day one most transport owners affected by the drive withdrew their buses from the service creating an acute transport crisis in the city.
Estimates suggest up to 40 percent of buses went off the streets ignoring BRTA’s warning that those buses which will keep off the road will lose route permits and face other punishment. But the bus owners were least bothered and even those buses plying on the road realized extra fare exploiting the acute transport shortage.  During the three days that the crisis continued, buses were overcrowded and while many others were seen walking home to and from office.
It became clear that influential people within the government such as ministers, MPs and party leaders colluded to ensure, as some media report said, making the government drives fail. It is because the owners of the transport companies, the leaders of transport owners association and the Workers Federation work together to maintain their stranglehold on the city streets and continue to realize extra transport fare as and when needed, the reports further claim.
In this context, two government ministers are particularly blamed for making the move fail. This is also an open secret that they coordinated actions from behind the scene going against their own government. It appears that the entire country is now hostage to organized godfathers.
 
Minister says: “They’re very influential”!
The failure of the drive has explained that a solution to the chaos in the city transport system is almost impossible as the people involved both within and without are extremely powerful and they always manipulate to protect their own interest at the cost of the common people. The administration only watches them do so.
They violate existing laws and government directives. They even dare to disregard court verdicts and keep people hostage by enforcing wildcat strikes at any time, an insider says.  Even they confront the government when it is about to enact a new law such as “Road Transport Act-2017” that incorporates some clauses including minimum education of a driver (up to class eight) and punishment for neglect to driving causing road accident.
It is clear that the move to stop special seating services in city streets melted away without cooperation from transport owners as a helpless communication minister complained they are so powerful that they don’t even attend meeting for discussion on how to resolve the crisis.
Minister Obaidul Quader helplessly told the media, “What can I do? If someone keeps his bus off the road showing various excuses. Can we bring them back on the street forcibly?” Swallowing his humiliation, he said “Those in the transport sector are no ordinary people. Many of them are very influential … The current situation in the transport sector can be described as noting but anarchy.”
The minister should be ashamed of himself for his being allowed to be cowed down by the hooligans in the transport sector, projecting himself as a weakling politician, expressing his inability to control a  gang of hooligans creating chaos and bring them to book. If he can’t do that, he should simply resign from his job, because in the process he has also humiliated the government, Prime Minister Hasina and projecting the whole administration as totally incompetent.
 
A bad example set
If a minister, who is also the powerful general secretary of the ruling party, surrenders like this before the troublemakers in the transport sector, how could the government reign in the chaos so created. His statement only exposed the government’s vulnerability to the vested interest groups and its inability to tackle any difficult problem.
The BRTA drive was also focused on stopping old dilapidated buses and to make sure that buses without fitness certificate or drivers without driving licenses will not be able to operate in the city streets. Insiders attending the BRTA meeting that put an end to the drive said 40 participants representing bus owners attended the meeting while four were from the police. The civil society had just one person while the ministry had none.
From the very beginning of the meeting, some bus owners behaved as if the BRTA drive had already been over while suggesting suspension of the drive. At one stage, BRTA Chairman left the room and on his return after some time he declared that the drive had been temporarily suspended. BRTA chairman however said the drive against unfit vehicles and drivers without license will continue but activities in city streets suggest this move too has been suspended as the transporters demanded.
“This will set a bad example in the transport sector and will have an adverse impact on its future,” said Ilias Kanchan, chairman of Nirapad Sarak Chai, a platform working for ensuring road safety. He also took part in the meeting. “What was the necessity of launching such a drive, if you would stop it midway”, said a commuter while talking to media after the suspension.

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HINDI FOR OFFICIAL SPEECHES
The order is a distraction from India’s real problems
Mrinal Pande
 
In an age when ordinances and legal challenges are so thick on the ground, it is easy to step into a trap. If you are a believer in a liberal secular state, you realise the very words have been drained of their original meaning, the language they were a part of no longer navigates and orients debates. As middle-class practitioners of journalism, you are suddenly expected to live with a constant sense of guilt for being well-educated, for being a feminist or an atheist.
Full Story
Mrinal Pande
 
In an age when ordinances and legal challenges are so thick on the ground, it is easy to step into a trap. If you are a believer in a liberal secular state, you realise the very words have been drained of their original meaning, the language they were a part of no longer navigates and orients debates. As middle-class practitioners of journalism, you are suddenly expected to live with a constant sense of guilt for being well-educated, for being a feminist or an atheist.
You are no longer an individual but a type: those who sit in mega cities in air-conditioned cabins, or study in privileged universities and debate national issues in campus dhabas. Each night on prime time television debates, trivial and peripheral issues arise like vampires, to be picked up and refracted a million times by social media.
 
Issues we discuss
As a people you realise, with a shudder, that we are constantly distracted by peripheral issues made to seem like genuine issues – the beef ban, triple talaq, the volume of the morning azaan at mosques, or sundry tweets aimed to hurt and threaten young female students, journalists or retired officials who question the subversion of correct military or civil decision-making.
All this while major issues like the plight of southern farmers who paraded naked for weeks in Delhi to demand drought compensation, the long-term effects of demonetisation on jobs and the informal sector (which employs most of our women workers), the nutritional and health status of the (very large) officially poor and marginalised groups in rural and urban areas, and the patterns of migration of the rural and urban poor triggering conflicts all over, must wait.
This piece came out of a request for a write-up on the president this week approving a proposal (of a government body for the promotion of Hindi) mandating the prime minister, president and vice-president to deliver or read out all their public speeches in Hindi. I mulled over the matter and, even though I have been a Hindi writer and a journalist for half a century, found no reason to celebrate this as a victory for Hindi. For one, as matters stand legally, Hindi cannot be deemed India’s national language until non-Hindi states (long opposed to it) give it their assent. And for another, how can any fair-minded citizen brought up in a liberal democratic ethos remain meekly tolerant of what is, after all, a flouting of the state’s legal obligation to respect the opinions of non-Hindi states in the east and south? That will create more enemies for this poor misunderstood mother tongue of millions.
 
Big fuss over non-issues
Could it be that orders such as this, or the ban on beef, or the shutting down of liquor shops along highways, or the proposal for state control on portions of food served in restaurants, emanate from faceless authorities sitting in some kind of war room somewhere aiming to deflect the nation’s attention from issues the state no longer wishes to debate? And is that the reason why as soon as such ideas manifest themselves in the public space, they go viral within minutes and set the agenda for national debate in the media?
If you really analyse it, the mandate on the use of Hindi translates into asking those who are mostly already using the language on formal occasions to continue to do so, but backed by a public proclamation this time. Behold also that the terms of two of the men at the top, President Pranab Mukherjee and Vice-President Hamid Ansari, end soon:
Mukherjee bows out in July and Ansari the next month. As for the Opposition, the Rashtriya Janata Dal, the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party are unlikely to oppose the order. And the Congress, furiously rummaging for votes for the 2019 general elections in the backyards of Amethi and Rae Bareli in Uttar Pradesh, is unlikely to, at this point, signal a disdain for Hindi or root for English.
So what happens each time such an issue crops up? The media predictably grabs it. Take the example of the row over triple talaq, a practice where a Muslim man can divorce his wife merely by uttering the word talaq thrice. The government and several women have moved the Supreme Court against this practice as well as that of halala – where a Muslim woman who wishes to remarry her former husband must marry another man, consumate that marriage and get him to divorce her. Yes, triple talaq and halala are abhorrent practices that have denied gender equality to countless women. But what of the third issue mentioned in the petition pending before the Supreme Court: polygamy (having more than one spouse)?
 
Promoting majoritarianism rule
Since the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes have also been granted the right to polygamy, and both groups have registered a high incidence of polygamy in the Census, how and why is it that this matter has not been simultaneously brought up to be debated as hotly as the other two, if at all? Has the real aim behind the petition all along been only to reduce the authority of the Muslim clergy – the guardians of Muslim personal law or Sharia – and to finally co-opt them into supporting a progressive move (as in the case of the beef ban)?
The way the debate is going, if triple talaq is struck down, the majority supporters of this move would be told that they have cause to feel virtuous for having helped their Muslim sisters escape the clutches of an evil patriarchy. (It seems to be happening already, with Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Sadhvi Prachi advising victims of triple talaq last week to convert to Hinduism and marry Hindu men.) The majoritarian state (poorna bahumat ki sarkar) then gets branded progressive, secular and pro-women ahead of the 2019 elections. And efforts to lure away large chunks from Opposition parties that rule states that are poll-bound get an automatic boost.
There are two sorts of impoverishment – one of the material kind, another of the psychological sort. Communities marginalised and denied an equal share in debates on vital issues affecting them eventually become so submissive that their needs and the desire to fight to fulfil those needs both begin to atrophy. “Do we eat beef? Bada (buffalo) meat?” asked a bewildered woman on TV. “No, no, we just cannot afford it. We barely scrape together a meal each day.” But the media carries on, rooting for non-issues, treating any text the state throws at it as a double text for Sabka Sath Sabka Vikas, the panelists busy with their Talmudic hairsplitting of the how-many-angels-on-the-head-of-a-needle kind.
 
Sound and fake fury
Real barbarism, wrote the Polish writer-journalist Ryszard Kapuscinski, begins when one can no longer judge or know that what he does is barbaric.
These days, listening to long meandering TV debates about some media baron humiliating the nation by calling us poor, one is frequently tempted to believe that it is we, a brave third world country struggling to emerge as a super power, who alone know the future and the truth about life. We who have tasted the bitterness, financial insecurity and marginalisation peculiar to a vernacular writer in the developing world are being provoked subtly to feel even more special as the bottom-of-the-barrel monkeys. But this mindset, being sold so hard and so often, also presupposes that life in India is a stinking hole, especially for vernacular wallahs.
The calm, contentment and comfort enjoyed by representatives of the New York Times or Time magazine or The Guardian, actually all those on the other side of the linguistic divide, is by nature fragile and accidental in the life of Real India. This inverted snobbery of the poor presupposes that the majority that have suffered, endured great adversity and repeated defeats in the past have a greater right to have the final say, to decide everything in this century, no matter how narrow and self-centered their perspectives, how embittered and closed their minds.
These ephemeral debates with their vociferous demonstrations of loyalty, consent and diligence over issues such as the size of tricolours in school buildings, the singing of Vande Mataram, the performance of Surya Namaskar, mob lynchings and meat eating drown out all reasonable doubts about issues that should really matter to us. To question the proffered Big Vision as weak is to be anti-national and to condemn yourself to a hell where trolls bay for your blood. Of course, even now there are successful elastic journalists, always smiling, always ambiguous as they sign off. They thunder or smile and shush all others to allow the party spokesperson to unfurl his daily pack of half-truths before the nation every evening. Even in print, one notices, planted stories have arrived. It is fast becoming a shameless ruthless world of money and power-grabbing.
 
Us versus them
Empire-building, says the Mahabharata, is a word that gobbles up all others (sarva bhak). The ease with which the human mind can be manipulated by the builder of an empire sees to it that the mass receives but no longer seeks. Citizens are being turned into media consumers satisfied with the simplified, embellished kitsch served to them at subsidised rates or for free through thunderous speeches delivered by a rockstar leader. Power is now one vast spectacle full of sound and fake fury that puts Bollywood to shame.
The only emperor, the poet William Carlos Williams wrote, is the emperor of ice-cream. In the age of 24x7 television and social media streaming, elections in India are war: they create a world where everything gets magnified, full of great tension, terror and cruelty.  There is no one else on this battlefield, we are told. Each evening, it has to be Us versus Them.

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Trump uses “moving target” strategy to avoid indictment

Allan Ishac
in Washington DC
 
Veteran White House observers say that President Trump is using a cunning political strategy, learned over decades of avoiding indictment in the shady real estate business, to avoid impeachment.
“The president is skillfully moving from one crime to the next within hours,” said a Democratic senator on a congressional oversight committee speaking off the record. “He’s basically using a ‘moving target’ strategy that is successfully frustrating our efforts to fully investigate any single one of his many treasonous acts.”
Full Story
Allan Ishac
in Washington DC
 
Veteran White House observers say that President Trump is using a cunning political strategy, learned over decades of avoiding indictment in the shady real estate business, to avoid impeachment.
“The president is skillfully moving from one crime to the next within hours,” said a Democratic senator on a congressional oversight committee speaking off the record. “He’s basically using a ‘moving target’ strategy that is successfully frustrating our efforts to fully investigate any single one of his many treasonous acts.”
Ethics leaders say Trump shifts quickly from one impeachable offense to another, making it hard to pin him down on any one An FBI Special Agent, who is looking into Trump’s Russia ties and who also asked to remain anonymous, essentially agreed with the senator.  “We’ve never seen anything like this. Just when we think we’re about to crack the Russia thing, we’re called away to look into tax evasion charges, or illegal nepotism on the part of the First Family, or misappropriation of federal funds, or making false wiretap claims. Our resources are totally overextended?—?there’s just no way we can keep up with him.”
Michael Beschloss, a presidential historian and NBC consultant, said it is rare for an American president to juggle so many impeachable crimes, so successfully, at the same time. “Nixon had the Watergate scandal, of course, but he didn’t pile additional crimes on top of that,” said Beschloss. “Kennedy had the extramarital affairs and so did Clinton, but they stayed clear of any other impeachable improprieties while they were in the process of committing adultery.  Trump is going for five or six impeachable felonies simultaneously—that’s disrespectful to the office and to the American people…but it’s also fairly impressive.”
It is not known how long President Trump can keep up his moving target strategy, or how many more crimes he will commit before being indicted and impeached, but Washington insiders say he already holds the American record for egregious criminal offenses in the first 100 days, and is a leading candidate for world record holder—eclipsing both President Vladimir Putin of Russia and President Recep Erdoan of Turkey, and only slightly trailing former President Saddam Hussein of Iraq.

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Trump uses “moving target” strategy to avoid indictment

Allan Ishac
in Washington DC
 
Veteran White House observers say that President Trump is using a cunning political strategy, learned over decades of avoiding indictment in the shady real estate business, to avoid impeachment.
“The president is skillfully moving from one crime to the next within hours,” said a Democratic senator on a congressional oversight committee speaking off the record. “He’s basically using a ‘moving target’ strategy that is successfully frustrating our efforts to fully investigate any single one of his many treasonous acts.”
Full Story
Allan Ishac
in Washington DC
 
Veteran White House observers say that President Trump is using a cunning political strategy, learned over decades of avoiding indictment in the shady real estate business, to avoid impeachment.
“The president is skillfully moving from one crime to the next within hours,” said a Democratic senator on a congressional oversight committee speaking off the record. “He’s basically using a ‘moving target’ strategy that is successfully frustrating our efforts to fully investigate any single one of his many treasonous acts.”
Ethics leaders say Trump shifts quickly from one impeachable offense to another, making it hard to pin him down on any one An FBI Special Agent, who is looking into Trump’s Russia ties and who also asked to remain anonymous, essentially agreed with the senator.  “We’ve never seen anything like this. Just when we think we’re about to crack the Russia thing, we’re called away to look into tax evasion charges, or illegal nepotism on the part of the First Family, or misappropriation of federal funds, or making false wiretap claims. Our resources are totally overextended?—?there’s just no way we can keep up with him.”
Michael Beschloss, a presidential historian and NBC consultant, said it is rare for an American president to juggle so many impeachable crimes, so successfully, at the same time. “Nixon had the Watergate scandal, of course, but he didn’t pile additional crimes on top of that,” said Beschloss. “Kennedy had the extramarital affairs and so did Clinton, but they stayed clear of any other impeachable improprieties while they were in the process of committing adultery.  Trump is going for five or six impeachable felonies simultaneously—that’s disrespectful to the office and to the American people…but it’s also fairly impressive.”
It is not known how long President Trump can keep up his moving target strategy, or how many more crimes he will commit before being indicted and impeached, but Washington insiders say he already holds the American record for egregious criminal offenses in the first 100 days, and is a leading candidate for world record holder—eclipsing both President Vladimir Putin of Russia and President Recep Erdoan of Turkey, and only slightly trailing former President Saddam Hussein of Iraq.

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INDIAN POLITICAL SCENE
Modi can’t be countered on his own turf: New ideas needed
M. K. Venu
 
Yogendra Yadav of Sawraj Abhiyan has raised the most relevant question with regard to the decline of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in the Delhi municipal polls. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s popularity was at its peak in early 2015 when AAP pulled off the most spectacular victory in the Delhi assembly polls. So what has changed since then for AAP to do so badly in the municipal polls?
Full Story
M. K. Venu
 
Yogendra Yadav of Sawraj Abhiyan has raised the most relevant question with regard to the decline of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in the Delhi municipal polls. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s popularity was at its peak in early 2015 when AAP pulled off the most spectacular victory in the Delhi assembly polls. So what has changed since then for AAP to do so badly in the municipal polls?
The point is that Modi’s popularity has been constant between January 2015 and May 2017. Is there some other variable, then, that explains the decline of AAP? What is that variable? This is what AAP will have to introspect about honestly. In a way, other political outfits ruling in different states will also have to ponder whether their strategy of taking on Modi’s persona alone will help in the long run.
The electorate seems to be tiring of personality clashes and Modi, who himself fought a presidential-style election in 2014, is cleverly shifting his strategy by placing substantive issues before the people. At last he has started moving the central and state machinery to deliver targeted welfare schemes like subsidised cooking gas, low-cost housing and affordable generic medicines to the poor. Of course, he is not just doing that. He is also cleverly mixing welfare with aggressive nationalism and taking Hindutva to the subalterns.
By doing all this, Modi is also crafting a new identity for himself and the BJP. Of late, one has heard some ordinary voters saying Modi’s BJP is different from the earlier BJP. It is this phenomenon that the opposition parties need to examine closely before personally attacking Modi as the only political strategy. They are strengthening Modi by focusing on his personality. In a one-to-one personality contest, the opposition leaders are very weak vis-à-vis Modi. This is the point Yadav is making when he implies that Kejriwal clearly lost out in a personality contest. The personality contest successfully camouflaged the colossal non-performance of the BJP, which has ruled the Delhi municipal corporations since 2007. When did you last see a prime minister being projected as a face for the municipal polls?
The BJP will keep inviting a personality contest in all the ensuing assembly elections whether in Gujarat, Himachal or Karnataka over the next year or so. The opposition will have to play a different game, though it will be quite tough to avoid the temptation of joining issue with Modi personally. If Modi invites them for a game of football, the opposition must invite him to play hockey. This will be difficult because the prime minister enjoys a vantage point to set the agenda. But still the opposition must try to make Modi play a different game that he may not be entirely familiar with.
Nitish Kumar is one leader who has at least understood this. At the release of P. Chidambaram’s book in the capital a few months ago, he suggested that at least 90% of the time the opposition must pitch its own well-thought-through agenda instead of just responding to Modi all the time. Only 10% of the time should the opposition be in a purely reactive mode.
This is easier said than done. If the BJP pitches the issue of the Ram temple in Ayodhya, the opposition will have to respond. It cannot avoid it or be seen as a quiet bystander. But it can find creative ways of fuelling a parallel discussion on the mandir-masjid issue. Mahatma Gandhi used to constantly engage the Hindutva outfits on the cow slaughter question, while proclaiming himself as a devout follower of the orthodox Vaishnav sect. Gandhi’s language was like that of the liberation theologists of latter-day Latin America. Indian polity, and more particularly the collective opposition to the hard Hindutva regime, needs a new language and idiom. This fight cannot be fought on the merits of development, economic growth and jobs alone. There is a need for a new political idiom which must come as an unpleasant surprise to the Sangh parivar. This is the only way to politically contest the Hindutva nationalists.

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Hindi is Mother tongue of 26% Indians
Scroll.In
Special Correspondent
 
On Thursday (April 20), Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam Chief M. Karunanidhi criticised an order by the Home Ministry advising government officials to accord priority to Hindi when writing letters and on social media.  Karunanidhi said that the order was an attempt to “impose Hindi against one’s wish”. He said it should “be seen as an attempt to treat non-Hindi speakers as second class citizens”.  However, home minister Rajnath Singh clarified in a tweet, “The Home Ministry is of the view that all Indian languages are important.  The Ministry is committed to promote all languages of the country.”
Full Story
Scroll.In
Special Correspondent
 
On Thursday (April 20), Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam Chief M. Karunanidhi criticised an order by the Home Ministry advising government officials to accord priority to Hindi when writing letters and on social media.  Karunanidhi said that the order was an attempt to “impose Hindi against one’s wish”. He said it should “be seen as an attempt to treat non-Hindi speakers as second class citizens”.  However, home minister Rajnath Singh clarified in a tweet, “The Home Ministry is of the view that all Indian languages are important.  The Ministry is committed to promote all languages of the country.”
On the social media, the directive found several supporters.  Some claimed that the order was justified because Hindi is, after all, India’s national language. It isn’t: it’s one of India’s two official language, along with English.
Others made a majoritarian argument, suggesting that Hindi should be made the national language because it is the mother tongue of about 45% of all Indians.
That, after all, is what the Census of India says.
However, the devil is in the details. In reality, only about 26% of Indians in the 2001 census reported that Hindi was their mother tongue. But the census also counts speakers of more than 49 other related linguistic traditions and dialects as Hindi speakers. As a result, people who listed their mother tongues as Bhojpuri, Harayanvi, Maghadi, Marwari, Garhwali and scores of others were also categorised as Hindi speakers.
This has long been a vexed issue. “The question of the status of Hindi in the Indian Census has been debated since the earliest census exercises,” said GN Devy, the chairperson of the People’s Linguistic Survey of India, which was started in 2010 to create a linguistic portrait of India that is “rooted in people’s perception of language”.  Devy said that the problem arose with the official Linguistic Survey of India conducted between 1894 and 1928 under the supervision of British civil servant George Grierson. That survey used the word “dialect” to categorise several languages spoken by smaller groups.  Many languages of present-day Uttarakhand, Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh were described as dialects, Devy said.
“So long as that misconception is not removed, the exact status of Hindi as a language shall not be known,” Devy said.  However, he cautioned against singling out Hindi “as an instance of over-enthusiasm of language imperialism”. At one time, Konkani was seen as a dialect of Marathi as well as that of Kannada; Oriya was understood as a sub-set of Bangla, while Kuchhi in Gujarat is perceived as a sister of Gujarati.
Said Devy: “The question of ‘language and dialect’ has not been properly sorted out in part of the world so far.”

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