Dr Chandra Muzaffar
It is not surprising that the Davos Forum held in the middle of January 2017 chose not to examine the obscene, grotesque, ever widening economic inequalities in the world brought to its attention by Oxfam, the global aid and development confederation. Oxfam revealed on the 15th of January that “the richest eight tycoons on the planet are worth as much as the poorest 3.6 billion people” — half of the world’s population. It also emphasised that the richest 1% continues to own more than the other 99% combined.
These inequalities have been getting worse over the years. In 2010, a mere seven years ago, the wealth of 43 of the world’s richest people equalled to that of half of the human family. Between 1988 and 2011 the incomes of the top 1 % had increased by 182 times compared to the bottom 10%.
Challenge to global justice
Critics of Oxfam’s findings such as the Adam Smith Institute argue that “it is not the wealth of the world’s rich that matters, but the welfare of the world’s poor and this is improving every year.” They claim that the proportion surviving on less than US 2 dollars a day has fallen from 69.9 % in 1981 to 43% in 2008. But they miss the point. While it is true that absolute poverty has been reduced on a global scale, there is greater concentration of wealth in fewer hands today than ever before. It is this disparity with all its dire consequences that poses a monumental challenge to the struggle for global justice.
Before we look at some of the possible solutions to this injustice, it is important to establish the underlying causes of current economic inequalities. The strengthening of a global economic system driven by the acquisition and accumulation of unfettered private wealth which regards the maximisation of profits in all spheres of activity as its credo is undoubtedly one of the root causes.
In the last few decades this system has become even more rapacious as it pushes for the Liberalisation of trade and investments, the Deregulation of financial services and the Privatisation of public goods and resources. The LDP dimensions of the global economy have reinforced elite interests to such a degree that huge bonuses paid to the CEOs of major corporations even in the midst of a financial crisis are viewed as “a justifiable necessity.” Any wonder why Davos was not prepared to address the question of stark inequalities? Indeed, the manner in which the global economy has institutionalised greed and legitimised selfishness today is without precedence in human history.
How to meet this challenge?
How do we meet this challenge? Currency markets will have to be regulated and speculative capital will have to be curbed. Transactions which are unrelated to output or productivity in the real economy should be discouraged. There should also be action against tax havens — a call which Oxfam had made to all world leaders last year. A global network of tax havens enables the very rich to hide 7.6 trillion US dollars. It skews economies at all levels — national, regional and global — in favour of the rich. It widens the chasm between those who have a lot and those who have a little.
To act effectively against tax havens there has to be global cooperation. This is also true of currency speculation. A State on its own cannot eliminate currency speculation given the nature of capital flows. What this means is that in an interdependent world, justice has to be a global commitment transcending national boundaries.
Nonetheless, there are some measures that can be initiated within national boundaries. The public sector for instance can be given a more extensive role in managing public goods and services on behalf of the people as a whole. Protecting the commons should be its duty especially in the face of the predatory lust for private gain. It would also act as a check against the widening gap between the rich and poor.
Paying workers a living wage would be yet another measure that would help to close the gap with the upper echelons of private and public corporations. A living wage which goes beyond a minimum wage would not only cater for the basic needs of a family but would also take into account inflationary trends in society. In this regard, compensating women for unpaid household work and ensuring equal pay for equal work with their male counterparts would go a long way in reducing inequality in society.
Addressing with courage, firmness needed
Plugging leakages in the economy, getting rid of wasteful expenditure and most of all, combating corruption would also contribute towards the quest for justice and equality. For the most part, these are tasks that come within the jurisdiction of the State. If there is a sincere effort to develop an ethically sound economy and society, it is quite conceivable that the disparities that deny the disadvantaged their rightful opportunities to advance in life would be minimised.
Whether it is at the national or global level, it is clear that the struggle against inequality requires sincerity, courage and determination on the part of those who matter.
Dr. Chandra Muzaffar is President of the International Movement for a Just World (JUST),Malaysia.
The forthcoming UP Assembly Elections (2017) are regarded as very crucial for all the political parties and more so for the future of secularism and democracy in the country. BJP’s rise on the national scene began at a higher pitch with Ram Temple agitation and the consequent rise in communal violence. Since then it has been adding more divisive issues and with greater vehemence to reap electoral benefits.
Even before the elections in UP were declared many a BJP leaders had been raising issues like Ram Temple, Love Jihad and exodus of Hindus from Kairana. In Gujarat Modi during the Gujarat carnage used the infamous ‘action-reaction’ theory and the statement that refugee camps have become the ‘child production centers’ and so should be closed down.
BJP for total Hindu society
In due course to give a neutral cover to the underlying communal agenda he did shift to the ‘development agenda’, which was more of an eye wash. Along with the media blitz and a clever publicity he tried to sell his image of ‘development man’ and took the policies to woo the Corporate World. But the slip always kept showing. Even during the creation of euphoria of ‘Acche Din’ during 2014 General elections, he kept on raising the issues of Pink revolution (relating to beef) and Bangladeshi immigrants in the context of saving Rhinos in Assam.
His associates did keep talking of issues related to Hindutva agenda like Ram Temple, Triple Talaq, Article 370 at the same time. The propaganda of development and communal message carried the day for BJP during 2014 elections as it managed to get simple majority on its own in Lok Sabha. Now Election Commission has censured BJP MP Sakshi Maharaj for his remarks where he blames Muslims for the rise in population.
Currently in UP elections; the attempt is on to sell ‘national pride’, in the form of surgical strike on Pakistan and demonetization as a measure to root out black money. It seems both these have floundered in public image as by now it is well known that surgical strike was followed by the killings of Indian soldiers in large numbers. The pangs of demonetization for the average people are too severe to make them forget their post demonetization suffering to be able to support the move. Sensing this; this party has stepped up on the divisive propaganda. The BJP manifesto delineates this in a very clever manner. It invokes Hindu pride it talks of ushering in ‘Sampooran Hindu samaj (Total Hindu society) The Ram Temple issue finds its place.
Modi underplays communal issues
The critics say that Ram Temple issue is a permanent treasure for BJP to consolidate its vote bank as and when needed. Since Babri demolition, this issue has been finding mention in all BJP utterances, knowing full well that the matter is lying in the Supreme Court.
Now new dimensions have been added to the armamentarium by various leaders of BJP. Clearly Modi will underplay communal issues or present them in a subtle way while his colleagues down the line are more involved in these utterances in a direct and forthright manner. The issue of Hindu exodus from Kairana was raised by BJP M.P. Hukum Singh a while ago. Now another BJP MP Yogi Adityanath has made it more frightening by saying that whole of Western UP is being converted into Kashmir, and Hindus are being terrorized and are being made to flee the area. As a matter of fact the issue is that post Muzzafarnagar violence thousands of Muslims were forced to leave their villages. Hukum Singh’s assertion of Hindu exodus from Kairana was proved to be more of make-believe as from his list of families which had supposed to leave the village, many of them were right there and some had left for social and economic reasons. Now BJP manifesto is talking about White paper on the issue.
The Muzzafarnagar riots were instigated around the issue of love jihad, now the BJP manifesto is talking of creating ‘Anti Romeo squads’, which is a hidden message against inter-religious marriages, the love jihad issue being projected in a newer language. Beef has been the major polarizing point for BJP, now after Dadri incident they have reaped a rich crop of polarization around this issue and manifesto is promising to close down mechanized abattoirs. The BJP’s double standards about gender justice are frighteningly obvious.
Secular poll campaign needed
While it is very concerned about the issue of Triple Talaq for Muslim women, it is quiet about the atrocities faced by dalit, tribal and Hindu women. Clearly raising the issue of triple talaq has nothing to do with justice for BJP; it is a stick to beat minorities with, notwithstanding the fact that Muslim women do require the abolition of practices like this which are retarding their social progress.
Sangeet Som, BJP MLA, had recently circulated the video of his post Dadri speech. An FIR was registered against him for violating the law and the code of conduct for violating the poll code. Similarly another BJP MLA Suresh Rana has been booked on charges of inciting hatred after he said that curfew will be imposed in Kairana, Deoband and Moradabad if he is elected again in assembly polls next month. Yogi Adiyanath has stated that voters should remember riots and rapes before casting their votes.
These are few from the numerous incidents from the speeches of this outfit, whose core electoral strategy has been to polarize along religious lines. Through its machinations it has been adding issue after issue to the earlier existing issues like Ram Temple and article 370. Today it has a large set of such issues which are spelt out by different leaders. Another aspect of this propaganda is that there is also a division of labor among these leaders. While some try to play development card, some present communal agenda in a concealed language others are blunt and direct in inciting the communal Hate. The Supreme Court has opined that Electoral process should be a secular activity, we need to remind ourselves of that and Election Commission needs to exercise the restrain in a more effective way.
Priti Gulati Cox
For more than a quarter century, journalist/activist Teesta Setalvad has worked tirelessly to ensure that India’s Constitution serves the people. Her most well-known work involved exposing, through her group Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP), the atrocities committed by Hindutva extremists in Gujarat in 2002. As part of its work seeking justice for the victims of that pogrom, CJP has continued its efforts to have criminal charges filed against Prime Minister Modi for his role in encouraging the atrocities in his then-role as Gujarat Chief Minister.
Now Teesta and her husband/coworker Javed Anand are being brough up on charges themselves for allegedly violating the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA). The charges, forcefully denied by Teesta and Javed, were clearly meant as retaliation for their pursuit of justice for Gujarat, among other grassroots issues.
Modi’s oppression unites people
The usual actions taken against those accused of FCRA violations are not criminal charges but revocation of licenses to receive foreign funds and, potentially, fines. Indeed, two of Teesta’s organizations were among 20,000 NGOs, largely human-rights groups, who had their licenses revoked in 2015-16. Another prominent Modi critic who lost her license, Shabnam Hashmi, told The Telegraph, “This government’s actions are second only to Emergency-era intolerance. We have no other option but to fight it out.
That sweeping persecution of rights groups has now been followed by this month’s harsher prosecution targeting Teesta and Javed. Modi’s men cannot be allowed to get away with burying the past, with punishing those who have exposed his crimes. Proud patriots, go out there on the streets—not just on Republic Day but every day—and wave those flags. No, not one symbolic flag, but many, each with a different face of exclusion at the heart of it, where the Ashoka Chakra used to be.
Let’s see a citizen-sea waving faces of citizen-exclusion. Faces of those who have paid and are continuing to pay the ultimate price for confronting power with truth at various times in the country’s history. Faces resisting religious and economic fundamentalism and asserting their human right to dignity, inclusion, equality and justice—the stuff we twice-borns take so much for granted.
Victims’ JatiIndia flag
In the country I call JatiIndia, numerous atrocities are committed daily. The time has come to replace monocrop patriotism with a more diverse one because there is no one symbolic flag in which to pack these atrocities in. Don’t buy into the maya that the state cares about each and every one of you equally. It doesn’t. The state is not there for you. Rather, it’s out to get you. Especially if your fight is a fight for justice and equality.
Note: In this JatiIndia flag, caste is represented by the victims of Modi and his Hindutva nationalists in Gujarat, the present by the face of the indomitable Teesta, and the future by the nation’s Constitution, which will remain with us, intact, thanks to the efforts of Teesta and many others like her. For more on the JatiIndia series and the heroes it features, please see this interview with Muslim Press.
Priti Gulati Cox (@PritiGCox) is an interdisciplinary artist and a local coordinator for the peace and justice organization CODEPINK. She lives in Salina, Kansas, and can be reached at email@example.com. Visit caste, capitalism, climate to see more of her work.
The inauguration of Donald Trump as the 45th President has ushered in a new era of uncertainty, nowhere more so than in the Middle East. The rules of the game have indeed taken a turn for the better for Bibi Netanyahou, who gave the final push to the construction of 566 new homes in East Jerusalem.
The new lodgings will be built in Pisgat Zeev, Ramot, and Ramat Shlomo, Meïr Turjeman, the Head of the Municipality in Jerusalem, declared while adding that he has plans to build 11000 homes to accommodate the demands of the newly-arrived Jews.
Trump, Netanyahu in agreement
The deal seems to have the support of both the Prime Minister of Israel and the President Trump. The former is elated by the election of Mr. Trump and delighted that President Obama, who dealt in fact, not speculation, is finally gone. No wonder that some 430 000 Israeli settlers actually live in occupied West Bank and more than 200 000 in East Jerusalem, the part of the city Palestinians hope to turn into the capital of the state they aspire to found.
In point of fact, Bibi Natanyahou is having a celebration of a kind. The new order of things is pleasing to him insofar as he cannot wait to annex the rest of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and kill the peace deal with Palestine once and for all. He hopes to do all this with the blessing of President Trump and his administration. Even so, let us consider for a moment that the US government moved its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and that the “Eternal City” has indeed become the new capital of Israel. Let us also consider that Al-Aqsa Dome from which the Prophet Mohammed is said to have ascended to Heaven is no longer standing on its foundations and that a Jewish Temple is built on its ruins. If that were to happen, and it could happen under a mentally unstable President Trump, I fear for the future of the region which might go ablaze once again.
The bill (Recognition Act) that was introduced by the three Republican senators on January 3rd —namely, Ted Cruz, Dean Heller, and Marco Rubio after they were sworn into the 115thCongress is aimed at encouraging the move of the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
It violates UNSC’s 478 resolution
The idea, encouraged by President Trump himself, is not new. Far from the truth. Both Bill Clinton and George W Bush tried to move the American embassy to Jerusalem but changed their mind once in office, deferring the implementa-tion of the 1995 so-called Jerusalem Embassy Act, which stipulates that Jerusalem is Israel’s “undivided” capital.
The move by the newly elected Republican majority Congress to relocate the US Embassy runs contrary to world opinion in that not a single state acknowledges Israel’s sovereignty over Jerusalem. It is for this very reason that not one country has an embassy there. If this were to happen, the country in question would be violating international law and UN Security Council Resolution 478. So, were the US Embassy to flit to Jerusalem under the watchful gaze of the Trump administration, it would not only contravene international law but also deny the Palestinian right to self-determination and return home.
In point of fact, ever since 1967, Israel has been busy turning Jerusalem into a Jewish city: landscape, food, fashion, architecture, education, history, music, dance, and so forth. It has done so by adopting a policy of Judaisation aimed at cleansing the city from its multicultural and multi-religious constituencies. Such a method of “purifying” the city includes the revocation of Palestinian residency introduced under the pretext of a “breach of allegiance,” barring Palestinian families from reunifying, practicing urban discrimination as well as zoning policy, and above all, constructing the infamous wall that disfigures and slices through Jerusalem and the West Bank, which has become a Bantustan of sorts. In addition, one must point to the collapse of the economy in East Jerusalem which had until recently a thriving tourism industry. All that is gone as I write.
A recipe for disaster
The relocation of the US Embassy would also encourage Israel to go on building illegal settlements which are stifling some 300,000 Palestinians in East Jerusalem who live below the poverty line. Add to that the housing crisis since Palestinians have access only to 13% of the land in East Jerusalem while Jewish settlers hog every day on 35% of the land. The alarming reality is that not only Trump but also Jared Kushner, a passive-aggressive special adviser of a kind to the president, and indeed his family donate colossal amounts of money to new settlements rising in Bet El, an area the size of Manhattan, situated north of Jerusalem. It is likely that the aggressive policy of annexation will inflame the situation on the ground, especially in light of the appointment of the US new ambassador to Israel, the pro-Israel hardliner, David Friedman, who heads the American Friends of Bet El Institutions and who maintains that the “holy city of Jerusalem belongs to the Jewish people forever.” For Trump Zionism Inc. the annexation is not an obstacle to peace in the region but rather a reason for being for the Jewish state.
The upshot is that we are all in for a bumpy ride with the advent of President Trump. No one knows where we are heading: Israel, Palestine, Syria, Iraq, Iran, China, North Korea, Cuba, Yemen, Afghanistan, the list goes on. A recipe for disaster, if you ask me. Let us hope that we, the people, will fight back for a better and just world, a world where there will be room not only for the “happy few” millionaires appointed by Monsieur Trump to head his government, but for the rest of us who are languishing to set our energy free. It is not too much to ask, is it!
An internationally renowned literary and cultural critic, Mustapha Marrouchi lives on borderline between the West and Rest. He is the author of half-a-dozen books, including The Fabric of Subcultures.