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The brewing revolution in India

Anuj Wankhede in Mumbai
Countercurrents.org
 
The BJP government won with a 31% mandate and is primarily in power because there was no meaningful opposition in 2014. In 2019, forget “meaningful”, there is no opposition worth it’s name that can stop the BJP.
But hold on. When I say, no opposition, I mean “political opposition.”
Not that there is no civil resistance to the fascist BJP/RSS regime.
Vinod Dua rightly put it in his online talk show “JanGanMan Ki Baat” on The Wire that although the BJP has a majority now, even a 2% swing in votes can lead it to its decimation in 2019.
 
Peoples’ faith lost
It is this mortal fear of losing the 2019 elections that makes the BJP fear a public backlash. For if it loses, all that it has gained in these last few years will get quickly undone. It’s crony corruption in high places will be starkly exposed and it might very well fade into oblivion. That’s why it needs another five years of absolute majority to cover its tracks and push the country into a fascist regime where dissent will not be tolerated, surveillance will be the norm rather than the exception and people will have to beg for what was their right. Their target is to erase the current Constitution and replace it with its own version which will allow them unlimited and unquestioned power.
People have lost faith in the voting system. Voting has become a joke with every political party almost equally culpable in subverting the rules: breaking, bending and amending them. Foreign unaccounted money, crony corporate funding, EVM rigging, disgusting horse trading have all but destroyed the very fabric of democracy in India.
The 2014 verdict put in place an outright fascist, hard line right wing political party that is shameless about grabbing power at any cost, believes in religious polarization, has disdain for civil liberties and is brazen, arrogant and freely promoting hate. This is the heady cocktail mixture that the country has been served.
It is a wonder that the country did not descend into total chaos, mayhem and civil war after the insane demonization exercise done last year.
Not only was it illogical but was badly planned and implemented despite affecting billions at home and abroad. Propaganda saved the day but the undercurrent has changed ever since. Even staunch BJP supporters realized that they were being short changed, shafted and cheated.
 
Resistance growing
The party which had grown on the support of traders and middle men had attacked that very segment where it hurt the most – the informal sector. Realization dawned that everything – including demonetization – was done for the big crony business and/or Hindu religious leaders or trusts who are friends of those connected to the highest echelons of power. The U.P. elections were a sham and people saw through it –many disgusted at the choice of the Chief Minister.
The rampant imposition of Aadhaaron an already hapless population broke the back of the most vulnerable sections. The heartless government arrogantly continues this despite even the pliable media reporting people facing grave hardships due to blocking of ration or pension. The government has its head deliberately buried in sand unwilling to relent.
The economy has started stagnating and is in fact showing negative growth in key sectors including manufacturing. Jobs are being lost instead of growing. “Make in India” has become a joke because it includes everything that was anyway being made in the country.  “Digital India” has become a slogan to promote Reliance Jio. “Skill India” has not resulted in creating any job worthy skills and is being dismantled quietly. “Swacch Bharat” has ensures that people paid extra tax so that contracts would build thousands of toilet blocks without water. “Rural Electrification” has remained a sham because the criteria for a village to be classified as electrified means having a panchayat or school having a sporadically working light bulb.  Environmental norms changed to suit big companies, grievance tribunals losing teeth leaving citizens with no scope for justice.
Most people have abandoned the paid fake mainstream media controlled by the state. Even social media is being trolled and forced to take down anti establishment news. Those dissenting are branded anti nationals or worse, charged with sedition, arrested and placed behind bars.
 
Propaganda advantage waning
Counter propaganda and war is being unleashed on it – not by any opposition political party or any ‘mahagatbandhan’ (grand coalition).  The war is being launched and waged by the people. Historically, all revolutions and rebellions start the same way. Seemingly small events create a spontaneous outpouring that sparks off mass protests which can take down the once might powers. History is replete with dictators being forced to flee, lynched or brought to justice by people power.
Look at some events from 2017 and you can see for yourself that the tide is turning against the BJP.
The farmers strike brought together hundreds of thousands of farmers across India. Faced with utter neglect and exploitation by everyone involved with agriculture (including by banks) the protests went out of hand and violence resulted in police firing killing farmers. With the situation getting out of hand the BJP led state governments climbed down and had to agree to most of the farmer demands.
The perfectly legitimate strike by 36,000 workers of the public transport state undertaking BEST recently brought Mumbai city to its knees with the ruling Shiv Sena/BJP climbing down from its arrogant stand within 16 hours.
A whopping 9 lakh Marathas held a peaceful rally in Mumbai last week demanding the government for social justice, employment, farmer centric policies among others. Looking at the sheer strength of the leaderless movement, the Maharashtra CM and a loyal foot soldier to Modi hastily announced in assembly that some of the demands have been agreed. This happened even as the protest was in progress. Notably, the protest was extremely disciplined with no slogan shouting. It showed how silent determination can shell shock the most obstinate despot. I urge you to watch this short clip of the event: Maratha Morcha Mumbai.
 
Modi on back foot
The March for Science took place on August 9th in more than 30 cities and towns in the country, involving thousands of scientists, researchers, teachers and students. These protests took place in the context of slashing funds for scientific research and education, and the promotion, with state support, of unscientific, bogus and obscurantist ideas in public life.
#NotInMyName (along with #NotInMyPlace) protests were a spontaneous coming together of civil society (members) against the state because of lynching of Muslims and Dalits.
These “cow protection” goons were terrorizing non Hindus into submission under the obvious protection of the Hindutva party in power. The BJP created the bogey of “cow”, it’s “protection” (as if it needs any) and aided, actively abetted, goaded, (by) the armed goons assuring them of free hand and no fear of retribution. Seeing the mood of the nation going rapidly against these vigilantes and the success of #NotInMyName campaign, Prime Minister Modi had to hurriedly and publicly call off his dogs before the civil unrest took the BJP. An uneasy calm still exists but the government knows that now it has been put on a watch. The bad global press affected Modi who publicly abhors anything foreign but privately seeks platitudes from overseas scampering abroad at the first opportunity – most notably being in Japan even as the country was staring at a civil war like situation post demonization.
On August 22, there is a nationwide public sector bank workers strike which will bring the whole economy down to its knees. Among their various demands is that government should compensate them for the excess work done during and after demonization, strict action against the big corporate defaulters whose non-performing assets (NPA) have brought banks on the verge of collapse – these are largely the crony businessmen close to the BJP who fund the BJP/RSS.
 
Remember Arab Spring?
Similarly, there has been a spate of multi-city, simultaneous demonstrations across India protesting against Aadhaar imposition.
There have been rallies for reclaiming spaces – be it for public space or freedom to think whether in Chandigarh or in student hostels across India with hashtags  #IWillGoOut  or  #INeverAskForIt making online protests go offline and making authorities run for cover.
It is not JantarMantar or Azad Maidan in Delhi or Mumbai alone. From megapolis to cities to towns and villages, there is a strong resistance to fascism. It has built up and gathered momentum.
The BJP used social media to shape opinion before 2014. People are using the same tactic to hit back at the party which has so shamelessly let them down on every count.
 
Remember Arab spring?
India is resisting too but unlike the post Arab experience, we must strive to reclaim what has been lost and rebuild our destroyed institutions.
The government cannot take people power for granted.
 
The author is a Mumbai based independent researcher and writes on
social and political issues. Twitter:@upfrontanuj

Comment

Anuj Wankhede in Mumbai
Countercurrents.org
 
The BJP government won with a 31% mandate and is primarily in power because there was no meaningful opposition in 2014. In 2019, forget “meaningful”, there is no opposition worth it’s name that can stop the BJP.
But hold on. When I say, no opposition, I mean “political opposition.”
Not that there is no civil resistance to the fascist BJP/RSS regime.
Vinod Dua rightly put it in his online talk show “JanGanMan Ki Baat” on The Wire that although the BJP has a majority now, even a 2% swing in votes can lead it to its decimation in 2019.
 
Peoples’ faith lost
It is this mortal fear of losing the 2019 elections that makes the BJP fear a public backlash. For if it loses, all that it has gained in these last few years will get quickly undone. It’s crony corruption in high places will be starkly exposed and it might very well fade into oblivion. That’s why it needs another five years of absolute majority to cover its tracks and push the country into a fascist regime where dissent will not be tolerated, surveillance will be the norm rather than the exception and people will have to beg for what was their right. Their target is to erase the current Constitution and replace it with its own version which will allow them unlimited and unquestioned power.
People have lost faith in the voting system. Voting has become a joke with every political party almost equally culpable in subverting the rules: breaking, bending and amending them. Foreign unaccounted money, crony corporate funding, EVM rigging, disgusting horse trading have all but destroyed the very fabric of democracy in India.
The 2014 verdict put in place an outright fascist, hard line right wing political party that is shameless about grabbing power at any cost, believes in religious polarization, has disdain for civil liberties and is brazen, arrogant and freely promoting hate. This is the heady cocktail mixture that the country has been served.
It is a wonder that the country did not descend into total chaos, mayhem and civil war after the insane demonization exercise done last year.
Not only was it illogical but was badly planned and implemented despite affecting billions at home and abroad. Propaganda saved the day but the undercurrent has changed ever since. Even staunch BJP supporters realized that they were being short changed, shafted and cheated.
 
Resistance growing
The party which had grown on the support of traders and middle men had attacked that very segment where it hurt the most – the informal sector. Realization dawned that everything – including demonetization – was done for the big crony business and/or Hindu religious leaders or trusts who are friends of those connected to the highest echelons of power. The U.P. elections were a sham and people saw through it –many disgusted at the choice of the Chief Minister.
The rampant imposition of Aadhaaron an already hapless population broke the back of the most vulnerable sections. The heartless government arrogantly continues this despite even the pliable media reporting people facing grave hardships due to blocking of ration or pension. The government has its head deliberately buried in sand unwilling to relent.
The economy has started stagnating and is in fact showing negative growth in key sectors including manufacturing. Jobs are being lost instead of growing. “Make in India” has become a joke because it includes everything that was anyway being made in the country.  “Digital India” has become a slogan to promote Reliance Jio. “Skill India” has not resulted in creating any job worthy skills and is being dismantled quietly. “Swacch Bharat” has ensures that people paid extra tax so that contracts would build thousands of toilet blocks without water. “Rural Electrification” has remained a sham because the criteria for a village to be classified as electrified means having a panchayat or school having a sporadically working light bulb.  Environmental norms changed to suit big companies, grievance tribunals losing teeth leaving citizens with no scope for justice.
Most people have abandoned the paid fake mainstream media controlled by the state. Even social media is being trolled and forced to take down anti establishment news. Those dissenting are branded anti nationals or worse, charged with sedition, arrested and placed behind bars.
 
Propaganda advantage waning
Counter propaganda and war is being unleashed on it – not by any opposition political party or any ‘mahagatbandhan’ (grand coalition).  The war is being launched and waged by the people. Historically, all revolutions and rebellions start the same way. Seemingly small events create a spontaneous outpouring that sparks off mass protests which can take down the once might powers. History is replete with dictators being forced to flee, lynched or brought to justice by people power.
Look at some events from 2017 and you can see for yourself that the tide is turning against the BJP.
The farmers strike brought together hundreds of thousands of farmers across India. Faced with utter neglect and exploitation by everyone involved with agriculture (including by banks) the protests went out of hand and violence resulted in police firing killing farmers. With the situation getting out of hand the BJP led state governments climbed down and had to agree to most of the farmer demands.
The perfectly legitimate strike by 36,000 workers of the public transport state undertaking BEST recently brought Mumbai city to its knees with the ruling Shiv Sena/BJP climbing down from its arrogant stand within 16 hours.
A whopping 9 lakh Marathas held a peaceful rally in Mumbai last week demanding the government for social justice, employment, farmer centric policies among others. Looking at the sheer strength of the leaderless movement, the Maharashtra CM and a loyal foot soldier to Modi hastily announced in assembly that some of the demands have been agreed. This happened even as the protest was in progress. Notably, the protest was extremely disciplined with no slogan shouting. It showed how silent determination can shell shock the most obstinate despot. I urge you to watch this short clip of the event: Maratha Morcha Mumbai.
 
Modi on back foot
The March for Science took place on August 9th in more than 30 cities and towns in the country, involving thousands of scientists, researchers, teachers and students. These protests took place in the context of slashing funds for scientific research and education, and the promotion, with state support, of unscientific, bogus and obscurantist ideas in public life.
#NotInMyName (along with #NotInMyPlace) protests were a spontaneous coming together of civil society (members) against the state because of lynching of Muslims and Dalits.
These “cow protection” goons were terrorizing non Hindus into submission under the obvious protection of the Hindutva party in power. The BJP created the bogey of “cow”, it’s “protection” (as if it needs any) and aided, actively abetted, goaded, (by) the armed goons assuring them of free hand and no fear of retribution. Seeing the mood of the nation going rapidly against these vigilantes and the success of #NotInMyName campaign, Prime Minister Modi had to hurriedly and publicly call off his dogs before the civil unrest took the BJP. An uneasy calm still exists but the government knows that now it has been put on a watch. The bad global press affected Modi who publicly abhors anything foreign but privately seeks platitudes from overseas scampering abroad at the first opportunity – most notably being in Japan even as the country was staring at a civil war like situation post demonization.
On August 22, there is a nationwide public sector bank workers strike which will bring the whole economy down to its knees. Among their various demands is that government should compensate them for the excess work done during and after demonization, strict action against the big corporate defaulters whose non-performing assets (NPA) have brought banks on the verge of collapse – these are largely the crony businessmen close to the BJP who fund the BJP/RSS.
 
Remember Arab Spring?
Similarly, there has been a spate of multi-city, simultaneous demonstrations across India protesting against Aadhaar imposition.
There have been rallies for reclaiming spaces – be it for public space or freedom to think whether in Chandigarh or in student hostels across India with hashtags  #IWillGoOut  or  #INeverAskForIt making online protests go offline and making authorities run for cover.
It is not JantarMantar or Azad Maidan in Delhi or Mumbai alone. From megapolis to cities to towns and villages, there is a strong resistance to fascism. It has built up and gathered momentum.
The BJP used social media to shape opinion before 2014. People are using the same tactic to hit back at the party which has so shamelessly let them down on every count.
 
Remember Arab spring?
India is resisting too but unlike the post Arab experience, we must strive to reclaim what has been lost and rebuild our destroyed institutions.
The government cannot take people power for granted.
 
The author is a Mumbai based independent researcher and writes on
social and political issues. Twitter:@upfrontanuj

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Rivalries within Sri Lankan ruling group widens

Jehan Perera in Colombo
 
The government has put on a bold face on the resignation of Foreign Minister Ravi Karunanayake by arguing that it is reflecting good governance in practice.  Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said in Parliament that the former Foreign Minister had set a good precedent by resigning from his job.
He said no member of any previous governments had ever resigned regardless of how serious the charges leveled against them.  It’s not in Sri Lankan tradition for public office holders to resign faced with a conflict of interest or taking the moral responsibility for what has gone wrong. The Prime Minister said his colleague’s resignation will allow impartial investigations into his role in the Central Bank bond scam reflecting the government’s commitment to good governance.
 
Widening rivalries
He also did not talk about the weakening of the government while two of its coalition partners took different stands on the political survival of the former Foreign Minister.
However, in the subtext of the political commentary is the reality of deep seated political rivalries between the personalities and machinations of the UNP and SLFP which form the two main constituent parties of the Government of National Unity.  Those who have put the most amount of pressure on the former Foreign Minister to resign have been from the SLFP component of the government, including President Maithripala Sirisena.  This is seen by some in the UNP component of the government as a measure to weaken them and gain political mileage with the general public.
Although the government leadership is putting on a bold face, some say, it may have to pay a price for the foreign minister’s resignation. After he was shifted out of his previous job as Finance Minister, again at President Sirisena’s insistence, he made a strong effort to master his new role as the country’s face before the international community.
It is noteworthy that President Maithripala Sirisena who is said to have been vacillating on the international human rights commitments made by his government to the international community seemed to be getting activated after Karunanayake took over foreign ministry’s charge.  The presidential assent to the Office of Missing Persons, which is one of the most important of the human rights commitments made by the government to the international community, took place during his brief foreign ministry tenure.
 
Sudden fiasco
The former Foreign Minister had been a source of strength and support to the leader of the UNP, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe during the period when former President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s grip over the country seemed unassailable and the blame for it accrued to Wickremesinghe, the then opposition leader. However, this change has prompted a section of the civil society to demand that the government live up to its commitments.
The decision of Foreign Minister Karunanayake to resign has helped to avert a further loss of public credibility for the government which was elected to power on a platform of good governance and anti corruption in 2015.
President Sirisena has been one of the main critics of his own government when it comes to its failure to crack down on corruption both in the previous government and in the present one.  As a result he appears to have maintained his reputation to an extent as a political leader who is serious about dealing with high level corruption.
Prior to the resignation of Foreign Minister Karunanayake, several members f the government from its SLFP component publicly stated that they too would vote with the opposition if there was a vote of no confidence in parliament against the minister.
 
Weakening of the government
Another sign of the government’s weakness is the fiasco over the proposed 20th Amendment to the constitution. What is especially disturbing about this constitutional amendment is that it has made to appear backed out when the government is coming close to finalizing its draft new constitution which is expected to be a model of good governance.
In short, the bill proposes that elections to the provincial councils will be postponed until such time as all provincial council elections can be held on a single day.  It also gives the central authorities the power to run the provincial councils which stands dissolved until such time as the elections are held on a one single day. Such a transfer of power from the elected provincial councils to the central authorities would be a negation of both democracy and of the practice of devolution of power.
The provincial council system was originally established in 1987 to deal with the escalating war against the Tamil militancy led by the LTTE.  Even though the effort to draw the Tigers in to the envisaged political solution did not succeed, the democratic Tamil parties have sought to utilize it as building block of progress toward power sharing while respecting the existing unitary constitutional framework.  It is in this context that the tampering with the provincial councils by postponing their elections and by further reducing their powers though temporarily, needs to be viewed with concern. With both the SLFP, which is the second of the two main constituent parties of the government, and the Marxist inspired JVP, deciding to oppose the bill on the grounds that postponement of elections is unacceptable, the likelihood of getting the 2/3rd majority in Parliament is remote.
 
Challenges remain
The 20th Amendment may be seen as pragmatic but the measure to contain the political rivalries of the UNP and SLFP as two main constituent parties of the government, and to prevent the mutual tensions between them from degenerating into open confrontation is opposed by a section.  The desire to postpone elections is due to the concern that it will be difficult to remain together in the government if the two parties contest each other on the ground.
This is the contradiction that has dogged the government from the time of its first election victory in January 2015.  At that election the President and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe were on one side.  They were the underdogs who won together contesting the election under one common electoral symbol (the Swan) rather than their two separate party symbols (the Elephant and the Hand).
If the Government of National Unity is to continue, and the promises it made are to be kept, it is necessary that the President and Prime Minister rise above the political rivalries of their respective political parties, and look upon the challenges they face as national issues and not as partisan political issues.

Comment

Jehan Perera in Colombo
 
The government has put on a bold face on the resignation of Foreign Minister Ravi Karunanayake by arguing that it is reflecting good governance in practice.  Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said in Parliament that the former Foreign Minister had set a good precedent by resigning from his job.
He said no member of any previous governments had ever resigned regardless of how serious the charges leveled against them.  It’s not in Sri Lankan tradition for public office holders to resign faced with a conflict of interest or taking the moral responsibility for what has gone wrong. The Prime Minister said his colleague’s resignation will allow impartial investigations into his role in the Central Bank bond scam reflecting the government’s commitment to good governance.
 
Widening rivalries
He also did not talk about the weakening of the government while two of its coalition partners took different stands on the political survival of the former Foreign Minister.
However, in the subtext of the political commentary is the reality of deep seated political rivalries between the personalities and machinations of the UNP and SLFP which form the two main constituent parties of the Government of National Unity.  Those who have put the most amount of pressure on the former Foreign Minister to resign have been from the SLFP component of the government, including President Maithripala Sirisena.  This is seen by some in the UNP component of the government as a measure to weaken them and gain political mileage with the general public.
Although the government leadership is putting on a bold face, some say, it may have to pay a price for the foreign minister’s resignation. After he was shifted out of his previous job as Finance Minister, again at President Sirisena’s insistence, he made a strong effort to master his new role as the country’s face before the international community.
It is noteworthy that President Maithripala Sirisena who is said to have been vacillating on the international human rights commitments made by his government to the international community seemed to be getting activated after Karunanayake took over foreign ministry’s charge.  The presidential assent to the Office of Missing Persons, which is one of the most important of the human rights commitments made by the government to the international community, took place during his brief foreign ministry tenure.
 
Sudden fiasco
The former Foreign Minister had been a source of strength and support to the leader of the UNP, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe during the period when former President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s grip over the country seemed unassailable and the blame for it accrued to Wickremesinghe, the then opposition leader. However, this change has prompted a section of the civil society to demand that the government live up to its commitments.
The decision of Foreign Minister Karunanayake to resign has helped to avert a further loss of public credibility for the government which was elected to power on a platform of good governance and anti corruption in 2015.
President Sirisena has been one of the main critics of his own government when it comes to its failure to crack down on corruption both in the previous government and in the present one.  As a result he appears to have maintained his reputation to an extent as a political leader who is serious about dealing with high level corruption.
Prior to the resignation of Foreign Minister Karunanayake, several members f the government from its SLFP component publicly stated that they too would vote with the opposition if there was a vote of no confidence in parliament against the minister.
 
Weakening of the government
Another sign of the government’s weakness is the fiasco over the proposed 20th Amendment to the constitution. What is especially disturbing about this constitutional amendment is that it has made to appear backed out when the government is coming close to finalizing its draft new constitution which is expected to be a model of good governance.
In short, the bill proposes that elections to the provincial councils will be postponed until such time as all provincial council elections can be held on a single day.  It also gives the central authorities the power to run the provincial councils which stands dissolved until such time as the elections are held on a one single day. Such a transfer of power from the elected provincial councils to the central authorities would be a negation of both democracy and of the practice of devolution of power.
The provincial council system was originally established in 1987 to deal with the escalating war against the Tamil militancy led by the LTTE.  Even though the effort to draw the Tigers in to the envisaged political solution did not succeed, the democratic Tamil parties have sought to utilize it as building block of progress toward power sharing while respecting the existing unitary constitutional framework.  It is in this context that the tampering with the provincial councils by postponing their elections and by further reducing their powers though temporarily, needs to be viewed with concern. With both the SLFP, which is the second of the two main constituent parties of the government, and the Marxist inspired JVP, deciding to oppose the bill on the grounds that postponement of elections is unacceptable, the likelihood of getting the 2/3rd majority in Parliament is remote.
 
Challenges remain
The 20th Amendment may be seen as pragmatic but the measure to contain the political rivalries of the UNP and SLFP as two main constituent parties of the government, and to prevent the mutual tensions between them from degenerating into open confrontation is opposed by a section.  The desire to postpone elections is due to the concern that it will be difficult to remain together in the government if the two parties contest each other on the ground.
This is the contradiction that has dogged the government from the time of its first election victory in January 2015.  At that election the President and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe were on one side.  They were the underdogs who won together contesting the election under one common electoral symbol (the Swan) rather than their two separate party symbols (the Elephant and the Hand).
If the Government of National Unity is to continue, and the promises it made are to be kept, it is necessary that the President and Prime Minister rise above the political rivalries of their respective political parties, and look upon the challenges they face as national issues and not as partisan political issues.

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