Bharat Jodo Yatra – An Historic Initiative By Rahul Gandhi

Let me begin by revisiting history. In  2015-16, Mahatma Gandhi journeyed across the length and the breadth of the country. His objective was to understand the real India, its differences in terms of caste, creed and religion. His fight was against the forces of imperialism. More than a century later another individual carrying the same Surname has undertaken another seminal journey.

This time not to understand but to explain the credo of India – an ethos which stands for  harmony, trust and togetherness. His fight is against the forces of imperialism.

Yes, you have guessed it right I am talking about Rahul Gandhi’s ‘Bharat jodo yatra’!

“Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come,” Victor Hugo the French novelist said ages ago. According to me Rahul Gandhi’s ‘Bharat Jodo yatra’ is one such idea whose time has well and truly come.

Picture : Tribune India

Bharat Jodo Yatra is historic in many ways. It is being undertaken at a time when India is being torn apart by religious strife, when the fault lines between communities have deepened like never before.  The role of all the  4 pillars of democracy – Legislature,  Executive, Judiciary  and Media media has been compromised. The country’s public sector undertakings which have been the  backbone of the country’s infrastructure are being constantly eroded leading to  massive private monopolies and uneven distribution of wealth in the country.

In this chaos when the average Indian is looking for a voice of sanity and peace  Rahul Gandhi has undertaken one of the most strenuous and difficult exercises to assure the oppressed and the marginalised that he is committed to their cause.

I am reminded of a similar exercise undertaken by the late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi who had embarked on a satbhavana yatra in 1990  when the nation was battling the scourge of  casteism unleashed by VP Singh’s Naitonal Front and the curse of communalism  cut loose by L.K. Advani’s Rath Yatra!

Rahul Gandhi’s  Bharat Jodo Yatra has immense contemporary relevance  because the country has been divided like never before on the basis of religion, region, caste and creed. It is time for someone to pick up the gauntlet and show the true path of time cherished values which India has always stood for.

Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra has been even more challenging  because he is covering the  entire distance from south to north on barefoot. His yatra started from September 7th from Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu and has so far covered Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh and after covering many more states will culminate in  Srinagar in 2023

A look at his daily schedule will throw light on the gritty  man, his exemplary mission and his brilliant vision. His typical day starts at 5:30 am in the morning and he walks on the common man’s path till 7:30 where he takes a short break for tea. He then resumes his yatra and walks till 10:30-11:30 am where he breaks for lunch and a short rest. He then resumes his yatra from 3 pm to 6pm and has a public meeting or engagement with the people before he breaks for the day.

This exercise has continued despite inclement weather and several impediments in this yatra.

It should be mentioned here that the yatra has showed the people the real face of Rahul Gandhi where he has come across as a very good human being, a caring person who really loves the country for which his family has sacrificed so much including the ultimate sacrifice to the nation by his  father and grand mother. Rahul Gandhi also has shown how fit he is during the course of the yatra as he has never complained of fatigue or any other issues despite the hectic schedule and engagements during the strenuous yatra that involves constant and continuous public engagement and media glare. It is very rare in politics to see a determined and strong person who despite hardships is determined to continue with the yatra that wants to fight the divisive forces of the country and unite the nation.

People from many walks of life  interact with Rahul Gandhi on his bharat jodo yatra and he listens to their views and issues.  His patience is non-pareil and his ability to connect amazing. We see that he gives the same attention to the common man as he gives to any other celebrity who joins him in this historic yatra. Actors, writers, thinkers, spiritual leaders from different religions, school children, daily wage workers, retired Armed forces personnel,  law and order officials, former judges, farmers, students and  others from different walks of life are marching with Rahul in this momentous journey. People like Tushar Gandhi (Great grandson of Mahatma Gandhi) and several intellectuals have reached out to Rahul Gandhi offering their support and encouragement.

This yatra will go down in history as one of the greatest initiatives of a leader who really cared for the country and wanted its citizens to  work together and respect each other’s differences. This yatra will be remembered by generations for the effort and initiative by yet another member of the Nehru/ Gandhi family to come out of their comfort zone and risk their personal security and health for the greater cause of the nation. Let us hope that this will bring a positive and much needed change and unity in the country.

When asked about his mission Rahul Gandhi said, “The spirit of the Yatra is to make the country focus on the attempt to change its nature. This country has never been fearful. Even in the worst of times, India was not scared. The people of India have a particular culture — the culture of compassion, of respect, of affection. You ask anybody — a villager, a billionaire, or the American President — they will say that India’s strength is compassion. You don’t believe it but the objective of the Yatra is not political. It is to remind the people what the true nature of this country is, what the culture and history of the country is, what its DNA is. Where India stands today, if we continue moving on the same path, the country will suffer enormous damage both at the domestic and international levels.”

I admire Rahul Gandhi’s historic initiative of understating the Bharat Jodo Yatra in these difficult times and trying to unite and assure the country under a sane voice.

Religious Polarization In India Seeping Into US Diaspora

(AP) – Recent events in the US and violent confrontations between some Hindus and Muslims last month in Leicester, England have heightened concerns that stark political and religious polarization in India is seeping into diaspora communities.

In Edison, New Jersey, a bulldozer, which has become a symbol of oppression of India’s Muslim minority, rolled down the street during a parade marking that country’s Independence Day.

At an event in Anaheim, California, a shouting match erupted between people celebrating the holiday and those who showed up to protest violence against Muslims in India.

Indian-Americans from diverse faith backgrounds have peacefully co-existed stateside for several decades. But these recent events in the US — and violent confrontations between some Hindus and Muslims last month in Leicester, England — have heightened concerns that stark political and religious polarisation in India is seeping into diaspora communities.

Hindu nationalism has split the Indian expatriate community just as Donald Trump’s presidency polarised the US, said Varun Soni, dean of religious life at the University of Southern California (USC). It has about 2,000 students from India, among the highest in the country.

Soni has not seen these tensions surface yet on campus. But he said USC received blowback for being one of more than 50 US universities that co-sponsored an online conference called “Dismantling Global Hindutva.” Hindutva is different from Hinduism, an ancient religion practiced by about 1 billion people worldwide that emphasizes the oneness and divine nature of all creation.

Soni said it’s important that universities remain places where “we are able to talk about issues that are grounded in facts in a civil manner,” But, as USC’s head chaplain, Soni worries how polarization over Hindu nationalism will affect students’ spiritual health.

“If someone is being attacked for their identity, ridiculed or scapegoated because they are Hindu or Muslim, I’m most concerned about their well-being – not about who is right or wrong,” he said.

Anantanand Rambachan, a retired college religion professor and a practicing Hindu who was born in Trinidad and Tobago to a family of Indian origin, said his opposition to Hindu nationalism and association with groups against the ideology sparked complaints from some at a Minnesota temple where he has taught religion classes.

He said opposing Hindu nationalism sometimes results in charges of being “anti-Hindu,” or “anti-India,” labels that he rejects.

On the other hand, many Hindu Americans feel vilified and targeted for their views, said Samir Kalra, managing director of the Hindu American Foundation in Washington, D.C.

“The space to freely express themselves is shrinking for Hindus,” he said, adding that even agreeing with the Indian government’s policies unrelated to religion can result in being branded a Hindu nationalist.

Pushpita Prasad, a spokesperson for the Coalition of Hindus of North America, said her group has been counseling young Hindu Americans who have lost friends because they refuse “to take Youthsides on these battles emanating from India.”

Rajiv Varma, a Houston-based Hindu activist, said tensions between Hindus and Muslims in the West are not a reflection of events in India but rather stem from a deliberate attempt by “religious and ideological groups that are waging a war against Hindus.”

Rasheed Ahmed, co-founder and executive director of the Washington D.C.-based Indian American Muslim Council, said he is saddened “to see even educated Hindu Americans not taking Hindu nationalism seriously.” He believes Hindu Americans must make “a fundamental decision about how India and Hinduism should be seen in the US and the world over.” “The decision about whether to take Hinduism back from whoever hijacked it, is theirs.”

India’s Hindu Nationalism Is Exporting Its Islamophobia

(RNS) — For years, one of the biggest threats to Muslims in the world has been the reinvention and rise of Hindu nationalism in India. This is in part because of the sheer number of Muslims in the country: Indian Muslims represent 10% of all Muslims worldwide. Now the movement known as Hindutva (“Hindu-ness”) is not only threatening Indian Muslims or India’s proud democratic tradition, it is spreading its radical nationalism around the globe.

The man behind India’s modern revival of Hindutva is Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whose career began in the ultraconservative Hindu organization Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. In the early 2000s, when Modi was chief minister of the western Indian state of Gujarat, a series of anti-Muslim riots there led to nearly 2,000 deaths by some estimates. Modi, who implicitly condoned the violence by doing little to stop it, became known as the Butcher of Gujarat. In 2005, Modi was denied entry to the United States under the International Religious Freedom Act.

But after Modi became prime minister in 2014, President Barack Obama welcomed him over fierce objections and protests from Indian Americans and human rights advocates. Presidents Donald Trump and Joe Biden have continued to normalize Modi’s facism, not only allowing him to visit but, in the case of Trump, appearing with him at a Texas rally celebrating his leadership.

In India, Hindutva has most egregiously impacted Muslims in Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh, but Hindutva has begun to come west. Last month in Leicester, England, young Hindu men marched through the streets chanting “Jai Sri Ram” — “Glory to Lord Ram,” a Hindu nationalist war cry — and attacking Muslims. Attacks at local houses of worship ensued, and nearly 50 people have been arrested.

Pratap Bhanu Mehta, a public intellectual in India, wrote that the tensions in Leicester followed a familiar ethno-nationalist playbook for stoking violence: “the use of rumors, groups from outside the local community, and marches to create polarization in otherwise peaceful communities.”

Majid Freeman, a Muslim activist, told The New York Times’ Megan Specia that the Hindu nationalist aggression in Leicester had drained public trust in the historically diverse community, where Muslims and Hindus together make up about a quarter of the population. “We just want the city to go back to how it was,” said Freeman. “Now everyone is looking over their shoulders.”

Across the Atlantic, at an India Independence Day parade in Edison, New Jersey, the festivities included a bulldozer draped with a picture of Modi, whose political party, BJP, is associated with Hindutva causes. Bulldozers have become a symbol of Islamophobia in India, where they have been used to demolish homes belonging to Muslims on the mere suspicion of participating in protests or riots. A few months ago, I spoke with Afreen Fatima, an Indian Muslim activist whose home was bulldozed and her father imprisoned.

Pranay Somayajula, outreach coordinator for Hindus for Human Rights, has emphasized the need for urgent action to counter the spread of Hindutva. “The diaspora, and in particular Hindu Americans, urgently need to speak out against the infiltration of Hindutva hatred into our communities,” Somayajula said.

Modi’s Hindutva is part of a wider rise in fascist movements across the globe. Masked as ultraconservative nationalism, modern fascism has developed as a racist and anti-immigration identity, rooted in ignorance and moral decay. In many places, it includes a virulent Islamophobia. India’s ethno-nationalism has created bonds with other states, such as Israel.

Indeed, in 2019, Sandeep Chakravorty, India’s consul general to New York City, told Kashmiri Hindus and Indian nationals that India will foster Kashmir’s depleted Hindu population by building settlements modeled after Israel’s implanting of Jewish residents in Palestinian communities.

To those paying attention, Hindutva is a growing international crisis. The threat of genocide is an abomination emanating from the world’s largest democracy, and it’s already spilling over into our politics and streets at home.

How China’s Civil Society Collapsed Under Xi Jinping

Human rights activist Charles remembers a time when civil society was blossoming in China, and he could dedicate his time to helping improve the lives of people struggling in blue-collar jobs. Now, 10 years into President Xi Jinping’s rule, community organisations such as Charles’s have been dismantled and hopes of a rebirth crushed. Charles has fled China and several of his activist friends are in jail. “After 2015, the whole of civil society began to collapse and become fragmented,” he told AFP.

Human rights activist Charles remembers a time when civil society was blossoming in China, and he could dedicate his time to helping improve the lives of people struggling in blue-collar jobs.

Now, 10 years into President Xi Jinping’s rule, community organisations such as Charles’s have been dismantled and hopes of a rebirth crushed.

Charles has fled China and several of his activist friends are in jail.

“After 2015, the whole of civil society began to collapse and become fragmented,” he told AFP, using a pseudonym for safety reasons.

Xi, on the brink of securing a third term at the apex of the world’s most populous country, has overseen a decade in which civil society movements, an emergent independent media and academic freedoms have been all but destroyed.

As Xi sought to eliminate any threats to the Communist Party, many non-governmental organisation workers, rights lawyers and activists were threatened, jailed or exiled.

AFP interviewed eight Chinese activists and intellectuals who described the collapse of civil society under Xi, though a few remain determined to keep working despite the risks.

Some face harassment from security officers who summon them weekly for questioning, while others cannot publish under their own names.

“My colleagues and I have frequently experienced interrogations lasting over 24 hours,” an LGBTQ rights NGO worker told AFP on condition of anonymity, adding that psychological trauma from the repeated questioning has compounded his woes.

“We’ve become more and more incapable, regardless of whether it’s from a financial or operational perspective, or on a personal level.”

‘709 crackdown’

The collapse of China’s civil society has been a long process riddled with obstacles for activists.

In 2015, more than 300 lawyers and rights defenders were arrested in a sweep named the “709 crackdown” after the date it was launched — July 9.

Many lawyers remained behind bars or under surveillance for years, while others were disbarred, according to rights groups.

Another watershed moment was the adoption in 2016 of the so-called foreign NGO law, which imposed restrictions and gave police wide-ranging powers over overseas NGOs operating in the country.

“In 2014, we could unfurl protest banners, conduct scientific fieldwork and collaborate with Chinese media to expose environmental abuses,” an environmental NGO worker told AFP on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal.

“Now we must report to the police before we do anything. Each project must be in cooperation with a government department that feels more like a supervisory committee.”

Zero-tolerance

Today’s landscape is markedly different from even a few years ago, when civil society groups were able to operate in the relatively permissive climate that started under previous president Hu Jintao.

“At universities, several LGBTQ and gender-focused groups sprung up around 2015,” said Carl, an LGBTQ youth group member, although he felt a “tightening pressure”.

By 2018, the government’s zero-tolerance of activism came to a head with the authorities suppressing a budding #MeToo feminist movement and arresting dozens of student activists.

“Activities quietly permitted before were banned, while ideological work like political education classes ramped up”, said Carl.

In July 2022, Beijing’s prestigious Tsinghua University handed two students official warnings for distributing rainbow flags, while dozens of LGBTQ student groups’ social media pages were blocked.

‘Like grains of corn’

Another harbinger of regression was a 2013 internal Party communique that banned advocating what was described as Western liberal values, such as constitutional democracy and press freedom.

“It treated these ideologies as hostile, whereas in the 1980s we could discuss them and publish books about them,” said Gao Yu, a Beijing-based independent journalist who was either in prison or under house arrest between 2014 and 2020 for allegedly leaking the document.

“In a normal society, intellectuals can question the government’s mistakes. Otherwise… isn’t this the same as in the Mao era?” he asked, referring to Communist China’s founder Mao Zedong.

Now, 78-year-old Gao endures social media surveillance, has virtually no income and is blocked from overseas calls or gathering with friends.

“We are all like grains of corn ground down by the village millstone,” she said.

Replacing Gao and her peers are celebrity academics who parrot hawkish nationalist ideology, while others have been forced out of their positions or endure classroom surveillance from students.

“A kind of tattle-tale culture has flourished in China’s intellectual realm over the past decade,” said Wu Qiang, a former Tsinghua political science professor and Party critic.

“Students have become censors reviewing their professor’s every sentence, instead of learning through mutual discussion.”

‘Unwinnable war’

Faced with the increasingly harsh climate, many activists have either fled China or put their work on hold.

Only a handful persevere, despite growing hostility including online bullying.

“Perhaps right now we are at the bottom of a valley… but people are still tirelessly speaking out,” said Feng Yuan, founder of gender rights group Equity.

For others, like the environmental organisation worker, it is an “unwinnable war” against nationalist trolls who claim all NGO staff are “anti-China and brainwashed by the West”.

“It makes me feel like all my efforts have been wasted,” they said.

Charles’s friends, #MeToo advocate Huang Xueqin and labour activist Wang Jianbing, have been detained without trial for over a year on subversion charges.

He believes authorities viewed their gatherings of young activists as a threat — and the threshold for prosecution is getting lower.

“The government is now targeting individuals who do small-scale, subtle, low-key activism,” he said. “They have made sure there is no new generation of activists.” (This story is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

Creating ‘Political Economy Of Hope’ At Pakistan-India Border

Newswise — ITHACA, N.Y. — Pakistani nationals of the Hindu faith migrate to India based on religion, caste, culture and history – and lately Indian government officials all the way up to the prime minister have been encouraging them to “return,” according to Natasha Raheja, assistant professor of anthropology in the College of Arts and Sciences (A&S).

But at the border, many hopeful migrants find that Indian citizenship is not assured.

“Pakistani Hindus may imagine their migration as an enactment of their ‘right of return,’ but they in fact experience an ambivalent welcome on arrival,” Raheja wrote in “Governing by Proximity: State Performance and Migrant Citizenship on the India-Pakistan Border,” published Sept. 8 in Cultural Anthropology.

While embedded among migrants in the western Indian city of Jodhpur, Raheja found that Indian officials use physical closeness and digital connection to entice would-be citizens while keeping them waiting for recognition and basic welfare.

For the past eight years, Raheja worked with migrants from Pakistan waiting for Indian citizenship, as part of her broader inquiry on how border crossings demand new ways of imagining our geopolitical nation-state order.

“I wanted to understand how migrants continue to pursue recognition in the face of repeated deferral,” Raheja said. “During fieldwork, I noticed the enchantment and cynicism associated with the visits of national politicians to borderland regions. In this article, I make sense of these mixed affects of state performances through the concept of governing by proximity.”

Proximity is a modality of governance that yields mixed results, Raheja said. When politicians get close to constituents, either physically or digitally, they manage expectations and offer assurances to constituents. But they also expose themselves to scrutiny, giving people the chance to see beyond the performance into imperfect government workings.

“Proximity is like a magnifying glass that amplifies both stature and shortcomings,” Raheja said. “On one hand, when people in powerful positions are close to us, we can feel special and as if we personally belong. On the other hand, we can observe their shortcomings and inconsistencies.”

In Jodhpur, a city with a high concentration of Pakistani migrants from different castes, Raheja met Meera, an Indigenous farmworker hoping to get Indian citizenship for herself and her husband, parents and 10 children at a two-day citizenship camp.

“For Meera, meeting with high-ranking officers and seeing digital clips of welcoming political speeches in the palm of her hand made Indian citizenship feel like a close possibility,” Raheja wrote. “At the same time, she had relatives and acquaintances whose visa and citizenship applications had been delayed or rejected.”

Elsewhere in the citizenship camp, a man named Pankajlal waited for an hour to apply based on the fact that his mother, with him in the line, had been born in “undivided India” before the 1947 partition, which created the separate nations of India and Pakistan. When they finally reached the desk, they were refused because the affidavit Pankajlal had acquired was not sufficient; instead, they needed a birth certificate.

“The burden always falls on the common people, the way weight always falls on the wheel of a cycle,” Pankajlal said. “There [in Pakistan], they call us infidel Hindus; here [in India], bloody Pakistanis.”

But a fellow applicant encouraged Pankajlal to speak up. Together they approached government representatives to complain about the criteria for birth certificates.

“Their exchange conveys how this site, centered on a performative avowal of their special status as desirable Indian citizens, also generated refugee-migrants’ critiques of the Indian government,” Raheja wrote. “A few hours later, a Ministry of Home Affairs official came on the loudspeaker to make a special announcement: He had decided that, in lieu of birth certificates, the officers at the camp would accept applications with affidavits attesting to a parent’s birth in undivided India.”

Raheja’s wider research looks to migration to understand how majority-minority politics exceeds national frames. Her studies of the India-Pakistan border raise wider questions of state power over migration at borders worldwide.

“Across borders, manufactured national belongings and state legitimacies require maintenance,” Raheja said. “As the article carefully details, governing by proximity enchants but also generates fatigue and doubt. It is in this gap that there is potential for migrants to refuse and imagine alternatives.”

Bharat Jodo Yatra: Uniting India & Challenges

The Bharat Jodo yatra launched by Indian National Congress, under the leadership of Rahul Gandhi is getting tremendous response. It is as if the people were waiting for such an event to reaffirm their trust and faith in the composite Indian Nationalism. This Indian Nationalism has been undermined during last few decades in general and last few years in particular. While the national media and major TV channels are ignoring it, the social media is partly compensating for that by putting across lovely and beautiful clips and pictures of people of all age groups longing to associate with the same.

The response is mainly due to the undermining of what has been the “Idea of India’ of our freedom fighters, the response is due to the blatant bypassing of the values of Indian Constitution which underline: Equality on one hand and state’s obligation to reduce the economic gaps between rich and poor on the other. The Constitution also outlines the role of state in promoting scientific temper, which has been given a go-bye during last some time.

India became a secular nation with the emphasis on caste-gender equality. The kingdoms where the kings ruled with the ‘divine authority’ were replaced by colonial period in India. During the plunder by colonial rulers there were other changes also which led to social changes. Introduction of transport, communication, modern education and modern administration provided the ground for changes in caste and gender equations and promoting the unity among different religious communities. Those who were the bearers of feudal mindset kept themselves aloof from this process of ‘nation making’. They helped British in their policy of ‘divide and rule’, leading to the tragic partition and the biggest ever mass migration in the sub-continent.

India did embark on the path of nation making through anti-colonial struggle. After Independence, there was enhancement of the industrialization, education, irrigation, health facilities and social welfare among others. The sectarian nationalists, Muslim and Hindu communalists-mostly harped on identity issues. In due course Hindu communalists started dominating and their infiltration in different walks of life and different facets of state apparatus became apparent. Their taking over of media through sympathetic corporate world was accompanied by setting up of “social media cell’. This weakened the process of the gains of freedom movement. The major things which were undermined were the Hindu-Muslim unity also the slow march towards social justice has been further hampered. Communalization of society also retarded the march towards gender equality.

At political level, the party which led the freedom movement gradually was infiltrated by opportunist communal elements for which the politics is just for grabbing power for their own selves. Many regional satraps also came up with ambitions for regional power with local agenda. The left parties which should have been the upholders of the rights of the marginalized, themselves started getting marginalized.

So today India we see has a situation, where not only the divisive politics of BJP has tried to co-opt a section of marginalized but also its parent organization RSS, through its various arms, has worked consistently among the dalits and Adivasis to co-opt them into Hindu nationalist fold. It has also done social engineering through which at grass root level the micro identities have been strengthened. At the same time mega Hindu identity has been propped up through the issues like Ram Temple, Love Jihad, Cow-Beef, fear of Muslims becoming a majority among others.

The Bharat Jodo Yatra probably is the best thing which has happened in India during last several decades. This will surely strengthen the nation and also cleanse the Congress party. It is also an occasion of churning for social groups, which are committed to rights of weaker and marginalized, the groups committed to democratic values, the groups committed to religious minorities. This Yatra gives them a platform to work for their goals of humane democratic society with rights and dignity for all sections of society.

Another welcome part of Yatra is the pro active response of these social groups and many political parties to affirm the values of pluralism, diversity and democracy. There are many jarring parts of the yatra also. The route which it is has mapped so far seems to have lesser representation of Muslim majority areas. While we stand to criticize the fundamentalist elements of Muslim leadership, we need to connect to average Muslims (and Christians) who have been the major victims of the sectarian politics. Ridiculing Rahul Gandhi for marching with the little girl with Hijab was deliberately played up by the communal forces for sure. Yatra needs to stand up to associate with the religious minorities, emulating the Father of the Nation.

No short cuts are possible at this stage. The nation has been seriously undermined by the rise of identity politics. The diluting of caste differentials, through affirmative action has also been retarded. This yatra is a major landmark and should be beginning of the process where ‘Iswar Allah Tero naam’ and abolition of caste need to be integrated in the message of the yatra. It needs to go through the Muslim majority areas and the areas of ex Untouchables with equal frequency.

The message of Bharat Jodo (Nafarat Chodo) has been well received for sure. The need now is to give the signal for reduction of economic disparity, social and gender equality. This is the beginning of revival of what majority of Indians identified with during freedom movement. There is also a need to have backup action for consolidation of the positive energy being generated by the Yatra. This is where the major challenge will be. Lakhs of RSS shakhas are the backbone which give the ground for identity politics and glorification of past where the caste, class and gender hierarchies dominated the society. Need is to activate the quiescent Rashtra Seva Dal type organizations, community centers, which keep promoting the values of peace and harmony which majority of Indian cherish even today. These values of love and peace are very much there, but they have been dwarfed by those forces, which were never a part of freedom movement and never part of the movements, which made us Indian Nation.   (https://www.southasiamonitor.org/open-forum/rahul-gandhis-uniting-india-march-ignored-media-welcomed-social-groups)

Making India A Developed Nation By 2047: An Agenda For The Nation

By, Ambassador Sarvajit Chakravarti (retd)

Achieving developed country status by 2047 is a commendable goal set by Prime Minister Narendra Modi for India on this Independence Day. The big question now is to determine an effective path and encourage the whole of society, that includes all Indian residents, into contributing their might and mite to achieve that goal which is today a distant dream. In a secular, democratic society this will require the recognition and upholding of all the fundamental rights of Indian citizens and allowing them the freedom and means to achieve their best potential to contribute to the upliftment of the nation.

Since the Constitution guarantees individual freedom of religion, people should mutually respect the external marks of faith that any one may choose to wear and not discriminate in access to goods and services on the basis of faith. As the choice of faith is a fundamental right of an Indian, the question of changing faiths must be left to the individual conscience and not prevented or denied by social or legal means. We must feel Indian first and not make faith our primary identity.

Similarly, the question of forward or backwardness must have only an economic basis and not be based on social or community considerations. A new classification based on income level must replace our present system of reservations. BPL people must be fully supported to achieve a basic income level necessary for the nation to be considered developed. Religion should not be the basis of political ideology, nor should it influence the administration of the state, at Central or state/UT government level.

Informal economy

The objective of developed country can be achieved in such a short time only by releasing the animal spirits not merely of the formal economy but more importantly of the informal one which, despite demonetization, constitutes over 90 percent of the Indian GDP today. A significant share of the necessary annual growth rate of 11 percent or more must come from the knowledge economy and its innovative output.

To eliminate the digital divide in our nation demonstrated during the Covid pandemic, cybercafes with a minimum of two computers can be encouraged in every village. The Internet service backbone must be strengthened to an average speed of 100 mbps, which now prevails in developed countries, to enable quick output and service delivery.

Trade and business licenses should be given freely online, along with a PAN, and require all sales to be through banking channels by freely distributing POS machines through the customer’s bank. The process of registering a business must be streamlined so that it takes no more than a day. People should be free to start whatever business they want and the market will take care of excess supply. A humane bankruptcy process is necessary to restructure failed enterprises so that banks do not suffer increased NPAs from social sector lending.

Aggregators and marketers may be encouraged to collect output for sale through more outlets. Villages and panchayats may be encouraged to create self-help groups to add value to output and develop new products and uses. Business creation, operation and wind-up must be made far easier so that savers become investors.

Free enterprise

Inspections should be limited to fire, industrial safety, health and sanitation measures at the workplace and be at predictable intervals unless irregularities or non-compliance are noticed. There should be no pressure for employment in excess of requirement, nor should an enterprise be considered a cash cow by local or other elements for unrelated purposes.

The process of company formation, land acquisition, development and construction must be made as automated as possible while procurement above a minimum threshold must be by public e-tendering. Tender evaluation committees must be constituted at a level higher than of the tendering authority to ensure fair scrutiny and finalization.

Inflexible labour policies must be modified to that employers may optimize their work forces as required. To compensate an 18-month unemployment insurance scheme will be useful, during which the retrenched worker should undergo a six-month upskilling course.

Innovation and discovery is the key to growth. Literacy and numeracy must become universal. The consumption of knowledge and its use in creating effective solutions to widespread problems depends upon making education inquiry-based from the primary stage. Students should be encouraged to acquire to apply their learning in practical ways to invent things or new processes. Much more investment is required in R&D activities,

Taxes

Ninety-nine percent of our population does not pay any direct taxes on income. It will be impossible for the nation to become developed until resources are increased by innovative means, by increasing labour productivity and skills, by bringing more people particularly women into the workforce, by encouraging and supporting MSME enterprise and opening new avenues of self-employment and community activity to add value to output, make products in frequent daily use and discourage imports of goods that can be adequately manufactured in India.

Unless we achieve a long-term trade surplus by increasing exports by diversifying both export baskets and importing countries, we will be increasingly hard-pressed to pay for essential imports such as fuel. Extracting investable surplus should be made primarily by market forces through issue of project-specific bonds or other instruments.

Small investment must be encouraged by offering inflation-linked floating interest rates, so that the value of investor funds does not depreciate. This will encourage the emergence of wealth hitherto hidden or locked up in households that are not liable to pay income tax. State level resources may be augmented by monetizing municipal and other services.

For example, those issued trade and professional or similar licenses may be charged an annual fee depending upon the nature and scale of business. If the investment made is in certain identified priority sectors, it may be useful not to question the source of funds, but to rather tax the earnings from such investment.

Small investors

This may reduce the hoarding of wealth in cash or other unproductive ways and put it to use in promoting national development. Overall small investors must be given confidence that their investments will be safe even in non-banking and market related investments and earn more than traditional alternative asset classes such as gold.

The formation of MSMEs and rural productive systems must be actively encouraged. Traditional artisans, weavers and craftsmen must be encouraged by well-established designers and other famous personalities and their output brought to market after giving them a fair price for their labour, through KVIC and other similar marketing organizations.

Vocational skill training must be increased and upgraded to internationally acceptable standards so that such qualified personnel may easily migrate to points of demand in India or abroad. Their remittances will not only improve the quality of their families’ lives but also support our continuing CAD.

Finally, administration must be streamlined and made as faceless as possible. NIC and other websites must be user-friendly and capable of handling high volumes without crashing. A civil administrator today is instructed by multiple authorities and personalities at Central and State levels. Local bodies should be empowered to undertake a list of tasks within the annually prescribed budget and report the results to the local civil administration.

Political parties

People who achieve salaried political positions in the State or Centre must thereafter be accountable for any wealth accumulated in excess of known legitimate sources of income. Salaries, dearness allowance and other perquisites are provided to give a modest but decent quality of life to the earners; so. they must not burden their voters with excess demands for services they are required to render to them.

Civil servants cannot be treated by the political class as subservient “Yes Men” but allowed to work autonomously within the law to implement the legitimate directives of their superiors in the hierarchy. Otherwise, the aspiration of good governance will suffer badly.

Political parties in a democracy present their programmes to the people for approval through manifestos and poll promises. Those who emerge victors should then fulfill those promises by breaking them down into tasks for the bureaucracy to implement within budgetary resources, ensuring that there is no undue expenditure or time lag in the process.

Those parties that fail to win popular approval should work to ensure that the approved agenda is properly implemented without corruption, delay, discrimination or the creation of creation of divisions within the social fabric of the nation. They must try to ensure that the people get a fair deal from the government they elected and enjoy their fundamental rights while fulfilling their defined obligations, including payment of due taxes on time, orderly behaviour and maintaining a clean, habitable and sustainable environment.

National outlook

Politics is today regarded largely as the refuge of the reprehensible. This attitude must be changed by the parties themselves agreeing upon a common set of objectives for the nation and using their organizations to devise possible alternative pathways to achieve those national objectives without their cadres physically fighting one another. Parties are made of of people with a particular set of opinions about a set of objectives.

If all parties debate over these rather than vying to control State and Central resources for their own ends, there will be less corruption, violence, delays and wastage of stretched national resources. They must think of the national rather than the community or personal good to keep our nation unified, strong and prosperous. We must set an example in probity integrity human values and scientific knowledge for all our neighbours and the world to look up in admiration rather than dismiss us in disdain.

The other pillars of democracy, the judiciary and media, must remain steadfastly independent and impartial guardians of the Constitution. The people still repose their greatest faith in them to protect their rights and uphold their aspirations.

Finally, the structure and systems of governance must concentrate on the four pillars of finance, territorial integrity and security, communications and foreign relations as well as the others included in the Central and Concurrent Lists of the Constitutions and leave the States to get on with their own listed activities without being denied their due share of revenues by the Centre.

Let the nation and its people be free to get on with the rest of the action required to raise the per capita income to developed country levels within 2047 without increasing the inequalities that already mar so badly our economic and social fabric.

(The author is a retired Indian ambassador. Views are personal) Read more at: https://www.southasiamonitor.org/perspective/making-india-developed-nation-2047-agenda-nation

 

 

75 Years After Independence, a Changing ‘Idea of India’

Modi Is Rewriting India’s National Narrative. The prime minister’s annual Independence Day speech reflected how far political discourse has fallen in New Delhi.

India celebrated the 75th anniversary of its independence this week. Unlike prior revolutions, India’s split from the British Empire came about through a political movement committed to nonviolence. The Indian National Congress, led by Mahatma Gandhi, organized peaceful demonstrations on an unprecedented scale, and the mighty British Empire ultimately capitulated, encouraging anticolonial movements around the world. Within a generation, countries in Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean also achieved independence, ending a long and grotesque epoch of European imperialism.

India has long commemorated this watershed moment on Aug. 15, headlined by the prime minister’s speech on the ramparts of the Red Fort in New Delhi. Leaders traditionally set aside partisan rivalries in these speeches, choosing to focus on apolitical themes: the importance of Gandhi and the nonviolence movement, the resilience of India’s democracy, and the importance of tolerance and inclusion. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has mostly stuck to this formula, but this year’s speech signaled how Modi is trying to redefine what it means to be an Indian.

In his speech, Modi ticked the boxes by mentioning Gandhi and his commitment to inclusion, but he also departed from convention in important ways. First, he celebrated more than a dozen freedom fighters who had adopted a violent approach to independence. These freedom fighters operated independently of Gandhi and the Indian National Congress, undermining Gandhi and nonviolence within India’s independence movement. By highlighting them in the speech, Modi subtly pushed back against the conventional narrative and Gandhi’s central role in it.

Second, although Modi touched on inclusion when it comes to geography and gender, he avoided mentioning secularism or religious tolerance. Instead, he sought to define Indians as Hindus: “This is our legacy. How can we not be proud of this heritage? We are those people who see Shiva [a main Hindu deity] in every living being,” he said. “We are people who see the divine in the plants. We are the people who consider the rivers as mother. We are those people who see Shankar [another form of Shiva] in every stone.” For India, a country with 280 million non-Hindu citizens that has struggled with religious tensions since its founding, Modi’s religious interjections clearly signal a break from the past.

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Finally, Modi used the occasion to launch familiar jabs against the opposition Indian National Congress party while overlooking critical challenges facing the Indian state—including religious intolerance. He concluded his speech by slamming people who defend corruption and by condemning nepotism. But this was coded language that may sound like a threat to some Indian citizens: Modi and his ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have weaponized charges of corruption and nepotism to go after political opponents and dissidents. Just days after Modi’s speech, his government conducted an anticorruption raid against Manish Sisodia, one of the main leaders of the opposition Aam Aadmi Party.

Modi’s Independence Day speech is emblematic of a larger change taking place under his rule, which has faced criticism for democratic backsliding—moving away from the very constitution that came shortly after its independence. The prime minister and the BJP are working to unshackle India from its liberal and secular moorings, advancing a new national identity that champions Hindu supremacy. This enterprise is in fact antithetical to the very foundations of Hinduism, which is an inherently pluralistic faith.

Modi’s BJP government is also undercutting India’s institutions in unprecedented ways. It has made a mockery of India’s rich tradition of civil liberties by charging activists and dissidents with crimes under colonial-era laws. One egregious example is the case of left-wing activists detained under the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act for alleged links to Maoist groups and allegedly fomenting riots. One of the accused, lifelong Jesuit activist Rev. Stan Swamy, died in custody last year. Furthermore, Modi and the BJP have co-opted much of the media and important private sector actors. Journalists have faced intimidation and harassment; prominent nongovernmental organizations have been cut off from foreign funding while others can receive overseas money only into accounts with a government-owned bank.

Unfortunately, the most important lessons from the independence movement seem to be lost on India’s contemporary leaders, as shown by their approach to religious pluralism and democratic institutions. Although India’s leading revolutionaries were committed to nonviolence, tensions between Hindus and Muslims marred the independence movement. These tensions pulled the British Raj apart, and two new countries emerged in its place: India and Pakistan. This week also marks the anniversary of the Partition of India, which triggered one of the world’s worst humanitarian disasters as Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs were forced to flee in different directions across the new border. A few months later, India and Pakistan went to war over the status of Jammu and Kashmir—a disagreement that still plagues the subcontinent.

In the face of these tensions, India and Pakistan’s leaders charted opposing courses. India’s leaders advanced a progressive and modern vision for their new country, eschewing a national Hindu religion in favor of a secular identity. They worked hard to minimize religious tensions by speaking against communal strife and promoting religious protections. When Gandhi was assassinated in 1948—for supposedly being a supplicant to the Muslim community—his political heirs continued to push for a liberal vision of India. Working with the opposition, they produced a constitution that enshrined a liberal and secular democracy that remains in force today.

On the other hand, Pakistan struggled. The country’s founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, led the Muslim League that split from the Indian National Congress. But he was rarely clear in his vision for Pakistan: There is some evidence that he wanted a secular state, but he also called for an Islamic republic. When Jinnah died in 1948, he left behind a political mess. Liaquat Ali Khan, Pakistan’s first prime minister, rejected amendments offered by the opposition in his own founding document, which became a precursor to the country’s 1956 constitution that gave Islam its pride of place in the project of Pakistan. By turning to communalism, Pakistan has suffered as political actors stir religious tensions to benefit their own ends. Without credible institutions or norms that allow political differences to be resolved, the country has not been able to maintain political order.

Modi’s speech reflects how he and the BJP appear to embrace some of these traits. By lionizing fringe actors from the independence movement—including those who exacerbated religious tensions—they are rewriting history to suit their own political agenda. They have undermined civil liberties and shown basic disregard for political opposition. Taking a page from Jinnah’s book, Modi has ensured that any substantive decision must come through him. Such a system may work in the short term, but what happens when Modi is no longer prime minister?

The contrast with then-Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s epic “A Tryst With Destiny” speech, delivered on Aug. 14, 1947, couldn’t be starker. Nehru said he sought to “bring freedom and opportunity to the common man, to the peasants and workers of India; to fight poverty and ignorance and disease; to build up a prosperous, democratic, and progressive nation.” Most poignantly, he highlighted that India’s religious pluralism was integral to the newly founded country: “All of us, to whatever religion we may belong, are equally the children of India, with equal rights, privileges, and obligations.”

India’s Independence Day has traditionally provided an opportunity to reflect on the horrors of colonialism and the dangers of religious discord while also celebrating the vibrance of the country’s democracy. Modi’s speech this week reflects the departure that India’s contemporary leaders have made from these foundational values.

(Dinsha Mistree is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution and Stanford Law School. He also teaches in the international policy program at Stanford’s Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies.

Sumit Ganguly is a columnist at Foreign Policy as well as a distinguished professor of political science and the Rabindranath Tagore chair in Indian cultures and civilizations at Indiana University Bloomington.)

(Courtesy: https://foreignpolicy.com/2022/08/19/india-modi-independence-day-speech-democracy/?utm_source=PostUp&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Editors%20Picks%20OC&utm_term=46473&tpcc=Editors%20Picks%20OC&utm_source=PostUp&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Editors+Picks+OC&utm_term=46478&tpcc=Editors+Picks+OC)

An Interfaith Discussion On The Role Of Religion In Mental Health

(The Conversation) — Religious leaders often try to support the people they serve during challenging times. This supportive role was especially important during the past few years as the nation dealt with a pandemic, social distancing and the loss of more than a million lives.

In a recent discussion sponsored by the Global Religion Journalism Initiative, academics and religious leaders discussed faith-based mental health counseling, including its benefits and limitations.

Academic panelists included Thema Bryant, a trauma psychologist, ordained minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Church and professor at Pepperdine University and Rabbi Seth Winberg, senior chaplain at Brandeis Hillel at Brandeis University. Publisher and author David Morris also took part.

Below are some highlights from the discussion. Answers have been edited for brevity and clarity.

Natasha Mikles: Are there times when religion can actually be a source of stress rather than comfort for someone who’s going through a difficult time?

Thema Bryant: Yes, religion can be used for healing and empowerment, and it also can be used to oppress, marginalize and shame. In psychology, there’s something called positive religious coping and negative religious coping. Positive religious coping is believing that God is loving and ultimately wants to help, and that’s associated with positive mental health outcomes. Fundamentally believing that God is harsh and trying to penalize me is associated with more negative religious outcomes, and more negative mental health outcomes.

Seth Winberg: Yes, depending on the person and the circumstances, the faith, traditions and the community that one is living in, faith can certainly be a burden, or a strain, or a source of trauma. But for many people, faith provides a community, a social network, a sense of shared values, a rhythm to life and a common culture that I think is very powerful.

David Morris: Yes, too often people are given simplistic platitudes about how their loved one is in heaven. But as grief continues, they might be shamed a little bit and be told that they should move on. But grieving takes time. There are plenty of examples in religious literature of people in tremendous grief and tremendous sorrow.

Natasha Mikles: What tools can religious professionals use to help people have a more balanced understanding of how their religious tradition thinks about mental health?

Seth Winberg: In a page of the Talmud, there’s an open dialogue that rabbis across generations and people of faith across generations are having with each other. And I sometimes encourage students to feel free to try to talk to me or with anyone in that kind of open way – to take the risk of asking questions that we might think we can’t ask and still be a person of faith. I think, because of our modern, maybe American, perception of clergy, people don’t expect contemporary faith leaders or rabbis to be open to that kind of discussion. But that’s where Rabbinic Judaism started.

Thema Bryant: Yes, I think there’s a wonderful role for ministers and other faith leaders to play in promoting and creating space for mental health. And one of the pieces is transparency. I have seen ministers from pulpits talk about mental health challenges, talk about their grief, or talk about themselves going to therapy. That can really open the door, letting our humanity show.

Natasha Mikles: In the past two years of the pandemic, have you seen a change in the types of things that young people are struggling with?

Seth Winberg: What I’ve observed personally is a kind of suspended animation of young adults’ social, emotional and spiritual development. I think they’ve really suffered from a lack of in-person interactions in a variety of aspects of their lives, but particularly their social spiritual development. It really does something to be physically distanced from people in such extreme ways.

It’s not so obvious what the right faith-based responses are. One of them is just being present with people and being with them as they try to figure it out – not trying to give them answers and biblical verses, but to just let them express that really uncertain feeling. And having them feel that there’s a slightly older adult in their lives that just nods and lets them express those doubts and those questions, I think, can be helpful.

Thema Bryant: I would definitely agree that a major challenge for young adults has been loneliness and disconnection. Another big piece is around injustice. Some sanctuaries have fought for these issues, but other sanctuaries have not only been silent but have actually promoted really oppressive [ideas]. And I like to say it’s healthy to be outraged about outrageous things. And there are some outrageous things that have been done and said, even in the name of faith and religion. Young people have a need not only for community and companionship, but [support in] addressing social injustices.

Watch the full webinar to hear the panelists discuss the impact of COVID-19 on in person religious traditions, clergy burnout and share more actionable advice for incorporating mental health discussions in faith.

(Emily Costello, Managing Editor, The Conversation US. Thalia Plata, Editor. The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of Religion News Service.)

The Vision Of A World Divided Into Two Blocs: China & Russia Vs Europe & The United States

(IPS) – For years, Russia’s relations with the European Union and the United States have been one of the main areas of conflict in the media. Washington and Brussels accuse Moscow of manipulation and disinformation and, after the invasion of Ukraine, decided to close their media outlets to Russian companies.
Excerpts from the Q&A: 

Q: What do you think about the way this issue has been handled and what repercussions could it have on the management of the media, especially non-mainstream media such as Inter Press Service (IPS) or OtherNews?

A: Information has always been used by power, both economic and political. Information is, by definition, top-down. Whoever transmits it, whether in print form in newspapers and magazines, or in electronic form on radio and TV, sends it to an audience that cannot intervene in the process. That is why power has always tried to use it. 

The Gutenberg era represented by this phenomenon lasted six centuries. Communication, which is a more recent phenomenon and which until now has only been possible with the Internet, is different. Communication is horizontal: I am a receiver, but I can also be a sender. There, power has much more power. 

The media that provide information are closer and closer to power, they are no longer a business, and every year they are less and less powerful. And politics today is increasingly oriented towards social media. The most recent example was former US President Donald Trump, who had 80 million followers with Twitter (during his tenure at the White House) and completely gave up control of the media. (Trump was permanently banned from twitter in January 2021, right after he supported the attack on the capitol. So, Trump doesn’t actually have any twitter followers now.).

It must be added, however, that the Internet has been captured by the market, which has eliminated the horizontality we all hailed in the beginning. Today we have moved from the era of Gutenberg to the era of Zuckerberg, and we users are data, not people. 

This is of great importance for young people, who today find themselves involved in vertically created turmoil, brought about by search engines, which divide users into affinity groups, thus eliminating dialogue, because when someone from part A meets someone from part B, they clash, end up insulting each other, without listening or sharing. And search engines, in order to keep the user, prioritise what generates the most impact, so that the strangest news ends up taking precedence. 

The extreme polarisation of America would not have been possible without social media. Newspapers increasingly focus on events and abandon processes, and international relations cannot be understood without analysing the process in which events take place. 

In Nairobi in 1973 there were 75 foreign correspondents; today there are three. No European TV has correspondents in Africa. It is therefore easy for a government to decide to expel correspondents, but it is almost impossible to shut down social networks, even if autocratic governments try to do so. That is why the Russian public knows little about the reality of the war. 

But if someone is determined, they can always find a way to overcome censorship, even if it is a skill of the young, the old are not on the Internet and still rely on traditional media.

In Italy, the main daily newspaper, Il Corriere della Sera, had the front page for forty days with a nine-column headline dedicated to Ukraine. This was followed by the first twenty pages, all dedicated to Ukraine. The rest of the world had disappeared. And the same happened with most of the European media. 

Only with the French elections were newspapers forced to give significant space to Macron and not Zelensky. In this respect, representatives of the quality American press, such as the Washington Post, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, have been more balanced. Of course, the longer the war goes on, the more the repetition of events in the media becomes insufficient. 

But the European press, like Europe itself, has sided with NATO, and with little argument. In Russia, of course, the press has been an amplifier for the government. The US media, for its part, often at odds with the government on domestic and national issues, tends to support the official foreign policy position. Factors such as national identity, nationalism and a lack of knowledge of international realities in newsrooms come into play.

It was surprising to see the European press become a megaphone of NATO positions. Putin was demonized as was Hitler, and Zelensky praised as a Greek hero. The Russians are portrayed as barbarians killing Minos. There has never been any negative news about Ukrainians, when in war violence and dereliction of ethics are inevitable and unfortunately widespread. 

It is as if the Cold War has never ended, and we are ready to accept an escalation that can become scorching hot. GDP has contracted, the cost of living is rising, inflation is on the rise, and so far, there has been no reaction. This is really surprising. 

For OtherNews, which is a news service on global issues, it was a very complex challenge. OtherNews represents a new design. The idea is that the non-profit association is owned by the readers, who can become members by paying a modest annual fee of 50 euros. 

They elect the board of directors and discuss the editorial line, thus guaranteeing full independence and a pluralistic and inclusive line. There are 12,000 readers, in 82 countries around the world: academics, international civil servants, global civil society activists, etc.

Q: How would you define the role of the media in covering the conflict between Ukraine and Russia?

A: The war in Ukraine is exclusively an affair of the global North. The global South is only a victim of the increase in food, energy and transport. In Africa it has reached 45% of the population. Articles from the North were criticized by readers from the South and vice versa. 

OtherNews lost almost 300 readers, almost all from the North, for publishing articles that criticized or questioned the war. I believe that this North-South divide will increase with the explosion of the multipolar world, as the values on which multilateralism was based are disappearing. 

An ‘active non-alignment’ could be recreated, which the press in Europe and the US will struggle to understand. The West still believes it is the centre of the world, the United States in particular.

But today, mainly because of the need to prioritise national interests over international cooperation, a path opened by (former President Ronald) Reagan and (former British Prime Minister Margaret) Thatcher in 1981, we have moved from a multilateral to a multipolar world. In the Bush junior era, neo-conservatives preached the arrival of an American century, that the US should remain the dominant power. Since then, the US has lost in every conflict it has been involved in, from Iraq to Afghanistan. 

And Trump took the logic of the end of multilateralism to the extreme, advising all countries to put their own interests first. Today the result is that the multipolar world is not based on the idea of international cooperation for peace and development, but on the most brutal competition. 

And Biden now wants to revive multilateralism. But it is too late. Biden will lose the mid-term elections in November and become a lame duck, with a Congress of Trumpist Republicans vetoing everything. And in 2024 Trump is likely to return, and this whole NATO boom will go into deep crisis. But until November, if the war does not escalate and remain as it is, the European press will basically keep the war helmet on.

Q: After the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the identity of the international blocs seems to have reconfigured: on the one hand, the United States and the European Union, which defend the liberal tradition, have drawn a very wide dividing line, at home and abroad, between ‘pro-Russian’ and ‘pro-democratic’; on the other hand, Russia, China and their allies are considered ‘illiberal’. What do you think of this construction and what can it lead to in the future?

A: This vision of a world divided into two blocs, China and Russia on one side and liberal democracies, Europe and the United States, on the other, is an easy illusion to see. In this multipolar world, countries stand alone. 

A good example is Turkey, which is part of NATO, but does not participate in the embargo against Russia and is very close to China. Or India, which continues to buy Russian arms, is on China’s New Silk Road, but does not want any problems with the US. Indonesia, which has always been a loyal US ally, continues to maintain Putin’s participation in G20 despite US protests. 

And also in Europe: Hungary and Poland are openly defying Brussels, splitting into a pro-NATO Poland and a pro-Russia Hungary. Saudi Arabia, Washington’s great ally, ignores Biden’s request to increase oil production, despite having been invited to the summit of democratic countries convened by Biden. This homogeneous bloc of liberal countries is a good marketing slogan, but it crumbles at the slightest analysis.

Q: How do you see the impact of US domestic political polarization on the international scene? Why?

A: The Cold War was a confrontation between two political and ideological visions that clashed in a proxy war. America is no longer Kennedy’s America and it is no longer Obama’s America. It is a country where political polarization has reached unprecedented extremes. In 1980, 12% of Democrats and 15% of Republicans told the Pew Institute that they would not want their daughter to marry a man of the other party. Today it is 91% of Democrats and 96% of Republicans. 

And the US Supreme Court is already part of this polarization. 72% of Republicans believe Trump was a victim of electoral fraud. And the crowd that stormed the Capitol is described by the Republican Party as a ‘display of political opinion’. Is this the exemplary leader of democracy’s fight against the world’s dictators? And we are only at the beginning of a process of radicalization. 

Right-wing states, with the endorsement of the Supreme Court, are banning abortion, reducing social protections, minority voting power and changing schoolbooks. With the return of Trump, or Trumpism, in two years the coexistence between the two camps will become even more difficult and few will see America as the beacon of the free world. And that won’t matter much to Trump either.

Q: What lessons do you see for Latin America, both politically and economically, after Donald Trump’s four years in office? And for Europe?

A: My opinion is that there will be great chaos in international relations, with a growing power struggle between the United States and China, with Russia, which we had the intelligence to push into Beijing’s arms. Of course, this struggle will be disguised as something political, but in reality, it will be a pure struggle for economic and military hegemony. 

It is a fight that the US cannot win. And China is a self-referential country that has never left its borders and has built walls to keep the enemy out. While the US has exploited its soft power, its music, food, clothing, sports and lifestyle, China has little interest in this kind of imperialism. 

I have been going to China since 1958 and have always been struck by how little they care to make a foreigner understand Chinese culture. But there are tens of thousands of Chinese students studying abroad, while the same cannot be said of Americans. The two countries are two big islands, which consider themselves surrounded by inferior nations. 

Latin America has always been considered a second-rate region by the US, despite many declarations, and I doubt that China sees the region beyond its raw materials and Latin Americans beyond its buyers.

My opinion, especially in light of Trump’s experience, is that Latin America should adopt a policy of active non-alignment, declaring that it will not get involved in a proxy war that is not in its interest, and that it will do exactly what the multipolar dynamic advises: put its interests as a region first. 

This would give it greater consideration and weight in international negotiations, and a clear advantage in a world divided by the New Cold War that is brewing. A war that, unlike the current NATO war against Russia, cannot be military, because it would mean the destruction of the planet. Of course, history and the present do not help to have great faith in the intelligence of power.

The big problem is that Latin America continues to be a continent divided by the inability to leave behind the experience of its ancestors. It is the most homogeneous region in the world, much more so than Asia and Africa, and in some ways more so than Europe and the United States, since the latter are experiencing a real disintegration. 

However, the Latin American integration process has been an optical illusion. Latin America is a region of permanent political experimentation, which has stifled any economic logic due to the rivalry between successive presidents, between whom there is a constant change of compass. 

I fear that instead of putting up a united front in the face of the next cold war, they will allow themselves to be bought off individually, convinced that they are doing what is best for their country. The only thing that can change the situation is a great popular movement. But this has always been directed at global issues, such as women or the environment, and of course at national issues: never at regional issues. 

And in the press, the issue of integration has at best been relegated to its bureaucratic aspects, to the various bodies that have sprung up and failed in modern times. So, in my opinion, I don’t think we have learnt a real lesson from what has happened in the world since the fall of the Berlin Wall to express an inclusive regional policy, with a strong identity, and which places us as important players in the inter-national arena of this century.

(Sebastián Do Rosario and Federico Larsen are researchers at the Institute for International Relations of Mar del Plata, Argentina. The interview was first published in the newsletter of the Institute.. Courtesy: IPS UN Bureau)

In Gun We Trust! Booming Guns Make US Unsafe

By, Matthew Adukanil At Indian Currents

Would it be an exaggeration to say that the US is a more dangerous place for living than Afghanistan? It may sound absurd but the abnormal is becoming the normal in a proud ‘civilised’ democratic nation like the US. President Biden vows to end ‘the gun violence’ time after time. Maybe before that the US needs to shed its Gun Blindness. His rival Donald Trump and the Republicans are hell bent on continuing the mayhem as they depend for their political prosperity on the massive funds from the gun lobby. The juvenile cowboy mentality of yesteryears continues to rule the national psyche in the US prioritising the right to carry arms in public over the lives of its citizens.

Two factors contribute potently to this assault on the lives of citizens. One, practically anyone over the age of 18 can bear arms in America, even military grade assault rifles, in public. Two, there are enough depressed and mentally deranged citizens in the US who will use the guns to cool their rage.  So, we have almost week after week chilling reports of some mass shooting or other in a mall or school or any other crowded place. The USA has become no doubt, a crazy ‘never never land’ where a former President recently organised an armed attack on the Capitol. Could you believe your eyes as they witnessed the violent and shocking visuals on our TV screens with security men running for cover like hunted-down rats? Has killing become a national obsession in the US? 

It is a country that is terribly upset over a recent Supreme Court ruling regarding so-called abortion rights for killing unborn humans. A cloud can only cover the sun, not wipe it out. The hidden behind-the -scene killings of the unborn could be at the root of all this national malaise. Maybe the offended spirits of the slain innocents have invaded the minds of deranged US citizens. Perhaps, this is a parallel to the boiling cauldron scene of the three witches in the tragedy of Macbeth

The latest episode in this mayhem was the July 4 mass shooting in Chicago during the Independence Day Parade. Maybe all the crazy citizens of the US are celebrating their independence with shooting at anyone in sight. And their remorseless inner demons find some solace   in the pitiful shrieks and wailing of scampering fellow citizens. You are comparatively safer in Afghanistan because at least civilians cannot carry arms there. You need to watch out only for the typically clad Taliban fighters. In the US, all can carry weapons  and use them at will  as we all carry  cell phones everywhere nowadays. In such a scenario, why do you need armed state police at all? Disband them and save money for the nation.  Citizens can administer whimsical cowboy justice themselves. 

The remedies suggested for this most worrying situation are still more baffling. To buffer up security in schools convert them into armed fortresses where you can carry more guns than school books. School masters have to turn into armed guards, maybe. Perhaps they should turn all their schools into military academies right from the KG and learn to shoot instead of getting shot. 

Who can advise this advanced world leader of nations about the absurdity of everyone bearing arms in public?  If you carry arms you must use them sometimes or else they grow rusty. If you are crazy you need them any time. It will sound cynical to say so, but it is the truth that frequent national lamentations over mass killings seem to be the current national occupation in the US. The rest of the world is wondering how such a great nation which considers itself the policeman of the world has regressed to being a callow political novice in keeping domestic peace. 

In such a self-created situation news of mass shootings in the US is no more news for the rest of the world. It is something like the ever-increasing petrol price notifications which have become routine exercise. This great nation is paradoxically wasting its time and energy monitoring freedom index in other nations when it has no clue as to how to protect its own citizens from maniacs. When your own house is in chaos preaching homilies to the rest of the world is a pointless waste of breath which will fall on deaf ears. What a fall for such a great nation, fellow citizens of the world!

Righteous Dissent

By, P. A. Chacko At Indian Currents

Righteous dissent is right to dissent; and it is a fundamental right. It is guaranteed by Indian Constitution in Article 19 with the freedom of expression. Dissent shows there is another angle or a different viewpoint.  Decent persons listen to what others have to say in dissent. It is letting others to have their freedom of opinion. It may be a critical observation. It could also be a point which the other party has not seen or taken into consideration or an alternative solution. 

When a government in power does not want to allow such freedom of expression, one smells a rat. If it suppresses dissent with an iron rod, it is the end of the road. Many citizens are of opinion that the ruling BJP deals with every dissenting opinion as unwanted, often dubbed criminal act, sometimes even anti-national. Peaceful demonstrations, representations, meetings, gatherings, etc. are constitutionally guaranteed exercises of democratic freedom of expression. Surprisingly, even such acts or exercises invite the wrath of the powers that are. 

Did not Prime Minister Modi put on a Himalayan stature at the recent G 7 summit in Bavaria when he, along with four other countries, signed the document on protecting the freedom of speech? The Hindu noted that “the joint statement came amidst allegations that the Indian Government was stifling the freedom of speech and the civil society actors…In a joint statement titled ‘2022 Resilient Democracies Statement’ on June 27 during the G 7 Summit, the leaders including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, said they were prepared to defend these principles and are resolved to protect the freedom of expression” (thehindu.com, June 28). 

But, what a contradiction, when, almost at the same time journalist and Alt News co-founder Mohammed Zubair was arrested by Delhi police for a four-year-old quote from a Hindi film accusing him of hurting religious sentiments. According to Justice Deepak Gupta, “Freedom of speech is one of the basic concepts of our democracy. People are put under pressure if they are made to feel that, if they express a certain point of view, they will have to face trouble either from the Enforcement Directorate or a money laundering case” (Interview to The Wire).

In contrast, a BJP spokesperson, who offended the sentiments of the Muslim community by saying insulting words against Prophet Mohammed, has not yet been arrested. Instead, she is being honoured with security cover. Another spokesperson who supported Nupur Sharma too has been given security cover. “If Nupur Sharma was not arrested, Zubair also should not have been arrested,” says Justice Deepak Gupta.

In every country there are opposition parties. They ventilate public grievances through their critical observations and suggestions. United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand and Australia have shadow Cabinets of opposition parties. Its responsibility is to scrutinise the ruling party’s policies and offer alternative suggestions or amendments.  Unfortunately, India has no such arrangement. Rather, more often than not, the opposition parties are considered unwanted and treated like carbuncles.  

In today’s Indian scenario, public dissent often erupts into violent street theatricals which are not happy solutions. Such exercises may be outbursts of suffocations caused by the iron hand of the government. Instead of dealing with opposing situations through discussions and debates, if they are met with police atrocities and even bureaucratic punishments, the writing on the wall is clear. Executive orders to treat demonstrators as criminals are anti-democratic decisions. 

On the other hand, it is often seen that if you belong to the ruling party, you can go any length to create mayhem and terror. Whether to pull down the Ayodhya mosque or to attack minority communities with impunity, it is, as if, the prerogative of the muzzle men with the blessings of the party bosses.     

The U.P. incidents where Muslim homes were demolished because they allegedly took part in street demonstrations have attracted condemnations the world over. Here righteous dissent was treated with criminal assault. Three Rapporteurs of the United Nations (Housing Rights, Minority Issues and Freedom of Religion), jointly sent a letter to the government of India on 9th June criticizing and protesting against arbitrary demolitions of houses and properties of people, particularly of the Muslim community. The world is watching and is concerned. Yet we in India play the fiddle. 

In a recent Supreme Court case involving Nupur Sharma, Justice Surya Kant (slated to take over as the Chief Justice of India in May 2025) told Nupur’s counsel, “No Mr. Singh, the conscience of the court is not satisfied.” He stated that she should apologize to the nation for her arrogant and insulting remark against the Holy Prophet Mohammed and queried why she was not arrested. He also stated that the fact that she was not arrested shows her clout and power.  

It is highly praiseworthy that the Judge sends the incontrovertible message to the nation that the court has a conscience. It would be equally praiseworthy if all the judicial authorities believed in this message and acted accordingly.  The nation, particularly the common man, looks up to the court to exercise its conscience by pronouncing justice without bias or favor. 

That is where people expect that the courts in India not to keep mum when the nation is taken for a ride by terror outfits or nationalist marauders. When the wheels of justice turn too slow for ordinary people, the conscience of the court should wake up and call a spade a spade. 

When righteous dissent is bulldozed and pulverized by the ruling class or when the minority communities are treated as dirt, the conscience of the court cannot afford to take a blissful nap. The promising sign of the window of justice getting opened by the conscience keepers of the law courts is welcome. However, the suffocation of people suffering from sponsored spiral of violence can be removed only by opening not just a window but all the doors and windows of justice.

Hoover Dam And Lake Mead: Any Alert!!

Hoover Dam near Las Vegas, is known globally for its cute architecture. The reservoir created by the damming of the Colorado River became Lake Mead, drew thousands of visitors to this wondrous contrast of desert and water. Lake Mead gets water from Lake Powell, the second-largest reservoir in the country. Its water supply is around a fourth of what it used to be.

Now the Lake Mead is at an elevation of 1,046.3 feet. That’s more than 40 feet lower than the 1,087.1 feet elevation two years ago in June 2020. The latest two-year projection from the federal agency shows that the lake could drop as low as 1,020 feet within the next two years.

From 1983, fast-forward nearly four decades, Lake Mead is now 178 feet lower and continuing to shrink, may find alarming!

The megadrought currently choking the western United States is the worst drought in the region in more than 1,000 years. It’s having an enormous impact across many states and on several major reservoirs, including Lake Mead, a water source for millions of people in the West. 

Last week measured at 1,044.03 feet, its lowest elevation since the lake was filled in the 1930s. If the reservoir dips below 895 feet — a possibility still years away — Lake Mead would reach dead pool, carrying enormous consequences for millions of people across Arizona, California, Nevada and parts of Mexico. A dead pool would not mean no water was left in the reservoir, but even before Lake Mead was hit, there were concerns that water levels could fall so low that hydroelectric power production would be hindered.

A clear high-water mark known as a “bathtub ring” is seen on the shores of Lake Mead at the Hoover Dam near Las Vegas, Nevada, on June 10, comparing the reservoir when filled in the 1930s. (Photo by Bridget BENNETT).

Astounding to hear the latest news of a body in a barrel, human skeletons along the shorelines, ghost towns, a crashed B-29 Superfortress that used to track cosmic rays, Prehistoric salt mines etc., are revealed when the water level dropped. What all will the receding waters of Lake Mead show in the days ahead?

The Colorado River Basin, a lifeline of the American Southwest, is shrinking. And, with it, the country’s two largest reservoirs are going dry. Just 30 miles east of Las Vegas sits Lake Mead on the border of Arizona and Nevada. It’s the largest artificial reservoir in North America.

Lake Mead pumps water from the Colorado River to nearly 25 million people. It’s a significant water source for residents and tribes in Arizona, Nevada, California, parts of Mexico and some of the country’s most productive agricultural sites. About 75 percent of the water goes to irrigation for agriculture. That supplies about 60 percent of the food for the nation that’s grown in the United States.

But the lake has been declining for decades due to rising temperatures and climate change, cracked earth and mud where water used to be. Now it’s only 30 percent full, an historic low. Over the years, rusted debris and sunken boats have emerged, more recently, some darker discoveries, human remains lost for decades.

Below Lake Mead, the Hoover Dam provides hydroelectric power to 1.3 million people across three states. But the dam is operating at 67 percent of its capacity. If the reservoir’s elevation falls below 950 feet, the dam’s turbines will stop spinning.

States in the Southwest have started limiting some of their use of the Colorado River Basin. And last month, federal officials took unprecedented action to temporarily keep enough water in Lake Powell, one of the country’s largest reservoirs, to continue generating hydropower for a million homes.

Southern California already started restricting water use, including watering of lawns to once or twice a week, for about six million residents. It’s also having a significant impact on Lake Mead, a primary water source for agriculture and millions of people in the American West.

In Nevada there have been measures to remove grassy lawns and save irrigation water that they can put back into the system. So there is a spirit of ensuring that people can protect water for the folks in their jurisdictions.

Now as a creative solution,  the following report is highly impressive. Regarding the Mississippi Water Letters of June 26, citizens of Louisiana and Mississippi south of the Old River Control Structure don’t need all that water. All it does is cause flooding and massive tax expenditures to repair and strengthen embankments. 

The best solution would be for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to build an aqueduct from the Old River Control Structure on the Mississippi to Lake Powell, fill it, and then send more water from there down the Colorado to fill lake Mead. About 4.5 million/gals a second flow past that structure on the Mississippi. As mentioned, New Orleans has a problem with that much water anyway, so let’s divert 250,000 gallons/sec to Lake Powell, which currently has a shortage of 5.5 trillion gallons.

Lake Mead has a somewhat larger shortage, about 8 trillion gallons, but it could be filled in about 370 days at 250,000 gallons/sec.Hence, this megadraught is not the catastrophic end of everything, alternative solutions will pave way for better days ahead.

Choosing The West Over Russia Could Make New Delhi A Great Power

India’s neutrality over the war in Ukraine has exposed its vulnerability. New Delhi depends on Russia for military supplies, and so, even though Russia is blatantly violating Ukraine’s territorial sovereignty in an attempt to re-create its erstwhile empire, India has opted to stay silent. It has done so even though India, as a former colony, knows all too well what it’s like to be the victim of imperialism. It has done so even though its own territorial integrity is threatened by another authoritarian power—namely, China. India, it seems, feels caught in a vise grip by Moscow.

To some extent, New Delhi’s concerns are understandable. Russian President Vladimir Putin has not been shy about cutting trade with states that condemn his invasion. But viewed more broadly, New Delhi’s approach is shortsighted and risky. It ignores the dangerous precedent that Russia’s reckless behavior is setting in other parts of the world. It provides diplomatic cover to China—Moscow’s most conspicuous international backer—to also ignore Russia’s bad behavior. And although criticizing the invasion might worsen relations with Russia, refusing to take a stand could alienate an even more powerful country: the United States.

The prospect of upsetting Washington should be particularly concerning for Indian policymakers. The United States has become one of New Delhi’s most important partners, particularly as India tries to stand up to Chinese aggression in the Himalayas. But although Washington is not happy that New Delhi has refused to condemn Russian aggression, Indian policymakers have calculated that their country is so central to U.S. efforts to counterbalance China that India will remain immune to a potential backlash. So far, they’ve been right; the United States has issued only muted criticisms of Indian neutrality. Yet Washington’s patience is not endless, and the longer Russia prosecutes its war without India changing its position, the more likely the United States will be to view India as an unreliable partner. It may not want to, but ultimately New Delhi will have to pick between Russia and the West.

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In-depth analysis delivered weekly. It should choose the West. The United States and its allies can offer India more—diplomatically, financially, and militarily—than can Russia. They can better help New Delhi stand up to China. In the short term, this reorientation may make procurement difficult for India’s military, but Russia’s invasion has already weakened Moscow’s ability to provide India with supplies. New Delhi, then, has little to lose by throwing its lot in with the United States and Europe, and it ought to use Russia’s invasion as an opportunity to boldly shift away from Moscow.

GO WEST

When it comes to the war, India is something of an outlier among the world’s democracies. The United States, Canada, almost all of Europe, and multiple countries in Asia and the Pacific—including Australia, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, and Taiwan—have condemned and sanctioned Russia for its invasion of Ukraine. India, by contrast, has remained neutral.

Indeed, New Delhi has arguably even supported Moscow. Unlike most of the world, it has actively increased its economic ties to Russia since the war began. According to The New York Times, India’s crude oil purchases from Russia went from 33,000 barrels per day in 2021 to 300,000 barrels a day in March and then to 700,000 a day in April. Indian importers are purchasing Russian liquified natural gas on the so-called spot market at reduced prices. India’s buys are still far smaller than those made by European countries, but the latter states are working to drastically reduce their dependence on Moscow. India, by contrast, has handed Russia a possible lifeline. It’s no surprise, then, that Moscow has praised New Delhi for, as Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov put it, “taking this situation in the entirety of facts, not just in a one-sided way.”

For now, U.S. officials have been tolerant of India’s behavior. They understand that the country relies on Russian military hardware, and they recognize that India cannot break its dependence overnight. But there’s a difference between neutrality and support, and as Russian atrocities mount and India continues to import large amounts of Russian crude oil and gas, Washington may begin to see New Delhi as an enabler. To preserve the United States’ deepening relationship with India, U.S. policymakers will want to ensure that India is not facilitating Russia’s invasion.

They will also want New Delhi to turn to other military suppliers. If India doesn’t do so, it will become more difficult for the United States to increase its transfer of sophisticated defense technologies to New Delhi, since Washington cannot expose its high-tech equipment to Russian systems. Under the U.S. Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, India could even face economic penalties for its ties to Moscow. India recently purchased an S-400 air defense system from Russia, and unless U.S. President Joe Biden decides to waive the penalties for national security reasons, Indian officials could be hit with restrictions on access to U.S. loans from U.S. financial institutions and prohibitions on bank transactions subject to U.S. jurisdictions, among other sanctions. The White House appeared to be on a path to waive the sanctions, but that was before Russia’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine. Now, it is no longer clear what the administration will do.

New Delhi has arguably supported Moscow.

Thankfully for Indian-U.S. relations, there are signs that India may be starting to reduce its military ties with Moscow. The country has been gradually cutting its defense imports from Russia over the last several years, and Indian media recently reported that the country has cancelled plans to upgrade its Russian Su-30 MKI fighter aircraft because the war has made it harder for Moscow to supply New Delhi with spare parts. This month, India halted negotiations with Russia to acquire ten Ka-31 airborne early warning helicopters, also over concerns about Moscow’s ability to fulfill the order. But 80 percent of the country’s current military stocks still consist of Russian-origin equipment.

For India, curtailing dependence on Russian military gear is not just the right move for moral reasons. Ultimately, it will also help advance the Indian’s military modernization goals. As Russia becomes poorer and increasingly isolated, it will be less and less able to assist the Indian military (a fact that the canceled orders illustrate). That’s because Russia will have fewer high-quality weapons to sell, and it will need to focus more on replenishing its own military stocks, particularly as it loses access to critical Western technologies. New Delhi, then, should move quickly to find other countries that manufacture spares and upgrades for Russian-made equipment. And over the long term, India should focus on building up domestic military production so that it becomes less dependent on other countries for its national defense.

CARROTS WITHOUT STICKS

India has refused to condemn Russia’s invasion for reasons beyond just its military needs. Moscow has long offered diplomatic support to India, including over the issue of Kashmir, and New Delhi is reticent to antagonize a friend. But in recent years, Russia has become far less dependable. For example, Russia has recently made overtures to Pakistan, perhaps India’s biggest antagonist. Last year, Lavrov visited Islamabad, and he pledged that Moscow would boost military cooperation and construct a $2.5 billion gas pipeline between Pakistani cities—Russia’s first major economic investment in Pakistan in 50 years.

Even more alarming for New Delhi was the release of Beijing and Moscow’s historic joint manifesto. Announced on February 4, following a meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping, the 5,000-plus word document heralded an era of newly deep Chinese-Russian relations. For India, this partnership could not come at a worse time. In June 2020, Beijing and New Delhi came to blows after China spent months deliberately building up its forces at several points along the Line of Actual Control that divides the two nations. The resulting fight killed 20 Indian soldiers and at least four Chinese troops—the first deaths along the disputed border since 1975.

Following the clash, New Delhi turned to Moscow for diplomatic assistance, hoping that Russia could defuse tensions and prevent an all-out conflict. Indian officials calculated that Russia had more influence and leverage with Beijing than did any other country, and that it might therefore be able to get China to step back. And Moscow did host a virtual Russia-China-India trilateral meeting of foreign ministers shortly after the fight.

Moscow has long offered support to India, and New Delhi is reticent to antagonize a friend.

But ultimately it was Washington that backed India with robust material and moral support in its time of crisis. It publicly vowed to stand with India in the country’s efforts to protect its territorial sovereignty, and it expedited the leasing of two MQ-9B surveillance drones. It gave winter military gear to Indian troops. Most important, Washington enhanced information and intelligence sharing with New Delhi. This marked a turning point in Indian-U.S. relations. Before the clash, Indian policymakers had actively debated whether India could count on the United States for support in a conflict with China. Washington’s response made it clear that the answer is yes.

In the years since, ties between the two countries have only grown stronger. The U.S. Indo-Pacific strategy, released in mid-February, made clear that India plays a critical role in Washington’s efforts to compete with Beijing. The Biden administration further affirmed U.S.-Indian ties in April by hosting a 2+2 dialogue between the U.S. secretary of state, the U.S. secretary of defense, and their Indian counterparts. It added a virtual meeting between U.S. President Joe Biden and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the last minute, further signaling the importance of U.S.-Indian relations.

The United States’ allies have largely followed its lead. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson made a visit to India in April to advance negotiations on a British-Indian trade deal and to streamline licensing for British military exports. Three days later, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen visited New Delhi, where she and Modi agreed to establish a joint trade and technology council and to resume negotiations on an EU-Indian free trade agreement.

Washington should not pressure India to criticize Russia.

These steps have all signaled to India that it is welcome to partner with the West. But if the United States wants to move New Delhi further into its camp and away from Moscow’s, it should take additional measures. Washington could give New Delhi even more access to sensitive U.S. technologies that would enhance Indian defense capabilities. It could also provide incentives to U.S. private companies to co-develop and co-produce additional high-tech military equipment in India. It might make its military gear more affordable for India. Recent media reports indicate Washington may be getting ready to take a step in this direction by providing a $500 million Foreign Military Financing package to incentivize India to purchase U.S. weapons. (Given India’s robust defense requirements, however, this is still a small amount.)

What Washington should not do is pressure India to criticize Russia. New Delhi strongly values having an independent foreign policy, and so it would bristle at being told how to act. But U.S. officials can be clear that they will offer India more help, more quickly, if the country reduces its reliance on Russian military systems.

The United States can also help woo India by encouraging the Quad to cooperate on Ukraine in policy domains where all members can agree. During the 2+2 talks, for example, Indian and U.S. officials discussed how to deal with global fuel and food shortages stemming from the war. Biden, Modi, and the Quad’s other two leaders (the prime ministers of Australia and Japan) should also discuss these brewing crises. Talking about such issues will be productive—every member of the Quad has a strong incentive in stopping famines—while avoiding excoriations of India for its neutral position on the war. India wants to be engaged, not shamed, and so this lighter approach is Washington’s best bet for bringing India’s response to the war in Ukraine into alignment with its own.

FRIENDS IN HIGH PLACES

For India, closely embracing the West may be discomforting. New Delhi has a proud tradition of strategic autonomy, and it prefers a multipolar world in which it does not have to choose between major geopolitical blocs. Beijing knows this and has been happy to play into India’s concerns. It relishes the current situation in no small part because it views the conflict as an opportunity to woo India with promises of a multipolar world while at the same time driving a wedge between New Delhi and Washington.

But India should recognize that it would be a loser in such a system. China and Russia’s version of multipolarity would make it easier for authoritarian powers with revisionist goals to redraw borders, as China hopes to do in the Himalayas. Beijing and Moscow’s manifesto should underscore these risks. As part of the document, both states criticized the U.S. Indo-Pacific strategy—which promises stronger cooperation with India.

But the best way for the country to protect itself is to not play into China’s and Russia’s hands. It is, instead, to exude strength—including by speaking out against Russian aggression, rather than being cowed by Moscow. And that means New Delhi should deepen its partnership with the United States, the country best positioned to help India achieve its great-power ambitions.

The Hinduization Of India Is Nearly Complete

When the british withdrew from the Indian subcontinent in 1947, paving the way for the independence of the newly partitioned nations of India and Pakistan, the Muslims of the region had a choice. They could resettle in Pakistan, where they would be among a Muslim majority, or remain in India, where they would live as a minority in a majority-Hindu but constitutionally secular state.

 

For Shah Alam Khan, whose great-grandparents were among the roughly 35 million Muslims who opted to live on the Indian side of the Radcliffe Line in the aftermath of Partition, his family’s decision was in many ways a political gamble. “They didn’t want to go to a theocratic state,” Khan told me from his home in Delhi. Indeed, when Pakistan finally adopted a constitution, nine years after Partition, it enshrined Islam as the state religion. For his family, the promise of a pluralist India, as envisaged by the country’s founders, trumped the warnings of the pro-Partition Muslim League (which went on to become the party of Pakistan’s founders) that a Muslim minority would inevitably be subordinate to the Hindu majority.

 

Seventy-five years later, those warnings have gained a new prescience. Nominally, India remains a secular state and a multifaith democracy. Religious minorities account for roughly 20 percent of the country’s 1.4 billion people, who include about 200 million Muslims and 28 million Christians. But beneath the country’s ostensible inclusivity runs an undercurrent of Hindu nationalism that has gained strength during the eight-year rule of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The concern shared by many among the country’s religious minorities, as well as by more secular-minded liberals within the Hindu majority, is that the country’s secular and inclusive ethos is already beyond repair.

 

Muslims and Christians alike have faced a surge in communal violence in recent years. A raft of new laws has reached into their daily lives to interfere with the religious garments they wear, the food they eat, where and how they worship, and even whom they marry. Many of the Indian journalists, lawyers, activists, and religious leaders I’ve spoken with for this article say that the institutions on which the country once relied to keep this kind of ethnic supremacism in check—the courts, opposition parties, and independent media—have buckled.

 

To Khan, it feels as though the India he has inherited is gradually becoming another version of the theocratic state his family turned away from all those years ago. “They were promised a secular nation,” he said. For them, and for the country’s religious minorities today, “the unmaking of secular India is a betrayal.”

 

This ideal of a pluralist, secular India is popular not only among its religious minorities. A 2021 study conducted by the Pew Research Center found that by a wide margin, Indians of all faiths consider religious tolerance an essential part of what it means to be “truly Indian.” This civic value is as old as the country itself: Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first prime minister, rejected any concept of the nation as Hinduism’s answer to Pakistan. His India would not be “formally entitled to any religion as a nation,” he said, but a placewhere all faiths could coexist and be celebrated equally.

 

That founding ideology, however, has long been disputed by Hindu nationalists. “To be a Hindu means a person who sees this land, from the Indus River to the sea, as his country but also as his Holy Land,” wrote the politician and activist Vinayak Damodar Savarkar in his 1923 book, Hindutva: Who Is a Hindu? (Hindutva, meaning “Hindu-ness,” has become shorthand for Hindu nationalism itself.) In Savarkar’s view, only those who regard India as both their country and their sacred Hindu homeland could be truly Indian. While Christians and Muslims could fulfill the first requirement, of patriotism, they would never be able to achieve the second. “Their holyland is far off in Arabia or Palestine,” Savarkar wrote. “Consequently their names and their outlook smack of a foreign origin. Their love is divided.”

 

Modi’s own Hindutva credentials run deep. Before he went into mainstream politics with the Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, he cut his teeth as a member of its allied paramilitary organization, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, or RSS. After his landslide reelection victory in May 2019, one of the first things he did with his new mandate, in August of that year, was to fulfill a long-standing demand of the RSS by revoking the special autonomous status of Jammu and Kashmir, India’s sole Muslim-majority territory (over which Pakistan also claims sovereignty).

 

That same month, the northeastern BJP-led state of Assam published a national registry that left nearly 2 million people, many of them Muslim, off the list, casting their Indian citizenship into doubt. Perhaps the most contentious decision came at the end of the year, when Modi’s government pressed through a new law granting non-Muslims from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan the right to seek fast-tracked citizenship in India. Critics likened the move to a religious test for citizenship, and warned that it would open the door to additional forms of legal discrimination against Muslims.

 

These events loom large in Indian politics, but when I spoke with members of India’s Muslim and Christian communities about how life in India has changed under Modi’s rule, they rarely came up. People attested instead to the smaller, often more insidious ways in which the experience of India’s religious minorities has been altered.

 

To belong to a religious minority in India today is to feel “there is no future,” an Indian Muslim from Kashmir, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of government retaliation, told me. That sentiment is echoed by Ajit Sahi, a former journalist who left India for the United States days after Modi’s reelection. “I have friends who are desperate to get out,” Sahi, a secular-inclined Hindu who now serves as the advocacy director of the Indian American Muslim Council in Washington, D.C., told me. “There is no future for somebody like me back in India.” Nandita Suneja, who moved from her native Delhi to Australia in 2019, told me that the communal tensions made her Hindu family’s decision to leave much easier. She didn’t want to raise her daughter in an “atmosphere of stifling freedom and hate.”

 

For Indian Muslims, in particular, the situation is dire. During the recently passed holy month of Ramadan, they saw their houses and shops bulldozed, their businesses boycotted, and their religious gatherings heckled by Hindu-nationalist mobs. Open calls for genocide against Muslims have become commonplace, as have violent clashes and lynchings. Although the authorities generally avoid the appearance of explicitly endorsing these kinds of actions, they rarely go out of their way to condemn them. A recent open letter signed by more than 100 former civil servants accused the Indian government of being “fully complicit” in the subordination of the country’s religious minorities as well as in the undermining of the country’s constitution.

 

Shah Alam Khan, who teaches orthopedic medicine at Delhi’s All India Institute of Medical Sciences, considers himself relatively privileged compared with most Indian Muslims, who tend to be among the country’s poorer and more marginalized citizens. But even for him, he says, the country’s majoritarian turn has forced a change in his quotidian habits. He thinks twice before using the greeting Assalamualaikum, or using any other obviously Islamic phrase, in a crowded public space. Asked for his name, he typically offers only Shah, because it’s more common and less identifiably Muslim than his surname.

 

This type of self-surveillance has affected other members of his family. “Whenever I used to go meet my mom, she used to give me food,” Khan said. “But ever since [Modi] came to power, she stopped giving me that food, because a large part of that food used to be meat.” Cows are considered sacred to the Hindu faith, and their slaughter has been proscribed in most states—a rule often enforced by vigilante mobs. If Khan were stopped by a hostile crowd on suspicion of carrying beef, his mother feared, he could be arrested, even lynched.

 

Akif—who asked to be identified by only his first name for fear of persecution—grew up in what he describes as comfortable circumstances in Aligarh, southwest of Delhi. But that comfort has slipped in recent years. He won’t leave home wearing traditional Islamic attire if he is going to an unfamiliar neighborhood. His wife, who works in academia, has been asked by colleagues about why she wears a hijab, the Muslim headscarf, and why she doesn’t work at an Islamic institution. Some of the most incendiary comments, Akif says, have come from people he considered friends.

 

These restrictions, compounded by public debates at the local, state, and even national levels over whether Muslim students should be allowed to wear headscarves in school or how loudly mosques should broadcast the call to prayer (known as the azaan), have left many Indian Muslims feeling unwelcome in their own country. “Initially, they came for our dietary habits, now the azaan,” Rana Ayyub, an Indian Muslim journalist and author, told me. “Every day you wake up and it’s like, ‘Okay, what part of our identity are you going to attack today?’”

 

Indian Christians face similar hostility. Attacks on Christians have been rising steadily since 2014, and 2021 was the most violent year on record for the community: The United Christian Forum, an ecumenical organization based in Delhi, reported a tally of more than 500 violent incidents—an 80 percent increase over the previous year. A human-rights lawyer who works on minority-rights and religious-freedom cases, who requested anonymity in order to speak candidly about their work, told me that most of these incidents originate with Hindu-nationalist mobs, which descend on religious gatherings at churches and in homes to accuse those involved of forcing Christianity upon unsuspecting Hindus, in violation of the country’s anti-conversion laws. In the violence that ensues, pastors have been beaten, churches vandalized, and religious schools attacked.

 

In many cases, rather than intervene to maintain public order, police officers join the mobs, ready to arrest the suspected Christian proselytizers. In one incident, on April 14, dozens of worshippers were gathered at a church in the state of Uttar Pradesh to observe Maundy Thursday when a mob showed up with police. “Everyone was arrested,” the lawyer told me. “‘Who are you converting? Everyone is detained.’ It was a little bizarre.” That case is still pending.

 

Hindu-nationalist groups and BJP lawmakers claim that forced conversions are rampant in the country. But there is little evidence for this. None of the arrests have yet resulted in a single conviction, A. C. Michael, a former member of the Delhi Minorities Commission and the national coordinator of the United Christian Forum, told me. But if the real purpose of the harassment is to intimidate members of a religious minority, it has already had its desired effect. “Earlier, we were very proud to display our faith, like wearing a cross or, if we were traveling, we would say our prayers aloud,” Michael said. “All that has now stopped.”

 

This is so far from the India that Nehru’s vision promised that Muslims and Christians now have little expectation that the state will protect not just their rights but their very lives. “The year I left India, in 2015, there were several attacks on churches in Delhi,” Dominic Emmanuel, a former spokesperson of the Delhi Catholic Church who is now based in Vienna, Austria, told me. When he and his fellow congregants staged a protest against attacks within their church compound, they were arrested.

 

Modi’s ruling bjp has no incentive to change course. In March, the party won a resounding victory when it held on to power in Uttar Pradesh, where the government is now led by Yogi Adityanath, a hard-line nationalist and former monk widely seen as Modi’s likely successor. The main opposition party, the Indian National Congress, was once the standard-bearer of secularism in India, but it has failed to mount a strong defense of the country’s religious minorities. Analysts I spoke with attribute part of that failure to the opposition’s fears of alienating a Hindu majority that has been swayed by Hindutva ideology.

 

If the political system is no longer a check on majoritarian rule, neither is the legal system. Just as the authorities fail to protect minorities from communal violence—or even participate in the violence themselves—the legal system fails to hold officials to account. Worse, a series of draconian and discriminatory laws have recruited both police and courts to efforts to silence government critics and advocates for India’s religious minorities. (The Indian government did not respond to requests for comment.)

 

At grave personal risk, several Indian journalists have shed unflattering light on Modi’s majoritarian rule. Some have been jailed for their reporting. One is Siddique Kappan, who was charged with sedition and conspiracy to incite violence for trying to report on the gang rape and murder of a 19-year-old Dalit woman. (Dalits, pejoratively known as the “untouchables,” are at the bottom of India’s caste system.) Others, like Ayyub, have been hit with spurious fraud and money-laundering charges; their cases are laborious and expensive to defend. The BJP-controlled state does not need to worry about time or money, so the process is the punishment.

 

“There is no one left,” Ayyub said, noting that as the country’s high-profile figures in politics, law, and the media have been largely silenced, so, too, have celebrities in India’s entertainment industry. The most prominent example is Shah Rukh Khan, one of Bollywood’s biggest stars, as well as one of the country’s most influential Muslim figures, whose films portray India’s pluralism at its best. Last year, the actor’s son was embroiled in allegations of drug use—a charge seen by some as part of a broader effort by the government to crack down on its critics in the film industry, as well as an attempt to discredit Khan personally.

Khan not only embodies that anathema to the BJP of being a Muslim married to a Hindu, but he has also spoken out against religious intolerance in the country. By attacking a personality like Khan, Ayyub said, the government’s message was clear: “If it can happen to Shah Rukh Khan, the biggest superstar,” she said, “imagine what happens to a regular Muslim without the access.”

  

That Modi feels emboldened enough to take on a movie star like Khan is telling. Modi “is popular because of the fact that he’s a bigot,” Aakar Patel, the chair of Amnesty International’s India Board and the author of The Price of the Modi Years, told me. “He is seen as somebody who has put Muslims in their place.” Despite rising inflation and high unemployment, as well as the government’s mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic and democratic backsliding, the prime minister still enjoys widespread popularity with his own BJP-supporting constituency. For most Indians, he is an Indian success story.

 

“Modi has been a real son of the soil for young Indians and they see themselves in him,” Vivan Marwaha, a researcher in emerging markets and the author of What Millennials Want, told me. If the son of a tea seller can become prime minister and command an international stage, the logic goes, so could they. “His appeal is in his personality,” Marwaha added. “Foreign leaders have to listen to him speaking in Hindi. He sells out stadiums in New York, London, and Sydney.”

 

Many Hindu Indians also appear comfortable with Modi’s ethnonationalist aims, despite the outbreaks of communal violence. “The whole religious agenda is not seen as something radical because, at the end of the day, something like 80 percent of India’s population is Hindu,” Marwaha said. “People just believe, ‘Well, why can’t they just live with our rules? Why can’t they not eat beef? Why does the azaan need to be played in public places?’ Things like that.”

 

If no check to the Hinduization of state and society comes from within India, then what about from without? So far, India’s international allies have shown little inclination to call Delhi out over the treatment of its religious minorities, largely because they see India as too important a partner to alienate. This is especially true of the Biden administration, which counts its relationship with India as a strategic asset in its Indo-Pacific strategy.

 

When Washington has voiced concern about the treatment of religious minorities in India, it has done so in private. That could be starting to change. In April, at a joint press conference with the Indian foreign and defense ministers, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken noted that the United States is monitoring the rise of human-rights abuses in the country. That same month, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, a federal body created by Congress in 1998, designated India as a country of “particular concern” for the third year in a row in its annual religious-freedom report, placing India alongside countries such as Afghanistan, China, Iran, Russia, and Pakistan. In India’s case, the commission recommended imposing targeted sanctions against those responsible for severe religious-freedom violations.

 

Although the commission has no power to enforce such measures, its condemnations may have some cumulative effect. “When your own agency is recommending a policy move for three years in a row, it becomes harder to ignore with each passing year,” Pranay Somayajula, an advocacy and outreach coordinator at Hindus for Human Rights, a group based in Washington, D.C., told me.

As menacing as the persecution of religious minorities has become, for most Indians, emigrating is not an option. Only about 5 percent of citizens have a passport, and those who leave the country tend to be among the wealthiest. “If we decide to abandon the ship, what will happen to people who do not have the resources to go out? That is a very big concern,” Akif told me. As the last of his siblings still living in India, he can’t bring himself to leave his parents behind.

 

For Shah Alam Khan, remaining is a point of principle too. Because he spent several years working as a doctor for the National Health Service in Britain, he could emigrate there. But doing so would hand the nationalists who don’t see him as a true Indian a win. “It’s like running away. I won’t do that,” he said. “This is my country at the end of the day.” (Yasmeen Serhan is a staff writer at The Atlantic.

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