Pakistani-American Journalist Questions Modi About Treatment of Minorities in India

Wall Street Journal's White House Correspondent Sabrina Siddiqui, a Pakistani-American Muslim journalist, got to ask the only question posed by an American journalist to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his recent visit to the White House in Washington, DC. This was the first time in 14 years that Mr. Modi took an unscripted question from any journalist anywhere in the world. In fact, it was his first press conference since taking office as the prime minister of India in 2014. 

Narendra Modi (Left), Sabrina Siddiqui (R)

Sabrina Siddiqui asked the Indian leader about rights groups’ assessments that his government is discriminating against religious minority groups and quashing dissent. She asked," What steps are you and your government willing to take to improve the rights of Muslims and other minorities in your country and to uphold free speech?" 

The Islmophobic Indian prime minister feigned “surprise” at the question and said democracy is core to India. He then went to lie in front of the whole world claiming that there's ”absolutely no space for discrimination” in India. 

Cartoonist Mocks Modi's Answer at the White House. Source: Satish Acharya

Modi’s mendacious answer is in sharp contrast to rising state persecution of religious minorities, including Muslims and Christians, in India.  Modi's BJP-affiliated politicians have called for genocide against Indian Muslims, attacked mosques and churches, and demolished homes, according to The Nation.  The Biden administration has remained silent on these issues, choosing instead to try and strengthen the US-India relationship and deepen the ties between the countries’ military and technology sectors, as a counterweight to rising China.  

For the last four years, the Biden Administration has ignored the USCIRF (US Commission on International Religious Freedom) recommendation to designate India as a “Country of Particular Concern” and impose strategic sanctions on Indian government officials and agencies involved in religious freedom violations. 

Cartoonist Satish Acharya exposed Modi's lie in a cartoon by referring to a statement he made during the protests against the BJP-sponsored discriminatory CAA (Citizenship Amendment Act) in 2019. "They (Muslims) can be identified by the clothes they are wearing," he said without elaborating.

Even though Modi did not know the exact question that would be posed to him at the press conference, he had a readymade answer regardless. Sabrina Siddiqui's question and Modi's answer illustrated how the BJP's lies are being shamelessly promoted and spread in India and elsewhere in the world. The Hindutva rulers of India are living a lie. 

In a recent interview to CNN, former US President Barack Obama has pointed out the consequences of BJP's anti-Muslim policies. “If the (US) President meets with Prime Minister Modi, then the protection of the Muslim minority in a Hindu majority India is worth mentioning. If I had a conversation with Prime Minister Modi, who I know well, part of my argument would be that if you don't protect the rights of ethnic minorities in India, there is a strong possibility that India would at some point start pulling apart,” Obama had said.

“We have seen what happens when you start getting those kinds of large internal conflicts. So that would be contrary to the interests of not only the Muslim India but also the Hindu India. I think it is important to be able to talk about these things honestly,” said Mr. Obama.

Sabrina Siddiqui is one of many high-profile Pakistani-American journalists. Amna Nawaz is the co-anchor of the popular PBS NewsHour. Zohreen Adamjee Shah is a national correspondent for ABC News. Imtiaz Tyab is a foreign correspondent for CBS News.  Asma Khalid covers the White House for National Public Radio. Wajahat Ali writes columns for New York Times and The Daily Beast.  

Sabrina Siddiqui has an illustrious background. She is a great-great grand-daughter of Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, the founder of the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) in India. She has come under vicious attacks by right-wing Hindu Nationalist trolls since Modi's press conference at the White House. 

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Riaz Haq said…
‘Love Jihad’: How India’s favourite conspiracy theory adds to the hatred against Muslims--- France 24 English

For years, Hindu nationalist groups have been spouting a conspiracy theory that claims Muslim communities in India are planning a takeover through “love jihad”. The theory goes that there’s an organised campaign for Muslim men to seduce Hindu women, force them to convert to Islam, and have children to enlarge the Muslim population of India. The conspiracy theory is deeply ingrained: there’s a non-stop flow of disinformation online, and Muslim men who dare talk to Hindu women often find themselves targets of real-life violence.

Using firsthand accounts from victims of love jihad accusations and an analysis of the flood of cartoons, fake stories, news articles and dramatised videos circulating online, the FRANCE 24 Observers team unravels the disinformation and propaganda associated with this divisive narrative.
#India #LoveJihad #Disinformation
Riaz Haq said…
The Biden-Modi Meeting Was a Failure for Democracy | Time

by Knox Thames

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi received VIP treatment at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue this week, including a state dinner with President Biden and an address to Congress. Modi’s red-carpet treatment was a significant endorsement of his governance, and one few world leaders have received. However, under Modi’s premiership, India has moved away from shared values and democratic norms, embracing Hindu nationalism and scapegoating religious minorities. While President Biden and Congressional leaders spoke about human rights and religious freedom, talk alone will not move Modi to change course.

Modi accomplished much during his brief time in Washington, at little cost to his political agenda. The Joint Statement from the United States and Indiacovers a laundry list of Indian priorities. While the document references human rights at the beginning, its 58 paragraphs overwhelmingly focus on technology and trade in ways hugely beneficial to India. Modi also scored a renewed pledge to permanently include India in a reformed United Nations Security Council and joint slap down of archrival Pakistan for terrorism.

But did Modi deserve this treatment? The U.S. secured little in hard security commitments from him or other items that could bolster democracy and human rights in the region. For instance, Modi has been lukewarm at best regarding support for Ukraine. During the White House press conference, Modi could only vaguely speak of ending the “dispute through dialogue and diplomacy.” There was no joint condemnation of Russian aggression, a low bar to meet.

In contrast, Modi’s visit vastly exceeded Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s recent trip, who received neither coveted invitation of a state dinner or congressional speech, “special relationship” notwithstanding. In fact, when Modi took the rostrum before Congress on Thursday, it was his second address before a joint session, while the last British Prime Minister spoke in 2006.

But in the contest with Beijing, commitment to “shared values” was a constant refrain to justify Modi’s lavish treatment. Indeed, a democratic India would be a powerful partner in countering authoritarian China, but these values are under attack in India. Indian activists and political analysts I contacted all expressed deep concern about the state of affairs, most only agreeing to talk off the record. One highlighted, “Serious violations of human rights, especially of Muslims, Christians, and other minorities, and of human rights defenders and dissenters, have been increasing in India over the past years, some becoming widespread and systematic.” Another analyst described the defamation case against opposition leader Rahul Gandhi as “pure vendetta politics.” A third activist spoke of the ongoing “desecration, destruction and torching of over 300 Churches in Manipur [that] is unprecedented in the history of religious violence in India,” which continues in India’s far east.
Riaz Haq said…
The Biden-Modi Meeting Was a Failure for Democracy | Time

by Knox Thames

When a journalist asked Modi at the White House about declining respect for human rights and democracy, he dodged, saying, “I’m actually really surprised that people say so.” While Biden acknowledged our shortcomings, demonstrating humility but a commitment to civil rights, Modi offered no such concession, saying Indian democracy has delivered for all “regardless of caste, creed, religion, gender.” He added, “There’s absolutely no space for discrimination,” which would surprise religious minorities in India.

As the visit approached, many feared officials would overlook these issues, and 75 Democratic Members of Congress wrote Biden to urge him to raise human rights. To his credit, the President did so repeatedly, but always as a joint endeavor. For instance, he said, “Equity under the law, freedom of expression, religious pluralism, and diversity of our people—these core principles have endured and evolved, even as they have faced challenges throughout each of our nations’ histories, and will fuel our strength, depth, and future.” At another point, he noted, “Indians and Americans are both peoples who … cherish freedom and celebrate the democratic values of universal human rights, which face challenges around the world and each—and in each of our countries but which remain so vital to the success of each of our nations: press freedom, religious freedom, tolerance, diversity.”

While understandable Biden wouldn’t be too pointed with his guest, Modi is savvy enough to know that nods towards human rights will be shunted aside for commercial and military relations. He’s seen it before, as silence towards problems in India is not unique to this administration. Then-President Trump ignored riots against Muslims in New Delhi during his 2020 visit, and his administration resisted calls to designate India a “country of particular concern” for the persecution of Christians.

Consequently, to counter India’s drift away from shared values, the U.S. must decide to visibly support Indian civil society, publicly discuss our concerns, and establish consequences for abuses. Aakar Patel, Chair of Amnesty International’s India Board, stressed to me the importance of U.S. human rights advocacy. Amnesty’s India office was forced to close in 2020, and the Indian government tried to prevent him from traveling internationally in 2022. Patel underscored how “India’s friend must press it to do the right thing because often it works.” Jesuit Priest Cedric Prakash, a long-time human rights and peace activist, also agreed. Despite our complicated history in the region, Fr Prakash said, “it’s imperative that the U.S. raise these sensitive issues with the PM and stop pretending that all is well in India.”

India is too important for U.S. policymakers to ignore these trends, and Modi’s damaging policies should not lead to self-censorship. The U.S.’s recent criticism of important partners like Poland, Bangladesh, and Israeldemonstrates we can raise concerns and deepen relationships simultaneously. In addition, we can learn from our disastrous all-carrots-and-no-stick approach to China in the early 2000s. Many believed preferential trade could encourage China in a positive direction when the Senate voted for most-favored-nation status in September 2000. Instead, the Chinese Communist Party gained technology and resources while nose diving on human rights and consolidating power. Modi’s windfall of trade policies absent consequences for rights abuses risks repeating the same mistake.

Riaz Haq said…
Modi’s US Visit Has Increased India’s Vulnerabilities

by Pravin Sawhney

As strategic autonomy makes way for a tighter military embrace with Washington, India will find that its room for manoeuvre in the face of emerging challenges has narrowed.

Geopolitical rivalry with China has brought India and the US into the tight strategic embrace which was on ample display during the recent state visit to Washington of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The US needs India for global geopolitics while India wants the US for regional geopolitics.

The only problem is that the US, having identified China as its sole geopolitical competitor in this century – with the capability to match it in economy, technology, diplomacy, and military – has failed to accept that its deterrence (military power) model of the Cold War is unsuitable against the Chinese geopolitical model, which is based more on global cooperation for prosperity than military power alone.

Even in a fragmented world, the Chinese model cannot fail. Changing the game from free trade to weaponised trade by ‘decoupling’ or ‘de-risking’ value chains and supply chain networks from dependence on China – still the world’s biggest trading partner – will only add to geopolitical tensions with the global economy heading towards recession.

Unmindful of the disastrous fall-out of the Ukraine war on the global economic order led by the US dollar, the reluctance of its regional allies to openly confront China and the own recent experience of its top diplomat being lectured by Chinese supremo Xi Jinping, the US has decided to bet on India to build it as a military bulwark against China in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).

The long-term bet is based on the assumption that Prime Minister Modi will win the 2024 general elections and will not normalise India’s relations with China in this decade — the time it would take for deliverables promised by each side to take shape. The other assumption is that, if push comes to shove, India, as claimed by its political and military leadership, will be able to take on the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in a border war.

Ironically, the huge jubilation in India regarding the Modi visit missed the point that under the new transactional arrangement, India would end up giving far more, including its strategic autonomy, than it will get in return – which will be further accentuated by the US’s irrepressible urge (as seen during the 2005-2008 civil nuclear deal negotiations) to shift the goalposts.

So, what does the US want from India?

It wants commonality of military equipment by slowly weaning India (the largest arms importer in the world) away from Russia, its traditional, affordable, and trusted partner. It wants to improve Indian naval dockyards to serve as temporary military bases for its assets (vessels of all hue, including nuclear submarines and carriers) in the IOR. It also wants the Indian military (especially the navy) to do advanced exercises bilaterally and multi-laterally with the Quad navies for developing interoperability for combat in the IOR, which India considers its backwaters. Since the character of war has changed with new-age technologies, the US wants to pull up the technological level of the Indian military through the newly crafted India-United States Defence Acceleration Ecosystem (INDUS-X), which is part of the bigger Innovation on Critical and Emerging Technologies (ICET) framework whereby it will be able to operate within the US Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM) defence network under its ‘integrated deterrence’ strategy by the end of this decade.

Riaz Haq said…
So, what does the US want from India?

by Pravin Sawhney

It wants commonality of military equipment by slowly weaning India (the largest arms importer in the world) away from Russia, its traditional, affordable, and trusted partner. It wants to improve Indian naval dockyards to serve as temporary military bases for its assets (vessels of all hue, including nuclear submarines and carriers) in the IOR. It also wants the Indian military (especially the navy) to do advanced exercises bilaterally and multi-laterally with the Quad navies for developing interoperability for combat in the IOR, which India considers its backwaters. Since the character of war has changed with new-age technologies, the US wants to pull up the technological level of the Indian military through the newly crafted India-United States Defence Acceleration Ecosystem (INDUS-X), which is part of the bigger Innovation on Critical and Emerging Technologies (ICET) framework whereby it will be able to operate within the US Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM) defence network under its ‘integrated deterrence’ strategy by the end of this decade.

All this has become possible as India (which is neither a military ally nor a non-NATO ally) has signed the US military’s four foundational agreements which qualify it to be part of the US’s new age networks. Thus, by 2030, India will fulfil all the requirements for interoperability: commonality of equipment, advanced military exercises, combat support facilities like MROs (maintenance, repair, operations) from the US, and familiarity with various war contingencies in the IOR.

Moreover, as part of iCET, India will adopt US rules, regulatory, norms, and standards in the new age fourth industrial technologies for trade and commerce since US companies will have first user advantage in India. Thus, given the certainty of the splinternet (bifurcation of the Internet and the value supply chains) based on US and Chinese technologies, India will get strategically isolated from its South Asian neighbours, all of which are onboard the BRI (Belt and Road Initiative), which will be based on the Chinese internet by 2030.

GE engines and technology transfer

Let’s now examine the deals individually, starting with General Electric’s memorandum of understanding with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).

According to the GE press release, it will deliver 99 F-414 engines for Indian Air Force (IAF) Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Mk2 programme. GE will also help with the ‘prototype development, testing, and certification of the AMCA (Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft) programme with its F-414-INS6 engine’. Moreover, GE will provide 99 F-404 engines for the LCA Mk1 programme. Both GE engines (F-404 and F-414) have already been part of the development of LCA Mk1 and LCA Mk2 programmes.

Three observations are in order. One, there will be no transfer of technology (ToT) of turbofan and casting technologies and even metallurgy formulae which make up almost 95 per cent of the engine’s Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs). It stands to logic that GE, which has spent huge amounts of time, resources, and talent creating the engine, cannot hand over its IPRs to India and create a competitor for itself. All India will get is engine assembly rights (called indigenous production in India), like we have for Russian AL-31FP engines for the Su-30MKI, which are being made in Koraput since 2004. The remaining five per cent ToT which includes tools for engine maintenance may be allowed by GE after the US Congress clears it. Thus, the IAF will be saddled with the burden of maintaining yet another engine besides British, Russian, and French.
Riaz Haq said…
So, what does the US want from India?

by Pravin Sawhney

Two, the US will make a strong bid for the IAF’s urgent operational need of 114 fighter jets under the Multi-Role Fighter Aircraft (MRFA) and the Indian Navy’s carrier-borne fighter programmes, in both of which Boeing’s Super Hornet, powered by GE-F414 engines, is a contender. Cheaper than the Rafale, the Super Hornet has been in US military service since 1999 with various upgrades. The IAF will be saddled with one more fighter, when it wants to reduce its types of combat aircraft. The Super Hornet, if it comes to the IAF and the Indian Navy, will be Prime Minister Modi’s choice rather than the Services’ Headquarters, which favours Rafale.

Three, while care will be taken by the Indian side to make an impregnable legal case against US sanctions on GE F-414, the US is not known to care much for legalities. A case in point is the freedom of navigation patrols by US Navy vessels in the South China Sea (SCS) and Taiwan Strait citing the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) when the US has not even ratified the universal convention.

Why drones are no big deal

Regarding drones, India has agreed to buy 31 General Atomics (GA) MQ-9B (Sea Guardian and Sky Guardian) armed and unarmed drones under Foreign Military Sales (FMS) for the price of approximately US$3 billion. The offset amount of this deal will be used by GA to establish an MRO facility in India. These drones (also called Predators and Reapers) are extremely expensive, slow-moving, and completely out of sync with present and future trends in warfare. On the positive side, these drones carry big payloads, and have good range and mission capability since they are equipped with electro-optic video cameras, laser designators, good communication relay with ground stations, good electromagnetic systems, and signal intelligent equipment. They also have endurance of 40 hours. On the downside, with slow speed they are vulnerable and can be shot down by enemy air defence systems. Moreover, they lack autonomy (AI), are not stealthy and, most of all, require a lot of people on the ground to operate them.

In his book Army of None, US analyst Paul Scharre writes, ‘Predator and Reaper drone operations require seven to ten pilots to staff one drone orbit of 24/7 continuous around-the-clock coverage over an area. Another 20 people per orbit are required to operate the sensors on the drone, and scores of intelligence analysts are needed to sift through the sensor data. In fact, because of these substantial personnel requirements, the US Air Force has a strong resistance to calling these aircraft unmanned.’

The irony is that when these UAVs had a lucrative market in the early 2000s, US laws did not allow their sale. Now, when the US has approved their export, many more cost-effective and better-performing drones with AI options are available. Incidentally, China is a leading exporter of military drones. There can only be two reasons for India buying these outdated and expensive drones: US pressure and the Indian military’s tendency to conflate capability with sophisticated weapon platforms.

Riaz Haq said…
So, what does the US want from India?

by Pravin Sawhney

What iCET and INDUS-X really represent

The US pressure for this purchase is for its Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) under the Indo-Pacific partnership which was announced in Tokyo in 2022. Under this, the Quad members are to do data collection and sharing of Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) feeds with partners in Southeast Asia and Pacific nations. India, given its location, has a special responsibility which is evident from two things: It is the only country which has operational interaction with three US theatre commands namely, INDOPACOM, Central Command, and Africa Command. And the Indian Navy’s Gurgaon-based Information Management and Analysis Centre (IMAC), whose software has been supplied by US companies CISCO and Raytheon, will be the nerve centre of the MDA project. To keep data cyber-secure, new undersea cables will be laid connecting all Quad members.

To understand the iCET framework and the INDUS-X scheme – which have been touted as the biggest US offering to India since the civil-nuclear deal – it is essential to first understand the context. Following the 2012 discovery of Deep Learning which revolutionised AI, and conscious that most emerging technologies including AI were being incubated in the commercial sector, the Pentagon in 2015 opened its outpost called Defence Innovation Unit (DIU) in Silicon Valley. Staffed with mostly civilian software experts and a few retired and active-duty military officers, the DIU was to help identify advanced commercial technologies for military use.

Taking a cue from the Pentagon’s DIU, the Indian defence ministry, in April 2018, launched the Innovation for Defence Excellence (iDEX) scheme under the defence secretary for incubation of new age technologies development in defence and aerospace from within the industry, start-ups, civilian laboratories, academia and so on. Unfortunately, iDEX has not delivered for four reasons: it is headed by bureaucrats with little domain knowledge, many start-ups that get good funding are owned by former military officers with questionable links in the system, deserving start-ups with few resources are bought by the Defence Research and Development Organisation, and projects are time-bound, which stymies creativity, ideas, and innovations.

Worse, there is little clarity on new-age commercial technologies prioritisation and how to harness them for military use. For instance, there are 20 advanced commercial technologies to choose from for military use. These are AI (where all new age technologies converge), 5G wireless and advanced networking, sensors with edge computing, Internet of Things, biotechnology, robotics and autonomy, semiconductors, blockchain, virtual reality (for simulation), metaverse, star-link internet, natural languages processing, space, cyber, advanced manufacturing, energy storage technologies, quantum computing, brain-computer interface, genomics, and exoskeletons.

Meanwhile, aware that talent is the most important pillar of AI alongside data, hardware (microelectronics), and software (algorithms), and with many talented Chinese AI researchers leaving the US for China following the tech war, the US, which attracts talent from across the world (mostly Chinese and Indians) to remain the global innovation hub, seemed to be losing the competition for talent to China.

Riaz Haq said…
So, what does the US want from India?

by Pravin Sawhney

Against this backdrop, the Indian and US National Security Advisors met in January 2023 to launch the ICET framework to be the bridge between commercial and defence sectors. Under the ICET, the two sides launched the INDUS-X scheme chaired jointly by the Pentagon and India’s iDEX to identify Indian defence start-ups which will work with the US start-ups organised by the civilian US-India Business Council (USIBC) to design, prototype, test, and produce commercial technologies with application in ‘integrated deterrence’ network. While in theory, the money for identified start-ups will come from a joint development fund, in practice they will be funded by the Pentagon. This way, the US military will be able to match, if not beat, the PLA’s 2035 deadline of robotic war (called intelligentised war) and make up for its talent shortage using Indian researchers to meet the Chinese challenge of becoming the world’s primary AI innovation centre by 2030.

It is for this reason that the US is easing H1B and L1 visas procedures for Indian STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) graduates and research scholars to work in the US. This is a good thing for Indian scholars and start-ups who will gain knowledge by working in world-class innovation hubs. Of course, it would have been better if the Indian civilian start-ups could work directly with the DIU (instead of through the iDEX and the Pentagon) for the understanding of all advanced commercial technologies.

However, for India which prided itself on its strategic autonomy in foreign policy, allowing Indian shipyards to emerge ‘as a hub for maintenance and repair of forward deployed (in the IOR) US navy assets (navy ships and naval fighters)’ is too big a price to pay for Modi’s rousing welcome in the US. Taking forward the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Understanding (LEMOA) signed by the Modi government in 2016, which allowed re-fuelling and other turn-around facilities to the US naval assets on a case-to-case basis, the present arrangement will permit the US to upgrade Indian shipyards to berth US warships for long periods. Shorn of rhetoric, India has agreed to provide military basing to the US military.

The impact on China

The big question now is: How will China assess India’s tight embrace of the US? China will conclude that normalisation of relations with the Modi government will not be possible since India has sacrificed its strategic autonomy to accommodate US military interests in the IOR.

Worse, India has become the US’s first line of offence against Chinese interests and infrastructure in the South Asian region (by denouncing its Belt and Road Initiative as a debt trap). Moreover, in cahoots with the US, India will be seen to threaten China’s commerce and trade worth over US$4 trillion annually which passes through the 3,000 nautical miles IOR from the Strait of Hormuz to the Strait of Malacca. This, at a time when the Chinese deterrence in the IOR is a decade away.

Xi Jinping’s directive to the PLA was to prepare capabilities (deterrence) to meet the (US) challenge in West Pacific and the Indian border by 2027, and across Asia Pacific (including IOR) by 2035. The PLA has already achieved deterrence (and capabilities to fight if deterrence failed) ahead of its timeline in the West Pacific and is working on the entire region.

Riaz Haq said…
So, what does the US want from India?

by Pravin Sawhney

China’s deterrence in the West Pacific where it faces challenges in the Taiwan Strait and the South and East China Sea is based on the combination of its military power and economic power (its intense trade with ASEAN and US allies like Japan and South Korea). Given the advantage of its geography, and the formidable Anti-Access Area Denial (A2AD) firewall that the PLA has created against the US, China refused Antony Blinken’s request in Beijing for opening bilateral military communication to avert a crisis in the region. While the stated reason by China for doing this are the US sanctions on its defence minister, Gen. Li Shangfu, the actual reason is to discourage US freedom of navigation and air patrols in the waters and air space in the Chinese backyard. Much in line with the US’s Monroe Doctrine – which disallows the presence of outside powers in the Western hemisphere – China wants US military activities in West Pacific to end.

Meanwhile, aware of its eroded deterrence in the West Pacific, the US military is reinforcing its regional alliances, seeking a global role for NATO and strengthening its military bases in Hawaii and Guam.

Chinese deterrence outside the West Pacific will be based on its economic deterrence anchored on BRICS and BRI, and its military deterrence anchored on the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and cooperative security with nations onboard the BRI. Since prosperity is at the vanguard of the BRI, Xi Jinping has announced that the third BRI Forum will be held in Beijing this year. The actual dates of the Forum perhaps await progress on Xi’s pet project of ‘Xiongan (meaning brave and peaceful) New Area’, 100km outside Beijing which is being called the vice-capital of China. Named the ‘plan of a thousand years’ by Xi, this city, meant to de-congest Beijing by moving many governments, financial, medical, academic, and military headquarters here, is being built with cyberspace software connectivity (part of the Digital Silk Road, a sub-set of the BRI) using industrial internet technologies like blockchain, 5G, IoT, big data and so on. This smart city will become the blockchain hub in China with blockchain-based services. Given this, it will be a good idea for Xi to showcase this smart city close to Beijing to the Forum delegates for them to get a sense of how the new phase of BRI (cyberspace software connectivity) which will likely figure in Xi’s address, would usher in prosperity by industrial internet.

China’s economic deterrence for BRI nations will get delayed owing to the chip war with the US. For example, China has been denied advanced chips which are required in AI and data centres for computing, storage, and for servers. Slowing economic deterrence will affect military deterrence which is based on cooperative security (PLA working with host BRI nation’s security forces for the protection of Chinese infrastructure, interests, and people).

Given the likelihood of China’s military deterrence lagging behind the US – which is supported now by India in South Asia and the IOR – Beijing might decide to up the ante on its border. Since China sees the boundary problem with India as a dispute regarding its sovereignty, it may decide to upend the US’s growing integrated deterrence in the region by a short and decisive war with India. In that sense, Modi’s US embrace has increased India’s vulnerabilities.
Riaz Haq said…
White House Condemns Harassment of WSJ Reporter for Questioning Modi About Rights

Biden spokesman says harassment of journalist is unacceptable after attacks by officials from Indian prime minister’s party

The White House is condemning the harassment of a Wall Street Journal reporter who questioned India’s prime minister about human rights in his country at a press conference last week.

Sabrina Siddiqui, a White House reporter, was the only U.S. journalist to ask Narendra Modi a question at the White House event Thursday. She referenced concerns from human rights organizations, which have criticized discrimination against religious minorities, especially Muslims, and a crackdown on dissent and press freedom under Modi’s Hindu nationalist government. Siddiqui asked Modi what steps he was taking to protect minorities and uphold free speech.

Modi, who has seldom faced the news media over his nine years as prime minister, said in response that “democracy is our spirit” and defended his government’s record.

Since the press conference, Siddiqui has been subject to online attacks from officials from Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, including a party spokesman who called her a “bigot” on Twitter.

National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said Monday: “We’re aware of the reports of that harassment. It’s unacceptable and we absolutely condemn any harassment of journalists anywhere under any circumstances. That’s just completely unacceptable and it’s antithetical to the very principles of democracy that were on display last week during the state visit.”

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre echoed those remarks, adding: “We’re committed to the freedom of the press, which is, which is why we had the press conference last week.”

Indian Embassy spokesman Karthik Iyer referred inquiries to the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, which couldn’t be reached for comment.

“The Wall Street Journal’s Sabrina Siddiqui is a respected journalist known for her integrity and unbiased reporting,” the Journal said in a statement Monday. “This harassment of our reporter is unacceptable, and we strongly condemn it.”

Riaz Haq said…
Shafek Koreshe
#Pakistan's Demarche to #USA on US-India Joint Statement

👉 The US "should refrain from issuing statements that may be construed as an encouragement of India’s baseless & politically motivated narrative against Pakistan"

👉 US Dep Chief of Mission "called to"

Riaz Haq said…
Mohammed Zubair
"Ek patrakar Jo America ki, Aur Bharat ki mul ki hai, Jo Indo-American hai, Unka naam hai Sabreena Siddiqui, Wo Bharat nahi aayi kabhi, Aur wo Muslim hai, Uss Patrakaar ko Chuna jata hai ke wo White House me khadi hokar Pradhan Mantri Modi se sawaal pooche, Aur wo pooch bhi leti hain. Iska Matlab ke ye toolkit kahi na kahi Safal ho raha hai. Chal Raha hai kaam." - Sudhir Choudhary to Minister of State for Culture, Arjun Meghwal.
Forget BJP Members and Right Wing trolls attacking Wall Street reporter Sabrina Siddiqui who asked question to PM Modi on rights of Muslim and other Minorities, Here
News Anchor
says that the question asked by a 'Muslim' reporter 'Sabreena Siddiqui' was part of toolkit and is successful.
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Riaz Haq said…
#WhiteHouse spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre condemned harassment of @SabrinaSiddiqui after her question to #Modi : “We’re committed to the freedom of the press, which is, which is why we had the press conference last week.” #Biden #ModiInAmerica

Biden spokesman says harassment of journalist is unacceptable after attacks by officials from Indian prime minister’s party

The White House is condemning the harassment of a Wall Street Journal reporter who questioned India’s prime minister about human rights in his country at a press conference last week.

Sabrina Siddiqui, a White House reporter, was the only U.S. journalist to ask Narendra Modi a question at the White House event Thursday. She referenced concerns from human rights organizations, which have criticized discrimination against religious minorities, especially Muslims, and a crackdown on dissent and press freedom under Modi’s Hindu nationalist government. Siddiqui asked Modi what steps he was taking to protect minorities and uphold free speech.

Modi, who has seldom faced the news media over his nine years as prime minister, said in response that “democracy is our spirit” and defended his government’s record.

Since the press conference, Siddiqui has been subject to online attacks from officials from Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, including a party spokesman who called her a “bigot” on Twitter.

National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said Monday: “We’re aware of the reports of that harassment. It’s unacceptable and we absolutely condemn any harassment of journalists anywhere under any circumstances. That’s just completely unacceptable and it’s antithetical to the very principles of democracy that were on display last week during the state visit.”

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre echoed those remarks, adding: “We’re committed to the freedom of the press, which is, which is why we had the press conference last week.”

Indian Embassy spokesman Karthik Iyer referred inquiries to the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, which couldn’t be reached for comment.

“The Wall Street Journal’s Sabrina Siddiqui is a respected journalist known for her integrity and unbiased reporting,” the Journal said in a statement Monday. “This harassment of our reporter is unacceptable, and we strongly condemn it.”

Riaz Haq said…
What’s fueling the rise in Hindu nationalism in the U.S.

To some, Modi represents the face of a new, better India. To others, his human rights violations are ushering in an era of Hindu nationalism — and it's rapidly spreading in the U.S.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s official state visit turned the nation’s capital into a microcosm of Indian politics on Thursday. Thousands of South Asians of every creed and community flooded the city’s landmarks — some to support the controversial leader, others to protest his visit, while many attended to simply take in the historic moment.

Chants of “Go Modi” and “Jai Hind” (“Long live India”), juxtaposed against “Killer Modi” and “no justice, no peace,” echoed through the streets and buildings. The South Asian American diaspora cares about Indian politics like never before, experts say, and the common denominator is Modi.

After nearly a decade in office, Modi, 72, is cited as the most popular leader in the world, according to a Morning Consult poll. But the diaspora has mixed feelings.

While his supporters credit him with making India a presence on the global stage, his critics accuse him of fanning the flames of Hindu nationalism in India and abroad. At its most extreme, the nationalist movement seeks to create a Hindu India, perpetuating the narrative that Hindus are oppressed in the country, and abetting violence and discrimination against Muslims and other minority groups, experts told NBC News.

In the U.S., Hindu nationalism can take the form of cultural youth groups, but also online doxxing and harassment campaigns against dissenters. Charity work might operate parallel to lobbies against bills aimed at protecting those born into lower castes in India’s caste system, according to experts.

“There is something that is very distinct about what’s happening now,” said Sangay Mishra, an associate professor at Drew University in New Jersey and author of “Desis Divided: The Political Lives of South Asian Americans.” “There’s something very specific about Narendra Modi: He wants to be liked in the Western world.”

Modi’s government and those that surround it — like his ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the right-wing Hindu nationalist organization the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) — have focused specifically on Indian Americans as the new frontier of political mobilization, Mishra, who teaches political science and international relations, said. And they’ve invested resources into spreading the word in schools, government offices and on social media.

India is now the most populous country in the world, with 1.43 billion people, and it also has the world’s largest diaspora, with 32 million living abroad. Modi’s government is trying to get the world on board in making India a global player, Mishra said.

Leading Hindu nationalists “always thought that Hindus anywhere are a part of India,” he said.

And the government's efforts seem to be effective, he said. Those who came to Washington to see Modi told NBC News that they simply love his energy and positivity. While many feel tied to the BJP, others lining the streets were less politically motivated, dressed in their best to witness the prime minister like they would any other celebrity.

But to those concerned about India’s direction, the historical significance of Modi’s visit isn’t the growing U.S.-India ties, but rather the human rights violations they say has defined his time both as chief minister of the state of Gujarat and now as prime minister. It’s an agenda supporting upper-caste Hindu supremacy, they say, and it’s seeping into Indians around the world.

“We claim as a diaspora we’re very connected to our heritage and we want to celebrate our culture,” said Harita Iswara, 23, who works with Hindus for Human Rights and protested during Modi’s visit. “But when people’s identities are under attack in India, we have to do as much, if not more, to speak up to protect them.”

Riaz Haq said…
US-India relations: A test case for the Sullivan Doctrine

One challenge is that the two countries do not agree on some key international economic issues. For example, India’s minister for power and renewable energy, Raj Kumar Singh, has criticized the Biden administration’s climate initiative, the Inflation Reduction Act, on grounds that it disadvantages developing countries that are unable to subsidize their own transition to green energy. India has also opted out of the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework’s trade pillar, which is the Biden administration’s signature trade initiative.


the council also maintains that the relationship needs to be reciprocal and that the U.S. should press Modi to adhere to democratic principles amid signs of backsliding. In this regard, it views the outcome of Modi’s visit as a litmus test for a “values-based U.S. trade policy.”

India also poses a test for how National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan’s vision of international trade might be implemented. In an April speech at the Brookings Institution, Sullivan argued that the “Washington consensus” that favored free trade and globalization should be replaced with a new consensus that “invests in the sources of our own economic and technological strength.”

For Financial Times journalist Edward Luce, however, Sullivan’s vision represents a loss of faith in economic multilateralism. He observes: “The old consensus was a positive sum game; if one country gets richer others did too. The new one is zero sum; one country’s growth comes at the expense of another’s.”

My take is that the rejection of free trade in favor of industrial policies dismisses the achievements from the mid-1980s through 2007 when globalization served as a launch pad for developing economies to emerge from poverty via export-led growth and increased foreign investment.

President Biden’s overture to Modi hopefully will mark a new phase in deepening and broadening U.S.-India relations. While India has a long-standing non-aligned status, Russia’s overtures to China should encourage India to move closer to the U.S. when U.S. multinationals seek to diversify their supply chains away from China. As The Wall Street Journal notes, big deals for jet engines and chips during Modi’s visit are a promising start.

For the ties to be enduring, however, the mutual political and economic interests of the two countries must continue to expand as India becomes more prominent globally.

Nicholas Sargen, Ph.D., is an economic consultant for Fort Washington Investment Advisors and is affiliated with the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He has authored three books, including “Global Shocks: An Investment Guide for Turbulent Markets.”

Riaz Haq said…
Muslims are the poorest religious group in India | Latest News India - Hindustan Times

Muslims have the lowest asset/consumption levels among major religious groups…

An HT analysis of unit level data from the latest All India Debt and Investment Survey (AIDIS) and Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS) shows that they have the lowest asset and consumption levels among major religious groups in India. Average consumption and asset values for Muslims are 87.9% and 79% of the all-India average and 87.8% and 79.3% of the average values for Hindus. Religious groups which have a population share of less than 1% have been clubbed in the “others” category.

There is often a lot of dog-whistling about the population of Muslims increasing at a higher pace than other religious groups in India. While most such commentary is ill-informed – this was discussed in detail in these pages ( — Muslims do have an overrepresentation problem when it comes to their relative share in population among the poor. A comparison of relative share – among every decile class by assets ; it basically measures the share in a given decile class divided by overall share in population – shows that Muslims are concentrated in the bottom half of India’s population and outnumber the Hindus in relative terms in each of the bottom six deciles.

A comparison of average asset/MPCE values across social groups among Hindus and Muslims shows this clearly. The average asset value for non-SC/ST/OBC Muslims – they are the non-Pasmanda Muslims – is not just lower than the average value for non-SC/ST/OBC Hindus but also lower than that of Hindu OBCs, which shows that the claims of Muslim upper castes enjoying disproportionate economic power are just not true.

The PLFS gives data on both the status of workers (whether regular wage, self-employed, or casual) and the type of enterprise (such as government, public and private limited companies) at which a worker is employed. This shows that even non-SC/ST/OBC Muslims have a low share in regular jobs (the average wage in such jobs is the highest) compared to other religions. A comparison with caste groups among Hindus shows that non-SC/ST/OBC Muslims only do better than ST and SC Hindus. The disadvantage for Muslims becomes even bigger if one looks at their share in government jobs, a fact which has been pointed out by the Sachar Committee among others. To be sure, the low share of Muslims among the better jobs in India need not necessarily be a result of discrimination in the hiring process. Rather, it could be the result of Muslim job-seekers lagging in terms of educational qualifications, which is bound to have a big role in employability. And sure enough, an HT analysis of PLFS data shows that the share of people with a graduate or higher degree among India’s Muslim labour force is the lowest among all major religions.

The numbers discussed in this two-part data series clearly show that while Muslims do not have a bigger intra-community inequality problem in India, they are desperately in need of overall educational and economic upliftment. While there is some merit in the claim that such aspirations are often missing in the articulation of most Muslim politicians -- a section of Muslim political leadership in India has been self-serving, conservative, even communal, one cannot but ask the question whether or not the majoritarian turn in India’s politics has relegated the economic concerns of majority of Muslims behind their concerns over identity. Even here, the poorest Muslims are the worst sufferers. To give an anecdotal example, vigilante groups forcibly shutting down meat shops on various occasions often hurt the poorest Muslims.
Riaz Haq said…
India’s discrimination against Muslims expands to housing | FairPlanet

Housing discrimination is not new in India as religious differences are increasingly polarised in the Hindu-majority country. When Hera Sajid moved to Mumbai from Delhi in 2017, she was not aware that such discrimination existed in the metropolitan cities. When she started looking for houses in Mumbai, she realised that her options were limited due to her faith.

“When the owner got to know that I was a Muslim, his demeanour changed. The broker turned to me asking if I was a Muslim,” Hera Sajid, a script supervisor, told FairPlanet. Later on, Hera was rejected for the same reason.

While this discrimination can look like rare incidents limited to a society or a region, it is in fact deeply systematic, according to research on the issue by Mohsin Alam Bhat, a professor from Jindal Global University Sonipat, and Asaf Ali, a researcher at the Centre for Policy Research and India Housing

Their report included more than 200 interviews with house owners, brokers, and tenants, in-depth field research in 15 neighbourhoods and housing communities in Mumbai and Delhi. In the research, they found the discrimination “systematic and writ large.”

Ali explains that in some cases, a tenant has a neutral-sounding name, but when brokers and owners find out that the tenant is a Muslim, their general response is, “Aap Musalman dikhte nahi” - “You don’t look like a Muslim.”

“In many incidents, they have been asked to vacate the house in the middle of the month without any notice just because they are Muslim,” said Ali.

The everyday rise in discrimination and hate speech against Muslim minorities subsequently affects the mindset of people. “It used to happen before as well but in recent years I've seen a drastic change in owners' behaviour towards Muslim tenets,” a broker from Malviya Nagar, New Delhi, who wished to stay anonymous due to the sensitivity of the topic, told FairPlanet.

In Delhi, areas like Hauz Rani and Jamia Nagar are Muslim-majority areas and are often regarded as "mini-Pakistans." Brokers often suggest Muslim tenants to live in a “Muslim zone” where it will be easier to find housing. This splits Muslims into different clusters, making the country’s segregation saliently evident.

This kind of discrimination is rampant in cities where millions of people move every year to make a living, forcing many Muslims to live in vulnerable conditions. Sometimes tenets also agree to some unnecessary and absurd demands by the owners just to get the desired accommodations.

“When you are in need of a house, you don’t give up when these incidents happen. Muslim tenants agree to bizarre rules by owners because they are also not able to find accommodation,” explained Ali.

When some Muslims do succeed in finding a house outside Muslim-concentrated areas, their search is often fraught with struggle, frustration, humiliation and rejection.

“The fear of safety is always on their mind. Violence can break out anytime and you'll be removed from your houses,” said Asaf Ali.

“People feel a sense of security when they do find a house where the owners don't have religious prejudice, but if they don’t there is always a sense of fear,” said Nayla Khwaja.

Many tenants are asked to hide their religious identity if they wish to find a house in their desired area. Back in 2018, Sarah Khan, a researcher from Delhi, was looking for a rental flat in Mumbai. When she mentioned her full name to the broker, the broker replied, “If you wear a hijab, you will have to remove it.”

Brokers tend to want to avoid the hassle. “We understand [the discrimination] but can’t do anything about it. We do not want to lose out on business, so we try to close the deal,” one anonymous broker from Mumbai told FairPlanet.
Riaz Haq said…
Beleaguered community — being a Muslim in new India - The Hindu

By Ziya us Salam

To be a Muslim is to be voiceless in the new India. Almost all mainstream political parties refrain from using the word, Muslim, often preferring the euphemism of alpsankhyak or the minorities. The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) fares worse. The party which abolished the Maulana Azad Fellowship for the minorities stands in denial of discrimination. Unsurprisingly, Prime Minister Narendra Modi claimed all was fair and fine in his media interaction at the White House on June 23. Responding to a question on the steps his government was taking “to improve the rights of Muslims and other minorities” in the country, he said, “We have always proved that democracy can deliver. And when I say deliver, this is regardless of caste, creed, religion, gender. There is absolutely no space for discrimination.” This denial came on the heels of former United States President Barack Obama expressing concern about the “protection of the Muslim minority in a Hindu majority India” in a televised interview.

Mr. Modi side-stepped the systematic diminution in Muslim representation in all spheres of life. In the Karnataka Assembly elections in May, the BJP did not put up a single Muslim candidate in a House of 224 Members of the Legislative Assembly. It was the same in Gujarat; and before that, in Uttar Pradesh, Delhi and Bihar. At the Centre, for the first time since Independence, there is not a single Muslim Minister. The BJP is the first ruling party without a single Muslim parliamentarian. Of course, as Mr. Modi claims, it is not due to any discrimination.


Ziya us Salam's interview with Karan Thapar

‘What does it feel like to be a Muslim in Narendra Modi’s India?’ is the subject the well-known author and journalist Ziya Us Salam addresses in an interview with Karan Thapar for The Wire. Yesterday (30/6) he wrote an op-ed on this subject for The Hindu. Today he expands upon the issue in greater detail.

Join The Wire's Youtube Membership and get exclusive content, member-only emojis, live interaction with The Wire's founders, editors and reporters and much more. Memberships to The Wire Crew start at Rs 89/month.
Riaz Haq said…
How US deals with ‘natural partner’ India could boost defence, tech cooperation amid China tensions | South China Morning Post

ndia’s defence capabilities are set for a boost following a series of deals signed with the United States, in what experts say is also an indication of Washington’s desire to draw New Delhi closer to counter China’s influence in the Indo-Pacific region.
The agreements, signed during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s meeting with US President Joe Biden in Washington last week, spanned everything from clean energy to medicines. Two on defence and technology stand out as they are likely to mark a departure from Delhi’s years of dependency on Russia for arms.
“I think the linchpin of the agreements is the defence framework to make India strong and augment its deterrent capabilities,” said Ashok Mehta, a retired lieutenant general in the Indian army and an independent defence analyst.
“Americans have been constantly suggesting that India wean itself of dependence on Russia for military equipment and therefore the current agreements are indicative of that.”


In particular, a deal between US firm GE and India’s state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Limited to co-produce GE-F414 jet engines is a high point as it envisages technology transfers in equipment currently available only to Russia, Britain and France.


India also plans to purchase General Atomics’ MQ-9B High Altitude Long Endurance (HALE) unmanned aerial vehicles, to aid its efforts patrolling maritime and land borders amid tensions with China ever since a border clashthree years ago.

India contracted to buy 22 Apache helicopters and 15 Chinook helicopters from American manufacturer Boeing in September 2015 and had received both shipments by 2020. Delhi also signed a US$4.1 billion contract with Boeing for C-17 planes and away from the US, signed a deal with France and Dassault Aviation in 2016 to buy 36 Rafale fighter planes.
Analysts say the strategy reflects India’s desire to spread its bets rather than shift its dependency to the West, noting that the country has continued scooping up discounted Russian crude oil despite Western criticism and sanctions.

Riaz Haq said…
How US deals with ‘natural partner’ India could boost defence, tech cooperation amid China tensions | South China Morning Post

“The US is systematically creating a ring of alliances in an effort to contain China. The key strength of US versus China is its alliance network. India is a natural partner because of long ongoing tensions between India and China,” said Pushan Dutt, professor of economics at INSEAD.

“China looms large in all calculations,” Dutt said, noting that the focus on defence and semiconductor technology in partnership with India were because these were “the two sectors that the US explicitly wants to stymie their development in China”.
Delhi embarked on a programme to shore up its manufacturing base including electronic goods three years ago, and offered financial incentives worth billions of dollars. It also launched a programme to build semiconductors to cut imports valued at around US$25 billion a year.

Sweeping technology alliances
Two US semiconductor companies said this week that they would invest in India. Micron Technology, maker of memory chips, said it would invest up to US$825 million in a chip assembly and test plant in Gujarat, while semiconductor toolmaker Applied Materials plans to invest some US$400 million in a new engineering centre in India.
Incentives from India’s federal and state governments “are likely to range from 70 per cent to 125 per cent of the investments in semiconductor manufacturing in India, which are likely to attract more investments into the country”, said Saurabh Agarwal, a tax partner at professional services firm EY.
The semiconductor industry has a complex value chain that can be roughly broken up into three major sections: design; fabrication; and assembly and testing. India is already a hub for the research and design of semiconductors, which require software capability, but lags in the two other areas.

The investments by the US firms could catalyse other companies to also make chips.
India currently meets all of its needs with imports from places such as Taiwan, but policymakers are keen to establish a semiconductor base in the country because chips power everything from mobile phones to sophisticated flight systems.
Modi’s visit deepened technological cooperation in other areas as well. Tesla CEO Elon Musk said after a meeting with Modi that his company was looking to invest in India “as soon as humanly possible”.
Musk has been trying to break into the Indian market since 2017, but the plan has been delayed by Tesla’s efforts to negotiate lower import duties – a proposal that has so far been rebuffed because officials want the company to make cars before discussing tax breaks.
“It is likely that they [Tesla] will come now. There is enough push for them,” said an industry executive, who did not want to be identified.

Other companies were already making inroads before Tesla’s expected entry. American firm International Battery Company has said it would invest in a lithium-nickel-manganese-cobalt cell manufacturing plant in the southern Indian state of Karnataka.
Big tech firms have also warmed up, with Google CEO Sundar Pichai promising to invest US$10 billion in a digitisation fund for India to foster artificial intelligence company, while Amazon said recently that it will ramp up investment in the country to US$26 billion by 2030.
The moves have come on the heels of reports that Apple may move nearly one-fifth of its global iPhone production to India in the next two years. India currently has just 14 Apple vendors, compared with 151 in mainland China.
“The US government is keen on strengthening ties with India and encouraging companies such as Apple and GE to invest there is a key part of this strategy,” said David Bach, a professor of strategy and political economy at the International Institute for Management Development.

Riaz Haq said…
India’s tech blues in making jet engines, stealth submarines : The Tribune India

It seems that there is an admission that India does not have the manufacturing and technological depth to fully indigenise defence production. The alternative seems to be to arrange for production in India on the basis of transfer of technology (ToT) from foreign companies. It has been argued that India has the skilled workforce to carry out the manufacturing processes of advanced technology and this will greatly bring down the costs because of the advantage of relatively lower labour cost in India. This makes good economic sense and there is not much to quarrel over it. It is estimated that India, over a period of time, will be able to absorb the technological advances and will be able to innovate on its own.


India’s Mobile Phone Exports Driven by Assembly Rather Than Domestic Manufacturing: Raghuram Rajan

“One key deficiency of the scheme is that the subsidy is paid only for finishing the phone in India, not on how much value is added by manufacturing in India,” he says.

Riaz Haq said…
The Russian Kommersant has it right when it says: "India has had little success with military equipment production, and has had problems producing Russian Su-30MKI fighter jets and T-90S tanks, English Hawk training jets and French Scorpene submarines."

And here's how blogger Vijainder Thakur sees India's loose meaning of "indigenous" Smerch and other imports:

The Russians will come here set up the plant for us and supply the critical manufacturing machinery. Indian labor and technical management will run the plant which will simply assemble the system. Critical components and the solid propellant rocket motor fuel will still come from Perm Powder Mill. However, bureaucrats in New Delhi and the nation as a whole will be happy. The Smerch system will be proudly paraded on Rajpath every republic day as an indigenous weapon system.

A decade or so down the line, Smerch will get outdated and India will negotiate a new deal with Russia for the license production of a new multiple rocket system for the Indian Army.

China will by then have developed its own follow up system besides having used the solid propellant motors to develop other weapon systems and assist its space research program.

Riaz Haq said…
Modi uses speech to Russia-China-led group to swipe at Pakistan, avoids mentioning Ukraine

India’s prime minister on Tuesday took a veiled swipe at rival neighbor Pakistan and avoided mentioning the war in Ukraine while addressing a group of Asian countries led by China and Russia

India’s prime minister on Tuesday took a veiled swipe at rival neighbor Pakistan and avoided mentioning the war in Ukraine while addressing a group of Asian countries led by China and Russia.

In his opening speech to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the group should not hesitate to criticize countries that are "using terrorism as an instrument of its state policy."

"Terrorism poses a threat to regional peace and we need to take up a joint fight,” Modi said without naming Pakistan. India regularly accuses Pakistan of training and arming insurgent groups, a charge Islamabad denies.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Pakistan Prime Minister Shebaz Sharif are scheduled to address the day-long virtual summit.

Modi also warned of global challenges to food, fuel and fertilizer supplies. Trade in all three has been disrupted by Russia's 14-month-long war in Ukraine, but SCO members have largely avoided direct mention of the war.

Putin is participating in his first multilateral summit since an armed rebellion rattled Russia, at one of the few international grouping in which he enjoys warm relations with most members.

For Putin, the summit presents an opportunity to show he is in control after a short-lived insurrection by Wagner mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin.

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization is a security grouping founded by Russia and China to counter Western alliances from East Asia to the Indian Ocean. The group includes the four Central Asian nations of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, all former Soviet republics in which Russian influence runs deep. Pakistan became a member in 2017, and Iran, which is set to join on Tuesday. Belarus is also in line for membership.

The United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in a message to the summit that it was taking place amid growing global challenges and risks. "But at a time when the world needs to work together, divisions are growing, and geopolitical tensions are rising.”

"These differences have been aggravated by several factors: diverging approaches to global crises; contrasting views on nontraditional security threats; and, of course, the consequences of COVID-19 and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine,” he said.

This year’s event is hosted by India, which became a member in 2017. It’s the latest venue for Prime Minister Narendra Modi to showcase the country’s growing global clout.

Days after his return from a high-profile visit to the United States, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday had a telephone conversation with Putin about the recent developments in Russia, India’s External Affairs Ministry said.

Modi reiterated calls for dialogue and diplomacy between Russia and Ukraine, ministry spokesman Arindam Bagchi said.

India has avoided condemning Russia for its war on Ukraine and abstained from voting on U.N. resolutions against Russia.
Riaz Haq said…
India Will Pay 70% Of Cost But Micron Will Own 100% Of The Plant—A Curious Business Model| Countercurrents

What’s the big deal with Micron, top US electronic chip manufacturer?
1) India will bear 70% of project cost but Micron will own 100%.
2) Micron will only assemble parts made elsewhere — no tech transfer.
3) It’ll be in Gujarat — like everything else!
Riaz Haq said…
The West needs to get real about India | The Strategist

The problem is that Modi’s government can only lend itself to highly qualified identification with democratic principles.

Elections in India are generally fair, and Modi’s sway is vigorously contested by the main opposition party, by Congress and by regional parties. That’s good.

However, Modi remains an unabashed Hindu supremacist whose political machine largely disregards the aspirations of Muslims and other minorities. It reacts vengefully to criticism and scores badly on most of the international indexes that measure democratic freedoms. To some, India is an illiberal democracy; to others, it’s an electoral autocracy. But, for sure, it is not a liberal democracy.

Western interests dictate that we put grunt into our relationship with India with energy and determination. It is unquestionably an increasingly important country. But we must have realistic expectations of India and deal with as it is, not as we might like it to be. Otherwise, we risk disappointment.

Riaz Haq said…
India can aim lower in its chip dreams

BENGALURU, July 5 (Reuters Breakingviews) - India’s semiconductor dreams are facing a harsh reality. After struggling to woo cutting-edge chipmakers like Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing (2330.TW) to set up operations in the country, the government may now have to settle for producing less-advanced chips instead. Yet that’s no mere consolation prize: the opportunity to grab share from China in this commoditised but vital part of the tech supply chain could pay off.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi wants to “usher in a new era of electronics manufacturing” by turning India into a chipmaking powerhouse. So far, the government has dangled $10 billion in subsidies but with little to show for it. Mining conglomerate Vedanta’s $19.5 billion joint venture with iPhone supplier Foxconn (2317.TW) has stalled; plans for a separate $3 billion manufacturing facility appear to be in limbo, Reuters reported in May. In a small win for the government, U.S.-based Micron Technology (MU.O) last week announced it will invest $825 million to build its first factory in India in Modi’s home state of Gujarat, though the facility will be used to test and package chips, rather than to manufacture them.

Even so, the Micron investment could pave the way for the country to move into the assembly, packaging and testing market for semiconductors, currently dominated by firms like Taiwan’s ASE Technology (3711.TW) and China's JCET (600584.SS). It’s not as lucrative as making or designing them but global sales are forecast to hit $50.9 billion by 2028, according to Zion Market Research.

An even bigger opportunity awaits in manufacturing what are known as trailing-edge semiconductors. Recently, New Delhi expanded fiscal incentives for companies to make these lower-end products in the country. It’s a far more commoditised part of the market but there’s much to play for. Analog chips, for example, are vital for electric cars and smartphones. Last year, sales grew by a fifth to $89 billion, per estimates from the Semiconductor Industry Association, outpacing growth for memory, logic and other types of chips.

The majority of the world’s trailing-edge semiconductors are currently made in Taiwan and China. So rising geopolitical tensions between Washington and Beijing, as well as worries of military conflict in Taiwan, will make India an attractive alternative for companies like U.S.-based GlobalFoundries (GFS.O) that specialise in this segment. Booming domestic demand is another factor: the Indian market is forecast to hit $64 billion by 2026, from just $23 billion in 2019.

Aiming lower could be just what India’s chip ambitions need.

Follow @PranavKiranBV on Twitter

(The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own. Refiles to add link.)

U.S. memory chip firm Micron Technology on June 28 signed a memorandum of understanding with the Indian government to build a semiconductor assembly and testing plant, its first factory in the country.

Construction for the $2.75 billion project, which includes government support, will start in August, according to Ashwini Vaishnaw, India’s minister of electronics and information technology in an interview with the Financial Times published on July 5, with production expected by the end of 2024.
Riaz Haq said…
Modi Has Betrayed Oath of Office; Hindus Must Speak out Against Treatment of Muslims in Modi’s India

Ex Indian Home Secretary Pillai on Indian Muslims

One of India’s most highly regarded former Home Secretary says “secular Hindus are uncomfortable, frustrated” adding “and don’t know what should we do in Modi’s India”. Gopal Pillai said if the present treatment of Muslims is not checked and reversed then India could be 10 years away from danger point which he described as “civil disturbance”. At one point in the interview he even briefly accepted India could face “civil war”.

Mr. Pillai said if Prime Minister Modi and his government do not reverse the present treatment of Muslims, which includes cattle lynchings, economic boycotts and othering, “future generations will hold Modi and his government responsible for endangering India”.

This 45-minute interview was arranged at Mr. Pillai’s request after he had seen an interview put out last week with Ziya Us Salam on the question ‘What is it like to be a Muslim in Narendra Modi’s India?’ Mr. Pillai suggested that we should do an interview on the subject ‘What is it like to be a secular Hindu in Narendra Modi’s India?’ In the interview that followed Mr. Pillai said he had suggested this subject because, as he put it, “Muslims should know Hindus support them and do not accept lynchings, boycotts or calls for genocide”. Mr. Pillai said Hindus want to “live in harmony and peace”.
Riaz Haq said…
Speaking at an event, (Bollywood Actor) Kajol said, “…Chnage especially in a country like India is slow. It’s very very slow because for one we are steeped in our tradition, steeped in our thought process and, of course, it has to be with tradition. You have political leaders who do not have educational system background. I’m sorry I’m going to go out and say that.”

She added, “We are being ruled by leaders, so many of them, who do not have that viewpoint which I think education gives you.”

Kajol’s comments evoked angry reactions from BJP supporters who felt that the popular actor was taking a potshot at Prime Minister Narendra Modi whose educational qualification has been a matter of intense scrutiny for many years. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had recently accused him of being ‘uneducated’ while others raised questions on his alleged fake degree.

Modi and his administration have refused all attempts to make his degree public fearing that this could expose the Indian PM’s educational qualification.

BJP supporters launched brutal attack on Kajol for her comments. Many accused her being influenced by the thought process of Muslim actors particularly Shah Rukh Khan. The pair of Shah Rukh and Kajol ruled the box office in the late 90s and 2020s.

Facing backlash from BJP supporters, Kajol issued a clarification stating that she wasn’t pointing at anyone in particular. She wrote, “I was merely making a point about education and its importance. My intention was not to demean any political leaders, we have some great leaders who are guiding the country on the right path.”

Kajol, meanwhile, has found plenty of support from netizens, who wondered why her comments had irked only Modi supporters even though the actor did not name anyone.

Shiv Sena MP Priyanka Chaturvedi wrote, “So Kajol says we are governed by leaders who are uneducated and have no vision. Nobody outraging since its her opinion not necessarily a fact and also has named nobody but all Bhakts are outraged. Please don’t Yale your Entire Political Science knowledge.”

Comedian Kunal Kamra tweeted, “Everyone is pointing out that Actress Kajol hasn’t finished her education & I believe that’s the only reason that she feels an educated leadership can help our country.”
Riaz Haq said…

Suhasini Haidar
Government rejects EU parliament debate on Manipur. 6 of 8 political groups bring scathing motions for debate:accuse govt of "divisive ethnonationalist" policies, BJP leaders of hate speech, rail against misuse of AFSPA, UAPA, FCRA. Vote today. Reporting


European Parliament to Debate Manipur Violence, Modi Govt Deploys Law Firm in Counter

In a scathing indictment of the Modi government’s handling of the two-month-long violence that has battered and burned the small hill state, a motion for a resolution was tabled in the EU Parliament by six parliamentary groups, which have all come down on the Indian government like a ton of bricks – accusing it of human rights abuses, stifling fundamental freedoms, cracking down on dissent, civil society, and media.

The motion also denounced Bharatiya Janata Party leaders for their nationalist rhetoric and, significantly, deplores the backsliding of democracy under the leadership of Prime Minister Modi.

The groups of parliamentarians range from the Left, European Socialists and Greens to regionalist parties, Conservatives and centre-right political and Christian groups.

The ECR is a centre-right conservative and reformist group; there’s the pro-Europe Renew group, the Greens-Euro free alliance group called Verts/ALE; socialist, Left and democratic groups from S&D to GUE/NGL, and the EPP, or the European People’s Party of chiefly Christian Democrats.

The pro-right ECR group has raised an alarm over reports that question the role played by state security forces in Manipur, emphasising the absence of security personnel in places directly targeted by mobs, and that despite the Army presence and the visit of Union home minister Amit Shah, clashes continue on a daily basis. They also underlined what they said were discriminatory laws and practices against religious minorities, and tribals.

The motion moved by the PPE group of Christian Democrats looks into the clash between mostly Hindu Meiteis and Christian Kukis, and underlined the effective religious attack where 250 churches, Christian schools, hospitals, and some temples have been destroyed.

The pro-Europe Renew group also termed the clashes as religious, and raised concerns about politically motivated divisive policies that promote Hindu majoritarianism and the increase in militant groups; they also called on the Modi government to use minimum force by security forces in accordance of UN laws, and to allow unhindered aid both from Delhi as well as from EU member states.
Riaz Haq said…
The Illusion of a U.S.-India Partnership

by Arundhati Roy

The state visit by Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India to Washington last month was billed as a meeting of two of the world’s greatest democracies, and the countries duly declared themselves “among the closest partners in the world.” But what sort of partners will they be? What sort of partners can they be?

President Biden claims that the “defense of democracy” is the central tenet of his administration. That’s commendable, but what happened in Washington was the exact opposite. The man Americans openly fawned over has systematically undermined India’s democracy.

We needn’t be shocked by America’s choice of friends. The enchanting folks that the U.S. government has cultivated as partners include the shah of Iran, Gen. Mohammad Zia ul-Haq of Pakistan, the Afghan mujahedeen, Saddam Hussein of Iraq, a series of tin-pot dictators in South Vietnam and Gen. Augusto Pinochet of Chile. A central tenet of U.S. foreign policy has, too often, been democracy for the United States, dictatorship for its (nonwhite) friends.

Mr. Modi certainly does not belong in that rogues’ gallery. India is bigger than him. It will see him off. The question is: When? And at what cost?

India is not a dictatorship, but neither is it still a democracy. Mr. Modi heads a majoritarian, Hindu-supremacist, electoral autocracy that is tightening its grip on one of the most diverse countries in the world. This makes election season, which is just around the corner, our most dangerous time. It’s murder season, lynching season, dog whistle season. The partner that the U.S. government is cultivating and empowering is one of the most dangerous people in the world — dangerous not as a person but as someone turning the world’s most populous country into a tinderbox.

What kind of democrat is a prime minister who almost never holds a news conference? It took all of the U.S. government’s powers of persuasion (such as they are) to coax Mr. Modi into addressing one while in Washington. He agreed to take two questions, only one of them from a U.S. journalist. Sabrina Siddiqui, The Wall Street Journal’s White House reporter, stood up to ask him what his government was doing to prevent discrimination against minorities, particularly Muslims. Given the worsening abuses against Muslims and Christians in his country, it’s a question that really ought to have been raised by the White House. But the Biden administration outsourced it to a journalist. In India, we held our breath.

Mr. Modi expressed surprise that such a question should be asked at all. Then he laid out all the bromide that he had brought along in his baggage. “Democracy is our spirit. Democracy runs in our veins. We live democracy.” He added, “There’s absolutely no discrimination.” And so on.
Riaz Haq said…
The Illusion of a U.S.-India Partnership

by Arundhati Roy

In India the mainstream media and Mr. Modi’s vast fan base reacted as though he had hit the ball clean out of the park. Those who oppose him were left sorting through the debris for shreds of reassurance. (“Did you notice Biden’s body language? Totally hostile.” And so on.) I was grateful for the hypocrisy. Imagine if Mr. Modi had felt confident enough to tell the truth. Hypocrisy gives us a sort of ragged, shabby shelter. For now, it’s all we have.

Mercilessly attacked by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party’s cheerleaders and other Hindu nationalists on Twitter, Ms. Siddiqui was accused of being a biased Pakistani Islamist hatemonger with an anti-India agenda. Those were the more polite comments.

Eventually the White House had to step up and condemn the harassment as “antithetical to the very principles of democracy.” It felt as if everything that the White House had sought to gloss over had become embarrassingly manifest.

Ms. Siddiqui may not have anticipated what she walked into. The same cannot be said of the State Department and the White House. They would have known plenty about the man for whom they were rolling out the red carpet.

They would have known about the role Mr. Modi is accused of having played in the 2002 anti-Muslim pogrom in the state of Gujarat, in which more than 1,000 Muslims were killed. They would have known about the sickening regularity with which Muslims are being publicly lynched, about the member of Mr. Modi’s cabinet who met some lynchers with garlands and about the precipitous process of Muslim segregation and ghettoization.

They would have known about the hounding of opposition politicians, students, human rights activists, lawyers and journalists, some of whom have received long prison sentences; the attacks on universities by the police and people suspected of being Hindu nationalists; the rewriting of history textbooks; the banning of films; the shutdown of Amnesty International India; the raid on the India offices of the BBC; the activists, journalists and government critics being placed on mysterious no-fly lists; and the pressure on academics, both Indian and foreign.

They would have known that India now ranks 161st out of 180 countries on the World Press Freedom Index, that many of the best Indian journalists have been hounded out of the mainstream media and that journalists could soon be subjected to a censorial regulatory regime in which a government-appointed body will have the power to decide whether media reports and commentary about the government are fake or misleading.

They would have known about the situation in Kashmir, which beginning in 2019 was subjected to a monthslong communication blackout — the longest internet shutdown in a democracy — and whose journalists suffer harassment, arrest and interrogation. Nobody in the 21st century should have to live as they do, with a boot on their throats.

They would have known about the Citizenship Amendment Act, passed in 2019, which barefacedly discriminates against Muslims; the massive protests that it touched off; and how those protests ended only after dozens of Muslims were killed the following year by Hindu mobs in Delhi (which, incidentally, took place while President Donald Trump was in town on a state visit and about which he uttered not a word).

They might also have known that at the same time they were feting Mr. Modi, Muslims were fleeing a small town in northern India after Hindu extremists affiliated with the ruling party reportedly marked Xs on their doors and told them to leave.

It’s time we retired that stupid adage about speaking truth to power. Power knows the truth far better than we do.
Riaz Haq said…
The Illusion of a U.S.-India Partnership

by Arundhati Roy

And what kind of an ally will the United States be to India in the event of a confrontation with China? The United States is far from the potential battlefield. The only price it might pay if things go badly is a bloody nose and a last helicopter ride out of the war zone as collaborators hang on to its landing skids. We need only look around our neighborhood at the fate of America’s old friends Afghanistan and Pakistan.

A bad moon is rising in the South China Sea. But for India, its friends and enemies are all wrapped up together in a tight ball of wax. We should be extremely, exceedingly, exceptionally, extraordinarily careful where we place our feet and float our boats. Everybody should.

Riaz Haq said…
While We Watched film review — bleak glimpse into India’s changing media

Documentary follows an independent news journalist branded a traitor for refusing to fall in line with hawkish nationalists

Speaking truth to power has gone dangerously out of style. Such is the dark message of While We Watched, the kinetic and bleakly effective new documentary about media and democracy from Vinay Shukla. The location is modern India: too vast and particular to stand in for anything but itself, yet also, perhaps, a microcosm.

Shukla trains his camera on journalist Ravish Kumar, veteran mainstay of independent broadcaster NDTV. Kumar gives the film a compelling human centre, his mood forever readable on his face: frowning perfectionism at work on a story, a wry grin in moments of crisis.

What follows pushes his gallows humour close to despair. The year is 2019. A momentous national election beckons for India. In a film with not nearly enough time for all it wants to say, scene-setting is minimal. Then again, for Kumar too, there is a feeling of being taken by surprise.

The subject has long reported on economic inequality: hardly uncommon in Narendra Modi’s New India. “I haven’t changed,” Kumar smiles on-air. But the Indian media have — seismically, by Shukla’s telling. NDTV increasingly looks like a lonely outpost. Rival channels are filled with pro-Modi polemic in place of reportage, delivered by deafening hosts. Hawkish nationalism makes great product for government and cheerleaders alike.

Kumar, by contrast, will face interruptions of broadcast signal, and worse. But the deepest cut is the slow bleed of viewers towards the national good news story relentlessly told elsewhere. There, even to mention a mood-spoiler like joblessness is to risk being called unpatriotic. And to be unpatriotic is to become, in turn, precisely the kind of enemy within whose demonisation drives ratings. “Shrewd, isn’t it?” Kumar remarks.

Publicly called a traitor, his phone number left to circulate on social media, Kumar keeps arguing back. (Once or twice, with defiant mischief, in song.) But he also comes to seem the doomed hero of a fait accompli. If the news since requires a spoiler warning, the real ending comes after the credits. NDTV is now owned by Modi ally Gautam Adani. Kumar no longer works there. At four years’ remove, the film makes a stark history lesson.
Riaz Haq said…
The Gray Zone of Diplomacy


There has been a huge shift from India’s quiet and mature diplomacy to snarls and threats and attacks. The wording of rebuttals has lost the diplomatic flavour, and hence the firmness associated with India. Counters sound more like desperate, angry utterings than considered policy. This approach might appease some at home, but the world is not taking kindly to it with the international media reports becoming increasingly hostile as a result. The reports sent back by the missions here to their headquarters on a regular basis will reflect the troll attack for instance on former President Barack Obama for speaking out on the human rights situation in India. He was trolled mercilessly for his comments in an interview to an American television channel, with those leading the attack here forgetting that one, he is very close to current President Joe Biden who was hosting Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the time, and the two have worked very closely together under the Barack Presidency.


In any other time, under another government perhaps, the side shows of diplomacy, hold sway. And worry mandarins in the Foreign Office, as they all know that often governments send out warning signals through the sidelines and expect the targeted country to understand and move towards a course correction. When they do not then relations falter. It was not so long ago that the Union Minister of External Affairs Jaishankar was the blue eyed boy of then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, and spent valuable time and energy in calmly fire fighting diplomatic murmurs on issues such as the civilian nuclear deal with the Americans, Nepal, China of course, and even Russia that was smarting under a cut in defence deals with India. As a result Indian diplomacy was respected, with the capitals across the world engaging, arguing, and working out the fissures directly with New Delhi. Also Read - India Clashes With The Western ‘Establishment’ On Human Rights Even As Govts Appear To Woo It One remembers - after former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee announced the Pokhran nuclear blasts to a stunned press at his residence - walking in for a briefing by the National Security Advisor Brajesh Mishra. The entire focus, in the wave of a global attack on India for going nuclear, was on Pakistan with MEA ‘sources’ admitting that if Pakistan followed suit it would help take some of the pressure off. Then diplomat and now Union Minister Hardeep Singh greeted informal questions about the same with a fingers crossed sign, even as he and all concerned diplomats went into high gear to assuage world sentiment. There was no trolling then of course, but even the briefings on were not jingoistic, and a ‘we stand by our decision’ stance was tempered continuously with a ‘we are sure the world will understand.’


the Biden Administration to read the riot act as it were to New Delhi. That he has not, and instead went out of his way to lay out the proverbial red carpet for PM Modi is significant, but then even the White House had to come out with a strong statement in support of a woman journalist who was also trolled ruthlessly in India for asking an inconvenient question to the Indian Prime Minister. This creates fissures and will make it difficult for President Biden to withstand the pressure at home with equanimity. Particularly if the liberal values that he is expected to uphold in office come under constant attack by those who partners with. ......

Riaz Haq said…
The gates of Sulemanki Headworks were opened, closing them could have worsened the situation in Punjab. Pakistan Friendly Hand; Punjab Under Flood Condition | Pak Open Sulemanki head Works India Pakistan Border

Sulemani Headworks built on Sutlej River in Pakistan.

Pakistan has extended a hand of friendship amidst the flood situation in India. The country which used to close the gates of its headworks and dams in the event of floods in Punjab, has opened the gates of Sulemanki headworks this year. This step taken by Pakistan has brought a big relief. In the past, 1.92 lakh cusecs of water reached the neighboring country from Hussainiwala.

In the last 6 days, floods have caused a lot of destruction in Punjab. While the situation has worsened in the eastern case, it is now being felt in western Malwa as well due to the release of water from the Harike headworks. Initially Pakistan had closed its gates of Sulemanki Headworks near Fazilka, but now water is flowing smoothly into Pakistani territory.

Water level in Harike crossed 2.14 lakh cusecs
With this step taken by Pakistan, the major threat of flood in Fazilka has been averted for the time being. In the past, 2.14 lakh cusecs of water was seen flowing in Harike of Sutlej. At the same time, the flow of water near Hussainiwala was recorded at 1.92 lakh cusecs, which is flowing towards Pakistan.
Riaz Haq said…
Manipur: Video shows (Christian) Kuki women being paraded naked by a mob; police confirm FIR filed

‘If you don’t take off your clothes, we will kill you’: Kuki women paraded naked in Manipur
One of them, a 21-year-old woman, was ‘brutally gang raped’, a police complaint says. The police confirm an FIR has been filed.
By Arunabh Saikia

A video of two Kuki women being paraded naked by a mob has emerged from Manipur. Scores of young men can be seen walking alongside as other men drag the distressed-looking women into the fields.

Scroll has spoken to one of the survivors who said the assault took place near her village, B Phainom, in Kangpokpi district on May 4, a day after clashes erupted between the Meitei and Kuki communities.

After they heard Meitei mobs were “burning homes” in a nearby village, her family and others escaped through a dirt lane, but a mob found them, she said. Her neighbour and his son were taken a short distance away and killed, she alleged. The mob then began to assault the women, she said, asking them “to strip off our clothes”.

“When we resisted, they told me: ‘if you don’t take off your clothes, we will kill you,” said the woman, who is her forties. She said she took off “every item of clothing” only in order to “protect herself”. All the while, the men allegedly slapped and punched her. She said she was not aware of what was happening to her 21-year-old neighbour, because she was some distance away.

The woman alleged that she was then dragged to a paddy field near the road, and asked by the men to “lie down” there. “I did as they told me, and three men surrounded me… One of them told the other, ‘let’s rape her’, but ultimately they did not,” she said.

She added that she was “lucky” they did not go to that extent [of raping her]. “But they grabbed my breasts,” she said.

The police case
A police complaint filed by the relatives of the women states that one of the women was subsequently gangraped. Based on the complaint, the police said a zero FIR has been registered in the Saikul police station of Kangpokpi district on May 18.

While first information reports are usually lodged in the police station under whose jurisdiction the alleged crime has taken place, a zero FIR lets any police station accept and register a complaint and then forward it to the pertinent station.

An official at the Saikul police station said charges of rape and murder, among others, have been pressed against “unknown miscreants” numbering “800-1,000”.

The complaint states that the incident took place on the afternoon of May 4, a day after that violence broke out in the state.

“Some unknown miscreants…carrying sophisticated weapons like AK Rifles, SLR. INSAS and .303 Rifles, forcefully entered our village, Island Sub-Division Kangpokpi District, Manipur,” the complaint states.

The mob then went on to burn and vandalise the houses in the village, said the complaint.

The particular incident, according to the complaint, involves five residents of the village who were fleeing “towards the forest” to save themselves.

The group comprised two men and three women. Three of them belonged to the same family: a 56-year-old man, his 19-year-old son and 21-year-old daughter. Two other women, one 42 years old and the other aged 52, were also part of the group.

On the way to the forest, they were “rescued” by a team from the Nongpok Sekmai police station, the complaint adds. However, they were “blocked on the way by a mob and snatched from the custody of the police team by the violent mob near Toubu”, two km from Nongpok Sekmai police station, the complaint alleges.

The mob immediately killed the 56-year-old, the complaint states, following which “all the three women were physically forced to remove their clothes and were stripped naked in front of the mob”.
Riaz Haq said…
What drives Hindutva’s online supporters who defend Narendra Modi and Sangh Parivar no matter what

Every time Prime Minister Narendra Modi travels overseas, his party faithful work up a cacophony of hyperbole to present it as a diplomatic coup to the Indian public. It was no different for his recent visit to America – except, it did not go all to plan.

Their trolling of The Wall Street Journal reporter Sabrina Siddiqui for questioning Modi about his government’s treatment of India’s Muslims drew condemnation even from the White House, while their attacks on former US President Barack Obama for warning about the consequences of mistreating the nation’s minorities made more news than Modi’s visit itself.

This, of course, is not the first time the Hindutva troll army has earned international notoriety. In the past, they have gone after academics Wendy Doniger and Audrey Truschke, activist Greta Thunberg, journalists Mehdi Hasan and Mattew Yglesias.

For someone who has written about the Hindutva movement’s inferiority complex and its messianic reverence for Modi, the reaction of its trolls and even some elected leaders always throws up questions for me about their psyche.

Psyche of a troll
Modi veneration is a cultivated parasocial relationship: a deeply emotional response to his branding as the first pan-India leader who is open about his Hindu exclusionary politics – and, therefore, is the primary victim of all conspiracies against a Hindu India. A parasocial relationship is a one-way relationship, the illusion of a relationship.

As Modi rose on the national political scene, his life story appealed to many Indians who, even with socioeconomic privilege, believed themselves to be working class. The marketing blitz around the so-called Gujarat Model appealed to their material aspirations. To them, criticism of Modi for his communal politics only reinforced his aura as the strongman who had arrived to rid the country of decades of supposedly dysfunctional Congress rule.

Indeed, in the 189 constituencies where Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party went head-to-head with the Congress in the 2014 general election, it won 166. That is, nearly 60% of its total seats. In 144 constituencies outside Uttar Pradesh and Bihar where the BJP was not up directly against the Congress, it was competitive in only 56.

This trend largely continued in 2019, leading the election analyst Neelanjan Sircar to suggest that Modi’s supporters did not vote for him based on issues but rather found issues to rationalise their vote for him.

The result is a cult of Modi in which everyone from top leaders to common devotees sing from the same hymnal. At an event in America in September to celebrate India’s 75th Independence anniversary, foreign minister S Jaishankar asserted that “the fact that our opinions count, that our views matter, and we have actually today the ability to shape the big issues of our time” was because of Modi. Two years earlier, Supreme Court justice Arun Mishra had called Modi a versatile genius and an internationally acclaimed visionary who thinks globally and acts locally.

At the back of the congregation is the Modi fan who celebrates the leader’s birthday by chanting his name nonstop for 24 hours or tattoes his name or likeness on their body. Tying it all together is the mainstream media, which puts Pyongyang to shame in the way it fawns over Modi.
Riaz Haq said…
What drives Hindutva’s online supporters who defend Narendra Modi and Sangh Parivar no matter what

The online troll, then, is an extension of the Modi cult that exists in the real world.

Creating a schizophrenic republic
Fascism, the writer and philosopher Umberto Eco pointed out, “feeds on humiliation – whether economic, national, gendered, or racialised – and encourages followers to direct their frustration at enemy-others who, through some tenuous logic, turn out to be the source of all society’s problems. By a continuous shifting of rhetorical focus the enemies are at the same time too strong and too weak.”

Modi has fed the basal instincts of his supporters – and thrived on it. In 2005, when Modi was the chief minister, the Gujarat police murdered a wanted man named Sohrabuddin Sheikh and his wife in cold blood. The previous year, they had shot dead four people, including a young woman Ishrat Jahan, in a gunfight that was alleged to have been staged.

Criticised for such extrajudicial killings, Modi declared at an election rally in 2007 that Sheikh “got what he deserved”. What should be done, he asked, to a man found with illegal arms? “Kill him,” the crowd shouted, “kill him!”

Modi is also a master of casting legitimate criticism of himself and his political conduct into rousing rhetoric about humiliation and victimhood while fusing his own identity with that of the state. After the 2002 Gujarat carnage, when he was perhaps at his weakest politically, he conducted a statewide campaign called the Gujarat Gaurav Yatra to peddle victimhood.

He has perfected the script since. Whether addressing election rallies or responding to policy challenges like protests against the new citizenship law and the farmers protests, Modi invariably deploys the language of grievance. He recently counted 91 abuses that the Opposition had allegedly thrown at him, and conflated it with denigration of the OBC community, to which he belongs, and India itself.

On the flip side, the rhetoric of perpetual victimhood feeds into Hindutva’s inferiority complex. In this matrix, the Hindu Rashtra is at once a world leader and a fragile nation that everyone can destabilise or destroy at will. Personally for Modi, it chips away at his role as the Hindu Hridaysamrat, the Emperor of Hindu Hearts.

This dissonance has created a schizophrenic republic.

That is why any critical questioning of Modi’s conduct or policies or even an academic review of Hinduism or Indian history is met with ad hominem, strawman or plain abusive attacks.

Trolling as masculine posturing
Hindutva is an adopted ideology. It is founded not on a social or economic ideal like communism or capitalism but on fear and a sense of victimhood. As a consequence, when confronted with a critical argument, its online devotee resorts to a digital form of the masculine display of power. Quite like a man who will not move when walking down a street to compel you to move around them or who talks over you or whistles at you. If you do go around him or shut up or turn your head, he has his victory. That is the power trip.

Riaz Haq said…
What drives Hindutva’s online supporters who defend Narendra Modi and Sangh Parivar no matter what

Only the online warrior feels more emboldened. Psychological research shows that anonymity, asynchronous communication, and an empathy deficit contribute to online disinhibition.

The Hindutva troll is especially susceptible to empathy deficit. He cloaks the inferiority complex inherent to his ideology in victimhood. Since victimhood sells politically, the troll is convinced of his victimhood and, naturally, seeks to defend his tribe against all manner of conspiratorial enemies. Trolling then is an act of convincing himself that he can assert power over the enemy, real or imagined. If the enemy is annoyed, scared or shuts up, the troll has done his duty.

More often than not, the troll’s political positioning is an inherited tribal loyalty to ethnic, familial or religious worldviews that he fuses with his national identity. The inherited worldview could be Christian in the US and Hindu in India, but the common thread is a deep suspicion of anyone that he does not identify as his own. That is why calling the former US president Barack Hussain Obama or pointing to Siddiqui’s Muslim heritage seems an acceptable retort to him. That is simply how he sees the world.

It is also why he easily dismisses a Hindu who opposes him or his ideology as a secret Muslim or a paid Muslim agent. He simply cannot conceive of a member of his tribe coming to a different conclusion about the world. No wonder engaging with a troll often feels like talking to someone who speaks an alien tongue.

Getting away from a cult
One way to cure this malaise is to expose the would-be troll to a different social context, an out-group. That is how most people break away from a faith or a cult. The phenomenon is known as Contact Hypothesis. Sharing space with people from varied backgrounds and worldviews makes a degree of liberalism necessary just to get by.

Indian spaces, however, are deeply segregated and becoming more so, which is driving communities further apart and contributing to religious strife like the Delhi carnage of 2020.

It will do this country good to recognise that our trolls are a reflection of our society, that for an Indian to truly believe in universal brotherhood means for him to break down social, parasocial, emotional, and familial barriers. That is not easy to do. Most of us, George Orwell warned in 1984, prefer happiness over freedom. And so the trolls continue to chant war is peace, ignorance is bliss, freedom is slavery.

Raj Shekhar Sen is an Indian writer and podcaster who lives in the US. His Twitter handle is @DiscourseDancer.
Riaz Haq said…
🧬Dr. Namrata Datta (Singa Pen), PhD🧫🇬🇧🦘🇮🇳
Here we have saffron draped Pramod Singh (Leader of #Meitei) boasting that “We will wipe out #Christian #Kuki"
He further said Kukis will not be able to defend themselves.
The Indian state promotes and enables such hate.
#MANIPUR #bjp #rss #Hindu
Riaz Haq said…
Modi’s India is moving in an illiberal direction | Financial Times

Martin Wolf: The Modi government rides the tiger of politicized religion toward what it hopes is the destination of a modern, prosperous and strong India. The question is not just where it will end up, but whether it can avoid being eaten on its journey.

His government has taken huge risks in riding the tiger of politicised religion

Today’s India is an “illiberal democracy”. Freedom House, the US think-tank, puts it at the same level as Hungary, whose leader, Viktor Orbán, invented that phrase. But it rates the components differently: political rights, notably electoral politics, are healthier in India than in Hungary, but civil rights are weaker. Worse, the latter have deteriorated substantially under BJP rule since 2014. India’s ratings on democracy are still far higher than those of, say, Bangladesh, Pakistan or Turkey. But it is not a “liberal democracy”: Freedom House simply labels the country “partly free”.

Yet, as India’s polity has become less liberal, its government has become more effective. World Bank indicators show that “political stability and absence of violence”, “control of corruption”, “regulatory quality” and “government effectiveness” have improved since Narendra Modi became prime minister. But “voice and accountability” and “rule of law” have worsened. His government is more repressive and more effective than its predecessors

As Ashutosh Varshney of Brown University notes in “India’s Democratic Longevity and Its Troubled Trajectory”, the country’s vigorous democracy was an anomaly. It should not have lasted in an agricultural country with a significant rate of illiteracy. Yes, this democracy was imperfect, with high levels of corruption and violence, not to mention Indira Gandhi’s “emergency” in the mid-1970s. But it worked.

Varshney’s hypothesis is that political ideology played a central role in first creating the democracy and now weakening it. The founders of independent India believed in democracy. Over time, as its politics became more fragmented, politicians thought democracy was in their interest, too, since it allowed them hope to fight another day. But today’s Hindu nationalists have a different point of view: for them, a true Indian must be a Hindu. Their critics are “anti-national” and so inherently treasonous.

This perspective justifies administrative and legal action against independent voices in universities, think-tanks and the media. The government can now designate any individual a terrorist based on personal writings, speeches, social media posts, or literature found in their possession. According to Rahul Mukherji, close to 17,000 civil society organisations have been denied registration or renewal since 2015. Moreover, minority rights, especially of Muslims, are under attack, not just through the law or administrative decrees, but also through vigilante violence.

All this is clearly illiberal. But is it also undemocratic? Majoritarians argue that they are entitled to do what they wish because they won. But a dictatorship of the majority is still a dictatorship. Moreover, without freedom of association and opinion, an opposition cannot function. Rahul Gandhi, a leading opposition politician, has been sentenced to two years in prison for remarks he has made on Modi. Such intimidation makes a competitive democracy infeasible. Moreover, as is too often the case in first-past-the post multi-party elections, the BJP won a huge majority of seats in 2019, despite winning fewer than 40 per cent of votes. This is hardly a true majority.

Riaz Haq said…
Modi’s India is moving in an illiberal direction | Financial Times

Yet we must remember that democratic rights do not of themselves fill empty stomachs or produce good jobs. Encouragingly, a recent report from the UN Development Programme argues that between 2005 and 2021, 415mn people were lifted out of “multidimensional poverty”, and the incidence of poverty declined from 55 per cent to 16 per cent. The most rapid declines occurred in the poorest states and union territories. The Modi government must take a good part of the credit for this.

At the same time, as Ashoka Mody notes, the employment record of India is persistently poor. A crucial failure is India’s low (and falling) female participation rate. Moreover, the growth rate has not accelerated under the BJP. Even today’s “India stack” of universal digital access and the successful direct distribution of welfare payments derives from the unique identity system created by Nandan Nilekani, co-founder of Infosys, when Manmohan Singh was prime minister. Moreover, strong and centralised government can make big mistakes. Demonetisation in 2016 was such a mistake. Another was the Covid lockdown in March 2020, which forced some 40mn migrant workers to return home, many of them on foot. Moreover, such governments frequently have over-close relations with business cronies. This one seems to be no exception.

For someone who has long admired the vigour and diversity of Indian democracy, this growing illiberalism is depressing. It is particularly depressing given India’s rising role in the world. I can see no good reason why a predominantly Hindu society should not tolerate minority faiths. I can see no reason either why it has to assail a diverse civil society. Yet that is where the Modi government seems to be going.

Those who worry about this will be reminded that Hindus are highly tolerant. According to a 2021 study of religious attitudes by the Pew Foundation, 85 per cent of Hindus (who are 80 per cent of the population) believe that “respecting all religions is very important to being truly Indian”. Unfortunately, the 15 per cent who do not share this view are 90mn adults. Moreover, nearly two-thirds of Hindus say it is very important to be Hindu to be “truly” Indian. Thus the politics of religious identity carry dangers for both freedom and stability even in India.

This government rides the tiger of politicised religion on what it hopes to be a long journey towards the destination of creating a modern, prosperous and strong India. The question is not just where it will end up, but whether it can avoid being eaten on its journey.
Riaz Haq said…
Derek J. Grossman
“The reflexive American response to perceived democratic backsliding—a mix of high-minded lectures & threats of sanctions—infuriates Indians, whose skepticism about American virtue has deep roots…


The Delicate U.S. Task of Courting India
The two very different democracies are only partially united by a common language.

by Walter Russell Meade

With India slated to pass Germany and Japan to become the world’s third largest economy by the end of this decade, getting India right has become a critical task for American policy makers.

But a week of talks with political, religious and business leaders aligned with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party has reminded me how difficult this relationship can be. The U.S. and India are both democracies. They are both eager to offset Chinese power in Asia without war. But the differences between the two societies are profound. It will take skill, patience and understanding to make the relationship work.

There is much about India that most Americans don’t understand, and few Americans know India well enough to explain it to the rest of us. Indian democracy is even more complicated and messier than the American variety, and elements of Indian life, ranging from communal violence to reflexive suspicion of both capitalism and the U.S., anger, puzzle and frustrate Americans trying to engage.

Under the current BJP government, Indian authorities have taken some controversial steps. Opposition leader Rahul Gandhi was deprived of his parliamentary seat following a relatively minor legal finding. Indian officials have used tax laws to harass critics ranging from a well-known think tank (Centre for Policy Research) to the BBC and limited the ability of Indian nongovernmental organizations (including Christian groups) to receive money from abroad. Authorities have at times been slow to respond to complaints by religious minorities about violent attacks or discriminatory state legislation.

Government and party officials argue that Indian realities are complicated. They claim Mr. Gandhi’s forced exit was a judicial matter, that state rather than federal authorities are responsible for many of the decisions that trouble international human-rights groups, and that past governments under the BJP’s political rivals have done the same or worse. They make some valid points, but the chorus of criticism from American human-rights organizations continues to grow.

Unless handled intelligently on both sides, problems like this could throw a wrench into diplomatic relations. The reflexive American response to perceived democratic backsliding—a mix of high-minded lectures and threats of sanctions—infuriates Indians, whose skepticism about American virtue has deep roots. No Indian government can afford to be seen bowing to foreign demands.

Indians are sometimes right about American hypocrisy and arrogance; Americans are sometimes right about misguided Indian policies. Even so, the two countries must work together. We need to find ways to address sensitive issues in order to keep the focus on the larger interests that unite us.

This is where the scarcity of real Indian expertise in America creates problems. Hundreds of thousands of young Americans have lived and studied in China over the past 30 years, but a relative handful went to India. An even smaller number studied Indian languages. While many educated Indians speak English, a large majority do not comfortably read or write in it, and without access to the vernacular press and public, American ideas about Indian politics and culture are inevitably skewed.

Riaz Haq said…
The Delicate U.S. Task of Courting India
The two very different democracies are only partially united by a common language.

Building the U.S.-India relationship will take at least as much work. While India already sends hundreds of thousands of students to American universities, and the Indian-American community operates effectively as ambassadors and interpreters between the two cultures, a much broader engagement is needed.

Government can do its part. Washington should step up funding for the study of Indian languages and history. It should simplify the process for issuing visas to Indian scholars, journalists and businesspeople and work with Indian officials to promote cooperation between universities and other civil-society groups in the two countries.

During the Cold War, Americans and our principal allies understood that the Atlantic Community and the U.S.-Japan relationship needed people-to-people ties to become enduring and strong. Governments funded language-study programs and promoted exchanges. Civil-society groups ranging from Rotary clubs and local chambers of commerce to universities and foundations joined in a prolonged effort to build the West into a community. This wasn’t always easy in the wake of World War II—American relationships with Germany and Japan were not exactly love matches.

But government action alone won’t be enough. A generation of young Americans needs to study and live in India, learning local languages and cultures. Programs bringing young Americans to India to teach English while learning about Indian culture and history would help both countries. Businesses should invest in deepening the ties that will enable the economic relationship between the two countries to reach its full potential. Philanthropy needs to make the relationship a priority, providing universities and think tanks with the resources to build up their India-focused programs.

Deepening our relationship with India enhances American security and promotes American economic growth. Investing in that relationship should be one of our highest national priorities.
Riaz Haq said…
India closes school after video of teacher urging students to slap Muslim classmate goes viral

New Delhi — Authorities in central India's Uttar Pradesh state have shut down a private school after video of a teacher asking her students to slap their Muslim classmate went viral and sparked outrage. The state police registered a case against the teacher, identified as Tripta Tyagi, as the video of the August 24 incident spread online.

The scandal erupted at a time of growing tension between India's predominantly Hindu population and its large Muslim minority.

The video, which was verified by police, shows Tyagi telling her students to slap their seven-year-old Muslim classmate. At least three students come up to the Muslim classmate one by one and hit him.

"Why are you hitting him so lightly? Hit him harder," the teacher is heard telling one child as the Muslim boy stands crying.

"Hit him on the back," she tells another student.

Satyanarayan Prajapat, a senior police officer in Uttar Pradesh's Muzaffarnagar district, said the teacher told students to hit the boy "for not remembering his times tables."

But the teacher also mentioned the boy's religion, according to Prajapat.

The teacher from the Neha Public School admitted she'd made a "mistake" by asking other students to hit the boy as she is disabled and couldn't do it herself, but she also defended her actions as necessary discipline.

"This wasn't my intention. I am accepting my mistake, but this was unnecessarily turned into a big issue," Tyagi told India's NDTV news network. "I am not ashamed. I have served the people of this village as a teacher. They all are with me."

The Muslim student's parents took their son out of the school and reported the incident to the police, but they were not pressing charges against the teacher.

"My seven-year-old was tortured for an hour or two. He is scared. This is not a Hindu-Muslim issue. We want the law to take its own course," the boy's father told Indian news networks.

Several politicians accused India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of creating an atmosphere in which the incident was able to take place.

Rahul Gandhi, senior leader of the main opposition party, the Indian National Congress, accused the teacher of "sowing the poison of discrimination in the minds of innocent children."

"This is the same kerosene spread by BJP which has set every corner of India on fire," Gandhi wrote in a social media post.

The BJP, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has consistently said it does not discriminate against the country's more than 200 million Muslims.

In June, during a visit to the U.S., Modi told journalists there was "absolutely no space for discrimination" in India.

Meanwhile, Uttar Pradesh government officials said the school was being shut as it did not meet the education department's "criteria," with all students set to be transferred to other schools.

Riaz Haq said…
#G20India: Why #Modi Can’t Make #India a Great Power! #BJP Government-Backed Intolerance Is Tearing the Country Apart. #Manipur #Kashmir #Nuh #Gujarat #Islamophobia #Hindutva #Bharat

Starting September 9, New Delhi is scheduled to host the G-20’s 18th annual summit. The event, in the eyes of the Indian government, will mark the country’s growing international importance. “During our G-20 presidency, we shall present India’s experiences, learnings, and models as possible templates for others,” Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared last year, when his country assumed the organization’s leadership. This August, he asserted that India’s presidency would help make the world into “one family” through “historic efforts aimed at inclusive and holistic growth.” The government’s message was clear: India is becoming a great power under Modi and will usher in an era of global peace and prosperity.

But 1,000 miles away from New Delhi, in the northeastern state of Manipur, India is caught in a conflict that suggests it is in no position to serve as an international leader. Over the last four months, ethnic violence between Manipur’s largest community, the Meiteis, and its second-largest minority, the Kukis, has killed hundreds of people and rendered 60,000 people homeless. Mobs have set fire to over 350 churches and vandalized over a dozen temples. They have burned more than 200 villages.

At first glance, it may seem as if the violence in Manipur will not hinder Modi’s foreign policy ambitions. After all, the prime minister has traveled the world over the last four months without having to talk about the conflict. It did not come up (at least publicly) in June, when U.S. President Joe Biden rolled out the red carpet for Modi in Washington, D.C. It was not mentioned when Modi landed in Paris three weeks later and met French President Emmanuel Macron. And the issue has not arisen during his visits this year to Australia, Egypt, Greece, Japan, Papua New Guinea, South Africa, and the United Arab Emirates.

But make no mistake: the events in Manipur threaten Modi’s goal and vision of a great India. The state’s violence has forced the Indian government to deploy thousands of troops inside Manipur, reducing the country’s capacity to protect its borders from an increasingly aggressive China. The conflict has also hampered India’s efforts to be an influential player in Southeast Asia by making it hard for the country to carry out regional infrastructure projects and by saddling neighboring states with refugees. And the ongoing violence could give other Indian separatist and ethnic partisan groups an opening to challenge New Delhi’s primacy. If these organizations do begin to rebel, as some of them have in the past, the consequences would be disastrous. India is one of the most diverse countries in the world, home to people from thousands of different cultures and communities. It cannot function if these populations are in intense conflict.


the violence in Manipur clearly shows the limits of India’s potential under Modi. The country will not be able to effectively defend its borders if it has to divert military force to suppress internal unrest. It cannot serve as a counterweight to China if it is burdening other parts of Asia with domestic conflicts. In fact, India will struggle to be effective anywhere in the world if its government remains largely preoccupied with domestic strife.

For New Delhi’s Western partners, an India that cannot look outward will certainly prove disappointing. But it will be more disappointing for Indians themselves. Theirs is the largest country in the world; it should, by rights, be a global leader. Yet to be stable enough to project substantial authority, India needs to keep peace and harmony among its diverse population—something it can accomplish only by becoming an inclusive, plural, secular, and liberal democracy.

Riaz Haq said…
Violence Is the Engine of Modi’s Politics - The Atlantic

"Never before have attacks on Muslims been so geographically dispersed, continuous, or chillingly unpredictable," an important analysis by Vaibhav Vats on what it means to be a Muslim in India under Prime Minister Narendra Modi's rule.

In the first week of August, the glitzy megacity of Gurugram, an hour’s drive from New Delhi, was burning.

With its gleaming malls and opulent high-rises, Gurugram had become symbolic of India’s economic rise. But for much of this month, the city has been in a state of siege from Hindu mobs running amok, attacking Muslim homes, commercial establishments, and places of worship. Smoke billowed from buildings set ablaze, riot police trawled the streets, and multinational corporations ordered their employees to stay home. Large numbers of working-class Muslims, the human capital underpinning the city’s prosperity, took flight.

The mayhem in Gurugram was a direct result of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s growing sense of political insecurity. Two recent setbacks had rattled him and the Hindu-supremacist movement he leads. In May, Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party suffered a chastening defeat in a high-stakes election in Karnataka, the southern-Indian state that is home to Bangalore and a powerhouse of India’s information-technology sector. With Karnataka, the Hindu right lost its only foothold in southern India, the country’s most prosperous and wealthy region.

Read: India is not Modi, we once said. I wish I still believed it.

Then, in mid-July, two weeks before the violence erupted in Gurugram, the Indian opposition announced an electoral alliance to take on Modi in next year’s national elections. The big-tent coalition was a remarkable show of unity, something that had mostly eluded Modi’s rivals since his ascent to power in 2014. A juggernaut comprising 26 parties, the opposition alliance christened itself the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance—INDIA.

These twin events felt like political earthquakes. They cast doubt on what until recently had seemed certain: Modi’s reelection as prime minister for a third consecutive term in 2024. And as Modi and his party have begun to feel politically threatened, they have let loose the foot soldiers of the Hindu right upon India’s minorities.

For a century, since the rise of the Hindu right in the 1920s, religious disturbances in India have followed a dismayingly predictable pattern. Members of Hindu organizations stage threatening parades in Muslim neighborhoods, chanting provocative slogans and blaring music outside mosques in order to arouse a response. Community members retaliate, and confrontation follows, escalating into a riot. Soon after a July 31 Hindu parade in Nuh, the Muslim-majority district adjacent to Gurugram, violence spread across the northern state of Haryana, of which Gurugram is the largest city.

The organizational machinery of the Hindu right has made a science of engineering such conflagrations. It needs only to activate the ecosystem that Paul R. Brass, a doyen of South Asian studies, has termed an “institutionalised system of riot production.” That system reliably generates political rewards: An exhaustive studyby Yale, analyzing the effects of such riots over a period of nearly four decades beginning in the 1960s, concluded that the parties of the Hindu right typically “saw a 0.8 percentage point increase in their vote share following a riot in the year prior to an election.”

The benefits of such religious polarization have surely risen under Modi, the most charismatic leader the Hindu-supremacist movement has ever produced. Delivering successive majorities in Parliament in 2014 and 2019, Modi has taken the Hindu right to the kind of unchallenged power it always dreamed of.

Riaz Haq said…
Violence Is the Engine of Modi’s Politics - The Atlantic

Modi first came to international attention following the 2002 religious riots in the western-Indian state of Gujarat, where he was chief minister. Several coaches of a train carrying Hindu pilgrims were burned down under inscrutable circumstances, killing 59 people, and Gujarat witnessed a paroxysm of violence that included acts of brutality shocking even within the history of religious conflict in India. Ultimately, more than 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, were killed.

The 2002 violence, perpetrated by militant organizations of the Hindu right as the state machinery stood by, has often been described as an anti-Muslim pogrom. Modi was subsequently banned from the United States “for severe violations of religious freedom,” a prohibition that was lifted only after his elevation as India’s prime minister in 2014.

After the riots, Hindu consolidation ensured that Modi retained an iron grip on power within Gujarat. But nationally and abroad, he was tainted—viewed as a dark, unsettling figure who could not be trusted to lead India. In 2004, India’s Supreme Court described Modi as a modern-day Nero who had watched while women and children were butchered.

Modi had visited America frequently during the 1990s, when he was a party ideologue seeking to build support among affluent and influential Indian Americans from Gujarat. Like many conservative Indians, he admired the United States not for its liberal and constitutional values, but for its economic and technological power, and he craved American acceptance. But following his ban from the United States, Modi avoided visiting Western democracies, perhaps fearing that he would share the fate of Augusto Pinochet, the former Chilean dictator who was arrested in London in 1998 for his human-rights abuses. Modi made multiple trips to China instead.

When he became prime minister in 2014, he changed tack. He sought to keep his Hindu base energized without attracting the sort of global notoriety that had come his way in 2002. The first test came in 2015, a year after his ascension to power.

A 52-year-old ironsmith named Mohammed Akhlaq was lynched by his Hindu neighbors in a village on the outskirts of Delhi. The cow holds a sacred, hallowed place in the Hindu imagination, and slaughtering cows is illegal in most Indian states. Akhlaq’s neighbors suspected him of storing beef in his fridge. They dragged him out of his house, where a mob, in an act of medieval bloodletting, killed him with sticks and stones.

The gruesome nature of the crime stunned India. Almost immediately, calls arose for Modi to condemn it. No full-throated condemnation ever came. Instead, for more than two weeks, while agitators on the Hindu right orchestrated a campaign of hate, Modi retreated into a mysterious silence that its followers interpreted as assent. Such tactical silence, in some ways even more significant than speech, has since become a hallmark of his politics.

Aakar Patel, a longtime newspaper editor who is now the chair of Amnesty International India, observed that in his years in the newsroom he never encountered a report about cow-based lynchings. “‘Beef lynching’ as category of violence has been introduced to India after 2014,” he wrote in his book Price of the Modi Years. Patel collated a spate of such lynchings that followed Akhlaq’s killing, as incendiary rhetoric around cow slaughter emanated from Modi and the Hindu right. In 2018, one of Modi’s ministers went so far as to celebrate those convicted of having carried out a beef lynching with garlands, a high mark of respect in Hindu society. Such crimes have become so routine in today’s India that they are relegated to the inside pages of newspapers, usually truncated to single-column reports.

Riaz Haq said…
Violence Is the Engine of Modi’s Politics - The Atlantic

In speeches in Western capitals, including in his recent address to a joint session of the U.S. Congress, Modi recites florid paeans to democracy and human rights that ring farcical in the ears of critics and dissidents back home. Ahead of India’s hosting of the G20 summit this September, Modi even, bizarrely, claimed that India is the “mother of democracy.”

All the while, spectacular eruptions of violence that draw the world’s attention have been replaced by constant, low-intensity terror that keeps India’s Muslims on edge and the majoritarian pot stirring. Hindu supremacists have declared war on interfaith marriage, terming it a form of “love jihad.” Extrajudicial killings of Muslims by police officials and arbitrary, illegal demolitions of Muslim homes by civic authorities have grown exponentially.

The terror is sustained by a nexus between emboldened vigilantes and a partisan state. Of all the hate crimes committed in India between 2009 and 2018, 90 percent occurred after Modi’s arrival in New Delhi in 2014. Hindu supremacism is bleeding India by a thousand cuts.

From political wilderness to global prominence, Modi has essentially remained an unreconstructed Hindu supremacist. The current, unrelenting hard press on India’s Muslims is nothing but a pursuance of the logic of the 2002 violence by other means: The violence is now geographically dispersed, continuous, and chillingly unpredictable.

On July 31, just as the Gurugram violence began, a railway-security official shot his superior on an express train to Mumbai. The official then walked through seven coaches, found three men who could be identified visually as Muslim, and shot them dead. He made a video of himself with the body of one victim at his feet, hailing Modi and Adityanath, the radical, hate-spewing priest who is the chief minister of India’s most populous province. These leaders were the only choices if you wanted to live in India, the killer declared. The implication was that those who voted for other leaders were effectively traitors.

Connecting the Gurugram violence to the train shooting, the prominent Hindi-language intellectual Apoorvanand remarked that both events “were part of the same soap opera where different characters keep appearing.” Violence was producing its own logic. Between lone wolves and an organized mob, Apoorvanand concluded, nowhere in India were Muslims safe.

In South Asia, the rule of law is weak and state capacity is thin on the ground. Violence can easily spiral out of control. The Indian subcontinent is still haunted by the memory of Partition, the bitter, bloody division of the region into the modern nations of India and Pakistan, which displaced 15 million people and left more than 1 million dead.

Under Modi, the Indian state has ceased to emphasize pluralism and diversity, and fears abound that the nation again stands at the precipice of such a calamity. For the fourth consecutive year, the bipartisan United States Commission on International Religious Freedom has flagged India as a “Country of Particular Concern.” The Early Warning Project, an initiative partly supported by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum that assesses likelihood of genocide and large-scale atrocities across the world, ranks India eighth among countries at highest risk for mass killing.

The Hindu right sometimes spends years laying the foundations for violence. In old cities, such as Delhi, mosques sprang up organically over centuries. Gurugram, by contrast, was new, and its growing migrant Muslim population had few places of worship when Hindu-supremacist groups began attacking its Friday-prayer sites in 2018. The state had assigned the community fallow lands for these meetings. Although many such informal arrangements exist in India, the Hindu supremacists termed the prayer sites illegal and began imputing shadowy, fantastical motives to Muslim worship.

Riaz Haq said…
Violence Is the Engine of Modi’s Politics - The Atlantic

Writing for The Caravan earlier this year, I sought to understand how the Hindu-supremacist machinery operated in Gurugram, not only through the organizations of the Hindu right, but in conjunction with an autonomous “alt-right” movement that was emerging in India, and how a genocidal imagination had taken hold in sizable portions of the society and state under Modi. In April last year, I visited the base of operations for the Bajrang Dal, a thuggish armed wing of the Hindu right, comparable to the Proud Boys, which met in the basement of an unoccupied building. A few blocks away was a half-constructed mosque that had become the subject of a simmering dispute in Gurugram.

The state had awarded a land grant for the mosque in 2004, but the mobilization of the Hindu neighborhoods around the site kept it mired in litigation for nearly two decades. The mosque was stillborn when I visited, iron rods jutting out of its half-finished pillars. In May, India’s Supreme Court gave the Muslim community permission to go ahead with construction. That judgment did not go down well in the neighborhood.

When the violence erupted in Gurugram at the beginning of the month, a darkness seized me. This was exactly the sequel I’d been dreading, and the Bajrang Dal was at the forefront of the violence.

In the early hours of August 1, a Hindu mob stormed the mosque. A young cleric named Mohammad Saad, who lived in the compound, was pierced to death with swords. Saad’s colleague, a helper at the mosque, spent two weeks in intensive care, having been smashed in the head with a steel rod and shot in the foot. A few Muslim boys lingering in the compound hid in trunks in a decrepit storeroom that somehow escaped the mob’s attention. Two police vans had been stationed outside the mosque, but the cops stood motionless.

In the most poignant of ironies, an hour before Saad was killed, his brother had called to tell him about the train shooting. Saad had been scheduled to travel home by train the following day. His brother had urged him to cancel the ticket.

Last week, I visited the mosque again. The acrid smell and soot-black walls were familiar from the sites of other riots I had covered. The last time I’d been inside a desecrated mosque was during the Delhi violence of 2020, when 53 people, mostly Muslims, were killed while Modi entertained Trump, on a state visit to India, less than 10 miles away.

Mira Kamdar: What happened in Delhi was a pogrom

Historically, religious violence has been largely confined to impoverished neighborhoods where Hindus and Muslims lived cheek by jowl. The Gurugram mosque, by contrast, was situated in a well-heeled enclave—an island of privilege of a sort no longer insulated from the onward march of Hindu supremacism. Similarly, in the middle of August, a video emerged of a mob in Mumbai beating a Muslim man for going out with a Hindu girl. The assault took place in the city’s posh Bandra neighborhood, home to the Bollywood elite and India’s super-rich—the quarter where Tim Cook had recently inaugurated an Apple Store.

To live in India in the Modi era, now approaching a decade, is to feel in your bones the violence accelerating, its scope ever widening. The Hindu right is never more dangerous than when it feels its hold on political power becoming imperiled. The electoral setback in Karnataka was an early sign of growing psychological fatigue with the talking points of Hindu supremacism and the perpetually high temperature at which this politics of grievance is conducted.

Riaz Haq said…
Violence Is the Engine of Modi’s Politics - The Atlantic

With Gurugram, the Hindu supremacists have brought their polarization playbook to rich and middle-class neighborhoods, where they will likely be seeking to shore up support for the Bharatiya Janata Party ahead of next year’s elections. The tactics remain familiar—mosque disputes, marches through Muslim neighborhoods—but the unpredictability of where the violence will erupt next, the thrill and fear of it, keeps the Hindu right’s base energized. Violence of this kind almost certainly requires assent from the very top, and the opaqueness and secrecy around such decisions are part of Modi’s mystique and power.

By the time I set off from Gurugram for home in New Delhi that day in August, evening had fallen. In less than 10 minutes, I reached the wide-lane, American-style freeway that connects Gurugram to the national capital. Neon lights on the glass towers of corporate headquarters and luxury hotels shimmered in the humid night. How minuscule, I thought, was the distance that remained between India’s modern vision of itself and the mobs of Hindu supremacism.

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