Survey Shows AAP May Cost Congress Half Its Gujarat Vote Share; Nehru as Conforming Modernist, Gandhi as Authentic Resister
KCR asks chief justices for another Indira ruling, school admission declines, Ayodhya has fewest taps, Ram Madhav defends Nehru on Kashmir, hair trade booms but these are bad hair days
A newsletter from The Wire & Galileo Ideas | Contributors: MK Venu, Seema Chishti, Siddharth Varadarajan, Sidharth Bhatia, Sushant Singh and Tanweer Alam | Editor: Pratik Kanjilal
Are you new to The India Cable or getting by with just the truncated newsletter? Once a week, we relax our paywall so non-subscribers can see for themselves the value of paying Rs 200/month or Rs 2000/year to get the most definitive daily picture of India in their inbox every day.
We are a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support our work, please consider becoming a paid subscriber.
Snapshot of the day
November 4, 2022
A survey by the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies shows that the entry of the Aam Aadmi Party as a third contender for power in Gujarat is likely to lead to the Congess losing as much as half of its share of the popular vote. AAP on Friday said Isudan Gadhavi would be its chief ministerial candidate. Gadhavi was a TV anchor with a Gujarati news channel till last year, when he quit and joined the party.
Possession of “jihadi literature” is not a crime unless the idea propagated in it is used to execute terror acts, a National Investigation Agency court in Delhi has said. “Such literature is not expressly or specifically banned under any provision of law, is not fathomable in law unless and until there is material about the execution of such philosophy so as to do terrorist acts,” Special Judge Dharmesh Sharma said, adding that anything else would violate fundamental rights.
Meta India chief Ajit Mohan suddenly quit yesterday. TechCrunch reported that he will join Snap – which runs Snapchat – as president of the company’s Asia-Pacific business.
At a meeting of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs, the Opposition protested against the decision to drop Centre-state relations from the agenda for the coming year. A bulletin issued by the Rajya Sabha secretariat in October listed six subjects — Prison Conditions, Infrastructure and Reforms, Border Management, Disaster Management, Functioning of Union Territories, Implementation of Centrally sponsored schemes and projects in Northeastern States, and Challenges to Internal Security and India’s Preparedness. Centre-State relations, was on the table before the committee was reshuffled in September, and Congress MP Abhishek Manu Singhvi was replaced as chairperson by BJP MP Brijlal (UP).
Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha MPs of Tamil Nadu’s ruling DMK-led Secular Progressive alliance have signed a memorandum to the President of India seeking removal of Tamil Nadu Governor RN Ravi. “DMK and its allies account for 50 MPs in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha and we have obtained signatures from 43. Others will sign before meeting the president in Delhi,” said senior leader TKS Elangovan. The DMK has collected signatures only from Tamil Nadu MPs.
Telangana CM KCR has released a video of agents purportedly offering Rs 50 cr to MLAs, and asked Chief Justices to act against the BJP. KCR said that whenever there was a crisis in democracy the judiciary had made its intervention, citing the example of the Allahabad High Court disqualifying then PM Indira Gandhi.
The Ministry of External Affairs has reacted to Pakistan and China’s joint statement invoking Jammu & Kashmir: “We’ve noted that the joint statement released following the visit of Pakistan PM to China contained several unwarranted references to Indian Union Territory of J&K… Union Territory of J&K and of Ladakh are and always will be integral and inalienable part of India.”
The government has said it is making all possible efforts for the early release and repatriation of eight former naval personnel detained in Qatar for about two months. They reportedly worked for Dahra Global Technologies and Consultancy Services, a private firm providing training and other services to Qatar’s armed forces and agencies. The Qatari authorities have not officially explained their detention.
Vijay Mallya’s attorney informed the Supreme Court yesterday that he had not heard from the wanted businessman and asked to be dismissed from the case. Justices DY Chandrachud and Hima Kohli’s panel approved lawyer EC Agrawala’s discharge from the case and asked him to provide the former liquor baron’s contacts in the UK to the Supreme Court registry.
After the Kerala courts rebuffed Governor Arif Mohammad Khan’s attempt to get the state’s vice chancellors to resign, former Kerala finance minister Thomas Issac points out that Kerala, Maharashtra and Punjab have topped the Education Ministry’s Performance Grading Index.
School enrolment in pre-primary classes in 2021-2022 continues to decline, and there are 30% fewer in this category than in pre-Covid years. Younger students with less access to remote learning continue to bear the brunt of learning loss, according to the Ministry of Education. Some 94.95 lakh students entered pre primary classes in 2021-2022, 10% less than last year’s score of 1.06 crore. However, 2020-2021 itself had seen a decline of 21% from the previous figure of 1.35 crore, due to school closures and online teaching, according to the ‘Unified District Information System for Education Plus’ report. Also, for the first time since the pandemic, the report records a decline in the number of schools, due to closures and a lack of teachers. There were 20,000 fewer schools in 2021-2022 as the total number of schools dropped from 15.09 lakh to 14.89 lakh. There were also 1.89 lakh or 1.98% fewer teachers.
The Indian Army is taking delivery of 750 Sako TRG-42 sniper rifles from Finland and around 355,000 rounds of specialised .338 Lapua Magnum rounds for an estimated $7-8 million, as a follow-on procurement of two recent imports. Rahul Bedi assesses former unrealistic delivery schedules of equipment and the constraints that Make in India is imposing: “It is impracticable to expect indigenous vendors getting into designing and producing sniper rifles for the first time to also take on contractual risks, equalling half the $60-70 million contract, to produce the ammunition too.”
The India Cable is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support our work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
The Oreva Group, which renovated the bridge which collapsed on Sunday in Morbi, Gujarat, taking at least 135 people lives, had considered reopening it after temporary repairs in 2020. The group wrote to the Morbi collector in August 2020 that they would open the “temporarily repaired” bridge if their contract was not renewed and they were not awarded a permanent contract for its maintenance and management, reports Hindustan Times. An official responded that the government needs to follow due process. The bridge mostly remained open to the public, except during pandemic restrictions.
The number of RTI queries in FY21 increased by 45.7% to 1.33 million in six years, according to the Central Information Commission’s annual report for 2020-21. However, actual spending on commissions across the country has declined by 90.6%, to Rs 3.5 crore in FY22 from Rs 37.24 crore six years ago.
The denial of bail to Umar Khalid has erased the already slim hopes of eight families of people booked under the UAPA for conspiring to trigger the 2020 riots in Delhi, reports Ajaz Ashraf.
Several journalists’ bodies and others have spoken out on searches at The Wire and the homes of its editors. “We call on authorities and politicians to cease the harassment,” the Committee to Protect Journalists has said. The Telegraph and The Hindu have editorials calling out the BJP-run union government.
In bureaucratic coup, panel displaces earlier panel
Following protests earlier this year by Central government employees in the Central Secretariat Service (CSS) over delayed promotions and career issues, the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) has constituted a committee to undertake its fourth cadre restructuring. The four-member committee will be led by the establishment officer and additional secretary, DoPT, and will have a joint secretary each from the DoPT and the Department of Expenditure. A deputy secretary of DoPT will be member secretary.
The panel will also study the ‘encadrement’ – a fine bit of bureaucratic coinage – of posts of autonomous bodies and statutory organisations, and the recommendations of the third restructuring panel, which have not been implemented yet. In a bureaucratic coup, a panel is replacing another with the same mandate.
Nagaland heads for health workers’ strike
Fearing disruption of public health services during a proposed indefinite strike by doctors and medical staff, the Nagaland government has warned agitators of pay cuts and disciplinary action. The Nagaland In-Service Doctors Association (NIDA) is to go on indefinite strike for increasing their age of superannuation from 60 years to 62. A compromise offered by the state government was refused.
Ayodhya district has fewest piped water connections
BJP MP Rajyavardhan Rathore’s claim that Rajasthan scores lowest in tap water coverage is incorrect. The honour goes to UP which, along with Jharkhand, ranked below Rajasthan in Union government data. For UP, Factchecker.in found that none of the 75 districts had covered more than 50% of households with piped water. In 54 of 75 districts, less than 25% of households were connected. The state’s highest coverage is in Baghpat (49.88%) and the lowest is in Ayodhya (6.73%).
India caught up in Maldives’ volte face on Chagos
New Delhi is being accused of making Malé change its stance on its territorial dispute with Mauritius over the Chagos islands. The Maldives sprang a surprise late last month by declaring that it supports Mauritius in its efforts to decolonise the Chagos islands from the UK. It had always backed the UK’s claim against Mauritius, in part because it has its own dispute with Mauritus over its maritime boundary. The Chagos islands are geo-strategically significant, and a US military base came up on the atoll of Diego Garcia after the US and UK signed a pact in 1966, despite legitimate questions over who had jurisdiction over the Chagos islands.
The base has provided the US with a vital presence in the Indian Ocean region, which it threatened to leverage during the Bangladesh War, and it remains significant with Chinese warships increasingly venturing into the region. Mauritius ceased to be a British colony in 1968 but never got back Chagos, an archipelago of seven atolls and 60 islands. The Maldives U-turn on Chagos has stirred a hornet’s nest with former president Mohammed Nasheed stating that Maldives’s stand has traditionally been that the British should hand the archipelago back to its original inhabitants and that the islands then be divided between Mauritius and Maldives.
Why Nehru is read as the conforming modernist and Gandhi as the authentic resister
Taylor C Sherman
The myth of inauthentic, Western modernism in India is partly a product of how we have understood the key concepts of modernity and modernism over the ages. Modernity is a set of processes set in train somewhere around the 15th century and gaining pace by the 19th century. These concerned economic connectivity and technical innovation, as well as state-making practices, changing understandings of the self and new experiences of time. When 19th century thinkers began to recognise these processes, they grouped them together to tell a story about historical change, which they named modernity. Initially, European and American theorists of modernity assumed that it developed first in the West, and spread from there, via emulation or empire, to the rest of the world.
This West-to-rest model of modernity, however, has been thoroughly discredited over the past two decades. Historians have uncovered the ways in which European and American wealth was built on the backs of enslaved Africans and indentured labourers from Asia. The wealth of those parts of the world that came to regard themselves as white was powered by extraction of everything from silver to sugar from the colonised world. Asian and African ‘backwardness’, then, was not the result of local inadequacies, as 19th century imperialists claimed, but the product of the methods by which advancing countries brought about their own development. Modernity generated not just scientific and economic progress, in other words, but also poverty, inequality and what came to be understood as tradition and backwardness. Not only did modernity manifest in multifarious ways, it produced highly uneven results.
Modernism, in turn, is the term that covers one set of responses to the recognition of modernity in the late 19th and 20th centuries, in fields from architecture to economics. Because modernity was seen as originating in the West, modernism was conflated with Westernisation. But as modernity has come to be seen as a dynamic set of processes encompassing the globe, definitions of modernism must keep up. Indeed, just as we now recognise multiple modernities, it is best to speak of multiple modernisms, as the art historian Partha Mitter has argued. These shared modernisms were plural, heterogeneous, and ‘messy’.
How did India’s modernism come to be understood as authoritarian, inauthentic, and indifferent to the Indian people and their past? The notion that India’s version of modernism was imposed from above by Western experts seems to be affirmed by documents available to historians. India recruited Western experts for its big modernist projects. These individuals and institutions tended to keep detailed records of their work, and these archives have since been thrown open to scholars. Indian archival materials do not exist to the same extent. This one-sided source base tends to provide a lopsided portrayal of these international collaborations: India and Indians often come across as passive recipients of Western expertise. Since 1998, when James C Scott argued, without reference to India per se, that large dams and the architecture of Le Corbusier constituted ‘authoritarian high modernism’, this perspective has remained fairly trenchant, even as related fields have moved on.
India, in this story, had a simple choice: conform or resist. In turn, this choice has been projected onto India’s great men: Nehru the moderniser, Gandhi the resister. Why has this binary wherein Nehru represents modernism and Gandhi stands for authenticity come to frame the way we understand India’s options after independence? On the Nehru side, it is easy to imagine a singular, authoritarian modernism coming from a PM who wielded enormous power by pulling the levers of a centralising, homogenising state. Equally, because the Soviet Union had state-sanctioned art and architecture, those who assume Indian socialism was modelled on the Soviet version, find it easy to make analogous assumptions about Indian modernism. Some scholars have read the art and architecture of the time as expressions of Non-alignment, secularism and other tenets of Nehruvianism.
Nehru was associated with many of these projects, but primarily as patron or in a symbolic role. His diary was chock-full of ceremonies that saw him cutting ribbons and laying foundation stones. He was honorary president of innumerable organisations. He lent prestige to institutions and programmes by association, and he understood that this was his main function. Just after Independence, Nehru took up the Chair of the Council on Scientific and Industrial Research, while promising that he would not have time to work on the details. The actual work would be the responsibility of Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar. Acting as patron allowed Nehru ‘to show what importance the new government attached to scientific development in India’. One should not discount the significance of this figurehead role, but Nehru did not draw up the blueprint for a programme of Indian modernism, let alone personally oversee its implementation. As for the Gandhi-Nehru split, to be fair, there were people who identified as Gandhians in India, and many of them raised loud if nuanced objections to some of the government’s policies. It is a mistake, however, to regard them as a discrete rival camp, for many Gandhians were either in government or cooperated with modernists on their projects.
The people of the decolonising world did not merely resist or conform to modernism: they also shaped, channelled and colonised the processes of modernity and initiated and inspired modernist ideas as well. Undoubtedly, some in India thought that the only way to be authentic was to follow what they imagined to be Indian tradition. But modernists did not accept any contradiction between being authentically Indian and being modern. Instead, many believed their experiments in India both drew on existing universal truths and would reveal new ones which could be spread to the wider world. It is as if these Indian modernists had already reached the place of multiple modernities and plural modernism at which today’s scholars have only recently arrived.
(Extracted with permission from Nehru’s India: A History in Seven Myths, Princeton University Press. Footnotes not included.)
The Election Commission of India has blamed the delay in declaring dates for the Gujarat polls on “multiple factors”, but couldn’t get beyond the Morbi bridge disaster. It’s a half-truth, at best. Perhaps they meant that they wanted to announce dates on November 1? But why was it delinked from the announcement of elections in Himachal Pradesh, which was done weeks before the Morbi tragedy? The fact is the Gujarat poll dates were ‘coincidentally’ announced after PM Modi launched projects worth Rs 11,760 crore. Also, this is your reminder that the EC has not run at full strength, with three members, for over five months, since the last Chief Election Officer demitted office on May 14, 2022. That’s one too few to settle a difference of opinion.
Prime Number: 194%
The Praja Foundation’s report on Delhi Police has found that in the decade 2012-2021, reporting of major crimes in Delhi increased 440%. More citizens coming forward is a good sign, but a sharp rise in crimes against women is concerning – rape cases grew 194% in the period, and molestation cases 251%. Worryingly, in 2021, 91% of Delhi’s victims of kidnapping and abduction and 86% of victims of human trafficking in 2017-2021 were were minors. Moreover, 89% of victims of human trafficking in 2021 were taken for forced labour.
Not just social media, the new Information Technology Act amendment will also affect news websites and has much wider ramifications. A useful explainer.
Op-Eds you don’t want to miss
After Law minister Kiren Rijiju’s recent attacks on Nehru’s ‘mishandling’ of Jammu and Kashmir’s accession to India, Ram Madhav of the RSS has sprung to the first prime minister’s defence: “Despite procrastination by Maharaja Hari Singh on accession, none of the Indian leaders were prepared to leave J&K to Pakistan. Nehru and Patel’s persistence and Gandhi’s visit to the region paved the path.”
Who benefits from keeping Dalits ‘Hindu’? The narrative of Muslims and Christians being casteless is more significant than we assume, write Shireen Azam and Sumit Samos.
Devaki Jain writes that with her soft voice but indomitable spirit, Ela Bhatt built an economic force that both revealed the gaps in the economy and created remedies for the underprivileged.
While China’s attitude may soften towards the rest of the world, confrontation with India and Japan will remain possible, to ensure that they acknowledge its leadership in Asia, writes MK Narayanan.
While the Taiwan issue and the unresolved India-China border dispute are not comparable, Beijing’s determination to link territoriality with national sovereignty could alter the nature of the border issue with India, writes C Uday Bhaskar.
FS Aijazuddin writes in Dawn that Satvinder S Juss’s The Execution of Bhagat Singh: Legal Heresies of the Raj “needs to be read by everyone who takes independence for granted. Our current leaders might like to pause, read Dr Juss’s book, and ask… why they are destroying the fragile gift of independence.”
Rather than attacking adverse reports as the handiwork of anti-nationals and ‘urban Naxals’, the government should address growing poverty, inequality, agrarian distress and unemployment, writes KN Ninan.
Zoya Hasan has written a paper on OBCs and the politics of reservations in India for UN’s WIDER, which examines the state of play and how it has affected the democratisation of politics.
The run-up to by-elections in two Assembly constituencies of Bihar today has highlighted the growing acceptance of Tejaswhi Yadav as a symbol of the Opposition to the RSS-BJP in the state, writes Nalin Verma.
While the RBI may be blamed for being slow to respond to inflation, it is unfair to place the entire responsibility of inflation targeting on it, writes Himanshu.
If some see the Bharat Jodo Yatra as a defining moment, for the likes of Kalpana Kannabiran, it’s a “Rahul Lula Moment”. Only time will tell if Rahul Gandhi is indeed scripting a new chapter, writes Vasu Gandikota.
Sohini C writes that Tamil and Telugu films are challenging Modi’s Hindi push, proving that just as Bollywood is not the Indian film industry, Hindi is not the national language.
For this edition of the Intelligence Squared series on India’s 75 years of independence, journalist Rana Ayyub is joined in conversation by Kavita Puri, broadcaster and author of the book and radio series, Partition Voices.
The News Minute has launched ‘The Chinmayi Show’ by singer Chinmayi Sripaada. In this first episode, Chinmayi discusses stalking, what it does to women and what you should do if they are harassed.
Over and Out
Last year, India exported human hair worth $770 million, twice as much as in 2020. Spared the effects of harsh chemicals — most Indians cannot afford hair products — it is prized for its quality. The trade’s low input costs and high margins attract dodgy characters, too. Smugglers mislabel the goods as cotton to avoid Chinese tariffs. Earlier this year, India placed restrictions on the export of human hair, requiring traders to seek a licence. It is unclear how crooks are affected, but legitimate traders are having bad hair days.
That’s it for today. We’ll be back with you on Monday, on a device near you. If The India Cable was forwarded to you by a friend (perhaps a common friend!) book your own copy by SUBSCRIBING HERE.