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Via Philippines, India Enters South China Sea Game; The US Has Finally Encountered the Real Modi
Heat raising domestic violence in South Asia, court fines disobedient Twitter, Ravi loses Senthilbalaji battle, Savarkar slides into MP curriculum, and in Delhi University, ceremony is being Modified
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Snapshot of the day
June 30, 2023
The Karnataka High Court has dismissed Twitter’s plea against the Union government’s takedown orders and fined it $61,000. Twitter had challenged the fact that it was asked to delete not just specific tweets but whole accounts and was given no reason for this by the government. The implications for freedom of speech in India are grave. IT minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar – who recently accused former CEO Jack Dorsey of lying when he said that the government had threatened to shut down Twitter in India if it did not take down tweets critical of the government during the farmers’ protests – is exultant.
India has been bingeing on discounted Russian crude for 11 months. State-run refiners, including Indian Oil Corporation and Bharat Petroleum are driving up imports. In June, India bought 2.3 million barrels of Russian crude per day, accounting for nearly 50% of its imported oil. “It’s amazing that India is buying at these levels because the summer months – June-July – are the lowest in terms of overall demand due to the monsoon. But it seems the price is so good, they are just keeping on buying,” says Viktor Katona, lead crude analyst at data analytics firm Kpler.
Amid strongly dissenting voices on the bench, the US Supreme Court has ended affirmative action based on race in college admissions.
After failing to quell the violence that has taken the lives of more than 100 people in Manipur over the past two months, Chief Minister N Biren Singh resigned and then withdrew his resignation.
Yesterday, a crowd gathered near the BJP office in Imphal and police used tear gas. This is ‘normalcy’, after Manipur Governor Anusuiya Uikey met Union Home Minister Amit Shah in Delhi on June 27, and informed him that after his visit to the state, “peace and normalcy have been restored to a certain extent.”
After a 16-day lull in lethal violence, at least two men were killed in Manipur’s Kangpokpi district in a firefight between Army forces and “armed rioters” attacking hill villages. The Hindu reports that the attack was “premeditated”, and the forces knew the night before that miscreants planned violence. In order to find a long-lasting solution in the state, the Manipur Patriotic Party has asked the “double-engine sarkar” to declare Manipur as a hill state through a presidential proclamation.
Mar Joseph Pamplany, Metropolitan Archbishop of Thalassery Archdiocese of the influential Malabar Church, asks, “Can the Prime Minister who said in the US that there is no discrimination in India say the same before Christians in Manipur?” Suggesting that the state government led by the BJP had sponsored the violence, he drew a parallel with the 2002 Gujarat riots. Walter Fernandes, director of the North Eastern Social Research Centre in Guwahati, says “the conflict was well-planned, funded and executed with precision by people in power”.
A Supreme Court bench of Chief Justice DY Chandrachud and Justices PS Narasimha and Manoj Misra will hear next week a plea by the Manipur Tribal Forum seeking Army protection for the minority Kuki community and prosecution of communal groups attacking them. This hearing seems to be in line with a fresh notification on the procedure to be adopted by the Chief Justice for mentioning of cases for urgent listing and hearing when the court reopens on July 3.
Seven years after an international tribunal’s order had struck down China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea, India has upped the ante and sought its acceptance in a joint statement issued by India and Philippines after the fifth Joint Commission on Bilateral Cooperation chaired by External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and Philippines Secretary for Foreign Affairs Enrique A Manalo in New Delhi on Thursday. In July 2016, the arbitration tribunal set up under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea had ruled in favour of the Philippines, which had petitioned against China’s aggression in the disputed oil-rich waters. China had not participated in the arbitration process and rejected the judgement. India’s response in July 2016 was cautious ― it had merely “noted” the award.
A fortnight after expressing his displeasure with DMK MLA V Senthilbalaji continuing as minister in the Tamil Nadu government, Governor RN Ravi made his own wish come true and dismissed him yesterday, and then put it on hold pending legal advice. Now, Balaji will be retained by Chief Minister MK Stalin. He is under investigation for alleged financial crimes and is in judicial custody. Ravi pushed the envelope established by the Supreme Court, but the state government pushed back, referring to at least 11 cases pending against Union ministers who retain their posts.
The cancer research division of WHO is set to declare one of the world’s most widely used artificial sweeteners, aspartame, as “possibly carcinogenic,” Reuters reports. A possible connection of aspartame with cancer was established in late June.
The BBC reports a bizarre case of bonded labour from Osmanabad.
The National Centre for Radio Astrophysics in Pune is part of the global scientific collaboration which sought and found the ‘gravitational wave background’, the long, slow pulse of spacetime. Amitabh Sinha and Anjali Marar of the Indian Express report a beautiful analogy presented by its director Yashwant Gupta ― a paper boat on the surface of a lake rippled by rain.
It’s the Modification of ceremony: multiple Delhi University colleges made it compulsory for students and staff to attend a valedictory function on June 30 that’s part of the institution’s centenary celebrations, featuring the PM as chief guest. The stick for bunking is unidentified, but Hindu College has declared the carrot: students who clock in will gain “five attendances”. Rajdhani College staffers who attend will have their photos uploaded to the institution’s website. Wearing black will cause the loss of all brownie points. Student activists deemed anti-Modi were detained in their homes in the morning by the police to make sure they didn’t make it to campus.
The Gujarat High Court has told the Union government to seek avenues to extradite two women devotees of fugitive godman Nityananda back to India, at the plea of their father.
Christine King Farris, the last surviving sibling of Martin Luther King Jr., has died aged 95. Her work in carrying forward the legacy of the activist who was deeply moved by Mahatma Gandhi, was overshadowed by the personality of his widow Coretta Scott King, but she was a crucial force in steering the movement which has widened its footprint over time to include all minorities.
Madras HC insists wife has equal right to property
While hearing a case filed by a Gulf returnee who sued his wife for ‘usurping’ properties purchased with his money, the Madras High Court stated that the wife had contributed equally towards acquiring family assets by doing domestic chores. It said that the “contribution made by either the husband by earning or the wife by serving and looking after the family and children” would mean that “both are entitled equally to whatever they earned by their joint effort.” Emphasising the wife’s role in caring for the family, Justice Krishnan Ramasamy stated, “If the acquisition of assets is made by the joint contribution, directly or indirectly, of both spouses for the welfare of the family, certainly both are entitled to an equal share.”
However, the judgment is not binding on other states, according to experts, unless the Supreme Court makes a decision in the same vein in the future.
Child labour continues in Gujarat
In Ahmedabad this month, 97 child labourers from 11 different locations were rescued, The New Indian Express reports. They were from Gujarat, West Bengal, Rajasthan, UP and Bihar. Last year, the Gujarat government’s labour commissioner rescued 155 child workers. The Union government seems to be uninterested in curbing child labour in Gujarat because payments distributed under the National Child Labour Project Scheme have fallen. A grant of Rs 61.36 lakh was granted in 2020-21, but only Rs 12.23 lakh in 2021-22. As of January this year, the government has not approved any grants. However, NGOs on the ground say that the influx of migrant labour makes Gujarat a trafficking hotspot.
Savarkar slides into MP curriculum
After Uttar Pradesh, it is now Madhya Pradesh, which is headed for elections. The state has announced that a chapter on Hindutva ideologue VD Savarkar would be added to the school curriculum. On Thursday, state Education Minister Inder Singh Parmar described Savarkar as a great revolutionary, while accusing the Opposition Congress of ignoring his contributions. “We will include all such patriots in the new syllabus. Veer Savarkar, too, was a great revolutionary. His life, too, should reach our children,” said Parmar, adding that chapters on other freedom fighters and national icons would be included in the syllabus. Will Savarkar’s story include his numerous petitions?
Heat increasing domestic violence in South Asia
As per a study published in JAMA Psychiatry, domestic violence will rise across the Indian subcontinent. Data from India, Pakistan and Nepal from October 2010 to April 2018 shows a steep curve. According to the projection, India is likely to experience the highest Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) prevalence increase (23.5%) in the 2090s, followed by Nepal (14.8%) and Pakistan (5.9%). “Increasing temperature is squeezing working hours, directly impacting the income of daily wage earners. All members of the family are being forced to spend maximum time within the house, increasing the workload for women. This is also a problem for people who are homeless and not having adequate space,” the National Manager of the Ending Child Marriage Programme of Action Aid India, Ghasiram Panda, told Down To Earth.
The Long Cable
The US has finally encountered the real Modi
Days after the joint session of the US Congress heard the stirring words of Prime Minister Narendra Modi about the affinity between two large democracies, and applauded him for it, Americans got to see another side of him and his party — a side that we Indians see every day.
In front of an august audience, Modi comes across as a statesman talking of lofty issues and speaking of a partnership, but there is another side which mocks those very words and sentiments.
While Modi was in the US, former president Barack Obama gave an interview to Christian Amanpour of CNN in which he said: “I think it is true that if the president meets with Prime Minister Modi, then the protection of the Muslim minority in a majority-Hindu India, that’s something worth mentioning.” Without such protection, there was “a strong possibility that India at some point starts pulling apart.”
Then, Modi addressed a press conference in which he took an impromptu question from an Indian and an American reporter, something he had not done in eight years. The US journalist, Sabrina Siddiqui of the Wall Street Journal, asked him how, while India is a democracy, there are allegations of discrimination against Muslims.
It was the kind of question no Indian journalist had ever had an opportunity to ask the prime minister. Modi has made make sure of that. In the event, Modi responded the way a clever politician would, emphasising that India is a democracy and there is no room for discrimination against anyone, irrespective of their background. But clearly, this one question that he answered was one too many.
Both Obama’s comments and the reporter’s question inflamed the BJP, as subsequent events show. No sooner was the press conference done than BJP trolls went after Siddiqui, emphasising her Muslim identity over and over again ― for them, it was sacrilege that someone had dared to question their Supreme Leader, and a Muslim woman at that.
Siddiqui feebly tried to counter the hate, posting a photo of herself wearing an India T-shirt during a cricket match, but it didn’t help. The White House had to step in and express its unhappiness at this trolling—“unacceptable”, the spokesperson said. This was the same White House that had hosted Modi and prepared a political and culinary menu suited to his tastes.
But surely the White House and the Biden administration knew before this that Muslims and journalists, especially women, were trolled and even jailed in India. Did Biden and Modi talk of freedom of speech and human rights? A spokesperson had said before the visit that the administration would not “lecture” the Indian PM.
Then it was Obama’s turn to be attacked. Except that it was not done by the usual suspects, the BJP’s Rs 2 troll army, but by senior party members ― Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma and cabinet ministers Nirmala Sitharaman and Rajnath Singh. Clearly, the remarks had stung Modi in the midst of his visit.
Obama is the president Modi had hugged when he visited India (and in a meeting, he had worn the famous suit with his name woven in golden thread), and then called him “my friend Barack”. Now, his top ministers were criticising Obama and indirectly alluding to his Muslim background.
This couldn’t have been anything but a command performance, authorised by the boss himself, who, after returning to India, has shed the garb of an international statesman and reverted to his true self.
In Madhya Pradesh, with elections four months away, Modi is talking about the Uniform Civil Code, a pet project of the BJP which will end the ‘appeasement’ of Muslims. More is bound to come because after the loss in Karnataka, the BJP does not want to lose Madhya Pradesh. Religious polarisation is the only weapon in the party’s armoury and Modi wields it well.
Before Modi went to Washington and even while he was there, many media commentaries pointed out that India may be an important country for the US, Modi has many serious questions to answer about the suppression of minorities, the assault on media freedom, and much more. “Mr Modi has presided over the nation’s broadest assault on democracy, civil society and minority rights in at least 40 years,” wrote Harvard professor Maya Jasanoff in the New York Times.
The Biden administration knows all this but had its own reasons for laying out the red carpet for Modi. The Americans, and Western countries in general, are warming up to India for their own strategic objectives and it is not as if they have not been friendly with all kinds of autocratic leaders. And India is a constitutional democracy — why would they not welcome its democratically elected leader?
So far, all they had heard about Modi and his supporters was happening somewhere far away. Now, they have seen that it can strike them too. The White House has commented on the trolling of a reporter, but not said, so far, anything on the remarks being made about a former President. But it couldn’t have gone unnoticed. Now they know that all the homilies at official functions mean nothing. This is the real thing.
Prime Number: 170
A resident of Gujarat was sentenced to 170 years of imprisonment by a session court in Madhya Pradesh, for defrauding 34 people on the pretence of opening a clothing factory. The volume of the fraud is Rs 72 lakh.
Modi’s recent outreach to Pasmanda Muslims has raised questions about the societal equality of Muslims, compared to other religious groups in India. The Hindustan Times examines the veracity of this claim and analyses the overall status of Muslims in relation to other groups.
Opeds you don’t want to miss
On the Uniform Civil Code, it will be a tragedy if the project of making a just society becomes hostage to two forms of bad faith: majoritarianism, and the fear of majoritarianism, writes Pratap Bhanu Mehta.
Indian and international elites have created the narrative of an Indian century, leaving its ordinary citizens to deal with the economic and moral crisis that threatens the country, says Ashoka Mody.
Shiv Visvanathan says that while the government legislates oral languages out of existence, orality is the real bearer of memory, not text.
Modi poses globally but trashes locally, says Vrinda Gopinath about the PM’s sudden change of style upon landing in Delhi.
This was not the first time that PM Modi has faced the press with a foreign dignitary at his side, says Suhasini Haidar, but such events rarely make the news because they keep to the script.
Muslims have to wake up to a daily avalanche of hate on social media, political circles, and in real life, writes Ziya us Salam.
In an editorial, The Telegraph says that the concentration of wealth and markets in the hands of the Big Five corporates has smothered competition, influenced prices and made egregious practices possible.
A statistical system holds up a mirror to the nation. India’s is deeply fractured, writes Pramit Bhattacharya.
Despite the pendency problem, judges do need vacations to catch up on research and verdict writing, says Utkarsh Anand.
Read an excerpt from Dadi Edulji Taraporewala’s Dukhi Dadiba and the Irony of Fate translated from Gujarati by Aban Mukherji and Tulsi and Vatsal on a tragic love story of a young Parsi woman in the 19th century who has to choose between money and love.
In West Bengal, the bhadralok have played a significant role in shaping culture, politics and policy. But the influence of the class is rapidly diminishing within West Bengal and beyond. Surajit Chandra Mukhopadhyay and Sandip Roy discuss their relevance in a conversation moderated by Shiv Sahay Singh on The Hindu Parley podcast.
Former CPI MP for Outer Manipur Kim Gangte tells Karan Thapar that “a middle path” must be found, between the Kuki demand for a separate administration and the Meitei insistence on maintaining a united Manipur. It’s a job for the leaders of the Northeastern states, because Modi, Shah and Manipur CM N Biren Singh are incapable.
Over and out
When the first rain strikes the earth, the smell is olfactory bliss. Kannauj, the perfume capital of India, the ‘Grasse of the East’, specialises in six perfumes ― rose, henna, shamama henna, mogra, bela and the striking mitti attar, says Homegrown.
Meet Sharmin Sultana Sumi – the award-winning composer, songwriter and also lead vocalist of Bangladesh’s rock band Chirkutt – whose songs seek to inspire the youth to save the country’s rivers, the most striking feature of the landscape.
And Punjab innovates a gin flavoured with kinnows, or kinus. Because, why not?
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.