With a Spot of Yoga, Modi’s US Visit Begins in Earnest; Post-Covid, There’s a Danger of Cartels Forming in Many Sectors
BJP encouraging Hindu royalists in Nepal, greenhouse emissions Himalayan blunder, Kerala HC scandalised by family court’s language, BJP MLAs flipflop in Manipur, Tesla commits to India yet again
A newsletter from The Wire | Founded by MK Venu, Seema Chishti, Siddharth Varadarajan, Sushant Singh, Sidharth Bhatia and Tanweer Alam | With inputs from Kalrav Joshi | Editor: Pratik Kanjilal
Snapshot of the day
June 21, 2023
PM Narendra Modi is in New York City. Some channels are breathlessly telling us he is there to lead the International Day of Yoga at the UN – in reality, former ballerina Annelies Richmond will lead – before travelling on to Washington, where both sides are working on the joint declaration to be made on Thursday.
John Kirby, who heads strategic communications for the National Security Council, says the objective is to put bilateral cooperation on an “inexorable trajectory” by supporting “India’s emergence as a great power that will be central to ensuring US interests in the coming decades.” Subsequently, he quickly denied that this alignment had anything to do with China. It was in 2021 that the US first began saying it supports India's emergence as leading global power.
On the eve of Modi’s arrival, 75 Democrat lawmakers have urged US President Joe Biden to raise human rights issues with Modi during his visit. They say they seek a “close and warm relationship” with India, but that “friends can and should discuss their differences in an honest and forthright way”. The signatories include Pramila Jayapal, whom External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar had refused to meet in 2019 because she had introduced a resolution urging India to lift restrictions in Kashmir following the reading down of Article 370. The US Commission on International Religious Freedom, which has repeatedly called out majoritarian communalism in India, has also asked Biden to raise the issue of religious freedoms in India.
Despite continuing human rights abuses in India, “Biden administration officials have said they are not blind to India’s faults and troubles. Instead, they say in dealing with a geo-strategically vital country of 1.4 billion people, they prefer to level their criticisms behind the scenes,” reports Politico. Activists are alive to this preference and will try their best to foreground the problems with the democracy of the world’s most populous nation. It is time to question Modi and hold him accountable rather than celebrating him, says Salil Tripathi in TIME.
Meanwhile, Vishwaguru continues to top some international indices ― with significant growth from 2018 to 2023.
While the government’s attention turns to the US, the toll in Manipur continues to mount. Over 135 people have been killed and 60,000 people rendered homeless since the violence in the state began last month.
Yesterday, the Assam Rifles seized a 51 mm mortar from a vehicle travelling from Thoubal towards Imphal. Yesterday, the Supreme Court declined to take up urgently a plea for deployment of Army personnel to take control of the law and order situation in Manipur. The Hindu reported that additional columns were moved after security forces picked up chatter from valley-based Meiti insurgent groups, which were planning to damage the bridge at Sinzawl on NH102 B connecting Manipur with Mizoram. The border areas of Chandel and Tengnoupal, primarily Kuki and Naga-dominated districts, are now dependent on Myanmar for essentials as they are cut off from the rest of Manipur.
There’s political instability, too: nine BJP MLAs wrote to PM Modi saying that the people of Manipur had lost faith in Chief Minister N Biren Singh, but a day later, eight of them joined a group of Singh loyalists. Quick-acting vaccine administered?
Meanwhile, members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) are displeased because India will have the SCO Summit in a virtual format, the New Indian Express reports. A representative of an SCO country said, “We were looking forward to having our leaders meet in person. Since December 2022, we were gearing up for the event and stopped in our tracks when the announcement to host the event virtually was made in May.”
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Parts of the last Hindu kingdom want it to be the once and future Hindu kingdom. Nepal is seeing the resurgence of Hindu nationalism and former king Gyanendra Shah, who was deposed by the Constituent Assembly in 2008, put in an appearance in February at one of many gatherings pressing for a reversal of the country’s secular constitution. South China Morning Post reports that last month, a US Department of State report quoted locals talking of the BJP’s role in propping up the protests to set aside the secular constitution.
Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya has said that central teams will be sent to help states like UP and Bihar organise public health responses to heat stress. Nine lives have been lost in Bihar in the last 48 hours. The Hindustan Times takes the temperature of India’s states:
Following deaths involving cough syrups, Gambia has tightened rules for Indian drugs, highlighting how governments are reassessing their reliance on India’s $42 billion pharmaceutical industry since contamination cases came to light last year. After global outrage, the Indian government is finally taking the right steps, though very late. Minister Mandaviya has said that 71 companies have been issued showcause notices following reports about deaths due to contaminated cough syrups made in the country. Out of them, 18 have been told to shut shop. On June 1, India also made the testing of cough syrups mandatory before export. Why, weren’t they tested earlier?
Meanwhile, the Union Home Ministry has invoked Section 3 of the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, which bars any “correspondent, columnist, cartoonist, editor, owner, printer or publisher of a registered newspaper” from accepting foreign contributions, to suspend for 180 days the FCRA licence of the Centre for Equity Studies (CES), promoted by Harsh Mander. Mander told The Wire that it is a “direct attack on the principles of freedom of expression and freedom to dissent”.
Under the first tribal President Droupadi Murmu, Rashtrapati Bhavan is developing a tribal gallery in the basement of the Marble Museum spread over 2,200 sq feet, to exhibit tribal art and culture.
With the BJP government strengthening bilateral ties, Australia has become a destination for Indians ― ironically, because their life there is much more free than it could be in India.
And here’s a telling map of how much direct tax collected flows back into each Indian state.