Sunday, November 1, 2015

Economists Criticize Rising Intolerance in Modi's India

Top economists have now joined the rapidly growing ranks of Indian writers, historians and other intellectuals warning Modi government of the negative consequences of rising intolerance for the entire nation.

Billboard During Modi's Silicon Valley Visit
The Wall Street Journal reported that India's chief central banker Raghuram Rajan "made an unusual appeal for tolerance in a speech Saturday, triggering a debate about whether he was trying to send a message to the country’s leaders". “The first essential is to foster competition in the market place for ideas,” Gov. Rajan told students at his alma mater, the Indian Institute of Technology in New Delhi. “Without this competition for ideas, we have stagnation.”

Arun Shouri, BJP leader who has previously served as a federal minister and worked as World Bank economist, joined the criticism of the Modi government when he said: "there is clearer belief (in the Modi government) that managing the economy means managing the headlines and this is not really going to work.” He said the NDA government was essentially “the Congress plus a cow”, in an apparent reference to the violence against minorities and killings of Muslims accused by the Sangh Parivar activists of consuming beef.

Ratings agency Moody's has also weighed in with its own warnings saying that "in recent times, the government also hasn't helped itself, with controversial comments from various BJP members. While Modi has largely distanced himself from the nationalist jibes, the belligerent provocation of various Indian minorities has raised ethnic tensions.

"Along with a possible increase in violence, the government will face stiffer opposition in the upper house as debate turns away from economic policy. Modi must keep his members in check or risk losing domestic and global credibility," Moody's said.

While the chorus of criticism of Modi's government has been rising in recent weeks, what is different is that the economists' warnings are inspired by practical economic concerns rather than the moral dimensions of the Hindu militancy in Modi's India.

What Mr. Narendra Modi must realize is that it is hard to reverse the real damage to the nation once the forces of bigotry and intolerance are unleashed. The difficulty he faces is the lack of his moral authority with his Hindu Nationalist power base given his own track record as the chief executive of Gujarat for many years that include the 2002 anti-Muslim pogrom on his watch.

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31 comments:

Riaz Haq said...

#Modi's #India's Economic and Business Costs of #Hindu Extremism. #BJP http://nyti.ms/1MvtPxb

The dismay that many ordinary Indian citizens feel about Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s willingness to tolerate, even encourage, the Hindu hard-liners in his own party has now spread to the financial community. Last week, Moody’s Analytics, a division of the bond rating and risk management company, warned that Mr. Modi “must keep his members in check or risk losing domestic and global credibility” — meaning, in so many words, its attractiveness to international investors.

Indian business leaders are no less alarmed. Over the weekend, N.R. Narayana Murthy, a co-founder of the Indian technology giant Infosys, lamented that “the reality today is that there is considerable fear” in the minds of the minority in India, and Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, chairwoman and managing director of Biocon, said business leaders are “concerned with what’s happening all across the country.”

Among the sparks that have set off an extraordinary outpouring of citizen reaction are the August killing of Malleshappa Madivalappa Kalburgi, a 76-year-old critic of Hindu idolatry, and Mr. Modi’s tardy condemnation of the lynching of a Muslim man in September by a Hindu mob enraged by a rumor that his family had killed a cow and eaten its meat.

By mid-October, 35 Indian authors and poets had returned their awards to India’s National Academy of Letters. Since then, Indian sociologists, scientists, filmmakers and more than 300 Indian artists have published public statements of concern and outrage. On the occasion of his 50th birthday on Monday, the film superstar Shah Rukh Khan spoke out against intolerance and warned, “We will never be a superpower if we are not going to believe that all religions are equal.”

The plain truth is that India is being rived by hatred and held hostage to the intolerant demands of some Hindu hard-liners. This is not the India a vast majority of Indian citizens want and it is not an India that will attract the foreign investment Mr. Modi has worked hard to drum up on his many trips abroad.

Riaz Haq said...

Working to saffronize education in entire #India: #RSS ideologue Dina Nath Batra #Modi #BJP http://toi.in/0bg3AZ via @timesofindia

RSS ideologue and Haryana government's school and higher education consultant Dina Nath Batra says he not only wants to 'saffronize' education in the state but in the entire country. He was in Chandigarh on Friday to co-chair the first state-level consultative meeting on the new education policy for Haryana.

Chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar chaired the meeting which was attended by a range of people, from vice-chancellors of universities to teachers. Founder of the Shiksha Bachao Andolan Samiti also indicated that the Bhagwad Gita would be introduced as a moral education subject in schools from class VI to XII from next session. He also clarified that the existing school teachers will teach the Hindu scripture.

"The students will be taught a compilation of two shlokas from every chapter of the Bhagwat Gita,'' he said. The government had announced in December 2014, that it planned to introduce the Gita in schools with many accusing it of trying to saffronize school education in the state. Since then, however, the subject had been in cold storage.

Speaking to TOI later, he said that his own definition of saffornization was not related to any community or religion, but to a set of ideas which give an independent identity to a person. "Saffron is made of a mixture of red and yellow," he said. "Red is symbolic of bravery while yellow symbolizes patience and prosperity. Hence, we need this kind of education."

Batra insisted that he was not working just in Haryana. "I am working for saffronization of education in the whole country, and I want to complete it at the earliest," he said, adding, "let us teach the world about contribution of our experts and expertise towards the global growth." Batra, however, dismissed the allegation that his strategy was part of a larger agenda of the Sangh.

Batra also gave some insight into his vision of education in Haryana. Terming the running of colleges offering Bachelor of Education (BEd) courses as a wasteful exercise, he advocated for an integrated university for training of teachers and certifying the colleges.

"When teachers don't even go to school, how can you expect students to go to the classroom," He asked. "I know many such people are there who have got BEd degrees while sitting at home. Such a system has to be done away with. Education of a teacher needs to be as rigorous as that of a student. We don't favour any dedicated stream. Let the child be groomed in all the streams of arts, medical, non-medical and commerce and core education standards be maintained,'' he said.

Batra had sparked off a major controversy in when he had filed case against Amrican scholar Wendy Doniger's book 'The Hindus: An Alternative History'. The publisher, Penguin India, had decided to destroy all copies of the book.

Riaz Haq said...

In #India, tolerance debate shifts focus from #Modi’s economic growth plans. #BeefMurder #BJP http://on.wsj.com/1WE5lN7 via @WSJ

A year and a half since Prime Minister Narendra Modi swept to power on a promise of rapid economic growth, public debate in India has shifted from development to religious and social intolerance issues that his critics say are unraveling India’s secular fabric.

Prominent Indians, from politicians and scholars to tech entrepreneurs and movie stars, have taken to the airwaves and returned prestigious awards in recent weeks to protest what they see as growing Hindu chauvinism, and to castigate Mr. Modi for not doing more to stamp out prejudice.

The debate flared in late September after a Hindu mob murdered a Muslim man they suspected had slaughtered a cow, an animal revered in Hinduism. At least two other Muslims have since died in similar circumstances, bringing religious enmities to the fore during a pivotal election in the state of Bihar that could shape the rest of Mr. Modi’s term. Official results of the vote are expected Sunday.

“The prime minister is not doing anything, which clearly shows that he approves of these incidents,” said Sonia Gandhi, leader of the opposition Congress party, at a demonstration against what she called a “growing atmosphere of fear, intolerance and intimidation.”

Supporters of the prime minister, a politician with Hindu-nationalist roots, say he is being unfairly targeted by the country’s left-leaning elite, who feel threatened by the rise of Mr. Modi’s conservative Bharatiya Janata Party. The BJP says the party’s senior leaders have condemned the attacks, adding the criticism is meant to derail Mr. Modi’s economic overhauls.

“While the government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi is trying to accelerate India’s growth, there are many who have never intellectually accepted the idea of the BJP being in power,” said Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in a Facebook post this week.

Mr. Modi has himself responded to the criticism by pointing to episodes of religious violence during the reign of the opposition Congress party. At a recent rally, Mr. Modi reminded the audience of attacks on Sikhs that killed several thousand across the country in 1984 after Indira Gandhi, then Congress leader and prime minister, was assassinated by Sikh bodyguards.

“That same Congress party is now sermonizing on tolerance?” Mr. Modi asked.

The charged rhetoric has come to dominate national discussion, overshadowing Mr. Modi’s economic program. During last year’s national election, Mr. Modi focused on development and stayed away from issues surrounding India’s culture wars.

Too much focus by Mr. Modi’s party and its right-wing allies on the promotion of a conservative Hindu social and cultural agenda could make it harder for the prime minister to advance his economic plans, said Milan Vaishnav, an India expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “It is starting to filter into conversations about what the priorities of this government are,” Mr. Vaishnav said.

Some analysts say Mr. Modi’s biggest challenge in office is reining in the Hindu nationalist groups he draws support from—a tightrope walk he appears to be struggling with. Campaigning in Bihar, he accused his opponents of plotting to set aside spots in educational institutions and government jobs for “another religious group,” widely interpreted as a veiled reference to Muslims.

Riaz Haq said...

#India's Narendra #Modi concedes defeat in crucial state #BiharElections #BJP http://ti.me/1Qce8li via @TIMEWorld

The BJP's performance in the northern Indian state of Bihar could make it harder for Modi to govern India


Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was heading for a crushing defeat in critical state-level elections on Nov. 8, with the rout highlighting his rapidly falling stock among voters after just 18 months in office.

In May 2014, Modi came to power in India with a stunning electoral victory that saw the BJP secure the biggest national parliamentary majority in three decades, including a successful run in Bihar, where the Hindu nationalist party steamrolled a divided opposition.

But on Nov. 8, early results after a month-long contest for seats in the state legislature showed a significant reversal in support for Modi’s party in the face of an opposition alliance that, by late afternoon local time, had won or was leading in nearly 180 seats out of the 243 up for grabs in the Bihar assembly. As the results flooded in, Modi conceded defeat in a phone call to the leader of the opposition alliance, the current Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar.

Modi was not a candidate in the Bihar elections but his party projected him as the face of its campaign, effectively turning the contest into a referendum on his leadership, instead of naming a chief ministerial candidate to take on the united opposition’s nominee. As public debate across India shifted from the economic promises that brought Modi to power in 2014 to questions about religious intolerance under his administration, the BJP faced criticism for running a controversial campaign that attempted to divide the electorate along religious lines in a state where Muslims make up around 17% of the population. (Nationally, Muslims account for around 14% of Indians.)

Issues such as the protection of cows — considered sacred by the majority Hindu community — were raked up, while Modi’s top strategist, the BJP president Amit Shah, sought to whip up nationalist sentiment by telling voters at an October rally that, were his party to lose the polls, celebratory crackers would be lit across India’s western border in Muslim majority Pakistan, the country’s arch regional foe.

Riaz Haq said...

#India’s #BJP suffers big loss in #BiharElections, thwarting #Modi majority in Upper House - http://FT.com http://on.ft.com/1HAfYED

...the BJP’s defeat will make it harder for Mr Modi to gain control of India’s Rajya Sabha, or upper house of parliament, because the house’s make-up depends on party weights in state assemblies. Mr Modi’s opponents have used the Rajya Sabha successfully to block legislation, including a long-awaited law to introduce a nationwide goods and services tax that would make the country into a single market and simplify commerce.
Rahul Gandhi of Congress, a junior partner in the winning Bihar alliance, said the election result was “a message against pitting Hindus against Muslims and making them fight to win elections”.
“Prime Minister Narendra Modi has become arrogant,” Mr Gandhi said. “Modi should stop campaigning and start working. He should also stop foreign tours and instead go and meet farmers, labourers and youth to whom he promised jobs.”

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The loss in Bihar will be a blow to the confidence of Mr Modi and fellow leaders of the Hindu nationalist BJP only 18 months after they triumphed in the 2014 general election. In the Bihar campaign, they sought in vain to galvanise Hindu voters by focusing as much on caste and religion as on development, but appear to have ended up alienating moderate Hindus as well as members of the Muslim minority.
As in the Delhi state election, where the BJP was crushed by the anti-corruption Aam Aadmi (Common People) party in February, the BJP won a substantial share of the vote but was unable to translate that into assembly seats in the face of a united opposition in the first-past-the-post constituency system.
Mr Kumar and Mr Yadav — who together defeated Mr Modi with the help of Congress by pooling their resources and sharing out constituencies before the election — make an unlikely couple and their government may prove unstable. Mr Kumar, once a BJP ally, has been credited with restoring order and investing in roads and education over the past decade, after a period of violence, criminality and extreme corruption known as the “jungle raj” when the state was run by Mr Yadav and his wife.

Riaz Haq said...

Soul searching for #India's #Modi after crushing #BiharElections defeat http://reut.rs/1OyCZQ3 via @Reuters

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi met leaders of his party on Monday to discuss whether to overhaul policies and priorities in the wake of a humiliating defeat in elections in the eastern state of Bihar.

Modi and a dozen senior colleagues of his Hindu nationalist party, including its president Amit Shah, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and Home Minister Rajnath Singh, gathered at the party's offices to analyze the reasons for the defeat."There are lessons to be learnt," Jaitley told reporters after the meeting, without outlining specifics. "In elections you win some and lose some."

Sunday's loss in Bihar, India's third most populous and poorest state, is the most significant setback for Modi since he won a crushing victory in a general election last year.

For the first time since he came to power, party leaders are openly starting to question the direction of the government.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) office in New Delhi was virtually deserted on Monday, with only a few workers compiling newspaper clippings on the election defeat.

Indian shares, bonds and the rupee opened at six-week lows as investors who had backed Modi worried he would struggle to push economic reforms through parliament against an emboldened opposition. They later regained their footing.

PARLIAMENTARY SETBACKThe Bihar loss may hamper Modi's reform agenda because he needs to win most state elections in the next three years to gain full control of parliament. India's states are represented in the upper house, where the BJP lacks a majority.The government announced on Monday that parliament will resume for the winter session on Nov. 26. Over the last year, Modi has struggled to pass laws, including tax and labor reforms, and now faces an opposition with political momentum.

The election came against a backdrop of concerns in India over incidents in which Muslims have been targeted by Hindu zealots. There have been protests by prominent intellectuals at what they call a climate of rising intolerance.Some BJP lawmakers called for the party to promote a more unifying agenda focusing on economic development, after a campaign in Bihar that sought to polarize voters along caste and religious lines."We have to be single mindedly focused on development, development, development," said Chandan Mitra, a BJP member of parliament. "We can't afford to be distracted by anything else."
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In contrast, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who led the anti-Modi alliance in Bihar, was able to trade on his record of turning around a state that was once widely considered to be among India's most corrupt and lawless.

Arun Shourie, a minister in the last BJP government, called for a change in course."We should be grateful to the people of Bihar because the direction has been halted," he told NDTV news. Asked what went wrong with the party's Bihar campaign, he said: "Everything".


Read more at Reutershttp://www.reuters.com/article/2015/11/09/us-india-bihar-idUSKCN0SY0FK20151109#ix1uk8KdEJgJZzTk.99

Riaz Haq said...

Jitan Manjhi blames #beef, RSS chief's #Dalit quota opposition, #Pakistan remarks 4 #Modi's loss in #BiharElections https://shar.es/15wsVD

A day after the NDA’s defeat, BJP ally and former chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi identified the beef controversy and RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s remarks on reservation as the “turning point” in the Bihar Assembly elections. He also blamed BJP chief Amit Shah’s firecrackers-in-Pakistan remark.
“The beef controversy and remarks about it from various quarters alienated the NDA’s vote base… Amit Shah’s unintended and casual reference to Pakistan bursting crackers in case of the NDA’s defeat was misinterpreted and blown out of proportion by rivals,” said Manjhi. His Hindustani Awami Morcha (Secular) managed to win only one of the 21 seats that it contested.
“What Mohan Bhagwat said about the need for a review of the reservation policy was right. I would agree to his suggestion, but he chose the wrong time to make this remark. Our opponents spread the word that the RSS was preparing to appoint an upper caste chief minister who would scrap reservation benefits,” said Manjhi.

“By the time Prime Minister Narendra Modi clarified the stand on reservation, it was too late,” he said, adding that the Grand Alliance had “succeeded in making it a vital electoral plank” against the NDA.
“After the reservation controversy, it was made out to be a fight between backward and forward castes, and opponents gave BJP the tag of an upper caste party. The EBCs and Dalits were misguided by Lalu Prasad and Nitish Kumar, who are masters of such campaigns. The Grand Alliance had no electoral plank till they latched on to Bhagwat’s reservation remarks,” said Manjhi.
He added that Nitish also cashed in on the “Bihari versus Bahari” row.
Manjhi said he would remain in the NDA and work as an MLA, inside and outside the assembly. “I am heading a party. I will start campaigning from the panchayat level to spread the message about empowerment of Dalits. Losses and wins are part of the game. I am with the NDA and will speak up against Nitish when needed,” said Manjhi.

Riaz Haq said...

#India's Holy Cow Vigilantes. #Beefmurder #BJP #Modi http://www.newsweek.com/holy-cow-vigilantes-394749 …


Arun Shourie, once one of the BJP's most respected leaders but now marginalized under Modi, believes the prime minister’s silence was deliberate—and it was interpreted as a green light by rowdier sections of the movement. After an incident of inter-religious violence occurs, other members of the BJP and affiliated organizations keep it alive by making provocative statements, Shourie said in a televised interview with a national channel. Only after weeks pass does Modi comment, and then it is to say something cryptic. “It almost comes out as if it is by design,” said Shourie.

Supporters reject such criticism. “To defame Modi, a negative campaign is coming from the so-called secularists,” said Surendra Kumar Jain, All India Secretary of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, the Hindu nationalist group leading the push for a national ban on cow slaughter. Vigilante action has to be understood in the context of the failure of law enforcement, he says. “Suppose a woman is being raped? Will you stand by and wait for the police?”

It's not only the beef and leather industry that is at stake. India has climbed in the World Bank's ease of doing business rankings and has replaced China as the most popular destination for foreign direct investment since Modi came to power in 2014. But both the devastating loss in Bihar and the flirting with sectarian strife could further derail his plans for the economy.

The vituperative atmosphere will make it more difficult to reach a consensus with the opposition. And the election loss itself means Modi is drifting further away from a majority in parliament, where several proposals for big bang economic reforms have already withered and died.

“Along with a possible increase in violence, the government will face stiffer opposition in the Upper House as the debate turns away from economic policy,” Moody's Analytics said in a November report. “Modi must keep his members in check or risk losing domestic and global credibility.”

Riaz Haq said...

Emerging market fund managers bearish on #Modi's #India, Favor #China - The Hindu http://www.thehindu.com/business/markets/article7888878.ece …

Nation’s rating has fallen to neutral from most overweight

For the first time since October 2014, India has fallen out of favour among emerging market and Asian fund managers with its rating falling to neutral from being the most overweight. China has replaced India as the economy on which fund managers are most bullish on, as per the fund manager survey released by the Bank of America Merrill Lynch (BofA ML).

“Based on our Asia-Pacific ex-Japan investor panellists, India has fallen out of favour from being most overweight to neutral, something not seen since October 2014. China moved up to the most overweight as investors probably anticipate more easing from the authorities to combat the sharp slowdown and deflationary pressure,” said the survey released on Tuesday. The change in view towards India is already being witnessed in the form of an overall slowdown in foreign fund flows into the domestic equity market.

Lower inflows

The current calendar year saw a net inflow of Rs. 23,409 crore ($3.55 billion) in the equity market, which is significantly lower than the annual flows witnessed in the past few years. For instance, in 2014, Indian equity markets saw net foreign flows pegged at Rs. 97,054 crore ($14.73 billion), as per data provided by the National Securities Depository Ltd. (NSDL). The benchmark 30-share Sensex has lost nearly 6 per cent in the current calendar year.

Market fund managers bearish on India

As per the BofA ML survey, which saw participation of over 90 fund managers managing $213 billion, a recession in China and a debt crisis in emerging markets remain the biggest concerns even as the overall confidence in emerging markets remain near record lows.

“According to our survey, global fund managers’ positioning in emerging markets remain near record lows, even with improving China growth prospects at the margin and massive undervaluation, as investors worry about weak earnings outlook, collapsing commodity prices, stronger U.S. dollar and higher global yields,” said the survey report.

Even as a recession in China remains the biggest concern, fund managers have expressed confidence in the monetary and fiscal easing steps taken by China in the last one year that has led them to believe that the Chinese economy will see some improvement in the next 12 months.

Interestingly, a growing number of fund managers are expecting a rate hike in December by the U.S. Federal Reserve, which would again impact the foreign flows in emerging markets, including India.

Riaz Haq said...

Indian #Hindu Activists Take Down Floating Cow Exhibit in Jaipur #India - ABC News. #Modi #BJP - http://abcn.ws/1LtKgZZ via @ABC

Right-wing Hindu activists have taken down an exhibit of a Styrofoam cow that was suspended in midair using a balloon, organizers of an art fair in western India and police said Sunday.

R.B. Gauttam, an organizer of the Jaipur Art Summit, said that the exhibit was meant to highlight how cows suffer after ingesting plastic waste at India's many garbage dumps. The activists, however, deemed the exhibit offensive and took it down on Saturday.

Cows are revered by India's majority Hindus, and the slaughter of the animals is banned in several Indian states.

"The activists claimed that the cow in the exhibit looked like it was hanging from a noose and that was disrespectful," Gauttam said. "They argued with us and took the cow down and even put a garland around it."

The cow exhibit continued to be a part of the art fair, but on Sunday it was no longer in midair.

Gauttam said the activists were just "looking for any type of publicity." Mahendra Singh, a police official, said the incident was being investigated.

In recent months, violence based on rumors of beef-eating by India's Muslim minority has spiked. A man was beaten to death by a mob over rumors his family had eaten beef, and two others were killed for allegedly transporting cows for slaughter.

Over the last several weeks, dozens of Indian intellectuals, writers, scientists and filmmakers have blamed Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party for not speaking out against such brutal religious attacks. They say the government's silence has encouraged hard-line Hindu fringe groups to terrorize minorities and assert Hindu superiority.

Riaz Haq said...

#India Central Bank Chief Raghu Rajan: #China's economic slowdown hurting #India's economy http://m.thehindu.com/business/Economy/chinas-economic-slowdown-adversely-affected-india-says-rbi-governor-raghuram-rajan/article7903518.ece …

China’s pain of economic slowdown is India’s pain too, RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan said contradicting government assertions that India will not be affected by deceleration of Chinese economy.

“The Chinese slowdown is a concern for the whole world. There is a lower demand for some of our exports to China. But indirectly too, many of the countries are not exporting to China as much as they did and they are buying less from us,” Dr. Rajan said in an interview with Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post.

“But India being a commodity importer, has been helped a bit by cheaper commodities. So the impact has not been as bad as it could have been. Still, on the whole, we have been adversely affected by the Chinese slowdown because China’s slowdown has impacted global growth and India is very well integrated into the global economy”, Dr. Rajan said.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had told a gathering at Columbia University last month that India is “not impacted” by the slowdown as it is not part of Chinese supply chain and India could become the “additional shoulder” the global economy needs to stand on as China slows.

Some comments from India that China’s pain is India’s gain has drawn strong reactions from the Chinese media.

Dr. Rajan was in Hong Kong on Friday to receive honorary doctorate awarded by the Hong University of Science and Technology.

In his interview Dr. Rajan also pointed to “growing interdependence” between India and China.

“The prime minister has clearly laid out a path for improving relations with neighbours. The focus is on the East, rather than the traditional emphasis on the West. Whether it is through the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank or through China’s Silk Road initiative, we will have greater engagement with China and Chinese projects. This will also feed well into China’s interests in expanding its engagement in the region,” he said.

Dr. Rajan said he hopes India will emulate China’s growth rates and the country would like to learn from things China got right.

“We would like to learn from its manufacturing success, how it built up its infrastructure, how it encouraged its village enterprises and how it manages FDIs in such enormous quantities. A lot of Indian businesspeople who travel to China also keep coming back with stories of why it works better than India”, he said.

“But I also stress we cannot blindly follow the path that China followed as it has already been on that path and has changed some of the conditions. We have to determine which path we follow so that there is room for both of us. Would it, for example, make sense for India to specialise in industries that China has already specialised in? In some cases there is room for both, in some maybe not”, he said.

Riaz Haq said...

Corporate #India suffers debt crisis - http://FT.com http://on.ft.com/1jhn4Yu via @FT

Most Indian companies rely on bank financing, rather than the debt capital market, yet banks are now reluctant to lend even working capital to already stressed borrowers. These debt worries — as well as capacity utilisation of more than 70 per cent — explain why the private sector is not investing and growth remains below potential. “Companies are still way overleveraged while the banks fear throwing good money after bad,” says the head of one foreign bank in Mumbai.
As a result, bond markets can look attractive to cash-strapped corporate bank clients: they can often raise funds more cheaply, while still giving investors higher yields.
But bond markets can be risky for investors who do not do extensive due diligence. Corporate circumstances can deteriorate with little warning and, all too often, the rating agencies — which should be the first to raise the alarm — fail to do so. Liquidity can vanish in a heartbeat.
In spite of the faith in US markets shown by Mr Rajendran, the problem of liquidity is not confined only to India or, indeed, developing markets in general.
One sobering thought is that if two simple bond funds can suddenly restrict withdrawals, what about more complex investment products? Many on both sides of the Pacific have yet to be tested by a lasting bear market.
That test may not be far off. Corporate bond markets in many places are in flux: China seems to have weathered the downdraft in the stock market but there are increasing fears of a bubble in its corporate bonds. Analysts suggest it has been inflated by leverage of up to five times from the commercial banks in Shanghai.
Meanwhile, in the US bond market, yield spreads — how much higher corporate bond yields are, compared with safer government issues — have widened dramatically in recent weeks. Many analysts fear there could soon be a stampede for the exit, as worries over a Federal Reserve rate increase in December intensify. That would test the liquidity of US high-yield bond funds and exchange traded funds.
Some funds will not be able to survive a sell-off without imposing limits on redemptions. For example, there are leveraged loan ETFs in the US promising instant liquidity, even though it takes a minimum of 20 days for deals in this debt to settle.
In corporate bond markets, the distinction between developing markets such as India and developed markets such as the US may not be as great as some believe.

Riaz Haq said...

What Does #Secular Mean in #India? #BJP #Modi #Hindu http://on.wsj.com/1QRiTky via @WSJIndia

What does it mean to say India is secular?

That question lies at the heart of the debate on the idea of India itself and resurfaced in the country’s Parliament last week on the first Constitution Day.

The word secular is used just twice in the English version of the Indian Constitution.

The document in its preamble describes India as a sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic republic and goes on to ensure that the federal government can regulate “secular activity which may be associated with religious practice.”

The Hindi version uses the more explicit “panth nirapeksha,” which loosely means “not associated with any sect.”

During a discussion on the constitution on Thursday, Home Minister Rajnath Singh criticized the fact that those words had been replaced in everyday politics by “dharma nirapeksha,” which translates to “not associated with any religion.”

The subtle difference between non-sectarian and non-religious is more than just semantics in India, a deeply devout country but one which also defines itself against the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, its neighbor to the northwest, created during partition.

Dharma is a Sanskrit word that for those bred in Hindu nationalist ideology is synonymous with Hinduism.

Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya, a Hindu-nationalist thinker, in 1965, used it to mean the “laws of life” that govern India’s ancient culture and civilization.

On Thursday, Mr. Singh said that the word “secular” is the most misused word in Indian politics, adding that the Hindi phrase commonly used for it– dharma nirapeksha– had been wrongly used to describe India and to divide society.

Using dharma to mean Hinduism, Mr. Singh said during his speech that “ India’s ‘dharma’ in itself is non-sectarian.” Hinduism has many sects but none is more highly regarded than any other.

The opposition Congress party often invokes “dharma nirapeksha,” to remind the Hindu nationalists of what it says are India’s secular foundations where all religions are treated equally by the state.

For them, that vision of India was settled by their predecessors in the party who helped lead Indians to independence from the British in 1947.

For the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, which has deep roots in Hindu nationalism, the idea of India is still a contested one.

Hindutva, meaning Hinduness or the state of being a Hindu, is what the BJP conceives as Indian nationhood, the party says on its website. For them, Hindutva is not a religious term but a cultural concept and signifies a shared culture.

The BJP has been at the receiving end of criticism lately, not only from political opponents but from some prominent actors and writers for not doing more to tackle what critics describe as rising religious and social intolerance in the country.

The latest row began after a man was murdered by a mob at the end of September allegedly because they suspected him of slaughtering a cow, an animal regarded as sacred by Hindus.

In response to Mr. Singh, Sonia Gandhi, the president of the Congress party, said in her speech in Parliament that constitutional values were in danger and under intentional attack.

Riaz Haq said...

#Beef Dominated #Modi-#NawazSharif Conversation When #India and #Pakistan Ldrs Met Briefly in #Paris :-) #BJP #Cow http://on.wsj.com/1RlLpdr

If there was one thing that was pretty much guaranteed to come out of the short meeting between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif on the sidelines of the COP21 climate conference in Paris, it was satire.

Photos showed the leaders of the two estranged neighbors shaking hands and sitting down for a chat on Monday, the first day of crucial talks to try to broker a deal that would limit rises in global temperatures to two degrees Celsius.

The meeting between Messrs. Modi and Sharif was significant, coming three months after Pakistan called off talks aimed at restarting a stalled dialogue with India in August, amid escalating diplomatic tensions and cross-border violence.

But it was also prime territory for parody and both Indian and Pakistani media were quick to capitalize on the opportunity for puns.

India’s most widely-read English-language newspaper, the Times of India, ran the headline: “Climate Change? Modi, Sharif go into brief huddle in Paris.” Pakistan’s Express Tribune newspaper ran a report on the short meeting by the Associated Press of Pakistan headlined: “Fence Mending: Ice Melts as Nawaz, Modi shake hands.”

Neither side has so far disclosed what the leaders were talking about or how long the meeting lasted.

A blog post on the website of Pakistani daily newspaper Dawn carries the headline: “Exposed! What Nawaz and Modi Really Talked About in Paris.” A series of nine images speculates on the content of a conversation between the two leaders on the sidelines of the climate-change conference this week.

In speech bubbles imposed on a photograph of the two men sitting side by side on a couch, Pakistan’s prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, is shown initiating a conversation with his Indian counterpart, Narendra Modi about his intent to order “beef biryani,” a rice dish.

The meme was a jab at recent developments in India, where public debate has been dominated for weeks on subject of religious tolerance. Critics of Mr. Modi, a politician with Hindu nationalist roots, say he hasn’t done enough to protect Muslims and other minorities.

The current bout of national soul-searching in India, which has prompted protests by intellectuals, artists, actors and others, followed the killing of a Muslim man by a mob for allegedly slaughtering a cow — an animal deeply revered in Hinduism.

Mr. Modi, whose conservative backers are pushing for greater limits on cow slaughter and beef eating, described the death as unfortunate but said the central government shouldn’t be held responsible, noting that similar killings had happened under previous administrations.

In the Dawn blog post, Mr. Modi is shown advising Mr. Sharif against ordering the beef dish. “Order some veggies instead,” Mr. Modi is shown saying.

Riaz Haq said...

"#Modi can't promote Make in #India abroad, #Hate in India at home": Shashi Tharoor. #BJP http://toi.in/Ur6zpY via @timesofindia

Congress parliamentarian Shashi Tharoor on Tuesday tore through the Narendra Modi government, saying it cannot promote its ambitious Make in India programme abroad while a 'Hate in India' campaign is on in the country.

Speaking during a charged debate on intolerance in Lok Sabha, Tharoor said the "bomb of communalism" was dividing India. "It's safer to be a cow than a Muslim in India today," the MP from Thiruvananthapuram said, inviting a loud protest by the BJP members.

Tharoor quoted a Bangladeshi friend as telling him that fundamentalists in his country were attacking India after incidents of intolerance and communal polarisation grew in the country. "We are shamed with the reputation we are gaining abroad," he said.

The Congress leader said India was built on the premise of respecting diversity, and it is the responsibility of the government to uphold that promise.

Attacking Modi and reminding of his election promises, Tharoor said, "Has the Prime Minister forgotten that he is a leader and he is supposed to walk with people belonging to all caste, class and religion?"

"Where is the Modi who refused to politicise the bomb blasts that took place while he was addressing an election rally at Patna's Gandhi Maidan?" he asked in Hindi.

Tharoor also demanded the abolition of death penalty, describing it as an "aberration in a healthy democracy". Raising the issue during Zero Hour, he said hanging people does not deter crime and there is a lot of subjectivity in application of death penalty.

"It (death penalty) is an aberration in a healthy democracy," Tharoor said, adding that instead preventive and reformative measures should be strengthened to prevent crimes.

Contending that death penalty has mostly affected the marginalised people, the Congress leader said the state should not become killer. "We should abolish death penalty to uphold the ideals of Mahatma Gandhi," he said.

According to him, around 70 per cent of the United Nations members have abolished death penalty.

Riaz Haq said...

Rising #intolerance in #India . #NarendraModi Is Running Out of Time to Reform the Indian Economy http://www.newsweek.com/narendra-modi-running-out-time-reform-indian-economy-401248 …

Popular Bollywood star Aamir Khan brought the issue to India’s mainstream when last month he criticized the sense of “insecurity and fear” felt even by his own family. The harsh response to him only reinforced Khan’s point.

Sectarian violence does more than harm innocent Indians. It also discourages foreign investment. Religious intolerance provides skittish investors with another reason to put their money elsewhere.

More state elections are pending. To win, the BJP should focus on economics, which is what boosted Modi and his party to last year’s overwhelming victory. With an expanding population, India needs strong economic growth to move people out of poverty. The Minister of State for Finance, Jayant Sinha, said India needs at least eight percent growth annually for decades to provide sufficient jobs.

This kind of progress isn’t easy or common. Yet India’s current growth rate, around seven percent so far this year, suggests that India could take off after sustained, real economic reform.

As I wrote for Forbes: “Despite the recent challenges to his government, Modi retains a rare opportunity to advance his nation. Moreover, given his Hindu nationalist background, Modi also is well-positioned to reinforce tolerance and secularism in government.

“Doing so would promote domestic stability in a nation with tens of millions of people of different religious faiths, strengthen economic growth by encouraging foreign investment, and enhance India’s international influence.”

Will the 21st century be another American Century, the Chinese Century, or something else? If Prime Minister Modi makes tough decisions in leading his country forward, the 21st century might end up being the Indian Century. But if so, he can’t delay much longer in putting his words into action.

Riaz Haq said...

#India, #Pakistan and #Bangladesh will reunite to form 'Akhand Bharat': #BJP Gen Sec Ram Madhav http://m.ibnlive.com/news/politics/india-pakistan-and-bangladesh-will-reunite-to-form-akhand-bharat-bjps-ram-madhav-1181205.html …


India, Pakistan and Bangladesh will reunite to form Akhand Bharat, or "undivided India", said General Secretary of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Ram Madhav in an interview to Al Jazeera.
Referring to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), Madhav said, "The RSS still believes that one day these parts, which have for historical reasons separated only 60 years ago, will again, through popular goodwill, come together and Akhand Bharat will be created. As an RSS member I also hold onto that view." However, he added that it "does not mean we wage war on any country, [or that] we annex any country. Without war, through popular consent, it can happen."

Recently, the BJP has been facing the ire over allgetions of rising number of cases of intolerance in the country. Several artists and writers have returned their awards protesting over the same.
Commenting on the allegations of rising intolerance in the country, Madhav termed it as a ploy "to defame the government and in turn to defame the image of India."

Riaz Haq said...

'#BJP is wiping off Muslim culture' from textbooks in #Modi's #India http://toi.in/sAhXUb via @timesofindia
Congress national minorities president Khurshid Ahmed accused the state BJP for wiping off the culture and history of Muslims from state textbooks in Ajmer on Friday.
Ahmed is on a tour of Rajasthan to consolidate minorities votes which drifted away to BJP in state assembly and Lok Sabha polls.
"This is very disturbing to hear that state education department has dropped most of the chapters by Muslim and foreign authors. Rajasthan government is following the line of Central government's saffronization of education agenda," said Ahmed who vowed to challenge every unconstitutional move made by this government.
He charged the state government of neglecting the rights of minorities, scheduled tribes and scheduled caste. "This government is working on vengeance by silently spoiling the developmental work carried out by the Gehlot government like free medicines, laptops to students and tribal development," said Ahmed who hinted that Congress central leadership will not leave the Union finance minister Arun Jaitley scam involving DDCA. Nizam Qureshi, state president minorities, Congress said that they will highlight the Lalitgate scam involving CM Vasundhara Raje.

Riaz Haq said...

Economist Amartya Sen: "Never been optimistic about #India. But today, I'm more pessimistic" #Modi #BJP

http://qz.com/601769 via @qzindia


From Davos to New Delhi, prime minister Narendra Modi and his government are trying hard to sell the story of India’s revival. But Nobel Prize-winning economist Amartya Sen has scarcely been more pessimistic about the state of the nation.
At an evening session of the Kolkata Literary Meet on Jan. 23, the 82-year-old Harvard University professor was asked if and when he had felt the most optimistic in the decades of observing India’s policies on education, the agency of women, and healthcare.
“I don’t think I’ve felt optimistic at any time,” Sen replied chortling, as the audience of a few hundreds chuckled briefly.
His early years during India’s colonial occupation, he explained, were no reason for optimism, although there was much hope that Independence would turn the situation around. “Then came Nehru’s speech at midnight, and we were going to do great things in education and healthcare,” Sen said. “That remained the rhetoric, and is still today the rhetoric.”


“You said that schools have expanded…” Sen said, turning to Harvard University historian and Trinamool Congress member of parliament, Sugata Bose, who was in conversation with the economist on stage. “They have expanded but still there are many schools with one teacher, which is very difficult…”
Bose helpfully recalled the “savage cuts” in primary education under the Modi government. Indeed, in the first full budget presented by finance minister Arun Jaitley last year, the government cut back on the country’s education budget by 16%, with a 10% reduction in planned outlay to the school sector. Alongside, the government’s spending on health dropped by 15%.
“What I didn’t recognise,” Sen continued, “I feared it might be worse (but) I didn’t recognise, what Sugata (Bose) referred to just now, how big and savage the cuts in an already very low budget would have been.”
“China spends 3% of its income on healthcare,” he explained. “We spend less than 1% and most of it goes in a peculiar way like RSBY (Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana), which is totally counterproductive. You subsidise private hospitals with it when you have expensive treatment but you don’t do the basic public services in healthcare…”

“So I never was very optimistic, but am I more pessimistic right now? Ya.”
Another round of muffled laughter followed.
This isn’t the first time that Sen has expressed concern on India’s renewed attempts to push for higher economic growth without first improving its education and healthcare systems. In an interview last November at the London School of Economics, Sen had explained:
India is the only country in the world which is trying to become a global economic power with an uneducated and unhealthy labour force. It’s never been done before, and never will be done in the future either…
…India is trying to be different from America, Europe, Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, China—all of them. This is not a good way of thinking of economics. So foundationally, the government’s understanding of development underlying their approach is mistaken. Having said that, the previous government was terribly mistaken, too. But one hoped there might be a change, and there has been, but not for the better. All the sins of the past government have been added up.

Riaz Haq said...

Fact check: #India wasn't the first place #Sanskrit was recorded – it was #Syria. #Modi #BJP

http://scroll.in/article/737715/fact-check-india-wasnt-the-first-place-sanskrit-was-recorded-it-was-syria … via @scroll_in


As the Narendra Modi government celebrates Sanskrit, a look at the oldest known speakers of the language: the Mitanni people of Syria.

After yoga, Narendra Modi has turned his soft power focus to Sanskrit. The Indian government is enthusiastically participating in the 16th World Sanskrit Conference in Bangkok. Not only is it sending 250 Sanskrit scholars and partly funding the event, the conference will see the participation of two senior cabinet ministers: External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, who inaugurated the conference on Sunday, and Human Resource Development Minister Smriti Irani, who will attend its closing ceremony on July 2. Inexplicably, Swaraj also announced the creation of the post of Joint Secretary for Sanskrit in the Ministry of External Affairs. How an ancient language, which no one speaks, writes or reads, will help promote India’s affairs abroad remains to be seen.

On the domestic front, though, the uses of Sanskrit are clear: it is a signal of the cultural nationalism of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party. Sanskrit is the liturgical language of Hinduism, so sacred that lower castes (more than 75% of modern Hindus) weren’t even allowed to listen to it being recited. Celebrating Sanskrit does little to add to India’s linguistic skills – far from teaching an ancient language, India is still to get all its people educated in their modern mother tongues. But it does help the BJP push its own brand of hyper-nationalism.

Unfortunately, reality is often a lot more complex than simplistic nationalist myths. While Sanskrit is a marker of Hindu nationalism for the BJP, it might be surprised, even shocked, to know that the first people to leave behind evidence of having spoken Sanskrit aren't Hindus or Indians – they were Syrians.

The Syrian speakers of Sanskrit

The earliest form of Sanskrit is that used in the Rig Veda (called Old Indic or Rigvedic Sanskrit). Amazingly, Rigvedic Sanskrit was first recorded in inscriptions found not on the plains of India but in in what is now northern Syria.

Between 1500 and 1350 BC, a dynasty called the Mitanni ruled over the upper Euphrates-Tigris basin, land that corresponds to what are now the countries of Syria, Iraq, and Turkey. The Mitannis spoke a language called Hurrian, unrelated to Sanskrit. However, each and every Mitanni king had a Sanskrit name and so did many of the local elites. Names include Purusa (meaning “man”), Tusratta (“having an attacking chariot”), Suvardata (“given by the heavens”), Indrota (“helped by Indra”) and Subandhu, a name that exists till today in India.

Imagine that: the irritating, snot-nosed Subandhu from school shares his name with an ancient Middle Eastern prince. Goosebumps. (Sorry, Subandhu).

The Mitanni had a culture, which, like the Vedic people, highly revered chariot warfare. A Mitanni horse-training manual, the oldest such document in the world, uses a number of Sanskrit words: aika (one), tera (three), satta (seven) and asua (ashva, meaning “horse”). Moreover, the Mitanni military aristocracy was composed of chariot warriors called “maryanna”, from the Sanskrit word "marya", meaning “young man”.

The Mitanni worshipped the same gods as those in the Rig Veda (but also had their own local ones). They signed a treaty with a rival king in 1380 BC which names Indra, Varuna, Mitra and the Nasatyas (Ashvins) as divine witnesses for the Mitannis. While modern-day Hindus have mostly stopped the worship of these deities, these Mitanni gods were also the most important gods in the Rig Veda.

Riaz Haq said...

#Hindu Right-Wing Attack on #India’s Universities, Academic Freedom. #BJP #Modi http://nyti.ms/1OP6QS8

I met Sandeep Pandey days after he was sacked from his position as a visiting professor at a prestigious technical institute at Banaras Hindu University. We sat in a dreary guesthouse on the university campus. Mr. Pandey had just finished a long train ride. With his wrinkled kurta pajama and rubber slippers, he was every bit the picture of an old-fashioned Indian leftist.

That was why he’d been fired. “Ideologically, I am at the opposite extreme to the people who are at present in power,” he said. “These people not only cannot tolerate any dissent; they don’t even tolerate disagreement. They want everybody who disagrees with them out of this campus.” Mr. Pandey was referring to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party and — more to the point — the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the B.J.P.’s cultural fountainhead.

The R.S.S., a Hindu nationalist organization, was founded in 1925 as a muscular alternative to Mahatma Gandhi’s freedom movement. Its founder admired Adolf Hitler, and in 1948 the organization was blamed for indirectly inspiring Gandhi’s assassination. The B.J.P. has not always had an easy relationship with the R.S.S. With its fanciful ideas of Hindu purity and its sweeping range of prejudices, the organization is dangerously out of step with the realities of India’s political landscape. When the B.J.P. wants to win an election, it usually distances itself from the R.S.S.’s cultural agenda.

Mr. Modi’s 2014 election had very little to do with the R.S.S. and everything to do with his personality and promises of development. But the R.S.S. doesn’t see it that way. Like a fairy-tale dwarf, the group has sought to extract its due from the man it helped into power. As payment for the debt, the R.S.S. wants control of education. Specifically, it wants to install its men at the helm of universities where they will wreak vengeance on the traditionally left-wing intellectual establishment that has always held them in contempt.

At a prestigious film institute, students are protesting the appointment of a president whose only qualification, they feel, is a willingness to advance the R.S.S.’s agenda. The group’s members have met with the education minister in the hope of shaping education policy; in states that the B.J.P. controls, the R.S.S. has been putting forward the names of underqualified ideologues for advisory positions on the content of textbooks and curriculums. It has also sought to put those who share its ideology at the head of important cultural institutions, such as the Indian Council of Historical Research.

This is the background to Mr. Pandey’s dismissal. His new boss, Girish Chandra Tripathi, the vice chancellor, is an R.S.S. man. The Ministry of Education helped push through his appointment after Mr. Modi’s election. One B.H.U. professor, who wished not to be named, described Mr. Tripathi as “an academic thug with no qualifications.” (He was previously a professor of economics.)

The new vice chancellor soon turned on Mr. Pandey. “It was all engineered,” Mr. Pandey said to me. First, the professor said, he was denounced by a student. Then a local news website printed a bogus story accusing him of being part of an armed guerrilla movement. (Mr. Pandey, a Gandhian, opposes all violence.) Soon after, the university’s board of governors decided, on Mr. Tripathi’s recommendation, that he be fired. He is an alumnus of the university and a mechanical engineer with a degree from the University of California, Berkeley. He has won awards for his social work. None of this made a difference. He was given a month to clear out.

----

The problem with the vice chancellor is not just that he is right-wing. It is that he is unqualified for his position. This was never more apparent than in his total inability to grasp the value of dissent at an institution of learning.

Riaz Haq said...

Patriotism: The last refuge of the #BJP #Hindu Nationalist scoundrels in #Modi's #India http://econ.st/1Qu4s1C via @TheEconomist

THE annual budget which India’s finance minister, Arun Jaitley, presented on February 29th would normally have been the big political event of the week. That is not how proceedings in Parliament in the ensuing days made it appear. Both chambers were disrupted by angry exchanges over issues close to the hearts of the more extreme Hindu-nationalist wing of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Yet again, an ugly strain of BJP politics is distracting attention from what was supposed to be the party’s central agenda in power: ensuring rapid economic growth.

---
The damage to India’s image is painful. Faith in the police and other institutions has been undermined. Vigilante violence has seemed to win official backing. Street protests have proliferated; on March 2nd the police in Delhi used water cannon against protesters outside Parliament. This is not the outward-looking, investor-friendly image India hopes to project. And it threatens its liberal traditions of free speech. It is not just India-hating traitors who think that the trial of Afzal Guru was unfair and that his execution was used for political ends by the previous administration, led by the Congress party. The BJP’s definition of “sedition” precludes almost any debate on the future of Kashmir—a source of tension within India and with Pakistan since independence.

All of this looks like bad news for India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi. Yet, beyond tweeting in support of a fiery speech by Ms Irani, his embattled human-resources minister, he has had little to say on the Rohith Vemula suicide and JNU furore. This follows a pattern: he rarely speaks out in ways that might alienate the BJP’s hardliners. He needs them, as his most loyal foot soldiers in looming state elections, including one in West Bengal in May; and Mr Modi is probably already thinking about the next general election, due by 2019. With that in mind, and following failure in an election in the big state of Bihar last November, he and his advisers may calculate that whipping up a chorus of angry Indian nationalism serves them better than talking about touchy issues such as caste—and better than promoting narrow “Hindu” causes such as protecting cows from beef-eating Muslims and Christians.

It also suits Mr Modi’s style, cultivated in his years as chief minister of the state of Gujarat, to portray himself as an outsider. He complains of plots by the press, NGOs, foreign meddlers and political pundits to destabilise his government. Despite leading India’s first single-party majority government in many years, he still governs as if he is waging an opposition campaign, with big rallies, catchy slogans and a sense of victimhood.

Hopes that Mr Modi would implement radical economic policies were clearly misplaced. He campaigned in 2014 less as a reformer than as a man who got things done. But ruling India has proved much harder than running Gujarat, and he is constrained by the lack of a majority in Parliament’s upper house. So the optimism of his election campaign, when he sought to represent the aspirational new urban middle classes, has been dented.

Mother tricolour
For all that India is the world’s fastest-growing big economy, to many Indians that is not how it feels. It is not creating enough jobs for its swelling workforce. The fresh spending in this week’s budget was aimed not at the middle classes but at the poor in the countryside, the voters whom Congress has long wooed. Last October Arun Shourie, a writer and minister in a former BJP administration, mocked Mr Modi’s government as “Congress plus a cow”. This week’s budget and political battles suggest things have moved on. It has become Congress plus a flag.

Riaz Haq said...

Why #India’s Chief Economic Adviser Has #Beef With Talking About #BeefBan? Losing his job!! #Modi http://on.wsj.com/1M614Ip via @WSJIndia

India’s chief economic adviser, Arvind Subramanian, on Tuesday declined to answer a question about how bans on cow slaughter affect the country’s rural economy, choosing to avoid an issue that has become a flashpoint for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s conservative government.

“You know that if I answer this question, I will lose my job,” Mr. Subramanian said at an event in Mumbai, according to a Press Trust of India report.

The western state of Maharashtra, whose capital is Mumbai, recently expanded a ban on killing cows, which are revered in Hindu culture. Many other states restrict the practice to varying degrees. Last year’s mob murder of a Muslim man accused of killing a cow has kindled concerns that religious intolerance is on the rise in India.


But what might Mr. Subramanian have said on the subject had he chosen to be a little less discreet?

Beef is big business in India. The most recent Livestock Census counted 191 million heads of live cattle and 109 million heads of buffalo in the country in 2012. Not all of those animals were destined for the abattoir: In the 2014 fiscal year, 3.2 million cattle were slaughtered, yielding 333,000 metric tons of meat, and 9.7 million buffalo met the same fate, yielding 1.2 million tons of meat.

Lots of that meat, in turn, got exported: India shipped abroad $4.2 billion worth of frozen bovine meat in the 2014 financial year, more in dollar terms than the country’s exports of T-shirts, motorcycles and car parts that year, and making India one of the world’s biggest beef exporters.

Livestock in aggregate—not just cows but goats, chickens and pigs, and not just meat but eggs, hides, dung and even honey—added 3.2 trillion rupees ($48 billion) to India’s gross domestic product in the year that ended March 31, 2012. That represented nearly a quarter of agriculture’s 18% total contribution to GDP that year.

As for how much bovines contribute to (human) employment, a government survey in 2013 found that 1.75% of rural households, or around 2.7 million of them, derived their primary income in the preceding year from rearing livestock. But that doesn’t capture the extent to which people in the hinterland raise animals to supplement their earnings from cultivation, manual labor or other activities. The same survey found that 682 households out of 1,000 in the countryside owned cattle, and 415 out of 1,000 owned buffalo.

Riaz Haq said...

In #India One Case Of Anti #Christian #Violence Every Day | Pray | Open Doors USA. #Modi #BJP #Hindu #Bigotry http://www.opendoorsusa.org/take-action/pray/tag-prayer-updates-post/in-india-one-case-of-anti-christian-violence-every-day/?utm_source=newsletter …

Attacks on Christians in India were reported on an almost daily basis in 2015, according to a Christian advocacy group.

“The country saw 355 incidents of violence, including 200 major incidents, during the last year,” Joseph Dias, convener of Mumbai-based Catholic Secular Forum, told World Watch Monitor. The forum’s report, released on Jan. 18, concluded that it is “not safe” to be a Christian in India.

The group reports that seven pastors were killed, several nuns were raped and hundreds of Christians were arrested under India’s anti-conversions laws. The report was released as 12 people, including a blind couple and their three-year-old son, were arrested in the Dhar district of Madhya Pradesh, under the state’s anti-conversion law, which forbids conversions through “allurement” or “force.” Seven of those arrested, including the blind couple, were released from custody on January 17, according to local pastor Suresh Mandlo.

Dias blamed the increase in incidents against Christians on the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, or BJP.

“The rise of the BJP has emboldened the [Hindu nationalist] fringe groups,” he said. “They feel that they can treat the Christians as soft targets under BJP's patronage and protection.”

“Even the government is acting in a partisan manner,” added Dias, relating two recent high-profile cases involving foreign clerics.

In the first case, Sister Bertilla Capra, an Italian Catholic nun who had been working with leprosy victims for four decades, was denied the renewal of her visa. Then, authorities at the Chennai International Airport detained and subsequently deported Hegumen Seraphim, a Russian Orthodox priest.

The Russian embassy said the treatment of the priest, who was detained at the airport for seven hours and denied food, was “unacceptable.” The embassy’s statement added that, “Such disrespect, shown to a priest from a friendly country, goes against the spirit of mutual affinity and cooperation characteristic of Russian-Indian relationships.”

According to Dias, “all these incidents point to an organized targeting of Christians at different levels.” He added that “The hate speech is turning worse and the conversion rhetoric of the saffron family [Hindu fundamentalists] is vitiating the atmosphere and paving the way for atrocities,” he added.

Just days before the Catholic Secular Forum issued its report, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, or World Hindu Council, claimed it had recently undertaken mass re-conversions of Christians and Muslims to Hinduism. Praveen Togadia, the VHP’s international working president, reported on Jan. 8 that the VHP had reconverted more than 500,000 Christians and 250,000 Muslims in the last decade with its Ghar Wapsi, or homecoming, initiative. Two days later, VHP national general secretary Y. Raghavulu claimed that 800,000 Hindus were being converted to other faiths every year in India.

“The [VHP] claim to have converted Christians and Muslims to Hinduism is just to enthuse their cadres. Both [statements] are blatantly aggressive instances of hate to provoke violence,” Christian activist John Dayal told World Watch Monitor. “The statistics are products of feverish minds and a bankrupt ideology. Their real purpose is political—to arouse passions, sharpen polarization and target religious minorities, and especially the Christian community.”

Hindu fundamentalists, Dayal added, “want to criminalize Christian presence and social work as a conversion conspiracy by Western powers.”

Riaz Haq said...

Anti-Muslim housing discrimination Apartment Rental Ad in #Mumbai, #India: "All communities allowed EXCEPT #Muslims" http://nyti.ms/1M4Rqel

Such intolerance exists at all price points. In a TV interview, Shabana Azmi, one of India’s most celebrated actresses and a former member of Parliament, described how she and her equally famous screenwriter husband couldn’t buy the flat they wanted because they were Muslim.

More alarming to me, though, is how the inter-communal mix of my formative years has been lost. As the writer Naresh Fernandes describes in his book, “City Adrift: A Short Biography of Bombay,” some suburban areas are acquiring the feel of religious ghettos. Mumbra, one of the largest, is over 90 percent Muslim. It suffers daily power failures much worse than those in neighboring Hindu localities. To the west, the clearly demarcated Muslim parts of Jogeshwari are snidely called “mini Pakistan” by Hindus across the “border.”

It is not difficult to find Internet listings specifying whether a property lies in the Hindu or Muslim area of an outer suburb, or even, in the case of a half-million dollar flat in the closer-in suburb Andheri, saying explicitly, “All communities allowed EXCEPT Muslims.”

Riaz Haq said...

A nationalism unique to #India. #Modi government demands oath of allegiance only from #Muslim #Urdu writers. http://tribune.com.pk/story/1069029/a-nationalism-unique-to-india/ …

The National Council for Promotion of Urdu Language under Smriti Irani is asking Urdu writers to sign forms which have the following declaration: “I ___ son/daughter of ___ confirm that my book/magazine titled ___ which has been approved for bulk purchase by NCPUL’s monetary assistance scheme does not contain anything against the policies of the government of India or the interest of the nation, does not cause disharmony of any sort between different classes of the country, and is not monetarily supported by any government or non-government institution.”

A Muslim legislator has been suspended in Maharashtra for saying he prefers “Jai Hind” (victory to India) to “Bharat Mata ki jai” (victory to mother India). What the difference between these two declarations is, I am not really sure, but it is enough to merit punishment. On March 19 came a report that Urdu writers have been asked to guarantee they are not writing anti-India material.

In today’s India, on the other hand, our ‘nationalism’ is not against another nation. It is against other Indians. This is why it is different. Our great Indian nationalists are rousing passions against their own people, not against another nation. Our fraud nationalists go after their own citizens for their religion, or for their views. Their concern and passion is the enemy within. That is not love of nation. It is hatred and bitterness. Persecution of Indian Muslims and Indian dalits is not nationalism. This word we use so easily as an accusation, ‘anti-national’, is not really current in European languages. Only primitive peoples, like Indians, use it. It means opposition to the things a nation stands for. But who is to decide what positive nationalism is? Other than saying Bharat Mata ki jai, I do not really know what Indian nationalism is.

Jawaharlal Nehru University has been organising open lectures on nationalism. This is available on videos that is accessible to the lay person. This is a noble effort but I am afraid that it will be wasted on Indians. It does not matter how terribly you behave, as long as you loudly say Bharat Mata ki jai, you are a nationalist in India.

Yet, another story in the papers is about two Muslims, one of them a child of 15, tortured and lynched from a tree, just like African-Amercians in the United States. They were herding buffaloes so it is not clear what their crime was. But it is absolutely certain where the hatred was stirred up.Is this making the government pause? Not at all. The BJP national executive is meeting over this weekend and it is calling for yet more “nationalism”. Haven’t we had enough of that already?

Do the people in the BJP know what effect this has on India’s reputation as a civilised society? Pick up any foreign paper or magazine and most of the news about India is negative. Why? Because, as many of us have concluded, avoidable incidents of similar nature are coming with such regularity that it is not easy to escape the suspicion that these things are deliberate.

For those hate-filled, fraud nationalists here, achche din have arrived.

Riaz Haq said...

Intolerance and despotism are undermining #Modi’s reforms in #India. #BJP #Hindu http://www.newsweek.com/intolerance-despotism-undermine-modi-reforms-440603 …

This article first appeared on the Riding the Elephant site.

“Misinterpreting nationalism—BJP’s swing to jingoism does not augur well,” said a headline earlier this week in the Business Standard, one of India’s leading newspapers. It reflected concern in India and abroad over what the paper called the governing BJP’s “disturbing drift towards hyper-nationalism.”

The only word slightly wrong there is “drift,” because there is a growing suspicion among observers that this is not some gradual meandering, but a determination to develop divisive politics, driven for vote-catching reasons by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders, notably Amit Shah, the party’s hard-line president, Rajnath Singh, the government’s rather stern looking home minister, aided occasionally by Smriti Irani, the voluble minister for human resource development.


The latest example of their drive has come with a strident demand for people to prove their patriotism by declaring “Bharat Mata Ki Jai,” which means “Victory to Mother India” (or the motherland).

Originally triggered a couple of weeks ago when a Muslim member of a regional assembly refused to recite the line, this is really a non-issue because a wide spectrum of the population (including Muslims) have no problem with saying it (nor with others not saying it), though many would prefer the conventional “Jai Hind” which means “Praise be to India.” It is also the slogan used by the Indian army.

Narendra Modi, the prime minister, has led chanting of the Bharat Mata slogan at his big overseas Indians’ rallies in places like London’s Wembley Stadium, and this could have been a harmless debate until Shah and others said that not chanting it was “anti-national.” After a week of growing controversy that dominated the media, a meeting of the BJP’s national executive last weekend passed a resolution that said, “Refusal to chant victory to Bharat is tantamount to disrespect to our Constitution itself.”

The BJP ministers seem to believe that polarizing opinion around such Hindu-driven nationalism, especially the word Bharat (Hindi for India), will be a vote winner for various assembly elections next month, followed by a key election in Uttar Pradesh state next year and then the next general election that is due in 2019. For them, even opposition to the government is anti-national.

Modi presumably agrees, though he and they know that the BJP won the general election almost two years ago because of his image as a leader who would bring development and efficient government, not rampant nationalism. The BJP has lost key state elections in Bihar and Delhi in the past 15 months because Modi and others pushed the nationalist anti-Muslim agenda, but that has not deterred the hard-liners.

Modi and Development

Modi is now stressing development. “Vikas, vikas, vikas [development] is my only focus and it is our country’s solution to all problems,” he said at the party’s executive meeting. He does not, however, seem to have tried to rein in Shah and the others, so maybe he and Shah will each run their own lines so as to broaden the party’s appeal to voters.

That gels with reports that the RSS, the BJP’s ideology-driven parent organization that steers the behavior of the party’s leaders and government ministers, wants development to be included in the message. (The RSS has also recently softened its image by replacing its uniform of khaki shorts with long trousers.) Arun Jaitley, the government chief spokesman and finance minister, said last weekend that both nationalism and development could proceed together—which is, of course, correct if the nationalist angle is not turned into social divisiveness.

Riaz Haq said...

"9 out of 10 #Indians who eat #beef are from #Indian Institutes of Technology" #India's Minister Giriraj Singh. #IIT http://m.rediff.com/news/report/-nine-out-of-10-who-eat-beef-are-from-iits-giriraj-singh/20160421.htm …

The Modi minister, known for his controversial statements, dropped another bombshell on Thursday.
M I Khan reports.

Giriraj Singh, a member of Narendra Modi's council of ministers, now has a peeve against IITians.

"Aaj samaj mein jo bachche gir gaye hain ha, gau maans kha rahein hain. Padhe likhe dus log jo gau maans kha rahein hain unmein se nau IITs ke hain (People who have fallen in society eat beef. Out of 10 educated people who eat beef, 9 are from IITs)," Singh, the Bharatiya Janata Party MP from Nawada, Bihar, said on April 21.

Earlier, Singh demanded that the voting rights of couples with more than two children be revoked, to develop the nation.

"If Malaysia and Indonesia can make such a law, why can't we?" the minister asked, adding, "The nation won't progress without population control."

"There must be a balance. Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and Christians -- all must have at least one to two children. Those who don't follow, their voting rights must be revoked," Singh declared.

"A law is needed on population control for all religions if development is required," he added.

On Wednesday, Singh said if India did not change its population policy and enforce a two-child norm for all religions, then the nation's daughters would not be safe and may have to wear a veil as they do in Pakistan.

Speaking at a cultural yatra in West Champaran's Bagaha town, Singh was apparently referring to Bihar districts Araria and Kishanganj, where the Muslim population has increased faster than the Hindu population.

Riaz Haq said...

Aakar Patel: "#Secularism is a fig leaf for #India. We’re more #Pakistani than we think". #Pakistan #Hindu #Muslim http://blogs.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/aakarvani/secularism-is-a-fig-leaf-were-more-pakistani-than-we-think/ …

The decay of the Congress has produced a predictable, observable effect. It has revealed our majoritarian instinct, exposing it to the world, from which it had been hidden.
Our previous inauthentic assertions of secularism and tolerance are now gone. This change was of course the demand of the movement that brought Narendra Modi to power. It has produced an unintended (for the Hindu majority) consequence that we shall touch upon later.
The change being referred to is observable on two sides. First on the side of the state. Here the majoritarian impulse was restrained since 1947 under Congress which insisted on Nehruvian secularism as the cornerstone of our democracy. This may have initially been from belief but it later also came out of necessity. The Gandhi family’s Parsi, Italian, agnostic roots make them outsiders. They can hardly stand by anything other than tolerance of religious diversity.
State secularism was a top-down imposition on the Hindu upper class which was never enthusiastic about it.
The non-Congress formations at the Centre were dominated by socialists who subscribed to the same inclusive instinct. It showed in their uncomfortable partnerships with Hindutva. When Hindutva showed its inflexibility on first principles, these alliances broke nationally three times. At the state level, it happened more often.
We can accurately accuse these regional parties of hypocrisy. But it is true that they have never actively subscribed to Hindutva because they feel repelled by its aggressive, majoritarian thrust.
And so whether it was these socialists or the Congress that ruled Delhi, the nature of the state was not dissimilar. And even in opposition, the Congress was in the past big enough and influential enough to protect its legacy. Both at the Centre and in regional governments. No longer.
Today, it has become different, under a Hindutva government with an absolute majority. For the first time, the Indian state is comfortable expressing its majoritarian nature. The BJP government is echoing its constituency, and feels no shame in doing this. This is an observable fact. The resentment and anger that its voters feel against the appeasement of Muslims, the proselytisation by Christians and the mollycoddling of dalits and adivasis, all of this the government also feels.
The uncompromising nature of this sentiment has meant the government no longer reaches out to assure its weaker citizens that it has their interest also in mind. Today, when the state feels the hurt it will retaliate with violence.
One example will suffice: Ishrat Jahan. The state is openly justifying its murder of a citizen because it suspected her of mala fide intent. More interestingly, the media has backed this justification.
...
Elsewhere, the Hindu majoritarian instinct has always controlled the cultural space (it is why there is zero dalit, Muslim, adivasi representation in our popular culture — meaning the characters of film, television and advertising). This instinct is no longer suppressed by authority. Its consequences are no longer effaced, and not even an attempt is made to counter them, if only through platitudes.
.... We have revealed ourselves as being no different from Pakistanis, whose bigotry we used to juxtapose against our tolerance. A Pakistani poet wrote this about India:
“Tum bilkul hum jaise nikle
Ab tak kahan chhupe the bhai?
Woh moorkhta, woh ghaamarpan
Jis mein hum ne sadi ganwai
Aakhir pahunchi dwaar tumhaarey
Arre badhai, bohot badhai!”
I will not attempt a verse translation, but the lines say: ‘You turned out to be as stupid as us.’
Congratulations to us, indeed. Our true nature is finally out: we are not secular, we are Hindu.

Riaz Haq said...

#DalitUprising in #India: Protest with dead cows tagged: "Here lies your mother, you do the last rites" AJE News

http://www.aljazeera.com/blogs/asia/2016/07/sacred-cows-india-caste-carcass-160721000320565.html

Dramatic visuals, photos and videos, have emerged on Indian social media sites and on TV news channels of growing protests by Dalit groups across Gujarat over the past few days.

Media reports say the unrest is spreading across towns and cities throughout the state, the home state of India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

These protests have taken place after last week's assault on four Dalit men, allegedly by the members of a Hindu hardline group.

These Dalit men, who were trying to skin a dead cow, were bound, stripped, beaten with sticks by men claiming to be "cow protectors", and then dragged by a vehicle in Una, a town a few hundred of kilometres away from the capital city of Ahmedabad.


Disparate cow protector groups have sprung up to dispense mob justice across northern and western states of India in a shocking breakdown of law and order.

It was the latest in a series of violent cow-related incidents that have once again highlighted the problems and discrimination linked to caste and communities. Last year, a Muslim man, Mohammed Akhlaq, was beaten to death by a Hindu mob in his home for allegedly killing a cow in his village.

On Tuesday, enraged Dalit protesters left cow carcasses in buildings and compounds of Indian government offices. They were making a point to state that they would no longer do tannery work, traditionally seen as a job for lower castes and Dalits.

Dalit Muslims of India

The cow, revered by Indian upper caste Hindus as a Mata (mother), has been used to spur hate against religious and other minorities such as Muslims and Dalits. Killing or consuming cow meat is a religious taboo for pious upper caste Hindus.

Dalit handles on Twitter posted pictures and videos of protesters.

Along with images of cow corpses were slogans that read "Yeh hai tumhaari maata. Tum karo antim sanskaar" (Here lies your mother, you do the last rites).

Meanwhile, an AFP report said a police officer was killed and several others were wounded during violent clashes on Tuesday.

Gujarat is already battling chaotic protests by a powerful upper caste clan that wants reservations in government jobs for their people, the Patels.

This lays bare the claims by many sociologists that the rapid urbanisation of India has weakened the caste system.

The new Dalit uprising in the world's largest democracy is yet to appoint its "leaders". Just like the film Sairat is brought to life by newcomers, the Dalit consciousness movement is playing out a new resistance script.

Riaz Haq said...

#American Scholar Debunks Myth of #India’s Medieval #Muslim 'Villains' like Aurangzeb. #BJP #Modi https://thewire.in/18919/high-time-discarded-pernicious-myth-indias-medieval-muslim-villains/ … via @thewire_in


by Audrey Truschke

Going back more than a millennium earlier, Hindu rulers were the first to come up with the idea of sacking one another’s temples, before Muslims even entered the Indian subcontinent. But one hears little about these “historical wrongs”


Whatever happened in the past, religious-based violence is real in modern India, and Muslims are frequent targets. It is thus disingenuous to single out Indian Muslim rulers for condemnation without owning up to the modern valences of that focus.


The idea that medieval Muslim rulers wreaked havoc on Indian culture and society – deliberately and due to religious bigotry – is a ubiquitous notion in 21st century India. Few people seem to realise that the historical basis for such claims is shaky to non-existent. Fewer openly recognise the threat that such a misreading of the past poses for modern India.

Aurangzeb, the sixth Mughal Emperor (r. 1658-1707), is perhaps the most despised of India’s medieval Muslim rulers. People cite various alleged “facts” about Aurangzeb’s reign to support their contemporary condemnation, few of which are true. For instance, contrary to widespread belief, Aurangzeb did not destroy thousands of Hindu temples. He did not perpetrate anything approximating a genocide of Hindus. He did not instigate a large-scale conversion program that offered millions of Hindu the choice of Islam or the sword.

In short, Aurangzeb was not the Hindu-hating, Islamist tyrant that many today imagine him to have been. And yet the myth of malevolent Aurangzeb is seemingly irresistible and has captured politicians, everyday people, and even scholars in its net. The damage that this idea has done is significant. It is time to break this mythologized caricature of the past wide open and lay bare the modern biases, politics, and interests that have fuelled such a misguided interpretation of India’s Islamic history.

Aurangzeb, for instance, acted in ways that are rarely adequately explained by religious bigotry. For example, he ordered the destruction of select Hindu temples (perhaps a few dozen, at most, over his 49-year reign) but not because he despised Hindus. Rather, Aurangzeb generally ordered temples demolished in the aftermath of political rebellions or to forestall future uprisings. Highlighting this causality does not serve to vindicate Aurangzeb or justify his actions but rather to explain why he targeted select temples while leaving most untouched. Moreover, Aurangzeb also issued numerous orders protecting Hindu temples and communities from harassment, and he incorporated more Hindus into his imperial administration than any Mughal ruler before him by a fair margin. These actions collectively make sense if we understand Aurangzeb’s actions within the context of state interests, rather than by ascribing suspiciously modern-sounding religious biases to him.