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Category archive for: Indian subcontinent

Selling India, Imagining Bharat

Written by James Chiriyankandath.

As Narendra Modi completes an year and a half as India’s prime minister with more globetrotting (this time to the UK and then on to Turkey, Malaysia and France for the G20, ASEAN and Global Climate Change summits), one wonders if behind the bravado and public relations glitz, doubts are beginning to creep in. How far can aggressive salesmanship and slick image promotion go in providing effective national and international leadership and changing ground realities both abroad and at home?

It remains to be seen if the unexpectedly crushing defeat suffered by Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the crucial state elections in Bihar serves as a chastening reality check for a leader unused to electoral defeat. The defeat in Bihar came at the hands of the Mahagathbandhan (Grand Alliance) of the Janata Dal (United) of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar (who only ended a decade and a half of alliance with the BJP in 2013 because of his opposition to the rise of Modi), the Rashtriya Janata Dal of ex-chief minister Lalu Prasad Yadav, Nitish’s long-time rival, and the Indian National Congress (INC), that may have led India’s government for 54 of the 68 years since independence but had been relegated to the margins in Bihar for 20 years. By combining forces, the parties belonging to the notoriously fractious erstwhile Janata socialist tradition in Indian politics consolidated support among the historically underprivileged but numerically strong Backward Class and Dalit (or ‘untouchable’) castes and Muslims to successfully prevent the BJP, allied to three splinter Backward Class and Dalit parties, from winning power in Patna. Continue reading Selling India, Imagining Bharat

The Modi Enigma.

Written by Andrew Whitehead.

In his eighteen months in office, Narendra Modi  has spent a great deal of time travelling. He’s been to the United States twice, to France, Germany, China, Australia, Canada, Japan, Ireland – twenty-eight foreign visits in all. This week he’s making his first visit as prime minister to Britain, at a time when concern is rising in India about religious and political intolerance and what critics regard as a majoritarian style of governance in which minorities are at a disadvantage.

There seems to be a personal imperative behind Mr Modi’s globe-trotting. The United States and Britain both placed Mr Modi in what amounted to quarantine for several years because of concern that as chief minister of the state of Gujarat, he bore some responsibility for the communal violence there in 2002 which left hundreds dead. The US only made clear that it was lifting this diplomatic isolation early last year, weeks before Mr Modi’s Hindu nationalist party, the BJP, won an emphatic election victory. Continue reading The Modi Enigma.

Reclaiming South Asian Queer Voices: The Legacy of Section 377

Written by Ibtisam Ahmed.

In 1860, the Crown implemented Section 377 in the British Raj, outlawing sodomy and immoral sexual acts. The ruling imposed a set of foreign values on a region where gender and sexuality had been conceptualised very loosely in the past. Since then, the queer community has faced a constant struggle against being branded “undesirable”, made even more complicated by the supposed need to fulfil neoliberal Western markers of success in the modern age.

Christian Moral Utopia

One of the main driving forces of British imperialism was its ideology of being a civilising mission. Drawing on the rhetoric of early settlers, colonialists planned on using Britain’s territorial superiority to impose British values on the colonies. A notable and oft-remembered example is politician Thomas Babington Macaulay and the impact of his Minute on Education, which resulted in the ingraining of the English language in the South Asian curriculum, an impact that lasts to this day. Continue reading Reclaiming South Asian Queer Voices: The Legacy of Section 377