Since November 26, 2020, farmers in India, mostly from the Punjab and Haryana have been protesting on outskirts of chilly New Delhi (four degree centigrade).
The government tried to block their march to the country’s capital. The elderly and young farmers were brutally beaten. Water cannons were mercilessly used. Many farmers caught cold and later died. Till 17th December, 24 farmers have died, including a Sikh priest who committed suicide saying in a death note that he could see the farmers in distress.
Many countries have vibrant Sikh community who held peaceful demonstrations to express solidarity with their Sikh brethren at home. The government was irked at sight of Premjit Singh Pamma among the London protesters. A union minister, Raosaheb Danve, saw China, Pakistan, and pro- khalistan people’s hand in the movement. However he was rebuffed by Shiv Sena of Maharashtra.
The opposition parties had earlier opposed hasty enactment of farm laws. They are still supporting the protest.
The three farm bills –the Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020, the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020 and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 2020– and the labour bills were passed by Parliament during the recent monsoon session.
Many political parties, including the long-term NDA ally Akali Dal, the Opposition Congress, Aam Aadmi Party, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, Trinamool Congress and Rashtriya Janata Dal, supported the nationwide strike call given by the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU), All India Farmers Union (AIFU), All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC) and All India Kisan Mahasangh (AIKM), among others.
Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal (December 17) “attacked the Centre saying the farm laws have been made to ensure poll funding for the BJP and not for the benefit of the farmers”. He tore copies of the three farm laws during the House proceedings to protest against the controversial agricultural legislations.
Interestingly, even the farmer wing of Rashtraya Swayemsevak Sangh is also supporting the protest despite some reservations.
The government expected the movement to peter out due to severe cold and lack of food and shelter. But, it was in vain. The farmers are determined to stay put. They understand that if they disperse , they may not be able to rejoin anytime soon. They consider it a nightmare to return to their abode empty-handed.
Widows march to the front
Aside from the death of 24 protesting farmers, thousands of farmers commit suicides each year due to financial distress. India’s home ministry has reported in its report titled National Crime Records Bureau’s Accidental Deaths and Suicides that 11,379 farmers died by suicide in 2016. This translates into 948 suicides every month, or 31 suicides every day. The actual figure could be higher as a large number of women who work on farms are not characterised as farmers.
According to NCRB report, in 2019, some 10,281 people involved in farming died by suicide. Of these, 5,957 were farmers and cultivators, while 4,324 were agricultural labourers. This category accounted for 7.4 per cent of all suicides in India.
Over two-thirds of suicide victims in 2019 earned less than Rs 1,00,000 annually or below Rs 8,333 per month. This comes down to Rs 278 per day, which is sometimes less than the minimum wage rate under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act. Only 30 per cent of the suicide victims had annual earnings in the range of Rs 1 lakh to less than Rs 5 lakh.
At least 2,000 widows of indebted farmers, who had committed suicide in the past, raised their voices against the central farm laws.
The interviewed widows wished that they abandon farming as it does not assure them of even subsistence level life. `The three laws brought in by the Modi government will kill us and take all our land from us. We want these bills scrapped. Farmers are already in debt and dying by suicide. If these bills are not repealed, more farmers will commit suicide.’
Protesting farmers blocked the highways connecting Delhi with Amritsar, in Punjab, and Meerut, in Uttar Pradesh, and also the one between Punjab and Haryana. In south, traffic was affected on the Karnataka-Tamil Nadu highway due to the protests.
Farmers are protesting as they fear the farm Bills will result in abolition of the Minimum Support Price (MSP) |
Several US lawmakers, UK parliamentarians, Canada, Brazil, and even UN secretary general supported agitating farmers and urged Modi to allow them to protest peacefully.
India has called the remarks by foreign leaders on protests by farmers as “ill-informed” and “unwarranted” as the matter pertained to the internal affairs of a democratic country.
Some sikhs, settled abroad sent the protesters several quintals of almond. Local Sikhs provided them with fruit, pulses and flour. One Galaxy Brar announced, “I had announced through social media that people can approach me for free fuel as a corpus fund has been created. People from Punjab, Rajasthan have contacted me so far. I get their fuel filled online through my BPCL card and payment is done from my side. One trolley is given 1,000 litres of fuel for coming and going, as jathas keep replacing each other.
The massive majority of estimated 600,000+ Sikhs in the UK (last census said 432,000) are of Punjabi background. Punjab is known as “the bread basket of India” for its lush farming lands.
The agricultural wealth their generations have worked for will soon be sifted off into corporations.
“Many Sikhs support Khalistan and have advocated for it peacefully and legally for decades in the West. Being a Khalistani does not mean supporting terrorism. Issues such as India’s current treatment of farmers are just another reason there is support for Khalistan. But, Modi government is giving a terrorist taint to the movement as a `terrorist’ Premjit Singh Pamma participated in sikhs’ protest in UK.
Pamma is wanted in connection with the 2010 blasts in Punjab’s Patiala and Ambala and also for the killing of an RSS man in 2009. He is also suspected to be associated with banned groups like Sikhs for Justice .
Pamma was arrested in Portugal in 2018 under a Red Corner Notice issued by the Interpol. However, India’ request for Pamma’s extradition from Portugal was turned down and he was subsequently released.
Supreme Court’s intervention
India’s SC has restrained the Modi government to implement the farm laws until a decision. Some farmers consider it a moral victory. But others consider it a ploy as the SC has admitted a petition for ending road blockade.
Many point out that the court is too politicized. It did nothing in regard to abolition of special status of Kashmir, dabbled in religious matters (ramjanam bhoomi), treple talaq, and so on.
The protest is in a state of flux. Now even credibility of the SC is at stake. Modi’s strong man image stands shattered.
Major Challenges for Pakistan in 2022
Pakistan has been facing sever challenges since 1980s, after the former USSR’s invasion of Afghanistan. The history is full of challenges, but, being a most resilient nation, Pakistan has faced some of them bravely and overcome successfully. Yet, few are rather too big for Pakistan and still struggling to overcome in the near future.
Some of the challenges are domestic or internal, which can be addressed conveniently. But, some of them are part of geopolitics and rather beyond control of Pakistan itself. Such challenges need to pay more attention and need to be smarter and address them wisely.
Few key areas will be the main focus of Pakistan in the year ahead. Relations with China and the US while navigating the Sino-US confrontation, dealing with Afghanistan’s uncertainties, managing the adversarial relationship with India and balancing ties between strategic ally Saudi Arabia and neighbor Iran.
Pakistan has to pursue its diplomatic goals in an unsettled global and regional environment marked by several key features. They include rising East-West tensions, increasing preoccupation of big powers with domestic challenges, ongoing trade and technology wars overlying the strategic competition between China and the US, a fraying rules-based international order and attempts by regional and other powers to reshape the rules of the game in their neighborhood.
Understanding the dynamics of an unpredictable world is important especially as unilateral actions by big powers and populist leaders, which mark their foreign policy, have implications for Pakistan’s diplomacy. In evolving its foreign policy strategy Pakistan has to match its goals to its diplomatic resources and capital. No strategy is effective unless ends and means are aligned.
Pakistan’s relations with China will remain its overriding priority. While a solid economic dimension has been added to long-standing strategic ties, it needs sustained high-level engagement and consultation to keep relations on a positive trajectory. CPEC is on track, timely and smoothly progress is crucial to reinforce Beijing’s interest in strengthening Pakistan, economically and strategically. Close coordination with Beijing on key issues remains important.
Pakistan wants to improve ties with the US. But relations will inevitably be affected by Washington’s ongoing confrontation with Beijing, which American officials declare has an adversarial dimension while China attributes a cold war mindset to the US. Islamabad seeks to avoid being sucked into this big power rivalry. But this is easier said than done. So long as US-China relations remain unsteady it will have a direct bearing on Pakistan’s effort to reset ties with the US especially as containing China is a top American priority. Pakistan desires to keep good relations with the US, but, not at the cost of China. In past, Pakistan was keeping excellent relations with US, while simultaneously very close with China. When the US imposed economic blockade against China and launched anti-communism drive during the cold war, Pakistan was close ally with the US and yet, keeping excellent relations with China. Pakistan played vital role in bring China and the US to establish diplomatic relations in 1970s. Yet, Pakistan possesses the capability to narrow down the hostility between China and the US.
Pakistan was close ally with the US during cold war, anti-communism threat, war against USSR’s invasion of Afghanistan in 1980s, and war on terror, etc. Pakistan might be a small country, but, possesses strategic importance. As long as, the US was cooperating with Pakistan, Pakistan looked after the US interest in the whole region. In fact, Pakistan ensured that the US has achieved its all strategic goals in the region. Since, the US kept distance from Pakistan, is facing failure after another failure consecutively. The importance of Pakistan is well recognized by the deep state in the US.
US thinks that withdrawal from Afghanistan has diminished Pakistan’s importance for now. For almost two decades Afghanistan was the principal basis for engagement in their frequently turbulent ties, marked by both cooperation and mistrust. As Pakistan tries to turn a new page with the US the challenge is to find a new basis for a relationship largely shorn of substantive bilateral content. Islamabad’s desire to expand trade ties is in any case contingent on building a stronger export base.
Complicating this is Washington’s growing strategic and economic relations with India, its partner of choice in the region in its strategy to project India as a counterweight to China. The implications for Pakistan of US-India entente are more than evident from Washington turning a blind eye to the grim situation in occupied Kashmir and its strengthening of India’s military and strategic capabilities. Closer US-India ties will intensify the strategic imbalance in the region magnifying Pakistan’s security challenge.
Multiple dimensions of Pakistan’s relations with Afghanistan will preoccupy Islamabad, which spent much of 2021 engaged with tumultuous developments there. While Pakistan will continue to help Afghanistan avert a humanitarian and economic collapse it should not underestimate the problems that may arise with an erstwhile ally. For one, the TTP continues to be based in Afghanistan and conduct attacks from there. The border fencing issue is another source of unsettled discord. Careful calibration of ties will be needed — assisting Afghanistan but avoiding overstretch, and acknowledging that the interests of the Taliban and Pakistan are far from identical. Moreover, in efforts to mobilize international help for Afghanistan, Islamabad must not exhaust its diplomatic capital, which is finite and Pakistan has other foreign policy goals to pursue.
Managing relations with India will be a difficult challenge especially as the Modi government is continuing its repressive policy in occupied Kashmir and pressing ahead with demographic changes there, rejecting Pakistan’s protests. The hope in establishment circles that last year’s backchannel between the two countries would yield a thaw or even rapprochement, turned to disappointment when no headway was made on any front beyond the re-commitment by both neighbors to observe a ceasefire on the Line of Control.
Working level diplomatic engagement will continue on practical issues such as release of civilian prisoners. But prospects of formal dialogue resuming are slim in view of Delhi’s refusal to discuss Kashmir. This is unlikely to change unless Islamabad raises the diplomatic costs for Delhi of its intransigent policy. Islamabad’s focus on Afghanistan last year meant its diplomatic campaign on Kashmir sagged and was limited to issuing tough statements. Unless Islamabad renews and sustains its international efforts with commitment and imagination, India will feel no pressure on an issue that remains among Pakistan’s core foreign policy goals.
With normalization of ties a remote possibility, quiet diplomacy by the two countries is expected to focus on managing tensions to prevent them from spinning out of control. Given the impasse on Kashmir, an uneasy state of no war, no peace is likely to continue warranting Pakistan’s sustained attention.
In balancing ties with Saudi Arabia and Iran, Pakistan should consider how to leverage possible easing of tensions between the long-standing rivals — of which there are some tentative signs. With Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman keen to use economic power to expand his country’s diplomatic clout by making strategic overseas investments, Pakistan should use its political ties with Riyadh to attract Saudi investment through a coherent strategy. Relations with Iran too should be strengthened with close consultation on regional issues especially Afghanistan. The recent barter agreement is a step in the right direction.
In an increasingly multipolar world, Pakistan also needs to raise its diplomatic efforts by vigorous outreach to other key countries and actors beyond governments to secure its national interests and goals.
Afghanistan: UN launches largest single country aid appeal ever
The UN and partners launched a more than $5 billion funding appeal for Afghanistan on Tuesday, in the hope of shoring up collapsing basic services there, which have left 22 million in need of assistance inside the country, and 5.7 million people requiring help beyond its borders.
Speaking in Geneva, UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths said that $4.4 billion was needed for the Afghanistan Humanitarian Response Plan alone, “to pay direct” to health workers and others, not the de facto authorities.
UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi called for $623 million, to support refugees and host communities in five neighbouring countries, for the Afghanistan Situation Regional Refugee Response Plan.
“Today we are launching an appeal for $4.4 billion for Afghanistan itself for 2022,” said Mr. Griffiths. “This is the largest ever appeal for a single country for humanitarian assistance and it is three times the amount needed, and actually fundraised in 2021.”
Needs could double
The scale of need is already enormous, both UN officials stressed, warning that if insufficient action is taken now to support the Afghanistan and regional response plans, “next year we’ll be asking for $10 billion”.
Mr. Griffiths added: “This is a stop-gap, an absolutely essential stop-gap measure that we are putting in front of the international community today. Without this being funded, there won’t be a future, we need this to be done, otherwise there will be outflow, there will be suffering.”
Rejecting questions that the funding would be used to support the Taliban’s grip on de facto government, Mr. Griffiths insisted that it would go directly into the pockets of “nurses and health officials in the field” so that these services can continue, not as support for State structures.
UN aid agencies describe Afghanistan’s plight as one of the world’s most rapidly growing humanitarian crises.
According to UN humanitarian coordination office OCHA, half the population now faces acute hunger, over nine million people have been displaced and millions of children are out of school.
Asked to describe what might happen if sufficient support was not forthcoming, the UN emergency relief chief replied that he was particularly concerned for one million children now facing severe acute malnutrition. “A million children – figures are so hard so grasp when they’re this kind of size – but a million children at risk of that kind of malnutrition if these things don’t happen, is a shocking one.”
But humanitarian agencies and their partners who will receive the requested funding directly can only do so much, Mr. Griffiths explained, before reiterating his support for the 22 December UN Security Council resolution that cleared the way for aid to reach Afghans, while preventing funds from falling into the hands of the Taliban.
“Humanitarian agencies inside Afghanistan can only operate if there’s cash in the economy which can be used to pay officials, salaries, costs, fuel and so-forth,” he said. “So, liquidity in its first phase is a humanitarian issue, it’s not just a bigger economic issue.”
Stave off disease, hunger
He added: “My message is urgent: don’t shut the door on the people of Afghanistan. Humanitarian partners are on the ground, and they are delivering, despite the challenges. Help us scale up and stave off wide-spread hunger, disease, malnutrition and ultimately death by supporting the humanitarian plans we are launching today.”
Highlighting the need to avoid a wider regional crisis emanating from Afghanistan, UNHCR chief Grandi, insisted that what was needed most, was “to stabilize the situation inside Afghanistan, including that of displaced people who are displaced inside their country. Also, to prevent a larger refugee crisis, a larger crisis of external displacement.”
Nonetheless, Afghanistan’s immediate neighbours had sheltered vulnerable Afghans for decades, Mr. Grandi explained, as he appealed for $623 million in funding for 40 organizations working in protection, health and nutrition, food security, shelter and non-food items, water and sanitation, livelihoods and resilience, education, and logistics and telecoms.
Decades of shelter
No-one should forget “that there is a regional dimension to this crisis, represented by the Afghan refugees but also Afghans with many other ‘stay’ arrangements in neighbouring countries in particular,” Mr. Grandi said, “especially in Pakistan and Iran that have hosted Afghans for more than 40 years, but also Central Asian States.”
Since the Taliban takeover last August, women’s and girls’ rights have continued to come under attack, OCHA noted in a statement, “while farmers and herders are struggling amid the worst drought in decades and the economy is in freefall”.
On the issue of protecting fundamental rights, Mr. Griffiths underlined the fact that UN humanitarians were continuing to hold “conversations” with Afghanistan’s de facto authorities at a national and sub-national level, on issues such as aid and education access for all.
Echoing that message, UN refugee chief Mr. Grandi noted that humanitarians on the ground were well aware of the importance of stressing the need to protect the rights of minorities and other vulnerable Afghans.
“Our colleagues are there every day, and that’s what they talk about every day; they certainly talk about access, and delivery and needs, but they also talk about women at work, women in school – girls in school – rights of minorities, but it’s that space that we need to preserve.”
Hinduisation of India
India’s constitution calls upon its citizens to imbibe the spirit of “scientific inquiry” and humanism”. Oblivious of their constitutional duty, India is still wedded to dogmas. This fact is obvious from the recent calendar “invented’ by the Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur. The calendar is intended to play to the tune of Hindutva ideologues, Bharatiya Janata party and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).
This calendar claims that the invasion of the Aryan race is a myth. They were a “race indigenous to India”.
The BJP and RSS consider the Aryans to have been indigenous to India and long opposed the dominant ‘Aryan invasion’ theory. The calendar disbelieves that the Aryans came along with the Vedic culture from the Central Asia. That they introduced this culture to the aboriginals, predominantly the dark -skinned Dravidian race. That the Harappa-Mohenjo-daro civilisations did not predate the Vedic era. Vedic Culture and the Indus Valley Civilisation (7000 BCE – 1500 BCE) were synonymous.
The BJP-led Union government is trying to rewrite India’s history textbooks and “saffronise” education. Hindu right wing claims that the creators of the Vedas always belonged to India. Muslims and Christians are ‘invader’ races with respect to India, as opposed to the supposedly indigenous Aryans.
Museum renamed after Shiva
Yogi Adityanath often showed abhorrence to Moghul icons. He mocks the expenditure of such monuments. He vowed not to spend a penny on even Muslim graveyards, and by corollary, even mosques. India’s Supreme Court y ruled that a mosque is not necessary for the Muslim mode of worship. He renamed the upcoming “Mughal Museum” in Agra after Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. Yogi believes that he himself is a scion of the Maratha warriors.
Yogi says “how can Mughal be our heroes?” Thus he is up against 396 of its 1 lakh-plus villages and towns bearing the names of the Mughals. What about
Bihar with 97, Maharashtra 50, and Haryana 39 villages named after the Moghul?
About 50 percent of the villages bear standalone names such as Akbarpur, Aurangabad, Humayunpur and Babarpur. In addition, there are also syncretic names such as Akbar Nivas Khandrika and Damodarpur Shahjahan.
The most common name is Akbarpur of which there are nearly 70 across the country, followed by Aurangabad, which is the name of 63 places.
Since coming to power in 2017, Yogi has renamed several places in the state including railway junction Mughalsarai renamed as Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Nagar, Allahabad as Prayagraj, and Faizabad as Ayodhya. The renaming falls in line with the Sangh Parivar’s ideological commitment to reclaiming the “original” lost glory of India in pre-Islamic times.*
Hyderabad or Bhagyanagar
Hindutva lobby, as led by Yogi, wants to rename Hyderabad as Bhagyanagar, Taj Mahal as “Ram Mahal, Krishna Mahal, or even Rashtrabhakt (patriot) Mahal”. They want to rename Delhi as ”Indraprastha”, Lucknow as ”Lakhanpur”, and Victoria Palace in Kolkata as Janaki Palace
A Varanasi court ordered Archeological Survey of India to conduct a survey of the Gyanvapi Mosque compound adjacent to the Kashi Vishwanath Temple to find out whether it was a “superimposition, alteration or addition or there is structural overlapping of any kind, with or over, any other religious structure”.
The decision is preposterous as no evidence was produced before the court to infer that there was a prior existing temple at the site of the mosque.
Even in the Ayodhya judgment, the ASI excavation was ultimately of no use. The ASI did not find proof that the Babri Masjid was built upon demolition of a temple. No evidence was produced before the court to suggest that there was a prior existing temple at the site of the mosque.
The Kashi Vishwanath Dam project
This dam is the biggest attempt at India’s civilisational restoration since the rebuilding of the Somnath temple.
Why emphasis on Arthashastra by the IIT, Kharagpur?
India wants to promote teaching of Arthashastra (Chanakya) through prestigious institutes as Chanakya postulates unethical, no-holds barred wars. India trained mukti bahini so-called freedom fighters) and attacked erstwhile East Pakistan when Pakistan least expected it.
The Ramayanas and the Mahabharata wars elucidate various types of yuddha (wars). In ancient India there were three schools of war. Bhishma’s school of warfare belonged to dharma yuddha (ethical or just war). Two other schools, Brihaspati and Krishna’s school of warfare belonged to koota yuddha (all-out war) or maya yuddha (war by tricks or stratagems). There is too much of negative publicity about Islamic jihad (struggle). But, there is little limelight on koota yuddha in India’s history.
Bhishma stressed chivalry and ruled out surprise and deception. But Brihaspati recommended that the king should attack an enemy only if the enemy’s strength is one-third of his own (`Udyog Parva’). He suggested that the king should never trust the enemy or spare him, no matter how old or virtuous he may be.
Keynote of Krishna’s military philosophy was `end justifies the means.’ He laid great stress on deception. `Truth may often have to be sacrificed in pursuit of victory’ (Karma Parva). He advocated use of force to defeat the enemy if he was superior in strength or capability (Shalya Parva). Opportunity once wasted never returns (`Shanti Parva’).
Even the enlightened Hindu and the military writers believe that India’s prosperity during various periods of history, for example during the Maurya and the Gupta periods, rose or fell pari passu with rise or fall of military leadership.
Since partition, the Hindu leaders have put a tab on their innate desire to expose their urge for koota yuddha with Pakistan because of political expediency. India’s confidence-building measures did not contribute to the solution of the Kashmir, or Sir Creek issues. They were dilly-dallying tactics to evade a plebiscite in disputed Kashmir.
Pakistani leaders, including previous prime-ministers and prime-ministers-to-be should take off their blinkers and try to understand how India, through koota yuddha, with like minded countries, is trying to wreck Pakistan’s economy and country.
Obviously India wants to erase non-Hindu history. It wants to glorify Hindu warriors to prepare India for a war against its neighbours
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