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Indian farmers’ sons-of-the soil movement: What next?

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India is, currently, in throes of a son-of the soil farmer’s movement. They have been demanding repeal of three controversial farm laws at different borders of New Delhi since November 26 last. They perceive the laws as a ploy to divest them of their ancestral landholdings at the altar of corporations (crony capital). Farmers also want an iron-clad guarantee that the market support-price for their crops will not erode.

The laws which are bone of contention are Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020; the Farmers Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act 2020 and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020.

According to conservative estimates, over seven lac farmers are squatting at the Tikri (including Jharoda Kalan, Auchandi and Harewali), Singhu and Ghazipur borders, closed to traffic. Over 155 farmers have died braving water cannons and inclement weather. A sikh sant (holy man) and several farmers have committed suicide against government callousness towards the farmers’ demands. Body of a 52-year-old farmer was found hanging from a tree near Tikri border in Delhi. Police recovered a suicide note from the spot, in which he had written: “The government has only been giving dates after dates [to farmers]. There is no idea when these black laws will be repealed.”

The complexion of the movement is changing as about 18 opposition parties have supported the movement besides the dalit, a section of women and local students. The dalit leader, Chandra Sheikhar galvanized the movement by delivering a Gettysburg-like speech `eik jut ho kar larain gay’ (we shall fight untied). He alluded to the minorities’ unsuccessful struggles, often gory, to unshackle the unjust class-based social order, and strive for achieving equality. Widening scope of the farmers’ emancipation movement created the impression that it has been transformed into an all-India oppressed people’s movement. Sensing the changing mood of the movement, the wily Modi unleashed  a host of measure create fissures in farmers’ fraternity, discredit the movement in public eye by portraying the farmers’ as flag bearers of khalistan, holding them responsible for hoisting khalsa flag (actually unfurled by Modi’s goons) instead of national flag at the Red fort ramparts. The government even disconnected water and electric supply, browbeating protesters with a lashkar of police force perched behind concrete concertina barricades.

The confrontation smacks of a stalemate. The farmers can’t go back empty-handed. And, Modi can’t take off his `spartacus’ mask that helped him bag electoral laurels. Estranged in marriage, Modi lives all alone in official residence feeding peacocks, to pose as Krishna. He lives the script of Krishan ji Maharraj (Claude Steiner, Scripts Peoples Live). But it appears the pseudo-Krishan has already lost the yuddha by conceding a `hold’ on the three farm laws for one-and a-half years.

Modi would further lose gusto to fight off farmers (60% of total population)in state assembly elections due in about the `hold’ period, or next general election thereafter. The portents and the writings on the wall are clear. Modi and his paper tigers including Amit Shah do not even have the nerve to address the farmers eyeball-to-eyeball. Yogi Adityanath, saffron chief minister of Uttar Pradesh is distancing himself from Modi, with a squint-eye on the next lok Sabha (house of people) elections. Akali Dal has left the Modi coalition. Expect more chinks in “Krishna’s”  armour.

What-next scenarios

Jallianwala 2: The movement has a narrow agenda. It could end one fine morning with Modi agreeing to farmers’ demands. If he does so the movement loses its potential to become an all-India voice of the oppressed people. If he stays put,  wheel jams may progress into marches toward the parliament and encirclement (gherao), of official buildings. If police open fire, it would be Jalaianwala Bagh2.

Banda Bahadur (16 October, 1670 – 9 June, 1716): Could the movement throw up a Banda Singh Bahadur (Lachhman Dev alias Madho Das Bairagi) to steer the movement? Bairagi was a phenomenal product of oppression all around.

 He abolished the then prevalent Zamindari and Taluqdari system that reeked of extortion and corruption. He made farmers owners of the land that they tilled. Bahadur abhorred injustice and passive obedience to authority.

An anecdote tells that that some villagers from the neighborhood of Sadaura attended him with a petition against extortionist practice of their landlords. Instead of sympathising with them, Bahadur ordered them to be showered with bullets. Later, he told the astounded survivors that they deserved the treatment he meted out to them. They should be ashamed that they outnumbered a handful of zamindars. Yet, they could not teach a befitting lesson to their landlords.

Despite lack of resources, Bahadur valiantly fought against the Moghals and defeated the Sayyids and Shaikhs in the Battle of Sadhaura. His other battles include Sonipat (Khanda), Samana, Mustafabad, Malerkotla, Saharanpur,Jalalabad, Muzaffarnagar, , Lohgarh, Jammu, Rahon, Jalalabad, Nangal, Gurudaspur, Sirhind and Chappar Chirrri. A 328-feet tall (taller than Qutub minar) memorial was built at Fateh burj to commemorate sikh victory at Chirri.

Weaknesses of the farmers’ movement

The government buys wheat from the farmer at Rs 20 a kilogram and rice at Rs 24 a kg. The government is unwilling to pay more. The farmers earn about Rs 20,000 a year. Outside the farm they can’t earn even this Rs. 1666 a month. So they have to be prisoners to their farms.

It was nice to see the sikh protective cordons around Muslim protesters offering prayers. But, will this inter-caste, inter-faith bonhomie change caste-based social order. The caste order (varna, avarna, savarna jati system) is rooted in religious texts, Rig Veda, Bhagvad Gita, Manusmriti and other smritis. Rig Veda postulated the theory of Chaturvarna (purushashakta). A stanza in Rig Veda states: `His mouth was the Brahmin. His two arms were made the warriors, His two thighs that which was the Vaishya, from His feet was born the shudra.

The Bhagvad Gita upholds the Varna jati system. Lord Krishna states: `I myself have created the arrangement known as Chaturvarna assuring them different occupations in accordance with native capacities’. The Manusmriti converts the Varna into caste systems by sanctifying endogamy (marriage within caste) and social separation.

In Mahabharata, Bhishma preaches: `The highest duty of a crowned king is to worship Brahmins. Ramayana’s author tells us that Shambuka was sacrificed because his behaviour deviated from the caste codes. Shambuka, a shudra ascetic, was slain by Rama for attempting to perform penance in violation of dharma, the bad karma resulting from which caused the death of a Brahmin’s son.

Conclusion

To disperse the farmers, Modi is likely to exhibit `flight’ response in fight-or-flight mode (fighting animal’s response). If the movement, now in flux, dissipates, it would be a tragedy. If it turns into a rights movement for all the oppressed, it would be the most cataclysmic event in Hindu social order.  

Mr. Amjed Jaaved has been contributing free-lance for over five decades. His contributions stand published in the leading dailies at home and abroad (Nepal. Bangladesh, et. al.). He is author of seven e-books including Terrorism, Jihad, Nukes and other Issues in Focus (ISBN: 9781301505944). He holds degrees in economics, business administration, and law.

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South Asia

The man who saved the world from Pakistan

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image source: voices.transparency.org

But for a few brave souls like Frits Veerman, Pakistan would have become the world’s most frightening nightmare. Not that it is not today but it could have been worse: we could have been facing a nuclear Armageddon now.

Veerman, a professional photographer in Amsterdam, was one of the first to ring warning bells about Pakistan’s skullduggery in stealing nuclear documents, materials and technology to build its own nuclear bomb. His warnings were brushed aside, he was forced to keep quiet, sacked and harassed to no end for speaking the truth. In a just world, he should have been hailed as an icon of courage. He died in relative obscurity recently.

His story will, however, continue to live, a story of courage to speak out in a world where truth often falls to realpolitik. When Pakistan was running a big nuclear smuggling ring from its diplomatic missions and other agencies, governments and security officials in different parts of the world chose to look the other way. In fact, many connived in the colossal thievery.  They  knew  what  Khan  and his  associates  were  doing  but business and political interests trumped over reason.

Veermen was the only one to say that `the emperor was naked`. He could have easily succumbed to pressure or greed but he did not, and even at a great cost to his life, he chose to speak out, rather than keep quiet.

Veerman discovered the Pakistani game when he was a   young professional photographer in Amsterdam. He used to work at a consultancy firm, FDO (Fysisch-Dynamisch Onderzoek), as a technical photographer. An important client of FDO was   Ultra Centrifuge Netherlands which was part of a top secret project run by a consortium of Dutch, British and German scientists at a nuclear plant in Almelo. In May 1972, a young and charming Pakistani scientist, Abdul Qadeer Khan joined the team as a translator of technical documents. He soon became friends with Frits Veerman. He took pictures of centrifuges for him. The two shared an office and met at dinners in the evening. Veermen was introduced to Khan’s wife and two daughters and often went to their house for dinner.

Khan quickly expanded his circle of friends and he would freely access areas at the nuclear plant which were hitherto prohibited. It was sometime in 1973,  a year  after the Pakistani joined the consultancy firm,  that Veermen had his first doubts. He thought there was something fishy about the manner in which the Pakistani was charming his way through the rank and file of the establishment.

It was two years later that Veermen’s suspicions became stronger. He realised that the young Pakistani was in fact a thug–he was stealing classified papers from the plant. This happened one day when he went to Khan’s house near Schiphol airport for dinner.

What he saw took his breath away. He saw top secret centrifuge drawings lying around in Pakistani scientist’s house. They were supposed to be at the plant and locked up in vaults. As Veerman later recalled in an interview with BBC, “That was my biggest worry, what was he doing with those drawings? All the little pieces of the jig-saw put together made me come to the conclusion that Abdul was spying.“ Khan asked him to photograph the documents for him but Veermen refused. He also happened to overhear a telephonic conversation between the Pakistani and his old professor in Leuven about sensitive centrifuge matters. Veerman lost no time in reporting the matter to his superiors. His seniors heard him out and told him to keep quiet. He was asked not to speak about what he saw and found to anyone.

In late 1975, when AQ Khan realised that he was coming under greater scrutiny from a multitude of agencies, he took leave from the office, and along with his family flew back to Pakistan. He never returned. What many did not realise for some time was that Khan had smuggled out precious drawings and a no less useful rolodex of key suppliers of nuclear material and technology in Europe and elsewhere.

But Veerman had not heard the last of Khan. From Pakistan, his former friend wrote to him frequently seeking answers to technical questions about nuclear technology. When he showed one such letter to his superiors, he was asked to burn it. Less than a year after Khan fled Amsterday, FDO held a meeting on the issue where Veerman repeated his assertion that Khan was a spy. Veerman later gave a statement about Khan to Dutch police. But, as Veerman were to find out later, his blunt accusations did not endear him his superiors or others in the government. In fact, the nuclear consortium and consultancy firm, FDO, were delighted when Khan sent his emissaries with a long list of items and work he wanted to contract to European firms. Soon after, Khan’s technicians began arriving at FDO to take a “ “a course in ‘how to build an ultracentrifuge’’, Veerman commented.

In 1978, Veerman lost his job. No reasons were given but he knew he was being sacrificed for speaking out against Khan’s smuggling ring and the complicity of the nuclear plant officials as well as government authorities. The powerful nuclear industry lobby did not want any investigation because it would have exposed its laxity and complicity. The government too was not keen on any probe because it would have been embarrassing and would have impacted diplomatic relations with some countries. So they all kept quiet. The one man who spoke was asked to shut up.

In 1983, during a meeting with FDO officials, when he realised that his only crime was his outspokenness, Veerman was furious and decided to tell the story  to a Dutch newspaper. But nothing came out of his expose and he quietly retreated to a lowly paid job and into obscurity. The state, however, chose to punish him further–he was put on an international watch list and for many years questioned by police whenever he travelled abroad. He was stalked by the police. In one such instance, his family in a car was stopped by armed police.

It was only in 2016 that his role in breaking the world’s most dangerous nuclear smuggling network  was acknowledged by the authorities. The Whistleblowers Authority, a Dutch institution created in 2016, came to the conclusion that Veerman was unfairly treated at the time, as it considered it likely that whistleblowing was the reason for firing him in 1978. A recent report of the Huis voor Klokkenluiders, the Dutch Whistleblowers Authority, showed that the agency had finally absolved Veerman of any charges and in fact pointed out hy he, and not Khan, was punished.

In many ways, Veerman’s honesty and tenacity saved the world from even a more dangerous Pakistan. His act of courage deserves international recognition.

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South Asia

Pakistan and Germany are keen to Sustain Multifaceted and Mutually beneficial Cooperation

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Pakistan has varied history of relationship and cooperation with other countries in international arena. Despite of proactive foreign policy Pakistan has been struggling to acquire global or regional status as a major power. Now in the age of globalization, the foreign relations between states have become more significant than before. Global and regional organizations, societies, economic zones and countries have network to attract and develop relationship among them. A major goal of Pakistan’s foreign policy is to develop good relations with international community and to handle global and regional issues. Activism of Pakistan‘s foreign policy reflects on the domestic socio-economic development. The national interest of Pakistan also support to regulate inputs from the external atmosphere into internal situation and to strive security and territorial integrity in the region and glob which always remained top concern of Pakistan. As bearing geo-strategic position, Pakistan seeks good relations with regional and global powers like America, China and European Union. Within European Union Germany has emergence as the developed economy in Europe. It is not only playing vital role within European Union but at the global level. Pakistan is also enjoying cordial relations with Germany on the base of common interest and perception on all international issues. Germany is also very keen to see sustainable development in Pakistan and acknowledges that the Pakistan is playing constructive role for regional peace. Germany greatly values Pakistan intense to strengthen multifaceted and mutual beneficial cooperation. Both the countries have been engaged on political, economic and socio-cultural partnership.

In past, East and West Germany had tilted towards forming alliance with India in 1950s but in 1960s, President Ayob Khan‘s visit to West Germany established economic relation between both the countries. Post Pak-India war 1971, East Germany was the first country of the Europe who recognized Bangladesh. During 1990s, Pakistan and Germany established Pakistan German Business Forum and Germany had become the fourth largest trade partner of Pakistan in 2000.  Germany also was ally of Pakistan in the war against terrorism in the north-west part of the country. Since the last few years, both the countries developed trade relations as well as Germany invested in the field of science and technology in Pakistan. On August 24, 2014, Germany built Pakistan Gate in Berlin to provide business and trade facilities to the businessmen of both the countries.

In November 2018, Pakistan offered Germany to join CPEC and to invest in the Special Economic Zone (SEZs). The mutual trade between both the countries enhanced to 3.0 billion euro in 2019.In 2021, Both Pakistan and Germany are celebrating 70th anniversary of establishment of bilateral relationship. Both the countries are planning to undertake several activities in this regard. Last month German Ambassador visited Karachi Chamber of Commerce and industries to call German companies, entrepreneurs and investors to earn from the potential and opportunities which are available in Pakistan and to bring business communities of both the countries more closer as well. Foreign minister of Pakistan has visited to Germany and meeting with business and members of Pakistani community. The foreign Minister held meetings with the leadership of Germany and repeated the desire of expansion of bilateral economic activities and exchange of technology. Both sides also discussed rapidly changing situation of Afghanistan and South Asian region. During the discussion, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Foreign Minister of Germany Heiko Mass, Pakistan and Germany agreed to review the entire gamut of Pakistan-Germany relationship and tools of further deep bilateral cooperation in the field of trade, investment security and defense, health, education, tourism. The mass of both the countries want to utilize the potential of good relationship but it is observed that both sides have lack of political hierarchy, dedication and sincerity in past. The development and expansion of bilateral relationship lies on the path of peaceful coexistence and serious changes in the socio-economic structure is needed. Peace process with the neighboring countries like Afghanistan and India may attract Germany to invest in CPEC projects and other local project of education, vocational training, dam construction, tourism and economic activities in Pakistan. There is a need to organize a forum for the students and scholars of both the countries could interact and exchange their expertise for academic, economic and technology growth. There is potential of people to people interaction and development of cooperation between Pakistan and Germany. Pakistan may be more benefit from the relationship with Germany if the serious efforts be made on government level.

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South Asia

Modi’s Illiberal Majoritarian Democracy: a Question Mark on the Future of Indian Minorities

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india democracy

The word majoritarian is an adjective which relates to or constitutes a majority, majoritarian politics, or majoritarian democracy. It can be defined as a traditional political idea, philosophy or a practice according to which any decision whether political, social, or economic of an organized society should be made by a numerical majority of that society or it can be defined as a traditional political philosophy that stresses that a majority usually branded by religious, language, social class that also includes other recognizing factors of individuals in a society are subject to a level of superiority in a society because of which they have a say in every affair of a society. The concept of majoritarian dispensation in India under Narendra Modi has deep links with four other political philosophies i.e. Populism, Nationalism, Authoritarianism, and Sultanism. Before exploring Narendra Modi’s majoritarian policy of governance in India and its effects on the future of Indian minorities, I will first uncover the link of majoritarianism to political philosophies as mentioned.

A majoritarian leader is actually a populist leader who works hard for the concerns of people that who thinks are being ignored by the established elite groups in a society, and who always present himself as a new man mostly of a modest and plebeian background against old political establishment, in spite of the fact that who is a seasoned political figure, but usually not centre stage. This is exactly what Narendra Modi is, because in his 2014 election campaign, he presented himself as a new man against the Ghandi’s family’s old political system despite the fact he was CM Gujrat at that time. He also presented himself as someone who belongs to a very plebeian background that he had to work in his father’s tea shop when he was a child. Whereas, nationalism is a political idea or a philosophy that promotes and protects the interests of a particular nation, nationalism is the bedrock of most of the populists and NarendraModi is no exception. NarendraModi is a majoritarian national-populist leader who since his childhood has been the member of RSS, and now is a full time pracharak of RSS ideology that stresses that Hindu are the true and only sons of this Indian soil.

Majoritarian national- populist leaders like Narendra Modi are basically authoritarian leaders who reject political pluralism, and this is exactly what Modi is doing in India.Modi  and the BJP has made it clear that no other party should compete with it, or is even needed, as indicative from its slogan of a ‘Congress Mukt Bharat’ (a Congress-free India).Whereas, Sultanism is a form of authoritarian government and according to Max Weber NarendraModi is a new sultan of India who is pushing India towards illiberal democracy by rejecting all kind of civil liberties particularly of Indian Muslim minority.

Modi’s majoritarian policy of governance in India is basically the promotion of majoritarian democracy that asserts Hindus a special and superior status in India because they constitute 80.5% of total Indian population and that this majoritarian policy protests Hindutva ideology  that stresses that Hindus are the only sons of this soil and that strengthen the Hindu community. This majoritarian democracy is a big question mark on India as the world biggest liberal democracy because continuous violence, rejection of civil liberties, and crimes against the minorities that are Muslims, Sikhs, and Christians have been on the increase. About 1.8 million people who are minority communities are tortured in police custody every year. The word murder of minorities has been replaced by the term encounter killings. Torture have increased to such a huge extent that it questions the credibility of the rule of law and criminal justice. Hindu nationalists are revolting all around India especially against Muslims because they are the largest minority in India constituting 13.4% of total population and because Hindus have resentment toward their religion, Christians and Sikhs are no exception to their violence because they too constitute 2.3% and 1.9% of total Indian population.

Unfortunately, India under Narendra Modi is crawling from the world’s biggest liberal democracy to illiberal majoritarian democracy which is promoting and safeguarding only Hindu’s civil rights and liberties and that which is negating minority’s civil liberties and civil rights especially rights and liberties of Muslims of India. One such example of this is the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB).Under the act, for the first time in India, religion is a basis for granting citizenship. According to some this citizenship amendment bill by BJP is an intentional act in order to marginalize Muslims from mainstream politics. In addition to this, Muslims are not only being tortured at their religious places for their religious affiliations, but they are also being tortured at their educational institutions which is evident from a video of 15 December 2020, where Delhi police brutally tortured Muslims students of Jamia Millia Islamia university.

Keeping in mind Narendra Modi’s illiberal majoritarian democracy, the future of liberal democracy or pluralistic India appears to be gloomy, where the future of Indian minorities especially Muslims is a big question mark. 

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