BBC News – Indian MP Mahua Moitra’s ‘rising fascism’ speech wins plaudits

Geeta Pandey

Delhi – India, 26 June 2019. A spirited turn at the microphone by a first-time female MP in India’s parliament, in which she listed the “signs of early fascism”, has been hailed as the “speech of the year” on social media.

Mahua Moitra, of the opposition Trinamool Congress Party (TMC), said she had seen a list of the early warning signs of fascism on a poster in the Holocaust Memorial Museum in the US.

She said she was reading the points to show that India’s constitution was under threat and the country was being “torn apart” by the ruling party’s “lust to divide”.

Ms Moitra began by acknowledging the Bharatiya Janata Party’s landslide victory in the recent elections, but added that “the very nature of the overwhelming-ness of this mandate makes it necessary for the voices of dissent to be heard”.

Then, in a rebuke to the governing party, she listed these seven “danger signs of early fascism”:

  • There is a powerful and continuing nationalism that is searing into our national fabric,” she said. “It is superficial, it is xenophobic and it is narrow. It’s the lust to divide and not the desire to unite.”
  • She pointed to a “resounding disdain for human rights”, which she said had led to a 10-fold increase in the number of hate crimes between 2014 and 2019.
  • Ms Moitra criticised the government for its “unimaginable subjugation and control of mass media”. She said India’s TV channels spend “the majority of airtime broadcasting propaganda for the ruling party”.
  • She attacked the government for what she said was an “obsession with national security”. An “atmosphere of fear” pervaded the country, with new enemies being created every day.
  • “The government and religion are now intertwined. Do I even need to speak about this? Need I remind you that we have redefined what it means to be a citizen?” she demanded, saying laws had been amended to target Muslims.
  • She said “a complete disdain for intellectuals and the arts” and “the repression of all dissent” was the most dangerous sign of all – and it was “pushing India back to the Dark Ages”.
  • The last sign, Ms Moitra said, was the “erosion of independence in our electoral system”.

Ms Moitra spoke for about 10 minutes while MPs from the treasury benches tried to shout her down, but she stood firm and called on the Speaker to rein in the “professional hecklers”.

Her speech in English, which was laced with facts and figures, even included a couple of poems in Hindi. Many people on social media praised her for reciting these as she is not a Hindi-speaker, her mother tongue is Bengali.

A former investment banker with J P Morgan, Ms Moitra quit her well-paying job in London in 2009 to return to Indian politics. She has been the TMC’s national spokesperson for several years and regularly appears in prime-time TV debates.

During the recent elections, I spent two days following her around on the campaign trail in rural Krishnanagar constituency in West Bengal state, where the TMC is in power.

In speech after speech, she took direct aim at Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his BJP. She talked about the deadly suicide attack in Kashmir and India’s subsequent air raid in Pakistan. She accused the BJP of trying to divide Hindus and Muslims. She said elections in the past were to change the government, but this election was to save the constitution of India.

So on Tuesday, when the 43-year-old stood up to address the lower house, I was expecting an intelligent speech. But it was more than that. It won her fans and admirers and trended on Twitter for hours.

Ms Moitra’s speech is significant at a time when one party, Mr Modi’s BJP, dominates parliament and the opposition is struggling to be seen and heard.

It is even more significant considering politics in India is still very patriarchal. It is dominated by men, and women make up only 14% of members of the house. And although there are some fiery female MPs, there are many who prefer to stay on the sidelines.

Ms Moitra, however, is not afraid to ruffle feathers and many will hope her speech inspires more female MPs to do the same.

“We are in the opposition, so we have to bring up the issues. We have to speak up and we have to point it out. We will speak up on whatever issues there are,” Ms Moitra told BBC Hindi on Wednesday, a day after her speech.

“The opposition’s job is to highlight the failings of the government and highlight issues that are not being dealt with by the treasury benches. That is my job and I will do that to the best of my ability.”

The Tribune – Today’s food is too sweet: Study

New York – State of New York – USA, 25 June 2019. Customers find foods in today’s marketplace to be too sweet, researchers that analysed nearly four lakh food reviews said.

“This is the first study of this scale to study food choice beyond the artificial constraints of the laboratory. Sweet was the most frequently mentioned taste quality and the reviewers told us that human food is over-sweetened,” said study lead author Danielle Reed from Monell Chemical Senses Center in the USA.

Published in the journal of Physiology and Behavior, the study examined 393,568 unique food reviews of 67,553 products posted by 256,043 customers over a 10 year period to gain real-world insight into the food choices that people make.

To identify words related to taste, texture, odour, spiciness, cost, health and customer service, the researchers used statistical modelling programme and computed the number of reviews that mentioned each of these categories.

The focus on product over-sweetness was striking as almost one per cent of product reviews, regardless of food type, used the phrase “too sweet”.

When looking at reviews that referred to sweet taste, the researchers found that over-sweetness was mentioned 25 times more than under-sweetness.

The researchers found that sweet taste was mentioned in 11 per cent of product reviews, almost three times more often than bitter.

Denderleeuw – Ninove – Meerbeke

16 June 2019

Did the train move or did I ?
From Denderleeuw to Ninove

16 June 2019

Ninove NMBS

Ninove De Lijn busstation
Bus 153 to Anderlecht via Meerbeke

What are these two funny things on top of the building ?

Ninove – Meerbeke
16 June 2019


Close up of the goates

More Belgian pictures to be published
Harjinder Singh
Man in Blue

Deccan Chronicle – Pakistan refuses visas for Sikh pilgrimage

Sikhs, whose visa were not approved, protested outside the SGPC office and demanded that there should not be a visa system.

Amritsar – Panjab – India, 26 June 2019. Pakistan on Wednesday refused visas to 58 Sikh pilgrims who wanted to go there to observe the death anniversary of Maharaja Ranjit Singh.

Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) had sent 282 applications for visas and only 224 visas were granted, while 58 were denied.

The pilgrims will be visiting Pakistan tomorrow by a special train from Attari railway station.

Sikhs, whose visa were not approved, protested outside the SGPC office. They demanded that there should not be a visa system.

“We have demanded an end to this visa system. Pilgrims should be allowed without it. We are now waiting for Pakistan’s response,” he added.

Within the framework of the Pakistan-India Protocol on Visits to Religious Shrines of 1974, thousands of pilgrims from India visit Pakistan to observe various religious festivals and occasions every year.

Dawn – Hindu council delegation visits ancient temple site in AJK

Muzaffarabad – Azad Jammu and Kashmir – Pakistan, 26 June 2019. A five-member delegation of Pakistan Hindu Council, led by ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) MNA Dr Ramesh Kumar Vankwani, visited an ancient temple site in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) on Tuesday in what was believed to pave way for throwing the area open for religious tourism.

Located in Sharda, some 137 kilometres northeast of here in the upper belt of Neelum valley, the temple is revered by the Hindu community, particularly the Kashmiri Hindu Pandits.

In India-held Kashmir, a committee by the name of ‘Save Sharda’ has been campaigning for opening up of an exclusive crossing along the Line of Control for “pilgrimage” to Sharda by the Hindu community.

The committee is led by Ravinder Pandita. Sources in the AJK government told Dawn that immediately they had no plans to allow visitors from across the divide to this site.

According to them, a few months back AJK Prime Minister Raja Farooq Haider had indicated at a high-level meeting that Pakistan-based Hindu community would be allowed, in the first place, to visit Sharda.

It was in the wake of this decision that senior civilian and military authorities had undertaken a joint visit to Sharda to see for themselves the facilities and requirements in the event of influx of religious tourists.

Both authorities had resolved to take joint measures “on an urgent basis” to protect archaeological sites and promote ecotourism in AJK.

According to sources, prime minister Haider had made up his mind around same time to invite Dr Vankwani as a first Hindu visitor to the area.

Dr Vankwani arrived in Muzaffarabad late on Monday along with four other members of Pakistan Hindu Council, and called on Mr Haider at a dinner in the PM House.

Speaking to him, Mr Haider pointed out that Kashmir was home to the followers of different religions and faiths since centuries and enjoyed exemplary religious harmony.

“Religious extremism had never found space in Jammu and Kashmir, particularly in Kashmir Valley. Even the struggle against autocratic Dogra regime was not on religious lines but it was aimed at achieving long suppressed political and civil rights,” he said.

Mr Haider however recalled that the 1947 pogrom against Jammu-based Muslims had vitiated disputed Himalayan region’s peaceful and harmonious atmosphere.

He told the visitors that his government had conceived a comprehensive plan to protect and revive the worship and other sacred places of non-Muslims and only recently he had visited a Hindu temple in the heart of Muzaffarabad city to see for himself its repair and renovation work.

Dr Vankwani expressed his gratitude to the AJK premier and said since Sharda was a revered site for Hindus they wanted to work in close coordination with the AJK government for its renovation and preservation.

According to sources, Dr Vankwani and his colleagues were accompanied to Sharda by AJK Secretary for Tourism and Information Ms Midhat Shahzad, Director General, Tourism and Archaeology, Pirzada Irshad Ahmed, and some other officials on the direction of Mr Haider.

However, they could not be reached on phone due to weak mobile phone coverage in the mountainous area.