The Telegraph – Uddhav Thackeray sails through Maharashtra floor test

Fadnavis questioned the change of pro-tem Speaker for the floor tests

Sanjay K Jha

New Delhi – India, 01 December 2019. The Uddhav Thackeray government comfortably won Saturday’s floor test with the support of 169 legislators, 24 above the majority mark of 145, shortly after the BJP walked out of the Assembly raising procedural issues.

Having crossed the first hurdle, the Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress coalition will now have to elect the Speaker at a rare sitting of the House on Sunday. Congress member Nana Patole, a former Lok Sabha member who quit the BJP because of differences with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is the ruling coalition’s candidate for Speaker.

The BJP, which will get another opportunity to test the government’s majority during the Speaker’s election, has fielded Kisan S Kathore. Saturday’s vote saw four abstentions: by the two All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen members and the lone CPM and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena members.

The ruling coalition, which has 154 members of its own in the House of 288, received support from several Independents and smaller parties, dashing the 105-strong BJP’s hopes of restricting the margin to a minimum. Chief minister Uddhav Thackeray will now have little worry about the stability of his government.

The BJP’s House leader, former chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, questioned the change of pro-tem Speaker for the floor test.

While governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari had initially nominated BJP member Kalidas Kolambkar, he was later replaced by the NCP’s Dilip Walse Patil. This was because the BJP government had resigned after the Supreme Court ordered a floor test, giving its successor the right to nominate its own pro-tem Speaker.

Fadnavis also objected to many of the members taking the oath in the name of social and political icons and party chiefs instead of the stipulated “Constitution or God”, and argued that the process was invalid.

He also questioned the holding of the floor test before the election of the Speaker, describing this as a violation of the constitutional scheme. He said the BJP would write to the governor to annul the entire process.

Uddhav, however, swiftly turned the procedural objection into an emotive issue, asking since when had invoking Shivaji’s name become a crime in Maharashtra. Before taking his oath on Thursday, Uddhav had said in Marathi: “Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj vandan karun.”

After winning the trust vote on Saturday, he said: “If that is a crime, I will commit this crime again and again.”

Some others who had taken the oath of office along with Uddhav at Shivaji Park on Thursday too had invoked icons such as B R Ambedkar and Jyotiba Phule, in addition to their political bosses Sharad Pawar and Sonia Gandhi. The BJP believes this was a violation grave enough to render the oath-taking invalid.

However, the BJP seems to have woken up a little late since the trend had already been witnessed in the Lok Sabha during the swearing-in of the newly elected members in June this year.

It was the BJP members who had started the “violations”, which almost triggered a war of slogans despite repeated pleas from the Chair.

While chants of “Modi, Modi” had erupted every now and then, slogans such as “Jai Sri Ram” and “Bharat Mata ki jai” had continued throughout the swearing-in.

Trinamul members had countered the BJP’s sloganeering with “Jai Bangla, jai Mamata, jai Kali”, while some Muslim members had responded to the relentless “Jai Shri Ram” chants by invoking “Allah”, “Bhim” and “Bismillah”.

A Biju Janata Dal member had ended his oath with “Jai Jagannath, jai Odisha, jai Naveen, vande Utkal janani”.

Pragya Singh Thakur, BJP member and terror accused, had created a flutter by adding her guru’s name to hers while taking the oath, prompting the pro-tem Speaker to interrupt her. “Pragya Singh Swami Purna Chetanand Avdheshanand Giri” is how she had introduced herself.

Another BJP member, Shantanu Thakur, wanted to take the oath in the name of Purnabrahma Harichand, who he said was his God.

If all this didn’t prompt the President or the Lok Sabha Speaker to declare the oaths invalid, it would now be difficult to explain how invoking Shivaji, Phule or Ambedkar merited the governor nullifying the Maharashtra swearing-ins.

Uddhav, however, will need to do some fine balancing while allotting the ministerial portfolios.

While the issue of Ajit Pawar becoming deputy chief minister remains a concern, the NCP has demanded both the key departments of home and finance.

The Congress has set its sights on power, revenue, education and rural development, leaving the public works department and urban development for the Sena.

https://www.telegraphindia.com/india/uddhav-thackeray-sails-through-maharashtra-floor-test/cid/1723297?ref=top-stories_home-template

The Telegraph – Every government has enormous power to harm the people

However big a majority a government is voted in with, it does not come with a right to make mistakes

Ashok V Desai

Op/Ed 05 November 2019. Pranab Mukherjee and Manmohan Singh were loyal servants of the Congress for many years. I had a close view of the latter and a rather distant view of the former during the two years I spent as chief consultant in the finance ministry.

Mukherjee was deputy chairman of the Planning Commission, and planning was virtually dead at that time: the economic crisis required day-to-day handling that Manmohan Singh did because of his office, which controlled fiscal, monetary and external economic policy.

My recollection is limited to Pranab Mukherjee’s pronounced tenor voice, rather like Montek Singh Ahluwalia’s. He and Manmohan Singh were mutually well behaved in the few meetings where I saw them together, so I had no reason to doubt that their relationship was anything but cordial.

I was recently jolted out of my ignorance by Puja Mehra’s detailed description of Mukherjee and Singh’s pronounced cold war in her book, The Lost Decade 2008-18. Both served the Congress for decades, Singh continues to do so even now. Both rose to the top during the Congress’s halcyon days.

In the British system we inherited, the chief of government is the prime minister, and he who appoints him, so to say, is the president, our equivalent of the British monarch.

The president lives in luxury in the enormous palace once known as Viceregal Lodge. It has enough rooms for him to sleep in a different one every night of the year as long as he takes a 10-day trip away.

There was no prime minister during British days, so when Nehru arrived to head the first government of independent India, he was homeless. He took over Flagstaff House, the mansion of the commander-in-chief; though not nearly so sprawling as Viceregal Lodge, it had beautiful rooms spread along balconies which looked out on to a lovely garden.

But when he died, the Congress turned Flagstaff House into a museum, which it continues to be even under Bharatiya Janata Party rule, and Nehru’s descendant prime minister, Indira Gandhi, took over the entire Race Course Road, thus putting an end to the wonderful British sport of watching horses gallop and betting on winners and just-losers.

She expelled the horses, but she could not eliminate the punters. They continued to meet at the race course, listen to commentary on races in Mumbai, Calcutta and Chennai and bet on them. Once I was passing the race course and heard excited crowds cheering on the horses.

So I went in and sat down in the pavilion, waiting for the horses to run by me. None did; soon, the commentary too stopped. That is when I learnt the secret rendezvous of national punters. But before long, the prime minister, too, found it out, and stopped the betting conclaves.

When Narendra Modi won, he could not bear the thought of working at the desk or sleeping on the bed of those secular Congress prime ministers. There were rumours that he would move to a new headquarters.

There is an enormous complex being built not too far away from the race course, and he may eventually move there. But for now, he too has appropriated Race Course Road; instead of No. 7, however, he lives in No. 5.

Anyway, Manmohan Singh was the choice of Sonia Gandhi for prime ministership, and Pranab Mukherjee had to be content with various other ministries. So what he did was play pranks to annoy the prime minister.

The purchase of Hutchison Essar by Vodafone International Holdings took place abroad and was therefore not taxable under Indian law as it stood then; Mukherjee made a retrospective amendment to make it taxable.

P Chidambaram, his predecessor in the finance ministry, had made all the preparations for the goods and services tax; Mukherjee failed to get it through. He dithered on bank consolidation; the interminable non-performing assets crisis is due to corporate loans given by government banks when Mukherjee was finance minister.

He went on running large fiscal deficits long after the 2008 crisis had been overcome.

In sum, he sabotaged the economic policies Manmohan Singh wanted to pursue, whether because he was an old-style Congress socialist, or because he resented the elevation to prime ministership of his junior, Manmohan Singh, whom he had made governor of the Reserve Bank of India in the 1980s when he was finance minister.

That was the misfortune of the Congress government; it lost power in 2014.

Demonetization was an ill-conceived mess, so it is not surprising that no one has taken responsibility for it. But its announcement speaks for itself.

On the evening of 08 November 2016, the prime minister made an unannounced speech on television; he announced demonetization of high-value notes on three grounds: Pakistan printed Indian notes to finance the terrorists it sent to India, bribes were paid in cash, and smugglers (hawala traders) used cash.

But there were also some honest Indians; how was their cash to be protected? They could go and convert it into new notes in banks, except that banks were ordered to be closed the next day, and they had not been warned of demonetization, so when they opened, they did not have enough cash. Their ATMs stopped working.

And how much loss did the holders of black money suffer from the colossal punishment of cash holders? Only notes worth Rs 107 billion were not converted out of the total Rs 15 trillion issued, 0.7 per cent, they may have been black money, or their holders were not able to rush to banks in time.

Urjit Patel, the then RBI governor, never said a word about demonetization. But the crash of the banking system spoke for him, that the RBI had no clue about demonetization. He would never have wanted to be a part of the operation if he had had the choice. And he, like his predecessor, was got rid of by the Delhi government.

These were not the only errors of the present government; the introduction of the GST dragged out, and eventually landed us with a messy, complicated tax and collection structure. Farmers’ suicides and agitations show a serious problem, but the government has not even begun to resolve it.

These are some of the stories related by Puja Mehra in her highly readable book. It reads like journalism; but there is serious work behind it, as proved by over 700 endnotes. Maybe she will receive a spicy reply from the chief economic adviser in his next economic survey; more likely, it will go unanswered.

A reply would do nothing to ameliorate the sufferings that the people have gone through; rather than think of a reply, one wishes the government learnt not to make such heartless mistakes. Every government has enormous power to harm people; that is why our government has had elaborate mechanisms to prevent harm.

They have become moribund under this government; they need to be revived. Democracy is supposed to punish bad governments by voting them out. But that takes too long; however big a majority a government is voted in with, it does not come with a right to make mistakes.

https://www.telegraphindia.com/opinion/every-government-has-enormous-power-to-harm-the-people/cid/1716841?ref=trending_home-template

The Telegraph – Sikh separatists feature in Pakistan’s video on Kartarpur

The video featured Damdami Taksal chief Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and his military adviser Shabeg Singh, who were kiled in Operation Blue Star

Lahore – Panjab – India, 06 November 2019. Three Sikh separatist leaders, including Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and his military adviser Shabeg Singh, who were killed during the Operation Blue Star in 1984 have featured in an official video released by the Pakistan government on the Kartarpur corridor, triggering a controversy.

The video was released on Monday just days ahead of the inauguration ceremony of the much-awaited corridor, which will connect the Dera Baba Nanak shrine in India’s Punjab with Darbar Sahib at Kartarpur in Pakistan, just 4 kilometres from the International Border.

The video also showed a poster by a banned pro-Khalistani group, Sikhs for Justice, which is pushing for Sikh Referendum 2020 as part of its separatist agenda.

Bhindranwale was the head of Sikh religious sect Damdami Taksal. He was killed by the security forces in the Operation Blue Star in 1984. He is alleged to be the mascot of the Khalistan movement in which thousands of people were killed.

Shabeg Singh, a general in the Indian army, joined the Khalistani movement in 1984 after he was stripped of his rank and court-martialled on charges of corruption just before his retirement. Singh, believed to be Bhindranwale’s military adviser, was also killed in the operation.

During the Kartarpur corridor talks, India had conveyed its strong concerns to Pakistan over the presence of a leading Khalistani separatist in a committee appointed by Islamabad on the project.

Notwithstanding a chill in bilateral ties over Kashmir, Pakistan and India after tough negotiations signed a landmark agreement last week to operationalise the historic Kartarpur Corridor to allow Indian Sikh pilgrims to visit the holy Darbar Sahib in Pakistan.

The two countries decided that 5,000 pilgrims can visit the shrine everyday and that additional pilgrims will be allowed on special occasions, subject to capacity expansion of facilities by the Pakistani side.

India and Pakistan have also decided that the corridor will be operational through the year and seven days a week and that pilgrims, except kids and elderly persons, will have a choice to visit it as individuals or in groups.

https://www.telegraphindia.com/india/sikh-separatists-feature-in-pakistan-s-video-on-kartarpur/cid/1717345

The Telegraph – MEPs’ visit to Kashmir: Modi’s assault on the sovereignty of Parliament

While opening Kashmir’s doors to international evaluators, he has chosen to deny this right to Indian party leaders

Editorial Board

Kolkata – West Bengal – India, 31 October 2019. The veneration of guests is an Indian tradition. But Narendra Modi and his government seem to have taken the mantra of ‘atithi devo bhava’ a bit too much to heart. Twenty Over 20 members of the European Parliament, the bunch was carefully pruned to include mainly right-wingers, had been invited to Kashmir to assess the situation on the ground.

The guests, evidently, have reciprocated the warmth of the hosts, parroting the Centre’s rhetoric in spite of the terror attack that took the lives of migrant labourers from Bengal. The issue, though, is not about such orchestrated harmony. The blatant double standards adopted by the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government as well as its convoluted strategy on a region as sensitive as Kashmir merits serious examination.

By extending an invitation to an unofficial delegation of foreign dignitaries, a professed ‘international business broker’ was given precedence over the external affairs ministry in arranging the meeting, Mr Modi, it can be argued, has contradicted his assertion that developments in Kashmir are an internal matter only. If this was indeed the case, what was the need for an assessment from visitors from Europe?

Opening up an internal matter to the scrutiny of lawmakers from the Continent could, in fact, strengthen the shrill voices demanding international arbitration on restive Kashmir. Could the BJP’s capitulation be attributed to the hostile international reactions to the prolonged lockdown in the Valley?

After all, the human rights situation in Kashmir had made it to Congressional hearings in the United States of America.

Moreover, a fair appraisal of the prevailing situation must include the people of Kashmir as a stakeholder in the dialogue. Interestingly, the invitation to a Liberal Democrat lawmaker was withdrawn when he insisted upon his right to engage freely in Kashmir.

What is unacceptable and shocking is that while opening Kashmir’s doors to international evaluators, Mr Modi has chosen to deny this fundamental right to leaders of Indian political parties. Should not this hypocrisy be seen as an assault on the sovereignty of Parliament, the repository of the will of a democratic people?

This discrimination is, in fact, worthy of legal scrutiny. Each of these transgressions on the part of an elected government is indicative of an inertia in policy. This is only to be expected when narrow ideology begins to colour the strategic vision. The BJP is not being careful with its narrative on Kashmir. That could explain this public relations disaster.

https://www.telegraphindia.com/opinion/european-parliament-members-visit-to-kashmir-modi-s-assault-on-the-sovereignty-of-parliament/cid/1715670?ref=top-stories_home-template

The Telegraph – Mob murders by any name

Bhagwat’s focus on the Western origin of the concept of lynching deftly skirts the fact of growing hate crimes in recent times

By the Editorial Board

Op/Ed, 12 October 2019. Naming is blaming, or even shaming, according to the chief of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, Mohan Bhagwat.

Speaking on the RSS’s foundation day in Nagpur, Mr Bhagwat deplored the grafting of Western concepts onto the expanding Indian practice of mob-killing. It is unacceptable to use the word, ‘lynching’, for what he sees from his cloudy heights of morality just as ‘isolated incidents of violence’.

This suggests that the RSS and its ideological cohorts are not yet satisfied with the growth in the number of mob-murders of members of the minority community, underprivileged castes and other vulnerable, solitary beings perceived as deviant, whether in gender orientation or mental stability.

These killings become branded by the Western word, ‘lynching’, so that they can be wielded to shame India and Hindu society, and cause divisions in the diverse society that the RSS loves.

Mr Bhagwat’s point is well taken. Had the convicted mob-killers of Alimuddin Ansari ‘lynched’ the coal trader last year under the alibi that Ansari was transporting beef, the Union minister of state for civil aviation would not have garlanded them. That he did garland them proves the unmistakable Indian flavour of their killing.

The minister reportedly also told the BBC that he and the Bharatiya Janata Party were paying for their legal expenses.

Given the practised deftness of such incidents, there is no need to defame Hindu society with Western nomenclatures: lynching is the name of things that happen in other countries, or among other religions, as Mr Bhagwat proclaimed, they are not part of this country’s traditions.

Instead, it is important to get the name right for the killings being made traditional in recent times. Should these just be called hate crimes? Or would that make Mr Bhagwat anxious to protest his love for the diverse populations of this country?

Love must be clouding his vision, rose-tinted glasses are a Western notion too, more’s the pity, for the ‘isolated’ incidents of violence he has deigned to notice amount to the steepest rise in mob-killings since 2016.

According to Amnesty International India’s interactive tracker, from January to June this year, 181 incidents of alleged hate crimes have been recorded, with the greatest number of mob-killings presumably being caused by the fact that the victims were Dalit, with the second highest number of victims being from the largest minority community.

Members of other minority groups, of caste, community, and gender, make up the rest of the targets. Mr Bhagwat is so upset about improper naming that the fact that innocent individuals are being killed by mobs who have nothing to do with the dispensation of justice in court seems to have escaped him.

He is busy blaming those who shame Hindu society by using Western names for Indian killings, yet he cannot acknowledge that mob-killing is the most damning attribute of any society. He can barely see it, after all.

https://www.telegraphindia.com/opinion/mob-murders-by-any-name/cid/1710985?ref=trending_home-template

The Telegraph – Teachers stand up when others don’t

More than 300 teachers and students protest against a police raid at Delhi University associate professor Hany Babu MT’s house in connection with the 2017 Elgaar Parishad case

Pheroze L Vincent and Basant Kumar Mohanty

New Delhi – India, 03 October 2019. When almost every institution in the country has been accused of turning a deaf ear to cries of assault on civil liberties or dragging feet on taking swift action, academia is emerging as the principal voice of non-conformity that is unafraid of speaking out.

A police raid last month on Delhi University associate professor Hany Babu M.T. has served as a touchstone: while the political mainstream has largely remained muted, several teachers and students in multiple universities have stepped forward to condemn the swoop.

Pune police searched Babu’s Noida home on September 10 in connection with the 2017 Elgaar Parishad case, which has led 10 social activists to be lodged in prison for over a year without trial.

An Elgaar Parishad meeting by Ambedkarites in Pune on December 31, 2017, meant to commemorate the second centenary of the Battle of Koregaon against the Peshwa’s army, is being probed for alleged Maoist links, incitement of the violence that followed and a plot to attack the Prime Minister’s rallies.

Babu, who teaches English and fights for the rights of the downtrodden, told The Telegraph on Wednesday that the police team took away his computer hard disk and also changed his email password without telling him the new one, denying him access to the worksheets he had prepared for students and other materials.

“I am unable to do my duty because I have no access to my computer and email. I had saved (in the computer) the worksheets I had prepared for students over the years. I had also saved notes and a lot of materials,” Babu said.

Although almost the entire Opposition had protested when sedition cases were registered against several Jawaharlal Nehru University students in 2016, their response to the Pune case has been milder.

Few parties apart from the CPM have spoken up against the raid on Babu who, besides his work on linguistics, is known for his activism against caste discrimination and his campaign for more importance to be granted to Indian languages.

Teachers and students have, however, steadfastly stood by him. On September 11, a day after the raid, more than 300 teachers and students protested against the swoop.

The teachers’ associations at DU, JNU, Jamia Millia Islamia, Hyderabad Central University and English and Foreign Language University have termed the crackdown on Babu an attack on academic freedom.

Students’ outfits, including the Birsa Ambedkar Phule Students Association that is active in JNU and works for social justice, and the Ambedkar Students Association have demanded the return of Babu’s belongings.

Teachers and students of DU and a few other universities have started a signature campaign against the police action on Babu.

Satish Deshpande, who teaches sociology at DU, said the government had created a climate of fear by cracking down on academic freedom. “Any kind of disagreement is being branded as anti-national. This is part of the process of spreading a climate of fear. This is against academic freedom,” he said.

According to Babu, the police did not disclose why his house was being raided. “They said you are a suspect in connection with the Elgar Parishad meeting before the Bhima Koregaon incident. I am not an accused in any case. I asked for copies of the material I had in my computer. They did not allow,” Babu said.

Uday Kumar, a faculty member at JNU, said academics could not work freely in an environment in which a teacher was denied access to his research notes and worksheets.

“The fact that the police can raid the house of a teacher without any evidence and case is antithetical to basic security that professional academics need. This is intimidation,” Kumar said.

The Birsa Ambedkar Phule Students Association said in a statement that Babu was being targeted by the police because he was a votary of social justice, which was not to the liking of the RSS and the BJP.

“We would like to appeal to anti-caste organisations and individuals to resist this Brahminical government, which without any ethics is doing anything and is trying to implement codes of Manusmriti,” the association said in a statement.

When academics had begun to speak out last month, DU teachers’ association president Rajib Ray had told The Telegraph: “Even during the freedom struggle and the Emergency, academics were at the forefront in speaking out against what was wrong. This is the trend the world over. That’s what universities are made for.”

Last year, Ray had led the battle against an attempt to bring DU teachers under the Essential Services Maintenance Act and the Central Civil Services rules, which prohibit strikes and participation in political associations and restrict what employees can write or speak. Some 48 JNU teachers are facing action for joining a strike against these recently imposed norms.

Babu had been part of the Committee for Defence and Release of G.N. Saibaba, a suspended DU professor serving a life sentence in Nagpur for his alleged links with the banned CPI Maoist.

“Hany Babu was a regular teacher and a defender of democratic rights who has not been charged with any crime,” JNU teachers’ association president Atul Sood said. “You make yourself vulnerable the moment you express yourself. Even if we speak out against the new education policy, we can come under the scanner.”

While many teachers shared the statements of their respective unions on social media — a cloak to shield them from direct involvement — eight of Babu’s English department colleagues put their names to a statement.

The statement said they were “shocked and outraged” at “the invasion of the privacy of an individual and his family without any legal document, and further, his undue intimidation and seizing from his home his precious teaching and research material….”

One of them, associate professor Prasanta Chakravarty, was a victim of an attack by the RSS-backed Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad on a students’ rally that was protesting violence by the group at Ramjas College in 2017.

Hundreds had then joined a rally in solidarity with Chakravarty and others who had been injured in the attack, and many more signed petitions demanding justice for him.

“That case is still on, and there has been a cover-up. In this (Pune) case they are trying to frame him (Babu),” Chakravarty told this newspaper.

“Even within the academic fraternity I think many people Left of the Centre had hoped the (Lok Sabha) election results would be different. Now there is a sense of fear. Our names are now in newspapers, and… we don’t know what can happen.”

Chakravarty added: “There are 21 colleagues in our department and only eight of us have signed the statement, which is very plain and not radical. It’s not that the others are Right wing, but people have become cautious.”

The police have seized two booklets of the Saibaba defence committee, N. Venugopal’s book Understanding Maoists, and From Varna to Jati – Political Economy of Caste in Indian Social Formation, the MPhil dissertation of Y. Naveen Babu, a Maoist killed by the police in 2000. None of these publications are banned.

“The texts we teach includes books like Such a Long Journey (by Rohinton Mistry), which was removed from Mumbai University’s syllabus because of complaints against its references to Bal Thackeray,” St Stephen’s College assistant professor Ashley N.P. said.

“The book actually is most scathing against the Congress and makes Indira Gandhi look like a thug. This raid or seizure of these books from Hany Babu goes against the common sense that prevails in the humanities and social sciences fraternity.”

https://www.telegraphindia.com/india/teachers-stand-up-when-others-dont/cid/1709556?ref=top-stories_home-template

The Telegraph – A new disorder: Global economic multilateralism at an inflection point

French president Emmanuel Macron tried to manage the contradictions, but nothing of substance was achieved in Biarritz

Harsh V Pant

Biarritz – Pays Basque – France, 24 September 2019. While the G-7 summit in Biarritz was nowhere near as disastrous as the previous one in Quebec, the one message that emanated out of it was not lost on anyone: present-day global order is defined by a fundamental disorder.

The French president, Emmanuel Macron, tried his best to manage the contradictions but nothing of substance could be achieved in Biarritz. In fact, no statement was issued at the end of the summit to avoid the embarrassment of Quebec. Donald Trump promptly went back on the joint communique the minute he left Canada.

Where Macron was hoping he might have succeeded was in underlining the need for a US-Iran rapprochement. His surprise invitation to the Iranian foreign minister to visit France was aimed at nudging Washington and Tehran to arrive at a compromise.

Macron suggested that Trump and Rouhani could meet within weeks in hopes of saving the 2015 nuclear deal that Tehran had struck with world powers as part of which Iran agreed to limit its enrichment of uranium in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions.

The Trump administration had withdrawn from the deal last year. While accepting that inviting M Javad Zarif, the Iranian foreign minister, to the summit as a surprise guest was a risky diplomatic manoeuvre, he argued that it had helped create “the possible conditions of a useful meeting”.

Trump, too, signalled his readiness to meet Iran’s president under the right circumstances. But Hassan Rouhani back-pedalled on possible talks with Trump, saying that the US president must first lift sanctions imposed on Tehran.

Iran has already ceased to abide by certain parts of the nuclear deal and is threatening to increase its uranium enrichment unless the remaining signatories to the deal, Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the European Union, provide economic relief from the sanctions.

Meanwhile, the United States of America has imposed its first-ever sanctions against Iran’s space agency, accusing it of disguising a missile programme.

The other issue which is challenging Western cohesion is the Russia question. Trump mentioned that he was inclined to invite Russia to next year’s G-7 summit, which will be held in the USA, arguing that it’s better to have Russia “in the tent” than outside it.

Moscow was shunted out of G-8 in 2014 after the Russian annexation of Crimea. The Europeans, barring the Italians, do not seem inclined to support this move. The G-7, according to the Europeans, is a group underpinned by the ethos of liberal democracy. So unless something dramatic happens over the next few months, this fault line will only get exacerbated and next year’s G-7 might be a huge casualty.

And then there is the China conundrum. After hinting that a thaw in the trade war between China and the US might be in the offing, Trump upped the ante by announcing new tariffs on China. The European economies are feeling the pinch of the US-China trade conflict much like the rest of the world and would like an early end to their economic troubles.

But that doesn’t seem to be Trump’s immediate priority. He is suggesting that he could take even more drastic action to crack down on China’s trade practices if he wins the re-election.

Global economic multilateralism, which was largely a West European initiative in the mid-1970s, underwritten by America’s political, military and economic prowess, stands at an inflection point today. It is being challenged by national populism, the most visible manifestations of which are Trump’s America and Boris Johnson’s United Kingdom.

China’s rise is challenging the underpinnings of the global economic order while the US’s unwillingness to underwrite this order is testing the capabilities of western European powers.

It, therefore, becomes imperative for countries like India to promote a new global multilateral order that takes into account contemporary realities.

https://www.telegraphindia.com/opinion/a-new-disorder-global-economic-multilateralism-at-an-inflection-point/cid/1707039?ref=trending_home-template

The Telegraph – Very sorry: Archbishop of Canterbury

He prostrated himself before the Jallianwala Bagh memorial and uttered the words “very sorry” for the massacre of 1919

Amit Roy

London – UK, 11 September 2019. The Most Reverend Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, prostrated himself before the Jallianwala Bagh memorial in Amritsar on Tuesday and uttered the words “very sorry” .

Welby prayed at the site of the massacre and went further than the Queen, David Cameron or Theresa May with his carefully constructed choice of words.

“I have no status to apologise on behalf of the UK, its government or its history. But I am personally very sorry for this terrible atrocity,” the Archbishop said in his pastoral address.

He began his address by saying: “I feel a deep sense of grief, having visited the site of the horrific Jallianwala Bagh Massacre today in Amritsar, where a great number of Sikhs, as well as Hindus, Muslims and Christians, were shot dead by British troops in 1919.”

The full text of Welby’s statement has been put out by Lambeth Palace, the official London residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The Archbishop’s note in the visitor’s book in Amritsar had also been well thought-out: “It is deeply humbling and provokes feelings of profound shame to visit this place that witnessed such atrocities hundred years ago.

“My first response is to pray for healing of relatives, of descendants, of our relationships with India and its wonderful people. But, that prayer renews in me a desire to pray and act so that together we may learn from history, root out hatred, promote reconciliation and globally seek the common good.”

Reaction in the UK, where many campaigners have been pushing for a full apology, was immediately generous.

An assessment that a kind of Rubicon had been crossed came from Dr Kim Wagner, senior lecturer in British Imperial History at Queen Mary University of London and the author of Amritsar 1919: An Empire of Fear and the Making of a Massacre.

“This is quite an amazing gesture,” Wagner told The Telegraph. “Although Welby makes it clear that he is not acting in an official political capacity, his position does mean that this apology and public act of penitence carries real weight. I suspect this will have a significant impact and be well-received by many people, both in India and in the UK.”

His book reveals that Welby is following in the footsteps of the missionary C F Andrews, Mahatma Gandhi’s close friend, who was “one of the first Englishmen to apologise while he was gathering information on the massacre and oppression in Punjab for the Congress inquiry in 1919”.

But that was then and this is now when a number of MPs, not all Indian-origin, are pressing the British government for a full apology.

Tory peer Jitesh Gadhia said: “The Archbishop has shown considerable humility and contrition in visiting Amritsar and prostrating in front of the Jallianwala Bagh memorial, expressing his regret and seeking forgiveness as a religious leader.

“Whilst the Archbishop does not represent the UK government, it is welcome that a national figure of his stature has stated how ashamed and sorry he is for the heinous crime committed 100 years ago.

“I would welcome the opportunity to discuss with the Archbishop how the UK schools’ curriculum can reflect upon and draw lessons from such historic events, particularly as we are now both vibrant multicultural democracies.”

The Church Times has spoken to Preet Kaur Gill, Labour MP for Birmingham Edgbaston and the first female Sikh MP, who told the paper she had been “very moved” by the Archbishop’s words.

She said: “The Archbishop’s message, that an apology alone is not enough to reckon with the deep scars riven by Britain’s colonial past, is welcome. This acknowledgement of the need for contrition is especially powerful in the context of the UK government’s refusal to formally apologise for Colonel Dyer’s actions last year.”

She added she was “very grateful for his leadership, in asking that we learn from one another and find commonality between faiths in an era of division”.

Virendra Sharma, Labour MP for Ealing Southall who secured a parliamentary debate on Jallianwala Bagh in the summer, said that it was “heartening” to see the Archbishop “uttering such words of humility and humanity. The Jallianwala Bagh massacre represented the turning point in India. From then on, the Empire was seen only as harsh, brutal and repressive”.

He called for “an official government apology which sets the tone for a UK that understands our responsibilities stemming from empire and colonialism”, and a memorial in London, “not just to the victims of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre, but to all the victims of colonialism, and one that teaches future generations about the horrors of empire”.

The only discordant note was struck by historian Zareer Masani: “Rank hypocrisy and opportunism, pandering to Indian chauvinism, without a word about India’s record trampling human rights today….”

As Prime Ministers, Theresa May had expressed “deep regret” while David Cameron called the massacre a “deeply shameful event”.

In 1997, the Queen had described the massacre as “a distressing example” and added “but history cannot be rewritten…”.

The British Foreign Office will probably be secretly glad that Welby has used the words, “very sorry”, which the government has been wary of uttering for fear they might encourage claims for compensation.

https://www.telegraphindia.com/india/very-sorry-archbishop-of-canterbury/cid/1704033?ref=top-stories_home-template

The Telegraph – As fear grips Kashmir, newspapers turn voice of government

I don’t want to be a hero, says Kashmir editor

Muzaffar Raina

Srinagar – Jammu & Kashmir – India, 23 August 2019. The clampdown has forced the Valley’s newspapers to fall in line, their pages resembling government bulletins, reflecting the fear that has gripped the region.

The official versions of events receive wide publicity without questions being asked about their credibility.

Stories of sufferings and outrage find little space. Articles by writers sympathetic to the pro-independence cause have disappeared.

Traditionally, reports of rights violations by the security forces have been high on Valley newspapers’ priorities as they peddled a “pro-Kashmir” narrative. During every previous agitation, their tone only got shriller.

Not this time, though. There has been little or no criticism of the Centre’s move to abrogate the state’s special status, as reflected in Article 370 which most of the newspapers have defended fiercely in the past.

The editorials reflect anything but the ground situation. Several local newspapers have without a break carried as their lead story the evening media briefing by the government, inevitably painting a rosy picture of the situation.

A leading newspaper ran stories on health on two opinion pages on a single day.

“We are in the middle of an avalanche and I don’t want to be a hero,” the editor of an English periodical said, requesting anonymity.

“Three former chief ministers, along with many of their former ministerial colleagues, are in jail or under house arrest and a fourth is not being allowed to enter the state. If they (the government) have not spared them, will they spare us?”

Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti have been jailed while Farooq Abdullah is under house arrest. Ghulam Nabi Azad was twice “deported” in a fortnight after arriving in the state.

The Telegraph spoke to the editors of four newspapers and some local reporters, all but one among whom claimed there was an official gag on reporting.

One editor said the government had subtly told the media to “behave” but did not specify whether he was one of those who received the advisory. Because of the information blockade, officials could not be reached to verify the claim.

It looks more likely that the local media have succumbed to the general atmosphere of fear that had gripped Kashmir even before the revocation of its special status and has only intensified since.

“I contacted top government officers to find out whether there was any line they wanted us to toe. The officers told me they were as clueless as we were,” an editor and member of the Kashmir Editor’s Guild said.

Policy decisions about Kashmir are being taken at the highest level of the central government, and the state bureaucracy is religiously following the orders.

A correspondent with a leading daily said the reporters could see a lot of “stories” unfolding around them but could only watch helplessly.

“The critical pieces (against the government), if any, come from the news agencies rather than the (newspaper) reporters. We are being cautious. Our editor told us our very survival was under threat,” he said.

The local media has been hit like never before, with some newspapers having suspended publication altogether while others, including the largest circulated Greater Kashmir, reducing their number of pages.

On some days, they too suspend publication; on some others, they bring out only four pages against the earlier 12 or 16.

Anger is simmering at the one-sided coverage, and some national correspondents were roughed up recently. Journalists working for the local media say they too dread going out, fearing a possible backlash.

The government had clamped down on a section of the media ahead of the August 5 decision to scrap the state’s special status. This was followed by a suspension of Internet, mobile and landline services, making it difficult for local newspapers to operate.

In the weeks ahead of the decision, the National Investigation Agency had summoned and questioned Fayaz Kaloo and Haji Hayat, the editors of Greater Kashmir and the Kashmir Reader, at its Delhi headquarters over their publications’ reporting and alleged terror funding.

Geelani Qadri, editor of the Urdu daily Afaaq, was briefly arrested in a three-decade-old case.

A correspondent with the Kashmir Observer, a daily, too faced NIA questioning for interviewing an over-ground woman separatist leader.

Another correspondent with an English daily was arrested last week in south Kashmir and spent a day in a lock-up. Aasif Sultan, a correspondent with Narrator, a monthly, has been behind bars for months.

https://www.telegraphindia.com/india/as-fear-grips-kashmir-newspapers-turn-voice-of-government/cid/1699625?ref=top-stories_home-template

The Telegraph – Tracking Kashmir: What happened while you were sleeping

Omar and Mehbooba under house arrest, Section 144 in Srinagar, restrictions in other areas

The Telegraph and PTI

Srinagar – Jammu & Kashmir/New Delhi – India, 05 August 2019. A raft of house arrests and restrictions have been put in place since Sunday night. On Monday morning, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to hold a cabinet meeting, which is generally scheduled on Tuesdays.

Since Sunday night, these are the main developments in Kashmir.

Arrest of leaders

Police officers said former chief ministers Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti would not be allowed to move out of their homes as curfew would be imposed in Kashmir at the crack of dawn amid a heightened terror threat and a supposed flare-up of hostilities with Pakistan along the Line of Control (LoC).

Congress leader Usman Majid and CPM MLA M Y Tarigami claimed they were arrested on Sunday night. No official confirmation was available but no denial either.

Omar, who is from the National Conference, tweeted: “I believe I’m being placed under house arrest from midnight tonight & the process has already started for other mainstream leaders. No way of knowing if this is true but if it is then I’ll see all of you on the other side of whatever is in store.”

He wrote: “To the people of Kashmir, we don’t know what is in store for us but I am a firm believer that what ever Almighty Allah has planned it is always for the better, we may not see it now but we must never doubt his ways. Good luck to everyone, stay safe & above all please stay calm.”

Congress leader Shashi Tharoor responded to Omar’s tweet, writing: “You are not alone @OmarAbdullah. Every Indian democrat will stand with the decent mainstream leaders in Kashmir as you face up to whatever the government has in store for our country. Parliament is still in session & our voices will not be stilled.”

He asked: “What is going on in J&K? Why would leaders be arrested overnight while having done no wrong? If Kashmiris are our citizens & their leaders our partners, surely the mainstream ones must be kept on board while we act against terrorists & separatists? If we alienate them, who’s left?”

Mehbooba tweeted: “Hearing reports about internet being snapped soon, including cellular coverage. Curfew passes being issued too. God knows what awaits us tomorrow. It’s going to be a long night.

“In such difficult times, I’d like to assure our people that come what may, we are in this together & will fight it out. Nothing should break our resolve to strive for what’s rightfully ours.”

Mehbooba also wrote: “How ironic that elected representatives like us who fought for peace are under house arrest. The world watches as people & their voices are being muzzled in J&K. The same Kashmir that chose a secular democratic India is facing oppression of unimaginable magnitude. Wake up India.”

Restrictions

Security has been stepped up at vital installations and in sensitive areas. Mobile connectivity and internet services have been suspended.

Officials said restrictions on movement of people under Section 144 would come into force in Srinagar from Sunday mdnight and there would be movement restrictions in other parts of the Kashmir Valley at the crack of dawn too.

There will be a complete bar on holding any public meeting or rallies during the period of operation of the restrictions.

The authorities have imposed night curfew in Kishtwar and Rajouri districts and the Banihal area of Ramban district.

Additional paramilitary forces, which arrived in Kashmir in the past few days, have been deployed across Srinagar and in other vulnerable areas, the officials said.

Riot control vehicles have also been kept on standby in some areas.

Schools and colleges

The Jammu district administration has asked authorities of schools and colleges to remain closed on Monday as precaution, officials said.

“All schools, colleges and academic institutions, both private and government, are advised to remain closed as a measure of caution,” said the letter of the deputy commissioner of Jammu, Sushma Chauhan, on Sunday night.

https://www.telegraphindia.com/india/tracking-kashmir-what-happened-while-you-were-sleeping/cid/1695880?ref=trending_home-template