a.nihil

India

Gone are the days when religious representation in India meant “Ishwar/Isai/Allah” or “Hindu/Muslim bhai bhai”, where textbooks and movies had references to the religious unity encouraged post India's independence. It has been replaced by the sinister saffronized version of the Hindutva, propagated without an end on social media platforms and state approved private media channels. It's hard to believe that in 8 years of the current BJP government the secular ideals the country was built on have been reversed, leaving little room for imagination except for the much exhorted Hindu state. This does not bode well for the Muslims that constitute 14.2% of the Indian population, who have become a involuble scapegoat for the otherization which is the bulwark of the Hindu politics. The Indian state which on paper is not supposed to take any religious form is being splintered into an India that has to identify with its Hinduness, a doctrine that has seeped into the unconscious of the people, ripping apart the tender filaments of the social fabric of the country resulting in unnecessary bloodshed and generations of shame. On this day of Eid, one can only pray that the future of this country's minorities are not resorted to an Untermensch status in ghettoes and camps. A new inclusive political thought that is imaginative than the boring, fascist Hindu terror that is the flavor of the season is something to hope for.

#India #Hindutva #Eid

fashionista

PM Narendra Modi with each passing day reminds me of Ben Kingsley's decoy Mandarin in Iron Man 3, who projected as an ultimate super-villain, is revealed to be a farcical character hiding behind a veneer of aura and evil. 7 years ago it was hard to imagine that we'd have a Prime Minister who attends photo-ops featuring grand temples and Brahminical rituals, projecting himself as a super sage statesman. His foot soldiers laud every decision of his historic, putting the very idea of history in crisis across the country. The reality is that there's not a single policy decision of Mr. Modi that sticks in public memory, except for the ones brimming with subliminal hate and enforced with sheer brute force.

Beneath all this veneer, Modi is a frail man with the cracks showing when his job requires him to deliver full accountability. Last year during the COVID crisis or this year during the second wave, his total media presence had been conspicuous. He came from the woodwork only to do some damage control, convincing the world that his acumen has saved the country. Meanwhile, thousands of people died across the country without access to hospital beds, care, and oxygen.

Modi's true power within the country comes from his party's careful control of the media. He is in essence a true media dictator, one fabricated in the minds of the people who look at the news for information. The real Modi is never available for a freewheeling conversation, in the last seven years there hasn't been a single instance of him giving an unfabricated press conference. Like the Mandarin, Mr. Modi might as well be a weakling in the hierarchy of power, whose only ploy to hold on to his position is his narcissistic cult of personality that he carefully curates.

In case of a real crisis or call for accountability, one will find him going the path of Saddam Hussein, hiding in a small cave, a weak man who will shy away from any questions. Until that moment comes we are to be afraid of Mr. Modi the influencer, whose social feeds only motivate us to “like” him.

#Modi #India #democracy

The nation celebrates it's 74th Independence day from the British colonizers, giving geographic credibility to a country that has since been India. The British have left but times have ensured that we have new slavemasters that get their subjects high on the attack of nationalism and religious divisions. Why should a country be nationalistic when there's no perceived threats to its sovereignty?

Under the watch of the Modi government there's a constant paranoia that the idea of India is under great threat, from enemies largely manufactured and imaginary. There's a need to avenge for the Muslim past and freedom from 60 years of Congress misrule, but these are bogeymen to cover up the agenda to have an unfettered BJP ruled Hindu state.

Our new colonizers look and talk like us, camouflaging hidden agendas to maim and control. We need to remind ourselves that hard earned freedom from the British is easy to vanquish to the tyranny of home brewed thought systems. Are we citizens free in this New India being envisioned? Except for a privileged few the answer is a resounding no – the foundations for a new independence movement should be based on the problems of the present. Let's not harp over a long gone past and fight the monsters from within.

#India #freedom

Since the start of the Covid pandemic, the Indian government's missives contained a large number of war imagery. Doctors and other essential workers became “Covid warriors” and the Indian government embarked on a War on Covid, vaccines became “weapons to defeat the virus” and the virus itself is an “invisible enemy” which the government is fighting on a “war footing”.

The BJP government's fascination for war and war imagery is well documented, first there was the “war on black money” rhetoric used during the enfeebling demonetization, then came “the surgical strikes”, “war-like fortifications” to protect Delhi against protesting farmers. There is almost a perverse affliction with war with the current regime, as it amplifies the power they have over the people without actually having to do nothing. It also satiates its core voter base and the outliers as it shows that the country is finally doing something, war is not a state of inaction but extreme kinesis, it creates an illusion of progress where no progress exists.

Golwalkar, widely regarded as the ideological architect of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh drew inspiration for the Hindu-state from Italian fascism, specifically Mussolini’s organization of fascist paramilitary forces. In comparing the supremacy of Hindus in India to the supremacy of the Aryan race in Hitler’s Germany, Golwalkar wrote, “To keep up the purity of its race and culture, Germany shocked the world by her purging of the country of the Semitic races— the Jews. Race pride at its highest has been manifested here .. a good lesson for us in Hindustan to learn and profit by.”

These ideological roots have permeated into the national discourse where war is used as a euphemism to quell any public backlash. Want to question the government over the vaccine policy? We are in an unofficial state of war, we shouldn't expend energy on finger-pointing right now. The state of war is an excuse to collectivize losses while any good news is because and only because of the Dear Leader, whose kindness brings glory to us Indian people. The Dear Leader is at the same time a master strategist, a shrewd politician, and a saintlike figure. Case in point is the length of his beard which seems to exude an idea of statesmanship without anything concrete to show for it.

War imagery also eliminates any nuance that is required in complex problem-solving. It replaces meticulousness with loud bangs, which becomes rhetoric in itself. By playing the “war” card, the BJP further strengthens its brute force persona popularized by the Uri and Balakot attacks in the past years. It is a reflection of the violence-obsessed society we have become, wherein the fight against real violence we infer imagined massacres. The causalities of this war imagery are however real. It is the people of India, whose orphaned bodies burned to ashes in overworked cemeteries and clogged the Ganga. The government's apathy is visible in the statistical PR exercises it does to save face, not to mention its poor war-waging ability as visible from the haircuts it took with the Chinese confrontation in Eastern Ladakh last year.

The war imagery is a distraction from the larger problem facing India, poor public infrastructure, and a middle-class governmental perspective that views and treats its large swathes of poor sections through its elitist lens and religious nationalism. War imagery is a sign of societal decay – one which relegates intellectual operations to a lower class of thought systems, where being loud is smarter than being smart itself.

#RSS #BJP #India #war #covid

An Idea of India

The news filtering from India leaves me hopeless for a country that I am confused to call mine. Having not lived in India in the last three years, each passing day the country goes farther away from the place of imaginations and dreams. I can understand that this physical untangling with a home country can create a dissonance between perception and reality. When I was in India I experienced the place through my eyes and the media reports acted as an accompaniment to refract experiences through.

Now, living in a country thousands of kilometers away one is left with chaotic tweets and servile media to base one's idea of the country upon, without the tangible element to infer the veracity of information. The internet spaces are polarized by the ruling right and the ever warring Left, with a heavy mix of pseudoscience and the general lackadaisical anything goes attitude that is in political vogue at the moment. Official sources of information have become the “battlefields” of misinformation, a place to use mind-numbing statistical exercises to always show India as the best, the largest and the greatest in the world. It does seem in the past years there has not been a single government initiative that cannot be described by a haloed superlative.

This is not the India I remember, where I had access to books and information that encouraged me to pursue knowledge and ask questions. The issues of superstition and blind religiosity were always around in the family but never overflowing at the cost of education. Now science has been politicized as an object of the West and whatever “Indian culture” is supposed to mean has taken center stage. Family whatsapp forwards are filled with recipes for various Ayurvedic potions and concoctions that are supposed to keep Covid at bay. This is a reflection of a macroscopic trend nationwide. No one questions their efficacy, otherwise wouldn't the rising caseload and deaths be already under control?

There has been a collective amnesia towards logic right in the upper echelons of power in the Indian government that has trickled down into the populace through propaganda and social engineering. Any slight against the dealing of the virus is a warring statement against the country itself, to question is to be unpatriotic, while being a nameless mass is encouraged as the greatest duty one can currently do as a citizen.

It is not ironic that the adherents to the BJP/RSS's idealogy are called bhakts (devotees), reason has been long transplanted with worship and the hard rigor of reasoning filled with the ease of blind faith. Why care to understand science when pseudoscience is much more accessible? The land that has enabled me to read and reason has now been replaced by one that demands silence. This thought system has now permeated across all sections of the Indian population and there is little prospects of things to change.

Countries morph all in character all the time and what is happening to India is an abject denigration that has frayed all the pride and character amassed in the past decades. India is shining, but in the bright flames of uncounted bodies and in the dull orb of a fascist reality whose future horrors I do not wish to imagine.

#India #Covid19 #RSS #fascism #BJP

Rihanna, Greta Thunberg and a few other influential global celebrities put out a tweet calling for attention to the farmers protesting against the New Farm Laws passed in India and the entire BJP/RSS/Indian government propaganda machine comes into power play mode, amplifying the government's POV. The government's statement released on the Ministry of External Affairs twitter handle stated that “facts have to ascertained” before making “sensationalist social media comments..especially when restored to by celebrities..is neither accurate nor responsible”.

One starts to wonder, why do the tweets of a private persons trigger the government of a sovereign nation? What is it that the government fears that simple pointing of a fact culminates in a full fledged propaganda campaign that is ironically hash-tagged #IndiaAgainstPropaganda?

The problem is that of image perception. In India it is easy to silence critics of the BJP government with paid trolls and TV journalists. Coordinated smear campaigns and plain old intimidation work, which makes it easier for the government to control the narrative. But with Rihanna's 100+ million twitter followers it is hard enforce control as it would prompt global scrutiny that the Modi government cannot bully or bulldoze over. The BJP government knows that the easiest way to get out of this soup is to play its favorite the nation is under attack card which has proven its potency in the past years. By making simple criticism an issue of National Security, the BJP government invokes both paranoia and patriotism to deflect the attention of its citizens while muzzling its critics.

Whether it is the near coup attempt in the United States or the actual coup in Myanmar, voicing out one's opinion is a matter collective responsibility that goes beyond the allegiance to a State. The BJP government behaves as if there is nothing that it does that warrants criticism. On paper and in propaganda BJP is the best thing that has happened to India, period. Anyone that criticizes any of its policies or political high-handedness is an anti-national, a comic insinuation when it was first used and now a very valid threat. India is not some kind of magical superpower where everything is hunky-dory, the mythos that the BJP sells is ignorant, egoistic dreaming, a political acid trip for the weak.

For now we found a small opening in BJP's self-inflated armor: relentless international criticism. For a government that is lauding itself to be atmanirbhar (self reliant) it definitely is behaving like a narcissistic lover needing a lot of external appreciation. The country is riled up and that the farmers who are protesting against corporatization of Indian agriculture are seen as terrorists, traitors and every other identifier except as farmers. The way to reverse the narrative for now is to put the focus back on them and deny the narcissist the positive attention they demand.

As for Rihanna, Cheers, I'll drink to that

#FarmersAreIndia #BJP #India #propaganda

Preamble

The 26th of January this year marks the 71st year of the Indian Constitution coming into existence, the longest written document of its kind in the world. For most Indians it is when ceremonial Republic Day Parade takes place on Rajpath before the President of India, showcasing the diversity of India's cultural and military heritage. The unfurling of the Indian flag signifies that the nation is already independent, followed by the President's speech to the nation.

All this tradition to mark that India is a sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic republic, assuring its citizens justice, equality and liberty, and endeavours to promote fraternity. Certain of these adjectives are losing meaning in today's New India, where a plutocratic, religious elite want to dominate the cultural and political futures of the country. Consider the word secular, a word that lacks little mention in the BJP's national conscience. In the past seven years, the word has been ridiculed by online trolls as being equivalent to pseudosecular, meaning that the laws of the country are biased towards minorities more than the Hindu majority. The initial occurrences were pushed away as a blip on the radar, now the Hindu mobs are in full force on the television and the internet, leading trails of hate, willing to distort opinions one comment at a time.

The BJP high brass are spiritually guiding the mobs by themselves actively dismantling the constitution that brought them to power. Last year Mr. Modi went to the ground-breaking ceremony of the controversial Ram Mandir in Ayodhya, the leader of a democratic, secular nation sitting in a place that instituted bloody sectarian violence across the country for over three decades now. New laws brought into force also remind the minorities of their place in the country and there is the silent approval from most of the country as it pits Hindus vs. the Rest, giving potent, irrefutable political identity. To oppose against the policies of the BJP is to oppose Hinduism itself.

The word socialist, as safeguarded by the constitution is under fire as well. Though a bit archaic in a country that has embraced free market capitalism with open arms, there is a certain myopia in the country's rich and middle classes of not acknowledging the privileges they possess. The word leftist has taken the form of a slur, any discourse against the conservative elements takes on the polarization popularized by the Republicans in America. For the comfortably rich in India there is no poverty and inequality, there are only lazy people and imbeciles. This denial of the country's vast levels of poverty is further encouraged by the rosy pictures of development that Mr.Modi and his party love to portray. For the average urban voter, India is already on its way to become a superpower, if it isn't already one.

The past years have seen the pluralism of India that were once hailed in its textbooks to movies has waned away. The Hindu-Muslim bhai bhai ethos has almost completely vanished, it is confined to memory, with no-one daring to speak it out. It is important to own the idea of the nation back from the Hindu nationalists, a nation is an imagined entity where one has the virtue of belonging through birth or adoption. Each person is free to attribute the idea of the nation for an entity of their choosing, the nation could be the cuisine, the trees, the mountains or just the love of the home one is born in. It does not need to accumulate the gargantuan threats peddled by the politicians to keep themselves in power.

The Constitution of India that gives the country its democratic backbone is on the verge of total erosion in the next decades putting the lives of over a billion people at the risk of religious anarchy. As mechanisms of protest are being undermined and a complacent educated class are lulled into a comfortable jingoism advocated by the government, it is imperative that the idea of “what it is to be a nation” has to revised and re-owned by public intellectuals, academics, the Opposition and the general citizenry. The momentum that BJP amassed is on the back of the narrative it has managed to control in the past seven years, it is time to not answer the questions it asks but ask questions it has no answers for.

#India #Constitution #democracy #governance

Everybody loves a dead soldier

Dead soldiers are a political and emotional capital. People who wore a uniform for the necessity of a salary suddenly become martyrs for the sake of the “mother/fatherland”. They become a mythological cause for a government to hide behind, the veil of perfect excuse. On the 74th Independence Day yesterday, the Prime Minister Modi had this to say:

Those who challenge India’s sovereignty, be it Line of Control or Line of Actual Control, have been given a befitting reply in their own language. What India can do, world has seen it in Ladakh. Respect for India’s sovereignty is supreme for us.

What he does not mention is that the Chinese standoff is far from over. In the sectors where China has encroached upon Indian land, Indians have managed to do little. Though the Chinese side haven't released the number of dead on their side of the border, the Indian government and the Army had to account for the 20 dead soldiers at the Galwan Valley clash. The spin machine in Modi's right-wing, nationalist BJP government has taken advantage of the information opacity to say that the Chinese have been deterred by the Indian show of force. The temptation of using dead soldiers for political mileage is too good to pass in an environment which would otherwise call for more political scrutiny. India is facing the sheer brute force of COVID-19 coupled with a weak economy and increasingly receding democratic apparatus.

In the same speech PM Modi quotes:

“On behalf of the entire nation, I want to thank the efforts of all corona-warriors. All those healthcare workers, doctors and nurses, who have worked tirelessly to serve the nation amid the pandemic. Many have even lost their lives. The nation salutes them.”

What this rhetoric does is that it transforms the administrative shortcomings of the government into the same martyrdom capital a dead soldier provides. This shifts the blame away from the government and instead fools the public into blind veneration. No rational person chooses to die from work. The incentive of being a healthcare worker or a soldier comes from the paychecks they bring and the societal privilege these occupations provide. This is not to mention that most soldiers choose to become one because there's no other form of livelihood that can be guaranteed from the places they come from. They are underpaid and overworked, an occupational privilege they share with the so called “corona warriors”.

What could have been a political disaster for a nationalist party that cannot secure its nation has now become the very strength. The more people that are killed through the pandemic and along the border with China, the more people would be willing to buy the hokey bullshit that Mr. Modi has to peddle. Aided by the media which have fallen for the Hindu propaganda over the past six years, the failings of Modi's government are easily forgiven and forgotten.

This masculine chest thumping is a worrying sign, the only independence the country is celebrating right now is the independence from common sense and empathy. India has devolved into a puppet state where the puppets are the people participating in the democracy. There is very little hope when the spilling of blood is seen as a sign of power than a crisis of morality.

#India #independence #nationalism

Greatness. Glory. Us, the people. India, the land of the ancient great. Superpower, $5 trillion economy. A land of beauty, color, mystique, good food and IT coolies that get the job done. India, shining and proud – a collective of people who lead and inspire the world. These are all PR terms that are supposed to evoke pride in who we are, the stamp of a passport on our souls. When this rosy idea of the country is challenged, through accounts of poverty, income inequality, rising authoritarian streaks it becomes a cause to be fought against.

India like most nations today suffers from jingoistic nationalism that is formed on thoughts and ideas that not everyone has access to. Let us examine the term “Migrant Laborers” which in itself is devoid of any moral or meaning. These are the masons, carpenters, pani-puri wallahs and load bearers that camouflage in the brick and concrete dust in countless constructions sites across the country, forming the backbone of the informal Indian economy that is 81% of the total workforce.

The word “laborer” itself serves a negative function in the Indian middle-class discourse – they are still seen as the low caste (regardless that according to the Article 14 of the Indian constitution, discrimination according to caste is illegal), overpopulating and not worthy of an equal status. A poor that brings down the name of the country through their lack of effort. The middle and the political class are far removed from what poverty means, it is “those” people that inhabit the corners of their eyes, almost polluting their line of sight. The millions of middle class Indians living abroad or even working cushy jobs in metro cities are not migrants workers, no. They are Indians. The migrant laborers are Indian but not really, they will be the soldiers for future wars if needed, but people they are not.

Here lies the problem with Modi government's response to the COVID-19 crisis. It was addressed to the middle-classes of India who had enough resources to survive the lockdown but the poor were left with nothing and nowhere to go. There was no aid for those who needed it the most. The rules issued by the Modi government by now seem arbitrary and without any scientific precedent:

From the limited information available in the public domain, it seems that the government was primarily advised by clinicians and academic epidemiologists with limited field training and skills. Policy makers apparently relied overwhelmingly on general administrative bureaucrats. The engagement with expert technocrats in the areas of epidemiology, public health, preventive medicine and social scientists was limited. – Indian Public Health Association, Indian Association of Preventive and Social Medicine & Indian Association of Epidemiologists

Taking into consideration even the survivorship bias and assuming that the government has acted quick, the current spike in cases just when the lockdown is supposed to end and the spate of the migrants still far away from their homes are still critical failures that could have been avoided with scientific consensus and proper planning. We can see the results in the laborers that were hosed with chemicals, left to struggle without food, shelter or security for weeks at an end in cities that they could never call home. Why weren’t the migrants first ferried to the villages when the cases were the lowest?

“If the situation is not handled in these 21 days, the country and your family could go back 21 years… Several families could get devastated for ever… This virus spreads like wildfire… There is no other method or way to escape Coronavirus (except social distancing)… Jaan hai to jahan hai… Carelessness of a few can put the entire country in jeopardy.” Modi, March 24th 2020

Modi in retrospect looked like he was making a political gamble, if the lockdown somehow managed to eliminate the virus from the populace, he would’ve been hailed as a hero furthering his curated god-like image. But that’s not how viruses work, there was sufficient literature evidence by around the third week of March that the virus is here to stay. By the end of May the mask of foolishness and image the government has been hiding behind for two months fall apart. Daily cases are reaching a new peak everyday and by all measures the lockdown can be touted as a failure. The spin from the official mouthpieces of the government focuses on the recovery rate and how the quick action to shut the country off has paid dividends because the hospitals now aren’t full. But who is to believe the statistics that come from governmental agencies? When the government itself is in denial of inadequate testing and community transmission (”it’s a question of semantics”). With an average of 7000+ cases in the last days of Lockdown 4.0 the government is in frantic need of good public posturing. With that burden we are presented with Unlock 1.0 which has the same function as the previous lockdowns, to boost the image of the government and not saving the people.

How can we as Indians harp on our glory and feel united when the disenfranchised have been exposed in such glaring light? The natural chest thumping that the BJP resorts to when provided with a problem is absent from the discourse. The party leadership will ignore the questions about the logic of the lockdown, the situation of migrant workers, inadequate testing because how can they bring themselves to explain that India is for them a land for the few? The Indians the BJP harps about are not walking in the streets with their humble belongings, they don’t have glamour of working in the cold battlefields of Kashmir or Siachen. The laborers have metaphors that those in the higher echelons in Indian society use for denigration and shame.

For a government that always likes to consider itself better off than Pakistan or Saudi Arabia, this is time to look and learn from countries that have handled the crisis better. Germany, South Korea and Taiwan have all handled the crisis with humility. They thought about their children, about their aged, their disadvantaged and their disenfranchised. It is not hard work, after all it is the job the government has been elected to do.

#lockdown #India #COVID19

and his pots, pans and candles.

Hail Modi

Narendra Modi hasn't seen much crisis since his coming to power than the ones he has created himself. Demonetization, the CAA-NRC fallout and the abrogation of the Article 370 of the Indian Constitution are a simulated reality for him, where he created response to the world he built. The COVID-19 crisis however is something out of his dictatorial territory, it has flummoxed him and his followers and the reaction and messaging is clear and fair. There has been no live press meets but only taped words of distant balm. The first time he addressed the nation on the 19th of March, his response to the situation looked more like a middle-aged Indian's knee jerk reaction with spiritualism, dharma and a loud ritual thrown into the mix. On paper his instructions read more like a recipe to a bhajan than a pandemic response.

The reaction to the “soft” voluntary lockdown on the 22nd of March and the we-will-bludgeon-you-to-death version unleashed two days later. Millions of daily wage laborers left broke and homeless had to fend for themselves before the government machinery woke up to repeat some numbers. They still are repeating those numbers, with more preference given to covering up the situation and giving a narrative than answering questions that matter. As is the case with the Chinese, the Indian culture also values social image more than the truth, not answering a question would equal to the problem not existing. Given that India's health spending is just over 1% of the GDP, the response shouldn't come as a surprise.

Mr. Modi plays out the crisis to his core base of exhausted high caste, middle-class uncles whose end value of education is reduced to a certificate and for whom there exists answer for every problem in “Indian culture”. His appeals for banging pots and pans, lighting lamps and dancing in the streets appeal to the emotional Indian, while the rational one flinches, her voice taken away and drowned in the sea of maniacs for whom devotion has taken the place of reason. This is a planned gimmick, a testing ground to see how servile the country's populace are. The people have obliged without raising a furor, for the first time it looks like the unity of the people is detrimental. A strange fear creeps in when does not comply, almost as if a mob would be waiting outside with torches, demanding compliance.

With an easy prey found in terms of the Tablighi Jamaat congregation, the Modi government can shake off all future blame for the spread of the pandemic — it was the Muslims who did it, always. Not a word that the government didn't wake up almost until three weeks into March and then implemented a haphazard plan that looked good, not because of structure because of the emphasis. Mr. Modi's has shown time and again that he'd prefer using a nuclear bomb where simple mosquito spray will suffice, but it is not the end result he and his political force are after but the sheer spectacle of it. It is not to be forgotten that this man was facing severe opposition for his controversial anti-minority bill (read Muslim) and also presided over a brief pogrom in Delhi in February.

All these issues are clean from Mr. Modi and his party comrades hands now, the COVID 19 couldn't have come at a better time for them. In a country where information is scarce, the official narrative and all the theatrics are enough to substitute a cohesive response. We need to remind ourselves that Mr. Modi likes subtly comparing himself with Mahatma Gandhi. He is one indeed, a wolf under Gandhi's skin.

#India #Modi #COVID19