Guest post by REBECCA DE SOUZA
Recently, I received the opportunity of a lifetime when I was invited to attend Indian Prime Minister (PM) Modi’s address to the joint session of US Congress on June 8th, 2016. When I got the call from Congressman Nolan’s office, I was surprised to say the least. I am not involved in politics, I did not know Rep. Nolan personally, and have not made any significant monetary contributions to politics in either country. My first reaction was to say no, because PM Modi and I could not be further apart on the political spectrum. But soon the significance of what had happened dawned on me. I, an Indian American, an academic, had just received an invitation from a US Congressman who knew about my work and had picked me to be his guest. As a minority in both countries, a Christian minority in India and an ethnic/ racial minority in the US, I was invited to a place of power which typically would be inaccessible to a person like me. Ironically, as an Indian-American I had more access to a transnational political arena than as an Indian living in India. I arrived in DC with eager anticipation not knowing what would unfold.
Attending PM Modi’s address has provided me with unique insight into transnational politics and my own identity as an Indian-American and one who is “not a Hindu”. As I was sitting in the gallery with other Indian Americans, I realized that in a post-liberalization world where political contributions flow easily across borders, Indian Americans play a huge role in the political economy of India and the message of Hindutva has become the single most powerful way to unite this group.
The term Hindutva refers to a nearly hundred year socio-political project promoted by right wing Hindu nationalist groups, which redefines people living in India as “Hindu” based on geographic, racial, and cultural identity. The Hindutva project is centered on the “invention of archaic Vedic Hinduism” and Vedic Aryanism and the belief that “…it was in India that Aryans had either originated or achieved the pinnacle of their culture and civilization which they had then bestowed on the world”. While Hinduism has been known for being a diverse religion, Hindutva’s project is to construct a homogeneous Hindu community through universalizing upper caste practices and values to all castes and classes.  Continue reading Hindutva Lands on Foreign Shores – A View from the Gallery: Rebecca de Souza →
This is a guest post by LEILA GAUTHAM
‘Make in India’ is now an all-pervasive catchphrase – every newspaper and television channel trumpeting the Modi’s ‘clarion call’ to investors – but surprisingly empty in terms of substance. The website is flashy and vastly different from the run-of-the-mill government-of-India websites one is used to – but one has a hard time imagining the ‘captains of industry’ who attended the Make in India launch on September 25th finding any use for it. One begins to wonder, who exactly is the campaign aimed at? Is it the Indian public? An impressive farce, an ad campaign, the neoliberal dream of the efficient state come true – Make in India is not some brilliant brainwave of Modi’s: it is the culmination of very intensive campaign of worldwide propaganda that has been launched by global corporate capital.
I tried to probe deeper, to tease out concrete details if any – and the following article reflects my understanding, incomplete though it may be.
Continue reading Make in India – A critical examination of an economic strategy: Leila Gautham →
For some months now, I have been thinking of someone whom I saw on television during the parliamentary election campaign. The place was Benaras and Modi’s candidature from the seat had just been declared. The television journalist was interviewing a group of clearly poor people, taking their reactions on this new, though expected development. This person, fairly drunk in his Modi-elixir – and perhaps also a bit literally drunk – swaggered as he answered, affirming his support for Modi: Modi bhi chaiwala hai, hum bhi chaiwala hain (Modi is also a tea-seller and I am also a tea-seller). His words reflected the success of the remarkable gamble – that of projecting the new poster boy of corporate capital as a humble tea-seller. It was clear how so many of the poor had bought into this campaign.
What reminded me of this person initially, was that very soon after the election results were out, even before the government was formed, ‘team Modi’ announced a series of measures for the development of Benaras, which included the building of 60 flyovers – ‘to ease traffic congestion’. Mainly meant for the benefit of smooth flow of motorized traffic (rikshas, cycles and pedestrians, after all, have little place in the economy of the flyover), this was the beginning of a plan that would transform this holy city. If the experience of building flyovers anywhere in India is any experience, this would additionally mean mass demolition of settlements of the poor, shops and even entire informal markets – including tea shops that have long been part of life of local communities.
Then the government took office. Within a couple of months, the plan for Varanasi’s upgradation started being drawn up more concretely. Not everything in the proposed subsequent plan (end July 2014) seemed objectionable -not the least the idea to work on a possible mono rail, improvement of the bus network, and a Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS) like the one in Ahmedabad. Except that this would mean more and more dislocation of the poor and destruction of their livelihoods. We have seen this happen in city after city in India, including in Delhi. Continue reading ‘Make in India’ – Modi’s War on the Poor →