As I step out of my flat, I see no one roaming on the society street. The cars are parked and most flats have their lights on. People like me burrowed up, have become invisible.
On barren highways, there is a procession of people waking. It is not a celebration, but tired families trying to reach their village on foot. I never could fathom that such large number of immigrants toil hard in the underbelly of large cities enabling them to operate every day.
The city under lock-down for months has started spewing out these invisible people. Their suffering has etched out a scar on the nation’s psyche. And scars serve as sad reminders.
Happy New Year to all! At the beginning of the year, we remember the not so good part of history so that we learn not to repeat it.
Writers don’t join crowds – Naipaul and so many others teach us that. But what do you do when the Constitutional authority fails to act? You join and in joining bear all the responsibility and obligations and guilt that joining represents. My experience of the violence was overwhelming and memorable of the resistance to it. When I think of the women staring down the mob, I am not filled with writerly wonder. I am reminded of my gratitude from being saved from injury. What I saw at firsthand – and not merely on that march but on the bus, in Hari’s house, in the huge compound filled with essential goods – was not the horror of violence but the affirmation of humanity: in each case, I witnessed the risks that perfectly ordinary people were willing to take for one another.
India abolished its caste and bonded labor systems decades ago, but social stratification remains pervasive. Families remain enslaved for generations, working in dangerous conditions without the means to pay for their freedom. India’s bonded labor system disproportionately ensnares Dalits, the bottom class of the Hindu caste system, as well as tribal communities and religious minorities. The cycle often begins with a loan request made to a landlord or business owner for expenses incurred burying a family member, treating an illness, procuring employment, or staging a wedding. The loan provider can then strongarm laborers or threaten to take away their family’s shelter to extract more work than the value of the original loan. This can result in a family accruing debt over generations. Brick kilns, rice mills, farms, and embroidery factories are notorious hubs of debt-extorted labor.
In a landmark decision in July 2009, the Delhi High Court decriminalised homosexuality among consenting adults on grounds that it violated Articles 14, 15 and 21 of the Constitution of India.
Kirby writes that over 80 countries of the world had or still have laws against homosexuality. Over half of these were those that were at some point in time governed by the British. The Indian Penal Code of 1860, often referred to as the Macaulay Code, after Thomas Babington Macaulay who was its principal author, was the foremost jurisdiction that criminalised homosexuality in India. Its impact was such that it was copied in several other British colonies like Fiji, Singapore, Malaysia, and Zambia. Section 377 of the code, that was followed up on at the Supreme Court today read as following: “Whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal, shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years and shall also be liable to fine.”
The aspirations of India’s young is rising propelling India into the next league.
Dreamers: How Young Indians Are Changing the World. — Snigdha Poonam
But what she finds roiling young people will have echoes not just in other parts of India but also in the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa where the demographic dividend is in full effect, and where creaking economies (not to mention the consequences of violent conflict and climate change) threaten to stymie the aspirations of generations. What animates many of the young men in Dreamers is something far more basic than ideology: “a rage against irrelevance.” When Poonam astutely parses the bluster of Kumar and Ahuja, she lands on a poignant truth. “They have enrolled themselves in the battle to protect Hindu identity, but what they are really fighting for is their shot at any identity at all.”
Worsening matters, the media has struggled to play an impartial role in the face of religious polarization. India ranked 138th of 200 countries in the annual World Press Freedom Index 2018 rankings. A sting operation against large media houses by a small media group, Cobrapost, exposed some potentially alarming findings in its latest release on May 26th. Code-named “Operation 136” (so-named after India’s rank in the 2017 World Press Freedom Index), the sting operation appeared to show that the business operations of several of the country’s largest media houses were ready to accept funding for advertising religion-based political ideologies of groups. In some cases, these media houses seemed even open to influencing their reporters into incorporating such polarization into editorial content. Needless to say, both activities, if proven true, run afoul of Indian law.
This week Trump Jr. visited Delhi. All newspapers were covered with front page ads selling real estate brandishing the Trump brand.
“When these sons go around all over the world talking about, one, Trump business deals and, two, … apparently giving speeches on some United States government foreign policy, they are strongly suggesting a linkage between the two,” Richard Painter, President George W. Bush’s chief ethics lawyer who is a professor of law at the University of Minnesota, told me. “Somebody, somewhere is going to cross the line into suggesting a quid pro quo.”
He added: “It might not be the Trump boys. It might be somebody working for them. It might be somebody over in India or in some other country who believes that’s the way to curry favor with the United States government, to get something in return from the United States government, to do a deal that’s favorable to the Trump Organization.”