Almost to the day, one year ago, the Dadis (or grandmothers) of Shaheen Bagh stood up to the Indian state while most of the Indian middle class, which capitulated to the Modi government when it first assumed power in 2014, looked on silently as one of the most remarkable nonviolent protests anywhere in the world was carried out with discipline over several months before the pandemic took over the lives of everyone and furnished the state with the pretext to send the Dadis back to their homes. Now, with the rebellion of the farmers, a new front has been opened in the battle of the country’s ordinary citizens against a wholly authoritarian government that is frighteningly intolerant of dissent and reeks of the arrogance of power. “Power tends to corrupts”, the English politician and writer Lord Acton famously declared, “and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”Continue reading
I opened the newspapers on May 24th to two disconcerting even stupefying stories that are wholly unrelated and yet, to my mind, seem strangely if not inextricably linked in several ways. Both stories captured the world’s attention, if for altogether different reasons. In India, the incumbent Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, had not only retained his seat in Varanasi by a huge margin but he had led his party to a crushing and decisive victory over his political foes, scattering his opponents like atoms in the dust. The Indian Express’s chief political columnist, Pratap Bhanu Mehta, headlined the achievement of Modi with the phrase, “Staggering Dominance”. Some in the media spoke of his “landslide reelection”, while others described the unambiguous “mandate” he had received from the country.