“NEW DELHI — On Tuesday evening, India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, ordered a strict nationwide lockdown for the next 21 days to battle the spread of the coronavirus.
The busy marketplace in my upscale South Delhi neighborhood is desolate the next morning. Almost all shops are shuttered. The florist who delivered exotic flowers to wealthy homes has abandoned his stock, and the pungent smell of rotting flowers hangs heavy in the air. A pet store has locked up and left the animals inside. Their muffled screams are unbearable.
At the local chemist, two men are at each other’s throats. A large gray-haired man in a lawyer’s robe is shouting expletives through his mask as he towers over a short, scruffy domestic worker. The worker has bought all the acetaminophen in the shop for his employers, and the lawyer is having none of it. The scuffle between the two men seems like an act of transgression — not because it is violent but because it involves freewheeling physical contact.
“Touch is curse,” I was told by a man as he wheeled his stock of sweet potatoes down deserted streets, defying the lockdown in the hope of earning enough to buy food for his family. He offered free sweet potatoes to an old man in a tattered mask sweeping the road. The sweeper, wary of infection, turned his offer down.
Archive for India
As Trump Visits India, a Trade Deal Remains Elusive – By Ana Swanson and Vindu Goel – The New York Times
By Ana Swanson and
“WASHINGTON — President Trump’s visit to India includes a state dinner, tens of thousands of cheering onlookers and even a marching band on camels — but a long-awaited trade deal between the United States and India is notably absent.
For the second time since September, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India visited the United States, the two countries have failed to reach even a limited “mini-deal” that would increase trade for focused groups of goods, like dairy products, medical devices and Harley-Davidson motorcycles.
Negotiators from both countries have been working since 2018 on a deal that would lower Indian barriers to some American products, and restore India’s access to a program that allows goods to enter the United States tariff-free.
But the breakdown in negotiations illustrates the steep challenge in reaching a trade deal between two countries headed by populist leaders who harbor suspicions of multilateral arrangements. Both Mr. Trump and Mr. Modi want to protect jobs in their own countries by fending off foreign competitors — shared attributes that make it even more difficult to strike a comprehensive agreement that would roll back trade barriers more broadly.”
” “I love Hindu,” Donald Trump proclaimed during his presidential campaign in 2016. That adoration of India’s majority population, and America’s richest and most obviously pro-Trump minority, may have just gotten deeper.
On his first visit to India next week, Mr. Trump claims, he has been promised a welcoming crowd of “10 million” by the country’s Hindu-supremacist prime minister, Narendra Modi. (Never mind that the total population of the city where Mr. Modi and Mr. Trump plan to hold a joint rally is a little over eight million.)
Last September at a rock-concert-like rally at a Houston football stadium, Mr. Modi and Mr. Trump walked hand-in-hand, the two stocky strongmen looking like brothers-in-arms. Certainly, nowhere in the world can Mr. Trump encounter a profounder fraternal spirit than among India’s present rulers. India under them fulfills, to a startling degree, the American president’s irascible fantasy of what the United States should be: a country cravenly surrendering its traditions of law and decency before a perpetually inflamed and ham-handed autocrat.
Mr. Trump has controversially pardoned some white-collar criminals, including Michael Milken, and might extend clemency to Roger Stone. He can only envy the culture of impunity in India. Charges of murder and kidnapping have long pursued Amit Shah, Mr. Modi’s closest confidant and India’s home minister, but the judge in his case mysteriously died soon after Mr. Modi became prime minister in 2014 and the next judge swiftly acquitted Mr. Shah.”
Opinion | ‘We Never Moved Back to Kashmir, Because We Couldn’t’ – By Priyanka Mattoo – The New York Times
“Despite my best efforts to move beyond it, I have been thinking of my lost home since the eruption of the most recent crisis in Kashmir. I was born a Hindu in Kashmir, as was almost everyone in my family, for probably thousands of years. My parents decided to move abroad for work opportunities in the early 1980s, really so that they could gather funds to build their dream house in Srinagar.
We spent every summer and holiday, probably four to five months a year, in Kashmir. I was born in Habba Kadal, a neighborhood in central Srinagar, its maze of streets lined with narrow, four-story wooden houses.
My parents built their house in the suburban area of Natipora, which at the time had open fields, fresh air and an unobstructed view of the Himalayas. We gently, by hand, carried home china, linens and decorative items for the house. We clambered over rocks and beams at the construction site, watched them polish the terrazzo, proud and excited for our return.
Afternoons cleaning string beans and corn from the vegetable patch. The time my mother told me not to play badminton in the evening, and it got so dark that I smacked a shrieking bat instead of the shuttlecock. I woke up once in the middle of the night and saw a bear dancing on its hind legs on the lawn. Nobody believes me about this one, but it happened.
After one of many picnics in Pahalgam, a hill town so picturesque you can see it in every Bollywood movie, I was halfway through a tourist-trap horse ride before realizing a pound of chocolate-covered walnuts was too many.
This is all to say: Have you ever heard people talk about how incredible Kashmir was? How beautiful, how peaceful? “Paradise on Earth” is the cliché, right? It was absolutely all of that, no exaggeration. To my 9-year-old self, it was the most magical, joyful place in the world.”
And there was another factor: The Dalits, India’s most oppressed community, whom the Hindu caste system relegates to the lowest rung, doubled their votes for his Bharatiya Janata Party to 12 percent in 2014 from 6 percent in 2009.
To make up for centuries of violence, discrimination and lack of opportunity, India’s Constitution lays out that political parties can field only Dalit candidates for 84 out of 543 parliamentary seats in general elections. Five years earlier, Mr. Modi’s B.J.P. won 40 of the 84 seats reserved for the Dalits, sending the single largest contingent of Dalit lawmakers to the Parliament.
But neither increased Dalit votes nor the greater number of Dalit lawmakers within the B.J.P.’s ranks helped transform the party’s aggressive, casteist ideology. Mr. Modi’s rule has highlighted the antagonism between his party’s pandering to the dominant upper castes and the radicalism of Dalits fighting for the elimination of caste.”
India’s Leader Is Accused of Hiding Unemployment Data Before Vote – By Jeffrey Gettleman and Hari Kumar – The New York Times
NEW DELHI — When voters swept Prime Minister Narendra Modi into power five years ago, it was in no small part because of his vows to create millions of jobs and vault India into an era of prosperity.
But now, just months before the next general election, Mr. Modi is facing a potentially troublesome challenge on the jobs promises that may be partly of his own making.
His government was accused on Thursday of suppressing an official report on the national unemployment rate that apparently showed it had reached a 45-year high in 2017.
The Business Standard, a respected Indian financial newspaper, published leaked findings from the unemployment report, which is based on a survey and produced by the National Sample Survey Office, a government agency.
Officials in Mr. Modi’s government scrambled on Thursday to blunt the impact of what amounted to withholding information that discredits the core of his economic record. The chairman of NITI Aayog, a government research organization, said the unemployment report was still in draft form, was not ready for dissemination and would be released in March. The response raised the possibility that the data could be revised.
But economists said the findings, if verified, were problematic for Mr. Modi, the dynamic prime minister whose popularity has always rested on his Hindu nationalism and promises to make India an economic powerhouse rivaling China.
Opinion | The Malign Incompetence of the British Ruling Class – By Pankaj Mishra – The New York Times
“Describing Britain’s calamitous exit from its Indian empire in 1947, the novelist Paul Scott wrote that in India the British “came to the end of themselves as they were” — that is, to the end of their exalted idea about themselves. Scott was among those shocked by how hastily and ruthlessly the British, who had ruled India for more than a century, condemned it to fragmentation and anarchy; how Louis Mountbatten, accurately described by the right-wing historian Andrew Roberts as a “mendacious, intellectually limited hustler,” came to preside, as the last British viceroy of India, over the destiny of some 400 million people.
Britain’s rupture with the European Union is proving to be another act of moral dereliction by the country’s rulers. The Brexiteers, pursuing a fantasy of imperial-era strength and self-sufficiency, have repeatedly revealed their hubris, mulishness and ineptitude over the past two years. Though originally a “Remainer,” Prime Minister Theresa May has matched their arrogant obduracy, imposing a patently unworkable timetable of two years on Brexit and laying down red lines that undermined negotiations with Brussels and doomed her deal to resoundingly bipartisan rejection this week in Parliament.
Such a pattern of egotistic and destructive behavior by the British elite flabbergasts many people today. But it was already manifest seven decades ago during Britain’s rash exit from India.”
Vandana Shiva: There Is No Reason Why India Should Face Hunger and Farmers Should Commit Suicide – EcoWatch
“KARACHI, Pakistan — Four years ago when India elected the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (B.J.P.) to power, Pakistan’s iconic feminist poet and peace activist Fahmida Riaz recited a poem of despair, comparing new India to old Pakistan:
Turns out you were just like us,
Where were you hiding all this time, brother?
In Pakistan, Ms. Riaz is not only considered a hopeless peacenik but also a bit of an India lover. She has reason to be. In the 1980s, like many writers and activists, Ms. Riaz was made to leave Pakistan by the then military regime. While others took refuge in Western countries, Ms. Riaz chose to go into exile in India, where she then lived for more than six years. She is a much-loved poet who is not afraid of speaking truth to power at home and abroad. She is also not afraid of hoping.
Last Thursday other peaceniks in Pakistan and India were hoping, too, as the two countries agreed to resume talks. The wave of optimism lasted a day.”