The Colonised become the Colonisers

“Nations are born in the hearts of poets, they prosper and die in the hands of politicians” – Muhammad Iqbal.

India was once a country at the mercy of British rule, a profitable part of the British Empire and subject to Britain’s colonizing tactics. India like a good student absorbed these tactics and added them to their playbook, later to implement their own version of settler-colonialism. In 1947, the dissolution of the British Raj happened and with it twelve million people were displaced as abstract lines were drawn creating the self-governing countries of Pakistan and India. However, the contentious issue of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) was also born and still remains part of the political landscape. The fraught battle between the two nations over who should assert authority in the region created tensions which reached boiling point as India removed J&K’s special status last Monday. The issue of India taking control of Kashmir sits in a nexus of state power, nationalism, and colonialism and should be analysed as such.

The crisis unfolded last week when Article 370 was withdrawn from the constitution by the Indian government. Article 370 was integral to keeping some kind of peace in the region. It allowed J&K to have special status within India. Provisions such as outsiders not being able to buy land or property were in the agreement meaning a certain level of autonomy was afforded to J&K.  Article 370 was viewed as an important tenant in maintaining stability and was entrenched in the constitution and thus theoretically could not be removed. The Narendra Modi government itself said in 2018 in a written reply in Parliament that there was no proposal to remove Article 370. Furthermore, the Supreme Court refused to accept that Article 370 was temporary in nature as sometimes argued by politicians. The importance and permanence of Article 370 is clear. On removal of the article, the BJP announced a ‘reorganization bill’ which bolsters the ideological nationalist belief that India should be a unitary and centralized nation-state. India is what the political theorist Hannah Arendt terms ‘seeing like a state’; specifically a hyper-nationalistic state.

When we allow fascism and hatred to take root in a political system in such a way, terror unleashed onto those most vulnerable in the guise of ‘democracy’ is inevitable. This issue of taking control of J&K is intricately interlinked with Modi’s campaign of hyper-nationalism.  As Hannah Arendt, who herself experienced fascist terror, theorised, to establish a totalitarian regime, terror must be presented as an instrument for carrying out a specific ideology. The ideology must win the hearts of many and even gain a majority and then terror can be used to stabilize the totalitarian state.  In India, terror imposed on J&K has become the vehicle to carry out Modi’s ideology of hyper-nationalism and the masses have come on board in the hopes of creating a greater India. The first step in justifying this terror is to rectify what Modi views as the wrong of the ‘Muslim-appeasement bill’ which is Article 370.  This move shows India is happy to rule in an authoritarian fashion to expand its power and territory whilst ignoring international law and its own constitution.

India having learnt from its previous masters set out a carefully designed plan to dish out imperialism. Kashmir was already described as ‘the most militarised region on earth’ with 700,000 soldiers, paramilitary and police patrolling it. The Indian military are the architects of this prison. As Hafsa Kanjwal reports for Al Jazeera, “In the days leading up to the announcement, the government inflicted a series of psychological trauma on the local population”. Leaders of Kashmir were put under house arrest. Communication was cut off, with phone signals and internet blocked, thus worried people could r not each family or friends, this coupled with the increased deployment of troops. It could well be there may be some people of Kashmir who may not even know of the change in legislation. Journalists in Kashmir are reporting and printing newspapers by hand in order to keep the people somewhat informed.

As India took control by isolating Kashmir from the world they added more brute force to the picture. They took their next steps and began to shape the narrative, another trick learnt from the British as they try to abandon their image as colonial masters and rebrand themselves as a soft power. The state in India has ironically been the one to do outsourcing – they lent on the Bollywood industry to sell a happy go-lucky narrative of the events in Kashmir. As Bollywood buys titles, ‘Kashmir humura hai’ which translates to Kashmir is ours, now we face the future of state propaganda being outsourced to the clutches of capitalism with a catchy ‘item song’ playing in the backdrop.

Where do we go from here? – As Desmond Tutu said, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” The lack of an international response is deafening yet predictable. However, if we do not speak of these events they will go down in history as a victory for fascism and we become the supporters of the oppressors.

NCF researcher Maariyah Rashid

 

 

 

How Hindu Nationalism is Distorting India’s Election – The Atlantic

The NCF’s senior member in Iraq’s Kurdistan, Stafford Clarry, comments further on India’s recent elections. He writes the NCF to say: 

I lived in India for about 14 years, plus 4 years in Bangladesh. Though fascinating in many respects, it was not easy. The experience taught me a lot.

This article by Jonah Blank in The Atlantic helps explain more about Hinduism not being a religion like Islam or Christianity. Hinduism has no requirements, no dos and don’ts.

Islam invaded and was absorbed into Hindu India. The Muslim Mughals added to Hindu India’s rich cultural heritage, eg Shalimar Gardens, the Taj Mahal, music and drama. An offshoot of Hinduism, Sikhism is a religion initially organized to fight Muslim invaders. Non-theistic Buddhism and Jainism are offshoots of Hinduism characterized by beliefs, traditions, and practices with (perhaps) god as essence, a focus of devotion, not the singular God of Islam or Christianity.

India, Australia, Italy, Brazil, and Hungary of course, are going the exclusion/exclusiveness route of Trumpism. Looks like another era we have to pass through and, hopefully, will come out better on the other side. Since the independence/partition of British India there have been laws, regulations, and efforts to minimize “communalism” that has occasionally erupted in violence. In a country like India, violence can involve millions.

https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2019/05/hindu-nationalism-narendra-modi-india-election/590053/

Photo from the Atlantic: Narendra Modi waves to supporters in Varanasi in April. Adnan Abidi / Reuters

Lessons need to be learnt from India

Stafford Clarry, a senior NCF member in Kurdistan, sends some facts and observations in regard to lessons he thinks Kurdistan could learn from India:

There’s a lot to learn from India where a top-class education can be obtained at far lower cost than in Europe or America.

In addition, India’s strong, very broad socio-economic diversity has much to teach. India has perhaps the richest diversity in the world – culturally (many cultures and subcultures, many religions and sects, many languages and dialects, many geographical differences and philosophies), economically (from the extremely poor to the extremely rich), politically (2,000 political parties, plus other political groupings). Like Mesopotamia, ancient India was also one of seven cradles of civilization.

In the Middle East, it’s said that everyone is either a politician or a political analyst. In India, it’s said that everyone is an economist.

Of India’s nearly 1.4 BILLION population, over 200 Million are Muslim (14%). 80% of India’s population is Hindu. The remaining 6% are Christian and other religions (Sikh, Jain, Buddhist, etc.)
India’s Muslim population ranks third in the world. Indonesia ranks first and Pakistan, with its 97% Muslim population, is second numbering slightly more than India’s.

More than 800 million are eligible to vote in India. In the recent general elections, about 600 million voted.

Hinduism, which is richly diverse, is more an inclusive philosophy and way of life than a religion, unlike the exclusive religions of Islam and Christianity.

At its 1947 independence, British India was divided into secular India and sectarian Pakistan. Pakistan was further divided into East Pakistan and West Pakistan, separated by over 2,000 kilometers of Indian territory. With the same religion but different cultures, East Pakistan was economically dominant while West Pakistan was politically dominant. In 1971, East Pakistan became independent Bangladesh.

Though substantial progress has been made in reducing its import, India’s caste system remains an active socio-cultural construct. Hindu citizens who are not included in the caste system, who are ‘out-of-caste’ and considered the lowest of the low, are called “untouchables” (or Dalits).

To its great credit, soon after India’s independence, a Dalit was appointed chairman of the constitution drafting committee. BR Ambedkar became known as the architect of the Constitution of India. He earned PhD degrees from Columbia University and the London School of Economics (LSE). He was “a jurist, economist, politician and social reformer who inspired the Dalit Buddhist movement and campaigned against social discrimination towards the untouchables (Dalits), while also supporting the rights of women and labour.” He was independent India’s first Minister of Law and Justice. The Constitution of Iraq is composed of 144 articles. The Constitution of India is composed of 444 articles.

Both India and Pakistan are nuclear powers. Since their 1947 independence from Britain, India and Pakistan have fought four wars and have been involved in many skirmishes and other armed conflicts.

Breaktime (fun): Daily India-Pakistan evening border closing ceremony:

Prime Minister Narendra Modi was Chief Minister of Gujarat Province when Hindu-Muslim riots broke out in 2002. About 1,000 people were killed, mostly Muslim (80%). As a result, Modi was banned from entering the US, UK, and EU. As he rose in prominence, the bans were lifted.


The Wall Street Journal writes:

India Turns West but Away From Western Values

The country’s first pro-American prime minister also stands for intolerant Hindu nationalism.

By a thumping parliamentary majority, Indian voters returned to power Thursday an alliance led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Judging by the manner in which his Bharatiya Janata Party campaigned, Mr. Modi looks certain to undo many of the secular norms that have defined India since independence. Expect the BJP to govern India for the next five years in ways that are unabashedly Hindu, the religion of 80% of India’s population. This isn’t good news for the country’s Muslim and Christian minorities, or for the millions of Indians who don’t wish to be told what they should eat, wear, read and watch by a religiously driven government. 
After its independence from Britain in 1947, India opted to embrace the political and legal system of its erstwhile Western overlord. It chose the Westminster model of elective democracy as well as the common law, in preference to any native or indigenous political and legal alternative. For seven decades, India has remained faithful to that system.
The Indian Constitution draws from the unwritten British constitution, as well as from the constitutions of the U.S., Ireland, Australia and Canada. The French ideas of liberty, equality and fraternity were of particular consequence to the drafters of India’s Constitution, almost all of whom were schooled in Western political values.
The chairman of the constitutional drafting committee, B.R. Ambedkar, was a Dalit—a man from the community formerly referred to as “untouchable.” He knew from personal experience that Indian values—primarily those embedded in orthodox Hinduism, whose most ancient legal text, the Manusmriti, ordains the caste system—had resulted in a social order in which men like him were reviled for centuries.
Ambedkar saw India’s salvation in those rights that flowed from Western values—primarily equality and a recognition of the dignity of the individual. These came to be enshrined in the Indian Constitution, and were intended to trump Hindu norms. India’s Constitution, remarkably, was a forthright rejection—by Indians—of ancient Indian values. 
Independent India has offered, in many ways, the best deployment of Western political values outside the West. From its first day as a sovereign nation, India has affirmed that elections and the rule of law are the sole political currency in a land whose people had previously been British subjects even as they were denied British citizenship. 
The demands made of the British by those who led India’s freedom movement weren’t outlandish. They asked that Indians be given in India the same rights that Britons were accorded in Britain: suffrage and self-rule. In the end, it was the irrefutability of those demands—allied to the nonviolent pursuit of them—that compelled the British to accede to India’s independence.
The colonial Indian elite were formidable opponents precisely because they embraced everything that Western political philosophy had to offer on the subject of citizenship and self-governance. They certainly embraced the English language; and, quick to recognize the flaws in their own culture, as well as the irrational and unscientific nature of many traditional Indian practices, they embraced Western education as well. In the past five years, however, these values have come under fierce attack, as the BJP has shown a hostility to Western ideas, all in the name of reviving Hindu tradition. 
Is the West losing India? This is where things get paradoxical, for India has never been more allied to the U.S. than it is now. 
Mr. Modi is India’s first openly pro-American head of government. He has visited the U.S. three times in five years, and he has badgered President Trump to visit India. He hobnobs with Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates, and, like Mr. Trump, he is in love with Twitter . A shared fear of China draws Mr. Modi’s India and the U.S. together, as does a common cause against Islamist terrorism.
In the first 40 years of its independence, India was ruled by the avowedly secular Congress Party, with its umbilical link to the Indian freedom struggle and its conscious adoption of Western values. The country was more pro-Soviet than any other genuine democracy. Its anti-Americanism was in part the result of Cold War arithmetic, but also of the cultural inclinations of Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first prime minister, and Indira Gandhi, his daughter and political heir, whose high-minded contempt for capitalism would have dire results for the country’s economy.
India has been moving ever closer to the U.S. even as its present government discards many of the secular values and protections that formed the bedrock of India’s constitutional compact. Particularly alarming is the intolerance of practices and behavior—whether sartorial, dietary, literary, cinematic or confessional—that offend a vocal cadre of Hindu activists operating under the aegis of the ruling party. Their aim is to undo those very Western values that have, in Indian constitutional guise, kept the country from collapsing into a state of disorder. 
There is increasing suppression of speech, and an ugly relegation of religious minorities to a politically and socially subordinate status. Radical Hinduism has become brazen and unapologetic. In the most recent elections, the BJP fielded a candidate who stands accused of terrorism and who described the Hindu-chauvinist assassin of Mahatma Gandhi as a “patriot.” She is now a member of Parliament. 
One can’t say India is reverting to some sort of intolerant type, as might be said of Turkey under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Turkey has no consistent or wholehearted history of democracy. In their refashioning of India’s political and civic norms, Mr. Modi and the BJP aren’t reviving any traditional code of governance. India’s political values since the first minute of its independence have essentially been Western values. If these are stripped away, India will be in uncharted territory—lost not only to the West, but to itself.
Mr. Varadarajan is executive editor at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution.

Modi benefits from increased tensions in Kashmir

As India awaits the results of the largest elections known to humankind, fighting continues along the India-Pakistan border in Jammu and Kashmir.

India’s polls closed today after running since April 11. The voting took place over 7 stages in order to meet the bureaucratic feat of managing an election in which 900 million were eligible to vote. Incumbent Prime Minister, Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) seem likely to fight off the main opposition, the Indian National Congress party led by Rahul Gandhi.

Key Issues

Key issues on the agenda include unemployment and farming, areas where Modi is not performing well. In January, leaked reports showed unemployment to be at its highest level since 1972-3, and with a large youth population, finding a job is a key concern. Rising costs and lower prices for farmers are also important as half the population works in the farming industry. BJP has already seen this concern play against them, losing three rural states in December.

However, the issue of national security has recently become particularly pertinent. With a nuclear-armed neighbour, national security is always an issue but as tensions have risen it has become more important – a situation which has benefitted Modi.

How Has it Benefitted Modi?

Tensions between India and Pakistan over the region of Kashmir have existed ever since its conception in 1947. However, they intensified on February 14, 2019, when the Islamic militant group Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) launched a suicide attack in Pulwama, Jammu and Kashmir. The attack killed 40 Indian security forces and reignited tensions. Indian and Pakistan airstrikes followed and although tensions have died down, fighting continues along the border.

Although Modi may have not instigated the attacks, he has certainly benefitted from them politically. Modi’s strong man Hindu nationalist narrative resonates well with a large section of the population, and the recent increase in violence has created a strong rally around the flag effect for him. The results of the election are set to be announced on Thursday 23rd May and current polls suggest he is expected to win. Whether violence centred on Kashmir will decrease after this is yet to be seen, however, a solution is greatly needed.

Picture Credit: India Prime Ministers Office (GOLD-India). Accessed through Wikipedia Commons.

India continues to fail its Dalit Women

India’s 2011 census stated that 16% of the Indian population, some 200 million people, are Dalits. Historically, being a Dalit in India means being at the bottom of an outdated and abysmal caste system. This idea still persists and as a result, Dalit people are vulnerable to a host of human rights abuses. Dalit women are particularly vulnerable must also struggle against patriarchal structures. A UN report from February 2018 highlights the fact that the discrimination Dalit women face, alongside factors such as lack of healthcare and sanitation, has resulted in Dalit women living, on average, 14.6 years less than ‘higher’ caste women. This is a shocking statistic. The report emphasises the fact that it is not just being of a lower-caste and one’s gender that acts as a barrier to mobility, opportunity and equality. The colour of one’s skin can also play a factor in how you are treated in India. A fair complexion is praised and promoted across society, through the media and beauty ideals. As a result, racism becomes a pertinent issue. If you are a dark-skinned Dalit women, your prospects in Indian society are not as fortunate as those of higher-caste, fairer women. This is particularly true in terms of employment with statistical evidence demonstrating that Dalit women are less likely to gain employment and when they do, they earn significantly less than their non-Dalit female counterparts. Literacy rates and levels of education of Dalit peoples are also significantly lower than their ‘higher’ caste counterparts. This huge problem persists across the nation and needs continuous attention.

There is a radical Indian feminist push within the country that seeks to move away from more homogenous feminist movements that fail to take into account the further oppression one may face as not just a woman, but a Dalit woman. As a result, we have seen the development of ‘intersectional feminism’ at both a grassroots and international level. Both Dalit and non-Dalit Indian women have used the concept of intersectional feminism to raise the profile of injustices against the Dalits. The ‘Dalit Women Fight‘ in India and the Feminist Dalit Organisation (FEDO) in Nepal are two such groups campaigning for visibility and change. There are other platforms that have established themselves as a means of articulating the voice of Dalit women, notably All India Dalit Mahila Adhikar Manch (AIDMAM) which is a movement born from the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR). Womankind Worldwide is an international women’s organisation that lends its support to groups such as FEDO. The voice of these Dalit women is growing in prominence. This gives hope to those that believe in the improvement of the welfare and wellbeing of Dalit women in a country that has historically seen them marginalised and oppressed.

The position of Dalit women in India, a nation infamous for its failure to protect its women and facilitate true equality, is deplorable. Whilst there are grassroots and international efforts making noise, this is not enough. The Indian government has continuously been the subject of great criticism for the position of its women, minorities and those from ‘lower’ castes, yet they continually fail to do anything substantive about it. The international community needs to raise the profile of Dalit women in India and apply pressure where it is needed to ensure that the future for these women is one of hope and change.

Untangling Afghanistan: Proxy wars and geopolitical rivalries

Former Afghan president Hamid Karzai recently spoke in an interview of Afghanistan’s need for Russian support. Decrying the US for ‘killing us for 17 years’, he claimed that Russian support was the only means with which peace could be achieved in Afghanistan. The Afghan government is desperately trying to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table. The belief of some in Kabul is that the Taliban’s strength is reliant upon Pakistan and, with enough international pressure, Pakistan will withdraw its support. The US was originally supposed to provide this pressure. However, Karzai’s desire for non-US international support, born out of the US’ ruined reputation in the region, is well documented. Russia was not the first country he turned to. In 2017, Karzai attempted to reach out to India for support, suggesting that they replace the US as the military force upholding the Afghan government. He suggested that such action would be in India’s national interest, as it would damage Pakistan. Pakistan’s apparent support for the Taliban in Afghanistan is a permanent stumbling block when it comes to bettering Afghan-Pakistan relations. However, India’s military strength pales in comparison to that of the US. India does not have the means to replace the USA, and many in Afghanistan would regard any Indian intervention as suspect, India being regarded as part of the problem rather than part of the solution.  Indeed the core of the Afghan problem is regarded by many as the Indo-Pakistan proxy war being fought out on the streets of Kabul.

The problem with Afghanistan now turning to Russia is Russia’s apparent desire to improve relations with Pakistan. Relations between Russia and India have become strained recently due to burgeoning tensions between India and China. India’s response to these tensions has been to improve relations with the US, who are hoping India will effectively curb China’s influence. Russia has recognised that improved relations with Pakistan will, therefore, put pressure on India, improve relations with China and further antagonise the USA.

This leaves Afghanistan at a disadvantage. Officials in Kabul were celebrating news of Trump’s removal of two billion dollars in security aid to Pakistan, believing this would weaken the Afghanistan Taliban. A minority within Pakistan have blamed the Pakistan military for this, claiming that their tacit support for extremist groups has brought about this decision. Inevitably, Trump’s actions have increased street-level anti-US sentiment in Pakistan. It is therefore unlikely that such action will cause a change in Pakistan’s foreign policy. There is a tremendous fear within Pakistan of a ‘pincer’ move by Afghanistan and India. As a consequence, Pakistan’s actions regarding Afghanistan will always be motivated by the desire to ensure Pakistan’s security. Unfortunately, an unstable Afghanistan is more beneficial to Pakistan than a stabilised administration that is allied with India.

China has moved to improve Afghan-Pakistan relations by including Afghanistan in the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). CPEC is part of the Belt and Road initiative, China’s attempt to recreate the Silk Road. However, CPEC is already controversial due to its being built through Pakistan occupied Kashmir. India and Pakistan have constantly fought over the sovereignty of Kashmir, and India does not recognise Pakistan’s control of the Northern half of the state. By extending the offer to Afghanistan, China has faced India with the prospect of losing a regional ally to its economic rival.

Untangling all of these geopolitical relationships is an almost impossible task. If Afghanistan is to have any hope of achieving peace with the Taliban, then their relationship with Pakistan has to improve.  The level of mistrust between the two countries is a major hindrance to the process. As long as it continues, the Taliban will always have a potential ally in Pakistan.  Unfortunately, the mistrust is founded on the conflict between Pakistan and India.  Afghanistan plays a vital geopolitical role for both of these countries. Both are experiencing significant political tensions, not only with each other but with China and the USA as well. Until these issues are resolved, international support for a stable Afghanistan will continue to be deprioritised due to security concerns.

The Precarious Position of India’s Minorities

Oral intervention to be given by the Next Century Foundation at the 37th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva on the 14th of March, 2018. Item 5, Report of Forum on Minority Issues.

Mr President, the Next Century Foundation wishes to assert its belief in total inclusivity. The NCF would like to draw attention to the Republic of India’s relationship with its minorities. India is the world’s largest democracy and it continues to rapidly develop as it stands firm as a key player on the world stage with a diaspora spread across the globe. However, reflection is needed on the part of this great nation state as it considers its own areas of weakness.

As a Hindu-majority nation, India is home to many religious minorities, particularly Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, Parsis and Jains. Today we see expressions of insecurity and concern across several of these minority groups as they begin to feel that under a Hindu nationalist central government, their place in society is being compromised. There is a structural failure on the part of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party to credibly address or stop violence against religious minorities. There were at least 38 such attacks in 2017 alone. We join our voice to that of others such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International who have expressed concern. Indian Prime Minister Modi has facilitated an environment that allows for violence against minorities. Since the creation of the Indian state, both Sikhs and Muslims especially have expressed their sense of insecurity within India. The former have a fraught relationship with the nation, particularly following the anti-Sikh pogroms in 1984. It is not just those within India who express such feelings, we see support from diaspora across the world, particularly in Canada and the United Kingdom. In 2015, there were protests by the British Sikh diaspora against Modi’s visit to London. In 2017 considerable concern was expressed about levels of anti-Muslim violence that had occurred in India. It is not just religious minorities that face difficulty. As indigenous peoples, the Adivasi, continue a long-drawn-out struggle for social inclusion and rights. The term Adivasi is used to represent the 200 different indigenous groups within India that comprise varying cultures, ethnicities and languages. Marginalised from mainstream society and often at the lower end of socio-economic indicators, these indigenous peoples face economic exploitation and poverty with little mobility and protection of their rights.

India is a country with a rich history and a variety of cultures and peoples and the Next Century Foundation strongly urges the government and people of India to foster inclusivity and acceptance, regardless of difference.

Reflections on Punjab: Seventy Years on from Partition

August 1947 marked the end of India as a single state and saw the emergence of today’s Pakistan and India. Partition caused unprecedented communal conflict, bloodshed and the mass movement of peoples across the border as Sikhs and Hindus became concentrated in India, whilst Muslims crossed over into new Pakistan. The hastily established border split existing communities, villages and homes in the northern state of Punjab. The state is the birthplace and homeland of Sikhism as well as being home to a Muslim majority and a number of special Islamic sites. Today, Punjab continues to experience tension and trouble as a direct result of partition whether that be in violent clashes at the India-Pakistan Punjab border, disagreements between different communal factions and government, or the involvement of the Indian or Pakistan diaspora in Punjab affairs.

The border itself is a particular focus for violence. In 2014 a suicide bomber killed some sixty people at the border and in 2016 a military confrontation at the border resulted in further casualties. This violence keeps negative feelings surrounding partition very much alive across the Punjab. The mistrust between the nations is highlighted by the difficulties that a Pakistan or Indian national may face when trying to get a visa for the neighbouring state. There are many hoops to jump through. The process itself takes at least 35 days and requires a multitude of letters, documents and the appropriate signature. Even upon arrival, there is the potential for further checks that are neither uniform nor predictable. This mistrust is a shame, for many people in Punjab have memories, friends, belongings or even ancestral homes on the other side of the border. They are denied the ability to travel back and to visit and as a result are denied the opportunity to grieve the trauma of partition.

Seventy years on from the violence of 1947, there are a some Sikh activist groups that persist in calls for ‘Khalistan’ – an independent, Sikh majority state. Their reasons are born out of the insecurity they feel as a religious minority in a Hindu nationalist nation, insecurities that have also of course been echoed by other minorities. In 1984, Sikhs were the subject of pogroms in so much as many were massacred in retaliation for Indira Gandhi’s assassination. Even the diaspora overseas that hail from Punjab remain invested in their state of origin and the issues of the past. In late September 2017, Times Square in New York City saw protests from thousands of Sikhs and their supporters expressing their hope for Khalistan and dissatisfaction with Modi’s oppressive India. Those calling for Khalistan may lack strength in numbers but the very existence of these secessionist claims represent the wound of communal difference that partition opened. The collective memories of events such as these ensures that the relationship between Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims remains scarred post-partition.

However, the situation in Punjab is not wholly negative. The Punjab border stands not just as a symbol of hostility and tension, it also highlights the sense of camaraderie that is felt by Punjab and the two nations. Every day, at sundown, the two nations unite in an elaborate and long-standing ceremony in Wagah, Punjab where there is dancing and hand-shakes as the border is closed for the night. It echoes the reality of a shared history, collective memories and an intertwined present and future. Punjab’s future is one that is still hopeful as the state, the country and the diaspora reflect on the past and move into the future. A series of events, radio and television shows, literature and stories emerged in 2017, the 70th anniversary of independence, as younger generations began a dialogue concerning partition. Many of those who had lived in Punjab at that time came forward and shared their experiences; and in Amritsar, Punjab, the Partition Museum was founded by the Punjab government, inaugurated as a memorial to those who had experienced partition.

Systemic corruption does not deserve our tacit consent

The 19th century British politician, Lord Acton, averred that ‘Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely’. Over the last 150 or so years, this axiom on the link between power and corruption has proven time and again to be a highly perceptive comment on the darker side of human nature. From Nixon to Castro to Mugabe, there are countless instances of world leaders who subordinated the well-being of their people to the fulfilment their own self-interest. And while corruption is a widespread phenomenon, ranging from public service to private enterprise, from an individual to an international scale, it is at its most indefensible when committed by those acting in an official capacity for personal gain. Fostering a lack of accountability, transparency and good faith in government, corruption represents one of the single biggest threats to the well-being of a country.

When corruption is systemic, and corrupt practices are rewarded with wealth, power and impunity, then people are drawn into public service for the wrong reasons. Indeed, if there is a culture of impunity, then corruption represents a low-risk, high-reward means of advancing both you career standing and your personal fortune.

The numbers bear witness to the predominance of corruption throughout the world. Some sixty countries in the world are plagued by systemic corruption.  China and India, countries with populations of over a billion, are constantly battling systemic corruption.

Corruption is so inexcusable that it ought to be addressed head-on with comprehensive reform. And governments recognise that. And that is far less likely to be forthcoming if the common man and woman think that the personal motives of ruling officials are being prioritised over their own wellbeing. Which explains why it is very common for countries to task specialised anti-corruption committees with addressing the issue. However, when the problem is so entrenched and all-pervasive, these committees often merely act as a smokescreen. Take the example of Russian whistle-blower Sergei Rodchenkov, the former head of the Russian Anti-Doping Agency, who admitted having run a state-sponsored doping program for Russian athletes. Or Mishan Al-Jabourri, the head of the Iraqi anti-corruption committee, who brazenly admitted in February of last year that ‘everybody is corrupt, from the top to the bottom, including me’. It is disheartening that those tasked with rooting out corruption are engaged in the very same malpractices. Further, it shows that governments are often content with merely being seen to address corruption, rather than doing so in practice.

So what can realistically be done? It is plainly clear that this is a deeply rooted and highly complex problem, a problem whose exact character varies from country to country, but whose defining traits are universal. Effective reforms are reliant on political will. It is imperative that key political actors display credible intent to attack corruption at a systemic level. Those very same people who have acquired power and money in an imperfect system must be willing to use their influence to foster a new, meritocratic culture from the top down. On the other hand, there is the risk that the powerful in society, those with an incentive to maintain the status quo, will mobilise powerful forces to protect their own vested interests. Indeed, countless reformers with the most honourable intentions have failed out of an inability to neutralise resistance. Investigative bodies must be entirely independent and free from interference by the government or the judiciary system.

Corruption is something about which we cannot afford, in good conscience, to be defeatist. Corruption runs contrary to all that is humanly decent. It undermines democracy, it precludes meritocracy and it allows the few to steal from the many. Any attempt to fight corruption, however imperfect, is better than none.

The Next Century Foundation at the United Nations – Intervention on Human Rights in Myanmar, Bangladesh and India

The Next Century Foundation took part in the 36th session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva. During the General Debate on Item 5 “Human rights bodies and mechanisms” the NCF delivered an oral intervention on the issue of human rights violations of the refugees in Myanmar, Bangladesh and India. The Next Century Foundation urged these States to all sign the Refugee Convention and take the necessary steps in order to improve refugees human rights.