Sunday, June 30, 2019

What if Palestinians ran with the money?

By Dr James Zogby
Disappearing Palestine

I wasn’t at the “Peace to Prosperity” Summit, but I listened to some of the speeches and read the documents the White House produced for the event. Nothing that I saw or read changed my belief that the entire affair was long on fantasy, short on reality. Even with that, however, a heretical thought came to mind – but more on that later.
Let me make it clear at the outset that I am a fan of imagining the future. During the Clinton Administration, my mantra with regard to the Israeli-Palestinian process was that what was needed was “a vision of the future that was so compelling people would be drawn to it.” Back then, there was still the hope that a political solution could be found leading to an independent Palestinian state in the territories that Israel had occupied in 1967, with East Jerusalem as its capital.
It was such a vision that led Yasser Arafat to imagine, that with independence, Gaza could become like Singapore. With peace and freedom, Palestinians could connect the West Bank to Gaza. They could build a seaport and airport, attract investment, start businesses and become a commercial hub and a tourist destination.
There were other grand ideas. In fact, despite Jared Kushner’s patronizing presumptuousness, nothing in his vision was new, since Palestinians had already imagined such a future. But all came crashing down to earth when Israel implemented a closure of the borders after the Israeli massacred Muslim worshippers in Hebron; erected hundreds of purely punitive checkpoints throughout the West Bank; cut East Jerusalem off from the rest of the occupied lands; built a wall inside of ’67 line and established a network of military outposts and settlements in the Jordan Valley, which denied Palestinians full access to almost 25% of their most fertile fields; intensified policies of collective punishment, repression, humiliation, and degradation of millions of innocent civilians; denied Palestinians access to over 80% of their land and natural resources; blockaded and strangled Gaza; and began a massive settlement expansion program that has seen the number Israelis in the West Bank almost quadruple to over 620,000 settlers.
OK, I know that Kushner warned in his speech that there would be someone like me who would be Mr. Negativity – bringing up the old arguments of the past and blaming Israel for everything. But it’s important to point out that Kushner, while completely absolving the Israelis, did his own share of blaming. Except, in his case, all the blame was placed squarely on the Palestinians’ shoulders – as if all of the Palestinian’s problems were of their own making. I’ve been too close to this situation for too long and while I can find fault in the ossified and struggling Palestinian Authority and the brutally stupid, self-defeating tactics employed by Hamas, the flaws of the Palestinians are a function of the impossible situation created by deformities resulting from Israel’s brutal and oppressive policies. Blaming the Palestinians is nothing more than blaming the victim while letting the victimizer go free.
The reality is that there is a reason why the Palestinian economy never “took off” – Palestinians were denied the opportunity to grow by the relentless occupation that refused to cede control.
Compounding Kushner’s detachment from reality was his lack of self-awareness regarding the impact of the policies pursued by his own administration and the laughable absurdity of his claim that he and President Trump “haven’t given up on the Palestinians” and still care for them! The Trump team has turned a blind eye to Israel’s land seizures, settlement expansion, “legalization” of outposts, and home demolitions. In addition to moving the US Embassy to East Jerusalem, they have acquiesced to Israeli policies that have consolidated control and expanded settler compounds in East Jerusalem and are even now suggesting that they would look favorably on further annexations in other parts of the West Bank. And they have cut all aid to Palestinian institutions, including hospitals and schools. To now suggest that they want to “empower Palestinians” through education and health care is disingenuous, at best.
With this in mind, as I listened to Kushner’s speech and read through the plans, offended by their lack of reality, patronizing tone, naiveté, and refusal to acknowledge how we got to where we are, a heretical idea came to mind: imagine what might happen if Palestinians were to take the money and run?
From its beginning, Israel mastered the art of dissembling. They have repeatedly agreed to terms that they had no intention of honoring. Instead, they pocketed their gains and moved on. In the beginning, they agreed to a partition and then plotted how to ethnically cleanse the area to make their new state, in Ben Gurion’s words, “larger and more Jewish”. They signed the Camp David Accords having no intention of fulfilling even its most minimal requirements for the Palestinians. They did the same with Oslo and Wye. And they repeatedly agreed to “settlement freezes” – never intending to stop expanding their control over the occupied lands. So, what if Palestinians decided to play the same game? What if they did what the Israelis have done? What if they decided to build the Palestinian economy and improve the daily life of Palestinians – while maintaining focus on the long game?
Agreeing to play along in no way negates Palestinian rights. Economic empowerment doesn’t negate political rights, nor will it buy acquiescence to the denial of these rights. Palestinian aspirations can’t be bought and sold for a price.
Let’s face it, we are in an emerging one state reality ­– an Apartheid state. Israeli policy led to this and the Kushner plan will only serve to consolidate it. At present, the majority of the population between the River and the Sea is Arab. The problem is that Palestinians lack rights and power, and they lack a strategy to gain the power they will need to secure their rights.
What if they were to exploit the opportunity provided by Kushner’s plan to build Palestinian society as an important step on the way to developing the strength to secure political rights and freedom? In fact, history shows that when people live in economic despair, they are less inclined to demand political rights. Only when they gain a degree of economic relief do they turn to demand greater political freedom.
So if Kushner is promising: to open up the West Bank by removing barriers to travel; to connect the West Bank to Gaza; to make Gaza a tourist haven; to promote investment in Palestinian institutions; etc. – what if Palestinians took the money and ran? What if Palestinians used this offer to develop a new strategic vision – taking the steps to transform the current emerging one state reality into a democratic secular state?
Kushner may not realize what the end result of an empowered and prosperous Palestinian community will be. And he may be totally naïve in failing to recognize that the Israelis will kick and scream at the prospect of a prosperous and empowered Palestinian community. But that’s his problem, not the Palestinians.
It’s interesting to imagine the future should Palestinians take on this game with a political and strategic vision that sees prosperity not as the end of the road, but as paving the path to Palestinian empowerment and ultimate leadership in the new one-state reality. In this regard, we might see Kushner’s plan, not as the “too-clever” path to maintaining Palestinian subordination to the Israeli occupation. Rather it may be the naively designed path with the unintended consequence that will lead, a generation from now, to an entirely new reality.
The Israelis and the US will howl, but they are the ones who dug this hole for themselves. Maybe one day the Palestinians could build a resort in Gaza or Jaffa and name it after Jared Kushner – as the father of the new secular democratic state that will come to be between the River and the Sea.
If that’s not exactly the vision of the future the US and Israel are seeking, that’s what they’ll get. Palestinians will continue to demand freedom and rights and as an empowered majority, it’s only a matter of time before they rise up and secure those rights.
If that’s not what the US and Israel want, then it might be a good idea for them to go back to the drawing boards and muster the courage and resolve to end the occupation and provide Palestinians with the justice and freedom they deserve and need to truly prosper in an independent state of their own.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

My Thoughts on the G20 Summit in Osaka

By Habib Siddiqui

The 2019 G20 (Group of 20 nations) Osaka summit has ended in Osaka, Japan. It is the fourteenth meeting of G20. It was held on 28–29 June 2019 at the International Exhibition Center in Osaka. It was the first G20 summit hosted by Japan.

The G20 is an international leaders' forum comprising 19 countries and the European Union. The G20 nations include: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, the UK and the USA, which were all represented by their respective leaders except the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia that was represented by its Crown Prince MBS. Collectively, the grouping represents more than 80 percent of the world's economic output and two-thirds of its people. Its primary aim is to promote international financial stability. However, since economics cannot be separated from politics the summit offers a good venue for such discussions amongst the powerful nations.

This year’s G20 summit came at a time of much world disorder with tug of war between powerful nations on trade and commerce, growing tensions between the USA/Israel/Saudi Arabia and Iran in the Strait of Hormuz, on-going civil wars in Libya, Syria and Yemen, political and racial/ethnic/religious unrest in some parts of Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East, horrific abuses of human rights of minority Muslims in China, India, Myanmar and Sri Lanka, increasing forced displacement of people and widening gap between the rich and the poor. It also came at a time of rising fascism with much voter support for right-wing and populist parties in some parts of the world (esp. in Europe and India) when scorching heatwaves and floods are becoming the new global climatic norms, breaking the old records.

It’s really a troubling time for all conscientious human beings! They feel neither safe nor secure.

In the recently held EU parliament election, hatemongering nationalist forces from Marine Le Pen in France to Matteo Salvini in Italy and Nigel Farage in Britain boasted significant gains even in centres seen as migrant "hot spots", held up once by the left as models of tolerance and integration. Similar was the stunning victory of Narendra Modi’s ruling BJP (a Hindutvadi fascist party) in the recently concluded parliament election in India, which many see as a mandate for hatred, bigotry and intolerance against minorities, esp. Muslims.

In her maiden speech as a parliamentarian, Mahua Moitra of the opposition Trinamool Congress Party (TMC) said that she had seen a list of the early warning signs of fascism in India. She talked about the deadly suicide attack in Kashmir and India's subsequent air raid in Pakistan. She accused the ruling BJP of trying to divide Hindus and Muslims.

On June 22, a viral video displayed a young Muslim man (24-year-old Tabrez Ansari) being tied up, bleeding profusely all over his body, hands folded, who was being lynched for hours by a Hindu mob in the eastern state of Jharkhand in India that forced him to chant Jai Shri Ram and ‘Jai Hanuman’ (Glory to Lord Ram and Lord Hanuman) until he died. He was  married less than two months ago and is seen crying and begging for mercy in the video. His family says they were threatened by the police with a similar fate when they begged to get him treated while he was in police custody, according to a report in The Wire. He is survived by a young wife who wants to know who in the country she can now turn to for justice. “My husband was my only support. Who will I live for now? I want justice,” she told the TV channel NDTV.

Just two days after the attack on Ansari, a 26-year-old Muslim teacher who taught in a religious seminary was thrown out of a train in the eastern state of West Bengal in India. Hafeez Mohammed Haldar was traveling when a mob chanted ‘Jai Shri Ram’ and pushed him out of the train. In the same week, on June 27, a Muslim cab driver, 25-year-old Faizal Usman Khan was beaten up by a group of men at night, barely minutes away from Mumbai, India’s celebrated cosmopolitan city. When Faizal begged for mercy, the men asked him to chant Jai Shri Ram, now a rallying cry for Hindu nationalists/fascists in the country.

The U.S. Commission for International Human Rights has condemned the lynching of Ansari, observing the recognizable pattern of hate crimes against minorities that marks India’s dangerous slide into a majoritarianism, long dreaded by those who have observed Narendra Modi’s past on human rights.

In the five years of Modi’s first term in power, hate crime against Muslims soared. Data shows that some 90% of religious hate crimes in the last decade have occurred since Modi came to power. One cannot but be alarmed by such statistics!

As aptly noted in the Time magazine by the investigative journalist Rana Ayyub, “If the first term of Narendra Modi’s rule in India was criticized for dog whistle politics, his second term sets the ground for fear and insecurity. The hate crimes might be committed by seemingly-ordinary men on the streets of India, but the impunity of their actions is being given a new lease of life from within the aisles of the Indian Parliament.”

In the next-door China, at least 31 mosques and two major Islamic shrines in Xinjiang (formerly East Turkestan) have been partly or completely demolished since 2016, according to a new report, as Beijing steps up a clampdown targeting Muslims in the northwestern region.

An investigation by the Guardian and Bellingcat, published recently and based on analysis of satellite imagery, said 15 of the mosques and both shrines appear "to have been completely or almost completely razed".

"The demolition of mosques is but the tip of the iceberg when it comes to China's brutal crackdown on the 12 million Uighur Muslims who live in Xinjiang," said CJ Werleman, a journalist and author who has collected testimonies from dozens of Uighur refugees. "Credible and corroborated reports and testimony point to evidence authorities are deploying the whole gamut of repressive measures to carry out what can only be described as cultural genocide including the establishment of a network of concentration camps; accounts of torture, forced marriage, and adoption and sterilization programs," he told Al Jazeera.

Among the sites completely destroyed was the Imam Asim shrine, which used to attract thousands of Uighur pilgrims each year.

The United Nations human rights panel said last year it had received credible reports that China is holding more than one million ethnic Uighurs and other Muslims in "mass internment camps". Meanwhile, in January, Beijing passed a new law that seeks to "Sinicize" Islam.

Sadly, money talks! Outside a handful of western countries plus Turkey, most governments have chosen to overlook the heinous crimes of Beijing in Xinjiang!

It is equally inexcusable to notice the official silence with the murder of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi Embassy in Turkey, which reportedly was ordered by Crown Prince MBS (a.k.a. “Mr. Bone Saw”). [I am not aware of any Muslim government outside Turkey that had criticized the Saudi brutality.]

During the G20 Summit President Trump ignored questions from reporters on Khashoggi killing. It is not difficult to read his mindset about making ‘America great again’ with Saudi money from the arms sales to the desert kingdom that he is dismissive of MBS’s culpability!

The Trump administration has no problem selling its fictitious ‘economic pills’ for prosperity to the Palestinians before giving them their due political rights while doing just the reverse with Iran vis-à-vis its nuclear program. Such double-standards only unmask Trump’s moral bankruptcy and show that he is not serious about peace.

Former Egyptian President Dr. Mohamed Morsi died on Monday, June 17. He was left without first aid for 20 minutes after collapsing during his trial in an Egyptian kangaroo court. The 67-year-old Morsi was suffering from diabetes, hypertension, and liver disease, and was held in solitary confinement in prison for 23 hours a day while being denied medical treatment. Last March, a panel of British MPs warned that Morsi could die prematurely if treatment continued to be denied.

The Independent of UK quoted Abdullah al-Haddad, whose father and brother were also on trial alongside Morsi, as saying that “no one bothered” to aid Morsi after he collapsed. “He was left slumped for a while until the guards took him out. An ambulance arrived after 30 minutes. Other detainees were first to notice his collapse, they started shouting. Some of them, who are doctors, asked the guards to let them treat him or give him first aid,” Mr. Haddad told The Independent. “Neglecting him at the beginning was deliberate. The first thing the prison guards did after detainees started shouting was to get family members out of the courtroom.”

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the President of Turkey, said Morsi “did not die, he was murdered.”

But where is the outrage with Morsi’s murder inside Sisi’s cage?

It’s instructive to note how differently Morsi was treated being banged up in solitary, unable to talk to his own family, and deprived of medical help. Just compare that to the comfort in which his predecessor Hosni Mubarak lived after his own dethronement – the constant hospital treatment, family visits, public expressions of sympathy and even a press interview. Lest we forget, Morsi was the only President of Egypt to be popularly elected in a free election before he was illegally removed in a violent coup that had the blessings of some Gulf states and tacit support from some western democracies. Apparently, democracy is not suitable for the most populous Arab state! Outside the UN, Turkey, Malaysia, Qatar, Hamas, and the Muslim Brotherhood-in-exile – Morsi’s memory and his final moments were as if they had never been. Such a silence is simply shocking!

To many of us, Morsi will remain a martyr for democracy who wished to see “an Egypt of values and civilization; an Egypt of growth and stability and love.”

The Egyptian President Abdel Fatah El Sisi took part in the inauguration of the 14th G20 summit in Japan's Osaka, as did other G20 leaders, including India’s Modi, Saudi Crown Prince MBS, UK’s Theresa May, China’s Xi Jinping and Russia’s Putin.

In a divisive world can the world leaders find a common ground?

The G20 summit discussed eight themes to Ensure Global Sustainable Development. The eight themes are "Global Economy", "Trade and Investment", "Innovation", "Environment and Energy", "Employment", "Women's Empowerment", "Development" and "Health". However, ongoing trade war between China and the United States, the world's two biggest economies, topped the agenda. Leaders focused on cooperation among themselves to solve problems, rather than the summit's usual themes.

The opening day of the summit was overshadowed by the China-US trade war and Theresa May’s confrontation with Vladimir Putin over the Salisbury novichok poisonings.

After a meeting with Xi Jinping, Donald Trump said relations between the two countries “are back on track" after a breakdown in trade talks last month. "We had a very, very good meeting with China. I would say probably even better than expected. The negotiations are continuing," Trump told reporters.

Trump said the US would hold off raising tariffs on more than $300bn worth of Chinese goods while negotiations to end the trade war between the two countries continue. When asked by a reporter about his ban on US companies selling high-tech components to Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei, Trump said: "I did agree to allow our companies" to sell equipment to the firm. 

At the conclusion of the G20 Summit, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the summit was a success and that the leaders have agreed to principles governing the global economy.

"Trade tensions are continuing, and that's a risk. We have to keep those risks and tensions in mind. Still, we have united in agreeing that we have to lead the world economy," Abe said at a news conference.

"There is some dissatisfaction between countries. So, although there are concerns, what we have to do is establish principles to lead the world economy to the future. Free, fair and inclusive economy and open competition. Those principles have been affirmed between the leaders at this G20 meeting."

On the climate issue, the G20 communique enabled 19 of the 20 leaders to reaffirm their commitment to the Paris agreement, but left enough room for Washington to attempt to justify its increasing isolation from the global effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions with a reference to the harm it would inflict on “American workers and taxpayers”. There was also a commitment to stop adding to plastic waste pollution of the world’s oceans by 2050.

As noted in the Guardian newspaper, in their declaration, the G20 leaders avoided criticism of Trump-style protectionism but committed themselves to realizing “free, fair and non-discriminatory” trade and to “keep our markets open”.

Who knows we may be spared of a roller-coaster ride for the world economy until, of course, Trump’s tweets do the undoing. However, if history is any guide to the future, the gentlemen’s agreement struck between the leaders of the world’s two largest economies over the weekend in Osaka offers no clear path to rolling back tariffs and ending a trade war that threatens to tip the global economy into recession.




 

What a Rising Tide of Violence Against Muslims in India Says About Modi's Second Term

By Rana Ayyub who is an Indian journalist and the author of Gujarat Files: Anatomy of a Cover Up                
On June 22, a viral video did the rounds on social media in India. A young Muslim man tied up, bleeding profusely all over his body, hands folded, was being lynched by a mob that forced him to chant of Jai Shri Ram and ‘Jai Hanuman.’ (Glory to Lord Ram and Lord Hanuman.)
The man, later identified as 24-year-old Tabrez Ansari, was beaten for hours until he died at the hands of a Hindu mob in the eastern state of Jharkhand. The death of Ansari, who married less than two months ago and is seen crying and begging for mercy in the video, has sparked protests in cities across India. His family says they were threatened by the police with a similar fate when they begged to get him treated while he was in custody, according to a report in The Wire. Police have arrested at least 11 people over the attack.
Ansari became the first victim of hate crime in the second term of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government. He is survived by a young wife who wants to know who in the country she can now turn to for justice. “My husband was my only support. Who will I live for now? I want justice,” she told the TV channel NDTV.
Just two days after the attack on Ansari, a 26-year-old Muslim teacher who taught in a religious seminary was thrown out of a train in the eastern state of West Bengal. Hafeez Mohammed Haldar was traveling when a mob chanted ‘Jai Shri Ram’ ( Glory to Lord Ram) and pushed him out of the train. Hafeez managed to escape death with minor injuries.
In the same week, on June 27, a Muslim cab driver, 25-year-old Faizal Usman Khan was beaten up by a group of men at night, barely minutes away from Mumbai, India’s celebrated cosmopolitan city. When Faizal begged for mercy, the men asked him to chant Jai Shri Ram, now a rallying cry for Hindu nationalists in the country.
The U.S. Commission for International Human Rights has condemned the lynching of Ansari, observing the recognizable pattern of hate crimes against minorities that marks India’s dangerous slide into a majoritarianism long dreaded by those who have observed Modi’s past on human rights. The USCIRF chairman Tony Perkins called for the Indian government to take action to prevent further violence. “We condemn in the strongest terms this brutal murder, in which the perpetrators reportedly forced Ansari to say Hindu chants as they beat him for hours.”
Soon after Modi was re-elected as the Prime Minister of India on May 23, he gave a conciliatory speech trying to reassure Muslims. But in the five years of Modi’s first term in power, hate crime against Muslims soared; data shows that some 90% of religious hate crimes in the last decade have occurred since Modi came to power.
Indian Muslims hold a banner as they protest against the mob lynching of Tabrez Ansari in the Jharkhand state, in Ahmedabad on June 26, 2019.
Indian Muslims hold a banner as they protest against the mob lynching of Tabrez Ansari in the Jharkhand state, in Ahmedabad on June 26, 2019.
Sam Panthaky—AFP/Getty Images
 
On May 26, in his acceptance speech addressing the members of the new Indian Parliament, Prime Minister Modi vowed to protect the interest of India’s minorities. He made a departure from his consistent dog whistle and told his legislators: “Due to vote bank politics, Indian minorities were crushed, boxed into a corner, subjected to imaginary fears, and exploited during the elections. Like the poor, they remained covered with a cloud of deception. It would have been better if their health, their education had been taken care of. In 2019, I expect you to punch a hole in that deception. We have to earn their trust.”
Indian liberals have witnessed Modi’s deceptive politics of the past: his silence through the anti-Muslim riots of 2002 under his leadership that killed a thousand Muslims, the extra judicial murders of Muslims under his regime, the hate crimes against minorities and lower-caste citizens in the last five years of his rule. Yet they asked Muslims to shun the boring victimhood narrative and take Modi at his word.
What does that word mean? After Ansari’s killing, Modi said he was “pained” to hear about it and called for “the strictest possible punishment.” But a week before the spate of hate crimes against minorities on the streets of India, Indian legislators in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi chanted Jai Shri Ram and Vande Mataram as each Muslim Member of Parliament took the sacrosanct oath to serve the people of the country.
When 50-year-old Asaduddin Owaisi, a longstanding member of parliament, wore his skull cap and walked towards the speaker to swear in the name of the Indian constitution, he was heckled by members of Modi’s BJP. They chanted Jai Shri Ram to remind Owaisi of his faith — heckling that mirrors the violence on the streets.
As India suffers this downward slide of its pluralistic values, a brave Netflix series called Leila hit Indian audiences in the second week of June. The series, adapted from writer Prayaag Akbar’s novel by the same name, is set in a dystopian world where Hindu nationalists take over the Indian democracy, where Hindu women are sent to secret internment camps to purify themselves of impure Muslim alliances. In the show, the Aryavart kingdom (Hindu supremacists) demolishes the Taj Mahal to rid India of its Muslim presence as its leader rides to absolute power on totalitarian ideals. While critics were quick to call it augmented reality that ran parallel to Modi’s India, BJP members asked supporters to unsubscribe from a Hindu-bashing Netflix that spread phobia about the community.
But Leila runs a parallel narrative to the one being relayed in the Indian Parliament led by Narendra Modi. His first time Member of Parliament, Pratap Sarangi, stoked another dangerous narrative in the floor of the house, saying those who did not chant ‘Vande Mataram’ (Glory to the motherland) did not belong in India. (Sarangi has a chequered past, accused of ties to the murder of an Australiam Christian missionary Graham Staines and his two children in 1999.) His diatribe was targeted at Muslim members in the Indian parliament who swore allegiance to the Indian constitution but refused to recite the chant, which has recently been appropriated by the Hindu right wing.
If the first term of Narendra Modi’s rule in India was criticized for dogwhistle politics, his second term sets the ground for fear and insecurity. The hate crimes might be committed by seemingly-ordinary men on the streets of India but the impunity of their actions is being given a new lease of life from within the aisles of the Indian Parliament.
Modi’s acolytes have often sold him as an inclusive leader, a unifier in the international arena but fail to explain the Prime Minister’s studied silence against hate in the country, often manufactured in his own backyard. Leila may be a dystopian vision but it is also a cautionary tale, the story of a once-inclusive India that becomes immersed in hate to fulfil the opportunistic ambitions of a leader who raises Hindu nationalistic slogans. And in Modi’s India, where chanting Jai Shri Ram on the streets to invoke hate crimes against minorities, it’s hard not to see how that dystopian vision could become reality.

Friday, June 28, 2019

'Rising fascism' in India - Mohua Moitra, MP

BBC News
A spirited turn at the mic by a first-time female MP in India's parliament, in which she listed the "signs of early fascism", has been hailed as the "speech of the year" on social media.
Mahua Moitra, of the opposition Trinamool Congress Party (TMC), said she had seen a list of the early warning signs of fascism on a poster in the Holocaust Memorial Museum in the US.
She said she was reading the points to show that India's constitution was under threat and the country was being "torn apart" by the ruling party's "lust to divide".
Ms Moitra began by acknowledging the Bharatiya Janata Party's landslide victory in the recent general elections.
In the vote, Indians across the country demonstrated unequivocally they wanted the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi back in power for a second term. The scale of victory stunned the opposition and pundits, who were expecting a much closer race.
Ms Moitra, however, said it was "the very nature of the overwhelming-ness of this mandate makes it necessary for the voices of dissent to be heard".
Then, in a rebuke to the governing party, she listed these seven "danger signs of early fascism":
  • "There is a powerful and continuing nationalism that is searing into our national fabric," she said. "It is superficial, it is xenophobic and it is narrow. It's the lust to divide and not the desire to unite."
  • She pointed to a "resounding disdain for human rights", which she said had led to a 10-fold increase in the number of hate crimes between 2014 and 2019.
  • Ms Moitra criticised the government for its "unimaginable subjugation and control of mass media". She said India's TV channels spend "the majority of airtime broadcasting propaganda for the ruling party".
  • She attacked the government for what she said was an "obsession with national security". An "atmosphere of fear" pervaded the country, with new enemies being created every day.
  • "The government and religion are now intertwined. Do I even need to speak about this? Need I remind you that we have redefined what it means to be a citizen?" she demanded, saying laws had been amended to target Muslims.
  • She said "a complete disdain for intellectuals and the arts" and "the repression of all dissent" was the most dangerous sign of all - and it was "pushing India back to the Dark Ages".
  • The last sign, Ms Moitra said, was the "erosion of independence in our electoral system".
Ms Moitra spoke for about 10 minutes while MPs from the treasury benches tried to shout her down, but she stood firm and called on the Speaker to rein in the "professional hecklers".
Since it came to power, the BJP has been accused of targeting minorities and weakening state institutions under Mr Modi's powerful leadership. It has consistently dismissed such allegations.
Her speech in English, which was laced with facts and figures, even included a couple of poems in Hindi. Many people on social media praised her for reciting these as she is not a Hindi-speaker - her mother tongue is Bengali.
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A former investment banker with JP Morgan, Ms Moitra quit her well-paying job in London in 2009 to return to Indian politics. She has been the TMC's national spokesperson for several years and regularly appears in prime-time TV debates.
During the recent elections, the BBC spent two days following her around on the campaign trail in rural Krishnanagar constituency in West Bengal state, where the TMC is in power.

In speech after speech, she took direct aim at Mr Modi. She talked about the deadly suicide attack in Kashmir and India's subsequent air raid in Pakistan. She accused the BJP of trying to divide Hindus and Muslims. She said elections in the past were to change the government, but this election was to save the constitution of India.
So on Tuesday, when the 43-year-old stood up to address the lower house, I was among those expecting an intelligent speech. But it was more than that. It won her fans and admirers and trended on Twitter for hours.

Ms Moitra's speech is significant at a time when one party - Mr Modi's BJP - dominates parliament and the opposition is struggling to be seen and heard.
It is even more significant considering politics in India is still very patriarchal. It is dominated by men, and women make up only 14% of members of the house. And although there are some fiery female MPs, there are many who prefer to stay on the sidelines.
Mahua Moitra campaigns in West Bengal
Image caption Mahua Moitra pictured on the campaign trail in West Bengal
Ms Moitra, however, is not afraid to ruffle feathers and many will hope her speech inspires more female MPs to do the same.
"We are in the opposition, so we have to bring up the issues. We have to speak up and we have to point it out. We will speak up on whatever issues there are," Ms Moitra told the BBC on Wednesday, a day after her speech.
"The opposition's job is to highlight the failings of the government and highlight issues that are not being dealt with by the treasury benches. That is my job and I will do that to the best of my ability."
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HIndutvadi fascism is alive and kicking inside India

India under BJP rule of Narendra Modi is becoming a fascist Hindu state where the lives of minorities, esp. Muslims, are becoming very difficult. They face daily lynching in the hands of Hindutvadi fascists. Indian Fascism has become a topic of due of concern for many. Unless, this ugly ideology is arrested, its hatred will engulf the entire subcontinent and create a mayhem that is undesirable. 
See the report below from Al Jazeerah on a recent Hindutvadi violence against an unarmed Muslim:
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Protests in Indian cities after Muslim man beaten to death
Prime Minister Modi said he was 'pained' by the lynching of the 24-year-old by Hindu mob in Jharkhand state.
27 June 2018 21 hours agoimage.png
Protests were held in various parts of India on Wednesday [Bilal Kuchay/Al Jazeera]

more on Asia

New Delhi, India - Protests were held in various parts of India on Wednesday following the lynching of a Muslim man, with people demanding an end to what they termed as "lynch terror".
Tabrez Ansari, 24, was beaten to death by a Hindu mob in Kharsawan district in the eastern Indian state of Jharkhand on suspicion of theft, causing a public uproar.
Protests were planned in about 50 cities under the hashtag #JusticeForTabrez and #IndiaAgainstLynchTerror. It was not clear how many cities participated in it.
Opposition Congress party leader Rahul Gandhi termed the lynching a "blot on humanity".
In the Indian capital, New Delhi, scores of people, including university students and activists, held a protest at Jantar Mantar close to the parliament house.
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Holding placards and chanting slogans against the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the protesters demanded an end to the violence against Muslims.
"Violence against Muslims has to stop," said one of the speakers at the protest site. "Government must understand that we will not tolerate this lynch terror any more," he added.
Mobile phone videos, which went viral on social media, shows Ansari tied to a lamppost and beaten by a mob before police intervened and took him into the custody.
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A woman holds a placard during a protest in Kolkata [Rupak De Chowdhuri/Reuters]
He was forced to shout "Jai Shri Ram" (Hail Lord Ram), a slogan increasingly used by Hindu far-right groups. In the footage, Ansari is seen crying and pleading for mercy while being beaten with sticks and forced to repeat the chants.
READ MORE

The lynching that changed India

Police took Ansari to hospital for treatment but four days after the June 18 incident. He was pronounced dead shortly after arrival at a local hospital.
Police have arrested at least 11 villagers over the grisly attack and two officers have been suspended from duty.
"It is a very scary situation for Muslims," Sana Maryam, a protester, told Al Jazeera. She alleged that the perpetrators of the violence have enjoyed impunity.
Another protester named Fatima, a university student, said: "We the people of India have been living in peace and harmony since very long and we have not been hostile to each other but after the BJP government came to power things have changed."
"Efforts are being made to divide people in the name of religion so that they fight each other and the real issues are not talked about."

'Strictest possible punishment'

The public anger prompted Prime Minister Modi to make a comment in parliament, saying he was "pained" by the incident and called for "the strictest possible punishment to the accused".
However, he said that it was unfair on part of people to call the state of Jharkhand, also ruled by the BJP, "a hub of lynching".
"The lynching in Jharkhand has pained me. It has saddened others too. But some people in the Rajya Sabha (Upper House of the Indian parliament) are calling Jharkhand a hub of lynching. Is this fair? Why are they insulting a state? None of us has the right to insult the state of Jharkhand," Modi said.
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People in Ahmedabad city protest against the lynching of Tabrez Ansari [Amit Dave/Reuters]
Kavita Krishnan, the secretary of NGO All India Progressive Women's Association, said: "People from the Muslim community are being continuously targeted."
"In almost every case of lynching, barring one or two, people have been arrested but never prosecuted or convicted," she said.
Hate crimes against minorities, particularly Muslims, have increased in the South Asian nation since Modi's Hindu nationalist party came to power about five years ago.
OPINION

What is behind India's epidemic of 'mob lynching'?

Apoorvanand
by Apoorvanand
Dozens of Muslims have been attacked or lynched by Hindu mobs since 2014, in many cases over suspicion of cow slaughter which is banned in most Indian states, as Hindus consider the cow a sacred animal.
According to data from the website Factchecker.in, which has been monitoring hate crimes in India, this is the 11th instance of hate crime this year.
Last year, the Supreme Court condemned "horrendous acts" of mob violence and asked the government to enact a new law to deal with an increase in incidents of lynching.

'I want justice'

In all the cases of hate crimes since 2009, the data indicates that in 59 percent cases the victims were Muslims and 28 percent of the incidents were related to alleged cattle theft or slaughter.
In its annual report - International Religious Freedom for 2019, released last week - US State Department said religious intolerance in India is growing under Modi's right-wing government.
Complaint of victim Tabrez Ansari's wife to local police. He was stopped by mob, accused of being a thief, severely beaten for several hours. After being handed over to the police next morning, he was jailed, rather than being hospitalised. The relatives were not even informed.View image on Twitter       
Is this the New Jharkhand and New India that are being talked of? Watch Tabrez Ansari being forced to chant Jai Shri Ram and Jai Hanuman. @HemantSorenJMM @ShoaibDaniyal @Dipankar_cpiml @drajoykumar @JharkhandNow @svaradarajan @sharmasupriya @KunalSarangi @karwanemohabbat
50510:31 AM - Jun 23, 2019 
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The report said: "There were reports of religiously motivated killings, assaults, riots, discrimination, vandalism, and actions restricting the right of individuals to practice their religious beliefs."
"Authorities often failed to prosecute perpetrators of 'cow vigilante' attacks, which included killings, mob violence, and intimidation," it added.
New Delhi rejected the report, saying a foreign government had no right to pronounce on the state of Indian citizens' constitutionally protected rights.
Ansari's wife Shaishta Ansari told NDTV news channel that her husband was beaten so brutally because he was a Muslim. "My husband was my only support. Who will I live for now? I want justice."
Activists say that "it's an emergency situation" and the Indian government must act.
"India must realise that this is not an emergency for the Indian Muslims only but for India's democracy as well," said Apoorvanand, an activist and professor of Hindi at Delhi University.

Watch :

People and Power - India's Hindu Fundamentalists - YouTube

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