IN Pakistan, apprehensions are rife about Narendra Modi?s flamboyant success. But fervent Modi supporters in the Indian middle classes prefer to place him in the economic governance arena. Dawn recently talked to renowned Indian writer, Arundhati Roy, in Delhi to explore what Modi?s rise means for India.
?The massive, steeply climbing GDP of India dropped rather suddenly and millions of middle-class people sitting in the aircraft, waiting for it to take off, suddenly found it freezing in mid-air,? says Ms Roy. ?Their exhilaration turned to panic and then into anger. Modi and his party have mopped up this anger.? Continue reading “Where will India's poor go?”
It is time to protest the ruling Awami League?s self-publicity through billboards at a staggering cost of more than Tk.3 crore (one senior minister would possibly say taxpayers? Tk.3 crore is ?rubbish? as he ?rubbished? the 4,000 crore stolen by Hall-Mark). I am really shocked and saddened by the government?s overwhelming ?billboard campaign? ? whose impact will be grossly under-whelming though ? and the deafening silence of our civil society, intellectuals, politicians and youths over this scandalous act of the ruling party. The removal of commercial billboards to the detriment of commercial firms by the government is also shockingly unwarranted.
You have tried to be appeaser,
You have tried to kiss their feet,
You’ve turned your back on backers,
And so, you’ve known defeat.
Perhaps it’s how you’d risen,
Ascending far too fast.
You’ve catered to the Powers,
But Powers never last.
You fought the fight for healthcare,
In which you did believe,
But prudence was your tactic,
Which little did achieve. Continue reading “To Barack Obama”
The government was hell bent on preventing the opposition rally. Trains, buses and launches were all stopped. Ordinary passengers were beaten up and prevented from off loading at stations and ferrys. The police were out in full force in the city, checking on people to make sure they were not opposition supporters heading for the rally. Continue reading “March 12 Rally”
Yesterday, I had ended with the words, “there is still hope.”
But, of course, hoping doesn’t mean that one daydreams, or fantasises. Or, becomes cynical when things don’t turn out the way one had wished.
“Pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will” — words attributed to Antonio Gramsci, the Italian Marxist, imprisoned by Mussolini. To see the world as it really is, underpinned by the will that humans have the courage to change it. One thus needs to dispassionately examine what occurred later. But before doing so, let me turn to the cat- out-of-the-bag story.
The ‘minus two plan’ was officially confirmed by the World Bank South Asia vice-president Praful C. Patel. While visiting Dhaka, at the end of 2007, he said, “What [had] looked possible before, like the minus-two approach, does not seem possible today, because the two ladies have [a] very strong and powerful power base.” Continue reading “Part VI Military-installed caretaker govt, or a 'consortium' govt?”
The incongruencies were many. They helped to sow suspicion among members of the public. The general relief felt in the early period of the caretaker government’s takeover, gradually slipped away.
Having failed to gain legitimacy, the consortium government finally relinquished power on January 6, 2009, after the December 2008 electoral results declared Awami League the winner, that too, with a landslide victory.
I was reminded of Pakistan’s president Parvez Musharraf because the US government (which headed the ‘western bloc,’ the third constitutive element of the consortium government) had learnt a lesson from Musharraf’s regime. The latter had suffered from a legitimacy crisis (some say, Musharraf had used it at times to stave off some of the demands made by the Bush administration); the lesson which the American administration had learnt was that a government voted to power, albeit, under conditions favorable to imperial policies and interests, is not similarly encumbered. Continue reading “Part III Military-installed caretaker govt, or a 'consortium' govt?”
As I’d explained in my column published on February 13, 2012, I’d disappeared from these pages to work on three manuscripts intended for Boi Mela 2012. While they missed the bus — more work needs to be done for them to see the light of day — but what did make it to the Mela is a collection edited by Udisa Islam, for which I’d written the foreword. Bikkhobh Shonkolon: Joruri Obosthay Bisshobiddaloy 2007 (Dhaka: Shrabon, 2012) is an archival collection, in print, of the student protests which broke out in August 2007, when army personnel stationed in an army camp on Dhaka University grounds beat up university students who were watching a football match. Dubbed a “trivial incident” (tuccho ghotona) by the then chief of general staff Sina Ibn Jamali, student protests mushroomed, enveloping other public university campuses, and college campuses as well. Protests spilled out on to the streets of Dhaka and other major cities, expressing growing popular discontentment and resentment at the military-installed caretaker government’s rule. The so-called “trivial incident” proved to be a resounding nail in the caretaker government’s coffin. Continue reading “Part I Military-installed caretaker govt, or a 'consortium' govt?”
Switch off the lights. Rend your hair. Don only white. It is time to go into mourning. An old and ailing relative? democracy, has died an inevitable death. Dead at barely 60 years old though the abuse it suffered during its short life span made it appear much older.
Like the aunt who lingers on long after most of the family believe she is already dead, this week?s death was a quiet one, it was long expected, some would say even overdue. There was no shock, no sudden loss.
Democracy in this country wasn?t overthrown by a dictator, nor shattered suddenly by the chaos of war and revolution. Instead it died a painful, slow death. Strangled by corruption, stifled by authoritarianism and finally snuffed out by the disinterest and apathy of the general public. ?And while it somehow lingered on despite being savaged by decades of war, riots, and attempted revolutions, ?this week we finally saw democracy die in the hearts and minds of voters.
The turn out ?for the 2010 general election stands as the lowest in history? only ?50% of the country?s people made the effort to participate in the country?s political process; not enough to sustain democracy?s ebbing life force. ?While some will criticise the voters? apathy, in reality you can only marvel at the patience of a people who voted regularly for six decades. ??At the devotion of a population who after years of false promises and disappointment continued to vote until finally a lack of credible candidates, tangible issues and the impossibility of effecting real change finally destroyed their interest in democracy.
Of course the truth is and always has been that ?regardless of the final results of this election, thugs, cronies and criminals will continue to rule this country. And regardless of anyone?s vote the present ?situation of lawlessness, ?emergency rule and authoritarianism is guaranteed to continue. The election was never going to address this country?s fundamental issues. Its lack of law and order, its almost medieval levels of women?s representation, the broken education system.
None of these things were even on the agenda. With victory guaranteed ?the most keenly fought battles in this year?s election took place within the ruling party, as the government?s heavy weight candidates fought openly over the spoils of certain UPFA victory; the 20 million vassals and serfs who no longer enjoy even the pretense of rights.
Instead of issues and achievements, candidates ?struggled to display their closeness to the country?s centre of power. ?We were treated to the unashamed sycophantism of ?posters showing Wimal Weerawansa sharing breakfast with our leader and ?Bandula Gunawardena daring to pass the ?phone to the President. ?Eventually ?desperation for inter-party preference votes saw ?government candidates desecrate Buddha statues and violate every section of the country?s election law ?with impunity.
Seeing the ugliness of the government, the impotence of the opposition and the hypocrisy ?of the institutions ? police, courts, charged with safeguarding democracy the people were inevitably disgusted. ??And at ?a crucial moment in the country?s history they ?chose to hide their faces from this mockery of the democratic process. They looked away ?from the hideous posters, meaningless slogans and the futile opposition ?and refused to make the effort to vote.
But while everyone looked away ?democracy died a second death ? that of the two thirds majority. ?Figures indicate that the UPFA ?will receive nearly two-thirds of the votes ?cast. ?And with this majority comes nothing less than absolute power. The ability to amend the constitution, the very basis of ?the nation?s law. The checks and ?balances that ?are the key to democracy have disappeared. ??And with the government in such a comfortable position the reforms that could ?possibly have breathed new life into the islands democracy? the 17th Amendment, quotas for women, a Right to Information Act, will never materialise.
Democracy in Sri Lanka is beyond revival. And in its place we now have just one party or more accurately, one ?family. ?And the country?s citizens have just one choice, either demonstrate their loyalty, obedience and gratitude to the ruling family or risk detention, death or worse the utter irrelevance of ?powerlessness.
This is no longer a criticism or a warning, ?it is simply reality. One chapter of the country?s history is now closed ?? the flickering light of democracy has gone out. ?The ailing opposition, the clapped out General, the toothless UNP will never be able to restore the people?s right to democracy. ?Instead if it is ever to return, democracy in this country will have to be reborn. Instead of ?being imposed by colonial masters it will have to take hold again in the hearts and minds of the people.
If nothing else this year?s low turn-out indicates dissatisfaction ?with the current political system and perhaps ?a longing for a process we can all believe in; ?it is still possible that the country?s people still long for genuine democracy. ?But until that hope manifests itself as a genuine grass roots movement for a return to a politics based on principles, representative politics and good governance we ?have dark years of despotism ahead of us.
Democracy is dead. And today only thugs, cronies and sycophants ?have reason to celebrate; the rest of us will be in mourning for a weak, flawed but comforting old friend.