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THE WIRE
The Wire is a news website available in English and Hindi, was founded in 2015 in New Delhi. It is published by the Foundation for Independent Journalism (FIJ), a non-profit Indian company.
Photo of Prince Charles visiting the Caribbean
Geopolitics
Priyanjali Malik*

Commonwealth Countries Will Now Decide To Keep Calm, Or Move On

A difficult colonial history shared by 52 of the 56 current members of the Commonwealth was deftly obfuscated by pomp and circumstance. With the Queen’s passing, tensions may now bubble to the surface.

-Analysis-

NEW DELHI — Turning 21 on April 21, 1947, the then Princess Elizabeth in a broadcast from South Africa dedicated her life to the Commonwealth and Empire, declaring that her “whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong”.

Four and a half years later, she was proclaimed queen and spent the first few decades of her reign watching that "imperial family’" shrink rapidly. In 1957, Ghana and Malaysia became the first colonies to seek independence after her accession; Britain’s last colony, Hong Kong, was returned to China in 1997. In the intervening four decades, Empire crumbled, leaving only memories of the time when Britannia ruled the waves.

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Floods in Charsadda, northwestern Pakistan
Green Or Gone
Veengas

Pakistan's "Monster Monsoon" And The Decade Of Destruction Left In Its Path

Caught between a natural disaster, an economic crisis and poor governance, flood-affected Pakistanis contemplate a future in ruins.

THATTA, SINDH — In a hastily put together settlement in the Matka embankment area of Thatta, Leela Mallah, carrying a child on her hip, looks at her new home: pieces of cloth draped over a bamboo structure assembled by the side of a road.

Leela’s actual home was washed away in the floods that have devastated the provinces of Sindh, Balochistan, South Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa since the middle of June, due to what Senator Sherry Rehman, the federal minister for climate change, called a “Monster Monsoon”.

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Photo of a people in front of a Gandhi mural in New Delhi
India
Faisal Devji*

As India Turns 75, A Look Back At Gandhi's Thoughts On Freedom

It was typical of Gandhi to bring opposites together, by noting that the very experience of hatred had made love possible by allowing Indians to take responsibility for their own actions and so the future.

As the day of India’s independence approached, Gandhi was frequently asked how it should be marked. His response was invariably to criticize the new government’s costly plans of celebrating it with spectacle and entertainment to recommend fasting, spinning and prayer instead.

This was not simply because of the violence then sweeping much of the country, or even to give the poverty of India’s millions its due, but so as to reflect upon the grave responsibilities that were the true gift of freedom. He spent Independence Day in riot-stricken Calcutta, trying to identify India’s freedom in the very midst of partition’s violence.

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What Britain Can Teach India About Religion And Politics
Ideas
Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd*

What Britain Can Teach India About Religion And Politics

Rishi Sunak, a Hindu of Indian origin, is in the running to become the UK's next prime minister. His religion has not factored at all into debates — a fierce contrast to a religiously divided India.

-Analysis-

NEW DELHI — Rishi Sunak, a British politician of Indian origin, is in the running to be prime minister of the United Kingdom. He's competing against Liz Truss to lead the Conservative party after Boris Johnson's resignation. After Kamala Harris’s attempt to be the Democratic Party’s candidate for U.S. president, he is the most recent person of Indian descent in the West to try to reach the political pinnacle.

Britain was once the colonial master of India. From an Indian point of view, the British prime minister is the historical political head of an empire of exploitation – and also, let us remember, an empire of reform. Were it not for British colonial rule, and the rights-oriented struggle for freedom against it, India would not have become a democratic, constitutional republic in 1947, however loudly we claim that the roots of our democracy lie in our ancient structures, whether Hindu or Buddhist.

All major aspects of our freedom struggle and colonial life were linked to the British political system. Particularly from the beginning of the 20th century, Indians considered the British prime minister the symbol of colonial rule, the man to revile or to appeal to.

Given this historical context, that a man of Indian origin stands a realistic chance of becoming the British prime minister shows how the world is changing. At a time when India is experiencing a form of Hindu-nationalist apartheid, Christian Britain is engaged with a prime ministerial candidate who has stated that his religion is Hinduism. As member of parliament (and later chancellor of the exchequer) he took his oath with the Bhagavad Gita.

An India divided by religion

Now the same Hindu Sunak wants to go to 10 Downing Street. Sunak’s wife, Akshata, is the daughter of Hindu Indian billionaires. Sunak’s wealth is, quite rightly, a point of public debate, since economic and social class have long been features of British politics. But his religion is resolutely not seen as relevant. This certainly points to a notable new level of multicultural tolerance among the British electorate and the political class. In this respect, I suspect Britain is certainly more secular and multicultural than America. If Kamala Harris had presented herself publicly as a Hindu, I suspect she may not have made it to the winning Democratic ticket.

Anglican Christianity is Britain’s state religion. Queen Elizabeth is the head of the Church of England. Yet Rishi Sunak’s desire to be prime minister is not seen as anomalous on grounds of religion.

Back in India, what do the Hindu parties Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) think about this Indian-origin Hindu being accepted as a possible prime minister of Britain? After all, they have marginalized India’s Muslims and Christians with a shameless agenda of religious majoritarianism. There isn’t a single Muslim on the treasury benches of either house of parliament, nor is there one in the Indian cabinet. (Under Boris Johnson, Britain had more Muslims in its cabinet than India!)

The RSS/BJP forces constantly boast of Hinduism being the “vishwa guru” (world guru). RSS literature is full of attacks on British and also Christian civilizational history, both as crusaders and colonial expansionists. They claim that Hinduism is the most tolerant religion in the world, notwithstanding the caste hierarchy. And in their historical narrative, even native Indian Muslims and Christians are treated as enemies.

Sunak’s wife, Akshata, is the daughter of Hindu Indian billionaires

Rishi Sunak Facebook Page

So much for the tolerance of Hinduism

In Britain today, Hindus are a small minority – around 1.6% of the population – and comprise very recent migrants and their descendants. Yet “minority-ism” does not seem to play a major role in Britain’s democratic competition. In the India of the RSS/BJP – or even of the Congress in days gone by – a Muslim or a Christian would not have been accepted as prime ministerial candidate. So much for the tolerance of Hinduism.

Britain oversaw a Christian colonial empire. Yet that same Britain now allows Sunak to compete for the top job. No British opposition leader or even his party’s own competitors for prime minister have raised the question of his religion. His wealth, yes. His attitude toward the working class, yes. And his wife’s tax avoidance, yes. All very good questions in a democracy. (These questions, by the way, are rarely asked in India.)

I am agnostic on the outcome of Sunak’s bid. But I do know this: Britain, the mother of parliamentary democracy, is teaching India an important lesson in tolerance and equality. But India, alas, is no longer a country that is allowed to learn.

*Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd is a political theorist, social activist and author. He is the author of Why I Am Not a Hindu: A Shudra Critique of Hindutva Philosophy, Culture and Political Economy, and of Post-Hindu India: A Discourse in Dalit-Bahujan Socio-Spiritual and Scientific Revolution.


India Faces Eternally Complex Child-Care Question: What To Do With Kids Of Women Prisoners
Society
Sukanya Shantha

India Faces Eternally Complex Child-Care Question: What To Do With Kids Of Women Prisoners

While growing up inside a prison leads to a range of difficulties for children, those separated from their mothers and left on the outside also face different traumas. In this in-depth reportage for India's The Wire, journalist Sukanya Shantha talks to mothers who had to give birth in jail and those who went without seeing their children for years to keep them protected.

MUMBAI — Raginibai was at the construction site when a large police search team came looking for her. Her husband was found brutally murdered, and his body — wrapped in a jute bag — had been buried several feet under the construction debris close by. The police suspected that Raginibai, along with a man they claimed was her “lover,” was involved in the murder. Raginibai denied this charge vehemently.

But at that moment, neither her husband’s death nor the police’s suspicion could unsettle her. The well-being of her five-year-old son, who shadowed her everywhere at the construction site in Taloja, on the outskirts of Mumbai, was all that she worried about.

Raginibai, a landless migrant labourer and a Dalit woman from Kalahandi — one of the most backward districts in the eastern Indian state of Odisha — feared that the police would take her child away and she would never be able to see him again. In desperation, she requested that the police hand her child over to a person she claimed was her sister. This was a claim that the police was legally bound to — yet never bothered to — independently ascertain.

Raginibai was arrested on November 15, 2019. She was pregnant at the time. She gave birth to a girl, her third child, inside an overcrowded Kalyan district jail, over 50 km away from Mumbai city.

Her eldest, a 12-year-old daughter, was away at Raginibai’s mother’s house in Odisha at the time of the arrest. With no parental support or financial backing, her daughter had to drop out of school and is now being forced into child labor in a paddy field, many kilometers outside her village.

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Photo of Ranil Wickremesinghe in Sri Lanka
Geopolitics
Devaka Gunawardena and Ahilan Kadirgamar*

The Dangers Of Ranil Wickremesinghe's Sudden Power Grab In Sri Lanka

As Sri Lanka looks to choose a new leader, the country's acting President Ranil Wickremesinghe is already behaving like an autocrat. Only by listening to the goals of the people's movement can the country be rescued from ruin.

Sri Lankans rose in unison to oust Gotabaya Rajapaksa as president as the country faces its worst-ever economic crisis and shortages of basics such as food, medicine and fuel. Foreign exchange reserves are empty and the island nation has been forced to hold bailout talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Protests started in the capital, Colombo, in April before spreading across the country.

Despite his destruction of the economy, which led to Sri Lanka’s unprecedented collapse, Rajapaksa proved difficult to dislodge. He clung on to power thanks to the excessive concentration of power in the executive presidency. Nevertheless, the people’s movement brought together protestors from all walks of life to demand his resignation.

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Maria Ressa, Filipino journalist, author and Nobel Peace Prize laureate​
Society
Arfa Khanum Sherwani

Journalism In A Zero-Trust World: Maria Ressa Speaks After Rappler Shut Down Again

The Rappler CEO and Nobel Peace Prize winner spoke with The Wire's Arfa Khanum Sherwani about how journalists everywhere need to prepare themselves for the worst-case scenario of government-ordered closure and what they should do to face up to such a challenge.

HONOLULU — For someone who’s just been ordered to shut down the news website she runs, Rappler CEO Maria Ressa is remarkably cheerful about what may happen next.

In a speech she gave to a conference at the East-West Center here on challenges the media face in a “zero trust world”, Ressa said that she and her colleagues were prepared for this escalation in the Philippines government’s war on independent media and will carry on doing the work they do. “If you live in a country where the rule of law is bent to the point it’s broken, anything is possible…. So you have to be prepared.”

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Photo of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi participating in a mass yoga demonstration during the International Yoga Day in Lucknow, India
Society
Banjot Kaur

Taking A Position: A Call To Regulate Yoga In India

Trained practitioners warn that unregulated yoga can be detrimental to people's health. The government in India, where the ancient practice was invented, knows this very well — yet continues to postpone regulation.

NEW DELHI — Prime Minister Narendra Modi led the observance of the eighth International Yoga Day from Mysuru, in southwestern India, early on the morning of June 21. Together with his colleagues from the Bharatiya Janata Party, he set out to mark the occasion in various parts of the country — reviving an annual ritual that had to take a break for the first two years of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Yoga is one of the five kinds of alternative Indian medicine listed under India’s AYUSH efforts — standing for "Ayurveda, Yoga, Unani, Siddha and naturopathy, and Homeopathy." Among them, only yoga is yet to be regulated under any Act of Parliament: All other practices are governed by the National Commission for Indian System of Medicine (NCISM), Act 2020.

Yoga and naturopathy are taught at the undergraduate level in 70 medical colleges across 14 Indian states. The Mangalore University in Karnataka first launched this course in 1989; today, these subjects are also taught at the postgraduate level.

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