Sunday, January 29, 2012

Turmoil from India to Israel. Will there be peace in 2012?

The New York Review of Books and Pankaj Mishra together add up to a delightful combination for essays.  In his latest one, Mishra writes about Anna Hazare's protest movement by presenting it against the backdrop of the economic reality that has severely disappointed India's majority:
[Under Manmohan Singh] growth in India has remained wildly uneven—and deeply compromised by corporate influence on political processes. A U.S. diplomatic cable released this year by Wikileaks shows a senior Hindu nationalist politician admitting that virtually all economic growth of recent years has been concentrated in the four southern states, two western states (Gujarat and Maharashtra) and “within 100km of Delhi.” In another cable about Pranab Mukherjee, the finance minister being groomed to be India’s next PM, Hillary Clinton is revealingly blunt: “To which industrial or business groups is Mukherjee beholden?”
During Singh’s reign as prime minister, India has also witnessed a strong backlash against globalization among the poor. The most striking instance is the militant Communist movement representing landless peasants and indigenous forest peoples in Central India—these are Indians fighting their dispossession by mining companies that are backed by the Indian government. Early last year, India’s Supreme Court censured the government for creating an informal militia against Communist militants. Claiming that “the poor are being pushed to the wall,” the court blamed increasing violence in the country on “predatory forms of capitalism, supported by the state.”
Since then Singh has also lost his main constituency: the beneficiaries, both real and potential, of “rising” India. Periodicals such as Foreign Affairs, The Economist, and The Financial Times that in 2005 hailed India as a “roaring capitalist success story” now wonder if India is descending into a Latin-American-style oligarchy. In recent months the global recession has also begun to affect the Indian economy. Inflation is running into double digits. Industrial production has declined; at one point, the rupee had fallen nearly 20 percent again the dollar; and foreign capital—the mainstay of India’s remarkable growth in the last decade—flows steadily out of the country. As though sensing the prevailing winds, India’s biggest companies are putting the bulk of their investments abroad.
There is simply nothing in Mishra's essay that strikes a discordant note in my ear.  My own take on Anna Hazare and the Indian economic conditions have pretty much been along the same lines too. 

I am worried though that there is an increasing level of intolerance in India.  As I see it, the corruption itself is less worrisome compared to a rapidly growing support for restricting the freedom for expression.  A tiny group of Muslims vocalize their protests, and then a tiny group of Hindus voice theirs.  The government wants to censor online speech.  My father worries that my blog posts and opinion pieces will not be welcomed by the Indian government; such is the level of "free speech" in India. 

I wonder where this is all headed.  One kind of turmoil in India and a completely different kind across the border in Pakistan, which shares borders with two other countries in much higher levels of turmoil: Afghanistan and Iran.  From Iran, it is a stone's throw away from Iraq, Syria, Israel ... 2012 is not looking good.

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