Pankaj Mishra

From New York Times: “Games India isn’t ready to play

“So who is anxious over India’s image in the wealthy world? That particular burden is borne by India’s small affluent elite, for whom the last few months have been full of painful and awkward self-reckonings. Certainly, the fear of violence over Ayodhya was only the latest in a long line of reminders that, as the columnist Vir Sanghvi put it, “as hard as we try to build a new India … old India still has the power to humiliate and embarrass us.”

Since June, a mass insurrection, resembling the Palestinian intifada, has raged in the Indian-held Valley of Kashmir. Defying draconian curfews, large and overwhelmingly young crowds of Kashmiri Muslims have protested human rights abuses by the nearly 700,000 Indian security forces there. Ill-trained soldiers have met stone-pelting protesters with gunfire, killing more than a hundred Kashmiris, mostly teenagers, and ensuring another militant backlash that will be exploited by radical Islamists in Pakistan.

A full-blown insurgency is already under way in central India, where guerrilla fighters inspired by Mao Zedong’s tactics are arrayed against a government they see as actively colluding with multinational corporations to deprive tribal people of their mineral-rich lands. In recent months, the Maoists have attacked the symbols of the state’s authority — railroads, armories, police stations — seemingly at will, killing scores of people.”

India not only lives, as the cliché goes, in several centuries at once; it is also a land of multiple narratives, which continuously and often painfully overlap. The Commonwealth Games, the showcase of India’s progress, uprooted as many as 100,000 of the most deprived Indians in Delhi no less ruthlessly than the Chinese cleanse their ultramodern cities of the ungainly poor.”

“More fatefully, the Hindu nationalists exploded nuclear bombs underground and threatened Pakistan with all-out war, creating a legacy of hard-line nationalism — which the Indian military in Kashmir and successive governments in Delhi have embraced.

Certainly, the four million Muslims of Kashmir, who every day suffer the brutalities of what’s arguably the world’s largest military occupation, cannot be blamed for failing to make meaningful distinctions between Hindu nationalists and the current government, led by the more moderate Congress Party. Their fate remains that of a minority kept under perpetual siege by a paranoid nation-state.”

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