No Coverage for India? – Conservative Article
In India, there have been protests for the last few months. However, this is something that the West has largely been oblivious to. Furthermore, anti-racism movements such as BLM have been surprisingly quiet on the matter. This is appalling. What is going on in India should be more reported on in Western media, however to their failure they have remained silent.
Let me explain what is going on.
In September of 2020, the Modi government introduced controversial laws to reform India’s farming system. Under the current system, farmers bring their good to markets called mandis, and sell them at in an open auction. The mandis are run by a state market board to stop farmers from being exploited by large retailers. Prices are informed by minimum support prices (MSPs), which are set by the government.
The laws will deregulate the farming market and allow farmers to sell their goods to private buyers. However, many fear that this will make the mandi system obsolete and threaten MSPs, and thus farmers’ incomes. Modi has verbally promised they will stay, but farmers want written assurance. While India’s farming system does need reforming, these laws were rushed as a show of authoritarian power.
These bills were pushed through Parliament without scrutiny, and farmers say they were not consulted either. In November, 250 million protestors marched on the capital New Delhi. Many of the protestors were from Punjab and Haryana.
These mass protest of farmers in India has provoked a strong authoritarian response from the Modi government. Protestors were blocked from protesting into New Delhi but broke through and have camped in the city.
There was also another major protest on 26 January. This is important because it is the day India marks its constitution coming into force after British rule ended. After the government celebrated with a military parade, another large protest occurred. At the Red Fort, hundreds and thousands of people breached the historic location and hoisted flags on top of the castle. The police responded to this with batons and tear gas.
While I don’t support the wrecking of historic locations for political purposes, (farm leaders condemned the move), I also don’t support the brutal police response throughout the crisis. People have died, and since the rally 100s of farmers have gone missing.
Modi has also compelled Twitter to suspend accounts linked with criticising his government, cracking down on free speech. Internet shutdowns have been used to stifle the spread of information and speech too. Journalists are being charged for covering the protest. This is way more authoritarian than what went on in the US in the summer of 2020, but little has been said in comparison.
These protests are also a constant show of racism for the Sikh community. The government and Indian media have attempted to link the farmers to Sikh extremists Khalistan, despite this not being true. Many Sikhs worry that there is going to be a second Sikh massacre similar to in 1984, with Hindu nationalists chanting “Repeat 1984”. Hindu nationalists have also held menacing rallies outside Sikh places of worship, as this Twitter user noted.
One example that is shockingly similar to the George Floyd murder is this picture. Yet the world has been silent about it.
The world should be paying more attention to this, if not for the clear violations of democratic rights then for the more strategic reason that India is a bulwark against China. If we are to oppose China for its way of handling free speech and protests in Hong Kong, then we must be more vocal in our opposition to how India is dealing with these protests. We must hold our allies to account.
What is more surprising is the silence of BLM activists. Over the summer of 2020, the world was taken aback by the murder of George Floyd. This inspired protests, riots, and black square Instagram posting against racism across the world. Even in war-torn Syria, a mural for Floyd was held. But for India? BLM and the world are silent. No worldwide protest, no riots, and no widespread Instagram posts. This exposes the American centrism of the BLM movement.
The phrase “When America sneezes, the whole world catches a cold” is apt here. If BLM wants to show the horrors of police brutality, why is it silent on India? It should be using its profile on such issues to be vocal on them, not ignore them because it doesn’t fit the current America-centric model. If BLM wants to achieve global equality as it claims, then it should showcase the current injustices in India.
There should be more news coverage in the UK too. When France closed the UK-French border during Christmas 2020, it was British Sikhs that went to help deliver almost 2,000 hot meals to the stranded lorry drivers to help. The fact that we are repaying their kindness with silence is saddening.
Global Britain should mean that we are not only standing up for our interests, but it should also mean that we are vocal against countries that commit strong authoritarian moves in reaction to protest. COVID-19 has understandably meant that foreign issues have been lower on the list, but we shouldn’t forget them entirely. The protests in India have been met with appalling force, and we should be more vocal against that.
Written by Senior Conservative Writer, Kieran Burt
Point of Information
Both Britain and Modi are Failing India’s Democracy and its People – A Liberal Response
Perhaps for the first time on POI, I am mostly in agreement with Kieran. Modi’s authoritarian, fascistic regime has been allowed to exist for six years too long. His most recent actions against India’s farmers have confirmed his anti-democratic tendencies.
Whilst India has been in an agricultural crisis for many years, Kieran is right to highlight the farmers’ very real fears of Modi’s new privatisation laws. Such a sudden shift is dangerous and could spell the end of both India’s mandi system and MSPs, which at least prevent starvation. We cannot guarantee this base level security under profit-hungry businesses.
Modi’s response has also been a disgrace. Rather than approaching the laws as a matter of debate, they were confirmed rashly as a party dictate followed by sprees of autocratic violence – truly shocking moves in the World’s largest democracy.
Can we be that surprised though? Modi’s opposition in the Lok Sabha, the Indian parliament’s lower body, is in tatters. The Indian National Congress, once the party of Nehru and Gandhi, is a shroud of its former self. With only 52 seats (compared to the BJP’s 300), the INC would be India’s best hope of holding onto human rights and democracy (despite the party’s less-than-perfect past).
Fueled by this lack of a parliamentary threat, Modi continues his ultra-nationalist tirade. Christian persecution by Hindu extremists is at an all-time high, whilst Modi actively attacks the country’s 195 million Muslims by working to strip them of their citizenship rights. It was only a matter of time before he sharpened his sword against another one of India’s religious minorities: the Sikhs. As Kieran has pointed out, the chants for ‘Repeat 1984’ are bone-chilling.
Yet, I disagree with Kieran regarding one area of his article though. I am very uneasy about Kieran’s consistent demands that BLM speaks up about India. BLM after all exists in a very different context of racial injustice, and I do not believe it is for me or for Kieran to decide who BLM does and does not speak for.
However, I agree that the same principles that angered us about George Floyd’s murder should similarly inspire action against Modi’s persecutions. Britain has been far too silent about these religion-based injustices that infringe on India’s hard-won democracy. Perhaps it is time we mitigate some of the divides that we created on the Indian subcontinent for so many centuries?
As Britons, our love for equality and liberty, and the value we put on individual human dignity, should not be forsaken. As a people, we need to throw our mass support behind India’s oppositional parties. Urgently.
Written by Chief Liberal writer, Frank Allen
This Isn’t a New Problem – A Labour Response
Being completely honest, I knew little about the Indian farmer protests before researching prior to this response. Even as a politically engaged politics student, I will hold my hands up and say I fell victim to the lack of coverage on this issue. For me, that only emphasises Kieran’s main point: there is little to no mainstream coverage in the West for issues that exist beyond the West. Simply put, the media doesn’t seem to care.
I have to say I agree with the majority of Kieran’s article. There is no doubt that Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have been unjust in their passing of reform and have seemingly furthered their authoritarian agenda and fascist reputation.
In my view, any change to a system that has existed for decades deserves sufficient deliberation among the key players. In this case, they certainly should have consulted farmers before any real reform was implemented. The consequence of this not happening will prove to be devastating. The loss of lives up until now confirms this.
You would expect there to be at least some international outcry at these scenes, that would seem logical. But in reality, both mainstream and social media are failing to report on it. Sadly, this isn’t a unique problem.
Western media outlets rarely report or discuss protests beyond the West, so you can replace ‘America’ with ‘the Western world’ in Kieran’s sneezing analogy. There is seemingly little to no disregard for anything that doesn’t directly affect the respective Western country.
One current example is the ongoing Polish abortion protesting where, similar to India’s events, restrictive reform has been rushed through with little regard for the public and those directly affected. And even in my time at POI, I have encountered a similar debate surrounding Belarusian protests.
So the problem is obvious. Western news coverage is not inclusive or informative enough. But who’s responsibility is it to improve this? Is it enough to rely on media outlets to recognise their ignorance? Should we, as curious citizens, be actively pressurising these outlets? Or should we simply take on this role ourselves and spread awareness through social media?
I am optimistic that the media will eventually realise their lack of information is nothing more than disguised ignorance. But I am also realistic in thinking that this will take time.
If we want to spread awareness now, our best tool by far is social media. Extending beyond simple performative activism, social media outlets are engaging platforms that have a lot of opportunity for good. Combine this with simultaneously pressurising the mainstream media to do better, I am hopeful we will begin to realise the importance of knowledge beyond our immediate neighbours.
Written by Chief Labour Writer, Abi Clargo