India: Hindu fundamentalist becomes opposition PM candidate

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 235 October/November 2013

This September the Hindu fundamentalist opposition party in India, BJP, declared its prime ministerial candidate to be Narendra Modi, three times elected controversial chief minister of Gujarat state. This decision was egged on by millions of grassroots BJP workers enthused by Modi, as well as Hindu nationalists and youths who look to Modi as both a bulwark of Hindu nationalism and an icon of ‘development’. This elevation of Modi ahead of next year’s general election bodes ill for India and for the entire region.


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Delhi gang rape triggers mass protests across India

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 231 February-March 2013

On 16 December 2012, a 23-year-old female medical student was gang-raped on a bus in Delhi and died on 29 December as a result of the appalling injuries she received. As the news of the brutal rape became public, there was widespread outrage in New Delhi and elsewhere. On 21 December a huge public protest took place at India Gate, a prominent landmark in the city. Protesters marched also to the Rashtrapati Bhavan, the official residence of the Indian president. There were clashes with the police in Jantar Mantar and other Delhi locations. The police attacked the demonstrators with tear gas, water cannon and lathi (sticks), injuring and arresting many of them.


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Indian government pushes on with austerity measures – Dec 2012

In late November 2012 the Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh made a speech defending his government's recent cuts in subsidies that benefit poor people (such as the price of kerosene and the number of subsidised cylinders each family was allowed to have) and the decision to allow majority foreign direct investment (FDI) in retail. Ending the ban on foreign multinational companies like Walmart taking a majority stake in any Indian retail company will allow such companies to start undercutting their suppliers and competitors using huge investments from abroad. With interest rates in India typically much higher than in developed countries like the UK, multinationals can get cheaper loans than their Indian competitors. This will be a threat to the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of small Indian shopkeepers and retailers.


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Indian farmers commit suicide in GM wasteland

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism 226 April/May 2012

In the last ten years 200,000 farmers have committed suicide across India. Last year alone, 800 farmers in Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and Maharashtra killed themselves. Some estimate that in India a farmer commits suicide every 30 minutes. This horrifying trend, the largest suicide wave ever recorded, is a result of the desperate and growing poverty amongst India’s poor, which is happening regardless of – or arguably because of – the much-vaunted growth of the country’s economy.


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India: What’s in a name?

FRFI 215 June/July 2010

The demand for political prisoner status

On 11 April 2010, 469 inmates in Alipore Central Jail in Kolkotta (Calcutta) in West Bengal went on hunger strike, demanding recognition as political prisoners. The previous April, two prisoners in the district of Cooch Behar went on a fast to demand political status. On 14 September 2009 an unspecified number of inmates in Nagpur, the second capital of the state of Maharashtra in western India, went on a one-day hunger strike to demand political prisoner status.

What’s in a name? One might ask. It is one thing to ask for fair trial, injunctions against torture and such, but why this insistence on labels – ‘P’ for political, ‘C’ for criminal? Political status does not automatically lead to any special privileges or concessions other than the things civil liberties groups demand for all prisoners: fair and expeditious trial, humane treatment, prohibition of physical and sexual torture, and an end to graft. Yet the very resilience of this demand for categorisation indicates its importance for the civil liberties and democratic rights movements in India today.


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Life shouldn't be like this – the fight to beat the multinationals

The struggle of Indian people in the southern state of Kerala against Pepsi and Coca-Cola products reached a new stage when on 22 September, in a court case brought by the multinationals, the Kerala High Court overturned a state ban on their production and sale. In response, supporters of the ban smashed stocks of Pepsi Cola and attacked eight lorries ferrying Coca-Cola. The Kerala state government has said it will appeal to the Supreme Court.

Kerala banned the sale and production of Pepsi and Coca-Cola products in August in response to a recent study showing dangerously high levels of pesticide residues in Indian soft drinks. Seven other Indian states have banned the sale of Coca-Cola and Pepsi drinks in schools and government buildings.


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