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‘They Are Manufacturing Foreigners’: How India Disenfranchises Muslims

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‘They Are Manufacturing Foreigners’: How India Disenfranchises Muslims


Fewer than a thousand people now remain in detention in Assam. It is nevertheless unclear what will happen to those who have not yet been incarcerated — a majority of those declared stateless. Hiren Gohain, who is perhaps Assam’s best-known progressive intellectual and a staunch critic of the Hindu right as well as of India’s counterinsurgency practices, sees the N.R.C. completed in August 2019 as the best solution to an inherently complex situation. He said he understood the frustrations of the Miya poets over how chauvinist sections of the Assamese were targeting Bengali Muslims. Nevertheless, he said, if there was to be any hope of reconciliation — a way to balance the competing claims of the various groups in Assam, including land-poor tribes and impoverished Assamese — Bengali Muslims had to have patience. “Ultimately, only 1.9 million were left out,” he said when I met with him in Guwahati. Of those, Gohain went on, one million would escape punitive measures because they claimed ancestry from Indian states like West Bengal and Bihar, which had not responded to requests for documentation from Assam. “That leaves only 900,000,” he said. “This does not mean a terrible injustice.”

Gohain believes that those unable to prove citizenship should be allowed to go about daily life until they can be resettled but that they should not be allowed to vote. “There are resident aliens in every other part of the world,” he said. “People who enjoy certain rights, but not the political right to vote.” Other proposals that have been aired include denying declared foreigners access to government services, issuing them guest-worker permits or redistributing the population to Bengali-majority states in India, like West Bengal and Tripura. Although put forward as humane alternatives to indefinite — not to say impractical — incarceration, these “solutions” are as oblivious as ever as to those whose lives have been shattered.

The B.J.P. leaders I saw campaigning one bright February morning in Bordowa, a picturesque village in Upper Assam, certainly seemed intent on increasing the number of stateless. Bordowa is the hometown of Sankardev, an Ahom-era religious figure who gave Assam its distinct version of Hinduism, and it is part of a multimillion-dollar project by the B.J.P. government to develop “religious and cultural tourism.” As an Indian Air Force helicopter carrying Shah, now the home affairs minister, touched down, unmasked crowds made their way on foot across emerald-green paddy fields toward the central stage. Much of Assam’s multiethnic population seemed represented in the carnival atmosphere; the only people left out were the Bengali Muslim villagers I passed earlier, walking in the opposite direction and avoiding eye contact with the crowd.

Sonowal, Assam’s chief minister at the time, opened the proceedings. But it was a minister in his cabinet, Himanta Biswa Sarma, speaking next, who, in a move meant to signal the B.J.P.’s confidence in its hard-line Hindu nationalist position in Assam, would be made chief minister after the B.J.P.’s victory there in May. At the rally, Sonowal’s soft voice soon gave way to Sarma’s testosterone-fueled speech, in which he worked in a denunciation of outsiders at every opportunity, pumping up the crowd by telling them that those attempting to occupy “sacred Indian soil” like that of Bordowa would never be forgiven by the people of Assam.

Finally, it was Shah’s turn. Speaking in Hindi, he reminded the audience that his home state of Gujarat, on the other side of the subcontinent and over 1,200 miles from Assam, was connected by Hinduism to the “sacred land” of Sankardev. When the crowd’s attention seemed to wander, Shah worked in his dog whistles. “The work of freeing Assam of ghuspetiyas was begun by the B.J.P. government under Narendra Modi,” he reminded the audience. A solitary Bengali Muslim man near me shifted uneasily in his seat.

The coming months featured plenty such reminders: billboards depicting barbed-wire border fencing as a B.J.P. achievement, Sarma declaring that he did not need the Miya vote. The election manifesto released by the B.J.P. made promises to every ethnic group in Assam except Bengali Muslims. Absent by name, they were the obvious targets of the section titled “Strengthening Civilization in Assam.” This would be achieved by tackling the threat of “Love Jihad” and “Land Jihad,” the manifesto stated, using the Hindu right’s catchphrases for the supposed menace posed by Muslim men marrying Hindu women and by Muslims occupying land — acts intended, according to the Hindu right, to engineer a demographic shift. Along with this came the promise to “ensure the correction and reconciliation” of the N.R.C. and a reinforcement of the system of border police and foreigners’ tribunals.

With the B.J.P.’s victory in Assam this spring, the symbiosis of Assamese nationalism and Hindu nationalism seemed complete. Sarma, after becoming chief minister, promised a “reverification” of the list, particularly in areas bordering Bangladesh; names on the list would be subject to scrutiny yet again. The Assamese official in charge of the N.R.C., Hitesh Dev Sarma, petitioned the Supreme Court for permission to fully review the list, claiming it contained “glaring anomalies of a serious nature.” (He declined to comment further for this article.)



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Democrats Weigh Carbon Tax After Manchin Rejects Key Climate Provision

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Democrats Weigh Carbon Tax After Manchin Rejects Key Climate Provision


WASHINGTON — Some House and Senate Democrats, smarting from a move by Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, to kill a major element of President Biden’s climate plan, are switching to Plan B: a tax on carbon dioxide pollution.

A carbon tax, in which polluting industries would pay a fee for every ton of carbon dioxide they emit, is seen by economists as the most effective way to cut the fossil fuel emissions that are heating the planet.

The almost certain demise of the clean electricity program at the heart of Mr. Biden’s agenda — which comes as scientists say forceful policies are needed to avert climate change’s most devastating impacts — has prompted outrage among many Democrats and has led several to say now is the moment for a carbon tax.

“I’ve had a carbon pricing bill in my desk for the last three years just waiting for the time,” said Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.

“What has been striking is the number of senators who’ve come to me about this since early fall — after Louisiana got clobbered with storms, the East Coast flooding, the Bootleg wildfires here in my own state,” said Mr. Wyden, speaking by telephone on Saturday from Oregon. “Now there are a number of senators, key moderate senators, who’ve said they’re open to this. And a lot of House folks who have said they would support it if the Senate sends it over.”

But a carbon tax can be politically explosive. Industries could pass along their higher costs, leaving President Biden and fellow Democrats vulnerable to claims that they are raising taxes on the middle class, at a moment when inflation and energy prices are rising. Environmental justice advocates say a carbon tax permits companies to continue polluting, albeit at a higher cost, which disproportionately harms low-income communities. And it is unclear if Mr. Manchin, whose vote is crucial to Mr. Biden’s legislative agenda, would support a carbon tax.

As a result, the White House is scrambling to come up with alternatives to replace the $150 billion clean electricity program that had been the centerpiece of Mr. Biden’s climate agenda until just days ago, when Mr. Manchin indicated he strongly opposed it. That program would have rewarded utilities that stopped burning fossil fuels in favor of wind, solar and nuclear energy, and penalized those that did not. It was intended to push the nation’s electricity sector to generate 80 percent of its power from clean energy sources by 2030, from 40 percent now.

As they seek alternatives, White House officials are also weighing a voluntary version of a cap-and-trade program, which would create a market for polluters to buy and sell allowances for a certain amount of emissions. They are also considering adding to the $300 billion in clean energy tax incentives and credits that remain in the bill, while looking for ways to salvage some parts of the clean electricity program.

A White House official said on Saturday that staff members were still engaging with members of Congress and had not yet agreed to a final version of climate provisions.

The cut to the climate change program could be among the first consequential decisions in what will very likely be a painful process for Democrats as they pare their ambitious $3.5 trillion domestic policy package. Mr. Manchin and another Democrat, Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, have said they cannot support that spending level. Over the next two weeks, the White House will negotiate with Democrats over cuts to dozens of programs, as lawmakers try to whittle the original bill to about $2 trillion.

Mr. Biden suggested on Friday that one of his agenda’s signature items — two years of free community college — was also on the chopping block, and progressive lawmakers worried about whether plans to provide paid family leave and expand Medicare to include vision, dental and hearing benefits could survive.

Mr. Biden and Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill have set a deadline of Oct. 31 for a deal that would enable Democrats to pass the bill with their razor-thin majorities in both chambers of Congress.

In recent days, as White House officials were trying to forge a deal, Mr. Manchin told them he would not support any legislation that includes a clean electricity program. Mr. Manchin, whose state is a major coal producer and who has financial ties to the coal industry, has said that abandoning fossil fuels will harm the country’s energy independence and would make climate change worse.

Once his opposition to the clean electricity program became public on Friday, several fellow Democrats expressed outrage.

“We have a moral obligation and a governing mandate to pass policy that addresses climate change,” the 96-member Congressional Progressive Caucus wrote on Twitter. “Inaction is not an option.” For weeks, progressive Democrats have been holding rallies chanting, “No climate, no deal!” to pressure the White House to include strong climate provisions. Several of those rallies focused on the importance of the clean electricity program.

Congress “cannot afford to gut” the climate provisions in the bill, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Democrat of New York, wrote on Twitter. “This issue is bigger than ideology. It is a moral imperative for humanity and our planet’s future to reduce and eventually eliminate emissions,” she wrote. “There are many ways to do it, but we can’t afford to give up.”

Senator Jeff Merkley, Democrat of Oregon, has been involved with the “No climate, no deal” rallies. “Listen, my state is burning up. We’re losing our snowpack, the ocean’s acidifying, affecting our shellfish,” he said on Saturday. “This is a code red.”

Mr. Merkley said he would not vote for a reconciliation package that did not have “significant climate provisions,” but he said he was open to any option that cut carbon dioxide emissions in half by 2030 and produced carbon-free electricity by 2035.

He suggested additional wind and solar subsidies or proposals to speed up the transition to clean energy vehicles.

“The Biden team is going to have to lay out how they’re going to meet those two goals,” he said, “because that’s the way we stay on track.”

The clean electricity program opposed by Mr. Manchin was notable because it would include both incentives and penalties. Payment to electric utilities to switch to clean energy was the carrot; a penalty for companies that did not replace fossil fuels with clean energy was the stick. A carbon tax might provide a similar inducement, when paired with tax incentives, analysts said.

“If you were to replace the clean electricity program with a price on carbon, I think that would go a long way. It would put back a lot of the stick elements that were removed,” said Zeke Hausfather, a climate scientist and policy analyst at the Breakthrough Institute, an energy and climate research organization.

Mr. Wyden’s staff, which is drafting the carbon tax language, is considering a domestic carbon tax that could start at $15 to $18 per ton, and that would increase over time, according to two people familiar with the matter who were not authorized to speak on the record.

The tax would be applied directly to coal mining companies, large natural gas processing plants and oil refiners, based on the emissions associated with their products, with one exception: Oil refiners would very likely be charged for producing diesel fuel and petrochemicals, but not gasoline — a way to shield most American drivers at the pump.

An important part of the policy, Mr. Wyden said, will be to use the revenue for tax rebates or checks for poor and working-class Americans — particularly those employed in the fossil fuel industry. “You’ve got to show workers and families, when there’s an economy in transition, that they will get their money back,” he said. “They will be made whole.”

Emily Cochrane, Zolan Kanno-Youngs and Jim Tankersley contributed reporting.



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Opinion | James Bond Has No Time for China

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Opinion | James Bond Has No Time for China


The final James Bond outing for Daniel Craig, “No Time to Die,” also marks a notable milestone for Bondian geopolitics: The franchise just completed a five-movie arc with a single lead actor, and amid all the globe-trotting and intrigue you would barely know that China existed. Shanghai and Macau were brief backdrops, and one villain had been tortured, offstage and in the past, by Chinese security forces — but overall a series released across the years of China’s rise gave little hint that America’s leading rival mattered any more than any other exotic Bondian locale.

In fairness, the Cold War-era Bond movies were not obsessed with Russia, serving up stateless supervillains rather than Soviet adversaries in many of his outings. But the reality of Russian power was part of the fabric of the series. The same actor showed up as the head of the K.G.B., for instance, in five Bond movies in the 1970s and ’80s.

China’s absence from Bondworld is part of a general absence in American cinema. Out of fear of losing the Chinese market, and amid the aggressive use of commercial soft power by Beijing, in the almost quarter-century since Brad Pitt’s “Seven Years in Tibet” and Richard Gere’s “Red Corner,” no major Hollywood release has portrayed the Communist regime in a substantially negative light. Instead, China appears in our pop productions in soft focus, as in “The Martian” and “Arrival,” or else takes a fantastical form, as in “Mulan” and “Shang-Chi.”

Or just as often, as in the Craig movies, it barely appears at all. The Asian pop culture that has increasing influence on America is mostly Korean and Japanese, while China — despite all its power, despite our economic intertwinement, despite its crucial role in our political and now our public-health debates — remains more a domain for experts, its internal life and culture more distant and opaque.

As a consequence, its relationship to American ideological debates is fluid, fraught and strange. Things were simpler 15 years ago, when openness to China — a politics of commercial exchange, with the expectation of China’s liberalization and occasional envy for its apparent technocratic competence — was the default establishment position, with economic critiques of what the “Chimerican” relationship meant for American workers and fears of Beijing’s geopolitical ambitions concentrated on the farther left and right.

But as it became clear that the opening to China was not leading to political liberalization, and as its socioeconomic costs to the American heartland became clear as well, there was an ideological scrambling that hasn’t ended yet.

On the left now you see several impulses. There is an irrelevant but fascinating fringe of very online “tankies” — a reference to the Communists who justified the U.S.S.R. sending in the tanks to Hungary — actively championing the Beijing regime. There is a Bernie Sanders left that wants to critique the Chinese regime on trade and human rights, but fears anything that seems like warmongering. And there is a left that thinks the existential stakes of climate change require deep cooperation with Beijing.

The center, meanwhile, has lost its optimism about China turning into a democracy. But it’s not sure whether to pivot to confrontation and try to disentangle our economies, or whether globalization makes that disentanglement impossible and so we need, with whatever nose-holding, to deepen ties instead. (This divide runs through President Biden’s cabinet.)

The right includes several tendencies as well. There’s a Cold War 2.0 mentality, which fears China as a sweeping ideological threat, a fusion of old-model Communism with 21st-century surveillance technology that promises to make totalitarianism great again. There’s a realist perspective that regards China as a traditional great-power rival and focuses on military containment. And there’s a view that sees China and the United States as actually converging in decadence — with similar problems, from declining birthrates to social inequalities to internet-mediated unhappiness.

But for some on the right, that last view comes with a wrinkle, where the Chinese state is almost admired for trying to act against this decadence — as in its attempt to wean young people off the “spiritual opium” of video gaming — in a way that liberal societies cannot.

Behind all of these differences is a question: What kind of regime is China, really? A Marxist-Leninist state with capitalist trimmings? An authoritarian meritocracy? A fascist state with Maoist characteristics? A new form of digitized totalitarianism? A neo-Confucian order, channeling ancient conservatism through modern one-party rule? A dark-mirror version of internet-age America?

Americans have never exactly excelled at understanding other societies, and a few Chinese bad guys in James Bond movies obviously won’t shed the light we need. But Hollywood’s supine attitude toward Chinese power is a useful window into a larger problem: We need to see our great 21st-century rival clearly, and too often we see only through a glass darkly, if at all.



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Trump-backed challengers to Republican lawmakers lag in fundraising

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Trump-backed challengers to Republican lawmakers lag in fundraising


By Jason Lange

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Four candidates backed by Donald Trump to challenge Republican lawmakers who voted to impeach him or boot him from office are falling behind in raising money for their campaigns, according to disclosures filed on Friday.

Trump, who left office in January, remains a major influence within the Republican party, which hopes to regain control of the U.S. Congress in next year’s elections.

Only a handful of Republicans joined Democrats when Congress voted to impeach Trump and then held an unsuccessful vote in the Senate to remove him from office, on a charge he incited insurrectionists to attack the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

Trump has called the Republicans who crossed him “disloyal” or “losers,” and they have faced scorn within their party. Several have said they will retire or not seek re-election.

But those who are facing Trump-backed candidates in upcoming party nomination contests so far have raised more money than their challengers, which might help them counter Trump’s campaign against them.

U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, a moderate who was one of seven Republicans who voted to convict Trump in the Senate, raised $1.1 million between July and September, more than the twice the $466,000 raised by her Republican challenger Kelly Tshibaka, a former state administration commissioner endorsed by Trump.

Murkowski – who ended September with $3.2 million in the bank, more than 10 times what Tshibaka had – raked in money from corporate-run donor committees, according to a disclosure Murkowski filed with the Federal Election Commission.

Murkowski also raised more than $75,000 through a joint fundraising effort with several senators endorsed by Trump, including Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, who voted against convicting Trump.

Raising more money by no means guarantees victory, but it can help candidates buy expensive television advertisements and pay campaign staff.

Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming, who is widely seen in great peril of losing her seat because of her vote to impeach Trump and her vocal criticism of the former president, raised $1.7 million during the three-month period.

Her Trump-endorsed opponent, attorney Harriet Hageman, entered the race in early September and raised about $300,000, or roughly $100,000 a week, shy of Cheney’s fundraising pace.

Cheney, the highest-profile lawmaker of the 10 Republicans in the House of Representatives who voted to impeach Trump, drew donations from a number of Wall Street executives, including Blackstone Chief Investment Officer Prakash Melwani. Hageman received a donation from billionaire venture capitalist Peter Thiel.

Trump has also endorsed opponents to U.S. Representatives Fred Upton of Michigan and Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington state, who both voted to impeach him.

Upton raised $293,000 between July and September, more than the twice the $116,000 raised by his Trump-endorsed challenger, state lawmaker Steve Carra.

Herrera Beutler not only voted to impeach Trump, she submitted evidence in his Senate trial against the former president. She took in $524,000 during the period, outraising Trump-backed Army veteran Joe Kent, who raised $452,000.

Trump also endorsed his former White House aide Max Miller to challenge U.S. Representative Anthony Gonzalez of Ohio, who said in September he would not seek re-election. Miller’s disclosure filed on Friday showed his campaign raised $695,000, most of which came from a half-million-dollar contribution he made to his own campaign.

 

(Reporting by Jason Lange; Editing by Leslie Adler)



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