BJP under fire for fanning ‘hatred and violence’

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Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi with her party manifesto. (Reuters)
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Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi with her party manifesto. (Reuters)
Updated 08 April 2019
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BJP under fire for fanning ‘hatred and violence’

  • The groups blamed the BJP for ignoring socially and economically marginalized people, and for practicing divisive politics that had created a polarized society

NEW DELHI: More than 200 Indian civil society groups on Sunday accused the ruling party of “fanning hatred and violence” and called for a change in government, days before voters go to the polls in a general election.
The groups, representing 25 Indian states, released a “charge sheet” against Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). It was written after consulting more than 5,000 representatives from across the political spectrum.
“If it continues this way, India will end up splintered and fractured,” the document warned.
“The structure of the welfare state has been seriously undermined, affecting the dignity and livelihood of crores (tens of millions) of marginalized Indians … with the state setting a new benchmark of surrendering to corporate interests.”
The groups blamed the BJP for ignoring socially and economically marginalized people, and for practicing divisive politics that had created a polarized society.
Modi came to power in 2014 with a thumping win. Since then senior BJP leaders have publicly promoted Hindu supremacy and ultra-nationalism and there has been an increase in violence against religious minorities, especially Muslims, marginalized communities and government critics.
Nikhil Dey, activist and architect of the charge sheet document, said the condemnation was an attempt to get people’s interest in the upcoming election.
“This is not a campaign against any political party but an attempt to reach out to people and tell them to engage in the elections and to not allow diversionary and divisive issues to dominate the elections,” he told Arab News.
“Earlier we used to go silent during elections but now we want to engage people. We will hold meetings in different states and reach out to the people,” said Dey, who played a role in drafting rights-based legislation in a previous government.
The civil society groups organized a meeting and invited representatives from almost all India’s opposition parties, where a call for change through the ballot box was made.
“A new definition of patriotism is being taught to us today,” said Sonia Gandhi, who chairs the opposition United Progressive Alliance (UPA).
“Those rejecting diversity are being labelled as patriots. Discrimination among our own citizens is being justified on the basis of caste, religion and ideology.”
Civil society has had a rough ride under Modi’s government, with more than 14,000 NGOs restricted from receiving foreign funds.
There have also been high-profile arrests of intellectuals after they advocated for the socially marginalized.
Last month Belgian-born economist and activist Jean Dreze was detained by police in the eastern Indian state of Gujarat for holding a meeting demanding the right to food and pensions.
“The detention of Dreze demonstrates how basic civil rights in India have come to be suppressed under the present regime. We want to reach out to the people on these issues,” said Dey.
But the BJP challenged the political credentials of activists.
“Who are these people? Most are these people thrived under the non-BJP dispensation,” BJP national spokesman Sudesh Verma told Arab News.
“This class used to be the one who would corner national awards, scholarships and other government largesses. They are not bothered about the country or they hardly know their country.”
These people had no influence among ordinary people, he continued, and they were “inherently anti-Modi” and would have no impact on the electorate. He accused the activists of being loyal to India’s main opposition party, Congress.
Earlier this month, more than 600 people from the world of theater issued an open letter asking people to vote BJP and its allies out of power, arguing that the idea of India and its constitution were under threat.
Scientists also issued a letter urging Indians “to vote against inequality, intimidation, discrimination and unreason.”
Some Bollywood artists and writers have issued a similar appeal.
“Modi no longer enjoys the wide support that he did in 2014,” Pawan Pratay, a political analyst based in the eastern Indian city of Patna, told Arab News. “There is an undercurrent of anger against him and these protests by different sections of society are reflections of that. No one can take this election for granted.”
India’s election is regarded as the world’s biggest democratic exercise, with about 900 million eligible voters.
Voting will be held in phases ending on May 19. A result is expected to be announced on May 23.


China’s Xi arrives in North Korea for talks with Kim Jong Un

Updated 20 min 54 sec ago
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China’s Xi arrives in North Korea for talks with Kim Jong Un

  • The summit comes as both Xi and Kim are locked in separate disputes with the United States — Xi over trade and Kim over his nuclear weapons
  • Chinese and North Korea media have said Xi would stay in Pyongyang for two days

BEIJING: Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived Thursday morning for a two-day state visit to North Korea, where he’s expected to talk with leader Kim Jong Un about the stalled negotiations with Washington over North Korea’s nuclear weapons.
China’s official Xinhua news agency reported that Xi was accompanied by his wife, Peng Liyuan, and several Communist Party officials. He is the first Chinese president to visit North Korea in 14 years.
The summit comes as both Xi and Kim are locked in separate disputes with the United States — Xi over trade and Kim over his nuclear weapons.
A Xinhua commentary said China could play a unique and constructive role in breaking the cycle of mistrust between North Korea and the US so they can work out a roadmap to achieve denuclearization.
The US is demanding that North Korea abandon its nuclear weapons development before international sanctions are lifted. North Korea is seeking a step-by-step approach in which a step toward its denuclearization would be matched by a concession from the US, notably a relaxation of economic sanctions.
China backs what it calls a “suspension for suspension” proposal. The Xinhua said both sides “need to have reasonable expectations and refrain from imposing unilateral and unrealistic demands.”
Experts say Xi will likely endorse North Korea’s calls for an incremental disarmament process.
Chinese and North Korea media have said Xi would stay in Pyongyang for two days. His meeting with Kim would their fifth summit since Kim entered nuclear diplomacy with the United States and South Korea early last year.
In an essay published in both countries’ official media before his trip, Xi praised North Korea for moving in the “right direction” by politically resolving issues on the peninsula. He did not mention Kim’s nuclear diplomacy with the US in the article, much of which focused on lauding the neighbors’ seven-decade relationship. Xi said his visit will “strengthen strategic communication and exchange” between the traditional, though sometimes strained, allies.
The nations fought together in the 1950-53 Korean War against the United States, South Korea and their allies, but there has been friction in recent years, especially over the North’s relentless push for nuclear weapons.