Top American Professors Warn Silicon Valley Against Doing Business With Modi

Leading South Asia experts at US universities have warned top tech firms to be cautious in doing business with India as India's Hindu Nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi prepares to visit Silicon Valley to promote "Digital India" in September 2015.



A joint statement signed by 124 professors accuses the Modi government of  "disregard for human rights and civil liberties, as well as the autonomy of educational and cultural institutions". The signatories are mostly Indian-American professors. Others include Columbia University's Akeel Bilgrami, Stanford University's Thomas Blom Hansen and the University of Chicago's Wendy Doniger, according to

Here is the full text of their statement:

As faculty who engage South Asia in our research and teaching, we write to express our concerns about the uncritical fanfare being generated over Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Silicon Valley to promote 'Digital India' on September 27, 2015.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Silicon Valley highlights the role of a country that has contributed much to the growth and development of Silicon Valley industries, and builds on this legacy in extending American business collaboration and partnerships with India. However Indian entrepreneurial success also brings with it key responsibilities and obligations with regard to the forms of e-governance envisioned by 'Digital India'.

We are concerned that the project’s potential for increased transparency in bureaucratic dealings with people is threatened by its lack of safeguards about privacy of information, and thus its potential for abuse. As it stands, 'Digital India' seems to ignore key questions raised in India by critics concerned about the collection of personal information and the near certainty that such digital systems will be used to enhance surveillance and repress the constitutionally-protected rights of citizens. These issues are being discussed energetically in public in India and abroad. Those who live and work in Silicon Valley have a particular responsibility to demand that the government of India factor these critical concerns into its planning for digital futures.

We acknowledge that Narendra Modi, as Prime Minister of a country that has contributed much to the growth and development of Silicon Valley industries, has the right to visit the United States, and to seek American business collaboration and partnerships with India. However, as educators who pay particular attention to history, we remind Mr. Modi’s audiences of the powerful reasons for him being denied the right to enter the U.S. from 2005-2014, for there is still an active case in Indian courts that questions his role in the Gujarat violence of 2002 when 1,000 died. Modi’s first year in office as the Prime Minister of India includes well-publicized episodes of censorship and harassment of those critical of his policies, bans and restrictions on NGOs leading to a constriction of the space of civic engagement, ongoing violations of religious freedom, and a steady impingement on the independence of the judiciary.

Under Mr Modi’s tenure as Prime Minister, academic freedom is also at risk: foreign scholars have been denied entry to India to attend international conferences, there has been interference with the governance of top Indian universities and academic institutions such as the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, the Indian Institutes of Technology and Nalanda University; as well as underqualified or incompetent key appointments made to the Indian Council of Historical Research, the Film and Television Institute of India, and the National Book Trust. A proposed bill to bring the Indian Institutes of Management under direct control of government is also worrisome. These alarming trends require that we, as educators, remain vigilant not only about modes of e-governance in India but about the political future of the country.

We urge those who lead Silicon Valley technology enterprises to be mindful of not violating their own codes of corporate responsibility when conducting business with a government which has, on several occasions already, demonstrated its disregard for human rights and civil liberties, as well as the autonomy of educational and cultural institutions.

Here are the names of 124 South Asian experts at US institutions who issued the statement:

Meena Alexander, Distinguished Professor of English, Hunter College and the Graduate Center, City University of New York

Arjun Appadurai, Paulette Goddard Professor of Media, Culture, and Communication, New York University

Anjali Arondekar, Associate Professor of Women’s Studies, UC Santa Cruz

Fredrick Asher, Professor of Art History and South Asian Studies, University of Minnesota

Paola Bacchetta, Associate Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies University of California, Berkeley

Sarada Balagopalan, Associate Professor of Childhood Studies, Rutgers University, Camden

Radhika Balakrishnan, Prof of Women’s and Gender Studies, Rutgers University

Shahzad Bashir, Professor of Religious Studies, Stanford University

Manu Bhagavan, Professor of History and Human Rights, Hunter College and the Graduate Center, The City University of New York

Mona Bhan Associate Professor of Sociology and Anthropology DePauw University

Srimati Basu, Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies, University of Kentucky

Prashant Bharadwaj, Associate Professor of Economics, University of California, San Diego

Nilanjana Bhattacharjya, Faculty Fellow, Barrett Honors College, Arizona State University

Nandini Bhattacharya, Professor of English, Texas A &M University, College- Station

Tithi Bhattacharya, Associate Professor of South Asian History, Purdue University

Amit R. Baishya, Assistant Professor of English, University of Oklahoma

Akeel Bilgrami, Sidney Morgenbesser Professor of Philosophy and Director, South Asian Institute, Columbia University

Purnima Bose, Associate Professor, English and International Studies, Indiana University-Bloomington

Christopher Candland, Associate Professor of Political Science, Wellesley College

Paula Chakravartty, Associate Professor, Gallatin School, & Department of Media, Culture and Communication, New York University

Shefali Chandra, Associate Professor of South Asian History Washington University, St. Louis

S. Charusheela, Associate Professor, School of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, University of Washington, Bothell

Partha Chatterjee, Professor of Anthropology and South Asian Studies, Columbia University

Indrani Chatterjee Professor of History and South Asian Studies, University of Texas, Austin

Swati Chattopadhyay Professor History of Art and Architecture, University of California, Santa Barbara

Marty Chen, School of Public Policy, Harvard Kennedy School and Affiliated Professor, Harvard Graduate School of Design

Rohit Chopra, Associate Professor of Communication, Santa Clara University

Elora Chowdhury Associate Professor & Chair, Women’s and Gender Studies, University of Massachusetts, Boston

E. Valentine Daniel, Professor of Anthropology, Colombia University

Monisha Das Gupta, Associate Professor of Ethnic Studies and Women’s Studies, University of Hawaii, Manoa

Jigna Desai, Professor of Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies, University of Minnesota

Pawan Dhingra, Professor of Sociology, Tufts University

Wendy Doniger, Professor of the History of Religions, University of Chicago

Richard Falk, Professor of International Law Emeritus, Princeton University

Bishnupriya Ghosh, Professor of English University of California, Santa Barbara

Huma Ahmed-Ghosh, Professor and Chair of Women’s Studies, San Diego State University

Durba Ghosh, Associate Professor of History, Cornell University

Sumanth Gopinath, Associate Professor of Music Theory, School of Music, University of Minnesota

Nitin Govil, Associate Professor of Cinema & Media Studies, University of Southern California

Paul Greenough, Professor of History and Community and Behavioral Health and Director, South Asian Studies Program, University of Iowa

Inderpal Grewal, Professor of South Asian Studies, Yale University

Sumit Guha, Frances Higginbotham Nalle Centennial Professor of History, University of Texas, Austin

Thomas Blom Hansen, Professor of Anthropology and Director of the Center for South Asia, Stanford University

Syed Akbar Hyder, Associate Professor of South Asian Studies, University of Texas, Austin

Nalini Iyer, Professor of English, Seattle University

Priya Jaikumar, Associate Professor of Cinema and Media Studies, University of Southern California

Pranav Jani, Associate Professor of English, Ohio State University

Sheila Jasanoff, Professor of Science and Technology Studies, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government

Arun W. Jones, Associate Professor, Candler School of Theology, Emory University

May Joseph, Professor of Social Science, Pratt Institute

Priya Joshi, Associate Professor of English and Associate Director, Center for the Humanities, Temple University

Sampath Kannan, Henry Salvatore Professor of Computer and Information Science, University of Pennsylvania

Suvir Kaul, A.M. Rosenthal Professor of English, University of Pennsylvania Waqas Khwaja, Professor of English, Agnes Scott College

Naveeda Khan, Associate Professor of Anthropology, Johns Hopkins University

Nyla Ali Khan, Visiting Professor of Women’s Studies, University of Oklahoma, Norman

Satish Kolluri, Associate Professor of Communications, Pace University

Ruby Lal, Professor of Middle East and South Asian Studies, Emory University

Sarah Lamb, Professor of Anthropology and Head of the Division of Social Sciences, Brandeis University; Co-Chair of South Asian Studies

Karen Leonard, Professor of Anthropology, Emeritus, University of California, Irvine

David Lelyveld, Professor of History, Emeritus, William Paterson University

Jinee Lokaneeta, Associate Professor of Political Science and International Relations, Drew University

Ania Loomba, Catherine Bryson Professor of English, University of Pennsylvania

David Ludden, Professor of History, New York University

Ritty Lukose, Associate Professor of Anthropology, Gender and Sexuality Studies, and South Asian Studies, the Gallatin School, New York University

Sudhir Mahadevan Assistant Professor of Film Studies, Comparative Literature, Cinema and Media, University of Washington, Seattle

Tayyab Mahmud, Professor of Law and Director, Center for Global Justice Seattle University School of Law

Sunaina Maira, Professor of Asian American Studies, University of California, Davis

Bakirathi Mani, Associate Professor of English Literature, Swarthmore College

Rebecca J. Manring, Associate Professor of India Studies and Religious Studies Indiana University-Bloomington

Monika Mehta, Associate Professor, Department of English, Binghamton University

Jisha Menon, Assistant Professor of Theatre and Performance Studies, Stanford University

Kalyani Devaki Menon, Associate Professor of Religious Studies, DePaul University

Sally Engle Merry, Silver Professor of Anthropology, New York University

Raza Mir, Professor of Management, Cotsakos College of Business, William Paterson University

Deepti Misri, Associate Professor of Women and Gender Studies University of Colorado, Boulder

Chandra Talpade Mohanty, Chair and Distinguished Professor of Women’s & Gender Studies, and Dean’s Professor of Humanities, Syracuse University

Satya P. Mohanty, Professor of English, Cornell University

Megan Moodie, Associate Professor of Anthropology, University of California, Santa Cruz

Projit B. Mukharji, Martin Meyerson Assistant Professor in Interdisciplinary Studies, History & Sociology of Science, University of Pennsylvania

Madhavi Murty, Assistant Professor of Feminist Studies, University of California, Santa Cruz

Vijaya Nagarajan, Associate Professor of Theology & Religious Studies, Program in Environmental Studies, University of San Francisco

Gyanendra Pandey, Arts and Sciences Distinguished Professor of History, Emory University

Carla Petievich, Visiting Professor of South Asian Studies, University of Texas, Austin

Sheldon Pollock, Professor of South Asian Studies, Columbia University Kavita Philip, Associate Professor of History, University of California, Irvine

Vijay Prashad, George and Martha Kellner Chair of South Asian History, Trinity College

Jasbir K. Puar, Associate Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies, Rutgers University

Balakrishnan Rajagopal, Professor of Law and Development, Department of Urban Studies and Planning, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

R. Radhakrishnan, Chancellor’s Professor of English and Comparative Literature, University of California, Irvine

Gloria Raheja, Professor of Anthropology, University of Minnesota

Junaid Rana, Associate Professor of Asian American Studies, University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana

Anupama Rao, Professor of Anthropology, Barnard College

Velcheru Narayana Rao, Distinguished Visiting Professor of Middle Eastern and South Asian Studies, Emory University

Kasturi Ray, Associate Professor of Women and Gender Studies/Co-Director, South Asian Studies, San Francisco State University

M.V. Ramana, Program on Science and Global Security, Princeton University Sumathi Ramaswamy, Professor of History, Duke University

Chandan Reddy, Associate Professor of English, University of Washington, Seattle

Gayatri Reddy, Associate Professor of Women’s Studies, University of Illinois, Chicago

Parama Roy, Professor of English, University of California, Davis

Sharmila Rudrappa, Associate Professor of Sociology, University of Texas at Austin

G.S. Sahota, Assistant Professor of Literature, University of California, Santa Cruz

Yasmin Saikia, Hardt-Nickachos Chair in Peace Studies & Professor of History, Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict, Arizona State University

Arun Saldanha, Associate Professor of Geography, Environment and Society University of Minnesota

Juned Shaikh, Assistant Professor of History, University of California, Santa Cruz

Nitasha Tamar Sharma, Charles Deering McCormick Professor of Teaching Excellence and Associate Professor of African American Studies and Asian American Studies, Northwestern University

Elora Shehabuddin, Associate Professor of Humanities and Political Science, Rice University

Bhaskar Sarkar, Associate Professor of Film and Media Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara

Priya Satia, Associate Professor of History, Stanford University

Aradhana Sharma, Associate Professor of Anthropology, Wesleyan University

Snehal Shinghavi, Associate Professor of English and South Asian Studies, University of Texas, Austin

Ajay Skaria, Professor of History, University of Minnesota

Shalini Shankar, Chair and Associate Professor of Asian American Studies, Northwestern University

S. Shankar, Professor of English, University of Hawai’i at Mānoa Amritjit Singh, Langston Hughes Professor of English, Ohio University

Mytheli Sreenivas, Associate Professor of History and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, Ohio State University

Rajini Srikanth, Professor, English, University of Massachusetts Boston Nidhi Srinivas, Associate Professor of Nonprofit Management, The New School

Ajantha Subramanian, Professor of Anthropology and South Asian Studies, Harvard University

Banu Subramaniam, Professor, Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Kaushik Sunder Rajan, Associate Professor of Anthropology, University of Chicago

Raja Swamy, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, University of Tennessee Tariq Thachil, Assistant Professor of Political Science, Yale University

Ashwini Tambe, Associate Professor of Women’s Studies, University of Maryland, College-Park

Vamsi Vakulabharanam, Associate Professor of Economics, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Jyotnsa Vaid, Professor of Psychology, Texas A&M University

Sylvia Vatuk, Professor of Anthropology, Emeritus, University of Illinois, Chicago

Kamala Visweswaran, Professor of Ethnic Studies, University of California, San Diego

Kalindi Vora, Associate Professor of Ethnic Studies, University of California, San Diego

Bonnie Zare, Professor of Gender & Women’s Studies, University of Wyoming

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Comment by Riaz Haq on August 31, 2015 at 8:59am

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the Silicon Valley next month to woo its movers and shakers to provide heft to his Digitial India initiative, has met with its first roadblock with several leading academics in American universities advising IT firms to exercise caution when engaging with the Indian Government.

While Mr. Modi will be seeking to build on the Indian connect, the list of Silicon Valley giants is emblazoned by the names of Sundar Pichai chief executive officer of Google and Satya Nadella who heads Microsoft, the academics have taken the opportunity to remind them of their responsibilities to the forms of e-governance proposed by Mr Modi’s plans of digitisation. The academics, write that it does not just disregard safeguards about privacy of information but also carries with it the threat of surveillance that Indian citizens will be subjected to.

The academics’criticism of Mr Modi’s government was countered by the chief of the foreign affairs cell of the BJP, Mr Vijay Chauthaiwaale, who said, “Mr Modi’s popularity and his place in the hearts of millions of people all over the world is not determined by classroom simulators of socialism who are enjoying all the benefits of capitalism. It is determined by the ballot box and development agenda beneficial to millions of people at the bottom of the pyramid.”

On the other hand, in a signed statement, the academics have drawn the attention of the firms to the Modi Government’s “disregard for human rights and civil liberties, as well as the autonomy of educational and cultural institutions.” The signatories include Columbia University's Akeel Bilgrami, Stanford University’s Thomas Blom Hansen and the University of Chicago’s Wendy Doniger.

In particular, the statement questions the Indian’s Government’s track record in the last one year on several issues ranging from censorship, bans and restricting NGOs from engaging with the public, to ongoing violations of religious freedom as well as attempts to curtail the independence of the Judiciary.

The academics also questioned the restrictions to academic freedom like the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, the IITs, IIMs, Nalanda University, as well have questioned questionable appointments made to premier institutes like the Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR), the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) and the National Book Trust.

Comment by Riaz Haq on September 7, 2015 at 6:52pm

Shashank Bengali on strike at Film and Television Institute of India (FTII):

For nearly three months, the roughly 400 students here have been on strike, protesting the Indian government’s appointments of loyalists with dubious credentials – including an actor who appeared in B-grade adult movies and a maker of right-wing propaganda films – to the state-funded school’s governing body.

“They want to turn the institute into a factory for their political views,” says Ranjit Nair, a directing student helping lead the protests. “We totally reject that.”

The skirmish is over not just the future of the foremost film academy in the world’s biggest movie-making nation, a breeding ground for Oscar winners, expert technicians, darlings of the international festival circuit and stalwarts of Bollywood and India’s thriving regional cinema.

It also represents the biggest showdown yet over Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s efforts to reshape India’s cultural institutions to fit his conservative Hindu nationalist agenda.

During 16 months in power, Modi has packed the national censorship board with political supporters; named an obscure historian who believes in a literal reading of Hindu mythology to lead a prestigious research institute; and created a government ministry to promote yoga and traditional medicine while docking the country’s overall health budget.

“It’s obvious that these moves are connected,” says Jabeen Merchant, a film editor and alumna. “Every government nominates people it likes; that’s inevitable. But this particular government is doing it in such a way that nobody can miss the agenda that’s being promoted.

The confrontation escalated early this month after a group of students refused to let the institute’s director, Prashant Pathrabe, leave his office one night. They formed a chain and blocked Pathrabe’s door in a type of civil disobedience known as a gherao, or encirclement, a favourite tactic of Indian labour activists in the 1960s.

Police arrived to free Pathrabe, who filed charges the next day, saying he had been subjected to “mental torture”. That night police arrested five students, who were freed on bail.

Supporters of the strike accused police and administrators of overreacting, while those sympathetic to Modi’s government called the students insubordinate.

“They are not discussing with the government; they are trying to dictate,” says Uday Shankar Pani, a 1974 graduate who was a first assistant director on Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi.

“They’re saying, ‘We don’t want anyone connected to your party’. Hey, man, who are you talking to? The government is paying for this school.”

At the core of the dispute is the peculiar status of the institute, which is formally a unit of India’s Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, founded in 1960 to train skilled workers for a nascent film industry. The full-time professors are civil servants. On the campus in the bustling western city of Pune, everything is subsidised, from the US$1,100 annual tuition and fees to the cafeteria’s US$1 chicken curry.

New Delhi’s view of the institute as a polytechnic has long clashed with students’ creative aspirations. The school vacuums up national film awards, and its graduates include some of the leading lights of Indian film and theatre, including actor Anupam Kher, director Shyam Benegal and Resul Pookutty, who won a sound mixing Oscar in 2009 for Slumdog Millionaire.

“The institute has contributed immensely to the flowering of both mainstream and art house Indian cinema,” says Indranil Bhattacharya, a directing professor. “Its place in the industry is extremely crucial.”

It has also developed a reputation as a hotbed of protests – “‘One strike a decade’ is an unofficial institute slogan”, a professor says – although they never before spilled into national politics.

Comment by Riaz Haq on September 17, 2015 at 8:10pm

#India's #SiliconValley #Hindu Nationalists "Harass, Bully & Intimidate" Academics @HuffPostBlog … via @theworldpost

The threat to academic freedom that this project might present is what led Sheila Jasanoff of the Harvard Kennedy School to sign, despite the fact that she says she's usually not the type to do so:

".. Because the Indian diaspora has produced such strong ties between Silicon Valley and India, I felt it was important to show that thoughtful academics, with no axes to grind, were concerned by the absence of adequate democratic oversight over a project like "Digital India." I was also in India in August and had a chance to see how the apparent retreat from core values of secularism and free speech make these developments in the digital realm all the more threatening"

Hansen also explained their concerns about possible repercussions, including a curtailment of academic freedom:

"As scholars were approached for support there were some worries that the Government of India might deny research visas or in other ways block the future work of people on the list. This is a legitimate worry considering the record of vindictive actions taken by the Modi government especially against those critical of Modi's record in the state of Gujarat... For those of us who have researched and published on Hindu nationalism for many years, the violent reactions, and the thinly veiled threats are not surprising... The slightly surprising element in the responses is the vehement branding of those of the signatories of Indian background as "traitors" and "saboteurs" of India's development and well-being. This has come with suggestions of stripping these individuals of the citizenship and of course vague threats of other forms of retribution to be exacted by the vast majority who supports Modi. The actual fact is that his parliamentary majority rest on the slimmest proportion of the popular vote ever in the history of independent India (31 percent)"

A report entitled "Hindu Nationalism in the United States: A Report on Non-Profit Groups" makes the following claims regarding the strength and nature of the Hindu nationalist movement in the United States:

1. Over the last three decades, a movement toward Hinduizing India--advancing the status of Hindus toward political and social primacy in India-- has continued to gain ground in South Asia and diasporic communities. The Sangh Parivar (the Sangh "family"), the network of groups at the forefront of this Hindu nationalist movement, has an estimated membership numbering in the millions, making the Sangh one of the largest voluntary associations in India. The major organizations in the Sangh include the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), Bajrang Dal, and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

2. Hindu nationalism has intensified and multiplied forms of discrimination, exclusion, and gendered and sexualized violence against Muslims, Christians, other minorities, and those who oppose Sangh violations, as documented by Indian citizens and international tribunals, fact-finding groups, international human rights organizations, and U.S. governmental bodies.

3. India-based Sangh affiliates receive social and financial support from its U.S.-based wings, the latter of which exist largely as tax-exempt non-profit organizations in the United States: Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS), Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America (VHPA), Sewa International USA, Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation-USA. The Overseas Friends of the Bharatiya Janata Party - USA (OFBJP) is active as well, though it is not a tax-exempt group

Comment by Riaz Haq on September 18, 2015 at 10:46pm

Can Digital India flourish without Freedom of Speech? PM Modi in Silicon Valley
by Priya Satia

Silicon Valley has forgotten the Modi of 2002. This is partly because the War on Terror has normalized state violence in America. The idea of denying Modi a visa to the United States now seems bizarre: the land of remote-controlled drone strikes and Ferguson is hardly in a position to refuse entry to anyone with blood-stained hands. To the contrary, Modi in America is perfectly fitting. And what better place to assemble the tools for a “Digital India” without privacy safeguards than the Silicon Valley that has given us a “Digital America” serving the NSA?
When a persistent few rake up unpleasant memories of 2002, the Modi regime shrewdly invokes 1984, when its rival the Congress Party connived in pogroms against Sikhs–as if the older unpunished atrocity cancels out or excuses the 2002 events. But they have a point; impunity builds on itself. Earlier this year, the traumatized Sikh diaspora persuaded the California State Assembly to recognize the Indian government’s responsibility for the November 1984 Genocide of Sikhs. Three decades of frustration with the Indian state produced this Californian acknowledgment. To be sure, the Congress PM Manmohan Singh, himself a Sikh, apologized for 1984 in the Lok Sabha in 2005, but prominent Congress politicians involved in the violence have never been brought to justice. They acted with impunity, and so too, then, does the BJP.
But if Congress was the villain of 1984, there is no love lost between the Sikh diaspora and Mr. Modi (whatever the BJP partnership with the Akali Dal in Punjab); Bay Area Sikhs plan to protest Mr. Modi’s exclusion of minorities from his nationalistic agenda when he is here. Perhaps they have learned through bitter experience that the Indian state is the problem, whatever the party in power. Its violent, stepfatherly approach towards minorities is in its DNA. Before 1984, there was 1947, when on the eve of the formation of the newly independent states of Pakistan and India, Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs were victims and perpetrators of violence at least passively abetted by the departing British government. The history of impunity is long in South Asia, and the diaspora expands with each episode. In 2003 and 2004, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom particularly noted that those who carried out acts of religious violence in India were rarely held accountable for their actions.

The faculty letter spoke from the West to the West (Silicon Valley people, not “CEOs”) about an event in the West; this was no imperialistic intervention in Indian affairs (even though the diaspora includes those who are casualties of “internal” Indian affairs.) The letter was a reminder that the arrival of the Indian prime minister is an opportunity for serious engagement. He is the PM, not a brand ambassador or a rock star. “Rock star” is a style, a claim to celebrity based, evidently, on the size of a person’s Twitter following. Style has its place and its own revolutionary potential. But a PM must deliver substance, too. Failure to deliver tarnishes the brand; ask any investor.

Comment by Riaz Haq on September 19, 2015 at 10:22pm

Situation in #Modi's #India way beyond fascism: Arundhati Roy on FTII row … via @htTweets

As the impasse over Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) issue entered the 100th day, award winning writer Arundhati Roy on Saturday came out in support of the agitating students and said the nation was facing a "collective assault on its IQ" and the situation was way beyond fascism.

"We are facing a collective assault on the IQ of this country and this is a part of dismantling our collective intelligence," Roy told reporters at the protest venue in Jantar Mantar.

Talking about the FTII row, Roy said sometimes she heard that government is trying to find a solution which also gives them a face-saver. "The situation is quite serious," she said.

"When you will dismantle universities like this. When you will overhaul syllabus, when....non scholarly atmosphere will be created where anybody can do anything.... clean ICU's with cow urine, then it is very dangerous," she said.

Earlier, while addressing the protesting students, Roy said that comments were being made that Ganesha indicates that plastic surgery was initiated in India, or cow urine to clean hospitals and that culture minister is talking about things like "cultural pollution".

Institutions like FTII and Nehru Memorial are under attack, she added. "The situation is way beyond fascism," Roy said.

In an apparent dig at actor Gajendra Chauhan, who portrayed 'Yudhidhthir' in tele-serial Mahabharat and whose appointment as FTII chief triggered the protests, Roy said mythological characters are being chosen to head film schools.

Speaking to students, who took out a protest march from Mandi House to Jantar Mantar in Delhi, Roy said that she had been asked why she had come there.

"I am saying that these kids are the last people standing. They are standing up because we are really suffering an assault on the collective IQ of this nation," Roy said.

Comment by Riaz Haq on September 23, 2015 at 7:27am

#India's #Modi to face ‘horrifying’ billboards in #SiliconValley

San Jose, California, 22 Sep 2015 : PM Modi is all set to face criticising billboards when he will visit Silicon Valley on Sep 27.
Few billboards targeting him over human rights issues have already appeared on highways in Bay Area of California to welcome him they way he will never like .
As part of the #ModiFail campaign, the Alliance for Justice and Accountability (AJA) is using billboards to raise public awareness about Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his administration’s attacks on personal freedoms and human rights in India. AJA hopes this series of billboards in the Bay Area, will inform the American people that Modi’s upcoming Silicon Valley PR tour is being used as an excuse to whitewash his dismal record as Prime Minister, and before that, Chief Minister of Gujarat.
The billboards are visible from I-580 in Oakland, I-280 in Daly City, Highway 92 in Hayward, Highway 84 in Newark, I-880 in Newark, I-880 in Milpitas, and Highway 101 in Santa Clara.The billboards highlight, the AJA’s online report card calling attention to the facts behind some of Narendra Modi’s most egregious failures during his 16 months in office as Prime Minister.India’s celebrated values of pluralism and tolerance are under severe attack since Mr. Modi assumed office as Prime Minister. According to the Modi government’s sources, attacks against religious minorities are up 25% since last year. His own ministers are engaged in a malicious hate campaign against Christians and Muslims.
Narendra Modi speaks eloquently of Digital India, but individuals posting comments against Modi or his peers on Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, and other social media sites have repeatedly faced arrests; when the Indian Supreme Court struck down the hated “Facebook arrest” law, the Modi government expressed interest in passing replacement censorship legislation to skirt the ban.
The Modi government has been particularly vicious in its attacks on free speech, as it increasingly equates dissent, even in the form of social media posts, with sedition and “waging war against the state.”
The Alliance for Justice and Accountability (AJA) is a diverse coalition led by progressive Indian American communities. AJA members work for pluralism, civil rights, religious freedom, women’s rights, LGBTQ equality, and environmental justice in India and beyond.

Comment by Riaz Haq on September 23, 2015 at 4:26pm

Is the Honeymoon Over for #NarendraModi? #India #BJP

Modi’s trip to the United States marks the 29th foreign trip he has made during his 16 months as prime minister. After attracting criticism for appearing nervous in a speech he delivered in Brazil early in his term, he has seemingly done nothing but dazzle abroad. He has inked big deals—from a uranium deal with Australia to a mammoth $75 billion infrastructure investment accord with the United Arab Emirates. He has hobnobbed with celebrities, rubbed shoulders with top executives, and regaled adoring members of the Indian diaspora from New York to Sydney and Toronto to Berlin.

If only things were going so well back home.

In recent weeks, Modi has suffered blow after blow to his domestic policy agenda—and particularly to his economic reform plan, which millions of Indian voters gave him a large mandate to craft and implement.

On September 9, the government decided to abandon, for now, its quest to institute a uniform goods and services tax, a single nationwide duty that would replace the various taxes levied by India’s states and bring some much-needed order to India’s tax system. A GST, according to economists, could increase GDP by 2 percent. The government shelved the plan when it concluded that it wouldn’t be approved in Parliament.

This was a particularly bitter defeat for New Delhi, given that it had already abandoned another big-bang tax reform attempt earlier this year: the phase-out of retrospective taxation. Such a move would have been “too much, too soon,” according to Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.

Modi has also suffered setbacks on proposed land and labor reforms. This summer, his government suspended efforts to get legislation passed that would facilitate the acquisition of farmland for industrial and infrastructure purposes. Additionally, New Delhi’s plans to pass new labor laws that give employers more flexibility to hire and fire workers have been vociferously opposed by major unions and millions of low-wage workers. They staged a nationwide strike in early September.

This isn’t to say that Modi’s reform efforts have been a total failure. He has kickstarted several dozen stalled projects to boost infrastructure—one of India’s most glaring needs. He has also removed controls on diesel costs, a small step toward easing the government’s heavy regulation of the energy sector, which generates inefficiencies and discourages foreign investors. Furthermore, several Indian state governments have in fact implemented some of the reform projects proposed by Modi.

Still, these encouraging signs for New Delhi have not assuaged the concerns of many Indian and foreign investors, who admit they are getting restless after hearing many promises but seeing few results. Earlier this month, prominent commodities trader Jim Rogers announced that he had sold off all his Indian shares and was moving into different markets.

There are various reasons for Modi’s struggles at home. His reform plan is meant to replicate what he did in Gujarat, where he was chief minister for 12 years, yet Gujarat boasts an entrepreneurial and market-friendly environment that is sorely lacking in many of India’s other states (the India Entrepreneurship Report 2014, released earlier this year by Amway India, ranks Gujarat as India’s top state on indices such as infrastructure support, entrepreneurial confidence, and growth-oriented economy). Additionally, India’s upper house of Parliament and several major states are not controlled by Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Not surprisingly, most of the Indian states that have not implemented reforms urged by Modi are run by the opposition Congress party—including Assam, Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, and Uttarakhand.

Comment by Riaz Haq on October 12, 2015 at 12:36pm

#Modi's (and his cabinet's) poor education, #India's great educational divide fueling anti-#Muslim bigotry, hate? 

Aatish Taseer Op Ed in NY Times:

In India, the Congress Party was liberal, left-leaning and secular; but it was also the party of the colonized elite. That meant that practically everyone who was rich, and educated, and grew up speaking English, was also invariably a supporter of Congress.


The cabinet, save for the rare exception, is made up of too many crude, bigoted provincials, united far more by a lack of education than anything so grand as ideology. At the time of writing — and here the one will have to speak for the many — Mr. Modi’s minister of culture had just said of a former Muslim president: “Despite being a Muslim, he was a great nationalist and humanist.”

Some 10 days later, there was the hideous incident in which a Muslim man was lynched by a Hindu mob in a village outside Delhi, on the suspicion of slaughtering a cow and eating beef. It was a defining moment, the culmination of 16 months of cultural chauvinism and hysteria under Mr. Modi, the scarcely veiled target of which are India’s roughly 170 million Muslims. This ugliness is eclipsing Mr. Modi’s development agenda, and just this week, there was yet another incident in which a Kashmiri politician was attacked in Srinagar for hosting “a beef party.”

Poisonous as these attitudes are, they have much more to do with class than politics. They are so obviously part of the vulgarity that accompanies violent social change. If the great drama of our grandparents’ generation was independence, and our parents’ that post-colonial period, ours represents the twilight of the (admittedly flawed) English-speaking classes, and an unraveling of the social and moral order they held in place. A new country is seething with life, but not all vitality is pretty, and there now exists a glaring cultural and intellectual gap between India’s old, entrenched elite and the emerging electorate.

In other places, education would have helped close the gap; it would have helped the country make a whole of the social change it was witnessing. No society is so equitable that men as economically far apart as Bill Clinton and George W. Bush — or as Ed Miliband and David Cameron, for that matter — would have attended the same schools. But, in England and America, there is Oxford and Yale to level the field, to give both men the means to speak to each other.

This is not true of India. In India, one class has had access to the best private schools and foreign universities, where all the instruction is in English; the other has had to make do with the state schools and universities Indian socialism bequeathed them. The two classes almost never meet; they don’t even speak the same language. It has left India divided between an isolated superelite (and if you’re an Indian reading this, you’re probably part of it!) and an emerging middle class that may well lack the intellectual tools needed to channel its vitality.


In another society, with the benefit of a real education, Mr. Modi might have been something more than he was. Then it would be possible to imagine a place with real political differences, and not one in which left and right were divided along the blade of a knife by differences in class, language and education. But just as that other society does not yet exist, neither does that other Modi. Indians will have to make do with the Modi they have; and, as things stand, perhaps the cynics are right: Perhaps this great hope of Indian democracy, with his limited reading and education, is not equal to the enormous task before him. 

Comment by Riaz Haq on October 12, 2015 at 12:37pm

How educated are Modi's cabinet ministers?

Just days after the Narendra Modi government took charge, a major controversy erupted over the educational qualification of Union HRD Minister Smriti Irani. In the wake of the same, we look at the academic prowess of other ministers in the Modi cabinet. 

Narendra Modi (Prime Minister): India’s 15th Prime Minister holds an extramural degree in Political Science, which was achieved through distance education from the Delhi University in the year 1978. - 

Arun Jaitley (Finance and Defence Minister): Jaitley, former law minister during Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s NDA regime, holds a degree in law from the University of Delhi and has also been a senior advocate of the Supreme Court. - 

Sushma Swaraj (Minister for Foreign Affairs): India’s second woman foreign minister and first woman chief minister of Delhi has her LL.B degree from the Punjab University in Chandigarh and has also practiced as a Supreme Court lawyer.

Harshvardhan (Health Minister): One of the most qualified ministers in the cabinet, India’s health minister holds an M.B.B.S as well as an M.S in otolaryngology.

Maneka Gandhi (Women and Child Development): The women and child development minister and a staunch animal rights activist, Maneka Gandhi has complete her education upto the 12th grade.

Anant Geete (Heavy Industry and Public Enterprise): Geete, the leader of the Shiv Sena Parliamentary Party and a six time MP is currently the Union Minister for Heavy Industry and Public Enterprise. He has completed his matriculation.

Uma Bharti (Water Resources and Ganga Rejuvination): The current water resource and ‘Ganga Rejuvination’ minister is the least qualified minister in the Modi cabinet, having completed formal education only till class six.

DV Sadanand Gowda (Railways): The Union Minister for Railways has a degree in law from the Udupi Vaikunta Baliga College of Law.

Nitin Gadkari (Transport): Known as ‘Flyover Man’ during the Sena-BJP government in Maharashtra, Gadkari currently holds the transport portfolio in the Modi Cabinet. He holds a degree in Law from the Nagpur University.

Smriti Irani (Human Resource Development): The minister under fire has completed her H.S.C while her earlier affidavit states that she has completed her B.Com through correspondence from Delhi University.

Najma Heptulla (Minority Affairs): The first-time cabinet minister is now incharge of the ministry of Minority Affairs. The 74 year old has a Ph.D in Cardiac Anatomy from the University of Denver.

M Venkaiah Naidu (Parliamentary Affairs): The union minister for parliamentary affairs has his bachelor’s degree in Politics and Diplomatic studies as well as a degree in Law with a specialization in International law from the Andhra University.

Gopinath Munde (Rural Development Minister, Panchayati Raj, Drinking Water and Sanitation): The union minister for Union Development has a BA degree in commerce.

Ramvilas Paswan (Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution): The minister of Consumer Affairs; Food and Public Distribution is an M.A, LL.B from the University of Patna.

Kalraj Mishra (Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises): The union minister of the Narendra Modi cabinet has an M.A from the Kashi Vidyapeeth in Varanasi.

Ananth Kumar (Chemicals and Fertilizers): The Union Minister for Chemical and Fertilizers and a six time MP from Bangalore is a B.A from the University of Karnataka.

Ravi Shankar Prasad (Law and Justice, Communications & Information Technology): The union minister for Communications and I.T. has a B.A, M.A in Political Science and a degree in Law from the Patna University.

Comment by Riaz Haq on November 9, 2015 at 9:39pm

A Rebuke to #India’s Prime Minister Narendra #Modi. #BiharElections #BJP 

In the months leading up to the Bihar election, hard-liners in the B.J.P. and organizations affiliated with the party stoked India’s long-simmering sectarian tensions. The party’s lawmakers pushed for beef bans around the country ostensibly to protect the cow, which many Hindus consider holy, but really as a ploy to divide Hindus and Muslims, some of whom eat beef.

Mobs riled by the anti-beef crusade have killed four Muslims suspected of slaughtering, stealing or smuggling cows in the last seven weeks. And in August, unidentified attackers shot and killed Malleshappa Madivalappa Kalburgi, a scholar and vocal critic of Hindu idolatry. Hundreds of writers, filmmakers and academics have protested the growing intolerance by returning awards they received from the government-supported bodies.

Mr. Modi has not forcefully condemned the beef-related killings, despite pleas by Muslims and other minorities. He has tolerated hateful and insensitive remarks by his ministers and by B.J.P. officials.

During a campaign stop in Bihar, Mr. Modi tried to exploit sectarian divisions by telling voters that the secular alliance would reduce affirmative action benefits for lower-caste Hindus and tribes in favor of “a particular community” — an apparent reference to Muslims. And the president of the B.J.P., Amit Shah, one of Mr. Modi’s closest advisers, told voters that a victory for the alliance would be celebrated in Pakistan, the Muslim-majority neighbor that has fought several wars with India since 1947.

Voters in Bihar saw through the B.J.P.’s attempts to divide them. They, like most Indians, are looking for leaders who will improve their standard of living. Bihar is one of the poorest states in India but has grown fast in the last 10 years under the leadership of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who is credited for cracking down on crime, building roads and increasing the enrollment of girls in schools.

Mr. Modi and the B.J.P. secured a majority in the lower house of Parliament last year with promises of economic reforms. Now, to push through those reforms, the party needs to win the control of the upper house, which is elected by state assemblies. It won’t win those elections unless Mr. Modi gets rid of the officials in his government and party who are fueling sectarian culture wars.

Meanwhile, there are things Mr. Modi could do administratively to improve the economy, like investing in education and health care and building infrastructure. Voters in Bihar have sent the B.J.P. a clear message. Mr. Modi should heed it.


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