Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Meanwhile, back in the mother country

Violence in Kolkatta (Calcutta), and the Army is called out to restore order. The explosive situation is being fueled by two main currents:

Continuing agitation because of a situation in a village in West Bengal, Nandigram, where poor farmers were apparently going to lose their land for a the development of a special economic zone. The state government is Communist (China-style, relatively speaking, pro-market, pro-capitalism). Protests by farmers were brutally repressed in the summer and this has fanned a nation-wide debate, and ongoing agitations.

Muslim groups protesting the presence of Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasrin, who was exiled from her native country because of her supposedly un-Islamic views, and given refuge in India. In August she was roughed up at a book-launch by Muslim protesters in Hyderabad, and has since then lived in virtual house-arrest in Calcutta. They're now demanding she be expelled from India! So much for a secular democracy that values free speech.

In the folks' home state of Gujarat, Narendra Modi, the controversial Chief Minister (who was in power, and almost certainly aided and abetted, during the 2002 anti-Muslim pogroms) and his BJP is up for re-election, but is having trouble because of factionalism and dissent in his own party. The election is crucial, not just to Modi and the BJP, but also for the national political scene -- if Modi survives and does well, many think he might be the next leader of the BJP, and quite conceivably a future Prime Minister. The elections are scheduled in two phases, for Dec. 11 and Dec. 16 (Counting is scheduled for Dec. 23. These things are done slowly in India. Violence is not uncommon. Indians make the so-called "hot headed Latins" seem like frigid Anglo-Saxons.), when the ~36 million voters in the state go to the polls. And yes, I'll be arriving in Gujarat (on a brief 10-day trip to visit mom) on Dec. 18.

And, just in case one had any ounce of good cheer and faith-in-one's-fellow-man left, there is always the news from Bihar, the armpit of India. Newly married woman gang-raped in running train.

Anyway, perhaps India will actually beat Pakistan in the cricket test series that just started. (The recent ODI series -- One Day Internationl [a day long game is the short version of cricket] -- was won by India 3 games to 2.)

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