SACW - 20 Feb 2018 | Asma Jahangir (1952-2018) / Bhuwansehwar Declaration 10th PIPFPD / India: Control over women; crony capitalists; CPI(M) / Sri Lanka: Local Govt Elections / Sarajevo not to honour Orhan Pamuk / Rewriting History in Eastern Europe

Harsh Kapoor aiindex at
Tue Feb 20 06:18:02 EST 2018

South Asia Citizens Wire - 20 February 2018 - No. 2970 
[via South Asia Citizens Web - since 1996]

1. Bhubaneswar Declaration From 10th National Convention of Pakistan-India Peoples’ Forum for Peace and Democracy 
2. Sri Lanka: Northern Elections and Tamil Politics | Ahilan Kadirgamar 
3. Remembering Asma Jahangir (1952-2018)
4. India: CPI(M) has proved to be a ‘useful idiot’ for BJP | Aniket Alam / Comrade Karat and the poverty of philosophy | Antara Dev Sen
5. India: Tributes to Dhrubajyoti Ghosh (1947-2018)
6. Recent on Communalism Watch:
 - India: Amid tensions with BJP and a row within, Hindu Yuva Vahini grows in UP
 - In 2019, Disenchantment with the BJP May Not be Limited to Gujarat | Dolly Daftary
 - India: Muslims today | A.G. Noorani
 - India: Vallabhbhai Patel - A legacy appropriated and distorted | Neha Dabhade
 - Excerpt: Neyaz Farooquee’s memoir examines what it’s like to be a Muslim in India
 - "Cow vigilantism" in India | The Economist
 - India: RSS Chief Bhagwat's claim on militarisation was no slip of tongue
 - Religion was always recognised in India’s public sphere — but, unlike now, in the plural | Christophe Jaffrelot 
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7. Bangladesh: Khaleda Zia full verdict in Zia Orphanage Trust graft case - news reports
8. Asma embodied the left's crisis | Jawed Naqvi
9. Asma Jahangir - Little Big Woman | Najam Sethi
10. India: A Line Of Control For Women | Pragya Singh
11. India: Too many corpses: A miasma of menace swirls around the Loya controversy | Manini Chatterjee 
12. India: Richard Sennett on Delhi's Grey Market
13. India’s crony capitalists continue to laugh their way to the bank | Maheshwar Peri
14. Heather Streets-Salter. Review of Ghosh, Durba, Gentlemanly Terrorists Political Violence and the Colonial State in India, 1919–1947
15: What Happens When War Is Outlawed | Louis Menand
16. Sarajevo decides against honouring Turkish author Orhan Pamuk with honorary citizenship | AFP Sarajevo
17. Antony Beevor: why did Ukraine ban my book?
18. Russia's ban on 'The Death of Stalin' is unprecedented since fall of Soviet Union | Oliver Carroll
19. Rewriting History in Eastern Europe: Poland's New Holocaust Law and the Politics of the Past | Volha Charnysh and Evgeny Finkel
20. Review: Dafnos on Camus and Lebourg, 'Far-Right Politics in Europe'

We, the delegates to the 10th National Convention of the PIPFPD, held at Bhubaneswar on February 10-11, 2018 under the overhang of the rapidly deteriorating relationship between Pakistan and India, renewed our commitment to the joint struggle for peace and democracy in the two countries.

by Ahilan Kadirgamar
The Local Government elections have sent tremors through the body politic of Sri Lanka, and the fall out of the shaken Coalition Government is yet to unfold. With the muscular re-emergence of Rajapaksa populism, nationalist political strategies are again gaining centre stage.

 - Pakistan: My friend Asma | I A Rehman
 - The five-foot giant | Irfan Husain
 - The Importance of Being Asma | Mohammed Hanif
 - Video: Religious Intolerance and its Impact on Democracy - Asma Jahangir & Response by Amartya Sen | Jan 2017
 - Book Announcement: Asma - An Icon of Rights and Resistance - A Tribute to Asma Jahangir 


By foreclosing any possibility of a united electoral challenge to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, the communist party only strengthens Hindutva communalism.

Dhrubajyoti Ghosh the engineer, environmentalist and public intellectual passed away on 16 February 2016, he fought for Kolkata’s endangered wetlands and his work was widely recognised and he was a UN Global 500 laureate. Four tributes to him are posted below.

 - India: Amid tensions with BJP and a row within, Hindu Yuva Vahini grows in UP
 - In 2019, Disenchantment with the BJP May Not be Limited to Gujarat | Dolly Daftary
 - India: Muslims today | A.G. Noorani
 - India: Vallabhbhai Patel - A legacy appropriated and distorted | Neha Dabhade
 - Excerpt: Neyaz Farooquee’s memoir examines what it’s like to be a Muslim in India
 - "Cow vigilantism" in India | The Economist
 - India: RSS Chief Bhagwat's claim on militarisation was no slip of tongue
 - Religion was always recognised in India’s public sphere — but, unlike now, in the plural | Christophe Jaffrelot
 -> available via:
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Dhaka Tribune
February 20, 2018

Khaleda full verdict: Life sentence spared for age, social status
by Ashif Islam Shaon Md Sanaul Islam Tipu

'Of the accused, Khaleda Zia had discharged duties as the country's prime minister. She was also the opposition chief in parliament, and has been the chief of a political party. She is an elderly woman'

The special court which dealt with the Zia Orphanage Trust graft case refrained from awarding the highest punishment of life-term imprisonment to BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia and five others after considering three factors.

Special Judges’ Court-5 of Dhaka, which sentenced Khaleda Zia to five years and the others to ten years rigorous imprisonment this month, said it considered the offenders’ age, social status and the amount of misappropriated money in awarding the lighter punishments.

The court in its full judgment, which was published on Monday, said the accused are entitled to punishment under section 409/109, as the charges against them were proven beyond doubt.

Under section 409, punishment for the charge of criminal breach of trust by a public servant, banker, merchant or agent is imprisonment for life, or either rigorous or simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to ten years along with a fine.

“The defendants committed economic offenses in collaboration with each other. That is why they should be awarded exemplary punishment,” the court said.

However, it added that it would not be proper to award life-term imprisonment to the accused due to three factors.

“Of the accused, Khaleda Zia had discharged duties as the country’s prime minister. She was also the opposition chief in parliament, and has been the chief of a political party. She is an elderly woman,” the court said to justify the five year prison sentence.

It added that age and social status were also considered when sentencing BNP Senior Vice-President Tarique Rahman, former lawmaker Kazi Salimul Haque Kamal, businessman Sharfuddin Ahmed, Dr Kamal Uddin Siddiqui, and Khaleda Zia’s nephew Mominur Rahman to ten years imprisonment.

The court also said that section 409 did not specify whether the offenders should be sentenced to simple or rigorous imprisonment, and hence rigorous imprisonment was determined after interpretation of the law.

The court also asked the accused to pay a fine of Tk 21,071,643 to the government treasury within 60 days of the full text of the verdict having been published, as this was the amount which was misappropriated by them.

The court issued the certified copy of the verdict on Monday, while the sentences in the Zia Orphanage Trust graft case were delivered on February 8.

o o 

Dhaka Tribune, 
February 20, 2018

Khaleda full verdict: There was no Zia Trust when the grant came
Ashif Islam Shaon Md Sanaul Islam Tipu

Khaleda was sentenced to five years imprisonment, with the rest receiving 10 years of incarceration and fined Tk2.10 crore each by a special court on February 8 this year

The Zia Orphanage Trust was actually created for the very purpose of misappropriation, with money meant for orphans being used for alternative purposes, a Dhaka court said in its verdict in a corruption case against BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia.

There was nothing called ‘Zia Orphanage Trust’ in 1991 when a grant of $1.255 million came from the United Saudi Commercial Bank for orphans in Bangladesh, the court said, according to the full text of the verdict released on Monday.

The orphanage trust, which only existed on paper, was created in 1993 with the money having been kept idle in a bank till then. The court, which sentenced Khaleda to jail for corruption on February 8, said when BNP Chairperson Begum Khaleda Zia was prime minister between 1991 and 1996; she set up a fund by the name of Prime Minister’s Orphanage Fund.

When money equivalent to TK 4,44,81,216 came to the PM’s fund, it was kept in a bank account. From 1991 to 1993 the money was kept idle. In 1993 as the Zia Orphanage Trust was created and the money was divided in two parts – with only one part of TK 2,33,33,500 going to that trust, the court continued.

Keeping public money idle for two years in the PM’s fund is a crime, the verdict said. Moreover, half of the money was transferred to the Zia Orphanage Trust, but it has not been spent on the wellbeing of orphans till date; with only 2.79 acres of land being bought, the text added.

Terming the money meant for orphans public money, the judgement said that holding public money for an indefinite period without spending is also punishable under Section 409 of penal code.

The court found that the trust was created as a premeditated measure in order to misappropriate the allocated funds, with all of the accused involved in the crime.

On July 3, 2008, the Anti-Corruption Commission lodged a graft case with the Ramna police station against six members of the BNP including Chairperson Begum Khaleda Zia for embezzling Tk2.10 crore meant for orphans.

The five others accused are Khaleda’s son and BNP Senior Vice-President Tarique Rahman, her nephew Mominur Rahman, former MP Kazi Salimul Haque Kamal, businessman Sharfuddin Ahmed, and Dr Kamal Uddin Siddiqui.

Khaleda was sentenced to five years imprisonment, with the rest receiving 10 years of incarceration and fined Tk2.10 crore each by a special court on February 8 this year.

February 20, 2018

SOME individuals are instantly mesmeric. Asma Jahangir was one such though she also embodied a chronic crisis afflicting the left: a great cause, a greater legacy but with no movement on the ground to sustain and build on her work. Yes she was a fiery rebel and a deeply caring comrade, an outstanding lawyer and a raconteur with impish humour. She hugged the dispossessed with spontaneous empathy. She fought relentlessly against a variety of usurpers of democracy, mullahs and generals being her staple quarries. 

She also dreamt of uniting the people of South Asia into a comity of mutually caring nations where perennial, manmade inequalities could be terminated to everyone’s advantage, where gender and sexual rights would be accorded primacy with other elusive rights that people have been struggling to gain since time immemorial. She was against war always. She was a votary of peace at all times.

In a nutshell, given the adverse times she lived in, Asma Jahangir was a perpetual risk to herself while being an answer to the prayers of her dazzled admirers. This anomalous equation in some ways depicted her quandary in fighting unending injustices and metastasising chaos. Asma Jahangir was a towering hero without a movement to support, a living proof that individual charisma alone could neither drive social change nor effect political upheavals.

The compounded reality check is there for all to see. Asma’s admirers are legion, but they stand outnumbered (and outgunned) by their detractors. People turned out at her funeral in massive numbers, and they constitute the cream of Pakistan’s freedom-loving multitude, which is a blessing.

But let’s not be too self-congratulatory, and maybe admit openly that as effusive funerals go the right wing she fought with sleeves rolled up maintains a clear edge manifold over the liberal echelons. This is not how it used to be, only how it has become.

Could Asma’s team of selfless advocates compare head to head with the lawyers that turned out, say, to cheer and greet the right-wing zealot of an icon called Mumtaz Qadri?

Likewise, across the border in India, Prashant Bhu­shan and Vrinda Grover are among the brave law­yers fighting for precisely the causes that Asma stood for. Yet, like her, they too stand outnumbered by the lurch to the right. It is difficult to say who is faring better against similar odds stacked on both sides, but the reasons for their plight appear to be the same.

Sitting in Delhi, the view across the border looks eerily familiar. In her fight against the patriarchal mullahs and the military simultaneously, Asma was forced (for tactical reasons if not worse) to defend one of the two desperate choices on offer. The PPP had on its hands the bloody plight of the Ahmadis, whereas the PML-N has been tethered to an obscurantist mass base, with a leader who modelled himself as amirul momineen, a sobriquet stolen from the mediaeval Afghan Taliban. In India, the picture looks similarly dismal.

Gone are the days when a Majrooh Sultanpuri would pen a song in Mumbai that would become the battle cry against the martial law of Gen Ayub. The collapse and the dissipation of the left movement in Pakistan ended an era of hope for their comrades in India too. Still, when Z.A. Bhutto was to be hanged, there was an Indira Gandhi, backed by the leftists in India who urged Gen Zia to spare his life. That was something prime minister Morarji Desai had refused to do. (For which Zia rewarded him with Nishan-i-Pakistan.)

Things had only worsened for both countries by the time Asma Jahangir took the stage. In recent days, when the right-wing Indian government claimed to have carried out a military raid across the LoC, there was not a voice from any section of the political spectrum to speak up against poking a nuclear-armed neighbour in the eye. They mocked and teased Prime Minister Modi instead for allegedly exaggerating the claim of hot pursuit. There was a time when the Indian left, if no one else, would take a clear stand against such actions, even if these occasions were few and far between. Today, that considered counsel seems to have given way to tinctured nationalism even among the comrades. Often, the left’s position on Pakistan is difficult to distinguish from the nationalist MPs in the parliament’s two houses. I wonder how Asma Jahangir took it.

The result is that on the one hand there is a government that whips up anti-Pakistan hysteria at will — and there are sinister rumours about more worrisome action on the borders before the 2019 polls. On the other, there is the familiar Congress response to jingoism, one of being unabashedly diffident about questioning the nation’s militarist chorus. The love of the army may be on the wane in Pakistan, but it has risen rapidly in India.

To Pakistan’s credit, with persistent nudging from Asma Jahangir and her followers, both the main parties have very nearly abandoned their stance of anti-India posturing. In India, despite overt camaraderie with Asma and lip service to her cause, the left has been remiss in confronting jingoism. As for the leader of the main opposition party, he is not averse to gloating about how his grandmother broke Pakistan into two. (Though the claim has never got his party a single extra vote.)

Asma Jahangir stood for universal nuclear disarmament as one of her leading causes, but just around the time she died, the nuclear Doomsday Clock had moved closer to an alarming two minutes to midnight. The notional global clock packages an entire range of risks that life on earth faces, including environmental depredations and an instinct for mass suicide underscored by cavalier nuclear-armed nations.

Though the current threat to human life derives from the crisis on the Korean Peninsula, other serious challenges complete the picture. These include the ever cocked-up Middle East trigger and the never-ending India-Pakistan stand-off that threatens to spiral out of control any day. Asma’s mourners must pick up the cudgels and resume the fight as the best tribute to her. But they also need to introspect whether her legacy can be sustained without funnelling their energies into a movement she would be proud of.

9. LITTLE BIG WOMAN | Najam Sethi
The Friday Times Issue: 16 Feb 2018

Asma Jahangir is dead. But she will live forever in our hearts and minds.

Asma fought tirelessly for the cause of the weak, the dispossessed, the have-nots, the voiceless, the disappeared, the bonded, the battered and beaten, and all those shackled by the chains of exploitation and repression in state and society. It is inevitable that many Pakistanis will be inspired by her courage and conviction to carry the torch forward and build a culture of resistance to oppression and injustice. When a big tree falls the saplings in its shade grow to be tall and strong. For the one Asma who has died, surely dozens of Asmas will spring up to enrich the soil of Pakistan in years to come.

Asma did not seek accolades. But they piled up at her doorstep until she sat atop a mountain of laurels. Indeed, she is probably the most acclaimed and decorated Pakistani in history. A sampling of those who eulogized her reads like an International Who’s Who. But considering her staunch defense of constitutional democracy, it is tragic that the democratically elected Pakistani government – which is besieged by many destabilizing conspiracies and for whose constitutional right to survive she fought relentlessly – did not have the courage to give her a state funeral. In fact, none of the mainstream party bigwigs who espouse worthy causes turned up at her funeral.

No matter. The thousands who thronged to wish her on her last journey came from all sections of society whose ordinary everyday lives she had touched in some incredible, heartfelt manner. The old and young, men and women, rich and poor, state and stateless, minorities and majorities, all choking on their tears, formed a caring chain around her until she was returned to the womb of Mother Earth. Indeed, the funeral itself – in which men and women spontaneously prayed together – was a tribute to the spirit of equality that she nurtured and championed all her life.

Many apt words and phrases have been used at home and abroad to describe her persona and politics. Fearless. Gritty. Courageous. Iconic. Principled. Upright. Compassionate. Joan of Arc. Iron Lady. Legendary crusader for human rights. Champion of Truth and Justice. And so on. The international community should now make amends for ignoring her lifetime’s struggle for humanity by bestowing the Nobel Peace Prize on her posthumously.

Inevitably, too, like all great reformers and visionaries, she had her fill of vicious, spiteful detractors and critics in her lifetime. They accused her of being an “Indian Agent” simply because she wanted peace and amity among neighbours; they clipped her words and said she was unpatriotic because she challenged the hegemony of the Miltablishment. They fudged the facts to accuse her of religious deviation. But she stood her ground and had the last laugh. On the day of her passing, all of Pakistan stood up to recognize and pay tribute to her qualities of heart and mind in the service of the downtrodden. Indeed, on that day she seemed to inspire a collective unity of purpose and will in the quest of a progressive Pakistan that had eluded her in her lifetime.

Asma routinely received death threats from all sorts of extremists and misplaced “patriots”. But she never as much as glanced over her shoulder as she went about her daily business. She stood up in courtrooms to challenge bias and prejudice, but always politely. She publicly challenged faulty or biased judgments but never judges personally. She abhorred military dictators and autocracies, however “benevolent” or “liberal” some appeared to be. She was acutely aware of the political, social and human frailties and corruptions of our elected leaders, but she would never allow their constitutional rights to be trampled under the boot of wannabe Saviours and Messiahs from the Miltablishment.

No wonder, “they” hated her with a blind passion reserved only for an implacable “enemy of the state”. No sooner had she been buried that “they” unleashed their social media and TV trolls to blight her character and demean her achievements so that the seeds of her inspiration may be scattered in the wind.

Asma Jahangir valiantly stood for all that is good and great and generous in this age of selfishness and hypocrisy and intolerance. She wanted a Pakistan in which women could aspire to equality and unleash the full potential of half of humanity. She wanted amity among South Asian neighbours so that people could mingle freely, uproot their prejudices and build a creative culture of tolerance and plurality. She wanted the rule of law and constitution to prevail in Pakistan so that the social contract between the rulers and ruled in a modern state could be honoured. She wanted Pakistan to be cited among the progressive and dynamic nations of the world instead of being constantly harangued as a “failing” or “double-dealing” state. She wanted an upright and accountable state instead of a “deep” and self-righteous state.

These are universally noble objectives for which she will long be lauded. Rest in Power, Little Big Woman!

Ankit Saxena’s murder and khap killings over a woman’s free choice expose society’s anxiety about its property rights
Pragya Singh
Outlook Magazine
26 February 2018
Cover Story

The headlines are relentless, every day bringing fresh news of society’s revenge upon women. The image is starkest in parts of India where they were lucky enough to live in the first place. Where gynocide—a genocide of newborn/unborn women—is a silent, ongoing routine. The acts of violence are a way of saying, in incredulity, ‘And then she has the gall to go and develop a free will!’ To think, act and, most of all, to love. Often the revenge takes the form of the object of her desire being crushed. The latest to join the list of young social martyrs is Ankit Saxena. On a list lengthening like a dark shadow over modern Indian life, it’s an intriguing presence: an inversion of the normal ‘love jehad’ pattern of Hindu girl/Muslim boy. Ankit’s killing is a way of saying: our right over our women is supreme; even a minority status won’t change it.

Classic honour killing, in short. Ins­tead of a regional caste, a nat­ional community feels the anger of someone trespassing on property. Love itself is branded as fake and women, of course, deemed unfit to make that choice. So, a father in Delhi ends his young daughter’s romance by slashing the throat of her boyfriend. Ankit’s girlfriend is in hiding, afraid for her life too, a living symbol of what happens to those who transgress. Before the extra seasoning in the episode—the fact that the woman’s father is a Muslim, which both explains the murder and almost became the only way to decipher it—abates, another middle-aged man masturbates on a bus next to a woman, again in the heart of the capital. (As if she was an image, not a living being.) Fresh outrage is triggered, rinse and repeat. In Bhilwara, Rajasthan, a Jat woman dies of TB, but no one turns up for the funeral. She, a widow, had dared to marry a Dalit. No outrage, rinse and repeat.

The ­community feels the anger of ­someone trespassing on ­property. Love is branded as fake and women deemed unfit to make that choice.

Out in the country, it was always crystal-clear, by custom and social decree, that women were mere property, things that belonged to someone or the other, pieces of differently-­abled furniture perhaps, exchangeable as a commodity, meant to be pulled into commission for a giant, enslaving machine. Traditional society was built around systematica­lly confining women—to the home, and allied sectors, strictly delimited. And marriage was a vital part of this technology of confinement. Castes and communities came to exist and evolve through endogamy, by controlling female sexuality. Besides all the wars (and ritual immolations) for honour, there was an implicit violence in that stability.

The new violence has a slightly different origin. It comes from the cracks, from the change and instability of traditio­nal society grappling with modernity—with fear, loathing and incomprehension—to the moving of social tectonic plates as women speak and act. It shows up the starkest in the countryside. Witness how Naresh Tikait, leader of one of the infamous Jat khaps, responds to a Supreme Court verdict that chastised his ilk for interfering in love relationships. “We will not give birth to daughters, nor let others do so,” he said. The threat contains within it the promise of that silent gynocide, made absolute. But after Ankit, and similar urban, even elite murders in the past (see ‘Her Hand in the State’s Grip’, p.36), has the city lost its edge over the farm? Is non-­village India entitled to feel morally superior? Look at the countless signs of nervous patriarchy—the dress codes in city colleges, the new phobia of women drinking beer….

Half of humankind is not yet rising up in insurrection—acquiescence among women is a deep-rooted, conditioned reflex. But the old consensus is creaking under the strain. There’s a growing mismatch, a natural tension between the poles represented by the old world and what a scornful western UP farmer calls the ‘momo-jeans culture’, the world of mobile phones and Valentine’s Day. Between what young women—and men—seek and the sort of relationship society would love to impose on them. The egregious violence comes from the refusal of women to be treated as items in a prope­rty transaction. It’s not a sudden eruption of battle—it’s a long war deepening in intensity by the day. It’s death by a thousand cuts—almost every aspect of masculinity clashing with what women want, charging the fraught territory of relationships with an extra veneer of fear.

The degree of possible reconciliation with modernity varies. Jats offer the ­perfect stereotype—having started to forge into city life in just the last 50 years, they hunt down inter-caste or inter-­religious couples with a vengeance. Even so, the ‘liberal’ instinct isn’t absent here. Varnika Kundu, the Chandigarh girl chased on a deserted street by two men last year (all three are Jats), got unexpected support from the Kundu khap. “Nobody emphasised the Jat thing last year because it was ‘Jat versus Jat’,” she says. “Yes, the khap supported me because I’m a Jat. That said, it was a huge thing to back a city girl, for khaps are notorious for banning cell phones, noodles etc. I’ve seen educated households where women don’t have the same privileges as their brothers and also broad-minded families in the villa­ges—what else was Dangal about?”

So there’s mobility there. And also a sense of the immoveable—the idea of property. Signifying something inanimate, with no sense perceptions. With literacy, it ought to be an inevitable movement forward, out of that thought-world. And village India is signing on as a conflic­ted recruit—Janus-faced, one face looking back. Last week, the same belt in Manesar, off Gurgaon, reported a moral policing/sexual assault case on a South Korean woman and a village, Naurangpur, that had reversed the female foeticide pattern and registered 1,866 girls to 1,000 boys. But zoom to the other end of the scale—to the #MeToo campaign, or to the chic urbanity of Bollywood, where Kangana Ranaut says independent women are seen as “vamps”. Or the women going home while peeling potatoes on Mumbai suburban trains—liberated enough to participate in the economy (and pay half the bills), but not quite out of domesticity. The two-­facedness persists despite literacy.

It’s also inevitable that women themselves internalise the conflict, soaking up all of society’s neuroses. A 2005-06 National Family Health Survey study in Haryana found that more women than men (46/33 per cent) justified violence by husbands. Even a pan-India study among adolescents in 2012 found that while 57 per cent boys justified wife-­beating, so did 53 per cent girls. And experts deemed that to be an underestimation. And so, in the interpersonal space, a firm anchoring in a sense of identity and self-worth is yet to take root fully—relationships are founded on this loose soil of inner conflict and self-doubt. “That women are considered keen to invest more in relationships and nurture them at all cost is itself a kind of oppression,” says Prof Satish Prakash, a Meerut-based Dalit ideologue. ­“Nobody recognises that she nurtures indiscriminately from a sense of insecurity. She is silent as she does not have any other choice.”

Concrete reasons for this lack of a full singular ­ide­ntity—as if women aren’t ‘complete’ without ­marriage—aren’t hard to find. Their changing ­edu­cational and economic profile has not entitled ­women, in the eyes of family or community, to ownership of property, forget respect. Dowry demands are at an all-time high. One grotesque ­extreme was that of a man in West Bengal recently exposed for having ‘stolen’ his wife’s kidney to ‘recover’ the dowry promised. The equation couldn’t be starker—he was merely selling off a piece of property.

Love Actually

A Bajrang Dal ­protest against Valentine’s Day
Photograph by PTI

There’s a growing mismatch, a natural tension between the old world and what a scornful western UP farmer calls the ­‘momo-jeans’ culture.

The law is supposed to have a modernising force, driving society’s reforming impulse, but this has not happened—that’s at the core of the crisis. In 2006, in Uttar Pradesh, only six per cent of women owned land independently. In Haryana, at around the same time, only 11 per cent households were “female-headed”. Muslim and Christian communities, with a few exceptions, deny women the right to own property. UP, India’s most populous state, continues with the ­Zamindari and Land Reforms Act of 1950 instead of migrating to the new Hindu Succession Act that gives women rights to agricultural land. The older law does not recognise the inheritance rights of widows, daughters and sisters unless all male descendants are dead or gone.

“Even in Haryana, women’s property rights exist only in name,” says Jagmati Sangwan, general secretary, All India Democratic Women’s Association, a social activist who has battled khaps for decades. “This is at the root of all conflicts. Women are too scared to demand property and men want girls married by 15 or earlier, so they never attain enough education or independence to demand what’s theirs. After such a long struggle, the Supreme Court said khaps should not threaten couples. And Naresh Tikait says they will stop producing girls! They can’t say anything to the SC directly, so take their anger out against the weakest section, women.”

Even if Tikait’s scary, Malthusian threat does not come to pass, there’s always the everyday punishments of transgression. Or V-Day violence, which has gone way beyond small crowds of rowdies descending suddenly on a theatre or a club and thrashing young, romantically inclined couples. It’s an elaborate, choreographed ritual of social anger, with widening acceptance from institutions. Universities close for the day to preclude chances of love blooming perchance on campuses. Public thrashings, of course, are routine by now. “Under the guise of Valentine’s Day, Muslims befool Hindu women,” says Manoj Saini of the ‘Hindu Yuva Sena’, a rag-tag outfit that did a ‘lathi puja’ to forewarn couples (and establishments that welcome them) in Muzaffarnagar. Xenophobia blends seamlessly into misogyny in his words. “They wear kalava, teeka, and take names like Raju and ­Pappu. Girls don’t realise they are Muslim, and get trapped.”

Love Actually

‘Love Commandos’ rescues couples whose ­families seek to tear them apart
Photograph by

“There is no rich or poor, Jat or Jatav difference in those who seek our help,” says Sanjay Sachdev of Love Commandos.

DU professors Tanveer Aijaz and Vineeta, a ‘Hindu-­Muslim’ couple, are concerned over the myths and violence being woven around stories like theirs. When they wanted to marry, their families broached conversion too but they went for the Special Marriages Act (SMA), meant for inter-caste/religious couples. “We foresaw accepting conversion could lead to daily battles,” he says. It helped that they are not “practising” devouts, and both are repelled by notions of groups bound by perimeters that don’t allow mixing.

For Nainital-based educationist Kripa, a Syrian Christian married to a Rajput, it wasn’t so smooth. She was unwilling to convert to marry and her prospective in-laws were “the most liberal family possible”. Yet, the SMA was not an option—her father’s signature, required under the SMA, was not forthcoming. The couple went for a temple wedding; she adopted a friend’s gotra. Her church, when it found out, asked her to resign or get her husband to convert. Averse to a conversion of convenience, she res­igned. “The church, I feel, did everything contrary to the message of god,” she says. “The Bible is inclusive, not exclusive. Personally, I feel connected to god even now.”

Kripa, Ankit’s girlfriend, Saini’s potential victims—all are on the same plane. The dread of girls doing their own choosing may now be rearticulated in the terms of conversion, the latest brand of phobia. But it’s an ancient, congenital fear—the idea that our women will be bamboozled out of the fold. “In the 1940s, when untouchables said they are not Hindus, the Hindus felt their numbers would fall,” says Sunil Kumar, who teaches history at Delhi University. “So the fear is not just about Muslims or Christians, it’s more so about Dalits marrying ‘higher’ castes. They have not coined a word for this yet, but they might as well—perhaps it would not be so easy to push it with the electorate.” Kumar, of course, says the whole “love jehad formulation” makes no sense. “The proposition is that a woman is so inept she cannot discern. It’s absurd.”

If smaller histories are the real history of India, it’s worth mentioning that Saini’s opponents are alive—and starting to kick. “In the name of opposing Valentine’s Day, they want to spread chaos. They tell people that Muslims will capture India, and people fall in the trap,” says Shivaji Gautam, a young Dalit activist in rural Muzaffarnagar, a member of an Udham Singh Sena and a Dalit-Muslim Sena. “This year, we’ll go out to oppose them and protect couples if the government does not stop them.”

All About Honour

A khap panchayat in Haryana

The law ought to have a modernising force, driving society’s ­reforming impulse, but this has not ­happened­—that’s at the core of the crisis.

“They want Christian/English education for their children, but if some boy hands their daughter a flower on a street-corner, they thrash her,” says Prof Prakash, who wishes courts would intervene. “If they love their culture so much, caste Hindus should bear its weight themselves and hand over their male children to temples and priests. Why do they want women and Dalits to carry this burden?”

One couple-protection force exists in Delhi too—‘Love Commandos’ rescues women (and men) in social crises brought on by love. “We’ve helped 50,000 couples already and still get a steady stream of cases, such are the conditions in our country,” says Sanjay Sachdev, who runs the voluntary outfit. Where do the couples come from? The number one place is Andhra-Telangana, followed by Tamil Nadu, Karna­taka, Pondicherry, Gujarat, Maharashtra. If the Jat belt has khaps, jati and samaj panchayats in Rajasthan, Andhra, Madhya Pradesh et al push couples in the way of danger. “There is no poor or rich, Bania or Brahmin, Jat or Jatav, or Delhi, Mumbai, Calcutta difference in the people who seek my help. I can show you the violence of all these groups.”

Muslims, of course, have an elaborate architecture of miso­gyny of their own, including a clergy steeped in patriarchy, Student activist Shehla Rashid had raised a storm rec­ently, asking, fairly pointedly, if Muslims would react differently from Hindutva warriors if a Muslim girl were to marry a non-Muslim. “It’s not like just one religion has fundamentalist elements—both Muslim and Hindu groups suppress women,” she says. Ankit’s corpse came as proof, this week’s Exhibit A. “We have the right to marry anybody we choose, to eat what we like, work in what profession we want.  The right-wing assaults those rights,” she says.

Out in the country, things are moving erratically, two steps forward, one back. Haryana’s sex ratio has inched back up to 950—it was 819/1000 in 2001. And it stands at 912 in UP (894 in urban areas). But the old world is nervous. “Many anxieties we see today, such as over love jehad or inter-caste marriages, are a reflection of old idea of defending honour,” says Jagpal Singh, who teaches at IGNOU.

Honour, of course, is rendered more honourable when it’s systematically linked to property. Judge by a recent instance in Ghaziabad. A Hindu-Muslim couple were engaged to be married. Even their families were happy and willingly participating. Still, the right-wing sought to stop it, in vain. VHP activist Balaraj Doongar, who leads such agitations in the area, laments: “It was love jehad and land jehad rolled into one. The Hindus lost a daughter and crores in property.” All talk of ‘all­owing’ freedom in relationships to women floats on this dark sea. It’s a double deceit. At one level, women are to be denied ancestral property. At another, more fundamental level, women are ancestral property.

By Pragya Singh in New Delhi 


The Telegraph, February 19, 2018

As any crime fiction aficionado knows, it never stops with one death. The original crime is compounded by a cover-up, which leads to more crimes and yet more cover-ups. Real life, it would seem, is no different.

With the Supreme Court holding regular hearings over the past four weeks, the death of the judge, Brijgopal Harkishan Loya, is much in the news these days. While the petitioners in the case are demanding an independent investigation into what they insist is a mysterious death, the Maharashtra government is strongly arguing that no such probe is necessary because Loya died of a cardiac arrest.

It is not possible for anyone of us to know whether Loya's death on a wintry night in Nagpur more than three years ago was natural or not. But piecing together all that has appeared in the public domain so far, it is equally impossible to see his death as an isolated incident. On the contrary, the reason a miasma of menace swirls around the controversy is because it has a blood-soaked backstory and a sinister aftermath that is still unfolding.

The first death in this gory saga took place on November 26, 2005, when a Gujarat police team shot dead Sohrabuddin Sheikh. The police initially claimed that he was a terrorist who was cornered by a police party on a highway near Ahmedabad. The alleged terrorist shot at the police who fired back in self-defence and killed him on the spot.

Since many similar 'encounter' killings had taken place in Gujarat since 2002, the police were confident of getting away with their story. But it didn't quite work out that way. Sohrabuddin Sheikh's brother, Rubabuddin, wrote to the Chief Justice of India seeking an inquiry into the death and also the disappearance of Sohrabuddin's wife, Kausar Bi, who had gone missing. The Supreme Court ordered the Gujarat police to investigate the matter.

Significantly, it was the Gujarat police's investigation which first established that the police version was a fabrication and Sohrabuddin had been killed in cold blood. Detailed investigations by the Gujarat police and later by the Central Bureau of Investigation revealed the full extent of the crime and the reasons behind it.

Sohrabuddin was no terrorist but part of a criminal gang who ran an extortion racket in Rajasthan. He and his gang were patronized by certain police officers and politicians in Gujarat. But fearing that he was getting out of their control, a plot was hatched to eliminate him and paint it as an encounter killing.

The CBI charge sheet and numerous newspaper articles have detailed the modus operandi - how a team of the Gujarat police intercepted the bus in which Sohrabuddin, his wife, Kausar Bi, and an associate, Tulsiram Prajapati, were travelling from Hyderabad to Sangli, pulled them out, and took them away. Prajapati was handed over to the Rajasthan police while the Sheikh couple was kept in separate farmhouses in Gujarat. Sohrabuddin was subsequently killed in a staged encounter four days later.

One murder leads to another and so it was that Death Number Two took place soon after, possibly on November 29, 2005. To quote the CBI charge sheet, "Smt. Kausarbi was an eyewitness to the abduction of Sohrabuddin. She was a dangerous witness... She was, thereafter, eliminated by the accused persons and her body was burnt in village Illol."

The other eyewitness, Tulsiram Prajapati, feared that it would be his turn next. In a panic, he revealed his fears to fellow jail inmates and even wrote to the chairman of the National Human Rights Commission, seeking protection. But his fears proved right. He was brought from Udaipur to Ahmedabad in late December 2006 and on December 28 was killed by the Gujarat police at a highway near the Gujarat-Rajasthan border.

The first three deaths that form Loya's back story were gruesome murders carried out by police teams. According to investigations carried out by both the Gujarat police and the CBI, the teams were operating under the instructions of very senior police officers of the state, who were in turn in close and constant touch with the then Gujarat home minister, Amit Shah.

Amit Shah and several police officers were eventually charged as accused in the extra-judicial killings and sent to jail. The charge sheet noted inter alia, "Investigation also revealed that when the investigation of the case was transferred to CBI by the Hon'ble Supreme Court, there were concerted efforts made to hamper investigation." Amit Shah, it added, directed his close confidantes "to convince, coerce, threaten, influence the witnesses on his behalf to conceal the truth from CBI about the fake encounter of Sohrabuddin."

It is in this backdrop that many citizens - activists, journalists, lawyers - have viewed the death of B.H. Loya with concern and sought an independent probe by petitioning the Supreme Court.

Unlike Sohrabuddin and Prajapati, Loya was no criminal. He had no links with Gujarat or Rajasthan, and only came into the picture when he was appointed the judge in the special CBI court in Mumbai hearing the fake encounter case.

As many have noted, the trial took a new turn after the Bharatiya Janata Party swept to power in May 2014 and Amit Shah was appointed party chief two months later. The first trial judge of the special court, J.T. Utpat, had the gumption to pull up Amit Shah on June 6, 2014, for failing to show up in court and asked him to be present at the next hearing on June 26. But on June 25, Utpat was transferred to another court, even though the Supreme Court had said the same judge should hear the case from beginning to end.

Loya was then appointed the judge. During a hearing on October 31, 2014, Loya, too, asked Shah's counsel to ensure his appearance at the next hearing set for December 15.

On the night of November 30-December 1, Loya, who had gone to Nagpur to attend a wedding, passed away. On December 30, the third judge hearing the case, M.B. Gosavi, discharged Amit Shah from the fake encounter case.

Loya's death went largely unnoticed till the journalist, Niranjan Takle, wrote his article in Caravan magazine in late November 2017 in which he quoted Loya's father and sisters who expressed grave doubts about the 'cardiac arrest' theory, and gave disturbing details of the circumstances of the death. That article and its follow-ups triggered an outcry that has led to the petitions currently being heard in the Supreme Court.

More murky details are now emerging. On January 31 this year, the Congress held a press conference where a Nagpur-based lawyer and activist, Satish Uke, made startling allegations. He said two friends of Loya - the lawyer, Shrikant Khandalkar, and the retired district judge, Prakash Thombre - had approached him on the judge's behalf in 2014. They told him Loya was facing tremendous pressure in the fake encounter case.

According to Uke, the three of them held a video conference with Loya where he said he had been sent a draft order and asked to sign it. He was disinclined to do so, but also afraid of the consequences of being upright.

Soon after, Loya met his untimely death. Uke's words could be dismissed as outlandish but for what transpired later. Khandalkar, Uke said, called him in October 2015 to say that he too was getting death threats. Khandalkar's body was found in the premises of the Nagpur district court on November 29 with no clarity on how he died.

A little over six months later, Prakash Thombre also met an 'accidental' death. He apparently fell from the upper berth of a train and broke his spine. Uke missed death by a whisker when an avalanche of iron rods smashed his office shed minutes after he exited.

And in tandem with the mystery deaths, as many as 33 of the 49 witnesses in the fake encounter case have turned 'hostile', the last three as late as last week. And 15 of the key accused, starting with Amit Shah, have been discharged, prompting the retired judge of the Bombay High Court, A.M. Thipsay, to openly question the "absurd inconsistencies" in the trial process.

In the hands of a master story-teller, the fictional detective always succeeds in bringing together disparate strands of an intricate plot to offer the reader a satisfying resolution in the end. That might be too much to hope for in this real-life mystery involving people in the highest places...

The Guardian

The story of Mr Sudhir: how to survive in Delhi's 'grey market'

When sociologist Richard Sennett was fleeced by an iPhone dealer in Delhi, the pair struck up a friendship that opened a window into the informality of modern cities

Richard Sennett

15 Feb 2018

A shopkeeper stands next to a generator outside a commercial complex in Nehru Place, New Delhi
A trader outside a commercial complex in Nehru Place, New Delhi. Photograph: Bloomberg/Getty Images

In the south-east of Delhi, a vast T-shaped market has arisen on top of an underground parking garage.
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Nehru Place came into being because in the 1970s Delhi did not have enough commercial real estate to house its burgeoning small businesses. Original plans show the plaza above the parking garage as empty, and lined with low, four-storey buildings meant for offices rather than shops. Today, there remain traces of that intention. The boxy buildings lining the sides of Nehru Place form a downmarket version of Silicon Valley. Here, tech startups occupy cramped rooms next to computer repair shops and cut-rate travel agents.

The open-air plateau, however, has filled up with retail stalls. Here, people sell smartphones, laptops and pre-owned motherboards, saris and Bollywood CDs, sometimes all out of the same boxes. Crowds surge with energy. In the multiplex, the same Bollywood film has been cut and edited differently for the three languages in which it is currently showing. Nearby is a huge temple, and also more upscale office buildings.

People mingle casually on this plateau. Unlike Silicon Valley, where everybody makes a point of dressing down, the budding entrepreneurs of Nehru Place flaunt designer jeans and expensive loafers. Yet they do not hold aloof from the heaving market; a very good food stand, for instance, is located outside the offices of a firm that has pulled off an IPO. Rather than lunch in an upmarket place, the sharp young men still hang out around this stand, eating off paper plates, gossiping with the stand’s half-blind, motherly proprietor.

At night, India’s ghosts appear: pavement dwellers who colonise the staircases or spread out under the few trees that offer some shelter against the weather. One night I watched the police try to sweep out these night dwellers. As the forces of order moved forward, the dispossessed regrouped behind them and bedded down again – as the police knew perfectly well they would.

Nehru Place, a down-market version of Silicon Valley. Photograph: Richard Sennett

This mixed scene does not quite evoke Jane Jacobs’ West Village. Though loose and micro-scale in the character of its daily life, Nehru Place came into being thanks to large-scale, careful planning. Big money has been spent to provide Nehru Place with its own metro station and an equally efficient bus terminal. Slightly elevated and angled, keeping out rain and draining filth, the garage roof – though unlikely to win any architecture prizes – is a masterstroke in terms of urbanism. On top of it, what the French call a cité (a neighbourhood with character) has become grafted on to a planned ville.

It’s misleading to imagine that the poor only appropriate unbuilt land. Many places they colonise were previously constructed for a purpose, lost their value for one reason or another, were abandoned and then appropriated. Nehru Place is the same: unforeseen rooftop activities over a structure whose original purpose was parking cars.

    Mr Sudir's situation is familiar, if uncomfortable morally – ethical family values ​coupled to shady behaviour 

It is also typical of the informality that marks other fast-growing (or in UN-speak, “emerging”) cities. Economically, the entrepreneurs of Nehru Place have escaped India’s legal marketplace, which had suffocated under a leaden bureaucracy. Legally, they sell what are politely described as “grey goods” – at worst stolen or, less bad but still illegal, diverted from factories or storage facilities, untaxed.

Politically, as with the pavement-dwellers and the police, Nehru Place is informal in the sense of not being rigidly controlled. Socially, it is informal because of its transience. Shops and shoppers, offices and workers come and go; the stall you remember from last month is no longer there. The half-blind, motherly kebab-seller seems, at least in my experience, the only permanent fixture. Informal time is open-ended.

Versions of Nehru Place can be found in a Middle Eastern souk or a parking lot in Lagos; they used to appear in the squares of almost any small Italian town. In all of them, sellers and buyers haggle in a kind of economic theatre. The merchant declares, “This is my rock-bottom price!” to which the buyer responds with something like: “I really don’t want this item in red; don’t you have one in white?” The seller, discarding the “rock-bottom” declaration, answers, “No, but you can have it in red wholesale.”

The Parisian department store put an end to this. In its windows, commodities were still dramatised, but prices were fixed. The “grey market”, on the other hand, fosters a certain kind of face-to-face urban intensity.

A view of the Nehru Place market

The business people of Nehru Place have escaped India’s legal marketplace. Photograph: Mail Today/India Today Group/Getty Images

I learned this to my cost in Nehru Place. I first came here in 2007, to hang out rather than to work. (The LSE was holding a conference in Mumbai that year, and I wanted to see more of India than the inside of a conference hall.) But my phone – an early iPhone – had gone on the blink, and someone gave me a tip: a repair genius near the south-west corner of Nehru Place. I found the spot, but not the man; he had “been moved on”, said a young woman nearby, which my local colleague interpreted as, “he has refused to pay the right bribes”.

If I couldn’t repair my phone, I had to find a replacement, which was not an extravagant expense here. Many goods are cheap because, as one merchant declared of a box of new iPhones, all in red: “It happened to fall into our hands.” It was he who offered to do a deal “wholesale” – and we did it, on an overturned cardboard box that served as his shop counter.

He sold me a dud. I returned two days later and demanded my money back. The Indian friend with me released a volley of what sounded like quite threatening Hindi, and a new phone was handed over. The iPhone merchant then smiled, as though this was just part of the working day.

Rather than a slick youngster, he was a balding, paunchy man, reeking of some sort of perfume that perhaps also “happened to fall into our hands”. What touched me was a framed photo of two adolescent children he set on the upturned cardboard box.

‘I am Mr Sudhir’

It was insufferably hot, and I was pouring with sweat. Having placated me, the merchant offered tea, the hot liquid somehow assuaging the heat. We sat on either side of the box, stained with the rings of prior teacups – refreshment for assuaged customers was also normal business practice. I told him I was a researcher. He replied: “I am Mr Sudhir.”

Sudhir is a first name, and my host, evidently believing all Americans use them when meeting strangers, used his own, perhaps adding the “Mr” as a signal that I should treat him with respect. After selling another red iPhone to a wandering Dutch woman, his eyes carefully averted from me, Mr Sudhir returned to our conversation. We had already discussed grandchildren, and his own story now appeared.

Mr Sudhir had received a few years of schooling beyond the norm in a village 50 miles away, which perhaps prompted him as an adolescent to seek his fortune in Delhi, however he could. Contacts had put him into Nehru Place – but originally in the fetid stalls in the parking garage, home to the most marginal traders.

Electronic shops in Nehru Place. Photograph: Bloomberg/Getty Images

“In the garage it was hell,” Mr Sudhir said. “I had to be watchful every moment.”

In time, he rose above ground, occupying one regular spot and becoming known to a few key contacts outside.

As we talked, I heard other voices. In the 1980s I had made a study of 14th Street in New York City with the photographer Angelo Hornak. In those far off pre-gentrified days, that big street resembled Nehru Place in one key way: 14th Street sold towels, toilet paper, luggage and other everyday goods which “happened to fall into our hands”. The goods were available because freight operations at John F Kennedy International airport would “leak”, we were told. This grey market of 14th Street served as the public realm of working-class New York: almost all the underground lines in the city converged on it, and out on the sidewalks, in front of the stores, were overturned cardboard boxes like Mr Sudhir’s.

I became acquainted in particular with a group of African migrants who manned some of those cardboard boxes on 14th Street between 6th and 7th Avenues. They were men just hanging on, earning a few dollars each day, sleeping rough in basement corners or outside, but immensely proud. My passable French served as an entry card to stories of long, erratic journeys from West Africa, of politics or tribal conflicts that had aborted jobs, landed sons in prison, daughters in prostitution. The escape to America was filled with guilt over abandoning home, yet it had not improved their fortunes. Their life’s journey led relentlessly downwards, and they were depressed.

Dodgy dealings have led Mr Sudhir in the other direction. Abjection to him meant hawking stolen goods in the depths of Nehru Place. But he made a move up, both literally and socially, and the fact that he traded in goods of dubious origin did not detract from his aura of solid paterfamilias. The market offered him a chance to establish a solid stone on which his two sons could stand when they took over the business.

Street vendors selling an array of umbrellas, leather bags, watches and sunglasses on a New York street in 1979. Photograph: Frances M Ginter/Getty Images

It was the same, I learned, with his house. In the course of the 20th century, as the urban revolution gathered force, the mass of poor people streaming into cities occupied empty land to which they had no legal right. By one estimate, 40% of new urbanites in the year 2000 squatted in cinderblock or cardboard shacks. Private owners now want their property back; governments see these shack-camps, if made permanent, as a blight on cities.

Mr Sudhir, who has squatted for 14 years, doesn’t see it that way. Year by year he has improved his house, and he now wants to secure these improvements by making his tenancy legal. “My sons and I have recently added a new room to our home,” he told me proudly. They’d built it each night, cinderblock by cinderblock. The anthropologist Teresa Caldeira has noted that such long-term family projects become a disciplining principle for how money should be spent over the years. The collective efforts are a source of family pride and self-respect. Mr Sudhir has a family to support, and a dignity to maintain.

His situation is a familiar one sociologically, if uncomfortable morally – ethical family values coupled to shady behaviour. The harsh conditions of survival can put poor people in that position; taken to a more violent extreme, it is the story told in Mario Puzo’s The Godfather. I cannot say that my sympathy for Mr Sudhir as a paterfamilias made me accept being fleeced by him. Still, I wasn’t very angry. Need, rather than greed, drove him, and he wasn’t a self-righteous crook.

Our tea should have been an unalloyed moment – one old man sharing with another the fruits of a life of striving. But looking around us in Nehru Place, he concluded our chat with the comment, “I know I will be pushed out.” It was survivor rather than victim talk. “At our age,” he added, “it is not easy to start again.” But he then named a number of other places in Delhi where he might set up shop once more, illegally. What are the forces that seek to push out this admirable conman?

This is an edited extract from Building and Dwelling by Richard Sennett, published by Penguin, priced £23

Asia Times, 
February 16, 2018

Many years ago, while I was sitting with the chairman of a Public Sector Undertaking (PSU) bank, a phone call was put through to him. The chairman immediately started talking in Telugu, not realizing that I understand it because it is my native language.

The person at the other end of the call was a minister who was asking the bank to approve a loan to a company whose promoter had doubtful credentials. He also had a terrible record of repayments. All that I could hear from the chairman translated into “it will be done.”

The massive loss of 110 billion rupees (US$1.77 million) due to an alleged scam by Nirav Modi and associates is a prime example of a deeper rot that exists in India’s banking sector. The PSU banks are milked dry by politicians and their cronies, and while ordinary citizens have to struggle to borrow money, those with connections continue to milk the system.

Many of the current problems in India’s banks and their non-performing assets (NPAs) stem from the collusion and influence-peddling that happen for sanctioning loans. This leads to extensions, moratoriums and restructuring packages. With most banks having directors and even independent directors appointed by the government of India, crony capitalism has its feet firmly stuck in the muck. This is not to say that all NPAs are due to bad intent.

We have now come to a stage where we can no longer look the other way on Ponzi schemes masquerading as debt-restructuring packages. So the central Reserve Bank of India (RBI), in a midnight swoop, changed all the rules regarding any restructuring packages that are granted to corporates that fail to meet loan obligations.

    We have now come to a stage where we can no longer look the other way on Ponzi schemes masquerading as debt-restructuring packages. So the RBI, in a midnight swoop, changed all the rules

Most corporates have been using the “Corporate Debt Restructuring Package” or the “Strategic Debt Restructuring” package avoid being tagged as as a loan defaulter. Most of such packages involve changing the original terms of an agreement to avoid a default, thus enabling them to seek loans through newer entities floated by the same promoters. They get fresh loans to repay old loans and garner some interest-rate reductions, converting debt into equity, with moratoriums on payments and even haircuts to banks.

Consider the following cases.

In March 2011, a consortium of 13 lenders, including the State Bank of India (SBI) and ICICI Bank, converted 7.5 billion rupees of debt into an equity of 23.21% stake in Kingfisher Airlines promoted by liquor baron Vijay Mallya at a 61.6% premium over its prevailing share price.

Another group, owned by a minister in the current government, is a great example of how banks continue to finance a loan that should have been called out as bad. The figures on a consolidated basis for the year ending March 2017 were: One company in the group has total current liabilities of 25.69 billion rupees backed by receivables of 24 billion rupees. The total turnover is 16.12 billion rupees. The receivables are 18 months of turnover. And the market cap is 160 million rupees.

Another of the group’s companies, which is into metals, has been renamed, probably to avoid scrutiny. It has total liabilities of 29.24 billion rupees backed by receivables of 21.66 billion rupees and inventories of 2.54 billion rupees. The total turnover is 15.61 billion rupees. The receivables are 17 months of the turnover. The market cap is 430 million rupees.

A third company, also renamed recently, has total liabilities of 34.3 billon rupees and receivables of 20.61 billion rupees. Total revenue is 2.45 billion rupees, and the interest cost alone is 2.93 billion rupees and losses are 4.59 billion rupees. Its market cap is 240 million rupees.

In all, we have a group of companies, owned by a minister in the current government, with liabilities (mostly bank borrowings) of 89.23 billion rupees and a market cap of 930 million rupees!

Another company, Essar Steel, with a debt of close to 45 billion rupees ($704 million) and which went through bankruptcy proceedings, is currently seeing one of its own promoter-related families bidding to buy back the company at $6 billion.

The current move by the RBI will lead to a bloodbath in bank balance sheets over the next six quarters. I suspect that the banks got wind of it over the past few months. Most PSU banks hiked their NPA provisions, forcing 17 of the 23 banks to declare losses for the first time in two decades. This forceful measure by the RBI will increase gross NPAs by at least 50%.

What banks refused to recognize for years, they will now be forced to acknowledge in the next few quarters. There will be less space for the banks to lend and expand credit because of the capital-adequacy ratios. The banks will become more collection agents and loan-recovery officers than lending banks.

The companies with debt on their books will have to come clean in any loan renegotiation. More companies will stand exposed in the next few quarters.

In the short term, the scenario is bleak. But the cleaning up of bank balance sheets and greater transparency were much needed, and is a courageous move by the RBI.

But with the current political bickering, an environment of fear and also a desperate need for investment to make the economy grow, this could have a downturn effect in the next few quarters. It is time to fasten our seat belts as we carry out high-risk maneuvers.

Maheshwar Peri	
The author is a chartered accountant by training and the chairman of Careers360, a magazine on issues related to education.

 Durba Ghosh. Gentlemanly Terrorists Political Violence and the Colonial State in India, 1919–1947. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017. 290 pp. $29.99 (paper), ISBN 978-1-316-63738-8.

Reviewed by Heather Streets-Salter (Northeastern University)
Published on H-Diplo (February, 2018)
Commissioned by Seth Offenbach

Beginning in the first decade of the twentieth century, a number of educated, high-caste Indian men formed secret societies with the goal of violently overthrowing British rule. To fund this mission, they resorted to acts the Government of India called “terrorist,” which included robbing banks and post offices. They also carried out political assassinations and bombings of British administrators and Indians who supported British rule. These groups continued their campaigns of violence through independence in 1947, all the while seeking to inspire more revolutionaries and deeply alarming the colonial government out of all proportion to their numbers.

Durba Ghosh, in Gentlemanly Terrorists: Political Violence and the Colonial State in India, 1919-1947, takes up these revolutionary movements in the years after World War I to demonstrate the ways “terrorist” movements “reshaped the politics and laws of late anticolonial nationalism in India” (p. 10). While attention to these movements highlights the fact that the Indian nationalist movement was more complicated than Gandhian nonviolence, Ghosh goes further by arguing that the Indian nationalist movement cannot properly be understood without attention to revolutionary terrorism. This was because the devolution of power to Indians by the colonial government during the 1920s and 1930s occurred alongside, and in relation to, the enactment of a series of repressive laws designed to contain the threat posed by the ideals and acts of revolutionary terrorists. Revolutionary terrorism, Ghosh argues, prompted the colonial government to make it abundantly clear which Indian elites would be considered worthy and legitimate heirs to the state and which would not.

Indeed, one of the core arguments of Gentlemanly Terrorists is to demonstrate how major constitutional reforms in late colonial India were accompanied by repressive legislation. This simultaneity, Ghosh argues, was no accident. In the case of the 1919 Government of India Act, which expanded the Indian franchise and introduced devolution at the provincial level, Ghosh links these constitutional reforms (and a liberal-minded reform of Indian jails) with the introduction of the repressive Rowlatt Act which allowed indefinite detention and incarceration without trial of political dissidents, among other things. Thus, while the Government of India Act and the jails reform sought to bring Indians who might oppose colonial rule into a working relationship with the state, the Rowlatt Act simultaneously continued the repressive legislation of the World War I-era Defense of India Act. In essence, Ghosh argues that “a plan of introducing self-government to educated elites in India and improving jail conditions was paralleled by a series of repressive legislation that attempted to discipline the revolutionary and radical activities of those very same educated elites” (p. 34). This same pattern also marked the discussions around the Simon Commission later in the interwar period, which advocated provincial autonomy and federalism in India in the midst of a series of repressive legislative acts designed to contain and silence revolutionaries.

A second core argument is that the repressive legislation so intimately connected to constitutional reform in India tended to galvanize not only revolutionary terrorists against the government but also more moderate nationalists as well. This, in turn, prompted colonial administrators to believe that further emergency repressive legislation was necessary to prevent revolutionary violence from spiraling out of control. Ghosh argues that this belief was reinforced after the brief hiatus in repressive legislation that followed the enactment of the Government of India Act in 1919 and lasted through Mohandas Gandhi’s Non-Cooperation campaign until its end in 1922. During that time, revolutionaries agreed to Gandhi’s request that they refrain from staging violent attacks on colonial administrators or their supporters. Once the Non-Cooperation campaign was officially over, however, terrorist acts proliferated around Bengal between 1923 and 1925. Colonial administrators argued that the absence of repressive emergency laws during the Non-Cooperation campaign were to blame for this situation, and in response quickly enacted a series of emergency ordinances in Bengal that more or less accomplished the same goals as the never-enforced Rowlatt Act. The Bengal Criminal Law Amendment Act (BCLA), as it was called, resulted in an explosion in the number of political prisoners—approximately 10,000 by 1933—who had to be detained in special detention camps. The dramatic rise in detainees and the conditions under which they lived were widely decried by even moderate Indian politicians, and continually put the colonial government at odds with Indians who insisted that the rule of law must prevail. Notwithstanding these consistent objections, when the BCLA lapsed in 1930, it was quickly renewed and supplemented with further emergency legislation in response to a series of assassinations between 1930 and 1934. By this time, Ghosh argues, “anticipating a continued state of emergency became a new norm” (p. 145). The irony, as Ghosh demonstrates, was that repressive legislation did not stop revolutionary terrorism and also contributed to moderate nationalist discontent. In spite of this, the colonial government continued to insist that such legislation was essential right through independence.

A third core argument of Gentlemanly Terrorists revolves around the ways that individuals—both revolutionary terrorists themselves and colonial administrators—used history and historical accounts to make claims about the movement. Indeed, Ghosh shows that in seeking to make sense out of revolutionary terrorism, the colonial government spent a lot of energy and time writing histories of the movement. In so doing, government accounts imposed an artificial unity on terrorist acts that made them seem part of a conscious and connected conspiracy—a legacy that persists to this day. Even more important, Ghosh argues that revolutionary terrorists themselves used history to take control of their own stories, both during the interwar years and after independence. Ghosh explores a handful of autobiographies written by revolutionaries after their release, in 1919, from detention during the war. For these men, writing their own histories was a political statement that became “a part of their political insurrection” (p. 63). Notwithstanding the differences in each story, each of these men sought to portray themselves as both disciplined and modern revolutionaries who were willing to give their lives for their nation. In so doing, they hoped to gain recruits for their cause and also to remind Indians and Britons alike of a long-standing Bengali tradition of militancy. In the postindependence period, revolutionaries released from detention camps in 1947 likewise sought to record their autobiographies for posterity. But unlike the revolutionary autobiographies of the earlier period that hoped to build the movement, these later texts sought to demonstrate the importance of revolutionaries and the revolutionary movement to the larger history of India’s independence movement. And in this new political environment of independence, revolutionaries (including some women) became celebrated public figures: indeed, in postindependence India they had truly gone from being seen as terrorists to being seen as freedom fighters, and were officially recognized by the state.

While Ghosh points out that most Indian schoolchildren know about the men and women featured in the book as gentlemanly terrorists, she is equally aware that it was the story of Ghandhi’s nonviolent movement that became the accepted narrative of independence. And though it might be tempting to brush off the story of these revolutionaries as marginal to the larger story of Indian independence because of their smaller numbers, because of their regional concentration in Bengal, or because they ultimately failed, Ghosh shows us in multiple ways that the problem of revolutionary terrorism was fundamental to the unfolding of the better-known Gandhian narrative. For her, the enactment of emergency legislation and the promotion of a liberal democratic agenda were not contradictory impulses but two sides of the same coin.

Given that the revolutionary terrorist movement generated an enormous official archive in both India and Britain, Ghosh could certainly have had ample material to work with from such sources alone. Her choice to include so many of the writings of these revolutionaries, however, makes the book not only far more interesting but also far more nuanced. Just as revolutionaries sought to recover control over their own histories by writing their autobiographies, the chapters that focus on revolutionary writings refuse to let colonial administrators have the last word on what kind of people these revolutionaries were or how they should be remembered.

One of the ironies of this history, however, is that despite such a major shift in how Indian revolutionaries were viewed by the colonial and the independent Indian states, the legacies of the past—especially with regard to emergency legislation existing in tandem within liberal democracies—continued to haunt independent India. While the “terrorists” of the newly independent state were not the same as those of the past, new “terrorists” such as tribal leaders, Maoists, and communists were targeted by emergency legislation after 1947. In the end, Ghosh argues that “both the colonial and postcolonial states have used the logic of protecting democracy and democratic norms and rights as a way of rationalizing a growing security apparatus” (p. 245).

Gentlemanly Terrorists is important in its own right for what it says about Indian revolutionaries, the Indian nationalist movement, and the priorities of the late colonial and early independent Indian states, but it also speaks to a more general problem for the construction of democracies. Although Ghosh does not make this connection explicitly, it is not difficult to see numerous other case studies in which the passage of emergency laws in order to preserve and protect emerging or existing democratic forms—in Malaya, Kenya, South Africa, and Germany, among others—has resulted in the abrogation of democratic rights for those whose political programs contradict or threaten those of the state. For this reason Gentlemanly Terrorists can provide a useful case study for exploring the logic of how and why these seemingly oppositional impulses have become linked. One wonders if there are more global implications to this cycle of seeing revolutionaries everywhere, legislating to remove them from society, detaining them, and continuing to feel the need for more legislation. In any case, Gentlemanly Terrorists is an important book that will leave readers with a greater understanding of the complexities of Indian nationalism and of an understudied set of violent revolutionaries who helped to shape the colonial state’s response to it. It may also leave them with larger questions about the history of the interplay between repression and democracy and how it has played out around the world.

Did a largely forgotten peace pact transform the world we live in?
by Louis Menand
New Yorker
A Critic at Large
September 18, 2017 Issue

Two legal scholars argue that the Paris Peace Pact of 1928—widely disparaged or ignored—led to a new international order.
Illustration by Javier Jaén

On August 27, 1928, in Paris, with due pomp and circumstance, representatives of fifteen nations signed an agreement outlawing war. The agreement was the unanticipated fruit of an attempt by the French Foreign Minister, Aristide Briand, to negotiate a bilateral treaty with the United States in which each nation would renounce the use of war as an instrument of policy toward the other. The American Secretary of State, Frank Kellogg, had been unenthusiastic about Briand’s idea. He saw no prospect of going to war with France and therefore no point in promising not to, and he suspected that the proposal was a gimmick designed to commit the United States to intervening on France’s behalf if Germany attacked it (as Germany did in 1914). After some delay and in response to public pressure, Kellogg told Briand that his idea sounded great. Who wouldn’t want to renounce war? But why not make the treaty multilateral, and have it signed by “all the principal powers of the world”? Everyone would renounce the use of war as an instrument of policy.

Kellogg figured that he had Briand outfoxed. France had mutual defense treaties with many European states, and it could hardly honor those treaties if it agreed to renounce war altogether. But the agreement was eventually worded in a way that left sufficient interpretive latitude for Briand and other statesmen to see their way clear to signing it, and the result was the General Treaty for the Renunciation of War, also known as the Paris Peace Pact or the Kellogg-Briand Pact. By 1934, sixty-three countries had joined the Pact—virtually every established nation on earth at the time.

The Treaty of Versailles, signed in 1919, gets bad press. It imposed punitive conditions on Germany after the First World War and is often blamed for the rise of Hitler. The Kellogg-Briand Pact does not get bad press. It gets no press. That’s because the treaty went into effect on July 24, 1929, after which the following occurred: Japan invaded Manchuria (1931); Italy invaded Ethiopia (1935); Japan invaded China (1937); Germany invaded Poland (1939); the Soviet Union invaded Finland (1939); Germany invaded Denmark, Norway, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, and France and attacked Great Britain (1940); and Japan attacked the United States (1941), culminating in a global war that produced the atomic bomb and more than sixty million deaths. A piece of paper signed in Paris does not seem to have presented an obstacle to citizens of one country engaging in the organized slaughter of the citizens of other countries.

In modern political history, therefore, the Paris Peace Pact, if it is mentioned at all, usually gets a condescending tip of the hat or is dutifully registered in footnote. Even in books on the law of war, little is made of it. There is not a single reference to it in the political philosopher Michael Walzer’s “Just and Unjust Wars,” a classic work published in 1977. The summary on the U.S. State Department’s Web site is typical: “In the end, the Kellogg-Briand Pact did little to prevent World War II or any of the conflicts that followed. Its legacy remains as a statement of the idealism expressed by advocates for peace in the interwar period.”

The key term in that sentence is “idealism.” In international relations, an idealist is someone who believes that foreign policy should be based on universal principles, and that nations will agree to things like the outlawry of war because they perceive themselves as sharing a harmony of interests. War is bad for every nation; therefore, it is in the interests of all nations to renounce it.

An alternative theory is (no surprise) realism. A realist thinks that a nation’s foreign policy should be guided by a cold consideration of its own interests. To a realist, the essential condition of international politics is anarchy. There is no supreme law governing relations among sovereign states. When Germany invades France, France cannot take Germany to court. There are just a lot of nations out there, each trying to secure and, if possible, extend its own power. We don’t need to judge the morality of other nations’ behavior. We only need to ask whether the interests of our nation are affected by it. We should be concerned not with some platonic harmony of interests but with the very real balance of power.

A standard way to write the history of twentieth-century international relations is to cast as idealists figures like Woodrow Wilson, who, in 1917, entered the United States into a European war to make the world “safe for democracy,” and the other liberal internationalists who came up with the League of Nations and the Kellogg-Briand Pact. The Second World War proved these people spectacularly wrong about how nations behave, and they were superseded by the realists.

To the realists, such Wilsonian ideas as world government and the outlawry of war were quixotic. Nations should recognize that conflict is endemic to the international arena, and they should not expend blood and treasure in the name of an abstraction. Containment, the American Cold War policy of preventing the Soviet Union from expanding without otherwise intervening in its affairs, was a realist policy. Communists could run their own territories however they liked as long as they stayed inside their boxes. If our system was better, theirs would eventually implode; if theirs was better, ours would. The author of that policy, the diplomat George Kennan, called the Kellogg-Briand Pact “childish, just childish.”

And yet since 1945 nations have gone to war against other nations very few times. When they have, most of the rest of the world has regarded the war as illegitimate and, frequently, has organized to sanction or otherwise punish the aggressor. In only a handful of mostly minor cases since 1945—the Russian seizure of Crimea in 2014 being a flagrant exception—has a nation been able to hold on to territory it acquired by conquest.

Historians have suggested several reasons for this drop in the incidence of interstate war. The twenty years after the Second World War was a Pax Americana. By virtue of the tremendous damage suffered in the war by all the other powers, the United States became a global hegemon. America kept the peace (on American terms, of course) because no other country had the military or economic capacity to challenge it. This is the “great” America that some seventy-five million American voters in the last Presidential election were born in, and that many of them have been convinced can be resurrected by shutting the rest of the world out—which would be a complete reversal of the policy mind-set that made the United States a dominant power back when those voters were children.

By the nineteen-seventies, the rest of the world had caught up, and students of international affairs began to predict that, in the absence of a credible global policeman, there would be a surge in the number of armed conflicts around the world. When this didn’t happen, various explanations were ventured. One was that the existence of nuclear weapons had changed the calculus that nations used to judge their chances in a war. Nuclear weapons now operated as a general deterrence to aggression.
“O.K., maybe I need to change my life, or maybe you could just tweak my medication.”

Other scholars proposed that the spread of democracy—including, in the nineteen-eighties, the Velvet Revolution in Eastern Europe and the dismembering of the Soviet Union—made the world a more peaceable place. Historically, democracies have not gone to war with other democracies. It was also argued that globalization, the interconnectedness of international trade, had rendered war less attractive. When goods are the end products of a worldwide chain of manufacture and distribution, a nation that goes to war risks cutting itself off from vital resources.

In “The Internationalists” (Simon & Schuster), two professors at Yale Law School, Oona A. Hathaway and Scott J. Shapiro, present another explanation for the decline in interstate wars since 1945. They think that nations rarely go to war anymore because war is illegal, and has been since 1928. In their view, the signing of the Kellogg-Briand Pact was not a Dr. Seuss parable with funny characters in striped trousers and top hats. The treaty did what its framers intended it to do: it effectively ended the use of war as an instrument of national policy.

Then what about the Japanese invasion of Manchuria, the Italian invasion of Ethiopia, and so on, down to the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor? Those actions were carried out by nations that were among the Pact’s original signatories, and they clearly violated its terms. According to Hathaway and Shapiro, the invasions actually turned out to be proof of the Pact’s effectiveness, because the Second World War was fought to punish aggression. The Allied victory was the triumph of Kellogg-Briand.

O.K., so what about the deterrent effect of nuclear weapons? The spread of democracy? Free trade and globalization? Isn’t the Kellogg-Briand Pact just a case of post hoc ergo propter hoc—an exercise in feel-good diplomacy that happened to find confirmation many years later in a state of global affairs made possible by other means? On the contrary, Hathaway and Shapiro argue. If war had not been outlawed, none of those other things—deterrence, democracy, trade—would have been possible. The Kellogg-Briand Pact is the explanation that explains all other explanations.

Genuine originality is unusual in political history. “The Internationalists” is an original book. There is something sweet about the fact that it is also a book written by two law professors in which most of the heroes are law professors. Sweet but significant, because one of the points of “The Internationalists” is that ideas matter.

This is something that can be under-recognized in political histories, where the emphasis tends to be on material conditions and relations of power. Hathaway and Shapiro further believe that ideas are produced by human beings, something that can be under-recognized in intellectual histories, which often take the form of books talking to books. “The Internationalists” is a story about individuals who used ideas to change the world.

The cast is appropriately international. Many of the characters are barely known outside scholarly circles, and they are all sketched in as personalities, beginning with the seventeenth-century Dutch polymath Hugo Grotius, who is said to have been the most insufferable pedant of his day. They include the nineteenth-century Japanese philosopher and government official Nishi Amane; the brilliant academic rivals Hans Kelsen, an Austrian Jew, and Carl Schmitt, a book-burning Nazi; the American lawyer Salmon Levinson, who began the outlawry movement in the nineteen-twenties and then got written out of its history by men with bigger egos; and the Czech émigré Bohuslav Ečer and the Galician émigré Hersch Lauterpacht, who helped formulate the arguments that made possible the prosecution of Nazi leaders at Nuremberg and laid the groundwork for the United Nations.

The book covers an enormous stretch of historical ground, from 1603, when a Dutch trader attacked and looted a Portuguese ship in the waters outside Singapore, to the emergence of the Islamic State. The general argument is that it made sense to outlaw war in 1928 because war had previously been deemed a legitimate instrument of national policy.

The key figure in the early part of the story is Grotius, who, in contriving a legal justification for an obviously brigandly Dutch seizure of Portuguese goods off Singapore, eventually produced a volume, “On the Laws of War and Peace,” published in 1625, that Hathaway and Shapiro say became “the textbook on the laws of war.” Grotius argued that wars of aggression are legal as long as states provide justification for them, but that even when the justifications prove to be shams the winners have a right to keep whatever they have managed to seize. In Grotius’s system, to use Hathaway and Shapiro’s formulations, might makes right and possession is ten-tenths of the law.

That doesn’t sound like much of a legal order, but it placed some constraints on what nations could do. For one thing, it prohibited nations from going to war to recapture lost territory or other goods, since those were now in the lawful possession of the victor. For another, it required states that were not party to a war to remain neutral. This meant not just that nations couldn’t intervene militarily in someone else’s war; they could not change, for example, the terms on which they traded with the belligerents. They were, in effect, obliged to look the other way. Individuals were given a license to kill under the old system, but only if they were already at war. Otherwise, killing was still just killing.

Hathaway and Shapiro argue that Grotius’s law of war explains why actions that look like simple landgrabs, such as the Mexican-American War, which began in 1846, were perfectly legal undertakings. They explain that the United States had a valid justification for attacking Mexico—among other things, they say, there was a matter of unpaid debts—and that it also had a right to whatever territory it could lay claim to as a result, which, in that case, included all or part of what would become California, Utah, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and Wyoming. The Mexican-American War was not an extralegal military adventure. It was how nations behaved in what Hathaway and Shapiro call the Old World Order.

The Old World Order obviously set a low bar for going to war, which was convenient during a period of imperial expansion but dangerous when the imperial powers turned on one another. In 1914, Grotius’s chickens came home to roost. The First World War was a regional brush fire that turned into an out-of-control inferno almost overnight. The system was not working, and the outlawry movement was a response to the emergency.

The outlawers reasoned that, since the old system had rested on the legality of war, the way to replace it was to make war illegal. Hathaway and Shapiro tell us that Salmon Levinson used the analogy of duelling. There had been many efforts to change the codes of duelling and make it more humane, but people still duelled. Finally, duelling was banned, meaning that killing someone in a duel was murder, and duelling stopped. The way to stop war was, likewise, to remove its legal immunity.

Hathaway and Shapiro acknowledge that one reason the Kellogg-Briand Pact is regarded as historically insignificant is that it provided no enforcement mechanism. The language of the Pact reads as merely aspirational, not much more than a promise to be good. The ineffectuality of the League of Nations, created in the wake of the First World War, was part of the problem. When Japan invaded Manchuria and eastern Mongolia, in 1931, creating the puppet state of Manchukuo, the League, which the United States never joined, judged Japan’s actions to be illegitimate. Japan responded by resigning from the League. Members of the League were in a bind: they could condemn aggression, but, as signatories to the Paris Peace Pact, they were prevented from going to war to stop it. The world needed not only a New World Order but also a way to make it stick.

This was provided by Nuremberg. From a realist point of view, the Nuremberg trials, which were conducted in 1945 and 1946 and resulted in death sentences for twelve Nazis, were an application of victor’s justice. Kennan called the trials a “horror.” The man who would become the leading international-relations theorist in postwar American academia, Hans Morgenthau, himself a Jew who had fled Hitler, considered the trials “a symptom of the moral confusion of our times.” “German aggression and lawlessness were not morally obnoxious to France and Great Britain as long as they were directed against Russia,” he pointed out. But the defendants were charged in three categories: crimes against the peace, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.

Winston Churchill was against holding trials at all. He thought the leading Nazis should be shot on sight. Joseph Stalin favored the trials. His country had been invaded and nearly conquered, and he wanted a precedent that made wars of aggression a crime. By the time the trials began, in October, 1945, the world knew of the death camps, and to many people it seemed unconscionable not to hold the surviving Nazi leaders accountable.

The chief U.S. prosecutor, Robert Jackson, characterized German aggression in his celebrated opening statement as “a crime against international society which brings into international cognizance crimes in its aid and preparation which otherwise might be only internal concerns. It was aggressive war, which the nations of the world had renounced.” In other words, Germany’s violation of the Kellogg-Briand Pact opened the door to the prosecution of crimes against humanity. (This also explains why Soviet atrocities committed during the war were not subject to prosecution. The Soviets had been engaged in a war of self-defense, and thus, in principle, had immunity for acts performed in its pursuance.)

But the legal basis for charging individual Nazis was flimsy. Technically, the Kellogg-Briand Pact had not made war a crime; it had simply removed the legal immunity that had been extended to it under Grotius’s system. And, according to international law, states, rather than individuals, were responsible for war crimes. In order to prosecute the defendants at Nuremberg, the Allies and their lawyers basically had to convert the Pact into a criminal code that made individuals liable for illegal acts of war. They did, and that is the most important legacy of Nuremberg today. It is what has allowed the prosecution, in an international court in The Hague, of more than a hundred and fifty individuals for war crimes committed during the fighting that took place in the former Yugoslavia in the nineteen-nineties.

Hathaway and Shapiro concede that, in its final judgment, the Nuremberg court reverted to a form of reasoning that Allied lawyers had warned against: it argued that, since the defendants should have known that their actions were wrong, the court was justified in punishing them—effectively an exercise in ex-post-facto legislation. But the trial marked the inauguration of a new international era, because it showed how the new order’s rules could be enforced.

It also signalled the advent of a new international understanding of the laws of war. From then on, territory seized by conquest in a war of aggression wasn’t exempt from reparations. Hathaway and Shapiro say that virtually all the conquered territory that had been unrecognized by the international community since 1928 was restored after 1948.

As Hathaway and Shapiro see it, the success in establishing this New World Order has brought “seven decades of unprecedented peace and prosperity.” That success has come at a price, however. When the United Nations was founded, in 1945, there were fifty-one member states, and the architects of the U.N. buildings left room for twenty more. Today, there are a hundred and ninety-three U.N. members. This is, in part, because the ban on conquest has allowed small states to maintain their sovereignty. But it has also produced a number of internally weak states, and a great deal of the carnage around the world today is the result of intrastate conflicts or the emergence of militant groups in states whose governments lack the power to suppress them. The Islamic State is an example of the kind of insurgency that thrives in weakened regimes. Atrocities seem endemic to such intrastate conflicts.

Hathaway and Shapiro are lawyers, and, in making their case for the supreme explanatory power of Kellogg-Briand, they litigate themselves around some tricky historical corners. The claim about the return of conquered territories turns out to require some definitional parsing. They mean what they call “unrecognized transfers,” a category that does not include, for example, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria, Albania, and East Germany, which became puppet states of the Soviet Union. Nor does their definition include the Baltic states, which were taken over by the Soviets in consequence of an agreement that Stalin made with Hitler. Hathaway and Shapiro argue that the United States refused to recognize this seizure, but this is not the reason those states were awarded independence in 1991. That happened because the Soviet Empire collapsed.

Hathaway and Shapiro acknowledge the Israeli annexation of East Jerusalem after the Six-Day War, in 1967, but say almost nothing about the West Bank. They scarcely mention America’s two Iraq wars, and they ignore the eight-year Iran-Iraq War that preceded them, which they presumably regard as a border dispute. (In the end, no territory changed hands, but almost half a million people were killed.) Part of the interest of their deeply interesting book, though, is seeing how far and in which cases you are willing to go along with them.

“The Internationalists” has some lessons for today. One is a warning against the temptation nations have to construe threats of war as equivalent to acts of war. The New World Order would seem to rule preëmptive strikes out of bounds, but not self-defense, and it’s easy to see how the latter might be made a justification for the former. The claim that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction was such a case, and the current standoff with North Korea might become another one.

Hathaway and Shapiro also argue that, to the extent that there is peace among nations, it is secured by the networks of international organizations and treaties that have proliferated since the Second World War. The authors count two hundred thousand international agreements now in force. These allow for a method of punishing international lawbreakers and outlaw regimes by what they call “outcasting.” Since there is no rule requiring neutrality, countries can now band together to impose sanctions on aggressors, casting truant nations out of the international system. This is how the world is responding, for example, to the forced annexation of Crimea. (It is not, on the other hand, how it responded to Iraq’s seizure of Kuwait, in 1990. Within six months, an international coalition of thirty-two nations, led by the United States, had attacked Iraqi forces and driven them out. The punishment chosen for violations of the new law of war depends a little on the size of the truant.)

Today, we are living through a backlash against globalization, and Hathaway and Shapiro see this as itself a serious danger to peace. “Trade plays an essential role not only as a source of beneficial collaboration,” they say, “but also as a collective tool for constraining illegal behavior.” Economic interdependency creates a harmony of interests.

“The Internationalists” doesn’t use the terms “realism” and “idealism,” but if it did, its point would be that policies once disparaged as idealistic turned out to have significant tangible consequences. Still, great powers do not give up something for nothing. A central phenomenon in modern world history is Western imperialism and its aftermath, decolonization. Western world conquest began in the fifteenth century and peaked in 1939, when seven European nations had jurisdiction over almost a third of the world’s population. After 1945, those empires began breaking up; by 1970, apart from a few, mostly short-lived holdouts, they had vanished.

These historical developments underlie many of the changes in the legal status of military conflict that Hathaway and Shapiro bring to our attention. So, for example, when they assert that “the likelihood that a state will suffer a conquest has fallen from once in a lifetime to once or twice in a millennium,” and support the claim with data comparing the amount of territory conquered annually between 1816 and 1928 with the amount conquered annually after 1948—it was many times greater in the earlier period—they are only recording the difference between a period of intensive empire-building and a period of imperial divestment.

“It is likely no coincidence that Grotius’s new theory favored sovereigns and their trading companies,” Hathaway and Shapiro note. Well, yes. International law is the superstructure for the system of geopolitical relations. In writing his law of war, Grotius claimed to be deducing from the principles of natural law the proper rights of states. But he was clearly inducing from the actual actions and ambitions of powers like the Netherlands a set of rules that legalized their behavior. Ideas like Grotius’s mattered because they provided a coherent rationale for what was happening in the world willy-nilly. Grotius made the world safe for imperialists.

Similarly, today, as Hathaway and Shapiro acknowledge, “the New World Order is not divorced from global power dynamics.” The Allied powers that went to war against Germany and Japan in the name of self-determination—which is the main principle of the Atlantic Charter, signed by Roosevelt and Churchill in 1941—all had imperial possessions. After the Second World War, the European powers could no longer afford those empires; in places where they tried to hold on to them—Algeria, Vietnam, Kenya—they paid a heavy price (to say nothing of the toll paid by the colonized peoples) and lost them anyway. Decolonization, assuming that the ex-imperial powers could maintain favorable trade relations, eliminated administrative costs and the associated ideological contradictions.

It is not surprising that the great powers, in a world in which their influence and their share of global product were likely to shrink, were willing to exchange the right of conquest for globalization, with its system of international trade agreements. “The Pact appealed to the West because it promised to secure and protect previous conquests, thus securing Western Nations’ place at the head of the international legal order indefinitely,” as Hathaway and Shapiro rightly say. Like most international treaties, it didn’t redistribute political capital; it locked in existing power differentials. Defining “conquest” as a violation of international law today means that it is much harder for smaller states to become big ones, and making smaller countries dependent on their trade with bigger ones keeps them in line. That there will be better off and worse off is always implicit in the concept of order. 

This article appears in the print edition of the September 18, 2017, issue, with the headline “Drop Your Weapons.”

    Louis Menand has contributed to The New Yorker since 1991, and has been a staff writer since 2001.

(Hindustan Times - Feb 17, 2018

A municipal council committee, tasked with deciding on the award, this week revoked its earlier decision to honour the famous author, who is also an outspoken critic of the current political climate in Turkey.

Sarajevo has dropped plans to proclaim Turkish Nobel literature laureate Orhan Pamuk an honorary citizen of the Bosnian capital, a move the opposition claimed was done out of fear of offending Turkey’s president. A municipal council committee, tasked with deciding on the award, this week revoked its earlier decision to honour the famous author, who is also an outspoken critic of the current political climate in Turkey.

The committee has so far given no explanation for revoking the decision which had previously passed unanimously by the seven councillors. In the second vote, four councillors voted against it, Samir Fazlic of the opposition multi-ethnic Nasa Stranka (Our Party) party told AFP.

The different outcome of the vote was prompted by the “writer’s opposition to the politics of Turkish president Erdogan” and “fear ... of Erdogan,” Fazlic claimed. Sarajevo is ruled by Bosnia’s main Muslim SDA party led by Bakir Izetbegovic.

Izetbegovic, also the Muslim member of Bosnia’s joint presidency, is close to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who invited him to the marriage of his daughter in May 2016. The opposition Social Democratic Party in a statement also criticised the decision as “servile politics.”

Contacted by AFP, the office of Sarajevo mayor Abdulah Skaka, of the SDA party, did not reply. Head of the committee Velija Katica, also of the SDA, told local reporters he “did not get instructions on how to vote.”

Pamuk had been nominated for the award by a local bookstore as he is writing a screenplay for a movie on wartime Sarajevo. The bookstore director reportedly said the committee thought Pamuk was not “sufficiently important for Sarajevo.”

“We still don’t know” what was the real reason, director Damir Uzunovic told regional N1 television. “To say that he (Pamuk) is not sufficiently important for the city is no explanation at all. ... This argument is completely absurd.”

Bosnia’s branch of the PEN club sent its “sincere apologies” to Pamuk. Pamuk, who won the Nobel prize for literature in 2006, has denounced what he called a climate of “fear” in his country. He lashed out at the arrest of prominent Turkish writer and journalist Ahmet Altan, over suspicion of being linked with a failed July 2016 coup, warning that Turkey was heading towards becoming a “regime of terror”.

Since the end of Bosnia’s 1990s war, Turkey has invested in Bosnia through the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA) some 240 million euros ($298 million) in about 800 projects. They include the reconstruction of mosques, monuments from the Ottoman era and schools. The Ottomans ruled in Sarajevo for more than four centuries until 1878.

The Guardian, 3 Feb 2018

After the Ukraine government condemned his book Stalingrad, Antony Beevor reflects on governments’ desire to alter the past and warns of the dangers of censorship

According to an old Spanish proverb, “history is a common meadow in which everyone can make hay”. It has also long been a battleground for the perpetuation of nationalist myths and political attempts to reshape the past. In recent decades there have been encouraging developments, with many more international history conferences and foreign academics recruited by universities. All of this has helped to reduce the tendency of countries to view the past uniquely from their own patriotic perspectives. At the same time governments of all shades still long to impose their versions of the past through education, pressure on the media and if necessary outright censorship and even legislation.

Motives vary. In France, attempts by the former president Nicolas Sarkozy to criminalise denial of the Armenian genocide were strongly suspected to have been aimed at attracting the votes of the large Armenian community. Meanwhile, Holocaust denial laws in Germany and Austria in 2000 were no doubt brought in with the best intentions, yet the conclusion of the Irving-Lipstadt case in Britain – in which historian David Irving sued US academic Deborah Lipstadt for branding him a Holocaust denier – triumphantly proved that open debate, if necessary in court, is a far better way of nailing the lies of extremists. Irving’s short term in jail in Austria in 2006 simply encouraged him to play the political martyr.

In Turkey, censorship becomes more and more ferocious, and not just about the Armenian genocide, Kurdish matters, Fethullah Gülen and the attempted coup of 2016. Today’s Russia is at times just like the Soviet Union in its attempts to preserve past legends. Yuri Dmitriev, the highly respected Gulag researcher in Karelia, north-west Russia, was arrested on trumped up charges in 2016 of taking pornographic photographs of his adopted daughter and is still held more than a year later for “psychiatric evaluation”.

Most Russian archives, especially the military ones, were closed to foreign historians back in 2000 after the tantalising glimpses we had enjoyed from 1992. Friends teased me, blaming the closure on the storm caused by my book Berlin – The Downfall, but it was not published until 2002. This was also some time after the FSB (the new version of the KGB) had started to investigate the work of foreign researchers. One friend, more than a year after he had published his book, found that in one of the archives every file he had quoted from had been withdrawn on orders from on high. Grigory Karasin, the Russian ambassador in London at the time, and now deputy foreign minister, condemned my account of the Red Army’s mass rapes in the Berlin book as “lies, slander and blasphemy”, although it was mainly based on Russian archival sources. And in 2014, when historian Catherine Merridale and I were in Estonia for a literary festival, we heard that the Russian defence minister, Sergey Shoygu, had finally managed to pass a law condemning anyone who insulted the Red Army in the second world war with up to five years in prison. During his first attempt, six years earlier, to introduce the law, Shoigu had said that the offence was the equivalent of Holocaust denial, which was an interesting comparison.The following year an already bowdlerised version of Berlin was banned in part of Russia on the grounds that it might corrupt the minds of students and teaching staff. According to the regional minister of education, the book “propagandises stereotypes formed during the Third Reich”. My Russian publishers, who have been issuing new translations of my books, are working to find a way in which they can be published in their integral forms without coming into conflict with the authorities. It is not easy.

I certainly did not expect this latest contretemps, following the Ukrainian government’s sudden banning of a Russian language edition of Stalingrad, especially 20 years after the first publication. This was basically because one passage recounts how the SS forced Ukrainian militiamen to massacre 90 Jewish children in August 1941. The Ukrainian government’s “committee of experts” claimed this story was taken from Soviet propaganda. In fact the source notes show clearly that it was based on reliable German accounts, especially one by an anti-Nazi officer who was so horrified that he wrote to his wife to say that Germany did not deserve to win the war. There is also a harrowing eyewitness account of the killings written by an SS officer.

At least there has been one encouraging aspect to the whole sorry story. I received a bewildering array of support from Ukrainian human rights groups, Human Rights Watch in the US, the Canadian foreign minister and the Foreign Office in the UK. (This prompted my daughter to observe: “And what about people who have real human rights problems?” She had a point.) Fellow historians naturally regarded the decision to ban the book as ridiculous. Philippe Sands, the president of English PEN, immediately offered to change his mind and accept an invitation to the Kiev book fair for his book East West Street so that he could put the case there. It was an astonishing own goal by the Ukrainian committee of experts when the country wants to be seen as more democratic and western than Vladimir Putin’s Russia to their north, and, finally, mainly thanks to representations by the British embassy, the committee has backed down. There is no longer any suggestion that the story came from Soviet sources.

They did, however, have one complaint outstanding. My Russian publisher’s translator had changed “Ukrainian militiamen” to “Ukrainian nationalists”, which implicitly tars all Ukrainian nationalists with the reputation of having helped the SS Einsatzgruppen. But now my Russian publisher believes that it was right to change the word on the grounds that the militiamen were operating under the aegis of the OUN, the Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists. This may seem a trivial spat over nomenclature, but it is a pertinent reminder of how powerful the grim legacy of the war remains three-quarters of a century on.

• Arnhem – The Battle for the Bridges is published by Viking in May. To pre-order a copy for £21.25 (RRP £25) go to or call 0330 333 6846. Free UK p&p over £10, online orders only. Phone orders min p&p of £1.99.

The Independent - 24 January 2018

That decision has raised fears about the return of censorship and the further rehabilitation of one of history’s tyrants

Armando Iannucci’s dark satire has gained plaudits in the West, but it has drawn a very different reaction in Russia's upper echelons

“The comedy The Death of Stalin has been banned,” wrote the writer Vladimir Voinovich on Facebook. “Because for those banning it, Stalin is still alive – and that is no comedy.”

On Tuesday, the Russian ministry of culture made a dramatic last-minute decision to withdraw the screening licence of Armando Iannucci’s dark satire. That decision – the first ever of its kind in post-Soviet Russia – has raised fears about the return of censorship and the further rehabilitation of one of history’s tyrants.

But there seems to be more to the story than first meets the eye. We may not fully understand the mechanism in which the ministry decided the film was not fit for cinemas, a few weeks after being issued with a licence. Reading between the lines of often muddled official positions, it appears many contexts were at play: business, politics, wounded pride and possibly even incompetence. The Ministry’s recent backtracking of a decision to postpone the film Paddington 2 – to prioritise a Russian film being released on the same day – may have played a crucial role.

At least some of the conservative reaction seemed to be as real as it was righteous.

Celebrated filmmaker Vladimir Bortko, a signatory to the letter announcing the ban, said the film was a “tremendous abomination”. The only reason it was produced was to denigrate the Communist Party, he said: “For some reason, they say it’s a comedy ... There is so much hatred in this film. It will not be shown.”

Another high-profile signatory to the letter was the Oscar-winning director Nikita Mikhalkov, who is a friend of the president. Mikhalkov claimed the film was “unprofessional” – from the acting through to the camera work. “It’s not a film so much as a speculative operation unworthy of discussion,” he said.  

Pavel Pozhigailo, a member of ministry of culture’s advisory council described the film as “blasphemous”. “We don’t have to be a country of masochists,” he said. “This is insulting our national symbols. The trailer goes out using our national anthem and it shows our great war marshals as ... I don’t know how else to put it ... idiots.”

Nadezhda Usmanova, head of the Russian Military Historical Society’s department of information, said the film was “vile, repugnant and insulting”. Usmanova’s group is closely associated with the controversial culture minister Vladimir Medinsky, and organised the secret screenings that led to the ban.

Styling himself as a patriotic historian, the controversial Medinsky has written several books on “Western myths” about Russia. Much to the chagrin of liberals, he has built huge influence in the Russian arts during six years in power. Under his watch, his ministry has become known for activist interventions in culture, financing patriotic films and exhibitions.

In November, the minister initially ruled out banning the Iannucci satire. “We have freedom of speech here,” he said. Explaining his U-turn on Wednesday, Medinsky said the withdrawal of the film’s licence was not censorship per se, but an attempt to draw “moral boundaries”. It could not be right that the film was due to be released on the anniversary of the victory at Stalingrad, he argued.  

But it is unlikely the ban was driven only by patriotic considerations and new solidarity with Stalin. According to the president of the St Petersburg Politics Foundation, Mikhail Vinogradov, much of this looked like a local initiative, driven by anger: “Medinsky’s ministry wanted to save some face following the Paddington 2 debacle, and wanted to show it was still in the game. Stalin was the cover.”

Producer Yevgeny Gindilis, a member of the Russian Oscar committee, offered a similar assessment. “Paddington 2 galvanised the ministry and other ultra-nationalist forces into a counter-reaction,” he says. “On the one hand, they decided to battle against a film they don’t like. But on another they are trying to broaden the sense of what is and isn’t allowed. This was the first example of open censorship, banned by the constitution.”

According to Gindilis, the actions of the ministry were not intended to have any practical effect. “It’s a classic case of the Streisand effect – everyone will now want to watch the film, in cinemas or elsewhere,” he says. “No, Medinsky’s intervention is symbolic and part of a strategy of legalising prohibition.”

Both films – Paddington 2 and The Death of Stalin – are promoted by the same company, VolgaFilm. Its representatives told The Independent it was taking a “principled position” by not commenting on either situation.

The presidential administration has claimed it remained arms-length from the decision-making process. Speaking to journalists, presidential press secretary Dmitry Peskov said the decision was the “prerogative of the ministry of culture and its experts”. Of course, it is likely they played an entirely supportive consultative role.

But the reaction from Russia’s other seat of government – Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev’s government was disapproving. On Tuesday evening, an unnamed government source was quoted in the Vedomosti newspaper, saying that the ministry decision “had undermined all confidence in the sector”. The Prime Minister had already ordered an inquiry into the Paddington 2 debacle, the source said; the scope would be extended.

Film critic and journalist Anton Dolin told The Independent that it was not unusual for the government to be sending mixed messages. “All the time we sense the two towers of the Kremlin – competing forces, gnawing their way through each other,” he said. “The world of culture often sees a multi-headed monster, and this may well be happening here.”

The apparent slapping-down of the culture minister in the Russian press raised another possibility: that this may not be the last episode or U-turn in the story. Tickets have yet to be pulled from several Moscow cinemas.

By Volha Charnysh and Evgeny Finkel
Foreign Affairs
February 14, 2018

Last week, Polish President Andrzej Duda signed a controversial law criminalizing statements that attribute responsibility for the Holocaust and other Nazi atrocities to “the Polish nation.” In a televised speech, Duda said that the law protects Poland’s interests, dignity, and the historical truth, “so that we are not slandered.” The move sparked an outcry in Western countries. Human Rights Watch warned that it would have “a chilling effect on free expression.” Jean-Yves Le Drian, France’s foreign minister, said that the Polish government should not attempt to “rewrite history.” And Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the law “baseless.” “I strongly oppose it,” he said. “One cannot change history and the Holocaust cannot be denied.”

The law is just the latest part of a broader effort at historical revisionism. Last year, Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party (known as PiS) took over a World War II museum in Gdansk in an effort to restructure the exhibitions to emphasize Polish suffering and heroism. The museum’s director was fired, its advisory board was reshuffled to include right-wing pro-PiS historians, and an exhibit on contemporary conflicts across the world was replaced with a patriotic animation on Poland’s struggle from the beginning of World War II until the fall of the Soviet Union. PiS also began talk of requesting new reparations from Germany and started removing the “monuments of gratitude” to the Red Army erected by the Soviet Union after World War II.

Nor is Poland the only postcommunist country that has tried to reframe the history of its role in World War II and defend the part it played in the Holocaust. Hungary, Ukraine, and the Baltic states have all made similar moves. Critics of such policies say they falsify history; their defenders argue that they represent a normal and necessary part of state building or even valiant attempts to preserve historical truth. In reality, these developments have little to do with historical accuracy or state building. [ . . . ]
 Jean-Yves Camus, Nicolas Lebourg. Far-Right Politics in Europe. Translated by Jane Marie Todd. Cambridge: Belknap Press, 2017. 310 pp. $29.95 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-674-97153-0.

Reviewed by Andreas Dafnos (University of Sheffield)
Published on H-Nationalism (February, 2018)
Commissioned by Caner Tekin

The Far Right and the influence it exerts on both domestic and international political systems have attracted increasing attention in recent years. Although there exists an abundance of scholarly work on the ebbs and flows of this diverse phenomenon, Far-Right Politics in Europe by Jean-Yves Camus and Nicolas Lebourg is a useful addition to the existing literature due to its meticulous investigation of the numerous Far Right factions that have been developed over time and across space. With a predominant focus on the European continent, the book defies easy explanations and can, more generally, be approached as an answer to the voices that indiscriminately tend to treat the Far Right as a single and unified entity.

The introductory chapter, titled “How the Far Right Came into Being,” covers a large part of the book. This comes as no surprise however, as a fundamental premise of the book is that the modern Far Right can be better understood if viewed through a historical lens. Therefore, Camus and Lebourg position the unit of their analysis in French history and specifically in the workings of the Constituent Assembly at the end of the eighteenth century. They trace the origins of Far Right thought, which was at the time portrayed as a plea for the restoration of the ancien régime by counterrevolution advocates. The chapter invites the reader to delve into the social processes that influenced the trajectory of the Far Right since that moment, showing how “the first globalization” of Europe allowed ideas and people to disseminate across geographic territories (p. 7). A recurring theme refers to this constant exchange of ideas and the tendency of the Far Right to adopt beliefs that may even belong to different political leanings along its own ideological lines. Another interesting observation is the realization that some of the dominant traits of the Far Right today cannot be considered idiosyncrasies of our era; in fact, national populism is shown to have been part of the French system for the last 130 years. Camus and Lebourg convincingly argue that the developments of the Far Right in terms of its ideological and organizational synthesis cannot be explained if context and time are omitted from analysis.

Chapter 1 turns its attention to the period after the Second World War, providing a detailed overview of the difficulties faced particularly by those groups that were closer to Fascism and Nazism. The Movimento Sociale Italiano (MSI) is mentioned here, and this is important because academic work has often attributed the transformation of several like-minded groups to the catalytic role MSI has played. But what stands out in this chapter is the effort of the Far Right to build networks beyond national borders, since “immediately after the collapse of the Axis powers, Fascist militants saw a united Europe as the justification for their previous positions” (p. 64). Camus and Lebourg illustrate, for example, how these attempts led to the New European Order (NEO), an organization that decided to divert from Nazism and to adopt a discourse for the defense of neo-racism, marking a critical moment for the history of the Far Right as “that discourse would have many incarnations and transmutations” (p. 74). Another movement with the same purpose of establishing European presence is Jeune Europe (JE), which is also discussed at length due to its innovative nature. The chapter concludes with an important observation that “despite the desire of Fascist movements, a supranational and social reorientation has not really taken hold. Their efforts have not been fruitless, however, because, their innovations were useful to both populist and neorightist factions” (p. 96).

The next chapter deals with the role of white power and the role of race as driving forces for the actions of some Far Right groups. Here the discussion revolves around neo-Nazi groups that are “more cultural than political in nature” (p. 101), placing emphasis on the skinhead movement. It is interesting to see how this type of movement developed across Europe, in a period of time that the “proletariat was deconstructing” (p. 104). The authors explain that, among others, indoctrination through music and participation in violent practices are key characteristics of a Far Right skinhead, and then proceed to a more eloquent exploration of how violence is articulated through the activities of neo-Nazi groups. This section shows the extent of influence that the American Far Right had on its European counterparts. As one would expect at this point, there are references to the lone wolf strategy, which “should not be confused (as it often is) with the question of self-radicalization” (p. 110), and The Turner Diaries (1978), an influential book that is based on the principle of the struggle for race. Once more the narration of the authors is strengthened by the use of various case studies, helping the reader engage with the material of this section. 

Much has been written in the academic literature about the impact that the New Right had on ideological aspects of the modern Far Right, mainly as this was expressed through the idea of ethnopluralism that “every individual is attached to an ethnocultural group that would protect its identity by avoiding racial mixing” (p. 130). In chapter 3, the reader has the opportunity to engage with an important moment in the history of the Far Right. Camus and Lebourg exemplify that the New Right or Nouvelle Droite (as is often mentioned) is an amalgamation of intellectual groups and personalities that cannot, however, be assumed uniform. A key figure is GRECE (Groupe de Recherches et d'Études pour la Civilisation Européenne), which occupies a central place in this chapter. It is also interesting to see that the reason why the New Right emerged was “the organizational failure to build a European nationalist party in France” (p. 127). Once more the interplay between groups is evident as well as the influence of historic events (for example, May 1968) on the development of the Far Right. The ability of the authors to attain accuracy is outstanding, and this is evident, for example, in their narration on neopaganism and the New Right or the impact of Julius Evola’s theories.    

Chapter 4 dissects the relationship between religious fundamentalism and the Far Right, beginning with the intriguing observation that faith should not be associated with extremism, since it embraces the qualities of “freedom of conscience,” the antithesis to dogmatism, and takes an “interest in individual rights” (p. 152). However, the authors show how ideological stances can be fused into paths of multiple interpretations, signifying in this way the complexity of reality. This might explain, for instance, why compared to Catholics more Protestants vote for a Far Right party. Camus and Lebourg also define terms that seem to be conflated (see, for instance, on page 159 the differences between integrists and traditionalists), while a large section looks into the association between integrism and the National Front. Even the issue of the Jewish Far Right is raised and addressed toward the last pages, describing its true dimensions.

On the other hand, scholars keen on learning more about populism will find chapter 5 interesting, where the term is analyzed in depth. The chapter shows how populist questions came to the forefront and dominated the political debate. Indicative of this is the speech of Enoch Powell in 1968, which assigned blame to nonwhite immigrants and asked for their repatriation. The latter combined with the impact of the New Right thinking, as discussed previously, helps the reader understand that the evolution of the Far Right is the result of multiple factors. The chapter also offers a compelling account of successful and failed cases, showing that populism is no panacea for success, and that political groups may face insurmountable obstacles and challenges when they put the populist model into practice. Particular emphasis has been finally placed on the so-called neopulist shift that was determined by “the geopolitical crisis subsequent to September 11, 2001, and the socioeconomic recession that followed the 2008 financial crisis” (p. 196). The description of the Dutch case reveals how this shift can materialize.

The last chapter investigates the Far Right in Eastern European countries. Although it is debatable within academia to what extent the Eastern European Far Right can be compared to its Western counterparts, Camus and Lebourg make clear at the outset that “the eastern part of the continent must not be understood in terms of Western assumptions” (p. 210). What the authors find particularly interesting is the fact that some of the prewar ideologies did not lose their significance during the Communist era and appeared again after the collapse of the regimes. The chapter also familiarizes the reader with the ideas of one of the most important figures of Russian neo-nationalism, Aleksandr Dugin, and his concept of neo-Eurasianism, which “reconciles the two theoretical elements of George Sorel’s thought: myth and utopia” (p. 227). What is more, the analytical prism under which numerous countries (for example, Russia, Ukraine, and Bulgaria, to name a few) are being approached sheds light not only on the peculiarities of Eastern European Far Right groups but also on the composition of their base of support.

Finally, despite the fact that one could raise objections about the labels that have been used (for example, radical Far Right and national populism) or feel that some points are being obscured by the detailed description of events, this book is essential reading for those aspiring to understand the Far Right. In essence, readers have the opportunity to acquaint themselves with Far Right groups that encompass varying degrees of radicalism, and to look into their differences, overlaps, influences, and evolution up to the present time.


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