SACW - 17 March 2018 | Sri Lanka: Emancipatory Politics / Bangladesh: bruising of history / Pakistan: Guns or books? / India Pakistan Diplomatic Tit for Tat / India: Authoritarian Populism in Noida / Don’t let Afrin become the next Srebrenica / USA: Schools and NRA Money

Harsh Kapoor aiindex at
Fri Mar 16 18:00:17 EDT 2018

South Asia Citizens Wire - 17 March 2018 - No. 2977 
[via South Asia Citizens Web - since 1996]

1. Missile worship not warranted | Pervez Hoodbhoy
2. Pakistan: Guns or books? | Zubeida Mustafa
3. Reserves for Emancipatory Politics in Post - war Northern Sri Lanka | Ahilan Kadirgamar and Niyanthini Kadirgamar
4. Contested Spaces, Political Practices, and Hindutva: Spatial Upheaval and Authoritarian Populism in Noida, India | Ritanjan Das, Nilotpal Kumar and Praveen Priyadarshi
5. Video: How Indian Engineers Helped Stephen Hawking ’talk’
6. Recent on Communalism Watch:
 - India: Inter-caste love marriage - Pushpanjali’s story is one of grand love and its devastating loss | Natasha Badhwar
 - India: Gauri Lankesh murder probe - Second suspect tied to Goa blast, is an activist of Sanatan Sanstha, the radical Hindutva outfit
 - India: R Prasad‏ cartoon following the Gorakhpur ByPoll where the BJP lost in march 2018
 - India: In Odisha, no blood spilt but the fires of communal hatred are touching the skies | Harsh Mander
 - India: Hindu-Muslim and RSS Chief Bhagwat
 - India: 2007 Mecca Masjid blast case - Swami Aseemanand’s ‘disclosure’ file missing from court 
::: URLs & FULL TEXT :::
7. India - Pakistan: The strategy of conflict | Happymon Jacob
8. India Pakistan Diplomatic Tit for Tat continues
9. Revised Afghan penal code ends impunity for “honour killings
10. The bruising of history | Syed Badrul Ahsan
11. India: Begum Hamida, pioneer in women empowerment, dies at 101 | Omar Rashid 
12. India: Tribune Editor Harish Khare Puts in His Papers - growing anxieties about the state of the media  
13. 14. Water Scarcity: India’s Silent Crisis | Neeta Lal
14. Book Review: Call of Empire - From the Highlands to Hindostan
15. Feminism across borders: Don’t let Afrin become the next Srebrenica | Robert Hockett, Anna-Sara Malmgren
16. Marine Le Pen’s new disguise: a bid to rebrand her far-right party as the “National Rally” | Pauline Bock 
17. What Could A Corbyn Government Inside Europe Mean For The EU’s Future ? | Mary Kaldor 
18. USA: Why Are Schools Still Accepting NRA Money? | Sophie Kasakove 

by Pervez Hoodbhoy
Every time Pakistan test-launches a Shaheen or India an Agni, subcontinental testosterone levels shoot sky high. The fiery plumes carry aloft a nuclear-capable missile that can lay a city to waste. Iranians, though not nuclear, have their Ashouras, Emads and Shahabs. As for the North Koreans, they celebrate with fireworks and street parties when their Little Rocket Man sends up an ICBM to annoy the Deranged Dotard who, in turn, threatens them with total annihilation.

by Zubeida Mustafa
Balochistan’s biggest tragedy is the education emergency there

Historically, Sri Lanka is an interesting case; in terms of the history of import substitution regimes, the early emergence of neoliberal policies, the over-determination of politics by nationalist movements and for decades when the war isolated its northern region from neoliberal globalisation. Neoliberal policies in Sri Lanka were initiated before the rise of Reagan and Thatcher in 1977 with the authoritarian regime of President Jayawardena (Herring, 1987; Lakshman, 1980). The politics in the country both before and during the neoliberal era were shaped by Sinhala Buddhist and Tamil nationalisms as well as populist measures.

4. Contested Spaces, Political Practices, and Hindutva: Spatial Upheaval and Authoritarian Populism in Noida, India | Ritanjan Das, Nilotpal Kumar and Praveen Priyadarshi
Contemporary India is showing increasing signs of ‘competitive’ authoritarian populism (Levitsky and Way, 2010). The mainstream political discourse in the country is dominated by the sectarian religious forces of Hindu nationalism or Hindutva, serving as the agency of a development narrative that promises to return India to its ‘greatness of yore’. In this paper, we examine the case of Noida, an upcoming satellite township adjacent to the capital New Delhi, to describe a process of spatial upheaval that is leading to continuous practices of ‘othering’. These processes are enabling the Hindutva forces to take root locally. In effect, we argue that local space-making has an intrinsic relationship with authoritarian populism, and it therefore needs to be at the analytical forefront.

5. Video: How Indian Engineers Helped Stephen Hawking ’talk’

 - India: Inter-caste love marriage - Pushpanjali’s story is one of grand love and its devastating loss | Natasha Badhwar
 - India: Gauri Lankesh murder probe - Second suspect tied to Goa blast, is an activist of Sanatan Sanstha, the radical Hindutva outfit
 - India: R Prasad‏ cartoon following the Gorakhpur ByPoll where the BJP lost in march 2018
 - India: In Odisha, no blood spilt but the fires of communal hatred are touching the skies | Harsh Mander
 - India: Hindu-Muslim and RSS Chief Bhagwat
 - India: 2007 Mecca Masjid blast case - Swami Aseemanand’s ‘disclosure’ file missing from court
 -> available via:
::: URLs & FULL TEXT :::
The Hindu
March 16, 2018

India must work towards some understanding with Pakistan before the situation on the border spins out of control

A little over two months into 2018, the violence on the Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) stretch of the India-Pakistan border has reached a new high: more than 633 ceasefire violations (CFVs) by Pakistan have been reported by New Delhi which have claimed the lives of 12 civilians and 10 soldiers. Many more have been injured and several civilian habitats along the border destroyed. Till the first week of March, Pakistan reported 415 CFVs by India which have claimed 20 civilian lives (there is no data on Pakistani military casualties).

The calibre of weapons used on the border have also graduated from short-range personal weapons to 105 mm mortars, 130 and 155 mm artillery guns and anti-tank guided missiles. With the rising violence, casualties and upcoming elections in both countries, we may have a perfect recipe for escalation on our hands.

The question we must ask ourselves at this point, then, is this: is this sheer mindless violence, or is there a strategy behind this violence? And if there indeed is a strategy, is it a carefully calibrated one and what are its likely outcomes?

Ever since the ceasefire agreement (CFA) of 2003, New Delhi seems to have followed three broad strategies to deal with the violence on the J&K border. These three approaches — ‘talks over bullets’, ‘talks and bullets’, and ‘disproportionate bombardment’ — have identifiable costs and benefits associated with them.
‘Talks over bullets’

The years immediately after the 2003 CFA witnessed a great deal of calm on the borders with CFVs dropping to a minimum even though infiltration into J&K and sporadic, minor terror attacks against India continued to take place. There were no major terror attacks, and Kashmir was calm. Bilateral talks drastically reduced violence during that phase. This lasted roughly till 2008.

Another phase when this strategy was evident was following Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Lahore. Thanks to the rapprochement achieved by his visit, the period from December 2015 to February 2016 hardly witnessed any CFVs, despite the Pathankot Air Force base attack in early January 2016.

The benefits of this strategy, adopted mostly by the previous United Progressive Alliance government and briefly by the incumbent National Democratic Alliance government, are evident. Engagement with Pakistan and quiet on the border are strongly correlated. The downside, however, is that New Delhi feels that it tried the strategy of peace and talks several times in the past and failed to get a positive response from Pakistan. This has led to a great deal of bitterness in India.

Failure of this strategy has been due to the periodic terror attacks carried out against India, infiltration into J&K and the rise of militancy in Kashmir, in all of which India sees significant contribution of the Pakistani establishment. While there are benefits of talks, they are neither consistent nor without political costs. Put differently, the costs of ‘talks over bullets’ strategy, in New Delhi’s calculation, seem to outweigh the benefits.
‘Talks and bullets’

The second strategy has been to engage in talks while proportionately responding to Pakistani provocations. The period from 2010 to 2012 seems to fall in this category. Consider this: the two sides engaged each other in talks during this time and CFVs reduced significantly — India reported 70 violations in 2010, 62 in 2011 and 114 in 2012. In 2010, the two Foreign Secretaries met in New Delhi, followed by the two Foreign Ministers meeting in Islamabad. In 2011, the two Foreign Secretaries met in Thimphu, and in 2012 the Indian and Pakistani Foreign Ministers issued a joint statement in Islamabad.

While the talks went on, the firing on the J&K borders did not come to a complete halt. Both talks and firing persisted, though at moderate levels. The benefits of this game of proportionate response — ‘talks for talks and bullets for bullets’ — which went on without much fuss are clear: very little risk of escalation, fewer casualties and limited destruction.

However, this strategy comes with major political costs. Hardliners and the opposition in India criticised the Manmohan Singh government of being weak, in particular when the beheadings of Indian soldiers took place in 2013, and reports indicated an increasing spate of what India refers to as BAT (border action team) operations by the Pakistan army. The political costs of not upping the ante against Pakistan seemed to outweigh its military benefits.
‘Disproportionate bombardment’

The third Indian strategy is disproportionate bombardment of the Pakistani side using high calibre weapons while not showing any desire for talks, negotiations or concessions, and shunning Pakistani suggestions thereof. India’s reported rejection, in January, of a Pakistani proposal for a meeting between the two Directors General of Military Operations (DGMOs), saying it first wanted to see a drop in infiltration levels is a direct outcome of this strategy. The domestic component of this strategy also involves a great deal of politicisation of the Indian Army’s feats on or across the Line of Control, such as the surgical strikes against Pakistan in September 2016.

CFVs since April 2016 and the current state of India-Pakistan relations are largely informed by this strategy. Despite the rising terrorist attacks inside J&K and the increasing CFVs, there has been hardly any dialogue (barring the meeting between the two National Security Advisors in Bangkok, which achieved precious little). India, according to Pakistan, violated the ceasefire 389 times from April to December 2016, and in 2017 over 2,000 times, with the trend continuing this year. India reported 449 violations by Pakistan in 2016, and 860 in 2017.

The benefits of this disproportionate bombardment strategy are too obvious to miss. Its domestic political utility is enormous given the surprisingly few questions being asked of the government about the rising civilian and military casualties. The ‘we kill more than they do’ argument, combined with the ‘surgical strikes’ narrative, creates a powerful political discourse laden with potential electoral benefits for the ruling dispensation in New Delhi.

There are inherent costs associated with this strategy. First, the disproportionate bombardment strategy could potentially escalate to worrying levels — a rising toll could reverse popular support for the current muscular approach. Second, more killing and destruction would also steadily shrink the space available for negotiated outcomes with Pakistan. Finally, the current media frenzy surrounding the border violence and the associated nationalist sentiments could become a worry for the government if and when it wishes to negotiate with Pakistan.
Pakistan’s three-fold strategy

Pakistan seems to adopt a three-fold strategy on the J&K border informed by its conventional inferiority vis-à-vis India: keep the violence on the border carefully calibrated without upping the ante; seek meaningful talks on Kashmir to turn down the rhetoric on Kashmir and infiltration into J&K; propose tactical measures to reduce violence on the borders such as DGMO talks and reduction in the calibre of weapons, without giving up its claims and interests in Kashmir. In other words, Pakistan is looking for either conflict management vis-à-vis the J&K border or a major dialogue process to resolve the Kashmir issue.

There is then a clear mismatch between the expectations and strategies of New Delhi and Islamabad/Rawalpindi. Whereas India is looking for an end to cross-border infiltration and Pakistani involvement in Kashmir in return for an end to shelling on the border, Pakistan is desirous of a resolution of or meaningful talks on Kashmir in return for calm borders and cracking down on anti-India terror groups in Pakistan. The two sides must therefore try and find a via media between these two differing sets of expectations if they wish to bring down the violence on the J&K border that is increasingly spiralling out of control.

Happymon Jacob teaches Indian Foreign Policy at JNU and curates an online archive on the India-Pakistan conflict

Amid allegations of harassment and intimidation of diplomats of both countries, Pakistan’s High Commissioner to India Sohail Mahmood on Wednesday said that “current approach and methods” only go against the diplomatic efforts to make progress, and a “rethink” is needed in the current circumstances.

This comment came, even as it came to light that tension has been brewing between the two sides for a couple of months — one of the incidents involved the doorbell of the Indian deputy High Commissioner J P Singh being rung at 3 am. Since the Indian side felt that this was done by Pakistan’s security agencies, the Pakistan deputy high commissioner Syed Haider Shah’s door bell was also rung at 3 am in next few days. [. . .]


by Syed Badrul Ahsan
Dhaka Tribune
March 15, 2018

When history is set aside in the interest of half-truths

There are hordes of people in the Awami League whose understanding of history is misplaced.  Or you could say significant segments of history are deliberately set aside in the interest of a dissemination of half-truths. When some years ago Sharmin Ahmad came up with a work on her father Tajuddin Ahmad (Neta O Pita), many in the ruling party were incensed.

That ought not to have been the case. Works of a political nature almost always evoke public debate, but when debate is pushed aside by invective, it is collective national self-esteem which suffers.

And that self-esteem informs us, in no uncertain manner, that in the absence of Bangabandhu in 1971, it was Tajuddin Ahmad who led the battlefield strategy for liberation. It is a truth underplayed by the Awami League. And, therefore, it is an attitude which turns into a weapon against the party in the hands of its detractors.

Not long ago, the mother and son team dominating the Bangladesh Nationalist Party went stirring up fresh controversy over matters already settled in history. They suddenly stumbled on the truth that Ziaur Rahman was Bangladesh’s first president, that indeed he was the man who first proclaimed the independence of this country.

We were not surprised, for distortions and lies have, with a fair degree of regularity, drilled holes in the history of the sub-continent. In modern times, the very first attempt to undermine history came in 1905, when the British colonial power decided that Bengal needed to be partitioned in the interest of a better administration of the region.

But governance does not have to depend on an exercise of authority through effecting a shrinkage in area of the territory concerned, but the colonizers did it anyway. That original distortion was pushed aside, mercifully, six years later in 1911.

A clear distortion of history and heritage became the goal of the All-India Muslim League when it decided, at its March 1940 session in Lahore, that India needed to be partitioned in order for Muslims to have a state of their own. The otherwise suave, educated Mohammad Ali Jinnah came forth with the discovery that religious communities were indeed nations.

And so it was that he needed Pakistan for his “Muslim nation.” The ramifications of that act are yet being felt, all these decades later.

A major distortion of history resorted to by Jinnah came in 1946, when he deftly and stealthily replaced the phrase “independent states” recorded in the 1940 Lahore Resolution with “independent state” and tried to pass off the original phrase as a typing error. It is amazing that the illustrious figures of the Muslim League had not noticed the “error” in 1940 or over the subsequent six years, that only Jinnah was wise enough to spot the mistake.

    Distortion is when foreign diplomats based in Bangladesh condescendingly enlighten us on the ‘moderate Muslim state’ we have fashioned out of Bangladesh

Historical distortion hit a new low when the ruling circles of newly independent Pakistan convinced themselves that an Islamization of the country was in order. And the one surefire way of going about that was to inform Pakistanis that Urdu was the language of the Muslim state, to a point where every other language, especially Bengali, did not really matter. Pakistan paid the price for that bad move.

Jinnah, Liaquat, and Nazimuddin forcefully argued the case for Pakistan in the 1940s. Ironically, they were to become the agents responsible for the future destruction of their country through their misreading of culture and history.

History took a new battering in 1956, when Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy in grandiose manner declared that Pakistan’s constitution, adopted nine years into independence, had guaranteed 98% autonomy for the Bengalis of East Pakistan.

The truth was something else: The 1956 constitution demeaned the Bengalis through undermining their numerical majority and pulling them down to the level of minority West Pakistan. And lumping the Punjab, Sind, Balochistan, and the North-West Frontier Province into a political monstrosity called One Unit was one more shining instance of the state playing footsie with history.

When the Ayub Khan regime, through Information Minister Khwaja Shahabuddin, decreed a ban on Rabindranath Tagore in 1967, it was clearly trying to fashion history in its own mould. Tagore, the imbeciles in the junta let it be known, was a Hindu who had no place in Muslim Pakistan. Tagore was banished, officially. For their part, Bengalis made it clear that the ban was of no consequence, that their heritage was their own to nurture and uphold.

In free Bangladesh, history was dealt a body blow in August 1975 when the assassins of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman brought in the slogan “Bangladesh Zindabad,” in clear imitation of Pakistan, thereby consigning the militant Bengali slogan of Joi Bangla to the woods.

Within months, the country’s first military dictator Ziaur Rahman, through extra-constitutional fiat, knifed socialism and secularism in the constitution to dead meat and brought in clear communal elements to replace them.

In the five years in which Zia wielded power, Bangabandhu and the Mujibnagar government were airbrushed out of history, the Pakistan occupation army was referred to as a mere “occupation army” and the murderers of the Father of the Nation were sent abroad as diplomats for the country.

Bengalis were converted, in ignorant manner, into being Bangladeshis. And Bengali nationalism, long our vocal symbol of patriotism, was replaced by the spurious concept of “Bangladeshi nationalism.”

Historical distortion scaled new heights per courtesy of the nation’s second military dictator, General Hussein Muhammad Ershad. He decreed that the state needed a faith, and that faith was Islam. The state of Bangladesh donned the attire of religion. For the country, it was a moment of unremitting shame.

Distortion is when foreign diplomats based in Bangladesh condescendingly enlighten us on the “moderate Muslim state” we have fashioned out of Bangladesh. No one, either in government or in opposition, rebuts that outrage. Someone should be giving these diplomats a pep talk on the history of Bengali secularism. Someone should tell them we are not amused.

Syed Badrul Ahsan is a journalist.

by Omar Rashid
The Hindu

LUCKNOW, March 13, 2018 09:41 IST

She worked with SEWA (Self Employed Women’s Association), which promoted self employment for women and the art of Lucknow's famous chikankari.

Begum Hamida Habibullah, a former Rajya Sabha member and a pioneer in women empowerment, died here on Tuesday.

She was the daughter of Nawab Nazir Yar Jung Bahadur, Chief Justice Of Hyderabad High Court and wife of Major General Enaith Habibullah, who went on to become the first Commandant of the National Defence Academy.

Her grandson Saif Habibullah announced the news of her demise through his Facebook account.

Born on November 20, 1916, Hamida was 30 when India achieved independence and was a witness to modern India's political history, stretching from the British rule to the bloody partition. She witnessed the building of new nation, glory days of the Congress Party and its subsequent decline to the present domination by the BJP.

Her son, Wajahat Habibullah, was India’s first Chief Information Commissioner of India and former Chairman, National Minority Commission.

Ms. Habibullah was known for working on women issues. She worked with SEWA (Self Employed Women’s Association), which promoted self employment for women and the art of Lucknow's famous chikankari ( thread embroidery).

She joined politics with the Congress after her husband returned from the army in 1965 and went on to become an MLA from UP's Haidergarh seat in Barabanki from 1969 to 1974. From 1971 to 1973, she was a Minister of State in the U.P. government and a Rajya Sabha member from 1976 to 1982.

She held the Social and Harijan Welfare, National Integration & Civil Defence, and Tourism ministries.

Hamida passed senior Cambridge with Distinction in 5-Subjects before going on to get a gold medal in B.A. from Osmania University.

The Wire, 16 March 2018

Tribune Editor Harish Khare Puts in His Papers

Departure comes weeks after Aadhaar exposé that embarrassed Modi government

The Wire Staff

New Delhi: Harish Khare, editor-in-chief of The Tribune, the independent, Chandigarh-based newspaper known for punching above its weight on the national media scene, is on his way out, The Wire has learned.

Word of his departure comes weeks after The Tribune‘s exposé of a security flaw in the Aadhaar database that allowed middlemen to access key personal information about all those enrolled in the government’s ‘voluntary’ universal ID scheme database. The story won Khare and his team plaudits from privacy advocates and the media fraternity but also led to the filing of criminal charges against the reporter, Rachna Khaira, as the UIDAI scrambled to limit the damage.

The FIR filed was not the only form of offensive intervention the newspaper attracted in the aftermath of the story.

The Tribune‘s exposé, which came bang in the middle of the Supreme Court’s hearings on the privacy and security aspects of Aadhaar, proved deeply embarrassing to the Modi government. The Wire has learned that the government’s unhappiness at the story – and Khare’s editorial leadership of the newspaper – was made known to members of the trust which owns and runs The Tribune.

The trust is currently headed by N.N. Vohra, governor of Jammu and Kashmir. Vohra took charge after the former head, Justice S.S. Sodhi quit in the face of a revolt within the staff at the manner in which he forced The Tribune to publish an apology to a senior Akali politician, Bikram Singh Majithia, for running a series of stories on his alleged involvement in the drug trade in the state. The apology was carried, but when Khare and the employees’ union pushed back, Sodhi resigned and was replaced by Vohra as president of the trust.

Khare took charge of the newspaper in June 2015 on a three-year contract but is believed to have submitted his resignation earlier this week.

Though he stated no reasons, sources in the newspaper told The Wire that the interventionism of the trustees in the face of growing pressure from the government on the Aadhaar story and other issues had likely prompted Khare to bow out.

He has reportedly offered to serve out the rest of his three-year term so that trustees have time to search for a replacement. The trust, however, has indicated that he leave immediately.

A highly regarded editor and scholar with a PhD in political science from Yale University, Khare had been resident editor of The Hindu in Delhi and the newspaper’s political editor for many years when he was made media adviser to the then prime minister, Manmohan Singh, in 2009. Prior to joining The Hindu, he had worked at the Hindustan Times and the Times of India, where he had been resident editor of its Ahmedabad edition.

Khare resigned as Manmohan Singh’s media adviser in 2012 to return to research and writing before being being tapped by The Tribune trustees in 2015.

Under his leadership, the newspaper, long known for a certain middle-of-the-road stodginess, acquired an energy and edge that was reflected in the stories it broke and the sharp commentary it ran.

Khare’s own writings were often unsparing of the government and its political leadership, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP president Amit Shah and national security adviser Ajit Doval.

Rumours began circulating from 2017 itself that the ruling establishment in Delhi was looking for a way to effect ‘regime change’ in the newspaper. However, the structure of the institution – the trust has no parallel businesses and does not hold events where it lobbies for ministers to attend – made it less vulnerable to the usual forms of pressure.

Khare’s departure is likely to fuel growing anxieties about the state of the media in India.

The previous few months have seen the resignation or ouster of several editors who ran their newspapers or channels or television shows with a high degree of independence and who kept their distance from the NDA-led Narendra Modi government.

The list includes Bobby Ghosh, who quit as editor of the Hindustan Times last year, Bharat Bhushan of Catch News, Karan Thapar, whose critically acclaimed ‘To the Point’ show on Indian Today TV was not renewed, Paranjoy Guha Thakurta from the Economic and Political Weekly, Krishna Prasad and (the late) Neelabh Misra from Outlook and Outlook Hindi, and now Harish Khare from The Tribune.

R. Jagannathan quit FirstPost soon after he was forced by the website’s owners to take down a column he had written that was critical of Arun Jaitley. Praveen Swami, one of India’s most respected national security editors, quit the Indian Express in the wake of the newspaper’s refusal to run a story that was critical of the Modi government’s handling of the Kulbhushan Jadhav case. Last month, Angshukanta Chakraborty, an editor with DailyO, the online portal run by the India Today group, was sacked for refusing to delete a tweet that was critical of media houses that promote fake news.

by Neeta Lal
Inter Press Service

This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of World Water Day on March 22.

Kottayam in the southern state of Kerala. India's water bodies and fresh water sources are threat from pollution, industrialization, human waste disposal and governmental neglect. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

NEW DELHI, Mar 16 2018 (IPS) - As Cape Town inches towards ‘Zero Hour’ set for July 15, 2018, the real threat of water scarcity is finally hitting millions of people worldwide. For on that day, the South African city’s 3.78 million citizens — rich and poor, young and old, men and women — will be forced to queue up with their jerry cans at public outlets for their quota of 25 litres of water per day.

Who knew things would come to such a sorry pass for the rich and beautiful metropolis, ironically lapped by the aquamarine waters of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans? An ominous cocktail of deficient rainfall, devastating droughts and poor planning, say conservationists, have made Cape Town the first major city to run out of fresh water.
By 2040, there will be no drinking water in almost all of India.

The issue of water scarcity was first raised in the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1992. Since then, each year, March 22 is observed across the world to shine the spotlight on different water-related issues. The theme for World Water Day this year is — ‘Nature for Water’ — Exploring nature-based solutions to the water challenges we face in the 21st century.

But even as the world is letting out a collective sigh for Cape Town, spare a thought for India. By 2040, there will be no drinking water in almost all of India. A UN report on water conservation published in March 2017 reveals that due to its unique geographical position in South Asia, the Indian sub-continent will face the brunt of the water crisis and India would be at the epicentre of this conflict.

By 2025, the report predicts, nearly 3.4 billion people worldwide will be living in ‘water-scarce’ countries and that the situation will become even more dire over the next 25 years.

With the planet’s second largest population at 1.3 billion (after China’s 1.4 billion), and expectant growth to reach 1.7 billion by 2050, India is struggling to provide safe, clean water to most of its populace. According to data from India’s Ministry of Water Resources, though the country hosts 18 percent of the world’s population, its share of total usable water resources is only 4 percent. Official data shows that in the past decade, annual per capita availability of water in the country has plummeted significantly.

If that isn’t scary enough, a glance at the World Bank’s latest statistics reveals the magnitude of the problem: 163 million Indians lack access to safe drinking water; 210 m have no access to improved sanitation; 21 percent of communicable diseases are linked to unsafe water and 500 children under age five die from diarrhoea each day in India.

Experts say India’s gargantuan population increases the country’s vulnerability to water shortage and scarcity. Further, the country’s exponentially growing middle-class is raising unprecedented demands on clean, safe water. Long dry spells — with the temperamental monsoons (the seasonal rains that visit south Asia between June and August) — only aggravate this paucity.

In 2016, a whopping 300 districts (or nearly half of India’s 640 districts) were under the spell of an acute drinking water shortage across India. The government then had to operate special trains at great expense just to carry water to the affected places.

Surface water isn’t the only source reaching a breaking point in India. The country’s freshwater is also under great stress. This is largely because State policies have failed to check groundwater development. With continued neglect and bureaucratic mismanagement and indifference, the problem has intensified.

Grassroots efforts like those led by Rajendra Singh, who won the prestigious Stockholm Water Prize, presented annually by the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI), in 2015, have had a positive effect. His pioneering work in rural development and water conservation, starting in the 1980s, brought some 8,600 rainwater storage tanks, known as johads, to 1,058 villages spread over 6,500 sq km in nine districts of Rajasthan. Five seasonal rivers in the state which had nearly dried up have since become perennial.

But adverse fallouts from water shortage aren’t just limited to people. They impact the Indian economy too.

“As an agrarian economy, India relies heavily on agriculture. There is aggressive irrigation in rural areas where agriculture provides the livelihood for over 600 million Indians, However, technological advances in agriculture haven’t kept pace with the population explosion,” explains economist Probir Choudhury of Reliance Capital.

As a result, he says, even as much of the world has adopted lesser water-intensive crops and sophisticated agricultural techniques, India still uses conventional systems and water-intensive crops. An excessive reliance on monsoons further leads to crop failures and farmer suicides.

The country’s industrialization has brought its own set of woes, say market analysts. Contamination of fresh water sources by industrial waste has sullied the waters of all major rivers. Over 90 percent of the waste water discharged into rivers, lakes, and ponds is untreated that leads to further contamination of fresh water sources.

Wastage by urban population is already a great challenge in Indian cities. By far the greatest waste occurs in electricity-producing power plants which guzzle gargantuan amounts of water to cool down. More than 80 percent of India’s electricity comes from thermal power stations, burning coal, oil, gas and nuclear fuel.

Now researchers from the US-based World Resources Institute, after analysing all of India’s 400 thermal power plants, report that its power supply is under threat from water scarcity.

The researchers found that 90 percent of these thermal power plants are cooled by freshwater, and nearly 40 percent of them experience high water stress. The plants are increasingly vulnerable, while India remains committed to providing electricity to every household by 2019.

“A severe lack of regulation, over privatization and entrenched corruption are the salient reasons pushing the country to a water crisis,” says Dr. Chintamani Reddy, a water expert and former professor of geography at Delhi University.

Worsening the situation, adds Reddy, are regional disputes over access to rivers in the country’s interior. Clashes with neighbours — Pakistan over the River Indus and River Sutley in the west and north and with China to the east with the River Brahmaputra — have become increasingly common.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. Thankfully, some measures are underway to improve the scenario. Indian farmers are being sensitized about the latest irrigation techniques such as drip irrigation, and utilizing more rainwater harvesting to stem the loss of freshwater sources. Modern sanitation policies are being drafted that both conserve and prudently utilize water sources.

Massive investments in wind energy and solar energy, along with rejection of fossil fuel facilities in water-stressed places, are also being vigorously pursued. India has a target for 40 percent of its power to come from renewables by 2030 under the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

Water conservationists say if these steps are followed strictly, India may be able to minimize its water scarcity. Otherwise, the apocalyptic scenario currently bedeviling South Africa may well become India’s fate.

 Alexander Charles Baillie. Call of Empire: From the Highlands to Hindostan. Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2017. Illustrations, maps. 496 pp. $39.95 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-7735-5124-4.

Reviewed by Kate Imy (University of North Texas)
Published on H-War (March, 2018)
Commissioned by Margaret Sankey (Air War College)

The past few decades have witnessed a revival of scholarly interest in the East India Company. Historians often regard the company’s rapid economic and military expansion in the eighteenth century as a forerunner of formal empire. The entanglement of capital with military expansion makes the company’s story feel especially timely. Recent analyses of the company have contributed a great deal to contemporary debates about the intersecting histories of capitalism, warfare, imperial lives, gender, and slavery (see, for example, Emily Erikson’s Between Monopoly and Free Trade: The English East India Company, 1600-1757 [2014]; Barbara Harlow and Mia Carter’s edited collection From The East India Company to the Suez Canal, the first volume of Archives of Empire [2003]; Miles Ogborn’s Indian Ink: Script and Print in the Making of the English East India Company [2007]; and John Brewer’s Sinews of Power: War, Money and the English State, 1688-1783 [1990]). It is into this vibrant scholarly context that Alexander Charles Baillie has published Call of Empire: From the Highlands to Hindostan. This work represents a unique opportunity to follow the triumphs and failures of a Scottish family who made their way to India in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Focusing on a Scottish perspective enables readers to reexamine the so-called metropole-colony relationships of the British Empire. Scottish examples might suggest how the empire was multi-sited and consistently remade. Using a variety of oral histories and archival materials, Baillie tracks his own family’s experiences in South Asia during the eighteenth century. This makes the work a combination of enviable primary source resources and missed opportunities.

The work follows two main characters from the Baillie family in India: military officer William of Dunain and civil servant John of Leys. The book engages with large stretches of the military and institutional histories of Scotland and India, the changing attitudes and strategies of the British Empire, and the important roles that Scots played in those histories. The sections on the Hanoverian conquests of the Scottish highlands make for relatively easy and accessible reading. The core of the work, however, focuses on the personal, economic, and national contexts that made service in India logical for this particular Scottish family. Baillie describes his ancestors as “the embodiment of the new Scotland” (p. 17). A combination of uncertain local political alliances and economic instability made the Baillies find their fortune in India. This story will resonate with many Britons whose family, local, and national histories are inextricably linked to India. Baillie also mentions family connections to the burgeoning United States, the Caribbean, and other ventures across an empire that transformed dramatically in the eighteenth century. One wishes that this aspect had been developed more thoroughly, perhaps emulating the strategy of Linda Colley’s recent work on this period (The Ordeal of Elizabeth Marsh: A Woman in World History [2007]). Baillie situates his family’s history alongside the stories of more well-known imperial figures, such as Robert Clive, Hyder Ali, and General Cornwallis, and such events as the Mysore wars, the Maratha wars, the French and American Revolutionary wars, and the 1857 rebellion.

Baillie put an extensive amount of effort into making his work as polished and accessible as possible. Nineteen short chapters increase readability. A range of images and maps from India and Scotland will orient readers who are unfamiliar with Indian history. Baillie also includes family trees to organize the Scottish characters, many of whom he rightly points out had similar names that might be confusing to readers. His inclusion of lists of colonial and current place-names and short biographies of “supporting characters” are also useful resources and references. These features will make the work much more manageable to Baillie’s family members and those inspired to track their own family histories in South Asia. Scholars will find value in the lengthy excerpts from Baillie family letters. These would make useful resources for classroom discussion or springboards for further scholarly research and analysis.

The work itself proves less beneficial for scholars beyond its primary sources. Baillie opens the work by saying that he offers “no apology” for the long quotations because “these quotations offer a fascinating window into a long-lost world” (p. x). This is undoubtedly true. However, not properly contextualizing or analyzing passages often fails to guide the reader. One wishes Baillie had taken the approach of such scholars as Carolyn Steedman (The Radical Soldiers’ Tale: John Pearman, 1819-1908 [1988]) or Michael Fisher (The Travels of Dean Mahomet: An Eighteenth-Century Journey through India [1997]) who have successfully created interesting and challenging works based on extensive accounts by soldiers and employees of the East India Company. Starting or signposting the work with contextual and analytical chapters and then including lengthy excerpts or reproduced letters and diaries separately might have made for a more cogent reading experience. In Baillie’s work the primary source excerpts, while interesting, limit the readability of the work as a whole. Several page-long excerpts often appear back to back, or are sandwiched between other, shorter quotations. Scholars will certainly wonder why Baillie did not take the time to analyze and contextualize these passages more fully. Contextual details instead often feel like summaries of secondary sources. This makes these sections feel like disconnected tangents rather than an enrichment and clarification of the sources.

More often than not, Baillie’s sources are left to “speak for themselves.” This proves a rather disappointing strategy on multiple occasions. It leaves the reader with a one-sided view of the East India Company. At times Baillie even replicates imperial language or attitudes in his writing. This includes his descriptions of Marathas as “sated in their quest for plunder” (p. 63). He criticizes divisions among company leaders to suggest that this made them unable to pursue “the greater good” (p. 138). Many students and scholars of empire will wish for a more nuanced account of South Asian actors or a more clear understanding of what the “greater good” meant in this context. The greater good for whom? Using Hindi, Urdu, Persian, or Sanskrit resources would have been an ideal solution. That said, not every scholar has the linguistic training to do justice to these types of materials. Nonetheless, several scholars have demonstrated that it is possible to read colonial sources “against the grain.” Doing so can reveal fascinating truths about what sources do and do not say. Eighteenth-century authors phrased and composed documents in certain ways that often deliberately obscured the wider context of their experience. Scholars contextualize such omissions and oversights with a varierty of sources, including wills, courts martial, charters, or census records, to gain a fuller picture of what individual actors do not feel comfortable discussing.[1]

Engagement with innovative or recent scholarship on the East India Company may have given Baillie a better understanding of the long passages and complex issues that sometimes slip through the narrative. He prefaces his work by stating his discomfort with “the European sense of entitlement and racial superiority” present in several of his sources (p. x). This is a fair and reasonable response. However, it does not fully address how the source base itself tells a particular type of story. Why is it, for example, that army officer William never mentions his Indian “wife” by name (p. 83)? What institutions and assumptions make this possible? Further engagement with the works of Indrani Chatterjee about slavery or Erica Wald on prostitution might have helped to address this type of lingering issue.[2] Spending more time with the sources might have given Baillie the chance to articulate how British attitudes shaped the behavior and actions of Britons in India. The unintended result of reproducing these ideas and attitudes without guidance is to reinforce them.

Such missed opportunities reoccur throughout the text. Topics as rich and varied as slavery, war, and political revolt come up with minimal discussion of  the complex histories of these topics. These omissions are especially felt in the area of military history. Key works on the East India Company by Seema Alavi, Dirk A. Kolff, Purnima Dhavan, and Kaushik Roy might have helped Baillie to flesh out the company’s military forces and government institutions. This is not merely a matter of doing one’s due diligence to name-check every relevant author. Rather, engaging with these scholars would have allowed Baillie to think about how Scottish experiences with empire were shaped by complex military labor markets, ideas of identity, nationality, and religious belonging that South Asian soldiers also faced while serving in the East India Company armies.[3]

The pages of this work are full of rich detail and excellent primary sources that will surely be of interest to some general readers and other aspiring family historians. Those unfamiliar with the East India Company will no doubt find the cast of characters, the family tree, and the extensive source base very useful and informative. For more established scholars the work presents glimpses of an archive that deserves further attention. It also presents an opportunity to think more deeply about how localized histories might revise or enrich existing narratives about the East India Company and the British Empire. Scottish families undoubtedly played important roles in the British Empire and had many complex experiences that have not yet been recorded. The linkages between colony and metropole—and the limitations of these terms—are in need of constant reappraisal. This work demonstrates that Scottish and Indian histories have much to learn from one another. One only wishes that more had been done to make these connections clear to general readers.


[1]. Gyan Prakash, “Subaltern Studies as Postcolonial Criticism,” The American Historical Review 99, no. 5 (December 1994): 1475-1490; Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, “Can the Subaltern Speak?” in Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture, ed. Cary Nelson and Lawrence Grossberg (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1988), 271-313; and Ranajit Guha, “Chandra’s Death,” Subaltern Studies V: Writings on South Asian History and Society (1987): 135-165.

[2]. Indrani Chatterjee, “Colouring Subalternity: Slaves, Concubines and Social Orphans under the East India Company,” Subaltern Studies X (1999): 49-97; and Erica Wald, Vice in the Barracks: Medicine, the Military and the Making of Colonial India, 1780-1868 (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014). 

[3]. Seema Alavi, The Sepoy and the Company: Tradition and Transition in Northern India, 1770-1830 (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1995); Dirk A. Kolff, Naukar, Rajput and Sepoy: The Ethnohistory of the Military Labour Market of Hindustan, 1450-1850 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990); Kaushik Roy, “The Hybrid Military Establishment of the East India Company in South Asia: 1750–1849,” Journal of Global History 6, no. 2 (2011): 195-218; and Purnima Dhavan, When Sparrows Became Hawks: The Making of the Sikh Warrior Tradition, 1699-1799 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011).

by Robert Hockett, Anna-Sara Malmgren
Jerusalem Post
March 14, 2018

Last week saw the coming and going of International Women’s Day – a day that went curiously under-reported here in the US. The silence with which the day passed was surprising precisely because the past year has been so remarkable in an opposite sense, bringing an upsurge not only in recognition of, but also in action against, gender-based harassment, oppression and inequality.

The #MeToo movement was but one manifestation of this welcome development. From January’s massive Women’s March – the largest single-day protest in American history – through scores of political and celebrity downfalls last summer and fall, to Steve Bannon’s admission last month that “this time is different” where white male overlordship is concerned, it is hard not to hope we’re approaching a new push to equality. Against that broader backdrop, the relative quiet about International Women’s Day was perhaps understandable. Not so, however, the deafening silence now greeting what’s poised to become the most violent attack against women and women’s equality in modern history.

Even as we in both Europe and North America congratulate ourselves on our street marches and hashtag activism, a violent autocrat – and putative US ally – has de facto invaded northern Syria and now threatens to crush an extraordinary exercise in applied feminism and egalitarian democracy just over his border. We refer to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his “Operation Olive Branch,” which at the time of this writing is nothing other than the indiscriminate shelling and bombing of heavily populated areas in Syrian Afrin.

Afrin is one of three contiguous Syrian cantons with majority Kurdish populations. Since the outbreak of civil unrest in Syria some seven years ago, these three cantons, collectively known as The Democratic Federation of Northern Syria (“DFNS”), or Rojava, have become both the chief seat of resistance to Islamic State (ISIS) and other violent sectarian militias, and the site of a remarkable experiment in religiously pluralist, gender- and ethnically-egalitarian, bottom-up democracy.

Every social institution of Rojava, from schools through hospitals to town councils, is co-presided over by both a popularly elected woman and a popularly elected man. Ethnic Kurds, Arabs, Syriac-Assyrians, Turkmen, Armenians, Circassians and Chechens make up this electorate. It is a population that has multiplied steadily as refugees fleeing the fighting of Syrian forces, the New Syrian Army, ISIS, al-Qaida and others have joined the Kurds – both for protection and to help build a better model of social, economic and political life than is found anywhere else in the Middle East, if not the world.

It’s also worth noting that the DFNS defense units – the YPG and the YPJ – have since 2014 been the only reliable US ally in the area. They, not we or anyone else, did the real work “on the ground” when it came to pushing ISIS out of Syria. (Understandably they now feel let down.)

These successes drew the lethal resentment of Erdogan and his followers. As Erdogan does everything possible to undo the great Turkish modernization of the 1920s and revive a theocratic, patriarchal and ethnically “clean” 21st century retread of the Ottoman Empire, the success of the Rojava experiment across his border acts as an irresistibly attractive counter-model and provocation – not only to oppressed Kurds in Turkey, but also to women across the whole Middle East and to proponents of equality and democracy worldwide.

It is not news by now that Erdogan aims to restore autocratic, sultan-style rule to Turkey; in contrast, the community government of DFNS insists upon bottom-up, federated “townhall” democracy. Erdogan seeks to restore his preferred form of Islam to the status of state religion; Rojava guards its religious pluralism. Erdogan seeks to “returkify” all Anatolia and surrounding areas; Rojava insists upon inter-ethnic equality. Erdogan acts to return women to “traditional” roles; Rojava puts women equally in charge with men at all levels of society.

How painfully this must sting Erdogan’s retrograde faux-masculinity – seeing armed women and men together, defeating squad after squad of Erdogan-sponsored theocrats trying to oust them from their own homes in Syria and Mesopotamia. Erdogan can’t beat them, so it seems that his army and air force must invade and obliterate them.

This (not the “fear of terrorists”) is why Erdogan now has set troops and jet fighter-bombers, together with local mercenary armies of dubious repute, to bombing and shelling the region. At the time of this writing it is only a matter of hours before Afrin’s main urban center – the city of the same name – will be under siege. Erdogan’s proxies have not proven up to the task – nor will his soldiers, unless they first pummel the city with high explosives just as they did Kurdish-majority cities in southeast Turkey two years ago, and just as did Erdogan’s moral predecessors in Srebrenica and Kosovo during the 1990s, and in Warsaw, Leningrad, Minsk, Smolensk and other cities 50 years earlier.

The enormity of the humanitarian catastrophe, not to mention that for democracy and for gender and ethnic equality, will be simply incalculable.

No civilized human being, and no one with the courage of their convictions, can stand idly by and ignore this atrocity-in-the-making as it begins to unfold. All of us who have joined or supported the #MeToo movement across Europe and North America have strong reason to support Afrin and, more broadly, Rojava. Likewise the millions of us who believe in real democracy and in ethnic and religious pluralism. If we really believe in these things, we must support them even at a slight remove from our own backyard, and we must act now, when they are most threatened and before it’s too late.

US President Donald Trump prides himself on his readiness to act “outside the box” and in doing so make progress where those before him have settled for stalemate. Doubtless he thinks this is why North Korea’s Kim Jong-un now talks of negotiating with the US on its nuclear ambitions. Whether that’s plausible or not, if Trump and his fellow “strongman” Russian President Vladimir Putin really are leaders, and if Nancy Pelosi, Diane Feinstein and the other pioneering feminists in Congress really are committed to the rights of women, they will act to assure Erdogan at once that he will either cease his attack upon Afrin or cease to be welcome in any civilized place.

They will – they must – seek to exhaust every conceivable diplomatic remedy first. But they will also make clear that, failing success by these means, they will act to ensure Afrin becomes, not Erdogan’s Srebrenica or Smolensk, but his Stalingrad.

Jin Jiyan Azadi (women, life, freedom).

Robert Hockett is Edward Cornell Professor of Law and Cornell University. Anna-Sara Malmgren is assistant professor of philosophy at Stanford University.

Le Pen hopes to present her renamed party as the working-class alternative to Macron’s bourgeois elitism.
By Pauline Bock
New Statesman
15 March 2018

Marine Le Pen had just declared: “When foreigners are in France, they must respect the law and the people” when chants of “On est chez nous!” (“We are at home!”) broke out in the audience. French flags were waved in the air.

On 11 March, Le Pen, 49, was re-elected leader of her far-right party, Front National (FN), and announced it was to be renamed Rassemblement National (“National Rally”). “It must be a rallying cry, a call for those who have France and the French at their heart to join us,” she declared at the party’s conference in Lille, northern France.

It’s a pivotal moment for the party her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, founded in 1972 and led until 2011. After going from a “jackass” far-right outfit known for its xenophobia, to the nationalist, anti-immigration party defeated in the final round of the 2017 French presidential election by the liberal candidate Emmanuel Macron, its goal is now to move “from opposition and into government”, Le Pen said.

For the FN leader, this is also a decisive moment. Le Pen’s credibility was damaged by her weak performance in the run-off debate and polls show her campaign eroded the political gains made during the party’s decade-long “de-demonisation”. “Her image is clearly tarnished,” Valérie Igounet, an expert on the French far right, told me. “But she is still supported by the party.” The FN claims its membership is around 80,000; Igounet says it is likely to have fallen to 50,000.

The proposed name will be put to a membership vote – as Le Pen’s re-election was, though she was the only candidate – but the move has already prompted concern.

Asked if they were happy with the rebrand, only 52 per cent of FN members answered yes. “It is a name that has negative connotations in French history,” Igounet said. Rassemblement National was a collaborationist party in the 1940s. It was also used in 1965 by defeated far-right presidential candidate Jean-Louis Tixier-Vignancour, whose campaign was run by Jean-Marie Le Pen. “For a party that wants to free itself from Le Pen’s father, it’s a surprising choice,” Igounet said. Another political organisation, Rassemblement pour la France, claims the FN has no right to the name.

Not all of the FN’s fundamentals have been abandoned. The logo, a red, white and blue flame inspired by an Italian neo-fascist party, remains. Membership surveys show 98 per cent still approve of the anti-immigration rhetoric, Igounet said.

Le Pen hopes the rebrand will enable new political alliances. Thierry Mariani, a former minister under Nicolas Sarkozy and member of the right-wing Républicains, has called for an alliance with the FN (which, he said, “has evolved”). But the Républicains’ leader, Laurent Wauquiez, is firmly opposed: “As long as I am leader, there will be no alliance with the FN,” he vowed. “The FN want to make alliances, but they have nowhere to go,” said Antoine de Cabanes, a researcher on the far right for the think tank Transform! Europe.

Can Le Pen’s party really be “de-demonised”? The former Donald Trump aide Steve Bannon, who is currently touring Europe, was invited to speak at the Lille conference. “Let them call you racists, let them call you xenophobes, let them call you nativists. Wear it as a badge of honour,” he told activists, to rapturous applause.

Bannon has also praised Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, Marine’s more conservative 28-year-old niece, as the party’s “rising star”. The younger Le Pen is on a “break” from French politics but addressed the US Republicans in Washington in February, where she declared her ambition to “make France great again”. Marion is tipped as a possible future leader. “She has the right name,” noted De Cabanes.

Marine Le Pen insisted she didn’t want to “make an ally” of Bannon, but rather to “listen to someone who defied expectation to win against all odds”. Yet even her father, a Holocaust denier whose politics are closer to Bannon’s than his daughter’s, described the choice of speaker as “not exactly de-demonising the party”.

It was not an isolated incident. On 10 March, Davy Rodríguez, a parliamentary assistant to Le Pen, was forced to resign after he was filmed using a racial slur in Lille.

The FN defended Bannon’s invitation on the grounds that “he embodies the rejection of the establishment, of the European Union and the system of politics and the media”. Le Pen called President Macron’s politics a “great downgrading of the middle and working class” and declared her party “the defender of the workers, the employees, the sorrowful farmers”.

The road to the 2022 presidential contest includes four elections – municipal, departmental, regional and European –  in which Le Pen hopes to present her renamed party as the working-class alternative to Macron’s bourgeois elitism. But in Lille, activists cheered wildly not when Le Pen spoke about the road ahead, but when she declared: “Legal and illegal immigration are not bearable any more!” Plus ça change… 

Pauline Bock writes about France, the Macron presidency, Brexit and EU citizens in the UK. She also happens to be French.
by Mary Kaldor
Open Democracy
10 March 2018

In twenty years’ time, we will look back on Brexit as a moment of terrifying global irresponsibility. We live in a world of creeping fascism in Russia, Turkey, China, Trump’s America not to mention the tendencies inside Britain, especially among the hard Brexiteers. The European Union currently represents a beacon for democracy and human rights. Of course, it is dominated by a neo-liberal ideology that threatens to undermine the euro-zone and with it the democratic values for which it stands; developments in Central Europe and the recent elections in Italy are a painful reminder of the dangerous possibilities.

Nevertheless, there are tendencies for reform inside the European Union and if a Corbyn-led Labour Party were to win the next election, there is a unique – indeed a once in a lifetime opportunity – to reform the European Union and this means an opportunity to save us, Europe and perhaps the world.

But we are so obsessed with the domestic British debate despite all the talk of a global Britain that nobody seems to be discussing or trying to diagnose the frightening scenario of everything going wrong and our role in that scenario. The current nostalgia for Britain’s role in WWII seems to neglect the fact that this was a struggle for democracy, human rights and decency and not just about nationalism. If we care about those values now, we should be worrying about the future of Europe and the world and how what happens in the rest of the world will affect us.

A pamphlet published by Another Europe is Possible last week makes the argument that instead of fretting about how bad Brexit will be for Britain, we need to think about what a Corbyn government inside Europe might mean for the future of the European Union. The pamphlet sets out a reform strategy for the European Union that is realistic to achieve if a Corbyn government were to ally with socialists across Europe. Such a reform strategy would enable us to address the big global problems of today, and this in turn may well be a necessary condition for implementing the Corbyn-McDonnell programme.

Reforms en marche

There are already tentative moves away from dogmatic neo-liberal economic policies, which successive UK governments were at the forefront of pushing. President Macron is talking about reform of the eurozone including a common European budget and there is a possibility that his proposals will be met more warmly by the new Social Democrat Coalition in Germany.

The left-wing Portuguese government has demonstrated how an anti-austerity policy can dramatically improve economic performance. There are proposals to close tax havens for multinational corporations and a proposal for a common consolidated corporate tax, something the UK has strongly opposed in the past.

New proposals to stop undercutting, whereby companies deliberately recruit workers abroad under the conditions in the countries where they are recruited to reduce costs, have just been passed and will mean that it will be no longer possible to use migrant workers as a way of putting putting downward pressure on wages.

And there are proposals for a tax on financial transactions as a way of controlling financial speculation, again a proposal vetoed by the UK in the past. Yet these proposals may be difficult to implement without at least one major power seriously committed to them. For example, in the wake of Brexit, some countries are engaging in beggar-my-neighbour policies in order to take over the UK position especially in financial services. A Corbyn-led government could be key to making these reforms happen.

The same is true for those areas where EU policy has, in the past, been relatively progressive – digital rights, climate change, and ending global conflicts, for example. Thanks to active protests across Europe, EU policy on digital rights, defending online privacy and the ownership of personal data, has been rather progressive – yet without continued active engagement, along the lines of the Labour Party’s Digital Democracy Manifesto, there is a risk that this might be undermined by anti-terror legislation.

In the case of climate change, there is considerable momentum for far-reaching efforts to keep climate change under 2 % including the ‘Clean Energy Package for All Europeans’ and the ‘EU Roadmap for 100% emission cuts by mid-century. These initiatives would mean a massive transformation of the European economy affecting almost every sector. But, given powerful vested interests in our current carbon based economy, it won’t happen without substantial pressures from parties and movements across Europe.

Global Europe

As for ending global conflicts, the new global strategy  presented by Federica Mogherini to the European Council the day after the British referendum, envisages an external security policy aimed at human security (the security of people and the communities in which they live) rather the security of borders. This policy was formerly blocked by the UK who preferred the geo-political approach of NATO and so is now moving ahead. Nevertheless, it requires much stronger political backing and more of the kind of resources in which the UK has a comparative advantage.

Finally, a Corbyn-led government could change the conversation about immigration. Anti-immigration sentiment promoted by unscrupulous politicians, it can be argued, produced the refugee crisis. We live in a world of migration and it is more or less impossible to control. What is more Europe with its aging population needs migrants. Instead of creating a border security complex in which smugglers and border guards are enmeshed in an impossible business that fails to prevent the deaths of thousands of migrants in the Mediterranean, we need a policy of managed migration as was actually proposed by the European Commission but opposed by member states – one that involves a resettlement policy across the continent. A Corbyn-led government could push for replacing  the current exclusive and dangerous securitised approach with one based on humanitarian and development considerations.

A reform strategy of this kind offers the possibility of transforming the global model of development from the old US-led model based on mass production and the intensive use of oil, to a new green, digital, decentralised and socially just set of arrangements.

This is no longer, if it ever was, something that can be pursued in one country. On the contrary, a post-Brexit Labour government could easily be derailed by predatory action from larger economic blocs and financial markets. And the alarming tendencies for European disintegration, right-wing authoritarianism not to mention criminal and ethnic violence are likely to infect us as well. But if Labour were to pursue a ‘Remain and Reform’ strategy, there is a chance to remake Europe and initiate a process of taming and controlling the dark forces of globalisation.

Mary Kaldor is Professor of Global Governance at the London School of Economics and Political Science and author of New and Old wars: Organised Violence in a Global Era.

NRA Foundation grants to youth programs like Eddie Eagle help explain why guns are so popular in the US.
By Sophie Kasakove
The Nation
March 16, 2018

A five-year-old shoots a target at an exhibit booth during NRA Youth Day events at the National Rifle Association's 142 Annual Meetings and Exhibits in Houston, May 5, 2013. (AP Photo / Houston Chronicle, Johnny Hanson)

Last Tuesday, three weeks after a gunman killed 17 people at one of its schools, Broward County, Florida announced that it would stop accepting money from the NRA Foundation. Between 2010 and 2016, Broward county received $126,000 from the NRA to support shooting training and education programs, including the JROTC marksmanship team of which the Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school shooter, Nikolas Cruz, was a member.

According to a recent AP analysis of the NRA Foundation’s public tax records, the NRA gave $7.3 million to about 500 schools from 2010 through 2016. 4-H youth groups received $12.2 million during those years and Boy Scout groups received $4 million. Overall, about half of the grants made during those years— which totaled $61 million— went to programs directed at children. AP found that the NRA’s investment in youth education programs has grown rapidly in recent years, increasing by nearly four times from 2010 to 2014.  The geography of grant recipients maps the country’s political divide over guns, with nearly three quarters of schools that received grants located in counties that voted for Trump in 2016.

This story was produced for Student Nation, a section devoted to highlighting campus activism and student movements from students in their own words. For more Student Nation, check out our archive. Are you a student with a campus activism story? Send questions and pitches to Samantha Schuyler at samantha at

While the NRA’s financial investment in youth shooting programs has surged in recent years, the organization has long emphasized young shooters in its programming. But it wasn’t until the early ‘80s— not coincidentally the same decade many have noted as the turning point in the NRA’s radicalization— that the NRA adopted an official mandate to “introduce as many of our nation’s youth as possible to the legitimate use of firearms.” Today, the website boasts that more than one million youth participate in NRA shooting sports events and NRA-backed programs.

“What drives the NRA and the gun industry today is the fact that household gun ownership is in a steady decline,” says Josh Sugarmann, executive director of the Violence Policy Center, a gun control advocacy organization. Last year, American gun ownership declined to its lowest point in nearly 40 years — from half of American households in 1978 to about a third today. “The traditional gun buying public— white males— is aging,” Sugarmann explains. “To borrow a phrase from the tobacco industry, the NRA and gun manufacturing industry are trying to find ‘replacement shooters’ to take their place.”

The goals are multifold. For gun manufacturing companies, a larger youth base means expanding sales— many companies now design and market smaller, lighter guns specifically for children— and securing their future consumer base. For the NRA, it means sustaining a pro-gun base for political action. At the NRA’s 1996 Annual Meeting in Dallas, Texas, then-President Marion Hammer laid out the stakes: “It will be an old-fashioned wrestling match for the hearts and minds of our children, and we’d better engage our adversaries with no holds barred….If we do not successfully reach out to the next generation, then the freedom and liberty that we’ve lived for — and that many of our ancestors have died for — will not live beyond us.”

The motivations of the gun industry and gun lobby in targeting youth can’t be separated, says Sugarmann, and the funding behind youth shooting programs reflects this: research by the Violence Policy Center shows that manufacturers of firearms have donated hundreds of thousands of tax-deductible dollars to the NRA Foundation, which funds the organization’s youth education programs, which, in turn, provide a market for children’s gun models.

Beyond cultivating the next generation of gun lobbyists and consumers, NRA youth education programs are already helping shape legislation. In 2016, the gun violence prevention organization The Safe Tennessee Project, brought a bill to the Tennessee legislature that would have penalized adult gun owners who leave loaded guns unlocked and accessible to children under the age of 13. Beth Joslin Roth, the organization’s executive director, decided to call the bill MaKayla’s law in honor of 8-year-old MaKayla Dyer, who was shot and killed by her 11-year-old old neighbor in White Pine, Tennessee in 2015. 14 states currently have negligent firearm storage laws; only four of these involve felony charges.

In the weeks leading up to the legislative vote, Roth was optimistic: members of the Senate judiciary committee she spoke to seemed to recognize the value of Child Access Prevention (CAP) laws to the state, which ranks fourth in the nation for accidental shootings, many of which involve children. But then, just days before the vote, the NRA mobilized. NRA members across the state received action alerts urging them to contact their legislators and pressure them to vote against it. A lobbyist from Washington appeared at a senate committee meeting to testify against the bill and met with senators one-on-one in between sessions.

The NRA’s argument was predictable: the bill was an intrusion into people’s right to choose how they store their firearms and how they parent their children. The NRA also cited a more unusual witness: a cartoon character called Eddie Eagle. The NRA’s youngest youth outreach tool, the Eddie Eagle program is offered in public schools to kids ages 4-10, and consists primarily of videos of Eddie Eagle demonstrating gun-safe behavior. With 29 million children having gone through the program (according to the NRA’s website), Eddie Eagle is probably the NRA’s widest-reaching youth program. And, it proved to be a fatal wrench in the Tennessee bill proposal.

According to Roth, the lobbyist’s testimony relied heavily on the effectiveness of the Eddie Eagle program as an argument against CAP laws. “The NRA markets the program in such a way that parents believe that if they let their children participate in the program that is going to somehow protect them in these situations,” Roth says. “But research shows that when presented with the opportunity, half the kids who’ve been through the program are still likely to pick up a gun, and some will pull the trigger.” The bill was defeated a second time last year.           

The legislative use of Eddie Eagle is no accident: according to the Violence Policy Center, the program was launched in 1988 in Florida as part of a direct effort to kill CAP legislation. The Eddie Eagle program was successfully invoked in 2016 to crush legislation in Wisconsin nearly identical to the Florida bill. According to the NRA’s action alert against that bill: “If anti-gun legislators were serious about keeping kids safe, they would know that the key to reducing firearm accidents isn’t about prosecuting after the fact, it’s about educating our children on the safe use of firearms.  For that reason, the National Rifle Association developed the Eddie Eagle GunSafe® accident prevention program that teaches children to, “STOP, DON’T TOUCH, RUN AWAY and TELL A GROWN-UP.”

Following Broward county’s example, Denver Public Schools promised that it, too, would turn down several NRA grants to be awarded this year. However, with no other schools known to be following suit as of yet, the educators’ boycott of the NRA is proving slower to catch on than the businesses’ boycott. But when children’s education means giving adults a pass, holding onto this funding is a dangerous bargain.

Sophie Kasakove is an editorial intern at The Nation.


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