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Indian Press On Indian Courts Vs Love, Anti-Conversion Law And Muslim Media: New Age Islam's Selection, 4 December 2020

By New Age Islam Edit Desk

4 December 2020

• Indian Courts Vs Love: Court Rulings Upholding Individual Autonomy Call For Immediate Scrutiny Of UP’s Regressive Ordinance

TOI Edit

• Legal Howlers In UP's 'Anti-Conversion' Law Expose Its Real Intent

By N.C. Asthana

• The Muslim Media Interpretation Of Asaduddin Owaisi's Gains In Bihar That Everyone Else Missed

By Jyoti Punwani

•  Reform Institutions To Ensure Equitable Representation To Women

By Reshma Arif Khan

• The Limits Of The Centre’s Unilateralism

By Rajdeep Sardesai

• How Joe Biden’s Election Has Jolted The World Led By Nationalist ‘Alpha Male’ Leaders

The Print Team


 Indian Courts Vs Love: Court Rulings Upholding Individual Autonomy Call For Immediate Scrutiny Of UP’s Regressive Ordinance

TOI Edit

December 4, 2020


A string of high court judgments that resoundingly uphold the rights of consenting adults to marry and cohabit all but flattens the political attempts to criminalise interfaith marriages. Multiple rulings of the Allahabad high court besides the Delhi and Karnataka HCs reaffirmed that an adult’s choice of marriage is a fundamental right. The Allahabad HC decisions are significant as Uttar Pradesh’s ordinance targeting interfaith marriages has logged its first FIR and arrest. Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka and Assam have also signalled similar intent.

Terming as flawed a 2014 Allahabad HC judgment’s contention that religious conversion solely for marriage was prohibited, note the words of a two-judge bench of the same court: “We do not see Priyanka Kharwar and Salamat Ansari as Hindu and Muslim, rather as two grown-up individuals who – out of their own free will and choice – are living together peacefully and happily over a year.” Kharwar had converted to marry Ansari and this was challenged by her parents. This week, another Allahabad HC bench rooted for a live-in couple harassed by the woman’s family noting that “nobody including parents” had the right to interfere “where a boy and girl are major and are living with their free will”.

Similar views were also expressed by Karnataka HC in a Muslim man’s habeas corpus plea complaining of unlawful detention of his Hindu lover by her parents and the Delhi HC in reuniting a Hindu man with his adult Muslim wife, though the couple had eloped and married while she was still a minor. The UP “love jihad” law that invalidates and criminalises interfaith marriages and associated religious conversion through an overly broad and vague definition of “allurement” among other clauses, clashes with the spirit of the court rulings.

Eloping couples are often forced into religious marriages, and conversion too for interfaith couples, owing to the secular but unhelpful Special Marriage Act. Instead of placing onerous requirements on religious conversion including a two-month notice to the district magistrate, UP government could have eased rules for the 30-day public notice requirement under the Special Marriage Act as it involves no religious conversion. This would have deflected criticism over discriminating against interfaith marriages and helped UP in its current investment pitch by projecting a modern, progressive destination. With individual liberties at stake as trial courts start hearing cases stemming from the new law, Allahabad HC or Supreme Court must examine the ordinance’s constitutionality without delay.


Legal Howlers in UP's 'Anti-Conversion' Law Expose its Real Intent

By N.C. Asthana



Superficially, the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance No. 21 of 2020 appears to be similar to the so-called anti-conversion laws that are already in existence in eight states. On a closer look though, it’s clear that the UP ordinance is much more virulent. The other states, perhaps in the garb of modesty, had chosen to name their Acts, rather ironically, Freedom of Religion Acts; this one abhors pretensions.

The UP law is teeming with legal blunders that strongly indicate the real intent of the law is to harass people so much that conversion per se is discouraged.

Problems start with the preamble itself. Amongst other things, it seeks to prohibit what it calls ‘unlawful conversion by marriage’. It may be noted that any reference to marriage is not found in the Madhya Pradesh and Odisha Acts, the oldest legislations of this kind in the country.

There cannot be any conversion ‘by’ marriage. There may be conversion ‘for’ marriage. ‘By marriage’ implies that conversion automatically follows any inter-faith marriage. This is factually incorrect. As Mashood Baderin, a professor of law at the University of London, has explained when it comes to Islam, “Under Islamic law a Muslim man who marries a Christian or Jewish woman (ahl-e-kitab, that is, people of the Book) has a religious obligation to honour and respect both Christianity and Judaism. Thus the woman’s religious beliefs and rights are not in jeopardy through the marriage, because she would be free to maintain and practice her religion as a Christian or Jew.”

The Uttar Pradesh law fails to appreciate that conversion is not akin to an irreversible chemical reaction, which can take place in one direction only and there is no going back. Nothing tangible is changed by conversion. Even circumcision for males is not compulsory for conversion to Islam or Judaism, although it is a recommended practice.

After religious conversion, if someone feels that they were duped or forced into the change, they can always press the ‘undo’ button in their minds and approach the police for remedy.

In the Stainislaus judgment, the Supreme Court, while upholding the constitutional validity of the MP and Odisha Acts, had held that they were meant to avoid disturbances to public order by prohibiting conversion from one religion to another ‘in a manner reprehensible to the conscience of the community’ and that ‘forcible conversion could create public disorder’.

The state’s concern about forcible conversions is understandable as it could involve several crimes, such as wrongful confinement (Section 342 IPC), intimidation (section 506 IPC), kidnapping (Section 359-369 IPC), assault (Section 352 IPC), threat of divine displeasure (Section 508 IPC) etc.

However, as mentioned earlier, the MP and Odisha Acts were silent on inter-faith marriages and the Supreme Court too had not commented upon that. Hence, the UP law cannot arbitrarily associate inter-faith marriages with public order.

With about 36,000 inter-faith marriages in India every year, about 6,000 of these must be taking place in UP. There has not been any breach of law and order all these years anywhere in the country over inter-faith marriages, not to speak of any breach of the more inclusive public order. On what basis, then, can they now suddenly start apprehending breach of public order in UP?

On the contrary, it can be argued that a possible breach of public order over inter-faith marriages is sought be invoked because, with the UP government’s blessing and knowledge, some organisations sharing the ideology of the ruling party might be hell bent upon disturbing public order.

Section 2(f) of the UP law defines ‘mass conversion’ as an incident where two or more persons are converted and regards it as a more serious event. This is not just arbitrary, but ridiculous. Suppose a family of three – husband, wife and an adult progeny – decides to convert together. On what logic can the state regard it as a more serious event than an individual’s conversion, and acquire the right to interfere in their collective choice?

Conversion cannot be equated with rape, where gang rape is regarded as a more heinous offence because of the sheer immorality and violence of several men overpowering a lone woman. Otherwise, the punishment for one murder or a hundred murders is the same.

Section 2(i) of the UP law coins a new term, ‘Religion Convertor’. This is factually incorrect and obviously driven by ulterior motives. Conversion in general does not necessarily require the assistance of a convertor, nor witnesses. One can convert even in complete solitude. For example, in the case of conversion to Islam, all that is needed is the pronunciation of the ‘Shahada’ (I testify that there is no true god [deity] but The God [Allah], and Muhammad is the Messenger and servant of God), with sincere belief and conviction. By artificially introducing the concept of a convertor, it appears that the state’s motive is to gain an extra handle for harassing a larger number of people.

Section 3 of the UP law has two additional clauses, which the MP and Odisha Acts do not have. First is what they call conversion by marriage. Second is ‘nor shall any person abet, convince or conspire such conversion’.

While abetment and conspiracy are recognised in law, ‘convincing’ is not. This is pure fiction. Under this law, it could mean that if four Muslims happen to be discussing the merits of Islam at a teashop while a Hindu customer is also present and taking part in the conversation, they could be trying to ‘convince’ him to convert to Islam!

The second proviso of Section 3 is even more ridiculous. It says, “Provided that, if any person reconverts to his/her immediate previous religion, the same shall not be deemed to be a conversion under this Ordinance.”

Reconversion could be either because of one’s own thinking, or through somebody else persuading them. It can be argued that the proviso is concerned with what is popularly known as ‘ghar wapsi’ (homecoming). In effect, it means that some individuals or organisations have been given a license to do whatever they want to bring their ‘deviant’ friends back to the folds of the ‘parent’ religion and in the process, whatever they do shall not be described as ‘abetment, convincing or conspiracy’.

Section 4 of the UP law enables any person who is related to the one converting by blood, marriage or adoption to lodge a complaint. Leaving aside one’s parents and siblings, it means that even one’s cousins (progenies of uncles from both sides) could argue to be related by blood and complain. Next is ‘related by marriage’. If they mean spouses, they should have spoken of spouses. However, the brothers/sisters of one’s spouse and the spouses of one’s brothers and sisters are also arguably related by marriage. Adoption too is amusing. This means even your adopted son or daughter could object to your conversion and lodge a complaint! This means that an inter-faith couple can be held to ransom by all such people.

Section 9 of the UP law defies common sense. It creates a second hurdle in the form of objections from the public after the conversion has taken place. The conversion will be confirmed only when this hurdle is also crossed. Why, we do not know. Do they think that the cumbersome procedure including the so-called police inquiry could also be manipulated? Then why did they enact it in the first place? The only plausible reason of this is to make the whole thing so difficult that it deters people from conversion.

The MP and the Odisha Acts provided for one-year punishment. The UP law raises it from one year to up to five years. The so-called ‘mass conversion’ attracts three to ten years jail. The motive behind such harsh punishments should be obvious.

Section 5(2) of the UP law provides for compensation of up to Rs 5 lakh to ‘victims of conversion’. They have not bothered to explain the rationale for this. It could perhaps be argued that the philosophy might be similar to that of compensation to rape victims. In any case, if they seek to compensate, it would mean that they believe that someone who converts undergoes some sort of mental trauma. How, no one knows.

Section 8(3) of the UP law mandates that the person concerned and the convertor both have to give notices and the district magistrate shall get an inquiry conducted through the police with regard to real intention, purpose and cause of the proposed conversion.

Needless to say, this gives the police unlimited powers, which will, in all probability, be abused. It is well known that police in India have been acting as the hatchet men of the ruling party. What prevents the police from fabricating an intelligence report that a proposed conversion violates the provisions of this law? The onus will then be on the affected party to move the high court and fight a long and expensive legal battle.

Section 12 of the UP law is amusing. The burden of proof that the conversion was ‘lawful’ lies on the person who has ‘caused’ the conversion. They do not bother to ask the person who has converted – his or her opinion does not matter at all. The government seems to be more interested in prosecuting and harassing the ‘convertor’.

For the sake of argument, even if it is granted that the government is keen on prohibiting forcible conversions, all that it needs is that the converted person be asked to depose before a judicial magistrate within a certain period of conversion and submit the statement to the government.

Recently, the Allahabad high court held, “Right to live with a person of his/her choice irrespective of religion professed by them is intrinsic to right to life and personal liberty. Interference in a personal relationship would constitute a serious encroachment into the right to freedom of choice of the two individuals.” The Karnataka high court held essentially the same thing. The Delhi high court held that an adult woman was free to reside wherever she wished and with whomsoever she wished and directed the police to counsel the petitioner and the parents not to take the law into their hands or threaten either the woman or the man.

The UP law goes clearly against these judgments and is therefore likely to be struck down as ultra vires of the constitution. We are constrained to infer that the ulterior motive of such a harsh law and provision of stringent penal provisions at every step appears to be nothing but harassment. The law has quite understandably not used the infamous words ‘love jihad’ in it, but people know the political agenda behind it better.


The Muslim Media Interpretation Of Asaduddin Owaisi's Gains In Bihar That Everyone Else Missed

By Jyoti Punwani

December 03, 2020

The Bihar Assembly election results have had a curious fallout on social media. More than the BJP’s breakthrough in a state it has never ruled; more than Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s fall; more than the spectacular performance of Tejaswi Yadav fighting without his father, what has engaged social media is Asaduddin Owaisi winning five seats in Seemanchal.

Curiouser still are the glowing write-ups the AIMIM chief has received in English print and digital media. Critical articles have been few and far between, and they’ve been written not by journalists but by non-journalist commentators such as Yogendra Yadav, Professor Mohammad Ayoob, Khalid Anis Ansari and Faisal CK.

The only journalist who analysed the AIMIM’s victory comprehensively was Tanzil Asif for The Wire. The website describes him as an independent journalist based in Seemanchal. Could it be his rootedness in the region that helped Asif analyse the factors that contributed to the AIMIM’s performance in Seemanchal, factors that, as he showed, were different in every seat?

The question arises because the only place where journalists have critically assessed the Hyderabad-based MP are two Muslim news websites, which mainly (though not exclusively) report news concerning Muslims. Could it be their rootedness in the community that helps these websites understand the implications for Muslims of Owaisi’s politics?

One result that stood out in Owaisi’s performance in Bihar this time was his candidate’s loss in Kishanganj. This Muslim-dominated constituency rejected Qamrul Huda, just a year after having voted him as the AIMIM’s first MLA in Bihar. When he won the seat in a by-election held in October last year, the English media went gaga over Owaisi’s successful debut in Bihar. But now, the same media ignored his MLA’s disgraceful performance: Huda didn’t just lose, but trailed third after the Congress and the BJP.

Again, Asif was the only one to analyse this loss as part of his piece cited above.

It was Aleem Faizee, editor of India's oldest Muslim news website,, who asked the question none of the gushing journalists asked Owaisi in the many interviews he gave after the results. Faizee’s piece entitled 'Kishanganj is real question that Asaduddin Owaisi needs to answer' discussed this loss in detail.

The website Muslim Mirror carried a number of articles on the Bihar results, of which only one, by an academic, praised Owaisi. The editor of the Delhi-based website, Syed Zubair Ahmad, wrote two pieces, both critical: 'Owaisi’s Bengal foray may prove boon for BJP' and 'The BJP needs a visible Owaisi to make Muslims invisible'

Faizee does not see Owaisi’s electoral victories as extraordinary. They remind him of the early days of Abu Asim Azmi, the Samajwadi Party Maharashtra president. Following the Mumbai riots in 1992-93, Muslims rejected the Congress and welcomed Azmi, who spoke out for the community. But when they found his MLAs and corporators did no work, they deserted him.

"Whenever an alternative to the Congress or any of the so-called secular parties has come up, Muslims have voted for it," points out Faizee, "And they’ve gone on to reject these parties when they’ve failed to deliver, even if they’ve put up Muslim candidates.’"

This happened with the AIMIM’s two MLAs whose victory in Maharashtra in 2014 was hailed as the party’s first major breakthrough outside Hyderabad. "AIMIM MLA Waris Pathan’s non-performance and his brand of communal politics gave the Shiv Sena its first win in Byculla in 2019," laughs Faizee.

Similarly, the Aurangabad Central seat won by the AIMIM’s Imtiaz Jaleel in 2014 is no longer held by the party. The AIMIM candidate lost the Assembly elections held in October last year. This was just four months after Aurangabad had voted for Jaleel as the AIMIM’s second Lok Sabha MP and the first from Maharashtra.

"Thanks to Owaisi’s campaign in Malegaon, the Congress MLA lost, despite having worked a lot," rues Malegaon resident Faizee, "I can guarantee you that if today an election is held, Mufti Ismail, who won on an AIMIM ticket, as well as Maharashtra’s second AIMIM MLA from Dhule, will lose." In his 2014 Assembly campaign, recalls Faizee, Owaisi had promised a college in Malegaon even if his party lost. "Where is it?" he asks.

"Anyone who thinks Owaisi is going to bring in positive change for Muslims, is living in a fool’s paradise," says Faizee, "Except Waris Pathan and Imtiaz Jaleel, AIMIM candidates are the same old faces who’ve gone through all the other parties."

For Syed Zubair Ahmad, it’s the "negative polarisation" brought about by Owaisi’s style of campaigning that’s alarming, because it ultimately results in reducing overall Muslim representation. Bihar had 24 Muslim MLAs in 2015; now it has only 19, points out Ahmad. But isn’t the BJP responsible for polarisation in the first place? "The use of religion for politics is the BJP’s main agenda and it has worked for the party," says Ahmad, "But it doesn’t help Muslims. As it is, thanks to the BJP’s propaganda, where earlier Hindus used to vote for Muslims, now they rarely do so. Politicians such as Salman Khurshid used to win with the help of both Hindu and Muslim votes. No longer."

In last year’s Lok Sabha poll, explains Ahmad, the Congress’ Tariq Anwar lost from Katihar, a Muslim-dominated seat which he had won five times, including in 2014, despite the Narendra Modi wave. "It’s not as if the Muslims rejected him; his vote share mirrored the Muslim population of Katihar. It’s the Hindus who rejected him," says Ahmad, "If Hindus stop voting for 'secular' politicians such as Khurshid and Anwar, do you think they will ever vote for the AIMIM?"

Everyone has a right to practice identity politics, says Ahmad, "But Owaisi’s communal rhetoric, like that of the AIUDF’s Badruddin Ajmal in Assam, ends up isolating Muslims. Moderate Hindus rush to the BJP when Owaisi enters the scene. For Muslims, it is essential to take others along with us."

Owaisi may keep winning a few seats here and there, predicts Ahmad, because Muslims feel cheated by the so-called secular parties who’ve done nothing for them. But finally, he wins by defeating other Muslim candidates, points out Ahmed.

The dangers of communal politics when practised by a party that claims to speak for the majority are continuously discussed by English journalists, as they should be. But what of the dangers of identity politics when practised by parties claiming to speak for the minorities? Should that discussion be left to minority journalists in the community media?


Reform Institutions To Ensure Equitable Representation To Women

By Reshma Arif Khan

Dec 04, 2020

As a document, the Constitution lays the legal foundations for a country’s governance and formulates the institutions tasked with implementing the principles enshrined in it. For India, these institutions are the legislature, the judiciary, and the executive. With the legislature being empowered to make the laws, the judiciary tasked with adjudication and the executive being duty-bound to ensure implementation, the three are meant to safeguard and actualise the founding document’s core tenets.

Seventy-one years have passed since India adopted its Constitution, guaranteeing equality to all its citizens, including its largest minority population — women. This was a radical step undertaken by the framers, considering that most supposedly liberal democracies had refused to guarantee universal suffrage at that time.

What is also important is that the framers didn’t just confine themselves to providing women with a guarantee of formal equality, but through Article 15(3) that reads: “Nothing in this article shall prevent the State from making any special provision for women and children” — also opened avenues for the State to take steps towards promoting substantive equality. This was a crucial provision as it implied that the framers realised that Article 15 alone wasn’t enough, and that special provisions were required to ensure that women are able to exercise their right to equality.

Have we been able to achieve these targets?

The legislative branch, made up of the Rajya Sabha and the Lok Sabha account for only 103 female Members of Parliament (MPs) out of 795 sitting MPs. This is approximately 13% representation. This raises the question as to whether, we as a country are truly committed to equal representation especially when the foremost representative body in our democracy provides barely any representation to the country’s largest minority?

Unfortunately, this lack of representation isn’t limited to the legislature but rather spreads to the judiciary as well, where female judges account for 6% of the Supreme Court and 11.5% and 27.6% in the high courts and the lower judiciary respectively. These figures are also indicative of successive decreases in women’s representation with each rung of the judicial hierarchy. This is disheartening considering the fact that the institution that was envisioned to protect the principles of the Constitution has failed to ensure them.

In terms of representation in the police, female personnel account for 7.28% (State of Policing Report, 2019) of the country’s police force. This is striking when we consider the fact that it is required by law for female uniformed personnel to be present when escorting/arresting a female accused. Considering the serious lack of female representation, how has the police been able to comply with this law? And in the off chance that it has failed to follow procedure, would that not be a violation of the accused’s right to dignity and liberty?

It was BR Ambedkar who stated that a Constitution was only as good as the individuals who implemented it. Thus, a modern democratic nation-state must aspire to develop institutions that enshrine within themselves constitutional values as originally conceptualised in their foundation. The failure of these institutions to provide equitable representation to women, continues to serve as a stark reminder of what poor implementation can do to a fantastic document. Two decades into this century, India must put behind itself the regressive ghosts of its past that continue to haunt its institutions. As the country looks to move towards a more just and equitable future, it must begin by reforming its institutions to represent more accurately some of its most important stakeholders.


The Limits Of The Centre’s Unilateralism

By Rajdeep Sardesai

Dec 03, 2020

Are these really farmers who are blocking the roads and protesting?” It’s a quizzical question often asked on news TV by many who rarely step out of studios. They are Congress-sponsored groups, claim government spokespersons; they are Khalistani sympathisers, suggest the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s social media warriors.

The first theory can be easily countered. If the Congress had the resources and organisational might to sponsor a farmers’ movement for even a week, the party wouldn’t be reduced to 52 Members of Parliament (MPs). To demonise the protesting farmers as Khalistanis is more unfortunate. It reveals a mindset that seeks to stereotype any anti-government protest as anti-national. The Punjabi Jat farmer’s attachment to land is a bit like the Gujarati middle class community’s connection to the stock market: Bring in a stock-market reform that sparks off fears over future profits and watch the reaction in Surat. A handful of people speaking in support of Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale’s bloodied legacy is hardly reason enough to label a movement of farmer unions as being driven by Sikh separatism.

So then, who are these protesters braving winter temperatures and police water cannons and gheraoing Delhi? What if one suggested that they are ordinary citizens worried about a new legal framework that could disrupt their traditional working system? It isn’t as if these farmers are impoverished. The average landholding in Punjab is 3.7 hectares, well above the national average. It isn’t as if the new farm laws will destroy their lives; instead, the reforms can benefit farmers by eliminating middlemen. It’s just that there was a stark unilateral edge to the Centre’s decision to bring in laws that could change Punjab’s well-entrenched mandi system of crop sale and purchase.

The manner in which farm reforms were pushed through a brute majority in Parliament, with almost no consultation with stakeholders, lies at the root of the confrontation. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s predecessors — PV Narasimha Rao, AB Vajpayee, Manmohan Singh — were constrained by the absence of a majority and had to reform by stealth or consensus. The Modi model is built around a strongman-State that issues firmans with no dialogue with the parties concerned. Then, be it a hugely disruptive move such as demonetisation or a grandiose vision like the Central Vista project, there is little space for any pre-decision conversation. Recall also the revocation of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir or the passage of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act.

In each instance, dissenting voices were stifled, even criminalised. Little attempt was made to strike up a dialogue with protesters; they were not seen as the BJP’s vote bank.

By contrast, farmers are a crucial vote bank. Modi makes it a point to reach out to the garib-kisan in almost every speech. The Centre’s media machine repeatedly points out how the government has hiked the Minimum Support Price (MSP) and provided small and marginal farmers ₹6,000 annual income support under the PM-Kisan scheme. There is also no doubt that a large number of farmers have voted for the BJP in elections. Punjab is an exception here since it is the one north Indian state that has resisted the Modi wave since 2014.

It is the recognition that any kind of farmer revolt can spiral out of control that has forced the government to the dialogue table. A protest which begins in Punjab can easily spread to neighbouring BJP-ruled Haryana, and indeed to other states with large and restive farm populations. Political leaders in the Kashmir Valley can be jailed, student activists from a Jawaharlal Nehru University can be browbeaten, the Shaheen Bagh women can be threatened with goli maaro rhetoric, but an angry and restless farmer must be assuaged.

Which is why the events of the last week perhaps provide a clue to where the real opposition to the Modi government’s dominance lies. It doesn’t lie in a weak political Opposition whose leaders struggle to go beyond Twitter debates. It doesn’t lie in institutions that have been weakened over time. It doesn’t lie in a media which has, with a few exceptions, lost the capacity to tell truth to power. It doesn’t lie in urban elites hypnotised by political Hindutva and a larger-than-life leadership to even question blunders such as demonetisation.

The opposition to governments that rule by decree lies in sizeable groups of ordinary Indians who do not like being taken for granted. Modi is by far the most popular leader in the country. But personal popularity does not guarantee permanent support on each issue. A more consensual approach is sometimes needed to remove anxieties when initiating far-reaching reforms. A one-sided diktat is no answer when people need to be first comforted and convinced into acceptance of a new law.

Post-Script: While the Delhi-centric media’s attention has been focused on the farm agitation, citizen groups in south Goa have been holding day and night protests against infrastructure projects that threaten the state’s fragile and invaluable forests and wildlife sanctuaries. In a land of a million mutinies, citizen power is the best antidote to executive overreach.


How Joe Biden’s Election Has Jolted The World Led By Nationalist ‘Alpha Male’ Leaders

The Print Team

4 December, 2020

New Delhi: The world is dominated by nationalist ‘alpha male’ leaders such as Russian President Vladimir Putin, Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and even Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

However, Joe Biden’s election as US President is expected to have an impact on these alpha male leaders with American politics witnessing a more liberal shift.

In episode 632 of ThePrint’s Cut The Clutter, ThePrint’s Editor-in-Chief Shekhar Gupta decodes this change that Biden’s term will bring about.

“If you look at the state of the world, you can go clockwise or anti-clockwise, you will see the world is being run by alpha males of the nationalist Right, and now the world is about to change for all of them,” Gupta said.

Gupta also highlighted how President-elect Biden is not talking a lot about Russia — another alpha male stronghold — which was seen in his interview to The New York Times.

“Russia is not on top of Biden’s mind. That will be a big difference from Donald Trump, for whom Russia had different kinds of importance. There was a general impression that Putin had some kind of leverage over him, which he will no longer have over Biden,” Gupta said.

In China’s case, Trump made a “big deal” out of trade imbalance with the country and said a lot of rude things about it. He even put tariffs on some goods coming from China.

With Biden, China has to handle a new reality because he is not going to declare a friendship with China. “Biden’s campaign looked tough on China even more than Trump,” Gupta said.

In the NYT interview, Biden said he wouldn’t change anything with China right now, rather he will wait and see how the situation develops.

The President-elect said his strategy was to get all of America’s allies on the same page, and that it was the only way to have some leverage over China.

In order to build leverage against China, Biden will have to invest in America’s economy, especially in sectors like biotech, special materials, new materials, clean and green technologies etc.

“You can see a more patient move on China with allies, I don’t think it’s going to make Xi Jinping very happy or very comforted. I think Jinping is going to be in a hurry to see what he can do in the two months before Biden settles down,” Gupta said.

Erdogan was ‘punching’ above his weight and he did it because “Trump’s withdrawal from everything created a vacuum there”, said Gupta.

He added that Turkey was being two-faced in most international matters. In Syria, it was fighting Russia but then was in cahoots with the latter on some other matter. Similarly, Turkey allied with Israel in Kazakhstan but later abused the country because it wanted to establish itself as the leader of the Islamic world.

According to Gupta, Erdogan did so because he thought the “sheriff” (Trump) was his ‘friend’ and that he can continue to do whatever he wants, but now that’s not going to happen when Biden comes to power.

“Biden will not be silent considering the human rights violations in Turkey and how Erdogan is destroying his democracy,” he explained.

“This isn’t Trump’s America that will leave the Middle East to its own devices, or make its own deals with the Arab world, and then let everyone else play their games,” Gupta said.

Trump was a ‘big enemy’ for Iran and “had done all the worst he could have done with Iran short of attacking them, which his people have now denied him because he does not have the power to launch an operation”, Gupta revealed.

With Biden coming in, Iran doesn’t have to worry about that and can “heave a little sigh of relief”, he said. In fact, he added, they might witness a ‘some balance’ coming back since Biden is committed to going back to the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action).

Biden has said his priority in negotiations with Iran will be to block their development of a nuclear weapon. This will turn out to be a positive for India since it will lift tensions in the Islamic world. India has important commercial interests with Iran, like oil purchases and exports.

In Brazil, Bolsonaro is going to ‘miss’ Trump because he got away with a lot when the latter was in power but Biden “will raise questions about this and that”, said Gupta.

Biden’s administration will also not be as ‘forgiving’ as Trump with Israel. He will especially not be pleased with the country annexing the West Bank territories and declaring Israel sovereignty over settlements on the West Bank and Palestinian territories.

He said Modi’s second term is looking very different from his first, considering the Chinese standoff, farmers’ protest, coronavirus and economic decline. Biden’s election is one such change.

“So all in all, the change in America and also the weakening of many of these strong men who have been friends of India, and also strengthening of the odd one like Iran. All this tells you that this world has changed,” Gupta concluded.



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