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Indian Press on Rwandan Media, Political Wind In Pakistan And Jihadist Movement In India: New Age Islam's Selection, 26 October 2020

By New Age Islam Edit Bureau

26 October 2020

• Boycott Channels That Spread Prejudice, Hate

By Karan Thapar

• Political Winds Take a New Direction in Pakistan

By Mehmal Sarfraz

• Pivotal Myanmar ~I

By P K Vasudeva

• India Does Have A Jihadist Movement That Must Be Confronted As French President Has Done

By Tavleen Singh


Boycott Channels That Spread Prejudice, Hate

By Karan Thapar

Oct 24, 2020


Now, if we stop watching, corporations will have an additional reason to stop advertising. It’s our eyeballs they’re after but if we’re watching something else, the advertisers are also likely to relocate. (Hindustan Times)


Let me start by giving credit where it’s due — to Rajiv Bajaj, the managing director of Bajaj Auto, and Avay Shukla, a former Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer, whose recent blogs have been riveting reading. They’ve suggested a way we can tackle news channels that deliberately provoke prejudice and hate to increase their viewership. It could be very effective provided we are united and determined. In fact, what they’ve proposed is something we could have done at any point of time if only it had occurred to us.

Bajaj took the first step when he announced “a wise but simple decision” to stop advertising on channels that spread hatred. “A friend told me that you can do something about this,” he said. “Stop funding this hate”. So Bajaj literally put his money where his mouth is.

Bajaj Auto is a major advertiser and withdrawal of its advertisements will hurt the offending channels. Encouraged by this example, Parle followed suit. However, it plans to go one step further. “We are exploring possibilities wherein other advertisers can come together and sort of put a restraint on their advertising spends … so there’s some clear signal to all news channels that they better change their content,” Parle’s Krishnarao Buddha told Mint.

Avay Shukla, in a piece for The Wire, has compiled the names of the advertisers on three channels that are perhaps the most offending. Their patronage determines whether the farrago of hate that’s embittering our society and dangerously dividing us continues or abates.

I don’t know how Indian companies will respond but Shukla recalls the principled manner in which their counterparts in the West have acted. When Facebook refused to curb racist comments Adidas, Diaggeo, Ford, Honda, Hershey’s, Coca Cola and Hewlett-Packard withdrew advertising. Separately, an American group called Sleeping Giants convinced 4,000 companies to boycott Breitbart, a website that spreads racism and hatred.

In fact, something similar has happened in India. A campaign launched in France by Indian Alliance, a diaspora group, has persuaded Renault to boycott two Indian TV channels since May. Are we capable of persuading companies, whose products we buy and whose profits depend on our custom, to reconsider their patronage of offensive channels?

This is where you and I come in. All we have to do is stop watching the channels. This should not be difficult because many of us profess to dislike them. So if you really don’t approve, don’t switch them on. It’s literally as simple as that.

Now, if we stop watching, corporations will have an additional reason to stop advertising. It’s our eyeballs they’re after but if we’re watching something else, the advertisers are also likely to relocate.

Rajiv Bajaj and Parle have set a moral example, but we can do more than just wait to see how many other industrialists follow their lead. We can encourage them to do so. This second part is, therefore, a critical test of our conviction. Do we really mean what we say when we loudly proclaim our dislike of and aversion to these channels? And, then, do we have the strength to act? Or are we hypocrites who say one thing but do another?

In the 1970s and 1980s, when South African apartheid provoked strong emotions, many people in Britain refused to buy the country’s products. Consequently, several department stores refused to sell them. Those who continued faced huge protests from the anti-apartheid movement. Soon major retailers such as Marks and Spencer and popular grocers such as Tesco and Sainsbury’s caved in.

As a result, between 1983 and 1986, British imports of South African textiles and clothing fell by 35%. An opinion poll in June 1986 found that 27% of British people were boycotting South African products.

So the power to act is in our hands. Bajaj and Parle have done what they can. Will the rest of us do what’s in our power? Or will we continue to complain but fail to act?


Karan Thapar is the author of Devil’s Advocate: The Untold Story


Political Winds Take A New Direction In Pakistan

By Mehmal Sarfraz



Supporters of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) hold up masks depicting their leader Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, chairman of the PPP, during an anti-government protest rally organized by the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), an alliance of political opposition parties, in Karachi, Pakistan October 18, 2020.


October has been quite a roller-coaster ride for political buffs in Pakistan. Last month, the Opposition parties made an alliance called ‘Pakistan Democratic Movement’. On October 16, the PDM held its first jalsa in Gujranwala, Punjab. Gujranwala being a stronghold of the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), it was expected to be a show of power by the Opposition alliance. The chairman of Pakistan Peoples Party, Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, was there as well as Nawaz Sharif’s daughter, Maryam Nawaz, Maulana Fazlur Rehman and several others. The former prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, addressed the rally through a video link. Earlier this month, the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority had banned the broadcast of speeches, interviews and public addresses by absconders and proclaimed offenders on television. Thus, Nawaz Sharif’s speech was not shown on television. Despite the television ban, Nawaz Sharif’s aggressive speech was discussed by the prime minister, cabinet ministers and other members of the ruling party. The Gujranwala rally was seen as a successful event by the Opposition even though government representatives dismissed it as a failure.

The PDM rally in Gujranwala set the tone for the anti-government movement. Two days later, the PPP hosted a PDM rally in Karachi, Sindh. The PPP rules the Sindh province. It was a grand show with a massive crowd. This time though, Nawaz Sharif did not address the rally. However, the success of the Karachi rally was marred by the arrest of Maryam Nawaz’s husband, Captain (retd) Safdar, in the early hours of the morning from their hotel room in Karachi. The arrest was due to a first information report filed against him for trespassing into the restricted area surrounding the grave of Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah and raising political slogans at his mausoleum. This was in violation of laws that prohibit political activities at the founding father’s mausoleum. Safdar’s arrest would not have garnered so much attention had it not been for the way it was carried out. Around seven in the morning, Maryam Nawaz tweeted that the police broke into the room of the hotel where they were staying and arrested Captain Safdar. The Sindh government denied any involvement in the incident and even the PDM leadership, including Maryam Nawaz, did not blame the PPP or the Sindh government. Rumours began about an incident regarding the Sindh police chief that led to the arrest of Safdar. Those rumours were reinforced when the police chief and many other officers submitted leave applications the next day. As a result, Bilawal Bhutto had to address a press conference asking the army chief to investigate what had actually transpired. The army chief ordered an immediate inquiry into the matter. The Sindh police then tweeted that the department is “immensely grateful to the Army Chief for realising the sense of hurt that prevailed within a uniformed force, and for promptly ordering an inquiry into the matter” and that the police chief had deferred his own leave and ordered his officers to set aside their leave applications for 10 days “in the larger national interest, pending the conclusion of the inquiry”.

While all this was going on, some Indian media outlets took it upon themselves to spread false news about a civil war in Karachi after ‘clashes between the police and the army’. All of this was obviously untrue. There was no violence at all, let alone clashes between the two institutions. While Pakistani Twitterati had a field day mocking the Indian media for their absurd and baseless claims about ‘civil war’ and ‘clashes’, one wondered why some of these Indian media outlets chose brazenly not to report facts. One senior Indian journalist told the BBC that a quick study of Twitter handles tweeting this misinformation will show that most of them are supporters of or affiliated to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party. It is unfortunate but understandable that media groups that are tilted in favour of the BJP or Twitter handles supporting India’s ruling party would be accused of spreading misinformation about Pakistan. Ethics or factually correct reporting are not really their priority.

The PDM’s third rally took place yesterday, this time in Quetta. The Opposition rallies are gaining momentum but we still do not know what the end result will be. The Opposition says it will get rid of the government by the end of this movement in a few months but how it will achieve this goal is yet to be revealed. Some analysts say that the government is quite confident that it is not going anywhere; some others say that there is panic in the government ranks. But it is too soon to speculate. The government may be facing a tough time due to rising inflation and a slow economy but whether these factors lead to some sort of mass movement on the ground remains to be seen. The Opposition may be banking on public sentiment but whether the people themselves are ready for political instability is something that only time will tell. However, I do feel that civilian governments should complete their five-year tenure in order for democracy to be genuinely strengthened in Pakistan. The government should sit and talk with the Opposition and start a national dialogue. It would go a long way in helping Pakistan’s nascent democracy.

On an aside, October 24 was World Polio Day. Pakistan and Afghanistan are the only two countries that are left with this preventable disease. It is time for us to put an end to all conspiracy theories related to polio and ensure that like the rest of the world and, more recently, like Africa, we too would be polio-free soon. Pakistan has been quite successful in dealing with Covid-19. We can hopefully be successful in eradicating polio in the coming years.


Pivotal Myanmar ~I

By P K Vasudeva

October 25, 2020

China’s intention to make inroads into the Bay of Bengal had become clear with President Xi Jinping’s visit to Myanmar in January. The intention was not just to boost infrastructure projects in Myanmar but also increase China’s influence in the region. Among the 33 agreements signed during the visit, the development of a deep-sea port in Kyaukphyu on the shores of the Bay of Bengal, a railway project to connect the Chinese province of Yunnan to Myanmar’s coastal cities, an inland-waterway through the Irrawaddy river and a mega-hydropower dam project are the most prominent. These projects are expected to re-energise the rather staid progress made under the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor (CMEC) so far.

Xi’s visit to Myanmar, the first by a Chinese president in almost two decades, was aimed at drastically altering regional geopolitics in the Bay of Bengal. Several domestic and geopolitical reasons underline Beijing’s outreach to Myanmar and its strategy to use it as a conduit to the Bay of Bengal. It will boost China’s presence in the Indian sub-continent. The deep-sea port project is intended to cement China’s geostrategic footprint in the Bay of Bengal. China’s dependence on oil has been increasing by 6.7 per cent each year and the demand is set to increase further, given the trade war with the US. Therefore, the Bay of Bengal will be an alternative route for China.

Being the conduit between the Western Indian Ocean and South China, the Bay of Bengal enjoys immense geostrategic influence in strategies of Asia’s rising powers. It is also a lynchpin of any successful Indo-Pacific strategy. If the Quad countries ~ the US, India, Japan and Australia ~ continue to push for a loose alliance against China’s increasing maritime power both in the Pacific Ocean and the Indian Ocean, China’s maritime ambitions could be easily thwarted. Beijing would like to pre-empt any such attempt by the Quad countries. Establishing its presence in the Bay of Bengal is, therefore, fundamental to sustain China’s inroads in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR). Cultivating Myanmar as a strategic partner serves three major objectives in China’s Indian Ocean strategy.

First, China’s development of Kyaukpyu port will entrench its naval presence in the IOR. On the pretext of developing infrastructure and connectivity under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), Beijing has developed a myriad of naval posts across IOR ~ from Gwadar port in Pakistan to Djibouti in Africa and the most recent naval outpost in Cambodia. However, the militarisation of the Kyaukpyu port will be a game-changer as China will get a military foothold in the Bay of Bengal. Though the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy is highly active in the waters of the Bay of Bengal, it still lacks military infrastructure and logistics support in the region.

Second, the Andaman Sea and Bay of Bengal are fast becoming new flashpoints in the Sino-Indian strategic maritime competition. In the last two years, PLA Navy entered the Bay of Bengal on several occasions with the most recent incident in December 2019 when a Chinese vessel entered India’s special economic zone without permission. The frequency of Chinese submarine patrols in the IOR has almost tripled in the last two years. Although the past interventions were criticised as violations of the United Nations Convention for the Law of the Sea, China will now have a legitimate reason to be present in the Bay of Bengal because of its presence in Myanmar.

Third, Myanmar is a key influencer for China’s ambitions in the Indian Ocean. It is not only a gateway to the Bay of Bengal but is also a strong member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean). While the Western nations continue to isolate Myanmar on its human rights track record, China’s policy of non-intervention in Myanmar’s domestic politics has helped it to cultivate goodwill in Nay Pyi Taw. China also provided military support to Myanmar. By keeping Myanmar on its side and by building such economic dependencies, Beijing hopes not only to keep India on its toes but also enhance its influence within Asean.

For New Delhi, securing the Indian waters is of utmost priority which otherwise would intensify the maritime security dilemma. Yet, India has been complacent in confronting this new geostrategic reality ~ lack of economic might.

Recognising this, New Delhi is partnering the Quad countries to boost maritime security in the Bay of Bengal. Japan has been funding infrastructure projects, including port development in Myanmar and Bangladesh with India. The US and India jointly held the Malabar naval exercise in the Indian Ocean in 2019. Washington laid out a clear military roadmap in the Indo-Pacific to not only boost military activities in the IOR but also to build India’s maritime security capabilities. Additionally, New Delhi could rekindle maritime ties with Asean. This will reduce the collective concerns regarding the security of the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean. Some time ago, India, Singapore and Thailand held a joint trilateral maritime exercise for the first time to cooperate on security and maritime issues in the Bay of Bengal. However, Asean and India can do more by partnering with Vietnam, Taiwan and the Philippines.

While the governments of Myanmar and China hailed the Xi visit as a tremendous success, many other key stakeholders issued statements expressing reservations. More than 50 civil society groups published an open letter to Xi, urging him to permanently cancel the controversial Myitsone Dam project. The Myanmar government in 2011 halted construction of this mega-dam, located at the headwaters of the Irrawaddy River, after environmental, social and national security concerns sparked nationwide protests.

Key political parties, including the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy, voiced similar perspectives, urging the CMEC to respect traditional land rights and demanding that all CMEC projects receive approval directly from communities in addition to the Union government.

Representatives of Myanmar’s ethnic armed groups voiced some of the most serious objections. The Arakan Army (AA), which has clashed several times with the Myanmar army in Rakhine state since the beginning of 2020, released a statement the day before Xi’s visit asserting that it would “recover land and resources taken from the Rakhine people … and wage a war for the liberation of the Rakhine nation.”

China’s leaders recognize that they need to do more to win broad-based support for their various initiatives, and they have placed greater emphasis on public relations. For example, in advance of Xi’s visit, the operator of the Sino-Myanmar Pipeline, the China National Petroleum Company, released a new “Corporate Social Responsibility” report, noting that it has delivered $500 million of benefits to Myanmar. And in his open letter, Xi stressed China’s commitment to projects that will improve the livelihood of the Myanmar people.

Two possible initiatives stand out as potential solutions: In China, leaders have promised to greatly enhance transparency, accountability, and environmental sustainability of future BRI projects. Instruments such as the Beijing Initiative for the Clean Silk Road were released in April of 2019, but it remains unclear how these principles have been implemented on the ground in a BRI host country like Myanmar. Going forward, China is trying its best to cater for the needs of opposition parties, ethnic nonstate authorities and civil society by making a good-faith attempt to fulfill the promises it made last year.The Myanmar government, for its part, has made efforts to subject projects to a strict review process incorporating social and environmental impacts assessments. Dubbed the “Project Bank,” this plan has not yet been implemented, due largely to a lack of donor support. With the proper resources, political will and emphasis on how various projects might affect the causes of conflict, Myanmar’s government can respond more robustly to the needs of other stakeholders and renew efforts to build peace in the country.

(To be concluded)


P K Vasudeva is retired Senior Professor, International Trade, and member of the Vivekananda International Foundation, New Delhi


India Does Have a Jihadist Movement That Must Be Confronted As French President Has Done

By Tavleen Singh

October 25, 2020

The beheading of Samuel Paty did not make headlines in India. Nor did the French President’s moving tribute to this teacher at his state funeral last week. Emmanuel Macron said, “Samuel Paty became on Friday the face of our republic, of our determination to break terrorists, to diminish Islamists, to live as a community of free citizens in our country.” He added that if France’s foundational values of liberty, equality and fraternity were not taught to children in schools it would not be possible to keep them alive.

It was for trying to teach them, in a school in a Paris suburb, that Paty was killed by a Russian Islamist. While telling his students about the importance of freedom of expression he showed them those cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad that were published in the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo five years ago. Before showing them to his class he said he was happy to allow Muslim students to leave if they found them objectionable. News of what happened soon appeared on social media, and this enraged his 18-year-old killer enough to come looking for him. He beheaded him publicly and posted pictures of his severed head online.

The reason why this story is important for us in India is that something similar happened to a teacher in Kerala some years ago. His hand was severed by our homegrown jihadists because they objected to a lesson he taught about the Prophet of Islam. It is also important for us because our own foundational values are under threat from both Hindutva fanatics and Islamists. At the risk of being called Islamophobic, I believe that the jihadist threat is more organised and more dangerous. It has to be fought but it has to be fought in the arena of ideas. Not by retaliatory violence.

So far, all we have seen is retaliatory violence not just by Hindutva fanatics but by the state. We saw this most recently when the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh claimed after the Hathras horror that there was an ‘international conspiracy’ to defame his fair name. Four young Muslim men were arrested ostensibly for being part of this mysterious plot. Earlier this year, when Muslims took to the streets to protest against CAA (Citizenship Amendment Act), Muslim students, poets, journalists and dissidents were arrested. The Shaheen Bagh protest was depicted as a Pakistani plot.

In the course of all this what has been forgotten is that India does have a jihadist movement and it must be confronted in the way that the French President has just done. Indian political and religious leaders must stand up for what India stands for. Instead of allowing Hindutva fanatics to spew hatred and violence in the streets and on social media, the Prime Minister needs to state clearly what it is about Islam that clashes with the foundational values of India. He needs to say that the primitive idea of blasphemy does not exist in any of India’s religions. He needs to say that the Sanatan Dharma does not make a distinction between believers and unbelievers, so those Muslims who subscribe to ideas of this kind must keep them at home.

There is no point in pretending, as too many leftist historians have, that Muslim conquerors did not do terrible things or that they did not destroy temples to build mosques. They did and the wounds still exist but they need healing. Not hatred and revenge. It is time to deal with them as South Africa did with its wounds through a Truth Commission. I have suggested before that the Dalai Lama would be the best person to bring together religious preachers of all religions to discuss how these wounds of history can be healed. My own humble suggestion is that a beginning could be made by urging the Muslim community to give up the Idgah that looms over the dungeon in which Krishna is believed to have been born, and the mosque that looms over the Vishvanath Mandir in Varanasi. The last thing we need is another movement of the Ayodhya kind.

What we do need is to find out which organisations are responsible for spreading jihadist ideology across India so successfully that schoolgirls these days are seen wearing hijabs in classrooms. As someone who is charged with ‘appeasement’ every time I write about the rising tide of Hindutva, I would like to make clear once and for all that I believe that the jihadists have an ideology that could rightly be described as the Nazism of today. Hindutva in its current incarnation is an ideology based entirely on hatred but less dangerous because it does not have religious sanction.

Jihadists take their inspiration from the Quran that says blasphemy and apostasy are crimes against Allah. So, after Samuel Paty was beheaded, Sheikh Ali Al-Yousuf of the International Union of Muslim Scholars said that his beheading was in accordance with Shariat law but that this should have been done by the Islamic State. In India, there is no room for either the Islamic State, its evil ideology, or for ‘scholars’ who talk such rubbish. Our religions and the foundational values of our nation do not sanction primitive concepts like blasphemy and apostasy. It is sad that our leaders do not make this as clear as the French President did last week. And, this is why leadership has passed into the hands of fanatics.



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