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Mainstream, VOL 61 No 37 September 9, 2023

Letter to the Readers, Mainstream, Sept 9, 2023

Saturday 9 September 2023


Letter to the Readers, Mainstream, Sept 9, 2023

New Delhi is hosting the G-20 summit from 8 - 10 September, 2023, its preparations have drowned the city into a spectacle of garish, flashy, and kitsch [1]. A big militarised ‘beautification’ for G20 in Delhi by erasing the labouring poor from public view, large-scale demolitions of slums & homeless shelters, or erecting screens to hide slums has what has happened [2]. The city is nearly shut, pretty unlike such summits elsewhere [3]. Roadside hoardings and bus stops in every Indian city have huge images and cut-outs of Prime Minister Narendra Modi as if this were his election campaign event where foreign leaders appear as props [4]. Mr Modi is clearly using public money set aside for the G20 summit to portray himself as a global leader for the eyes of a domestic audience [5]. The G-20 India logo has been neatly combined with logo of the ruling BJP and the show goes on. Given the authoritarian style of the Modi Government, many things happen without consultation. A major controversy erupted over the possible renaming of India just days prior to the G20 summit being hosted in Delhi [6]. Breaking all precedence an invitation for a formal high-profile dinner being hosted on September 9 for world leaders during the forthcoming G20 Summit in New Delhi has been issued in the name of the ‘President of Bharat’ instead of ‘President of India.’ [7] A few days prior to this invitation the chief of RSS the right-wing mother organisation of the ruling BJP had publicly said “We must stop using the word India and start using Bharat.” [8]. The RSS has considerable ideological sway over the Modi government. The constitutional assembly that voted for India’s constitution had chosen to keep our nation under a bilingual identity with both India and Bharat. Under the Modi Government names of streets and cities keep getting changed, but dropping India in all official English usage will be a huge step away from its principal term of recognition around the world. The controversy over name change is already out in the world press and the representative of UN Secretary-General present at the G-20 summit in Delhi has responded when asked about it. [9] This name change business particularly the name of our country is too a serious a matter and cant be taken in a reckless way by any Government however powerful without taking views of all sections of society and the Parliament in a democracy. The Modi Government keeps getting very bad press abroad over its heavy-handed ways towards the opposition, civil society, and any dissent so it now keeps parroting that it is the ‘Mother of Democracy’. India figures at 161 out of 180 on the World Press Freedom Index. The reasons should be self-evident with the latest example – The Police in the State of Manipur recently officially registered a police case [10] against a fact-finding team of the Editors’ Guild of India in an attempt to intimidate some of India’s leading journalists for speaking the truth. The Government advisors seem to think that putting out a propaganda booklet or placard can fix the problem. An official booklet titled ‘Bharat: The Mother of Democracy’, has been brought out for G20 India summit delegates [11] probably produced by some RSS propagandist. The American Government tried hard to get permissions (for greater access) for the American Press, which, has traveled with President Biden to the G20 summit in India but to no avail. [12]. Let us hope the G-20 summit proceeds well and the visiting foreign media don’t land in trouble with the newfound ‘Mother of Democracy’

September 8, 2023 —HK

[2G20 beautification drive: PWD workers ‘clean up’ makeshift homes under Delhi flyovers before eviction

[3Deserted Delhi: Markets shuttered, schools closed as capital locks down for G20

[4From airport to Biden hotel, over 960 G20 ads, around 25% with PM Modi

[6Has India Changed Its Name? A G20 Invite Raises Eyebrows

[7There is no ‘President of Bharat’—G20 Banquet Invite Must be Rectified by S.N. Sahu

[8RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat’s ’Bharat’ Over ’India’ Pitch Ahead Of G-20 Invite Controversy

[10EGI Statement on FIRs registered by the Manipur Police against the Guild

[12’Unusual Situation’ as US Press ’Sequestered in Van’, Not Allowed to Access Modi-Biden Meeting

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