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Mainstream, VOL 62 No 1 January 6, 2024

Letter to the Readers, Mainstream, Jan 6, 2003

Friday 5 January 2024


Letter to the Readers, January 6, 2024

As the year 2023 wound to a close a strange incident flashed India on to front-pages of world media. A jet plane operated by a Romanian airlines with over 300 Indian passengers on board had flown out of Dubai and on way to Nicaragua was detained by French authorities during technical halt in France on suspicion of Human trafficking [1]. This flight came under the French scanner since it was just days after a new french law with restrictions on immigration was passed by Marcon’s ruling party with support from the Far Right, despite huge opposition from the left [2] Passengers on the flight were confined to Vatry airport, 150km from Paris, while authorities investigated. Of the 303 passengers on the flight the large numbers were from the states of Gujarat & from Punjab (both the regions also have a huge diaspora around the world) The shady plane was allowed to depart a few days later after a French court ruled that authorities did not have the authority to detain the passengers any further. The French (seemingly came under pressure from jumpy Indian officials to wind this up to take it away from media glare) couldn’t quite figure out these chartered plane migrants whose papers were all in order and had let them go. This was not how they typically view migrants fleeing wars in boats and landing on European shores. Passengers on the plane detained near Paris were not the typical dirt poor migrants heading out of India, but ones paying their way to the fixers & with return tickets and visas to Nicaragua — all of course illegally headed to the US after playing tourists to a central American country. According to data from U.S. Customs and Border Protection, a large number of undocumented Indian immigrants have been crossing U.S. borders —between 2022 - 2023 alone some 96,917 Indians have been apprehended or expelled for illegal entry [3] [4]. The Indian media which is under a huge influence of the elites and the Mr Modi’s nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been shy on reporting and explaining why thousands of Indians are leaving India in droves despite the ‘achhe din’ [good times] ushered in by Narendra Modi. Mr Modi is promising an ever more radiant future for India now that he is in election campaign mode for a third term in office. The French President is the official guest to the Republic Day parade in New Delhi on Jan 26, 2024, probably invited in return for the favour of having invited Mr Modi to the 4th July 2023 military parade in Paris. Mr Macron will see a strange Indian state spectacle with exotic floats representing different regions of India as part of the military parade. He may not get to see floats from opposition-ruled states of Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Kerala which have been rejected by the organisers for seeming political reasons. The authoritarian style of Mr Modi may not be on display at the parade but Macron like most world leaders read the press and know how Mr Modi is building a cult following for himself and silencing the opposition —nearly 150 members of parliament were suspended from Parliament in December 2023 for seeking a debate over a security breach. The French President won’t rock any boat or ask uncomfortable questions over the big ticket Rafale warplanes contract which is under an anti-corruption investigation in France and where the Indian authorities are seemingly not cooperating [5]. In the past the French governments honoured secular voices in civil society in India, but yes business deals have priority, and eyes turned away from normalisation of xenophobic rightwing vigilantism under the Modi regime.

January 5, 2024 —HK

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