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Mainstream, VOL LV No 25 New Delhi June 10, 2017

Ominous Signals

Saturday 10 June 2017, by SC

EDITORIAL

The Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, returned from a trip to major countries of Europe—Germany, Spain, Russia and France—last week and has left for Astana (Kazakhstan) today to attend the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation’s summit.

The European visit was overdue and Modi did well to explore new avenues of cooperation with Germany while sustaining and cementing India’s strategic partnerships with Russia and France.

The Indian Express, while analysing Modi’s European visit, has underlined a basic point: “....to play the long game in these tumultuous times, the PM must get his domestic economic and security decision-making upto speed with the new global imperatives.”

That is doubtless true. The latest developments on the agriculture front bring this out in bold relief. Five protesters have been shot dead in Madhya Pradesh’s Mandsaur district, prohibitory orders have been clamped down and internet shutdowns enforced there. Rahul Gandhi rushed to Mandsaur today and was immediately arrested by the State administration; the police unnecessarily employed stern measures against Congress workers while seeking to defame one of its MLAs. Yet the farmers’ anger could not be suppressed.

In the wake of the deeprooted agrarian crisis staring us in the face what is imperative is to go for loan waivers in the short term and evolve long-term holistic solutions—creating non-farm jobs alongside enhancement of farm incomes. Rahul’s apt query—“Why can’t the government, which has waived the corporates’ massive loans left unpaid, waive the farmers’ loans?”—cannot be brushed aside as a populist gimmick to win public support.

Meanwhile, the vigilante groups continue their attacks on anyone suspected of consuming beef. This has boomeranged in the North-East where several BJP workers have resigned from the party’s primary membership as they cannot countenance such assaults on their staple food.

The Kashmir scenario remains grim and the Army Chief’s commendation of the Major, who tied a Kashmiri to the bonnet of a jeep to prevent stone-pelters from attacking the vehicle, has disturbed the average Kashmiri who roundly opposes such actions. A distinguished academic’s article of the subject, describing this incident as India’s “General Dyer moment”, has caused a major controversy with the Hindutvavadis openly lashing out at the academic from the ‘ultra-nationalist’ standpoint. But what is being overlooked is the Army Chief’s foray into politics—his statements with political overtones (clearly exceeding the limits set on him by the Constitution) carry an ominous signal.

Against this backdrop the CBI raids on the offices and residences of NDTV proprietors carry a similar ominous signal. These actions too have been unequivocally decried by press organisations as well as all those upholding the banner of media freedom. One can ignore such signals only at one’s peril.

June 8 S.C.

ISSN : 0542-1462 / RNI No. : 7064/62