In India, a Spectre For Us All, And A Resistance Coming
Posted on January 7th, 2014

By John Pilger

January 03, 2014 “Information Clearing House –  In five-star hotels on Mumbai’s seafront, children of the rich squeal joyfully as they play hide and seek. Nearby, at the National Theatre for the Performing Arts, people arrive for the Mumbai Literary Festival: famous authors and notables drawn from India’s Raj class. They step deftly over a woman lying across the pavement, her birch brooms laid out for sale, her two children silhouettes in a banyan tree that is their home.

It is Children’s Day in India. On page nine of the Times of India, a study reports that every second child is malnourished. Nearly two million children under the age of five die every year from preventable illness as common as diarrhoea. Of those who survive, half are stunted due to a lack of nutrients. The national school dropout rate is 40 per cent. Statistics like these flow like a river permanently in flood. No other country comes close. The small thin legs dangling in a banyan tree are poignant evidence.

The leviathan once known as Bombay is the centre for most of India’s foreign trade, global financial dealing and personal wealth. Yet at low tide on the Mithi River, in ditches, at the roadside, people are forced to defecate. Half the city’s population is without sanitation and lives in slums without basic services. This has doubled since the 1990s when “Shining India” was invented by an American advertising firm as part of the Hindu nationalist BJP party’s propaganda that it was “liberating” India’s economy and “way of life”.

Barriers protecting industry, manufacturing and agriculture were demolished. Coke, Pizza Hut, Microsoft, Monsanto and Rupert Murdoch entered what had been forbidden territory. Limitless “growth” was now the measure of human progress, consuming both the BJP and Congress, the party of independence. Shining India would catch up China and become a superpower, a “tiger”, and the middle classes would get their proper entitlement in a society where there was no middle. As for the majority in the “world’s largest democracy”, they would vote and remain invisible.

There was no tiger economy for them. The hype about a high-tech India storming the barricades of the first world was largely a myth. This is not to deny India’s rise in pre-eminence in computer technology and engineering, but the new urban technocratic class is relatively tiny and the impact of its gains on the fortunes of the majority is negligible.

When the national grid collapsed in 2012, leaving 700 million people powerless, almost half had so little electricity, they “barely noticed”, wrote one observer.  On my last two visits, the front pages boasted that India had “gatecrashed the super-exclusive ICBM (intercontinental ballistic missile) club” and launched its “largest ever” aircraft carrier and sent a rocket to Mars: the latter lauded by the government as “a historic moment for all of us to cheer”.

The cheering was inaudible in the rows of tarpaper shacks you see as you land at Mumbai international airport and in myriad villages denied  basic technology, such as light and safe water. Here, land is life and the enemy is a rampant “free market”. Foreign multinationals’ dominance of food grains, genetically modified seed, fertilisers and pesticides has sucked small farmers into a ruthless global market and led to debt and destitution. More than 250,000 farmers have killed themselves since the mid-1990s – a figure that may be a fraction of the truth as local authorities wilfully misreport “accidental” deaths.

“Across the length and breadth of India,” says the acclaimed environmentalist Vandana Shiva, “the government has declared war on its own people.” Using colonial-era laws, fertile land has been taken from poor farmers for as little as 300 rupees a square metre; developers have sold it for up to 600,000 rupees a square metre. In Uttar Pradesh, a new expressway serves “luxury” townships with sporting facilities and a Formula One racetrack, having eliminated 1225 villages. The farmers and their communities have fought back, as they do all over India; in 2011, four were killed and many injured in clashes with police.

For Britain, India is now a “priority market” – to quote the government’s arms sales unit. In 2010, David Cameron took the heads of the major British arms companies to Delhi and signed a $700 million contract to supply Hawk fighter-bombers. Disguised as “trainers”, these lethal aircraft were used against the villages of East Timor. They may well be the Cameron government’s biggest single “contribution” to Shining India.

The opportunism is understandable. India has become a model of the imperial cult of “neo-liberalism” – almost everything must be privatized, sold off. The worldwide assault on social democracy and the collusion of major parliamentary parties – begun in the US and Britain in the 1980s – has produced in India a dystopia of extremes and a spectre for us all.

Whereas Nehru’s democracy succeeded in granting the vote – today, there are 3.2 million elected representatives – it failed to build a semblance of social and economic justice. Widespread violence against women is only now precariously on a political agenda. Secularism may have been Nehru’s grand vision, but Muslims in India remain among the poorest, most discriminated against and brutalised minority on earth. According to the 2006 Sachar Commission, in the elite institutes of technology, only four out of 100 students are Muslim, and in the cities Muslims have fewer chances of regular employment than the “untouchable” Dalits and indigenous Adivasis. “It is ironic,” wrote Khushwant Singh, “that the highest incidence of violence against Muslims and Christians has taken place in Gujarat, the home state of Bapu Gandhi.”

Gujarat is also the home state of Narendra  Modi, winner of three consecutive victories as BJP chief minister and the favourite to see off the diffident Rahul Gandhi in national elections in May. With his xenophobic Hindutva ideology, Modi appeals directly to dispossessed Hindus who believe Muslims are “privileged”. Soon after he came to power in 2002, mobs slaughtered hundreds of Muslims. An investigating commission heard that Modi had ordered officials not to stop the rioters – which he denies. Admired by powerful industrialists, he boasts the highest “growth” in India.

In the face of these dangers, the great popular resistance that gave India its independence is stirring. The gang rape of a Delhi student in 2012 has brought vast numbers into the streets, reflecting disillusionment with the political elite and anger at its acceptance of injustice and a modernised feudalism. The popular movements are often led or inspired by extraordinary women – the likes of Medha Patkar, Binalakshmi Nepram, Vandana Shiva and Arundhati Roy – and they demonstrate that the poor and vulnerable need not be weak. This is India’s enduring gift to the world, and those with corrupted power ignore it at their peril.

This article first appeared in the Guardian, UK – Follow John Pilger on twitter @johnpilger

10 Responses to “In India, a Spectre For Us All, And A Resistance Coming”

  1. S de Silva Says:

    Thanks to Lankaweb and John Pilger for this window on India. As the advertising goes, it indeed is INCREDIBLE INDIA!! – S de Silva – London

  2. jayasiri Says:

    Thank you Mr. John Pilger.. what a story. Our political leaders STILL follow India & their instructions in governing Sri Lanka.

    Already we knew that INDIA is poor, in per capita sense, to find this type of disparity & inaction by Indian govts are really appaling. These are the VERY INDIAN leaders CRYING THAT we Sri Lankans treat TAMILS poorly. What a contrast. It is very appropriate for someone like Mr.Pilger to comment on this, as if we ever do, India will think that WE AE BIASED AGAINST India.

    Not that it matters, we collectively beleive that India is a basket case, waiting to explode. Recent pronoucements by a group of USA congressmen & women have signed a pettion of sorts, questioning India’s claims when it CONTINUE to criticize Sri Lanka & Pakistan.

    I feel this is just the start when, even USA will realize the fake assumptions they made concerning India. Ofcourse UK is so hard up for cash, now trying to benefit from India’s arms purchases.

    Lets hope & see one day USA will turn against India as they did against Sri Lanka. Thanks you again…….J

  3. Lorenzo Says:

    USA-Endia dispute raging well.

    Hope it will WORSEN.

    “PUNE, India — The Indian government demanded Wednesday that the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi cease all commercial activities — including the running of its restaurant, bowling alley and swimming pool — in a spat over the arrest of an Indian diplomat in New York.

    India has been apparently retaliating against America’s diplomats in a campaign to pressure the U.S. attorney in New York to waive charges against Devyani Khobragade, an Indian diplomat who was strip searched by U.S. marshals when arrested in December.”

    – USA today

  4. Mr. Bernard Wijeyasingha Says:

    Bombay or Mumbai has Asia’s largest slum and it keeps growing. Now there is hardly a single Indian city that does not have a slum in it. and yet millions upon millions of the vast rural population are moving into those slums for they can still earn a little bit more in those slums than in the villages.
    As I have pointed out that in one article which covered modern day global slavery (in the classic sense) found that there are an estimated number of 29 million slaves across the globe of which India is home to 14 million of them.
    Though the Dalits have achieved mobility and education due to government programs the culture keeps them pinned down. A Dalit Doctor still cannot even think of dating a Brahmin girl from family with a much lower level of education. The social stigma wipes out the gains the Dalits have made due to government programs.
    The number of people who live on a dollar per day is 60% of India’s one Billion three hundred million people of which 37% of that 60% manage to earn 50 US cents more. In my personal opinion I doubt if 40% of the remaining population earn a reasonable income or in other words are only a few dollars above that 60%.
    In the face of this Prime Minister Manmohan Singh stated of a growing movement born out of this poverty called the Nazalite movement named after a poor Bengal village named Naxalbari. Now they are called “Maoists” and have a growing following in over a dozen Indian states. One article in the Asia Times stated that they extort simply out of the Indian mining companies around 300 million dollars per year. Other sources of revenue includes smuggling, drug trafficking prostitution, sale of arms, etc. They are not going away. This is on top of the secessionist movements growing in the States of Assam, Nagaland, Mizoram, Kashmir, the resurrection of the Khalistan movement in the Punjab to form a separate Sikh nation called “khalistan” and generously funded by the rich Sikh Diaspora.
    What I have touched upon of “Shining India” is but the tip of the iceberg. One final note. India is considered one of the most corrupt nations in the world. The corruption is not at the higher echelons but seeps to every aspect of India’s society all the way down to the slums. No nation can continue to function as a unite with such internal stress. Finally to make matters worse India adds 15 million new lives per year to her population.

  5. Nanda Says:

    “India is considered one of the most corrupt nations in the world. The corruption is not at the higher echelons but seeps to every aspect of India’s society all the way down to the slums. No nation can continue to function as a unite with such internal stress”

    More we associate with this “Evil Friend” more we become “one of the most corrupt nations in the world”.

    Stop calling Endia our friend
    Stop calling Endia our bigger brother
    Stop calling Buddha is a Hindoo
    Stop calling Endia is our relative.

    No one is a friend by birth
    No one is an enemy by birth
    By action one become a friend
    By action one become an enemy

  6. Lorenzo Says:

    Where is patriot Susantha Wijesinghe?

    I hope and pray he is OK.

  7. Lorenzo Says:

    Endians are fighting corruption.

    AAP political party is doing well. They target corruption. It has weakened BJP.

    Can it happen in SL?


    If any anti corruption party contests an election in SL they LOSE. First of all NO ONE will put their names to such a party as they will get KILLED before the election!!

    If anyone survives killer groups, people will not vote for them because they don’t have enough money to advertise.

    Anyway there is a plan to form ANTI CORRUPTION PARTY (ACP) in SL which will contest WPC election and the next parliamentary election. A lawyer by the name ASS Perera and his son ARSE Perera (UNP) are behind this.

  8. Christie Says:

    If you want to know about the writer please goggle John Pilger Sri Lanka” and read an article he wrote in May 2009. if it is the same man I know he is a Pathological hater of Sinhalese. He is I am sure well looked after by the Indians in UK and the Third Eye. He is a supporter of Indian terrorist arm branded Tamil Tigers. He is one of the outspoken Socialist who support India.

  9. Mr. Bernard Wijeyasingha Says:


    More we associate with this “Evil Friend” more we become “one of the most corrupt nations in the world”.

    Stop calling Endia our friend
    Stop calling Endia our bigger brother
    Stop calling Buddha is a Hindoo
    Stop calling Endia is our relative.

    No one is a friend by birth
    No one is an enemy by birth
    By action one become a friend
    By action one become an enemy

    On this GEO POLITICAL issue I am in agreement with you. In recent times India has directly contributed to the civil war. In fact if not for India’s support to the Tamil tigers Sri Lanka would have defeated them along time ago. Then after the war ended and both the Tamil Tigers and their supporter India lost, India went on a campaign to tarnish Sri Lanka and by that to achieve the same goal of Eelam. India will not stop unless she is recognized as an existential threat to Sri Lanka for she has already played that role. The only debate I had with you was regarding religion and not Geo politics.
    For a small nation like Sri Lanka to stand up to a large nation like India, Sri Lanka needs allies in the region and she already has the world’s most powerful allies, Russia and China who through them Sri Lanka can deal with a beligerant India.

  10. Mr. Bernard Wijeyasingha Says:

    I agree with you on all others assuming that the phrase “stop calling” is not directed at me since you quoted my comment. As for “Stop calling Buddha is a Hindoo”. Gladly after you give me the evidence that Prince Siddhartha was not a Hindu. Again what was the faith that Prince Siddhartha and his family practice? Remember even his mother was called “Maya Devi” that is a Hindu name for Devi is a Hindu term for Goddess. You lose your point when you simply tell others to stop doing or saying things without backing it with facts.
    The Buddha never called his teachings “Buddhist”, his followers did. The term “Buddha” or enlightened one was a term given to him. He never stated that he is now the Buddha. That is the same case with Mohandas Gandhi. It was the people who called him the Mahatma or the “great soul”.

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