Modi’s victory inspires both hope and apprehensions

India is home to 170 million Muslims, the world’s second-largest Muslim population. (AFP)
Updated 24 May 2019
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Modi’s victory inspires both hope and apprehensions

  • BJP does not have any Muslim on its list of victorious candidates

NEW DELHI: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s landslide victory in the country’s general elections has met with mixed feelings over the future of the economy.

The premier has been re-elected with an overwhelming majority of 305 out of 545 seats in the Lok Sabha (lower house of India’s Parliament). With its alliance partner, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) now holds a commanding position.

The dramatic election win has sparked both hope and apprehension in India over the government’s plans for dealing with a slowing economy and growing unemployment, and the prospects for millions of Muslims living there.

Recent data leaked from the government-owned National Sample Survey Organization (NSSO) revealed that the rate of unemployment was running at its highest level for 45 years. Industrial production was also shown to have dipped, with the automobile sector seeing a downward trend in the last two quarters.

“My time, energy and life are dedicated to the nation and I will leave no stone unturned to take the country to a prosperous path,” said Modi on Thursday evening in his victory speech in New Delhi.

However, Prof. Arun Kumar of New Delhi-based Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), said: “The government should first admit that there is a huge problem of unemployment in the country and it should release the data to address it.”

Kumar told Arab News: “Now the elections are over, and people have reposed faith in the government, the Modi regime should come clean on the figure of unemployment and the actual GDP data, and only then would it be able to address the issue honestly.

“The big challenges the government faces are in the unorganized sector which got badly hit by the demonetization of currency in 2016 and the roll out of a new tax regime called GST (general sales tax). These unorganized sectors were the main job providers in small towns and rural areas.”

Prof. Sanjay Srivastava, of New Delhi-based think tank the Institute of Economic Growth, said: “The government will have to address the unemployment and farm crisis in an urgent manner to bring the economy on track.”

“To address youth unemployment, the government will have to streamline the skill development program very effectively to generate jobs. Besides that, the rural sector today is under great stress and the government’s first priority should be to address farmer suicides and their decreasing incomes.”

On the political front, one of the biggest challenges for Modi will be to calm the fears of 130 million Muslims in India who have been on the receiving end of political and social marginalization ever since his regime came to power in 2014. The Hindu nationalist party does not have any Muslims among its list of victorious candidates.

During his victory speech, Modi said that “no party can fool people in the name of secularism. Now secularism no longer becomes an election issue.”

Political analyst and former editor of English daily The Tribune, Harish Khare, said: “The 2019 verdict has a chilling message that the minorities’ votes do not count. The Muslims have been told to remain stranded in their own islands of resentments and grievances. They will have to reconcile themselves to a majoritarian polity.”

Prof. Afroz Alam, of Maulana Azad National Urdu University, said: “India cannot afford to cut off its largest minority from the wider political society. If it does so it cannot afford a sustainable growth. It’s time Muslims started looking at the larger picture. They should now look for greater representation in state and central-level jobs,” Alam told Arab News.

People in Kashmir are also apprehensive about their fate. In the last five years the central government has taken a tough approach to dissent in the valley, leading to higher casualties.

A suicide attack earlier this year on a convoy of paramilitary forces that claimed more than 50 lives, almost resulted in all-out war with Pakistan.

Data released by the Ministry of Home Affairs showed that between 2014 and 2018, there had been a 93 percent rise in the number of security personnel killed in terrorist incidents in Jammu and Kashmir, and a 176 percent increase in terrorist incidents in the state.

“Kashmir has no hopes,” said Prof. Sheikh Showkat of the University of Kashmir. 

“Kashmir bled in the previous tenure and it may bleed again unless good sense prevails, and they engage both Kashmiris and Pakistan in dialogue.”

Politician Shah Faesal said: “Narendra Modi might go for a measured reciprocation of (Pakistani Prime Minister) Imran Khan’s offer to work together. If it happens, Kashmir will benefit from that.

“We badly need some respite from the cycle of violence. A change in the policy of the central government can make that possible immediately,” added Faesal, who resigned from the Indian administrative service last year to form a new political party.


UN: Nearly 71 million now displaced by war, violence at home

Updated 19 June 2019
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UN: Nearly 71 million now displaced by war, violence at home

  • The figures are bound to add fuel to a debate at the intersection of international law, human rights and domestic politics
  • UNHCR said 70.8 million people were forcibly displaced at the end of last year, up from about 68.5 million in 2017

GENEVA: A record 71 million people have been displaced worldwide from war, persecution and other violence, the UN refugee agency said Wednesday, an increase of more than 2 million from last year and an overall total that would amount to the world’s 20th most populous country.
The annual “Global Trends” report released by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees counts the number of the world’s refugees, asylum-seekers and internally displaced people at the end of 2018, in some cases following decades of living away from home.
The figures, coming on the eve of World Refugee Day on Thursday, are bound to add fuel to a debate at the intersection of international law, human rights and domestic politics, especially the movement in some countries, including the US, against immigrants and refugees.
Launching the report, the high commissioner, Filippo Grandi, had a message for US President Donald Trump and other world leaders, calling it “damaging” to depict migrants and refugees as threats to jobs and security in host countries. Often, they are fleeing insecurity and danger themselves, he said.
The report also puts a statistical skeleton onto often-poignant individual stories of people struggling to survive by crossing rivers, deserts, seas, fences and other barriers, natural and man-made, to escape government oppression, gang killings, sexual abuse, militia murders and other such violence at home.
UNHCR said 70.8 million people were forcibly displaced at the end of last year, up from about 68.5 million in 2017 — and nearly a 65 percent increase from a decade ago. Among them, nearly three in five people — or more than 41 million people — have been displaced within their home countries.
“The global trends, once again unfortunately, go in what I would say is the wrong direction,” Grandi told reporters in Geneva. “There are new conflicts, new situations, producing refugees, adding themselves to the old ones. The old ones never get resolved.”
The phenomenon is both growing in size and duration. Some four-fifths of the “displacement situations” have lasted more than five years. After eight years of war in Syria, for instance, its people continue to make up the largest population of forcibly displaced people, at some 13 million.
Amid runaway inflation and political turmoil at home, Venezuelans for the first time accounted for the largest number of new asylum-seekers in 2018, with more than 340,000 — or more than one in five worldwide last year. Asylum-seekers receive international protection as they await acceptance or rejection of their requests for refugee status.
UNHCR said that its figures are “conservative” and that Venezuela masks a potentially longer-term trend.
Some 4 million people are known to have left the South American country in recent years. Many of those have traveled freely to Peru, Colombia and Brazil, but only about one-eighth have sought formal international protection, and the outflow continues, suggesting the strains on the welcoming countries could worsen.
Grandi predicted a continued “exodus” from Venezuela and appealed for donors to provide more development assistance to the region.
“Otherwise these countries will not bear the pressure anymore and then they have to resort to measures that will damage refugees,” he said. “We are in a very dangerous situation.”
The United States, meanwhile, remains the “largest supporter of refugees” in the world, Grandi said in an interview. The US is the biggest single donor to UNHCR. He also credited local communities and advocacy groups in the United States for helping refugees and asylum-seekers in the country.
But the refugee agency chief noted long-term administrative shortcomings that have given the United States the world’s biggest backlog of asylum claims, at nearly 719,000. More than a quarter-million claims were added last year.
He also decried recent rhetoric that has been hostile to migrants and refugees.
“In America, just like in Europe actually and in other parts of the world, what we are witnessing is an identification of refugees — but not just refugees, migrants as well — with people that come take away jobs that threaten our security, our values,” Grandi said. “And I want to say to the US administration — to the president — but also to the leaders around the world: This is damaging.”
He said many people leaving Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador through Mexico have faced violence by gangs and suffered from “the inability of these governments to protect their own citizens.”
The UNHCR report noted that by far, the most refugees are taken in in the developing world, not wealthy countries.
The figures marked the seventh consecutive year in which the numbers of forcibly displaced rose.
“Yet another year, another dreadful record has been beaten,” said Jon Cerezo of British charity Oxfam. “Behind these figures, people like you and me are making dangerous trips that they never wanted to make, because of threats to their safety and most basic rights.”