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Poonam I Kaushish

Call it the seven year itch but the cruel Covid summer 2021 has brought Prime Minister Modi to the crossroads. From the euphoria of 2014 on the wings of hope and trust a chai-wallah made his debut on national stage, down riding the crest of popularity wave in 2019 of saab ka saath, saab ka vikas, saab ka vishwas which would lead India on a path of growth, displaying his muscular 56-inches chhathi to metamorphosing as a Himalayan hermitage sage in 2021.

May 30 marked seven years of the Modi Sarkar wherein he dazzled the country with brilliance, his oratory skills, decisiveness and battled with bull. A colossal Pied Piper to whose tune millions banged thaalis, clapped and light diyas.‘s If his first tenure was about ‘Swachch Bharat’ to ‘Make in India’, now it’s Aatma Nirbhar, and ‘Go vocal on local,’ NaMo’s progress is a study in chutzpah and grandeur.

Yet, there are visible signs that the war against Covid 19 seems to have dimmed Modi’s sheen in the face of death and devastation and gut-wrenching grief. Amidst the public aakrosh of dead corpses floating in the Ganga, stink of unclaimed bodies, burning pyres, smoked-out crematoriums, grieving families is a reminder of a putrefying political system where citizens totals statistical numbers.

The goodwill of ushering in aachche din has slowly dissipated. Modi seems to be floundering as the messiah of progress and modernity. Today, he seems unsure, uneasy whereby his emotional appeal and tears don’t seem to move even his ardent admirers with an increasingly angry and restive janata demanding answers.

Questionably, has his luck and leadership run out? Can the Prime Minister brush under the carpet that he and the BJP are to blame for the mess they are in today. Will the seven-year itch affect Modi as it did his predecessors Indira Gandhi in 1973-74 and Manmohan Singh in 2011? Will his dream run at the hustings continue? Is NaMo vincible?

Undoubtedly, the second wave has dented Modi’s image and the Government’s credibility in hard political currency. The glossy Teflon-coated protective veil around the Modi persona has been lifted and a governance deficit of callousness and mismanagement exposed. A floundering vaccine policy, lack of hospital beds, medicines, oxygen et al.

So what went wrong? Everything. Sadly, the Government has none but itself to blame for the incredible mess it finds itself in even as it fobs it off on an “pervasive, unaccountable “system”. The BJP tries distractive old tricks by creating a Congress ‘toolkit’ controversy and the Hindutva fountainhead RSS launches a campaign “Hum Jeetenge” and “Positivity Unlimited” to counter ‘negativity’ and apply balm but it comes across as insensitive and jarring.

Worse, it forgot that power is 99% perception and rightly or wrongly, Modi, his ministerial brood and the Party is perceived as arrogant and brash dictatorial running a one-man rock band albeit concentrating power in the PMO. A one-way street full of staccato monologue, no dialogue and questions are a strict no-no.

Certainly, Brand Modi has taken a hit. Asserted a senior BJP leader, “The pandemic has exposed the widening gaps between the Government and Party, denting their reputations. The winding up of additional capacity in Delhi in February as cases were rising in Maharashtra and Kerala, demonstrated our lack of anticipation compounded by the absence of Ministers, MPs, MLAs and workers from the scene to provide relief and aid.”

The coming months pose a stiff challenge. The Government’s future hinges on how quickly and effectively it addresses the issue of mass vaccination of people specially belonging to marginalized and poorer sections of society. Given the pandemic could upset the BJP’s ideological and electoral applecart.

Politically, next year will be decisive as seven States go to polls: UP, Gujarat, Uttarakhand, Himachal, Punjab, Goa and Manipur against the backdrop of a relentless Covid shadow. The stakes in UP and five others barring Punjab are high as it promises to become a referendum and a litmus test on the BJP more so post the West Bengal defeat which has dented the Modi-Shah image of invincibility. Consequently retaining these States is vital.

His second challenge is a course correction of the economy. According to the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy rural unemployment rate touched 13.5%, urban joblessness rose to 17.4% totaling a national new high of 14.7% last week. The annual GDP performance in 2020 crashed to -8.0%, the worst amongst all developing nations (Bangladesh grew at 3.8% in 2020). Add to this, rising oil prices, consumers buying less and a slowing economy. Clearly, bread-and-butter issues are back on the economic delivery table. Modi in 2014 had asked for 10 years to put India on track, let’s see.
Paradoxically, even as Covid 19 gives the moribund Opposition a unique opportunity to put Modi on the mat, hold him accountable and resurrect itself, it is too timorous to claim it. Primarily, because of the disarray within the Congress, the largest Opposition Party which has largely been in suspended animation wherein Sonia-Rahul look more like a bunch of stricken virus patients than like determined champions of the democratic mandate to hold the Government to account.

Their failure to seize the opportunity or the collective Opposition’s unwilling to confront and corner the Government on substantive issues of mishandling the second wave, economic mismanagement to demand accountability along-with the TINA (there is no alternative) factor has ensured that Modi retains his macho numero uno and still enjoys goodwill.

Of course, he is no magician as he has to live up to huge expectations generated by his 3D media campaign on social and digital networking sites, twitter, U tube etc. His task is not enviable and the burden enormous given our fickle and unforgiving voters. Much is expected of him.

Startlingly, Modi has still to address key developmental issues that continue to exercise people: law and order, preventing crime against women and children, inflation, illiteracy and ill-health which are the touchstone of the much-hyped and illusionary deal of roti, kapada aur makan. Look at the irony. Cellphones go abegging, yet people continue to beg for food.

Ultimately, much will depend upon Modi’s political will and priorities in the weeks and months ahead. He knows only too well staying ahead is the name of the game. The leader who survives is the one that rises to meet the moment, who has the wisdom to recognize the threat and the will to turn it back, and does so before it is too late.

Undeniably Modi is still the BJP’s best bet despite his trust quotient and credibility taking a beating vis-à-vis handling of the pandemic. It remains to be seen if the Pradhan Sevak will rise to the occasion as by the term his term ends in 2024, a quarter of the 21st century will already have gone by. The electorate has presented him a historic opportunity. Yet he needs to remember a Hindi idiom: “Bhooka Pait Bhajan Nahin Hoth Gopala” (Lord I cannot sing to you on an empty stomach.) Today, the nation needs a healing touch. Will he apply the much needed balm? Time will tell. — Courtesy The Dispatch

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<p>Ghulam Rasool Dar, with his daughter and grandson, at their home in Chadoora, Budgam in Kashmir</p> (Namita Singh)Srinagar, May 31 (KMS): Abdul Hameed Mir, 45, was detained by the authorities around the same time when Indian prime minister Narendra Modi’s government unilaterally announced changes in the constitutional and legal status of the state of Jammu and Kashmir, effectively wiping out the semi-autonomy enjoyed by the region for generations.

Picked up from his house in the Kupwara district of Kashmir, Mr Mir was then in prison for more than 18 months without charge when he lost his mother. He had moved a bail application in March to carry out the last rites. It was denied. »

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Yashraj Sharma

On 29 May 2009, two young women, Asiya (17) and her sister-in-law Neelofar (22), married to Shakeel Ahmad Ahanger, went missing in the evening while returning home from their family orchard in Nagbal area of South Kashmir’s Shopian. On the following morning, they were found dead near the Rambiara Nala by a team of cops along with Shakeel; leaving behind his barely 2-year-old son, Suzain.

After the initial investigation, on the direction of Omar Abdullah led government, Justice Jan Commission was formed to deliver the justice. The report by the commission concluded that the two women have been raped and murdered by ‘men in uniform’. Later on, a number of Indian investigative agencies came into the scene only to spoil the broth. »

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Muhammad Raza Malik

Lest We Forget – Asiya and Neelofar - PKKH.tvIndia is using rape and molestation of women as a weapon of war to suppress the Kashmiris’ struggle for securing their inalienable right to self-determination. Women are the worst victims of Indian state terrorism in Indian illegally occupied Jammu and Kashmir as Indian troops have molested over 11,240 women since January 1989 till date.

Rape and murder of two women in Shopian, the mass rape of Kunanposhpora, and rape and murder of a minor girl, Aasifa Bano, in Kathua area of Jammu region are glaring examples of this brutality committed by Indian forces’ personnel in the occupied territory. »

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Humayun Aziz Sandeela

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, India has exploited the circumstances to accelerate the pace of its colonization project in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu & Kashmir (IIOJK) thus increasing the miseries of the people of the occupied territory manifold. On the pretext of COVID lockdown imposed in the territory, India continues to carry out its repressive police in the occupied territory killing, maiming innocent civilians, and above all denying proper medical care to the people of the occupied territory at the time of pandemic.

The occupation authorities on April 29 imposed a curfew in 11 districts in the name of controlling the surge in COVID-19 cases. The curfew was later extended to all districts till May 31. »

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Vishnu Varma

Over the last few weeks, public anger has been simmering in the Lakshadweep islands over a number of controversial proposals floated by the Union Territory Administrator, Praful K Patel. Also the Administrator of the UT of Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu, Patel was given additional charge of Lakshadweep following the death of Dineshwar Sharma last December.

While the UT Administration has said Patel’s proposals are aimed at ensuring safety and well-being of residents along with promoting the islands as a tourist destination on par with the Maldives, residents view them as ripping the social and cultural fabric of the islands. »

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Justice Markandey Katju

The Holocaust is an expression which is usually associated to extermination of European Jews by the Nazis. But in India a Holocaust has taken place which though not amounting to large scale extermination of human beings has resulted in horrible misery to a large section of the 1350 million people of India.

I am referring to the massive calamity in India pursuant to the lockdown imposed by the Indian Government in April 2020, and thereafter by several state governments, consequential to the COVID pandemic. Much is reported in the Indian and foreign media of the daily COVID cases ( about 300,000 ) and the COVID deaths. Scenes are shown on TV screens of bodies being cremated, and accounts given of shortage of vaccines, oxygen cylinders, beds in hospitals for COVID patients in India.

But scant information is given of the monumental havoc caused in the lives of tens, if not hundreds, of millions of Indians due to the lockdown. »

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The State’s refusal to acknowledge many graves, linked to Covid, is unacceptable

Barkha Dutt

This week, I took a three-hour boat ride down the Ganga, traversing a little over 30 kilometres from the Mehndi Ghat in Kannauj to the Nanamau Ghat in Kanpur Dehat, in pursuit of understanding why dead bodies are piling up on our river banks in Uttar Pradesh (UP) and Bihar and why corpses are floating in the river.

Most recently, over a 12-day trip through rural UP, I personally counted more than 1,000 bodies at six different points, spread over a few thousand kilometres from the east to the west of the state.

The presence of many graves, and the fact that those who have died during the Covid-19 surge are being abandoned and dumped either because of lack of money for cremations or the continued fear and stigma around the pandemic, is horrifying. But what is even more horrifying is the Indian State’s callous refusal to acknowledge this truth. »

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Alison Bowen

The last time Neha Kaul Mehra was in her hometown of New Delhi was in October 2019 for Diwali.

She and her family decorated the house, cooked a feast and gave out gifts. A few months later, she and her parents, who are scientists, watched news coming out of Wuhan, China, anticipating the novel virus would impact whether they could see one another ahead of expected lockdowns.

Since then, a pandemic emerged, travel became impossible and she has not seen family members abroad for more than a year. »

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Xin Ping

Islamabad, May 28 (KMS): It is a marvelous scenic place on Earth. Its four seasons are testimony to the timeless beauty which has been portrayed in the lyrics of poetry. One may delightedly spot, as depicted by Shakoor Rather in his new book Life in the Clock Tower Valley, “life-size scarecrows during summers to frighten the unrelenting birds hovering over the paddy fields, and the ceremonial snowmen that delight the neighborhood children celebrating the much-awaited snowfall”.

It is Kashmir.

If British India was the jewel in the crown of the British Empire, then Kashmir has been the biggest crack in it when the crown finally fell over on that land. Since the Partition of India in 1947, three devastating wars and unending violence have submerged the Valley in blood and tears, leaving its people in grievous past and uncertain future. The humiliation and hatred incited by colonists still haunt the two peoples on that land generation after generation. »

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