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Mainstream, VOL LIX No 31, New Delhi, July 17, 2021

Letter to the Readers, Mainstream, July 17, 2021

Friday 16 July 2021

Letter to the Readers, Mainstream, July 17, 2021

The week began with ‘Smart Cities’ of Dharamshala, Chandni Chowk area of Delhi, Gurugram all being hit hard by Monsoon rain. But the worst hit was Dharamshala the famous refuge for Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama in Himachal Pradesh which saw a surprising man made flood. Dharamshala is no stranger to heavy rain, so what was different this time is what happened to the rain water. Some 10 people were reported missing (might be dead), 184 roads blocked, umpteen cars and shops washed were away. All this due to encroachments on natural drains and cementing of drain tracts, rivulets, ponds which in the past absorbed rain water but now just make it gush past. Thank you smart alecs who make money from the Smart City Casino.

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The WHO emergency committee in Geneva has warned the world that the Covid-19 pandemic continues to evolve with many variants of concern developing and pointed out the risk of new zoonotic diseases. But in India, after the second wave of Covid-19, we have been hearing of huge crowds of tourists flooding the hills and now big religious pilgrimages are in the works. The Kanwar Yatra needs to be cancelled or it could spell a deadly third wave of the pandemic. The Supreme Court Judges have taken up the matter, Justice Nariman told Solicitor General Tushar Mehta: “We read something disturbing in The Indian Express today that the state of UP has chosen to continue with the Kanwar Yatra, while the state of Uttarakhand with its hindsight of experience, has said that there will be no Yatra… Citizens of India are completely perplexed and don’t know what is going on. And all this amid the Prime Minister, when asked about a third wave of Covid striking the nation, saying ‘we cannot compromise even one bit’.”

Will the Uttar Pradesh government of Yogi Aditynath listen to the advice of the Supreme court and deny permission to the multi million man Kanwar Yatra this year?.

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For past several years this was a writing on the wall for all to read and be aware in South Asia. The Americans were preparing their exit from Afghanistan and they took the path of talking to the Taliban, the very forces they had been combating in a twenty year long war. Now, with each passing day there are alarmist reports on the situation in Afghanistan, following the ongoing exit of American troops and ever-growing control over large regions by the Taliban. It is clear as daylight that the Taliban are not interested in joining some ‘joint democratic national government’ of compromise and only want ‘a pure’ Islamic state that they control. In the regions already under Taliban control the past years we have heard of their reactionary policies. We don’t know how well prepared the Indian officials have been to the coming crisis, they have had to recently abandon their consulate in Kandahar and fly out the officials. BTW, one of security blokes from India who negotiated the release of hostages of the hijacked Indian Airlines Flight 814 in 1999 is now the National Security Advisor (NSA). It is only a matter of time when the Taliban eventually take control over the Afghan capital. They have taken control over several sensitive zones including the border town of Spin Boldak bordering Balochistan (part of the senior leadership of the Taliban live in Quetta) province of Pakistan.

Our resident anti-imperialist chieftains of the left who have long sloganeered against the American war in Afghanistan without ever proposing and promoting a practical regional alternative solution have now woken up; The former general secretary of the CPI-M (known for the ability to sniff out real ‘fascism’ from other conditions) is suggesting that India (i.e. spooks & diplomats) follow a regional script a la Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO). Much of this week the helpless looking Jaishankar (India’s Foreign Minister) has been spotted at the SCO ballet, may be he has already taken the cue from the commissar. Will the SCO send in a peace keeping troops if needed, time will tell? With Uncle Sam Gone, and Mullah Barrdar coming soon, there will be much to do, so roll up your sleeves comrade, you can cook for the canteen, this crisis is not going away for years to come. All democrats should pledge the creation of an Indian and joint South Asian & regional fund for supporting citizens feeling fundamentalist violence & repression; to help set up secular relief camps for them and help them obtain refuge / citizenship status in India and across the region.

Major Indian newspapers are carrying editorials; India’s TV anchors are busy projecting catastrophe in Afghanistan (and worrying over China getting influential in Afghanistan, or that Pakistanis will now call the shots in Afghanistan). Their lack of familiarity stares you in the face but not to them. India claims it has spent hundreds of millions of dollars of Indian tax payers money the past decade to help build roads and infrastructure in Afghanistan, sounds good that on paper, but, it speaks volumes that the Indian media has not a single correspondent in Afghanistan. Whatever little the Indian newspaper readers or opinion makers get to know of Afghanistan is via the American or European press.

Media reports from Pakistan say the government wants to avoid a huge influx of refugees from Afghanistan. This was the the case in the 1980s with millions of Afghan refugees. Now the Pakistan authorities want international humanitarian agencies to prepare and make camps for the displaced persons on the border with Pakistan but on the Afghan side. Fancy idea this. But they should know it would be extremely difficult for Pakistan to block the refugees from spilling in from a porous border. Iran and Pakistan already host nearly 90 per cent of displaced Afghans - more than two million registered Afghan refugees.

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Tributes:

Yashpal Sharma, the former Indian Cricketer and a member of india’s 1983 World Cup Team, passed away on July 13, 2021

Naveed Alam, who was part of the Pakistan Hockey team that clinched the World Cup in Sydney in 1994 and also represented Pakistan in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, passed away on July 13, 2021 in Lahore.

Gira Sarabhai, 98, Indian architect, co-founder of the National Institute of Design (NID) in Ahmedabad, passed away on July 15, 2021.

Christian Boltanski, French sculptor, photographer and painter passed away on July 14, 2021

Surekha Sikri, the celebrated actress in India’s theatre, films and television, passed away on July 16, 2021. She passed out of the National School of Drama in 1971. Sikri made her debut in cinema with 1978 political film Kissa Kursi Ka. She received the National Film Award thrice, for her role in Tamas (1988), Mammo (1995) and Badhaai Ho (2018). Her passing is a huge huge loss.

Indian photojournalist Danish Siddiqui, a Pulitzer Prize winner, has died in Kandahar province in Afghanistan while on a reporting assignment on July 16, 2021.

We pay our tributes to the above figures

July 17, 2021 – The Editors

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