The demolition of the Babri Masjid this month ten years ago is a marker. It lent a blow to dreams of freedom and well being from which we are yet to recover, because what has followed has been worse. No country in South Asia has remained untouched. The brutality and jingoism that this act inaugurated has become the hallmark of politics in the entire region. Never were relations between the neighbouring countries as bad as they are today. Never were governments in each of these countries so willing to fulfill the designs of Imperialism or were so indifferent to the aspirations of their own people. Unimaginable brutalities have been perpetrated in the name of religion, and religious minorities have been at the receiving throughout the sub continent—the Muslims and Christians in India, the Hindus in Bangladesh, and Hindus and Christians in Pakistan. BJP ruled India has been big brother in many ways, not least in showing the way towards the ‘brave new world’ and in involving scales outrunning its neighbours. A signed peace in Sri Lanka should not make us forget that it has been a decade of ethnic and religious strife there as well. Nepal too has had its share of violence in the form of attacks on democracy as the regime after regicide claims legitimacy.
That people do not count in State’s reckoning is another indication of the violence that this decade will be remembered for. India has taken lead in this as well, the government boasting of increasing outputs and grain exports even as newspapers report starvation deaths in many states of the country. But a shocking fall in living standards of people and unprecedented stress on survival strategies is true of the entire region.
Not surprisingly attacks on democratic rights have followed the rollback in state subsidies and welfare expenditure as governments in South Asia allow advanced countries to shift their burdens of crises on the people of their own countries for short term gains of approval from the US government.
As we put this issue on the Net comes the news that the Hindutva party BJP, and the architect of the genocide of Muslims in Gujarat, Mr. Narendra Modi, have swept the Gujarat assembly elections. Another sad day for South Asia.
In this issue of Akhbar we focus on what this decade has meant for the people of South Asia, and ways in which resistance to attacks on democracy continue to express themselves.
Three Essays Press for books on history, education, culture, media, society and politics with a South Asian accent and a contemporary slant.