IRS |Institute of Regional Studies


News Updates

19th May - 28th May
  • India’s institutions have to find a way to reassert independence
    Over the last few years, questions have been raised about Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s attempt to capture many more such bodies, whether it is the investigating agencies, the Reserve Bank of India, Parliament (through the abuse of the Money Bill), governors and, most prominently of late, the judiciary.
    Of course, central pressure on independent institutions is not new. But the centralising nature of the Modi administration, coupled with his with-us-or-against-us attitude has meant a sharper attack on independence than India has seen in some time now. Worse, in many cases, few eminent voices have spoken up against these attacks. Take the role of the Reserve Bank of India during demonetisation. There were some questions about whether the central bank had even agreed to the note ban and even more queries about the complete lack of information emerging from the RBI after the deed had been done. Yet most of those questions came from the Opposition and, to a lesser extent, the media. In the case of the judiciary, the institution best placed to withstand pressure, there has been a more visible battle, as the press conference by the four senior Supreme Court judges showed. At least there more voices have spoken up, but even those seem muted. Amid all this, it is heartening to hear that former election commissioners have noted the danger of the body losing either its independence or its independent image. As Quraishi pointed out, even if it hasn’t lost its independence, if people believe it is compromised, that itself is worrisome, especially as we enter a year that is bound to be full of fractious politicking ahead of General Elections due in 2019. Hopefully, other institutions will take their cue from the former chief election commissioners, and think about the need for independence, both in action and image. One way of getting there might be to ask for clarity from the Supreme Court, which, in the aftermath of the Karnataka election where its intervention was key, is set to continue hearing the matter of how a Governor reacts to competing claims of government formation. The Court has a chance to lay down guidelines that might be all too necessary soon enough. It should not fritter that opportunity away.(, 23 May, 2018)
  • Dalit lynched for refusing to clear trash is a reminder of Gujarat’s caste apartheid
    In the run up to the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, of Gujarat was touted as an ideal state by its then chief minister Narendra Modi. Yet, as a number of commenters pointed out, Gujarat’s economic prosperity did little to help its people – the state’s social indicators ranged from middling to poor. This is hardly surprising given the vicious anti-Dalit prejudice present in the state. On 19th May, this casteism was on naked display as a 40-year-old Dalit man, Mukesh Vaniya, was allegedly murdered in Rajkot district. Vaniya’s wife said that employees from a local factory asked them their caste and then when it was confirmed they were Dalits, wanted the couple to pick up garbage. When Vaniya and his wife refused, they were beaten. Vaniya was picked up, tied to a pole and assaulted brutally with metal rods for more than an hour. A video of the incident was also recorded. Vaniya died as a result of the assault.The incident is a clear throwback to Una in 2016, where cow vigilantes had assaulted four Dalit men for skinning a cow. There too, Dalits complained that caste conventions dictated that they were often forced to pick up dead cows just like Rajkot saw the Dalit couple being forced to pick up garbage. (, 22 May, 2018)
  • India launches second IT corridor in China to gain access to big Chinese market
    India on Sunday launched its second IT corridor in China to cash in on the burgeoning Chinese software market which remained elusive despite the presence of top Indian technology firms. (Times of India, 27 May, 2018)
12th May - 18th May
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi will travel to the Russian seaside resort of Sochi to meet President Vladimir Putin on 21st May. (The Hindu, 17 May, 2018)
  • Pakistan Army ready to join dialogue process with India.(The Hindu, 16 May, 2018)
  • Congress used most abusive language against Modi: BJP
    Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad reeled out a number of “abusive” terms such as ‘maut ka saudagar’ (merchant of death) and ‘neech’ (lowly), various Congress leaders had used to attack Modi earlier. “Congress leaders led by Manmohan Singh, who have complained misleadingly about language of Narendra Modi should check their own record of repeated denigration of a popular leader like Modi with most abusive language,” he said. It was former Congress president Sonia Gandhi who had called Modi a ‘maut ka saudagar’ while another party leader dubbed him lowly and advised him to open a tea shop, Prasad said. The senior BJP leader also referred to the coinage of ‘Gabbar Singh Tax’ by Congress president Rahul Gandhi in this regard. Mr. Gandhi had used the term to take a dig at the Modi government over the Goods and Services Tax (GST).(14 May, 2018)
  • 550 Indians stranded in Qatar
    “About 116 staff members have not received their salary since last September. The 1,100-odd personnel in the labour wing have not received their salary since January, and overtime since December. Assurances that the dues will be settled have not been honoured. We are like refugees,” an HKH W.L.L. employee from Kerala told The Hindu over the phone on Monday. Of the stranded Indians, 526 fall under the category of labourers. (The Hindu, May 14, 2018)
3rd May - 11th May
  • 24 killed, over 100 injured as dust storm wreaks havoc in Rajasthan.( Hindustan Times, May 3, 2018)
  • Row over Jinnah’s portrait at Aligarh Muslim University:
    By all accounts, the violence at Aligarh Muslim University was twofold. First, intruders who were allegedly from the Hindu Yuva Vahini barged in and reportedly tried to disrupt a ceremony at which former vice president Hamid Ansari was to be granted lifetime membership of the university students’ union. Hindutva groups maintain that the real object of their ire was a portrait of Mohammad Ali Jinnah, which has hung in the students’ union building since 1938. Second, when students of the university tried to file a first information report, they were lathi-charged and tear gassed by the police. The first is alarming in itself, part of an epidemic of hooliganism, a growing trend of reacting to ideas that one does not like with physical force. The second is also frightening, for it suggests that those protesting against such hooliganism will have no recourse to law; that they will, in fact, be punished. Why should a portrait that has hung in the university halls for 80 years suddenly draw anger? It betrays a new fragility in our national ego, which thrives on a virulent anti-intellectualism. Educational institutions, it seems, must conform to prescriptive nationalist histories or pay the price. The Aligarh Muslim University was founded in 1875 by Sir Syed Ahmed Khan as the Mohammedan Anglo-Oriental College. Modelled on the universities of Oxford and Cambridge, it was aimed at establishing a modern system of education for Muslims in British India. It became an important centre of thought during the freedom movement and played a key role in fashioning a modern Muslim identity in the subcontinent. The portrait of Jinnah, who was made lifetime member of the university students’ union, belongs to this particular past. It was put up long before Indian and Pakistani histories were bifurcated. To erase this past is regressive.(, May 4, 2018)
  • 28 civilians killed in Kashmir
    All mainstream parties of Jammu and Kashmir, including the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), on Wednesday asked the Centre to declare “a unilateral ceasefire for the month of Ramzan and the period of the Amarnath Yatra.” “There was a unanimous decision of all the parties at the meeting that the Government of India consider a unilateral ceasefire in view of the coming month of Ramadhan and Amarnath Yatra to extend relief to the masses. The parties suggested that the Centre offer the ceasefire as former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee did in [November] 2000,” Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti said after the meeting of all regional parties at Sher-i-Kashmir International Convention Centre here. She had called for an all-party meeting in the wake of growing encounters and civilian casualties in street protests, especially in the past 40 days, leaving 69 people, including 28 civilians and a Chennai tourist, dead.(The Hindu May 10, 2018)
Credit: Maryam Mastoor