2024: A Great Battle Ahead
THE year 2023 ends with the dark shadow of the genocidal massacre of Palestinians in Gaza by the Israeli war-machine. Nearly three months of Israel’s brutal aggression has led to (till December 26) 20,915 people killed in Gaza, of which more than 8,000 are children; another 53,918 have been wounded and an unaccounted number of people are still buried in the debris of bombed buildings.
Israel’s war on the Palestinians is fully backed by the USA which has sent more lethal arms and equipment to Israel since the start of the conflict on October 7. The US has been blocking any call for an immediate ceasefire by vetoing such resolutions in the United Nations Security Council.
While the US administration’s staunch support for Israel is not a surprise, what is new, as far as India is concerned, is the Modi government’s big shift in favour of Israel declaring full support for Israel’s actions. India went to the extent of refusing to support a resolution in the UN General Assembly in October calling for a ceasefire. It is only at the second General Assembly vote in December on a resolution calling for ceasefire that India voted for it reluctantly. Not doing so would have isolated India, as every other country in Asia voted for the ceasefire.
2023 marked the final year of the Modi government’s second term in office. It has been yet another year which has seen the closing in of the walls for Indian democracy, secularism and federalism. The shifting of parliament to a new building has symbolised its new denigrated status. The last session of parliament this year saw 146 members of parliament of the opposition being suspended, underlining the Modi government’s intent to hollow out the essence of parliamentary democracy.
The desecularisation of the Indian State has proceeded apace. With judicial connivance, the question of original religious site at Kashi and Mathura is being reopened and examined. The New Year will begin with the consecration of the Ram temple at Ayodhya which has been made into a State-sponsored spectacle.
In BJP-ruled states, the minorities are being consigned to the status of second class citizens with restrictions on their livelihood like the meat-trade and periodic attacks and lynchings of those accused of transporting cows or beef. The bulldozer has become a symbol of vigilante action against Muslims.
Manipur witnessed the worst ethnic clashes from the month of May. Even after seven months, the ethnic divide between the Meitis and Kukis continues with security forces manning the buffer zone between the Valley and hill areas. The BJP chief minister is singularly responsible for this conflagration because of his partisan politics. The centre has failed to bring about a political settlement through negotiations with all sides. Manipur is a standing testimony to the havoc majoritarian politics can play in a sensitive ethnic region.
Federalism came under severe attack in 2023. Governors of opposition-ruled states became more aggressive in interfering in the affairs of the state governments and in denying the rights of state legislatures to pass laws. The Supreme Court judgment on the abrogation of Article 370 and the court’s refusal to adjudicate on the use of Article 3 of the constitution to dismantle the state of Jammu and Kashmir and create two union territories has given the stamp of judicial legitimacy to this gross violation of the federal principle.
The Modi government goes on claiming that India is the fastest growing economy in the world citing the GDP growth figures. But, in terms of GDP per capita, India was ranked the lowest among the G20 countries with 2600 dollars in 2023. Further, whatever growth was registered has not translated into increased employment. As per the latest CMIE data, the unemployment rate in October this year was 10.05, the highest level in the past 21 months, while youth unemployment was 23.22 per cent.
Prices of essential commodities, particularly food items, continue to rise imposing a big burden on the poorest sections of the people. With real wages on the decline, rising prices and soaring unemployment, India’s ranking in the global hunger index plummeted down to 111 out of 125 countries.
The corporate-communal nexus was prominently exemplified in 2023. The Hindenburg Research company’s exposure of the Adani group’s corporate fraud and stock manipulation became international news. But the Modi government stubbornly shielded Gautam Adani and refused to carry out a serious investigation into its most favoured crony capitalist. An attack on Adani was seen as an attack on India under the Hindutva dispensation. As a result of the Modi government’s benevolence to the big capitalists, income and wealth inequalities reached new heights. As per the Oxfam Report released in January 2023, the richest 1 per cent own more than 40 per cent of the wealth of the country, while the bottom half of the population together share just 3 per cent of wealth.
2023 also saw the sharpening of the instruments of repression and the widespread use of central agencies to target the opposition. The raids and arrests by the Enforcement Directorate, Central Bureau of Investigation and Income Tax Department have become cynical weapons in the hands of the ruling party.
At the fag-end of the winter session of parliament, without the opposition being present, three new criminal law bills were adopted. This was supposed to be doing away with the legacy of colonialism whereas, in fact, it was a form of re-colonialisation. There are many provisions in the new criminal laws which do away with basic safeguards of citizens and usher in a police state.
The working class and peasantry have been struggling against the communal-corporate regime. For the first time, the Central Trade Unions and the Samyukta Kisan Morcha representing the working class and kisan movements held a joint convention in September and gave a united call for a three-day mahapadav in November. This joint protest action was preceded by a number of struggles of different sections of workers and peasants in various parts of the country. The year saw more sections of the working people coming out against the neo-liberal policies of the BJP government.
The latter half of 2023 saw the opposition parties coming together to form the INDIA grouping consisting of 28 parties. The aim of the opposition combine is to put up a united fight against the BJP in the general elections to be held in April-May, 2024. This will be a fight to defend democracy, secularism and federalism – all basic features of the constitution.
The New Year, 2024, will witness this great battle which will determine India’s future.
(December 31, 2023)