Indian expansionism’s ugly face – Hindu Fascism

For legitimising any imperialist and expansionist design, a State needs a particular ideology of “interests” that can mobilise opinion behind it within its territory, and also identify agencies outside which can justify its “cross-border” intervention. India with its rising economic interests beyond its territory has used all sorts of “identities” to create such diasporic homogeny under the garb of which it can operate. It is not very surprising that this expansionist tenor was firmly and vocally established by the Rightist forces. It can in fact be comfortably said that the rightists became a legitimate force in India only with the rise of neolliberalism, when Indian capital found Indianness, Hinduism etc to be effective in its “free” market consolidation and operation globally. One needs to cursorily go through the widely circulated weekly of Hindu fascists, Organiser and its chatterbox journalism to grasp the confident obscenity of Indian expansionism in its extreme. Recently it invented “The Western-Christian agenda in Kathmandu” and “the Christian leadership of the Maoists”, lamenting the threat to the “Hindu civilisation”:

“The bells are tolling, not just for the Nepalese monarchy, but also for the Hindu culture and civilisation of the nation.”

So embrace your khaki-nickers and oiled lathis to save monarchy, save Hinduism… while the Nepali resources – human and natural – are plundered by Indian interests in the name of “economics above politics”. Similarly, it was the leader of opposition, the instigator of the Babri Mosque demolition LK Advani who first petitioned the Indian government to “save Indians” in Uganda, where the Ugandan people are struggling against the Mehta group’s acquisition of Mabira forests.

Uganda and global media propaganda

All over the world, the media projected the recent Ugandan agitation against the multinational acquisition of the country’s forest resources as racist. Indian media tout court led the wave by raising the ghost of Idi Amin. It seemed something like the Nazis’ holocaust. This is not for the first time that South Asians have raised similar metaphors. Post-1990 Hindu rightists have time and again used them to stress on the parallels between the Jews and Hindus, the uniqueness of Israel and India. Also, Indian governments have been proactively self-imposing themselves as protectors of People of Indian-origin (PIO) all over the world. World imperialism and its watchdogs which are ever ready to club Anti-globalisation movements, terrorism, fundamentalists – all their ‘evil’ enemies, “bad guys” together have found this Indian expansionism and its rising crossborder interests and concerns handy for their mission. This allows them to corner the ‘third world’ movements and regimes who pose threat to world capitalist interests.

One PIO MP in Uganda, Sanjay Tanna has clearly rebutted such propaganda. He “said it was unfortunate that the media had focused on the death of one Asian and portrayed Uganda as a racist country. He said two Ugandans lost their lives and many others were injured or lost property. He explained that Rawal’s death came from a sequence of events, which included an attempt by some Asians to drive through the demonstrators.” (New Vision, April 17 2007)

Regarding, the global imperialist usage of Indian expansionism, I wrote the following almost a year back during Bush’s India visit in February 2006 (Counterpunch), which might be relevant here too:

On the other hand, India’s mastery of ‘unreliable’, and ‘rogue’ polities, and its ability to forge indigenous clients in those polities make it a worthy partner for other global powers whose recent hyper-interventionism has reduced their own ability in this regard. Conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq have further attested this inability of the US hegemony, at least–political forces against which wars were waged in these countries were erstwhile US allies. These conflicts are symptomatic of the crisis of the US hegemony more than the unipolarity of the post-Cold War era. Unlike the ideology of the “Soviet threat”, the post-Cold War ideologies of human rights and non-proliferation could not form the legitimate basis for forging international alliances, since the duplicity of the “global powers” on those same accounts are too apparent. In fact, the orientalist bases of these ideologies have further curtailed the First World’s ability to directly manipulate political forces in the “third world”. At this juncture, ‘mediocre’ powers like India could become relevant interfaces between the two worlds, for perpetuating and sustaining global capitalism and its political structure.

Ugandan Indians against Mabira sale

Mehta blackmails

In the aftermath of the popular protest against the Ugandan government’s sale of Mabira to the Mehta Group, it seems Mehtas are using the classic business blackmailing of a monopolist – if Ugandans don’t buy their sugar they will sell it to Congo and Sudan. Apparently, Uganda suffers a domestic sugar demand deficit of about 40000 tons annually”. Mehtas seems to have convinced the President Museveni “that if Scoul gets the 7100 hectares of Mabira it will immediately sort out the domestic demand deficit.” (The Monitor, March 28 2007)

Ugandan Indians’ position

It is interesting to see Uganda’s Indian Community coming out against Mehta:

“During a five-hour meeting on Friday at their association headquarters in Nakasero, Kampala, on Friday, the Indians were bitter that Mr J. S. Mehta’s demand for the forest and his subsequent statements had inflamed the locals against all Indians. “Our community is saying that if he wants to export the sugar, then what is he doing in Uganda? Why does he want the Ugandan forest?” said some Indians. The coordinator of the Indian Association, Singh Parminder, confirmed that most Indians were unhappy with Mr Mehta’s utterances. “As an association, we disassociated ourselves from individual comments. He (Mehta) cannot talk like that,” Mr Singh told Sunday Monitor yesterday.

…The Indians said that most of them were unaware of Mehta’s dealings and that the Indian community should therefore not be punished for his sins. “Why should Ugandans punish us because of Mehta? When he (Mehta) gets his money, he eats it alone,” one of the Indians at the meeting recounted to Sunday Monitor.

Tororo MP Sanjay Tanna said yesterday that: “all the Indian associations in Uganda disassociated themselves from Mehta.” At the closed meeting, several Indians agreed that cutting Mabira Forest to pave way for Mehta to grow sugarcane was an absurd idea.” (The Monitor, April 15, 2007)

Referendum on the Mabira issue

A demand to hold referendum on the Mabira sellout has been raised, by the Tororo unit of Uganda People’s Congress.

Uganda – a case of ‘new’ imperialism

It is sad that a young Indian worker died in the recent popular protests against the sale of Mabira forest in Uganda to an Indian multinational, Mehta Group. The Indian government has also reacted and contacted the Ugandan government for ensuring the safety of the Indian community. However, it has nothing to say about the Mehta deal, as the Ugandan government and business themselves are fully behind it and are ready to secure Indian capitalist interests. The mainstream media in India and elsewhere is trying to equate the scenario with Idi Amin’s anti-Asian drive, which is a clear attempt to sideline the issue of Indian imperialism, how Indian businesses have usurped Ugandan resources. The Mehta deal is not only an environmental disaster, but would also destroy local farmers, by its monopoly. Obviously, the local resentment and growing competition within a saturated local labour market in the absence of an effective counter-hegemonic solidarity make immigrant workers an easy target, providing a pretext to defocus and delegitimise the genuine grievances and legitimise repression.

A report rightly captures some issues behind the Ugandan protests:

It is time Indian businesses stop exploiting native Ugandan people, imported workers from India and, Ugandan national resources

Arun Sen
Apr. 14, 2007

It is shame what the Indian businesses have done in Kenya and Uganda. They exploited native Ugandan people, imported workers from India and Ugandan national resources. The atrocities go beyond imagination. Two Indians were killed and a temple attacked by a mob in Kampala. The mob was protesting against the alleged cutting down of a protected rain forest by an Indian firm.

Business communities in India run these Indian firms. They bribe local Ugandan authorities to do anything they like. They care little about human rights and Ugandan national interests.

According to media reports, Indians in the Ugandan capital Kampala are still frightened and shaken after Thursday’s mob attack in which at least two Indians were killed and a Hindu temple attacked by a mob protesting the proposed expansion plan of an Indian sugar firm by cutting down a protected rainforest.

The mob attack was an act of terror. But what the Indian business community did in Uganda is equally deplorable. The Ugandan Government is responsible. They take bribes from the rich business community from India and let them exploit Ugandans and imported workers from India. If some one tries to protest the atrocities, the Indian businesses bribe the local authorities and put the whistle blower in jail. Many imported Indian workers from India were put in jail because they demanded humane treatment. At the end these imported workers go back to India losing all they had accumulated from savings in Uganda. They can get out of jail but lose their all savings. The mob was protesting at the move by the Sugar Corporation of Uganda Limited (Scoul), part of the Indian-owned Mehta group, to expand its sugar estates by cutting the Mabira rain forest- one of Uganda’s last remaining patches of natural forest. It has been a nature reserve since 1932.

…The controversy began last year when the Ugandan government ordered a study into whether to cut down nearly a third of Mabira- one of Uganda’s last remaining patches of natural forest.

The government’s proposal had angered many in the country who alleged that the environmental costs of slashing the forest would far exceed the economic benefits of the plantation.

Until 1972, Asians constituted the largest non-indigenous ethnic group in Uganda. In that year, the Idi Amin regime expelled 50,000 Asians, who had been engaged in trade, industry, and various professions. In the years since Amin’s overthrow in 1979, Asians have slowly returned. They continued their atrocities against civilized norm of society after returning back to Uganda. The mob outbreak is sad and deplorable. It is time for Ugandans to take control over their own country.