The Connectere brings forward the mind’s eye and panoramic view of the young writing enthusiasts on various topics

Category: Politics Page 1 of 12

myanmar

MYANMAR: COUPS, CONFLICTS & DEMOCRACY

Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, is a South-East Asian country bordered by India, China, Bangladesh, Thailand, and Laos.  Its capital city is Naypyidaw and its largest city is Yangon, formerly known as Rangoon. The name of the country is disputed since 1989 when the military renamed it from Burma to Myanmar to reflect a new post-colonial era (inclusive of other ethnicities). However, both the words are derived from the Myamma, a name given to their ethnic majority Bamar. Internationally, countries like the US and ethnic opposition do not recognize the military as the legit authority and hence, they continue to call it Burma, whereas most of the other countries have accepted the name Myanmar. 

Recently Myanmar has been in news following a coup d’état, a military take over removing the democratically elected government. Detaining the president Win Myint as well as the Nobel Peace prize winner and counselor of state Aung San Suu Kyi.

belt and road

BELT AND ROAD INITIATIVE

The hegemony of the United States has been far too prominent since the end of the Cold War and the disintegration of the USSR. Capitalism has taken over world economics, and “the west” is seen as the ideal for the globe. If there is any country that can dare challenge or potentially prove to be a threat to this hegemony is surely the People’s Republic of China. The world’s most populated country is not only a production capital but also the most influential power in the east where almost 60% of all the people in the world reside. The Belt and Road Initiative is one such plan, that could shake the western world and put China’s name right next to the US. 

fascism

Fascism – The Tale of Mussolini’s Blackshirt Militia

Imagine living in an authoritarian ultra-nationalist country characterized by dictatorial power, forcible suppression of opposition, and strong regimentation of society, which promptly promotes gun violence and total control. Choking. But that’s exactly how Italy was, under Fascism.

 

What is fascism?

Fascism came to prominence in early 20th-century Italy. Opposed to liberalismMarxism, and anarchism, fascism is placed on the far-right within the traditional left–right spectrum. It is a method of politics. It’s a rhetorical way of running for power – the fascist ideology centers on power and is a technique to gain power.

As an economic system, fascism is socialism with a capitalist veneer. Fascism was the happy medium between boom-and-bust-prone liberal capitalism, with its alleged class conflict, wasteful competition, profit-oriented egoism, with its violent and socially divisive persecution of the bourgeoisie.

 

The beliefs of fascism

Fascism believes in the superiority of the nation – a collection of people bound together by race, ethnicity, or culture. Germans and Italians are examples of people forming nations. The way to achieve national superiority is through the state. The ultimate goal of the major fascist regimes that have existed, like the regimes of the Italian Fascist Party and the German Nazi Party, was to pursue national greatness.

The type of state needed to fulfill this goal is anti-democratic and totalitarian. Such a state is anti-democratic because it eliminates democratic institutions, like the electoral, parliamentary, and multiparty systems, that frustrate this goal of national greatness. 

  • Democratic elections are problematic because the masses elect candidates who appeal to the masses’ self-interest. This does not guarantee that the candidates have the nation’s interests in mind. This weakens the state and, ultimately, the nation.
  •  Parliament is problematic because the parties in it spend more time arguing than implementing policies. Indeed, Hitler referred to Parliament as a “twaddling shop”.
  • Other parties are problematic because, by competing with fascist parties to gain power, they prevent fascist parties from pursuing the ultranationalist goal.

Fascism, thus, is the ideology of nationalism upheld by an anti-democratic and totalitarian state.

It generally flourishes in countries with strong nationalism that attracts people to fascism’s ultranationalist goals and weak democracies that are incompetent and unresponsive. Consequently, citizens become disenchanted with it and were willing to abandon it for another regime type – fascism.

 

The rise of Fascism

From his birth in 1883, Benito Mussolini was a revolutionary. He founded his own newspaper and made it into the voice of all the elements—the veterans, the unemployed, the renegade socialists, the nationalists, and so forth—who were discontented and disillusioned with democracy. The goal was to make the citizens feel like victims, to make them feel like they’ve lost something and that the thing they’ve lost has been taken from them by a specific enemy – all the conditions that prevailed to the political and social situations in post- World War I Germany and Italy. Nationalism, in the form of national resentment, was potent. Italians and Germans believed that their national pride had been humiliated. While Italians felt this way because they believed their country had not been awarded the amount of territory it should have been awarded after War ended, the German government had accepted the Treaty of Versailles that required Germany to accept the blame for starting the War and imposed harsh reparations, on Germany. The Fascists and Nazis were appealing because they promised to restore the national greatness that citizens felt was lacking.

Around Mussolini’s banner there rapidly grew up an army of followers—from gangsters to sincere patriots. Some of them were organized into strong-arm squads, armed and uniformed as “Blackshirt Militia.” 

The Fascists put up candidates in the parliamentary elections of 1921. Altogether they received only about 5 percent of the total popular vote, but they succeeded in planting the impression that they had the solution to all of Italy’s postwar ills. The existing government had none, and so the March on Rome—a Colossal bluff—turned out a colossal success.

 

Hitler’s Germany

As seeds of World War II began to germinate in the 1930s, Mussolini believed that Britain and France were doomed by low birth rates and the relatively high age of their populations, and he determined that Italy should ally itself with rapidly growing Germany. When the Germans under Hitler easily invaded Poland in 1939, Mussolini concluded that Germany would quickly prevail and entered the war on its side. Hitler planned to return the German nation to its position as the culture-founder of this earth. Thus, the Fascist and Nazi party together established totalitarian rule. 

 

The fall of fascism

When the king had called on Mussolini to form a government in October 1922, very few people in the world had any idea of what was meant by a totalitarian form of government. Mussolini himself probably did not know what he was going to do—except stay in power. They thought Italy could later return to freedom, and in the meantime, fascism could take care of the crisis. Fascism taught the world and Hitler many of the tricks of totalitarian misrule. The final collapse of fascism, though set off when Mussolini’s frightened lieutenants threw him overboard, was brought about by allied military victories plus the open rebellion of the people.

 

The present state

Given that fascism was so clearly a response to the conditions of the 20s and 30s, it’s surprising that it has any purchase today. But bona fide fascism still exists in two forms. First, what you might call cultists – a religious sect generally extremist or false, with its followers living in an unconventional manner under the guidance of an authoritarian, charismatic leader. They can be traced among the people who marched in Charlottesville, Virginia on August 12, 2017, a march that ended in the death of a counter-protestor. The second kind of fascist is the neo-fascist -a type of one-party dictatorship that puts a nation and often race above the individual. It stands for a centralized government headed by a dictator.

Lessons from the past
Italian and German experiments with fascism offer urgent lessons for our own day.
First, the strongest protection against the one-man rule is deep and widespread respect for democracy. Mussolini undermined free speech and freedom of the press. He weakened the legislative and judicial branches of government and tried to control what people saw, heard, and read.
A second lesson from fascism is to prevent the manufacture of emergencies. By creating a widespread sense that times were desperate, Mussolini, like Hitler, was able to suppress democratic institutions and tyrannize the population.
Another lesson is the danger of racism. In arguing that whites are superior to Africans and Asians, Mussolini laid the groundwork for exploitation, oppression, and even extermination.
Ironically, it is quite possible that had Italy’s military and the economy prospered during the 1940s, Mussolini would not have fallen.
People all over the world need to remember that the price of liberty is eternal vigilance. Fascism and the hatred it breeds can undermine goodness and inflame evil. Democratic convictions that required centuries to build up can be demolished within months. This cautionary tale of Mussolini’s rise to power serves as an enduring reminder of the fragility of freedom.

privacy

PRIVACY VS NATIONAL SECURITY

Let’s just be honest. Nothing that you do online is truly “private” and at its crux, privacy is a façade. You’re kidding yourself if you believe otherwise.

The Preamble of Indian constitution opens with the glorious words “We the People..” but the tug-of-war between individual privacy and national security forces us to rethink it as “We the People under watch”. As assertive as it is, privacy is a fundamental right “guaranteed” but the shaking reliance on citizen privacy and indecisive debates against security brings the sphere back on determining the scope of these provisions and even harder to strike a balance between the two.

Elections

WEST BENGAL ELECTIONS 2021

The stage is set up for one of the most competitive battles ever fought in Independent India- the poll battle is gearing up in the Eastern state of West Bengal. An incumbent Trinamool Congress (TMC) faces a highly resurgent Bharatiya Janata Party in Bengal. This poll battle will be setting up the tone of future Indian political parties. The two-term Chief Minister Ms. Mamata Banerjee faces an uphill task: to retain the majority in the assembly elections fighting against the most formidable election machinery in the history of India- the BJP. The other stakeholders- the Left-Congress alliance haven’t caught the public attention. The once-mighty Left- after having been vanquished by TMC after a three-decade-long rule is no more formidable. The Congress is not even a shadow of its previous self- having relegated to only a few districts like Malda & Murshidabad. The Trinamool- an offshoot of the Congress-led by its indomitable Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has vehemently opposed the BJP policies at the center. The BJP’s ideologue & the founder of Jan Sangh- Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, hails from the state of Bengal had never found electoral success in the eastern state until the 2019 elections. The 2019 LS elections sprang up a surprise: the BJP% vote share rose to 40% from a meager 16%. It won 18 seats mostly concentrated in North Bengal. It was a massive setback for the ruling TMC, which managed to somehow save its fortress. The Bengal electorate is considered to have gradually changed its political perception. The Congress under Siddharth Shankar Ray was vanquished in 1977. Then it took another 34 years to change the ruling party. 

 

Refugee

Political Ramifications of the European Migrant Crisis

History is testament to the fact that despite elaborate legal instruments stressing the importance of civilian-military distinction in international warfare, common people continue to be disproportionately affected in conflict zones across the world. In order to confirm this hypothesis, one need not look beyond the barbaric atrocities of recent wars in Somalia, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan etc. Each of these conflicts brutally disrupted the lives of common people and forced many of them to seek new homes. As a result, from 2014 to 2019, millions of refugees from the Middle East and Africa made their way towards Europe, often undertaking perilous journeys through the treacherous waters of the Mediterranean Sea. Those that survived this journey and made it ashore were often met with inhumane conditions, lack of employment opportunities and other problems that arise as a result of undocumented living. The incompetent and unsatisfactory response of the European Union, which was yet to completely recover from the Euro Zone debt crisis, coupled with the polarized political environment in many European States further compounded the problem. This article will be specifically addressing the political challenges, at both domestic and regional levels, that emerged during and in the aftermath of this crisis.

Taliban

Understanding Terrorism: TALIBAN

In 1979, when the Soviet army invaded Afghanistan to support its communist government, they had to fight a resistance – known as the Mujahideen – supported by the US, Pakistan, China and Saudi Arabia, among other countries. The Taliban, or “students” in the Afghani language, emerged in northern Pakistan post the withdrawal of Soviet troops in the early 1990s from Afghanistan, when the civil war was still going on. 

boko haram

Understanding Terrorism: Boko Haram

“Religion is so frequently a source of confusion in political life, and so frequently dangerous to democracy, precisely because it introduces absolutes into the realm of relative values.”
― Reinhold Niebuhr

Formerly known as Jamā’at Ahl as-Sunnah lid-Da’wah wa’l-Jihād and commonly known as Boko Haram, there is a jihadist terrorist organization based in Nigeria whose operations expand into the countries of Chad, Niger and Cameroon as well. Founded in 2002 by Mohammed Yusuf, Boko Haram advocates strict adherence to Sharia law. 

The words Boko Haram essentially translates to ‘Western education is forbidden’ or ‘Western influence is a sin’. The group is against any form of westernization and focuses on propagating Islam amongst people through methods they deem proper and necessary. 

Initially, the purpose of the group was simply to purify Islam through nonviolent methods which is why any warnings that were given to the Nigerian government about it were overlooked. In 2009, Boko Haram’s leader and founder was arrested and it was rumoured that he died while trying to escape from the police and post that, they started to adopt violent methods which commenced a mass prison break encompassing breaking out of 105 Boko Haram members along with 600 other prisoners. 

Random shootings at police and even at common people became popular where the reasons cited were either none or for the revenge of the killing of Mohammed Yusuf. After the death of Yusuf and the jail break out, the reins of the party came in the hands of Abubakar Shekau who was mostly successful in keeping the various Boko Haram factions from fighting. 

Since 2009, Boko Haram has been indulging in suicide bombing and merciless killing of people. The most prominent violent activities include blowing up of the United Nations building in 2011, kidnapping 276 girls from Chibok in 2014 and abduction of 350+ boys from Kankara in 2020. There has been loss of countless lives, uprooting uncountable lives through such acts of terrorism. 

The abduction in 2014 had resulted in a worldwide outcry promoted by #BringBackOurGirls and even though most of the girls were returned, some are still missing. Additionally, these girls have faced rejection in the society because of the stigma surrounding sexual violence. With regards to the kidnapping in 2020, 344 boys have been released, however an unknown number still remain missing. 

A state of emergency had been declared in 2012 which lasted for an entire year. The economy of Nigeria has been hit badly because of Boko Haram since there had been several curfews imposed by the government to restrict the group. Although Nigeria accounts for about 60% of Africa’s population, a majority of its people earn just about $1 per day while having large families to feed. 

Boko Haram has strong connections with various militant groups outside Nigeria, the most popular being Al-Qaeda. Goodluck Jonathan, an ex-president of Nigeria, went so far as to call Boko Haram “the Al-Qaeda in West Africa”. 

In 2019, the president of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, stated that Boko Haram had been technically defeated but the acts of violence by them have only escalated since. In their 18 years of existence, according to the United Nations, about 36000 people have lost their lives and more than 2 million people have been displaced. During their insurgency in 2010, Boko Haram was known as the world’s deadliest terrorist organization according to the Global Terrorism Index in terms of the number of people they killed. Boko Haram uses numerous child soldiers (including 12-year olds) and women for suicide bombers as they blend with the crowd easily and draw lesser suspicion. A study shows that almost 40% of the soldiers in the Boko Haram group are underage.

While the Nigerian government has been receiving support from countries such as China, United States, United Kingdom, etc. in the form of troops and military equipment, it is not enough to squash the efforts of Boko Haram as it has now become too widespread and out of control. Additionally, the Nigerian government still lacks the equipment to confront them. 

What the government could focus on, in light of the surrendering of some militants as well as the return of the abducted kids, is providing services by rehabilitation centres so that they are not rejected by the society and do not go back to Boko Haram. They can perhaps teach them some new skills or provide support which will act as a major difference in the lives of many people who want to start over. 

“Al-Qaeda in West Africa” does require an increased amount of attention from countries all over the world so that it can be quelled and the people of Nigeria can start living their lives without being under the constant threat of being shot. In order to have an extensive knowledge about Boko Haram, the perfect book is “Boko Haram: Inside Nigeria’s Unholy War” by Mike Smith who tells the story from the perspective of a journalist along with the history and insurgence. 

 

SOURCES

Reinhold Niebuhr quote: Religion is so frequently a source of confusion in political… (azquotes.com)

Boko Haram – Wikipedia

Al Qaeda’s West African branch seeks French withdrawal, then negotiations | FDD’s Long War Journal

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