Monthly Archives

May 2019


New species of orchid discovered in Tibet

Researchers have discovered a new species of orchid in southwestern China’s Tibet Autonomous Region and the finding has been published on a scientific journal.

Li Jianwu, senior engineer of the Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and one of the authors said the new species was found during a botanical survey in 2017 in the Yarlung Zangbo River Basin in Bomi and Medog counties in Tibet.

Growing on trees or mossy rocks near the riverside with an altitude of 1,700 to 2,000 meters, the orchid has conical pseudobulbs, ovate-oblong leaves, and ovate-rhomnus petals.

Researchers transplanted the orchid to the tropical botanical garden in southwestern Yunnan Province and later confirmed it as a new species.

The new finding has been published on Phytotaxa. (Xinhua))

Human Rights, International

Rohingyas trying to get refugee certificate from UN for staying in India

Rohingya Muslims, who have illegally entered India, are trying to obtain certificate of refugee status from United Nations. This has come to light on Tuesday when Railway police arrested five Rohingyas from Guwahati Railway Station here.

The GRP officials said the five arrested Rohingyas were trying to go to Delhi to obtain a certificate of refugee status from United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees (UNHCR) in New Delhi.

Police officials said the Government Railway Police (GRP) staff arrested them from platform no. 1 of the railway station.

At first, GRP staff had apprehended two boys and a girl when they were not able to provide valid identity proofs. After interrogation, two boys were also arrested along with the other three persons.

As per reports, the arrested persons are originally from Myanmar and were trying to go to Delhi. The arrested persons have been identified as Makakmyayum Sahenas, MD Zubar, Mohammad Kamal Hussain, Nurul Hakim and Mohammad Kalimula.

They had earlier been arrested by the Manipur police in 2018.

The GRP sleuths found Myanmar made preserved fruit packets, sweets , white coffee and various kinds of edibles in their possession.

Mizoram police had recently arrested 12 suspected Rohingya refugees—eight women and four boys—for illegally entering the state from Bangladesh.

The suspected Rohingyas entered Mizoram from Bangladesh sans valid travel documents. They were found in the residence of a woman in Bawngkwan area of Mizoram.

They had claimed that her cousin, who lives at Tahan in Myanmar, had asked her for a favour for keeping the “guests” before being taken to the neighbouring country.

Earlier in April, eight Rohingya women were detained at Vairengte along India-Myanmar border for trying to enter Mizoram illegally and were pushed back.

More than 700,000 Rohingya Muslims fled from Myanmar’s Rakhine state to neighbouring Bangladesh since August 2017 after a military crackdown, triggering a massive refugee crisis. (Source: NE Now)

Art & Culture

What’s brewing up the Himalayas

Communities in the Himalayan region prepare an intoxicant as part of their prayer ritual

For the Himalayan folk, their drinking sessions are as important as their daily prayers. This spirited ritual always begins by offering a few drops of their drink to their Gods and ancestors.

A lot of precision and patience, care and a keen sense of timing go into the preparation of their blends. It takes several months of drying, smoking, fermenting and filtering before it is poured into a bamboo shoot, sipped with a bamboo pipe or into a simple glass to be consumed. Served at room temperature, these brews leave behind sweet, malty and spicy memories on the palate.

Every community in the Himalayan region has its own unique intoxicant, a concoction made from fermented rice, barley or millet, sometimes mixed with herbs and sometimes not. The Adis of Arunachal Pradesh relish their Apong, a local rice beer with different flavours. The Chang, ‘hot beer’ made by fermenting millet, using yeast is Sikkim’s heartbeat.

‘Soor’, the most celebrated elixir, overflows at every communal gathering of the Jaunsaris and the Parvatis of the Tons Valley in Uttarakhand. It is made from keem, a cake prepared from the roots, leaves and flowers of the local florae combined with fruit pulp, barley or finger millets and kept aside to ferment after which the distilled ‘soor’ is collected in a pot. For the Himachali, it is ‘Lugdi,’ a very crude local beer that is made from sour barley or rice. The sweet-sour frothy beer ‘Chhang’ presides over every function in Ladakh and is famous among the people of Sikkim too.

Dried wild apricots and apples are used in the transparent ‘Chulli,’ very popular among the Kinnauris. The enophiles of the Ribbu region of Kinnaur adore their ‘Anguri’ a potent wine made from red and green grapes.

Araq is a favourite among the simple mountain people of the Spithi Valley. The boiled rice or barley, stored in huge containers for many months is mixed with water. After another month, some of this Chang is taken in a big vessel inside which another vessel is placed to collect the araq through a process of condensation. It is covered with yet another hollow vessel, which is filled with chunks of ice and kept over a low flame for nearly three hours.

The alcoholic beverages of the Himalaya have medicinal properties as well. Besides keeping the body warm, they are a great cure for cold related ailments and fever.

by J. Ramanan and Vrinda Ramanan

The writers are ace photographers known for their travelogues,

 The Hindu


Multiple threats to Himalayan biodiversity

The Indian Himalayas, which constitute about 12% of the country’s landmass, is home to about 30.16% of its fauna, says a new publication from the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI).

The publication, Faunal Diversity of Indian Himalaya, lists 30,377 species/subspecies in the region with the entire identified fauna in the country adding up to 1,00,762.

Spread across six States — from Jammu and Kashmir in the west through Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim and West Bengal’s Darjeeling to Arunachal Pradesh in the far east —the Indian Himalayas are divided into two bio-geographic zones — the Trans-Himalaya and the Himalaya, based on physiographic, climatic and eco-biological attributes.

Pit viper

Pit viper

Abundance of species

The entire region, spread over 3.95 lakh sq. km., is home to 280 species of mammals, 940 species of birds, 316 species of fishes, 200 species of reptiles and 80 species of amphibians. This put together accounts for 27.6% of the total vertebrate diversity of the country.

The central Himalayas are the most rich in faunal diversity with 14,183 species, followed by the west Himalayas, which is home to 12,022 species.

Dr. Kailash Chandra, Director of ZSI, one of the authors of the publication, said no other geographic region in the country is as unique and influences the ecology and bio-geography of the country as the Indian Himalayas.

Black-necked Crane (Grus nigricollis) seen near Rhongo village Ladakh (1)

Black-necked Crane (Grus nigricollis) seen near Rhongo village Ladakh 

Extensive collaboration

According to Dr. Chandra, 85 taxonomic experts and specialists of various groups of faunal groups actively collaborated and contributed more than 50 chapters on the organisms, their habitats and the threats facing them.

In addition to Dr. Chandra, the publication has been co-authored by K.C. Gopi, Devanshu Gupta, Bausudev Tripathi and Vikas Kumar.

Measuring the range of species spread over the biotic provinces of the vast Indian Himalayan land mass, the authors aimed to identify areas for future research.

Dr. Chandra said the fauna of the region exhibited an intermingling of both the Oriental and Palaearctic-Ethiopian elements. He explained that the eastern parts of the Indian Himalayas, a bio-diversity hotspot, had tropical elements with their affinities from Indo-Chinese and Malayan sub-regions of the Oriental region. The fauna of the western part of the Indian Himalayas on the other hand, comprises the Mediterranean and Ethiopian elements.

The Indian Himalayas also have 131 protected areas, which cover 9.6% of the entire protected area of the country, almost the same as the Western Ghats (10% of protected areas), another biodiversity hotspot in the country. The protected areas include 20 national parks, 71 wildlife sanctuaries, five tiger reserves, four biosphere reserves and seven Ramsar Wetland sites.

The publication lists 133 vertebrate species of the region cited as threatened in the IUCN Red List. This includes 43 species of mammals like the critically endangered Pygmy Hog, the Namdapha flying squirrel and the endangered Snow leopard, the Red Panda and the Kashmir Gray Langur.

Fifty-two species of birds are also in the threatened category like the critically endangered White-Bellied Heron and Siberian crane and vulnerable species like the Black Necked crane and the Indian Spotted eagle, among others. Of the 940 bird species found in the Indian Himalayas, 39 are endemic to the region.

The Indian Himalayas host 1,249 species/subspecies of butterflies, with the highest density recorded in Arunachal Pradesh. Some of the rare high-altitude butterflies found in the Himalayas are Parnassius stoliczkanus (Ladakh banded Apollo) and Parnassius epaphus (Red Apollo), listed under Schedule I and Schedule II of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, respectively.

Role of climate change

According to experts, most of the threatened species of vertebrates, particularly mammals, require population assessment and study of the role of climate change on their habitat.

Climate change is the major threat as far as mammals and birds are concerned. The impact is visible in the shifting distribution of sensitive species like the Asiatic Black Bear, the Snow leopard, and the Himalayan Marmot. “Carnivores and their habitats are threatened by ever-increasing human-wildlife conflict in the region,” the publication states.

Habitat loss due to land use change, illegal wildlife trade, forest fires and increasing anthropogenic activities pose threats to this Himayalan biodiversity, the publication underlines.

by Shiv Sahay Singh

Environment, Science

Endangered Himalayan yew, high value medicinal plant of Himalaya, on the brink of extinction

by Seema Sharma | TNN |

Kullu based GB Pant Institute of Himalayan Environment and Development based in Himachal Pardesh has
conducted a study on ‘Population Ecology of the Endangered Himalayan Yew, in Khokhan Wildlife Sanctuary (Khokhan WLS) of
North western Himalaya for conservation management.
Yew is an endangered native high value medicinal plant of the Himalayan region. The several medicinal properties of the bark
and leaves of this species have increased its risk of extinction due to pressures for utilization. The species does not regenerate
from seed which is another risk factor. Six forest communities where the species is present were sampled in the study, which
revealed that abundance of the species, impacts of harvesting and its current regeneration patterns indicate that it may soon
be disappear from the Sanctuary. A plan for conservation the remaining sub-population was also presented in the study, which
could provide a template for conservation in other locations where this species is at risk.
The objective of the research were to assess the status of Himalayan yew in the Khokhan WLS to provide factors responsible
for depletion of the population and develop a strategy for conservation of the species in the sanctuary.
Khokhan WLS is located in the Kullu district in North West Himalaya. Globally , the yew is primarily valued for the medicinal
properties of taxol. As per dictionary meaning, a compound, originally obtained from the bark of the yew tree, which has been
found to inhibit the growth of certain cancers. Its anti-cancerous properties were first reported in 1964. In India, the
conservation community became concerned that increased utilisation of Himalayan yew made it more vulnerable. The tree is
also a source of drug Zarnab, which is frequently used in the Unani system of medicine. The extract derived from the bark and
leaves is used to cure bronchitis, asthma, acute headache, cough &cold and poisonous insect bites and is also used as
5/11/2019 Endangered Himalayan yew, high value medicinal plant of Himalaya, on the brink of extinction – Times of India 2/2
Besides from its medicinal use, yew wood has value as an extremely hard and durable wood product. In East-Anglia and India,
yew wood has been used for making furniture, for wood carving and also for fuel. Because of its many beneficial uses,
Himalayan yew has been exploited to the brink of extinction. Its habitats have been degraded by deforestation and human land
uses. These effects are further exacerbated by the species’ relative intolerance to fire and drought and poor regeneration.
S.S. Samant , head of the GB Pant Institute said, “Although the present study was limited to one location, its finding indicate that
there is an urgent need to develop an appropriate conservation strategy for this species. The population of Himalayan yew
throughout the Indian Himalayan region should be inventoried using standard ecological method.
A monitoring plan should be developed and implemented to determine trends in existing populations. Apart from this,
sustainable methods of bark and leaf extraction should be developed and disseminated to local inhabitant.
Further Research should be done on the regeneration of this species, both vegetative and by seed.” He further recommended
in his study that an effort should be made to enlist the aid of local residents in propagating the species. In-situ conservation of
the species should be promoted. Seedlings developed from seeds and cuttings should be transplanted to appropriate
locations in the sanctuary and their growth and survival should be monitored.
His co-researcher Shreekar Pant mentioned in the study that collection of wood for fuel by the gujjars and inhabitants of the
peripheral villages has caused damage, increased susceptibility to disease and likewise contributed to mortality. The
information gathered during this study indicated that 50% of the surviving yew trees have been affected by bark removal and
remainder are subject to lopping and felling for fuel. Most bark is collected from the largest trees (60% are affected).


Does history support China’s claim over Arunachal Pradesh?

Harendra Nath Bora

As per a recent news item, China destroyed thousands of world maps showing Arunachal Pradesh as part of India. The maps were published in China itself by a Chinese company. While such action of the Chinese government seem to be related to their agenda on claiming Arunachal Pradesh as China’s, the maps, however, reflect the prevailing mindset of the Chinese public in general, about the status of Arunachal Pradesh as a part of India only. Since a couple of years back, Beijing has been frequently claiming the entire Arunachal Pradesh as China’s although its bone of contention with India in the eastern sector, initially, was related to the Tawang tract only. Such newer claims of China are not confined to India only, but also include the other neighbouring countries, such as Japan, South Korea, Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Taiwan etc.

As per a report, China has started raising such claims under influence of their newly grown sense on their perceived historical losses of territories comparing China’s present borders with that which had existed during the mighty Qing rulers’ period (1644-1912). The extent of the Chinese empire reached its zenith during this period which also included areas of the neighbouring countries. However, no areas of the present Arunachal Pradesh were ever a part of China under the Qing or any other rule. The present Chinese leadership being obsessed with their so-called “lost territories” have resorted to agenda, both overt and covert in their bid to recover the said “lost territories”. As a part of such hidden agenda, the Chinese are perhaps raising their claim over Arunachal Pradesh, unduly, giving the plea that Arunachal Pradesh is South Tibet and therefore, belonged to China.

Although, the Chinese claim that Tibet had all along been a part of the Chinese empire, Tibet’s history is otherwise. Historical records on Tibet are available from the seventh century onwards only. During the seventh to ninth century AD, a number of Tibetan kings ruled Tibet independently and at a time, even, the Tibet kingdom included territories of the present Chinese provinces of Gansu and Yunnan. Even during the subsequent rule of China by the different dynasties, viz., Yuan, Ming and the Qing, Tibet’s status was something like a feudatory state enjoying enormous autonomy when ruled by the Dalai Lama in his capacity as the Buddhist religious chief.

During this time, Tibet was recognised and honoured by the Chinese monarchs as the authority on religious and spiritual matter. During the Qing dynasty rule, the Chinese posted an official namely, ‘Amban’ who was stationed at Lhasa and he was like a Chinese High Commissioner in Tibet. In 1904, the British carried out a military expedition against Tibet. Led by Colonel Younghusband from the India side, the British had to fight with the Tibetan forces only and not the Chinese Army. The then Dalai Lama — ruler of Tibet — fled to Mongolia and eventually, the British Colonel signed the Anglo-Tibetan Treaty of Lhasa with the Tibetan Regent and the Tibetan National Assembly. The Chinese Amban’s authority was not taken into account while signing the mentioned treaty. The aforesaid position only shows that even during the rule of the mighty Chinese Qing rulers, Tibet enjoyed its freedom from China.

Then with fall of the Qing dynasty in 1911, the Dalai Lama returned to Tibet and after expelling the Chinese Amban he started to rule Tibet as a fully Independent and sovereign country from 1913 till 1950. In 1950, the People’s Liberation Army of China occupied Tibet by defeating the Tibetan Army. In the following few years, with a lot of political manoeuvres by the Chinese and using show of force by the PLA, Tibet was annexed to China, in spite of widespread protest and condemnation from the world community. There was, however, not even a symbolic protest from India against this incursion of the Chinese into Tibet.

India’s silence apparently emboldened the Chinese to complete the full annexation of Tibet with China within the next couple of years. The Tawang tract, covering nearly 2% area of the present Arunachal Pradesh which was a part of Tibet was ceded to India in 1950 by the then independent and sovereign Tibet just before the Chinese incursion to save the sanctity of the Tawang Monastery. Tawang areas are now legally and constitutionally a part of India along with the entire Arunachal Pradesh which status has been recognised by the entire world.

The areas under present Arunachal Pradesh except the tiny Tawang tract never formed part of Tibet and, therefore, cannot be termed as South Tibet which the Chinese often used to say. As regards China’s claim over Arunachal Pradesh, no historical evidences, whatsoever are available in their support. The Chinese did not have any military control or military post in Arunachal Pradesh at any point of time. The French born historian and Tibetologist Claude Arpi has written in his book ‘1962 and the McMahon Line Saga’ that “…during the last two millennia , the Chinese have never set a foot in what is today Arunachal Pradesh & former NEFA, except for one short visit in one particular location.”

The referred to ‘short visit’ was that of a Chinese Army contingent while in an expedition to Tibet in 1911 to suppress the Tibetan revolt against all foreigners including the Chinese. It came down to Wallong and planted some token boundary marks. The same were subsequently uprooted and confiscated by the British India forces and kept the areas free from further incursion of both the Chinese and the Tibetans. In any case, a casual incursion of this type does not mean that the entire Arunachal Pradesh was under the Chinese control.

The history of Arunachal Pradesh being so, it was never ever a part of Tibet or China (except the small Tawang tract), the claim over entire Arunachal Pradesh by China is nothing but an absurd proposition under some hidden agenda or motive.

On the other hand, there is abundant evidence of India’s political, religious and cultural presence in Arunachal. The ruins and relics of Bhishmak Nagar, Parasuram Kunda, Malini Than, Bhalukpung, the Brick Fort or Itanagar are some pieces of historical evidences of Indian cultural and political presence in Arunachal Pradesh in the period of early history. In the medieval period also, the tribes of Arunachal Pradesh remained independent who, however, expressed their loyalty to the rulers of Assam and in return, the Assam kings accorded the tribesmen free and safe passage to the plains of Assam and treated with lavish gifts. Evidences are there that the Ahom kings had recruits in its army from the Arunachali tribes too.

Above all, that the lofty mountain range of the Himalayas, the natural boundary of India and Tibet is known to the world since the time immemorial by the nomenclature ‘Himalayas”, which is a Sanskrit word meaning ‘abode of the snow’, no doubt, suggest of Indian influence and control over the areas up to and including the Himalayan ranges.

(The writer can be reached at his email


Chinese online travel agency removes products referring to Arunachal

A leading travel agency of China known as International Limited has removed its travel and accommodation services to Arunachal Pradesh from its online site after severe protests were raised in the country. International Limited, a Chinese provider of global travel services including travel and hotel accommodation, is currently regarded as the largest online travel agency in China.

China’s largest online travel agency Ctrip has removed from its platform products offering travel and accommodation services to Arunachal Pradesh following objections raised by Chinese netizens.

A report in the Global Times stated that the travel agency had removed the services after ‘We media’ exposed screenshots of its webpage and phone application that had shown products calling South Tibet as Arunachal Pradesh.

The report quoted a Ctrip publicity department employee as saying that the company had removed the wrong information overnight after noticing the ‘We media’ reports.

The report further added that Ctrip in its statement did not confirm or deny that the information refers to the depiction of the Sino-Indian border.

Ctrip said that it was determined to safeguard China’s national sovereignty and territorial integrity and will launch a comprehensive investigation to avoid similar problems from happening again.

Ctrip’s action came after a Beijing based think tank website showed that search results for ‘Arunachal Pradesh’ in both Chinese and English display hotels in the region. However, the geographical description of such sites are in India, the report added.

In March, nearly 30,000 world maps showing Arunachal Pradesh as part of India and Taiwan as a separate country have been destroyed in China.

Source : Global Times

Indigenous no-state people

India’s newest pit viper found in Arunachal Prades

A team of herpetologists carrying on research about diet, breeding pattern and habitat of snakes

India now has a fifth brown pit viper but with a reddish tinge. A team of herpetologists led by Ashok Captain have described a new species of reddish-brown pit viper — a venomous snake with a unique heat-sensing system — from a forest in West Kameng district of Arunachal Pradesh.

Rich in ecology

The discovery, published in the March-April volume of the Russian Journal of Herpetology, makes the Arunachal pit viper (Trimeresurus arunachalensis) the second serpent to have been discovered after the non-venomous crying keelback in the State’s Lepa-Rada district in 2018.

The new species also makes Arunachal Pradesh the only Indian state to have a pit viper named after it.

Mr. Captain, who made the discovery with V. Deepak, Rohan Pandit, Bharat Bhatt, and Ramana Athreya said India had four brown pit vipers before the Arunachal Pradesh discovery.

The other four — Malabar, horseshoe, hump-nosed and Himalayan — were discovered 70 years ago. “We don’t know anything of the Arunachal pit viper’s natural history as only one male has been found so far. More surveys and sightings of this species would gradually give us an idea of its habits, diet and breeding, whether it lays eggs or bears live young,” he told media.

Led by Mr. Athreya, a reasearch team from the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Pune, had encountered the snake while conducting biodiversity surveys in Arunachal Pradesh’s Eaglenest region. A resident of the area had first shown Mr Pandit the snake in a forest patch near Ramda village.

DNA analysed

Comparative analyses of DNA sequences by Mr. Deepak and examination of morphological features by Mr. Captain suggested that the snake belonged to a species not described before.

Mr. Bhatt, a scientist of the Arunachal Pradesh forest department, said that the single known specimen of this species makes it currently the rarest pit viper in the world. The specimen was donated to the museum of the State Forest Research Institute in Itanagar.


Can the World’s Largest Democracy Endure Another Five Years of a Modi Government?


Of the great democracies to fall to populism, India was the first.

In 2014, Narendra Modi, then the longtime chief minister of the western state of Gujarat and leader of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), was elected to power by the greatest mandate the country had seen in 30 years. India until then had been ruled primarily by one party–the Congress, the party of Indira Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru–for 54 of the 67 years that the country had been free.

Now, India is voting to determine if Modi and the BJP will continue to control its destiny. It is a massive seven-phase exercise spread over 5½ weeks in which the largest electorate on earth–some 900 million–goes to the polls. To understand the deeper promptings of this enormous expression of franchise–not just the politics, but the underlying cultural fissures–we need to go back to the first season of the Modi story. It is only then that we can see why the advent of Modi is at once an inevitability and a calamity for India. The country offers a unique glimpse into both the validity and the fantasy of populism. It forces us to reckon with how in India, as well as in societies as far apart as Turkey and Brazil, Britain and the U.S., populism has given voice to a sense of grievance among majorities that is too widespread to be ignored, while at the same time bringing into being a world that is neither more just, nor more appealing.

Illustration by Nigel Buchanan for TIME

The story starts at independence. In 1947, British India was split in two. Pakistan was founded as a homeland for Indian Muslims. But India, under the leadership of its Cambridge-educated Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, chose not to be symmetrically Hindu. The country had a substantial Muslim population (then around 35 million, now more than 172 million), and the ideology Nehru bequeathed to the newly independent nation was secularism. This secularism was more than merely a separation between religion and state; in India, it means the equal treatment of all religions by the state, although to many of its critics, that could translate into Orwell’s maxim of some being more equal than others. Indian Muslims were allowed to keep Shari’a-based family law, while Hindus were subject to the law of the land. Arcane practices–such as the man’s right to divorce a woman by repudiating her three times and paying a minuscule compensation–were allowed for Indian Muslims, while Hindus were bound by reformed family law and often found their places of worship taken over by the Indian state. (Modi made the so-called Triple Talaq instant divorce a punishable offense through an executive order in 2018.)

Nehru’s political heirs, who ruled India for the great majority of those post-independence years, established a feudal dynasty, while outwardly proclaiming democratic norms and principles. India, under their rule, was clubbish, anglicized and fearful of the rabble at the gates. In May 2014 those gates were breached when the BJP, under Modi, won 282 of the 543 available seats in Parliament, reducing the Congress to 44 seats, a number so small that India’s oldest party no longer even had the right to lead the opposition.

Populists come in two stripes: those who are of the people they represent (Erdogan in Turkey, Bolsonaro in Brazil), and those who are merely exploiting the passions of those they are not actually part of (the champagne neo-fascists: the Brexiteers, Donald Trump, Imran Khan in Pakistan). Narendra Modi belongs very firmly to the first camp. He is the son of a tea seller, and his election was nothing short of a class revolt at the ballot box. It exposed what American historian Anne Applebaum has described as “unresolvable divisions between people who had previously not known that they disagreed with one another.” There had, of course, been political differences before, but what Modi’s election revealed was a cultural chasm. It was no longer about left, or right, but something more fundamental.

The nation’s most basic norms, such as the character of the Indian state, its founding fathers, the place of minorities and its institutions, from universities to corporate houses to the media, were shown to be severely distrusted. The cherished achievements of independent India–secularism, liberalism, a free press–came to be seen in the eyes of many as part of a grand conspiracy in which a deracinated Hindu elite, in cahoots with minorities from the monotheistic faiths, such as Christianity and Islam, maintained its dominion over India’s Hindu majority.

Modi’s victory was an expression of that distrust. He attacked once unassailable founding fathers, such as Nehru, then sacred state ideologies, such as Nehruvian secularism and socialism; he spoke of a “Congress-free” India; he demonstrated no desire to foster brotherly feeling between Hindus and Muslims. Most of all, his ascension showed that beneath the surface of what the elite had believed was a liberal syncretic culture, India was indeed a cauldron of religious nationalism, anti-Muslim sentiment and deep-seated caste bigotry. The country had a long history of politically instigated sectarian riots, most notably the killing of at least 2,733 Sikhs in the streets of Delhi after the 1984 assassination of Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards. The Congress leadership, though hardly blameless, was able, even through the selective profession of secular ideals, to separate itself from the actions of the mob. Modi, by his deafening silences after more recent atrocities, such as the killing of more than 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, in his home state of Gujarat in 2002, proved himself a friend of the mob. He made one yearn for the hypocrisies of the past, for, as Aldous Huxley writes, at least “the political hypocrite admits the existence of values higher than those of immediate national, party or economic interest.” Modi, without offering an alternative moral compass, rubbished the standards India had, and made all moral judgment seem subject to conditions of class and culture warfare. The high ideals of the past have come under his reign to seem like nothing but the hollow affectations of an entrenched power elite. When, in 2019, Modi tweets, “You know what is my crime for them? That a person born to a poor family is challenging their Sultunate [sic],” he is trying to resurrect the spirit of 2014, which was the spirit of revolution. Them is India’s English-speaking elite, as represented by the Congress party; sultanate is a dog whistle to suggest that all the heirs of foreign rule in India–the country had centuries of Muslim rule before the British took over in 1858–are working in tandem to prevent the rise of a proud Hindu nation.

An Ikea customer in Hyderabad

An Ikea customer in Hyderabad Atul Loke—The New York Times/Redux

In 2014, Modi converted cultural anger into economic promise. He spoke of jobs and development. Taking a swipe at the socialist state, he famously said, “Government has no business being in business.” That election, though it is hard to believe now, was an election of hope. When the Delhi press tried to bait the Modi voter with questions about building a temple in Ayodhya, a place where Hindu nationalist mobs in 1992 had destroyed a 16th century mosque, said to stand at the birthplace of the Hindu epic hero Ram, they stoutly responded with: “Why are you talking to us of temples, when we are telling you that we’re voting for him because we want development.” Sabka saath, sabka vikas–“Together with all, development for all”–was Modi’s slogan in 2014.

As India votes this month, the irony of those words is not lost on anyone. Not only has Modi’s economic miracle failed to materialize, he has also helped create an atmosphere of poisonous religious nationalism in India. One of his young party men, Tejasvi Surya, put it baldly in a speech in March 2019, “If you are with Modi, you are with India. If you are not with Modi, then you are strengthening anti-India forces.” India’s Muslims, who make up some 14% of the population, have been subjected to episode after violent episode, in which Hindu mobs, often with what seems to be the state’s tacit support, have carried out a series of public lynchings in the name of the holy cow, that ready symbol of Hindu piety. Hardly a month goes by without the nation watching agog on their smartphones as yet another enraged Hindu mob falls upon a defenseless Muslim. The most enduring image of Modi’s tenure is the sight of Mohammad Naeem in a blood-soaked undershirt in 2017, eyes white and enlarged, begging the mob for his life before he is beaten to death. The response of leadership in every instance is the same: virtual silence. Basic norms and civility have been so completely vitiated that Modi can no longer control the direction of the violence. Once hatred has been sanctioned, it is not always easy to isolate its target, and what the BJP has discovered to its dismay is that the same people who are willing to attack Muslims are only too willing to attack lower-caste Hindus as well. The party cannot afford to lose the lower-caste vote, but one of the ugliest incidents occurred in Modi’s home state of Gujarat, in July 2016, when upper-caste men stripped four lower-caste tanners, paraded them in the streets and beat them with iron rods for allegedly skinning a cow.

Modi’s record on women’s issues is spotty. On the one hand, he made opportunity for women and their safety a key election issue (a 2018 report ranked the country the most dangerous place on earth for women); on the other hand, his attitude and that of his party men feels paternalistic. He caused outrage in 2015 when he said Sheikh Hasina, Bangladesh’s Prime Minister, had a good record on terrorism, “despite being a woman”; Modi’s deputy, Amit Shah, speaks of women as having the status of deities, ever the refuge of the religious chauvinist who is only too happy to revere women into silence. Yet Modi also appointed a woman Defense Minister.

If these contradictions are part of the unevenness of a society assimilating Western freedoms, it must be said that under Modi minorities of every stripe–from liberals and lower castes to Muslims and Christians–have come under assault. Far from his promise of development for all, he has achieved a state in which Indians are increasingly obsessed with their differences. If in 2014 he was able to exploit difference in order to create a climate of hope, in 2019 he is asking people to stave off their desperation by living for their differences alone. The incumbent may win again–the opposition, led by Rahul Gandhi, an unteachable mediocrity and a descendant of Nehru, is in disarray–but Modi will never again represent the myriad dreams and aspirations of 2014. Then he was a messiah, ushering in a future too bright to behold, one part Hindu renaissance, one part South Korea’s economic program. Now he is merely a politician who has failed to deliver, seeking re-election. Whatever else might be said about the election, hope is off the menu.

I covered the 2014 election from the holy city of Varanasi, which Modi had chosen as his constituency, repurposing its power over the Hindu imagination, akin to that of Jerusalem, Rome or Mecca, to fit his politics of revival. That election split me in two: on the one hand, I knew, as someone of Muslim parentage (my father was a Pakistani Muslim) and a member of India’s English-speaking elite, that the country Modi would bring into being would have no place for me; on the other hand, I was in sympathy with Modi’s cultural diagnosis of what power looked and felt like in India. In the West, the charge that liberalism, or leftism, corresponds to the power of an entitled elite is relatively new and still contestable. In India, for decades to be left-wing or liberal was to belong to a monstrously privileged minority. Until recently, there was no equivalent group on the right, no New England Republicans, no old-fashioned Tories. It was easy to feel that being left-wing was the province of a privileged few who had gone to university abroad, where they had picked up the latest political and intellectual fashions.

Sardar Singh Jatav recovers after an attack by higher-caste Hindu men in September 2018

Sardar Singh Jatav recovers after an attack by higher-caste Hindu men in September 2018 Atul Loke—The New York Times/Redux

Modi in 2014 was able to make the cultural isolation of the Indian elite seem political–part of a foreign-led conspiracy to undermine the “real” India. He revealed that a powerful segment of the country was living in a bubble. It was an effective political tactic, but it also obscured the fact that “real” India was living in a bubble of its own. Nehru had always been clear: India was not going to become a modern country by being more authentically itself. It needed the West; it needed science and technology; it needed, above all, to embrace “the scientific temper” and to eschew the obscurantism and magic that was at the heart of its traditional life. Modi, inadvertently or deliberately, has created a bewildering mental atmosphere in which India now believes that the road to becoming South Korea runs through the glories of ancient India. In 2014 Modi suggested at a gathering of doctors and medical professionals in Mumbai that ancient Indians knew the secrets of genetic science and plastic surgery. “We worship Lord Ganesha,” he said of the Hindu deity. “There must have been some plastic surgeon at that time who got an elephant’s head on the body of a human being and began the practice of plastic surgery.”

He has in every field, from politics and economics to Indology itself, privileged authenticity over ability, leading India down the road to a profound anti-intellectualism. He appointed Swaminathan Gurumurthy, Hindu nationalist ideologue, to the board of the Reserve Bank of India–a man of whom the renowned Columbia economist Jagdish Bhagwati said, “If he’s an economist, I’m a Bharatanatyam dancer.” It was Gurumurthy who, in a quest to deal with the menace of “black money,” is thought to have advised Modi to put 86% of India’s banknotes out of commission overnight in 2016, causing huge economic havoc from which the country is yet to recover. Modi now finds himself seeking to hold power in a climate of febrile nationalism, with a platform whose themes have much more to do with national security and profiting from recent tensions between India and Pakistan than with economic growth.

In 2017, after winning state elections in Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, which happens also to have its largest Muslim population, the BJP appointed a hate-mongering priest in robes of saffron, the color of Hindu nationalism, to run that state. Yogi Adityanath had not been the face of the campaign. If he was known at all, it was for vile rhetoric, here imploring crowds to kill a hundred Muslims for every Hindu killed, there sharing the stage with a man who wanted to dig up the bodies of Muslim women and rape them. Modi has presided over a continuous assault on the grove of academe, where the unqualified and semiliterate have been encouraged to build their shanties. Academia in India was dogmatically left-wing, but rather than change its politics, Modi attacked the idea of qualification itself. From the Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR) to Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), which produced a roll call of politicians and intellectuals, India’s places of learning have been hollowed out, the administration and professors chosen for their political ideology rather than basic levels of proficiency.

Modi is right to criticize an India in which modernity came to be synonymous with Westernization, so that all those ideas and principles that might have had universal valence became the preserve of those who were exposed to European and American culture. What Modi cannot–or will not–do is tell India the hard truth that if she wishes to be a great power, and not a Hindu theocracy, the medieval Indian past, mired in superstition and magic, must go under. It is not enough to be more truly oneself. “In India, as in Europe,” wrote the great Sri Lankan historian A.K. Coomaraswamy, “the vestiges of ancient civilization must be renounced: we are called from the past and must make our home in the future. But to understand, to endorse with passionate conviction, and to love what we have left behind us is the only possible foundation for power.” The desperation that underlies Modi’s India is that of people clinging to the past, ill-equipped for the modern world, people in whom the zealous love of country stands in for real confidence.

Cows are sacred to Hindus. Cow-protection mobs have killed at least 46 people since 2015. Most targets were Muslim

Cows are sacred to Hindus. Cow-protection mobs have killed at least 46 people since 2015. Most targets were Muslim Atul Loke—Panos/Redux

The question of what is hers, and what has come from the outside, is a constant source of anxiety in India. The same process that made the Indian elite “foreigners in their own land”–in Mahatma Gandhi’s phrasing–is repeating, albeit unevenly, throughout the country across classes and groups never exposed to Western norms and culture in the past. “Our culture is being decimated,” one young member of the ABVP–the most powerful Hindu nationalist youth organization in the country–told me in Varanasi. “Many in my family have received degrees in commerce; but I chose to be nearer my culture. A great civilization, like ours, cannot be subdued without the complicity of men on the inside, working against us. Someone–I cannot say who–is controlling us, and there is but the difference of a syllable between vikas [development] and vinasha [ruin].”

This young Hindu nationalist is part of a new generation of Indians, untouched by colonization, but not spared globalization. They live with a profound sense of being trifled with. They feel their culture and religion has been demeaned; they entertain fantasies of “Hinduphobia” and speak with contempt of “sickluars,” “libtards” and the “New Yuck Times.” One has the feeling they are converting their sense of cultural loss into a political ideology. It produces in them a rage for the Other–Muslims, lower castes, the Indian elite–“the men on the inside,” who have more generations of Westernization behind them. Last month, Amit Shah compared Muslim immigrants to “termites,” and the BJP’s official Twitter handle no longer bothers with dog whistles: “We will remove every single infiltrator from the country, except Buddha [sic], Hindus and Sikhs.” If this wasn’t bad enough, the BJP’s candidate for the central Indian city of Bhopal, with its rich Muslim history and a Muslim population of over 25%, is a saffron-clad female saint, who stands accused of masterminding a terrorist attack in which six people were killed near a mosque. Currently out on bail, Sadhvi Pragya Thakur’s candidacy marks that all-too-familiar turn when the specter of extreme nationalism and criminality become inseparable.

Modi’s India feels like a place where the existing order of things has passed away, without any credible new order having come into being. Modi has won–and may yet win again–but to what end? His brand of populism has certainly served as a convincing critique of Indian society, of which there could be no better symbol than the Congress Party. They have little to offer other than the dynastic principle, yet another member of the Nehru-Gandhi family. India’s oldest party has no more political imagination than to send Priyanka Gandhi–Rahul’s sister–to join her brother’s side. It would be the equivalent of the Democrat’s fielding Hillary Clinton again in 2020, with the added enticement of Chelsea as VP.

Modi is lucky to be blessed with so weak an opposition–a ragtag coalition of parties, led by the Congress, with no agenda other than to defeat him. Even so, doubts assail him, for he must know he has not delivered on the promise of 2014. It is why he has resorted to looking for enemies within. Like other populists, he sits in his white house tweeting out his resentment against the sultanate of “them.” And, as India gets ready to give this willful provincial, so emblematic of her own limitations, a second term, one cannot help but tremble at what he might yet do to punish the world for his own failures.

Taseer, a novelist and journalist, is the author, most recently, of The Twice-Born: Life and Death on the Ganges

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This appears in the May 20, 2019 issue of TIME.

Indigenous no-state people

Manipur: ICAR sounds alert over invasive ‘fallarmy worm’ pest

The Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) Imphal has sounded alert over the detection of invasive pest “fall armyworm” in the state.

The ICAR in an official statement informed that the pest, which is native to the Americas, was detected in Lamphel and Langol Research farm of council, Manipur Centre.

It further informed that Chandonpokpi village in Chandel district is now under severe threat by this pest.

In India, the pest was detected for the first time in Karnataka in 2018 and rapidly spread to other parts of the country.

By January 2019, Chattisgarh was the last state to report the pest. In May 2019 it was reported from northeastern states such as Nagaland, Mizoram, Tripura and was also detected in Manipur.

“Its rapid spread is due to the female moth being a strong flier capable of flying 100 km in a night and being an exotic insect, the absence of natural enemies that could keep them under check. Another factor is, its natural environment is the tropical and sub-tropical parts of America that is similar to the environmental conditions in India”, said the ICAR statement.

Stating that Manipur is a biodiversity hotspot with many rare and threatened flora, the state  is more vulnerable, ICAR appealed the farmers to take precautionary measures.

* Remove weeds around the crop field

* Manual destruction of egg masses and caterpillar

* Set up pheromone traps @ 4/ha for monitoring and 10/ha for mass trapping of adult insect

* Spray any of the insecticide

* Green Racer (Beauveria bassiana) @ 3-5ml/litre of water. After 5-7 days of application spray Green Pacer (Metarhizium anisoplae) @ 3-5 ml/ litre of wate

* Spray Dimethoate 30% EC @ 1ml/litre of wate

* Spray ATIRA/CROPDON/TEGATA/ALIKA (Thiamethoxam 12.6% + Lambda cyhalothri  9.5%ZC) @ 2.5ml/10 litres of wate

* Do not use spray mixtures or tank mixture (mixing of two or more than two different chemica insecticides).

Written by Jimmy Leivon, Imphal