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Authoritarian Aadhaar?

Ammani Ahmed  |    Student Voices    |    22 January 2019

In a free and democratic society, residents should not have to question whether their government wants to monitor their every move. The Indian Supreme Court’s recent decision to uphold the controversial Aadhaar Act 2016 makes this very expectation contentious.

Bangladesh: sliding in the wrong direction?

Natasha Peters  |    Student Voices    |    22 December 2018

As The Economist argues, Bangladesh is continuing its slide down the spiral from democracy to authoritarianism. Although formally a multi-party system, the political landscape in Bangladesh hardly reflects the label of democracy. Imprisonment of members of the opposition, human rights violations, and constitutional abuse seem to have become the norm rather than the exception. With more than 3,000 members of the main opposition parties currently finding themselves behind bars, it is difficult to imagine how Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina could lose the upcoming elections due to take place in just over a week.

India and Israel: partners in religious discrimination

Aamina Alidina  |    Student Voices    |    20 December 2018

The ties between India and Israel have strengthened in recent years. This relationship poses an issue for many, as it brings together two nation-states that favour a non-secular nature based upon the theological preference of those with power. For India this is Hinduism and for Israel it is Judaism. The two share mutual goals and their support is intertwined with internal government sentiments, both edging the other towards fulfilling them. To their rightwing supporters this budding relationship is a beacon of hope, but others fear this will create fascist states built upon the oppression of minorities by their ethnoreligious elites, at the expense of citizen welfare.

Goulash and curry: the mockery of democracy?

Olivia Exton-Pongracz  |    Student Voices    |    19 December 2018

Nowadays, an increasing number of states are turning into “hybrid regimes”, also called illiberal democracies or democratic authoritarianisms. They are a mixture of democratic institutions with undemocratic use of power. Such regimes are like a bridge between a democratic and a dictatorial state, though officially they are still democratic. In Hungary, institutional circumstances now put the leading party into a significantly advantageous position, creating a “competitive authoritarian” regime, whereas in India deep social inequality hinders the ability of its democracy to respect liberal rights.

Is #MeToo in India only a movement for elites?

Riya Gurung   |    Student Voices    |    17 December 2018

The #MeToo movement has shaken India’s patriarchal society, showing that women are no longer going to be silent victims of abuse. The success of India’s #MeToo movement has brought down many powerful influencers. However, for all the movement’s successes there are still material barriers that stop women from different parts of societies from speaking out against sexual abuse.

What does the election of Imran Khan mean for Pakistan’s democratic fragility?

Fauzya Mahmood  |    Student Voices    |    14 December 2018

Following years of democratic instability in Pakistan, the election in July that installed Imran Khan as the nation’s new prime minister has sparked a renewed sense of optimism amongst the Pakistani people with regards to the future of the state. Khan’s promise of a “New Pakistan” formed the bedrock of his election campaign and appeared to resonate with the public, as his party PTI (Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf) emerged from the election as the single largest party with 116 seats. This victory has come at a crucial time as the country has been plagued by a corruption epidemic, with the Panama Papers leak in 2015 exposing former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for corruption. Imran Khan’s election success is significant for several reasons, but most importantly because it suggests a shift in Pakistan’s democratic course—from a state of fragility towards democratic consolidation.

Will the S-400 military deal with Russia threaten Indo-US relations?

Jacob Lawicki   |    Student Voices    |    13 December 2018

Recently, India purchased S-400 air missile defence systems from Russia for US$5.4 billion, which triggered an immediate reaction from the US. Russia is the only country that is actively sharing its restricted technologies with India, including not only military but also nuclear technologies. India should not be afraid of US retaliation due to signing the deal, since the US is fully aware that sanctioning India would push it towards Russia and Iran, the US’s enemies. Hence, India should stay on its historical and nonaligned path and follow realist policies that will benefit its citizen and the state itself.

Reservation for India’s dirty work? Dishing the dirt

Syeda Begum   |    Student Voices    |    12 December 2018

In the lead-up to Modi’s completion deadline for the Swachh Bharat Mission, there is a brewing outrage at the silent murder of toilet cleaners, from among the very bottom of the Hindu caste hierarchy, the community known as Dalits. Death tolls are modestly estimated at 1 person every 5 days. Modi’s Mission is arguably a star-studded campaign that silently perpetuates the cycle of death in the name of a good cause.

Hindu nationalism vs. the economy?

Jamie Gordon   |    Student Voices    |    11 December 2018

Since his arrival in office in 2014, Narendra Modi has set about reforming the social and economic landscape of India, with his policies having mixed success in aiding economic development. While the earlier portion of his tenure was overseen by three advisors with thought based around the ideas of the Chicago School and globalisation, they – like the former chairman of the Reserve Bank of India – decided to distance themselves as in recent times Modi has opted for a stance more akin to economic nationalism. Whether coincidental or intentional, Narendra Modi’s policies appear to increasingly step away from the pro-foreign direct investment policies of his predecessors, in a time where market tensions and a strong dollar look ominous for developing economies. While allowing more economic advice to filter into the BJP from bodies such as the Swadeshi Jagran Manch and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh may not appear to be a prudent move for a country whose core goal over the past two decades has been to become a major player in the international market, it could be argued that protectionism in the short term could be a healthy means for India to carve out its own form of economic development, detached from the interests outside beneficiaries.

In Kerala, a very unmodern issue

Priya Iype  |    Student Voices    |    10 December 2018

The modern state of Kerala is dealing with a very unmodern issue: menstruating women’s right to worship.

On 28 September 2018, the Supreme Court (SU) of India lifted the ban on women from the ages of 10 to 50 entering the Sabarimala temple in Pathanamthitta, Kerala on the basis that it is unconstitutional to prevent people from worship based on gender. The ban was only legally put into place in 1972; before then, women could worship at the temple. Various reasons have been stated as to why not all women are allowed entrance, menstruation making the temple unclean being the most popular.  The SC verdict has had a divisive effect on the general population, as well as many politicians. In recent weeks, the issue of women’s entry into the temple has become a hot topic and has come to dominate the Keralan public sphere.  The protests by devotees who are against the SC verdict have not only turned violent but are splitting society in half.

Legalising gay sex: the decolonization of the Indian Penal Code

Lars Johansen   |    Student Voices    |    7 December 2018

On September 6, India’s Supreme Court decriminalized gay sex, making India the second former British colony to do so this year. The ruling, which brought down a colonial-era law from 1861 known as Section 377, was celebrated across the country and praised by activists worldwide. India was finally “catching up” with the West. What most people seemed to forget, however, is that Section 377 was a direct product of British imperial rule in India. In other words, it is not India catching up that should be celebrated, but its efforts to decolonize the final remaining fruits of the British Empire’s legacy from the country’s legal framework.

#MeTooIndia… 6 years on from Nirbhaya

Zahra Sarwar   |    Student Voices    |    6 December 2018

Nirbhaya was given her name by the Indian press and her story took hold of the nation. She quickly became India’s daughter, a symbol of all the harassment and assaults that occur on a daily basis in India. Her story triggered widespread protests across the country with calls for justice, which inspired many to find the courage to speak up about the sexual violence that is often unreported. Hundreds took to the streets to demand justice for Nirbhaya and safety for all of India’s daughters. So why six years on are we seeing #MeTooIndia?

Poor voters will likely decide India’s next election. This is a good thing for Indian democracy.

Eli Hatter   |    Student Voices    |    5 December 2018

India’s poor voters are likely to be central to deciding the winner of the 2019 general election. If the BJP hopes to maintain power, they need to win over these voters; they can do this through the provision of public goods via non-electoral organisational affiliates, such as local nationalist groups. Whilst some may complain that the BJP intends to use “patronage politics” to “buy” votes, they ignore that such a system maintains broad support for democracy in India and will improve the meaningful ability of citizens to exercise their legal and political rights, and, especially in the long run, to be able to effectively influence public policy.

Blasphemy law in Pakistan: a pawn for personal agendas

Maha Raheel Ahmad   |    Student Voices    |    4 December 2018

On 31 October 2018, the Supreme Court of Pakistan overturned the blasphemy conviction and death sentence of Asia Noreen (commonly known as Asia Bibi), a 47-year-old Christian mother of five, who had been imprisoned for the last eight years. This landmark ruling was applauded worldwide as it seemed that the extremely influential religious faction of the country was not pandered to and justice, however delayed, was served. Yet her release also triggered a wave of riots in all major cities in Pakistan, organized by hardline religious parties, such as the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), who called for the execution of the Supreme Court justices behind the verdict, revolt against the army chief, and questioned the legitimacy of the prime minister himself. The blasphemy law is an extremely contentious law that seems to exist outside of the political-legal realm, with punishments being administered through vigilante justice and any calls for reformation being met with fatal attacks, as witnessed in the assassinations of Salman Taseer (governor of Punjab) and Shahbaz Bhatti (Minorities Minister). The issue to investigate is: why is this the case? Why are the government, the judiciary and even the police so helpless when it comes to upholding public order in regard to this law?

Democracy and India’s largest minority

Meher Bano Ali   |    Student Voices    |    3 December 2018

The fragmentation of Indian society threatens the country’s democratic character.

India has proven to be among the most consolidated democracies in South Asia, after independence from the British Empire. While the determining pillars of democracy—regular fair election, universal suffrage, and freedom of expression—are fairly well established in the country, India’s secular character is constantly under attack due to ongoing religious and communal problems. Religious minorities, namely the Muslims, Christians and Sikhs, have struggled to find a place among the majority Hindu population, often succumbing to under-representation and economic, social and political marginalization. Muslims, in particular, have borne the brunt of changing governments and their changing policies. This brings into question the democratic character of India, while emphasizing the social status and condition of the country’s largest minority.

India’s Supreme Court: too progressive?

Armin Osmanovic   |    Student Voices    |    30 November 2018

Over the last few months, the Supreme Court of Justice (SCJ) in India has overturned three contentious pieces of colonial-era legislation and ultimately enabled women of menstruating age access to a prominent temple in Kerala, legalized consensual homosexual relations, and legalized adultery. The aforementioned rulings, though progressive in contrast to the un-progressive politics of the ruling BJP, are accused of being undemocratic. Although minorities and typically oppressed groups benefit from the judges’ decisions, the Court puts itself in danger of losing legitimacy.

In the age of silence and a decaying democracy

Sama Deen   |    Student Voices    |   29 November 2018

With the general election lurking around the corner, researchers at the Bertelsmann Foundation in Germany have found Bangladesh to be an autocracy. And they are half-right.

While Bangladesh is formally a multi-party democracy, for over two decades political power in the country has alternated between two major parties—the Awami League (AL), led by current prime minister Sheikh Hasina, and the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), headed by former prime minister Begum Khaleda Zia. The rivalry between the two political dynasties has kept Bangladesh in the grips of anarchy and violence for years and with the opposition party currently in disarray, after a tenure of ten years, Sheikh Hasina’s government is seeking to win the elections for a third term. With only a month left until the vote, at this stage the possibility of having a “free and fair” election or even witnessing a change in rule is limited, if not nonexistent.