Locking Down the Poor

December 24, 2020

In early 2020 the first cases of Covid-19 infection were confirmed in India, and on 24 March the country’s prime minister announced a nationwide lockdown, giving the population of over 1.3 billion just four hours’ notice. Within days, it became evident that India had plunged into its biggest humanitarian crisis since Partition. In this powerful book, Harsh Mander shows us how grave this crisis was and continues to be, and why it is the direct consequence of public policy choices that the Indian government made, particularly of imposing the world’s longest and most stringent lockdown, with the smallest relief package. The Indian state abandoned its poor and arginalized, even as it destroyed their livelihoods and pushed them to the brink of starvation.

Mander brings us voices of out-of-work daily-wage and informal workers, the homeless and the destitute, all overwhelmed by hunger and dread. From the highways and overcrowded quarantine centres, he brings us stories of
migrant workers who walked hundreds of kilometres to their villages or were prevented from doing so and detained. He lays bare the criminal callousness at the heart of a strategy that forced people to stay indoors in a country where tens of crores live in congested shanties or single rooms with no possibility of physical distancing, no toilets and no running water.

Combining ground reports with hard data, Mander argues with great clarity and passion that India is in the middle of a humanitarian catastrophe, the effects of which will be felt for decades.

Shaheen Bagh and the Idea of India: Writings on a Movement for Justice, Liberty and Equality

July 2, 2020

Blurb:

The first comprehensive book on one of the most importantcivil rights movements in the history of Independent India.

On 15 December 2019, police in riot gear stormed Delhi’s Jamia Millia Islamia University and attacked unarmed students protesting against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), which makes religion a factor in the process of granting Indian citizenship. In neighbouring Shaheen Bagh, mothers and other relatives and friends of the students came out into the streets in outrage and anguish. They sat on a main road demanding repeal of the CAA, which, twinned with the National Register of Citizens (NRC), could make Indian Muslims aliens in theirown homeland. Within days, similar protests broke out across the country. Free India had never seen anything like it.

Shaheen Bagh and the Idea of India examines how the sit-in by a small group of Muslim women—many of whom had stepped out of their homes alone for the first time—united millions of Indians of different faiths and ideologies in defence of the principles of liberty, equality and secularism enshrined in our Constitution. It also throws up many important questions: Can the Shaheen Bagh protests reverse the damage done to our democracy in recent years? How did the non-violent movement sustain itself despite vilification, threats and persecution by the establishment? Is this movement the beginning of new solidarities in our society? Will it survive the aftermath of the communal violence that devastated northeast Delhi in February 2020, and the witch-hunt that was launched under cover of the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown?

This necessary collection comprises interviews with some of the brave women at the core of the protests; ground reports and photographs by journalists like Seema Mustafa, Seemi Pasha, Nazes Afroz and Mustafa Quraishi; and essays by thinkers, writers, lawyers and activists, including Nayantara Sahgal, Harsh Mander, Subhashini Ali, Nandita Haksar, Zoya Hasan, Apoorvanand, Enakshi Ganguly, Sharik Laliwala and Nizam Pasha. It is a book that must be read by everyone who cares about India’s democracy and its future.

The Rohingyas

October 4, 2017

Over four lakh Rohingyas have fled Myanmar and thousands have been killed since the military crackdown and sectarian violence that began in August 2017. The world has finally begun to take notice of the worst case of ethnic cleansing in recent history, but the Rohingya tragedy has been unfolding for decades, going back to 1948, when Myanmar became an independent nation. Azeem Ibrahim’s thoroughly researched book traces the history of the Rohingya people to show how they became one of the world’s most persecuted minorities.

The Rohingyas are a Muslim group who live in Rakhine province in western Myanmar—a majority Buddhist country that refuses to recognise them as one of its ‘national races’ and has denied them citizenship in the country of their birth. They are deprived of basic rights such as access to health services, education and employment and legal protection. There have been credible reports of armed attacks, torture and rape by government forces, and entire villages of the Rohingyas have been burned down.

This important book documents the slow-motion genocide of the Rohingyas, and exposes not only the culpability of the Buddhist clergy in fomenting the religious cleansing of Myanmar, but also the shocking culpability of successive governments, including the present regime presided over by the Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.

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