the Disillusioned kid
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Saturday, May 15, 2004

The recent defeat of the incumbent BJP in India's elections was pretty much unforseen. All the experts, all the polls and everyone on the ground were convinced that they would return to power, probably quite comprehensively. Instead they were trounced by the Indian National Congress.

It's important not to get carried away about the importance of this development. As Arundhati Roy pointed out in an article in yesterday's Guardian "on every major issue besides overt Hindu nationalism (nuclear bombs, big dams and privatisation), the Congress and the BJP have no major ideological differences." Nonetheless that singular difference is potentially of considerable importance. In Gujarat, as Rahul Mahajan notes, the BJP "instigated a carefully planned and executed pogrom in Gujarat that claimed the lives of 3000 Muslims (supposedly in retaliation for the killing of 59 Hindus by a Muslim mob)." In the aftermath of the massacre, 287 people were arrested under the new, draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act (Pota), 286 were Muslim, 1 Sikh.

Celebrations certainly seem in order, but with neo-liberal "reforms" set to continue and no talk of repealing the country's new repressive measures it is far from clear how long these will last.

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