Partha Banerjee | OneFinalBlog
You perhaps know that Manmohan Singh is the head of the country of India — its prime minister.
Do you know who Mir Jafar was? And why I called Mr. Singh Mir Jafar?
Believe me, a lot of Indians — including some of my best friends — would be terribly upset when they see this article. The most common reaction would be: “Please, Manmohan Singh and Mir Jafar? We are familiar with your hyperbole, but this is a new low for you.” Another common response would be: “We all know Singh is a puppet of Sonia Gandhi, and we also know he failed to lift India out of its horrific corruption, but he is a decent, honest man.”
But truly, I’m not the first person making such a comparison. Recently, when West Bengal’s firebrand chief minister Mamata Banerjee opposed the election of India’s longtime finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, an IMF-chosen leader, as the next president of the country, Singh and Mukherjee’s ruling Congress Party called Mamata the Mir Jafar for her lone opposition from the ruling coalition’s side (she left the coalition since then). Mir Jafar, for historical reasons, has become synonymous with someone people consider a national traitor.
So, I’m only following the footsteps of those Congress Party leaders.
It’s a very sensitive subject: calling the prime minister of India a traitor is no trivial matter. I must come up with evidence to prove my point. Plus, it’s more about the policy than the person.
I have decided to take on this subject after a lot of thinking. I have decided that someone must tell the true story of India — a country that I identify with very closely – that connects India’s dark, colonial past with the presently-unfolding new colonialism. This is a very scary neoliberal, economic takeover and occupation of modern India — neocolonization that would completely devastate and disintegrate the country and its one billion poor people, and that too, in a very short time. I have written about it before.
But in order to understand the story, I seek your permission to give you a quick history lesson.
In 1757, East India Company — a British merchants’ group — came to then-prosperous, undivided India with a sole, sinister motive: to occupy and colonize the country. Over the previous few decades, they used India’s fractious sociopolitical system with no central rule and Hindu kings and Muslim nawabs fighting with each other, and by using various methods — bribes here and battles there, took over huge areas of land paying minimum taxes to the local rulers, and started shipping raw materials from India to Britain to run the engine of a new Industrial Revolution.
But then they decided that they would completely displace the Indian sociopolitical system with a colonial rule, and thus they created desperate situations where the otherwise lazy nawab of perhaps the most prosperous place of all — Bengal — decided to resist the British onslaught in a war now known as the Battle of Plassey. Muslim Nawab Siraj-Ud-Daulah had a big, formidable army with cannons and Hindu generals such as Mohan Lal known for their bravery, and it was apparent that the British army would be no match for the unified Hindu-Muslim regiment.
But the British had other plans.
The British commander in chief Lord Robert Clive had found a few senior, corrupt confidantes of the nawab and promised them tons of money and gold and also tax-free, fertile Bengal land. Jagat Seth, Umi Chand and such traitors with their leader Mir Jafar betrayed the nawab, divulged the top secret battle plans to Clive, moved their own regiments away from the battlefield at a very crucial moment, and the British army in the Battle of Plassey vanquished Nawab Siraj Daulah. The gallant generals under the nawab perished in the war, Clive beheaded the nawab, and after conquering Bengal, East India Company slowly declared the land of India to be a colony of the British monarchy.
Mir Jafar was made the ceremonial nawab of Bengal — only to be replaced by another puppet in a few years.
For the next two hundred years, British Raj plundered Bengal and India, brutalized and exploited their Indian subjects, forced them to plant indigo in fertile rice fields and manufacture other products used in Europe for their newly developing industries, looted coal, textile, and enormous amounts of gold and diamond. They created famines — unheard of in Bengal before they took over — and millions of farmers with their families and children died of starvation. All the rebellions across India against the British Raj were ruthlessly crushed for two centuries, and the rebels and revolutionaries were shot to death, hanged or imprisoned for life.
In 1947, the British finally gave up on the colonial rule of India, mainly because of critical economic and political turmoil in their own country in the aftermath of World War II, and left after partitioning the country in three pieces, creating incredible misery and bloodshed.
The British also left, putting their handpicked feudal Indian rulers under the leadership of Gandhi, Nehru and Patel — ruling class that would later continue the British colonial system in a so-called free country.
That is modern Indian history as we all know it — until the next episode.
In late December of 1984, two Sikh bodyguards of India’s mighty prime minister Indira Gandhi shot her to death, allegedly as a revenge for the leader’s desecration of a major Sikh temple in Punjab. Indira Gandhi, just like her father Jawaharlal Nehru the first prime minister of India, pampered and perpetuated a dynasty rule, and her elder son Rajiv Gandhi who had no experience or interest in politics suddenly became India’s “leader.”
He chose Manmohan Singh as his finance minister (correction: Singh first became the governor of Reserve Bank of India, and then finance minister), and with help from IMF, World Bank and Western corporate world, massively deregulated and privatized India’s erstwhile semi-socialistic market. Foreign corporations entered the newly-opened floodgate, and very soon, India saw a huge spike in prices of essential commodities that was alway kept under control for the poor, drastic devaluation of its currency, and even more outrageous income inequality that the country had ever seen. At the same time, middle class Indians with this new economy saw prosperity that they hadn’t seen before, and however temporary the luxury was and however far their personal debts grew, were greatly reassured by this so-called prosperity. Indian Chamber of Commerce, Wall Street and corporate media showered praise on this new “reform.”
Rajiv Gandhi was also assassinated a few years later, and after a couple of short stints of prime ministership by non-Gandhi-dynasty politicians, Manmohan Singh became the prime minister — this time, with the return and patronization of Rajiv’s widow Sonia Gandhi whom the Indian and Western media soon made the de facto queen mother of India’s politics. Manmohan Singh has since been India’s prime minister for almost ten years. In these ten years, India’s politics and economy has created the worst-possible corruption, largest rich-poor divide, steepest inflation with out-of-control price rise of oil and essential commodities, horrific human rights violations, and most drastic devaluation of the Indian Rupee.
I have emphasized a number of times how with help from India’s finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, who was the country’s official IMF director during his tenure, Manmohan Singh promulgated IMF-dictated Structural Adjustment Program, and privatization and corporatization of the Indian economy have risen up to a new level.
Now, just a few weeks ago, since Pranab Mukherjee the IMF-chosen finance minister became the president of India, Manmohan Singh with blessing from Sonia Gandhi has taken it to a new level. He announced that India’s economy is not growing at the rate IMF and World Bank would like to see, and therefore he said he would open up India’s economy to foreign markets even more widely. One of the primary policy changes Singh announced was in the area of FDI or Foreign Direct Investment: he invited retail chains such as Wal-Mart to open up their shops in India, and he also made sure global media corporations such as Rupert Murdoch and his Fox Network would get major access to the Indian market. To expedite these processes, Singh government is now distributing enormous amounts of India’s land — much of it fertile, agricultural land that Indian farmers have depended for their living for centuries — so that the foreign corporations could start constructions there immediately.
Manmohan Singh, Pranab Mukherjee and Sonia Gandhi call this process necessary for jump starting India’s economic growth; Indian and Western media have again showered high praise for Singh’s “bold and courageous” stand. Media compared Singh a roaring lion.
People and politicians who challenged this completely outrageous economic overhaul that in their opinion would destroy India’s national economy (of whatever was left after the first decade’s “reform”) were quickly blasted by the Congress Party, Indian Chamber of Commerce, Wall Street, and Indian and Western corporate media. Mamata Banerjee has become the whipping horse for the press. On the other hand, the largest opposition party in India — BJP — has always been blasted by India’s media on the pretext that they are far right and always against anything liberal; BJP’s social and religious dogma mimicking the Republican Party here in the U.S. did not help them either to be at the forefront of any economic policy discussion. Further, Congress Party has characteristically bribed and bought off some other opposition parties to find support for this newest round of “reform.”
This new round of reform is IMF and World Bank dictated, and their neoliberal reform policies have devastated other countries in recent months. Ireland, Italy, Greece, Spain and Portugal have been the latest victims. Unemployment, inflation and massive layoff of public sector workers have gone out of control. Just like the Indian president, IMF has also chosen their men to be presidents of Italy and Spain, and Greece is going through a horrendous turmoil because they refused to let IMF select their own destiny.
Labor unions and teacher unions and student unions have took the hardest hit — because of their resistance and opposition to this new, horrendous, anti-people “reform.”
For India, this so-called reform at the behest of Manmohan Singh would be even more catastrophic and millions of poor people will die. I have written about it before. I have also written about Malaysia’s former prime minister Mohathir Bin Mohamad who resisted the IMF onslaught a few years ago before he became a slaughter lamb himself for his outspoken criticism of this new global economic terror.
I re-quote Mahathir Bin Mohamad.
“In the old days you needed to conquer a country with military force, and then you could control that country. Today it’s not necessary at all. You can destabilize a country, make it poor, and then make it request [IMF] help. And [in exchange] for the help that is given, you gain control over the policies of the country, and when you gain control over the policies of a country, effectively you have colonized that country.”
India is country where I still have a lot of belongingness and identification. I feel very strongly for India even after being in the U.S. for twenty five years. I can see how globally-infamous Wal-Mart, GE, Monsanto, Fox, ESPN, Coke, KFC, MTV and McDonald’s — along with their Indian corporate counterparts — are going to change the face of the country, once and for all.
I can see how the farming lands and forests and villages and their people who have survived and prospered since the ages of Ramayana and Mahabharata will soon be destroyed, once and for all.
British aggressors forced Indian farmers to plant indigo in their fertile rice fields. Now, the new FDI and IMF aggressors will force Indian farmers to simply go extinct.
This is neocolonization happening right in front of our eyes. And it is going to enslave one billion poor Indians for many years to come, just the same way the British once colonized India with help from the country’s Mir Jafars. Mir Jafars sold India off to foreign traders.
It’s a very scary, bone-chilling deja vu unfolding right now.
Manmohan Singh once said after the horrific Union Carbide disaster: “Bhopals will happen, but India must move on.”
Are we okay with that kind of moving on?