Delhi, India: Raids have been conducted on the homes and offices of Newsclick editor-in-chief Prabir Purkayastha whose network does some of the best journalism in the country. These raids have been carried out by the Enforcement Directorate, which is controlled by Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman.
This is happening in a climate in which the Modi government and its influencers have been busy accusing anyone who supports the farmers protests of being ‘anti-national’. However, Newsclick has long made their arguments about the Indian agrarian crisis and economic situation with reference to the national interest, arguments that the Modi government simply cannot refute, because they prove that it’s Modi’s policies that are truly ‘anti-national’.
Indeed some of the most distinguished Indian intellectuals have contributed to Newsclick over the years, including Utsa & Prabhat Patnaik, P. Sainath, CP Chandrashekhar, Irfan Habib, and Jayati Ghosh to name a few.
According to the Delhi Union of Journalists (DUJ): “coming in the wake of the filing of sedition charges against several senior journalists last week and government moves to curb free speech on Twitter and YouTube, the raids are ominous …the aim is clearly to intimidate and browbeat independent and critical voices that disagree with the government on contemporary issues.”
The most pressing issue right now are the farm laws that the Modi government is attempting to implement. Newsclick has been at the forefront of criticising these laws, accusing them of attempting to squeeze farmers by eliminating minimum support prices to serve the interests of private corporate middlemen.
There is mass opposition to Modi’s reforms because they’re utterly parasitic. The net-effect will be the suppression of agrarian prices, and the deflation of farmers incomes, which then inflicts an even harsher squeeze on the landless, mostly Dalit proletariat. In a previous article I argued that these reforms represented a regression back towards the patterns of trade that prevailed in India under British colonial rule.
There is mass opposition to Modi’s reforms because they promise to make the agrarian crisis that has plagued India worse, but according to this Indian government, the mass opposition is because of foreign interference from some American celebrities.
There is no doubt that agents of US influence like Soros, HRW, and Amnesty have all signaled against Modi, which has prompted the government and its social media influencers to smear the entire protest movement, which last year brought 250 million Indians out on strike, as somehow acting on behalf of foreign interests.
This nonetheless raises the question, what interest do these agents of US influence have? The US humanitarian imperialism complex is fairly straightforward, make the Third World look awful, and uphold and promote Western exceptionalism. But why?
According to Prabhat Patnaik, writing for Newsclick (Apr 2020):
“There is an exodus of finance from the Third World at present, far exceeding in scale what had occurred in 2008 after the financial crisis. Even more important than the actual outflow is the desire on the part of finance to pull out of the Third World, including even the so-called “emerging markets”, and move to US dollars or dollar-denominated assets. This is resulting in a depreciation of a host of Third World currencies vis-à-vis the dollar, of which the Indian rupee is an obvious example.”
If you’re an agent of US interests like the ones I mentioned, what better way to intensify this process of capital flight from the Third World than to jump on every opportunity to present the West as the saviour?
Just look at the sordid record of George Soros. He funded the colour revolutions against Communist party rule in the USSR and Eastern Europe, and which ultimately led to capital flight, largely headed in the direction of the West. The collapse of the USSR was also terrible for India. Soros bet against the Thai Baht in the 90s which triggered the Asian financial crisis as money left Asia for the financial safe-havens of the Anglo-American financial systems.
To quote Prabhat Patnaik:
“whenever finance is jittery, its “homing instinct” takes it away from the Third World, to the US in particular”
This is why US humanitarian imperialism is always signal boosting instability in the Third World, but the irony is that they and the current Indian government are serving the same financial structure, one in which the Indian government relaxes capital movement in the hopes of attracting net-inflows.
This may have had some logic before 2008 (even then, not really) but following the GFC, the tendency is for Indian elites to sell Rupees for dollars or other US dollar denominated assets. Why doesn’t Modi control India’s financial borders? Why can’t the Indian state discipline its elites the way China does?
To quote Prabhat Patnaik:
“India’s Hindutva government, which proclaims “hyper-nationalism” from the housetops, and which is busy jailing civil rights activists and all those speaking for the poor as “anti-national”, loses no opportunity to prostrate itself before the US; and it did so again at the IMF finance committee meeting, selling the interests of the people of the Third World, as well as of the people of India itself, down the drain.”
The accusation that India prostrated before the IMF refers to the events of last year, when India voted AGAINST the Third World and FOR the United States when they opposed a fresh issue of SDRs to help countries balance their payments during the Covid19 pandemic. Some compare current events to the Emergency under Indira Gandhi, who had Kerala’s current Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan tortured, but at least she never backstabbed the Third World!
According to an article by CP Chandrashekhar & Jayati Ghosh (Apr 2020):
“At the recent G20 and IMF-WB Spring meetings held virtually in the third week of April 2020, a proposal for the IMF to issue an additional 500 billion of Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) was blocked by the US and — astonishingly — India… So why would the Government of India veto such a sensible and necessary proposal? The possibilities range from petty regional politics to attempts to placate the Donald Trump administration so as to access the US Fed’s exchange swaps. Whatever the reason, India has betrayed the rest of the developing world and sided with the US and allies that dominate the world.”
When it comes to The Problem of Capital Flight From The Third World, US pseudo-humanitarian NGOs, the IMF, World Bank, and the Modi government are all on the same side against the vast majority of the Indian people.
Just because Extinction Rebellion and HRW are talking about the farmers protests in India does not automatically mean that those protests are some kind of colour revolution fomented by the West, especially when considering how amenable Modi has been to US interests.
The agrarian crisis in India is deeply structural. How does India pay for the expensive imports of India’s wealthiest top 10-15%, and pay for the colossal capital flight of the top 1% without the Rupee depreciating? The answer is with an ever-increasing export drive, which invariably involves suppressing the incomes of the Indian farmer, the costs of which are then passed on to the landless agrarian Indian worker, who are disproportionately Dalits.
Severe China-level penalties for capital flight
Taxes on conspicuous consumption imports
Minimum support prices for essential foodgrains
Guaranteed procurement by the state
Price ceilings for middlemen
Export bans on essential foodgrain
These principles are not ‘anti-national’ as the (comprador) Modi government alleges, rather they go back to the Arthashastra, which was written in the 4th century BC by Kautilya, the brains behind the first Indian state, the Mauryan empire (Tamil Nadu and Kerala not included).
From Kautilya to Alaudhin Khilji (Sultan of Delhi, 14th century), to the Mughal emperors, the Indian state, whatever its legitimizing ideology (i.e. ‘Hindu’, Buddhist, Islamic whatever), has always set price floors for farmers, price ceilings for merchants, and directly invested in agriculture. India has always been dirigiste for without order there is chaos.
For all its hatred of the Mughal empire, BJP supporters should note the following by Irfan Habib, Indian Communist intellectual and historian:
“The Mughal empire owed its collapse very largely to the agrarian crisis which engulfed it, and of which the uprisings with their varied record of failure and success were the consequence”
I would strongly encourage any activists among the Indian diaspora in the West not to subordinate their efforts to the political agency of non-Indian entities. Once again, don’t work with US outfits like HRW and Amnesty because they serve US interests, not the interests of India or the greater postcolonial world. Try instead to subordinate your efforts to the demands of Indians on the ground, including farmers unions, Communist parties, and public intellectuals.