Vinod Mubayi and Raza Mir


One of the defining features of authoritarianism, the phase that often precedes Fascism, is the replacement of the rule of the law by the rule of the individual or the dominant group. This feature is often accompanied by the demonization of minority groups, as a means of asserting cultural superiority and deflecting attention from other social problems such as growing inequality and the siphoning of public wealth into private hands.


This troubling trend is on the rise in South Asia. Be it the terrorization of Muslims in India by vigilante teams of gau rakshaks (cow protectors) and “Anti-Romeo” squads that prey on young men who are found in the company of women, Pakistani mobs that target reformist Muslims, or Bangladeshi Islamists who rail against secular symbols in public places, these groups have steadily challenged state power, and undermined democracy in the name of cultural purity and muscular nationalism.


In the meanwhile, Donald Trump has continued his disastrous presidency in the United States, capping off a month of domestic turmoil with an international trip where he presided over a sale of $110 billion worth of arms to the Saudi regime, undermined global cooperation by snubbing the European Union, and hinting at the US withdrawal from the multilateral Paris Accord on climate change. These moves of course have catastrophic consequences for South Asia, enhancing the climate of illiberalism in the region, and emboldening those that retreat further from the commitment of the state to its most vulnerable citizens.


Citizens continue to fight back against this oppression. Kashmir continues to symbolize the utter failure of the Indian state to embark on a political rather than a military solution. The Bhim Army in Uttar Pradesh has begun to engage those who oppress Dalits in the name of Hindutva. One hopes that the oppressed of the region will find common cause against those that seek to divide them into increasingly separated and vulnerable minority groups. We also remember this month the fiftieth anniversary of the Naxalbari agitation of May 1967, which inaugurated the fight of peasants against the oppressive landlord-state nexus, a movement that resonates and reverberates in Indian society till today. The Naxalbari movement reminds us that there is nothing that a repressive state fears more than the emancipation of the oppressed. In that spirit, we offer you this month’s bulletin, in hope and a clear-eyed recognition of the forces that stand arrayed against.

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