Let Us All Work For the Greatness Of India

Highlights of August 2023


Developments in Russia and Ukraine

The Russia-Ukraine war continues to advance at a tepid pace, witnessing its ups and downs. Following are some of the recent developments:

First, despite multiple attempts by third parties to initiate mediation (such as the peace conference in Jeddah in July and recent attempt by Turkey to re-start the Black Sea grain export deal), every such attempt has resulted in a failure. Recently, Putin made it clear that there will be no negotiation unless the West meets all of Russia’s demands. Under such conditions, the war may be set to continue in the foreseeable future.

Second, while Ukraine’s counter-offensive is continuing and has been instrumental in liberating some villages occupied by Russia, yet the significant feature of the counter-offensive is the display of Ukrainian capability to conduct drone strikes deep within Russia, in major cities such as Moscow, with rising frequency. Whether these strikes will become a game-changer and force Russia to retreat is yet to be seen.

Third, the Wagner uprising that had shaken Russia and surprised the world has finally seen closure. The death of Wagner chief, Yevgeny Prigozhin, in an airplane crash in Russia, has dealt a blow to the group. Reports reveal that Russian military had shot down the small private jet in which Prigozhin was travelling, killing all the passengers. It is now likely that either the Wagner paramilitary group will be disbanded or reorganized in another form or will be substantially controlled by the Russian defence ministry directly. With the group having a wide footprint across Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, Russia will have to evaluate its options accordingly.

Fourth, at the same time, Russia is also expanding ties with North Korea and arms supply deal from North Korea to Russia is almost final. The US has already warned that North Korea should be prepared to pay a heavy price if it supplies weapons to Russia.

Finally, Ukraine has witnessed an internal power shake-up, with Zelenskyy firing has defence minister and appointing a Muslim defence minister from Crimea instead. The earlier defence minister was dismissed as the defense ministry was facing various allegations of corruption in the procurement of defence deals. However, other than dismissal, no other action would be taken against the former defence minister, and he may even be re-assigned to a new position.

Developments in Science and Technology

The following major developments have taken place in the field of science and technology in recent times:

First, the big tech company, Microsoft, has filed a patent for an interesting new technology it has developed. It is called an AI-powered smart backpack. The concept of wearable technology is not new. We already have smart watches, smart rings, etc. However, this invention is much more revolutionary in scope compared to existing wearable technologies. It can utilize artificial intelligence to identify objects, perform contextual tasks, access cloud-based information, and seamlessly interact with other devices. According to the patent, Microsoft’s smart backpack is equipped with a camera, microphone, speaker, network interface, processor, and storage. It serves as a hands-free digital assistant that is context-aware and capable of understanding and responding to user commands based on their surroundings. This groundbreaking technology operates through a six-step process, beginning with user input and culminating in a comprehensive AI-driven response.

This innovation has the potential to reshape the way we interact with our surroundings and is poised to be a game-changer in the world of wearable AI, offering users a glimpse into a future that once seemed confined to the realm of science fiction.

Second, in an increasing indication of big firms adopting the Metaverse, India-based technology company, Flipkart, has announced the launch of its metaverse-powered immersive virtual shopping feature, Virtual Worlds. Virtual Worlds are 3D-rendered metaverse environments where users of the platform can engage with different brands and try out products. While brands will be able to create dedicated and customized Virtual Worlds on the Flipkart app for their products to attract and engage shoppers, they will also be able to simply list on a ‘co-tenancy’ basis within Flipkart’s own Virtual World called Flipverse. The company also announced the launch of its ‘Laptops Virtual Showroom’, which enables buyers to explore laptops in an immersive setting.

These technological adaptations and breakthroughs show that despite the fact that the hype around Metaverse may have subsided, advancements in this field are steadily being made in a way that brings us closer to this technology. The technology has already shaped out from the world of online gaming to more diverse platforms like Metaverse-powered children’s parks, Metaverse-powered shopping, Metaverse-powered classrooms etc.

The Rise of Christianity in Punjab

Conversion lies at the heart of Christianity. With its Western financial backers, the religion rarely faces any challenge in spreading like wildfire wherever it takes hold. The Indian case has been no different, with parts of India being converted to have substantive Christian population wherever the religion has been historically strong. For example, Goa, Kerala, and majority of northeast India are a case study in how quickly the religion spread due to factors like patronage or the policy of non-interference by secular governments and little resistance by locals. In Andhra Pradesh too, it is a similar story, where the YSR government is actively patronizing Christianity.

However, in recent times, one of the most curious and unlikely cases in this regard has been that of Punjab where Christianity, especially among the Sikhs, has spread at an alarming rate in the last 10-15 years alone – a fact that has not been flagged in mainstream media much. The target groups for conversion have been Valmiki Hindu and Mazahabi Sikhs, both belonging to Dalit categories. While the 2011 census puts the Christian population in the State at about one or two per cent, there is a perception that the percentage has now risen to 15% and is rapidly rising even further, reaching up to 22-23% in Christian-dominated districts like Gurdaspur (where there were around 7% Christians as per 2011 census).

The modus operandi through which such spread has occurred is also not new. The religion has come to the Dalit sections of Hindu and Sikh communities with the promise of equal treatment and a range of material benefits (such as distribution of ration, medicines, school access, jobs, and other needs) as well as psychological machinations through dubious healing practices.

The way the people are converted is also interesting. It is done through stealth, so that it escapes notice. The converted people neither change their name, nor discard symbols of their old religion (such as turban) and nor do they show conversion officially on papers (so that they can continue getting reservation benefits that accrue to Dalits). Much like a consistent marketing scheme, first a family gets converted, then they convert four others and then the four new Christian families would convert four new families. That way targets are met.

Hindu organisations like Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal have been voicing against the rampant conversions in Punjab for a long time. Initially, Dalits were getting converted at a mass scale, and Sikh leaders were not bothered that much. The situation took a drastic change in the last 2-3 years after videos of several Pastors dressed as Sikhs started circulating on social media platforms, and locally, it became visible that Sikhs, especially Dalit Sikhs, were converting. Last year, Shri Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) announced a program to put a stop to the rampant conversion in the state, but the Sikh leadership has not achieved much in breaking the chain, although local Sikh bodies and Nihang Sikhs have clashed with Christian missionaries.

Some examples of major Christian bodies operating in Punjab are bodies like the United Christian Front, a group that has committees in 8,000 of Punjab’s 12,000 villages. According to the body’s representatives, there are 600-700 churches in Amritsar and Gurdaspur districts that belong to four Christian denominations, with around 60-70 per cent of these having sprung up in the past five years.

This rapid rise of Christianity and the stealth with which it is being done is indeed alarming. Parties like AAP and Congress also have Christian leaders engaged in conversion, while the government has turned a blind eye to the phenomenon. As it is, the state is witnessing a decline – afflicted with drugs problem, economic crisis and a psychological crisis among the youth. This phenomenon further cements these multiple crises, raising questions over the future of Sikh community.

LAC Disengagement Talks

The 19th round of India-China Corps Commander-level talks between Indian and Chinese militaries took place in the middle of last month, prior to the BRICS summit. The talks went on for two days and discussed disengagement along the remaining friction points at the Line of Actual Control (LAC). However, the talks, while successfully producing a joint statement stressing the need to keep up the momentum of disengagement and maintaining peace along the border, were not able to agree on any disengagement. The Indian side was persistent in its demands that disengagement should take place at Depsang Plains and Demchok, and pre-May 2020 status of Indian patrolling rights be restored.

With the joint statement being produced and the two sides acknowledging that the talks had taken place in a positive and constructive atmosphere, it was expected that an icebreaker between Modi and Xi would be in order in the subsequent BRICS summit. That, however, did not happen in any significant way. Much like an informal and brief Modi-Xi meeting in Bali last year, the BRICS summit too saw the two leaders meeting briefly on the sidelines sans any formal bilateral setting. In the meeting, Modi reportedly conveyed Indian concerns that de-escalation needs to take place and the two leaders agreed to expedite the process. Whether there will be any upshot of such meetings remains to be seen, and the persistent negativity in relations does not bode well for both the countries.

Expansion of BRICS

The 15th BRICS summit held last month betrayed the image of an organization whose political divisions are now rapidly becoming evident. The polarization in world politics was also reflected at BRICS – a grouping that, till a few years ago, was mainly a non-controversial economic grouping, which had sought to project a non-western viewpoint in the world. However, in recent years, due to intensification of competition and hostilities between US and China, Russia-Ukraine war and a series of mass-supported coups in Africa, the BRICS is beginning to reflect this divisiveness. The unity of outlook within the Russia-China axis and the friendly relations of these two countries with pariahs like Iran and North Korea, is beginning to give an anti-western (rather than a merely non-western) tinge to the grouping. In the grouping, moderate countries like India, Brazil and South Africa have resisted such attempts. In particular, India has been targeted by several Chinese state media outlets for playing a spoiler in groupings like BRICS and SCO. More than Brazil and South Africa, India is perceived as being a strong strategic partner of western countries like France and USA.

However, the common ground among all BRICS countries is definitely their commitment to a world order in which the Western dominance can be suitably balanced. Disenchantment with the West has grown among countries of Asia and Africa after witnessing the West’s proclivity to deploy unilateral financial sanctions, abuse international payments mechanisms, renege on climate finance commitments, and accord scant respect to food security and health imperatives of the Global South during the pandemic.

This was the background in which the latest BRICS summit took place. The key issue at the summit was expansion of BRICS, suffusing more funding into the BRICS-sponsored New Development Bank and attempting to ground an alternative financial architecture to upend the dominance of the dollar. The key outcome achieved at the summit was the expansion of BRICS to BRICS+. The grouping added six new members to its fold viz. Argentina, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. These countries will join from January 2024. The choice of new members is interesting in the following ways:

First, six of the ten major oil producing nations of the world are now part of BRICS. Among other geopolitical implications of this development in making BRICS more powerful, it is also likely to suffuse funding into New Development Bank and make trading in national currencies feasible on a limited scale at least.

Second, the addition of new countries has made BRICS more representative of large developing countries which are also powerful in their own right. This is increased the weight of BRICS and can make it a realistic counter-weight to a developed country grouping like G7 in future.

Third, the addition of new members instead of consolidating the grouping might, possibly, produce an opposite effect too – that of dispersing the grouping further, especially if Russia-China polarization against the West persists. The new BRICS+ has evened out pro-West and anti-West groupings, with countries like India, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt, South Africa and Brazil being largely moderate. The addition of Iran will consolidate the China-Russia-Iran axis. These divisions may make the organization a divided house. Conversely, if other developing countries move away from the West, then the unity of BRICS may present a powerful alternative grouping to the West.

Fourth, the addition of new members shows how delicate a balance of power has been struck by existing members. It is well-known that Iran was added at the behest of Russia and China, while UAE was added at India’s insistence. The result is that, within BRICS, there are pairings of small rival groupings in form of Saudi Arabia and UAE versus Iran, Brazil versus Argentina, Egypt versus Ethiopia, and India versus China. Such a balance of power will make it interesting to see whether the future BRICS+ will be a divided house or an alternate to the West.


India has scripted history with its moon mission, Chandrayaan-3, successfully landing on the surface of the moon. This was India’s second attempt, the first attempt being in 2019 when India had crash landed on the polar region of the moon. This makes India the fourth country to land on the moon and, even more significantly, the first ever country to do a soft-landing on the polar or dark or south side of the moon. Soft landing simply means landing at a gentle, controlled speed to not sustain damage to a spacecraft.

In the past, countries that have landed on the Moon have landed in the region near the Moon’s equator because it is easier and safer here. The terrain and temperature are more conducive for a long and sustained operation of instruments. Sunlight is also present, offering a regular supply of energy to solar-powered instruments.

The polar regions of the Moon, where India became the first country to soft-land, however, are different. Many parts lie in a completely dark region without sunlight, and temperatures can go below 230 degrees Celsius. This creates difficulty in the operation of instruments. In addition, there are large craters all over the place. Yet, India has not only successfully landed, but all of the instruments of the mission are working at an excellent pace, suggesting technological thoroughness and perfection.

The significance of exploring the unexplored polar region of the moon is immense. The mission is slated to conduct a series of studies to determine the presence of crucial elements on the moon. From a geopolitical perspective, the success of Chadrayaan-3 cements India’s prime position among space-faring nations. That the Indian government has opened up the space sector to collaborative projects with the private sector has also opened up scope for space exploration at a time when leading private companies and governments of the world are exploring options of habitations beyond earth.

Violence at Nuh, Haryana

Communal violence at Nuh, in Mewat district of Haryana, erupted on July 31st and escalated into a series of incidents between the Hindu and Muslim communities, across Delhi-NCR, especially Gurugram, Sohna and Faridabad. The flare-up started with the horrifying attack at Nuh by Islamists on the annual Brij Mandal Jalabhishek Yatra. The attack and the accompanying violence forced around 2500 Hindus including women and children to take shelter in a local Mahadev temple.

During the attack, the Islamist rioters disrupted the Hindu procession and set the police vehicles on fire. Stones were pelted and several shops were set on fire. Firings were reported outside the temple as people were trapped. Several police personnel also had to be admitted to the hospital due to injuries during stone-pelting. The scale of the attack can be gauged from the fact that two Home Guards personnel of Haryana police died after sustaining gunshot injuries during the attack.

In retaliation to the horrifying hostage-like situation and attack on Hindus, very soon the Hindu organizations of Haryana grouped together and began a counterattack. While the hostages at Nuh were successfully rescued by the police, on the evening of the same day as the Nuh attack, Hindus in Gurugram set ablaze a mosque and an Imam was killed in the process. Further, over the next four to five days, it was reported that Muslim shops and other commercial settlements were attacked in parts of Gurugram and Sohna. Reports also came in of Muslim migrants attempting to flee Gurugram. Over the next few days, the situation settled down and due to interventions of the police status-quo was restored.

The counterattack by Hindus was a rare one, as witnessed in this case. Most usually in such incidents of communal violence, Hindus are either passive victims of violence or rely on the dubious system of law to get some justice. Rarely have they organized to defend themselves in a manner which would make miscreants think twice about doing something like this in the future. The Nuh counter-reaction was one such significant moment.

What led to the Nuh attack?

The violence at Nuh can be set apart from other incidents of communal violence that have erupted from time-to-time. This is because the attack on the Hindus at Nuh was meticulously pre-planned. After the attack, subsequent investigations in the field, as well as seized evidence, revealed chilling details of how this attack was planned. Subsequent investigations show:

First, transcripts of phone calls between Islamists which showed how the attack was pre-planned. Some transcripts even showed a Muslim man exhorting his peers to kill at least a minimum number of Hindus – numbering 20-25 – for the attack to be successful.

Second, evidence reveals that it was not a spontaneous attack led by local Muslims of Nuh. Muslims from outside the state – such as from Rajasthan – were brought in as well. Furthermore, a substantial number of illegal Rohingya immigrants have also been arrested by the police for their involvement in the attack.

Third, involvement of Muslim MLAs of Congress and AAP has also come to light in this incident. They had threatened of dire consequences if an individual named, Monu Manesar, dared to join the Yatra. Thus, a concerted social media campaign was undertaken in which the supposed presence of Monu Manesar – a cow vigilante accused of killing two Muslims – was used to provoke Muslims which allegedly led to the Islamist attack on Hindus. The reality is that Monu Manesar never joined the Yatra. The entire attack was pre-planned based on an assumption. It is also worth questioning that even if Monu Manesar had joined the Yatra, would this have justified this horrendous Islamist attack on Hindus?

Fourth, the Yatra was thoroughly recced and minute-by-minute updates were shared with the rioters via social media. Rioters shared their live locations with each other and asked other rioters to assemble at certain places. Information regarding which roads should be blocked was also shared in advance.

Finally, the attack and the entire pre-planning reveals an interesting piece of information about the Meo Muslims of Mewat region who were involved. This needs to be clarified due to misinformation regarding Meo Muslims as being moderate. They began getting radicalized during the colonial rule. During Partition violence, the Muslim Meos first demanded Meostan, a Muslim nation. After the Partition riots, Meos were almost moved to Pakistan, but Gandhi asked them to stay back in India.

This significant trove of information reveals how the Nuh attack was pre-planned. It also has implications for the nation as a whole. For, Nuh was hardly an isolated incident. It is a microcosm of the future in store for the majority community if they continue to adhere to the path of tamasic selfishness and materialism.

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