Joshimath and beyond
Joshimath, a picturesque town nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas, is facing a concerning issue—it is sinking under its own weight. The town's foundation is weak as it sits atop a glacial moraine, leaving it vulnerable to earthquakes. Moreover, the rapid increase in construction activities has made the situation worse, resulting in significant land deformation. Experts attribute this construction boom to the widening of the Char Dham Yatra road and National Highway 7, which are frequented by tourists and used to transport cargo to reach the holy shrine of Badrinath every year. Additionally, the Tapovan Vishnugad hydel project by NTPC Limited has also contributed to the situation.

The current crisis in Joshimath is a result of prioritising economics over a fragile ecology or the Himalayan ecosystem. The development model that has been followed for years has led to the open plundering of natural resources, ultimately leading to the present situation.

Atul Sati, the convenor-president of Joshimath Bachao Sangharsh Samiti, is spearheading the movement against maldevelopment and advocating for proper rehabilitation of affected people and preservation of the ecology.

‘Moti Bagh’ is an award-winning film by Nirmal Chander that highlights the complex and multilayered overall crisis in Uttarakhand - fraught with thousands of 'ghost villages' caused by mass migration to cities, the struggle to save farming, the socio-economic rift with Nepali agricultural labourers, all amidst increasing incidents of forest fires and earthquakes in a very fragile Himalayan ecology.

For over five decades, 83- year- old Vidyadutt Sharma has nurtured Moti Bagh, his 5 acre farm in a small Himalayan village. Around him are 7000 ghost villages–a chilling testimony to large scale migration by locals in search of employment. Chronicling the changing landscape in verses of resistance, Vidyadutt Sharma and Ram Singh, his Nepali farmland, plough the fields and keep them alive, hoping to return Moti Bagh to its old glory.
A Reader, Uttarakhand

Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of the Wagner mercenary group that was instrumental in capturing Bakhmut, is reportedly in Belarus now after the abortive mutiny. The Russian authorities dropped criminal charges against him and his fighters after he called off an uprising. Ukraine’s President Zelensky described the revolt as a ‘divine justice’. But euphoria didn’t last long as the Russian army quickly got control of the battlefield.

Russian state media reported that the Wagner group will hand over military equipment to the Army, though there were few details. It’s not clear how many Wagner fighters –Prigozhin recently said there were 25,000–would agree to be placed under the Russian Army’s command.

In Russia, President Vladimir Putin sought to demonstrate control in a series of public appearances. During a rare outdoor speech on the Kremlin grounds, he thanked Russia’s military for having “essentially stopped a civil war.” He also vaguely warned of consequences for officials who helped Prigozhin enrich himself at Russia’s expense.

Russia had said that it would grant amnesty to Prigozhin and his fighters. Under a deal brokered by President Aleksandr Lukashenko of Belarus, Prigozhin will live in exile there. Lukashenko said that he offered Wagner group members an “abandoned” military base in the country.

Prigozhin, a mercurial freelance warlord made a last-ditch attempt to win by force, one of the most extraordinary Russian power struggles in recent memory. But he ultimately failed.
Amelia Nierenberg

Silencing Setalvad
The court directed Setalvad, who is currently out on interim bail, to surrender immediately. It also rejected her lawyer's request to give her 30 days to surrender.

The Gujarat High Court Saturday [July1] rejected the regular bail plea of social activist Teesta Setalvad and directed her to surrender immediately, observing she made attempts to unsettle a democratically elected government and sully the image of the then chief minister and current Prime Minister Narendra Modi and tried to send him to jail.

Rejecting Setalvad's plea in a case of fabricating evidence to implicate innocent people in the 2002 post-Godhra riots cases, the court of Justice Nirzar Desai said that enlarging her will send a false signal that everything in a democratic country is lenient.

Setalvad was arrested in June last year along with former Gujarat Director General of Police R B Sreekumar and ex-IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt in an offence registered by Ahmedabad crime branch police for allegedly fabricating evidence to frame innocent people in the post-Godhra riots cases. She was granted interim bail by the Supreme Court on September 2, 2022.

In its judgment, the high court observed that prima facie it appears that Setalvad used her close associates and riot victims to file false and fabricated affidavits before the Supreme Court with a view to unseat the establishment and to tarnish the image of establishment and the then chief minister (Modi).
Social activists are not safe in Modi’s democracy. Any voice of dissent is being crushed with iron hands. Indians are living in an elected autocracy.
A Reader

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Vol 56, No. 3, Jul 16 - 22, 2023