Modi, Putin and Xi
The leaders of Russia, China and India—the three biggest powers bidding to reshape a global order dominated by the US—convened over video at a virtual summit meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisa-tion [SCO], and each focused on their own driving issues.

The annual meeting—which was established by China and Russia in 2001 and includes Pakistan and Central Asian countries—offered no dramatic statement of changing alliances. But it did give a glimpse of how a regional bloc formed to counter Western influence might coalesce and navigate their competing priorities.

There was no mention of the mounting friction between Beijing and New Delhi over border disputes and India’s membership in the Quad, a security-focused coalition with the U S that China views as a tool to contain it.

Xi Jinping, China’s president, instead reiterated long-held grievances against the U S by calling for an end to “hegemonism” and “power politics”. Narendra Modi, India’s prime minister, urged the forum to condemn countries that “use terrorism as an instrument of their policy” —a veiled reference to Pakistan, which India accuses of sponsoring militants in the Kashmir region.

President Vladimir Putin called for a new “multipolar” world, trying to project solidarity with powers unaligned with the West. He tried to display strength and domestic stability in the aftermath of the uprising by the Wagner mercenary group.

SCO may go the SAARC way. SARRC is a regional grouping having no prospects of becoming a regional power due to presence of Pakistan. As China continually backs Pakistan against India, New Delhi has no option but to side with America in Quad against China. Also, Russia-China strategic partnership has no military component against America. What China wants is to contain America economically. Their idea of multipolar world is unlikely to take any concrete shape anytime soon.
A reader, Kolkata

Protection of Adivasi Identity
Prof Virginius Xaxa—who headed the High-Level Committee set up by the Prime Minister’s Office to probe into “the socio-economic, educational and health status of tribal communities”—has said that uniform laws have proved “detrimental” to the interests of the Adivasi communities.

In an online interview , Prof Xaxa said that the laws imposed from the top had negatively affected the Adivasi society, eroding their customary practices and taking away their resources. Instead of such laws, he supported the policy of respecting cultural diversity and ensuring the vulnerable groups their rights, given by the Indian Constitution.

Elaborating on this issue, Prof Xaxa said the need of the hour was to protect the Adivasi identity and defend their interests. He argued the imposition of the uniformity was not desirable as thrusting upon the Adivasi communities generalised [uniform] laws had adversely impacted them.

Prof Xaxa, who taught sociology at several prestigious educational institutes before his retirement, said that the uniform laws were justified in the name of the larger public good, but they resulted in nullifying some of the protective provisions given to the Adivasi community by the Constitution. “The generalised laws have been detrimental to Adivasis”, he added.

Former deputy director of Tata Institute of Social Sciences (Guwahati), Prof Xaxa, therefore, opposed the imposition of uniformity. He expressed disappointment that the discourse on the uniform civil code was being carried out without seeking informed consent of the people, particularly those who were the most vulnerable and disadvantaged.
Abhay Kumar, New Delhi

Leader of the Voiceless
India's 300 million Dalits are largely unrepresented in mainstream media. But Dalit journalists are changing that with news platforms dedicated to telling their stories.

Meena Kotwal comes from a family of manual labourers and grew up in a Dalit neighbourhood in the Indian capital of New Delhi.

She became a journalist and worked for several mainstream media outlets. However, her experiences as a young journalist made her realise that a major part of Indian society was being overlooked.

In 2019, Kotwal launched an online news platform called Mooknayak, which means "leader of the voiceless". Along with 14 journalists coming from diverse social groups in India, Kotwal aims to highlight stories of Dalits and other marginalised groups that go unreported in mainstream media.

The name for the platform was inspired by the architect of India's constitution B R Ambedkar. She runs her newsroom on the donations that she receives from crowdfunding. Recently, she secured funding from the Google News Initiative.

The news outlet publishes articles in both Hindi and English for wider reach. They shoot videos for their YouTube channel, aiming to cover stories that others do not, including atrocities and social injustices faced by Dalits.

Kotwal runs her news platform from Pushpa Bhawan, the same Dalit neighbourhood in Delhi where she grew up.

The Hindu caste system dates back thousands of years and places around 300 million Dalits at the bottom of a social hierarchy.

According to a recent report, nearly 88% of journalists in India were from the general category or upper caste in 2019. Today, that percentage remains nearly unchanged.
Adil Bhat, New Delhi

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Vol 56, No. 4, Jul 23 - 29, 2023