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7 May 2014updated 28 Jun 2021 4:45am

In this week’s magazine | India’s worst nightmare

A first look inside this week’s New Statesman. 

By New Statesman

 

9 MAY 2014 ISSUE

 

COVER STORY: WILLIAM DALRYMPLE REPORTS ON THE DARK PAST OF THE INDIAN PRIME MINISTERIAL FAVOURITE, NARENDRA MODI

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THE “CURMUDGEONLY OLD FEMINIST” GERMAINE GREER ON THE FAILURES OF THE NEW FEMINISM

 

Plus

 

PETER WILBY ON THE FUTILE ARREST OF GERRY ADAMS

THE NS CRITIC AT LARGE MARK LAWSON ON THE GEOPOLITICS OF EUROVISION

SMUG GO-GREY CAMPAIGNERS AND FEELING INVISIBLE: THE AUTHOR MARINA BENJAMIN ON WOMEN AND MIDDLE AGE

LETTER FROM UKRAINE: MILITIAS PREPARE FOR WAR

DIANE ABBOTT MP REMEMBERS DARCUS HOWE’S ROLE IN THE RISE OF 1970s BLACK POWER IN BRITAIN

EDITOR’S NOTE: JASON COWLEY ON THE THOMAS PIKETTY PHENOMENON

JOHN SUTHERLAND CELEBRATES THE RETURN OF PENGUIN’S PELICAN SERIES

 

*THE NS’s DEPUTY EDITOR, HELEN LEWIS, TO PRESENT RADIO 4’s WEEK IN WESTMINSTER THIS SATURDAY, 10 MAY, AT 11AM*

 

 

COVER STORY: WILLIAM DALRYMPLE ON NARENDRA MODI AND INDIA’S LANDMARK ELECTION

 

As votes are counted in the Indian general election, William Dalrymple investigates the record of Narendra Modi, chief minister of Gujarat and the man most expect to be declared prime minister on 16 May. Dalrymple considers Modi’s alleged involvement in a series of human rights abuses, including a massacre of Muslims in Gujarat in 2002. Is Modi a neo-fascist and dangerous future “Indian Putin”, he asks, or the strongman reformer that this country of 1.2 billion people craves?

 

Modi is the Hindu nationalist son of a station chai-wallah, and as different a man as could be imagined from the shahzada, or “princeling”, as Modi mockingly refers to [Rahul Gandhi,] the heir to the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty. With [his new political rival the Aam Aadmi Party leader Arvind] Kejriwal reduced to a minor player, the election in most of the country has been an unequal contest between the Modi juggernaut and a beleaguered Rahul, who is in the process of taking the can for the failings of a government he didn’t lead and can do little to redeem.

. . .

It is easy to understand why so many Indians feel a need for bold change and why the thought of another five years of a dithering, divided and corrupt Congress government fills them with dismay. But it is less easy to understand why so many are willing to overlook Modi’s extremely dodgy record with India’s religious minorities.

. . .

On the campaign trail, whether from pragmatism or otherwise, Modi has largely kept his Hindu nationalism hidden and presented himself throughout as an able, technocratic administrator who can turn the country’s economy around and stimulate much-needed development. It could therefore be that the liberal elite are worrying needlessly and that India will get a leader who can kick-start the economy, who is incorruptible and who has left his sectarian past well behind him.

 

One can only hope so. Because, if the polls are right, Modi will win this election by some margin, and we are likely to see many more images of the man plastered around the country over the next five years.

 

 

BOOKS: GERMAINE GREER REVIEWS THE VAGENDA AND EVERYDAY SEXISM

 

Germaine Greer reviews two new titles – The Vagenda and Everyday Sexism – written by a trio of young feminists and based on blogs of the same name. Although she is comforted by signs that there are “sufficient angry women out there” committed to ending misogyny, Greer despairs of the “whingeing” tone of the new feminism. She finds The Vagenda a particularly painful read:

 

The most curmudgeonly old feminist has got to be glad that in February 2012 two young women set up a blog raging about the insidious nastiness of the women’s press and got seven million hits in its first year of operation . . .

 

Holly Baxter and Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett, who set up the Vagenda blog, have now uttered a book of the same name. The title was meant to be an ironic version of the portmanteau words adopted by the lower end of the women’s press – a compound of “vagina” and “agenda” – but, like much of the wordplay on the blog and in the book, it doesn’t really work, being neither amusing nor informative.

. . .

The writing style of the book takes its cue from the hyperbole of the magazines that are under attack and struggles to outdo it. Baxter and Cosslett (who also write the V Spot blog on the New Statesman website) tell us that, in their personal experience, “Losing your hymen is about as pleasurable as having someone rap your knuckles with a frozen veggie sausage.” Do they seriously wish us to believe that their hymen somehow got lost and that they were aware of its getting lost at the time? That is no more likely than that someone, anyone, would have rapped them on the knuckles with a sausage of any kind, much less vegetarian, much less frozen.

 

Despite her reservations about their methods, Greer concedes that “the emergence of three young women who are not afraid to give voice to rage could be a sign of a mass movement on the way”.

 

 

PETER WILBY ON THE ARREST OF GERRY ADAMS

 

In his First Thoughts column, Peter Wilby argues that the precariousness of the political settlement in Northern Ireland made the arrest of Gerry Adams last week an inevitably futile exercise:

 

What was the point of the Northern Ireland police arresting and holding Gerry Adams for four days over a murder that happened 42 years ago? A conviction would be impossible to obtain. Using a Diplock court (sitting without a jury) would be unthinkable for such a high-profile case. Few potential witnesses would be willing to give evidence and few jurors willing to convict, either because they regard Adams as a liberation hero or because they still fear the IRA. Mainland press commentators who insist “justice” must be done forget that justice is always elusive in a divided society where paramilitary gangs are never far below the surface.

 

Tony Blair’s peace with the Provisional IRA was a fudge and perhaps a necessary one. Hardline republicans will stick with democratic politics as long as they think it works for them. If it ever ceases to do so, the IRA – or a “rebel” offshoot, which is what the Provisional IRA was in the first place – will reappear. “We haven’t gone away, you know,” a Belfast rally was told after Adams’s arrest. That understanding has underpinned the province’s affairs for 16 years.

 

There was never a formal amnesty, only a series of nods and winks. Paramilitaries on both sides could do as they pleased in sectarian working-class ghettos. But Northern Ireland’s middle classes could get on with their shopping while business could make profits without inconvenience from bombs. So that’s all right – for the time being.

 

 

MARK LAWSON ON THE GEOPOLITICS OF EUROVISION

 

With the 2014 Eurovision Song Contest final in Copenhagen days away, the NS’s critic at large Mark Lawson shows that the annual festival of “crap pop” in “bad English” has an uncanny record of predicting geopolitics:

 

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office would doubtless claim to have better things to do than tune in for the final from Copenhagen on 10 May but Eurovision has an impressive record of predicting geopolitical tensions. Last year, the BBC’s Graham Norton noted that Russia and Ukraine had given each other lower marks than usual . . .

 

As one of the few occasions on which populations are invited to vote for and against other countries, Eurovision efficiently reflects international sympathies and hostilities. Strikingly, Israel won two contests in a row (1978 and 1979) when perceived as a victim in the years after the Munich Olympics massacre, but since the prominence of the Palestinian issue has recently struggled even to qualify for the final.

 

 

THE POLITICS COLUMN: RAFAEL BEHR

 

This week, the NS’s political editor, Rafael Behr, argues that although the Tories dismiss Labour as anti-business, David Cameron must beware of seeming anti-everyone else.

 

Ed Miliband’s distate for British capitalism is a source of frequent comfort to the Tories. When the Labour leader talks about intervening in rogue markets, David Cameron hears the crackle of flames consuming the opposition’s economic credibility. He believes that Labour’s litany of private-sector targets (banks, payday lenders, letting agents, energy companies), combined with the intention to tax mansions and squeeze top salaries, creates the impression of a party that hates profit and wealth.

. . .

Cameron’s clique does not include anyone who will urge him to tackle fat-cattery and his campaign coffers are filled by people who insist that he doesn’t. Miliband has the reverse problem. There is no one in his entourage who has built a business and plenty who have read books on business gone bad.

 

*Read the Politics Column in full below*

 

 

MARINA BENJAMIN: WHEN YOUTH IS A FOREIGN COUNTRY

 

As she prepares to mark her 50th birthday, a bad fall prompts the author Marina Benjamin to reflect on the problems women face as they navigate middle age:

 

Life’s defining moments do not always announce themselves with the fanfare of celebration (big birthdays, weddings) or trauma (puberty, divorce). Sometimes, they’re like stealth bombers; they come out of nowhere and blow up things soundlessly. Two years ago I experienced just such a moment in the middle of the night. I woke up wanting to go to the bathroom and swung out of bed to stand up. I took a single step in the right direction, then fell to the floor like a plank.

. . .

From that instant on, I’ve never regained an absolute trust that my body will automatically fall into line with my will: from now on it will falter and fail. I can no longer depend on it to function properly. This, it seems to me, is solid indication that my youth has ended and middle age begun.

. . .

Men still manage to remain visible as they age, while women are quietly removed from view, especially in high-visibility professions such as the stage and media. Last year the actress Kristin Scott Thomas was widely reported complaining that in midlife she is no longer seen. “Somehow, you just vanish,” she said. You talk and people affect not to hear you. Or they bump into you in the street. Her disclosure struck terror into the heart of every middle-aged woman I know: if someone as blindingly gorgeous and talented as Scott Thomas could simply disappear, what hope was there for the rest of us?

 

Plus

 

Bel Trew reports on the “Butcher” of Minya, Egypt’s Judge Saeed Youssef

Sophie McBain on the peer pressure that could help recruit suicide bombers

As a lifelong worrier, Tracey Thorn thinks anxiety is having a moment

Will Self on chest-beating at PMQs and the louts at the heart of our body politic

Daniel Trilling on the right-wing hate group the English Democrats

Caroline Crampton visits the Women’s Library in its new home at the LSE

Helen Lewis revels in the mischievous bad taste and artistic brilliance of the designer

Jean Paul Gaultier at the Barbican’s new retrospective

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