* Foreign

Until 2017, he was the only leader Zimbabweans had known since the country’s independence in 1980

Robert Mugabe, the first Prime Minister and later President of independent Zimbabwe, who traded the mantle of liberator for the armour of a tyrant and presided over the decline of one of Africa’s most prosperous lands, died on Friday. He was 95.

The death was announced by his successor, President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

“It is with the utmost sadness that I announce the passing on of Zimbabwe’s founding father and former President, Cde Robert Mugabe,” he wrote on Twitter, using the abbreviation for comrade. “Mugabe was an icon of liberation, a pan-Africanist who dedicated his life to the emancipation and empowerment of his people. His contribution to the history of our nation and continent will never be forgotten.”

In August, Mr. Mnangagwa had said that Mr. Mugabe had spent several months in Singapore getting treatment for an undisclosed illness.

Mr. Mugabe, the world’s oldest head of state before his ouster in 2017, was the only leader Zimbabweans had known since independence, in 1980. Like many who liberated their countries, Mr. Mugabe believed that Zimbabwe was his to govern until the end. In a speech before the African Union in 2016, he said he would remain at the helm “until God says, ‘Come.’”

Throughout, Mr. Mugabe remained inscrutable, some would say conflicted. Remote, calculating, ascetic and cerebral, a self-styled revolutionary inspired by what he called “Marxist-Leninism-Mao-Tse-tung thought,” he affected a scholarly manner, bespectacled and haughty, a vestige of his early years as a schoolteacher. But his hunger for power was undiluted.

In November 2017, the Army, fearing that Mr. Mugabe would anoint his second wife, Grace Mugabe, as his political heir, moved against him and he was forced to step down. NY Times

Influential Hindutva voices in U.S. are moving closer to Trump

New equations: A file photo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi with U.S. President Donald Trump in Washington.PTIPTI

After Indian American engineer Srinivas Kuchibhotla was killed by a white nationalist in Kansas in February 2017, it took several weeks before the new President, Donald Trump, condemned it, only obliquely still, upsetting the community. Democrat Bernie Sanders instantly came out in support of the family and the community, and said the President’s rhetoric on immigration led to the murder. As campaign for the 2020 presidential election picks up, a dominant section of the Indian Americans linked to Hindutva politics is gunning for Mr. Sanders and aligning with the nationalist politics of Mr. Trump, for their respective positions on Kashmir. This rapidly evolving realignment will polarise the community and could alter the basis of India-U.S. ties.

Indian Americans have largely been supporters of the Democratic Party, to which all five U.S lawmakers of Indian origin belong. Democrats have been supportive of immigration and religious and cultural rights of the minorities. The simultaneous rise of nationalism in India and America, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Mr. Trump, had put the community in a paradoxical situation, as they were largely jubilant about Hindutva in India while being at the receiving end of nationalism in the U.S.

The Kashmir factor

Kuchibotla himself was an ardent fan of Mr. Modi’s sweeping Hindutva politics as his wife related after this murder. Not only Mr. Sanders, but Democrats such as Congressman from Silicon Valley, Ro Khanna, Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal and several other friends of India and Indian Americans have denounced Hindutva politics in the wake of the prolonged lockdown of Jammu and Kashmir following the unilateral end to its autonomy. “India’s behaviour is unacceptable,” said Mr. Sanders.

“It’s the duty of every American politician of Hindu faith to stand for pluralism, reject Hindutva, and speak for equal rights for Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhist and Christians,” Mr. Khanna, grandson of a freedom fighter and a member of the first Parliament of India, said.

Political realignment

Influential Hindutva voices in U.S. have turned against these Democrats, and accused them of harbouring pro-Pakistan sympathies and being in the spell of anti-India, Muslim advisers. Mr. Trump does not sweat over India’s Kashmir policy. Kashmir has brought them closer to Mr. Trump. There are many ironies in this, but this might end one central paradox of Hindutva-leaning Indian American politics, which has been sympathetic to religious majoritarianism and cultural supremacism in India while demanding religious and cultural rights in their adopted land.

The dualism of Indian American politics has now become unsustainable as Democratic leaders find it increasingly impossible to side with Mr. Modi as he advances the Hindutva agenda. Many of these friends of India had misread Mr. Modi’s success in 2014 elections as a turn in Indian politics towards more neoliberal reforms and globalism. Such an image of Mr. Modi was also projected by Indian diplomacy in America. But one American thinker, who interpreted Mr. Modi’s victory as a nativist revolt against a global elite, was none other than Stephen Bannon, the most authentic interpreter of Mr. Trump’s nationalist politics.

Mr. Bannon has also been particularly a critic of the H-1B visa and Indian-American immigration. That the Indian Ambassador to the U.S. retweeted a tweet that denounced Mr. Sanders and tweeted about his meeting with Mr. Bannon in glowing terms, which was deleted later,bears out the official Indian position on the emerging fault-lines in American politics and the role of Indian Americans in it.

This realignment of Indian American politics will be accelerated with the forthcoming Howdy, Modi rally in Houston on September 22.

The occasion will call upon liberal Indian Americans and Democratic politicians to be unambiguous in their view of the Indian leader and his politics.

Robert Gabriel Mugabe leaves behind a conflicting legacy. He was the leader of a prominent faction of guerillas during Zimbabwe’s independence struggle. He fought the British colonialists, ended the country’s Britain-backed white minority rule and became the first elected Prime Minister of Zimbabwe. But he also presided over the fall of the country’s economy.


When Mr. Mugabe joined politics in early the 1960s, the National Democratic Party led by Joshua Nkomo was the main anti-colonial force in Southern Rhodesia, as Zimbabwe was then known. Mr. Mugabe joined a radical faction within the NDP. Later, this faction split from the party and formed the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU). After organising anti-government rallies, the White government arrested him for sedition in 1964. After his release a decade later, Mr. Mugabe fled the country but never left the movement. From Mozambique, he led the Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army, the military wing of ZANU, in the war for liberation.

Towards the late 1970s, as it was evident that the government could not win the war, it started implementing political reforms, including universal suffrage. In 1979, the British government, its local allies and the guerillas signed the Lancaster House Agreement, bringing the war to an end. In the polls in 1980, Mr. Mugabe’s ZANU won and he became the Prime Minister.


Mr. Mugabe initially rolled out welfare measures. He had also struck a conciliatory tone with the White minorities and discouraged them from fleeing the country. He launched land reform initiative aimed at addressing the question of inequality. Initially, the programme was based on a “willing seller and willing buyer” principle. But it was a failure as half of the country’s land was controlled by white minority.

In 2000, militant supporters of the President and ruling party members started seizing farm lands forcefully. For Mr. Mugabe, it was a radical plan to redistribute the farm lands and address poverty and landlessness among the country’s vast majorities. But the plan backfired. The violent land reforms stunted the country’s agriculture productivity, leading to food shortages and inflation. From 1998 to 2008, the country’s agricultural output slumped by more than 60%.


The system Mr. Mugabe built functioned around him. He first established himself as the unquestionable leader of ZANU. He purged his potential rivals. In 1988, he changed the Constitution to create an executive presidency and became the country’s first Executive President. Since then, he always got re-elected.

The fall

He remained obsessively focused on amassing power in his own hands. In 2017, following mass protests, the military and the ZANU-PF ousted him. Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa assumed power. The military, which doesn’t want to call it a coup, allowed him to live in Zimbabwe, and in official communications, he’s still referred to as the father of the nation.

Minhal Baig’s woman-centred Hala brings diversity to festival in its 44th edition

In a festival committed to diversity and gender parity, it is fitting indeed to open one’s film viewing innings with a subcontinental story centred on a woman and made by a woman filmmaker.

Minhal Baig’s coming of age film Hala, which played on the opening day of the 44th Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), traverses the familiar zone of the diasporic experience — a teenager Hala (Geraldine Viswanathan) negotiating the clash of cultures, finding the right balance between the immigrant home and the “westernised” world outside, of squaring up to her desires and sexual awakening while being cloistered and protected by Pakistani immigrant parents.

Tables turn

Then there is another interesting arc of role reversal as the tables turn on the seemingly progressive father who encourages her to skateboard, read literature and solve crosswords, and a conservative mother who appears to be only bothered about fajr (prayer at dawn) and hijaab (scarf). It’s the overprotective mother who eventually becomes the empowering figure for her and, in turn, finds liberation for herself through her daughter.

Ms. Baig keeps things gentle, even when a terrible storm might be brewing in Hala’s life. There is a sense of grace underlying the literary works Hala takes recourse to in mirroring her own dilemmas and internal struggles, specially Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House.

There is a persistent contradictory pull in what she quotes and reads out, the words she chooses to express herself in or the pauses and silence between them.

The finale does get somewhat sloppy and slapdash but Ms. Baig is largely restrained and subtle.

Fine collaboration

Chicago-based writer-director, Ms. Baig forms a fine collaboration with young Australian actor Ms. Viswanathan. Ms. Baig draws out a nuanced performance from Ms.Viswanathan, whose face is a wondrous canvas for fleeting emotions — curiosity, indifference, empathy, hurt, pain, rage, confusion. Her face is the film.

(The writer is in Toronto at the personal invitation of TIFF)

It is not only the sons of King Sagara who are indebted to Bhagiratha who relieves them of their sins by which they are able to attain heavenly regions when he brings the celestial Ganga to earth. The entire human race has benefited from this invaluable gift. The Ganga owes her greatness to the Lord from whose lotus feet she originates. She is thus endowed with the power to sanctify and give relief to the sorrows of worldly life. The waters can save people from the ocean of samsara by absolving them of past sins. But before she agrees to descend to earth in response to Bhagiratha’s penance, she foresees some difficulties which she puts forth to him, pointed out Swami Paramasukananda in a discourse.

First of all, she fears that if the force of her rapid fall is not restricted, the waters would pierce the earth and go down to rasatala. She wonders if there’s anyone at all who can restrict her flow. Bhagiratha humbly tells her that he would seek Siva through penance and request Him to check and control her flow. Siva accedes and holds the waters on His matted locks, but not before He curbs her pride.

The next question she raises is how she is to deal with the impurities, pollution and sin that people on earth will inflict on her when they use the waters. How is she to purify herself? Where could all this sin be deposited? Bhagiratha points out that she need not worry about this. There are many sadhus who are always steeped in Brahma Jnana, have renounced everything in life, and hence maintain equanimity and tranquillity. When such realised souls come to the waters for ablutions, with only the thought of the Lord in their hearts, their very contact would automatically purify the river. For the Lord is the sole destroyer of all sins.

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