Policy Watch: Can India undo its colonial inheritance?
And, what does the world think of PM Modi?
It was a busy week for Bridge India Members, with dinner in Parliament and a meeting with some of the leading luminaries of the Hindi film industry. Scroll down for more Member news.
Welcome to our newest Member Alpesh Trivedi. He joins from GPS Air, a leader in indoor air quality, with over 30 patents and 250,000 installations worldwide since its founding, including in offices, research labs, schools, universities, health care facilities and airports. He was previously at Johnson Controls as Sales Channel Leader for Western Europe.
Welcome also to Prof Abhinay Muthoo, who also joins our Advisory Board. Abhinay is the Dean and a Professor at the Meghnad Desai Academy of Economics, a Fellow of the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, and the Lead Academic of the UK Cross Parliamentary Party Youth Violence Commission.
Abhinay was educated at the LSE and the University of Cambridge. He has over 37 years of teaching and research experience, across several universities including Cambridge, the LSE, Harvard, Bristol, and Warwick. He has been a full professor of economics for over 25 years.
Abhinay has over 20 years of leadership and management experience, including have been the Head of the Departments of Economics at the Universities of Warwick and Essex, and the Dean of Warwick in London for four years, and since May 2023, the Dean of MDAE.
Ketan Dattani is in Uganda currently, travelling back home to his paternal homeland to help the area with access to clean water. Congratulations to him for his community work.
Watch this episode of Climate Action News, with nearly a million views, featuring Sangeeta Waldron in conversation with Ingmar Rentzhog on We Dontt Have Time to discuss transparent climate communication and the urgency of climate action.
Advisory Board Member Sunita Bhambri represented Bridge India in celebrating musician Javed Akhtar receiving an honorary degree from SOAS, with Shabana Azmi and Farhan Akhar also attending.
Several Members attended the Indo-UK Business Excellence Awards in Parliament last week, which celebrated some of the leading business leaders, job creators and community activists from across India, particularly from Tier 2 and 3 cities.
And this week, several Members will once again be attending the leading South Asian awards ceremony in the UK, the Asian Achievers Awards.
The G20 meeting has put India in the global geopolitical spotlight, including chatter around a name change for India, to Bharat. Modi wrote exclusively in The Times ahead of the meeting, focusing on ampfying the Global South and empowering women.
Pew Research Center’s research shows positive views of India globally. Opinions of Modi are mixed, with a median of 40% saying they have no confidence in Modi to do the right thing regarding world affairs and a median of 37% saying they have at least some confidence. Mexicans and Brazilians were especially critical of Modi.
Harvard Business Review published a balanced piece on Is India the World’s Next Great Economic Power? The authors say India has finally moved from being ‘Incredible India’ to ‘Inevitable India’.
Policy Watch: Can India undo its colonial inheritance?
India’s legal system currently runs on common law, a system that came with the East India Company’s colonial conquest in India. The establishment of common law was an essential element to the British Raj’s justification of their presence in India.
To this day, a plethora of colonial laws remain codified in India’s legal system. On August 11th, the last day of Parliament before it adjourned, Union Home Minister Amit Shah introduced three bills in the Lok Sabha aiming to reform the remnants of colonial rule in India: the Bharativa Nyaya Sanita Bill, Bhartiya Nagrik Suraksha Sanhita Bill and the Bharativa Sakshya Bill replacing the Indian Penal Code (1860), Criminal Code of Civil Procedure (1898) and the Indian Evidence Act (1872) respectively.
Shah elaborated that the motive behind these laws as an attempt of enshrining justice and the rights of Indian citizens in the criminal system rather than the authoritarianism of the colonial administration intrinsic to its predecessor. In part of this effort, these bills create provisions that make forensic visits to crime scenes compulsory for offences with seven years or more jail terms, allow for absconding criminals in absentia, as well as giving the police force and courts a time limit for submitting chargesheets, giving decisions and putting decisions online.
Before its submission, the bill underwent extensive consultation with 18 states, 6 Union Territories, the Supreme Court, 16 high courts, five legal academies, five universities, 142 MPs and 270 MLAs. It has now been sent to the Parliamentary Standing Committee for further review.
In particular, the repeal of the colonial sedition law within Section 150 of the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita Bill has come under attention from policy enthusiasts. The sedition law was initially designed by the British to suppress the Indian independence movement in Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code. Upon this law’s inheritance by postcolonial India it was used by subsequent ruling governments. Between 2014 to 2020 there were 399 instances of sedition that translated into 8 convictions. This law has come under criticism by organisations such as Human Rights Watch for its use to suppress free speech and press. In May 2022, the Supreme Court suspended all ongoing proceedings related to the sedition law.
The Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita Bill has replaced this criminal offence with new offences that endanger the sovereignty, unity or integrity of India. Acts of secession, armed rebellion and subversive activities are listed in this. Commentators have seen this law as a strengthened version of the sedition law as Naveed Mehmood from the Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy says. In some cases, the criminalisation goes one step further from the controversial sedition law by including electronic communication and financial means while increasing the punishment from 3 years to life to 7 years to life.
While these laws have created hundreds of changes to the status quo, it utilises the same basic template, leading some to question the validity of the reform away from India’s colonial inheritance. A key issue with the sedition law according to lawyer Lubhyathi Rangarajan was its vagueness, with its subjective use giving police expansive control on its application. The replacement laws do little to address this issue, with the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita Bill retaining more than 80% of the Indian Penal Code. Rangarajan writes on this replacement penal code ignoring the Supreme Court’s ‘jurisprudential line of thought’ on rendering vague laws as unconstitutional in the past. By keeping the vagueness, these laws may continue to permit its subjective application giving the police more power. This had led experts like Senior Advocate at the Supreme Court Rebecca John to argue that these laws function instead as a ‘housekeeping exercise’ keeping the same provisions under new Hindi names as Professor Surendranath from Delhi’s National Law University describes.
Alongside this, there has been expressed concern over the institutional challenges presented by the law. Adhering to strict time limits may pose unrealistic expectations in a country where there are 21 judges for every one million Indians. Furthermore, expecting forensic investigations in every major crime scene may be met with institutional challenges.
Hence, what comes into question is whether it is even possible to entirely undo a state’s colonial inheritance when it remains so inextricable to its model of nationhood as explored by Basil Davidson in ‘The Black Man’s Burden’. After all, it remains a challenge for postcolonial states to relieve themselves of their imperialist roots, especially when they have grown to become comfortable with it - a pattern noticed across the world.
Asian Achievers Awards (6:30pm, Fri 15 September | London Hilton on Park Lane | Book here)
Join the biggest celebration of South Asian excellence in the UK, in a glittering black-tie dinner evening with music, dance and comedy performances. The Shortlist for the Awards has been announced here.
The Filmy Shilmy Show: A spotlight on British Asian filmmakers (6:30pm, Fri 22 September | Rich Mix, Shoreditch, London | Book here)
The discussion will centre around the process of making cinema that is rooted and reflective of ethnic lives within the Western world, as well as touching on the wider themes of the films and the challenges independent filmmakers face in gaining mainstream traction.
Ramayana: A puppet show (6pm, Fri 10 Nov | Central London | Book here)
The Ramayana Puppet Show is StoryHour UK flagship performance. A timeless piece of culture and art, this story narrates the epic tale behind the festival of Diwali, using uniquely hand-crafted puppets. Having been performed across many different audiences, this puppet show has been celebrated for capturing the essence of a classic. The show has been screened at various Indian embassies across Europe and schools in London while also being readily available in 6 languages here. It has been applauded by Indian Member of Parliament Shashi Tharoor, author Amish Tripathi and others.
Alongside a screening of the puppet show, there will be live puppeteers demonstrating scenes from the Ramayana, with an installation of the six puppets, followed by a talk and Q&A with producer Neelima Penumarthy.
When: 5 – 6:30pm, Wed 19 July
Where: Central London
Book: Bridge India Members: £10 | Others: £20 bookable here | Drinks and snacks provided
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