The environment and politics before Uttarakhand polls

The hill state of Uttarakhand voted for its new Assembly on February 14. The Congress was at the helm of the state for 10 years and the BJP has run it for 11 years, but one thing has remained common through all administrations, Prudhviraj Rupavath writes in Article 14. The state governments have been accused, several times, of aiding the mining mafia and undercutting crucial environmental laws.

Before this election, the incumbent BJP government changed one law and introduced two policies “that made mining easier in a state ravaged by environmental degradation”. He points out that mining companies fund political parties hugely.

Rupavath lists instances of the impact of environmental degradation in Uttarakhand, such as landslides and dozens of bride collapses, and points out that the state experienced a 2,900% increase in landslides between 2015 and 2020. “An ecologically fragile state, Uttarakhand has witnessed rapid environmental degradation as forests were cut and replaced by roads, homes, hotels and other construction,” he writes.

Read more here.

Who are Muslim voters veering towards in UP?

Historically, Muslims in Uttar Pradesh have not voted overwhelmingly for any one party, writes Asim Ali. This time, though, there seem to be “signs of a marked consolidation of the Muslim vote behind the Samajwadi Party, the principal challenger to the Bharatiya Janata Party”, he says in The Telegraph. He looks at why it may be more viable to multi-corner contest in the state for Muslims – between the BJP, SP, Bahujan Samaj Party, and Congress – than a straight bipolar election.

Ali also looks at the role Asaduddin Owaisi’s All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen in the ongoing elections, and how thanks to them, “the specific concerns of Muslims were not rendered completely invisible in these elections”.

Read more here.

International human rights law and the hijab ban

Karnataka’s decision to enforce a ban on the hijab, which had first begun in some educational institutions, is at the centre of multiple pleas being heard by the High Court. Rashmi Venkatesan examines how such a ban would be viewed under international human rights law.

In her piece in The Wire, Venkatesan compares the ongoing controversy in Karnataka to France banning the burqa. The United Nations Human Rights Committee later found France’s decision to be “in violation of both gender equality and religious freedom”, she says.

Some of France’s defences of its law are similar to what the Karnataka government has said in court.

“Banning the hijab on the ground of equality is based on a very thin and shallow reading of equality to mean sameness,” Venkatesan writes. She adds that the burqa ban in France did not make the country more peaceful or secular.

Read more here.

The pandemic is not over

The world is in year three of the Covid-19 pandemic and millions have been vaccinated against the virus across the world. In The New York Times, Gregg Gonsalves draws parallels between the ongoing pandemic and the HIV-AIDS epidemic that struck the US in the 1990s.

AIDS killed thousands, but over the years, the middle class, white, gay man gained access to life-saving drugs – which other communities did not get. “Rather than acknowledge that high drug prices were keeping the pills out of the hands of others, one U.S. official said that Africans couldn’t tell time and thus the AIDS drugs would do no good there,” he writes.

Gonsalves points out that the world is ready to get back on its feet now, but that Covid-19 will also “follow the fault lines of social and economic inequality in America”.

Read more here.