Pankaj Mishra in the New York Times:
So who is anxious over India’s image in the wealthy world? That particular burden is borne by India’s small affluent elite, for whom the last few months have been full of painful and awkward self-reckonings. Certainly, the fear of violence over Ayodhya was only the latest in a long line of reminders that, as the columnist Vir Sanghvi put it, “as hard as we try to build a new India … old India still has the power to humiliate and embarrass us.”
Since June, a mass insurrection, resembling the Palestinian intifada, has raged in the Indian-held Valley of Kashmir. Defying draconian curfews, large and overwhelmingly young crowds of Kashmiri Muslims have protested human rights abuses by the nearly 700,000 Indian security forces there. Ill-trained soldiers have met stone-pelting protesters with gunfire, killing more than a hundred Kashmiris, mostly teenagers, and ensuring another militant backlash that will be exploited by radical Islamists in Pakistan.
A full-blown insurgency is already under way in central India, where guerrilla fighters inspired by Mao Zedong’s tactics are arrayed against a government they see as actively colluding with multinational corporations to deprive tribal people of their mineral-rich lands. In recent months, the Maoists have attacked the symbols of the state’s authority — railroads, armories, police stations — seemingly at will, killing scores of people.
Yet the greatest recent blow to wealthy Indians’ delusions on the subject of their nation’s inexorable rise has been the Commonwealth Games, for which Delhi was given a long and painful facelift. For so many, the contest was expected to banish India’s old ghosts of religious and class conflict, and cement its claims to a seat at the high tables of international superpowers.
But the games turned into a fiasco well before their scheduled opening.