|Photo: Meher Ali|
When the recent revolutions in West Asia and North Africa raised the dissent of the governed to an unprecedented crescendo, President Mohamed Nasheed was quick to remind Maldivians of their shared political trajectory with the Egyptians. Both peoples were subjected to three decades of autocratic rule; both ultimately exercised their will not to be governed in this way; and both forced the departure of their authoritarian rulers by staging mass demonstrations remarkable for their presence of passion as well as absence of fear – and violence.
It is indeed true that Maldivians and Egyptians have shared a political trajectory. Now they have both entered a phase in which their paths will either continue along similar lines or diverge wildly, depending on how successful they are in consolidating their nascent democracies. Between 1960 and 2008, the fate of 90 countries that embarked on over 120 large-scale attempts at democratisation suggests it is by no means certain that either Egypt or the Maldives will be successful in keeping their new democracies. In fact, the spectre of reverting to authoritarian rule remains significant in both cases. Around the world, rates of democratic consolidation vary from region to region. In Asia, of 23 democratisation projects between 1960 and 2004, 57 percent ended in reversal, according to Polity IV Project, which studies global trends in regime change. After the initial euphoria when President Nasheed won democratic elections in late 2008, ending Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s decades in power, hard realities have since set in. Unfortunately, the current political climate in the Maldives provides little reason to believe that the atolls will be able to buck the broader trend and avoid a return
Mockery: On 2 August 2010, the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) held a ceremony to have all sitting judges retake their oaths, thus essentially dismissing the Commission’s constitutionally mandated responsibility to remove judges found to be unqualified. As seen in this photo, JSC member Aisath Velezinee interrupted the ceremony, appealing to the gathered judges not to go forward with the oath-taking. Although her appeal was not heeded by anyone present, the outburst was telecast live on some Maldivian television channels, throwing Velezinee into the limelight. She was stabbed five months later.
|Photo: Saif Ali|
Greatest job in the world: President Nasheed during the shooting of a public-service announcement on climate change.
Photo: Mauroof Khaleel
Image: Penguin India
Penguin India withdraws The Hindus
On 11 February 2014, Penguin India decided to recall and destroy all remaining copies of Wendy Doniger’s book The Hindus: An Alternative History. The decision was part of an agreement between them and Shiksha Bachao Andolan, a Hindu campaign group that filed a case against the publishers in 2010, arguing that the book was insulting to Hindus and contained “heresies”.
From our archive:
Diwas Kc reviews The Hindus: An Alternative History. (March 2010)