Kavita Krishnan is one of the prominent figures in India's left and women's movements today. She has long been fighting for the rights of women, workers, and discriminated communities, playing a crucial role in large-scale campaigns to stop violence against women. In her texts, she analyzes the problems of Indian society and experiences of struggle from the Marxist feminist perspective.
In response to the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Kavita Krishnan managed to push the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Liberation to condemn Russian aggression more unambiguously than other Indian political organizations, and to organize street protests against it. However, the CPI (ML) failed to show effective solidarity with the Ukrainian people, causing Kavita to leave the party leadership and its women's organization, of which she had been a member for over two decades.
Today, Kavita Krishnan's voice in support of Ukraine is one of the loudest among intellectuals in the Global South. In her numerous speeches and articles, she exposes the Putinist slogan of a "multipolar world" and the reactionary internationalism of the Kremlin, which unites authoritarian regimes and far-right forces worldwide. She calls for solidarity among liberation movements that resist anti-democratic tendencies in India itself and elsewhere.
In the first part of the interview, which we published earlier, you can read about inequality, leftist struggles, and repressions in India. The second part is devoted to the impact of the Russian-Ukrainian war on the positions of the Indian left and Indian society in general.
You played a crucial role in mobilizing CPIML to hold street rallies against Putin's invasion of Ukraine. Were there any other political protests in India on this issue, or is pro-Russian sentiment widespread?
There wasn't so much pro-Russian sentiment, but, of course, it was there. Right-wing sentiment was completely with Russia. New Delhi has a kind of cultural hub where various cultural academies are located. Outside one of them, there's a Pushkin’s statue. On that Pushkin statue representatives of far-right organizations posted posters that said “We support Putin: Putin must succeed in recreating the undivided Soviet Union”. The word they used was undivided or unbroken, “akhand” in Hindi. And that is exactly the word that the Hindu supremacists use saying that India is now broken, but there used to be an undivided Hindu India that covered everything from Afghanistan to the Maldives, Mauritius, Nepal and Sri Lanka.
I pushed for the protests and they happened. But then my party insisted that the protests must target NATO as much as Russia. At that time I thought, if that's what it takes, let it be. I had the same trouble in pushing for a demonstration after the American exit of Afghanistan. Because the idea was that, if we protest at that point, then we will be protesting the Taliban and that would imply that we were not celebrating the American exit. I argued that America was here for 20 years and its exit is as criminal as its entry. It is leaving Afghanistan to the Taliban having already contributed to the problem for 20 years. You have to exit in a responsible way to make up for your violent invasion and occupation. And this is not a Taliban victory over America. It's a literally a signed agreement between the Taliban and America. We protested the US occupation when it lasted; we did not hold demonstrations against the Taliban then because it was not in power. But now the Taliban is in power, it was time to shift focus and show unequivocal solidarity with women, LGBT+ people, religious and ethnic minorities, and critics of the regime whose lives, liberty and dignity were in jeopardy.
Queue at the passport office in Kabul, December 19, 2021, Kabul, Afghanistan. Photo: MOHD RASFAN/AFP via Getty Images
In leftwing commentaries I was reading, it was being said that those unhappy with the Taliban were a minority of Afghans who had mostly been collaborators with the US occupation. I was beside myself with anger at such analyses, and while my comrades did not say this, they were clearly reluctant to hold protests.
Eventually a protest did happen – with some feminists and two of the Left women’s organisations taking the initiative. But here too, as in the case of protests against the war in Ukraine, we had to balance every slogan against the Taliban with one against America. But what was great about the protest in Delhi (the only one of its kind in India as far as I know, though on the same day there were some small demonstrations in other cities organised by state units of the same organisations) was that Afghan women students attended the protest. They spoke about why they did not under any circumstances want the Taliban in power, and they said it was not true that the Taliban was popular in rural Afghanistan or indeed anywhere else in the country. If the Taliban was the only job provider in your region you would naturally have to work with them; likewise if the US occupiers had the power to offer or withhold jobs, you would naturally have to work with them. Doing so did not imply fealty either to the US occupation or to the Taliban, they said.
Also, I had in the past few years come to realise how bankrupt our position on Syria had been for over a decade. I went back to look at reports we had carried in the magazine; reports for which I as editor was responsible. And found that over and over again we had propagated the lie that US “regime change” to topply Assad was the main issue. It was only in the 2018 party congress that I intervened and a resolution condemning Assad’s masscares of civilians and Russian “meddling” in specific terms was adopted. But even then, the resolution I drafted had been amended by other leaders to accuse the US (not Russia) of bombing Syria and attempting “regime change” by backing terrorist outfits on the pretext of support for anti-Assad protestors. This was exactly the script that followed on Ukraine as well. The only difference was that while we had implied that US-sponsored “terrorists” were the main force in the Syrian resistance; in the Ukraine script we replaced “terrorists” with “Nazis” and “CIA” as the forces behind Ukraine’s Maidan and its resistance to the Russian invasion. But this time I was not willing to be satisfied with this formula of expressing formal support to people’s resistance to dictators and invaders while undermining that support and slandering the resistance in the same breath.
Syrian men with babies move through the rubble of destroyed buildings after an airstrike hit the rebel-held Salihin district in Aleppo on September 11, 2016. Photo: Ameer Alhalbi, Agence France-Presse/Courtesy of World Press Photo Foundation / Handout via REUTERS
The problems began right at the beginning - on the day before the 2022 invasion., I talked to the leaders of my party and said that we should issue a statement against Russia’s plans to invade. One of my comrades drafted a statement, and I noticed that it referred to “warmongering” by America. I objected, saying that this implied the threat of a war by Russia was just a fiction created by the US. Instead I said we should demand that Russian troops retreat from the border. They agreed to this, but in the statement there was the same old script of “balance”: the top sentence said Russian troops must retreat from the border but just below it, the line about US warmongering was retained.
I remember an informal conversation I had that day with the general secretary of my party, when he told me: "This war talk is just America, and Putin is just posturing in response to the provocation. Of course he isn’t going to actually invade. The very next morning I called him up to say: ”He's invaded!” He was obviously shaken and he said to immediately issue another statement. Again, over that statement there was this push and pull of a similar kind. And the same pattern was repeated over and over, every time we said something about Ukraine.
One of the worst arguments we had was when the general secretary wrote an editorial for our weekly paper, where he referred to the events of 2014. He didn't mention the Maidan revolution at all. He said that Putin “retaliated” to the “toppling of the elected Yanukovych government” in Ukraine by annexing Crimea. I just said then that how can a paper which carries my name in it, of which I am one of the editors, publish this proveably false statement, this piece of Putin propaganda? And he replied with some amused exasperation: “What does one little detail matter? In 2014 we were all busy with Modi getting elected here, so who knows what happened in Ukraine.” I answered that if internationalism is a thing, then we should want to know. If you did not know, you should want to know. Then another editor of Liberation, known to be the party’s foremost scholar said, “It's very difficult to know what happened, whether the Maidan was a coup, how do we know?” I asked him how knows about anything. You listen to what Ukrainians have to say about it. And then they started talking about fascists in Ukraine, saying that sometimes these small nationalities can be quite rightwing. This was blowing my mind absolutely and I could not keep track of how many outrageously false and bigoted things to correct. I thought this could change if I could just communicate the facts to these two comrades. But eventually I had to realize that their position was not due to a lack of information on Ukraine. It's because there is a framework which is resistant to information. Then I started thinking about why that was the case.
Forced dispersal of a rally in support of Ukraine's European integration on Independence Square, November 30, 2013, Kyiv, Ukraine. Photo: STR/AFP via Getty Images
This obsession with “Ukrainian fascists” - I would say that it is a bit rich for us to be talking about Ukraine's fascists when we actually have a majoritarian fascist government right here in India; while Ukraine has a democratically elected government.
How would Indian minorities or their allies - who are at the receiving end of violence by fascists - feel if they were equated by the western left as fascists? An expatriate comrade smiled derisively when I called the Maidan a democratic revolution for Ukraine. But the fact is, at the exact same time (2014) that India was electing a fascist, Ukraine’s people were giving birth to democracy at the Maidan. And if a democracy birthed and nurtured by people is not revolutionary, what is? How arrogant of Indian leftists to deride Ukraine’s achievement?
The general secretary told me that we have to be careful, because even people like Kissinger say the US should not provide Ukraine arms and should instead insist on negotiations with Putin. That’s because even these most notorious of imperialists is realistic enough to be worried about nuclear conflict. He literally sent me an article by Kissinger – Kissinger! - to read. I pointed out to him that it isn’t very surprising that Kissinger of all people would not see Russian imperialism from anything but a US imperialist standpoint: and his position confirms that a war with Russia isn’t something the US leadership needs or wants. For a man with Kissinger’s notorious record, Ukraine and Ukrainians would count for nothing.
The funny thing was that my general secretary added that Ukraine is also a nuclear power! He did not even know that Ukraine, at the time the third largest nuclear power in the world, gave up its nukes to Russia in 1991 at the time of its independence, in exchange for guarantees that Russia would never attack it. It was incredible that he would not bother to get the ABCs right, at a time when our comrades were saying, how can Russia not defend itself, when Ukraine bristles with arms at its borders, like a wife sleeping next to her husband with a knife under her pillow.
Ukrainian military forces fire on Russian positions with an M777 howitzer in the Kherson region of Ukraine on January 9, 2023. Photo: AP Photo / Libkos
In February 2023 representatives of Ukrainian left-wing organization Socialniy Rukh took part in the 11th Congress of the CPIML. Does it mean that the party neglected both your arguments and also the arguments of the Ukrainian comrades?
Completely. Most of the party doesn't really know what went down. They don't understand the debate. When I say there's this resistance to acknowledging facts, I'm referring to less than a chandful of leaders who actually do know what is going on and are determined to prevent information from going beyond that. They knew (because I told them) that the Putin regime was fascist and that the invasions of 2014 and 2022 were not a defensive response to NATO – and yet they did nothing to reason with such eminent expatriates very close to the party, who knowingly chose to be Putinist propagandists denigrating Ukraine’s resistance to the invasion by calling Ukraine “Nazi” and a NATO proxy. Even when my leaving created enough pressure on them to formally state that the invasion was not caused by NATO, informally such flagrant Putinist propagandists continued to smear Ukraine while being silent on Russian war atrocities.
A lot of comrades were completely shocked at my leaving and began having doubts about the party’s position on Ukraine as well as its internal democracy. So this group of leaders wanted to show that they were right about Ukraine. They invited Socialny Rukh hoping they could show that my criticisms were baseless since even the Ukrainian left appreciated the CPIML’s position. But the Ukrainian comrades were very clear in their message to the Congress, that they were deeply critical CPIML’s stand. After the party congress, the general secretary wrote a report where he referred to all the other international delegations as representatives of Left parties; but he simply called the Ukrainian delegate "a Ukrainian professor," implying that he was just an individual rather than someone from the Ukrainian Left!
There was a gathering after the party congress where it was pointed out that the Ukrainian comrades had said exactly what Kavita was saying. The general secretary replied, we didn’t know that Socialny Rukh was pro-NATO, we invited them because we wanted to control the damage done by Kavita’s departure by showing that we’re democratic. And on cue, the Delhi secretary leapt up to second him: “Yes, we’ve proved we’re democratic.” This by-play is revealing: the leadership actually admitted that they invited the Ukraine delegation for the cynical and instrumental purpose of convincing their own cadres that my leaving did not reflect on the party’s internal democracy.
Kavita Krishnan speaks to striking workers in the Wazirpur industrial area, Delhi, February 2012. Photo: from open sources
What does this situation in the party mean to you? Did you stop your membership?
I'm not a member anymore.
I did not want to quit the party. I told party comrades that I would like to write about my position on this war. Even if it is a minority opinion , I want to write in the monthly party magazine which I edited. They said that I cannot do that. They allowed me to write one piece, a signed article, and that was it. In that article, I had mentioned some of Ukraine's history and Russian colonial history, Holodomor, etc. In the next meeting that we had, one of my co-editors had said that Kavita had taken a position antithetical to the party's position by referring to Stalin as genocidal vis-à-vis Holodomor. Basically, it was made very clear that I cannot write about any of that anymore.
I did not want to leave the party because I had not joined the party for its position on Stalin or its interpretation of Leninism. What had drawn me to the party as a young student was its courageous struggles, and even in 2022 when I was so deeply unhappy, I was glad that our party was the only one to speak very boldly about political prisoners, Muslims' rights under Modi. The CPIML party's identity and my identity were completely bound up in my head. Had you asked me a year before the Ukraine invasion, what you want to be doing for the rest of your life, I would have said, I'm in this for life.
But I kept saying I need to write more about the issues that could no longer be ignored after the 2022 invasion of Ukraine. My main point was that this is not just about Ukraine, our indifference to Ukraine did harm to our struggle in India.
Their main argument was that we are focused on India here and now, and you are obsessed. And these were the words used very often about me — obsessed, emotional, irrational; I was told “people will think we’re crazy” if the party were to adopt my position. They said you’re obsessed with a moral position on Stalinism and China, whereas we’re focused on the here and now, about the struggle against the Modi’s government.
And I argued that my point was not an abstract one about Stalinist history: it was they who were dragging that issue to the centre of the debate because of their obsession with defending Mao’s position on Stalin.
Kavita Krishnan. Photo: from open sources
My point was for defenders of democracy in India, resisting threats to democracy globally ought to be our main international concern, rather than seeing international relations as a politics-free zone of geopolitical competition in which we simply oppose whatever position the US takes. We in India should be paying attention to the shared language in which Modi, Putin, Xi, and others attack the very concept of democracy as an unnatural order forced on the world by “Western elites”; or in the case of Trump, Orban, Meloni, simply by “elites”. These authoritarian and bigoted leaders are forging an ideological alliance to argue for a “multipolar world”, by which they mean that fascist and authoritarian regimes should be able to define “democracy” as majoritarianism. So they say: “Who are the Western elites to tell us that we must count undocumented immigrants, religious or ethnic minorities, women, LGBTQ+ persons as rights-bearing citizens? These ideas are anathema to our civilisational values.” This is the basis on which Putin says Ukrainians can live only if they agree to call themselves Russian; Xi says Muslims in China must be “Chinese” in character; and Modi says Muslims in India must accept Hindu supremacy.
Russian fascist Aleksandr Dugin has visited India and met with Indian fascists, and has very close links with China, has theorised “multipolarity” as a manifesto for the overthrow of democracy. He takes India's caste system as the model for the whole world. Dugin uses the Hindu term Kali Yuga to describe the modern world where liberal democracy is accepted as the norm. Kali Yuga is the time when the God-ordained caste hierarchy has been turned upside down. In the most crude Hindu-supremacist understanding it means that the oppressed castes rule and women are free. And because women are free to have relations with anyone, irrespective of caste, the people being born of such miscegenation are monstrous. Monstrous beings are being born. And this is an argument that immediately becomes a racial argument, a white supremacist argument. Dugin uses that term, which is a popular term among Indian fascists, among Hindu supremacists. I cannot understand why the Indian Left would not wish to analyse it and would instead prefer to ignore it.
In terms of political economy, too, it’s important to look closely at the links between the Modi regime and Putinist Russia. Just recently there was news about a Mumbai-based shipping company, which is totally mysterious, which has been used only to transport Russian oil. No one knows who owns it. Mostly it has been dealing with Rosneft, the Russian oil company, which also partly owns a company in Gujarat, the state from which Narendra Modi built his political career. In Gujarat there are two biggest businessmen, huge tycoons Mukesh Ambani and Gautam Adani who have basically bankrolled Modi. Their fortunes rose with Modi's fortunes and Modi's fortunes have risen thanks to their backing.
Train with oil tankers near the Guwahati refinery after Rosneft signed an agreement with Indian Oil to increase oil supplies, March 30, 2023. Photo: Biju BORO / AFP
Throughout last year India has been buying Russian oil and defending it saying that, oh, India is a third world postcolonial country, we obviously have to think about our people, and we cannot participate in the sanctions. But it isn't Indian people who are getting that oil or need that oil. The lion's share of that oil has been bought crude by Mukesh Ambani, who has then refined that oil and sold it to the countries where there are sanctions on Russian oil. It's the laundromat. They are laundering Russian oil, and everyone knows it. If you go and look at actual material relationships, follow the money and the resources, then you know that the West itself is happily taking laundered Russian oil via India. My party said that our priority is to oppose US imperialist linkages with India and the Modi regime, and supporting Ukraine’s right to receive arms for self-defence amounts to supporting US efforts to weaken Russia through sanctions and war. The facts above show that this is a distorted picture. The Western countries must be faulted for undermining sanctions and appeasing Russian, Indian, American and other oligarchs across the world. We need to unlearn the habit of looking the world through pre-existing assumptions about “poles” that align themselves on this or that side of a vertical divide. Instead if we slice the world horizontally to study what’s happening, we can see the growing ideological and political economic closeness of anti-democratic political forces across the vertical divides.
How can Indian leftists understand the Modi government which we are trying to resist without understanding both the ideological as well as the material linkages with authoritarian regimes? The fortunes of Gautam Adani have fallen recently because of the report of the Hindenburg Research LLC, which outlines how Gautam Adani has been scamming the world. And one of the key elements of this story involves Russia. There's also a Chinese Taiwan based businessman who has also been part of Adani's scam.
Leftists must be interested in what holds this right wing government up here in India, and what are its global linkages. Why would left parties completely ignore these connections with Russia, Russian oil, Russian banks? Three Russian businessmen miraculously fell out of windows or just dropped dead in a remote Indian village in Orissa. Why? The whole world is talking about sudden Russian death syndrome. We should be wondering what those people were doing in India.
Instead, leftists are talking about these timeless generalities about capitalism in crisis, and the benefits of fascism for corporations. But you could have written that a century ago; or 20-50 years ago. You cannot rely just on these timeless formulas. If you are really interested in the material basis of the far-right resurgence today in India as well as elsewhere you should be looking at these connections. Then you would find that it isn't about America being the good guy and Russia being the bad guy. There are bad guys everywhere. We should look at the relationships between far-right politics across the world and the collusion of liberal politicians and governments with this whole system which bankrolls these tyrants.
A security guard asks the media to leave the meeting between Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin, June 16, 2021. Photo: AP/Denis Balibouse
You mentioned that when you were writing about Ukraine and mentioned Stalin's politics that made your comrades confront your position. But already in the interwar period, there was leftist critique of the USSR coming from India, notably by Manabendra Nath Roy. Has this tradition been forgotten? Have you found any support while speaking about these Stalinist crimes within the leftist movement?
The funny thing is that whatever I said, I found support not in my party, but coming from outside . As long as the people did not have that left framing, which would prevent them from understanding what I was saying, they understood. When I was in the party, I wasn't allowed to speak my position openly. The minute I could do this, I found that I could persuade so many people.
I realized that my words are making sense to people as long as their minds have not been locked shut to two facts. The first one is the belief that America is the worst villain in the world and you have to put up with Russia, China, and they are necessary evils. Even if they're evil domestically, internationally, they are contributing to a multi-polar world, and a multi-polar world is a democratic world, in this belief. The second fact which those people want to stick to is about the Soviet Union and China and myths about them. The strange thing, which I began to understand only later, is that the CPIML as a party was actually not automatically very hot on Stalin. When I joined the party and in the first few years criticizing Stalin was fine. People did it in the party and we would laugh at people who were Stalinists and defended every Stalinist crime. When I joined JNU in 1993, the Tiananmen square massacre in China had just happened. CPIML was the only well-known left party to actually criticize China on that. So those were the things that reassured me. I did not probe beyond that. Now I realize that the criticism of Stalin is allowed only up till the point that Mao criticized Stalin. Mao had basically rescued Stalin, rehabilitated him by saying he's 30% wrong with 70% right. That was the position that the party adopted.
We joined the party on a general impression that their position on this stuff is democratic. They certainly think the Soviet Union was not democratic, and they are fighting for democracy here in a very genuine way. But they would not want to really look deeply at what harm those states were doing, they would not define those states in terms of what they were doing to Poland, Ukraine, Hungary or Kazakhstan. They didn't want to look closely at what these regimes represented to those they were oppressing.
Tiananmen Square Massacre, China, June 1989. Photo: Charlie Cole
While India abstains on the UN General Assembly’s votes concerning Ukraine, its smaller neighbours such as Nepal and Bhutan support pro-Ukrainian resolutions. Nepali politics is dominated by numerous communist/socialist parties. Do you think that this may influence its position?
Nepal actually is a peculiar case because Nepal larger left parties have been historically, closer to the ML movement. The Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist–Leninist) CPN UML was one of the major parties and then the CPN Maoist which came about was also sort of a rival to the CPN UML. But it also has a largely different position, compared to the Indian Maoist which is a very small kind of militaristic strain. The Maoist Party also represented this whole democratic struggle against the monarchy and all of that. So, the UML comrades in the initial days knew ML comrades very well. They could take shelter in Bihar, in the houses of ML comrades and so on. That changed, however, when they began to hold government. They continue to have a relationship with the ML but they also had a better relationship with India's ruling parties, because they also represented a government in Nepal.
The Nepali left is actually quite socially conservative, and they are very close to China. I have attended an event on Marx's 200th anniversary and questioned someone from the Chinese embassy about the Uyghurs. They had been quite offended, and the Nepali comrades were embarrassed. My party tolerated my forays of this kind. So I'm surprised concerning Nepal's position in the UN. Bhutan, of course, is different.
The Nepalese left is quite close to China, their positions on the Soviet Union, Russia or China, are very much the tanky positions. But also they are aware of India waiting to swallow Nepal up. The thing that unites the entire country is the resistance to Indian meddling, interference and generally bullying and the attempt by India to just sort of treat Nepal as a satellite state. Maybe that also can play a role. I don't really know.
Kavita Krishnan. Photo: from open sources
In your book, Fearless Freedom, you describe the patriarchal and economic oppression of women in India, the rapes and terror that they are constantly facing. This tragic experience might render intelligible the suffering brought to Ukrainian women by Putin's regime and its aggression. Does feminist optics help reach a position regarding the war?
Many of the signatories which I could get for those statements, which had been drafted by Ukrainian feminists, were from Indian women. But not those who were on the organized left. I think among the organized left groups there is absolutely not much chance at all of any change in the position even among the women's groups, but there are other feminist groups who have been very supportive and who also do understand this.
In my book there are some chapters which talk particularly about women in conflict areas like in Central India in Bastar (forest areas of Chattisgarh), then in Kashmir and in the northeast of India in Manipur or Nagaland. Those are places essentially under army control, where it has a life or death power over the people. And daily humiliation is normal, like daily strip searches. Killing little girls or little boys by paramilitary or military forces also has happened a lot. And then they'll claim that we've killed terrorists. And of course, the sexualization of the woman, especially the Kashmiri woman, who are an object of sexual violence by the Indian state, as well as an object of rescue. The idea is that Kashmiri men are so oppressive, Islam is so oppressive, Muslims are so oppressive, and we are rescuing Muslim women or Kashmiri women. In relation to the war in Ukraine, that is one of the things which should resonate immediately and it does with women's groups that are not on the organized left.
The right-wing groups and the other sort of central groups are not counted as part of the women's movement because they are not really setting themselves up as instruments of social change. They are the instruments of the social status quo. And they are quite happy to say that we are the representatives of Indian culture. Women's assertion for the far right in India is about killing Muslims. So you are required to be the household goddess, but when the faith is under attack you should go out and kill the demons. And who are the demons? Basically, the Muslims. So that is their way of recruiting women, a deeply patriarchal way. I don't count them.
Cover of Kavita Krishnan's Fearless Freedom. Photo: from open sources
And the other thing which I think people don't know about even in the feminist groups and I'm trying to speak more about that, is the fact that in Putin’s speeches the central theme is that Ukraine represents the West. Ukraine doesn't exist, it's only a proxy for the West. And the Western elites are trying to infect Russian culture and civilizations across the world with their perverted satanic ideas about lesbian, gay, transgender people, and against family values and. He says it in every speech, and it always used to bother me.
My attraction to politics in the first place came because my ears were tuned to what the Hindu supremacists were saying about women. When I listened to Putin's speech, the first thing I heard was that this man is a fascist, he is violently against women, insinuating that Ukraine is full of these gay people and that's why it's fascist. I am appalled at the idea that so many of the left listen to this speaking as the one against American imperialism. That's because, I think, gender is just not central to their analysis. And I am trying to tell feminist friends here that we need to pay a lot more attention to that. Because what Putin is trying to do, it's not just his domestic policy that is homophobic and anti-feminist and transphobic. He's trying to win support all over the world based on these positions. And in those positions, he gets the help even of various sections of the left and liberal groups as well, which share these appeals to civilizational values and family values.
Would be very interested to know what their position is on this part of Putin's speeches in Nepal. I've always had arguments with the Nepali left comrades because they have always defined Nepali culture as being against Western culture. They would keep saying that women dressing in Western clothes, Western culture, it's a bad thing. Rape happens because women wear Western clothes. When I met Nepali male comrades, I would say, but you are wearing shorts and jeans. So why is it a big deal when I do it? And they would be very upset because when I went to Nepal to speak, Nepali young women on the left would be absolutely enthusiastic about whatever I was saying, that this is also violent right wing: to try and control what women wear and shame them for what they're wearing.
Frame from the New Year's speech of the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin, 2022
In India that conservative sentiment about controlling, maintaining the caste system, making sure daughters marry in the right caste, that is not only in right-wing cycles - that is wider. That's all over Indian society. It's not just in the Hindus, it's there in the Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, you name it. And that is what helps Modi. It's the same with Putin: that he's able to say these things and get an international audience, not just a domestic Russian one. He's able to say that Ukraine represents a threat to all of this.
How can Ukraine leftists reach out to the leftist movements and parties in the global South, namely in India?
The Ukrainian left should be more proactive in, for example, directly writing letters to and initiating contact with various groups and not just the ones that have a good position on Ukraine. You have to just force them to actually see Ukraine, saying here I am, I am a Ukrainian person, I am a comrade and you can't pretend I'm not here. Even if they don't change their position, at least it creates some uneasiness and I can see that happening among the younger rank-and-file left groups here. They are uneasy because they are exposed to a larger world, they don't live in a little left bubble. They are exposed to a larger world where they can see the democratic people all over the world support Ukraine. Then, despite all the ifs and buts, young people start asking questions to the party. And the party has to at least maintain their base among young people. That is why, despite all the ifs and buts they keep saying we support Ukraine. We don't support Russia. Russia is very bad. The other left groups in India may not even do that. Trying to talk to them to make them respond to these questions.