Azad Essa @azadessa Journalist @MiddleEastEye; Associate at Department of African and African American Studies at Harvard Uni; @AJEnglish alum Sep. 10, 2019 4 min read

Now that Kashmir is on my mind. Let's talk about the deep-rooted connections between capital, government, intergovernmental organisations, humanitarians, pop-artists & the production of knowledge and consent.

You might remember the Ambani wedding from early 2019 ...

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Mukesh Ambani is the richest man in India with a wealth of around $47.3 billion.

His house in Mumbai is worth $1bn.

In March 2019, Ambani's daughter married a billionaire in the real estate business.

The wedding cost $100million.

 https://www.businessinsider.com/ambani-richest-family-in-asia-india-lifestyle-home-wedding-photos-2018-12?r=US&IR=T 

Guests at the wedding included: Bollywood stars, a performance from Beyonce, Ariana Huffington, Google CEO Sundar Pichai, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, Hillary Clinton & Tony Blair.

And Priyanka Chopra (please don't yell).

Other guests at the Ambani wedding included:

Saudi Arabia's Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih, Netflix co-founder Reed Hastings, Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia's Managing Director Yasir Othman Al-Rumayy etc etc.

What a cast!

Ban Ki-Moon, former UN Gen Sec, was also at the $100m wedding.

The same Ban Ki-Moon in 2013:

"Stark disparities and widening gaps between the world’s rich and poor were a “reproach to the promise of the United Nations Charter”

All of which got me thinking ...

India is a very, very unequal society.

In 2017: 73% of the wealth generated in India in 2017 went to the richest 1%.

In 2017: top 10% of the India's population held 77% of the total national wealth."

According to investigative journalist, J. Joseph: "A concentration of wealth in the hands of few Indians is unprecedented."

"At the commanding heights of that skewed development are the Ambani brothers."

Excellent episode of the @AJListeningPost 👇🏾

 https://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/listeningpost/2019/02/indian-media-ambani-brothers-190216112721719.html 

Which made wonder: can one actually be "friends" with Ambani without being a complicit in the furtherance of economic inequality in India?🤔

Oh, that must mean I am a socialist.

But if when one considers the vast net that the Ambanis cast over India - be it in telecommunications + petrol + its methodical control of the media and the way it presents itself to the world - the wedding was PR for the Ambanis & for India, itself.

 https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2019-08-15/mukesh-ambani-grooms-the-heirs-to-his-50-billion-fortune 

In other words, Ban Ki Moon & Clinton & others were props in a larger advertisement that helped manufacture consent for the Ambanis; raising their brand value by association & that of the "Indian dream".

"They are just a crazy, rich Asians, right?

 https://www.timesnownews.com/lifestyle/style/article/get-isha-ambani-like-glow-on-your-wedding-by-following-these-makeup-tips/485775 

So few cared when it emerged Saudi Arabia had bought a chunk of Ambani's energy business.

Or that the Ambanis are sending a "task team" to Kashmir" to help Modi's call for "development" and "investment" in the valley.

Consent has been long established.

 https://www.businesstoday.in/videos/news-reel/reliance-partners-with-saudi-aramco-in-biggest-fdi-deal/372178.html 

Let's talk a little more about consent.

The Raisina Dialogue, India’s premier geopolitical forum, is sponsored by Observer Research Foundation (ORF).

ORF, a public policy think tank, was started by the Ambani family; 60% of its funding still comes from Reliance.

So even in terms of policy, Ambanis are involved in producing policy briefs on energy, cyber security and internet governance, etc, which often matches Reliance's business interests. The conflict of interest is stunning.

Read this:  https://caravanmagazine.in/reportage/the-aims-observer-research-foundation 

According to a former ORF fellow:

“The final tipping point for a decision in government, with a policy which would have huge financial ramifications for a corporation like Reliance, needs ORF. ORF can come in and give that positive twist and final push."

A reminder: Modi revoked Kashmir's semi-autonomy on August 5; placed 8 million people under curfew + communication blockade.

3,000-plus people, incl. children arrested.

Torture in jails. Journalists intimidated. Newspapers shut. A siege.

Day 37.
 https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-india-49631186 

Two days after the revocation of Article 370, ORF came out with a policy brief that made ample justification for Modi's decision. It reiterates all of New Delhi's talking points & creates policy consensus for the move.

 https://www.orfonline.org/research/jammu-kashmir-and-ladakh-exploring-a-new-paradigm-54185/ 

Less than 5 days after the brief, the Ambanis are among the the first to lick their lips at the prospect of securing real estate in Kashmir. Mukesh Ambani spoke about "investing in Kashmir" and meeting the "needs of the people".

 https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/mukesh-ambani-promises-investment-jammu-kashmir-reliance-set-up-special-team-1579993-2019-08-12 

So, let's go back to the wedding I spoke about.

Given all that we know: The complicity and participation of the Ambanis in creating modern India, with its inequality, corruption, monopolization of industry, and now settler-colonialism in Kashmir, what do we make of the guests?

Do we consider them complicit in the crimes of their "friends", aka the Ambanis?

Do we 'forgive' them for merely fraternizing a stunning event?

Or do we acknowledge the cosiness of the global elite and as enemies of the people that they are?

But where does it leave democracy then?

The Ambanis - just one family - showcase the sham that is India's democracy.

They have govt, media, health, technology and even policy briefs in their back pocket.

And the global elite will come party, too.

What chance do those stateless Assamese have, at this juncture if everyone from Microsoft to Netflix are friends with India's grand monopoly family?

Who are Kashmiris meant to turn to if Google and Facebook are buddies with those who are going to take over their homes?

Of course, this is not a story about the Ambanis only. This is a story about the nexus between technology elites + US political elite + Humanitarian elite + Pop Culture elite + Business elite at this soiree.

What a colossal ********

Ends-

God, I regret the typos 😭


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