- By Joshua Keating
Joshua Keating is associate editor at Foreign Policy and the editor of the Passport blog. He has worked as a researcher, editorial assistant, and deputy Web editor since joining the FP staff in 2007. In addition to being featured in Foreign Policy, his writing has been published by the Washington Post, Newsweek International, Radio Prague, the Center for Defense Information, and Romania's Adevarul newspaper. He has appeared as a commentator on CNN International, C-Span, ABC News, Al Jazeera, NPR, BBC radio, and others. A native of Brooklyn, New York, he studied comparative politics at Oberlin College.
Mayawati, the chief minister of India’s Uttar Pradesh state, is known as the de facto political leader of the traditionally marginalized Dalit caste. Unfortunately, she’s also known for doing things like spending hundreds of milions of dollars in state funds to build giant statues of herself and apearing in public wearing giant garlands made of cash (shown above). This week she’s in the news for some comments directed at M. Assange in response to a negative cable about her:
"The owner of Wikileaks has gone mad or he has joined hands with our opposition parties to malign my government," Ms Mayawati told a press conference broadcast live on Indian television.
"I request the government of his country to send him to a mental asylum and in case they are all full, I will make space for him in the mental asylum in [the city of] Agra," she said.
She also said he had "an anti-Dalit mindset".
Looking at the cable in question, dated Oct. 23, 2008, it’s not hard to see why Mayawati is upset:
She has become a virtual paranoid dictator replete with food tasters and a security entourage to rival a head of state. Civil servants will not speak to the press for fear of losing their positions. Journalists admitted they feared retribution should they print anything negative about Mayawati. One journalist claimed that all civil servants’ and most journalists’ phones are tapped.
There’s also this anecdote of Imelda Marcos-like behavior:
Mayawati’s full majority victory in May 2007 UP State Assembly elections left her beholden to no one and has allowed her to act on her eccentricities, whims and insecurities. When she needed new sandals, her private jet flew empty to Mumbai to retrieve her preferred brand.
What’s interesting is that Mayawati is directing her anger at WikiLeaks rather than the U.S. officials who actually made the comments about her. Is she alleging that Assange is just making up the cables, or does she just think he’s a softer target?