The decision to invite controversial Brazilian President as a Chief Guest was made after PM Modi unofficially met him at BRICS summit in November 2019.
Soon after the official release circulated by the Ministry of External said Chief Guest of India’s 71st Republic Day will be Brazilian President Bolsonaro, it instigated controversy with many activists questioning the invitation to him for the event by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The Modi led government sees it as greater economic cooperation between the countries, opposition to this collaboration is largely based on two counts-sugarcane farming and Bolsonaro’s controversial personality.
All India Sugarcane Farmers’ Federation (AISFF), an affiliate of CPIM’s farmer body All India Kisan Sabha, is opposing the position taken by Brazil against India over the government’s minimum price support programme for farmers at the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
Brazil, a major sugarcane producer, has claimed that India’s existing scheme to support sugarcane farmers is beyond the permissible limits under the WTO regulations. AISFF complains the position taken by Brazil directly threatens the livelihoods of sugarcane farmers in India.
But the bigger objection to Bolsonaro’s visit has been on account of his personal views. A retired military man, Bolsonaro is a leader with known shades of sexism, misogyny, homophobia, hypermasculinity and aggression, climate-change denial and a rigid disdain for the rights of indigenous people.
To understand why Bolsonaro evokes such dread, consider some of the things he has said in the last few years:
“I had four sons, but then I had a moment of weakness, and the fifth was a girl.”
“I’m not going to rape you, because you’re very ugly” – to a female representative in Congress.
“I’d rather have my son die in a car accident than have him show up dating some guy.”
India and Brazil share important bilateral ties, thanks to common history colonial suppression. Mahatma Gandhi, who spent a considerable period of time in Brazil and is considered an important (and controversial) figure in its history of racism, is a known and often revered leader in Brazil.
India was 11th biggest exporter to Brazil as well as one of the 10 biggest importers of its goods in 2018