Krithika Varagur is an American writer and journalist, generally based in Indonesia. Her work has appeared in The Atlantic, The Guardian, The New York Times, and The New Republic, among other publications. (May 2018)

Follow Krithika Varagur on Twitter: @krithikavaragur.


Patrolling Minneapolis’s Native American History

A woman draped in a flag with the names of Native American people who have been killed, at a demonstration outside the American Indian Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota, June 7, 2020

“In so many ways, Native people are like the canary in the coal mine,” said Dr. Joe Hobot, president of the American Indian Opportunities Industrialization Center in Minneapolis. A catalog of social ills, he said, from the opioid crisis to police brutality, acutely affect Native people, but these are often overlooked until it’s no longer “just” a Native issue. “In part, it’s because we are such a numerically small community, but I also think part of it is a sense of defeatism.”

After George Floyd, Who Will Police Minneapolis?

Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo, accompanied by a MPD sergeant, taking a knee as the remains of George Floyd are driven to a memorial service in his honor, Minneapolis, Minnesota, June 4, 2020

Art Knight’s “number one priority” when he was appointed as deputy chief in 2017 was improving the force’s diversity, which he labeled “atrocious.” Despite modest increases in the nonwhite police numbers since Knight started his career there, the Minneapolis force still heavily over-polices black people, who are about nine times more likely than white people to be arrested for low-level offenses. If abolition becomes the order of the day, it will doubtless make all these efforts at internal reform look quaint, if not feeble. But whether abolitionist or reformist, all efforts to overhaul the MPD face one formidable foe: the extremely strong police union.

Pulling Down ‘the Wall of No’ on Police Reform in Minneapolis

Sumaya Aden, one of the leaders of a protest calling for police union chief Lt. Bob Kroll to be fired, Minneapolis, Minnesota, June 25, 2020

Lena K. Gardner, a co-founder of the Black Visions Collective, found her early engagements with city politicians, including her councilman, Jacob Frey, who is now the city’s beleaguered mayor, were deeply frustrating. “I called it ‘the Wall of No,’” she recalled, of their categorical resistance to reforms. “They were so constrained by ideas of scarcity, of what’s possible, that they failed to realize how bad the police really were,” she said. “So it’s mind-boggling to hear the same city council leaders saying that the things that were ‘impossible’ four years ago are now possible.”

Indonesia’s Fragile Festival of Democracy

Joko Widodo, the incumbent president, casting his general election ballot, Jakarta, Indonesia, March, 17, 2019

Elections in Indonesia are billed as Pesta Demokrasi, or Democracy Festival. It seemed fitting that in this election’s logistical tour de force, the politician who most exemplifies technocratic competence and moderate rhetoric—Joko Widodo, the incumbent widely known as “Jokowi”—came out on top once again. But in his re-election campaign, he did little to placate disappointed progressive supporters who had hoped for advances in human rights during his 2014 campaign. There has still been no truth and reconciliation process over the mass killings of 1965, nor any accountability for the security forces’ shooting thousands in 1998 during protests that led to the departure of the dictator Suharto. Even two decades later, none of this is far beneath the surface of Indonesian politics.

Why Bannon Is Meddling With Bosnia

An apartment building with bullet holes from the 1992–1995 Bosnian War standing near a gleaming new office building, Sarajevo, Bosnia, June 29, 2014

Today, the “American interest” in Bosnia is extremely murky. It’s not simply that the US has taken a back seat in the Balkans, as it did during the Obama administration, but that Trump, who once brought Bannon into the spotlight, may tacitly approve of Bannon’s European antics, despite their alleged falling-out. Trump, after all, is also fond of nationalist leaders and is hostile to the EU. Bosnia’s eighth postwar general election is scheduled for October 7, and the foreign influence of the aforementioned Americans and an ascendant Russia may tip the volatile state away from the liberal international order to which it was conditionally admitted after the war.

Malaysia and the Improbable Win of an Unlikely Alliance

A video clip of the then jailed opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim playing in the background at an anticorruption rally with Anwar’s wife, Wan Azizah, and Anwar’s one-time nemesis but now political ally, Malaysia’s former prime minister, Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, in Petaling Jaya, Malaysia, October 14, 2017

Mahathir Mohamad’s campaign promise was to obtain a pardon from prison for Anwar Ibrahim, the former deputy whom he, Mahathir, had once seen jailed, if his electoral alliance with Anwar’s wife won in this month’s general election. This unlikely-seeming team of former rivals buried their differences in the single-minded hope of ousting the spectacularly corrupt administration of Malaysia’s most recent prime minister, Najib Razak. Their success was stunning, but no one knew what would happen once Najib’s re-election bid was rejected. After all, Malaysia had never before seen a democratic transfer of power.