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Read on…stories from India and afar.

Curfew in Srinagar

The hanging of Afzal Guru, I just want his body back…from Sopore, Kashmir. Muhammad Afzal Guru’s widow, Tabassum, sat huddled in the dark on the floor of a large room Tuesday evening, closely surrounded by grieving female relatives in the home of her husband’s family. “I just want his body back. That’s all,” she said, blinking back tears as a relative held a candle to her face because the electricity had gone out in the town of Sopore in Baramulla district.

The 34-year-old woman, who goes by one name, filed a mercy petition for her husband’s life to be spared on Feb. 3. Now she is pleading for the government to return his body to her after he was executed for his role in a deadly attack on India’s Parliament… read it at New York Times India.

Where they practiced

Kashmiri Muslim Girls Quit Rock Band After National Controversy… the three Muslim teen-age girls, Aneeqa Khalid, Noma Nazir and Farah Deeba, just want to play rock and roll and heavy metal music.

The only female rock band at Srinagar’s national “Battle of the Bands” competition in December, they quickly gained fame in India after placing third there. Their band, Praagaash, which means “from darkness into light,” draws inspiration from Metallica, Green Day, Iron Maiden and Cradle of Filth, doing alternate rock covers and their own compositions. “It was awesome and overwhelming,” Ms. Khalid, the 15-year-old bass guitarist, recalled during an interview Saturday. “We were getting all this attention and a standing ovation. Then we got other offers to play.” Read it at New York Times India.

Op-ed: Delhi gang rape -Ring out the rhetoric, ring in resultsless than two weeks after the brutal gang rape of the 23-year-old student on a Delhi bus, the issue of women’s safety has been overshadowed by other incendiary fallouts and squabbles over the protests, which were carried out by thousands demanding justice for the victim. In the year ahead, it is imperative not to lose sight of the overarching challenge of protecting Indian women against the rising tide of dangers. Devising and enforcing an agenda for women’s safety is a daunting task , but the call for “we want justice,” which rang out over India Gate, needs a clear agenda and practical action…read it at The Hindu.

Where he lived

Delhi Gang Rape Accused: Vinay Sharma, a ‘Quiet and Simple’ Boy…to keep her children warm on Wednesday night, Champa Devi tried to get a small fire going by puffing air into four pieces of wood outside their home in a South Delhi slum. “I am heartbroken,” she said, coughing as a cloud of smoke billowed around her. “When I wake up, it feels like my heart has been torn away.”

Ms. Champa, 37, is the mother of Vinay Sharma, one of the six accused in the gang rape of a 23-year-old woman on a moving bus on Dec. 16, which resulted in her death two weeks later…read it at New York Times India.

Why Kashmiri Muslims blame America for anti-Muslim film…three young men picked a shady, grassy spot, out of earshot from the crowds bustling about the University of Kashmir campus, to talk on Saturday afternoon. A day earlier, they had helped organize an on-campus protest against the anti-Islam video that has sparked violent protests in several Muslim countries. The students asked that only their first names be used because they feared punishment by the university. “We don’t want to get caught,” said Faraz, 21.

For these students, the film has provided a fresh vent to express their deep-rooted resentment against the United States. “We see it as one more deliberate insult toward the Muslim world after invading our lands for 10 years,” said Tanveer, 24, as his friends nodded…read it at New York Times India.

In Assam, two decades of displacement…Noor Islam Dewan, a Bengali Muslim, still remembers his two horses: one called Cheti, or white, and Pothora, which means patches, named for its dappled auburn and white colors. “They were beautiful,” he said.

Mr. Dewan says he paid 12,000 rupees ($216) in 1990 for two acres of land in Kokrajhar district in lower Assam, as the western part of the state, close to the Bhutan border, is known. “I sold rice and maize across the border and bought cows,” he said. “It was a good life.” That life ended nearly 20 years ago…read it at The Wall Street Journal.

Lost Boys of the Line of Control…up in the mountains, a hushed stillness has descended on Dalaunja, the last village bordering the Line of Control, which divides Kashmir between India and Pakistan. Still, the open wounds of conflict haunt its crisp air on a sunny day. For more than a decade, this village simmered in the battle between the Indian Army and the militants. Dalaunja acquired a notoriety of sheltering insurgents coming from Pakistan.

Since the fighting ebbed more than a decade ago, aging parents have been waiting for their boys to come home. “Or one chance to see them again,” said Ali Akbar, 90, whose two teenage sons left almost 20 years ago…read it at The New York Times India.

Plight of young brides in Kashmir, sold to older strangers for a pittance…Knees pressed against her chest, Sakina huddles near the window of a sparsely furnished house. Her face is lit by a solitary ray of sunlight creeping into the cold room. It creates shadows around the petite woman who is wrapped in a ragged shawl. Sakina, 22, was a teenager when she was sold by her family for 1,200 rupees (£15) to a stranger over the age of 60.

Her sister, who organised the deal, had duped Sakina by presenting a “young good-looking” chap before the marriage ceremony. She was shocked at seeing the elderly man on the wedding night. Rendered helpless by youth and poverty, there was no escape for the bride. “Nobody helped me,” she said…read it at the Guardian.

Rajat Gupta – Down to the Wire…In 1970, a young student at the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, played the role of Trishanku, an ancestor of Ram, who was barred from entering heaven in human form and left suspended between the earth and the sky. That student was Rajat Gupta, who became India’s trail blazer on Wall Street.

After four decades of extraordinary success, Gupta, 63, stands accused of leaking confidential information about investment bank Goldman Sachs and consumer products giant Procter & Gamble. The six counts of security fraud and one of conspiracy slapped on Gupta could, in theory, attract 125 years in prison. “It’s like he is Trishanku again…fallen from heaven and no longer accepted on earth,” says Sandip Bhatia, who also acted in that play…read it at Business Today.

The Arab Spring on stage

Staging a revolution…in Cairo. A man nails posters titled ‘Lessons in Revolting’ on a wall by the entrance to Rawabet, a small theatre in downtown Cairo. The hammering rings like gunshots and, in the sweaty stillness inside the theatre, I am deceived.

It is a summer afternoon in August, the month of Ramadan, and I’m there to see a final dress rehearsal….read it at The Caravan

For young women, a horrifying consequence of Mubarak’s overthrow…in Cairo. Ali, a 34-year-old Cairo businessman who asked that his real name not be used, is weighing whether or not to circumcise his 12-year-old daughter. Female circumcision, or female genital mutilation (FGM), as it also known, involves removing part or the entire clitoris. In more severe forms of the procedure, the labia minora is removed and the vaginal opening is stitched up. Ali’s wife has told him about her own experience; describing her story to me, he said, “It is her most terrible memory.”

Three thousand years of tradition instruct him that circumcision is the best means to this end. And, in the post-Mubarak Egypt, there are fewer and fewer voices offering an alternative view. The decades-long movement to stop FGM has become a casualty of the power struggle in Egypt…read it at The New Republic

Campfires on the Libyan border clutching her stomach and vagina, Bethlehem Iyeli whimpered on her hard bed. The 23-year-old Ethiopian woman looked at her sleeping baby, who began life in a cramped tent in a refugee camp on the Egyptian-Libyan border. “I am happy but I cannot feel anything but pain,” she said…read it at  The Times of India

Can fresh Morocco protests build momentum for reform? Pro-democracy activists launched fresh protests Sunday, despite King Mohammed VI‘s Friday speech announcing a draft constitution that would limit the powers of his country’s centuries-old monarchy. While the king is offering a constitutional monarchy, the demand is for a parliamentary monarchy like the United Kingdom. For the activists, the king’s reforms are piecemeal and if they compromise now then the momentum they have generated for comprehensive change will be lost…read it at The Christian Science Monitor

Vidya Kamat's work

The Baggage we carry – women in chains…in New York. Gazing at the full breasts and amputated arms of a couple of steel sculptures at an art exhibition in New York is like reading an narrative of the cruelty. They look like dented milk cans. A handle sticks out of their heads, a chain runs down their necks, and rusted shackles clamp their severed thighs down.

The exhibition also features a series called Birth Marks by Mumbai-based artist Vidya Kamat, who depicts the female body as entombed by cultural values, which have translated into sati, honour killings and dowry deaths…read it at Open Magazine

A Martyr in MoroccoWhile the world’s attention is focused on Yemen and Syria, the Arab Spring is slowly gaining momentum in Morocco. In this North African kingdom, protesters are increasingly enraged by the security forces’ crackdown on peaceful demonstrations and dismissive of the promises of reform that the monarchy made in March.

The protest movement was reinvigorated on May 29, when thousands of pro-democracy protesters marched peacefully in different cities in the largest demonstrations yet. In Morocco’s most populous city of Casablanca, helmeted police on motorcycles attacked protesters with clubs. Activists estimate that dozens of people were injured, the majority in Casablanca.

Kamal Amari, 30, was a university graduate with a degree in physics who worked as a private security officer at the port in the western city of Safi. On May 29, he was caught up in the crackdown there. “Seven policemen beat him for five minutes,” said Adel Fathi, a friend…read it at Foreign Policy

The Dakota building in Manhattan

A Nepali man’s extraordinary journey into the world of Surrealism and American legends… Indra B Tamang came from a Nepali village that had a witch doctor but no electricity. In his 20s, he met an American poet who changed his life. For the past four decades, Tamang has lived in the iconic Dakota building in New York, and mingled with folks like Andy Warhol, Tennessee Williams and John Lennon…read it at The Caravan

The Headley Testimony and the ISI Stamp…in Chicago. Four elderly men from the Indian Subcontinent sit on a bench on Devon Avenue, David Coleman Headley’s old neighbourhood in Chicago. They bask in the setting sun, smoke cigarettes and talk politics on a Monday afternoon. They blame and tease each other about India-Pakistan relations and how the two neighbours can find their way to peace.

Far away in downtown Chicago, Headley, a Pakistani-American, has just told a jury how he had carried out a reconnaissance mission for the Mumbai attacks of 26/11. But that’s not why the courtroom is packed. Journalists have been sitting on the edge of their seats to get hot dope on the involvement of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) in 26/11. They are not disappointed. “I understood the group operated under the umbrella of the ISI,” Headley says, referring to the terrorist group Laskhar-e-Toiba (LeT), accused of carrying out the terrorist attacks in Mumbai, “They coordinated with each other.” Read it at Open Magazine

Brown Guy in the Dock- Rajaratnam’s Insider Trading Trial…in New York. Flanked by his lawyers, Raj Rajaratnam stepped into an elevator on the 17th floor of the Manhattan federal court. A crew of reporters got into an elevator across the corridor. In a cinematic sequence, Rajaratnam and the journalists stared straight at each other. Just before the elevators doors on both sides closed in unison, he smiled.

Rajaratnam looked thinner since the trial started in March. He was often at the salad bar during lunch at the courthouse cafeteria. Since the start of the trial, the defendant had stoically sat in court listening to his own conversations caught on wiretaps. The prosecution said the recordings were evidence of “material and non-public” information being exchanged between him and his accomplices on Wall Street. During closing arguments at the end of April, US Assistant Attorney Reed Brodsky told the jury that the one-time billionaire was driven by “money, power and conquest” to make millions by trading on insider tips…read it at Open Magazine

India overlooks abuse of domestic workers in new sexual harassment billIndia’s first bill to protect women against sexual harassment has been slammed for excluding a provision for domestic workers who make up the bulk of women workers. Designating a home as a workplace would require amending laws, like the Minimum Wages Act and the Maternity Benefits Act, to include domestic workers. This, observers point out, could be the wrong roads to go down…read it at Christian Science Monitor

India: garbage wars…in the small city of Katihar, nestled near the border of Bihar and West Bengal in northeastern India, there rages a war over trash.On the one side there is a group of cleaners, mainly women from lower castes, dressed all in green. They have begun offering a door-to-door service, collecting the garbage people used to throw in the street…read it at GlobalPost.

Cancun climate change deal falls flat, Kyoto Protocol on life support…in Mexico. The climate change conference in Cancun appears to have sealed the fate of the Kyoto Protocol, the only binding treaty to combat climate change, and left countries squabbling over the substance and form of a new treaty for the future...read it at The Christian ScienceMonitor

U.N. tanker in Darfur

U.N. Presence at Bashir’s inauguration spells trouble for ICC…from the United Nations. The International Criminal Court was wounded by the defiance of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir who rejected its authority after being indicted last year. To make matters worse, Bashir was re-elected and then, further rubbing salt in the ICC’s wounds, key United Nations officials attended his inauguration in Khartoum on Thursday…read it at Global Post


Camping in Darfur

For peace and justice in Sudan…from Darfur. All her life, Sarah Rahman has seen her homeland bruised by savage violence. Even as North Sudan and South Sudan made peace after four decades of fighting, the conflict in Darfur persists. But the 24-year-old businesswoman sees “real peace” coming soon. “I believe this time all the killing will stop,” she said…read it at Frontline.

 

New Fronts for Justice in the Sikh Massacre…Mohinder Singh never saw what happened to his father. But his grandmother watched him hacked to pieces after his eyes were gouged out during the 1984 Sikh massacre in New Delhi…Read it at Global Post.

Haitian Girl With Massive Mouth Tumor Fights For Her Life… from Port-au-Prince. While shooting for a story in Haiti, we came across a 16 year-old girl called Ketura Malvoisin who is suffering from a tumor in her upper jaw. We had never seen anything like this before. Breaking her teeth, the cancerous tumor had come out through her mouth like a big blob of jello coated with saliva…Read it at Huffington Post

Office of Le Nouvelliste

Le Nouvelliste Returns…from Port-au-Prince. Haiti’s oldest newspaper, Le Nouvelliste, is reviving gradually. The publication was out of action for more than a month after a devastating earthquake struck the Caribbean nation on January 12. The Haitian media—television, print, and radio—ceased operations for weeks following the earthquake that killed thousands, displaced a million people, and wrecked large parts of the capital city, Port-au Prince.

The 111-year-old family newspaper, founded by Chauvet’s great-great-grandfather, is bruised but recuperating. The printing press is busted, but its building is still standing with cracks on its exterior. Most of the houses in the surrounding neighborhood have been destroyed…Watch it at Columbia Journalism Review

 

Sudan divided over ICC charges against Bashirfrom Khartoum. Outwardly, all seems normal at the Khartoum University campus. The sun streams through the hundred-year-old passageways. Noisy students mill around the campus with reckless abandon. But a closer look reveals something strange. No one discusses politics openly. A rally opposing the Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir is quashed within minutes. Government “inspectors” are said to roam the halls, listening for anyone “inciting dissent”…Read it at GlobalPost

Keeping Armenia Alive in the Capital of Sudanfrom Khartoum. Armenian communal life continues after more than a century in the capital of Sudan, but sustaining it becomes increasingly difficult as its wealthier members depart. “As long as there is one Armenian left, there will be a church,” says Father Gabriel Sargsyan…Read it at Time.com

Juba Post newsroom

Southern Exposurefrom Juba. When Opoka Christopher Amanjur, twenty-four, joined the Juba Post, a biweekly newspaper in South Sudan, as an editor, he went through each page of the newspaper, circling and underlining the text with a red pen. “Syntax errors, poor designing,and no story structure,” he recalled. “There were just so many mistakes.” ” The publisher, Charles Rehan Surur, told him, “You don’t need to tell me what’s wrong. Come and change the paper.” Read it at Columbia Journalism Review

Good COP, Bad COP…from Copenhagen. Political deadlock and convoluted information came with the territory for journalists covering the climate change summit in Copenhagen… Beyond that, however, journalists’ objectives and experiences there were often very different…read it at CJR.

Divine Dating…from New York. “Marriage is halal, dating is haram,” says Ali Selman. In other words, marriage is permissible, but dating is forbidden. These are the rules for the strapping, green-eyed Lebanese Shiite from Brooklyn…read it at The Daily Beast.

Threats to Environmental Journalists on the risefrom Copenhagen. Cherelle Jackson turned a deaf ear to the threatening calls she got after publishing the first two parts of a story about a government-sponsored development project that was proceeding despite the misgivings of an environmental impact assessment… Read it at CJR

Ireland’s Sunni-Shi’ite Divide…from Dublin.Iraqi immigrants are making new homes in Ireland, but sectarian animosities have traveled with them…read it at Time.com

From Darfur to Belfastfrom Belfast. An immigrant jumps out of the line of fire into the melting pot…read it at The Irish Times

Indian Christians in Galway celebrate in a service that beats the language barrier…from Galway. Many Christians among immigrants to Ireland have formed their own congregations outside of the mainstream churches…read it at The Irish Times

Hijab Hoop Dreamsfrom New Jersey. ”Defense!” the players yelled to one another as the clock winds down and the opposition bears down on their basket in the dying minutes of the championship game. “Play defense!” The event could be any high school girl’s basketball tournament but for the fact that the players are all wearing loose-fitting sweatshirts and Islamic hijab scarves–and there are no men the crowd…read it at Time.

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