Ghosts in the Valley

December 4th, 2014 by admin

SRINAGAR, India — Mohammed Yusuf, a Kashmiri farmer, doesn’t want an apology from the Indian army for accidentally killing his 14-year-old son, Burhan. Nor does he want the money it has offered as compensation.

“Am I supposed to sell my son for 10 lakh rupees [about $16,240]? Is that his going rate?” asks Yusuf, 42, sitting on the floor in his home, nestled in an area called Nowgam in the Kashmir Valley, on the outskirts of the city of Srinagar. “I would rather pay the Indian army to make the soldiers stand trial in a court and let them be punished for their crime,” he said.

But Yusuf probably won’t be able to secure a trial for his son, who was killed on Nov. 3. For decades, the pursuit of justice for crimes allegedly committed by the military has been a futile pursuit for many Kashmiris.

In part, this is because of a 56-year-old law that allows security personnel in “disturbed areas” — a broadly defined term that generally refers to any place facing unrest — to “fire upon or otherwise use force, even to the causing of death” to maintain public order. The law, the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), gives state or federal officials the authority to deem an area disturbed. After making such a declaration, they can then order the use of armed force to protect civilians against militants. AFSPA also protects military personnel from prosecution or legal proceedings without the permission of the central government…read it at Foreign Policy.

Ahead of Peru climate summit, cautious hope for strong draft text

November 29th, 2014 by admin

The two-week United Nations climate conference in Peru, which begins Monday, is the final pit stop before Paris in 2015, where negotiators aim to strike a deal obligating, for the first time, all countries to combat climate change.

The Lima talks are expected to deliver a draft text to be negotiated and finalized in Paris next year. Nations aim to chart a course for unprecedented action on reducing carbon emissions, while ensuring that developing nations’ goals of economic growth to bring millions out of poverty are not derailed.

After years of shifting blame at such talks, China and the United States boosted the political momentum ahead of the Lima negotiations by announcing a major climate change agreement on Nov. 11… read it at Al Jazeera America.

Q&A: The first Kashmiri Muslim woman to run for the B.J.P.

November 24th, 2014 by admin

Srinagar – On a rainy afternoon this month, Hina Bhat was planning her election campaign and talking to visitors who had made their way across the muddy lane which led up to her house in the neighbourhood of Raj Bagh in Srinagar.

Bhat, 35, is the first Kashmiri Muslim woman to run as a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidate in state elections for Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir, which kick off on November 25. The BJP, the party of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is making an audacious bid for power in the Muslim-majority state, which has been wracked by a movement for independence for the past two decades.

The BJP has vowed to win over 44 seats out of 87 in the state assembly. Bhat, a dental surgeon, will contest from the Amirakadal constituency in Srinagar, one of the worst hit areas in the September floods. It is also where her father, Muhammad Shafi Bhat, has won several elections for the Jammu & Kashmir National Conference (NC) since the 1990s. She is now seeking to defeat her father’s old party.

In a conversation with Al Jazeera’s Betwa Sharma, Bhat talked about her controversial decision to stand for a party linked to a Hindutva, advocating for Hindu nationalism, ideology and opposing her father’s party, her views on Kashmir’s independence, running for elections in the aftermath of the floods and BJP’s plans for the state.

Al Jazeera: Why did you decide to run for the Bharatiya Janata Party from Kashmir? read it at Al Jazeera.

Water, Winter, Woe – after the Kashmir floods

November 24th, 2014 by admin

Srinagar — The roads were muddied by rain on the morning I met Shafia Rashid. Her black shoes, poking out from under her burqa, were caked in mud. I met the 24-year-old in Tengpora, Kashmir, earlier this month as she was returning from a busy morning of completing some paperwork for her teacher’s training degree. A postgraduate student in English, she had considered pursuing a PhD but then decided last year that it was time to start earning. She still has dreams of studying at universities like Cambridge or Oxford, or clearing the exams for the Indian Administrative Service.

We were walking from Tengpora square in the direction of Shafia’s house. There wasn’t much to see along the way, really, and I was mostly looking down to avoid stepping into the small pools of slush and muddy water. I looked up when she pointed out the watermarks on the walls. This route, Shafia explained, took longer than usual because the original path was still slippery with sludge, a remnant from the calamitous floods that hit Jammu and Kashmir in September. As we walked, she stopped thrice along the way and stood on tiptoe to point out the 6- to 7-foot high marks on the walls of houses – to show me how high the water had reached.

Heavy rainfall had lashed Jammu and Kashmir for a week in September and led to the one of the worst floods to ever hit the state. Towns and villages in the Kashmir Valley were completely immobilized as the Jhelum River broke its banks and coursed through the roads and by lanes, leaving hundreds of thousands of families stranded on the upper floors or roofs of their houses without food, water and electricity.

“I’ve heard some of the elderly people say that such a flood has not hit Kashmir for over a 100 years. We were hearing of the situation being bad but we never thought the water would fill up here and so quickly. The water rose suddenly from here to here in fifteen minutes,” she said, pointing to her ankle and then to her waist….read it at Yahoo Originals

Guns, Chocolates & WhatsApp in Kabul

November 5th, 2014 by admin

On the morning of July 17, Banu woke up to alarm sirens from three buildings. It was 4.20 am, 20 minutes before he usually woke up for his 12-hour shift that began at 6. As he excitedly rushed up the stairs, he wondered if the blasts would help extend his job.

Banuchandar Rajendran is a 29-year-old from Tamil Nadu who commands a team of 42 security guards at a guesthouse in Kabul. He’s been in Afghanistan since July 2013 looking for a job, and finally got his break at the guesthouse in April this year. He’s been leader of his team since May. That early July morning, he could hear the gunfire and the blasts from an attack that was already underway at the nearby airport. He felt glad this particular attack hadn’t happened at midnight and ruined his sleep. A more distant sense of relief also washed over him – such attacks kept him employed. For people like Banu, more blasts mean more jobs, more salary.

Instead of getting dressed, Banu slammed his body armour over a T-shirt and shorts and ran to the terrace to get a view of the action. He had to report to his bosses every 10 minutes about the intensity, frequency and direction of the blasts. He stood there for a long time, puffing cigarettes, watching the smoke-bursts along the half-dark horizon and the steady punctuating light of continuous gunfire. It was a new experience for him. He felt that even if something had fallen on his head, he might not have run for cover.

About an hour later, his thoughts began to wander. He wondered how long it would take for everyone to emergeso they could go in for their breakfast of Afghan rotis and tea. “A few [shells] hit around 500 to 800 meters away from us,” he told me later. “But I was also enjoyed watching them all. That was my first time watching blasts,” he said.

A few days earlier, he’d sent me a WhatsApp text describing the city as “hot, hot and hot with too many blasts.” … read it at Yahoo Originals.

No justice 30 years after Sikh slaughter

October 31st, 2014 by admin

New Delhi, India – On November 1, 1984, Jasibai’s husband set out at dawn with his cart of nuts and sweets to sell them. He returned home after hearing that Sikhs were being attacked in Delhi because two Sikh bodyguards had gunned down Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, a day earlier. Her son, who worked as a porter, rushed back from the railway station to protect his family.

A few hours later, Jasibai saw a mob pouring kerosene over their bodies and burning them in their neighbourhood of Trilokpuri Block 32 in the eastern suburb of India’s capital.

“They dragged us out of our homes to murder us and no one came to stop them,” the 90-year-old woman told Al Jazeera.

On November 2, Leela Kaur saw her husband’s head split open with an iron rod in the same neighbourhood. The dying man begged her for water. But Kaur, who is Jasibai’s sister, found that the taps had been broken in the mob attacks.

“He was so parched that he told me to urinate so that he could drink something,” she said. “I had no choice but to do it.” She later saw his body being dumped into the Yamuna River along with hundreds of other corpses.

Trilokpuri Block 32, in East Delhi, was one of the worst hit areas in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots that left more than 300 people dead. In the last 30 years, the sisters said that the police did not try to find the men who murdered their husbands…read it at Al Jazeera.

Anti-Sikh riots 1984: 30 Years of Remembering and the Sin of Forgetting

October 31st, 2014 by admin

The cycle stands have gone, the boundary walls are higher and new buildings have sprouted on what used to be open spaces. The only remaining evidence of the mob violence here 30 years ago is a star-shaped crack on the marble surface of a sidewall, made by bullets fired by Indian security personnel into Delhi’s Gurudwara Rakabganj on November 1, 1984.

On that day, a large mob of men gathered outside the gurudwara to avenge the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, chief of the Congress party. She had been gunned down at her residence by her two Sikh bodyguards on October 31. Spontaneous attacks on Sikhs started that same evening: some were beaten in the streets, some had their vehicles and shops attacked. Eyewitnesses have alleged that Congress Party leaders and workers instigated several attacks in the city. In the subsequent three-day spree of mob beatings and burnings that followed the assassination, around 3,000 Sikhs were killed in Delhi alone.

On a recent warm afternoon, Mukhtiar Singh stared thoughtfully at the white boundary wall of the gurudwara that has been his home for most of his adult life… read it at Yahoo Originals.

Villagers bear brunt of Kashmir shelling

October 14th, 2014 by admin

JAMMU – On Thursday night, the commotion in the government hospital in Jammu city in Indian-administered Kashmir became background noise to the howls of two brothers, who clung to their father’s dead body, lying on a rickety stretcher, covered in a white shroud.

The elderly farmer had died in a road accident near his village while trying to escape the bullets and mortar shells, which had been fired from across the border in Pakistan. Two of their other family members were also injured.

“No, God, no,” sobbed Rash Pal, his 40-year-old son, whose shirt was smeared with his father’s blood. “What did we do to deserve this?”

For the past four days, Pal, a 40-year-old labourer, told Al Jazeera that his village, 25km away from the city, has been caught in a deadly exchange of firepower between India and Pakistan on the border, which intensified after sunset. Every evening, he said, his family members left their village and took shelter in a wedding hall, which was at a distance from the border… read it at Al Jazeera

India sends mixed signals on climate change

September 29th, 2014 by admin

Climate change activists in India have expressed criticism of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision not to attend the UN Climate Summit in New York earlier this week.

The summit, organised by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to raise the political and public profile of the climate change crisis, was attended by more than 120 world leaders, including US President Barack Obama.

Experts in India said that Modi’s presence at the summit would have helped change India’s image as an obstructionist in climate change negotiations.

“The prime minister should have prioritised the largest environmental gathering,” said Sanjay Vashist, director of the Climate Action Network South Asia. “It was an opportunity for India to sound proactive as well as call on the developed countries to be more ambitious in reducing carbon emissions.”

Observers are hoping that the next UN climate conference – which will be held in Peruvian capital Lima in December – will produce a negotiating text for a global agreement to be signed in Paris in 2015…read it at Al Jazeera.

Hospitals in Kashmir Struggle After Flooding, Deepening a Health Crisis

September 21st, 2014 by admin

SRINAGAR, Kashmir — When the floodwaters of the Jhelum River rushed over the gates of the G. B. Pant Hospital, the top pediatric hospital here, on Sept. 6, the lights were the first to go. Half an hour later, the generators on the ground floor were drowned in water. Minutes after that, the oxygen tank that supplied air to the ventilators for newborns shut down.

Six infants died within 24 hours, said Nisar Ahmed Dar, 26, an orderly at the hospital who handed the children’s bodies, wrapped in blankets, to army rescuers through the second-story window. He then handed them 10 more newborns whose skin had turned blue from lack of oxygen. At least five of them later died.

“It was horrible,” Mr. Dar said. “I was handing down dead babies. I was thinking that if help didn’t come soon, I’d be handing down more.”

Nearly two weeks later, the hospital was a shell of what it had been — white sheets that had been tied together for trapped doctors and family members to escape still hung from the second-story window. Equipment has been irretrievably damaged, and more than half of the staff members are gone — some scattered to their hometowns to assess the damage there — and cellphone service in the Kashmir Valley is still so bad that it was difficult to reach them…read it at The New York Times.

Kashmiris Cope With Flooding, and Resentment of India

September 18th, 2014 by admin

SRINAGAR, Kashmir — When an Indian military helicopter hovered low over a relief camp set up in a mosque in Kashmir’s capital on a recent afternoon, a crowd formed on the ground below, but it was not the grateful, grasping crowd one might expect amid a natural catastrophe.

The thudding rotors interrupted a speech after Friday Prayer by an aging leader of Kashmir’s separatists, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, who was criticizing the government for not coming to the aid of the flood victims quickly enough. The helicopter dropped sacks of food aid into a graveyard, but there were few takers. People threw them to the ground, pouring the grain inside onto the grass between headstones, and hurled bags over the fence onto the street below.

“We don’t want food from India,” some cried. Others asked where the relief had been for the past five days…read it at The New York Times.

In Srinagar, Floodwaters Recede, but Anger Remains

September 18th, 2014 by admin

SRINAGAR, Kashmir — As people waited here for rescue on rooftops and balconies, fear was giving way on Wednesday to anger and resentment over what some saw as a slow response to flooding that began last week and has left hundreds dead in northern India and eastern Pakistan.

In the Wazir Bagh neighborhood, where the water was about five feet at its deepest point, residents watched rescue boats make their way to another area where the waters were higher. Some said only the politically connected were being evacuated. Others complained that the rescue teams were incompetent.

One woman, Jaspreet Kaur, 25, was taken by boat to a tractor that slowly brought her and about 50 other people to dry land. She said that she was trapped on the roof of her house with her grandmother for five days, and that they had run out of food.

Roughly 500 more families are awaiting rescue in her neighborhood, she said…read it at The New York Times.

Scale of Flooding Hinders Relief Efforts in India and Pakistan

September 18th, 2014 by admin

SRINAGAR, Kashmir — After nearly a week of incessant rains and flooding that have left hundreds of people dead in Pakistan and the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, rescue operations have been strained by the scale of the disaster and a collapse of communications networks in some areas.

In the Kashmir Valley, people have been stranded in homes, hospitals, hotels and houseboats, at schools and on highways, many going for days without food. Residents have built rafts using planks of wood with tires attached in an effort to evacuate flooded neighborhoods. Indian soldiers who would otherwise be deployed for relief work have instead stayed huddled on the second floor of an army garrison, stranded by water six feet deep.

Perhaps one of the most daunting developments in the relief effort has been the collapse of communication systems, which has hampered emergency medical workers and separated families.

“The lack of communication is a major setback because the commanding officer cannot communicate with his own team,” said Jaydeep Singh, a commanding officer with India’s National Disaster Response Force. He estimated that in Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir, 70 percent of the population of nearly 1.2 million had been affected by the floods…read it at The New York Times.

Muzaffarnagar riots: Justice eludes Indian rape victims

September 18th, 2014 by admin

Muzaffarnagar, India - A young Muslim woman is waiting for the police to arrest the four Hindu men she has accused of raping her on September 8 last year in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.

The 25-year-old – whose name cannot be mentioned under Indian law - told Al Jazeera she was cooking when her alleged attackers, Hindus of the Jat caste, barged into her house in the village of Fugana and gang-raped her.

“I will carry this shame for all my life, but not one of them is in jail,” she said.

Six other Muslim women are also waiting for police to make arrests in their cases of gang-rape committed during the religious riots between the Jat community and Muslims in Shamli and Muzaffarnagar districts in western Uttar Pradesh.

The deadly violence claimed the lives of more than 50 people and displaced more than 50,000…read it at Al Jazeera.

India’s Badaun village gets toilets for women

September 3rd, 2014 by admin

Katra Saadatganj, Badaun, India – On Sunday afternoon, a group of women teased each other over who would be the first to use the new toilets constructed in their village in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh. They picked on Neetu after the 15-year-old declared that she would “never again” have to defecate in the fields.

“I’m going to use the toilet in the evening,” she said.

The women burst out laughing when Gita, 25, a neighbour, pointed out that no one had to wait until it was dark. “We can go anytime in our own toilets,” she said.

The group nodded sympathetically as Gita recalled the painful experience of wanting to relieve herself after every few hours during her pregnancy. “My baby girls will grow up without this humiliation,” she said… read it at Al Jazeera.

India lower caste still removing human waste

August 25th, 2014 by admin

New Delhi, India - Rajni was only 10 when her mother told her that she would spend her life picking up human excrement from dry latrines. They belong to the Valmiki caste, regarded as the lowest among the Dalits – formerly India’s untouchables.

“She said that we are born to do this. First, we clean the waste of others and then we get to eat,” Rajni recalls her mother saying.

Now 21, Rajni remembers how sick she felt for most of her childhood; the stink emanating from the excrement; and the flies that followed her when she carried the waste in a basket fetched from the households in her village in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh.

“The worst days were when it rained. The waste would drip onto your neck and shoulders,” she told Al Jazeera. “You wanted to keep throwing up.”

Rajni was married as a teenager and continued to be a manual scavenger in her husband’s village until 2012 when Sulabh International, a non- profit organisation, replaced the dry latrines in her village with flush toilets.But unlike Rajni, thousands of others are still forced to clean the human waste across India despite parliament passing a stringent law against manual scavenging last year.

But unlike Rajni, thousands of others are still forced to clean the human waste across India despite parliament passing a stringent law against manual scavenging last year…read it at Al Jazeera.

Indian gay men’s wives ‘trapped’ in marriage

August 22nd, 2014 by admin

A week after they got married last year, Nimmy found texts on her husband’s mobile phone describing a sexual encounter with a man. She initially forced herself to believe her husband’s explanation that the phone messages were harmless fun – but in February, she saw emails with naked photos of her husband sent to his male best friend, who is also married.

“I was in denial, as he still is,” Nimmy said. “Finally, I snapped out of it and accepted the fact that I married a gay man and my marriage is over.”

The 30-year-old software programmer from the southern state of Kerala, who spoke to Al Jazeera under a pseudonym, said she had never suspected her partner was gay during several months of courting. It was an arranged marriage but she had happily approved the match.

Rashmi, a social worker from the western state of Maharashtra who requested her last name not appear, was also content with her parents’ choice after spending time with her future husband. But on their honeymoon last November, she said he avoided physical contact with her, and she refused his demands for anal sex during the few months that they lived together.

Family pressures and financial dependency are among the most frequently cited reasons for Indian women staying married to gay men, experts say, in a country where gay sex is not only stigmatised but outright illegal. In 2012, the Indian government estimated that 2.5 million gay men live in the country, which has a population of more than 1.2 billion…read it at Al Jazeera.

India activists oppose tougher juvenile law

August 21st, 2014 by admin

Child rights activists in India have voiced their opposition to a government plan to make changes in the juvenile justice law in the wake of rising sex attacks in the country.

The Bharatiya Janata Party-led government has proposed the changes that will allow 16- to 18-year-old offenders in heinous crimes to be punished as adults, with the exception of the death penalty. Public support for harsher punishment has been growing since a gang-rape and killing of a 23-year-old student by six people, one of them a 17-year-old boy in New Delhi.

There was outrage after the minor was sentenced to three years in a correctional facility, which is the maximum punishment under the juvenile justice law. Some even said that the minor deserved the death penalty, which was the sentence handed down to the convicted adults.

But Ved Kumari, an expert on the juvenile justice system, has said that non-governmental organisations which were counselling the youngest culprit, had found that he was not a violent person.”So whatever happened in that incident is an aberration in his life. That is not his life. That is not what he is,” Kumari told a press conference last week in New Delhi…read it at Al Jazeera.

Sanskrit Newspaper Sees Business Model in New Government

July 4th, 2014 by admin

The Saturday after Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party’s historic victory in the country’s parliamentary elections was announced, some 40,000 subscribers to a weekly Sanskrit newspaper woke up to a resounding headline:

“Miracle, Miracle, Miracle,” printed in bold Sanskrit over the top of Sajal Sandesh, which means “Gentle Message.”

But for Deven Khatri, who manages an edible oil export business as his day job, there may have been a double meaning in the headline. He saw the election of the Hindu nationalist leader and his right-of-center party as not just a political windfall, but also an economic one.

Mr. Khatri, 42, started Sajal Sandesh in May 2013, partly in anticipation of a new government, which is likely to be friendly toward the revival of the ancient language, and therefore could provide a much-needed platform, promotion and advertising to his fledgling paper.

“The Modi government very much prefers Indian culture, and they are very keen to promote Sanskrit,” he said. “We have met B.J.P. leaders, who have assured us of their support.” … read it at The New York Times.

Female Activist in Haryana Works Within System for Change

July 4th, 2014 by admin

Over a cup of milky tea some months ago in a nondescript hotel in Rohtak, a dusty town of steel and oil mills, colleges and auto repair shops, Santosh Dahiya reflected on the slow-moving pace of change in the mostly rural state of Haryana.

She is the head of the women’s wing of the Sarve Khap, Sarve Jaatiya Mahapanchayat, an umbrella organization of khap panchayats, traditionally all-male unelected councils in north India that exercise a great deal of social control.

When she was a girl, she used to watch the men in her native village gather for meetings at which clan leaders and village elders would settle disputes: adultery in the family, domestic violence, even murder.

Though many have come to see the councils as oppressive, Haryana is virtually run by them, and Ms. Dahiya recalled marveling at how quickly the disputes were solved.

“The fear of being shamed before your own people is greater than being put in jail,” she said…read it at The New York Times.

Corporate takeover raises Indian media fears

June 12th, 2014 by admin

New Delhi, India – Fears are growing that the independence of India’s media could be at risk as news outlets are swallowed up by corporate owners.

Concern has been stoked following the announcement by Reliance Industries, India’s largest company owned by the country’s richest man, that it has taken over the country’s biggest media group.

While analysts are reluctant to describe Reliance’s owner Mukesh Ambani as India’s Rupert Murdoch, they point to the threat posed to media integrity by the “corporatisation” of journalism in a country where diversity is crucial to democracy.

Abhinandan Sekhri, the co-owner of the website Newslaundry, which scrutinises the media, said prime-time debates on news channels help to shape government policies – and Reliance was perceived by many to be a key beneficiary of flawed governance in India.

“If they are taking over one of the important voices in the news space, it will certainly lead to alarm over independence of the news media,” he said…read it at Al Jazeera.

Police Statements Cloud Alleged Rape and Murder Case, Analysts Say

June 12th, 2014 by admin

In the span of two weeks, the Indian police have offered different versions of the alleged rape and murder of two cousins in Uttar Pradesh State who were found hanging from a tree on May 28, in an event that invited widespread censure of the state government and a rebuke from the United Nations in India, as well as a statement from its secretary general, Ban Ki-moon.

On Saturday, A.L. Banerjee, the top police official in Uttar Pradesh, said that the rape of one of the girls had not been confirmed, according to the Press Trust of India.

It was the latest in a string of local news media reports in which police officials have offered differing accounts of what happened: that the girls were raped and strangled before being hanged; that they were alive when hanged; that the three brothers accused of the crime confessed; and that the case could be an honor killing perpetrated by the girls’ family.

“Of the two victims, one was the lone child of her parents,” Mr. Banerjee said in the interview with the Press Trust of India on Saturday.

“Her father is one of three brothers with limited resources, and if she was not alive, it could benefit others. It could be one of the motives. I am not saying that this is the motive,” he said…read it at The New York Times.

India’s AAP volunteers introspect poll defeat

June 6th, 2014 by admin

New Delhi, India – Nandan Mishra, a software engineer, spent one Sunday two weeks ago speaking with residents of south Delhi, a posh area of India’s capital, about how they wanted to use public funds in their neighbourhoods.

Involving people in decision-making is a goal of the anti-corruption Aam Aadmi Party, which is inspired from freedom fighter Mahatma Gandhi’s principle of “Swaraj” or self-governance.

It was close to midnight when Mishra, a graduate of the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology, took the metro home. On the way, he joked about finding out how late the trains run in the capital city.

“A short man with hope in his eyes” is how the 25-year-old remembered his first sighting of Arvind Kejriwal, 45, leader of the Aam Aadmi, or the common man, Party.

Mishra left a lucrative job in a bank to join the party last year. He used his skills as a musician to lead the “Play for Change” singing campaign before the Delhi elections in December. Mishra was attacked while campaigning in the northern city of Varanasi, where Kejriwal contested against Narendra Modi of the Bharatiya Janata Party – now India’s prime minister.

“I got punched five times in the face by the BJP supporters”, he said. “I’m from a middle class family, who think I’m a failure. But life is really all about changing things”…read it at Al Jazeera.

Anger Among Indians After Killings of 2 Girls

June 6th, 2014 by admin

KATRA SAADATGANJ, India — Sohan Lal reached the police outpost at 11 o’clock on the night his daughter disappeared, he said, already desperate for help. He bent down before the officer in charge and clutched his feet, telling him to hurry, hurry.

“I was on my knees begging them to come quickly, but they would not take us seriously,” Mr. Lal, 50, said. He said the policemen responded with “foul language” about his caste and his daughter.

Mr. Lal found his daughter, 12, close to dawn. She and her cousin, who was 14, had been raped, and their bodies were hanging by their scarves from a mango tree in this village about 200 miles from Delhi, the Indian capital.

Relatives insisted that the bodies hang there for 12 hours, preventing the police from bringing them down, because they wanted outsiders to see how the girls had been found…read it at The New York Times.

India women activists remind Modi of promises

June 6th, 2014 by admin

New Delhi – Two days after Narendra Modi emerged victorious in India’s national elections, Kiran battled the heat and crowd to see the man she had voted for in the ancient city of Varanasi.

Modi, a leader of the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party, who took oath as the prime minister of India on Monday in New Delhi. He will head the first government with a clear majority since 1984.

Kiran, 30, was stopped by the security personnel, guarding the check points on the way to the banks of the Ganges river, where Modi attended a prayer ceremony on May 18.

“If I could meet him then I would ask him how will he make India safe for women,” she told Al Jazeera.

By the time Kashmir lifted its texting ban, Kashmiris had moved on to WhatsApp

June 6th, 2014 by admin

Four years ago, the government of Jammu and Kashmir instituted a ban on texting on prepaid mobile phones, which it blamed for the spreading of false information during the often deadly protests that were erupting in the Muslim-majority Kashmir Valley at the time. This week, after a crushing defeat for the state’s ruling party in India’s national elections, chief minister Omar Abdullah announced that he was lifting the ban.

But in part because of the government’s crackdown, not many people send text messages these days—they’re much more likely to use WhatsApp…read it at Quartz

Narendra Modi’s oldest supporter is 114 years old

June 6th, 2014 by admin

Tucked away in a village of northern India is a Second World War veteran, Nizamuddin, whose family says that he is 114 years old.

This would make him three years older than Alexander Imich, a Polish immigrant in Manhattan, recently deemed the oldest man in the world by the Gerontology Research Group. The only proof of Nizamuddin’s age is a copy of an emergency certificate, which records his date of birth as 1900. His son, Mohammed Akram, explained that this document served as his passport when he returned home from Burma in 1969.

Akram says his family doesn’t want to get drawn into a competition about age, especially since his father is widely known as a war veteran in the countryside of Azamgarh in the eastern part of Uttar Pradesh, the most populous state in India…read it at Quartz

A Journey to the Highest Polling Station in India

June 6th, 2014 by admin

“Run for cover!” a man shouted.

“Protect the machine!” another yelled as a sandstorm surged toward me.

I was standing beside two tents, pitched at 16,400 feet above sea level in a desert plateau in Ladakh, a region in northern India along the Tibetan border. It was roughly a week before the end of India’s national elections, and as the storm approached, the men—government employees working at a makeshift polling station—were scrambling to protect the electronic voting machine.

The wind ripped through the desert, gathering dust and sand, and spiraled toward the polling station. I tried to snap as many photos as I could, ignoring warnings to take cover. The dust was flying into my eyes, but this was Indian democracy in action.

Over the past six months, as India’s elections have unfolded, most of the attention has focused on the rise of Narendra Modi, the Hindu nationalist, who’s likely to emerge as prime minister when the results are announced on Friday.

But here in the world’s largest democracy, what’s most remarkable is the process itself, a monumental task in a country where close to 540 million people voted before the polls closed on Monday…read it at Vocativ.

Some Kashmiri Pandits back Modi as they think of their long-lost homeland

June 6th, 2014 by admin

Kamal Hak fled his home in Kashmir in 1990, during an insurgency by Muslim separatists that wanted break free from India. Now Hak has cast his vote for the Bharatiya Janata Party because he said he believes its prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi, is the one who is really listening to the thousands of Kashmiri Pandits who were forced to abandon their homeland.

“I voted for the man, not the party,” Hak told Quartz. “He has fired the imagination of the people across the country.” The BJP has promised in several recent elections to return Pandits to Kashmir, but this is the first time Hak has voted for the party. He believes Modi will take action, he said…read it at Quartz.

Interview with UP chief minister Akhilesh Yadav:predicts third front

June 6th, 2014 by admin

“Do you listen to English music? Let’s see if you recognize this song,” said Akhilesh Yadav, the 40-year-old chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, the most populous state of India, during a recent interview in his home in Lucknow.

The song, Man se hain Mulayam Irade Loha hai (He is soft-hearted but iron-willed), set to the tune of Billy Joel’s “We didn’t start the fire,” has been in heavy rotation on the campaign trail in Uttar Pradesh. It isn’t about the chief minister, though, it is about his father, Mulayam Singh Yadav, who previously served three terms as chief minister of Uttar Pradesh. Voting in India’s national election concludes on May 12 with 41 different constituencies going to the polls, including the elder Yadav’s Azamgarh.

The younger Yadav spoke to Quartz about the national election, the riots and development in the state…read it at Quartz.

From the roof of the world, Delhi politics look mighty small

June 6th, 2014 by admin

The spectacularly beautiful mountainous region of Ladakh, which borders Tibet, has some of the most rugged terrain in India and the highest polling station in the world, at over 16,000 feet above sea level.

This week, people came by horse and foot to vote at the Anlay Puh station, which has 85 registered voters.

The spectacularly beautiful mountainous region of Ladakh, which borders Tibet, has some of the most rugged terrain in India and the highest polling station in the world, at over 16,000 feet above sea level.

This week, people came by horse and foot to vote at the Anlay Puh station, which has 85 registered voters…read it at Quartz.

A Second Conversation With: Times Now Editor Arnab Goswami

June 6th, 2014 by admin

Arnab Goswami, editor in chief of the Times Now television channel, is the only journalist to have interviewed the two main contenders in the Indian national elections: Rahul Gandhi, vice president of the Indian National Congress party, and Narendra Modi, prime ministerial candidate of the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party.

Mr. Goswami interviewed Mr. Modi, who is also the chief minister of Gujarat, at Mr. Modi’s residence in Gandhinagar, the state capital, on Thursday morning. The interview aired in India the same evening.

India Ink spoke to Mr. Goswami after his interview with Mr. Gandhi in January, which received massive public attention because Mr. Gandhi rarely gives sit-down interviews. On Friday, India Ink asked Mr. Goswami about how his interview with Mr. Modi compared with the one with Mr. Gandhi and his reaction to the British comedian John Oliver’s recent dig at Mr. Goswami’s famously combative interviewing style…read it at The New York Times.

India’s Gandhi bastion votes amid Modi wave

June 6th, 2014 by admin

Rae Bareli, Uttar Pradesh – Arjun Gautum, a mechanic, anticipated that it was going to be a scorching day and so he cast his vote early in Rae Bareli – a constituency in India’s northern Uttar Pradesh state, which went to the polls as temperature hit 42 degrees Celsius.

Rae Bareli is a Gandhi family bastion, and Gautam, 22, dutifully voted for Sonia Gandhi, leader of the ruling Congress Party. The constituency witnessed a low turnout of 48 percent when the voting closed.

“I want her to win in Rae Bareli but Modi should be the prime minister,” he told Al Jazeera. “The country needs a man of action right now.”… read it at Al Jazeera.

Interview with BJP chief Rajnath Singh

June 6th, 2014 by admin

Less than 48 hours ahead of voting day in Lucknow, opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) President Rajnath Singh’s house in the city was packed with cars and party workers.

Singh, who is also contesting from Lucknow – the capital of northern state of Uttar Pradesh – in a freewheeling interview to Al Jazeera on Monday night spoke about his plans if he wins against the Congress party candidate Rita Bahuguna.

He also spoke about the religious violence, which erupted between Hindus and Muslims in Muzaffarnagar town of the state, and the recent charges of hate speech against Amit Shah, his fellow party man and key aide of the party’s prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi.

Shah had exhorted Hindu Jats that the election was going to be for “honour and to take revenge against insult…” for which he was momentarily banned by India’s Election commission from campaigning. The ban was lifted after Shah conceded his mistake in a letter to the Commission and promised not to use “abusive and derogatory” language…read it at Al Jazeera.

Interview with Smriti Irani: challenging Rahul Gandhi in Amethi

June 6th, 2014 by admin

In Amethi, Uttar Pradesh, the roads are not measured by length, but by the depth of the holes in them, Smriti Irani, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s candidate, joked in a speech on April 29. The crowd, gathered in sweltering 41 degree Celsius heat, laughed and cheered her on.

Irani is challenging Rahul Gandhi, in a district where loyalty to the Nehru-Gandhi political dynasty runs deep and a member of the family has been elected for decades. Local disenchantment with the dynasty is clear this election, especially over the lack of industry and employment as well as the poor conditions of roads.

From the campaign ground, Irani headed to attend a local wedding, a popular local political custom to generate good will among the voters. Then she headed to another rally. Quartz accompanied her during the drive to the next location, to discuss how she feels about challenging the Gandhis and why she thinks she would make a good politician…read it at Quartz

The Muslims voting for Modi’s party in Lucknow

June 6th, 2014 by admin

Kunwar Iqbal Haider, a Shia Muslim lawyer in Lucknow, the capital city of Uttar Pradesh, India’s largest state, was a Congress Party member until last week, when he switched to the Bharatiya Janata Party.

He’s one of many of Lucknow’s 180,000 Shia Muslims who are expected to vote for the BJP when the city heads to the polls today, April 30, despite the party’s controversial prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi, whose reign as chief minister of Gujarat was marked by violence against Muslims in 2002.

Lucknow is the ancient home of the Nawabs, Shia Muslim rulers credited with building the city’s architectural splendor, its art and musical heritage, and its culture of etiquette…read it at Quartz.

For British Biographer, Modi Was Only a Phone Call Away

June 6th, 2014 by admin

How does one get Narendra Modi, the front-runner in the race for India’s prime minister, to sit down for an interview? According to Andy Marino, the British author of a recent biography of Mr. Modi, the answer is simple: “Just call him,” he said by telephone from London.

When a skeptical reporter asked a few times whether it was that easy, Mr. Marino, the only foreigner known to have unfettered access to Mr. Modi, seemed surprised. “Call Modi,” he said. “He is a very personable, open guy. Modi has given his number to ordinary voters, and they’ve called, and they’ve been put through. Or he has called back in an hour.”… read it at The New York Times.

‘Rampant discrimination’ in India’s schools

June 6th, 2014 by admin

New Delhi – During a conversation about her life in the ninth grade, Nazmeen, a slender 14-year-old with tightly braided hair, began to sob. “Why did she say that when I always study so hard, ” she cried, wiping away her tears.

Her teacher, Nazmeen said, had told her that she would fail the school exam. “Ma’am has been making jibes like that since the sixth grade,” she said.

The rundown locality on the outskirts of Delhi, where Nazmeen lives, is home to mostly poor Muslim families, who earn their living as labourers, rickshaw pullers, selling cigarettes and repairing bicycles. Their children attend free government schools in the area.

Nazmeen said that she got along with the Hindu students, who make up the majority of the class. But her Hindu teacher, she believes, doles out harsher words and a negative attitude towards the Muslim girls…read it at Al Jazeera.

One election strategy in India’s most populous state—make Muslims and Hindus hate each other for votes

June 6th, 2014 by admin

Muzaffarnagar, a western district in the massive Indian state of Uttar Pradesh that went to the polls on Apr. 10, is an excellent example of one of the ugliest truths of the world’s largest democracy—politicians regularly exploit religion to divide the electorate and win votes.

In Sep. 2013, religion-based violence, allegedly encouraged by local politicians, erupted in the villages of Muzaffarnagar and its neighboring district of Shamli between Jats, a Hindu caste that includes many owners of large sugarcane fields, and Muslims, who are predominantly laborers, carpenters and traders. More than 60 people were killed and tens of thousands of Muslims were displaced.

Since then, politicians have relied on the communal riot to worsen the divide and gain votes. India’s population is 80% Hindu, but the country was founded on the principal of secularism, and the constitution guarantees all the freedom to practice the religion of their choice. Still, clashes between religious groups, particularly Hindus and Muslims, spring up with alarming frequency, despite the fact that individuals from these communities often live side-by-side for generations.

Here’s how politicians continue to stoke the fires of dissent in Uttar Pradesh…read it at Quartz

India’s Congress Party chose the wrong candidate in its most important battleground

June 6th, 2014 by admin

The incumbent Congress Party all but just handed Narendra Modi victory in the city of Varanasi.

Modi is on the ballot here as the prime ministerial candidate of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Congress has put forth Ajai Rai to contest him in the most hotly contested battleground of 2014 national elections, underway for the next few weeks.

Rai, a grassroots politician, is a better choice than some others Congress could have nominated. But in the end, he’s likely just going to end up splitting the anti-Modi vote—which gives Modi an even bigger win…read it at Quartz

In Villages Torn by Violence, Traditional Loyalties at Risk

April 14th, 2014 by admin

FUGANA, India — Sakur Ahmed, an ironsmith, is a member of the only Muslim family left in the village of Fugana, in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, where violence between Muslims and Hindu Jats erupted in September. When Muslims fled the village, Mr. Ahmed, protected by a Hindu neighbor, chose to stay.

When he cast his ballot in the national election on Thursday, Mr. Ahmed, 60, endorsed the Samajwadi Party, saying that it had helped displaced Muslims by setting up camps and by providing them with compensation for damages.

The rest of the village voted overwhelmingly Thursday for the Bharatiya Janata Party, which is seen as sympathetic to Hindus. “They voted for whom they like, and I was free to make my choice,” he said. “There is no tension between us.”… read it at The New York Times.

Setting Up an Election in the World’s Largest Democracy

April 14th, 2014 by admin

MEERUT, India — Raj Singh endured hot winds as he feverishly operated a sewing machine outdoors to repair tents that had ripped in a storm the night before.

The 250 tents had to be ready by the next morning for the arrival of 12,000 election workers, who would be briefed and then dispatched to more than 2,000 polling stations in Meerut, a district in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, before they opened to voters on Thursday.

Mr. Singh, 45, a local businessman who had been hired to put up the tents, had slept the previous three nights in Meerut city’s sprawling Victoria Park, which was full of tents, poles, electric wires, ropes and stacked chairs, and he was going to spend another night there. “The work will go on the whole night or it won’t get done,” he said…read it at The New York Times.

India’s Real-Life Nirvana House

April 14th, 2014 by admin

For Hindu priests, the dawn of everything begins with the holy trinity of gods—Brahma (the creator), Vishnu (the preserver) and Mahesh (the destroyer). Those same priests say that Varanasi, a city in northern India, has been inhabited since the beginning of time. It is the home of the third of those gods—Mahesh, or Lord Shiva, who destroys so that the cycle of life can continue.

And at the Kashi Labh Mukti Bhawan, located in the heart of the city, the sound of hymns and devotional songs never stop. It’s one of the city’s many mukti houses—places built to provide a pathway into freedom after death—and it’s open to anyone who has come here to die. Its two floors are sparsely floored and bathed in sunlight. Wooden cots lie behind the green doors of its 10 rooms. The house is close to the city’s busiest temple to Shiva and near the bustling banks of the Ganges River, which are thronged with residents, pilgrims and tourists…read it at Vocativ.

Mumbai Gang Rape: Three Sentenced to Death

April 14th, 2014 by admin

In the first case to invoke India’s new laws mandating harsher punishment for repeated sex crimes, a Mumbai court on Friday sentenced three men to death for the gang rape of two women.

Weeks ago, a court found the men—Vijay Jadhav, Kasim Bengali and Salim Ansari—guilty of raping a telephone operator and a photojournalist on two separate occasions last summer. The three men were sentenced under the new rape laws put in place in the aftermath of a gruesome 2012 gang rape in Delhi that sparked a national outcry…read it at Vocativ.

Young Indian voters: “We’re all obsessed with the politicians and not their policies”

April 14th, 2014 by admin

VARANASI, India—This is one of the most spiritual cities in the world, but its modern identity is as the contentious battleground of India’s elections. Arvind Kejriwal, leader of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), the common man’s party, is challenging Narendra Modi, the prime ministerial candidate of the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP).

And so in this ancient place, it is the young who matter more than ever. About half of India’s population is projected to skew under age 25 by 2020. First-time voters are likely to number around 160 million in May—two out of every 10 registered.

Last week, I sat down with a few of them on banks of the Ganges river at sunset. They were seven students from the Banaras Hindu University, one of India’s most prestigious educational institutions, established in 1916…read it at Quartz

Narendra Modi’s first television interview was more like a monologue

April 14th, 2014 by admin

He actually said nothing. In his first television appearance before India’s elections, Narendra Modi acknowledged no lapses in his leadership when state authorities failed to stop the killing of Muslims by Hindu mobs.

Modi, serving a third term as chief minister of Gujarat, is the popular prime minister candidate for the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP). Supporters hail him as a messiah of development or as protector of Hindu interests, or both.

On Monday and Tuesday, the News X channel promised to air “Modi on the 2002 riots and if he thinks he did enough to stop them.” In the end, it failed to deliver…read it at Quartz.

Aam Aadmi Party Goes on Foot to Fight Gandhi on His Home Turf

April 14th, 2014 by admin

AMETHI, India — The residents of this constituency in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh take pride in this area’s association with the Gandhis. The family began its political history here in 1977, when Sanjay Gandhi, son of the prime minister at the time, Indira Gandhi, chose to run for Parliament in Amethi because it was close to his mother’s district.

He lost his first election but won in 1980 on the promise of turning Amethi into another London. He died in a plane crash shortly after being elected, but his brother, Rajiv, won the seat in 1981 and set up factories. Since then, every Gandhi who has run for Parliament from this constituency has won, thanks to the family’s charisma, said Sharat Pradhan, a veteran journalist from Lucknow.

So when Brijesh Dubey, an unemployed 35-year-old in one of Amethi’s villages, dared to point out in an interview earlier this week that Amethi’s parliamentary representative, Rahul Gandhi, the vice president of the governing Indian National Congress, had not brought in more jobs, he was shouted down by his friends.

“Amethi is Rahul Gandhi,” said Hariraj Singh, a 55-year-old farmer. “Everyone in the world knows Amethi because of the Gandhi name.”… read it at The New York Times.

Aam Aadmi Party Leader Declares Candidacy in Varanasi

April 14th, 2014 by admin

VARANASI, India — It was after sunset on Tuesday when Arvind Kejriwal, the leader of the Aam Aadmi Party in India, asked a field packed with spectators whether he should run for Parliament in the ancient holy city of Varanasi.

“Yes!” roared the crowd, who had gathered at the Benia Bagh Maidan in a poor area occupied by both Hindus and Muslims.

“I accept this challenge,” said Mr. Kejriwal, the former chief minister of Delhi, to the sound of applause and cheers, thereby turning Varanasi into one of the most hotly contested battlegrounds in the 2014 Indian national elections.

Mr. Kejriwal, 45, will be facing Narendra Modi of the Bharatiya Janata Party, who is also contending for a seat in the Lok Sabha, or lower house of Parliament, from this city on the banks of the Ganges River, where 1.6 million voters will head to the polls on May 12…read it at The New York Times.

Congress Loyalty in Uttar Pradesh District Has Royal Roots

April 14th, 2014 by admin

PRATAPGARH, India — On Saturday morning, Ram Das, an elderly porter, was frantically looking for customers at the train station of Pratapgarh, a small town in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh.

Flashing a toothless smile, Mr. Das admitted to charging a reporter 10 extra rupees, or 16 cents, on top of his usual 20-rupee fee because he only had until noon to make enough money for his daily groceries. After that, he was going to spend the rest of the day at a rally led by Rahul Gandhi, the Congress party’s vice president, that was the start of the party’s campaign in Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state.

“He should be the next leader,” Mr. Das said. “Why? Because our loyalties have always been with the Congress.”

The choice of Pratapgarh for Mr. Gandhi’s rally was a logical one. It is close to Amethi, where Mr. Gandhi holds a parliamentary seat, and to Rae Bareli, where Sonia Gandhi, his mother and the party’s president, holds another. For more than five decades, the residents of the Pratapgarh district have mostly voted for Congress party candidates for Parliament, candidates who belong to the royal family from the village of Kalakankar, where they have lived since the 17th century…read it at The New York Times.

Extraordinary Courage: Acid Attack Victim Speaks Out

April 14th, 2014 by admin

When Laxmi was 16 years old, she was waiting at a bus stop when she felt a tap on her shoulder. As she turned around, a man threw acid on her, brutally scorching her face and arms. The attacker was an acquaintance whose marriage proposals she’d rejected.

The outcry against rape in India over the past year has brought attention to another kind of violence that plagues the country: acid attacks. These crimes often occur when men who are unable to deal with the emotional crush of being rejected want to punish the women who rebuffed them. With strong acid being readily available in India, these attacks are alarmingly prevalent.

The man who assaulted Laxmi was eventually caught and sentenced to 10 years in jail. After years of hiding, Laxmi decided to speak out against acid attacks. She successfully petitioned India’s Supreme Court to make it harder for the average person to buy the kinds of acid often used to disfigure and maim victims. She also began working for a campaign called “Stop Acid Attacks,” where she met an activist named Alok and fell in love. The couple now work and live together…read it at Vocativ.

What Happens When You Cheer for the “Wrong” Cricket Team in India?

April 14th, 2014 by admin

Cricket fans sometimes take their sport a bit too seriously—especially when it comes to the game’s most heated rivalry—India versus Pakistan, a matchup that makes the Yankees vs. the Red Sox look like the puppy bowl.

Case in point: On Thursday the police in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh charged 67 Kashmiri college students with sedition for cheering for Pakistan during a cricket match against India, and for allegedly shouting anti-India slogans after Pakistan won.

The students denied the latter charge, and the police dropped the case hours later because of public and political blowback. Still, the incident has cast a spotlight on the longstanding enmity between India and Pakistan, countries that have been at odds for decades over the disputed Kashmir Valley…read it at The New York Times.

Graffiti Artists in Srinagar Aim to Go Beyond Vandalism

April 14th, 2014 by admin

SRINAGAR, Kashmir — When Ali gets ready to paint, he puts on a mask, an occupational necessity, and not just because of the fumes from the spray can.

The 20-year-old graffiti artist, who requested that his first name not be used because defacing public property is illegal, said the mask did more than conceal his identity from the police — he believed that it also provided him with an aura of mystery that made his art more intriguing to viewers.

Mr. Ali, who goes by the name Ghalib, after the famous Urdu poet, said his work was more than just vandalism. He criticized messages like “Welcome Taliban, go India go back” scrawled on walls, saying that they achieved little except make serious artists targets for arrest.

“People will write the same rubbish about India on Facebook, but how does it make life any better for people?” he said…read it at The New York Times.

The Whistle-Blower of Kashmir

April 14th, 2014 by admin

More than two decades after soldiers in the Indian army allegedly raped at least 30 women in Kashmir, a retired Indian official says he was booted from his post after he refused to change his damning report about what happened.

No one has ever been prosecuted for the alleged rapes, which purportedly occurred on two nights in February of 1991 in the Muslim villages of Kunan and Poshpora.

Earlier this week, the former official, S.M. Yasin, told local media that Indian Army officials tried to coerce him to alter his report about what happened. He also said that a friend in the army told him that a secret government investigation had confirmed that the rapes indeed happened.

The Indian army “behaved like beasts,” Yasin wrote in a report to a superior officer in March of 1991. “I feel ashamed to put in black and white what kind of atrocities and their magnitude was brought to my notice on the spot.”…read it at Vocativ.

Underneath the Quiet in Kashmir, Youthful Anger Simmers

April 14th, 2014 by admin

SRINAGAR, Kashmir — Before Feb. 9, the anniversary of the death of Muhammad Afzal, a Kashmiri who was hanged for his role in a 2001 attack on Parliament, the state government took its usual precautions to head off unrest. A curfew was imposed, Internet access was cut off, and additional police officers were posted around Srinagar.

The anniversary passed quietly as residents observed a three-day strike called by local leaders who want an independent Kashmir. But behind closed doors, young Kashmiris were increasingly talking of violence, frustrated by the inability to protest in the streets and the futility of bashing India on the Internet and losing faith in separatist leaders.

While many Kashmiris don’t want to see a revival of the violent struggle for freedom that raged during the 1990s, causing tens of thousands of deaths and disappearances, there is a growing sentiment among those in their 20s that violence can be justified when they have no peaceful means to express their dissent…read it at The New York Times.

Want a Divorce in India? You May Have to Wait 15 Years

April 14th, 2014 by admin

After she got married, Vandana Shah lived the life of Indian industrialist, replete with servants and drivers. Then one day a couple years later, her husband threw her out of his house with $12 in her pocket. Her own upper-middle-class family shunned her. She had to move in with a housekeeper who had worked for her parents, and she sold $400 worth of jewelry to make ends meet.

But that wasn’t even the worst part of her divorce: The case dragged on in the Indian courts for a full decade, with hearings several times every year to relive the gory details of the broken marriage. She was actually lucky it was only 10 years—some divorce cases in India can take a quarter-century to get resolved.

Stung by the experience, a few months after her separation, she started a support group for divorcees. So far, more than 7,000 people have passed through the group. Two years ago, Shah became a lawyer and began publishing the EX-Files, a magazine for divorcees that tries to take a lighter approach to a very heavy issue in India…read it at Vocativ.

Judge’s Family Denies Pride Was Behind Rejection of 3rd-Highest Award

April 14th, 2014 by admin

NEW DELHI — The family of the late Jagdish Sharan Verma, the former Supreme Court chief justice whose report helped strengthen Indian sexual assault laws, said it had rejected one of India’s top awards for the judge because he would have never accepted it had he been alive.

Tasked with leading a committee to make recommendations on how to combat gender violence after the gang rape of a Delhi woman in December 2012, Mr. Verma delivered a report in a record 29 days, which would become the basis of tougher laws against sexual violence. Three months later, Mr. Verma died at the age of 80 from multiple organ failure…read it at The New York Times.

From Microsoft Executive to India’s Sex Toy Titan

April 14th, 2014 by admin

Samir Saraiya remembers when the light first went off in his head. He had stumbled across the results of a survey by the condom maker Durex that asked people around the world about, among other things, their use of sex toys. In India, where Saraiya lives, talking openly about sex is still fairly taboo, and sex toys aren’t exactly cocktail-party conversation.

But the survey found, curiously, that a large number of people in India, 13 percent, had actually experimented with sex toys. Saraiya, a former Microsoft executive, was sure the survey was nonsense. “How could so many people be using sex toys if not a single store in India was selling them?” he wondered…read it at Vocativ.

A Conversation With: Times Now Editor in Chief Arnab Goswami

April 14th, 2014 by admin

Arnab Goswami, editor in chief of the Times Now television news channel in Mumbai, landed one of the biggest interviews in Indian journalism in recent years when he spoke with Rahul Gandhi, the Congress Party vice president.

Since he entered politics a decade ago, Mr. Gandhi, who is widely presumed to be his party’s choice for prime minister if Congress wins the national elections, had never given a TV interview. That Mr. Gandhi, 43, chose to sit down with Mr. Goswami, 40, one of the most aggressive interviewers in India, elevated the event to must-see TV on Monday night.

True to form, Mr. Goswami grilled Mr. Gandhi about his thoughts on Narendra Modi, the prime ministerial candidate of the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, which Congress Party leaders have been accused of inciting, and the violence against Muslims in Mr. Modi’s state of Gujarat in 2002. During the interview and afterward, Twitter exploded with comments, ranging from serious to sarcastic, about Mr. Gandhi’s answers.

On Wednesday, Mr. Goswami spoke to India Ink by phone about how it felt to bag the elusive interview and the reasons behind his tough questions…read it at The New York Times.

Two Relief Camps in Uttar Pradesh Settle Into Permanency

February 7th, 2014 by admin

BHURA CAMP, Uttar Pradesh — The Bhura relief camp set up for Muslims who were fleeing violent clashes with Hindu-Jats in western Uttar Pradesh over four months ago is starting to look more like permanent settlements, despite the local authorities’ efforts to force residents to move out. Residents here say this is the first camp to become a colony.

Last week, at the Bhura camp, which holds 60 families, men worked energetically to build houses to keep out the winter chill and rain. Feverish construction this month has transformed shelters of plastic sheets and tarps into houses of red bricks and tin doors.

Mohammed Islam, 48, divided the day between nursing his sick goat and shoveling mud out of the plot for his new house. Mr. Islam’s three sons and a few other residents of the camp were heaving and placing bricks. “We are all helping each other in building houses. It saves costs, but there is also a feeling of camaraderie since we have been here for so long together,” he said…read it at The New York Times.

Delhi Chief Minister Calls Off Protest After Deal to Put Two Police Officials on Leave

January 21st, 2014 by admin

NEW DELHI — Arvind Kejriwal, Delhi’s chief minister, called off his party’s sit-in protest over women’s safety on Tuesday night after the central government agreed to place on leave two police officials who the Aam Aadmi Party accused of failing to protect women.

On Monday, Mr. Kejriwal, along with his ministers from the Aam Aadmi, or Common Man, Party had demanded that the Home Ministry immediately suspend three station house officers who had handled three recently reported crimes against women.

After their demands were rejected, Mr. Kejriwal and the Aam Aadmi Party began a sit-in protest, which drew a few hundred supporters, causing the police to barricade roads and close subway stations in central Delhi… read it at The New York Times.

Aam Aadmi Protest Shuts Down Central Delhi

January 21st, 2014 by admin

NEW DELHI — The heart of India’s capital came to a standstill on Monday after Arvind Kejriwal, the Delhi chief minister, and members of his Aam Aadmi Party squared off with the central government in a public demonstration to demand that the Delhi police should be under state, not federal, control.

As Delhi police officers barricaded the roads in central Delhi, Mr. Kejriwal also called on all residents to join him in a 10-day protest against the Delhi Police Department for failing to protect women. In a speech, he contended that the state government would be better at running the city’s police force, which he criticized as corrupt and inefficient under the central government’s administration.

The standoff began early on Monday when seven lawmakers from the Aam Aadmi, or Common Man, Party, led by Mr. Kejriwal, headed out to the Home Ministry, which oversees the Delhi police, to demand the resignations of three station house officers who they said had failed to protect women in three reported cases: a gang rape of a Danish tourist, the burning of a woman over a lack of dowry and an alleged prostitution racket…read it at The New York Times.

After Love Unravels in Media, Indian Politician’s Wife Is Found Dead

January 19th, 2014 by admin

NEW DELHI — He was a smooth-talking politician from South India with an international reputation from his time at the United Nations. She was a beautiful Kashmiri from the north when they met in 2009 in middle age and began a relationship partly played out in the media, and social media, glare.

Now after public allegations that he was having an affair, the woman is dead, in what a doctor called an “unnatural, sudden death.” Her husband, Shashi Tharoor, briefly checked himself into a hospital with chest pains. And Twitter is alive with virtual handwringing over whether the medium allowed a dangerous level of overexposure.

The unraveling of the couple’s personal lives began last week, when the wife, Sunanda Pushkar, was quoted as saying she sent out a series of messages on Twitter that she said proved that a Pakistani journalist was pursuing her husband. Days later, on Friday, he reported finding his wife dead in a hotel bed.

On Saturday, Sudhir Gupta, one of the doctors who performed an autopsy, told reporters that “there were certain injury marks on the body, but we can’t divulge details at this point.” He ruled out poisoning and said it would take several days to determine the cause of death… read it at The New York Times.

A Village Takes Small Steps Toward Reconciliation After Muzaffarnagar Riots

January 17th, 2014 by admin

FUGANA, Uttar Pradesh– Four months after religious violence shattered generations of coexistence in the rural hinterland of western Uttar Pradesh, community leaders are trying to get Hindus and Muslims to talk to each other again as the first step to removing the fear and bitterness that divides villages in the Muzaffarnagar district.

Although some villagers are still consumed by grief and hatred, economic necessity — and for some, a desire to return home — is paving the way to reconciliation, which is likely to be long and fraught with challenges… read it at The New York Times.

India’s Raunchiest Feminist: 12 Questions for Radhika Vaz

January 17th, 2014 by admin

NEW DELHI—Radhika Vaz belongs to a rare breed of Indian comedians: She’s raunchy. She’s also a woman, which makes tackling subjects like blow jobs and pussy farts even more taboo. In that show, Unladylike, Vas sported a polka-dot dress and a prim and proper demeanor as she mocked the expectations and double standards for women in India and the United States.

After living for 15 years in New York, Vaz recently moved back to India with her husband and is currently staying her with in-laws, who belong to the Jat community, a conservative clan in India… read it at Vocativ.

Bed, bus & beyond for winter homeless

January 17th, 2014 by admin

How does one survive nights of near-freezing temperatures in Delhi if you’re poor and homeless or from out of town? Places of worship are a natural port of call, but with city’s migrant population on the uptick, there are only so many that the Gods can host.

Figures in raggedy shawls bent over dying embers under bridges and flyovers are a familiar sight in Delhi. According to Government statistics, winters are the second biggest cause for deaths due to natural disasters, outdone only by lightning. It’s not easy finding a warm and cozy hearth, but the capital does offer some spots to sleep – some say relatively better than most parts of the country. Better, perhaps, than the Muzaffarnagar relief camps where 34 children have died this winter.

But one has to be prepared to deal with the drama and chaos that comes with finding a place in the city’s underbelly, surrounded by strangers, who sometimes become friends or just take a leak in the next bed… read it at Yahoo.

India and America End Nanny Spat

January 11th, 2014 by admin

India and the United States look set to put an end to a month-long diplomatic row, all started by an angry maid. An Indian diplomat charged with visa fraud was granted full diplomatic immunity by the U.S. State Department on Thursday and was told to leave the country.

The diplomat, Devyani Khobragade, was arrested and strip-searched in New York last month after her maid accused her of paying below minimum wage. Khobragade was criminally indicted by U.S. attorney Preet Bharara for lying on her visa application form, on which she stated that she would pay her nanny a higher salary.  She was warned that if she returned to the U.S., she’d be arrested.

Some will mock India’s reaction to its diplomats’ arrest as over the top, some will interpret it as a failure to stick up for the rights of the domestic help and others will see it as standing up to U.S. bullying… read it at Vocativ.

Inside the Catfight That Has Left Bangladesh a Political Mess

January 9th, 2014 by admin

If you’re looking to cast blame for the latest wave of death and destruction, you can start with the long and vicious power struggle between the two women who have taken turns ruling the poor nation of 160 million people over the last two decades. It’s very possible the loss of life could have been prevented if they had shelved their anger and egos and reached a compromise during the campaign.

To many observers, the women have fallen short of fulfilling great destinies, and instead reduced Bangladesh to one of the world’s most unstable countries, as they acted out personal vendettas. One sore point: Zia celebrating her birthday on the same day (August 15) that Hasina’s father and 10-year-old brother were killed. Hasina claims that it isn’t even Zia’s actual birthday…read it at Vocativ.

Interview – photos of sharing a sofa with the domestic help in Bangladesh

January 9th, 2014 by admin

Over the past few weeks, relations between India and the United States have been strained over the arrest of Devyani Khobragade, 39, an Indian diplomat in Manhattan who allegedly paid her housekeeper less than the New York minimum wage.

A great deal has been written about the appalling treatment of domestic help in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh (and how attitudes are slowly changing). But one of the most refreshingly original takes is a photo essay called Close Distance by Jannatul Mawa, a documentary photographer and social activist in Bangladesh. Mawa got more than a dozen housekeepers in Dhaka and the women they work for to pose for her sitting side by side. The goal: Show the distance between two people who often live under the same roof.

In an interview with Vocativ, Mawa spoke about the Indian diplomat in Manhattan and what it means to be spatially close but far apart in every other way.

What were you trying to capture?

Among the urban middle class in Dhaka, hiring domestic help is common. Those who work as domestics bend down to dust for us, they give us all kinds of comfort, but do we care about them? Do we worry about when they eat, when they go to bed? How humanely do we treat them? Do we, as members of the educated middle class, as progressives, mobilize public opinion so that they should have a day off, should get minimum wages? The objective of asking women house owners and domestics to sit together is to raise these questions.

After Fleeing Violence, Many Indian Muslims Refuse to Return Home

January 5th, 2014 by admin

LOI, India — Mohammed Akhtar’s former neighbors keep stopping by to tell him that it is time for him to come home, that there is really nothing to be afraid of.

They try to coax him, reminding him that Hindu and Muslim families lived together in his village for generations before September, when a two-day spasm of religious violence engulfed the area, sending about 50,000 people fleeing from their homes.

Four months later, an estimated 15,000 Muslims remain in sprawling makeshift tent cities in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, refusing to believe it is safe to return. In deepening cold, family members slept clinging to one another for warmth while icy water dripped through the tarps overhead. By mid-December, according to the government, 35 children in the camps had died.

Stung by negative publicity, local officials have undertaken a new push to clear the camps. This week, Mr. Akhtar stood in the middle of a field of empty foundations in the village of Loi, where shreds of brightly colored fabric hinted at the 1,800 people who had been evicted the day before.

But he, like thousands of his neighbors, said he would still refuse to return home… read it at The New York Times.

Clean Sweep: Delhi’s Brooming Revolution

January 5th, 2014 by admin

As the dust rose two years ago from Ramlila Ground, one of Delhi’s largest public spaces, thousands gathered to rally for an anti-corruption bill that had stalled in India’s parliament for over three decades. But when the dust settled in this scandal-plagued city of 17 million, and even after the bill passed this month, not much changed, and the protest seemed like little more than a quixotic exercise.

Arvind Kejriwal, a 45-year-old bespectacled engineer, helped organize the fall 2011 rally. Kejriwal rose to fame standing side-by-side with activist Anna Hazare, who fasted several times until the law was passed. And when he returned to Ramlila two years later, sweeping away corruption suddenly seemed less far-fetched… read it at Vocativ.

A Conversation With: Aam Aadmi Party Leader Arvind Kejriwal

December 27th, 2013 by admin

Braving the cold wind and rain on Friday morning, a motley crowd gathered in the lobby of an apartment building in the industrial city of Ghaziabad on the outskirts of Delhi. Each time the cranky elevator machinery whirred, heads turned and the group held its collective breath in anticipation of Arvind Kejriwal, leader of the Aam Aadmi Party.

Among those who were waiting was an Indian real estate manager from Washington D.C., who had waited for two hours to meet Mr. Kejriwal and wish him well before he is sworn in as Delhi’s new chief minister on Saturday. Eventually, Mr. Kejriwal came swiftly down the stairs, running 30 minutes late for the day’s first jan sabha, a public gathering where people tell him their problems.

Mr. Kejriwal, a 45-year-old engineer, has played the roles of tax inspector and anticorruption social activist before he became a politician wielding a broom, the symbol of his party, which was created with the intent of sweeping out the old political establishment. The party did just that in the Delhi assembly elections early this month, routing the Indian National Congress Party and coming in as a close second to the Bharatiya Janata Party, or B.J.P.

After his party accepted the support of the Congress Party, Mr. Kejriwal is now set to be sworn in as the capital’s chief minister on Saturday. During his five-year term, all eyes will be on Mr. Kejriwal to see if he delivers his campaign promises to cut electricity bills by half in Delhi and provide residents with 700 liters (185 gallons) of free water every day.

The day before he was to embark on his new career as a chief minister, Mr. Kejriwal talked to India Ink about what brought him to this point and what lies ahead for him and his party… read it at The New York Times.

Indian Deaths Underscore Risks in U.N. Peacekeeping Missions

December 27th, 2013 by admin

The family of Dharmesh Sangwan would have phoned the United Nations soldier in South Sudan on his 34th birthday on Sunday, and then welcomed him home 10 days later for a big celebration in their village in Haryana.

Instead, on Monday his family received the body of Mr. Sangwan, who was killed during a peacekeeping mission on Dec. 19. He was cremated on the same day he was returned home, with state honors.

While stationed in the remote town of Akobo of Jonglei State in South Sudan, Mr. Sangwan and Kanwar Pal Singh, 46, another United Nations soldier from India, were killed while trying to prevent 2,000 attackers of Nuer ethnicity from entering the United Nations base where 36 ethnic Dinka civilians were hiding.

Mr. Sangwan’s father, Rajender, was torn between pride and grief. “Half my heart is broken, but the other half is swelling with pride,” said the 57-year-old farmer, speaking on the phone from his village, Kheri Battar. “He has not only made India’s name shine in our own country but in the world.”…read it at The New York Times.

Geeta and Lilima: Domestic Help’s Views in Debate over Diplomat’s Arrest

December 20th, 2013 by admin

NEW DELHI — Indian opinion has been divided since hearing about the arrest of Devyani Khobragade, the Indian deputy consul general in New York, on charges of visa fraud and paying her housekeeper far less than the current New York state minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.

The 39-year-old Indian diplomat has been accused of signing a second contract with her housekeeper for a monthly salary of 30,000 rupees, or $573 at the time, instead of the $4,500 listed in the housekeeper’s American visa application. Ms. Khobragade has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Many Indians were furious that an Indian diplomat would be treated as a common criminal; others condemned Ms. Khobragade as another bureaucrat trying to exploit her domestic help. But even her detractors extended the mother of two children their sympathies after Indian newspapers described how she was handcuffed in public and humiliated, accounts that Preet Bharara, the United States federal prosecutor who charged Ms. Khobragade, said had “much misinformation and factual inaccuracy.”

Those who work as domestic helpers in Delhi were similarly divided in interviews with India Ink, with two contending that Ms. Khobragade deserved to be arrested and one criticizing the way she was treated by the American authorities.

In the nation’s capital, poor women are recruited as household staff by dubious placement agencies with the promise of at least 5,000 rupees a month, with no set limit on their hours, but often they end up receiving only 1,000 or 2,000 rupees. Those coming into Delhi from remote villages have no recourse because they know no one in the big city and often don’t speak Hindi… read it at The New York Times.

India’s other gang rape: Kunan Poshpora in Kashmir

December 20th, 2013 by admin

KUNAN POSHPORA, KASHMIR—Here in this remote hamlet some 40 miles from the Pakistani border, most want to forget their past, but they can’t. Even on a sunny day this fall, when I traveled here to report on allegations of a 22-year-old crime, there was something spectral clinging to the narrow streets like a thick film.

On Feb. 23, 1991, when India’s violent struggle with Kashmiri separatists was at its peak, an elite regiment of Indian soldiers entered this predominantly Muslim village, allegedly in search of militants. They didn’t find any, but human rights groups say the soldiers committed one of the most horrific crimes in the nation’s history.

Two decades later, most here in Kunan Poshpora are tired of speaking to the press. A few men, however, agreed to meet me in a small house on the edge of the village. Sitting in a line on the blue carpet, against a brown cement wall, they described how the army ordered them out of their homes in the cold, tortured them in makeshift interrogation centers, and while they were detained, raped at least 30 of their wives and daughters. The army denies the charges and no one has ever been prosecuted… read it at Vocativ.

A Year Later, Family of Delhi Gang Rape Victim Press for ‘Full Justice’

December 20th, 2013 by admin

A year after the gang rape and assault of a 23-year-old physiotherapy student in Delhi, four out of six defendants have received the death penalty for her murder, another is dead and the last one received the maximum sentence for a minor, three years in a reformatory home.

It is the sentence for the sixth defendant that drives Badri Nath Singh and Asha Devi to fight for what they call “full justice” for their daughter.

Even for a city that had seen its share of horrific crimes, residents of the nation’s capital were shocked, then outraged as they learned of details of the Dec. 16, 2012, attack on the young woman and her male friend on a moving bus by six people. Besides being gang-raped, she was assaulted with an iron rod, requiring doctors to remove her intestines. Her male friend was also beaten, and the two of them were thrown out of the bus and into the street, nearly naked and left for dead.

“They literally ate my daughter,” said Mr. Singh. “There were bite marks all over her. I cannot rest until they are all dead. They did not commit a crime but a sin, and for a sin, there is no forgiveness.”… read it at The New York Times.

Are Women Any Safer in India?

December 20th, 2013 by admin

NEW DELHI — Though nationwide protests following the gang rape of a woman in Delhi and stronger laws enacted this year have raised the public’s awareness of sexual assaults on women, Sonia, 26, said nothing has changed in the way the men have treated her as she uses public transport for her work in medical equipment sales.

Since she came to Delhi in 2008, men have constantly ogled her, made lewd remarks and groped her while she travels on the city’s packed buses. “One man presses from the back and the other from the front,” said Sonia, who asked that her full name not be used so that her family doesn’t worry about her safety.

Protesting is pointless because the men claim that there is no space, she said. “But you can tell by how they lean or brush against you that they are just sick,” she said. “Even their staring is sick, and they especially look at girls wearing even a bit of tight clothes.”

One year later after the gang rape in Delhi, the question being raised is whether women are any safer in the nation’s capital. India Ink posed it to human rights lawyers, activists and residents of Delhi, who all say it’s an impossible question or too early to say. But they agree that key milestones were reached this year, which include expanding the definitions of sexual crimes, increasing jail time for offenders, punishing police officials who fail to register complainants…read it at The New York Times.

Youth Trumps Experience and Wealth in Unlikely Aam Aadmi Party Win

December 13th, 2013 by admin

NEW DELHI – Of all the David-and-Goliath battles the Aam Aadmi Party faced in the Delhi assembly elections last week, the one in Mangolpuri, a gritty district in northern part of the capital, was among the least likely to result in a win for the upstart party.

The Aam Aadmi, or Common Man, Party, also known as A.A.P., put on the ballot Rakhi Birla, its youngest candidate at 26. The former television reporter not only had no political experience, her youth could have been considered a liability in a country where advanced age is associated with experience and wisdom in politics. Presently, 65 percent of Indians are below 35 years of age, but the majority of its ministers are over 65.

Through her publicly funded party, she ran against millionaire politician Raj Kumar Chauhan, 56, who joined politics in 1976 and had won four consecutive elections since 1993 for the Indian National Congress, which also leads the governing coalition of the central government.

Her victory of over 10,000 votes stunned many political observers. Arvind Kejriwal, the Aam Aadmi Party leader who defeated the three-term chief minister Sheila Dikshit of the Congress Party by over 20,000 votes, cited Ms. Birla’s win as a shining example of the spirit of their politics…read it at The New York Times.

After Muzaffarnagar Riots, a Standoff over Government Compensation

December 13th, 2013 by admin

SHAMLI, Uttar Pradesh—On a sunny winter afternoon last week, 12-year-old Gulbaar drifted among the dusty pile of rocks that marked the graves of infants and children in a cemetery close to the camp called Malakpur. The camp houses more than 7,000 Muslims who have taken refuge here since violence broke out three months ago between Muslims and the Jat clan of the Hindus in the nearby districts of Shamli and Muzaffarnagar in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh.

One grave resting in the dry grass and bramble, a camp supervisor said, was of a 15-month-old baby, who had perished from the cold last month. Residents of this camp in the district of Shamli say that 22 children and four elders have died from the cold since November, which is disputed by state officials.

Squatting next to the mound, Gulbaar, who goes by one name, described how his four siblings squeeze together to keep warm while sleeping. “We survive by sticking to each other, but a lot of cotton is coming out of our old bedding,” he said.

Gulbaar’s family left their home in the village of Kaserva in Shamli when clashes erupted on Sept. 7 between Muslims and Hindu Jats in the sugarcane-producing hamlets of India’s most populous state, 150 kilometers north of Delhi. Before they fled, Gulbaar recalled how he helped make crude weapons with sticks and sickles.

The clashes claimed over 60 lives and displaced more than 50,000 Muslims, who took shelter in camps like Malakpur. In Shamli, 16 families each received 1.2 million rupees, or $20,000, as compensation for deaths of family members, and 500,000 rupees was given to each of the 680 families from the worst-hit villages, who could not return home out of fear or because their property had been destroyed…read it at The New York Times.

A Three-Way Race Draws Delhi’s Young, and Everyone Else, Out to Vote

December 9th, 2013 by admin

NEW DELHI — Unlike in the past, this year’s contest featured a potential spoiler in the Aam Aadmi, or Common Man, Party. Its leader, the firebrand anticorruption activist Arvind Kejriwal, was battling to dethrone the state’s longtime chief minister, Sheila Dikshit of the Congress Party, and siphon votes from the other establishment choice, the Bharatiya Janata Party, or B.J.P. (Exit polls by the local media on Wednesday night were showing that the B.J.P. was likely to win the most seats in the state assembly.)

The prospect of upending the political status quo brought out young voters like 23-year-old Hina Kousar, although she had to put up a fight with her family to cast her vote for the Aam Aadmi Party. Her mother lectured her on how governments don’t care about people, but that didn’t deter Ms. Kousar.

“They have the wrong mentality, and young people should change it,” she said. “My granny is 70 years old and I told her to vote.”… read it at The New York Times.

Hot and Green in Warsaw

December 9th, 2013 by admin

What can I write about the world’s climate change crisis that could beat the Philippine negotiator, Yeb Saño’s desperate plea at the UN climate change conference in Warsaw last month?

And what more could Saño say that could beat the toll Typhoon Haiyan had taken in his country: 5,000+ killed, 11 million displaced, $5 billion of infrastructure destroyed?

Saño called out to the delegates of more than 190 countries to stop “the madness”. “The initial assessments show that Haiyan left a wave of massive destruction that is unprecedented, unthinkable, and horrific,” he said.

Watching tears brimming behind Saño’s spectacles and hearing him describe the ongoing climate devastation brought back images of other diplomats who had cried, cajoled and ranted at previous UN climate change conferences. In a wrenching moment at the Copenhagen talks in 2009, President of the Maldives, Mohamed Nasheed had pleaded, “If things go business as usual, we will not live. We will die. Our country will not exist”… read it at Yahoo.

India’s Negotiator Says Climate Treaty Talks ‘Partial Success’

November 26th, 2013 by admin

WARSAW, Poland — After more than 35 hours of continuous discussions, Ravi Shankar Prasad, one of India’s lead negotiators, described the United Nations climate change conference as “a partial success” for keeping the pathway open for a global climate treaty to be finalized in 2015.

Mr. Prasad said that after being on the verge of a breakdown, the talks, which concluded Saturday, delivered a mechanism for developed countries to give money to poor nations for climate-related “loss and damage” and created an outline for a system under which countries could make “contributions” to reduce greenhouse gas emissions after 2020, when the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, the first treaty on climate change, will end.

“Loss and damage is something African countries have been asking for 15 to 20 years. It was very close to their heart and so were keen on it,” Mr. Prasad told India Ink on Saturday night, as delegates of several countries rushed out of the National Stadium in Warsaw to catch their flights after the talks had been extended an entire day… read it at The New York Times.

A Conversation With: British Climate Economist Lord Nicholas Stern

November 26th, 2013 by admin

WARSAW, Poland — Even as the annual United Nations climate change conference is nearing its end on Friday, negotiations are obstructed by longstanding disputes over responsibilities of combating the crisis.

Developing countries want rich countries to shoulder the burden of reducing greenhouse gases and providing finances in view of their historical emissions, captured by the principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities” in the Rio Declaration of 1992.

But in view of how much the world has changed since then, especially the growth of emerging economies like China and India, developed countries are attempting to remove the differences in international obligations.

As delegates from 189 countries attempt to negotiate a new climate treaty by 2015, a new report by the Global Carbon Budget finds that global emissions of carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels will reach a record high of 36 billion tons in 2013.

At the National Stadium in Warsaw, the British climate economist Lord Nicholas Stern spoke to India Ink about how India’s future emissions would require it to do more to solve the global challenge, even as it moves to eradicate poverty. Mr. Stern, a professor of economics at the London School of Economics, was the co-author of “Palanpur: The Economy of an Indian Village,” a 1982 book based on the village in Uttar Pradesh, and he was co-editor of the book “New Bihar – Rekindling Governance and Development.”…read it at The New York Times.

A Conversation With: India’s Chief Climate Change Negotiator Ravi Shankar Prasad

November 26th, 2013 by admin

WARSAW, Poland — The annual United Nations climate change conference, which runs from Nov. 11 to 22, started with an emotional appeal from the Philippine negotiator Yeb Sano, who declared that he would be fasting “until a meaningful outcome is in sight” in the wake of the “staggering” devastation from Typhoon Haiyan in his country.

Describing the climate change crisis as madness he said, “We can stop this madness right here in Warsaw.”

But the last 10 days has seen little progress on key problems of reducing greenhouses gases, pledging funds for the $100 billion Green Climate Fund, and coming up with financing to address climate-related “loss and damages.”
The talks took a big blow on Friday when Japan announced a steep lowering of its emission reduction target to 3.8 percent from 2005 levels, which in effect is a 3.1 percent increase in emissions from its 1990 levels.

Ravi Shankar Prasad, India’s chief negotiator, discussed with India Ink the old and new stumbling blocks as delegations from 189 countries attempt to draft a new climate change treaty by 2015 in the National Stadium in Warsaw… read it at The New York Times.

India’s 5 Worst Ads for Skin-Whitening Cream

November 26th, 2013 by admin

Earlier this month, Kangna Ranaut, a popular Bollywood actor, turned down a $200,000 deal to endorse a skin-whitening cream. “My sister is dusky, yet beautiful,” she said. “If I go ahead and be part of this campaign, then, in a way, I would be insulting her.”

For decades in India, it’s been an unsaid mantra: Light is beautiful. In a country where the vast majority of people are brown, fair skin continues to be the prized standard of beauty. For those who aren’t naturally milky white, there are whitening creams that reportedly sell for as much as $50 a bottle, or as little as $5.

Despite the recent outrage from the likes of Ranaut, over the past four years, the market for whitening cream has roughly doubled to $638 million, according to researchers at Euromonitor International. Even male Bollywood stars are now endorsing whitening products with names such as “Fair and Handsome.”

The ads for these creams promise love, happiness, satisfaction—even wealth—if only you make yourself look whiter! …read and watch at Vocativ.

In India, Courtship Now Comes With a Private Investigator

November 26th, 2013 by admin

Veenita spent the last few years building a lucrative career in finance in Delhi, and she’s ready to settle down and find a husband. The pretty 32-year-old scours matrimonial sites, and she’s happy to meet suitors her parents suggest. But she’s incredibly cautious.

“People lie all the time these days. Both boys and girls,” she says. “It’s risky to trust anyone.”

In the past few years, Veenita, who asked that we not use here real name, has witnessed many divorces among her circle of friends. Girlfriends who entered into arranged marriages often tell her horror stories, she says, about how their husbands turned out to be different from how they portrayed themselves. One of her friends discovered that her husband was still dating an old girlfriend. Another married a guy who turned out to be gay and continued to have affairs with other men. And she had been warned about guys who lied about their educational qualifications. “When you are reading profiles you can make out that people are exaggerating their degrees,” she says…read it at Vocativ.

What It’s Like to Be Bisexual in India

November 26th, 2013 by admin

Zeeshan Akhtar grew up in an upper-middle-class Muslim family in the Indian state of Bihar, and sexuality was a taboo topic.

“They are extremely homophobic,” he says.

While talking about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues is no longer a novelty in India, this was the first time that Delhi University had allowed space for that kind of discussion. The event was organized by a student group—not the university—and a modest audience of about 40 people attended, crammed into a small classroom.

When Nishtha Tewari, another student at Delhi University, told her dad recently that she was bisexual, he asked whether she had taken a test to confirm her bisexuality. The audience at Delhi University applauded when she told them her response: “I took a test and it was called life,” she told him… read it at Vocativ.

A Conversation With: Indian Ambassador to Afghanistan Amar Sinha

November 8th, 2013 by admin

Having occurred amid growing fears about the security situation after the U.S. pullout from Afghanistan, the attempted bombing of the Indian consulate in Jalalabad province on Aug. 3 ignited frantic speculation about whether India planned to exit in the face of danger or stay and deepen its footprint.

Indian officials stationed here live with the constant threat of attack. Four officials were killed in a 2008 attack on the Indian embassy in Kabul, which was blamed on the Haqqani network, a Taliban faction closely associated with Pakistan’s spy service, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence.

Despite these risks, many officials believe India has to stay in Afghanistan to counter Pakistan’s influence in the country, and prevent the nightmare scenario of its spies or army using the country as a backyard to train militants for launching attacks on Indian soil after the U.S. military pullout at the end of 2014.

At the helm of India’s operations in Afghanistan is Ambassador Amar Sinha, an economics graduate who has served in the Indian Foreign Service for more than three decades. He travels with a bulletproof jacket in his car but laughs and refuses to say how often he uses it.

A week after the Jalalabad bombing, Mr. Sinha said in an interview that India had no plans to leave Afghanistan, and that it would continue to focus on expanding its soft power through economic activities and aid in development and education.

In a conversation over tea and dry fruits at his house in Kabul, Mr. Sinha talked about India’s future in Afghanistan and the safety of its citizens living here.

Q.There has been concern that there will be a lot of chaos and a bad security situation after the American withdrawal next year, and Indians could be increasingly targeted. Are these concerns valid? … read it at The New York Times.

Shrinking Numbers and Growing Persecution Threaten Sikhs and Hindus in Afghanistan

November 6th, 2013 by admin

J.K. Sharma, a large Sikh man in a black turban, works out of a small room lined with jars and herbs in the ruined and dusty Shor Bazaar in Kabul. In a war-ravaged country where miracles are in short supply, Mr. Sharma makes a living as a magician, providing advice and talismans to Muslim Afghans for a fee.

On an August afternoon, Mr. Sharma, who refused to divulge his real name, stroked his salt-and-pepper beard as a nervous Afghan man sought help to getting the girl he loved to marry him in the face of parental objections. Mr. Sharma stared intently at the two dice with markings after he had rolled them a few times.

“Don’t worry, you will get the girl,” he declared with a broad smile. The magician charged the man 1,000 Afghan rupees, or $17, for an amulet.

Shor Bazaar, once a famed center for musicians and a home for businesses run by Afghan Hindus, is now the haunt of self-proclaimed magicians who are mostly Afghan Sikhs. Fortunetelling is one of the few occupations left for the Sikhs, who are on the verge of disappearing from Afghanistan, along with the Hindus.

Community leaders of these two religious minorities estimate that 35 years ago around 100,000 of them lived in Afghanistan. After three decades of fleeing from conflict to countries like India, Canada and Germany, only 3,000 are left. The majority of the 300 families remaining are Sikhs… read it at The New York Times.

A Train Through Kashmir

November 1st, 2013 by admin

On a summer afternoon, Mohammed Yasin, a fruit trader from Banihal in Indian-administered-Kashmir, made a video of his seven-year-old son’s first train journey. Mr. Yasin, 36, held his mobile phone out of the window to capture the passing landscape as they hurtled across the valley of Kashmir.

“I want him to remember this experience,” he said. “I could never have dreamed of sitting in a train at his age. Change is coming here too.”

Mr. Yasin and his son made their journey a few days after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh inaugurated an 18-kilometer stretch that has been added to a train line running through the valley in late June.

The ambitious train project is not unlike China’s rail link to the Tibetan capital of Lhasa and aims to connect Kashmir to the north Indian plains. The train has been running for a few years from the town of Qazigund in southern Kashmir to Baramulla in the northern part of the valley. The 18-kilometer addition now connects Qazigund to Banihal, across high mountains in the south that previously could be crossed only through the Jawahar tunnel built in the 1950s.

Mr. Yasin, who was heading back home to Banihal, explained that the train would reduce the cost of his journeys from Banihal to Srinagar, the summer capital, which he makes at least twice a week… read it at The New York Times.

Is there any hope for Soni Sori?

October 11th, 2013 by admin

Two years ago on October 4, 2011, Soni Sori was arrested in Delhi on suspicions of being a Maoist operating in Dantewada district, Chhattisgarh. The Adivasi woman had been on the run from the local police.

But instead of fading into just another statistic in India’s vast prison labyrinth, Sori’s saga, beginning with her dramatic flight from the tribal belt, captured headlines and the public imagination. Was this woman a dangerous Maoist who, as the police claimed, had attacked police personnel, attempted to blow up and torch trucks, and acted as a conduit for passage of protection money from a steel company operating in the area? Or was she, as activists claimed, an educated woman who was being silenced for her protests against injustice in the conflict-hit region?

The outspoken Adivasi woman acquired an air of mystery as her story spread in India and abroad. Was she a victim persecuted by the state machinery or had this strong and resourceful schoolteacher played both sides to survive in a conflict?

The furore over her arrest intensified when Sori said that she had been tortured and sexually assaulted by the police on the intervening night of October 8 and 9, 2011 in a Dantewada police station. She had been taken back there from the capital despite her pleas to a Delhi court judge not to be sent back.

Two years later, Sori is still locked up in a Jagdalpur prison and continues to wait for bail. In contrast to the uproar over her arrest, October 4, 2013 passed without ceremony. Nobody visited Sori, 37 or Kodopi, 27, in prison that day. No protests marked their continuing captivity or the fact that no investigation has been conducted to probe her allegations of sexual torture. Once the subject of concern for intellectuals like philosopher Noam Chomsky and economist Jean Drèze, Sori and Kodopi seem to have withered away from the public imagination… read it at Yahoo.

In India, a high-tech toilet that generates revenue

October 11th, 2013 by admin

DELHI — Naveen Arora, who is in the business of finding platforms for advertisements, is trying out something new: convincing customers that it’s okay to paste promotions on a snazzy new toilet.

Arora recently installed six new “e. toilets” called Delight in Greater Noida, a suburb of Delhi, which are already showing off ads of construction companies, educational institutions and even a popular fast food joint.

“There are some religious institutions that did not advertise. But that can be expected,” he said, laughing. “There are many others who are going for it — even one hotel. It’s all about the mindset.”

Arora, who now earns approximately 25,000 rupees or $416 a month, in ad revenues on each of his six units, expects to recover the 400,000 rupees or $6,140, he paid for the Delight in the next three years.

Not only could Delight be a good business for Arora, but its technology could address the lack of toilets in public spaces and homes, which is taking a massive health and economic toll on the country. The makers of Delight, designed by the Kerala-based Eram Scientific Solutions Ltd., believe that this e.toilet is key to solving the lack of public toilets problem because its remote sensing and self-cleansing technology significantly reduces maintenance costs by half … read it at SmartPlanet.

Grief and anger on both sides in Muzaffarnagar

September 18th, 2013 by admin

Najma, 30, sits in a long and dusty veranda of an open-air mosque called Idgah where prayers are held during Eid. It is Sunday, September 15. Located in the bustling town of Kandhla in Shamli district, Uttar Pradesh, Idgah is now a refuge for thousands of Muslims who escaped the recent communal violence in the surrounding areas.

A bundle of quilts and her two children, Najma says, were all that she could run away with after Hindus from the Jat community attacked her village Lisad, in Shamli district, on September 8. “They killed my other two children in front of my eyes,” she said. “There was nothing I could do.”

She is silent for a few moments. Wiping away tears, she continues, “They hacked my two little boys into three or four pieces and burned them to ashes.”

That same Sunday, Suresh, 55, cradled the photo of her 26-year-old son in her lap while sitting in the backyard of her house in Kakda village of Muzaffarnagar district. Muslim men, she said, had killed her boy when he was returning home on the evening of September 7.

“I have nothing to live for now,” she cried, surrounded by the womenfolk of the house. “Only his corpse came back to the house. I will look at his photo and grieve my whole life.” … read it at Yahoo.

Many Doubt Death Sentences Will Stem India Sexual Attacks

September 17th, 2013 by admin

There was no mistaking the whoop of joy that rose outside Saket District Court on Friday, when word got out that four men convicted in last December’s horrific gang rape and murder had been sentenced to death by hanging. People burst into applause. They hugged whoever was beside them. They pumped the air with their fists.

“We are the winners now,” said a woman holding a placard. Sweat had dried into white rivulets on her face, but she had the look of a woman who had, finally, gotten what she wanted. And it was true: A wave of protests after the December rape have set remarkable changes in motion in India, a country where for decades vicious sexual harassment has been dismissed indulgently, called “eve-teasing.

But some of India’s most ardent women’s rights advocates hung back from Friday’s celebration, skeptical that four hangings would do anything to stem violence against women, a problem whose proportions are gradually coming into focus…read it at The New York Times.

Indisk domstol dömde fyra till döden

September 17th, 2013 by admin

“Häng dem” ropade demonstranter utanför domstolen i den indiska huvudstaden New Delhi i dag. Och domaren dömde alla fyra åtalade till döden, för den uppmärksammade gruppvåldtäkten och mordet i vintras. Han sa att när “allt fler övergrepp begås mot kvinnor kan domstolen inte blunda för sådana avskyvärda brott”. De ska “hängas vid nacken tills de är döda”, sa domaren.

Den yngste av de dömda, en 20-årig assistent på ett gym, grät högljutt när han fick höra sitt straff. Men familjen till offret, en 23-åriga student, var nöjd.

– Jag är mycket glad att min flicka fått rättvisa, säger pappan, medan mamman kramar om en polis utanför domstolen…hear it on National Swedish Radio.

4 Sentenced to Death in Rape Case That Riveted India

September 13th, 2013 by admin

Four men convicted of a brutal gang rape and murder were sentenced Friday to die by hanging, a decision met with satisfaction on the part of the victim’s parents and triumphant cheers from the crowd outside the courthouse, where some held up makeshift nooses and pictures of hanging bodies.

The four men — a fruit vendor, a bus attendant, a gym handyman and an unemployed man — were found guilty on Tuesday of raping a young woman on a moving bus last December, penetrating her with a metal rod and inflicting grave internal injuries, then dumping her on the roadside.

The country was riveted by the story of the woman, who died of her injuries two weeks later, and tens of thousands of people flooded the streets to demand tougher policing and prosecution of sex crimes.

But until the last minute it was unclear whether this would lead to death sentences in a country where liberal and populist impulses have strained against one another for decades, reserving the death sentences for “the rarest of rare cases.” News of the decision was met with a wave of jubilation on the street outside… read it at The New York Times.

India demands death for gang rapists

September 11th, 2013 by admin

Nine months after the sexual assault of a young woman on a private bus in Delhi first roiled this country of more than 1 billion people, a district court judge convicted four men—Akshay Thakur, Pawan Gupta, Mukesh Singh and Vinay Sharma—of rape, murder and kidnapping. On Wednesday, prosecutors made their case for the men to be executed, echoing the loud calls from furious protesters across the country. The four will learn their sentences Friday. A fifth individual, who is a minor, was sentenced to three years in juvenile detention last month. Below, we revisit the sorrow and rage of the horrendous crime in photos … at Vocativ.

Families of Gang Rape Convicts Cry Foul

September 10th, 2013 by admin

NEW DELHI— Champa Devi, the mother of Vinay Sharma, waited for the news of her son’s fate in a neighbor’s house where she was hiding to escape reporters who were camped outside the Sharma family house on Tuesday.

Mr. Sharma, along with three other men, Mukesh, Pawan Gupta and Akshay Thakur, was convicted on Tuesday in the rape and murder of a 23-year-old woman who was assaulted on Dec. 16 in a moving bus in Delhi.

Another defendant, who was a minor when the rape was committed, has received a sentence of three years in a correctional facility, the maximum allowed by law.

Before they committed the crime, Mr. Sharma worked as an assistant at a gym, Mr. Gupta was a fruit vendor. The other convict Mukesh, who goes by one name, did odd jobs to make ends meet and the fourth man, Mr. Thakur cleaned buses.

The brutal assault last winter shocked the world and led to nationwide protests demanding justice for the young woman, who died from her injuries two weeks after she was attacked…read it at The New York Times.

Opportunities Trump Dangers for Indians in Afghanistan

September 10th, 2013 by admin

KABUL, Afghanistan— Banuchandar Rajendran, an Indian from the town of Usilampatti in Tamil Nadu, spent a lonely Independence Day on Aug. 15 at a Sikh temple in Kabul where he had taken refuge after his Afghan visa expired.

Mr. Rajendran, who came to Afghanistan on the promise of a job as a security guard in an American military base for $800 every month, had been swindled out of 150,000 rupees, or $2,300, by his employment agent in India. After paying the money and waiting here for three months, the 28-year-old had found out there was no job and was left with just enough money for his phone and cigarettes.

The Indian Embassy in Kabul said that as of mid-August, 70 “distressed Indians,” who were similarly abandoned, were sent back to India. Last year, there were 160.

The Afghan Sikhs, who had given many of the Indians refuge in their temple in Kabul, described them as mostly poor folk, who had taken loans and sold off their land to pay commission to fraudulent employment agents. They came with the hope of earning double the money paid for low-skilled jobs in India.

But Mr. Rajendran, a college graduate in hotel management who spoke fluent English, didn’t fit the description of someone who would be seeking a low-skilled job in a dangerous country.

“Desperation,” Mr. Rajendran explained. “I knew about the Taliban and how the situation could be bad if the U.S. Army leaves. But all that matters right now is the high salary.”… read it at The New York Times.

Beyond the Noise: Finding a Surround-Sound Solution to Violence Against Women

September 10th, 2013 by admin

I recently met a teenager from India’s Dalit (“untouchable”) community who had been gang-raped by a group of upper-caste men. She told me that instead of providing support after the attack last September, relatives were humiliating her. “I’m finding it hard to cope with the stigma,” she said. “I worry that I will not be accepted by society.”

Her attackers made a video of the rape and circulated it. Her father, unable to bear the shame, committed suicide. The young woman confided that she too had suicidal thoughts. “Ever since this happened, I feel like I’m sinking deeper,” she said. “It was not my fault, but my life is ruined.”

Of all the horrible stories about violence against women and girls in my home country of India, these are the ones that bring home the enormity of the challenge and remind us that the solution will require a total revolution in attitudes—all members of a family, all sectors of society making real changes to prevent such violence and, when it does happen, to support the survivors… read it at The New Republic.

Credit this group for Afghanistan’s burgeoning media industry

September 10th, 2013 by admin

KABUL — Brajesh Verma, an Indian entrepreneur working in Afghanistan, came to the war-ravaged country in 2004 with two goals in mind: to help strengthen the media scene here as well as contribute in some way to improving the social lives of the Afghans.

Verma got involved in Aina, a non-profit group, which was started by renowned French photographer, Reza (who only goes by his first name), in 2001. Its goal is to educate Afghans, especially women and children, by teaching them communication and information skills.

Aina’s free training in several platforms including radio, video, photography, printing and designing prepares Afghan youth to find jobs in the media and entertainment industry. The group has now trained more than 2,700 Afghans who found work in more than 15 media companies including BBC and Al Jazeera…read it at SmartPlanet.

Inside Kabul’s beauty parlors

September 3rd, 2013 by admin

KABUL — A day ahead of Eid, the festival that marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan, every seat and stool in the beauty parlor in Kabul, Afghanistan, was occupied. The manager puffed on a cigarette as she quickly scheduled appointments on her mobile phone. A handful of beauticians flitted between the chattering customers, who were pouring in for manicures, pedicures, facials, threading and haircuts before the holiday.

Reigning over the scene was Humera, the owner, who sat in a leather chair while one young woman gave her a facial and another massaged her outstretched hand.

Only a glass door separated this cheerful, bustling setting from the troubled streets of the capital city, where American troops are preparing to depart and hand over responsibility for security to the Afghan people in 2014 after more than a decade of war and occupation. Although thousands of “residual” troops will likely remain in Afghanistan post-2014, analysts say there’s a real chance the withdrawal could plunge the country into a chaotic power struggle. If it does, women including Humera (who asked we not use her last name to protect her safety) fear that their lives will return to the intimidation and repression they experienced under the Taliban… read it at Vocativ.

Dreams of a Mother

July 31st, 2013 by admin

NEW DELHI – Akbari Begum Khan was exhausted by a long morning of cooking for several homes, where she works as a maid. The 46-year-old woman in a white and blue nightie sprawled on the hard floor of her small rented room. Mrs. Khan snored through the unruly game of carom being played by Sahil, her 3-year-old adopted son, and Nashad, her 6-year-old grandson.

Outside, a punishing afternoon sun beat down on the vegetable vendors and butchers whose shops lined the narrow, dusty street, where she lived in a cramped room in Madangir area in south Delhi. Mrs. Khan’s room, fortified by bottles of hair oil and prickly heat powder, steel utensils and a whirring plastic cooler, was deliciously dim and cool.

Every morning, Mrs. Khan wakes up before dawn and walks about four kilometers (2.5 miles) to work. She covers the distance in an hour, plodding along slowly because of her worsening diabetes. She walks back in the afternoon to prepare lunch at home and to spend time with her children. She sets off again at about five in the evening to cook dinner for her clients and then makes the journey back on foot by 9 pm or 10 pm at night.

With two of her eldest daughters now married, one to an office manager and the second to an engineer, Mrs. Khan talked about reaching the halfway mark on the road to fulfilling her responsibilities. She still has to raise her 16-year-old daughter, Nazia, her 13-year-old son, Anas, and Sahil, whom she adopted after his mother died during childbirth.

“Sometimes, I don’t have the energy to go for work. But when I wake up and see my children sleeping in a line, I know I have to get up,” said Mrs. Khan. “I walk these roads every day.”… read it at The New York Times.

Indian schools adopt tablets. Will they improve education?

July 31st, 2013 by admin

Richard Mahapatra, a 42-year-old journalist, recently attended a parent-teacher meeting at his daughter’s private school in Delhi. During the meeting, he said, teachers encouraged him to buy a tablet. The school was selling several tablets made by HCL, a leading Indian technology company, for about 6,000 rupees, or $120.

Some parents, Mahapatra said, bought the tablets. But the journalist found the whole situation uncomfortable: First, he didn’t like the idea of schools promoting a private company’s tablet, and second, he wasn’t sure how it would benefit his daughter.

“For a father like me, it’s not a cultural change but almost like a genetic jump,” he said, recalling that he began his education with chalk and slate at a small tribal school in the state of Orissa on the eastern coast of India. “I don’t discount that we are living in a different age. But first I want to know how helpful is it as an educational tool.”… read it at SmartPlanet.

In India, study finds cash transfers benefit the poor

June 17th, 2013 by admin

DELHI — India is home to one-third of the world’s 1.2 billion people who live on less than $1.25 a day, a recent World Bank study finds.

In the past decade, the government has devised social welfare programs like the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS), the world’s largest employment guarantee program, to lift people out of poverty. India’s Public Distribution System (PDS), a massive network of shops across the country, provide millions of poor people basic essentials like wheat, rice, sugar and kerosene oil at subsidized prices.

But in recent years, a new strategy has been proposed: having the government directly transfer cash into bank accounts of poor people instead of subsidies. The direct cash benefit scheme has been ideologically, academically and politically divisive. Last month, however, a trade union called SEWA Bharat injected evidence from a new study to challenge the oft-repeated criticism of this scheme…read it at SmartPlanet.

Activists Hope Law Changes the Way Kashmir Treats Juveniles

June 6th, 2013 by admin

NEW DELHI – In October 2011, a Kashmiri boy who was throwing stones in a protest against Indian security forces found out very quickly that what it was like to be treated as an adult by the local police.

He recalled that after he was arrested in downtown Srinagar, officers removed his shirt and pants at the police station. His wrists were then struck with a scale and trampled on by officers wearing boots.

The boy, 14 at the time he was interviewed last fall and who asked to remain anonymous because he feared retaliation by the police, recalled that he sang Pakistan’s national anthem after being beaten all night. “I knew it would hurt them more than anything,” he said.

Growing pressure from human rights groups, which have documented similar cases of police brutality against minors, prompted Jammu and Kashmir lawmakers to pass a comprehensive bill in March that raises the age of juvenile jurisdiction in the state to 18 years, from 16… read it at New York Times India.

Security Forces’ Fatalities on the Rise in Kashmir

May 27th, 2013 by admin

NEW DELHI— In two separate gun battles between security forces and militants last week, four soldiers and two militants were killed in the Kashmir Valley.

These battles are fairly common in Kashmir, where militants have been fighting for an independent state since the late 1980s. However, last week’s death toll demonstrates a recent development that is worrying for Indian troops: the number of security personnel deaths are rising compared to that of the militants, a reversal from what was seen in previous years.

Figures from the Institute for Conflict Management, which tracks fatalities in terrorist attacks in South Asia, show that twice as many security force personnel — including army troops, police and paramilitary forces controlled by the central government — have been killed as militants so far this year in the Kashmir Valley. Taking into account the most recent deaths, 19 security personnel and nine militants have died so far this year.

By comparison, in 2012, 84 militants and 17 security force personnel were killed, and in 2011, the death toll was 119 militants and 30 security force personnel. In fact, since the nonprofit organization began keeping monthly statistics in 2002, security personnel deaths almost never outnumbered that of militants in any month until March of this year, when nine soldiers and three militants were killed…read it at New York Times India.

Kashmir Pressing Delhi for Aid for Quake-Hit Victims

May 22nd, 2013 by admin

NEW DELHI —After an earthquake in Jammu and Kashmir state on May 1 left thousands of people homeless and caused 6 billion rupees in infrastructure damage, state officials said Tuesday that they are petitioning the central government for a special relief package.

The state government is seeking 6.07 billion rupees ($120 million), Vinod Kaul, revenue secretary for the state, told India Ink on Tuesday. The state cabinet sent a request to Delhi on Tuesday evening after the cabinet cleared the amount earlier that day, he said.

State officials say that the 5.8-magnitude earthquake at least partially damaged 70,000 houses in the mountainous districts of Doda, Kishtwar and Ramban, and that public infrastructure like roads and water utilities in these areas have also been severely hit… read it at New York Times India.

In India, browse the web through texts

May 20th, 2013 by admin

DELHI — In 2009, four students dropped out of an engineering college in a small town in southern India to pursue their dream. They wanted to channel the vast sea of knowledge floating on the Internet through text messages to millions of people who don’t have access to the web.

Now their creation, called SMS Gyan (gyan means knowledge), a search engine available on mobile phones, has 120 million users in India, the Middle East and Africa submitting over five million queries every day. And their company Innoz Technologies has expanded to 45 employees, and it earned $2.5 million worth of revenue last year.

The company’s founders say that Innoz is set to become the world’s largest offline search engine in 2015, with projections of 10 million monthly unique users and more than 55 million searches per day.

With 120 million Internet users, India has the third-largest number of Internet users in the world. But this pales in comparison to its 900 million mobile users, out of which less than 80 million currently use Internet on their mobile phones.

“There is a huge gap between mobile phone users and internet users,” said Abhinav Sree, a founding member of the company. “But so many people who don’t use the Internet still want information about things like weather, transport, sports and restaurants.”…read it at SmartPlanet.

Delhi Gang Rape Suspect in ‘Critical Condition,’ Lawyer Says

May 17th, 2013 by admin

NEW DELHI — A defendant in the Delhi gang rape case has been assaulted by other inmates inside Tihar Jail in New Delhi and was being slowly poisoned by the jail authorities, his lawyer said before a local court earlier this week.

Vinay Sharma, 20, was admitted to Delhi’s Deen Dayal Upadhyay Hospital on May 4, two days after the assault, said Mr. Sharma’s lawyer, A.P. Singh. On Tuesday he was moved to the Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Narayan hospital, a more sophisticated facility in the national capital.

“He is in a critical condition,” Mr. Singh told India Ink on Thursday. “He has had blood vomiting and chest pains.”

Champa Devi, Mr. Sharma’s mother, who visited him in the hospital last week, said her son had complained of chest pain.

Hospital staff declined to comment on Mr. Sharma’s condition…read it at New York Times India.

Ruling thrills patients and boosts Indian generic drug makers

May 8th, 2013 by admin

DELHI — In a widely reported judgment at home and abroad, India’s top court last month turned down a patent for a cancer drug costing $2,600 a month, in a huge victory for Indian generic drug makers who can now continue to sell it for $175 a month.

While Swiss drug maker Novartis said that the ruling discouraged innovation, it was hailed by legal and health experts as a balanced decision that set tough standards for innovation as well as protected consumers from being charged high prices for newer versions of drugs that did not have greater healing power than the older versions.

Patients suffering from chronic myeloid leukemia, who can’t afford the monthly costs for Gleevec, welcomed the decision of the Indian Supreme Court.

“Everybody is very jubilant,” said Y.K. Sapru, head of the Cancer Patients Aid Association (CPAA), the non-profit organization, which fought the Novartis patent case for seven years.

“If we had lost the case then patients would have died,” he said… read it at SmartPlanet.

The Judgment that Acquitted Congress Party Leader Sajjan Kumar

May 2nd, 2013 by admin

NEW DELHI —The acquittal of Sajjan Kumar, the Indian Congress Party leader, for his alleged role in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots that killed thousands in Delhi has sparked widespread protests.

Since the acquittal on murder and rioting charges was announced, protesters in Delhi have stopped Metro trains, blocked roads, and on Thursday they clashed with police officers at the home of the Congress party leader Sonia Gandhi.

Additional Sessions Judge J.R. Aryan’s 129-page judgment explaining his decision was released on Wednesday by the Delhi District Court.

Mr. Kumar “deserves to be given benefit of doubt” because three key prosecution witnesses had not named Mr. Kumar until more than two decades after the riots, the judge said. These three key witnesses claimed to have seen Mr. Kumar inciting a mob to kill Sikhs in the Raj Nagar area of Delhi on Nov. 1, 1984, which led to the murder of five Sikh men in the locality… read it at New York Times India.

Lawyer to Contest Congress Leader Sajjan Kumar’s Acquittal in 1984 Riots Case

May 2nd, 2013 by admin

NEW DELHI — A Delhi court acquitted the Indian Congress Party leader Sajjan Kumar Tuesday for the murder of five men during the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, but the lawyer for one of the victims said he is already planning to appeal the decision to the Delhi High Court.

“This is very, very unfortunate,” said H.S. Phoolka, a lawyer who has spent more than two decades trying to prosecute politicians who were allegedly involved in the massacre of at least 3,000 Sikhs in 1984 after the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. “We will appeal against it,” he said in a telephone interview.

While Mr. Kumar was acquitted, five other men were convicted for their involvement in the murder of the same five men in the Raj Nagar area of Delhi on Nov. 1, 1984…read it at New York Times India.

4-Year Old Rape Victim Dies in India

April 30th, 2013 by admin

A four-year-old girl who was raped and dumped near a crematorium in central India died on Monday evening from cardiac arrest, hospital authorities said Tuesday.

The girl, the daughter of day laborers, was lured from her home in the town of Ghansor in Madhya Pradesh state on April 17, and found the next day by her parents, bleeding profusely, the police said.

Her kidnapper seized her after promising to buy her bananas from a nearby shop, a police official said Tuesday.

She had been in a coma since April 18, Ashok Tank, a doctor who cared for her at CARE Nagpur Hospital, said in a telephone interview Tuesday. She suffered severe brain injuries and severe injuries to her vagina, he said, and was on a ventilator…read it at New York Times India.

Making smiles and transforming lives for free in Delhi

April 26th, 2013 by admin

DELHI — On a warm summer afternoon in Delhi, children accompanied by their parents filled up a section of the Sant Pramanad Hospital, and waited patiently for their turn to get a life-altering surgery.

These children, born with cleft lips and palates, have disfigured faces and they can’t speak or eat properly. Clefts plagues one in every 700 babies born in the world.

Ganesh tickled his 18-month-old daughter, Deepika, who squealed and smiled at the hospital commotion around her. “We were not scared when she was born like this because the nurse told us it could be treated,” he said. “But I wanted a good treatment and I can’t afford it on my salary.”…read it at SmartPlanet.

Investigation of 1984 Sikh Massacre Continues in India

April 11th, 2013 by admin

Laying blame for the 1984 massacre of thousands of Sikhs in India has taken center stage in Delhi again after a court reopened an investigation against the Indian National Congress Party politician Jagdish Tytler.

Three more witnesses, now living in the United States, are expected to be questioned by the Central Bureau of Investigation, after a Delhi district court on Wednesday rejected a 2009 “closure report” by the agency.

Mass killings of Sikhs occurred in the days after Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her two Sikh bodyguards on Oct. 31, 1984. While the official death toll of the anti-Sikh riots is 3,000, Indian media estimate that as many as 7,000 Sikhs were killed all over the country … read it at New York Times India.

Delhi women skeptical on effectiveness of new anti-rape laws

April 10th, 2013 by admin

DELHI — Aarti Natarajan, an education consultant, who has grown up in Delhi, describes everyday as a constant battle to secure her safety in the city.

“From the moment I step out of the house I push a paranoia button. You look at everyone with suspicion,” she said. “Everywhere you go, no matter what you wear, you will be blatantly stared at. It’s very intrusive.”

Natarajan, who often drives home from work after dark, says that on several occasions men playing loud music in their cars and making lewd gestures have followed her.

“So every time I have to think twice before staying for work late or going for an office dinner,” she said.

The dangers faced by women living in Delhi came under international scrutiny when a 23-year-old student was gang-raped and assaulted with an iron rod by six men in a moving bus on Dec. 16 in the capital. Two weeks later, she died. The brutal attack led to nationwide protests demanding justice for the victim and better protection for women.

Three months after the rape, new laws that expand the scope of sexual offenses to include stalking and voyeurism, and make repeat rapists subject to the death penalty, have come into force. The challenge now is implementation of these laws and inspiring confidence among women to approach the police for help….read it at SmartPlanet.

Dutch Man Confesses to Killing British Woman in Kashmir, Police Say

April 7th, 2013 by admin

A Dutch man, Richard De Wit, confessed to stabbing to death a British woman in a houseboat on Dal Lake in Kashmir, the police said Sunday.

Sarah Groves, 24, was found dead on the “New Beauty” houseboat in Srinagar on Saturday morning. Her death comes as tourism to India has dropped after several high profile incidents of sexual assault of women, and recent protests and violence in Kashmir threaten the upcoming summer tourism season.

Mr. De Wit, 43, confessed Saturday evening to stabbing the woman, Syed Ahafadul Mujtaba, Kashmir’s deputy inspector general of police told India Ink on Sunday afternoon. Mr. Mujtaba said Mr. De Wit, 43, had told the police he had violent tendencies and that he had been under the influence of drugs when he killed her.

“He told us that he had problems with the Dutch government and that he had a strained relationship with his wife,” Mr. Mujtaba said. “He said that he woke up under the influence of cannabis, went to her room and killed her.”… read it at New York Times India.

Gang Rape Defendants at Risk in Tihar Jail, Lawyers and Family Say

April 6th, 2013 by admin

NEW DELHI — Ram Singh, one of the men accused in the Delhi gang rape, was cremated in his family village in Rajasthan two days after he was found hanging in his jail cell on March 11. The body his family received was in horrific condition, family members said in interviews last weekend, making them believe more strongly than ever that he did not commit suicide.

Now, they’re agitating to get the rape case moved from Delhi, because they think Ram’s brother Mukesh, who has also been jailed for the crime, is at risk of being attacked inside Tihar Jail by other inmates or the police.

“We were told that Ram was put in a special cell for protection but despite that he is dead,” said Suresh Singh, 27, a third brother who is not accused of any crime. “We fear that Mukesh will suffer the same fate because everyone inside the jail knows that they were brothers.”… read it at New York Times India.

Delhi’s ban on plastic bags fraught with challenges

March 25th, 2013 by admin

DELHI — After years of battling plastic pollution, the Delhi government instituted a ban, which took effect in November, on the manufacture, sale and use of plastic bags in the capital. But last week a young salesman in a bustling Delhi market openly sold a packet of 100 plastic bags to this journalist for 70 rupees (about $1).

“Bans come and go. We know we can be arrested but there is a huge demand and this is business,” said the salesman, who requested his name not be published. “Take the white ones instead of the black. It is less conspicuous. Just don’t take it out when you’re traveling in the metro just in case some cop sees you and asks where you got it.”…read it at SmartPlanet.

In India Gang Rape Case, Spotlight Turns to Jail

March 20th, 2013 by admin

NEW DELHI — The ramifications of the Delhi gang rape case, in which a 23-year-old student was attacked in a bus later died, seem not to cease. The death of Ram Singh, one of the six defendants who was found hanged in his cell, has raised speculation about its cause and questions about the management of Tihar Jail, one of the most well-known in India.

This article is from an NYT India interview with Niranjan Kumar Mandal who spent four years in Tihar Jail on rape charges before being acquitted for lack of evidence.

In 2011, he sued the Delhi government for 45 million rupees, or $800,000, for falsely implicating him. The case for compensation is still pending in the Delhi High Court.

Now read it at the International Herald Tribune.

A Conversation With: Former Tihar Inmate Niranjan Kumar Mandal

March 19th, 2013 by admin

NEW DELHI — The death of Ram Singh, one of the six defendants in the Delhi gang rape case who was found hanged in his cell, has raised speculation about its cause and questions about the management of Tihar Jail. While the post-mortem report suggested suicide, Mr. Singh’s parents contend that the police murdered him, in part because both his arms were damaged from previous accidents.

What really happened on the morning of March 11 may never be known, but it has put life inside Tihar, one of India’s best-known jails, under scrutiny.

The gang rape of a 23-year-old student on Dec. 16, which led to nationwide protests and caused international furor, was regarded so barbaric that many Indians demanded the death penalty for Mr. Singh and the five others accused of the crime. Shortly after Mr. Singh entered Tihar Jail, some news outlets reported he was beaten by other inmates.

To understand the experience of sex offender suspects in jail, India Ink spoke with Niranjan Kumar Mandal, who was charged in the gang rape of a 23-year-old pregnant woman in a moving car in Delhi in July 2005. The case, known as the Mayapuri gang rape case, sent shock waves through the capital because not only was the young woman pregnant, she had a speech and hearing impairment as well.

The police, under intense public pressure, caught the wrong man. After spending four years in Tihar Jail, Mr. Mandal was acquitted in March 2010 by the trial court for lack of evidence. In 2011, he sued the Delhi government for 45 million rupees ($800,000) for falsely implicating him. The case for compensation is still pending in the Delhi High Court.

Mr. Mandal spoke about his arrest, his time spent in Tihar Jail, the behavior of his fellow inmates and the suffering of his family. He also shared his thoughts on Mr. Singh’s death.

Q. Can you tell us what happened after the police arrested you?… read it at New York Times India.

Kashmir Is on the Boil, Once Again

March 15th, 2013 by admin

For many people in the Kashmir Valley, Wednesday’s deadly attack on an Indian security camp, which left five security personnel and two militants dead, was not a surprise.

Some describe it as the lid finally blowing off a pressure cooker that had been waiting to explode since the Indian government’s execution last month of a local man, Muhammad Afzal, for his role in the 2001 attack on the Indian Parliament.

There is a growing sentiment in the Kashmir Valley that peaceful protests are no longer effective, Gul Mohammad Wani, a political science professor at the University of Kashmir, explained .

“This surprise attack has an immediate context and that context is Afzal Guru’s hanging,” Mr. Wani said. “Kashmir is on the boil.”…read it at New York Times India.

Early Warnings About Ram Singh’s Safety; Suicide ‘Not Possible,’ Family Says

March 11th, 2013 by admin

NEW DELHI — The family of Ram Singh, one of the accused in the Delhi gang rape case who was found hanged in his jail cell on Monday morning, was warned on Friday that his life might be in danger, one of his brothers said on Monday.

He could not have killed himself, family and legal advisers insisted on Monday. “It’s simply not possible,” one of Mr. Singh’s two brothers, who asked that his name not be used, said in an interview on Monday.

Ram Singh and his other brother, Mukesh, are two of the six accused in the Dec. 16 rape of a 23-year-old woman in a moving bus, which ultimately resulted in her death. Ram and Mukesh Singh were feared by their relatives and neighbors in Ravidas Camp, their home in Delhi, even before they were connected with the attack, because they had a reputation for heavy drinking and bad language.

But after Mr. Singh was found dead in his Tihar Jail cell Monday morning, hanging from a rope made of his own clothes, family members vehemently rejected the notion that he might have committed suicide…read it at New York Times India.

The Kumbh Mela: Inside the world’s largest human gathering

March 11th, 2013 by admin

ALLAHABAD, India — Hundreds of ash-smeared holy men charging naked into the Ganges River is a spectacle that has played out over centuries, but it never gets old.

The hypnotic sight of the wild-haired ascetics is only dwarfed by the jaw-dropping panorama of pilgrims in the millions congregating on the banks of the Ganges River. The Kumbh Mela, often called the greatest show on earth, is the world’s largest human gathering. It is held every three years in one of these four cities — Allahabad, Nasik, Haridwar and Ujjain.

These spots, the story goes, is where four droplets of sacred water fell on Earth from a Kumbh (pitcher) as the Gods and demons fought over the elixir.

This year, the city of Allahabad welcomed an estimated 80 million to 100 million visitors, during the Maha Kumbh Mela, which, based on the alignment of the stars, takes place every 12 years. The 55-day Mela concluded on Sunday. The pilgrims, mostly Hindus, came from all over India to take a holy dip in the sacred river with the hope of washing away their sins.

Varun Vummudi, a Delhi-based entrepreneur, said that he came to “find out what all the fuss was about.” … read it at SmartPlanet.

Mystery Shrouds the Deaths of 3 Sisters

March 5th, 2013 by admin

BHANDARA, Maharashtra —As the police investigate the deaths of three young sisters in a small village in central India, they are certain of one thing: someone killed the girls, ages 6, 9 and 11, sometime after they were last seen on Feb. 14 in Murmadi, in the Bhandara district of Maharashtra, and then dumped their bodies into a well in a rice field, where they were found on Feb. 16.

Everything else, however, is uncertain, including how they were killed and whether this is a rape and murder case, or a merely a murder case, which affects the pool of possible suspects. The lack of clarity is raising concerns among villagers that the police are conducting a shoddy investigation.

The Bhandara police, which are currently treating this as a rape and murder case, have questioned more than 100 people, but so far no one has been arrested, which has infuriated the residents of Murmadi, especially the girls’ mother.

“I dressed them for school. That was the last time I saw them alive,” Madhuri Jaipal Borkar, who has no other children, told India Ink on Friday. “What can I say now? How do I go on?”… read it at New York Times India.

Who Suffers Kashmir’s Strikes and Curfews

March 2nd, 2013 by admin

Each cycle of curfew and strikes in Kashmir takes a heavy toll on the livelihood of the majority of its six million inhabitants, and handicaps business especially in the transport and tourism industry.

The Muslim-majority Kashmir Valley, also called India Administered Kashmir, is one of the most heavily militarized regions in the world. It continues to be a red line for India and Pakistan as both countries claim it.

Experts, meanwhile, caution that Kashmir’s economy is suffering under curfews and strikes. Noted economist Nisar Ali, the director of the Jammu and Kashmir Bank Limited, has calculated that each day of inactivity in the valley costs the Jammu and Kashmir State at least 5,500 million rupees ($100 million)…read it at Huffington Post.

In Delhi, two brothers become saviors of wild birds

February 25th, 2013 by admin

DELHI — Nadeem Shehzad, a businessman, has six owls in his bedroom, two Sparrowhawks clinging to the curtains in his living room, and about 120 Black Kites — plus two Egyptian Vultures — roosting on the roof his home near Chawri Bazaar in the old part of India’s capital city.

“The one with the red eye is a male and the one with the yellow eye is a female,” he said of the Sparrowhawks as flew overhead and settled on the refrigerator.

The male had a leg fracture and the female had her wings stuck by adhesive glue. The birds are now recovering. “Their claws are really sharp,” said Shehzad. “They can hurt you when you’re treating them.”

Shehzad, 34, and his brother Mohammad Saud, 31, are running a self-funded operation called Wildlife Rescue in their home in Old Delhi, which is characterized by large crowds squeezing through narrow lanes of packed and colorful bazaars.

It is also an area famous for kite-flying, especially during the weeks around India’s Independence Day on August 15. However, a rarely addressed problem of kite flying is the significant number of birds that are injured by the sharps strings of the kites…read it at SmartPlanet.

‘I Just Want His Body Back’

February 22nd, 2013 by admin

BARAMULLA, Jammu and 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.

A letter from the government informing his family of his execution was delivered two days after he was killed, a lapse that has been widely criticized. This lapse deprived his wife and son of a last meeting, family members said on Tuesday.

“I was shocked and my mind became numb” upon hearing of the execution, said Ghalib Guru, his 13-year-old son, who is named after an Urdu poet. “They should have told us a week before,” he said. The slender boy with dark flashing eyes was wearing a traditional Kashmiri pheran — a long woolen cloak worn in the winter — over jeans, along with a round prayer cap….read it at New York Times India.

Calls to Return Afzal Guru’s Body to Kashmir Grow Louder

February 18th, 2013 by admin

SRINAGAR, Jammu and Kashmir — A weeklong curfew may have prevented widespread protests and violence in Kashmir, but anger is still brewing over the central government’s secret execution and burial of the militant Muhammad Afzal.

A growing number of Kashmiris are now calling for the return of Mr. Afzal’s body to his hometown of Sopore in the Baramulla district, a demand that is shared by both mainstream and separatist political groups.

any Kashmiris believe that Mr. Afzal was framed and that he did not receive a fair trial, and they saw Mr. Afzal’s execution as a political move by the central government, led by the Indian National Congress party, to appear tough on terrorism ahead of the 2014 national elections.

“How can a son not be informed of his father’s death?” said Mirza Ahmed, a 23-year-old student at Kashmir University, who requested his first name not be used to avoid any retaliatory action by the authorities.

“This has nothing to do with occupation or independence but a mockery of basic human rights,” he added….read it at New York Times India.

Kashmir Shuts Down After Call for Prayers for Afzal Guru

February 16th, 2013 by admin

SRINAGAR, Jammu and Kashmir — After relaxing the curfew for the previous two days in several parts of the Kashmir Valley, the state government once again restricted the movements of residents and vehicles before a prayer march on Friday for a militant who was executed in Delhi.

The curfew was first imposed on Feb. 9 following the execution of Muhammad Afzal, who hails from the Kashmir town of Sopore in Baramulla district. Mr. Afzal, a member of the Jaish-e-Muhammad group, was secretly hanged in the nation’s capital for his role in the deadly 2001 attack on Parliament.

Mr. Afzal, who was popularly called Afzal Guru, has widespread support among Kashmiris who believe that he had not received a fair trial…read it at New York Times India.

Curfew Lifts in Some Areas of Kashmir

February 16th, 2013 by admin

SRINAGAR, Jammu and Kashmir — Authorities eased the curfew in the Kashmir Valley on Wednesday, its fifth day, lifting restrictions in several areas of the summer capital of Srinagar as well as the districts of Budgam, Pulwama and Kupwara.

“Movement of people and vehicles is allowed” in the areas where the curfew has been relaxed, said a Kashmir police official, who did not want to be identified because he was not authorized to speak with the media.

Newspapers were distributed in Srinagar on Wednesday for the first time since Saturday, although restrictions on the movement of vehicles in many parts of the city and elsewhere in the valley prevented distribution in the entire region. Editors of local papers, who said they lost advertisement revenue over the past four days, are printing about half their regular circulation…read it at New York Times India.

In Kashmir, Clashes and Dwindling Supplies As Curfew Continues

February 16th, 2013 by admin

he Kashmir Valley is on the fourth day of a government-imposed shutdown begun immediately after the hanging of the militant Muhammad Afzal, also known as Afzal Guru, who comes from the town of Sopore in Baramulla district.

Many residents are running out of food and milk in Srinagar, Kashmir’s summer capital. Meanwhile, dozens have been injured and at least one killed in protests against Mr. Afzal’s hanging, which happened secretly in Delhi on Saturday and was announced afterward.

Mr. Afzal, from the Jaish-e-Muhammad militant group, was convicted of conspiracy and sentenced to death by a special court in 2002 for his role in planning an attack on India’s Parliament in December 2001.

Schools, colleges and most shops in Kashmir are closed by government order, and people have been asked to stay inside their homes. Rows of shops and restaurants were shuttered.

Vehicles have been banned from the streets, cable news channels have gone dark, Internet service on cellphones has been blocked and newspapers were not being delivered. Hospitals, pharmacies and emergency services remain open…read it at New York Times India.

In Srinagar, the only people in the deserted streets were security forces.

Microfinance turns Bihar prostitutes into businesswomen

February 16th, 2013 by admin

BIHAR — Meena Devi’s grandmother was brought from Varanasi city in Uttar Pradesh and sold in the red light area of Munger, a town on the banks of the Ganges in Bihar.

Meena’s mother also became a prostitute and so did she. “We have done this for generations so I wanted to set my daughters free from this line,” she said.

In 2011, Meena, 35, was one of eight prostitutes who approached the local rural bank, Bihar Kshetriya Gramin Bank, for a loan to start a business. In an unprecedented move by the bank, the women were given a microfinance loan of Rs. 20,000 ($377) each. Four women opened a bangles shop and the four others started a tailoring service…read it at SmartPlanet.

Online Abuse of Teen Girls in Kashmir Leads to Arrests

February 16th, 2013 by admin

SRINAGAR —Online abuse and a fatwa aimed at a rock band of Muslim teenage girls in Kashmir have led to arrests and a threat of a lawsuit.

Three men were arrested this week for posting threatening messages on the Facebook page of Praagaash, an amateur rock band in Indian-occupied Kashmir made of up Muslim girls. “The investigation is ongoing,” said Manoj Pandita, spokesman for the Jammu and Kashmir police, indicating that more arrests may follow.

A prominent human rights lawyer, Parvez Imroz of the Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society, is planning to sue the top religious leader in Kashmir, who called for the fatwa, for “demonizing Kashmir before the international community” and for “running a parallel judicial system in the valley.”…read it at New York Times India.

Muslim Girls Quit Rock Band After National Controversy

February 5th, 2013 by admin

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.”

But the national attention quickly turned bittersweet last weekend. Unwillingly, the members of Praagaash have been transformed from plucky amateur female rock musicians, into participants in an ongoing political and religious struggle in conflict-ridden Indian-controlled Kashmir, and, in fact, across India… read it at New York Times India.

No Knowledge of Pakistan Complaints, Indian Officials Say

February 1st, 2013 by admin

Following the recent killings of Indian and Pakistani soldiers near the Kashmir border, a local newspaper reported classified United Nations documents show that the cycle of violence between troops of the two countries has continued despite the cease-fire in 2003.

The Hindu, a national English-language daily newspaper, said Wednesday that Pakistan has repeatedly complained to the United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan about the killings of at least 18 of its soldiers, including four beheadings, by Indian forces between 2000 and 2011. The United Nations group was set up in 1949 to monitor cease-fire violations between the two countries.

Indian army spokesperson Col. Jagdeep Dahiya described the article as “erroneous and speculative.”

“The Indian Army is highly professional and does not indulge in un-soldierly acts as alleged in the article,” he said. “The very fact that Pakistan has not raised such issues in bilateral interactions since 1998 bears testimony to allegations leveled against the Indian army being misleading,” he said…read it at New York Times India.

Ram Singh and Mukesh, Delhi Gang Rape Accused, Remembered With Fear

January 17th, 2013 by admin

NEW DELHI —Ram Singh and Mukesh, the two brothers accused in the Delhi gang rape case, were likened by a neighbor to Gabbar Singh from the Bollywood classic “Sholay.” A particularly cold-hearted Bollywood villain, the character stirred so much fear in viewers that mothers in India sometimes told their children “to stop crying and go to sleep or Gabbar Singh will come.”

“Those two were a real bad lot,” said the neighbor, a woman from the south Delhi slum of Ravidas, which was home to four of the six arrested in the gang rape of a 23-year-old student on Dec. 16. “They were always drinking, abusing and getting into fights,” she added, asking that her name not be used so she could avoid any further media attention.

Several other women in the camp shared similar memories of the two men, who were charged with murder, along with three other men and a juvenile, after the student succumbed to her injuries on Dec. 29. Ram Singh, 32, and Mukesh, who goes by one name and is described by relatives to be in his mid-20s, worked as drivers. They have pleaded not guilty.

The only person who remembered Ram Singh fondly is another brother, who was not involved in the gang rape and also lives in Delhi. Speaking on the phone from Gwalior, where he was traveling for work, he described his oldest brother, Ram, as a devoted husband and loving father… read it at New York Times India.

Q&A: Is the world’s cheapest tablet from India made in China?

January 14th, 2013 by admin

DELHI — It’s been quite a ride for Suneet Singh Tuli, maker of the world’s cheapest tablet, whose device has been hailed by the United Nations as a breakthrough in information technology. But he has also been mired in controversy after media reports suggested that India’s tablet is being manufactured in China.

This week, SP speaks with DataWind’s chief about the China controversy, plans for the United States, manufacturing woes … and Aakash 3. For someone who has faced a tough press, Tuli appears remarkably upbeat about his ambitious venture.

SP: In your previous discussion with us, you said that Aakash had a market in the United States as well. Do you still think so?…read it at SmartPlanet.

The Delhi Gang Rape Accused: Vinay Sharma, a ‘Quiet and Simple’ Boy

January 10th, 2013 by admin

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.

The horrific account of the rape, in which attackers beat their victim and her male companion with an iron rod and threw them naked onto a highway, sent shock waves through India.

Ms. Champa said she still can’t fathom how her son, who she says was born in March 1994, could have been involved in the gruesome crime. “He was always a quiet and simple boy,” she said. “He worked hard in school and always got top marks,” she said. “He especially liked studying English. We hoped for a good job in the future.”…read it at New York Times India.

Op-ed: Delhi’s gang rape- Ring out the rhetoric, ring in results

December 31st, 2012 by admin

Less 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.

(Co-authored with Renana Jhabvala – the national coordinator of SEWA)

The world’s cheapest tablet, improved (and reviewed)

December 31st, 2012 by admin

DELHI — In 2012, SmartPlanet reported on a series of inexpensive tablets from India especially the $41 one called Aakash, which was launched by the Indian government.

In November, Datawind relaunched its tablet as Aakash 2. The improved tablet is powered by Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich run on 1 GHz processor and 512 MB RAM with 4 GB internal storage and 32 GB microSD support. Its basic features include 7-inch capacitative touch screen, battery life of three hours, 0.3 megapixel front camera and WiFi connectivity.

The Indian government will buy about 100,000 units from Datawind for Rs. 2263 ($41) and make it available to students for Rs.1130 ($20). The commercial version of the tablet can be bought online for Rs. 4499 ($81)

This time, it was launched not only in India but also unveiled at the United Nations.

SmartPlanet spoke with tech expert Prasnato Roy, editorial adviser at CyberMedia India, on what’s new with the tablet and will it work better…read it at SmartPlanet.

In Doha, developing nations demand help to fight climate change

December 21st, 2012 by admin

DOHA, Qatar — At the United Nations climate change talks here, developing countries demanded that the developed world raise money from 2013 to 2015 to help them combat the consequences of climate change through 2020.

The annual U.N. talks from Nov 26 to Dec 8, attended by 194 nations, ended with no such pledge. Instead, the discussion on “mid-term” finance was pushed to next year.

During the talks in Doha, Philippines was hit by Typhoon Bopha, which has killed more than 700 people and displaced hundreds of thousands.

“We refuse to make this a way of life,” said Nadarev “Yeb” Sano, the Philippines head of delegation said at the conference while emotionally appealing for action… read it at SmartPlanet.


‘Polluters and Beggars’ at Climate Change Talks in Doha

December 10th, 2012 by admin

DOHA, Qatar — During a public event at the United Nations climate change conference in Doha, India’s veteran environmentalist Sunita Narain told a senior negotiator from India, “The Indian government should take a principled stand and walk out of the Doha climate talks if equity is not made a part of the deal.”

Ms. Narain, head of the Centre of Science and Environment in Delhi, has been an activist at the climate talks since 1991. Time magazine has called her one of the most influential people in the country. The environmentalist discusses equity and why these negotiations are between “polluters and beggars.”

Q) You urged the Indian government to walk out if there is no equity. Did you mean it?…read it at the Huffington Post.

India, World’s Largest Livestock Owner, Balks at Farming Gas Curbs in Doha

December 6th, 2012 by admin

DOHA, Qatar – At the United Nations climate talks in Doha this week, India opposed any move that would require developing countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture.

With an estimated 485 million cattle, goat, buffalo and sheep, India has the most livestock in the world, and it is the second largest producer of methane in the world after China. Methane, a byproduct of livestock’s digestive process, is the second most abundant greenhouse gas, after carbon dioxide, and it traps 25 times more heat than carbon dioxide does.

Agriculture is too important to India to ask farmers to change their practices now, Indian representatives said in Doha.

“Agriculture is not only a source of economic growth but also a source of livelihood for millions of people,” R.R. Rashmi, a senior negotiator from India, told delegates… read it at New York Times India.

A Conversation With: India’s Chief Climate Change Negotiator

December 6th, 2012 by admin

DOHA, Qatar – With one week left for the U.N. climate change talks to conclude, developed and developing countries remain at odds on how to solve the crisis being linked to the recent spate of extreme weather events that have claimed lives and destroyed property worth billions of dollar.

As discussions heat up here in Doha, India’s chief negotiator, Meera Mehrishi, spoke to India Ink on the contentious issues playing out in the halls of the mammoth Qatar National Convention Center, where delegates from 194 countries have gathered…read it at New York Times India.

At the Doha Summit, India Pushes Developed Nations to Cut Emissions

December 6th, 2012 by admin

DOHA, Qatar — At the United Nations climate change talks in Doha, India is taking an active role in asking developed nations to commit to ambitious carbon dioxide emission cuts and pledge money to combat the global challenge.

Delegates from 194 countries are attending a two-week-long annual conference on climate change here, which concludes on Dec. 7.

So far, developed nations have been mostly unresponsive to India’s push. The European Union has agreed to 20 percent carbon emission cuts from 1990 levels for the period of 2013 to 2020, a level that advocates for cuts say had already been pledged earlier. This time frame is known as the “second commitment period” of the Kyoto Protocol, which is the only legally binding treaty on climate change. Four developed countries – Japan, New Zealand, Canada and Russia – have already backed out of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol.

“We are disappointed, however, that the developed countries are in the process of locking in low ambitions under this second commitment period,” Meera Mehrishi, India’s chief negotiator, said Thursday. “We call on them to raise their level of ambition consistent with what is required by science.”… read it at New York Times India.

A conversation with Kashmir’s former commander

November 3rd, 2012 by admin

After two decades of militancy, the Kashmir Valley has been relatively calm during the past two years. Tourists from India and around the world flooded into the scenic valley last summer, and the chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Omar Abdullah, has called for troop reductions and a repeal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act.

But military officials say the peace remains fragile and that the infiltration of militants from Pakistan continues, albeit in smaller numbers. The army has said that Kashmir isn’t ready for any drastic dilution of security.

India Ink recently discussed the situation in Kashmir with Lt. Gen.Baljit Singh Jaswal, who from October 2009 to December 2010 led the Northern Command, which currently controls more than 300,000 troops in the state.  General Jaswal was in charge the last time violent protests swept the valley, in 2010.

The retired general spent most of his career conducting counterinsurgency operations in Kashmir and the northeast.

During a long conversation at the Assam Rifles Mess in Delhi Cantonment on Thursday, he discussed the challenges of guarding the Line of Control, the lingering threat from Pakistan, the Armed Forces Special Powers Act and the life of a soldier in Kashmir…. read it at New York Times India.

Women fight back against witch branding in Rajasthan

October 30th, 2012 by admin

RAJASTHAN ––Shanta Devi was branded a witch nearly a decade ago, after her family was plagued by long bouts of fever and breathing problems.

Villagers still cover their faces while crossing the 65-year-old woman, who lives in a tribal belt about 60 miles outside Udaipur city in the desert state of Rajasthan. Last year, the branded woman’s relatives were advised by a witch doctor to make her drink goat’s blood as a cure. But she refused, even as neighbors wielded sticks in her backyard to pressure her into doing so.

For generations, women have been frequently branded as witches in villages spread across the dusty Aravalli hills and elsewhere in rural parts of India, blamed for unexplained or incurable illnesses among villagers and livestock. The lack of medical facilities near remote villages allows these superstitious beliefs to prevail….read it at New York Times India.

India Reacts to Gupta’s Sentence

October 25th, 2012 by admin

The sentencing of Rajat Gupta, the Kolkata-born former Goldman Sachs director, to two years in prison for leaking confidential information has prompted shock and sadness among many of his longtime admirers and friends in India, some of whom even started a Web site to voice their support for him. But some younger Indians, business students who represent the future of corporate India, say they are torn between revering Mr. Gupta as a role model and viewing him as a criminal.

Mr. Gupta was sentenced Wednesday in United States District Court in Manhattan for leaking corporate secrets to Raj Rajaratnam, a former hedge fund manager who himself is serving an 11-year sentence. Mr. Gupta was also fined $5 million.

Abhinav Rishi, a 27-year-old student at the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, said Wednesday he had hoped that Judge Jed S. Rakoff would sentence Mr. Gupta to community service instead of prison time.

“I’m emotional about this,” Mr. Rishi said. Referring to Mr. Gupta, he said, “He made us believe that we don’t just have to be the India managers of big companies but lead from the very top and make India matter.”

Mr. Gupta, 63, who was educated at the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, and at Harvard Business School, was the first Indian-born executive to lead the consulting firm McKinsey & Company. In addition to Goldman Sachs, he served on the boards of Procter & Gamble and American Airlines.

Udit Sood, a 23-year-old student at the Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta, admitted that his sympathies for Mr. Gupta were stirred in part because of his Indian origins. “He is one of us and I don’t want to see him rotting in a United States jail,” he said. “After reading so much about him, I don’t want to see him in chains.”…read it at New York Times India.

India’s poor most vulnerable to rapid biodiversity loss

October 22nd, 2012 by admin

HYDERABAD — India’s poorest fishing, forest and farming communities will be worst hit by rapid losses of nature as well as efforts to conserve it. They are at risk of losing their lands to erosion and mining or being displaced by government policies to protect forests and coasts. This trend will play out across the globe.

Tribal villagers from the Singrauli district of Madhya Pradesh state in central India are fighting against the expansion of coal mines near their forests. They voiced their concerns at the U.N. Conference on Biodiversity, which concluded on October 20 in the southern city of Hyderabad.

Radha Kali, 42, said that for generations her community has survived on forest products like tendu leaves that are used for making beedis and mahuwa flowers with medicinal properties. Their cattle have open spaces to graze. “We won’t give up our jungle,” she said. “Everything will be destroyed.”…read it at SmartPlanet.

In Hyderabad, a Focus on the World’s Shrinking Biodiversity

October 16th, 2012 by admin

HYDERABAD — If it’s Thursday, it must be Tree Diversity Day – at least for the nature lovers milling about the ballroom of a massive conference center in Hyderabad, home of the 11-day United Nations Conference on Biodiversity.

About 8,000 tree species, approximately 10 percent of the Earth’s total, is threatened with extinction. The Tree Diversity Day, organized by the World Agroforestry Center based in Nairobi, brought together experts to discuss ways of preventing these losses.

During one such discussion, M.S. Swaminathan, often called the father of the Green Revolution in India, stressed the need to create “biohappiness” to stop biodiversity degradation. To explain his point, Dr. Swaminathan spoke of largely poor people living along the most biodiversity-rich parts of the Great Rift Valley in Africa. “Bio-resources need to create jobs and livelihoods,” he said. “This will create prosperity between man and nature.”…read it at New York Times India.

UN conference on biodiversity kicks off in India

October 16th, 2012 by admin

For the next two years, India will steer efforts to save the Earth’s biodiversity during a time when its “natural capital” is being lost at an unprecedented rate.

India is hosting the UN Conference on Biodiversity, which kicks off today in the southern city of Hyderabad. This gathering is the first in what has been declared as the “UN Decade of Biodiversity.” 192 countries and the European Union are participating.

The conference slogan in Sanskrit is “Prakruti Rakshathi Rakshitha” which translates into “Nature protects if she is protected.”

In the next few decades, losses of flora, fauna and ocean’s ecosystems will impact food supply and the livelihood of millions who depend on these resources. “The situation is extremely critical,” said Ashok Khosla, head of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the world’s oldest environmental network…read it at SmartPlanet.

In Kashmir, Rahul Gandhi Talks Business, But Disappoints Students

October 6th, 2012 by admin

Rifat Mohidin, a journalism student, was disappointed after her first interaction with Rahul Gandhi, Congress Party’s general secretary, at Kashmir University on Friday. Ms. Mohidin, 19, wanted to ask Mr. Gandhi about providing security to Kashmiris when they traveled to other parts of India.

“But I was not allowed to ask any of my questions,” she said. “I went there with a lot of hope, but my hopes were shattered.” (Read Ms. Mohidin’s full opinion of the discussion here.)

Mr. Gandhi’s two-day visit to Kashmir this week reiterated his message made during a visit in September 2011: he said he wanted to understand the pain of violence-stricken Kashmiris, as well as connect the Kashmiri youth with economic opportunities.

Shreen Hamdani, a 21-year-old journalism student, said that the interaction was only an hour long because it started late, and teachers stopped students from asking any political questions…read it at New York Times India.


YouTube and Facebook Remain Blocked in Kashmir

October 3rd, 2012 by admin

The social networking Web sites Facebook and YouTube have been blocked since Friday in India’s northern state of Jammu and Kashmir, even though it has been over a week since the last protests against an anti-Islam film.

One telecom company employee, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media, confirmed that Facebook and YouTube were still inaccessible on Wednesday, as did several Kashmiris. The state government had ordered telecom companies late last month to shut down Internet and mobile phone services as it tried to keep Muslims from uploading and downloading the video “Innocence of Muslims,” which has angered Muslims across the world because of its negative portrayal of the Prophet Muhammad.

Government officials insist that the measure quelled the riots and prevented the kind of violence that claimed over 20 lives in Pakistan…read it at New York Times India.

Kashmiris, Disabled by Conflict, Battle for Compensation

September 26th, 2012 by admin

KASHMIR — Shaida Banu attends stitching lessons in Silikot village near the Line of Control on the Indian side of Kashmir. A tailor teaches embroidery and patchwork in a large schoolroom with sewing machines and a chalkboard. Not far is a cordoned-off plot of mines laid out to prevent militants entering from the Pakistan side.

Ms. Banu, 22, wants to support her family by making clothes, but there isn’t enough dress material available in this mountainous terrain. “My father is old, my mother dead and my brother disabled — I feel responsible,” she said. In 2001, her mother was shot in the head by a bullet from the other side while herding goats. Two years later, her brother lost his leg to an exploding shell while fetching water.

Hundreds of people were disabled in the cross-fire between India and Pakistan, especially during the peak of the militancy in the 1990s, and many families still struggle with the aftermath. Army porters had their legs blown off while running over mines. “You could step out of your house and return with a limb gone,” recalled Mohammed Sheikh, 60, who lost his leg in 1999 when a shell landed in his village.

One hamlet, where most inhabitants have lost limbs, is called “village of the handicapped.”…read it at New York Times India.

Telecom Services Blocked to Curb Protests in Kashmir

September 23rd, 2012 by admin

The state government of Jammu and Kashmir ordered telecom companies to block access to YouTube and Facebook in the Kashmir Valley, effective midnight Thursday, to curb potential protests over an amateur video that has angered Muslims.

Rafique Jaan, 25, a student of Kashmir University said the government acted too late. “Lakhs (hundreds of thousands) of people have downloaded it on their mobile phones. The government is just trying to restrict people from communicating with each other,” he said.

Mr. Jaan, who was angry about the video, added: “What was the government doing for the last one week?”…read it at New York Times India.

Protests in Kashmir Turn Violent

September 23rd, 2012 by admin

SRINAGAR — “It may blow — get back everyone!” someone in the crowd shouted.

The police and journalists drew back from the government vehicle that had been set on fire by angry protesters in Srinagar. Its flames set the nearby tree alight. Everyone fell silent for a few seconds at the sight of the burning vehicle and branches.

Srinagar witnessed on Tuesday a complete shutdown of the city, which was called by several Muslim organizations to protest a video denigrating the Prophet Muhammad that was produced in the United States. The move had originally received a lukewarm response in the city, but it gathered momentum after it was backed by the hard-line separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani, who enjoys huge support here.

Kashmiris responded to call by closing businesses, schools and transport services. Usually buzzing marketplaces were left with rows of shuttered shops and empty pavements…read it at New York Times India.

Why Kashmiri Muslims Blame America for Anti-Muslim Film

September 23rd, 2012 by admin

SRINAGAR– 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.

Pakistani Hindu Couple torn over move to India

September 11th, 2012 by admin

When Shaani Das left Pakistan, she didn’t imagine having to shelter from the Indian monsoon under a damp and cramped plastic tent with her husband and children.

But Kurup Das, her husband, says that their new life is still better than living like the “lowest” in Pakistan. “Here we have the freedom to breathe without fear,” he said.

The Das couple, along with six other families, have pitched tent in an ashram near Majnu Ka Tila, the home of many Tibetan refugees in Delhi.  Mrs. Das, 30, is now questioning whether she made the right decision. “Look at us,” she said. “We had such big dreams and now we are living in poverty.”…read it at Wall Street Journal India.

Eid Among Myanmar’s Rohingyas in Delhi

August 22nd, 2012 by admin

Mohammed Ali spent 15 days of the fasting month of Ramadan in the mountains between Bangladesh and Myanmar, the country from where he was fleeing.

Mr. Ali, 17, says he only missed two days of fasting because of extreme hunger and fatigue as he hid from soldiers that comb the forests on the border.

Mr. Ali is from the western Rakhine state of Myanmar, where deadly clashes have erupted between Rohingya Muslims and ethnic Rakhine Buddhists. Following the violence, which has claimed the lives of at least 80 people, Muslims have been fleeing Myanmar. “We are not considered citizens,” said Mr. Ali. “They tell us that the British sent our ancestors here and so we must return to India, Bangladesh and Pakistan…” read it at Wall Street Journal India.

In Assam, Two Decades of Displacement

August 22nd, 2012 by admin

HAPASARA CAMP, Assam – 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 India.

Lost Boys of the Line of Control

August 14th, 2012 by admin

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…read it at The New York Times India.

Farmers Fight Nuclear Plant in Bid to Save Land

August 14th, 2012 by admin

Badlu Ram tugged against the tattered strips of the white gauze that bound his hands and legs to the hospital bed in the town of Fatehabad. “Please free me,” he pleaded. On July 13, Mr. Ram had attempted suicide by consuming pesticide. “It was my duty … it was my duty,” he repeated.

Mr. Ram, 60, said he had failed to protect his family’s 26 acres of land, which the government plans to acquire for building a nuclear power plant near Gorakhpur village in Fatehabad district of Haryana state…read it at New York Times India.

In Assam, Grim Aftermath to July Riots

August 14th, 2012 by admin

KOKRAJHAR/CHIRANG, Assam — Almost two weeks after their village was burned by rioters, a group of Bodo men sneaked back to see the charred remains of their houses. All their livestock, except the pigs, were gone. “Right now, standing here, I am petrified,” said Kalidas Brahmo, a farmer, walking through the rubble of his home.

Bangaldoba village Part I in Kokrajhar district was attacked on the afternoon of July 23 by Muslims, villagers said. “They came with sickles, swords, sticks, spears, and all us of took off together,” said Mr. Brahmo, 32. “The women and children ran in front, and the men were behind them…”read it at New York Times India.

In Assam, Grim Aftermath to July Riots

In a Gujarat Fishing Village, India-Pakistan Tensions Take Huge Toll

July 5th, 2012 by admin

DANDI, Gujarat – Until three out of her five sons were imprisoned in Pakistan for breaching the maritime border while fishing, Babiben Mandan Majethiya and her daughters-in-law had no idea that Pakistan even existed.

These women, who never went to school, still don’t know about the partition or the wars fought between India and Pakistan. “I only know my sons would never do anything wrong,” Mrs. Majethiya had cried when they were locked up.

After one year in prison, the three men came home on the evening of July 1. When reached by phone on Sunday night, Mrs. Majethiya had just finished cooking them a warm meal and tucking them into bed. “After so long, I will sleep peacefully and my heart will begin to mend,” she said. “But I will never let them go back to sea.”

Mrs. Majethiya lives in Dandi, a small coastal village of Gujarat state in its Junagadh district, where several families are missing men who have been arrested by Pakistan for crossing the maritime border while fishing in the Arabian Sea. Many of them sail from Porbandar, the main port town and the birthplace of Mahatma Gandhi, which is about a five-hour drive from the rural hamlet of about 60 families…read it at The New York Times.


Gupta’s Fall Street

June 29th, 2012 by admin

Richard Lepkowski, the jury foreman at the Manhattan, New York court hearing the Rajat Gupta trial handed the US government its biggest success in its fight against insider trading when he read out the jury’s decision before noon of Friday, June 15: Gupta, the former McKinsey & Co. Managing Partner, was guilty of securities fraud and conspiracy…read it at Business Today.

Rajat Gupta – Down to the wire

June 29th, 2012 by admin

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.

Down to the wire

Gay Indian Men Speak Out on Forced Marriages

April 20th, 2012 by admin

Ravi grabs a table on the terrace of a dimly-lit café so that street noise can muffle our conversation. He is a gay man who cheats on his wife with other men. “This is my life,” he says. “Do I like it? No.” The 39-year-old sales agent, big-built and clean-shaven, receives several calls from men propositioning him for the evening. One caller, who has left his wife in a small town, now freely dates men in Delhi. “I’m not too keen on him,” says Ravi. “He isn’t careful, because his wife is so far away.”

Thousands of gay men in India are leading a double life. Marriages were often used as a cover when homosexuality was prohibited. After a decade-long legal battle, it was decriminalized in 2009. But family pressure reduces the changed law to a technicality. Parents force marriage at the cost of their children’s happiness, and sometimes their lives…read it at Huffington Post.

Saffron plants in Kashmir

March 3rd, 2012 by admin

On a chilly october evening in Pampore, a town in the Indian-administered section of Kashmir, 12-year-old Saiqa Shaukat sits with her aunt, uncle, and cousins in a backyard filled with plucked purple flowers. It’s the first day of harvesting. For hours on end, Shaukat and her relatives gently pick out three golden stigmas from each flower. Later these stigmas will be dried to make zafaraan, or saffron, sometimes called the king of spices.

Kashmiri farmers have been growing saffron for centuries. But the past decade has created new challenges for saffron farmers. Changing weather patterns driven by global warming – along with soil degradation, fungal infections, and rising pollution – have damaged the growth of the purple flower, Crocus sativus…read it at the Earth Island Journal.

Kashmir’s new battle with drugs

February 8th, 2012 by admin

Ali shuffles across the quiet yard of a drug de-addiction centre in Srinagar, the capital of India-administered Kashmir. The 26-year-old sought help after a decade of using drugs ranging from brown sugar to codeine. Ali recalled being high when he was training with militants for jihad. “It used to make me feel strong and motivated,” he said. “I felt I could do anything.”

For two decades, the people of Kashmir have endured the fighting between the Indian army and the militants.  The impact of the long-drawn conflict is now surfacing in the form of deteriorating mental health in the Valley along with a drastic rise in drug abuse. The state government of Jammu and Kashmir, however, is ill-equipped to arrest the problem…read it at SmartPlanet.

Changing elephant poo to green paper

February 8th, 2012 by admin

The elephant ride up the stone pathway of the medieval Amber fort outside Jaipur is designed to make tourists feel like Rajput warriors returning from battle—-or something on those fantastical lines. But one man, watching the majestic procession a few years ago, was awed by something far less regal.

Vijendra Shekhawat, who makes handmade paper, stared at the mounds of dung plopping out at regular intervals as the elephants ambled up to the sandstone and marble palace. The 30-year-old entrepreneur was mesmerized by the fibre-spokes sticking out of the wet poo. “I didn’t pick it up right then,” he said, laughing. “But I came back later.”

Much to the horror of his family, Shekhawat returned home with sacks of elephant poo to experiment whether it could be used to make handmade paper. The entrepreneur had already been using raw materials like silk waste and vegetable slush to prepare paper. His backyard holds a small mill with one “beater” machine that produces about 40kgs of pulp. His family, now trained, make up the workforce….read it at SmartPlanet.

India fashions future fight against climate change

December 18th, 2011 by admin

As the dust settles around this year’s U.N. climate change conference, the world is weighing its consequences for the global North and South. The final move by India, for the first time, dilutes the divide between developed and developing countries in sharing the burden of combating the global crisis.

Mired in disputes, the recently concluded talks in Durban spilled into an extra two days. The highly contested political and moral issues divided the negotiators, activists and the media of the developed and developing world…read it at SmartPlanet

India feels heat at climate talks in Durban

November 30th, 2011 by admin

Even before the annual UN climate change negotiations are formally kicked off in Durban, India is warding off pressure to commit to legally binding CO2 emission cuts. Developed countries are threatening to abandon the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which imposes emission reduction obligations on 37 industrialised countries, if all major emitters don’t do more to curb their greenhouse gases…read it at The Tribune