Indian police shot dead two protesters and arrested more than 130 others during street rallies sparked by a ruling party official’s offensive remarks about Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), authorities told AFP yesterday. There have been widespread protests in the Muslim world since last week. In India and neighbouring countries, Muslims took to the streets in huge numbers after Friday prayers to condemn the remarks, with police firing on a crowd in the eastern Indian city of Ranchi. “Police were forced to open fire to disperse protesters... resulting in the death of two,” a police officer in Ranchi told AFP. Officers said that the crowd had defied their orders not to march from a mosque to a market. Authorities cut Internet connections in the city and imposed a curfew, with local resident Shabnam Ara telling AFP the atmosphere remained tense yesterday. “We are praying for peace and harmony,” she said. Police in Uttar Pradesh fired tear gas to disperse at least one rally after several demonstrations were staged across the northern Indian state. Most protests ended peacefully but demonstrators in some cities threw stones at police and injured at least one officer, said Avanish Awasthi, a senior government secretary in the state. Prashant Kumar, a senior police officer in the state, told AFP that up to 136 protesters had been arrested from six districts around Uttar Pradesh. Cities around India saw sizeable demonstrations on Friday, with some crowds burning effigies of Nupur Sharma — the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) spokeswoman whose derogatory comments set off the furore. Authorities also cut Internet services for the weekend in several districts near the eastern megacity of Kolkata, after protesters blocked a railway line and mobbed a police station. Sharma’s remarks have embroiled India in a diplomatic storm, with the governments of nearly 20 countries calling in Indian envoys for an explanation. Sharma’s comments sent the BJP into damage control, with the party suspending her from its ranks. Friday saw the biggest South Asian street rallies yet in response to the remarks, with police estimating more than 100,000 people mobilised across Bangladesh after midday prayers. Another 5,000 people took to the streets in the Pakistani city of Lahore at the call of a religious party, demanding that their government take stronger action against India over the comments.
Indian police shot dead two protesters and arrested more than 130 others during street rallies sparked by a ruling party official's remarks about the Prophet Muhammad (may blessings and peace be upon him), authorities said Saturday. There have been widespread protests in the Muslim world since last week, when a spokeswoman for Prime Minister Narendra Modi's party made controversial comments about Prophet Muhammad on a TV debate show. In India and neighbouring countries, Muslims took to the streets in huge numbers after Friday prayers to condemn the remarks, with police firing on a crowd in the eastern Indian city of Ranchi. "Police were forced to open fire to disperse protesters... resulting in the death of two," a police officer in Ranchi told AFP. Officers said that the crowd had defied their orders not to march from a mosque to a market and had thrown broken bottles and stones when police attempted to disperse the rally with a baton charge. Authorities cut internet connections in the city and imposed a curfew, with local resident Shabnam Ara telling AFP the atmosphere remained tense on Saturday. "We are praying for peace and harmony," she said. Police in Uttar Pradesh fired tear gas to disperse at least one rally after several demonstrations were staged across the northern Indian state. Most protests ended peacefully but demonstrators in some cities threw stones at police and injured at least one officer, said Avanish Awasthi, a senior government secretary in the state. "We will take strict action against those indulging in stone pelting and violence," Awasthi told reporters. "Those working behind the scenes, instigating violence, will not be spared at all." Prashant Kumar, a senior police officer in the state, told AFP that up to "136 protesting miscreants" had been arrested from six districts around Uttar Pradesh. Cities around India saw sizable demonstrations on Friday, with some crowds burning effigies of Nupur Sharma -- the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) spokeswoman whose comments set off the furore. Authorities also cut internet services for the weekend in several districts near the eastern megacity of Kolkata, after protesters blocked a railway line and mobbed a police station. - Diplomatic storm - Sharma's remarks have embroiled India in a diplomatic storm, with the governments of nearly 20 countries calling in Indian envoys for an explanation. Since coming to power nationally in 2014, Modi's government and the BJP have been accused of championing discriminatory policies towards followers of the Islamic faith. His government proposed a controversial law that granted citizenship to refugees in India, but not if they are Muslim, while state BJP governments have passed laws making it harder for Muslims to marry outside their religion. The foreign ministry last week rebuked US officials for what India termed "ill-informed" and "biased" comments made during the release of a religious freedom report that accused Indian officials of supporting attacks on minority worshippers. Sharma's comments sent the BJP into damage control, with the party suspending her from its ranks and issuing a statement saying it respected all religions. Friday saw the biggest South Asian street rallies yet in response to the remarks, with police estimating more than 100,000 people mobilised across Bangladesh after midday prayers. Another 5,000 people took to the streets in the Pakistani city of Lahore at the call of a radical religious party, demanding that their government take stronger action against India over the comments.
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) spokesperson Nupur Sharma’s objectionable remarks about Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) have triggered protests in India as well as abroad. She had made the remarks during a television debate on an English channel on the Gyanvapi mosque issue, which has been one of the biggest talking points in India of late. According to an Instagram post by Al Jazeera, a hashtag has been launched in Arab countries in protest against the remarks made by the BJP spokesperson. Activists expressed their support for Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and called for a boycott of Indian products in light of the hate campaign against Muslims, Al Jazeera said. A number of cases have been filed against Sharma at different places in India, according to media reports. She was booked under sections 295A, 153A and 505B of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) in Mumbai after a complaint by Raza Academy, an organisation of Indian Sunni Muslims, for her “remarks on the Holy Prophet on a national channel”. A case was also filed against Sharma under sections 153(A), 504, 505(2) and 506 of the IPC at Cybercrime Police Station in Hyderabad on a complaint by a police official. A Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader also filed a case against her at the Kondhwa police station in Pune. The remarks led to protests in Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh, with calls to close shops and markets leading to clashes between different groups. Heavy security has been deployed in the city to maintain law and order, with several arrests made. In Maharashtra, hundreds of protesters from the NCP held a protest in front of Darul Falah mosque in Mumbra. Activists of the Nationalist Youth Congress, under the guidance of state housing minister Dr Jitendra Awhad and city president Anand Paranjape, Kalwa-Mumbra youth president and former opposition leader Shanu Pathan led the protest. Pathan said: “The Maharashtra government should enact a special law to take stern action against those who are insulting the great personalities for their own benefits.” The protesters demanded the immediate arrest of Sharma.
An Indian climber banned from Everest after faking a summit of the world’s highest mountain has successfully scaled the peak for real, telling AFP he returned to “prove” himself. Narender Singh Yadav claimed to have reached the top of the 8,849-m (29,032-ft) mountain in May 2016. But photos of the 26-year-old at the summit were later shown to have been digitally altered, prompting the Nepal government to revoke recognition of his feat. Yadav and two other climbers were issued a six-year ban backdated to 2016, and this was the first year he was able to return to the mountain. “Everest is a dream for all of us but Everest is life for me,” Yadav told AFP on Friday. “There were a lot of allegations on me... that’s why I (had to) prove myself and climb Everest.” Yadav maintains he reached the summit but that the expedition leader doctored his photos and posted them on social media after he was nominated for India’s prestigious Tenzing Norgay Adventure Award in 2020. The award was subsequently withheld, an experience Yadav said was “very painful for me and my family”. His ban ended on May 20. Seven days later, he was on the summit – this time with an ample cache of photos and videos to prove his feat. “We granted him a certificate on Wednesday after he presented enough evidence of his Everest summit,” said Nepal tourism department official Bishma Raj Bhattrai. Pemba Rita Sherpa, a guide with expedition organiser Pioneer Adventure, said that two guides accompanied him instead of the usual one to make sure there were no disputes. “We took many photos and videos of him,” he said. “We have to speak what is real. It is about our Sherpas’ reputation and the company’s reputation.” A successful Everest summit is the crowning achievement of any climber’s career, and many go on to forge careers as motivational speakers and authors. The current system of authentication requires photos along with reports from team leaders and government liaison officers stationed at the base camp – but it has been open to fraud attempts. An Indian couple were banned for 10 years in 2016 after they published doctored photos purporting to show them at the top of Everest. The pair – both police constables – superimposed themselves and their banners onto photos taken by another Indian climber at the summit. This year, a rare window of good weather has allowed more than 500 climbers and guides to reach the Everest summit since a team of Nepali climbers opened the route on May 7. The Himalayan nation reopened its peaks to mountaineers last year after the coronavirus pandemic shut down the industry in 2020.
At least 10 people were killed and 22 injured in a chemicals explosion at an electronics factory in northern India's Hapur district, Uttar Pradesh on Saturday, a police official said. The accident happened at an industrial facility in Dhaulana, about 60 km from the capital, New Delhi, police spokesman Surendra Singh said. "The firm was registered to manufacture electronic equipment and what chemicals were being used is now being investigated," Singh said. Industrial accidents are common in India and often blamed on people flouting safety norms, as well as lax inspection by government officials.
When gangrene robbed Indian teacher Pratibha Hilim of her hands and feet three years ago, her dreams of returning to class gave her the strength to endure. The 51-year-old now gives her lessons from home, wielding a pen or a stick of chalk strapped to her arm, for youngsters in a remote community where opportunities for education are scarce. “I am a teacher, which means someone who cannot sit still but has to do something with children — teach them or be with them,” she said in sun-baked Karhe village, a few hours’ drive east of Mumbai. “I’ve loved children since my childhood and if I sit around doing nothing, I would be in a different world, thinking of what happened to me.” Hilim came down with a fever in 2019 that was so severe she lost consciousness. Doctors diagnosed her with a severe case of dengue fever and told her the onset of gangrene required the amputation of her right hand. Within weeks, the infection forced surgeons to remove her other hand and both her legs below the knee. “When they amputated my first hand, I felt bad that I won’t be able to do anything further. I went into depression and did not speak to anyone for eight days,” she said. With encouragement from her family during months of recuperation, Hilim found purpose in a return to teaching. She had worked for nearly three decades in a local primary school but in 2020, with schools shut during the coronavirus pandemic, she began giving lessons at home to children whose families did not have the money to pay for online learning. Schools reopened earlier this year, but 40 children from the village still come to Hilim’s home for regular classes. “My children love to study,” said Eknath Laxman Harvate, a farmer and labourer, whose daughter is a regular student of Hilim’s. Like many in Karhe, Harvate had to drop out of school and work as a teenager as his family did not have the money to support his education. He said he wanted a better future for his own children. “We will educate her until she wants to,” Harvate said. “I wish I had kept studying...I feel sad that due to problems at home I couldn’t continue and had to start farming.” Many families in Karhe are compelled to pull their children out of the classroom so they can work to boost meagre household incomes. “Once they can read and write, that is enough, meaning the children are ready to work in the fields,” Hilim said. But Hilim, who is now waiting for prosthetic limbs to be fitted, wants to push children to keep learning and choose their own destinies. She says her own struggle to return to class is a testament to the power of resolve. “I thought that with no limbs I was nothing, but then I made my mind firm,” she said. “I decided that I can do everything and will do everything.”
Some officials in India are ignoring or even supporting rising attacks on people and places of worship in the country, a US official said late on Thursday after the release of a report on religious freedom globally in 2021. The report said attacks on members of religious minority communities, including killings, assaults, and intimidation, had occurred throughout last year in India. These included cow vigilantism - assaults on non-Hindus for allegedly slaughtering cows or trading in beef. Most Hindus, who account for about 80% of India's 1.35 billion people, consider cows sacred. Many states ruled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu nationalist party have enacted laws or toughened old ones against slaughtering cows. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the report showed religious freedom and the rights of religious minorities were under threat around the world. "For example, in India, the world's largest democracy and home to a great diversity of faiths, we've seen rising attacks on people and places of worship," Blinken said. Rashad Hussain, who leads the US State Department's efforts to monitor religious freedom around the world, said some Indian officials were "ignoring or even supporting rising attacks on people and places of worship". India's foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment. It has previously pushed back against any commentary from outside on internal affairs, especially from the United States. Disputes between religious communities in India over places of worship have flared ever since the country won independence from British rule in 1947, but they have become more common in recent years.
Well-known Bollywood singer Krishnakumar Kunnath, popularly known as KK, died Tuesday night, a few hours after a concert in Kolkata, officials said. He was 53. KK was feeling unwell after reaching his hotel, following the concert in the evening where he sang for almost an hour, it was reported. The singer reportedly fell down the stairs at the hotel where he was staying. He was taken to a private hospital, where the doctors declared him brought dead. KK is known for songs like 'Pal' and 'Yaaron', which were big hits in the late 1990s. He has recorded a wide range of popular songs for Bollywood films as well as for Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi and Bengali movies.
An Indian rapper with a major following both at home and among the diaspora in Canada and Britain was gunned down near his hometown in a gang-related killing, Indian police have said. Shubhdeep Singh Sidhu -- known as Sidhu Moose Wala to his 11 million followers on YouTube and millions of fans -- was driving his SUV in the northern state of Punjab when he was attacked by suspects in two or three cars who fired about 30 bullets on Sunday afternoon. Viresh Kumar Bhawra, state police chief, said the killing "looks like an inter-gang rivalry" and added that a Canada-based gangster known as Goldy Brar "has claimed the responsibility on behalf of the Lawrence Bishnoi gang". Bhawra, who is facing questions about reducing Sidhu's security detail last week, said the rapper was not travelling with his bodyguards and even left his bullet-proof vehicle at home. Moose Wala, 28, earned a particularly large following among young Punjabi men with his catchy rap videos that attacked rival singers and politicians, and portrayed him as a man who fought for the community's pride, delivered justice and gunned down his rivals. The rapper unsuccessfully contested state elections as a candidate for India's main opposition Congress party earlier this year. The political bid attracted additional scrutiny and criticism of Sidhu's work with rivals accusing him of glorifying guns, Sikh nationalism and gang culture. His biggest hits, such as "Legend", "Old Skool", "Devil" and "Just Listen", are among the most popular tunes on different short-video platforms in India. Canadian rapper Drake posted a picture of Sidhu with his mother on Instagram, and joined Indian stars in expressing shock at the killing. "Stunned by the shocking death of #SidhuMoosewala. Still trying to wrap my head around this one," actor Ajay Devgn tweeted. Vishal Dadlani, a Bollywood musician, posted: "I only knew #SidhuMoosewala through his music, yet the news of his demise has cut deep". "India has very few authentic modern artists. He was right on top of that list," Dadlani added. Punjab chief minister Bhagwant Mann on Monday announced a judicial commission and promised that the "perpetrators of the heinous crime will be behind the bars soon". Moose Wala's last song "The Last Ride", which was released earlier this month, included the lyrics "the glow on the man's face tells you that he'll die young". Punjab is a major transit route for drugs entering India from Afghanistan and Pakistan, and the issue has become a hot-button political issue in the last few years. Many observers link the narcotics trade -- mostly heroin and opium -- to an uptick in gang-related violence and the use of illegal arms in the state.
India on Sunday withdrew a warning not to share photocopies of the national biometric identity card after the announcement caused widespread panic on social media. The Aadhaar card, which has a unique number tied to an individual's fingerprints, face and eye scan, aims to block theft and leakage in India's welfare schemes. But critics fear it could spawn a surveillance state. The press information bureau withdrew the warning two days after issuing it, saying the release was published in the context of an attempt to misuse an edited Aadhaar card, and was being withdrawn "in view of the possibility of the misinterpretation." The new statement said the Aadhaar ecosystem had adequate features to protect the identity and privacy of users, and that users are only advised to exercise "normal prudence". The Friday announcement had advised people not to share photocopies of their Aadhaar with any organisation because it could be misused. "Unlicensed private entities like hotels or film halls are not permitted to collect or keep copies of Aadhaar card," the initial release read. The warning triggered alarm on social media as screengrabs of the press release and news articles went viral, with the issue among the top 10 trending topics in India on Twitter on Sunday. "I might have stayed in almost a 100 hotels who kept a copy of my Aadhar! Now this," said Twitter user @_NairFYI. The Unique Identification Authority of India says among its frequently asked questions, "It is near impossible to impersonate you if you use Aadhar to prove your identity." "People have been freely giving other identity documents. But did they stop using these documents for the fear that somebody would use them to impersonate? No!" it says. India's Supreme Court in 2018 upheld the validity of the Aadhaar, but flagged privacy concerns and reined in a government push to make it mandatory for everything from banking to telecom services.
Heavy rains have caused widespread flooding in parts of Bangladesh and India, leaving millions stranded and at least 57 dead, officials said yesterday. In Bangladesh, about 2mn people have been marooned by the worst floods in the country’s northeast for nearly two decades. At least 100 villages at Zakiganj were inundated after floodwater rushing from India’s northeast breached a major embankment on the Barak River, said Mosharraf Hossain, the chief government administrator of the Sylhet region. “Some 2mn people have been stranded by floods so far,” he told AFP, adding that at least 10 people have been killed this week. Many parts of Bangladesh and neighbouring regions in India are prone to flooding, and experts say that climate change is increasing the likelihood of extreme weather events around the world. Every extra degree of global warming increases the amount of water in the atmosphere by about seven percent, with inevitable effects on rainfall. At least 47 people have been killed in India this week in days of flooding, landslides and thunderstorms, according to local disaster management authorities. In Assam state, which borders Bangladesh, at least 14 people have died in landslides and floods. Assam authorities said yesterday more than 850,000 people in about 3,200 villages have been affected by the floods, triggered by torrential rains that submerged swathes of farmland and damaged thousands of homes. Nearly 90,000 people have been moved to state-run relief shelters as water levels in rivers run high and large swathes of land remain submerged in most districts. West of Assam, at least 33 people were killed in Bihar state in thunderstorms on Thursday. More than three dozen people were injured in the unseasonal weather events that damaged hundreds of hectares of standing crops and thousands of fruit trees. Bihar has also suffered an intense heatwave this week, with temperatures reaching 40C. In Bangladesh’s Zakiganj, people were seen fishing on submerged roads and some residents took their cattle to flood shelters. Bus driver Shamim Ahmed, 50, told AFP: “My house is under waist deep water. There is no drinking water, we are harvesting rain water. “Rain is simultaneously a blessing and a curse for us now.” All the furniture in widow Lalila Begum’s home was ruined, she said, but she and her two daughters were staying put, hoping the waters would recede within a day or two. “My two daughters and I put one bed on another and are living on top of it,” she said. “There’s scarcity of food. We’re sharing one person’s food and one meal a day.” Floodwater has entered many parts of Sylhet city, the largest in the northeast, where another official told AFP about 50,000 families had been without power for days. Hossain, the chief administrator, said the flooding was driven by both rains and the onrush of water from across the border in Assam. But officials said the broken embankment on the border at Zakiganj could only be fixed once the water level dropped.
Former media executive Indrani Mukerjea walked out of a Mumbai jail on bail yesterday, nearly seven years after being arrested for allegedly murdering her daughter. The sensational case, centred on Indrani and then-husband Peter Mukerjea — a former chief executive of then-Fox-owned broadcaster Star India — received breathless news coverage following their arrests. Indrani is accused along with her driver and another ex-husband of strangling to death Sheena Bora, 22 — her daughter from a previous relationship — before dumping her body in a forest and setting it alight. Indrani, 49, has been detained since her August 2015 arrest but was granted bail by the Supreme Court on Wednesday on grounds that the trial was far from concluding, with only a third of witnesses being examined so far. She “has been in custody for six-and-a-half years and even if 50 % of the remaining witnesses are given up by the prosecution, the trial will not complete soon, we are of the considered view that the petitioner is entitled to be released on bail”, a three-judge bench ruled. Pictures showed her getting into a black car to be driven away following her release, with reports quoting her as saying “I am very happy”. Bora was killed in April 2012 and her burnt body was discovered in woods the following month, more than 60kms away from Mumbai in the western state of Maharashtra. Indrani was arrested in August 2015 on suspicion of murdering her daughter — who had been in a relationship with Peter Mukerjea’s son from an earlier marriage. That connection, and a financial dispute over property dealings, have been among various motives put forward for the alleged crime. Indrani was arrested “on charges of criminal conspiracy, abduction, murder, destruction of evidence, giving false information, creation and use of forged documents etc”, India’s Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had said in a statement. Peter headed Star India from 1997-2007 before leaving to start his own television venture, and was seen as one of India’s most successful media magnates. The CBI arrested him in connection with the case in November 2015, but he was granted bail in early 2020. Indrani and Peter ended their 17-year marriage in 2019 while both were incarcerated. In a letter to the CBI in November, Indrani said a fellow inmate had seen her daughter still alive in Kashmir last year, a claim the CBI strongly denied, calling it a “cooked-up story”.
India’s top court yesterday ordered a one-year jail term for cricketer-turned-lawmaker Navjot Singh Sidhu for a road-rage assault case that killed a man over 30 years ago. Sidhu, who until recently served as the head of the main opposition Congress party in the state of Punjab, was accused by an eyewitness of pulling the deceased out of his car and killing him with a blow to the head in December 1988. The Supreme Court in 2018 ordered the former state lawmaker to pay a fine of Rs1,000 ($12.91) for voluntarily hurting a person. However, in a ruling yesterday following a review of its 2018 judgment, the court said it considered it “appropriate” to jail Sidhu in addition to fining him, saying “some aggravated culpability” must be attached if a person dies. “In addition to the fine imposed, we consider it appropriate to impose a sentence of imprisonment for a period of one year rigorous imprisonment,” the ruling said. After the judgment, Sidhu said in a tweet he would “submit to the majesty of law,” without elaborating. The former international cricketer in the northern state of Punjab was acquitted by a local court in 1999, citing lack of evidence, but subsequently convicted of culpable homicide by a high court in 2006 and sentenced to three years in jail. Sidhu had filed an appeal in the Supreme Court, which reduced his sentence and dismissed the case after ordering the former cricketer to pay a fine, saying the incident was 30 years old and there was no history of enmity between the parties. But the family of the deceased filed for a review of the 2018 judgment. “A disproportionately light punishment humiliates and frustrates a victim of crime when the offender goes unpunished,” the Supreme Court said in the judgment.
Indian cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu was sentenced on Thursday to one year in jail, nearly 35 years after he was accused of killing a man in a fit of rage. India's Supreme Court gave its latest ruling after the victim's family appealed a 2018 verdict that saw the 58-year-old former Test opener walk away with a 1,000-rupee ($13) fine. A lower court initially sentenced Sidhu to three years in jail over the 1988 incident in which the batsman, a regular part of the national side at the time, and one of his friends beat up a man in a parking lot. The victim later died in hospital but Sidhu was only convicted for the assault in 1999. India's Supreme Court overturned that ruling in 2018, saying the case was over 30 years old and Sidhu had not used a weapon -- choosing instead to impose a small fine. Following the decision, the victim's family approached the Supreme Court with a plea for a harsher sentence. A doughty opener, Sidhu scored 3,202 runs off 51 Test matches and 4,413 runs from 136 one-day internationals. Sidhu is remembered for famously hitting Shane Warne to all corners at the start of the great Australian spinner's Test career. He made his political debut with the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party before switching to the opposition Congress.
India’s Supreme Court yesterday ordered the release of A G Perarivalan, who was convicted of involvement in the assassination of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1991. Gandhi was killed by an ethnic Tamil suicide bomber while campaigning in an election in the southern Indian town of Sriperumbudur in May 1991. His killing was seen as an act of retaliation after he sent Indian peacekeepers to Sri Lanka in 1987. Perarivalan was convicted in 1991 of purchasing the batteries used to detonate the bomb that killed Gandhi. In May 2021, the Tamil Nadu state government allowed Perarivalan to leave on parole, using a provision in the Tamil Nadu Prison manual. The Supreme Court took a lenient view of Perarivalan, saying he was 19 years old at the time of arrest and had been jailed for over 30 years, including 16 years on death row and 29 years in solitary confinement. Speaking to the Indian Express newspaper yesterday, Perarivalan recalled years spent in a cramped 6 feet (1.8m) by 9 feet (2.7m) cell during his time in solitary confinement. “A room in which I had nothing but empty walls to look at,” he said, describing obsessively counting bricks on the wall, measuring the door and bolts and imagining smells he craved. Six other people, including a woman, are still in jail and awaiting a verdict in the case. The court said Perarivalan was released after considering his “satisfactory conduct in jail and during parole” and “chronic ailments.” Gandhi’s widow, Sonia, is head of India’s main opposition Congress party while their son, Rahul, has been leading its campaign for elections. A Congress party spokesman said yesterday the party was deeply saddened by the court’s decision. Many in the state of Tamil Nadu celebrated the verdict as a victory for human rights. “My best wishes and warm welcome to Perarivalan who is set to fully breathe the air of liberation after more than 30 years of imprisonment,” Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M K Stalin tweeted.
Police in New Delhi arrested two people suspected of flouting fire safety regulations yesterday after at least 27 people died in a blaze at a building housing a manufacturing unit for surveillance cameras. Rescue teams worked overnight to clear the burnt out four-storey building near a railway station in the western suburbs. More than 75 people were in the building when the fire broke out on Friday evening. Some jumped from windows to save themselves, according to eyewitnesses, and firefighters broke the glass and rescued people with ropes. Authorities said fire started in an office on the first floor and spread rapidly. Two owners of the company were arrested as part of probe to identify suspected safety violations. Offering condolences, Prime Minister Narendra Modi promised Rs200,000 ($2,580) in compensation for the victims’ next-of-kin.
Police fired tear gas and used batons yesterday in Kashmir to break up a protest against the killing of a minority Hindu by suspected separatist rebels. Clashes are frequent in the territory, but the police operation was the first against the local Hindu population. On Thursday two gunmen shot and killed Rahul Bhat, a government employee, inside an office complex in Budgam where he worked, said police, who blamed rebels fighting Indian rule in Kashmir. The protesters yesterday shouted slogans against the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and demanded Bhat’s killers be brought to justice. “If this kind of killing can happen inside a government office, what security is Modi’s government talking about for us?” one angry protester who declined to be named said. Another protester said, “We are here to work, we have nothing to do with anything else. Why are they killing us? Just tell us what is our crime? The administration has failed.” Police were deployed when the demonstrators poured onto a main road and attempted to march towards the airport. No injuries were reported. Small groups of Hindus also staged protests at three other locations in Kashmir on Thursday night. Many political leaders in the region, including Muslims, issued statements condemning the “barbaric” killing of Bhat. PDP president Mehbooba Mufti claimed that she has been placed under house arrest to stop her from visiting Budgam to express solidarity with the protesting Kashmiri Pandits. At a protest at Shekhpora in Budgam, local Muslims joined the Kashmiri Pandits, serving them water and demanding justice and safety for members of the community. Bhat lived in a protected rehabilitation settlement for thousands of Hindus given government jobs in recent years under a plan to help resettle some of those who fled. National Conference (NC) vice-president Omar Abddullah said it was “shameful that legitimate and justified protests” were met with a “heavy-handed response”. Last year suspected rebels killed several minority Sikhs and Hindus in a spate of shootings, including migrant workers. Rebel groups have waged an insurgency for over three decades demanding independence for Kashmir or its merger with Pakistan. The conflict has left tens of thousands of civilians, soldiers and rebels dead. In 2019, Modi’s government annulled the region’s partial autonomy, allowing all Indians for the first time to buy land in Kashmir and cancelling privileges reserved for its permanent residents.
An Indian couple are taking their son to court demanding that he and his wife produce either a grandchild within a year or cough up almost $650,000. Sanjeev and Sadhana Prasad say that they exhausted their savings raising and educating their pilot son and paying for a lavish wedding. Now they want payback. "My son has been married for six years but they are still not planning a baby. At least if we have a grandchild to spend time with, our pain will become bearable," the couple said in their petition filed with a court in Haridwar last week. The compensation they are demanding -- 50 million rupees -- includes the cost of a wedding reception in a five-star hotel, a luxury car worth $80,000 and paying for the couple's honeymoon abroad, the Times of India reported Thursday. The parents also forked out $65,000 to get their son trained as a pilot in the United States only for him to return to India unemployed, the paper said. "We also had to take a loan to build our house and now we are going through a lot of financial hardships. Mentally too we are quite disturbed because we are living alone," the couple said in their petition. The couple's lawyer Arvind Kumar said the petition will be taken up for hearing by the court in northern India on May 17. India has a strong joint family system with many generations including grandparents, nephews, aunts and uncles often living in the same household. However, in recent years the trend has shifted, with young couples preferring to move away from their parents or siblings, and wives -- such as in this case -- opting to work rather than focus on having children and staying at home.
India has no plans to curb wheat exports – needed to help plug the gap left by the Ukraine war – despite the current heatwave hitting output, the government said. The world’s number two wheat producer has major buffer stocks and has said it is ready to increase exports to countries hit by falling supplies from Ukraine and Russia. But its hottest March on record and a heatwave in recent days have sparked speculation that India might instead prioritise domestic supplies in the country of 1.4bn people. Local media quoted Sudhanshu Pandey, India’s food secretary, as saying on Wednesday that wheat production was expected to fall at least 5% this year from 110mn tonnes in 2021. But he added: “I don’t see any controls on exports.” Last month, Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal said India would export 10mn tonnes of wheat, up from 7mn, this financial year – beginning in April. “Our farmers have ensured that not just India but the whole world is taken care of,” Goyal told reporters. Russia and Ukraine together account for more than a quarter of international wheat supplies and global prices have soared to record highs in recent weeks. Rising prices, caused also by fertiliser shortages and poor weather, have fuelled inflation globally and raised fears of famine and social unrest in poorer countries. Indian traders have already contracted to export 4mn tonnes so far in 2022-23, Bloomberg News reported, citing the food ministry. After Egypt, Turkey has also given approval to import wheat from India, it said. Indian wheat exports in the past have been limited by concerns over quality and because the government buys large volumes at guaranteed minimum prices. The sharp rise in global prices has prompted many Indian growers to agree on export deals because they can get higher prices than offered by the state. Indian exports have also been held back by World Trade Organization rules that limit shipments from government stocks if the grain was bought from farmers at fixed prices.
The Indian government is considering restricting wheat exports as severe heat waves have damaged crops, exacerbating tight global supplies after the war in Ukraine sent food inflation soaring. The South Asian nation experienced its hottest March on record, shrivelling the wheat crop that the world was relying on to alleviate a global shortage. To safeguard domestic supplies, the government is considering limiting wheat exports, according to a person with knowledge of the matter. Top officials are discussing the move and will recommend it to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who will then make the decision, said the person, who asked not to be identified as the information is private. An agriculture ministry spokesperson wasn’t immediately available to comment. A finance ministry spokesperson didn’t answer calls, while the trade ministry didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment. Benchmark wheat futures jumped almost 4% in Chicago. Curbing exports would be a hit to India’s ambition to cash in on the rally in global wheat prices after Russia’s war in Ukraine upended trade flows out of the critical Black Sea breadbasket region. Importing nations have looked to India for supplies, with top buyer Egypt recently approving the South Asian nation as an origin for wheat imports. The move would also add to a wave of crop protectionism around the world as governments seek to protect their own food supply amid soaring prices and fears of shortages. That has the potential to worsen global food inflation, which is already at a record and surging at a rampant pace. One of the strategies, the person said, could be setting a minimum export price so wheat cannot be shipped overseas below this level. This way, without outrightly banning it, the government can boost domestic supply and keep a check on prices, according to the person. The food ministry yesterday slashed its estimate of India’s wheat output this season to 105mn tonnes. That’s down from a record 111mn tons forecast previously and 109.6mn tonnes produced a year earlier. There’s no need to curb exports for now as the country has enough supply to meet domestic demand, food secretary Sudhanshu Pandey said at a briefing. The fall in production is raising concerns for the domestic market, with millions depending on farming as their main livelihood and food source. Weaker output will hurt farmers’ incomes. The government also buys wheat for its welfare programme, which provides subsidised food to two-thirds of the population.