India Insight

Zubeen Garg: not Assamese enough for separatist group

(Note: paragraph six contains graphic language)

When in Assam, sing like the Assamese do. That was the message from the separatist group United Liberation Front of Assam to singer Zubeen Garg. The 40-year-old singer, born in Jorhat in Assam, irked ULFA last week when he sang Hindi songs at a Bihu festival.

That’s a poke in the eye for the rebel group. Bihu is a major cultural festival in Assam, taking place three times a year. It’s a big deal for the most populous largest state in northeast India, and ULFA didn’t like Garg’s decision to sing in Hindi (check his song “Ya Ali” here) because its leaders consider doing that an erosion of Assamese culture.

“Zubeen is a talented singer but that does not mean he should consider himself an ambassador of Hindi and go all out to promote it. If he continues to do so, we shall not be responsible for any consequences,” the group wrote in a letter to the Press Trust of India wire service.

As a reply, on his Facebook fan page, Garg wrote, “i think assam is a wrong place for creative people. anyway i m gonna skipp all the bihu shows from next year.” (sic) Adding, “no power can dictate an artist.we have our own freedom……my music spoke only love n brotherhood.but some people never understood that.but i will live with my own freedom ….always.” (sic)

As a result, Garg ended up receiving state government security – two bodyguards and a vehicle (not quite what billionaire Mukesh Ambani is getting these days from the government).

Delhi rape case reignites police reform debate

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not necessarily of Reuters)

I live in India’s rape capital where rape cases are as common as power cuts used to be a few years ago. Even reports of police misbehaviour have become routine.

While all rape cases do not get media attention, the recent rape of a five-year-old girl is in the limelight, especially because of the way the police handled the case.

Journalist Sardesai sours on Twitter: “Had hoped to interact; failed.”

(The following post contains some essential Hindi translation help from my colleagues Arnika Thakur, Suraj Balakrishnan and Havovi Cooper. Any remaining errors or lack of precision are my fault as I reviewed and participated in all translations. Additionally, any opinions here are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Thomson Reuters Corp.)

From the desk of Rajdeep Sardesai, editor in chief of Indian news network IBN Live (I stitched these sentences together from his Twitter account):

My timeline suggests little space for healthy debate/discussion on twitter. So will no longer raise any political issues on the medium. Will continue writing/talking on issues of natl interest in print/tv, but not on twitter. Will continue to write in print/speak on tv. But will no longer seek twitter as a medium for public debate. Had hoped to interact; failed. A journalist has only his integrity/credibility. That has been abused on this medium for too long by unknown people. Time to switch off.

Thirty-three percent of world’s poorest live in India

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not necessarily of Reuters)

India has 33 percent of the world’s poorest 1.2 billion people, even though the country’s poverty rate is half as high as it was three decades ago, according to a new World Bank report.

India reduced the number of its poor from 429 million in 1981 to 400 million in 2010, and the extreme poverty rate dropped from 60 percent of the population to 33 percent during the same period. Despite the good news, India accounts for a higher proportion of the world’s poor than it used to. In 1981, it was home to 22 percent of the world’s poorest people.

Should India ban Internet porn?

(This commentary reflects the thoughts of the author. It does not reflect the views of Thomson Reuters Corp.)

Neighbours China and Pakistan do it. Guyana in South America and Egypt do it. Even South Korea, where 81.1 percent of the population is online, does it. Should India make Internet pornography illegal too?

The Supreme Court has asked the government to respond to a public interest litigation which seeks to make watching online porn a non-bailable offence.

Suffering and apathy in Jaipur: drivers ignore hit-and-run victims

“Murderously selfish India: Woman, baby die in terrible accident in Jaipur as husband, son beg passersby for help.”

Shiv Aroor’s dispatch on Twitter says it all. Other people in India tonight are echoing the theme: people racing through their day in modern India, too busy or too wary to get involved when they see people in distress. In this case, a truck struck a family of four riding on a motorcycle in Jaipur on Monday, killing a woman and her eight-month-old daughter. The woman’s husband and son escaped. The family was riding the motorcycle through the Ghat Ki Guni tunnel on Sunday afternoon when the truck struck them, according to the Hindustan Times and other Indian news organisations.

Here is more from the HT:

CCTV footages showed that the woman’s husband and his four-year-old son beseeched passers-by for help for almost 10 minutes. However, no one stopped to help them, police said. The survivor, Kanhaiyalal Raigher, tried to call relatives from his mobile, but failed as there was no network connectivity in the tunnel. Raigher, a resident of a village on the outskirts of Jaipur, was on his way to his in-laws’ house with his wife Guddi Devi, 26, daughter Arushi and son Tanish.”

from The Human Impact:

“Urinating in dams” to solve India’s drought? Minister faces backlash

As India's western state of Maharashtra reels from the worst drought in over four decades and millions of people face the risk of hunger, a top official has sparked outrage with a crass, insensitive joke that he should urinate in the region's empty dams to solve water shortages.

Ajit Pawar, deputy chief minister of Maharashtra and former irrigation minister, referred in a speech last weekend to a poor drought-hit farmer who had been on hunger strike for almost two months to demand more water.

"He has been fasting for the last 55 days. If there is no water in the dam, how can we release it? Should we urinate into it? If there is no water to drink, even urination is not possible," Pawar told the gathering, who responded with much laughter.

State elections loom in Karnataka, a state split wide open

With legislative assembly elections in the state of Karnataka just weeks away, politicians are preparing for an ugly battle for a state whose political future looks wide open.

The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) will be hard pressed to hang on to its lead in the state after its once tight-knit leadership ranks frayed under corruption charges and infighting. Given their recent poor performance in the urban local body elections, they might have much to worry about.

“Infighting cost us. KJP (Karnataka Janata Paksha) and BSR Congress also took away our votes,” said state Higher Education Minister C.T. Ravi. But they don’t appear to be too unhappy because only about 30 percent of the state electorate was eligible to vote in the local polls.

Narendra Modi’s media blitz fraught with risk

(This commentary reflects the thoughts of the author. It does not reflect anyone else’s opinion, and does not necessarily reflect the views of Thomson Reuters Corp.)

During Gujarat’s elections last year, incumbent Chief Minister Narendra Modi used 3D technology to appear at more than one political rally simultaneously. Now re-elected, the man has increased his omnipresence, if such a thing is possible, with help from the media.

On April 8, Modi addressed the women’s wing of Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry. The same evening, he was at Network18’s summit outlining his vision for India. The next day, Modi addressed businessmen in Kolkata, West Bengal. Later in the day, he delivered a fiery speech to his party people. All of these appearances got plenty of TV coverage, website analysis and Twitter attention.

When did Narendra Modi become a “poster boy?”

(This commentary reflects the thoughts of the author. It does not reflect anyone else’s opinion, and does not necessarily reflect the views of Thomson Reuters Corp.)

I’ve encountered some interesting descriptions in the press of India’s political leaders. My favorite is “supremo,” which I’ve heard comes from British English. “Honcho” and “strongman” are common too. The one that catches my attention, primarily because I disapprove of it, is “poster boy.”

Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi was today’s poster boy, according to the Times of India print edition (I also see the article here). I’ve seen many more examples in recent weeks and months. Perhaps that’s understandable. Wherever you live, you will read a lot more about Modi in the next year because many people say that he will be the Bharatiya Janata Party’s selection for prime minister. As the most likely chief rival to the Gandhi family dynasty and its scion Rahul, Modi has captured the nation’s attention in a way that few other politicians have.

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