If you ever find yourself driving down the secluded, dusty National Highway 96 in the remote Pratapgarh district of Uttar Pradesh, you probably will notice a billboard flashing this message in Hindi: “If you find any unclaimed dead body, inform us. We will cremate it in accordance with full religious procedures.”
Here’s a short roundup of regional news in India that attracted our interest this weekend. Any opinions expressed by the author are no doubt ill informed and ridiculous. Aditya Yogi Kalra contributed to this post.
Passions are running high in parliament and the stakes are huge. The contentious issue of reservation is back to haunt Indian politics and it may well decide who runs the next government in the world’s largest democracy. Sparks were seen flying in the upper house on Wednesday when two MPs from rival parties came to blows during the tabling of a bill to amend the Constitution, providing for reservations in promotions at work for backward castes.
Three men were arrested by Delhi police this week for “honour killings” days after the Supreme Court asked eight Indian states to stop these so-called “honour” killings, where family members, typically men, kill daughters and their husbands for apparently bringing dishonour to the family by marrying below their caste.
"Bewildingerly diverse" is the way Asghar Ali Engineer describes his native country, India. This 70-year-old Muslim scholar has written dozens of books about Indian politics and society, Islamic reform and interreligious dialogue. As head of the Centre for the Study of Society and Secularism in Mumbai, he works to promote peace and understanding among religious and ethnic communities through seminars, workshops, youth camps, research and publications. The centre even organises street plays in the slums of Mumbai to teach the poor about the dangers of communalism.
Hindu nationalism, Muslim "vote banks", anti-Christian violence, caste rivalry -- Indian politics has more than enough interfaith tension to offer populist orators all kinds of "religion cards" to play. Coming only months after Islamist militants killed 166 people in a three-day rampage in Mumbai, the campaign for the general election now being held in stages between April 16 and May 13 could have been over- shadowed by communal demagoguery.
Much has been written about the imminent arrival in New Delhi of the Third Front, the joker in the Indian political pack that has talked itself up as a serious alternative to the two national parties in the 2009 parliamentary elections.