India Insight

Why is Kashmir upset over choice of new interlocutors?

Shadows of policemen are seen on a road as they signal an approaching car to stop at a security barricade during curfew in Srinagar October 12, 2010. REUTERS/Fayaz Kabli/Files

Last week, New Delhi appointed three new mediators to find a solution to the decades-old dispute over Kashmir where popular protests against Indian rule have mounted in recent months.

The appointment of the three-member non-political team of interlocutors – journalist Dilip Padgaonkar, academician Radha Kumar and government official M. M. Ansari – is also aimed at defusing simmering anger in the disputed region.

More than 110 people were killed, most of them by police bullets, in months of deadly protests.

But New Delhi’s most important initiative on Kashmir, which India and Pakistan claim in full but rule in parts, has provoked widespread disappointment and dismay.

“…the eight-point plan of action unveiled last month had generated tremendous hope and enthusiasm. And yet the actual announcement of a three-member non-political team has provoked widespread anger and hostility and even invited ridicule,” says Amitabh Mattoo, Professor of International Studies at Delhi’s  Jawaharlal Nehru University.

Maruti 800 – an obituary?

maruti 800After the iconic Bajaj scooter,  another symbol of the eighties and the then acme of middle-class ambition — the Maruti 800 — is driving into history.

With new emission norms kicking in, it won’t be sold in 13 major cities.

Nearly three decades ago, this delicate looking car in various hues begged for space on Indian roads next to ageing off-white rivals whose stolidity was misinterpreted as dependability and ruggedness.

The car entered my life only as a toy model as we were only aspiring 800-buyers but that didn’t beat its influence.

Mind your pees & queues for the Delhi Games

With just six months to go before India hosts the Commonwealth Games, some are already wondering whether New Delhi is loo-ready for the sporting extravaganza.

File photo of an Oxford Circus lavatory cubicle in London.The capital is preparing to host more than 100,000 foreign visitors for the October Games, seen as an opportunity to show off the city as a major global destination.

Authorities have started worrying about the thousands of tourists — especially when it comes to answering the call of nature.

from Russell Boyce:

Don’t drink the water, even if there is any to drink (Update)

One more picture that caught my eye during the 24 hours news cycle for the World Water Day is the image of hundreds of hoses providing drinking water to  residents of a housing block in Jakarta.  The grubby plastic pipes supplying a fragile lifeline to families seem to represent the desperation that people face when the water supply is cut off.

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Hoses used to supply residences with water are seen hanging across a street at the Penjaringan subdistrict in Jakarta March 22, 2010. Residents in the area say that they have had to construct makeshift water supplies for their homes by attaching hoses to pumps bought with their own money, as the government has yet to repair the original water supply which was damaged. March 22 is World Water Day.     REUTERS/Beawiharta

Today, March 22 is World Water Day and Reuters photographers in Asia were given an open brief to shoot feature pictures to illustrate it.  The only requirement I asked of them is that they included in the captions, the fact that while the Earth is literally covered in water, more than a billion people lack access to clean water for drinking or sanitation. At the same time in China 50 million people are facing drought conditions and water shortages and the two stories seemed to tie in with one another.

Is the Republic Day parade still relevant?

A tableau from the Central Public Works Department (CPWD) with a theme of global warming is displayed amid heavy fog during the Republic Day parade in New Delhi January 26, 2010. REUTERS/B MathurIndia’s cultural diversity was once again on display in the main streets of Lutyens’ Delhi as the country proclaimed itself a Republic for the 61st time.

Men, women and children in uniform and vivid attire marched along with their tableaux as the armed forces turned out in full battle regalia.

All this, when a significant number of people revelled in watching Dhoni’s batting prowess in the cricket test match between India and Bangladesh.

The Ugly Indian

– Jason Overdorf writes for the GlobalPost, where this article first appeared. –

The instant that the fasten seat belts light went out aboard Cathay Pacific’s inaugural Delhi-Bangkok flight this summer, a chorus of metallic dongs erupted like a romper roomful of Ritalin-deprived 5-year-olds turned loose on an arsenal of xylophones.

The passengers were attacking their call buttons.

In seconds, flight attendants were up and running. By the time they began dishing out the special meals, tempers were beginning to fray.

Does India want its ‘Metro man’ to resign?

If the early comments on the Great Debate are anything to go by, it seems there is still a lot of goodwill towards Elattuvalapil Sreedharan.

The man behind the Delhi metro, seen as one of India’s most successful infrastructure projects, resigned on Sunday after part of a rail bridge in the capital collapsed and killed six people.

Sreedharan had enjoyed a towering profile as a civil engineer who got things done — and quickly. In the words of his spokesman, Sreedharan “can walk into the prime minister’s office. He has a reputation that he carries.”

Can Indian women trust the police?

A mob vandalized a police station in west Delhi this week after a woman accused five policemen of raping her in a police station.

This is not the first time enforcers of the law have been accused of rape.

In 2005, a 16-year-old girl was raped by a drunk constable in south Mumbai in the infamous Marine Drive rape case.

A year later, another police constable was accused of raping a slum dweller in Karnal.

Surviving as a woman in urban India

As I stood waiting for an auto rickshaw near India Gate in New Delhi last December, three big cars slowed down within a quarter of an hour to check me out. They waited for a few minutes and then drove away without anyone getting out.Many of my friends have experienced much the same thing — especially in India’s capital, a woman walking in the street is too often seen as fair game if a man isn’t with her.When I came home, I checked myself in the mirror to see what it was about my appearance that caught their eye.Bespectacled, with no make-up, dressed in loose fitting jeans and a baggy sweater, I could not figure out why. I asked my husband, “Who do I look like?”He laughed and said, “In Delhi you just have to be a woman, how you look doesn’t matter”.I have been traveling by myself on Delhi’s public transport since my college days. Bus conductors have tried to brush against my fingers while giving me a ticket, and well-dressed, middle-aged men have whispered in my ear to ask for my phone number.These experiences have changed the way I behave on the streets of a city I otherwise love. I avoid looking auto rickshaw drivers in the eye just in case they get the wrong idea and I’m always on my guard against gropers while walking, especially in markets.I avoid driving alone after eight-thirty to avoid male drivers following me, or worse. A media colleague working at one of India’s national TV channels was killed last year while driving by herself late at night. At the time, the chief minister of Delhi, Sheila Dikshit, said the girl should not have been so adventurous as to travel at three in the morning. She later said her remark had been blown out of proportion.A friend told me she complained to police when someone tried to snatch her bag in the market. Instead of investigating the case, the duty officer started questioning her about just what exactly she thought she was doing out at eight-thirty in the evening.When I look back at the families I knew growing up, I can begin to see why some men seem to think the way they do. As an only child, I had a pampered upbringing. But when I was invited to other families for lunch or dinner, if the dining room was too small to fit all the guests, the men would always be served first and given the best portion of the food.If a family could not afford to send all their children to private schools, it was invariably the girls who gave way and went to a government school instead. One of my friends, when he was a teenage boy, could go on dates without having to explain himself. But all hell would break loose if his sister had a similar adventure.When the friend of mine was looking for a suitable husband, her parents introduced her to a lot of people. She told me about one conversation she remembers: the first thing the man asked her was, “do you smoke, do you drink?”When she asked why, he said “you can’t take such girls to your mother.” He himself did enjoy a tipple, and needless to say she didn’t marry him.ALSO READ: Domestic abuse plagues India’s upper crust

Indian dilemma — To Nano or not to Nano

I was stuck in a traffic jam on one of New Delhi’s busiest roads, taking in the sights and smells of vehicles idling in all directions, when my cab driver turned to me and asked — “Are you going to buy the Tata Nano?”

It’s a question thrown at me several times over the past few months and each time the answer has been “No”.

Tata Motors is launching the Nano, the world’s cheapest car, on March 23. Bookings open in the second week of April and the 100,000-rupee car is slated to hit Indian roads before July.

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