What divorce and separation tell us about modern India

  • 29 September 2016
  • From the section India
Indian marriage Image copyright AFP
Image caption Less than one in 1,000 marriages end up in divorce in India

"There can be no objection to the right of divorce. But conferring this right on women, by itself, would be unmeaning and probably more productive of harm than of good," wrote a commentator in a floridly-worded essay in May 1949 on the changing status of women and divorce in India.

Writing in the respected journal Economic Weekly, Roma Mehta said women in India were "more protected and much better cared for than in the West"; that they found "more happiness more often than not in her home; and her troubles and heartaches were solved in family" where she lived. "The incompatibility may sometimes be very great indeed; but in spite of it all, the family is maintained."

She argued that divorce did not "concern the very vast majority of people" in a country where the economy is fundamentally rural, people are uneducated with no contact with the outside world, and the "clamour for better living is absent". So, wrote Ms Mehta, the "problems of love and hate, of marriage and remarriage, are solved on a simple plan which is worked out for the community only".

Changing equations

That was then. The landmark Hindu Code Bill passed in the parliament in the mid-1950s gave women property rights, outlawed polygamy and allowed partners to file for divorce. The laws were further tweaked in 1976 to allow divorce by mutual consent.

Over time, the traditional joint family has given way to nuclear families in cities and towns; and more and more women are going to work or setting up their own businesses. Many urban women no longer have to depend on their spouses for financial security, men are sharing household chores; and gender equations are slowly changing.

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Is India in the throes of a fever outbreak?

  • 21 September 2016
  • From the section India
In this Thursday, Sept. 15, 2016 file photo, people suffering from fever, one of the main symptoms of several mosquito-borne diseases, recover at Ram Manohar Lohia hospital in New Delhi, India. Image copyright AP
Image caption Hospitals in Delhi are swamped with patients suffering from viral fevers

Every other day, the news arrives with depressing regularity: viral fevers are tormenting a city, or a town, or a cluster of villages in India. People are sick everywhere.

The capital, Delhi, is fighting an outbreak of chikungunya. Next door, Haryana is battling malaria. Down south, the info-tech hub of Bangalore is grappling with both. Dengue has returned with a vengeance in Kolkata and its neighbouring areas. Clinics in populous Uttar Pradesh are swamped with patients suffering from fever.

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Why India needs cool heads after Kashmir attack

  • 20 September 2016
  • From the section India
Smoke billows out from inside an Indian Army base which was attacked by suspected militants in Uri, some 115 west of Srinagar, the summer capital of Indian Kashmir, 18 September 2016 Image copyright EPA
Image caption The militants stormed a base in Uri, close to the Line of Control with Pakistan on Sunday

Are India and Pakistan facing a war-like situation after militants attacked an army base in Indian-administered Kashmir on Sunday, killing 18 soldiers? India has blamed the attack on a Pakistan-based group, despite denials from Islamabad.

The headlines said it all next morning: they spoke about Prime Minister Narendra Modi "vowing action" and "weighing response" and the army "asking government to consider cross-border strikes". One headline screamed ominously: "Response will come and swiftly."

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Why India's food police are kicking up a storm

  • 13 September 2016
  • From the section India
Chicken biryani Image copyright Ankit Srinivas
Image caption Different parts of India serve different variations of biriyani

When police in northern India recently began checking dishes of mutton biryani to ensure that they did not contain beef, critics said it was another example of what they are calling "food fascism".

The recent drive happened in a Muslim-dominated cluster of villagers in Haryana state, which is governed by India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

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What happened to Mother Teresa's sceptics?

  • 2 September 2016
  • From the section India
Mother Teresa Image copyright AFP
Image caption The Nobel laureate nun, who died in 1997, founded the Missionaries of Charity

When Mother Teresa, the Roman Catholic nun who worked with the poor in the city of Kolkata (Calcutta), is declared a saint on Sunday, her critics will be insisting that faith has triumphed over reason and science.

The Nobel laureate nun, who died in 1997, aged 87, founded in 1950 the Missionaries of Charity, a sisterhood which has more than 3,000 nuns worldwide. She set up hospices, soup kitchens, schools, leper colonies and homes for abandoned children and was called the Saint of the Gutters, for her work in the city's heaving slums.

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Why India needs to get rid of its sedition law

  • 29 August 2016
  • From the section India
Indian college lecturers, teachers and political activists hold placards as they shout anti-government slogans in New Delhi on February 12, 2011 during a protest against the life sentence handed down to doctor and social activist, Binayak Sen, on charges of sedition in India's Chhattisgarh state. Amnesty International has described Binayak Sen as a 'prisoner of conscience' but the court insisted the doctor helped outlawed Maoist guerrillas in the insurgency-riven state. An Indian court on February 10 refused bail for Sen sentenced to life in prison on charges of helping Maoist insurgents, in a case that has drawn international condemnation. Image copyright AFP
Image caption India's colonial era sedition law was introduced in the 1870s

In India, you can be charged with sedition for liking a Facebook post, criticising a yoga guru, cheering a rival cricket team, drawing cartoons, asking a provocative question in a university exam, or not standing up in a cinema when the national anthem is being played.

So when actress-politician Divya Spandana, better known by her screen name Ramya, made some remarks last week praising Pakistan, a lawyer filed a private case in a local court, seeking to get her charged with sedition for "appreciating the people of Pakistan", India's neighbour and rival.

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How an Indian writer 'returned from the dead'

  • 25 August 2016
  • From the section India
Perumal Murugan
Image caption Perumal Murugan is seen as one of the finest writers in the Tamil language

For months after Perumal Murugan declared himself "dead" as a writer following vicious protests against his novel by Hindu and caste-based groups last year, he couldn't read or write.

"I became a walking corpse," says Murugan, who is considered to be one of the most accomplished writers in the Tamil language.

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Indian women make history in Rio

  • 19 August 2016
  • From the section India
ndhu Pusarla V. of India in action against Nozomi Okuhara of Japan during their Rio 2016 Olympic Games Women"s Single Semifinal match at the Riocentro in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 18 August 2016 Image copyright EPA
Image caption PV Sindhu is the youngest Indian to win an Olympic medal

On Friday evening, a 21-year-old became the first Indian woman to win a silver medal at the Olympic Games.

Ninth seeded shuttler PV Sindhu, lithe and lethal on court, also became the youngest Indian ever to win an Olympic medal.

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Why flying kites in India can be deadly

  • 18 August 2016
  • From the section India
In this Aug. 15, 2013 file photo, a boy flies a kite from the roof of a house as other kites seem to flock in the sky above as Indians celebrate Independence Day in New Delhi, I Image copyright AP
Image caption Kite flying is a popular sport in India and Pakistan

Kite flying seems like a harmless sport. But it can also be deadly - earlier this week, two children and a man were killed after their throats were slit by kite strings that had been coated with glass.

Kite flying is a popular sport in India and Pakistan. There was even a time when men fought brutal battles in the skies with their kites.

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The 'puzzling' disappearance of an Indian military plane

  • 16 August 2016
  • From the section India
File photo of An-32 Image copyright Indian Air Force
Image caption The Indian air force operates more than 100 Antonov-32 aircraft

On 22 July, an Indian military plane with 29 people on board, including six crew members, went missing over the Bay of Bengal.

More than three weeks and a massive search operation later, there is no trace of the plane.

Read full article The 'puzzling' disappearance of an Indian military plane