Why India bull-taming protest may not be just about bulls

  • 20 January 2017
  • From the section India
A bull about to attack a young contestant at a Jallikattu, Tamil Nadu (file photo) Image copyright J Suresh
Image caption The sport is a 2,000-year-old tradition and a way of life with people

India, wrote author VS Naipaul, is a country of a million little mutinies, reeling with rage and revolt.

One such is now brewing in southern Tamil Nadu state, where people have been protesting against a ban on a traditional bull-taming contest, known as jallikattu. They say the ban is an attack on their culture and identity.

Thousands of largely peaceful men and women - mostly students and workers - have been holding an unprecedented beachside protest in the capital, Chennai, since Tuesday. They have been sharing food and water, sleeping in the open, and cleaning up the beach in the morning. Until now, it has been a remarkable exhibition of responsible public dissent, largely free of invective and incendiary rhetoric, which usually mark protests like these.

Outside the capital, people have demonstrated at more than 150 places. There's no let up in the momentum as the local government struggles to resolve the crisis: more than a million people are estimated to have protested across Tamil Nadu on Friday. Public transport has been affected; schools, colleges and businesses are shut. Oscar-winning music composer and Tamil Nadu's most well-known celebrity, AR Rahman, has tweeted that he's fasting in support. Cricket and movie stars have backed the movement. An overexcited newspaper report has even called it India's Arab Spring.

That may well be an exaggeration. But there is little doubt, as a journalist who is covering the protest says, that what began as small protests against the arrest of 200 young men opposing the ban last week has now snowballed into a "mass movement, leaderless and largely peaceful".

Image copyright AFP
Image caption The protests have been spontaneous and without a leader

Read full article Why India bull-taming protest may not be just about bulls

Why do Indians vote for 'criminal' politicians?

  • 16 January 2017
  • From the section India
A statue of Mahatma Gandhi overlooks the Indian parliament building as lawmakers from opposition parties form a human chain to protest against the government demonetizing high-value bills in New Delhi, India, Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2016. Image copyright AP
Image caption A third of MPs in the Indian parliament faced criminal charges

Why do India's political parties field candidates with criminal charges? Why do the voters favour them despite their tainted past?

Political scientist Milan Vaishnav has been studying links between crime and democracy in India for many years now. His upcoming book When Crime Pays offers some intriguing insights into what is a disturbing feature of India's electoral democracy.

Read full article Why do Indians vote for 'criminal' politicians?

How myths and stereotypes colour rape sentencing in India

  • 10 January 2017
  • From the section India
Indian students of Saint Joseph Degree college participate in an anti-rape protest in Hyderabad on September 13, 2013. Image copyright AFP
Image caption Tough new anti-rape laws were introduced after the brutal gang rape and murder of a student in 2012

India's Supreme Court once gave an array of curious reasons about why an Indian woman would not make a false rape claim.

In a 1983 judgement, the top court said that western and Indian women were vastly different.

Read full article How myths and stereotypes colour rape sentencing in India

Why are Indians being arrested for sitting during the national anthem?

  • 14 December 2016
  • From the section India
Indian movie goers stand up as national anthem is played at a movie hall before the screening of a movie in Jammu, India, Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016. Image copyright AP
Image caption The top court has ruled that the national anthem be played before every film and that audiences stand

Twelve people were arrested on Monday evening at a cinema in India, after they remained seated while the national anthem played.

The cinemagoers, who were attending an international film festival in the city of Trivandrum in Kerala, were later freed but they face charges of "failure to obey an order issued by a public servant, thereby causing obstruction or annoyance to others".

Read full article Why are Indians being arrested for sitting during the national anthem?

Can jet engines clean up Delhi's foul air?

  • 13 December 2016
  • From the section India
Traffic drives through smog in Delhi, India November 7, 2016. Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Delhi is one of the most polluted cities in the world

Sometime next year, if all goes well, a retired jet engine will be mounted on a flatbed trailer and taken to a coal-fired power plant in Delhi.

With the exhaust nozzle pointed at the sky, the engine will be placed near the smokestack and turned on.

Read full article Can jet engines clean up Delhi's foul air?

'My baby isn't dead, she was stolen from me'

  • 8 December 2016
  • From the section India
Media captionThe Sarkars were told their baby had a heart problem

More than two years after doctors at a clinic in the eastern Indian city of Kolkata told her that her newborn had died, Kanon Sarkar believes that her baby girl is still alive.

On a summer evening in July 2014, the clinic handed her family the corpse of an infant, tightly wrapped in white cloth, and told them to go home.

Read full article 'My baby isn't dead, she was stolen from me'

What do the cash queues tell us about India?

  • 29 November 2016
  • From the section India
Indians stand in queues to exchange or deposit discontinued currency notes outside an Axis Bank branch in central New Delhi, India. Image copyright AP
Image caption Millions of Indians have been standing in queues to deposit or withdraw cash

There was a time, not so long ago, when most Indians stood in queues for hours on end for essential goods and services.

I remember queues outside "fair-price shops", streetside taps, cinema houses and electricity offices. People lined up to buy cheap food and fuel, store up water, go to the cinema and pay bills.

Read full article What do the cash queues tell us about India?

How will India destroy 20 billion banknotes?

  • 23 November 2016
  • From the section India
In this Nov. 16, 2016 file photo, a man holds a charred facsimile of the discontinued Indian currency 500 note after a protest by a traders association demanding adequate arrangement to exchange discontinued currency notes outside Reserve Bank of India in Kolkata, India. Image copyright AP
Image caption India will destroy some 20 billion "expired" banknotes

India's central bank will have to destroy, by one estimate, some 20 billion "expired" banknotes after it scrapped two high-value denominations - the 500 ($7.60) and 1,000 rupee notes - this month to crack down on "black money" or illegal cash holdings.

To give some idea of the amount of the currency that represents - there were more than 90 billion banknotes in circulation in India last March.

Read full article How will India destroy 20 billion banknotes?

Why do India's trains keep going off the rails?

  • 21 November 2016
  • From the section India
Rescue workers search for survivors at the site of Sunday"s train derailment in Pukhrayan, south of Kanpur city, India November 21, 2016. Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Sunday's crash was the worst in India in six years

A tremor was followed by a "loud sound like an earthquake". The carriages began to shake and inside them, sleeping passengers began falling on each other. Some carriages telescoped into each other, others rose vertically, "almost standing upright".

Survivors of Sunday's horrific train crash in India also said the train was "rattling" furiously on the tracks hours before the disaster.

Read full article Why do India's trains keep going off the rails?

When the light got in for Leonard Cohen

  • 16 November 2016
  • From the section India
Leonard Cohen in Mumbai
Image caption Cohen forged a long friendship with Ratnesh Mathur, a fan, in Mumbai

On 7 February 1999, a journalist writing for India's The Times of India newspaper reported that he had briefly met Leonard Cohen in a "low-profile downtown hotel" in the city of Mumbai.

The Canadian singer, songwriter and poet had "magically materialised" in the lobby of the hotel, wrote the journalist. The "close-cropped, snow-haired" Cohen was wearing "a coal-black Armani evening suit, a cloud-grey silk shirt, an unlit cigarette dangling between forefingers".

Read full article When the light got in for Leonard Cohen