Displaying items by tag: India

Massive floods in India, Nepal, and Bangladesh have killed dozens and affected millions. Heavy rains have caused many major rivers to overflow, leading to large-scale devastation. In Nepal, floods have killed more than forty people and damaged key infrastructure. In Assam, India, 66 people have died, and 2.4 million are affected. Bangladesh has reported eight deaths: the overflowing Brahmaputra has inundated a quarter of the districts in the country. Floods and landslides are not uncommon during South Asia's monsoon season, when it receives up to 90% of its annual rainfall; but experts say the issue has worsened in recent years due to climate change. Large-scale rescue operations are under way, with authorities directing thousands to shelters while sending food and supplies to those who are stranded.

Published in Worldwide
Friday, 05 July 2024 11:14

India: at least 120 killed in stampede

At least 120 people have been killed in a crush at a Hindu religious gathering in Uttar Pradesh. Many victims, including women and children, are still being identified. The disaster occurred when a narrow exit and a fierce dust storm caused panic, leading to a stampede. Witnesses described the chaos, with people falling on each other and some into a roadside drain.  The dead included at least three children. A high-level committee is investigating the overcrowding and poor safety measures at the venue. Survivors and relatives criticised the lack of immediate response from senior officials. The administration’s primary focus is now on aiding the injured and the families of the deceased. Such accidents are common in India due to large crowds and inadequate safety protocols at religious events.

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A usually staid swearing-in procedure for Indian parliamentarians turned controversial when veteran opposition legislator Asaduddin Owaisi chanted ‘Jai Palestine’ after taking his oath. ‘Jai’, meaning victory in Sanskrit, can be translated as ‘Long live’. He was accused by colleagues from the ruling BJP of violating his constitutional pledge by showing loyalty to another nation, a charge he denied. During the ceremony, Owaisi swore his oath in Urdu, pledging loyalty to the country’s constitution - but then chanted ‘Jai Bhim, Jai Meem, Jai Telangana, Jai Filisteen’. Each slogan represents various communities and regions: ‘Jai Bhim’ for Dalits, ‘Jai Meem’ referring to his party AIMIM, ‘Jai Telangana’ for his home state, and ‘Jai Filisteen’ for Palestine. This incident, amid India's complex political landscape, highlights his advocacy for minority and Dalit rights. He has been an MP from Hyderabad since 2004 and president of AIMIM since 2008, and is known for his fiery oratory in Parliament.

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Following the national elections, Narendra Modi is set to lose his parliamentary majority. His Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) may need to form alliances to retain power. The current poll results suggest that while the BJP will remain the largest party, it might fall short of an outright majority, securing between 230-240 seats in the 543-member Lok Sabha, the lower house of Parliament. This potential shortfall would force Modi to seek coalition partners to govern effectively - a significant shift from the 2014 and 2019 elections, where the BJP secured decisive victories. Despite his personal popularity, this result might reshape India's political landscape, making governance more complex and coalition-dependent​. He will find it challenging to maintain political dominance amid increasing economic and social challenges, including high unemployment and rural distress. Some fears have been expressed about his long-term future, and the Indian stock market has tumbled in value in response.

Published in Worldwide
Thursday, 25 April 2024 21:52

India: world’s biggest election explained

On 19 April Indians commenced voting  for their next parliament, with Narendra Modi seeking a third term. Opinion polls favour his BJP party and its allies over an opposition alliance of over two dozen parties including Congress. The election is unfolding amidst bitterness, with opposition leaders alleging an unfair playing field. The numbers are mindboggling: a staggering 969 million voters (almost one-eighth of the world’s population) are eligible to vote, electing 543 MPs. The process will run in seven phases over six weeks: results will be announced on 4 June. Election commissioner Rajiv Kumar has vowed to ‘take democracy to every corner of India’, with some polling booths in the unlikeliest of places. Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, is seen as a key battleground. The outcome of this monumental electoral process will shape India's political landscape for the next five years.

Published in Worldwide
Thursday, 11 April 2024 23:07

India: free movement with Myanmar revoked

Vanlalchaka, who lives in the border village of Zokhawthar, has been assisting refugees fleeing the civil war in neighbouring Myanmar since 2021. His village operates seamlessly with Khawmawi, a village just across the border. However, due to security concerns the Indian government has now decided to scrap the free movement regime with Myanmar – a shattering blow for indigenous communities living on both sides of the border. Vanlalchaka and his wife fear that families will be separated and lose livelihoods dependent on open borders for trade and access to essential commodities. The decision also exacerbates the plight of refugees from Myanmar, many of whom seek medical treatment and refuge in villages like Zokhawthar. The move, ahead of the first stage of the national elections on 19 April, has sparked criticism and resistance from border communities and political leaders.

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Narendra Modi's government has been accused by the opposition Congress party of using the tax department to financially cripple them ahead of the upcoming elections in April and May, which Modi’s BJP party are favourites to win. Congress leader Sonia Gandhi claimed a systematic effort to starve the party of funds, stating that freezing their 2.1 billion rupee (£20 million) accounts is unprecedented and undemocratic. Her son Rahul said, ‘This is not the freezing of our bank accounts. It is the freezing of Indian democracy.’ Without access to funds, the party is unable to spend money on advertisements and publicity, paying party workers, and printing campaign materials, They have also pointed out that this action has been taken at a time when it had just been revealed that the BJP had benefited hugely from the electoral bonds scheme set up in 2018, which the supreme court declared illegal in February. The BJP and tax authorities have yet to respond.

Published in Worldwide
Thursday, 21 March 2024 21:17

India to prosecute 35 Somali pirates

India is set to prosecute 35 Somali pirates captured after freeing a ship which they had hijacked on 14 December in the Northern Arabian Sea. The rescue operation, lasting about 40 hours, involved drones, navy vessels, and marine commandos.The pirates, due to arrive in India soon, will face legal action, although specific charges were not disclosed. This was the first commercial ship hijacking by Somali pirates since 2017, but another ship was hijacked on 12 March. India has bolstered its naval presence internationally, and aims to police the Gulf of Aden to prevent Houthi attacks on ships linked to Israel. The Houthis, controlling most of Yemen, have threatened to target ships until Israel halts what they term as genocide in Gaza.

Published in Worldwide
Thursday, 15 February 2024 22:19

India: two mosques demolished

The recent demolition of two mosques has accentuated religious divisions as India prepares for elections in April / May, expected to secure prime minister Narendra Modi a third term. The demolitions, in Uttarakhand and Delhi, come weeks after the inauguration of the contentious Ram Mandir temple on the site of a historic mosque torn down by Hindu fundamentalists in the 1990s. That ceremony, marking a huge shift away from modern India’s secular founding principles, was hailed by Hindu nationalists as a crowning moment in their decades-long campaign to reshape the nation. Both demolitions were supposedly because of ‘illegal encroachment’. In Uttarakhand, violent confrontations followed, claiming six lives and prompting curfews. Many scared Muslims have said they just want to leave. Analysts fear escalating religious tensions as Modi's BJP advances its populist, divisive policies ahead of the elections. Despite Modi's aspiration to portray India as a vibrant modern superpower, many Muslims feel marginalised in the world’s largest democracy.

Published in Worldwide
Thursday, 04 January 2024 21:05

Global: elections in the first half of 2024

2024 will see the most extensive year of elections ever, with 4.2 billion people in 76 countries set to vote. However, the state of democracy appears precarious; global reports show it contracting, accompanied by widespread disillusionment, especially among the youth. Elections often fail to rekindle faith in democracy, and authoritarian leaders often exploit them to their own ends. Moreover, elections can expose democracies to external threats, exemplified by Taiwan (13 January), under great pressure from its neighbour China. The one in Bangladesh (8 January) merely solidifies existing rule, with the main opposition party abstaining. In February Pakistan's election may escalate the conflict between Imran Khan and the military, while in Indonesia the outgoing president is backing a candidate who has a record of human rights abuses. 17 March will demonstrate a stark contrast: Russia's vote will proceed while Ukraine's may be postponed to protect its voters from being killed by Russian bombs. In South Africa, maybe as early as May, an opposition coalition could take power - but would that make any significant difference? The month-long election in India carries concerns over prime minister Narendra Modi’s growing authoritarianism. In June the EU assembly elections, the world's second-largest, may see far-right, anti-democratic parties making significant gains, further complicating the global democratic landscape.

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