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As Officials Look Away, Hate Speech in India Nears Dangerous Levels

HARIDWAR, India — The police officer arrived at the Hindu temple here with a warning to the monks: Don’t repeat your hate speech.

Ten days earlier, before a packed audience and thousands watching online, the monks had called for violence against the country’s minority Muslims. Their speeches, in one of India’s holiest cities, promoted a genocidal campaign to “kill two million of them” and urged an ethnic cleansing of the kind that targeted Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar.

When videos of the event provoked national outrage, the police came. The saffron-clad preachers questioned whether the officer could be objective.

Yati Narsinghanand, the event’s firebrand organizer known for his violent rhetoric, assuaged their concerns.

warned that “inciting people against each other is a crime against the nation” without making a specific reference to Haridwar. Junior members of Mr. Modi’s party attended the event, and the monks have often posted pictures with senior leaders.

“You have persons giving hate speech, actually calling for genocide of an entire group, and we find reluctance of the authorities to book these people,” Rohinton Fali Nariman, a recently retired Indian Supreme Court judge, said in a public lecture. “Unfortunately, the other higher echelons of the ruling party are not only being silent on hate speech, but almost endorsing it.”

increasingly emboldened vigilante groups.

Vigilantes have beaten people accused of disrespecting cows, considered holy by some Hindus; dragged couples out of trains, cafes and homes on suspicion that Hindu women might be seduced by Muslim men; and barged into religious gatherings where they suspect people are being converted.

Myanmar was an example of how the easy dissemination of misinformation and hate speech on social media prepares the ground for violence. The difference in India, he said, is that it would be the mobs taking action instead of the military.

“You have to stop it now,” he said, “because once the mobs take over it could really turn deadly.”


The Dasna Devi temple in Uttar Pradesh state, where Mr. Narsinghanand is the chief priest, is peppered with signs that call to prepare for a “dharm yudh,” or religious war. One calls on “Hindus, my lions” to value their weapons “just the way dedicated wives value their husbands.”

The temple’s main sign prohibits Muslims from entering.

vast network of volunteers to mobilize voters and secure victories.

When he was chief minister of Gujarat, Mr. Modi saw firsthand how unchecked communal tensions could turn into bloodletting.

In 2002, a train fire killed 59 Hindu pilgrims. Although the cause was disputed, violent mobs, in response, targeted the Muslim community, leaving more than 1,000 people dead, many burned alive.

Rights organizations and opposition leaders accused Mr. Modi of looking the other way. He rejected the allegations as political attacks.

took an oath to turn India into a Hindu state, even if it meant killing for it.

role model.”

he said.

telling them.

The police arrested Mr. Narsinghanand on Jan. 15, and he was charged in court with hate speech.

“He said nothing wrong,” said Swami Amritanand, an organizer of the Haridwar event. “We are doing what America is doing, we are doing what Britain is doing.”

Mr. Amritanand said the call for arms was justified because “within the next 10 to 12 years there will be a horrible war that will play out in India.”

Late last month, the monks again sounded a violent call to create a Hindu state, this time at an event hundreds of miles away from Haridwar in Uttar Pradesh. They threatened violence — referencing a bombing of India’s assembly — if Mr. Narsinghanand was not released.

Ms. Pandey described their actions as defensive. “We must prepare to protect ourselves,” she said.

To the Haridwar police, the event in Uttar Pradesh did not count as a repeat offense. Rakendra Singh Kathait, the senior police officer in Haridwar, said Mr. Narsinghanand was in jail because he had acted again in the city; others like Ms. Pandey got a warning.

“If she goes and says it from Kolkata, it doesn’t count as repeat here,” Mr. Kathait said.

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How India’s Farmers Got Narendra Modi to Back Down

NEW DELHI — Om Prakash relied on relatives and neighbors to tend his wheat and vegetable fields. He ate food donated by sympathizers at home and abroad. When he felt feverish, he turned to volunteer medical workers huddled, like him, near a noisy overpass for months, through heat and cold and a deadly viral outbreak.

Now, his year away from his farm and his family has finally paid off.

Mr. Prakash was one of thousands of farmers in India who used their organizational skills, broad support network and sheer persistence to force one of the country’s most powerful leaders in modern history into a rare retreat. Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday said lawmakers would repeal new agricultural laws that the protesting farmers feared would leave them vulnerable to rapacious big companies and destroy their way of life.

Their victory won’t help India solve the deep inefficiencies that plague its farming sector, problems that leave people malnourished in some places even as grain in other parts is unused or exported. But it showed how a group desperate to preserve its hold on a middle-class way of life could successfully challenge a government more accustomed to squelching dissent than reckoning with it.

fast-tracked citizenship for some groups but excluded Muslims, were plagued by violence.

The effort isn’t over yet. The farmers have vowed to continue their protests until the government submits to another demand, that it guarantee a minimum price for nearly two dozen crops. Rather than retreat now, they sense an opportunity to push even harder on a prime minister who is nervously watching his party’s poll numbers dip in a string of states with elections next year. The government has said it will form a committee to consider the matter.

India’s farming system still needs to be fixed, a fact that even many of the protesting farmers acknowledge. Initiated during a time of widespread starvation in the 1960s, the system created centralized markets where farmers could sell their crops. Some of the proceeds are funneled back to farming communities though infrastructure projects, pensions and programs providing free technical advice on matters like seed and fertilizer.

in debt. With city and factory jobs hard to find in a country still struggling with poverty, many farm children emigrate to find a better life.

Mr. Modi’s laws were aimed at bringing more private money into agriculture and making it more receptive to market forces. Mr. Singh, the protest leader, said many farmers would prefer subsidies over a wider range of output.

“The root of the agricultural issue in India is that farmers are not getting the proper value of their crops,” said Mr. Singh. “There are two ways to see reforms — giving away land to the corporations, the big people, the capitalists. The other is to help the farmers increase their yields.”

The movement started in Punjab, home to a large community of Sikhs, the religious group, and some of the country’s richest agricultural land. The protest leaders leaned on both to organize and finance their yearlong demonstrations.

farmers rode tractors over police barricades into New Delhi, leading to the death of one protester. Political analysts declared the movement dead. But organizers retreated behind the barricades, and resumed their peaceful protests through the harsh winter, a devastating wave of the coronavirus, a scorching summer and into the fall.

rammed into a group of protesting farmers, resulting in the deaths of four protesters along with four other people, including a local journalist. The son of one of Mr. Modi’s ministers is among those under investigation in connection with the episode.

That incident, which came after the protesters decided to shadow campaigning B.J.P. officials to draw cameras, may have been a turning point. The B.J.P.’s poll numbers soon dropped in Uttar Pradesh, where the deaths took place. Party officials began to worry that they could lose the state in elections set for early next year.

A day after Mr. Modi’s surprise announcement, the mood near Singhu, a village in the state of Haryana that borders the capital, was somber. Religious music and political speeches blared from loudspeakers across the makeshift village of bamboo huts, where people hawked T-shirts and flags that said, “No farmers, no food.”

Outside one of the huts serving free vegetarian lunch, Mr. Prakash, the farmer, described sleeping though cold weather and rain next to a busy road, leaving his farm in the care of his brothers’ children.

Mr. Prakash, who lives off his pension from 20 years in the Indian Air Force, does not need the farm to survive. Instead, holding on to the seven acres he and his siblings inherited from their parents ensures they can maintain a middle class life in a country where the vagaries of the economy often suck people back into poverty.

Mr. Prakash said that the family farm had supported his ambitions, and that he wanted the same for his children.

“To save our motherland,” he said, “we can stay here another two years.”

Hari Kumar contributed reporting.

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Modi to Repeal India Farm Laws Following Protests

NEW DELHI — Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India announced Friday that his government would repeal contentious farm laws aimed at overhauling the country’s struggling agriculture sector, in a surprise concession to yearlong protests by angry farmers.

“We have decided to repeal all three farm laws, and will begin the procedure at the Parliament session that begins this month,” Mr. Modi said in a televised address. “I urge the protesting farmers to return home to their families, and let’s start afresh.”

Protest leaders greeted Mr. Modi’s turnaround with cautious optimism, with plans to meet in New Delhi to discuss next steps.

Many of the protesters come from India’s minority Sikh community, and Mr. Modi timed his announcement for Guru Nanak Jayanti, a holiday celebrated by Sikhs all over the world.

the market-friendly laws it passed last year, even as the farmers refused any compromise short of repealing them. The protesters remained in their tents through last year’s harsh winter, the summer heat and a deadly Covid-19 wave that caused havoc in New Delhi.

would bring private investment into a sector that more than 60 percent of India’s population still depends on for their livelihood — but has been lagging in its contribution to India’s economy.

rammed into a group of protesting farmers in Uttar Pradesh, killing four protesters along with four other people, including a local journalist. The son of one of Mr. Modi’s ministers is among those under investigation for murder in the episode.

Jagdeep Singh, whose father, Nakshatra Singh, 54, was among those killed, said the decision to repeal the laws served as homage to those who had died in the difficult conditions of a year of protests — whether from exposure to extreme temperatures, heart attacks, Covid or more. According to one farm leader, some 750 protesters have died. (The government says it does not have data on this.)

“This is a win for all those farmers who laid down their lives to save hundreds of thousands of poor farmers of this country from corporate greed,” Mr. Singh said. “They must be smiling from wherever they are.”

Karan Deep Singh and Sameer Yasir contributed reporting.

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Why India’s Farmers Are Protesting

After a year of sustained protests by farmers, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has conceded to their demands and said his government would repeal farm laws that his government had enacted to overhaul the country’s agricultural sector.

It was not in dispute that India’s previous system, which incentivized farmers to grow a huge surplus of grains, needed to be fixed. The protesters feared that the haste with which the laws were passed and the breadth of the changes they involved would send crop prices plunging. Mr. Modi’s government had argued that introducing market forces would help fix the system.

back to their villages. For years, debts and bankruptcies have been driving farmers to high rates of suicide.

The protesters challenged Prime Minister Modi’s efforts to reshape farming in India.

They called for Mr. Modi to repeal laws passed in September 2020 that would minimize the government’s role in agriculture and open more space for private investors. The government said the new laws would unshackle farmers and private investment, bringing growth. But farmers feared that the removal of state protections, which they already considered insufficient, would leave them at the mercy of greedy corporations.

Government support for farmers, which included guaranteed minimum prices for certain essential crops, helped India move past its hunger crisis of the 1960s. But with India liberalizing its economy in recent decades, Mr. Modi — who wants the country’s economy to nearly double by 2024 — realized that such a large government role in the farm sector was no longer sustainable.

Farmers, however, contended that they were struggling even with the existing protections. They feared that market-friendly laws would eventually eliminate regulatory support and leave them bereft, with the weakened economy offering little chance of a different livelihood.

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India’s Toxic Air Pollution Prompts Supreme Court to Act

NEW DELHI — A thick blanket of noxious haze has settled over the Indian capital of New Delhi, burning eyes and lungs, forcing schools to close and prompting ardent calls from residents for action.

India’s leaders have responded with what has become an annual tradition: by pointing fingers at one another.

The central government, run by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is accusing city officials of inaction, and vice versa. The country’s Supreme Court has stepped in to shut down factories and order farmers to stop burning fields. But the court’s other efforts, which last year included ordering the installation of a pair of air-scrubbing filter towers, have been derided as ineffectual.

The airborne murk and the towers stand as symbols of India’s deep political dysfunction. The choking pollution has become an annual phenomenon, and the country’s scientists can accurately predict the worst days. But deep partisanship and official intransigence have hindered steps that could help clear the air.

by major wildfires. It criticized officials for what it called their “don’t take any step” position.

India was home to 15 of the 20 cities with the most hazardous air globally, and health experts have detailed how such conditions can lead to brain damage, respiratory problems and early death.

Weaning the country off coal and other dirty fuels will be difficult, a reality underscored by climate negotiations that took place in Glasgow, Scotland, this month. India already struggles to meet its basic power needs. During the Scotland talks, India and China teamed up to insist upon a last-minute amendment to the language of the accord, to “phase down” coal rather than ease it out.

Mr. Modi argues that India’s increasing use of coal and other fossil fuels is helping build an economy that is lifting millions out of poverty. But emissions from burning coal make the pollution problem worse for city dwellers, particularly the poor, who cannot afford air purifier machines or the electricity to run them.

Adesh Gupta, the Delhi president of Mr. Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, said that Delhi’s top elected official, Arvind Kejriwal, should resign.

“Instead of making Delhi a world-class city as he claimed, Kejriwal has made it a smog city,” Mr. Gupta said.

clearing their fields with fires.

“Farmers in neighboring states are compelled to burn stubble as their governments are doing nothing for them,” Mr. Kejriwal said.

The Supreme Court stepped in last year, too, ordering the two sides to take steps like enforcing a ban on farm fires and capturing power plant emissions. It also ordered Delhi early last year to build the two experimental smog towers, despite experts’ doubts about their impact. A study last year in the peer-reviewed journal Atmosphere called the approach unscientific.

“Can we vacuum our air pollution problem using smog towers? The short answer is no,” the researchers said.

Still, they are a tempting refuge for people desperate to escape the city’s bad air.

As a coppery sun set behind smoky skies, Jasmer Singh rested under a smog tower in central Delhi as it sucked in polluted air. A monitor measuring the levels of dangerous particulate matter showed that the air it spit out was slightly cleaner, but far from what the World Health Organization considers safe.

Still, Mr. Singh, a volunteer at a nearby Sikh temple, said, “around here, the air is good, lighter and better.”

Some members of both Mr. Modi’s party and the opposition say they want to take a serious, nonpartisan look at the problem.

“The blame game will be always there,” said Vikas Mahatme, a lawmaker with the B.J.P. Summing up the attitudes of many politicians, he said, “Why one should bother about other states? They are not voters to consider.”

Still, getting all sides to work together will be difficult, he acknowledged. “We are not very active,” he said. “I tell you freely.”

More information about clean aire and pure water can be found at AllHealthyInfo.com

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