News & Current Affairs

March 7, 2010

Australia charges a man over Indian boy’s death

Filed under: Latest, Politics News, Travel — Tags: , , , , — expressyoureself @ 3:41 pm

Australia charges a man over Indian boy’s death

Undated police handout of Gurshan Singh

Gurshan Singh disappeared from a house in Melbourne

Police in Australia’s south-eastern state of Victoria have charged a man with manslaughter in relation to the death of a three-year-old Indian boy.

Dhillon Gursewak, 23, lived in the same house in the Melbourne area where the boy was staying during his holiday. He is not said to be a relative.

He is accused of criminal negligence, Australian media reported.

Gurshan Singh’s body was found on Thursday by the side of a road about 30km (19 miles) away from the house.

His parents had reported him missing.

There have been a number of racist attacks on Indians in the past year.

Australian officials have warned against jumping to conclusions.

Police have been treating the incident as a possible homicide. No cause of death has yet been established and the boy’s body is said to have shown no signs of injury.

Racism charges

Gurshan Singh, who was visiting from Punjab in northern India, disappeared from a house in the north of Melbourne early on Thursday afternoon.

About six hours after his disappearance, a council worker found a body at the side of a road which police said matched the boy’s description.

Indian students rally in Melbourne, Australia, 31 May 2009

Attacks on the Indian community have provoked street protests

The boy, whose mother was studying in Australia, had been in the country for about six weeks.

His death came as Australia was making efforts to improve relations with India, a major export market, after a series of alleged race attacks.

The latest known attack was in January when Nitin Garg, 21, was stabbed to death as he walked to work at a burger restaurant.

Australia’s foreign minister had earlier acknowledged that some of the attacks, which prompted street protests last year, were racially motivated.

Earlier, senior officials and police had denied this.

Last month, thousands of Australians visited Indian restaurants for a Vindaloos Against Violence campaign, aimed at showing solidarity with the 450,000-strong community.

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July 2, 2009

Gay sex ‘not criminal’ in India

Filed under: Health and Fitness, Latest, Politics News — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , — expressyoureself @ 8:00 am

Gay sex ‘not criminal’ in India

Gay rights march in India

Rights groups have long campaigned for a repeal of the law

A court in the Indian capital, Delhi, has ruled that homosexual intercourse between consenting adults is not a criminal act.

The ruling overturns a 148-year-old colonial law which describes a same-sex relationship as an “unnatural offence”.

Homosexual acts were punishable by a 10-year prison sentence.

Many people in India regard same-sex relationships as illegitimate. Rights groups have long argued that the law contravened human rights.

Delhi’s High Court ruled that the law outlawing homosexual acts was discriminatory and a “violation of fundamental rights”.

The court said that a statute in Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which defines homosexual acts as “carnal intercourse against the order of nature” and made them illegal, was an “antithesis of the right to equality”.

‘India’s Stonewall’

The ruling is historic in a country where homosexuals face discrimination and persecution on a daily basis but it is likely to be challenged, says the BBC’s Soutik Biswas in Delhi.

It also promises to change the discourse on sexuality in a largely conservative country, where even talking about sex is largely taboo, our correspondent says.

Gay rights activists all over the country welcomed the ruling and said it was “India’s Stonewall”.

New York’s Stonewall riot in 1969 is credited with launching the gay rights movement.

“It [the ruling] is India’s Stonewall. We are elated. I think what now happens is that a lot of our fundamental rights and civic rights which were denied to us can now be reclaimed by us,” activist and lawyer Aditya Bandopadhyay told the BBC.

Gay rights march in India

Homosexuals face discrimination in India

“It is a fabulously written judgement, and it restores our faith in the judiciary,” he said.

Leading gay rights activist and the editor of India’s first gay magazine Ashok Row Kavi welcomed the judgement but said the stigma against homosexuals will persist.

“The social stigma will remain. It is [still] a long struggle. But the ruling will help in HIV prevention. Gay men can now visit doctors and talk about their problems. It will help in preventing harassment at police stations,” Mr Kavi told the news.

But the decision was greeted with unease by other groups.

Father Dominic Emanuel of India’s Catholic Bishop Council said the church did not “approve” of homosexual behaviour.

“Our stand has always been very clear. The church has no serious objection to decriminalising homosexuality between consenting adults, the church has never considered homosexuals as criminals,” said Father Emanuel.

“But the church does not approve of this behaviour. It doesn’t consider it natural, ethical, or moral,” he said.

In 2004, the Indian government opposed a legal petition that sought to legalise homosexuality – a petition the high court in Delhi dismissed.

But rights groups and the Indian government’s HIV/Aids control body have demanded that homosexuality be legalised.

The National Aids Control Organisation (Naco) has said that infected people were being driven underground and efforts to curb the virus were being hampered.

According to one estimate, more than 8% of homosexual men in India were infected with HIV, compared to fewer than 1% in the general population.


Are you in India? What is your reaction to the court ruling? How will it change life for homosexuals in India?

June 30, 2009

Yemen jet crashes in Indian Ocean

Filed under: Latest, Politics News — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , — expressyoureself @ 11:22 am

Yemen jet crashes in Indian Ocean

The Yemenia Airbus 310 that crashed - photo Air Team Images

The plane has been found to have had a number of faults

A Yemeni airliner with more than 150 people on board has crashed in the Indian Ocean near the Comoros islands.

Some bodies have been found and a child rescued alive, officials from the carrier, Yemenia, said.

The Airbus 310 flight IY626 was flying from the Yemeni capital Sanaa, but many passengers on the plane began their journey in France.

The cause of the crash is not clear. A French minister said faults were found on the plane during a check in 2007.

“The A310 in question was inspected in 2007 by the DGAC [French transport authorities] and they noticed a certain number of faults. Since then the plane had not returned to France,” Transport Minister Dominique Bussereau was quoted as telling French TV.

RECENT AIR CRASHES
1 June: An Air France Airbus plane travelling from Rio de Janeiro to Paris disappears in the Atlantic with 228 people on board
20 May: An Indonesian army C-130 Hercules transport plane crashes into a village on eastern Java, killing at least 97 people
12 February: A plane crashes into a house in Buffalo, New York, killing all 49 people on board and one person on the ground

“The company was not on the black list but was subject to stricter checks on our part, and was due to be interviewed shortly by the European Union’s safety committee.”

Mr Bussereau had earlier told French media that bad weather was the likely cause.

The European Union Transport Commissioner Antonio Tajani said he would propose setting up a worldwide blacklist of airlines deemed to be unsafe. The EU already has its own list.

Reports say the plane was due in the Comoros capital Moroni at about 0230 (2230GMT on Monday). Most of the passengers had travelled to Sanaa from Paris or Marseille on a different aircraft.

The flight on to Moroni was also thought to have made a stop in Djibouti.

There were more than 150 people on board, including three babies and 11 crew.

An airport source told AFP news agency that 66 of the passengers were French, although many are thought to have dual French-Comoran citizenship.

This is the second air tragedy this month involving large numbers of French citizens.

On 1 June an Air France Airbus 330 travelling from Rio de Janeiro to Paris plunged into the Atlantic, killing all 228 people on board.

‘Aborted landing’

A search is under way, with the French military assisting with the operation.

French military personnel leave Reunion to join rescue operation

French military are assisting with the search operation

Officials told AFP that wreckage from the plane, an oil slick and bodies had been spotted in the water a few kilometres from Moroni, on the island of Njazidja (Grande Comore).

“The weather conditions were rough; strong wind and high seas,” Yemenia official Mohammad al-Sumairi told Reuters news agency.

The BBC’s Will Ross, in Kenya, says that given the fact the crash happened during the night and in the sea, the chances of finding any survivors are slim.

The three Comoros islands are about 300km (190 miles) northwest of Madagascar in the Mozambique channel.

A resident near the airport told the BBC about 100 people were trying to get into the airport to find out more information, but without much success.

The airline Yemenia is 51% owned by the Yemeni government and 49% by the Saudi government.

In 1996, a hijacked Ethiopian airliner came down in the same area – most of the 175 passengers and crew were killed.

Map of aircraft's route


Have you been affected by the crash? Do you have any information about it you would like to share?

January 24, 2009

India PM undergoes heart surgery

India PM undergoes heart surgery

Manmohan Singh

Mr Singh’s surgery comes just months before a general election in India

Doctors have begun heart bypass surgery on Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh after he was admitted to hospital in Delhi, Indian media report.

A team of six to eight surgeons was expected to operate on the 76-year-old leader, after two blockages were found in his arteries, officials said.

Mr Singh previously had bypass surgery in 1990 and an angioplasty in 2004.

The ruling Congress Party says he will still lead the party in the forthcoming general election which is due by May.

Mr Singh underwent tests earlier this week after he complained of chest pains.

He will have “coronary artery bypass graft surgery” performed by doctors from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, India’s top state-run hospital, and the Asian Heart Institute in Mumbai.

Doctors say that there is “very little risk” associated with Mr Singh’s surgery and that the prime minister should be fit to resume normal duties in three to four weeks.

Succession speculation

This is not a good time for the prime minister to be removed from the political fray, given the tense relations with Pakistan in the wake of the Mumbai attacks.

Rahul Gandhi

Will Rahul Gandhi emerge as a successor to Mr Singh?

Congress has so far dismissed concerns that Mr Singh’s health would interfere with its current election campaign.

But there has been widespread speculation that party chief Sonia Gandhi has been lining up her son, Rahul Gandhi, heir to India’s powerful Gandhi dynasty, as the country’s next prime minister.

Mr Singh has largely been in good health since he was sworn in as prime minister in May 2004, but he recently underwent prostate surgery and has also had cataract treatment.

Mr Singh, who studied economics at Cambridge and Oxford, became India’s finance minister in 1991 when the country was plunging into bankruptcy, and is widely regarded as the architect of the country’s economic reform programme.

The quietly spoken economist-politician is also seen as the cleanest politician in India, a subject dear to voters’ hearts.

Government officials said that Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee will take charge of cabinet meetings during the prime minister’s absence.

December 1, 2008

Mumbai official offers to resign

Mumbai official offers to resign

A man reads a newspaper outside the Chandanwadi Crematorium in Mumbai on Sunday, November 30

Mumbai has been shaken by the attacks

The deputy chief minister of the Indian state of Maharashtra has offered to resign after criticism for failing to deal with the Mumbai attacks.

RR Patil said his decision was guided by his “conscience”.

Armed with guns and bombs, attackers targeted multiple locations on Wednesday, killing at least 172 people.

Meanwhile, on Monday Mumbai limped back to normality with markets, schools and colleges open and heavy traffic on the city’s streets.

On Sunday, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh opened cross-party talks on setting up a federal agency of investigation after the attacks.

Home Minister Shivraj Patil resigned, saying he took “moral responsibility”.

Mr Patil’s resignation was accepted by the prime minister but an offer to resign from the national security adviser, MK Narayanan, was turned down.

Questions have been asked about India’s failure to pre-empt the attacks, and the time taken to eliminate the gunmen.

Two of Mumbai’s best five-star hotels – Taj Mahal Palace and Oberoi-Trident – and a busy railway station were among the high-profile targets which were hit.

The violence which began on Wednesday night finally ended on Saturday morning.

I looked back to see the waiter who was serving me getting hit by a bullet
Shivaji Mukherjee
Mumbai attack survivor

The attacks have increased tensions with Pakistan after allegations that the gunmen had Pakistani links.

Islamabad denies any involvement, but India’s Deputy Home Minister Shakeel Ahmad told the news it was “very clearly established” that all the attackers had been from Pakistan.

Indian troops killed the last of the gunmen at the Taj Mahal Palace hotel on Saturday.

‘Minor incidents’

“I have gone by my conscience and put in my papers,” Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister RR Patil was quoted by news agency Press Trust of India as saying.

Public anger has been building up against Mr Patil ever since media reports that he made light of the terror attack by saying that such “minor incidents do happen in big cities”.

The minister also told a press conference that “the terrorists had ammunition to kill 5,000 people. But the brave police, security forces crushed their designs and reduced the damage to a much lesser degree”.

The claim has not been confirmed by the security forces.

Meanwhile, on Monday morning normal peak-hour traffic has been leading to jams in many places across the city.

Hotels across the city have tightened security with guests being frisked before being allowed entry.

Most hotels are not letting any vehicles enter as a precautionary measure.

Protests

On Sunday, Prime Minister Singh held a cross-party meeting in Delhi.

Mr Singh was quoted by Reuters news agency as saying he planned to increase the size and strength of the country’s anti-terrorist forces.

As few as 10 militants may have been involved in Wednesday’s assault which saw attacks in multiple locations including a hospital and a Jewish centre.

While the vast majority of victims were Indians, at least 22 foreigners are known to have died, including victims from Israel, the US, Germany, Japan, Canada, Australia, Italy, Singapore, Thailand and France. One Briton, Andreas Liveras, was also killed.

When coastguards boarded the vessel, they found… a satellite phone and GPS tracker that possibly belonged to the trawler’s crew.

Hundreds of people took to the streets of Mumbai on Sunday to protest at the perceived government failures.

Protesters said the authorities should have been more prepared for the attacks, and also questioned whether warnings were ignored and the time it took commandos to reach the scenes of the attacks.

Police continued on Sunday to sift through the debris in the Taj hotel.

They are also questioning the one attacker who was captured alive to try to establish who masterminded the assault.

 Map of Mumbai showing location of attacks

November 18, 2008

Hijacked oil tanker nears Somalia

Hijacked oil tanker nears Somalia

The Sirius Star oil tanker (undated image)

The Sirius Star’s cargo has an estimated value of $100m

A giant Saudi oil tanker seized by pirates in the Indian Ocean is nearing the coast of Somalia, the US Navy says.

The Sirius Star is the biggest tanker ever to be hijacked, with a cargo of 2m barrels – a quarter of Saudi Arabia’s daily output – worth more than $100m.

The vessel was captured in what the navy called an “unprecedented” attack 450 nautical miles (830km) off the Kenyan coast on Saturday.

Its international crew of 25, including two Britons, is said to be safe.

The ship’s operator, Vela International, said a response team had been mobilized to work towards ensuring the safe release of vessel and crew.

Map showing areas of pirate attacks

The hijacking was highly unusual both in terms of the size of the ship and the fact it was attacked so far from the African coast.

The seizure points to the inability of a multi-national naval task force sent to the region earlier this year to stop Somali piracy, he says.

The US Fifth Fleet said the supertanker was “nearing an anchorage point” at Eyl, a port often used by pirates based in Somalia’s Puntland region.

Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the pirates involved were well trained.

“Once they get to a point where they can board, it becomes very difficult to get them off, because, clearly, now they hold hostages,” he told a Pentagon briefing in Washington.

Oil price rises

Hijackings off the coast of East Africa and the Gulf of Aden – an area of more than 1m square miles – make up one-third of all global piracy incidents this year, according the International Maritime Bureau.

THE SIRIUS STAR
The Sirius Star oil tanker (image from Aramco website)
Length of a US aircraft carrier
Can carry 2m barrels of oil
Biggest vessel to be hijacked

They are usually resolved peacefully through negotiations for ransom but, given the value of the cargo in this instance, a military response has not been ruled out, our correspondent says.

At least 12 vessels – including the Ukrainian freighter MV Faina, which was seized in September – remain captive and under negotiation with around 250 crew being held hostage.

This month alone, pirates have seized a Japanese cargo ship off Somalia, a Chinese fishing boat off Kenya and a Turkish ship transporting chemicals off Yemen.

War-torn Somalia has not had an effective government since 1991.

The South Korean-built Sirius Star was seized as it headed for the US via the southern tip of Africa, prompting a rise in crude oil prices on global markets.

The route around the Cape of Good Hope is a main thoroughfare for fully-laden supertankers from the Gulf.

With a capacity of 318,000 dead weight tonnes, the ship is 330m (1,080ft) long – about the length of a US aircraft carrier.

Owned by the Saudi company Aramco, it made its maiden voyage in March.

As well as the two Britons, the ship’s crew members are said to be from Croatia, the Philippines, Poland and Saudi Arabia.


Are you affected by the issues in this story? What are your experiences? Send us your comments

September 19, 2008

India police kill ‘two militants’

India police kill ‘two militants’

Breaking News

Police in the Indian capital Delhi say they have killed two suspected militants in a shoot-out, days after a series of bomb blasts in the city.

A senior official said two policemen were injured in the clash with militants around a house in the Muslim dominated Jamia Nagar area.

There was a “fierce exchange” of gunfire around the house, eyewitnesses told the news.

At least 20 people died in a series of blasts in the city last week.

Television news channels showed an ambulance taking away a bloodied person from the crowded Jamia Nagar area after the gun battle ended.

Witnesses told the BBC that a large contingent of policemen surrounded a four-storey home where the suspected militants were supposed to be hiding.

“The police were firing at the fourth and top storey of the building. A lot of people had gathered around the building,” one eyewitness said.

On Wednesday, Delhi police issued sketches of three men who they believe were involved in the bomb attacks that hit the city on Saturday.

About 90 people were injured when the five devices went off in busy shopping areas within minutes of each other.

An e-mail purportedly from a group calling itself the “Indian Mujahideen” claimed it carried out the attacks.

September 15, 2008

Arrests over India church attacks

Arrests over India church attacks

A church attacked by a mob in Karnataka on 14 September 2008

The attacks on churches were reported from two districts

Police in the southern Indian state of Karnataka have arrested over 60 people in connection with attacks on churches and clergymen over the weekend.

More than a dozen churches were ransacked by alleged activists of the radical Hindu group Bajrang Dal.

The Bajrang Dal claims that Hindus are being illegally converted to Christianity in the area.

Last month, anti-Christian violence in the eastern Orissa state led to the deaths of at least 20 people.

‘Social disharmony’

The police in Karnataka say that churches were attacked by mobs in the districts of Udupi and Chikmagalur on Sunday.

Over 60 people have been detained after outraged Christian groups protested and called for a shutdown in the coastal city of Mangalore, which is the worst affected by the violence.

Last month more than 2,000 schools run by Christian organizations in Karnataka shut down for a dayin protest against the anti-Christian violence in Orissa.

Karnataka is ruled by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, which has close ties with the Bajrang Dal.

“The BJP is responsible for the attacks. It is creating social disharmony,” the main opposition Congress party leader Mallikarjun Kharge said.

Orissa rampage

Meanwhile in Orissa two more people were killed and 12 injured when police opened fire on a rioting mob in Kandhamal district on Saturday.

Protests against attacks on Christians in Orissa

Orissa has been rocked by anti-Christian violence

The district has seen large scale violence since 24 August in which at least 20 people have been killed and dozens of churches and thousands of houses torched.

Saturday evening’s incident took place at Kurtamgarh village where a mob went on the rampage burning houses and prayer halls.

When security forces tried to disperse the crowd, somebody from the crowd shot and injured a policeman, the police said.

The police say they were forced to open fire, resulting in the deaths of two people.

On Friday night, six houses and a Christian prayer house were torched by a mob in Kandhamal district, the police said.

The Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has described the violence in Orissa as a “national disgrace”.

Correspondents say Hindu groups have long accused Christian priests of bribing poor tribes and low-caste Hindus to change their faith.

Christians say lower-caste Hindus convert willingly to escape the Hindu caste system.

September 14, 2008

Slumdog wins film festival prize

Slumdog wins film festival prize

Danny Boyle

Boyle made his feature film directorial debut with Shallow Grave in 1995

British director Danny Boyle has won the Toronto Film Festival’s main prize for Slumdog Millionaire.

The People’s Choice Award, voted for by film fans, is regarded as an early indicator of success at the Oscars.

The film, starring Dev Patel, charts the life of a poor boy’s rise to fortune living in the Indian slums.

Boyle, 51, received critical acclaim for previous gritty works such as Shallow Grave, Trainspotting and the zombie-horror film 28 Days Later.

Cash prize

Previous winners of the Canadian award include the London gangster film Eastern Promises by acclaimed director David Cronenberg.

It’s a great underdog story
Danny Boyle, on Slumdog Millionaire

Patel plays orphan Jamal, who appears on the Indian version of the hit TV game show Who Wants to be a Millionaire.

Originally, Boyle said he had hoped for an all Bollywood cast.

However, that was not possible as local Indian actors “didn’t look enough like losers” for the main role of poor Jamal.

“It’s a great underdog story,” he said.

“In Bollywood if you want to be a young actor breaking into the system, you have to go to the gym for six hours a day to bulk up. I needed a very average-looking guy.”

Bollywood star Anil Kapoor also stars in the movie, along with newcomer Freida Pinto.

Winners of the award are also presented with $15,000 (about £8,400).

September 13, 2008

Explosions shake Indian capital

Filed under: Latest, Politics News — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — expressyoureself @ 2:54 pm

Explosions shake Indian capital

Five suspected bomb blasts have been reported within minutes of each other in markets in India’s capital, Delhi.

At least seven people were killed in the blasts, police said, while at least 30 people are said to have been hurt.

The explosions are not thought to have been very powerful but they happened in areas crowded with evening shoppers.

The exact cause of the blasts is not known but bombs are suspected. Crude explosives have been detonated in several Indian cities recently.

More than 400 people have died in separate attacks since October 2005, with the cities of Ahmedabad and Jaipur among those hit.

India has blamed Islamist militant groups for these previous bombings.

Two of the latest blasts in Delhi are believed to have happened metres away from each other in the central shopping district of Connaught Place.

Another blast took place in a market in the Greater Kailash area in south Delhi.

A BBC producer who visited the scene said a low-intensity explosion had scattered glass over a large area, near a popular cafe.

Two of the other explosions were reported in Delhi’s Karol Bagh area and on the Barakhamba Road.

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