Archives  >  2019  >  December  >  27th

Uttar Pradesh, Burning

1. What’s the story?

For the past fortnight, India has been protesting the arbitrary implementation of newly minted citizenship acts, including the Citizenship (Amendment) Act. The Uttar Pradesh Government, however, has had enough. From threatening to confiscate protestor properties to mass arrests and violence against activists from Lucknow to Bijnor, and Meerut to Agra — the state Government has not been leaving any stone unturned to quash any sort of dissent. (Quick recap: The new Citizenship Amendment Act provides a path to Indian citizenship for Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi, and Christian religious minorities fleeing persecution from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. It leaves out Muslims very pointedly from this list.)

Tell me more.

Jab neend aane lagi toh police wale daraane lage. Bole ki, Soge kya tum? Soge toh aankhon ki dille nikaal doonga main. (When I was about to doze off, the police personnel threatened me. They said if I slept, they’d gouge out my eyeballs.)

This is 13-year-old Aalam’s* tale, who was detained by Nagina Police in Bijnor district of west UP, in the wake of protests against CAA-NRC on the evening of 20 December. He isn’t the only minor who was detained, with him, there were 21 boys who were rounded up by the police.

“He has not eaten, had a bath or moved since he returned. Every single time someone comes to the gate, he starts shivering with the anxiety of being picked up again. He only asks for water now,” Aalam’s elder sister and mother tell us, gesturing towards him, who has tucked himself in a heavy quilt in the middle of the room.”

Government ministers, in the meanwhile, have refused to meet the relatives of the two Muslim men killed during last week’s protest against the CAA in UP’s Bijnor district. 

“Uttar Pradesh minister and Bharatiya Janata Party leader Kapil Dev Aggarwal on Thursday refused to meet the relatives of two Muslim men killed during last week’s protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act in Bijnor district, Hindustan Times reported. However, the minister visited Om Raj Saini, who was injured in the violence that took place in the district’s Nehtaur area.
Aggarwal described the Muslim men and their families as “vandals”, PTI reported. “Why should I go to vandals’ place?” he asked. “How can those who are involved in vandalism and put the entire country and state in arson be social?”

The police have claimed that 20-year-old Mohammad Suleman was shot by a constable in “self-defence”. Suleman studied in Noida but was in Nehtaur because he had fever. His family claimed he was picked up by the police while he was returning from a mosque. His sisters told that he was a hard-working student who used to stay up all night to prepare for the Civil Services Exam. The police took him into a lane and shot him, the family alleged. The other victim was identified as Anas, also 20 years old.”

In the meantime, a large number of protestors, including teacher-artist-activist Sadaf Jafar have been lodged in Lucknow jail since December 19 for taking part in protests against the Government

“Jafar and others have been lodged in a Lucknow jail since 19 December, 2019 when she was arrested while capturing videos of the protests taking place at Parivartan Chowk in Lucknow as aprt of the Anti-CAA protests. Since then, a delegation of Congress members, including senior leader and Congress state president Ajay Kumar Lallu, have met Jafar.

Confirming the allegations of torture in custody, Lallu said, “She (Jafar) had been beaten in a barbaric manner. Her hair was pulled, she was punched in the stomach and hit on the legs. Her wounds were still showing.” Medical help, however, is yet to be provided to her and others who were beaten up while they were in police custody.”
So, what now?

Prime Minister Modi was in Lucknow for two days last week. However, he did not comment on the high-handedness of UP’s police. Instead, he asked the protestors to control their actions — a statement that was widely parodied across the nation. 

One can only cross one’s fingers and hope at this point.

Keep your eyes on this place. We’ll keep you updated.

2. Where else should I be keeping my eyes on?

Gujarat, that’s where. In a strange turn of events, locusts from Pakistan have ravaged farms in the state, forcing the Central Government to deploy 27 specialised teams to bring the insects under control. 

“A massive army of locusts from Pakistan has invaded farms in Gujarat, The Hindu reported on Thursday. The newborn locusts, which crossed the international border three days ago, have ravaged farms in North Gujarat, especially in the three border districts of Banaskantha, Patan and Kutch.

The locusts have ravaged crops such as castor, cumin, jatropha, cotton, and potato. This is the first time since 1993-’94 that Gujarat has witnessed such a locust invasion, according to the newspaper. The state administration has launched a huge pesticide-spraying operation to kill the insects, and the Centre has deployed 27 specialised teams to combat the locusts, News18 reported.”

3. What more?

Climate change is real y’all. As North India battles its second-coldest December in over a century, scientists explain that it’s all because of that pesky thing known as global warming

“An unusual and powerful spell of “Western Disturbances”, originating in the Mediterranean Sea, has made the Hindi heartland shiver for the past fortnight. Unfortunately, the spell, striking once in four to five decades, will continue to freeze people on New Year’s Eve too. 

Top scientists fear that due to climate change such harsh and unexpected weather conditions will continue to trouble people. 

“The climate change affecting the intensity and frequency of Western Disturbances can bring mercury down in northern region in years to come, while central and southern Indian regions could be more warmer,” says Dr. Bhupinder B. Singh, senior scientist at the government’s premier Centre for Climate Change Research (CCCR) at Pune. 

The severe cold wave has affected normal life in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Haryana, Punjab and Rajasthan. In UP, 38 people are reported to have died in the past 48 hours…”

4. Anything else?

In an unexpected twist, India’s rural employment scheme has become one of the nation’s major air pollutants

“Air pollution in Delhi in the winter is the worst in the world. The haze is so bad that flights have been cancelled, schools have been closed, and the measured level of particulate matter regularly exceeds the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommended limits by more than 1,000%. A major source of the pollution that creates the winter haze that engulfs Delhi every November and December is crop residue burning. Farmers throughout India, but especially in Punjab and Haryana, burn the residue that remains on their fields after the annual rice harvest in order to prepare their fields to plant wheat. Estimates suggest that 40% of the particulate pollution in Delhi in November and December is due to these fires.

NREGA is the world’s largest anti-poverty programme and provides a work guarantee to residents of rural districts in India. It is representative of a common strategy governments use to increase incomes in which people work in return for some combination of cash and/or aid. Under NREGA, residents of rural districts are provided employment on-demand on public works projects. To qualify for NREGA, low-skill labour must be at least 60% of the cost of a project. Low-skill wages are paid by the federal government. NREGA was rolled out between 2006-2008 with roughly one-third of districts added per year. Existing work has shown that NREGA increased the equilibrium wages paid to low-skill labour and may have reduced labour supply to the private market as workers chose to work in NREGA projects.

Farmers use fires to clear their fields after harvest because some of the non-useful parts of the harvested plants are left on the field as residue. In India, this residue needs to be removed before they can plant the next season’s crops. If farmers have to pay higher wages to hire labourers to harvest their crops, they may instead choose to use labour-saving mechanical combines. These combines leave substantially more residue (between 80% and 120% by some estimates) on the fields than harvesting by hand. As a result, farmers who harvest with combines have more residue to remove from their fields. The Indian ministry of agriculture estimates that burning this residue is the least expensive means of removing it. NREGA would lead to more fires if increasing wages caused farmers to mechanise the harvest and use more fires to clear the resulting residue.”

5. Is that all?

An Indian priest is trying to change the way churches across the nation perceive homosexuality. Here’s his inspiring story

“A self-professed nomad, Father Thomas Ninan belongs to the Indian Orthodox community, the oldest Christian Church in India. When you talk to him, there’s an immediate warmth to him. “I am originally a Mallu but now I am a bit of everything,” he says, laughing unabashedly. He got his calling to join the order at the age of 25. He was a priest at 30 and like most other Christian priests, he too was homophobic. “In 2008, I was confronted by own homophobia when at a youth conference, I witnessed something crazy. When asked how many of the youngsters want to get married, some of them wrote down that they can’t because they are gay. This was the first time I had witnessed something like this. The priest in charge of the conference lost his cool and ended up conducting a separate workshop on how the Christian faith has no place to accept homosexuality.”

Father Thomas states, “We have barely scratched the surface. The Roman Catholic Church is still ardently against queer lifestyles. We will strive to make each church in India an all-inclusive space. One of the NCCI’s events was held in Montfort Bhavan in Hyderabad, a place run by Catholic brothers. The event inspired a Brother to start something similar in his own church. Even Utkal Christian Council came around and told my superiors that they were wrong. So things are changing at the grassroots level.” ”

6. Before you leave…

Take a look at how this man built a lucrative career out of eating noodles

“The Food Ranger’s real name is Trevor James. He always wanted the bon vivant lifestyle of an Anthony Bourdain or Gordon Ramsey, but he didn’t have a television contract or a generous book advance. Instead, he had a single camera, and so he began loading his own shoestring productions onto YouTube.

Today, the Food Ranger is one of the most popular food vloggers in the world. His specialty is China and the country’s ancient street food culture that hides out in curbside shops all over the 26 provinces. The vendors he highlights are watched by millions of viewers and earn a brief taste of international fame. But these stalls are under threat: The Chinese government continues to crack down on the unregulated food economy. And so the Food Ranger represents a paradox: a YouTuber in a country that blocks YouTube, and a Westerner who has access to the deepest reaches of Chinese cuisine thanks to his Mandarin ability. In a country that’s misunderstood by those outside of its borders, that outsider status is crucial to his appeal.”

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