Connect to share and comment

India, explained

India: Has Mediocracy already convicted Delhi gang rape 5?

India's high-profile gang rape case has parallels with New York's Central Park jogger case
India central park joggerEnlarge
New York City Councilman Charles Barron (R), from Brooklyn's district 42, leads a protest outside of Manhattan's Criminal Court September 30, 2002 in New York City. The group was protesting what they feel has been the wrongful conviction of five Harlem men in the 1989 rape of a Central Park jogger. All of the men have served from seven to twelve years in prison. Prior to the men's conviction, the case sparked a media frenzy similar to the one elicited by the December 16, 2012 gang rape of a 23-year-old physical therapy student in New Delhi. (AFP/Getty Images)

Can the five adults and one juvenile suspects in the notorious Delhi gang rape case expect a fair trial? Probably not.

On paper, the men accused of the vicious assault will enjoy all the advantages of India's liberal justice system, apart from the high-priced, influential lawyers that only the wealthy can afford. But cases are not tried on paper, and this one exhibits every sign that it will not be tried in the Saket district court where they made their first appearance on Monday. Instead, like so many court cases, government policies, and bureaucratic actions, it will be decided by the country's real rulers: The Mediocracy.

"This is a media trial," senior Delhi High Court advocate Rajinder Singh told me in a Q&A yesterday. "Even the judges who are going to be responsible for these trials are motivated by the media and what is going on in the country."

In almost every story I've reported, whether it's about poor people starving because of government corruption or a city cleaning up its act after an unhealthy dose of the plague, somebody will say it: All this is only happening because of the media attention. And if the media attention goes away too soon, "all this" stops happening, too.  (Consider the Wall Street Journal's neat encapsulation and the Washington Post's history of "high profile" Indian rape cases and the policies they engendered, such as an innovative and effective Delhi Police outreach program called Parivartan, which began in 2006 after a sensational case and then quietly died as the media attention to the issue waned, according to the Economic Times).

Call it the power of the press, and it's a good thing. The government isn't functioning -- it's failing to feed the hungry, or failing to curb corruption (the main cause of the first failure), and the journalists step in.  But the short attention span of the news cycle isn't enough to initiate real change--consider the country's revolving door elections--and as the Delhi gang rape case indicates to some degree, what makes news is often connected with caste- and class-related biases. (Rape and humiliation is a daily reality for women from the castes once known as "untouchable," for instance, yet the media's sporadic coverage of the problem has never gained much traction, as Badri Narayan pointed out for The Hindu). 

On Wednesday, a high-handed New York Times editorial cautioned that "there are disturbing aspects to the way the case is being handled." They're right. But the editors might have a look at the newspaper morgue before they get TOO snippy: There are several parallels (as well as contrasts) here to the brutal New York City rape and beating of the so-called "Central Park jogger" in 1989-- which ignited a similar media frenzy. 

More

India: Why "vested interests" might not be so bad

Lifting India's ludicrously low limits on campaign finance could drum rapists out of politics, argues India's business press
India delhi rape protestsEnlarge
Indian students and activists carry candles at India Gate during a protest following the gang-rape of a student in New Delhi on December 19, 2012. (SAJJAD HUSSAIN/AFP/Getty Images)

Americans often lament that the massive campaign contributions of the tobacco lobby or arms manufacturers stack the deck against our politicians passing certain types of legislation. But India's experience with drastic limits on these documented campaign contributions tells a different story, according to the local business press: When you keep big business out of politics, you let (alleged) criminals and gangsters in.

More

Delhi gears up for renewed protests after gang rape victim succumbs to injuries

Anger mounts over government's decision to send victim to Singapore for treatment, and police barricades designed to limit protests.
India rape protests 2012 12 26 1024x683Enlarge
Indian protesters burn a rapist in effigy Dec. 26, 2012, in New Delhi, India. (Sajjad Hussain/AFP/Getty Images)

Protesters have already begun to gather at New Delhi's Jantar Mantar on Saturday morning, as the city wakes to the news that the victim of a brutal gang rape died in a Singapore hospitalovernight.

More

India: Can rape protests be the beginning of broad social change?

India's angry reaction to the gang rape of a 23-year-old physical therapist in New Delhi could strengthen various movements for social justice.
Delhi rape protest statisticsEnlarge
Indian activists hold placards as they protest against the gang rape of a student that took place in New Delhi, during a rally in Amritsar on December 24, 2012. (AFP/Getty Images)

New Delhi police charged into a crowd of young men and women protesting the country's apparent impotence in the face of rampant violence against women over the weekend, evoking memories of the massive 2011 Indian protests against corruption and more ominous comparisons with Egypt's Tahrir Square. And while the anger is rooted in rage, fear and bitterness over the brutal gang rape of a 23-year-old physical therapist in New Delhi, disgust with India's corrupt, callous and incompetent public officials has stoked the flames.

The question now is: Where do we go from here?

Can a rape protest be the catalyst that injects life into India's amorphous "women's movement" -- which can seem moribund compared with the strides that women are making for themselves professionally? Can a rape protest be the catalyst for a badly needed reconception of "law and order," including police reform and a legitimate attempt to untangle the broken court system? Can a rape protest be the catalyst that replaces the now-compromised anti-corruption movement, creating a committed, mobilized throng of non-partisan political activists out of the historically apathetic middle class?

So far, there are both promising and discouraging signs. On the one hand, both mainstream and social media are devoting new attention to women's rights activists who are otherwise widely ignored. But on the other, the most simplistic, ineffective, and unsurprising "solutions" have already dominated the discourse on what needs to be done -- with kneejerk calls for the death penalty and chemical castration giving rise to all the usual arguments and objections against those harsh measures, in an increasingly pointless back and forth.

In today's newspapers, for instance, the Communist Party of India-Marxist's (CPI-M) Sitaram Yechury bemoans India's 29 percent conviction rate for rape cases. The government has unveiled fast track courts and other legal measures to claim that these offenses will no longer be ignored or allowed to languish for years in the system. Meanwhile, protesters continue to wave signs reading "Hang Them" and "You Rape, We Chop." 

The idea that "Delhi is the rape capital of India" remains widely accepted, despite many intelligent op-eds and a spate of "rapes around the country"-type reports to the contrary. An assumption that violence against women is increasing has been taken for granted without much scrutiny or reflection. And the police have been raked over the coals for failing to stop rape, and then cracking down on rape-protesters, as thoughtful insights on the reasons for their failings, and how those failings might be corrected, have been shunted to the side. (Note: New York City, about half the size of New Delhi, actually faces about 50 percent more rape cases -- 990 versus 660 or so, while Delhi's 26-29 percent conviction rate isn't so dismal compared with New York sentences that allow 42 percent of convicted rapists out on probation or "conditional release," according to the New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault.)

More

India: Narendra Modi is nothing to fear

By winning a third consecutive term as Gujarat's chief minister, the controversial Narendra Modi has boosted his chances to become the BJP's candidate for prime minister. Here's why you needn't worry.
Modi fear pmEnlarge
While he failed to improve on the majority he attained in Gujarat's last state election, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Chief Minister Narendra Modi's convincing drubbing of the Congress to win a third consecutive term has boosted calls for his selection as the BJP's prime ministerial candidate in 2014. (AFP/Getty Images)

Narendra Modi delivered a convincing victory for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the Gujarat elections Thursday, winning an unprecedented third consecutive term in a nation where elections are nearly always decided by the "anti-incumbency" factor.

More

India: Playboy unveils Bunny sari as nation rages against rape

Playboy is betting that sheer saris will be enough to stave off protests. Don't count on it.
India playboy sariEnlarge
Sari, boys: Playboy Bunnies at the upcoming (and simultaneously retro) Playboy Clubs in India will be almost fully clad. Meanwhile, nationwide outrage over Sunday's gang rape of a 23-year-old physical therapist will likely put a cramp in some public relations firm's style. (AFP/Getty Images)

Playboy unveiled the bunny costumes for its upcoming Indian Playboy Clubs on a day when thousands protested violence against women, following a brutal gang rape.

As GlobalPost reported earlier, India is confronting brazen and spectacular acts of violence with the same national outpouring of grief, rage and confusion with which Americans are reeling from the Sandy Hook shooting.

“The reason it's become such an emotive issue is that the expression of violence, particularly gender violence, is in a way a public event,” said Delhi University sociologist Radhika Chopra. “This is not secret violence. This is not happening in a dark corner of a street or shady corner of a park. It's on a bus. It's in broad daylight. It's on flyovers. It's in the most public spaces of all. And there are always people there.”

Plenty of people will see the entrance of Playboy -- even with demured-down Bunnies -- as throwing fuel on the fire.

More

India objects to US bid to grant Pakistan's spy agency immunity in Mumbai attacks case

India has expressed "extreme disappointment" with a US move to grant Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency immunity in a civil suit seeking damages for the November 2008 terrorist attacks on Mumbai.
India objects isi immunityEnlarge
India voiced objections to a US bid to grant Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) immunity for its alleged involvement in planning the November 26, 2008 terrorist attacks on Mumbai. (AFP/Getty Images)

Execute the hit man, but grant the mafia dons immunity. Good idea?

That's what the US government seemed to suggest this week, in arguing that Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) should be granted immunity in a civil case  filed in a New York court in connection with the November 2008 terrorist attacks on Mumbai.

India has expressed "extreme disappointment" over the U.S. taking the position that the ISI should be granted immunity in the civil suit, India's Hindu newspaper reported Thursday.

“It cannot be that any organisation, state or non-state, which sponsors terrorism, has immunity,” the paper quoted Foreign Office spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin as saying. He was responding to a query on the ‘Statement of Interest’ filed by the U.S. State Department on immunity for the ISI and two former Director Generals of the agency in a civil case of wrongful death filed by U.S. family members of the victims of the terror attacks, the Hindu said.

“People who organised and perpetrated this horrible crime should be brought to justice, irrespective of the jurisdiction under which they may reside or be operating. Our position has been made known to the United States consistently,” the Hindu quoted Akbaruddin as saying.

More
Yo yo honey singhEnlarge
Missing Ravi Shankar? Try Yo Yo Honey Singh. The foul-mouthed-but-supercool Punjabi rapper topped Youtube searches from India in 2012. (AFP/Getty Images)

Missing Ravi Shankar? Try foul-mouthed-but-supercool Punjabi rapper Yo Yo Honey Singh -- though not if you're looking for classical sitar.

Best known for a song with an unprintable title (at least in Hindi), Yo Yo Honey Singh is arguably India's biggest non-Bollywood popstar, topping Youtube searches in 2012 with around 9 million viewers for his song "Brown Rang" (Brown Color), according to FirstPost.in.

More

India: Starvation is real cost of corruption

Private contractors, including Ponty Chadha, have stolen most of some $2 billion intended for India's Integrated Child Development Services program, Bloomberg-BusinessWeek reveals.

Starvation is the real cost of corruption, Andrew MacAskill and Mehul Srivastava reveal in a must-read article in Bloomberg-BusinessWeek.

More

India to be world's largest coal importer by 2017

Coal to surpass oil as world's largest energy source by 2017, due to heavy demand from China and India.
India coal importerEnlarge
Coal is set to surpass oil as as the world’s top fuel source by around 2017, as China and India surpass the US as the largest consumers, the International Energy Agency forecast on Tuesday. (AFP/Getty Images)

Coal is slated to surpass oil as the world's top fuel source by 2017, as consumption in China and India outstrips the US.

China and India lead the growth in coal consumption over the next five years, according to a new report from the International Energy Agency. The report said China's demand for coal will become the world's top consumer during that period, while India will become the largest seaborne coal importer and second-largest consumer, surpassing the US.

"The world will burn around 1.2 billion more tonnes of coal per year by 2017 compared to today, equivalent to the current coal consumption of Russia and the US combined,"India's Hindu newspaperquoted IEA Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven as saying. "Coal’s share of the global energy mix continues to grow each year, and if no changes are made to current policies, coal will catch oil within a decade.”

More