In Atiq’s Killing, ‘Much More than Meets the Eye’; SC Hearing on Same-Sex Marriage Begins Tomorrow
Threat of Chinese surveillance in India’s neighbourhood, ugly caste discrimination in Thanjavur, Kharge wants census completed, Malik’s love-hate ties with Modi, sexual assault led to army shootout
A newsletter from The Wire | Founded by MK Venu, Seema Chishti, Siddharth Varadarajan, Sushant Singh, Sidharth Bhatia, Tanweer Alam and Pratik Kanjilal | With inputs from Kalrav Joshi | Editor: Vinay Pandey
Snapshot of the day
April 17, 2023
Justice Madan Lokur, a former judge of the Supreme Court, says the cold-blooded murder of gangster-politician Atiq Ahmed and his brother Ashraf while they were in police custody raises several worrying questions and suspicions about the Uttar Pradesh police. Justice Lokur is also sharply critical of UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath’s statement on February 25 that “mafia ko mitti mein mila denge [will turn the mafia to dust].”
“When anyone dies in police custody, it means the police have let the rule of law down,” says Vikram Singh, a former chief of the state police, commenting on the murder of Atiq Ahmed, a former MP, and his brother in Prayagraj on Saturday night. Singh tells the Indian Express that a big lapse was that the accused were allowed to meet the press. The manner in which the assailant surrendered and the circumstances of the attack show that “there is much more than meets the eye”. “The assailants are of poor background. But they were using guns of Turkish pedigree each costing Rs 7 lakh, each round costing Rs 250. Their firing shows they had a lot of practice … I hope the police will get to the bottom of it.”
Reporting the incident, the New York Times writes: “The exceptionally public spasm of violence has once again raised alarm about how deeply extrajudicial violence has seeped into the state’s governance, a campaign that often carries religious undertones as the governing Bharatiya Janata Party moves to reshape India’s secular democracy.”
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court will start hearing final arguments on a number of petitions seeking to legalise same-sex marriage. Last week, Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud called it a “seminal issue” and set up a five-member Constitution bench to hear the matter. The top court has said the hearing will be “livestreamed in public interest”. Same-sex couples and LGBTQ+ activists are hoping for a favourable judgment, while the BJP-led Centre – along with religious leaders claiming to represent almost every denomination – vehemently opposes the idea. The government told the top court on Monday that same-sex marriage is an “urban elitist concept far removed from the social ethos of the country”.
A study based on an online survey has found that legalisation of same-sex marriage will lead to improvement in well-being, legal safety and access to legal rights. “While legalisation of marriage will not guarantee societal acceptance, many respondents mentioned that legalisation of marriage would create a stronger sense of community and social support and enable them to secure essential rights,” said Megha Sharda, a neuroscientist and co-author of the study.
Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, demanding that the decennial census be conducted immediately, with a comprehensive socio-economic caste census as its integral part. “In the absence of an updated caste census, I am afraid a reliable database so very essential for meaningful social justice and empowerment programmes, particularly for OBCs, is incomplete,” Kharge wrote. Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar echoed the demand.
A military facility coming up on Coco Islands in Myanmar and a proposed remote satellite receiving ground station system in Sri Lanka, both being built with Chinese help, have raised concerns in India of possible surveillance across the region. Recent satellite images show the construction of a military facility on Coco Islands, located very close to India’s Andaman and Nicobar island chain, the Hindu reported, quoting unidentified sources. In the second case, the sources told the newspaper, China has proposed setting up a remote satellite receiving ground station system through a collaborative effort between the Aerospace Information Research Institute under the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the University of Ruhuna in southern Sri Lanka.
The India Cable is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support our work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
As many as 20 people are still hospitalised after 11 people died from sunstroke at an award event in Maharashtra on Sunday, PTI reports. The Maharashtra Bhushan award ceremony, where Union home minister Amit Shah was the chief guest, was held in an open ground in Kharghar area of Raigad district and attended by lakhs of people. The news agency quoted unidentified sources as saying that the provision of tents was limited to the dignitaries on the dais, members of the media and a select few VIPs, with the majority of the people – after having travelled from different parts of Maharashtra – were left to bear the onslaught of the scorching heat.
The Washington Post reports on the signs of a potential revival of a Sikh separatist movement in Punjab, which also resonates and is fuelled by the Sikh diaspora. It writes: “Punjab has for years been a breadbasket for India, but the modernization of the state’s agriculture worsened inequality, fuelling a Marxist-inspired movement as far back as the 1960s. And although Punjab is one of the wealthiest Indian states, it is saddled with debt and afflicted by farm crises, and its growth rate is now among the lowest.” The report says the government shutting down the internet and rampant use of social media censorship are likely to inflame the situation.
The Mariamman temple in Thanjavur was locked after caste Hindus refused entry to Dalits to offer prayers during the temple festival. Following refusal from the caste Hindus, who manage temple affairs, the Dalits led by the president of the village panchayat, C Umarani, approached the district collector. After this, the Dalit community was able to offer prayers under police security. The caste Hindus then denied Dalits access to a grazing area and work on their farms, the New Indian Express reported.
Even now, 76 years after India gained independence, manual scavenging survives and goes on unregulated. The Dalit community bears the stigma of cleaning sewers. Governments continue to be among the biggest offenders even as the Supreme Court orders the Union and state governments to meet to consider ways to stop manual scavenging.
“Today, the rich and powerful – politicians, bureaucrats, senior police officers and the government as a whole who rule the country – have taken over the system and the police report to them,” former IPS officer Amod Kanth tells the Hindu in an interview on why the criminal justice system is in a disarray.
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial
Subscribe to The India Cable to keep reading this post and get 7 days of free access to the full post archives.