Krishna Biswas is scared. Unable to prove his Indian citizenship, he is at risk of being sent to a detention center, far away from his modest hut built of bamboo wood that looks down on fields lush with corn. Biswas says he was born in India’s northeastern Assam state. So was his father, almost 65 years ago. But the government says that to prove he is an Indian, he should furnish documents that date back to 1971. For the 37-year-old vegetable seller, that means searching for a decades-old property deed or a birth certificate with an ancestor’s name on it. Biswas has none, and he is not alone. There are nearly 2 million people like him — over 5% of Assam's population — staring at a future where they could be stripped of their citizenship if they are unable to prove they are Indian. Questions over who is an Indian have long lingered over Assam, which many believe is overrun with immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh. Also Read: Trouble looms for Indian grain that combats climate change At a time when India is about to overtake China as the most populous country, these concerns are expected to heighten as Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government seeks to use illegal immigration and fears of demographic shift for electoral gains in a nation where nationalist sentiments run deep. The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party has promised to roll out a similar citizenship verification program nationwide even though the process in Assam has been put on hold after a federal audit found it flawed and full of errors. Nonetheless, hundreds of suspected immigrants with voting rights in Assam have been arrested and sent to detention centers the government calls “transit camps.” Fearing arrest, thousands have fled to other Indian states. Some have died of suicide. ___ EDITOR’S NOTE: This story is part of an ongoing series exploring what it means for the 1.4 billion inhabitants of India to live in what will be the world’s most populated country. ___ Millions of people like Biswas, whose citizenship status is unclear, were born in India to parents who immigrated many decades ago. Many of them have voting cards and other identification, but the state’s citizenship registry counts only those who can prove, with documentary evidence, that they or their ancestors were Indian citizens before 1971, the year Bangladesh was born. Modi’s party, which also rules Assam, argues the registry is essential to identify people who entered the country illegally in a state where ethnic passions run deep and anti-immigrant protests in the 1980s culminated in the massacre of more than 2,000 immigrant Muslims. “My father and his brother were born here. We were born here. Our kids were also born here. We will die here but not leave this place,” Biswas, said on a recent afternoon at his home in Assam’s Murkata village, near the banks of the Brahmaputra River. Also Read: India poised to become world’s most populous nation this week: UN The Biswas family has 11 members, of whom the citizenship of nine is in dispute. His wife and mother have been declared Indian by a foreigners’ tribunal that decides on citizenship claims. Others, including his three children, his father and his brother’s family, have been declared “foreigners.” It makes no sense to Biswas, who wonders why would some be considered to have settled in the country illegally and others not, even though they all were born in the same place. The family, like many others, has not pleaded their case before the tribunal or higher courts due to a lack of money and the arduous paperwork required in the process. “If we cannot be Indian then just kill us. Let them (the government) kill my whole family,” he said. The registry was last updated in 2019 and excluded both Hindus and Muslims, but most critics view it as an attempt to deport millions of minority Muslims. They say the process would become even more exclusionary if Modi’s party resurrects a controversial citizenship bill that grants citizenship to persecuted believers who entered India illegally from neighboring countries, including Hindus, Sikhs and Christians, but not Muslims. The nationwide citizenship bill was introduced in 2019, but led to widespread protests across India for singling out Muslims, forcing the government to put it on the backburner. Supporters of the registry say it is essential to protect the cultural identity of Assam’s indigenous people, arguing that those who entered illegally are taking away their jobs and their land. “The influx of illegal foreigners from Bangladesh is a threat to the identity of the indigenous people of Assam. We cannot stay like a second class citizen under illegal Bangladeshis. It is a question of our own existence,” said Samujjal Bhattacharya, who has been part of a movement in Assam against illegal immigration. Fearing a possible loss of citizenship, scores of people in Assam have killed themselves, leaving a trail of devastation among families. When Faizul Ali was sent to a detention center after being declared a “foreigner” in late 2015, his family members feared they would be next. The prospect of being thrown in jail drove his son to take his own life. His brother tried to save him but drowned in the process. A year later, Ali’s other son hanged himself. Ali was released on bail from the detention center in 2019. He died in March, leaving behind his wife, a mentally ill son, two daughter-in-laws and their children. They all live in a single room house made of corrugated tin in Muslim majority Bahari village. All have been declared “foreigners.” Unable to make ends meet, Ali’s wife, Sabur Bano, has taken to begging. She can’t afford firewood for cooking and uses discarded clothes she collects from streets as burning material. “I am a citizen of this country. I am 60 years old. I was born here, my children were brought up here, all my belongings are here. But they made me a foreigner in my own land,” she said, wiping tears from the hem of her white sari. Others are still waiting for their loved ones after they were arrested. On a recent morning, Asiya Khatoon boarded a rickshaw and traveled nearly 31 kilometers (19 miles) from her home to a detention center in Assam's town where her husband has been held since January. “They (police) just came and picked up my husband saying he is a Bangladeshi,” the 45-year-old said, before hurriedly walking toward the detention center circled by a vast perimeter of walls and watchtowers with security cameras and armed guards. In her hands was a crinkled plastic bag. It carried a green T-shirt, trousers and a cap she wanted to give her husband.
India’s tax officials searched BBC offices in India for a second straight day on Wednesday questioning staff about the organization's business operations in the country, some staff members said. BBC management told editorial and other staff members to work from home after they were able to leave the office on Tuesday night, said staff who spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to talk to media. The searches came weeks after the BBC aired a documentary critical of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the U.K. There was no overnight break in the search and investigators scanned the desktops of some employees who were earlier told not to use their phones and keep them aside, the staff members said. Indian income tax officials have not made any statements since the searches were launched in the BBC’s New Delhi and Mumbai offices on Tuesday morning. The Press Trust of India news agency said the officials were making copies of electronic and paper-based financial data from the organization. Rights groups and opposition politicians denounced the move by India's Income Tax Department as an attempt to intimidate the media. Britain's publicly funded national broadcaster said it was cooperating fully with authorities and hoped "to have this situation resolved as soon as possible.” Late in the evening, the BBC said officials were still at the two offices. “Many staff have now left the building but some have been asked to remain and are continuing to cooperate with the ongoing inquiries,” it said, adding: “Our output and journalism continue as normal.” While there has been no British government statement so far, U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price said on Tuesday: “We are aware of the search of the BBC offices in Delhi by Indian tax authorities." “We support the importance of a free press around the world. We continue to highlight the importance of freedom of expression and freedom of religion or belief as human rights that contribute to strengthening democracies around the world. It has strengthened this democracy here in this country. It has strengthened India’s democracy,” Price told reporters in Washington. India's News Broadcasters and Digital Association criticized the income tax "surveys" at the BBC offices. While the association "maintains that no institution is above the law, it condemns any attempt to muzzle and intimidate the media and interfere with the free functioning of journalists and media organizations,'' it said in a statement. Read more: ‘…As long as you don't spew venom’: BJP spokesperson on BBC Gaurav Bhatia, a spokesperson for Modi's governing Bharatiya Janata Party, said the BBC should have nothing to fear if it follows Indian laws. But he added that the broadcaster's history is “tainted” and “full of hatred” for India and called it corrupt, without offering any specifics. The documentary, “India: The Modi Question,” was broadcast in the U.K. last month, examining the prime minister's role in 2002 anti-Muslim riots in the western state of Gujarat, where he was chief minister at the time. More than 1,000 people were killed in the violence. Modi has denied allegations that authorities under his watch allowed and even encouraged the bloodshed, and the Supreme Court said it found no evidence to prosecute him. Last year, the court dismissed a petition filed by a Muslim victim questioning Modi’s exoneration. The second portion of the two-part documentary examined “the track record of Narendra Modi’s government following his re-election in 2019,” according to the BBC website. The program drew an immediate backlash from India's government, which invoked emergency powers under its information technology laws to block it from being shown in the country. Local authorities scrambled to stop screenings organized at Indian universities, and social media platforms including Twitter and YouTube complied with government requests to remove links to the documentary. The BBC said at the time that the documentary was “rigorously researched” and involved a wide range of voices and opinions. “We offered the Indian Government a right to reply to the matters raised in the series — it declined to respond,” its statement said. India’s Foreign Ministry called the documentary a “propaganda piece designed to push a particularly discredited narrative” that lacked objectivity. Press freedom in India has been on a steady decline in recent years. The country fell eight places, to 150 out of 180 countries, in the 2022 Press Freedom Index published by Reporters Without Borders. Media watchdog groups accuse the Modi government of silencing criticism on social media under a sweeping internet law that puts digital platforms including Twitter and Facebook under direct government oversight. Some media outlets critical of the government have been subjected to tax searches. Authorities searched the offices of the left-leaning website NewsClick and independent media portal Newslaundry on the same day in 2021. Tax officials also accused the Dainik Bhaskar newspaper of tax evasion in 2021 after it published reports of mass funeral pyres and floating corpses that challenged the government's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2017, the government's investigation bureau said it was probing cases of loan defaults when it raided the offices of New Delhi Television, known for its liberal slant.
A.R. Rahman is an Indian composer, singer, and music producer, who has worked in the Indian film industry as well as internationally. He is one of the most successful and influential composers in the world and is known for his unique sound that fuses Indian classical music with electronic music and world music. At A Glance: A. R. Rahman's Life Rahman was named A. S. Dileep Kumar when he was born in Madras, Tamil Nadu, on January 6, 1967. His father, R. K. Shekhar, was a film-score composer as well as a conductor for Tamil and Malayalam films. A.R. Rahman started his schooling at Padma Seshadri Bala Bhavan. However, he was dismissed from school due to poor academic results. Later he was admitted to Madras Christian College Higher Secondary School and showed his musical talent. But, he dropped out the school to pursue a music career. Then, he started musical training under Master Dhanraj. Read More: 5 Best Movies of Vidya Balan Rahman’s big break came in 1992 when he was asked to compose the score for the Tamil film “Roja.” The soundtrack was a huge success and established Rahman as one of the leading film composers in India. He went on to compose music for many other successful films, including “Bombay,” “Taal,” “Lagaan,” “Rang De Basanti,” and “Slumdog Millionaire,” which earned him two Academy Awards. Rahman has also composed music for stage productions, including the “Bombay Dreams” and the Toronto productions of “The Lord of the Rings.” In addition to his work in film and theater, Rahman has also released several solo albums and worked on various philanthropic projects. Rahman has received numerous awards and accolades for his work, including six National Film Awards, two Academy Awards, and two Grammy Awards. He has also been honored with the Padma Bhushan, one of the highest civilian awards in India, and the Padma Shri, another prestigious award given by the Indian government. Read More: 5 Best Movies of Mel Gibson 10 Lesser-Known Facts About A. R. Rahman Composer A. R. Rahman is well known for his musical achievements, but the following are some of the lesser-known facts about him that everyone is less concerned about. Converted to Islam Although Rahman was born a Hindu, he along with other family members converted to Islam at the age of 2023 in 1989 and changed his name to Allah Rakha Rahman (A. R. Rahman). Musical Training Under Master Dhanraj Rahman took a music lesson from Ustad Dhanraj. At the age of 11, he joined the orchestra of renowned Malayalam composer MK Arjunan, a close friend of his father, as a player. He quickly mastered vocals, guitar, percussion, drums, harpsichord, fingerboard, keyboard, piano, accordion, goblet, drums, concert harp, etc. Impressed by his talent, renowned composers like MS Viswanathan and Ramesh Naidu, Raj Koti also offered him an opportunity to work with them. Read More: 2022 rewind: A year of abundance for silver screens, OTT platforms Scholarship in Trinity College of Music He embarked on a world tour with Zakir Hussain, Kunnakudi Vaidyanathan, and L Shankar in his teenage. At that time, Rahman got a scholarship from Trinity College London to the Trinity College of Music. Later, while studying in Madras, he obtained a diploma in ‘Western Classical Music’ from a local school.
Delhi Police have detained an Indian man accused of killing an Australian woman in Queensland in 2018. The man, Rajwinder Singh, had left Australia after killing the woman. Toyah Cordingley (24) was killed by Rajwinder, according to investigators, because “her dog barked at him,” NDTV reports. Apparently, after an altercation with his wife, Rajwinder Singh (38) headed to Wangetti Beach in Queensland. He admitted to Delhi police that he was carrying some fruits and a kitchen knife. A pharmacy employee, Cordingley, was walking her dog down the shore. Rajwinder and Cordingley got into a fight, as the latter’s dog was barking at him. According to authorities, this led to the Indian man attacking and reportedly killing Cordingley. Read more: India's tribespeople seek formal recognition of ancient nature-worshipping faith Rajwinder then tied the dog to a tree and buried Cordingley’s body in the sand. Two days later, Rajwinder Singh fled Australia – leaving behind his wife, three children, and his job. A Red Corner Notice from Interpol was issued against Rajwinder, and on November 21 the Patiala House Court issued a non-bailable warrant in accordance with the extradition laws. Read more: Indian foreign secretary cements support for Myanmar’s development during visit According to a senior police officer, Rajwinder was detained by the Special Cell of the Delhi Police along the G T Karnal Road based on information supplied by the CBI, which serves as Interpol’s central agency in India, and their Australian counterparts.
Coast Guard Wednesday detained 31 Indian fishermen for illegally fishing in Bangladesh's territorial waters. Two fishing boats were also seized. Lieutenant Commander Khandaker Munif Taki, media officer of Coast Guard, said they found the Indian boats illegally fishing in Bangladeshi waters – 77 nautical miles west of the international maritime boundary in the Bay of Bengal. Coast Guard vessel Mansur Ali conducted the operation. The detainees were handed over to Mongla Police Station Thursday, Munif said. Read: 13 more Indian fishermen held from Bay of Bengal To secure their marine resources in the Bay of Bengal, India and Bangladesh settled their maritime boundary in 2014. However, fishermen from Bangladesh and India continue to commit unlawful forays into each other's sovereign waters, leading to the enforcement of punitive measures against those accused or convicted. Such incidents not only jeopardise the fishers' livelihoods but repeated occurrences also nettle relations
The maiden shipment of 25 lakh litres of crude oil imported from India reached the country on Saturday, aiming to tackle the ongoing fuel crisis. Representatives of Bangladesh and India formally released the crude oil at Aqua Refinery jetty in Gorashal of Narsingdi in the morning. Private company Aqua Refinery Limited imported Naphtha (crude oil) from Indian Oil Corporation Limited through Indo-Bangladesh Inland Waterways Protocol Route. Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) director Rafiqul Islam, Indian Oil Corporation Limited Bangladesh country manager Mazhar Alam, Aqua Refinery Limited director operation Ershad Hossain, Shanghai ship owner Masudur Rahman, Aqua Refinery deputy managing director Sajedul Siraj, general manager GM Jahangir Alam, among others, were present at that time. Read: Fuel crisis hits filling stations in Thakurgaon After the refining process by Aqua Refinery, Bangladesh Petroleum Corporation (BPC) will buy the crude oil and provide it to the consumer level within one week. Amid the unprecedented situation due to fuel crisis, the government recently announced suspension of production in diesel-run power plants. It resorted to one –hour area based load shedding across the country to save energy. The government has also taken some austerity measures including reducing consumption of power at government offices to save power and energy.
A court in the northern Indian state of Punjab on Thursday sent popular pop star Daler Mehndi to jail, rejecting his appeal against a two-year prison term for trafficking migrants to the US. The singer had been out on bail since his conviction in the case in 2018. "The singer was taken into custody by police soon after the court turned down his appeal against the sentence and cancelled his bail bond. He has to undergo the prison term now," TS Bhargav, a lawyer, told the local media. Also read: James Caan, Oscar nominee for ‘The Godfather,’ dies at 82 The case was filed by Punjab Police way back in 2003 after a probe revealed that Mehndi took some 10 migrants, disguised as dancers in his troupe, to the US and returned without them. Subsequently, the singer was also booked and chargesheeted for cheating after many people lodged complaints alleging that he took large sums of money on the pretext of taking them to Western countries. Also read: Ustad Rashid Khan to sing in 'Coke Studio Bangla' Season Two The 54-year-old singer helped popularise Punjabi dance Bhangra worldwide in the late 1990s and early 2000. He also sang in several Bollywood flicks, and is best known for his dance, voice, turban, and long robes.
India's opposition parties on Tuesday named Yashwant Sinha, a former Finance Minister, as their joint candidate for the presidential polls slated for next month. "In the forthcoming Presidential elections, we have decided to elect a common candidate and stop the Modi government from doing further damage," the opposition parties said in a statement. "At a subsequent meeting held today, we have chosen Yashwant Sinha as a common candidate. We appeal to all political parties to vote for Yashwant Sinha," it added. READ: Indian High Commission celebrates 8th International Day of Yoga A former leader of India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Sinha served as the Finance Minister in Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's government. Following apparent disagreements with Prime Minister Narendra Modi's current dispensation, Sinha quit the BJP and joined Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress party recently. The BJP, on the other hand, is yet to announce its candidate for the presidential polls. Incumbent President Ram Nath Kovind's five-year term ends on July 24.
Authorities in the Indian capital region Friday reopened schools fully in offline mode after a gap of two years. It is for the first time since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic that physical attendance was made no longer optional. Schools in Delhi were first closed in March 2020 immediately after the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent imposition of a countrywide lockdown. The classwork resumed after some time in online mode and students were asked to attend classes sitting at their homes while remaining connected to their school teachers via the Internet. Although the schools reopened for in-person classes multiple times in the past two years, the online mode was never called off. Last year, schools reopened briefly, however, the second wave of the pandemic, the grave air pollution levels in the capital city and then the Omicron wave forced them to shut down again. The decision to phase out online classes was taken during the Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) meeting in February this year, following which schools were permitted to fully switch to offline classes from April 1, with the onset of the new academic session. READ: Govt primary schools to remain open till 20th Ramadan: Minister "It's after two years that schools are reopening and students were excited to get back to school," a local news agency quoted Sudha Acharya, chairperson of the National Progressive Schools' Conference (NPSC) as having said. Teachers say the return of in-person classes would allow students to learn properly. According to them, the closure of schools during the past two years has resulted in a significant learning gap. Reports said many schools however stated they will resume classes only from Monday. "Online classes will be completely suspended. Both students and teachers are happy since a return to the familiar routine is less stressful," said Jyoti Arora, principal of Mount Abu Public School, Rohini told a local newspaper.
The pace of fund disbursement under the India-Bangladesh Governmental Lines of Credit (LOC) has nearly doubled in one year, as USD 238.68 million has been disbursed in this time, despite the serious challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. Total disbursement will soon reach the $1-billion milestone, a press release of the Indian High Commission said on Monday. It was noted that the India-Bangladesh development partnership has grown significantly in recent years. Bangladesh is India’s largest development partner under its Line of Credit programme with total commitment under LOCs being USD 7.862 billion. The 2nd Meeting of the High-Level Project Monitoring Committee to review projects under the India-Bangladesh Governmental Lines of Credit (LOC) was held on Sunday at the Economic Relations Division, Ministry of Finance of Bangladesh. It was co-chaired by High Commissioner of India Vikram Doraiswami and Fatima Yasmin, Secretary, Economic Relations Division of Ministry of Finance. Delegates included officials of the Economic Relations Division, the Prime Minister’s Office, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, National Board of Revenue, Finance Division and Ministry of Home Affairs on the Bangladesh side and High Commission of India and the Exim Bank of India, through which the LOCs are being administered. This bilateral mechanism is one of several joint initiatives to further expedite execution of projects, by addressing procedural issues and suggesting the way forward. The two sides reviewed the status of implementation of the decisions taken by the 1st High Level Project Monitoring Committee Meeting held on January 3, 2021. Both sides noted with great satisfaction that significant headway has been made under the GoI LOC framework, it said. Both sides discussed the entire spectrum of implementation issues during the meeting, including the need for standardization of the interpretation of GoI LOC processes and procedures by various Project Authorities of Bangladesh, expediting project preparation and Development Project Proposals (DPP), rationalizing bid qualification criteria, shortening and simplification of bill processing cycles, expediting award of finalized contracts, simplifying visa issuance procedures etc. The High Level Committee also identified the next steps to be taken by the Technical Committee, which would meet in due course to discuss issues at an operational level.