In late January 2017, the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI) deferred the re-accreditation
of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC or NHRCI)—India’s central human rights body. The GANHRI, formerly known
as the International Coordinating Committee of National Institutions for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, is an international association affiliated to the United Nations. According to its website, it comprises national humans rights institutions (NHRIs) from all parts of the globe. The organisation is responsible for ensuring that the composition an functioning of NHRIs across the world are in conformity with the Paris Principles. Adopted by the UN General Assembly on 20 December 1993, the Paris Principles
prescribe the minimum international standards for an NHRI.
The concept of an Indian citizen, as envisioned under the Indian constitution, has been undergoing a subtle transformation for several decades. This shift has been underway since the 1980s, and its culmination in the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 will likely result in a substantive transformation.
The Austrian photographer Reiner Riedler began photographing holiday destinations in 2004, after returning from a visit to artificial beaches in Berlin and Hamburg, in Germany. Over the course of the next five years, Riedler photographed various artificial holiday destinations—indoor ski resorts in arid Dubai, a recreation of the Niagara Falls in China, Japan’s popular Love Hotels, and theme parks in Florida with artificial monuments, among others. “When wishes are out of reach, simulation is taking over our leisure time and our holidays,” the Austrian writer Jens Lindworsky wrote of Riedler’s project
. “Imaginary worlds are created, often under massive technological exertion, in order to offer us experience as reproducible merchandise. Although the quality of these adventures on demand sometimes proves to be rather dubious, the boom does shed light on one thing: the yearnings and dreams underlying people’s daily lives.”
Two villages in Bijnor district in Uttar Pradesh highlight the communal polarisation in the district’s villages. Peda and Nayagaon—dominated by the Muslim and Jat communities respectively—are situated on the outskirts of the district, on opposite sides of the Bijnor-Najibabad road. Communal tension in the villages heightened after September 2016
, when a group of residents from Nayagaon village belonging to the Jat community allegedly killed three and injured more than ten Muslim men from Peda village. The tension appeared to have simmered down before escalating again on 10 February 2017, when a group of eight Muslim men allegedly murdered
Vishal Singh, a 17-year-old Jat boy, and injured his father, Sanjay Singh. Both victims belonged to Nayagaon village. Several Muslim men in Peda told me that the men accused of Vishal’s murder were either relatives or friends of three of the victims in the September clash.
On 3 January 2017, the Odisha Human Rights Commission (OHRC) issued an order regarding the death of a couple, Dubeswar and Bubhudi Naik. In July 2015, the Naiks, who belonged to a Scheduled Caste community, were killed in Madaguda forest of Pangalpadar village in Kandhamal district, Odisha, allegedly during an operation targeted at Maoist rebels in the region. The OHRC ruled that the Naiks were innocent. It directed the state government to pay Rs 5 lakh in compensation to the next of kin of both Dubeswar and Bubhudi.
Shrikant Sharma is the Bharatiya Janata Party’s national media convener, and one of its brightest stars. Rooted in the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s student affiliate, Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, Sharma was ensured a ticket in Mathura, which went to polls on 11 February, through the backing of the RSS and the BJP president, Amit Shah. Yet, his campaign ran into trouble. This was partly because the BJP’s local unit, which helped elect the actor Hema Malini as an MP
in the 2014 Lok Sabha election, saw him as another outsider imposed on them. While this resentment was manageable for a party that still retains some idea of hierarchical discipline, the desertion by its traditional Aggarwal vote bank may prove not to be.
Alongside Punjab’s battle against opiate consumption in the state, there is a parallel battle against opium poppy cultivators ensuing in Jammu and Kashmir. Eight kilometres from Srinagar, on the main road to Kulbug Khanshahib village in central Kashmir, on 28 April 2016, Mudasir Ahmed, an inspector in the state’s excise department, and a team of ten men were busy destroying a large patch of illegally cultivated opium poppy. The crop is a nearly three-feet-tall lean plant that has a pod with a white or pink flower on top. Most Kashmiri farmers grow it as an additional source of income
, as opiate drugs have a high demand in states such as Punjab and Rajasthan. They sell their entire opium crop to middlemen even before the harvest, who use parts of it to make a powdery drug. A farmer told me that middlemen pay up to Rs 400 per kilogram for the crop. “When the same thing reaches Punjab it sells for over Rs 5,000 per kilogram,” Ahmed said.
I met Baba Harikishan, the head of the Gathwala khap of the Malik Jat community on 8 February 2017. The Malik Jats make up a majority of the residents in over 25 villages in the Shamli constituency of Muzaffarnagar district in western Uttar Pradesh. As Harikishan reclined on a charpoy laid out in the February sun, facing the hookah that had been set up for him, he let his eldest son Rajinder, who will head the khap after him, do the talking. “Biradari ek saath ho gayi hai—the community has come together.”
Arun Kumar is an eminent economist who has been studying the black economy in India for close to four decades. His 1999 book The Black Economy in India is among the foremost accounts of the black-money problem in the country.
President Pranab Mukherjee, who will consider the Gujarat Control of Terrorism and Organised Crime Bill, 2015 again this year, is the third president to have done so since 2003. The former presidents APJ Abdul Kalam and Pratibha Patil considered and rejected
various drafts of this bill—Kalam in 2004, and Patil in 2008 and then again in 2009. In January 2016, President Mukherjee sought clarifications on the fourth draft of the bill, which the home ministry had submitted in September 2015, following which the ministry withdrew the bill and once again sent it back to the state government