India, Pakistan spar over alleged religious conversion of Hindu girls

Indian Hindu devotees carry earthen pots containing sacred water with a coconut on top as they take part in a traditional religious procession known as ‘Kalash Yatra’ in Amritsar on March 24,2019. (AFP)
Updated 25 March 2019
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India, Pakistan spar over alleged religious conversion of Hindu girls

  • In Jammu and Kashmir, India’s only Muslim-majority state, Pakistan accuses India of human rights violations
  • Narendra Modi has taken a tougher stand toward Pakistan in the past five years

NEW DELHI/ISLAMABAD: India and Pakistan are quarreling over reports of an alleged kidnapping and religious conversion of two Hindu girls in mostly Muslim Pakistan last week.
The spat began on Sunday when India’s Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj tweeted that she had asked the country’s high commissioner in Islamabad to send a report on a news article on the allegations, a rare public intervention by a top Indian official in the neighbor’s domestic affairs.
Pakistani police said they had registered a complaint of kidnapping and robbery by the teenagers’ parents and that arrests could be made on Monday.
Pakistan’s Information and Broadcasting Minister Fawad Chaudhry said the country was “totally behind the girls,” but asked Hindu-majority India to look after its own minority Muslims.
“Madam Minister, I am happy that in the Indian administration we have people who care for minority rights in other countries,” Chaudhry replied to Swaraj’s tweet.
“I sincerely hope that your conscience will allow you to stand up for minorities at home as well. Gujarat and Jammu must weigh heavily on your soul.”
Later in a press conference on Sunday, he referred to religious riots in Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state of Gujarat in 2002 during which more than 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, were killed. In Jammu and Kashmir, India’s only Muslim-majority state, Pakistan accuses India of human rights violations, a charge New Delhi denies.
An Indian foreign ministry source cited three more instances of forceful marriages of Hindu or Sikh women in Pakistan in the past two years and said that the government had raised “intimidation of Sikhs, Hindus, and desecration of their places of worship” with Pakistan on various occasions.
The Indian government run by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party will seek a second term in a general election starting next month. Modi has taken a tougher stand toward Pakistan in the past five years.


London climate protesters seek talks with government

Updated 21 April 2019
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London climate protesters seek talks with government

  • Some 831 arrests have been made and 42 people charged in connection with the ongoing Extinction Rebellion protests

LONDON: Climate change protesters who have brought parts of London to a standstill said Sunday they were prepared to call a halt if the British government will discuss their demands.
Some 831 arrests have been made and 42 people charged in connection with the ongoing Extinction Rebellion protests.
On the seventh day of demonstrations that have occupied key spots in the British capital, organizers said they were willing to switch tactics from disruption to dialogue.
“We are prepared to pause, should the government come to the negotiating table,” Extinction Rebellion spokesman James Fox told AFP.
“What the pause looks like is us stopping an escalation.
“We can discuss leaving if they are willing to discuss our demands.
“At the moment, we haven’t received a response from the government... so we’re waiting on that.”
Extinction Rebellion was established last year in Britain by academics and has become one of the world’s fastest-growing environmental movements.
Campaigners want governments to declare a climate and ecological emergency, reduce greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2025, halt biodiversity loss and be led by new “citizens’ assemblies on climate and ecological justice.
“We’re giving them an opportunity now to come and speak to us,” Fox told AFP.
“If they don’t take that opportunity, and if they refuse to come and negotiate with us, then this is going to continue and this is going to escalate in different, diverse and very creative ways.”
Police said they had managed to clear the Oxford Circus and Piccadilly Circus junctions of protesters, who remain in place on Waterloo Bridge and Parliament Square.
“We remain in frequent contact with the organizers to ensure that the serious disruption to Londoners is brought to a close as soon as possible and that only lawful and peaceful protests continue,” the police said in a statement.
Calling for an end to the protests, London Mayor Sadiq Khan said more than 9,000 police officers had been responding to the demonstrations, which had left the force as a whole overstretched.
“This is now taking a real toll on our city — our communities, businesses and police. This is counter-productive to the cause and our city,” he said.
“I’m extremely concerned about the impact the protests are having on our ability to tackle issues like violent crime if they continue any longer. It simply isn’t right to put Londoners’ safety at risk.
“You must now let London return to business as usual.”
In the blazing sunshine on Waterloo Bridge, police lifted protesters and carried them off to waiting police vans.
“I’m genuinely terrified. I think about it all the time. I’m so scared for the world. I feel like there is going to be calamity in my lifetime,” student Amber Gray told AFP.
“I don’t even feel comfortable bringing children into this world knowing that that is coming.
“And I don’t want people in the future to say to me, ‘why didn’t you do anything?’“
Retiree Kathy Hayman said politicians were “ignoring and denying.”
“I’m amazed really at the lack of consciousness that they have and the lack of responsibility.”