BJP leaders charged over 1992 mosque demolition

In this photograph taken on July 2, 2009, Indian BJP leader Uma Bharti (C) takes part in a rally in New Delhi. A special court on Tuesday charged three senior leaders of India's ruling right-wing party with conspiracy over the demolition of a mosque in 1992, which unleashed one of the deadliest riots across the country. (AFP / MANAN VATSYAYANA)
Updated 30 May 2017

BJP leaders charged over 1992 mosque demolition

NEW DELHI: An Indian judge charged a minister in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government and senior leaders from his ruling party with criminal conspiracy on Tuesday in connection with the 1992 destruction of a mosque by a Hindu mob.
The demolition of the mosque in northern Uttar Pradesh state unleashed some of the deadliest religious riots across the country since independence in 1947, killing about 2,000 people.
Water Resources Minister Uma Bharti and stalwarts of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party led by L. K. Advani and M. M. Joshi appeared in court in the city of Lucknow to hear the charges.
All three deny any role in the razing of the mosque.
The trial of senior BJP leaders will raise fresh questions about Hindu nationalism within Modi’s party at a time when critics accuse his supporters of trying to marginalize minority groups and redefine India as a Hindu nation.
“The judge accepted our plea to charge the leaders with criminal conspiracy and the accused are already facing trial for making provocative speeches that incited Hindus to pull down the Babri mosque,” said M. R. Shamshad, a lawyer representing Muslim leaders and victims of the violence.
Bharti, entering the courtroom on Tuesday amid a crowd of reporters, rejected the charges.
“I don’t consider myself a criminal,” she said.
Lawyers representing Joshi and Advani did not respond to requests for comment.
Many Hindus believe that the mosque in the town of Ayodhya was built on top of the birthplace of their god-king Rama and the BJP is committed to the construction of a temple there.
The dispute is still at the core of tensions between Hindus and India’s Muslim minority. BJP party leaders have faced prosecution for their alleged involvement in the mosque’s destruction for more than a decade, but last month the Supreme Court ruled the party leaders must be tried and the case wrapped up within two years.
Advani, a former home minister and chief of the BJP, led Hindus on the pilgrimage that ended with the razing of the mosque. He says he tried to stop the clashes.
On Tuesday, the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, Yogi Adityanath, a firebrand Hindu priest, met the three accused outside the court in a sign of support.

Dhaka’s Uber drivers warn of more protests if demands not met

Updated 7 min 46 sec ago

Dhaka’s Uber drivers warn of more protests if demands not met

  • Push for increase in base fare, reducing commission from 25% to 12%


DHAKA: Uber drivers in Bangladesh said on Tuesday that they would launch more protests if the authorities failed to meet the demands highlighted in a nine-point program.

It follows a day-long protest staged by the drivers’ union of the popular ride-sharing service and the Bangladesh drivers’ association on Monday.

The nine demands from Uber drivers include an increase in the basic fare, fixing the fare per kilometer and reducing Uber’s commission from 25 percent to 12 percent.

Uber drivers are also pressing for trips to be assigned under the “Destination” option in the app, ensuring the security of drivers; compensating drivers if passengers damage the vehicles; taking action against drivers only after a thorough investigation of complaints; and making it compulsory for passengers to provide their image in their Uber accounts.

“We had two meetings with the Uber authorities in Dhaka last August and September to realize our demands but there was no result. So finding no other alternative, we observed the 24-hour strike on Uber service,” Belal Ahmed, secretary of the Dhaka ride-sharing drivers’ union, told Arab News.

“We are now observing the initiatives taken by the Uber Bangladesh management in regard to our demands. If they don’t listen to us we will announce fresh tougher programs within the next couple of days,” Ahmed said.

San Francisco-based ride-sharing company Uber launched its operations in Dhaka in November 2016, making it the first ride-sharing company to provide its services there.

Other local operators — Pathao, Shohoz, O Bhai, O Car, Car Bangla, Pick me — followed soon after by offering services in the cities of Dhaka, Chottogram and Sylhet.

“We want a perfect ‘way bill’ for our trips which we don’t get in some cases due to technical problems in the Uber app. In these cases, we had enjoyed an adjustment from Uber which has been stopped for the past five months causing a huge loss for the drivers,” Shamim Hossain, president of the Bangladesh ride-sharing drivers’ association, told Arab News.

Justifying the drivers’ demand to reduce the commission given to Uber, Hossain said that all other local ride-sharing operators charged only 15-20 percent commission.

“Uber is not investing in the cars. As an app service provider, they are just bridging the passengers and drivers and charging 25 percent of our income, which is very high,” Hossain said.

Commuters in Dhaka expressed their dissatisfaction over the drivers’ protest.

“The drivers can’t take the passengers as hostage to realize their demand in any situation. It’s a service- oriented issue and drivers should act in a more rational way,” Monowara Begum, 36, an employee of a corporate house in Dhaka, told Arab News.

“We have become dependent on Uber services as they are the most reliable and available. So, both the parties should find a sustainable solution to mitigate the crisis. This sort of strike cases huge disruption in our daily lives,” Momin Ullah, 49, a businessman of Dhaka, told Arab News.

The Uber Bangladesh authority did not comment when contacted by Arab News. A statement released by Uber Bangladesh on Monday read: “We regret the disruption caused to the rider and driver-partner community, due to a small group of individuals. We strive to provide reliable and safe transport options to get around the city and hope to minimize any distress caused.”

“We are committed to providing reliable, convenient and safe transport options to our riders, while providing access to flexible income opportunities for our driver partners. We always prioritize the wellbeing of our driver-partners and have processes in place to address concerns and issues through our Partner Sheba Kendras and in-App feedback,” it said.

Uber operates in more than 550 cities around the world.