India’s Priyanka stopped from visiting site of deadly shooting as tensions flare

Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, above, was leading a group of supporters to the village of a few hundred people when police blocked their cars. (File/AFP)
Updated 20 July 2019

India’s Priyanka stopped from visiting site of deadly shooting as tensions flare

  • The shooting happened in Uttar Pradesh
  • The state is known for a pronounced caste system

NEW DELHI: Indian police on Friday stopped opposition leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra from visiting a village where 10 tribal people were gunned down this week over a land dispute, officials said, fueling political divisions.
In an altercation on Wednesday, a village headman and his supporters allegedly shot at a group of tribal people who were working a piece of disputed agricultural land in the state of Uttar Pradesh.
Uttar Pradesh is India’s most populous state and divisions based on the ancient caste system are pronounced, especially in rural areas. Tribal people are perceived to form the bottom rung of that system.
Police have arrested 27 people, including the village headman, but opposition groups said the shooting was the latest sign of deteriorating security in the state governed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party.
Priyanka — she is usually referred to by just her first name — is the sister of Congress party leader Rahul Gandhi and is a party general secretary.
She was leading a group of supporters to the village of a few hundred people when police blocked their cars, saying they could inflame tension.
But Priyanka said she was only going to commiserate with the families of the victims and state authorities were trying to cover up their failure to prevent the violence.
She said that police had been warned of a brewing conflict between the headman and tribal people who had been farming on the land for generations.
“The police were called during the altercation but no help came,” she said. “Where is the law and order system in this state?
Uttar Pradesh, led by firebrand Hindu monk Yogi Adityanath, has been in the spotlight for incidents of lynching over the slaughter of cows, attacks on journalists and a general rise in crime, opposition leaders say.
“There is jungle rule in UP,” said Tej Narain Pandey, a state legislator.
Police said the village headman and his supporters arrived at the disputed tract of land with guns.
Nine people were killed at the site and one died later in hospital.
The Congress, badly beaten by Modi in an election this year, is trying to find ways to make a political comeback.
The party criticized state authorities.
“Instead of reaching out to the families of the victims, the government is trying to prevent opposition leaders only to hide the truth from the public,” Congress said in a statement.


China scrambles to contain ‘strengthening’ virus

Updated 26 January 2020

China scrambles to contain ‘strengthening’ virus

  • Coronavirus’ transmission ability getting stronger
  • China confirms 1,975 people infected, 56 dead

BEIJING/SHANGHAI: The ability of the new coronavirus to spread is strengthening and infections could continue to rise, China’s National Health Commission said on Sunday, with more than 2,000 people in China infected and 56 killed by the disease.
Health authorities around the world are racing to prevent a pandemic after a handful of cases of infection were reported outside China, including in Thailand, Australia, the United States and France.
The mayor of Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, said he expected another 1,000 new patients in the city, which was stepping up construction of special hospitals.
The newly identified coronavirus has created alarm because much about it is still unknown, such as how dangerous it is and how easily it spreads between people. It can cause pneumonia, which has been deadly in some cases.
China’s National Health Commission Minister Ma Xiaowei said the incubation period for the virus can range from one to 14 days, during which infection can occur, which was not the case with Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).
SARS was a coronavirus that originated in China and killed nearly 800 people globally in 2002 and 2003.
“According to recent clinical information, the virus’ ability to spread seems to be getting somewhat stronger,” Ma told reporters.
The Lunar New Year holiday, traditionally celebrated by hundreds of millions of Chinese traveling around the country and abroad to see family, began on Friday but has been severely disrupted by the outbreak.
Ma said China would intensify its containment efforts, which have so far included transportation and travel curbs and the cancelation of big events.
The country may extend the week-long Lunar New Year holiday, state broadcaster CCTV reported, citing a meeting hosted by Chinese premier Li Keqiang.
The virus, believed to have originated late last year in a seafood market in Wuhan that was illegally selling wildlife, has spread to cities including Beijing and Shanghai. Hong Kong has six confirmed cases.
The World Health Organization this week stopped short of calling the outbreak a global health emergency, but some health experts question whether China can contain the epidemic.
Chinese President Xi Jinping described the situation as “grave” on Saturday.
China confirmed 2,051 cases of infection as of 7 p.m. (1100 GMT) on Jan. 26, while the death toll from the virus remained at 56, state broadcaster CCTV reported.
Health officials in Orange County, California, reported that a third case had been registered in the United States in a traveler from Wuhan, who was in isolation and in good condition.
On Saturday, Canada declared a first “presumptive” confirmed case in a resident who had returned from Wuhan. Australia confirmed its first four cases.
No fatalities have been reported outside China.

WILDLIFE SALES BAN
On Sunday, China temporarily banned nationwide the sale of wildlife in markets, restaurants, and e-commerce platforms. Wild and often poached animals packed together in Chinese markets are blamed as incubators for viruses to evolve and jump the species barrier to humans.
Snakes, peacocks, crocodiles and other species can also be found for sale via Taobao, an e-commerce website run by Alibaba.
The New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society called on China to make the ban permanent.
The US State Department said it will relocate personnel at its Wuhan consulate to the United States, while Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said his government was working with China to arrange a charter flight for Japanese nationals to return from Wuhan.
The outbreak has prompted widening curbs on movements within China, with Wuhan, a city of 11 million, on virtual lockdown and transport links all-but severed except for emergency vehicles.

CANCELLATIONS AND MISTRUST
Health authorities in Beijing urged people not to shake hands but instead salute using a traditional cupped-hand gesture. The advice was sent in a text message that went out to mobile phone users in the city on Sunday morning.
Beijing also postponed the reopening of the city’s schools and universities after the Lunar New Year holiday, state radio reported. Hong Kong had already delayed the reopening of schools to Feb. 17.
China has called for transparency in managing the crisis, after a cover-up of the spread of the SARS virus eroded public trust, but officials in Wuhan have been criticized for their handling of the current outbreak.
“People in my hometown all suspect the real infected patients number given by authorities,” said Violet Li, who lives in the Wuhan district where the seafood market is located.
Illustrating the extend of disruption to life in China, overall passenger travel declined by nearly 29% on Saturday, the first day of the Lunar New Year, from a year earlier, with air passengers down nearly 42%, a transportation ministry official said.
Many cinemas across China were closed with major film premieres postponed.
Cruise operators including Royal Caribbean Cruises, and Costa Cruises said they had canceled a combined 12 cruises that had been scheduled to embark from Chinese ports before Feb. 2.
Hong Kong Disneyland and the city’s Ocean Park were closed on Sunday. Shanghai Disneyland, which expected 100,000 visitors daily through the holiday period, has already closed.
Airports around the world have stepped up screening of passengers from China, although some health officials and experts have questioned the effectiveness of these efforts.