Lynchings, Litchis and No Water: What the International Media is Saying About India
India has captured international headlines in the last few weeks - but for all the wrong reasons.
NEW DELHI: India has captured international media headlines in the last few weeks - with news of the lynching of Tabrez Ansari, the encephalitis outbreak, and the acute water crisis gripping the country receiving global attention.
A week ago, Tabrez Ansari, 24, was beaten to death by a mob -- with the brutal attack captured on video. Tied to a pole, he was forced to chant "Jai Shri Ram.” As the 10 minute video of the attack went viral, international media coverage linked the lynching to a recently released United States Commission on International Religious Freedom report that concludes that sectarian strains have increased under PM Modi.
‘Forced to Chant Hindu Slogans, Muslim Man Is Beaten to Death in India’ reads a New York Times headline. “After apprehending a Muslim man suspected of stealing a motorcycle, the Hindu mob tied him to a lamppost and reportedly beat him for 12 hours while forcing him to chant praises to Hindu gods. Videos began circulating widely showing the attack last week in eastern India, which went on for so long that some of the footage was in daylight and other parts in darkness,” the article - published June 25 - begins.
“The beating has become another signal of the bitter tensions in India between the country’s Hindu majority and its large Muslim minority. Part of the reason that the videos spread so quickly was not so much the vigilante beating — a relatively common occurrence in many areas of India — but the mob’s repeated efforts to force the victim to chant slogans often used by the governing Bharatiya Janata Party, “Hail Lord Ram” and “Hail Hanuman,” referring to Hindu gods,” the NYT article states.
“In its annual report for 2019, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom found that sectarian strains had increased under Mr. Modi, who won re-election in a landslide victory in May,” the articles states, referring to referring to a recent US state report that was rejected by the Indian government. India issued a formal statement in response saying it was "proud of its secular credentials, its status as the largest democracy and a pluralistic society with a longstanding commitment to tolerance and inclusion".
“The release of the report was treated as an affront by the Modi government, which has been preparing for a two-day visit starting on Tuesday by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo,” the NYT article says.
‘Muslim man dies after being beaten for hours, forced to chant Hindu slogans,’ reports ABC news. News of his death emerged as India's Government rejected a US State Department report that said religious intolerance and violence against minorities had spiked under right-wing Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The US religious freedom report said there had been an increase in attacks by groups claiming to protect cows — considered sacred by Hindus — on Muslims and low-caste Dalits since 2014, when Mr Modi came to power,’ the article says.
'Obvious religious hatred': Muslim man in India lynched on video’ is Al Jazeera’s news headline. “Tied to a pole, Ansari is also forced to shout "Jai Shri Ram" (Hail Lord Ram), a slogan increasingly used by Hindu far right groups, according to the footage, which has gone viral,” says the report. “Dozens of Muslims have been killed by Hindu groups in the past five years over allegations that they slaughtered cows or had eaten beef,” the same report concludes. It also refers to the US religious freedom report, and India’s denial in response.
Additionally, international media attention has focused on India as an outbreak of Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) killed more than 150 children this year; 131 in Muzaffarpur district alone.
‘Brain disease linked to lychee toxins kills 47 children in India,’ reads a CNN news report. ‘India orders probe into 'brain fever' child deaths,’ reports DW. “An encephalitis outbreak in India's Bihar state has killed more than 150 children so far. Public anger over the crisis has been growing, with both the state and federal government accused of "negligence and inaction,”” the DW report summarises.
“Over 700 cases of encephalitis have been registered in Bihar state since the outbreak began at the beginning of June… Bihar state is one of the poorest regions in India, with some of the worst child health statistics anywhere in the world. Medical experts have said that the encephalitis deaths could be avoided if people had better access to health care, nourishment and better awareness,” the article says.
‘Tears, outrage as 'brain fever' kills over 150 children in India,’ reads an Al Jazeera headline. “With the number of children in Muzaffarpur dying due to AES escalating, the crisis has exposed the state's dilapidated health sector. A similar outbreak in the district in 2014 killed 350 children, raising questions on why the authorities had not done more to combat the disease,” the report states.
“AES is mainly caused by dehydration and malnutrition. Early symptoms are similar to those of flu, with patients suffering from high temperatures or headache. Young children are particularly vulnerable to the illness, which can cause swelling of the brain, fever and vomiting. Since its outbreak earlier this month in Bihar, one of India's poorest states, AES has wreaked havoc, affecting 20 out of the state's 38 districts and killing 152 people at the last count. About 6,000 deaths from encephalitis occurred in India between 2008 and 2014, with Bihar accounting for 1396 of those fatalities since 2008,” it says.
‘A Mystery Disease Is Killing Children, and Questions Linger About Lychees,’ reports the New York Times. “ There have been hundreds of cases again — 719 as of Monday, with 152 deaths — all among poor children here in the Muzaffarpur lychee belt, in a heavily populated area of Bihar State. And this time, doctors say they are finding many cases in which lychees were not a factor,” the report says. The report quotes doctors and other officials - laying most of the responsibility of the deaths on the government. “Government just didn’t do what they should have done… They did nothing. At first they did pay attention, but then 2017, 2018, there were few cases — last year only 25 cases, and they became complacent,” Muzaffarpur pediatrician Arun Shah is quoted in the report.
International media attention has also turned to India’s water crisis - with news reports focusing on acute water shortages across the country.
‘Indian villages lie empty as drought forces thousands to flee,’ notes The Guardian. “Wells and handpumps have run dry in the 45C heatwave. The drought, which officials say is worse than the 1972 famine that affected 25 million people across the state, began early in December. By the end of May, Hatkarwadi had been deserted with only 10-15 families remaining out of a population of more than 2,000,” the report says.
“With 80% of districts in neighbouring Karnataka and 72% in Maharashtra hit by drought and crop failure, the 8 million farmers in these two states are struggling to survive. More than 6,000 tankers supply water to villages and hamlets in Maharashtra daily, as conflict brews between the two states over common water resources. The acute water shortage has devastated villagers’ agriculture-based livelihood. Crops have withered and died, leaving livestock starving and with little to drink. Major crops, including maize, soya, cotton, sweet lime, pulses and groundnuts – drivers of the local economy – have suffered,” the report says.
‘No Drips, No Drops: A City Of 10 Million Is Running Out Of Water,’ reads NPR’s headline. “In India's sixth-largest city, lines for water snake around city blocks, restaurants are turning away customers and a man was killed in a brawl over water. Chennai, with a population of almost 10 million, is nearly out of water. In much of India, municipal water, drawn from reservoirs or groundwater, typically runs for only a couple of hours each day. That's the norm year-round. The affluent fill tanks on their roofs; the poor fill jerrycans and buckets. But in Chennai this summer, the water is barely flowing at all,” the report says.
“Public institutions are suffering. Hospitals and nursing homes are charging more for services to cover the increased cost of water, according to the local press. There are also reports that toilets at schools are dirty due to a lack of water,” it says.
‘One of India's biggest cities has almost run out of water,’ states The Independent. “Shortages started several weeks ago and the government has been heavily criticised for relying on the arrival of the monsoon instead of taking action. The rains are unreliable and have been late for several years in a row,” the article says. “Poor urban development in Chennai also means water is not recycled and rainwater is not collected,” it adds.