Researched by: Nirmal Bhansali & Aarthi Ramnath
Bhiwani killings: A gau raksha horror story
The context: On February 16, the police found the charred bodies of two Muslim men—Junaid and Nasir—in a burnt vehicle in Bhiwani, Haryana. Their families filed an FIR in Rajasthan alleging that they had been abducted and killed by gau rakshak goons. The nine men accused of the crime include members of the Hindutva group Bajrang Dal.
What happened now: The most prominent among the accused is Bajrang Dal member Monu Manesar—who has the backing of the local mahapanchayat—which has threatened Rajasthan cops: “Raids are being conducted in the village in search of Monu Manesar and his family members have been harassed. We will not let Rajasthan Police return alive if they enter the village.” As of now only one person has been arrested so far.
Also this: Relatives of Junaid claim that the Haryana police was involved in the crime:
The public there saw one vehicle of the Haryana Police and another vehicle in which the accused were travelling. The police and Bajrang Dal members stopped Junaid and Nasir’s Bolero… They tried to run away but were beaten up and put into the police car and taken to Ferozepur Jhirka. The Bajrang Dal people tried to hand over the duo to the police but the latter refused because their condition was serious. After that, Junaid and Nasir were taken to Loharu (over 160 km away, in Bhiwani district) and burnt alive.
This isn’t hard to believe since at least three of the accused were police informers—who often accompanied cops on raids on cattle smugglers.
Point to note: Cow slaughter is illegal in both Rajasthan and Haryana. One of the men has been previously accused of cow-smuggling—the other has not.
Japan changes its sex crime laws
Japan has some of the most regressive rape laws among developed nations. Victims have to prove that there was "violence and intimidation" making it "impossible to resist" being raped. That atrocious standard resulted in number of prominent rape acquittals—which sparked public outrage:
One case saw a man go free after being accused of having sex with his teenaged daughter, even though the court agreed that it was against her will. He was later sent to prison after prosecutors appealed. Another saw a man found not guilty of raping a woman who had passed out from drinking because he "misunderstood" that she consented to having sex.
The new law doesn’t change that wording—but now recognises factors such as intoxication, drugging and psychological control. (BBC News)
Also this: Japan has the lowest age of consent among G7 countries—which will now be raised from 13 to 16—as part of the same bill. Activists say the existing law forced teenage survivors to undergo the same gruelling legal process as adults. And clubbed with the lax rape laws, it allowed rapists to “shift blame to the victims, and argue that sex was initiated or enjoyed by the children.” (The Independent)
Meanwhile, in South Korea: The country also took a big step forward. A court recognised the rights of same-sex couples for the very first time in a case involving healthcare coverage—even though the country does not recognise same-sex marriages:
The high court, however, ruled spousal coverage under the state health insurance scheme was not limited to legally defined families, and that denying that right to same-sex couples was discriminatory.
The Guardian has more details.
Meanwhile, in China: Desperate efforts to raise the birth rate continue apace. Some Chinese provinces are giving newlyweds 30 days of paid leave in the hope of encouraging marriage—and boosting population numbers. While left unsaid, the hope seems to be that the couple will, ahem, make good use of those thirty days of newly wed bliss:) (Reuters)
Alarming news about Indian monuments
The government is getting ready to pass a new bill that could de-notify a number of protected monuments. It will likely change the present definition which requires the monument to be at least 100 years old:
But sources say there is a view to change that benchmark and go back since India has a wealth of ancient monuments, while most ‘100-year-old monuments pertain to the time of the Britishers’. This would be in line with the government wanting to shed ‘its colonial past’...
Also this: the current law says a monument can lose its protected status if it is no longer of “national importance.” So, of course, the government plans to change the definition of that phrase, as well. All of which sounds alarmingly fuzzy—and offers great potential for archaeological disaster. Indian Express has more details—but doesn’t add much clarity.
Bad times for Punjab farmers
It’s that time of the year again—when crop prices fall so low that Indian farmers rather destroy their crops than sell them. Potato prices in Punjab have hit rock-bottom—the vegetable fetches only Rs 500 a quintal, but the farmers paid Rs 2,000 a quintal for the seeds. While aloos have always been a “risky” bet, this time cauliflower growers are also feeling the pain:
I had spent Rs 30,000 on one acre and was hardly getting Rs 3 per kg. "Apne hath naal laayi, hun aap hi vaati, mann nai manda par ki kariye” (I grew it and I am destroying it, it's very tough but what to do).
As a result, farmers are destroying entire fields of the crop. The Tribune has that story
Soaring use of credit cards
Indian consumers have started using credit cards more than debit cards in the past year. Credit card payments surged from Rs 6,300 billion in 2020-21 to Rs 10,490 billion in the first nine months of 2022-23. The number of credit cards has also jumped to 81.2 million in December 2022 from 68.9 million in December 2021. The trend likely reflects the state of our bank balances—which have been falling since the pandemic. And the Reserve Bank has been doing its bit to encourage the shift—by linking UPI to credit cards. What it all means: we’re getting dangerously comfortable with racking up debt. (Indian Express, paywall)
Two things to see
One: Indian citizens rejoice! The grandchildren of our netas are rejecting the family business—and are heading for more creative pastures. The grandson of Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao—and son of state minister KT Rama Rao—has released his first single—a cover of ‘Golden Hour’ by JVKE. Does Himanshu have a brilliant musical career ahead of him? Maybe not but this is way more entertaining than yet another political speech. (The Hindu)
Two: Flaco, the Eurasian eagle-owl, escaped from New York’s Central Park Zoo on February 2—and has eluded capture ever since. He has instead been showing off his hunting skills—stalking hapless park rats as prey. Flaco’s kill count has been so impressive that zoo officials plan to let him fly free in the wilds of Manhattan: “We are going to continue monitoring Flaco and his activities and to be prepared to resume recovery efforts if he shows any sign of difficulty or distress.” As you can see below, Flaco is now the #1 celebrity sighting in New York lol! (Associated Press)