TIME India

Indian Election Favorite Modi Denies Shying Away From Gujarat Riots Issue

Bharatiya Janata Party leader Narendra Modi rides in an open jeep on his way to file nomination papers on April 9, 2014 in Vadodra, India Kevin Frayer—Getty Images

In 2002, more than 1,000 people were killed in sectarian riots that swept the western Indian state of Gujarat, where Narendra Modi was and still is chief minister. Twelve years on, as he bids to become prime minister, the accusations of complicity keep coming

Prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi has denied keeping quiet over the violent riots that took place in Gujarat in 2002. “I was not silent,” the candidate for the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) told Asian News International (ANI) in an April 16 interview. “I have said what I had to say. Now, I am in the people’s court, and I am waiting to hear from them, and their verdict.”

For years, Modi’s rise through India’s political ranks has been shadowed by communal violence that took place during his first year as the chief minister of Gujarat, a post he continues to hold today. In 2002, more than 1,000 people were killed in riots that swept the western Indian state. The majority of the victims were Muslim. Though many have accused Modi, as chief minister, of not doing enough to stop the violence, Indian courts have never found him criminally culpable, and have cleared him of any wrongdoing.

In the dozen years since, Modi’s reputation for effective administration and good economic management have helped put him where he is today: at the helm of the national party that polls suggest will have the strongest performance this election. Many give Modi direct credit for the BJP’s momentum over the past few months. But he continues to face questions about not apologizing for the riots, or to speak during the campaign at greater length about a difficult and polarizing period of India’s recent history. In response to a recent demand from the ruling Congress Party that he apologize, Modi told a local television station that Congress should “account for their own sins first,” according to NDTV.

Modi has said that he was shaken by the violence that took place during his early days in office. In a July interview with Reuters, Modi’s response to whether he regretted the 2002 violence made waves when he compared his feeling for the loss of life to being a passenger when somebody runs over a puppy on the road. “If I’m a chief minister or not, I’m a human being,” he said. “If something bad happens anywhere, it is natural to be sad.”

Modi told ANI this week that he has given up discussing the riots with the media. (In the past, he has walked out of an interview when pressed on the subject.) “I answered every top journalist in the country from 2002-2007, but noticed there was no exercise to understand truth,” he said. He also suggested that the media’s negative attention has, in fact, given his career a boost: “If the media had not worked to malign Modi,” he said, “Then who would known about Modi today?”

TIME India

Overcoming Voter Apathy In India’s I.T. Hub

INDIA-ELECTION-AAP
Aam Admi Party (AAP) supporters and volunteers participate in a flash mob as part of an election camapaign to woo voters in Bangalore on April 13, 2014. MANJUNATH KIRAN—AFP/Getty Images

With its young and upwardly mobile population, Bangalore is a bellwether for India's professional classes and a battle ground for campaigners seeking to overcome traditional urban voter apathy

It’s the day before Good Friday, and many city dwellers in the IT mecca of Bangalore are getting ready to take advantage of the long weekend to escape the heat of the city. But at 7 AM in a polling booth in Whitefield, the city’s IT hub, some two dozen people line up, waiting to cast their ballot.

“Before, if voting was on a long weekend, we would have stepped out of the city earlier to make the most of our holiday,” says Aditi Rao, a 29-year-old software professional. “Now we realize the value of our votes. We will head out after.”

That’s good news for the voting drive in urban India. Voters in Indian cities traditionally have low voter turnout, and Bangalore is no exception. Known for its young, upwardly mobile workforce, this should be the kind of place where it’s easy to mobilize voters to show up at the polls. But in 2009 national elections, the city’s voter turnout hovered around 45%.

The sustained apathy over several elections has prompted both industry and business groups in India to try to turn the situation around. This election will be different, says P.G. Bhat, a member of the electoral reforms commission of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI). “People are taking active interest in the electoral process, and that’s heartening.”

Commercial groups like FICCI have worked hard this year to address the issue of urban voter apathy across the nation, says S.Y. Quraishi, former Chief Election Commissioner of India. “It has substantially helped in registration of voters. I hope it improves voter turnout too.”

In Bangalore, the turnout may be helped by the fact that the IT city finally has a few candidates that it can relate to. Congress’ Nandan Nilakeni is the co-founder of one of India’s best known IT companies, Infosys, which many young professionals have worked for and admire. Running against him is Anant Kumar, the five-time BJP incumbent, who not only represents the popular prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi but has also promised the city hundreds of billions of rupees in special infrastructure grants if voted to power. Also in the mix is a former board member of Infosys, V Balakrishnan, who is running with the anti-corruption Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) on the platform of, among other things, fighting the city’s garbage mafia.

But voter apathy won’t disappear overnight. A quick tour of polling booths in South Bangalore’s Girinagar and Padmanabhnagar areas revealed that the voter lists were old and had glaring omissions. Several people who had turned up to vote couldn’t spot their names. “An urban Indian voter used to professionalism would not forgive such an oversight and would begin to distance himself from the electoral process,” says the FICCI’s Bhat.

Many IT employees come to work in Bangalore from all over India. Though they can register in their new city of residence, many complain they don’t have the option of mailing their ballot back to their home constituency. “I don’t live and work in my voting constituency, and so I have never been able to exercise my franchise,” says Sanjeet Manchanda, a consultant at ITC Infotech, who is from Punjab. “I feel like an alien in my own country on the vote day.”

How the vote is going elsewhere in the country may also be discouraging to young voters. AAP, the new political party led by Arvind Kejriwal, has been a popular among young IT workers, who helped its online campaign. But in Bangalore, some early AAP supporters are disillusioned with what is shaping up to be nationwide showdown between Congress and the BJP, and say they will not vote at all.

“I am let down by the fact that there is a Modi wave in this country,” says Durgesh Gurnani, an employee of Oracle Financial Services and a registered voter in South Bangalore. “After all the work we did for AAP, we didn’t see any concrete results.”

TIME Asia

South Korea Ferry Disaster: A Nation Searches for Answers

The Sewol's sinking is being called one of South Korea's worst peacetime disasters as survivors question why they weren't quickly evacuated

Updated on Thursday, 6:06 a.m. ET

The ferry that sank off South Korea’s south coast on Wednesday was named Sewol, or “time and tide.” Rescue workers on Thursday fought both as they raced to save hundreds believed to be still trapped inside the vessel. Boats and helicopters searched the sea, while divers worked to free people from inside the submerged hulk. According to the latest figures, nine are dead, 288 missing and 179 rescued. Given the freezing water temperature and the state of the ship, the death toll is expected to rise.

Sewol was making its twice-weekly journey from the port city of Incheon to the resort island of Jeju when it sent a distress signal at 8:58 a.m., Wednesday, local time. There were more than 400 aboard the ship, including 340 teenagers and teachers from a high school near the capital, Seoul, setting off on a four-day field trip. Several survivors told local press they heard a loud noise before the ship started tilting. An announcement urged passengers to stay put. For some, it was an impossible choice: do as asked, or disobey and leap into the frigid water.

The incident is already being called one of the country’s worst peacetime disasters, and may be the worst South Korean ferry disaster since 1993, when 292 people were killed. It is still unclear what caused the ship to sink, and so quickly. Early speculation focused on the possibility that Sewol hit a rock, although one rescuer, citing surviving members of Sewol’s crew, told Reuters the area was free of major obstacles.

Another theory is that cargo on board somehow shifted, causing the vessel to list and eventually sink. South Korean officials said the captain and crew are being questioned, but have not offered a theory of what happened. With most of the ship underwater, piecing together what happened will take time.

The rescue effort and its aftermath will no doubt challenge the government of President Park Geun-hye. “We must not give up,” Park declared on Wednesday. Speaking at the Ministry of Security and Public Administration, she said “We must do our best to rescue even one of those passengers and students who may not have escaped from the ship.” But those affected have been critical of the operation, claiming the government should be doing more, and doing it faster, to save those trapped inside. When Premier Jung Hong-won visited families waiting for news, someone threw a water bottle at him, Yonhap News Agency reported.

Survivors and families are also furious about the decision to keep passengers on board as the vessel listed. CNN reports that there were 46 lifeboats on the sunken ferry Sewol, but only one was deployed.

Survivor Koo Bon-hee, 36, criticized the crew for telling them to stay seated. “We were wearing life jackets. We had time,” he told the Associated Press. On April 17, the AP reported an immediate evacuation order wasn’t issued—instead about 30 minutes after the captain requested passengers to put on life jackets—because the ship’s officers were trying to stabilize it. “If people had jumped into the water … they would have been rescued. But we were told not to go out.”

South Korean students are accustomed to strict discipline, which may have made them more likely to follow the crew’s order. “We were asking ourselves, ‘Shouldn’t we move? Shouldn’t we try and get out?’” survivor Huh Young-ki told AFP. “But the announcement was saying help would be there in 10 minutes.”

For too many, help did not come.

— With reporting by Per Liljas / Hong Kong

 

TIME Ukraine

Three Killed and Thirteen Injured in Ukrainian Skirmish

A minivan burns at the gates to a National Guard base in Mariupol, early Thursday, April 17, 2014
A minivan burns at the gates to a National Guard base in Mariupol, early Thursday, April 17, 2014 Nikolai Ryabchenko—AP

Three pro-Russian demonstrators were killed and 13 others injured as a mob tried to overrun a National Guard base hours before envoys meet in Geneva

Updated 7:11 a.m. ET Thursday

At least three pro-Russian militants were killed near Mariupol in eastern Ukraine, hours ahead of of a meeting between U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and European, Ukrainian and Russian envoys in Geneva on Thursday.

According to a statement published by Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov on Facebook, the three separatists were killed, with 13 injured and more than 60 demonstrators detained, after a firefight erupted near a Ukrainian National Guard outpost

The skirmish began after a pro-Russian crowd massed near the base on the Black Sea late on Wednesday and demanded the troops abandon their post. Shots were reportedly fired as the mob attempted to overrun the base.

The violence comes after Kiev launched “antiterrorism” operations earlier this week in a bid to counter the swelling insurgency in the country’s east.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, speaking in a televised interview on Thursday, said for the first time that Russian forces were deployed in Crimea ahead of the referendum held in March. Putin also underscored the point that Russian lawmakers had given him the go-ahead to use military force if required in eastern Ukraine, the New York Times reports.

Meanwhile, reports surfaced Wednesday that government troops handed over their armored vehicles to heavily armed Kremlin supporters as they defected in both Slovyansk and Kramatorks.

Despite the growing tension in the country’s east, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Andriy Deshchytsia said he believed it was still possible to deescalate the crisis through diplomatic channels during Thursday’s meeting.

“We are trying hard — not only Ukraine — but also the U.S.,” he told reporters after arriving in Geneva on Wednesday.

“However, the time is now, not only to express concern, but to look for a more concrete and adequate response to Russia’s plans and actions.”

Ahead of the talks, President Barack Obama made veiled threats of employing further sanctions against the Kremlin if Russia continues to support anti-Kiev militias that have been seizing government buildings across eastern Ukraine.

“Mr. Putin’s decisions are not just bad for Ukraine, over the long term they’re going to be bad for Russia,” President Barack Obama said during an interview with CBS on Wednesday.

However, Secretary of State Kerry has noted in the past that while wide ranging sanctions against the Russians would likely have devastating effects on the Russian economy, such moves would likely have an adverse affect on the US economy as well.

On Wednesday, the European Commission also noted that increased sanctions on Moscow could have potentially much larger economic consequences for certain European states that rely extensively on Russian energy supplies and are more integrated with its economy.

 

TIME Malaysia

Malaysian Opposition Figure Killed in Car Crash

In this April 28, 2008 file photo, Democratic Action Party Chairman Karpal Singh speaks during a press conference at Parliament House in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia Lai Seng Sin—AP

Karpal Singh, one of the leading lights of Malaysia's opposition movement, has died in an accident that also claimed the life of his personal assistant and left three others injured, two of them critically

A veteran Malaysian opposition politician was killed in an automobile accident Thursday while traveling with his son and two other passengers, according to Malaysia’s The Star. Karpal Singh, who was also a prominent lawyer, was 74.

Reports say that his personal assistant was also killed in the accident. Singh’s son, Ram, suffered minor injuries while the driver and another passenger are critically injured.

Karpal Singh began his political career with the opposition Democratic Action Party in 1978. He recently stepped down as chairman of the party because of sedition charges pending against him.

Singh survived another car crash in 2005 that left him paralyzed from the waist down.

Prime Minister Najib Razak expressed his condolences via Twitter.

Singh’s other son, Gobind Singh Deo, who was not traveling with the politician, also tweeted news of his father’s death.

[ABC]

TIME Rwanda

An Apology for the Rwandan Genocide, 20 Years Later

Colin Keating
Former New Zealand ambassador Colin Keating addresses an open session of the United Nations Security Council on April 16, 2014. He apologized for the council's refusal to recognize that genocide was taking place in Rwanda and for doing nothing to halt the slaughter. Evan Schneider—ASSOCIATED PRESS

The New Zealand diplomat who was president of the Security Council in April 1994 admits the U.N. "utterly failed" to prevent the slaughter of up to one million people in Rwanda. He was speaking at a council meeting held to mark the 20th anniversary of the genocide

The New Zealand diplomat who was president of the U.N. Security Council at the start of the Rwandan genocide in April 1994 has apologized for the council’s refusal to recognize and halt the slaughter, in which up to one million lives were lost.

Colin Keating’s apology was issued at a council meeting Wednesday, held to both commemorate the twentieth anniversary of the genocide and review what had since been done to prevent similar atrocities.

Keating recalled that “most” veto-empowered nations, including the United States and France, rejected a call to condemn the killings, and that warnings sounded by U.N. Human Rights Commission on the possibility of genocide never came before the council.

“The genocide against the Tutsi highlighted the extent to which the U.N. methods of prevention utterly failed,” he said.

The U.N.’s increased commitment to human rights work was noted during the session, but the organization was also widely criticized for its failure to prevent current atrocities in Syria, Central African Republic, and South Sudan.

[AP]

TIME Military

NATO’s Back in Business, Thanks to Russia’s Threat to Ukraine

UKRAINE-RUSSIA-CRISIS-POLITICS-SLAVYANSK
Armed militants outside the regional state building seized by pro-Russian separatists in the eastern Ukrainian city of Slavyansk on Wednesday. Genya Savilov / AFP / Getty Images

But its efforts are limited to protecting itself, not saving Kiev

Back in 1993, during the earliest days of the Clinton Administration, Senator Richard Lugar of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee warned that with the Soviet Union history, NATO needed to “go out of area, or out of business.”

Like any self-respecting, self-perpetuating armed bureaucracy, the alliance got the hint, deploying forces—and, in some cases, fighting—in Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq, the Gulf of Aden and Libya.

President Clinton may have moved from the world stage, and Senator Lugar may have lost the 2012 Indiana Republican primary to an ultimately-defeated Tea Party candidate, but NATO—thanks to Russia’s threat to Ukraine—is now firmly back in business, finally in its own area.

The North Atlantic alliance made clear Wednesday that “a political solution is the only way forward” in dealing with Russia’s threats to its former fellow Soviet republic. That may be the only way forward for NATO and the West. But Russia may not be willing to play fair.

“We call on Russia to be part of the solution,” NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said. “To stop destabilizing Ukraine, pull back its troops from the borders and make clear it doesn’t support the violent actions of well-armed militias of pro-Russian separatists.”

Good luck with that, Secretary General.

When NATO faced a similar situation in the Balkans in the 1990s, importuning for political solutions failed and ended with thousands of bombing runs against Serbian targets. The Serbs are Slavs, as are the Russians. So are the Ukrainians. Ethnicity isn’t destiny, but it plays a role.

NATO hopes that Thursday’s meeting in Geneva among representatives from Ukraine, Russia, the U.S. and the European Union will ease tensions. “We continue to call on Russia to take action that de-escalates the situation and the tensions in Ukraine by returning its forces to their pre-crisis positions and numbers; moving its forces from the Ukrainian border as well from Crimea; ceasing its support for armed separatist groups that have seized government buildings, blockaded roads and stockpiled weapons in eastern Ukraine; and engage directly in a dialogue with Ukraine about its concerns when it comes to ethnic Russians in parts of Ukraine,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said Wednesday.

U.S. aid to Ukraine so far has consisted of 300,000 Meals-Ready-to-Eat for famished fighters in the field. On Wednesday, the New York Times reported that Wesley Clark, the retired Army general who served as NATO’s commander during the 1998-99 Kosovo war, is urging deliveries of nonlethal aid, including body armor, night-vision goggles and aviation fuel to help Ukraine thwart any Russian invasion. The list only serves to highlight how little the West is willing to do to help Ukraine. No one believes it will make much difference if Russian tanks cross the border.

“We’re actively considering forms of assistance, the kinds of assistance that we may be able to provide to Ukraine,” Carney said. “We are not considering lethal assistance, but I’m not going to itemize the types of assistance that are under consideration.”

Rasmussen made it clear that NATO is making military moves—but only to calm its jittery new members who fear Moscow. “We will have more planes in the air, more ships on the water and more readiness on the land,” he said. “Air policing aircraft will fly more sorties over the Baltic region. Allied ships will deploy to the Baltic Sea, the eastern Mediterranean and elsewhere, as required.”

But their mission is limited to defending NATO’s 28 member states. There is no appetite in the West for military action to preserve Ukraine’s sovereignty, despite a 1994 pact among Russia, Britain and the U.S. pledging to honor its borders.

So it looks like the Cold War has returned: the Soviet Union crushed uprisings in Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968, while NATO observed from the sidelines. Russia did it in Georgia in 2008, and Crimea last month. It could happen in Ukraine momentarily. Once again, NATO will be watching.

TIME TIME 100

TIME 100: Egyptian Presidential Candidate Leads TIME 100 Poll

Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, the man largely responsible for ousting the former president of Egypt in a coup d’etat last year, holds a commanding lead in TIME's reader poll, followed by Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga

Correction: Appended, April 16.

Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, the man largely responsible for ousting the former president of Egypt in a coup d’etat last year holds a commanding lead in the TIME 100 reader poll, with pop icons Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga neck and neck close behind.

Though the final TIME 100 list of the most influential people of the year worldwide is always ultimately chosen by the editors, TIME seeks the input of readers in an online poll.

The recording artist Rihanna, who made the TIME 100 in 2012, is currently in fourth place, followed by actor Benedict Cumberbatch, whose TIME cover last year proved… um… divisive among his fans.

Next down the list are Beyonce and Miley Cyrus followed by the only other non-pop icon in the top 10, the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has made headlines in recent weeks by unrepentantly banning social media in his country. Singers Katy Perry and Taylor Swift round out the top 10.

Polls closed at 11:59 p.m. on April 22, with the final winner announced April 23. We’ll announce our official TIME 100 list on April 24.

Correction: The original version of this story incorrectly referred to Abdul Fattah al-Sisi. He is the former defense minister of Egypt and a presidential candidate.

TIME Nigeria

Nigerian Military Retracts Report That Most Kidnapped Schoolgirls Were Released

A report Wednesday stated that all but 8 had been released. It retracted that claim on Thursday, but declined to say how many girls were still being held in captivity

Updated Friday April 18

The Nigerian military claimed Wednesday that nearly all of the 129 Nigerian schoolgirls abducted earlier this week by the Islamist group Boko Haram “have been freed” but eight remain missing. In a statement Thursday, Maj. Gen. Chris Olukolade retracted that report, drawing criticism from distraught families who accused the government of spreading lies. According to the BBC, the military has confirmed that 44 of the girls have escaped captivity and 85 are still missing.

The military is conducting a search-and-rescue operation for the remaining girls and one of the alleged kidnappers has been apprehended. Neither the girls’ condition nor the reason for their alleged release were immediately clear, CNN reports. The girls were abducted Monday night from their dormitories at their school in northeastern Nigeria, where the militant Islamist group has been waging a campaign of violence and terror for years. After a gun battle with authorities, militants loaded the girls onto busses and drove them away in a caravan.

This story was updated to reflect the Nigerian military’s retraction of its initial report.

[CNN]

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