TIME India

Riots Break Out in India Over a Dominant Caste’s Attempt to Gain ‘Backward’ Status

hardik-patel-gujarat-arrest
Shailesh Raval—India Today Group/Getty Images Hardik Patel, center, and others at the Maha Kranti rally at GMDC ground in Ahmedabad on Aug. 25, 2015. The Maha Kranti rally comes after a monthlong agitation by the Patel community for their demand of reservation

Hardik Patel has taken Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's home state by storm

Correction appended, Aug. 27

Hardik Patel helps his father run a small business selling submersible pumps in rural areas surrounding Ahmedabad, the largest city in India’s prosperous western state of Gujarat. The 22-year-old has a bachelor’s degree in commerce and belongs to a middle-class family.

On Tuesday, however, he was arrested, sparking violent protests from the tens of thousands of people who had gathered to hear him speak. In response, the state government imposed a curfew and shuttered schools in several parts of the state.

Three police stations were set ablaze by the mob, which also attacked the homes of three state ministers, the Indian Express newspaper reported.

Patel is at the helm of a protest movement aimed at declaring the Patidar community he belongs to — an affluent and politically dominant section of Gujarati society — as “backward” under India’s quota system for its historically lower castes, legally termed as Scheduled Castes (SC), Scheduled Tribes (ST) and Other Backward Classes (OBC). This would give the Patidars access to the 50% of government jobs and places in educational institutions currently reserved for such “backward” castes under a form of affirmative action.

The Patels (or Patidars) run several small and medium businesses not just in India but also in the U.S., Europe and Africa. They are also key players in India’s diamond trade, and have been major supporters of the Bharatiya Janata Party that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi belongs to since the late 1980s.

But as Patel warned during his rally on Tuesday, referencing the party’s election symbol, “the lotus will not bloom” if his community’s demands are not met.

“If you do not give us our right, we will snatch it,” he said, before declaring an indefinite hunger strike, following which he was briefly arrested and then released. “Whoever will talk of Patel interests will rule over Patels.”

The Gujarat government led by Chief Minister Anandiben Patel — who also happens to belong to the same community — has rejected Hardik Patel’s demands, saying that the 50% cap on reservations for lower castes has already been met in Gujarat. This means that including the Patidars could only be done by reducing access for more-needy castes. The protest leader counters that the government quota, which ensures a portion of college admissions and government jobs are reserved for lower castes and classes that have traditionally faced discrimination, puts the Patel community at a disadvantage since they are denied access to those positions despite being eligible on merit.

“It’s always the socially and economically better off within each state, the dominant castes of that region [that make such arguments],” Yagati Chinna Rao, chairman of the Centre for the Study of Discrimination and Exclusion at New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University, tells TIME. He cites examples like the Gujjar community in Gujarat’s neighboring state of Rajasthan, and the land-owning Jat community in the northern part of the country, among others, whose similar agitations have met with mixed success.

“Basically, it’s middle-class intelligentsia aggression, since you have the financial resources and education and facilities but you are not able to put your foot into the remaining half of the box, which is sealed,” Rao says.

In terms of actually attaining their goal, though, Hardik Patel and his followers have a long way to go.

“It is in the hands of the government only initially, but this demand will go to a committee and that committee has to do academic studies on whether the community is socially and educationally backward,” Colin Gonsalves, director of New Delhi–based Human Rights Law Network, tells TIME. “Ultimately this is going to the courts, because the expansion of the OBC list is something that the courts are looking at very closely now.”

Gonsalves, like Rao, compares it to the “ambitious and unconstitutional” recent agitation for the Jats of Haryana to be included in the backward classes. Although he says it is too early to write off the Patels for similar reasons, the Gujarat clan “may suffer the same fate.”

“The entire community may be behind Hardik Patel, and I congratulate him for his political movement,” he says. “But a political movement — even a wide-based political movement — may not necessarily result in constitutional recognition.”

Correction: The original version of this story misstated the capital of Gujarat. It is Gandhinagar.

TIME France

Train Gunman Who Watched Jihadi Videos Before Attack Charged With Terrorism in France

El-Khazzani was tackled and tied up by at least five passengers

(PARIS) — The Moroccan suspect in a foiled attack on a high-speed train is facing terrorism charges over what authorities say was a plan to unleash carnage among hundreds of passengers.

The Paris prosecutor’s office confirmed Wednesday that Ayoub El-Khazzani was charged overnight. El-Khazzani, 26, was tackled and tied up by at least five passengers, including three Americans and a Briton. El-Khazzani has denied terrorism plans and said he stumbled upon a bag of weapons and decided to rob passengers.

Paris prosecutor Francois Molins has said El-Khazzani watched a jihadi video on his cell phone moments before his attack and that — although he claimed to be homeless — he used a first-class ticket.

Among the terrorism charges he faces are multiple counts of attempted murder, possession of weapons, and conspiracy.

TIME Markets

China Is Probing Brokers and Regulators for Possible Stock Crimes

China Financial Markets
Mark Schiefelbein—AP Chinese investors monitor stock prices at a brokerage house in Beijing on Aug. 24, 2015

Brokerages have been accused of improperly allowing customers to trade

(BEIJING) — Chinese authorities are investigating four securities brokerages and one current and one former employee of its securities regulator for possible stock market offenses.

Three of the brokerages say they have been told they are being investigated for possibly failing to confirm the identities of clients. The official Xinhua News Agency said eight employees of a fourth brokerage were suspected of illegal securities trading. The agency said a staff member of the China Securities Regulatory Commission and a former staff member were suspected of insider trading.

Authorities announced in July they were investigating possible misconduct in China’s securities market following the collapse of a stock price boom.

Brokerages have been accused of improperly allowing customers to trade without giving their real names and other violations.

TIME portfolio

These Photos Show the Reality of Spain’s Housing Crisis

Andres Kudacki photographed the country's home evictions

In Spain, few sights are more universally terrifying than that of police through an apartment door peephole. “They’ll come at dawn. They’ll cordon off the area two blocks around the house. And if the residents don’t open the door, they’ll break it down,” says photographer Andres Kudacki.

While shooting for the Associated Press in Madrid in 2012, Kudacki embarked on what would become a three-year project about evictions, hoping to tell a deeper story of the widespread, enduring consequences of Spain’s financial crisis. His efforts will find an attentive audience as a featured exhibit at this year’s Visa pour l’Image photojournalism festival in Perpignan, France, at a time when Spain’s economic woes seem all but eclipsed by those of Greece.

Kudacki’s photography puts individual faces to a crisis that has seen hundreds of thousands evicted from their homes since the 2008 housing market crash. Spain’s unemployment rate, at 22.5%, is the second-highest in Europe after Greece, and it’s simply impossible for many to make rent or mortgage payments. “Everybody knows someone who’s been evicted,” he claims.

The tragedy continues to unfold every day, over and over again, says Kudacki who initially found his sources with the help of housing rights activism group Plataforma de Afectados por la Hipoteca (PAH). He was soon covering up to four evictions a week. Those who lose their homes, he says, are usually forced to reoccupy evicted spaces, only to be evicted again later.

To make matters worse, the victims often suffer astonishing heartlessness at the hands of police. “The officers kick people to the ground and even push fingers into their eyes,” says Kudacki. But the most brutal treatment, he discovered, is reserved for members of the press. “The police don’t want to be the face of the evictions, because they are just executing an order delivered by a judge. But they will execute it no matter what.” During one eviction, Kudacki was arrested and faced up to four years in prison before his lawyers managed to get his case dropped.

Despite the risks he’s had to take, Kudacki’s work has sparked change for the better. One of his subjects, an 86-year-old widow named Carmen Ayuso, quickly became a symbol of the crisis after his portrait of her went viral on Twitter. “She had been living in [her home] for 50 years,” he says. “Her case sensitized everyone to the problem. A local football club donated all the profits from one of their games to help her.”

Aside from the direct impact his work has had on Carmen’s life, the opportunity to exhibit at Visa pour l’Image is one of the most gratifying things to happen to him as a photojournalist, he says. “When the police are trying to arrest me or break my camera, they’re saying, ‘Your work is nothing.’ But Visa pour l’Image is a space with such a good reputation. It says that [my] work is important and that it matters to society.”

Andres Kudacki is a freelance photographer based in New York.

Mikko Takkunen, who edited this photo essay, is an Associate Photo Editor at TIME. Follow him on Twitter @photojournalism.

Jen Tse is a photo editor and contributor to TIME LightBox. Follow her on Twitter @jentse and Instagram.

TIME Afghanistan

Two Foreign Troops in Afghanistan Killed by Men in Afghan Uniforms

The two men in Afghan uniforms opened fire on a vehicle

(KABUL, Afghanistan) — Two men wearing Afghan security force uniforms opened fire Wednesday inside a military base in southern Afghanistan, killing two NATO service members before being shot dead themselves, the international force said.

NATO offered few details about the shooting in Afghanistan’s southern Helmand province, which appeared to be the latest so-called “insider attack” to target foreign troops or contractors in the country. Afghan officials said they had no immediate details about the attack.

In a statement, NATO said the two men in Afghan uniforms opened fire on a vehicle with international troops inside it. Both shooters were killed when NATO forces returned fire, it said.

NATO did not elaborate, nor did it identify the nationalities of the international troops killed nor the base the attack took place. It said the attackers wore “Afghan National Defense and Security Forces uniforms,” which include the country’s police, military and border patrol.

The motive for the attack was not immediately known and no group claimed responsibility for the assault. In past attacks, Taliban insurgents have been known to wear Afghan police or military uniforms to stage attacks on the international troops. Others have opened fire apparently on the own accord, like an Afghan soldier who last year killed Maj. Gen. Harold J. Greene, the highest-ranked U.S. officer to be slain in combat since 1970 in the Vietnam War.

The shooting is the third “insider attack” on foreign forces this year. In January, three American civilian contractors were shot dead at Kabul airport by an Afghan soldier who was also killed. In April, an American soldier was killed by an Afghan soldier inside the compound of the governor of eastern Nangarhar province’s city of Jalalabad.

Meanwhile Wednesday, Afghan forces were at risk of being overrun after hundreds of insurgents launched a mass attack days earlier on a district headquarters in Helmand province’s Musa Qala district, said Karim Atal, the head of Helmand’s provincial council. Atal said the central government had yet to send reinforcements.

TIME russia

Russia Sentences Ukrainian Filmmaker Oleg Sentsov to 20 Years in Prison

Oleg Sentsov
STR—AP Oleg Sentsov gestures as the verdict is delivered, as he stands behind bars at a court in Rostov-on-Don, Russia, on Aug. 25, 2015

Washington and Brussels have vigorously denounced the trial

Oleg Sentsov, a Ukrainian filmmaker best known for the 2011 movie Gámer, was sentenced to 20 years in a Russian prison on charges of terrorism on Tuesday in the city of Rostov-on-Don, the BBC reports.

Sentsov, a vocal pro-Ukrainian activist, was arrested in May of 2014, and charged with organizing two arson attacks in the eastern Ukrainian city of Simferopol, the BBC says.

Sentsov denies the charges, and the case has been denounced by both the E.U. and by the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt, who said the trial had been farcical. Ukrainian officials insist that Sentsov — who says he was beaten in an attempt to extract a confession — is being persecuted for protesting Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

Another activist, Aleksandr Kolchenko, was sentenced to 10 years in prison on similar charges. He also denies the charges, the BBC reports.

[BBC]

TIME Germany

Germany’s Social Democrat Party Has Been Hit With a Bomb Threat Over Its Stance on Refugees

The threat is a reflection of growing tension in the country over the influx of asylum seekers

Members of Germany’s Social Democrat Party (SPD) were forced to evacuate their headquarters in Berlin on Tuesday following a bomb threat and hundreds of racist emails and phone calls.

The party, a member of Germany’s ruling coalition, said the threatening emails began pouring in since its chairman Sigmar Gabriel visited the eastern town of Heidenau on Monday, where violent protests have erupted over the arrival of about 250 refugees, reports Reuters.

Gabriel, who is also Germany’s Vice Chancellor, denounced the antirefugee demonstrations after far-right protesters attacked police, who were escorting asylum seekers to a local shelter over the weekend.

“They think of themselves as defenders of the real Germany. In truth they are the most un-German people I can think of,” he told reporters.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel also condemned the protests, reports Agence France-Presse. She is due to visit Heidenau Wednesday and plans to meet with refugees and aid workers at a local asylum seeker shelter.

Nothing suspicious was found at the SPD headquarters, but the party said the threats were a “political act.”

The racist emails are evidence of an antirefugee sentiment among a small number of Germans as thousands of asylum seekers fleeing war and persecution in Africa and the Middle East enter the country. Germany is expecting to receive 800,000 asylum seekers this year — four times higher than in 2014.

On Tuesday, a suspected arson attack destroyed a school sports hall in the town of Nauen, west of Berlin, that was intended as a temporary shelter for refugees. Police say the fire at the hall was started deliberately, reports the BBC. No one was injured.

The blaze is the latest in a string of attacks against refugees and asylum centers in Germany this year.

TIME Macedonia

Thousands of Refugees Are Now Expected to Arrive in Macedonia Every Day

The influx has already been described as Europe's worst refugee crisis since World War II

As many as 3,000 refugees, largely from war-torn Syria, will arrive in the small Balkan nation of Macedonia every day in the coming months on a northbound journey deeper into Europe, the UNHCR says.

“They are coming in large groups of 300 to 400 people and then traveling onwards by train or bus to Serbia,” UNHCR spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said during a press conference, Reuters reports.

Fleming said that the migrants are largely spurred by overcrowded conditions in refugee camps in the Middle East. “People are leaving Turkey, they are leaving Jordan, they are leaving Lebanon and Syrians are fleeing directly out of Syria as the situation continues to be very dire.”

The scale of the migration is already at record-breaking levels, with over 107,500 arriving in Europe in July alone. The numbers for this year so far, at around 340,000, are peaking well above the total number that arrived in Europe last year. Already, at least 2,373 people have died trying to make the precarious cross over the Mediterranean Sea, the International Organization of Migration told Reuters.

E.U. Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos said last week that Europe was now facing its worst refugee crisis since World War II, the Telegraph reported.

The sheer scale of the influx has proved difficult to manage for local authorities. Riots have broken out on the Greek island of Kos and in Macedonia, with Macedonian police firing off tear gas to control crowds.

European officials are hopeful that numbers will be managed effectively in the coming months, as the flow of migrants shows no sign of stopping. A spike in resources and a greater willingness from countries in the European Union to accept more refugees will help mitigate the crisis, Fleming said, according to Reuters.

[Reuters]

TIME Markets

Asian Stocks Post Mixed Results

Tokyo stock rebounds
Kimimasa Mayama—EPA A businessman watches an electronic board displaying Tokyo's benchmark Nikkei Stock Average at a securities office in Tokyo on Aug. 26 2015

Markets have been zigzagging for weeks

(TOKYO) — Asian stocks were mixed Wednesday and Shanghai’s index fell despite Beijing’s decision to cut a key interest rate to help stabilize gyrating financial markets and counter short liquidity.

The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index fell late in the day after spending most of the afternoon in positive territory. It closed down 1.3 percent at 2,927.29 on heavy selling of steelmakers and other heavy industrials.

Most other Asian markets initially wavered but had appeared to regain buying momentum by early afternoon. Japan’s main Nikkei 225 stock index advanced 3.2 percent to 18,376.83, and South Korea’s Kospi gained 2.6 percent to 1,894.09.

But Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index fell 0.5 percent to 21,305.17, and mainland China’s smaller Shenzhen Composite Index lost 3.1 percent.

Elsewhere in Asia, Australian shares gained 0.7 percent to 5,172.80, helped by buying of resource-related shares. Shares also rose in Taiwan but fell in New Zealand and most Southeast Asian markets.

Many in Asia went to bed Tuesday smiling over China’s decision to slash its key interest rate, only to awaken to yet another decline overnight on Wall Street, Nicholas Teo, an analyst at CMC Markets, said in a commentary.

“All of a sudden, China and the performance of the Chinese markets have now taken the lead in determining daily direction for trading in stocks worldwide,” he said. Meanwhile, investors unable to meet margin calls are being forced to sell, regardless of the Chinese central bank’s decision.

“With confidence in the markets completely shattered, the likelihood of buyers meeting these intermittent bouts of forced selling may just be few and far in-between,” he said.

Markets have been zigzagging for weeks on deepening unease over the ramifications of slowing growth in China, the world’s second-largest economy and the driver of much of the global growth of the past decade.

The apparent inability of Chinese regulators to stabilize the markets, has spooked investors already fretting over when the U.S. Federal Reserve will raise interest rates.

Asia got a slow start following a last-minute sell-off that dragged the Dow Jones industrial average down 204.91 points, or 1.3 percent, on Tuesday to 15,666.44. That extended Wall Street’s losing streak to six days, the longest such stretch in more than three years.

The Dow had surged more than 400 points after China cut its interest rates for the fifth time in nine months in a renewed effort to shore up growth. The central bank also increased the amount of money available for lending by reducing the reserves banks are required to hold.

The People’s Bank of China acted after the Shanghai stock index slumped 7.6 percent on Tuesday, on top of an 8.5 percent loss on Monday.

China’s slowdown is crimping demand for oil and other commodities, a ripple effect that already is slowing exports and other business activity across Asia.

Beyond China, traders are waiting for clarity from the Federal Reserve, which has signaled it could begin raising its key interest rate from near zero for the first time in nearly a decade as early as this year. The Fed isn’t expected to deliver a policy update until it wraps up a meeting of policymakers in mid-September.

In other trading, U.S. crude oil rose 1 cent to $39.32 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It rose $1.07, or 2.8 percent, to $39.31 on Tuesday. Brent crude oil, which is used to price international trading, gained 6 cents a barrel, to $43.15.

The dollar rose to 119.35 yen versus 118.66 yen late Wednesday. The euro slipped to $1.1509 from $1.1524.

 

TIME Lebanon

Hezbollah Throws Weight Behind Ongoing Lebanese Protests

Mideast Lebanon protests Beirut
Hassan Ammar—AP A Lebanese protester holds a Lebanese national flag as others set fire to plastic barriers and trash behind the barbed wire separating them from the police in downtown Beirut on Aug. 25, 2015.

The protests started over uncollected garbage in Beirut

(BEIRUT) — The powerful Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah threw its weight Tuesday behind mass protests calling for the government’s resignation, deepening a crisis that started over piles of uncollected garbage in the streets of the capital but has tapped into a much deeper malaise.

The explosion of anger targets the endemic corruption, hapless government and sectarian divisions of a brittle country once torn by civil war and now struggling with a wave of hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees.

A grassroots youth movement calling itself “You Stink” mobilized thousands of people in two rallies over the weekend, and has called for another large protest on Saturday. The Hezbollah announcement of support for the protests is likely to fuel concerns the Iranian-backed group will try to hijack a rare, non-political movement for its own political gain.

Hezbollah ministers and their allies walked out of a Cabinet meeting Tuesday meant to discuss the worsening garbage crisis. Prime Minister Tammam Salam called the emergency session after the weekend clashes between security forces and demonstrators protesting corruption and poor public services.

The six ministers withdrew four hours into the meeting. Foreign Minister Gibran Bassil, whose Free Patriotic Movement is aligned with Hezbollah, said he was pulling out because of the political “theater” surrounding the trash issue.

During the Cabinet session, ministers unanimously rejected the winning bidders to manage Beirut’s trash collection, citing high costs and a bidding procedure some said was questionable. The Cabinet tasked a ministerial committee with restarting the bidding, meaning no imminent solution to the crisis was likely.

Salam suggested dumping the garbage in the remote, impoverished region of Akkar, which has been neglected for decades, in exchange for $100 million in development projects as an incentive.

That further riled the protesters. “Akkar is not a garbage dump!” read the slogan on one protester’s T-shirt.

The trash crisis has exacerbated the long-existing fault lines in Lebanon which in recent years have pitted the Iranian-backed Hezbollah against the country’s Western-aligned, pro-Saudi camp. Those divisions mirror the larger regional Shiite-Sunni divide, and have long paralyzed the government.

Although Salam’s government has elements from both camps, Hezbollah regards the prime minister as an ally of Saudi Arabia. The Shiite group’s ally, Christian leader Michel Aoun, has been assailing the prime minister over his handling of Cabinet and security appointments.

In a statement Tuesday, Hezbollah said the garbage crisis reflected the “endemic and accumulated corruption of the past two decades” and policies that only serve “personal and political interests at the expense of citizens.” It said holding peaceful protests was a legitimate right.

A columnist in the daily An-Nahar newspaper accused Hezbollah of exploiting the “You Stink” movement for its own agenda.

Tarek Sarhan, a 17-year-old “You Stink” supporter, said there would always be groups that try to manipulate grass-roots movements for their own political gains in a country like Lebanon.

The protesters say they are fed up with leaders they accuse of caring only about lining their own pockets and a system they say ensures incessant bickering and paralysis. They contend the entire trash crisis is about which politicians get the bigger cut from waste management contracts.

Meanwhile, the political paralysis continues.

The country’s politicians have been unable to decide on a president, a post reserved for a Christian in a sectarian power-sharing system, for over a year. According to that system, the prime minister must be a Sunni and the parliament speaker a Shiite. The current parliament speaker, Nabih Berri, has been in his post for 23 years.

Parliament has extended its term twice without elections and has been paralyzed because some lawmakers insist a president be elected first. Government has not made any substantial decisions as rival parties bicker over the decision-making process in Cabinet in the absence of a president to preside over the sessions.

Anger about the heaps of trash accumulating in Beirut’s streets boiled over this week, with thousands protesting the government’s failure to deliver basic services.

The protests turned violent over the weekend, prompting the government to erect a concrete wall outside its main building to prevent protesters from reaching it.

Within hours, the wall was filled with anti-government graffiti.

“State of Shabiha,” one young man scrawled, an Arabic term for thugs. Another drawing showed a man’s body wrapped in a black cloth below a caption that read: “The shroud of the state.”

On Tuesday, authorities began removing the wall, just 24 hours after it was installed.

“They won’t fool us by removing the wall,” said Sarhan, the You Stink supporter. “Remove it or not, we don’t care. We want… an end to sectarianism. We want to build a state,” he said.

“This is a corrupt government, an immoral government that is starving us and conspiring against the people,” said Hassan Qatayesh, who suffered an injured jaw when he was struck by rocks during Saturday’s protest.

“They raised the wall to protect themselves from the people, thinking that this wall will prevent our voices from reaching them. But our voices are louder than walls, tear gas and rubber bullets.”

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