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TOPIC: india

This Happened

This Happened—December 3: India's Bhopal Disaster

Updated Dec. 3, 2023 at 3:10 p.m.

Considered the world’s worst industrial incident in modern times, the Bhopal gas tragedy was a chemical accident at a pesticide plant in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, India.

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Talks To Extend Gaza Truce, Trapped Indian Workers Rescued, Pope On The Mend

👋 Da'anzho!*

Welcome to Wednesday, where talks are underway in Qatar to prolong the ceasefire between Hamas and Israel, the 41 Indian workers who had been trapped in a tunnel for 17 days have all been rescued, and Kyrgyzstan votes to alter its flag design because of a flower. Meanwhile, Guillaume Ptak for French daily Les Echos reports from the frontlines in Donetsk, Ukraine, where a bitter winter is setting in and a deadly DIY drone war rages on.

[*Eastern Apache]

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Big Brother For The People: India's CCTV Strategy For Cracking Down On Police Abuse

"There is nothing fashionable about installing so many cameras in and outside one’s house," says a lawyer from a Muslim community. And yet, doing this has helped members of the community prove unfair police action against them.

MUMBAI — When sleuths of the National Investigating Agency suddenly descended on human rights defender and school teacher Abdul Wahid Shaikh’s house on October 11, he knew exactly what he needed to do next.

He had been monitoring the three CCTVs that are installed on the front and the rear of his house — a chawl in Vikhroli, a densely populated area in suburban Mumbai. The cameras told him that a group of men and women — some dressed in Mumbai police’s uniform and a few in civil clothes — had converged outside his house. Some of them were armed and few others with batons were aggressively banging at the door asking him to immediately let them in.

This was not the first time that the police had landed at his place at 5 am.

When the policemen discovered the CCTV cameras outside his house, they began hitting it with their batons, destroying one of them mounted right over the door. This action was captured by the adjacent CCTV camera. Shaikh, holed up in his house with his wife and two children, kept pleading with the police to stop destroying his property and simply show them an official notice.

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Beyond Matrimony? Charting A New Course For LGBTQ+ Unions in India

In the wake of India's landmark decision to reject marriage equality, the authors suggest that the way forward for the queer community, perhaps, is not to insist on a right to marry but to challenge laws that put marriage over other forms of familial and kinship bonds.

Welcome to Worldcrunch’s LGBTQ+ International. We bring you up-to-speed each week on the latest on everything LGBTQ+ — from all corners of the planet. This week, we feature an article by Aishwarya Singh and Meenakshi Ramkumar for New Delhi-based news site The Wire about how LGBTQ+ couples in India are looking at other forms of unions after the country’s decision to reject marriage equality. But first, the latest news…

✉️ You can receive our LGBTQ+ International roundup every week directly in your inbox. Subscribe here.

TW: This content may address topics and include references to violence that some may find distressing

🌐 5 things to know right now

• Mexico's first openly non-binary magistrate found dead: Jesús Ociel Baena, Mexico's first openly non-binary member of the judiciary and prominent LGBTQ+ activist, was found dead in Aguascalientes, alongside their partner. Security Minister Rosa Icela Rodriguez said it was unclear whether the deaths were “a homicide or [...] some kind of accident.”

• Gay Israeli soldier displays LGBTQ+ flag in Gaza: A gay Israeli soldier held an LGBTQ+ flag in Gaza, reading: “In the name of love.” Yoav Atzmoni, an IDF soldier who was called up to fight after the October 7 massacre, said he displayed the flag in defiance of the territory's harsh anti-LGBTQ+ stances. Israel’s official social media accounts called it “The first ever pride flag raised in Gaza.”

• Latvia votes to allow same-sex civil unions: Latvian lawmakers recently voted to allow same-sex civil unions, providing same-sex couples with legal recognition for the first time. They will still have fewer rights than married couples. The legislation, due to take effect in mid-2024, allows same-sex couples to register their partnership, giving them hospital visitation rights and tax and social security benefits, but still not the right to adopt children or inheritance.

Austria to compensate gay people who faced prosecution: Austria has set aside 33 million euros to compensate thousands of gay people who, until two decades ago faced prosecution, the country’s justice minister Alma Zadić announced. Austria decriminalized homosexuality in 1971 but certain discriminatory provisions remained in place until the early 2000s. Zadić said that an estimated 11,000 people were eligible for compensation.

• Gay Games in Hong Kong: It’s a wrap for this year’s Gay Games in Hong Kong, with participants celebrating the end of the week-long sporting competition. Taking place in the special administrative region of China for the first time, the games featured events like dragon-boat racing and Mahjong. Despite political challenges and strict LGBTQ+ laws in both Hong Kong and China, the week was hailed as a celebration of inclusion and diversity.

Beyond Matrimony? Charting A New Course For LGBTQ+ Unions in India

NEW DELHI — The recent judgment of the Indian Supreme Court on marriage equality was, without a doubt, a disappointment for India’s queer community. With a 3:2 majority, the Supreme Court held that queer couples in non-heterosexual relationships do not have a fundamental right to marry and denied legal recognition to their relationships. The court’s judgment placed heterosexuality at the centre of marital relationships by holding that marriage between persons of opposite gender is the only valid form of marriage under Indian law.

Thus, while transgender persons identifying within the gender binary who are in heterosexual relationships are entitled to marry, queer couples who do not find themselves in what can be classified as heterosexual relationships are left without any legal remedy.

But perhaps in rejecting that there is any fundamental right to marry under the Constitution for queer couples or otherwise, the court has opened a portal (especially in the minority opinions) for re-imagining the existence of what were understood to be matrimonial entitlements (like succession rights, adoption, guardianship, financial entitlements that accrue to spouses, etc.) beyond marriage.

The petitioners had primarily mounted a challenge to the provisions of the Special Marriage Act, 1954 arguing that the non-recognition of non-heterosexual marriages under the Act violated their fundamental right to marry and discriminated against them on the basis of sexual orientation. An important prong of the petitioners’ argument was that they are denied the matrimonial benefits listed above.

Indeed, the queer community’s quest for marriage is either grounded in either the belief that marriage is a normative ideal to which queer people should also have access to; or that marriage provides a bouquet of entitlements, the absence of which significantly disadvantages those in queer relationships. Some queer individuals will agree with both propositions. But many challenge the elevation of marriage as the norm and as an ideal that all of us should aspire towards. They highlight the oppressive foundations of marriage, specifically its heterosexist nature and foundation in caste endogamy, which is difficult to dismantle. Further, they argue that marriage as an institution, through the bundle of rights and entitlements it provides, privileges married partners over others who choose to not marry or cannot marry.

It is difficult to contest that marriage is founded on heterosexist norms. Marriage continues to be imagined primarily as a heterosexual union (even if the social reality may be different or is changing). Queer people across jurisdictions have won marriage rights after much suffering and only after being able to prove that their love/relationship conforms to a heterosexual ideal.

The majority opinion authored by Justice Bhat in the marriage equality judgment also highlights and reinforces the heterosexist values that are attached to marriage. He says, "marriage, however, has been regarded for the longest time, as a relationship of man to woman" and at another place, he reiterates that, "traditions of marriage per se may not support the basis of recognition of marital relationships between non-heterosexual couples".

Examples of weddings between same-sex couples in India or of relationships that are functionally identical to marriage between same-sex couples (in the absence of legal recognition) are not enough to displace the normative assumption that marriage is a heterosexual union. Social marriages that deviate from the heterosexual script are considered only as exceptions, not as evidence of a pluralist understanding of marriage. They remain exceptions because the norm that the marriage establishes is of the heterosexual union.

Even if we say that queer couples, by gaining the legal right to marry, can somehow displace these heterosexist assumptions of who can marry and whom, they cannot dismantle the privilege of committed coupledom that marriage prescribes over other forms of adult associations and kinship. This is because these other forms of adult associations veer off the course of heteronormativity in ways that same-sex committed coupledom does not. As Katherine Franke has argued: same-sex marriage can still fall under the ambit of traditional family values that promote nuclear family, bourgeois respectability and privatized dependency.

Marriage’s place as the normative ideal creates symbolic harm for individuals, queer or otherwise, who refuse to participate in marriage. In fact, feminist critiques of marriage as an oppressive institution have been the most trenchant. They have highlighted how marriage continues to be a patriarchal institution, even if many of the marriage laws that discriminated against women (like the law of coverture) have been removed.

Queer participation in marriage reinforces its status as the most sacred form of commitment, as the only relationship form that can confer dignity to queer lives and something that saves individuals from the doom of loneliness. In Obergefell v. Hodges, the U.S. Supreme Court relied on similar tropes stating that marriage has some transcendental importance and it’s the only institution that can fulfill our most "profound hopes and aspirations". [...]

Read the full piece by Aishwarya Singh and Meenakshi Ramkumar for the Wire here.

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FOCUS: Israel-Palestine War
Prem Shankar Jha*

India, That (Imperfect) Template For A Two-State Solution

At the moment, a two-state solution to end the conflict between Israel and Palestine seems impossible. But should a miracle occur, there is one example that, although not perfect, could serve as a model to build a multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multi-cultural federation: the ethno-federal democracy of India.


NEW DELHI — In a televised news conference on October 28, Israel’s President Benjamin Netanyahu announced that Israel had opened a “new phase” in the war by sending ground forces into Gaza and expanding attacks from the ground, air and sea. It’s “very clear objective” he said, was destroying Hamas’s military and governing capabilities. A past master at depicting every Israeli act of oppression as defense, he linked Hamas’s October 7 attack to the Holocaust and roared ,“We always said, ‘Never again’. Never again is now.”

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This Happened

This Happened — October 31: Assassination of Indira Gandhi

Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by two Sikh security guards on this day in 1984.

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Anand K. Sahay*

How India's New All-In Support Of Israel Could Backfire

The Indian government's decision to move from its historic stance on the Israel-Palestine conflict and to actively support Israel following Hamas' Oct. 7 attack is not only questionable, writes a New Delhi commentator, but it could also have consequences for the country on a diplomatic and geopolitical level.


There is an unprecedented quality about the October 7 attack by the Gaza-based Palestinian group Hamas inside Israel which has the potential to alter the strategic dynamics in West Asia in unforeseen ways that may possibly hurt India.

The one-sided Indian official response — in favour of the confirmed aggressor of seven decades even by the UN’s reckoning, as resolution after resolution shows — in this moment of a building international crisis and the wholesale destruction of human rights, the physical flattening of Palestinian townships through the use of air power and artillery over a tiny area, street by street, building by building, while a full-scale Israel-imposed blockade of food, medicines, water and electricity obtains, has been pusillanimous.

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It causes injury to our self-esteem as a nation that could earlier stand erect in the company of nations rich or poor. This was principally on account of India’s humanist approach to international life and causes, its political philosophy of freedom and dignity from colonial oppression, and the effort to uphold democratic values at home, although this was a faltering proposition for a poor country with disparate and frequently disharmonious internal realities.

The current Indian stance on Israel-Palestine is likely to raise questions in West Asia and the Middle East, especially among its people if not in all of its monarchies and governments, as well as within India itself and its entire neighborhood. In light of the unveiling of a new line on the Palestine-Israel question, India’s carefully nurtured reputation may also be expected to suffer in much of Africa and amongst sizable sections of civil society in Western Europe and North America, though not necessarily with their governments.

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Toufiq Rashid

Glass Half-Empty For India's LGBTQ+ After Landmark Ruling

Although it emphasized the rights of India's LGBTQ+ to live free of discrimination, India’s top court declined to legally recognize same-sex marriage, leaving the decision to Parliament. What does verdict mean in real terms for the people affected.

NEW DELHI — For a majority of people in our cultures, a marriage has a husband and a wife. According to many people, the absence of one entity out of these two does not make it a marriage.

That is exactly what the Supreme Court bench seems to have based its verdict on.

From what I understood, the apex court, with a 3:2 majority, is against the marriage or even legal union of people having the same gender. This in spite of the Chief Justice of India’s comment saying same sex union is “natural and old.” And there is nothing “urban and elite” about it.

According to the country’s top court, spouses have to be a man and a woman – whether they are cisgender (affirm the gender they are born with) or trans gender (not affirming to the gender they have been assigned at birth. However, being in a same sex relationship is neither forbidden nor illegal according to this judgement. So same-sex partners can cohabit, but will not have the same rights as a spouse.

They cannot adopt together as a couple and have no rights when it comes to property, inheritance or even insurance. The judges also refused to annul or tweak the provisions of the Special Marriage Act to include non-heterosexual couples within its fold.

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In The News
Anne-Sophie Goninet and Michelle Courtois

Biden Heading To Israel, Putin In China, MPs In Wonderland

👋 Kia ora!*

Welcome to Tuesday, where U.S. President Biden is set to travel to Israel to meet with both Israeli and Arab leaders, a suspect is shot dead by police after killing two Swedes in Brussels, and politicians get mistakenly rerouted to Disneyland. Meanwhile, Spanish online media Ethic looks at the steps brands are taking to fight ageism in advertising.


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This Happened

This Happened — October 8: Kashmir Earthquake

The Kashmir earthquake struck on this day in 2005, with a magnitude of 7.6 on the Richter scale.

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In The News
Valeria Berghinz, Michelle Courtois and Anne-Sophie Goninet

Turkey Arrests 928 Over Ankara Attack, Thai Mall Shooting, Split Second Nobel

👋 Zdravo!*

Welcome to Tuesday, where Turkish authorities arrest nearly 1,000 suspects after the suicide bomb attack in Ankara, a shooting at a Bangkok mall kills three, and the Nobel Prize in Physics goes to blink-and-you’ll-miss-it science. Meanwhile, Frédéric Schaeffer for French daily Les Echos goes to a Buddhist temple in China where disillusioned young graduates flock to find “another school of life.”


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Migrant Lives
Joydeep Sarkar

A Train Journey With Bengal Migrants Looking For A Living Far Away

Finding a seat on the Karmabhoomi Express is close to impossible. A closer look at why so many migrant workers travel on it, and out of Bengal, offers a grim picture.

WEST BENGAL — Welcome aboard the 22512 Kamakhya-LTT Karmabhoomi Express — a metaphor, if any, of the acuteness of Bengal’s unemployment problem.

It is 10.28 pm at north Bengal’s Alipurduar Junction and the crowd has swollen to its peak. This is when the Karmabhoomi Express appears at the station. It is bound for Mumbai. Finding a seat on it is close to impossible. It is always chock full and there are always hundreds struggling to get a spot in the unreserved general compartment.

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