Barkha Dutt

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A man in Ahmedabad, India, cheers for the successful landing of Chandrayaan-3 on the moon on Aug. 22. (Ajit Solanki/AP)

India needs more heroes like Sreedhara Somanath than it needs entrepreneurs like Satya Nadella.

Did I hear you say, “Who?”

No offense to Nadella, the otherwise brilliant Hyderabad-born chief executive of Microsoft. But it’s the low-key Somanath, under whose leadership India achieved its historic moon landing, who should be a role model for Indians. He represents a generation of gifted scientists who chose not to emigrate — and achieved just as much, if not more, in challenging circumstances.

Somanath will never own a cricket team or show up on any Fortune or Forbes lists. He will probably never be called to dine at the White House.…  Seguir leyendo »

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks Thursday during the inauguration of the Global Buddhist Summit in New Delhi. (Manish Swarup/AP)

Asked about the recent dramatic expulsion from parliament of Indian opposition leader Rahul Gandhi, a U.S. State Department spokesman responded: “We’re watching” it.

The reaction here in India? A collective eye roll.

In recent months, there has been increasing commentary in the West about Indian democracy. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who has made more than one public statement on monitoring “a rise in human rights abuses”, released a report on rights violations in India. A global institute headquartered in Sweden called India among the “top 10 autocratising countries” of the past decade. The Germans have tut-tutted about how they expect democratic principles to be applied in India’s domestic politics.…  Seguir leyendo »

Newly elected Indian National Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge speaks in New Delhi on Oct. 26. (Rajat Gupta/Shutterstock)

In nearly 137 years, India’s Congress Party — the main, albeit severely diminished, opposition to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party — has held only six internal elections. This month, in its first such contest in more than two decades, it missed a crucial opportunity to reset.

Since Prime Minister Narendra Modi rose to power in 2014, the Congress Party has been crushed under the wheels of the BJP juggernaut. It went from having 206 seats in Parliament in 2009 to 52 seats a decade later, and it leads governments in just two of the country’s 28 states. The party that once led the fight for the country’s independence is struggling for relevance.…  Seguir leyendo »

In the United States — where reproductive rights are under attack and there has never been a female president — people routinely make assumptions about India’s women. For years, I have argued with foreign correspondents who have looked at us through the prism of subjugation and stereotypes, pointing out that our complex realities defy orientalist tropes.

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But now, I am speaking out as an enraged Indian woman. We have been betrayed, not just by the unsparing use of rape as a weapon of intimidation and violence, but also by the way our bodies have been turned into political battlefields.…  Seguir leyendo »

A student holds an Indian flag on Aug. 12 during rehearsals ahead of the 75th Independence Day celebrations in Bangalore. (Jagadeesh Nv/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

When the journalist Mohammed Zubair was arrested over a 4-year-old tweet that borrowed a pun from an old movie, on the charge of hurting religious sentiments, Arnab Goswami, a prime-time anchor at Republic TV, one of India’s leading news networks, was furious — but not at the assault on freedom of expression that the arrest represented. He was mad at Zubair.

On another network, Times Now (owned by India’s wealthiest newspaper group), a garish gold band proclaimed an alleged double standard of the “#Zubair Lobby Hypocrisy”. This was the same channel on which Nupur Sharma, a spokeswoman for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) (since suspended), had made disparaging remarks about the prophet Muhammad, triggering an international diplomatic kerfuffle with the Arab world.…  Seguir leyendo »

Sher Chand, a daily wage worker employed by the local administration in Delhi, sat on the floor of his one-room shanty flanked by three toddlers, his wedding photographs spread out before him. He pulled out his phone to show me a video of the last time he saw his wife, Manju, alive. She managed a wan smile from behind the oxygen mask that was helping her breathe. “This is my Manju Begum [queen]”, he says in the video. “My wife has corona, but she’ll get well soon”.

That very night in April 2021, the oxygen supply to the intensive care unit of the hospital where Manju was admitted ran out.…  Seguir leyendo »

A Bharatiya Janata Party supporter wears a mask depicting India's prime minister, Narendra Modi, at a political event in Allahabad, India, on Feb. 25. (Ritesh Shukla/Getty Images)

The covid-19 pandemic, economic distress, a powerful protest movement by India’s farmers — in the end, none of it stood between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and a round of handsome wins in state elections last week.

Except for a victory in the northern state of Punjab by relatively new politician Arvind Kejriwal — whose trademark disruptions have defined his successes — the results leave parties other than Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party in disarray. This is especially the case for the Indian National Congress, whose vote share fell to below 3 percent in the country’s most populous and politically significant state, Uttar Pradesh.…  Seguir leyendo »

India failed to save the living from covid-19. Now, it won’t count the dead

Bodies some Indians believe are covid-19 victims are seen partially buried in sand along the Ganges river in Prayagraj in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh. (Video: Courtesy of Mojo Story)

For the past 10 days, at the peak of India’s second covid-19 wave, I have traveled through remote villages in the country’s most populous state, Uttar Pradesh, documenting corpses that have been dumped in our holiest rivers. I have counted hundreds of bodies abandoned in mass shallow graves molded from the sand and stones of dried-up riverbanks. My count stands at 1,000 bodies at six different towns, spread across a few hundred miles.…  Seguir leyendo »

The author, with her father, Speedy Dutt. (Courtesy of Barkha Dutt)

For 15 months I have been heartbroken.

I’ve been on the front line reporting the covid -19 pandemic from across India. Heartbroken, first by witnessing the searing impact of the 2020 national lockdown on India’s poorest citizens.

My psyche was increasingly bruised as I reported from ICUs, cremation grounds and graveyards to chronicle how covid’s second wave ravaged my entirely unprepared country.

On April 27, the news hit home for me in the worst way. I lost my father, Speedy Dutt, to covid.

My father was a man of science. He was horrified at the lack of preparedness for what all experts warned was coming.…  Seguir leyendo »

A man prepares a funeral pyre for a coronavirus victim at a cremation ground in New Delhi on Thursday. (Danish Siddiqui/Reuters)

In 2020, it was the sight of millions of daily-wage workers walking on the national highways of India, fleeing the cities for their villages, that defined the covid-19 crisis in the country. Now, in 2021, the country’s blundering, callous and shortsighted response to a second wave is chillingly captured at overrun graveyards and cremation grounds.

The second wave of covid-19 is sweeping through India with the ferocity of an inferno; misplaced triumphalism, complacency and willful incompetence have brought us to our knees. And the official numbers — India just reported the world’s largest single-day spike, with more than 300,000 coronavirus cases over the last 24 hours and more than 2,100 deaths — do not even begin to tell us the truth.…  Seguir leyendo »

Barkha Dutt reports from Guru Teg Bahadur hospital in New Delhi, after authorities eased restrictions imposed as a preventive measure against the spread of covid-19, in June 2020. (Prakash Singh/AFP via Getty Images)

In normal times, a journalist should be the storyteller and not the story. But when you are confronted with a viral video that calls for you and eight other journalists to be hanged for reporting on protests by the country’s farmers, and the police in your city take no action, silence would be cowardice.

I am writing today about how extraordinarily difficult it is to be an independent journalist today in India — a thriving democracy when it comes to elections and the peaceful transition of power, but a distinctly diminishing democracy when it comes to other institutional freedoms. Instead of a compassionate compact between the citizen and the state, draconian high-handedness has become the norm rather than the exception.…  Seguir leyendo »

A farmer stands next to police barricades along a blocked highway as farmers continue to protest the central government's recent agricultural reforms on Feb. 2. (Prakash Singh/AFP/Getty Images)

“This flag is our life, it’s drawn from the blood and toil of our ancestors”, a farmer from Punjab told me, pointing to the Indian tricolor fluttering from the corner of his tractor as it joined a cavalcade of thousands on the morning of India’s Republic Day on Jan. 26. I hung on precariously, one foot in the air, one arm clasping the tractor’s overheated emission rod, as we rolled through a sea of people. It was a protest march, but the atmosphere was joyous. After two months of demonstrating at the capital’s borders against new legislation that farmers say will hand over the agriculture industry to oligarchs, the protesters finally had permission to cross the city limits and enter Delhi.…  Seguir leyendo »

Indian farmers gathered to support the ongoing protest against new agricultural laws. (Jagadeesh Nv/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)

“I am ready to stay here for 8 months, if I have to,'' Kartar Singh said, his voice roaring with passion. Singh is one of tens of thousands of farmers who have been protesting at the borders of India’s capital against the government’s new farm legislations.

He pulled out a tiny finger-sized photograph from the pocket of his mud-soiled kurta (the Punjabi word for shirt). “Look at this”, he said excitedly, “This is my son. He works for the army and right now he is on duty at the border with China. We are all patriots here. We are ready to die for our country”.…  Seguir leyendo »

Demonstrators shout slogans and hold placards on Monday during a protest in New Delhi over the alleged gang rape and killing of a 19-year-old Dalit woman in Uttar Pradesh state, India. (EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)

A rape and murder case in a village in Hathras, Uttar Pradesh, has shaken India. In a country in which 87 rapes are reported every day on average, this incident has exposed how every institution in India — the police, the media and the politicians — has failed women.

At the capital’s Safdarjung Hospital, where I first met the victim’s family, her younger brother Sandeep told me: “We have struggled alone. My sister had just gone to fetch fodder for the cattle at home. We found her lying in a pool of blood with no clothes on”.

She fought valiantly to live.…  Seguir leyendo »

Indian army soldiers at Gagangeer in Indian-controlled Kashmir on Tuesday. (Mukhtar Khan/AP)

Tens of thousands of Chinese and Indian troops are facing off in the uppermost reaches of the Himalayas, on the precipice of a possible war between the two major countries.

China’s incursions into eastern Ladakh across the Line of Actual Control that separates it from India should be seen as part of its global pattern of bad behavior. If left unchallenged, China’s provocative and perfidious military actions along the border with India could destabilize South Asia.

China’s massive buildup of troops and infrastructure in pockets across the border not only violates bilateral agreements, but also forces Indians to confront a new reality.…  Seguir leyendo »

An Indian army convoy drives toward Leh, on a highway bordering China, on June 19 in Gagangir, India. (Yawar Nazir/Getty Images)

On June 15 at 6.30 p.m., Col. Santosh Babu, an Indian army officer from the southern state of Telangana, organized 20 of his men to accompany him on what he thought was a straightforward mission. He’d been informed that the monthlong simmering tension between India and China at different points of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Eastern Ladakh was drawing to a close. Military commanders had agreed to “de-escalate"; the Chinese were to withdraw from areas inside Indian territory. His job that evening was to ensure that the two tents erected by the Chinese inside the Galwan Valley (named such by the British for Rasool Galwan, a teenage Indian trekker who helped save their lives in 1895) were taken down, per the negotiated agreement.…  Seguir leyendo »

The deaths of 20 Indian soldiers, including a commanding officer, in the first deadly clash with Chinese troops in 45 years came as Beijing and New Delhi had supposedly reached an agreement to lower the tension along the border in the mountainous region of Ladakh, high in the Himalayas.

India blames China for trying to alter the status quo at the Line of Actual Control, or the LAC. Since May 5, Chinese troops had crossed the border and squatted on Indian territory, triggering a standoff. When Indian soldiers went into the Galwan Valley to supervise what was meant to be the agreed retreat of Chinese troops from the area, they were attacked by 500 Chinese troops with stones, iron rods, nails and other objects.…  Seguir leyendo »

A migrant worker carried his 5-year-old son in New Delhi as they returned to their village during India's nationwide lockdown to limit the spreading of the coronavirus. (Danish Siddiqui/Reuters)

Saraswati Kunj is a village in the shadows of the glitzy city of Gurugram, which is southwest of New Delhi and home to multinational companies, luxury-car showrooms and plush high-rise apartments. Here in Saraswati Kunj, families live often five or eight to a single room, in tenements crisscrossed by open drains. Most residents are migrants who came to the city in search of work. Many, if not all, survive on daily wages.

Last week, a villager, Mukesh Mandal, 30, decided to sell his phone. He used to work as a house painter before the coronavirus lockdown, now entering its fifth week in India, made it impossible to find jobs.…  Seguir leyendo »

Aam Aadmi Party chief and Chief Minister of Delhi Arvind Kejriwal, center, his wife Sunita Kejriwal, right, and Deputy Chief Minister of Delhi Manish Sisodia visit Hanuman Mandir in New Delhi on Tuesday. (Str/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)

One of India’s newest political leaders — who studied to be a mechanical engineer at one of the country’s most prestigious institutes, became a government revenue officer and started his journey in public life as an anti-corruption crusader — has just taken on and beaten the might of the Bharatiya Janata Party in a stunning political victory in Delhi.

Arvind Kejriwal is set to be Delhi’s chief minister for a third time, winning in the face of the most divisive, hate-filled campaign the national capital has seen in decades. Given that Home Minister Amit Shah, the second most powerful person in India, personally ran the war room against Kejriwal, the win is extraordinary.…  Seguir leyendo »

A woman demonstrates against the Indian government's citizenship amendment bill in New Delhi on Dec. 14. (Jewel Samad/Afp Via Getty Images)

“It’s 1947 all over again”, wrote my aunt on the family WhatsApp group as protests erupted across India against the Modi government’s divisive new citizenship law. She was talking about the year India was partitioned by British colonialists to create Pakistan, setting off a period of horrific communal strife between Hindus and Muslims. The comment may sound hyperbolic, but it accurately captures the sense of dread millions of Indians are feeling today.

A bigoted new citizenship law that privileges non-Muslims over Muslim migrants — coupled with the government’s proposal to create a national register of citizens (NRC) — has unleashed a set of forces over which the government may no longer have much control.…  Seguir leyendo »