The South Asia Channel

Tourist Gang-Raped in Delhi; First Female Police Chief Appointed in Kabul; Small Fire at Musharraf’s Hospital

Bonus Read: "Sampler Q&A: Behind the Scenes at USAID's OAPA," Bailey Cahall (SouthAsia).


Danish woman gang-raped in the heart of Delhi 

Indian police are investigating the alleged gang rape on Tuesday evening of a Danish woman who lost her way in Delhi's city center (BBC, WSJ). The 51-year-old tourist was attacked by a group of men in the Pahar Ganj area and robbed and raped at knifepoint, police say. Police sources told NDTV that all eight men accused in the attack have been identified (NDTV). According to reports, the woman left India on Wednesday morning. Since the December 2012 gang rape in Delhi, the nation has been shocked by a string of brutal rapes of women. 

Condemning the rape, Delhi's ruling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) stressed the need for fast track courts and bringing Delhi Police under the purview of the state government (Times of India). Delhi police remain under the jurisdiction of the central government, which prevents Delhi from adequately looking after its own affairs, the AAP said.

Wholesale price inflation falls to 5-month low

India's wholesale price inflation fell to a five-month low of 6.16 percent in December 2013, government data showed Wednesday (Reuters, WSJ, Bloomberg, Live Mint, Hindustan Times). The figure was down from 7.52 percent in November 2013, which was a 14-month high. The drop was largely due to slower growth in the price of onions, which increased by 39.56 percent in December, compared with a 190 percent rise in November. Retail inflation also slowed to a three-month low of 9.87 percent in December, down from 11.16 percent the month before. The figures give India's central bank more leeway to hold interest rates at the current level during its upcoming policy review on Jan. 28. The Reserve Bank of India kept its policy rate unchanged at 7.75 percent in its mid-quarter policy review on Dec. 18, in hopes that an expected fall in food prices would dampen inflation. 

Supreme Court considers harassment case, Tejpal bail rejected

India's Supreme Court on Wednesday took up the petition of a young woman who has accused retired Supreme Court Justice Swatenter Kumar of sexually harassing her, the second such case against a former high court judge in several months (NDTV). Kumar is now chairman of the National Green Tribunal, a fast-track court that handles environmental cases. The former judge has denied the charges and sued newspapers that published the allegations against him (Times of India, The Hindu). The judge was also set to file defamation suits against some media organizations in the Delhi High Court on Wednesday. Last week, Justice A.K. Ganguly, the other Supreme Court judge accused of sexual harassment, stepped down as chairman of the West Bengal Human Rights Commission.

A Goa court on Wednesday rejected the bail plea of Tarun Tejpal, the editor of investigative news magazine Tehelka, in a sexual assault case (Times of India). Tejpal has spent a month-and-a-half in police and judicial custody. Tejpal was accused of sexually assaulting a junior colleague during ThinkFest, a conference organized by Tehelka at a five-star Goa resort in November 2013. 

Khobragade's lawyer asks for case to be thrown out 

Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade asked a New York court on Tuesday to dismiss the indictment and terminate any open arrest warrants against her for visa fraud, arguing that she was "cloaked" in diplomatic immunity and could not face criminal prosecution in the United States (VOA, NDTV, Times of India, Economic Times). Her lawyer, Daniel Arshack, said in a motion to the court that the U.S. State Department's own guidance for law enforcement agencies states that immunity extends to incidents that occurred prior to the granting of that immunity. Arshack is seeking a ruling on the order on or before Jan. 31. Last week, the State Department approved a request by India to transfer Khobragade from its consulate in New York City to its permanent mission at the U.N., a change which gave the diplomat full immunity. 

Khobragade's father, Uttam Khobragade, told reporters that the diplomat's family, including husband Akash and two daughters aged 4 and 7, will relocate to India to live with their mother after February (Times of India). Khobragade arrived in Mumbai, her hometown, from New Delhi on Tuesday to a feverish welcome (NYT).

In response to the case, the United States on Tuesday made in-person registration of domestic workers mandatory for foreign diplomats (The Hindu, Business Standard). Without making any reference to the Khobragade case, the White House released a first-ever "Federal Strategic Action Plan on Services for Victims of Human Trafficking in the U.S.," which contained a series of announcements on domestic workers and their potential exploitation. The action plan developed procedures for in-person registration of domestic help "shortly after their arrival in the U.S. to apprise them further of their rights and available services," said Cecilia Munoz, director of the Domestic Policy Council.

Will a power lunch, return of stolen treasure improve ties? 

To help smooth tensions between the United States and India in the wake of the Khobragade case, Indian Ambassador S. Jaishankar had a lunch meeting with Deputy Secretary of State William Burns at the State Department on Tuesday, his second lunch there this week (Hindustan Times). In New York City, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement released three stolen sandstone sculptures of medieval antiquity to the Indian consulate (BBC, NDTV, The Hindu, Times of India). The statues, worth an estimated $1.5 million, had been smuggled into the United States by art dealers and accomplices. The ceremony took place at the Indian Consulate, Khobragade's former office. 

-- Ana Swanson


Afghanistan appoints first female district police chief

Col. Jamila Bayaz, an officer with 25 years of experience, was named by Afghanistan's Interior Ministry on Tuesday as the new police chief for Kabul's District 1, becoming the first female district police chief in the country's history (Telegraph). In speaking about Bayaz's appointment, Gen. Mohammed Zahir Zahir, the Kabul police chief, said she would take over one of Kabul's most important police stations, noting that: "We don't seek to place a female officer in a weak station, it's not like that, we started this process at this station because women are capable of working like men" (TOLO News).

While there are currently around 1,500 female police officers working in Afghanistan, they represent less than 1 percent of the total force, and primarily support all-female or administrative units (Pajhwok, RFE/RL). The Interior Ministry has ambitious plans to change that though, according to spokesman Sediq Sediqi, who said the ministry wants to increase the number of female police officers to 10,000 by the end of 2014 and appoint more female officers to higher security posts.

Male officers, however, continue to be derided by their fellow Afghans as "little more than uniformed thieves" and experience missing pay. According to a report by the New York Times on Sunday, most Afghan police officers have not seen a paycheck since November 2013, and some haven't been paid since last October (NYT). While the Afghan government has the money, which comes from the United States and NATO allies, the Interior Ministry missed a filing deadline with the Finance Ministry, causing the delay. The issue seems to be a genuine bureaucratic mix-up, there are no indications the money was stolen or misspent, and the officers should receive back-pay soon, but it highlights "another glaring and often overlooked failure in the American-led nation-building effort here: weak government institutions staffed by officials who are often unqualified or, in some cases, incompetent." Bonus read: "Here's what it means to be Afghanistan's ‘most honest man': Low pay and no promotion," Kevin Scieff (Post).

NATO soldier killed in eastern Afghanistan

A NATO service member was killed in eastern Afghanistan early Wednesday morning after "a direct fire attack by enemy forces," the alliance's International Security Assistance Force said in a statement, but additional details were not provided (AP, Pajhwok). However, Afghanistan's TOLO News noted that most of the troops stationed in the eastern part of the country are American (TOLO News). Five coalition troops have been killed in the first two weeks of this year.

News of the attack comes as Tomasz Siemoniak, Poland's defense minister, said the country is speeding up the withdrawal of its troops, reducing its force contingent to about 500 soldiers by May (Reuters). According to Siemoniak, the previous plan had been to reduce the number of Polish troops in Afghanistan to 1,000 by the end of this year. He did not provide a reason for the accelerated withdrawal.

Afghan atheist given asylum in U.K.

An unidentified Afghan citizen was granted asylum in the United Kingdom on Tuesday, on the grounds that he is an atheist (BBC, RFE/RL). Lawyers for the man said he came to Great Britain in 2007, at the age of 16, and gradually lost his Muslim faith. They argued that he could face persecution, and possibly a death sentence, for being an apostate if he was returned to Afghanistan. His representatives, who were from England's University of Kent Law School, said they believed this was the first time someone was granted asylum in the country on the basis of being an atheist. Bonus read: "Controversy of apostasy in Afghanistan," Dawood Azami (BBC). 


Small fire at Musharraf's hospital

A small fire broke out at the Armed Forces Institute of Cardiology in Rawalpindi on Wednesday, the Pakistani hospital where former prime minister Pervez Musharraf has been admitted with a heart condition (AFP). Officials at the hospital said the fire was "extinguished immediately" and that the cause of the blaze was being investigated. Musharraf, who was taken to the hospital on Jan. 2 after experiencing chest pains on the way to a court hearing, was unhurt. The former military leader has been ordered to appear in person before the same court on Thursday, which is hearing one of the many legal cases against him. 

New York opera showcases Mai gang rape

"Thumbprint," a new opera inspired by the 2002 gang rape of Mukhtar Mai, premiered in New York City last Friday and is the midst of its eight-night run at a small Manhattan theater (NYT). The opera, written by American playwright Susan Yankowitz and scored by Indian-American composer Kamala Sankaram, uses elements of Bollywood, Hindustani and Western compositions, and Sufi "qawwali" music to tell the story of Mai, who was raped to avenge her 12-year-old brother's alleged impropriety with a woman from a rival clan and went on to become a human-rights activist (AFP). While the show is tiny production, with just six actors and a six-person chamber orchestra, organizers of the Prototype festival that is featuring "Thumbprint" hope to eventually bring to the show to India and Pakistan.

-- Bailey Cahall 

Edited by Peter Bergen.