LUCKNOW, India – Every time second-year undergraduate law students at Lucknow University open up their 14-inch Hewlett-Packard laptops, they are reminded of the generous benefactors who gave them their computers.
Sitting in a hot classroom at Lucknow University, Ankita Singh, 19, turned on a laptop and signed in. As she waited for the desktop to load, the screen flashed red. It lasted for all of two seconds, but the two faces that appeared on the screen were unmistakable: Akhilesh Yadav, the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, and his father, Mulayam Singh Yadav, who is the Samajwadi Party president and also a candidate for prime minister.
Another student in the classroom, Abhay Rajvanshi, 20, said the Samajwadi Party, the regional party that governs the state of Uttar Pradesh, distributed the laptops in September to fulfill a campaign promise after it won the 2012 state assembly elections.
“If I am getting a laptop, then they think — and I also think — that I have to support this political party, because this political party has given me some gift,” Mr. Rajvanshi said.
“It is pointless to take photographs of Sonia Gandhi’s face, because everyone gets those,” said Ritesh Uttamchandani, a photographer with Open magazine and one of the project’s two curators, in an interview with Livemint: “It’s about the little dots you connect to each other to get a larger idea of how the elections really work.”
The project is funded partly by Instagram and is a collaborative effort of photographers spread out across the country [full disclosure: I am one of those participating]. The “virtual newsroom” for the team is a WhatsApp group where everyone can discuss ideas and critique photos that may or may not make the Instagram feed. Since the photographers are taking nearly all the photos on a phone, the WhatsApp platform is a convenient way to upload the photos and receive feedback.
Check out some more of the photos and stories below:
The surging Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has had a lively social media presence during this year’s elections in India. Anyone who has ever combined a hashtag with “Modi,” “BJP,” “NaMo,” (a nickname of Narendra Modi here in India) or anything else related to Modi or the BJP has surely encountered Modi supporters either praising or defending their views. These “Moditards,” as some journalists have dubbed them, are generally passionate professionals who want nothing more than for Modi to lead the country, though some accounts are also suspected of being social media robots.
But an enterprising Indian who obviously has some programming skills did some investigating and found that most of these accounts are, in fact, fake Modi supporters.
The Supreme Court just granted legal recognition to transgender people, but India’s LGBTs won’t come out of the closet.
LUCKNOW, India — On April 15, India’s Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling allowing transgender people to identify as a third gender. The judgment directs the central and state governments to give them full legal recognition, including allotting them similar educational and job quotas as other minorities categorized as socially or economically disadvantaged. To date, transgender Indians — also known as hijras — were forced to select either “male” or “female” on all government forms and routinely faced ostracization due to their gender identity.
While gay rights activists and the LGBT community welcomed the decision, it flies in the face of a December 2013 Supreme Court ruling that recriminalized homosexuality. That ruling — which was criticized by two out of the three national parties contesting India’s general elections, currently underway — overturned a 2009 high court judgment that declared Section 377 of the Indian penal code unconstitutional. The British colonial law, dating back more than 150 years, criminalized sexual activities “against the order of nature” and had long been used to harass gay people.
The 2009 ruling was a watershed moment for gay rights in India. Openly gay-friendly bars and cafés opened across the country, Bollywood movies began featuring gay characters, and homosexuality began to be more accepted in the big cities. The following year, Delhi’s Queer Pride Parade attracted roughly 2,000 people — four times the number it did in 2008. The Supreme Court’s 2013 reversal drew criticism from HIV/AIDS groups, human rights campaigners, media icons and Indian politicians. Around the world, gay rights supporters organized a Global Day of Rage in more than 30 cities in protest.
Now there’s a strange tension between the two Supreme Court rulings: On one hand, transgender people have legal recognition; on the other, they may still be arrested for engaging in gay sex.
The cat’s out of the bag, officially: After years of speculation, Narendra Modi, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s candidate for prime minister of India, has admitted he has a wife. The revelation came when he filled out his nomination form in an election registry on Wednesday. Where it stated “married to,” he wrote, “Jashodaben.” It’s the first time Modi has ever publicly recognized his spouse’s existence.
One-sixth of the world’s entire population will head to the polls this spring to cast their vote in India’s 16th parliamentary exercises. The hype surrounding the elections has been simmering for some time — India’s economy is in a huge slump, and ongoing domestic issues like unemployment, corruption and safety are plaguing the population from Kashmir in the north to Kanyakumari in the south.
Then last fall, Narendra Modi, the chief minister of the Indian state of Gujurat, announced his candidacy for prime minister. A new political party that grew out of an anticorruption movement, the Aam Aadmi Party, emerged from seemingly nowhere as a potential game changer in determining the outcome of the elections. And Rahul Gandhi, the scion of the Nehru-Gandhi family that has been at the helm of Indian politics since independence from the British in 1947, is also running for prime minister — without a whole lot of experience behind him.
What this all means is that the elections this year are some of the most important and highly contested in India’s history. Below, a crash course on the fundamentals you need to know to understand what’s at stake.
LUCKNOW, India — As Narendra Modi gains momentum as the Bharatiya Janata Party’s candidate for prime minister, attention is turning to Muslim voters in the politically important state of Uttar Pradesh, who have been regarding him warily because of ties to right-wing Hindu groups that have attacked Muslims.
Uttar Pradesh has 80 seats in the lower house of the Indian Parliament at stake in the national elections, the most of any state in India. Muslims make up around 18 percent of the nearly 200 million people in the state and have historically provided support for the governing party in New Delhi, the Indian National Congress, and the regional Samajwadi Party, which is currently running the government in Uttar Pradesh.
Regional parties dominate Uttar Pradesh and could siphon off votes from either the Bharatiya Janata Party or the Indian National Congress so that neither gets an outright majority in the Lok Sabha, the lower house of Parliament. The Bharatiya Janata Party, or B.J.P., has won the parliamentary seat of the Lucknow district for the past several terms. Other districts in Uttar Pradesh are less settled.
Winning over Muslim voters in Uttar Pradesh requires a more complex strategy than just fielding a Muslim candidate, because they don’t vote as a bloc and they don’t base their vote solely on religion.
LUCKNOW, Uttar Pradesh — Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh, was buzzing with activity in recent days as Sanatkada, a well-known nonprofit in the city for women has been hosting its annual handicrafts festival, where vendors from across India come to sell their goods.
Aside from shopping, the festival, which began in 2010, offers musical and theater performances, panel discussions on literature and music, carnival rides for children and food from some of Lucknow’s most popular eateries. This year, however, the festival organizers decided to use this popular event to talk about one of the biggest topics in India today — feminism.
Vishwajyoti Ghosh, a graphic novelist and artist based in Delhi, is curator of the book “This Side That Side: Restorying Partition,” an anthology of graphic narratives from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. His first graphic novel, “Delhi Calm,” was published in 2010. At the Jaipur Literature Festival, Mr. Ghosh spoke with India Ink about the significance of collaborating with 48 different contributors, and what it means for younger generations to retell the history of Partition in a graphic format.
What do you think it is about the graphic element of the anthology that makes the stories of Partition come alive?