‘Dalit’ as prez candidate
Taleban targets foreign troops
NEW DELHI, June 19, (Agencies): India’s ruling party on Monday named a lawyer from the lowest Dalit caste as its candidate for president, a move seen as an attempt to reach out to the marginalised community.
Ram Nath Kovind, 71, is likely to take up the largely ceremonial post when the term of Pranab Mukherjee ends next month, becoming the second Dalit to be India’s head of state.
The president is voted in by an electoral college comprised of federal and state lawmakers, and the ruling ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is thought to have the support it needs to push its candidate through.
“Ram Nath Kovind has always fought for the betterment of the Dalits and other backward castes,” BJP chief Amit Shah said at a press conference to announce the party’s candidate.
“The BJP ... hopes that a person born in a poor family of low-caste Dalit community will be a consensus candidate for the president’s post.”
Kovind’s nomination follows huge protests last year by members of the historically marginalised Dalit community, who make up around 17 percent of India’s population.
The protests broke out after four young Dalits were stripped naked and publicly flogged after being falsely accused of killing a cow, an animal Hindus consider sacred.
The outrage was compounded by the savage beating of a pregnant woman and her husband after they refused to allow higher-caste men to graze cattle on their land.
The BJP has traditionally enjoyed the support of upper-caste Hindus but has been wooing low-caste voters to broaden its nationwide appeal.
An uptick in attacks by Afghan National army soldiers against foreign troops would seem a worrisome trend ahead of the deployment of another 4,000 US troops to Afghanistan in the latest attempt by Washington to turn around the protracted war against insurgents.
Two so-called insider attacks, in which a soldier in an Afghan National Army uniform turns his weapon on foreign troops, in as many weeks have killed three US soldiers and wounded another seven.
Insider attacks have been occurring with deadly regularity since 2011. According to an April report by the Modern War Institute at America’s West Point it was in 2011 that “insider attacks became the preferred war-fighting tactic of the Taleban, an organization that understood well how to apply limited resources for maximum effect.”
The report says since 2007, insider attacks have killed 157 NATO personnel and 557 members of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces. But it also blames many attacks against foreign troops on what it calls cultural friction, where Afghans become infuriated by a perceived insult.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has inaugurated the first AfghanistanIndia air corridor during a ceremony at the Kabul International Airport — a direct route that bypasses Pakistan and is meant to improve commerce.
Ghani says the aim of the route is to create more opportunities and make Afghanistan an exporter country. His adviser Sediqullah Mujadedi says Afghan agricultural products will for the first time head to India on cargo planes.
Mujadedi says the first Indiabound flight on Monday included 60 tons of natural plants; a second flight will follow, with 40 tons of dry fruits to be sent from Afghanistan’s southern Kandahar province.
Afghanistan is a mountainous landlocked country and all imports and exports depend on neighboring countries. Relations between Kabul and Islamabad have become strained over accusations of harboring militants.