‘Dalit’ as prez can­di­date

Tale­ban tar­gets foreign troops

Arab Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

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.

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