India and September 11
Freedom of Expression
India is the second-most populous country in the world, with more
than a billion citizens, and the most populous democracy. The
country's landmass is one-third that of the United States, and
it shares borders with Pakistan, China, Bhutan, Nepal and Bangladesh.
In 1947, India gained independence from Britain and split
from Pakistan. Since then, India and Pakistan have fought three
wars against one another. The disputed region of Kashmir continues
to be a source of tension between two nuclear-armed neighbors.
India is a secular nation with a Hindu majority. Its 12 percent
Muslim minority constitutes one of the largest Muslim populations
in the world. Other religious minorities include Christians,
Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains and Zoroastrians.
The country has 18 official languages, in addition to hundreds
of unofficial languages and dialects. Although Hindi is India's
national language, only an estimated one-third of Indians speak
it. English is widely used in business and government.
India's GDP is $390 million. Although the country's middle
class is growing, the average Indian earns only $420 a year,
and almost half of the country's children under age 5 are malnourished.
Literacy in India is on the rise, with 76 percent of men and
54 percent of women demonstrating the ability to read and write.
Calcutta, with more than 13 million residents, is the second-most
populous metropolis (the first is Bombay). Once the capital
of British India, it is now the state capital of West Bengal.
The city is known for its literature and arts, as well as for
its vast slums. It was officially renamed Kolkata in 2000.
An estimated 20 million people of Indian origin live outside
the country, primarily in Britain, North America, Africa, the
Caribbean, Southeast Asia and the Persian Gulf. There are 1.7
million Indians and Indian Americans in the United States. The
Indian government encourages NRIs(nonresident Indians) to invest
in India's economic development.
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India and September
Thirty-five people born in India died in the September 11 attacks,
making India the country with the third-highest number of deaths,
after the United States and Britain. The Indian embassy estimates
that a total of 250 Indians and people of Indian origin were
Government officials in India immediately denounced the attacks
and offered to cooperate with the United States in its war on
terrorism. In response, the U.S. government lifted sanctions
imposed after India tested nuclear weapons in 1998. The United
States approved arms sales and conducted joint military exercises
India has suffered from terrorism (including assassinations,
hijackings, and suicide bombings by separatists and religious
extremists) within its own borders in recent years. The government
draws parallels between the U.S. war on terror and its own struggle
to stop terrorist attacks at home, which it blames primarily
on its neighbor and rival, Pakistan.
An attack on India's parliament building in December 2001
provided the impetus to pass a broad antiterrorism act, which
expanded the state's powers to investigate and detain suspected
terrorists. Human rights groups denounced the measure as draconian
and accused the government of using it against minority groups
and political opponents.
The 2002 Pew Global Attitudes Project poll found that 65 percent
of Indians favor the U.S.-led war on terrorism. Only 10 percent
oppose it. A smaller proportion -- 54 percent -- hold a favorable
opinion of the United States and 27 percent hold a negative
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Jatra is a popular genre of Bengali theater performed
outdoors with musical accompaniment. The word "jatra" literally
means a journey or a pilgrimage, often in the form of a procession
from place to place. The drama is transportable, and performers
take their show from one village to the next throughout Eastern
Jatra has been performed since the 16th century, when many
of the plays dealt with religious themes. During the Independence
Movement, it was used to inspire resistance to British colonialism.
Beginning in the 1960s, urban jatra took root in Calcutta. Recent
plays have portrayed such historical figures as Hitler and Ho
Jatra serves an educational purpose, especially in rural areas
where many people are illiterate and only 17 percent of the
population reads newspapers or magazines. Less than half of
the country's literate adults read periodicals.
Activists in India often use street theater to educate audiences
about political and social issues. Recent street performances
have concerned Hindu-Muslim violence, the U.S. war in Iraq and
India boasts the largest film industry in the world, with
an output of almost 1,000 films a year in more than a dozen
languages. "Bollywood" refers to Bombay's star-studded movie
industry. Its immensely popular Hindi-language films are characterized
by melodrama interspersed with exuberant song-and-dance sequences.
Some critics blame the popularity of movies for a decline in
folk theater traditions.
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Freedom of Expression
India has more than 4,000 daily newspapers -- more than any
other country in the world. Hindi dailies account for almost
half of that total, followed by papers in regional languages
and English. After years of state control, India's airwaves
are now open to competition. Since 1992, when the government
gave up its television monopoly, the number of television stations,
including cable and satellite channels, expanded dramatically.
Television reaches more than 80 million Indian homes, which
means that 384 million of 1 billion Indians have access to it.
In late 2002, the government also gave the nod to low-power
educational radio stations, ending its domination of radio news
broadcasts. The Indian constitution guarantees freedom of speech
and expression, but also permits those freedoms to be restricted
in the name of national security, public order, decency and
morality. The government censors films, often cutting love scenes,
and has banned controversial books -- including Salman Rushdie's
Satanic Verses and The Moor's Last Sigh. In addition
to denouncing its overt censorship, human rights agencies accuse
the government of harassing its critics in the press.
The government reviewed the scripts for three jatras about
Osama bin Laden and the September 11 attacks, but allowed only
one play to be produced. The censors reportedly feared that
the other two plays might incite Hindu-Muslim violence.
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Sources: Frontline; Reporters Without Borders; Discover India;
BBC Country Profile: India; Constitution of India; The Independent;
CIA World Factbook 2002: India; Central Institute of Indian
Languages; U.S. State Department Background Note: India; World
Bank Country Report: India; Census of India 2001; Report of
the High Level Committee on the Indian Diaspora; Indian Embassy;
City of New York Department of Health; Human Rights Watch; The
New York Times; Pew Global Attitudes Project 2002; Discover
India; indiaprofile.com; Agence France Presse; BBC Monitoring
International Reports; Time.