NEW DELHI: India’s top female wrestlers led a candlelight march of nearly 1,000 protesters in the capital on Tuesday demanding the resignation and arrest of the president of the wrestling federation for allegedly sexually harassing young athletes, one of whom was a minor.
Carrying India’s national flag, they marched to India Gate, a monument close to the country’s parliament building. A strong presence of police accompanied them on the marching route.
The protesters have been staging a protest in the center of New Delhi for nearly a month, amid a brutal heat wave, while foregoing their training schedules. Two Olympics medalists, Bajrang Punia and Sakshi Malik, are part of the protests and have threatened to hand back their medals if no action is taken against Wrestling Federation of India president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh.
The protests have grown with many members of opposition parties and farmer unions taking up the wrestlers’ cause. Most of the Indian wrestlers come from the northern agricultural states of Haryana and Punjab.
They accused Singh, a 66-year-old powerful lawmaker representing the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, of sexually harassing seven young female wrestlers.
Singh has denied the accusations and called the protests “politically motivated” by the opposition Congress party.
Vinesh Phogat, who has won wrestling medals at the world championships, Commonwealth Games and Asian Games, claimed in January that several coaches have exploited female wrestlers at the behest of the WFI president.
Indian police are investigating the allegations of sexual harassment against Singh, and he has been questioned in the case. India’s Supreme Court has also acknowledged that the case involves “serious allegations of sexual harassment,” but it has been met with silence from the ruling party leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
After their initial protest in January, Indian Sports Minister Anurag Singh Thakur asked the president of the federation to step aside and help in carrying out the probe. He also said a committee would be set up to investigate the allegations and a report will be released in four weeks.
Singh continues to head the federation and no report has been released in the months since. The women returned to their protest in April and have said they will not move until Singh is arrested.
“Our fight for justice seems like it has been forever because the wheels of justice have moved very slowly,” Phogat wrote in The Indian Express newspaper Tuesday.
The case has again highlighted the #MeToo movement in India, which picked up pace in 2018 when a spate of actresses and writers flooded social media with allegations of sexual harassment and assault.
TOKYO: Japan and the UAE signed an agreement in Abu Dhabi on Saturday to transfer defense equipment and technology.
This marks the first time such an agreement with a country in the Middle East region has been made, the Foreign Ministry said in Tokyo.
Isomata Akio, Ambassador of Japan to UAE and Dr. Mubarak Saeed Ghafan Al Jabri, Major General Staff of Assistant Undersecretary for Support and Defense Industries of the Ministry of Defense of the United Arab Emirates, signed the accord.
The accord establishes a legal framework for both governments to hand defense equipment and technology to be transferred for joint research, development and production and for enhancing cooperation in security and defense.
The ministry said the agreement will enter into force after the completion of the necessary procedures between the governments of the two countries.
The ministry said this accord ensures appropriate control over the defense equipment and technology transfer, especially regarding any subsequent transfer to a third party or any extra-purpose use.
“It is expected that this agreement will contribute to closer bilateral defense equipment and technology cooperation and maintaining and improving the production and technological bases for Japan’s defense industry, thereby contributing to the security of Japan,” according to the ministry.
LONDON: The British prime minister and home secretary have been warned against focusing on British-Pakistani men in policymaking to tackle child sexual abuse, The Guardian reported on Thursday.
A joint letter sent to Rishi Sunak and Suella Braverman, signed by more than 60 researchers and anti-child cruelty organizations, including the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, said “inaccurate or divisive claims” undermined their efforts and actually made children less safe.
The letter urged the UK government to avoid pushing misinformed, racist and divisive rhetoric when discussing the issue.
Braverman last month said “almost all” members of so-called child-grooming gangs in the UK were “British-Pakistani males” who hold “cultural values totally at odds with British values,” despite Home Office statistics from 2020 showing white males were responsible for the majority of child sexual abuse crimes.
The letter was organized by Helen Beckett and Camille Warrington, from the Safer Young Lives Research Centre at Bedfordshire University, and Ella Cockbain, associate professor of crime science at University College London, The Guardian reported.
The signatories asked the government to take an “evidence-based” approach to tackling the issue, rather than pandering to “short-term media cycles,” and said singling out one group drew attention away from other sources of harm to children.
They said: “To this end, we urgently ask all politicians to refrain from making partial, inaccurate or divisive claims about child sexual abuse. Doing so undermines attempts to ensure policymaking is evidence-based, fair and inclusive.
“Many recent political announcements and accompanying media discussions have clearly fallen short in this regard, perpetuating misinformation, racism and division.”
They added that a narrative which focused on young, white, female victims of British-Pakistani men detracted from much-needed support for other victims including young boys and men, and those from other minority communities as well as young disabled people.
A statement from No. 10 Downing Street refused to elaborate on a statement made in April after Braverman’s comments, which said “cultural sensitivity and political correctness” had failed victims, while the Home Office refused to comment.
TOKYO: A photographic exhibition of Arab life and places, seen through Japanese diplomats’ eyes, was held in Tokyo on Thursday.
It was organized by the Council of Arab Ambassadors and Heads of Missions in Tokyo at the Omani Embassy as part of “Arab Week.”
The exhibition – “Arabs through Japanese Diplomats’ Eyes” – was inspired by the “Japan through Diplomats’ Eyes” exhibition that celebrated its 25th-anniversary last year. The exhibition aims to promote the charm of the Arab world among Japanese people.
The pictures on display reflect everyday life in the Arab world photographed by diplomats, government officials and their families living in the region.
“I would like to express my deep gratitude and sincere congratulations for the organization of such a wonderful culture event, consolidating the bonds of friendship and cooperation between Japan and the Arab world and shedding light on the beauty, richness and diversity of the Arab countries,” Tunisian Ambassador Mohamed Elloumi said in his welcoming remarks.
Princess Takamado agreed to be the Honorary President of the exhibition and said it represented true diplomacy: “I really cannot imagine anything better than to have respective ambassadors from both sides seeing what is so beautiful about the countries to which they are posted. The admiration of each of the other is, I think, what diplomacy is all about. And this idea rose within the mind of one of the Arab ambassadors to our country. It is a huge development, and I hope it will continue to grow and develop.”
Parliamentary Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs TAKAGI Kei expressed his belief that the photographs reflect the appeal of Arab society and its people as seen from the Japanese perspective. “I sincerely hope that more Japanese people will discover the beauty of the Arab world. We believe this exchange will strengthen the friendly relations between Japan and the Arab world,” Kei said.
Palestinian Ambassador Waleed Siam said: “This exhibition showcases the deep-rooted beauty and abundant diversity of Arab nations, further solidifying the robust ties of friendship between Japan and the Arab World. In conclusion, let us continue to fortify the bridges of friendship that will withstand the trials of time. As Churchill wisely articulated, ‘We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.’ Let’s remain committed to the giving and sharing of our rich cultures, for it is in this exchange that the true beauty of our shared existence emerges.”
Omani ambassador Dr. Mohammed Said Albusaidi, highlighted the Arab historical, civilizational and cultural ties and the strength of the connection between the Arab countries. He thanked the sub-committee for organizing the event and their efforts and Princess Takamado for her presence and participation.
MOSCOW: The leaders of arch foes Armenia and Azerbaijan said ahead of talks in Moscow on Thursday, that they were advancing toward normalizing ties, following mutual recognition of territorial integrity.
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev spoke ahead of a face-to-face meeting later Thursday and subsequent talks to be hosted by Russian leader Vladimir Putin.
Baku and Yerevan have been locked in a decades-long conflict for control of Azerbaijan’s predominantly Armenian-populated region of Nagorno-Karabakh.
“There is a possibility of coming to a peace agreement, considering that Armenia has formally recognized Karabakh as part of Azerbaijan,” Aliyev told the Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union.
“Azerbaijan has no territorial claims to Armenia,” he added.
Pashinyan said the two countries were “making good progress in normalizing relationships, based on mutual recognition of territorial integrity.”
He said Yerevan was ready “to unblock all the transport links in the region that pass through Armenian territory.”
The Caucasus neighbors have been seeking to negotiate a peace agreement with the help of the European Union and United States.
On May 14, they agreed — at a meeting hosted in Brussels by the European Council President Charles Michel — on mutual recognition of territorial integrity.
The West’s diplomatic engagement in the Caucasus has irked traditional regional power broker Russia.
Armenia and Azerbaijan fought two wars — in 2020 and in the 1990s — for control of Nagorno-Karabakh.
Six weeks of hostilities in autumn 2020 ended with a Russian-brokered cease-fire that saw Armenia cede swathes of territory it had controlled for decades.
Armenia, which has relied on Russia for military and economic support since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, has accused Moscow of failing to fulfil its peacekeeping role in Karabakh.
With Russia bogged down in Ukraine and unwilling to strain ties with Azerbaijan’s key ally Turkiye, the United States and European Union have sought to repair ties between the Caucasus rivals.
LONDON: A car collided Thursday with the gates of Downing Street in central London, where the British prime minister’s home and offices are located, setting off a rapid, intense security response at one of London’s most-fortified sites.
No one was injured and police said they were not treating the incident as terror-related. Police arrested a man on suspicion of criminal damage and dangerous driving, and local officers, rather than counterterrorism detectives, were handling the investigation.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was in his office at the time of the crash, which revived memories of attacks on London’s government district.
It was not immediately clear whether the crash was deliberate. Video footage posted on social media showed a silver hatchback car heading straight for the gates at low speed across Whitehall, the main thoroughfare in London’s government district.
“A small cordon remains in place outside Downing Street after a car collided with the gates earlier this afternoon,” a Metropolitan Police Service Westminster statement said. “The incident is being dealt with by local officers in Westminster and isn’t currently being treated as terror-related,” it added.
“I heard a bang and looked up and saw loads of police with taser guns shouting at the man,” said witness Simon Parry, 44. “A lot of police vehicles came very quickly and were very quick to evacuate the area.”
The BBC showed a photo of officers leading away a man with handcuffed hands behind his back.
Footage shot soon after showed a car with its trunk open up against the tall metal gates. Several police officers minutely inspected the vehicle, removing items from the trunk and inside the car and placing them in evidence bags.
About two hours after the crash, a car transporter arrived to take the vehicle away.
Officers cordoned off a wide area of London’s government district, but lifted the barriers less than two hours after the collision took place, allowing people back into Whitehall. The street normally teems with civil servants and tourists keen to see the nearby Houses of Parliament and other historic buildings.
Downing Street is a narrow street with a row of Georgian houses that includes the prime minister’s official residence at No. 10.
Public access to the street is restricted and the heavy steel gates are protected at all times by armed police officers. Bollards and metal crowd barriers also help keep threats at bay.
The gates were erected in 1989 in response to threats from Irish Republican Army militants. In 1991 the IRA fired three mortars at the street, one of which exploded in the backyard of No. 10 while Prime Minister John Major was leading a Cabinet meeting inside. Three police officers and a civil servant suffered minor injuries.
The area was targeted in 2017, when an extremist inspired by the Daesh group killed four people with a vehicle on Westminster Bridge before stabbing a police officer to death outside Parliament.
Seats of power around the world are often magnets for protest, and sometimes violent attack. The incident came three days after a man crashed a rented truck into a security barrier outside the White House in Washington, got out and began waving around a Nazi flag. Sai Varshith Kandula, 19, has been charged with damaging US property.