Julie McCarthy

As U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon took notice of the global assault against women and girls, another brutal attack in India has highlighted once more the prevalence of gender-based crime in the world's largest democracy.

Police say a mother of five was shot dead by militants in a remote village in the northeast of the country after she resisted attempts to molest her.

A mother and grandmother's wailing rises in the garden of their cement-and-thatched home in the impoverished village of Katra Sahadatganj in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. They mourn two young girls who were raped and murdered a week ago.

The fresh scent of mint from nearby fields competes with the smell of cow dung baking in the sun.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

TESS VIGELAND, HOST:

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep. Good morning. We have today the sound of an historic election victory in India.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERS AND MUSIC)

The signs came early that Abhina Aher was different.

Born a boy biologically and given the male name Abhijit, Aher grew up in a middle-class neighborhood of Mumbai, India. The son of a single mother who nurtured a love of dance, Aher would watch enthralled as she performed.

"I used to love to wear the clothes that my mother used to wear — her jewelry, her makeup," Aher, now 37, recalls. "That is something which used to extremely fascinate me."

A watershed moment occurred in global health Thursday: The World Health Organization said that its Southeast Asian region is now officially polio-free.

The milestone means that 80 percent of the world's population now lives without fear of the paralyzing disease.

India announced Wednesday that national elections for the lower house of Parliament will be staggered over nine separate days and begin April 7.

The voting to elect the 543-seat body will occur in stages to accommodate the scale of voters in what is expected to be the world's largest democratic exercise.

In New Delhi an unprecedented two-day sit-in that pitted the local government against the national authorities has come to an end following altercations between police and protesters.

Some 30 people were injured during the demonstration that was led by newly elected Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, the local administrator who rallied members of his Aam Aadmi Party, named for the "Common Man," against the central government.

India's Supreme Court is set to hear a petition Wednesday against one of its own retired judges over allegations that he sexually harassed a former intern — the second such case to be made public in as many months.

The alleged incidents have cast a cloud over the country's highest court and pressure has mounted for it to comply with its own 1997 rulings requiring panels in the workplace to hear harassment complaints. Critics say such a panel for the Supreme Court itself is long overdue.

Bangladesh's parliamentary election Sunday proved to be among the most violent vote in the country's short history. At least 18 people were killed, including an election officer who was beaten to death, and scores of polling stations firebombed, according to local media reports.

Sachin Tendulkar: The very name evokes Indian national pride, and it resounded through Wankhede Stadium Thursday in the cricket superstar's hometown of Mumbai.

That's when Tendulkar took the field for the final test match of his fabled 24-year long career. There are fevered celebrations for the 40-year-old batsman who has dominated the Indian imagination on and off the field, and whose self-effacing demeanor masked a steely determination to win.

The atmosphere was electric as India's favorite son stepped onto the field.

The four men convicted of the New Delhi gang rape that took the life of a 23-year-old woman last December will learn their fate on Friday.

The court considered Wednesday whether they should get capital punishment or life in prison.

In sentencing arguments that stretched to three hours, public prosecutor Dayan Krishnan called on the court to impose the death penalty for what he called a "diabolical" crime.

Raghuram Rajan, the new governor of India's central bank, swept into office this week infusing a sense of optimism.

He announced hard-headed measures Wednesday that remove uncertainty that has characterized the Reserve Bank of India's moves.

By Friday, Indian equities and the rupee were clawing back.

But analysts say the exuberance — and honeymoon with the suave MIT-trained economist — is unlikely to last.

After decadelong high growth rates, India is now the sick man of Asia.

India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh addressed a steep slide in the country's currency in recent weeks in a rare public speech on Friday, hoping to assuage concern over the rupee's sudden depreciation and blaming the opposition for inaction in Parliament that he said was sending the wrong signals to the markets.

For an introduction to India's cultural and culinary delights, you might hop a flight to Delhi or book a trip to Mumbai. But to meet the country sans passport free of airport indignities, you could just curl up with the crime novels of Tarquin Hall.

Vish Puri, Hall's opinionated private investigator, is a 50-something Punjabi super sleuth with a fondness for family and food. The mustachioed detective cracks open India's underbelly with a caseload that delves into forbidden love, corruption in Indian cricket and the deadly clash between science and superstition.

India has accused Pakistani troops of killing five Indian soldiers after firing across the Line of Control, the de facto border in disputed Kashmir. Pakistan denies any firing from its side, and calls the allegation "baseless."

This latest incident comes amid attempts to renew diplomatic overtures for peace between the two nuclear-armed rivals.

Indian officials say Pakistani soldiers fired into Indian territory overnight, ambushing a patrol of Indian troops.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

In India, the mother of the 23-year-old woman fatally gang-raped on a moving bus last December appeared in court Friday and for the first time put eyes on the men accused in the heinous attack on her daughter.

The four men on trial have been charged with murder and face capital punishment for the crime that convulsed the country and prompted harsher punishments for rape.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

On a Monday, it's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And I'm David Greene. Good morning.

After retiring as Pakistan's most celebrated cricket player, Imran Khan has dabbled on the margins of Pakistani politics for nearly two decades, trying to make a mark.

The sportsman turned philanthropist who led a playboy lifestyle in his younger days has attracted endless media attention, but until now neither he nor his movement has had any real impact.

As Pakistanis vote in a crucial parliamentary election on Saturday, could this time be different?

Flags of the competing political parties whip in the wind of seaside Karachi. But little else is stirring in this city of 18 million this day.

The MQM, a leading political party in the megacity, has shut Karachi down with a general strike in response to a deadly bombing at its election office. But as soon as the strike ends, the streets spring to life as if nothing were amiss.

In Pakistan, police say two unidentified gunmen fatally shot the special prosecutor investigating the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

Friday's attack on Chaudhry Zulfiqar Ali in Islamabad deepens the mystery surrounding one of the country's most politically charged cases, which remains open six years later.

"What has changed?" That is the question echoing through Delhi on Sunday. Public frustration over sexual crimes against women is erupting again, this time over a gruesome sexual assault of a 5-year-old girl.

The protests are smaller than those that swept over the capital in December with the fatal gang-rape of a 23-year-old woman, but the incident has revived debate over the startling state of sexual violence in India.

The culling of candidates in the run-up to Pakistan's May 11 election is providing the country some badly needed levity.

The "Pakistani Inquisition," as it's been dubbed, has election commission officials grilling office-seekers on their Islamic bona fides.

Many have stumbled badly, only to be disqualified.

But not Mussarat Shaheen, who performed impeccably. The former dancer — fabled for her Pushto films — was asked by an official in the city of Dera Ismail Khan to recite a verse of the Holy Quran, to test her mettle as a candidate for the National Assembly.

Former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf suffered only a blow to his dignity when a lawyer hurled a shoe at him Friday as he entered the High Court in the southern city of Karachi.

The shoe missed its target but made its point. Many in Pakistan's legal fraternity still harbor anger toward the former president for a number of actions he took against the judiciary during his military rule from 1999 to 2008.

Headlines in India's national newspapers tell the story of the state of women in the country. A sampling of what readers in New Delhi encounter makes for sober reading:

"Woman Alleges Gang Rape In Lawyer's Chamber."

"More Shame: Five Rapes In Two Days."

"Woman Resists Molestation, Shot Dead."

India's media have been zealous about exposing the pervasive sexual violence in the country since the gruesome gang rape and subsequent death of a 23-year-old woman in December ignited an international outcry.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

I first encountered Hugo Chavez in Caracas, starring in his own television show, Hello, Mr. President. I couldn't take my eyes of the program, which began at 11 a.m. and ended after 7 p.m.

It was an endurance test for even the most die-hard sycophants and terrific entertainment for a first-time viewer. While the camera would pan droopy-eyed Cabinet members seated in the front row, El Presidente showed no signs of flagging.

At the seven-hour mark, he chirped, "Bueno!" and declared, "It's early! Let's keep talking."

A wave of violence has rocked Bangladesh after a special war crimes tribunal Thursday imposed the death penalty on an Islamist leader for his role in the country's 1971 war of independence from Pakistan.

Demonstrators for and against the convicted leader clashed with security forces, leaving dozens of people dead, including police.

The violence demonstrates the deep sensitivities that remain over the war of independence that played out more than 40 years ago.

Kurt Vonnegut once said, "What makes life worth living are the saints. ... They can be longtime friends or someone I meet on a street. They find a way to behave decently in an indecent society."

And so it is with Gyanesh Kamal, a man I met at India's Kumbh Mela, one of the oldest festivals on Earth. To the uninitiated, this spiritual spectacle is a discombobulating din of prayers, loudspeakers and pilgrims so ceaseless it disorients the senses.

Pages