Julie McCarthy

The Hindu gathering known as Kumbh Mela is on a scale difficult to fathom: The world's largest religious festival is millions of feet shuffling, millions of mantras chanted, countless sales of firewood to ward off the night cold. Millions of incense sticks will be burned and bells rung in devotional rituals called aartis.

Jet-setting swamis, naked holy men and foreigners fascinated by Eastern mysticism joined tens of millions of pilgrims for a dip in river waters believed to be holy.

India's Supreme Court will hear a petition Wednesday on behalf of one of the defendants in the New Delhi rape and murder case that has provoked mass protests in that nation. One of the accused, Mukesh Singh, has asked to remove the case from the capital on the grounds that the atmosphere is too charged to ensure a fair trial.

India reacted angrily today at what it called the "inhumane treatment" of one of two soldiers killed Tuesday in a skirmish along the de facto border with Pakistan.

Pakistan challenged the Indian army's allegations and said it is prepared to hold an investigation through the United Nations Military Observers Group for India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) into recent ceasefire violations along what is known as the Line of Control (LOC).

The five men accused in the rape case that has reverberated around the world were brought before a New Delhi magistrate for the first time today — but only after she sealed the proceedings.

In India today, the public prosecutor formally charged five men with murder and rape in the case of a 23-year-old student whose December assault and death has united the country in anger and sorrow.

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

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

By Saturday evening, more than 1,000 candles glowed at a somber scene in a central Delhi park as India mourned the death of the young woman whose gang rape two weeks ago shocked the country.

What began 13 days ago with a handful of well-wishers holding a hospital vigil for the rape victim swelled into thousands as a young generation of Indians demanded an end to the culture of violence that produced more than 24,000 cases of rape last year alone.

The gang rape of a young woman on a bus in Delhi has touched off outrage and soul-searching in the increasingly unsafe Indian capital.

Spontaneous protests have erupted, while anguished members of Parliament decried the attack.

The world mourned the death this week of Indian maestro Ravi Shankar, whose name became synonymous with the sitar. Tributes eulogized Shankar as the great connector of the East and West who'd hobnobbed with The Beatles and collaborated with violin virtuoso Yehudi Menuhin. Less has been said about the roots of the music he spent a lifetime perfecting and innovating.

India's government has approved an inquiry into Wal-Mart's lobbying activities in the U.S. as a heated debate over the retail giant's plans for stores in India moves into a new phase, NPR's Julie McCarthy tells us from New Delhi.

(Reporting from New Delhi, NPR's Julie McCarthy sends along an update on a story that aired on Morning Edition Wednesday. Essentially, Indians were considering whether to allow big-box stores like Wal-Mart into the country.)

It looks like the case in India against two young female Facebook users has been dropped. But the debate over free speech in India is still heating up.

As we've reported, two young women were arrested last week for a Facebook comment that criticized the shutdown of the city of Mumbai for the cremation of a controversial political leader.

Shaheen Dhada is an unlikely looking protagonist in the battle under way in India to protect free speech from government restrictions in the new media age.

Slight and soft-spoken, Dhada perches on the edge of her bed in a purple-walled room that has been her own for the past 20 years. Outside, police officers are posted for her protection in the town of Palghar, 2 1/2 hours outside Mumbai.

Mohammad Ajmal Kasab, the lone surviving gunman from the three-day attack on Mumbai in November 2008 that killed more than 160 people, has been hanged in India.

NPR's Julie McCarthy reports from New Delhi that the execution took place in secret inside a high-security jail in the Indian city of Pune, just days before the anniversary of the Mumbai siege:

All this week, we've been examining the world's last remaining pockets of polio, a disease for which there is no cure. India marked a milestone when the World Health Organization struck it from the list of polio-endemic countries in February after no new cases were reported for more than a year. From Delhi, NPR's Julie McCarthy reports on how, despite poverty and poor sanitation, the world's second-most populous country is eradicating the disease.

Can tigers and tourists coexist? The debate is rumbling through India, where the Supreme Court has temporarily banned tourism in core areas of the country's 41 tiger reserves. The unexpected and controversial ruling is aimed at protecting the last of India's 1,700 tigers.

Up until the late 1960s, big game hunters trod the forests of Rajasthan's Ranthambore National Park, part of a sprawling tiger reserve southwest of Delhi. Under the court's recent ban, spotting one of India's big cats — a tiger or the more elusive leopard — inside the park is forbidden.

India's parliament was adjourned briefly today as the opposition called for the resignation of the prime minister, saying he was complicit in what has become known as "coal-gate."

The uproar stems from an official audit issued last week accusing the government of selling coal mining rights for too low a price.

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

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

India's government has persuaded companies to shut down more than 150 websites. Authorities blame those sites for circulating claims that led to panic. The claims fueled fears of violence during the Muslim festival of Eid. NPR's Julie McCarthy reports.

Pakistan's National Assembly has been summoned to elect a new prime minister for the fragile coalition of President Asif Ali Zardari. A consensus candidate, current Textile Industry Minister Makhdoom Shahabuddin, emerged soon after the Supreme Court's dramatic firing of outgoing Premier Yusuf Reza Gilani.

The court disqualified Gilani from office this week for defying court orders to pursue dormant corruption charges against President Zardari.

In the chill of the world's highest combat zone lies the prospect of warmer relations. Pakistan's army chief said Wednesday that there's a need to resolve the conflict that has Indian and Pakistani troops facing off at frigid altitudes of up to 20,000 feet in the Himalayan Mountains. An estimated 3,000 Pakistani soldiers have died from the atrocious weather conditions since deployments on the Siachen glacier began in 1984.

Pages