India Taj Mahal minarets damaged in storm

A storm has damaged two minarets located at different entry gates of the iconic Taj Mahal in the northern Indian city of Agra.

Officials told the BBC that winds blowing at 130kmh (80mph) caused the 12ft (4m) pillars to collapse.

The four longer minarets that surround the main structure remain intact.

The 17th Century mausoleum attracts about 12,000 visitors a day and is one of the world’s most popular tourist attractions.

One of the destroyed minarets was located at the royal gate where tourists often get their first glimpse of the monument.

The other was located at the southern gate.

Authorities said that work had begun to restore the damaged structures.

India’s official recorded history says that Mughal ruler Shah Jahan built the Taj Mahal in memory of his queen, Mumtaj Mahal.

The monument’s complex structure of white marble domes and minarets inlaid with semi-precious stones and carvings is considered the finest example of Mughal art in India

But it has suffered damage due to pollution and construction activity in recent years.

The Archaeological Survey of India, the custodian of the country’s monuments, said in January that the Taj Mahal was at risk of losing its sheen and structure due to increased pollution levels in Agra.

Is India losing Kashmir?

As India’s most restive region stares down the abyss of what a commentator calls another “hot summer of violence”, the doom-laden headline has returned with a vengeance: Is India losing Kashmir?

Last summer was one of the bloodiest in the Muslim-dominated valley in recent years. Following the killing of influential militant Burhan Wani by Indian forces last July, more than 100 civilians lost their lives in clashes during a four-month-long security lockdown in the valley.

It’s not looking very promising this summer.

This month’s parliamentary election in Srinagar was scarred by violence and a record-low turnout of voters. To add fuel to the fire, graphic social videos surfaced claiming to show abuses by security forces and young people who oppose Indian rule. A full-blown protest by students has now erupted on the streets; and, in a rare sight, even schoolgirls are throwing stones and hitting police vehicles.

Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, who leads an awkward ruling coalition with the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), rushed to Delhi on Monday to urge the federal government to “announce a dialogue and show reconciliatory gestures”.

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    Reports say Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Rajnath Singh told her that they could not “offer a dialogue with separatists and other restive groups in the valley” while fierce violence and militant attacks continued.

    Former chief minister and leader of the regional National Conference party Farooq Abdullah warned India that it was “losing Kashmir”. What Mr Abdullah suggested was unexceptionable: the government should begin talking with the stakeholders – Pakistan, the separatists, mainstream parties, the minority Kashmiri Hindus – and start “thinking of not a military solution, but a political way”.

    With more than 500,000 security forces in the region, India is unlikely to lose territory in Kashmir. But Shekhar Gupta, a leading columnist, says that while Kashmir is “territorially secure, we are fast losing it emotionally and psychologically”. The abysmal 7% turnout in the Srinagar poll proved that “while your grip on the land is firm, you are losing its people”.

    So what is new about Kashmir that is worrying India and even provoking senior army officials to admit that the situation is fragile?

    For one, a more reckless and alienated younger generation of local youth is now leading the anti-India protests. More than 60% of the men in the valley are under 30. Many of them are angry and confused.


    Five things to know about Kashmir

    • India and Pakistan have disputed the territory for nearly 70 years – since independence from Britain
    • Both countries claim the whole territory but control only parts of it
    • Two out of three wars fought between India and Pakistan centred on Kashmir
    • Since 1989 there has been an armed revolt in the Muslim-majority region against rule by India
    • High unemployment and complaints of heavy-handed tactics by security forces battling street protesters and fighting insurgents have aggravated the problem

      Ajaz, a 19-year-old student in Budgam, told me that hope had evaporated for his generation “in face of Indian oppression” and he and his friends did not “fear death”. When I took him aside after a while to ask about his ambitions in life, he said he wanted to become a bureaucrat and serve Kashmir.

      “It is wrong to say that the Kashmiri youth has become fearless. He just feels alienated, sidelined and humiliated. When he feels like that, fear takes a backseat, and he becomes reckless. This is irrational behaviour,” National Conference leader Junaid Azim Mattoo told me.

      Secondly, the new younger militants are educated and come from relatively well-off families.

      Wani, the militant who was killed last July, headed a prominent rebel group and came from a highly-educated upper-class Kashmiri family: his father is a government school teacher. Wani’s younger brother, Khalid, who was killed by security forces in 2013, was a student of political science. The new commander of the rebel group, Zakir Rashid Bhat, studied engineering in the northern Indian city of Chandigarh.

      Thirdly, the two-year-old ruling alliance, many say, has been unable to deliver on its promises. An alliance between a regional party which advocates soft separatism (PDP) and a federal Hindu nationalist party (BJP), they believe, makes for the strangest bedfellows, hobbled by two conflicting ideologies trying to work their way together in a contested, conflicted land.

      Fourthly, the government’s message on Kashmir appears to be backfiring.

      When Mr Modi recently said the youth in Kashmir had to choose between terrorism and tourism, many Kashmiris accused him of trivialising their “protracted struggle”. When BJP general secretary Ram Madhav told a newspaper that his government “would have choked” the valley people if it was against them, many locals said it was proof of the government’s arrogance.

      Fifth, the shrill anti-Muslim rhetoric by radical Hindu groups and incidents of cow protection vigilantes attacking Muslim cattle traders in other parts of India could end up further polarising people in the valley. “The danger,” a prominent leader told me, “is that the moderate Kashmiri Muslim is becoming sidelined, and he is being politically radicalised.”

      The security forces differ and say they are actually worried about rising “religious radicalisation” among the youth in the valley. A top army official in Kashmir, Lt-Gen JS Sadhu, told a newspaper that the “public support to terrorists, their glorification and increased radicalisation are issues of concern”.

      One army official told me that religious radicalisation was a “bigger challenge than stone pelting protesters”. He said some 3,000 Saudi-inspired Wahhabi sect mosques had sprung up in Kashmir in the past decade.

      Most Kashmiris say the government should be more worried about “political radicalisation” of the young, and that fears of religious radicalisation were exaggerated and overblown.

      Also, the low turnout in this month’s elections has rattled the region’s mainstream parties. “If mainstream politics is delegitimised and people refuse to vote for them, the vacuum will be obviously filled up with a disorganised mob-led constituency,” Mr Mattoo of the National Conference said.

      In his memoirs, Amarjit Singh Daulat, the former chief of India’s spy agency RAW wrote that “nothing is constant; least of all Kashmir”. But right now, the anomie and anger of the youth, and a worrying people’s revolt against Indian rule, appear to be the only constants.

Why did India wake up so late to a child rape and murder?

A bright looking eight-year old girl belonging to a Muslim nomadic tribe in Indian-administered Kashmir goes missing in the new year.

On 17 January, her battered body is recovered from a forest in Kathua district. Through February, police arrest eight men, including a retired government official, four policemen and a juvenile, in connection with the gang rape and murder of the girl.

There are protests in the summer capital, Srinagar, demanding a special probe into the incident. The crime exposed the fault lines between the Hindu-majority Jammu and the Muslim-majority Kashmir valley in a sharply divided state. The incident is covered promptly and prominently by the local media in the Muslim-dominated valley.

So why does this story from Kathua make it to national news networks only in mid-April? Why does it evoke delayed outrage and anger? Why does this happen only after Hindu right-wing groups protest the arrest of the accused, who also belong to a Hindu community?

Why are the eventual protests in Delhi – including a midnight march by chief opposition leader Rahul Gandhi – milder than the ones after a similarly brutal gang-rape and murder of a 23-year-old woman in Delhi in 2012?

The responses tell us something about modern India.

The media in Delhi, many believe, exerts a disproportionate and undeserved influence over shaping the “national narrative”. And large sections of this media have been partisan and selective when it comes to reporting on Kashmir, one of the world’s most heavily militarised regions.

India and Pakistan have fought two wars and a limited conflict over Kashmir and there’s been an armed revolt in the region against Indian rule since 1989. “The biggest problem in Kashmir is the way the place has been covered in the mainland Indian media,” wrote senior journalist and editor of The Print, Shekhar Gupta, in 2015. “The problem has always been very closely linked to national security and military security.”

So, often, the truth (about Kashmir), he wrote, “was considered against national security”.

In this instance, one could possibly cite “religious honour” as another reason for why most national media avoided reporting on the crime. The support shown to the accused by Hindu right wing-groups – and two ministers from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) – has shocked many.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi only broke his silence on Friday evening with a series of tweets, saying “no culprit will be spared… our daughters will definitely get justice”.

‘Not such a big story’

A journalist who has been covering the incident in Kathua since January says that he had been telling his colleagues who work for Delhi-based news networks to report on the crime and its aftermath.

“When some of the reporters approached their offices in Delhi to tell them about the incident, the feeling was that the inauguration of a garden of tulips in the valley was a better story than the rape and murder of a girl,” Sameer Yasir, an independent Srinagar-based journalist, told me.

According to Mr Yasir, most of their bosses prevaricated, saying they didn’t have enough people on the ground in Jammu, and that it was not “such a big story”. Only one English news network has been consistently covering the story.

“I believe that media is almost tired of reporting violence in India. Rapes, lynching, torture is being reported all the time. It’s almost like you have to run a torture report, like the weather report,” says Shiv Visvanathan, a Delhi-based social scientist.

It is possibly all about what Dr Visvanathan calls the “breakdown of moral imagination” in India. Writing in The Indian Express newspaper, Pratap Bhanu Mehta, a leading public intellectual, agreed, saying the Kashmir rape and murder proves “without exaggeration, that India’s moral compass has been completely obliterated, carpet-bombed out of existence by the very custodians of law, morality and virtue who give daily sermons on national pride”.

In a deeply divided society, collective action is always difficult. Outrage happens – as in this case – when graphic details of the torture inflicted on the girl stir the conscience of many. This is what happened in this case.

‘Rip Van Winkle outrage’

Many say the equally horrific 2012 Delhi gang-rape provoked huge protests in the capital because the victim was like “one of us” who was attacked on the way home with her male friend after watching a Hollywood film at a cineplex. On the other hand, the girl in Kathua was a veritable vagabond, a member of a poor nomadic community, languishing bottom-most in India’s unforgiving and cruel caste hierarchy.

“Everyone is complicit – we the people, media, politicians. There’s no concept of human rights anymore. There are Hindu rights and Muslim rights. Our loyalties are now to religion, caste, groups and clubs,” says Dr Visvanathan.

In this environment, say many, instant outrage and “whataboutery” are the two extreme emotions that violence like this provokes. The outrage waxes and wanes quickly – Dr Visvanathan calls it the “Rip Van Winkle nature” of outrage and indignation.

“Our reactions veer from silence to indifference to hysteria. Then we go back to sleep and wake up again to react to the latest incident of outrage”.

The myth of the Indian vegetarian nation

What are the most common myths and stereotypes about what Indians eat?

The biggest myth, of course, is that India is a largely vegetarian country.

But that’s not the case at all. Past “non-serious” estimates have suggested that more than a third of Indians ate vegetarian food.

If you go by three large-scale government surveys, 23%-37% of Indians are estimated to be vegetarian. By itself this is nothing remarkably revelatory.

But new research by US-based anthropologist Balmurli Natrajan and India-based economist Suraj Jacob, points to a heap of evidence that even these are inflated estimations because of “cultural and political pressures”. So people under-report eating meat – particularly beef – and over-report eating vegetarian food.

Taking all this into account, say the researchers, only about 20% of Indians are actually vegetarian – much lower than common claims and stereotypes suggest.

Hindus, who make up 80% of the Indian population, are major meat-eaters. Even only a third of the privileged, upper-caste Indians are vegetarian.

The government data shows that vegetarian households have higher income and consumption – are more affluent than meat-eating households. The lower castes, Dalits (formerly known as untouchables) and tribes-people are mainly meat eaters.

Vegetarian cities in India

  • Indore: 49%
  • Meerut: 36%
  • Delhi: 30%
  • Nagpur: 22%
  • Mumbai: 18%
  • Hyderabad: 11%
  • Chennai: 6%
  • Kolkata: 4%

    (Average incidence of vegetarianism. Source: National Family Health Survey)

    On the other hand, Dr Natrajan and Dr Jacob find the extent of beef eating is much higher than claims and stereotypes suggest.

    At least 7% of Indians eat beef, according to government surveys.

    But there is evidence to show that some of the official data is “considerably” under-reported because beef is “caught in cultural political and group identity struggles in India”.

    Narendra Modi’s ruling Hindu nationalist BJP promotes vegetarianism and believes that the cow should be protected, because the country’s majority Hindu population considers them holy. More than a dozen states have already banned the slaughter of cattle. And during Mr Modi’s rule, vigilante cow protection groups, operating with impunity, have killed people transporting cattle.

    The truth is millions of Indians, including Dalits, Muslims and Christians, consume beef. Some 70 communities in Kerala, for example, prefer beef to the more expensive goat meat.

    Dr Natrajan and Dr Jacob conclude that in reality, closer to 15% of Indians – or about 180 million people – eat beef. That’s a whopping 96% more than the official estimates.

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      And then there are the stereotypes of Indian food.

      Delhi, where only a third of residents are thought to be vegetarian, may well deserve its reputation for being India’s butter chicken capital.

      But, the stereotype of Chennai as the hub of India’s “south Indian vegetarian meal” is completely misplaced. Reason: only 6% of the city’s residents are vegetarian, one survey suggests.

      Many continue to believe that Punjab is “chicken loving” country. But the truth is that 75% of people in the northern state are vegetarian.

      So how has the myth that India is a largely vegetarian country been spread so successfully?

      For one, Dr Natrajan and Dr Jacob told me, in a “highly diverse society with food habits and cuisines changing every few kilometres and within social groups, any generalisation about large segments of the population is a function of who speaks for the group”.

      “This power to represent communities, regions, or even the entire country is what makes the stereotypes.”

      Also, they say, “the food of the powerful comes to stand in for the food of the people”.

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        “The term non-vegetarian is a good case in point. It signals the social power of vegetarian classes, including their power to classify foods, to create a ‘food hierarchy’ wherein vegetarian food is the default and is having a higher status than meat. Thus it is akin to the term ‘non-whites’ coined by ‘whites’ to capture an incredibly diverse population who they colonised.”

        Migration

        Secondly, the researchers say, some of the stereotype is enabled by migration.

        So when south Indians migrate to northern and central India, their food comes to stand in for all south Indian cuisine. This is similarly true for north Indians who migrate to other parts of the country.

        Finally, some of the stereotypes are perpetuated by the outsider – north Indians stereotype south Indians just by meeting a few of them without thinking about the diversity of the region and vice versa.

        The foreign media, say the researchers, is also complicit “as it seeks to identify societies by a few essential characteristics”.

        Also, the study shows up the differences in food habits among men and women. More women, for example, say they are vegetarian than men.

        The researchers say this could be partly explained by the fact that more men eat outside their homes and with “greater moral impunity than women”, although eating out may not by itself result in eating meat.

        Patriarchy – and politics – might have something to do with it.

        “The burden of maintaining a tradition of vegetarianism falls disproportionately on the women,” say Dr Natrajan and Dr Jacob.

        Couples are meat eaters in about 65% of the surveyed households and vegetarians only in 20%. But in 12% of the cases the husband was a meat eater, while the wife was a vegetarian. Only in 3% cases was the reverse true.

        Clearly, the majority of Indians consume some form of meat – chicken and mutton, mainly – regularly or occasionally, and eating vegetarian food is not practiced by the majority.

        So why does vegetarianism exert a far greater influence on representations of India and Indians around the world? Does it have to do with “policing” of food choices and perpetuating food stereotypes in a vastly complex and multicultural society?

Salman Khan: The superstar who lives dangerously

Bollywood superstar Salman Khan, who has been handed a five-year jail term for poaching a rare antelope nearly 20 years ago, is controversy’s favourite child.

The actor has often been found on the wrong side of law – besides being found guilty of killing protected animals, he was accused in 2002 of running over five homeless men in Mumbai, killing one of them. He’s also been accused of assaulting former girlfriends and generally being misogynistic.

But Khan is also one of India’s biggest and most popular film stars.

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    The 52-year-old actor has starred in nearly 100 Hindi-language films, is known for his romantic roles as well as action films, and has won several prestigious Indian cinema awards.

    He is that rare Bollywood star who has a huge fan following across the vast spectrum of Indian society – his fans include the middle-class English-speaking audiences as well as poor slum dwellers for whom the 350-rupee ($5.20; £3.40) tickets do not come cheap.

    His films are released to coincide with major festivals like Eid or Christmas, and are screened in thousands of theatres which are generally packed for days.

    Every time Khan romances his heroines on screen, his fans respond with approval. Loud whistles fill the theatre when he shows his dance moves, and resounding claps encourage him whenever he beats up the “baddies”.

    Courting controversy

    But his fame has brought with it a long-held image of a larger-than-life macho superstar who lives dangerously.

    Despite the controversies and accusations of bad behaviour, Khan’s fan base has remained loyal – in fact, it has kept growing steadily and the hits have kept coming.

    Several of his latest films – Tiger Zinda Hai, Sultan, Prem Ratan Dhan Payo, Bajrangi Bhaijaan, Dabangg and Dabangg2 – have been huge blockbusters.

    Khan has hosted most of the 11 seasons of Bigg Boss, the Indian version of the Dutch reality TV show Big Brother and it remains popular because of him.

    And he is a hit on social media too – his Facebook page is liked by 36 million fans while on Twitter he has 32.5 million followers.

    But there is another side to Khan, the eldest of the three sons of well-known screenplay writer Salim Khan.

    Stories about his brawls at parties have long filled the Bollywood gossip columns, and his link-ups with some of his leading ladies have also proved controversial.

    In one notorious incident, an angry Khan was reported to have emptied a bottle of cola over the head of an ex-girlfriend in a restaurant.

    Another relationship, with actress and former Miss World Aishwarya Rai, ended acrimoniously with Ms Rai later making allegations that she was beaten up by Khan – a charge he has denied.

    In the past few years, the actor has worked hard to shed his “bad boy” image – with some success.

    His devotion to his family, particularly his brothers, is well known and he is reputed to go out of his way to help friends and even strangers.

    A few years ago, he started Being Human, a charity to help the underprivileged through education and healthcare. The charity sells T-shirts and other products online and in stores, and the proceeds are used for charitable work.

    His relationships with women also seem to have matured. Although he parted ways with actress Katrina Kaif some time ago, they remain good friends and the couple acted together in in Tiger Zinda Hai and Ek Tha Tiger.

    But two years ago, he caused outrage by saying that his filming schedule for Sultan was so gruelling that he felt like a “raped woman”.

    He also said he was able to quit every “vice” – like cigarettes, alcohol and coffee – except women.

    An outraged National Commission for Women (NCW) ordered him to apologise and even summoned him to appear before them.

    Khan’s father said sorry on his behalf and his actor brother called his comments “not appropriate”, but he himself refused to apologise.

    Through his lawyer, Khan told the commission that they did not have the “jurisdiction to take matter of this kind”, and the actor managed to thumb his nose at them and get away.

    So far, he’s also managed to evade punishment in serious criminal cases against him.

    Brush with law

    In the 2002 hit-and-run incident in Mumbai, the trial court convicted him in May 2015 and handed him a prison sentence of five years. Even though the guilty verdict came after 13 years, many said the misdeeds of his past might have finally caught up with him.

    But the actor got a massive boost in December of the same year when the high court overturned his conviction. Last year, the prosecution appealed in the Supreme Court and the case is under consideration there.

    The illegal hunting and killing of the protected gazelles and blackbucks in 1998 in the western state of Rajasthan was his first serious brush with the law.

    On Thursday, the trial court judge called him a “habitual offender” while handing him a five-year sentence, but it’s unlikely that he will spend more than a few days in jail.

    His lawyers have said they will appeal against the order in the high court and they have already filed a bail plea.

    In two of the four cases that were originally filed against him for killing the rare animals, he was convicted and sentenced to five years in prison in 2006, but spent less than a week inside before being released on bail.

    And in July 2016, in a major setback for the prosecution, the Rajasthan high court overturned his conviction.

    An appeal against that order is pending in the Supreme Court, but there’s no clarity when an order will come.

    So Thursday’s court verdict may just be another minor setback for him.

Indian woman Rupali Meshram fights off tiger with stick

A young Indian woman was lucky to survive, doctors say, after she fought off a tiger which attacked her goat.

Rupali Meshram, 23, said when she heard the goat scream she ran out of her house in western Maharashtra state.

She picked up a stick and hit the tiger, which then attacked her. Her mother, who was also injured, saved her by pulling her inside the house.

They both sustained only minor injuries and have now been discharged from hospital. The goat did not survive.

Ms Meshram took a selfie of her bloodied face soon after the attack, which happened last week but has only just come to light.

A doctor who treated her praised her “exemplary courage” in fighting off the tiger, but said she was lucky not to have been bitten by the animal.

Ms Meshram suffered injuries to her head, waist, legs and hands, but they were only superficial and she has been able to make a full recovery.

Because of her head injury she was given a CT scan and kept under observation.

“I thought my daughter was going to die,” her mother Jijabhai told BBC Hindi’s Sanjay Tiwari, adding that she had been horrified to see her blood-stained daughter trying to fend off the tiger with a stick.

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Salman Khan: Bollywood superstar jailed for poaching

An Indian court has sentenced Bollywood superstar Salman Khan to five years in jail for poaching rare antelope back in 1998.

The court in Jodhpur also fined him 10,000 rupees ($154; £109) for the crime. He has since been taken to jail.

Khan killed the two blackbucks, a protected species, in the western state of Rajasthan while shooting a film.

Four other actors who starred with him in the movie and were also charged with the offence have been acquitted.

Khan, 52, can appeal against the verdict in a higher court.

Others welcomed the verdict.

Skip Twitter post by @imparthvadher

Finally criminal @BeingSalmanKhan convicted. Justice prevails. Salute to Rajasthan court. #BlackBuckPoachingCase

— Parth K Vadher  (@imparthvadher) April 5, 2018

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Skip Twitter post by @yourstrulydiya

STOP feeling bad for Salman Khan, he is getting what he deserves.

— diya (@yourstrulydiya) April 5, 2018

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Some celebrities, including friends of the actor, took Khan’s side.

Skip Twitter post by @richa_singh

Honestly, I am feeling bad for Salman Khan because others were equally culpable and should not have been acquitted. Why should he suffer alone?

And rumour mills say he wasn't the one per se but took blame for all female actors to safeguard them.

— richa singh (@richa_singh) April 5, 2018

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Skip Twitter post by @Simi_Garewal

Of one thing I am dead sure..@BeingSalmanKhan would NEVER EVER harm any animal. He loves them too much. The real culprit should be exposed. 20 years is too long to bear someone else's cross..

— Simi Garewal (@Simi_Garewal) April 5, 2018

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However, most Bollywood actors have refrained from commenting.


Reality Check: How common are convictions for poaching in India?

Khan was convicted under the Indian Wildlife Protection Act, the law that prohibits the hunting of hundreds of different species.

Black buck deer, tigers, lions, leopards, elephants, rhinos and Tibetan antelope are among the species given the highest level of protection.

Punishment for first-time offenders can be imprisonment for up to seven years or a fine of up to 25,000 rupees (£276; $386), or both.

Figures from the Indian National Crime Records Bureau show 148 recorded convictions for offences under the Wildlife Protection Act in 2016. The records also show 2,096 pending cases awaiting trial, 207 cases which were discharged and a 71.5% conviction rate.

According to the State of India’s Environment, the report published annually by the country’s Centre for Science and Environment, there was a 52% spike in poaching and wildlife crimes between 2014 and 2016. More than 30,382 wildlife crimes were recorded in the country during that period.

Alphons Kannanthanam: India minister’s ‘naked’ visa claim criticised

An Indian minister has sparked a social media storm with his comments on the country’s controversial biometric identity scheme.

Alphons Kannanthanam said Indians had no problem “getting naked” for a US visa, but object to the Aadhaar scheme over privacy concerns.

It is not clear what he meant exactly but he may be referring to airport strip searches.

Since Aadhar’s inception, critics have been worried about its data safety.

In January, an Indian journalist said she was able to access citizens’ personal details on the Aadhaar website after paying an agent 500 rupees ($8; £6). The government called it a data breach at the time.

“But when the government of India, which is your government, asks you your name and your address, nothing more, there’s a massive revolution in the country saying it’s an intrusion into the privacy of the individual.”

He added that the biometric data collected under the scheme was safe with the government.

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    The comment by the minister comes a week after the Indian Supreme Court extended its deadline on ruling whether Aadhaar needs to be mandatorily linked to avail various services, including welfare schemes, bank accounts and phone numbers.

    Mr Kannanthanam added that he had to fill out a 10-page form to apply for a US visa.

    “Ten pages of data which you have never even confessed to your wife or husband ever, that is passed on to the white man. We have no problem,” he said.

    However, many on social media were quick to point out the differences between the two scenarios he put forward:

    Skip Twitter post by @MangoBwoy

    Is applying for US visa voluntarily mandatory for every Indian citizen? Do you guys understand consent, privacy and things like that?

    — শেখর (@MangoBwoy) March 25, 2018

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    Skip Twitter post by @mehraan_1989

    But 1.6 billion people doesn't apply for US Visa. Weird argument to defend privacy theft #databreach

    — Mehraan Laigroo (@mehraan_1989) March 25, 2018

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    Skip Twitter post by @ankur2smart

    Not everyone goes to US and those who do, do it by choice. How do you guys even manage to be such high profile minister.

    — Ankur Goel (@ankur2smart) March 25, 2018

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    End of Twitter post by @ankur2smart

    Skip Twitter post by @Retributions

    This going naked for a US visa is not only factually incorrect but plainly disingenuous: countries treat citizens/non-citizens differently. US may ask for all sort of biometrics for a visa but doesn’t ask any for a social security number. Can find better defense of #aadhaar

    — Rohit Pradhan (@Retributions) March 25, 2018

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    End of Twitter post by @Retributions

    Skip Twitter post by @chetan_cbe

    @alphonstourism you should realize that us visa is voluntary. Can you assure me that #Aadhaar is voluntary too?
    And no I don't have a us visa but I was forced to get an #Aadhaar

    — chetan shah (@chetan_cbe) March 25, 2018

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    Skip Twitter post by @bombaywallah

    Naked? For a US visa? Things have certainly changed https://t.co/7aNLYuWSQ5

    — Sidharth Bhatia (@bombaywallah) March 25, 2018

    Report

    End of Twitter post by @bombaywallah

    India’s biometric database is the world’s largest. The government has collected fingerprints and iris scans from more than a billion residents – or nearly 90% of the population – and stored them in a high security data centre.

    Last year, the Supreme Court ruled that citizens have a fundamental right to privacy in a landmark judgment. The ruling, experts said, had significant implications for the government’s vast biometric ID scheme.

India PM Modi app sparks social media furore

Indian PM Narendra Modi’s official mobile application has been criticised for sending personal user data to a third party without their consent.

A security researcher had tweeted that the app was sending personal user data to a third-party domain that was traced to a US company.

Mr Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has denied the allegation.

The party said the data was being used only for analytics to offer all users the “most contextual content”.

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      The researcher, who tweets under the pseudonym Elliot Alderson, posted a series of tweets on Saturday stating Mr Modi’s app was sending personal user data to a third party.

      Skip Twitter post 2 by @fs0c131y

      After a quick search, this domain belongs to an American company called @CleverTap. According to their description, “#CleverTap is the next generation app engagement platform. It enables marketers to identify, engage and retain users and provides developers" pic.twitter.com/Ikqp9GbCDm

      — Elliot Alderson (@fs0c131y) March 23, 2018

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      End of Twitter post 2 by @fs0c131y

      Skip Twitter post 3 by @fs0c131y

      .@narendramodi, I know privacy is not your thing but any thoughts about sharing the personal data of your users without their consent to a third-party company?

      — Elliot Alderson (@fs0c131y) March 23, 2018

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      End of Twitter post 3 by @fs0c131y

      Rahul Gandhi, the chief of the the main opposition Congress party, took to Twitter on Sunday to criticise Mr Modi.

      Skip Twitter post by @RahulGandhi

      Hi! My name is Narendra Modi. I am India's Prime Minister. When you sign up for my official App, I give all your data to my friends in American companies.

      Ps. Thanks mainstream media, you're doing a great job of burying this critical story, as always.https://t.co/IZYzkuH1ZH

      — Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) March 25, 2018

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      End of Twitter post by @RahulGandhi

      The BJP responded swiftly, saying Mr Gandhi was trying to divert attention.

      Last week India’s law and IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said there were “numerous reports” of the Congress party’s connections with controversial data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica.

      He asked Mr Gandhi to “explain” the company’s role in his social media outreach.

      The opposition party has denied the charges.

      Cambridge Analytica is embroiled in a storm over claims it exploited the data of millions of Facebook users.

      Skip Twitter post by @BJP4India

      Rahul Gandhi is in sublime form these days. After MRI & NCC, today he exposes his great knowledge about technology. He is so rattled by the Cambridge Analyitca expose that he daily tries to divert attention from it, yesterday it was the judiciary and today it is Namo App.

      — BJP (@BJP4India) March 25, 2018

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      End of Twitter post by @BJP4India

      The party said the data from Mr Modi’s app was being used for analytics:

      Skip Twitter post 2 by @BJP4India

      This ensures that a user gets the best experience by showing content in his language & interests. A person who looks up agri-related info will get agri related content easily. A person from TN will get updates in Tamil and get an update about an important initiative about TN.

      — BJP (@BJP4India) March 25, 2018

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      End of Twitter post 2 by @BJP4India

      The security researcher later posted a new tweet on Sunday saying Mr Modi’s app had been “quietly” updated its privacy policy.

      Skip Twitter post 4 by @fs0c131y

      After the NaMo #android app exposé yesterday, the privacy policy of @narendramodi has been change quietly. The cached version is accessible here https://t.co/K7Uz5mUsR1

      — Elliot Alderson (@fs0c131y) March 25, 2018

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      End of Twitter post 4 by @fs0c131y

      Mr Modi launched his official app in 2015, adding another platform to his massive social media presence.

      He is among the five most popular politicians on Twitter with 41.4 million followers.