BROAD//SHEET
Wednesday, April 24, 2019
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Number of the day: $449 million

That’s the total value of illegal bribes to voters—including cash, drugs, gold, alcohol and other items—seized by the Election Commission as of April 24. The largest slice of this pie: $168 million in drugs seized in Gujarat and Punjab. Both Reuters and India Today have the stats and pretty infographics—the latter has waaay more detail.

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EVERYONE'S TALKING ABOUT...

The biggest news story today, explained.

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The shocking security lapses in Sri Lanka

As Sri Lankans buried their dead, the Islamic State claimed responsibility for the bombings. More importantly: explosive new details revealed alerts sent by Indian intelligence agencies—and Sri Lanka’s failure to act on them.

 

What happened? The Islamic State put out a statement that claimed: “The attackers who targeted citizens of the (anti-ISIS) coalition state members and Christians in Sri Lanka the day before yesterday were fighters of the Islamic State." The attacks were supposedly aimed at avenging the Christchurch attacks on mosques. But it offered no proof of its involvement—other than an image of eight men who allegedly were the suicide bombers involved in the attack.

 

So it’s ISIS then? PM Ranil Wickremesinghe merely said the government “will be following up on this claim”—but noted that the planning for the SL bombings predated Christchurch. And New Zealand insisted it “has not yet seen any intelligence upon which such an assessment might be based.” The terror network has a record of claiming false credit for acts of terrorism. But most experts agree that the targets (churches and five-star hotels) and coordination match the ISIS signature.

 

Ok, tell me about this massive security failure: According to the New York Times, Indian security agencies had long been tracking the movements of Mohammed Zaharan, the leader of National Thowheeth Jama’ath—the radical Muslim group accused of carrying out the attacks. On April 4, India provided Sri Lanka with mobile phone numbers and information about Zaharan and his lieutenants, warning of imminent suicide attacks on churches and the Indian Embassy.

 

And they just ignored it? Nope. Sri Lankan officials then tracked a number of these people and put them under surveillance. The alert issued by the SL police chief on April 11 included “precise information, such as the observation that Mr. Zaharan’s brother, an avid recruiter for the group, ‘visits his wife and children in the nights (2300hrs -0400hrs)’ and it listed an exact address, down to a house number and cross street.”

 

So what happened? The answer is unclear as of now. According to Reuters, “Indian intelligence officers contacted their Sri Lankan counterparts two hours before the first attack to warn of a specific threat on churches.” And given how quickly up to 40 suspects were arrested. It is clear that Sri Lankan forces knew exactly where to find them.

 

Also complicating matters: is the ongoing feud between PM Wickremesinghe and President Maithripala Sirisena—who is in charge of security forces. The PM says he was kept out of the loop, and now the President insists that he had no clue as well. Meanwhile, Wickeremesinghe acknowledged to NDTV, “India gave us the intelligence but there has been a lapse on how we acted on that... intelligence was not conveyed down the line."

 

So what’s next? The president is making a lot of noise about rehauling the “security apparatus,”—finding scapegoats—and appointing a committee to investigate its failures. The prime minister has emphasised seeking outside help from India, US, UK etc. to track down the guilty. But the political fallout remains unclear—at least until the presidential elections are held later this year.

 

Learn more: New York Times has the most detailed report on the security failure. BBC sums up the IS angle. Sky News has video footage of one of the suicide bombers entering a church. NDTV interviewed PM Wickremesinghe. Guardian’s must-read looks at the “sub-contracting plus” model of terrorism where a major organisation “upgrades” a weak local group. Broadsheet did an explainer on NTJ and the PM-President feud yesterday.

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IN CASE YOU MISSED IT...

desperately trying to score Avengers tickets for the weekend

A three-judge panel to probe charges against Gogoi: The Supreme Court has launched an internal inquiry into the sexual harassment charges against the CJI (our explainer here). The investigating committee includes Justices S A Bobde, N V Ramana and Indira Banerjee. Bobde—who is slated to take over as Chief Justice later this year—said, “The CJI wanted an inquiry. I was asked to do it. I then asked Justice Ramana and Justice Indira Banerjee to be on the inquiry with me. This has been approved by the full Court when we put it to them.” However, news reports indicate that the decision to hold the inquiry was the result of a unanimous decision of all the Supreme Court judges. Meanwhile, a lawyer has filed a plea claiming that he was offered Rs 1.5 crore to frame Gogoi. (Indian Express)

 

Things that undermine our faith in our judiciary: Whatever the merit of the above allegations, there is no doubting the entrenched misogyny in law. Exhibit A: SC judges now asking for all male staff at their residence offices because of their “expressed apprehension about employing female law clerks.” Exhibit B: This LiveLaw report on the appalling everyday sexism experienced by women lawyers. Judges have often been the culprits or abetted such behaviour.

 

Things that renew our faith in the judiciary: include the Supreme Court ruling directing the Gujarat government to compensate Bilkis Bano with Rs 50 lakh, a job and proper accommodation. A very pregnant Bano’s family of 14 was butchered, and she was gang-raped and left for dead by a mob during the Gujarat riots. This 2017 BBC story profiles her long fight for justice. Also uplifting: The Madras High Court ruling upholding a trans-woman’s right to get married.

 

Your election update is here: Here’s what we learnt so far:

 

  • Electronic voting machines in a number of constituencies were glitchy or slow across a number of different states—with a number of opposition leaders crying foul.

  • More worrying are reports of deleted voters. Huffington Post’s investigation shows that one problem may lie with Aadhar.

  • Sunny Deol officially joined the BJP. He’s officially joined the party and is rumoured to be its candidate from Gurdaspur, Punjab. We can’t remember any of his movies and hence have zero jokes to make.

  • Akshay Kumar plugged his upcoming ANI interview with Modi, tweeting, “While the whole country is talking elections and politics, here’s a breather. Privileged to have done this candid and COMPLETELY NON POLITICAL freewheeling conversation with our PM@narendramodi.” Earth to Akshay Kumar: Putting something in CAPS does not make it true.

  • Rahul vs Modi? Comedian Radhika Vaz makes it clear what’s really at stake in making that choice.

  • Also: the real reason why 230 is the magic number for pollsters when they predict the number of BJP seats.

 

Your ‘Avengers: Endgame’ update includes: this awesome video of its cast members singing Billy Joel’s iconic ‘We Didn’t Start the Fire’. Also: this roundup of the gushing early reviews—just so you can feel really bad when all the shows are sold out.

 

No Capricorns need apply: There is a whole new way to discriminate against people. Nope, not their sexuality or their caste. It’s their zodiac sign. Yes, this is happening. So much so that: “Jesse asked the Guardian to refrain from publishing his last name so no one else finds out he’s an Aries.” Lol! (Guardian)

 

‘Lemonade’ has finally landed: on Spotify and Apple Music. Until now, it was only available hubby Jay Z’s streaming service, Tidal—which is not doing well at all. (Bustle)

 

Human composting is a thing: and a legal thing at that in Washington state which is set to make it official next month. So what is ‘human composting? Answer: “wood chips, alfalfa and straw creates a mixture of nitrogen and carbon that accelerates natural decomposition when a body is placed in a temperature and moisture-controlled vessel and rotated.” Oh, and it is very eco-friendly. (Associated Press)

 

A feel-good story about disposable nappies: A pilot scheme in Italy funded by Procter & Gamble has found a way to clean and separate used diapers into recyclable material which can be used to make a business card or a bottle top. (BBC video via Twitter)

 

When Nehru played cricket: This quaint old documentary clip of Panditji captaining the Lok Sabha team against the Rajya Sabha made us smile—probably because we can no longer remember politicians being so polite and nice.

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SEX, LOVE ETC.

Everything we don't know about human desire

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Strangers on a Plane

Eyes meet across a crowded room, or over the armrest of an economy seat, perchance? That’s what’s called the ‘plane-crush fantasy’, the mostly vain hope for an unexpected encounter on a flight. “Why do cramped seats, gross food, and no personal space make us think of … romance?” asks Aditi Shrikant. Yeah really, why?

Read: The persistent myth of finding love on a plane | Vox

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Don’t You Cold-Shoulder Me!

Ah, the silent treatment! While it’s all very well to dole it out, it’s a little harder when you’re the one being frozen out. So what do you do if you are on the receiving end—and don’t really deserve to be iced?

Read: How to Break the Silent Treatment | Mel Magazine

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