Protests erupt in Kolkata over slow Indian government post-cyclone response

Cyclone Amphan was the fiercest storm to hit India since 1999. Above, a bus damaged by a fallen tree due to Amphan in Kolkata on May 21, 2020 (ANI via Reuters)
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Updated 23 May 2020

Protests erupt in Kolkata over slow Indian government post-cyclone response

  • With many areas still flooded and electricity still cut by the storm, Kolkata residents vented their anger for a second day

KOLKATA: Thousands took to the streets of the Indian city of Kolkata on Saturday to protest against what they said was the slow government response to power cuts and flooding after a devastating “super cyclone.”
The death toll in India and Bangladesh from Cyclone Amphan’s rampage along the Bay of Bengal coast rose to at least 112 on Saturday, as authorities struggled to deal with the aftermath of the storm while also trying to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
With many areas still flooded and electricity still cut by the storm, Kolkata residents vented their anger for a second day, demanding faster action to get the city of 15 million people working again.
Police said more than 5,000 people took part in different demonstrations early Saturday while witnesses said there were more.
The storm knocked out transformer stations setting off spectacular explosions across Kolkata. About 20 people were killed in the city, many of them electrocuted after venturing into the floods.
Many streets are still blocked by trees and water, and engineers are struggling to get to some parts to restore power.
“The coronavirus made our lives miserable, Cyclone Amphan turned it into hell,” Subash Biswas, principal of a state-run college in Kolkata said.
Cyclone Amphan was the fiercest storm to hit India and Bangladesh since 1999. At least 86 people are now reported dead in India and 26 in Bangladesh.
The toll was much less than previous storms in recent decades, which sometimes claimed thousands of lives. About three million people were moved away from the coast before Amphan struck.
Kolkata’s municipal chairman Firhad Hakim has warned that “it will take at five to six days to pump out the water from streets, to clear the uprooted trees and restore the water supply.”
Authorities are also trying to clear floodwater from Kolkata airport before domestic flights resume across India on Monday after a two-month coronavirus shutdown.
State disaster minister Javed Khan said that hundreds of villages had been flooded after more than 70 kilometers of river embankments were washed away.
“The devastation was so intense that many areas remain inaccessible even three days after the cyclone,” he said.
The United Nations has warned that the saltwater which flooded inland areas could affect local agriculture for up to three years.


France targets mosques in extremism crackdown

Updated 03 December 2020

France targets mosques in extremism crackdown

  • Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said that if any of the 76 prayer halls inspected were found to promote extremism they would be closed down
  • Inspections are part of France’s response to two attacks — the beheading of teacher Samuel Paty and the killing of three people in a Nice church

PARIS: French authorities will inspect dozens of mosques and prayer halls suspected of radical teachings starting Thursday as part of a crackdown on extremists following a spate of attacks, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said.

Darmanin told RTL radio that if any of the 76 prayer halls inspected was found to promote extremism they would be closed down.

The inspections are part of the government’s response to two brutal recent attacks that shocked France — the October 16 beheading of a teacher who showed his pupils cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad and the stabbing to death of three people in a church in Nice on October 29.

Darmanin did not reveal which places of worship would be inspected. In a note he sent to regional security chiefs, seen by AFP, he cites 16 addresses in the Paris region and 60 others around the country.

On Twitter Wednesday he said the mosques were suspected of “separatism” — a term President Emmanuel Macron has used to describe ultraconservative Muslims closing themselves off from French society by, for example, enrolling their children in underground schools or forcing young girls to wear the Muslim headscarf.

The rightwing minister told RTL the fact that only a fraction of the around 2,600 Muslim places of worship in France were suspected of peddling radical theories showed “we are far from a situation of widespread radicalization.”

“Nearly all Muslims in France respect the laws of the Republic and are hurt by that (radicalization),” he said.
The killing of teacher Samuel Paty, who had shown his pupils cartoons of Mohammad in a class on free speech, at a school outside Paris sent shockwaves through France, where it was seen as an attack on the republic itself.

In the aftermath of his murder the authorities raided dozens of associations, sports groups and charities suspected of promoting extremism.
They also ordered the temporary closure of a large mosque in the Paris suburb of Pantin that had shared a vitriolic video lambasting Paty.

The government has also announced plans to step up the deportations of illegal migrants on radicalization watchlists.
Darmanin said that 66 of 231 foreigners on a watchlist had been expelled, around 50 others had been put in migrant detention centers and a further 30 had been placed under house arrest.

The minister announced the latest clampdown after receiving fierce criticism for pushing a bill that would make it harder to document police brutality.

Images of officers beating up black music producer Michel Zecler in his studio brought tens of thousands of people onto the streets last weekend against Darmanin’s push to restrict the filming of the police in the new bill.
MPs from Macron’s ruling Republic on the Move party have since announced plans to rewrite the legislation.