Julie McCarthy

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As China's clout in the Asia-Pacific region rises, the United States is wooing India into a closer embrace.

Standing beside Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj during his maiden visit to South Asia as secretary of state this week, Rex Tillerson said the United States "supports India's emergence as a leading power."

India is set to celebrate Diwali this week, but the Indian capital could be in for a different sort of celebration.

Once illuminated with clay lamps, the festival of lights has morphed into a festival of sound and fury.

It's estimated some 50,000 tons of fireworks are exploded during Diwali, which marks the homecoming of the Hindu god Lord Ram from exile. But a public health alarm was sounded in Delhi after Diwali last year, when a toxic haze blanketed the city for days.

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India's Supreme Court has made a ruling that could deter people from marrying off their young children. The court declared yesterday that if a husband has sex with his underage wife, that qualifies as rape. NPR's Julie McCarthy reports.

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In a milestone ruling, India's Supreme Court declared Thursday that privacy is a fundamental right for each of its 1.3 billion citizens protected under the country's constitution.

India, the world's biggest democracy, joins the United States, Canada, South Africa, the European Union and the United Kingdom in recognizing that there is such a right. In India, it could have wide-ranging implications. For example, laws that currently criminalize homosexuality could now be struck down on the grounds that what consenting adults do is private.

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Until today, Muslim men in India could instantly end a marriage just by uttering, I divorce you, three times. India's Supreme Court has struck down the practice. From New Delhi, NPR's Julie McCarthy reports on the landmark decision.

On a recent weekday, Vamsi Komarala guides me up to the rooftop of the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology in New Delhi, where he teaches physics. Fields of solar panels adorn the buildings.

I swipe an index finger across one of the panels to see if weeks of monsoon rains have washed it clean. My finger comes back filthy with grit.

Vamsi tells me the panels are washed twice a week, then explains the grime: "That is because in New Delhi, we have a lot of dust."

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Promila Saigal remembers the men in her family tossing her "like a football" from the rooftop of one family home to the next, in a bid to save her from the frenzy that washed over the Indian subcontinent 70 years ago.

Saigal was just six when the events of India's Partition pressed in around her Hindu family's compound in Lahore.

"I remember very clearly, outside the main road, a mob had collected at 12 o'clock in the night. And they woke us up," she says.

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Indian and Chinese troops are facing off along a disputed border in the Himalaya Mountains. Now, no shots have been fired in their six-week-old standoff, but neither side seems prepared to back away. NPR's Julie McCarthy reports from New Delhi.

India announced the election of its new president Thursday — but before Prime Minister Narendra Modi's BJP party nominated him last month to be head of state, few saw Ram Nath Kovind coming.

Kovind secured 65 percent of the votes from an electoral college drawn from more than 4,000 members of 31 legislative assemblies across the country and 776 members of Parliament. He will take office as India's14th president next week.

Updated at 10:50 a.m. July 11

In a cold, isolated Himalayan plateau where three countries converge, an old rivalry is heating up.

New Delhi and Beijing are locked in heated verbal exchanges over what each sees as encroachment onto a particularly sensitive spot: the tri-junction where India, China, and Bhutan converge. All three are parties to the simmering dispute.

Small cradles of chrysanthemums, illuminated by a single candle, flicker in the moonlight, bobbing along the fast-flowing Ganges River.

They are offerings. For hundreds of millions of Hindus around the world, the river is the goddess Ganga, or Mother Ganga, who descended to Earth from her home in the Milky Way.

Devotees murmur prayers and chant her praises in riverside cities along their ghats, the cement embankments that lead into the river.

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Let's go next to India, where the world's largest democracy tomorrow rolls out an overhaul of the tax system, which has a lot of Indians concerned. NPR's Julie McCarthy reports.

As India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived in the U.S. over the weekend, President Trump tweeted a warm welcome, calling the Indian leader "a true friend." The two are meeting for the first time at the White House Monday afternoon, Modi having arrived for a brief, two-day call — not a state visit, but a working one.

Perhaps that's fitting, as there is so much in the relationship to work on.

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Madeshwaran Subramani is the human face of IT disruption in India. He recalls being recently summoned to the HR office of his employer in southern city of Coimbatore at 11 a.m. By noon, the 29-year-old software engineer was out of a job. He worked for Cognizant Technology, a U.S.-based firm with offices in India.

Typically, India's Bollywood film industry depicts older women as maternal and virtuous. Younger ones often are eye candy, propping up male leads. But a recent crop of films is showing more complex female characters, training a spotlight exclusively on the lives of women — and, even more unusually, on their sexuality.

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In India, Hindu nationalists have swept recent elections, and flush from victory, stand accused of using vigilantism to promote a Hindu way of life for all Indians.

At a buffalo market outside the town of Nasirabad in central Rajasthan, transporters say Hindu vigilantes have targeted them on rumors that they have sold, bought, or killed cows for beef.

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Let's turn now to India, where Hindu nationalists are being blamed for igniting a culture war. They're accused of using vigilante violence and intimidation to promote a Hindu way of life for all Indians. Let's hear more now from NPR's Julie McCarthy.

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A holy man, recently installed as the chief minister of India's largest state, is stirring things up. A meat crackdown began within 48 hours of Yogi Adityanath assuming office. Critics say this has antagonized the country's largest religious minority: its Muslims.

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Married at 14 and divorced by 16, Seema Parveen had a marriage as brutal as it was short.

Now 42, Parveen remembers her husband threatening to hurl her from the balcony of their home. She blinks back tears recalling his rage when she bore him a daughter and not a son.

Late last year, India sought to force people with large amounts of cash stashed away to deposit it in bank accounts. It was a tax-collecting exercise to get people to disclose unreported wealth and pay up.

The government credits the move for a 12 percent increase in tax collections from the previous year.

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Last year, India tried to force people who had large amounts of hidden cash to deposit it in banks and to face the tax man. That is no small thing because only a tiny percentage of Indians actually pay income tax. From New Delhi, NPR's Julie McCarthy looks at what's behind that.

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