India’s prime minister has warned Pakistan it will pay a “heavy price” for a suicide bombing in Kashmir that killed at least 40 paramilitaries on Thursday, the deadliest attack in a 30-year guerrilla war in the region.
No official death toll has been announced but two senior police sources in Kashmir have said at least 40 security personnel died in the blast.
The bombing was claimed by the Pakistan-based militant group Jaish-e-Mohammed and immediately sparked calls for retribution against Islamabad from across Indian politics and media.
“Our neighbouring country, which has been isolated internationally, thinks such terror attacks can destabilise use, but their plans will not materialise,” Modi said, telling an audience in Delhi that security forces had been given “complete freedom” to respond.
India’s finance minister, Arun Jaitley, said there was incontrovertible evidence that Pakistan had “a direct hand in this gruesome terrorist incident” and that all diplomatic measures would be taken to isolate the country.
He said Pakistan’s most favoured nation status, a guarantee of equal treatment in trade negotiations, had been revoked – a largely symbolic gesture given the relatively small $2bn bilateral trade relationship between the countries.
The White House urged Pakistan in a statement “to end immediately the support and safe haven provided to all terrorist groups operating on its soil”.
Pakistan’s foreign ministry said it rejected “any insinuation” that it was linked to the attack, and summoned India’s deputy head of mission to Islamabad.
Jaish-e-Mohammed, whose leader Masood Azhar lives freely in Pakistan, was founded in 2000 and has been implicated in several major attacks in India including the bombing of the country’s parliament in 2001. There was a lull in its activity after the 11 September 2001 attacks when the Pakistani government cracked down on the group.
But it has re-emerged in recent years, carrying out attacks in India including on a Punjab state airbase in January 2016, and nine months later, on an army base in Uri near the ceasefire line with Pakistan.
The Uri attack killed 19 and prompted the Indian government to announce it had carried out “surgical strikes” to destroy militant camps inside Pakistan-controlled Kashmir – a measured response that salved public anger without igniting a wider conflict.
Control of the Himalayan region, one of the most militarised places on earth, is divided between India and Pakistan and claimed in full by both. China administers a smaller patch in the east.
A full-blown revolt against Indian control of Kashmir bolstered by Pakistani and Afghani fighters raged throughout the 1990s but waned after negotiations between Delhi and Islamabad.
It has been replaced by a low-level insurgency waged largely by young Kashmiris disillusioned with India’s failure to accommodate popular calls for greater autonomy or independence for the region.
Thursday’s attacker was identified as Adil Ahmad Dar, 20, a mason who joined the militancy in March last year. In a video released after the attack, Dar said he was avenging human rights violations and warned that more killing would follow.
Both the ruling Bharatiya Janata party and the main opposition Congress cancelled all political events on Friday. Indians will vote in general elections starting in April, increasing the pressure on Modi to find a carefully calibrated response.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi will visit Kurukshetra in Haryana on Tuesday and he will participate in Swachh Shakti- 2019. He will also inaugurate and lay foundation stone of several development projects in Haryana.
He will distribute the Swachh Shakti-2019 awards and visit the Swachh Sundar Shauchalay exhibition at Kurukshetra and address a public gathering.
Swachh Shakti-2019 is a national event to be attended by women Panches and Sarpanches from across the country. It is expected that 15,000 women will take part in Swachh Shakti event this year. The event is aimed at empowering women.
First edition of Swachh Shakti programme was launched from Gandhinagar, Gujarat by Mr. Modi on International Women’s Day. The next edition was Swachh Shakti-2018 from Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh and now the third edition is being inaugurated from Kurukshetra to empower the women.
Dedication to Nation of National Cancer Institute, Bhadsa, Jhajjar
The National Cancer Institute is the state of the art Tertiary Cancer care cum Research Institute, constructed at the AIIMS Jhajjar campus. The 700 bed hospital, will have different facilities like surgical oncology, radiation oncology, medical oncology, anaesthesia, palliative care and nuclear medicine, besides hostel rooms for doctors and attendants of cancer patients. The NCI will be the nodal institution for all activities related to cancer in the country and will have linkages with regional cancer centers and other cancer institutes within the country. As India’s premier institute of cancer, NCI, Jhajjar is responsible for identifying priority areas for Research & Development carrying out basic and applied research in molecular biology, genomics, proteomics, cancer epidemiology, radiation biology and cancer vaccines.
Inauguration of ESIC Medical College & Hospital, Faridabad
will be the first ESIC Medical College and Hospital in North India. The
510 bedded Hospital will have state of art facilities. ESIC, under the
Ministry of Labour and Employment, Govt. of India provides social
security to the insured persons and their beneficiaries, especially to
worker population and their dependents
Laying of foundation stone of National Institute of Ayurveda, Panchkula
National Institute of Ayurveda, Panchkula is being set up at Shri Mata Mansa Devi Temple Complex in Panchkula. It will be a national level institute for Ayurveda treatment, education and research. Once completed, it will be highly beneficial for the residents of Haryana and other nearby states
Laying of foundation stone of Sri Krishna Ayush University, Kurukshetra
Krishna Ayush University is the first University related to Indian
system of medicine in Haryana as well as the first University of this
kind in India
Laying of Foundation stone of ‘Battles of Panipat Museum’, Panipat
museum will honour the heroes of the various battles of Panipat. The
Museum is in line with the Union Government’s initiative to honour the
unsung heroes of India, who have contributed greatly to nation building.
Laying of Foundation Stone of Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhyay University of Health Sciences, Karnal
Prime Minister will lay the foundation stone of Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhyay University of Health Sciences, Karnal.
These measure are expected to give a boost to educational, health and cultural facilities in Haryana.
The Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation in association with the Haryana government is organizing the Swachh Shakti-2019. Best practices from grass root level in the rural areas for Swachh Bharat will be shared by them. The event will showcase the achievements of Swachh Bharat and the recently conducted Swachh Sunder Shauchalay, (neat and clean toilet) – a unique and first of its kind in the world campaign.
The fad for true-crime documentaries continues with this investigation into the grisliest and most unpunished true crime of all. In the course of a mammoth, horribly absorbing four-hour film from Charles Ferguson we are immersed in a world of milky TV news footage, big lapels, bulbous combovers, dirty tricks, sweat, jowls and guilt. It was a time when the nation learned its president had compiled a deadly serious “enemies list” that included Paul Newman. This was the time when the US felt its face get covered by a five o’clock shadow of shame.
America’s Watergate ordeal lasted from the first break-in at the Democratic party headquarters in Washington DC on 28 May 1972, and lasted until 8 August 1974, with Richard Nixon’s blandly impenitent resignation, tendered in return for a promised presidential pardon from his successor Gerald Ford, exempting him from the criminal prosecution that put his co-conspirators behind bars.
Yet Ferguson doesn’t need to labour the point that Watergate carries on still, with the aftermath of its central mythological moment: the appointment of a special prosecutor to examine Watergate, Archibald Cox, whose existence was supposed to appease the press until the media storm blew over. But it didn’t. And then Nixon fired Cox, which simply made matters worse.
The current incumbent is all too clearly aware of the Nixonian model of bad faith and is learning from it. Don’t fire your special prosecutor – but wait, wait, wait, until the mood changes, wearied and muddled by endless denigration and chaotic pronouncements. Nixon barked his boorish insults and grotesque bigotries into secret tapes; Trump megaphones them via Twitter. Perhaps Trump has also studied that other teachable moment from the Watergate era when, at the end of the Yom Kippur war, Nixon took the nation to Defcon 3, the highest state of nuclear readiness, in a quarrel with the Soviet Union over its ships supposedly bringing nuclear weapons into Egypt. The details have never been made available. But the moment passed and the public stayed stubbornly interested in Watergate.
What an extraordinary story it is. Weirdly, though, Ferguson doesn’t spend that long on the central mystery: why on earth did Nixon install the tape recording machines in the first place, making what the formidable congresswoman Elizabeth Holtzman compares to “mafiosi wiretaps”? Nixon may have been inspired by the fact that Lyndon B Johnson did the same thing (although Ferguson doesn’t mention this); he clearly intended to release those tapes or transcripts that put him in a good light and later may also have wished to undermine hostile witnesses by revealing tapes that showed a discrepancy between the recordings and their sworn testimony. But mostly he was just a paranoid control freak, an OCD bully who loved stockpiling material that could be used against his enemies, and did not foresee the blowback. The Watergate break-ins were, after all, a bugging expedition.
Ferguson gives us the nastiest moments from the tapes – the obscenities and antisemitic rants – and dramatises key scenes with actors, chiefly Douglas Hodge as Nixon himself. There is a weird fascination in those conversations between Nixon and chief of staff Bob Haldeman and domestic affairs advisor John Ehrlichman, in which they exchange bland statements, each suspecting the other of an incriminating trap. The resulting dialogue sounds like a cross between Beckett and Mamet.
As for Ferguson’s interviewees, there is White House counsel John Dean, who, although up to his armpits in the cover-up, got a reduced sentence in return for being a vital prosecution witness – the Henry Hill of 20th-century politics. He appears before the cameras here like a greybeard lawyer or academic, almost as if he was on the same team as Woodward and Bernstein. Good ol’ boy Nixon strategist Pat Buchanan also appears, cheerfully confident that he is not in the frame. The big no-show is of course Henry Kissinger, about whom there appears never to have been any question of involvement, a remarkably atypical example of Kissinger avoiding the inside track.
Some stars of the Watergate era were unknown to me before this film, particularly Barbara Jordan, the first African American woman from the south to be elected to the House of Representatives, who made a blazingly influential speech at the House judiciary committee hearings during Nixon’s impeachment proceedings. In the end, Nixon fell because of democratic opposition, especially from Republicans. Even sabre-toothed rightwinger Barry Goldwater was appalled at the consequences of the president’s squalid and pointless burglary. That, too, is a lesson waiting to be learned.
इनेलो सुप्रीमो ओम प्रकाश चौटाला ने पार्टी के संगठनात्मक ढांचे को मजबूत करते हुए संगठन पदाधिकारियों में बड़ा फेरदल किया है। उन्होंने विधायक नसीम अहमद को मेवात का और हेमराज जागलान को पानीपत का जिला अध्यक्ष बनाया है।
सुप्रीमो ने हलका प्रधानों और शहरी प्रधानों में भी बदलाव किया है। हलका
प्रधानों में भारत मढ़हान डबकोली को इंद्री, मनजीत सिंह साधु सिंह को
अम्बाला कैंट, भगवंत सिंह सौंकड़ा को नीलोखेड़ी, सतप्रकाश बीसला महम,
ओमप्रकाश हुड्डा को सांपला, बलवान सिंह जमालपुर को बवानीखेड़ा, रणबीर उर्फ
धीरा सरपंच को तोशाम, विनोद अरोड़ा डबवाली, महावीर गुलिया बादली, जेपी सिंह
को राई, जोगिंदर मलिक बरौदा, बल्ली शेखावत सतनाली को महेंद्रगढ़, अजय खोसा
नारनौल, राजा राम गोलवा नांगलचौधरी, कर्ण सिंह यादव को अटेली, कृष्ण यादव
को पटौदी, बादशाहपुर के अटलवीर कटारिया, कलीराम खेदड़ को उकलाना, यशपाल
बेरवाल भाटला को हांसी और रघुविन्दर को बरवाला का हलका प्रधान बनाया गया
है। जसविंदर सिंह बिन्दु को कालांवाली का दूसरा हलका प्रधान बनाया गया है।चौटाला
ने इसके अतिरिक्त शहरी प्रधान की भी नियुक्तियां की हैं जिसमे रोहित कश्यप
को इंद्री, यशपाल तनेजा को फतेहाबाद, सतीश सैनी को महम, रोहतक का अमरजीत
कपूर उर्फ नीटू, भिवानी अनिल कठपालिया, सियाराम आंतिल को सोनीपत, शमशेर
कटारिया को गुरुग्राम, बलराज गर्ग को उकलाना, राजू शर्मा को हांसी और जगदीश
घिराय को बरवाला का शहरी प्रधान का जिम्मा सौंपा गया है। इसके
अलावा इनेलो सुप्रीमो ने तीन युवा जिला संयोजकों की नियुक्ति कर संगठन का
विस्तार भी किया है। जिसमें मनजीत खैरी को हिसार, मनवीर लाम्बा रेवाड़ी और
राजेश यादव को महेंद्रगढ़ का युवा जिला संयोजक बनाया गया है। इनेलो
सुप्रीमो 11 फरवरी से लेकर 20 फरवरी तक प्रदेशभर का दौरा कर जनसभाओं को भी
संबोधित करेंगे। जिसमे 11 फरवरी को लाडवा, यमुनानगर, अम्बाला, 12 को कैथल,
करनाल, पंचकूला, 14 तारीख को फतेहाबाद, 15 को सिरसा व हिसार, 16 फरवरी
नारनौल, रेवाड़ी, 17 दादरी, भिवानी, 18 को जींद व रोहतक, 19 को मेवात, पलवल,
20 फरवरी को सोनीपत, झज्जर और गुरुग्राम में जनसभाओं को संबोधित करेंगे।
Exclusive, elite and hierarchical, Cannes doesn’t make it easy for its attendees. Tickets for the red-carpet premieres are like gold dust – some hopeful punters stand for hours in full evening dress holding placards begging for a seat – and once secured, they still have to pass muster with the infamous red carpet fashion police. No flip flops! Quelle horreur! But the smart cineaste looks away from the scrum of the main competition and towards the sidebars. The consistently excellent Director’s Fortnight is the only section open to the public. It’s also where you’ll find the edgier, newer voices.
Best for awards season contenders Venice 28Aug-7Sept 2019
The autumn slot of this glamorous but eye-wateringly expensive event has seen it increasingly co-opted as a launchpad for the awards season big hitters. At times it seems as though Hollywood A-listers are only outnumbered by the mosquitos. Tickets are massively over-subscribed, but in theory the public can purchase seats for pretty much everything, even the gala films. The prices, however, can be prohibitive – the most expensive tickets were €45 in 2018, although cheaper options are available.
A genteel resort town an hour or so from Bilbao, San Sebastián is a mecca for innovative Basque cuisine, as well as the location for Spain’s most important film festival. As it’s an event aimed as much at the public as at industry visitors, tickets are easily available, although they frequently sell out. The canny festival-goer will look to the thorough and well-researched retrospective programmes: a deep dive into the work of Preston Sturges remains one of my most cherished San Sebastián memories.
Once a year, the animation industry congregates in this picturesque French lakeside town, near the border with Switzerland – and the animation industry likes to party. Annecy is not only the place to go to experience the very best in the medium, it’s a festival with a unique atmosphere, full of endearingly geeky traditions. Before each screening, the audience pelts the screen (and each other) with paper aeroplanes; any appearance of a rabbit in a film will be greeted with a rousing shout of “Lapin!”.
Best for cinephiles on a budget Karlovy Vary 28June-6 July2019
The youthful energy of the Karlovy Vary is in marked contrast to its location, the slightly chintzy Czech spa town where 19th-century tourists flocked to bathe in the hot springs. Hardy film fans bunk in dormitories and tents, and lounge around the parks between movies. The atmosphere is more Glasto than Cannes, and the egalitarian approach means that even those on a tight budget can see plenty of films in this well-curated programme.
Of the main European documentary festivals, Copenhagen’s CPH:DOX might just have the edge on Amsterdam’s IDFA and Sheffield’s DocFest. Its timing means it can provide a European platform for the best of the Sundance premieres, and Copenhagen makes for a lovely backdrop. It is well attended by the documentary community, so aspiring film-makers can make connections in the ticket queue.
The UK home secretary has ordered the extradition of Vijay Mallya, the Indian multimillionaire chairman of Kingfisher beer and former Force India Formula One team owner, over allegations of £1bn fraud.
Sajid Javid on Monday formally ordered Mallya, who owns two multimillion UK properties and until last year had two superyachts, to be extradited, stating that the 63-year-old businessman is “accused in India of conspiracy to defraud, making false representations and money laundering offences”.
He has been fighting the extradition order and has previously dismissed the allegations that he fled India leaving a trail of £977m worth of debts as “ludicrous”. He has said he made an “unconditional” offer to pay what he owed in full in July 2018.
A judge ruled in December 2018 that Mallya had misrepresented how loans from Indian banks were used and referred the decision on his extradition to Javid.
Senior district judge Emma Arbuthnot described Mallya as a “glamorous, flashy, famous, bejewelled, bodyguarded, ostensibly billionaire playboy who charmed and cajoled these bankers into losing their common sense and persuading them to put their own rules and regulations to one side”.
Mallya is alleged to have knowingly misled largely India state-owned banks about the fortunes of his failing Kingfisher airline, before laundering the cash to fund his Formula One team and other projects. India’s enforcement directorate has been investigating the tycoon’s £977m debts linked to the airline, which went bust in 2012.
India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, has singled out Mallya, accusing him of ripping off India and Indians.
“There is no place for corruption in India,” Modi said in comments referring to Mallya. “Those who looted the poor and middle classes will have to return what they have looted.”
Modi’s government has described Mallya – who used to travel the globe on a private jet with VJM painted in gold on the engines and wingtips – as a “fugitive from justice”.
Javid’s decision to sign the extradition order was framed in India as proof of Modi’s anti-corruption bonafides. The government also recently arranged the extradition from Dubai of Christian Michel, a British businessman who India alleges facilitated the payment of kickbacks as part of a defence supply deal.
“Modi government clears one more step to get Mallya extradited while Opposition rallies around Saradha Scamsters,” tweeted the Indian finance minister, Arun Jaitley, in reference to an alleged financial fraud scandal playing out in the country’s east.
Indian public outcry over Mallya was stoked by a lavish two-day 60th birthday party in 2015 for hundreds of guests at his Kingfisher Villa, a huge beachfront bungalow in Goa.
He ate all the rice. He threw rocks at the monkeys. He lied about the toilets and proved pathologically incapable of walking down a trail without veering off on some wild adventure. He sank the raft and brazenly encouraged hard drinking and ribaldry, especially among the old village ladies. Yes, Maila Gurung was undoubtedly one of the finest travel companions I have ever had the privilege to accompany.
He was not even supposed to come with us. We had started from Pokhara in a 4×4, just myself, guide Jagan, Tikka the porter and Chierring, a 19-year-old Sherpa lad from Kathmandu who had never been to the mountains. Pokhara was quiet, the traders eager to bargain. You could buy all the trekking equipment you’d ever need, and at vastly cheaper prices than in Europe. “The brands are mostly fake,” said Jagan, “but the quality is fine – except for high altitudes.”
The idea was to avoid the usual hiking routes, those well-worn furrows that lead to Everest Base Camp or around the Annapurna circuit. Jagan knew them all well: he’d been Everest base camp manager and reached the summit twice. Annapurna was his home patch. “There’s nothing authentic or traditional left on those routes,” he told me. “It’s all for tourists. We’re going to see real Nepal; only a couple of foreigners have been on this route.”
We were dropped off on the boulder-strewn banks of the River Mardi, a deeply scoured Himalayan torrent whose waters end up in the Ganges. Our goal was its source, a hidden glacier right under the Annapurna massif, a six-day trek there and back. Not that we could see much of the country: clouds of imminent monsoon rain were gathering over jungle-clad ridges, all of which had to be crossed. Jagan reminisced about his season as Everest base camp manager. “When Miss India arrived, she brought a hairdryer. Most of the foreigners insist on hot showers, but base camp is on a glacier… every shower helps melt it.”
“What do they eat?”
“The locals too?”
He grinned. “No way. We eat dal bhat: breakfast, lunch, dinner – always the same.”
Lentils and rice, the Nepali staple diet.
“What will we eat on this trip?”
That suited me. I didn’t want pizza, hairdryers and hot showers. And so here I was, trudging up 2,000 metres of rice terraces where villagers were just beginning to plant their crops: rice and lentils, of course.
Eventually we merged into a stream of school students heading home and entered the village of Sikles. After five hours of ascent, even on a well-made trail, I was feeling a bit light-headed and wondering if I’d been hasty in judgment, particularly on the pizza.
The village was paved with huge stone slabs. Long flights of steps wriggled up through layers of terraces, where stone houses peeped out through tiny, glassless windows at the magnificent panorama. Opposite a small shop selling essentials was our guesthouse, another stone house surrounded by a flower-decked terrace. And coming out to meet us was the smiling owner: Maila.
Within a few minutes he convinced Chierring that the only toilet was high up the mountain, across three rivers, and challenged everyone to a dal bhat eating competition. First, however, he wanted to show us his village. There were kids chasing chickens, old ladies weaving bags from nettle fibres, and elderly men plaiting floor mats. This was a place of only young or old: many of working age spend years away, returning home rarely. Maila, however, was unusual: he hated cities, loved his village and refused to leave.
“Have you ever tried pa, our home-made whisky?” he asked, leading us inside one of the houses. We were followed by all the old ladies, who had stopped weaving at the mention of the word pa. The lady of the house was sitting by a fire in the main room, tending a steaming pot.
I was handed a glass and sipped warily, unlike Maila, who wolfed down a tumbler and told a dirty joke. The old ladies began giggling. Some time later, we staggered back to the guesthouse for the dal bhat eating contest. Chierring had accepted the challenge. From the kitchen emerged two trays, each groaning under a mountain of rice. A gong sounded and Maila’s huge paw swept a shovelful of rice and dal into his mouth, followed rapidly by another. Chierring wailed, “Oh, I will lose!” And he did.
Next day, within a mile of the village, we rounded a corner and there, floating above us like a beautiful silver cloud, was Annapurna. Between us and the mountain were a stack of jungle ridges. The path climbed up flights of beautifully cut steps, then swooped down to long suspension bridges. A monkey whooped. Maila threw a rock. “I know that monkey,” he grinned. “He tried to bite me when I was building this path.”
Despite his animosity to that particular creature, Maila proved to be an incredible spotter of wildlife, especially birds, of which there were many, including dozens of minivets, flying in shocking streaks of scarlet and yellow through the trees.
“Monsoon is a good time,” he grinned, flicking away a leech. I, too, could see the advantages: the jungle was decked in orchids, the waterfalls and rivers impressively powerful. Often our feet were invisible under the thick vegetation that covered the path. By late afternoon Annapurna was only occasionally visible through torn black veils of cloud. We crossed a final bridge and arrived at our home for the next two nights, the abandoned village of Hugu.
“Our traditional home,” said Maila, quickly getting a fire going under a thatched shelter. “We moved to Sikles when I was a child.”
In most circumstances a downpour under leaky thatch might be dispiriting. Not in Nepal. With a good fire going, a kettle boiling and the pa ready, stories began to flow. Jagan told how he started as a porter aged 14, heaving loads of up to 60kg, a practice now outlawed.
That night I lay in my sleeping bag, musing on why this experience seemed so authentic. My conclusion was that we tourists were in the same boat as the Nepalese, sharing the same food and sleeping in the same places. We were comrades. I was carrying some of the food and my own kit.
Next morning we left at dawn for a long, magical day in the shadow of Annapurna, bashing through jungle and clambering over rocks. At noon we reached the glacial lake and launched a one-person pack raft that Jagan was determined to test. I managed to paddle out to an iceberg and stand on it. Maila, however, heavy with dal bhat and merriment, promptly sank. We lit a fire and dried him out.
That night, back at our camp, some honey hunters arrived and settled down around the fire with us. Their leader, Meja, refused a tot of pa. “I never drink,” he said. “Not after the leopard.”
Two years before, he said, he had left his wife alone in this same hut with a flock of sheep and gone down to Sikles, where he had drunk pa and failed to return for three nights. Meanwhile, his wife woke to find the hut surrounded by prowling leopards. For the next 72 hours they ate sheep and terrified the poor woman out of her wits. “I swore never to drink again.”
More stories followed in a long, convivial evening. I had reached the real Nepal, I decided, and made lifelong friends.
That night I woke in the dark. Everyone was sleeping and the fire was out. A shadow of some creature darted away – not a leopard, but a jungle cat. I stepped outside warily. Far above, the summit of Annapurna appeared to have erupted, a plume of icy sparks shooting out across the heavens. It took me a second to realise it was the Milky Way.
Four days later, back in Pokhara, we all went for dinner. Everyone else had dal bhat, but I ordered pizza, seduced by the smell of cooking cheese. When it came, however, I instantly regretted my choice. Dal bhat was what I really wanted. • The trip was provided by Much Better Adventures, whose six-day hike to the hidden glacier costs from £350, including all accommodation, meals on the trek and guides. Flights from Heathrow to Kathmandu were provided by Kayak, which has returns from about £380
The UK, France, Germany and other European countries are expected to recognise Juan Guaidó as interim president of Venezuela on Monday if the current president, Nicolás Maduro, has not set a date for fresh elections by then.
EU leaders, including the Austrian chancellor, Sebastian Kurz, started expressing their support for Guaidó before the midnight deadline Sunday night.
The British foreign office minister, Sir Alan Duncan, is due to fly to Ottawa to meet European and Latin American leaders in a new international contact group to discuss the most effective ways of supporting Guaidó.
Canada’s foreign minister, Chrystia Freeland, said: “This crisis poses huge security, humanitarian and economic challenges for the entire hemisphere.”
France’s Europe minister, Nathalie Loiseau, foreshadowing the stance of most European leaders, said: “If by tonight Maduro does not commit to organising presidential elections, then France will consider Juan Guaidó as legitimate to organise them in his place and we will consider him as the interim president until legitimate elections in Venezuela [take place].”
She dismissed Maduro’s proposal of an early parliamentary election, calling it a farce, and said “the ultimatum ends tonight”.
France, Germany, Spain and the UK have been closely coordinating their support for Guaidó, assessing the best form of sanctions to press Maduro into holding the elections. None supports the kind of military intervention repeatedly suggested by the US president, Donald Trump. They regard Trump’s claim that a military option is on the table as counter-productive since it conjures up memories of past US destablisation in Latin America.
There are divisions on the issue not just within the Italian coalition, but also within the Five Star Movement (M5S). Luigi Di Maio, Italy’s deputy prime minister and leader of M5S, defended his refusal to recognise Guaidó as interim president saying he “had not been elected by the people”.
So far the US and about 20 other countries have recognised, or are on the brink of recognising, Guaidó. But Russia, China, Turkey and Cuba have defended Maduro, rejecting outside interference as orchestrated by Trump. Canada and the Lima Group of Latin American countries aiming to find a solution to the Venezuela crisis recognised Guaidó on 23 January.
Much of the Ottawa meeting will be taken up with the humanitarian consequences of the crisis. Freeland’s diplomatic service has played a backroom role in helping organise the opposition to coalesce around Guaidó. She said: “The Maduro regime is now fully entrenched as a dictatorship.”
On Sunday Canada’s prime minister, Justin Trudeau, spoke to the Spanish prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, to coordinate the call for elections. He has said the aim of the Ottawa meeting is to push for peace, democracy and stability.
One proposal is to seize “corruptly obtained” overseas assets belonging to members of the Maduro regime and use the cash to ease the humanitarian crisis as Venezuelan refugees flee abroad, such as to Columbia.
The Labour party in the UK has not recognised Guaidó, despite his being a member of Socialist International, though it has stepped up its criticism of Maduro, once a close ally of Jeremy Corbyn.
The shadow attorney general, Lady Chakrabarti, speaking on Sunday to Sky News, said: “Last year’s reporting on Venezuela is pretty damning and that’s in terms of disappearances, that’s in terms of crushing dissent, that’s in terms of reports of torture, of prisoners and political prisoners, and it is completely unacceptable.
“I think it is incumbent on people like me, as a member of the left, to call out governments and states of the left because human rights have to be applied with an even hand.”
The former BBC broadcaster and Guardian journalist William Davis has died aged 85.
Born in Hanover, Germany as Gunther Kiess in 1933, Davis changed his name when he moved to the UK at the age of 16 and became a British citizen.
Davis enjoyed a successful career on Fleet Street that spanned several decades. Specialising in financial and business journalism, Davis worked for the Financial Times before being appointed City editor at the London Evening Standard. Between 1965 and 1968, Davis was economics editor at the Guardian.
In 1968 he was made editor of the satirical magazine Punch, prompting its rival Private Eye to dub him “Kaiser Bill”. He was succeeded by Alan Coren in 1977.
Davis went on to become one of the first presenters of the BBC’s World at One on Radio 4 and helped develop and present BBC Radio 2’s The Money Programme.
He wrote 20 books, and founded the in-flight British Airways magazine High Life, where he also served as editor-in-chief. Davis’ daughter Jacki described her father as “pioneering and innovative”, and a “self-made man” with a weakness for champagne, according to the BBC.
Davis appeared in an episode of the BBC’s Desert Island Discs, where he revealed that he left school aged 14 and came to Britain because his mother had married a British army sergeant. He shared his passion for cigars, and holidays in Sicily and the Bahamas, and recalled a “very grim childhood”, during which he was separated from his parents for several years.
Davis also admitted that witnessing “death and destruction” of the second world war had affected him throughout his life.
“I really don’t have much time for people, particularly young people, who complain about life today,” Davis said.
He emphasised that he was very proud to be British, and said that people who had become naturalised in Britain tended to be “more patriotic than the ones that were born here”.
Davis also spoke of the difficulties he encountered when he first came to Britain, and how he pretended to be Austrian due to “a great deal of hostility towards anything German”.
According to his daughter, Davis was a “great admirer” of Margaret Thatcher and even advised her “from time to time” when she was prime minister.
Davis died at his home in Cannes, southern France, on Saturday after heart failure. He is survived by his wife Sylvette, daughters Sue and Jacki, and grandchildren Lucinda and William.
Nostalgia, I’ve come to realise, is a trap and a tease. It hoodwinks you into believing that a past you can never reclaim is better than your present can ever be. The act of remembering, on the other hand, can be liberating, provided you’ve wised up to just how capricious our often airbrushed, invariably unreliable, memories can be. It took me a while.
I’ve always had a bad feeling about nostalgia, though. It is nationalism’s bedfellow, for starters, and it makes us wish interminable, internet-free holidays, three-channel television and the warty good old days upon our children.
When I wrote my memoir, an unlikely act for someone who had spent most of her life doggedly not looking back, I finally saw how nostalgia had held me and my two older siblings in its grip. The memoir is a story about my childhood misadventures after being orphaned to cancer, aged nine. Our American father dropped dead when I was five, after which our English mother brought us to the UK. After her death from cancer four years later, we had a succession of carers. I held my breath, waiting for everything to come right. Godot comes to mind.
I only revisited what my older son now calls a series of unfortunate events because I went and got cancer myself, which in turn threatened to make my teenage sons motherless, a threat that triggered old memories: my period of illness was peppered with involuntary flashbacks to my mother’s own dying and to a landscape of perceived abandonment. The writing was my way of taking dominion over these flashbacks of love and loss.
It enabled me to pause, freeze-frame, rewind, zoom in and turn up the volume on the memories that had come at me like shoppers charging through the doors at a Black Friday Primark sale. I saw that what we had before both parents vanished was a Disneyesque blueprint of how our lives should be.
We didn’t like our post-parent new life, one lived with strangers and half-here, half-not relatives. We wanted our old one back, thank you very much. So we constructed celluloid versions in our minds, and a physical one in the approximation of a home we eventually created for ourselves in London after the long-suffering, insufferable woman who had looked after us for three years jumped ship when I was 13, in the summer of 1977.
Some may remember that as the summer Elvis Presley died. I remember it as the arid one where we unpacked tea chests and quickly laid out the family collection of fox figurines on the new mantelpiece, just as our mother had once done. There was a vulpine conductor and a violinist, part of an incomplete orchestra and, my favourite, a pair of dancing foxes. It was our shrine, to the good old, rose-tinted days, to a time of a father and a mother dressed up in white tie and cocktail frock, a family unit, a perfect life.
The mementoes made it harder for each of us to let go of a past that became increasingly mythologised and a future that felt increasingly wanting. They’ve come to symbolise a Miss Havisham-like difficulty in moving on. Nothing could ever measure up to the chimerical promise of what might have been.
The trouble is, I couldn’t remember the details of this idealised, longed-for past life as well as everyone else seemed able to do. My older siblings, and any adults who knew the dead parents I sought to conjure in my mind, had “better” memories than me. They corrected me when I said I remembered this or that. No, Father wasn’t left-handed. No, that’s not what our cat was called. No, Mother didn’t call lavatories “loos”. I came to see memory as a monolith, a slab of granite, fixed and formidable. I avoided it.
Bear in mind that it was not until the early 90s that neuroscientists established the mutable nature of memory that is now a given. We know that each memory is a reconstruction, an aggregate of each and every previous memory at the time of retrieval. But I had grown up believing that a memory was intractable: that what we remembered was the original memory. For me, not having certain memories, or not remembering “as well” as my siblings, was humiliating. The fact that, secretly, I couldn’t remember much about my father, bar him making me toffee for breakfast in a frying pan (an unreliable memory, if ever there was one) and him sitting me on his knee as he did up the buckles of my patent Mary Jane party shoes, made me think I did not really ever have a father. I let my older siblings and half-siblings recall him, and claim him as their own.
Has something ever been yours if you can’t remember it?
I came to see myself as a person with a bad memory. That changed with the memoir. In writing it, I took memory by the scruff of its neck. I backed it up against the wall, watched it quiver with fear. I recommend doing so. Flawed, pockmarked, crusted in layers of transmogrified facts and fictions, memory when looked in the face is like an Elizabethan courtier plastered with a mask of white lead, revealing the cracks for the first time. Its power falls away. Now I think, It’s OK, I forgot something – the scale of a childhood house, the age of my aged father when he had me. Who cares?
For sure, the impulse to fill in the gaps, to complete the jigsaw of your past, is a universal one, but what is most important is the emotion an episodic memory contains. That emotion contains the essence of what matters to you, which is the very first step in what is remembered – the essence of what is past. Take a note of what you seek to recall – that time when you felt safe, rather than afraid, say; or that afternoon you laughed with a friend until your belly hurt – and you will see what you miss, need, value. And you can seek out more of these positive emotions in the future. Remembering, and imagining the future, are part of the same mental process. Actively remembering is a far cry from nostalgia; there is a freedom in it.
Of course, there is a danger in remembering, too, particularly for those who have suffered a trauma. The more we recall a memory, the stronger it becomes, so that is problematic when it comes to traumatic memories.
I recently met a psychotherapist who practises Narrative Exposure Therapy at the Helen Bamber Foundation with survivors of human cruelty – those who have been trafficked, abused, sexually exploited, enslaved, and suffer from PTSD. In this pioneering form of therapy, clients are invited to remember the good as well as the bad things from their lives, represented by flowers and stones respectively. A timeline of their life is represented by a ribbon or length of rope, and as they remember, they are invited to lay down a stone or a flower, sharing each memory aloud as they do so.
It is a way of acknowledging and speaking the unspeakable, as well as of remembering who you were before the trauma, or multiple traumas, were inflicted. Little by little, the client integrates their traumatised self within the bigger narrative of a life that need not be defined only by the bad things. Many are thus enabled to move forwards. They can imagine a future.
Nowadays, I let myself remember like there is no tomorrow. I dig for gold, and relish the finds: my mother dressing up for my mocked-up marriage to my teddy bear; my sister and me playing under a sprinkler in the park after school; the honeybee joy of being loved. Mining those feelings is a way of picking and choosing the building blocks of the person I want to be from now on. I claim these memories, not as half-formed things, or inaccurate composites of hearsay and photographs and other people’s memories, but simply as my memories.
The act of remembering is a legitimate, positive thing to do, not a weakness, as I used to think. I mean, it was good enough for Proust, and painters do it, time and again. Take Pierre Bonnard, whose exhibition, The Colour of Memory, has just opened at Tate Modern. He captures what he cherished – concrete things like a house or a garden – in increasingly abstract, vibrant paintings. He captures the feeling of what he loved. I urge you to do the same.
Genevieve Fox’s Milkshakes and Morphine: a Memoir of Love and Life is published by Vintage at £8.99. Buy it for £7.91 at guardianbookshop.com
The ocean is the Earth’s biggest resource, covering more than 70% of our planet, and it is full of under-utilised sea vegetables that are delicious, sustainable and nutrient-dense. Next time you take a blustery walk on the beach, have a forage for fresh seaweed. Large, brush-like kelp heads will probably be scattered along the shoreline or in rock pools. Dry the freshest-smelling pieces at home – use a foraging handbook to identify kelp and other tasty species such as laver, dulse and sea lettuce.
Kelp, or kombu as it’s called in Japan, where it’s widely used, is heralded as a sustainable protein, high in soluble fibre and full of vitamins A, B, C, D and E, among others, depending on the species. Despite being low in fat, seaweed is also full of omega-3 fatty acids.
Seaweed is versatile and works in most dishes, either as a seasoning or as the main component. Try replacing pasta with sheets of boiled kelp in a vegetable or spinach lasagne; use it in salads; or make kombu dashi, a simple Japanese stock that will add an umami boost and savouriness to soups and stews.
Kombu dashi (kelp stock)
Kelp stock is a secret weapon in the kitchen that can save a dish or bring it to life.
Prep 1 min
Cook 1-5 hr
Makes 500ml stock
5cm piece of kelp (kombu)
Fill a glass jar or bowl with the water, add the kelp and soak for a one to five hours, or in the fridge overnight. After soaking, strain through a sieve and keep in the fridge for up to three days (or several months in the freezer).
Make miso soup using the leftover kelp by cutting it into small pieces and simmering with 300ml water for 15 minutes. Finish by stirring in two large tablespoons of miso and some chopped spring onion tops.
Sirsa-based Dera Sacha Sauda head Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh and three others were awarded life imprisonment by the CBI Special Court here in the Ram Chander Chhatrapati murder case.
Chattrapati was a Sirsa-based journalist who had published a news item in his newspaper about the alleged sexual exploitation of Sadhvis in Dera Sacha Sauda. He was shot outside his home in Sirsa on October 24, 2002, by Kuldeep Singh and he died on November 21, 2002, at Apollo Hospital, New Delhi.
Special Judge Jagdeep Singh also awarded life imprisonment to Dera staff Krishan Lal, Nirmal Singh and Kuldeep Singh. He also imposed a fine of Rs 50,000 each on the accused.
Ram Rahim, who is already undergoing 20-year rigorous imprisonment in a case of rape of two women adherents, is lodged in Rohtak jail while Kuldeep Singh, Nirmal Singh and Krishan Lal are lodged in Ambala jail. The four accused were sentenced through video conferencing.
“Yo, Pac!” You can almost feel the spittle as Gary Oldman launches into his soliloquy. It is 2012, and he is performing in a skit on Jimmy Kimmel’s US talkshow, reciting from R Kelly’s autobiography with the plummy majesty he later brought to the role of Churchill. “What up, baby?” he utters as the audience collapses in giggles. The joke is twofold: English people are so white! But also: R Kelly is so ridiculous!
For years, Robert Kelly, now aged 52, was seen, as Kimmel put it that night, as “great and inexplicable”. He was one of the US’s most brilliant entertainers, beloved for his uproariously carnal R&B tracks and stratospheric ballads. But there was something that set him apart from his musical peers: a knowing ridiculousness, which would prompt him to cast himself in a 33-part television opera centering around a well-endowed dwarf, describe himself as a “sexasaurus”, and make Same Girl, his duet with Usher, so hammy it would inevitably be spoofed by Flight of the Conchords in a song called We’re Both in Love With a Sexy Lady. This sense of self-mockery gained him a new, white hipster audience – Pitchfork booked him to play its festival in 2013 – and also helped insulate him from criticism. Until now.
It has been alleged for more than 20 years that Kelly has had abusive relationships with women. He wrote and produced Aaliyah’s debut album, then was reported to have married the R&B star illegally when she was 15. The album was titled – chillingly, in retrospect – Age Ain’t Nothin’ But a Number. In 1996, Tiffany Hawkins sued Kelly for “personal injuries and emotional distress” during a three-year relationship that began when she was 15 and he was 24. That suit, and three others since, were settled out of court. Kelly has only appeared before a judge once, in 2008, when he was accused of making child abuse images by filming sexual encounters, including one in which he urinated over an underage girl. A jury couldn’t identify the man or the girl in the video without doubt, and Kelly was acquitted.
Throughout all this, Kelly’s career flourished. Mark Anthony Neal, professor of black popular culture at Duke University, calls him “the most visible R&B star of the 1990s … we haven’t seen an R&B figure emerge post-R Kelly that has the kind of gravitas that he or Luther Vandross or Marvin Gaye had.” Kelly created radio hits that united races and generations, and wrote commercially blockbusting albums such as R, which in 1998 sold 216,000 copies in a single week in the US alone, and boasted duets with both Jay-Z and Celine Dion.
“He had a really good ear,” Neal says. “He couldn’t read or write music, but he was able to mimic these larger traditions: R&B, soul and gospel, adding a contemporary feel so that it felt urgent and vital. And he knew how to record raunch.”
Over the past two years, that success has been replaced with a flood of fresh accusations, including claims that he had sex with girls as young as 14 while running a cult-like harem. His ex-wife claimed that he choked her almost to death, part of a campaign of violence that made her suicidal. A social media campaign, #MuteRKelly, gained traction as the #MeToo movement caught fire.
Then, earlier this month, the documentary Surviving R Kelly aired on Lifetime TV in the US. In it, to devastating effect, numerous women accused the singer of sexual, physical and psychological abuse. After it screened, Kelly’s daughter Joann (who goes by the name Buku Abi) described him as a “monster”, adding: “I am well aware of who and what he is. I grew up in that house.” Activist group UltraViolet flew a banner over the offices of Kelly’s record label, demanding that it drop him. Following fresh appeals from prosecutors in Atlanta and Chicago, where Kelly has residences, three more women have come forward alleging abuse, along with two other families who say their daughters have gone to live with Kelly. Lady Gaga, Phoenix and Chance the Rapper expressed contrition for working with Kelly, while John Legend, Ne-Yo and Common condemned him.
What took them so long? Kelly denies all the accusations of abuse. His lawyer, Steven Greenberg, has threatened to sue Lifetime, and says that Kelly’s sexual relationships have all been “perfectly consensual”. Kelly’s denials include statements through his lawyers, plus a 19-minute song, I Admit, in which he sings that he has been “so falsely accused”, and that his accusers were financially motivated.
Complicating the accusations, one young woman has told police, who made a visit to one of Kelly’s homes, that she was living with Kelly consensually, and was “fine and did not want to be bothered with her parents”. Another told her parents – who said she appeared “brainwashed” – that “she’s in love, and [Kelly] is the one who cares for her.” A further police visit to a Kelly residence reported by TMZ this week saw two women repeatedly profess that they were safe and free to come and go. But they are outnumbered by women who do accuse Kelly of abuse. The sheer frequency – and pattern – of the accusations now means that even fans, and collaborators such Gaga, now believe the accusers.
What if Kelly’s alleged victims had been white? Jim DeRogatis, the Chicago-based journalist who has doggedly reported on Kelly for 17 years, has said that the saga has taught him: “Nobody matters less in society than young black women.” Or, as Mikki Kendall put it in Surviving R Kelly: “No one cared because we were black girls.”
“These black girls and women were not ‘ideal victims’,” says Treva Lindsey, a professor at Ohio State University whose research focuses on violence against black women. She has found “a particular kind of venom that is relatively normalised” towards them, which starts from the top: “Some of Trump’s most vicious attacks on individuals have come at the expense of black women, whether that’s [congresswoman] Maxine Waters or [journalist] April Ryan.”
The Kelly case itself, she says, is compounded by “a narrative around black women and girls being hypersexual. It’s such a fraught, racist history, specifically around sexual violence – black men being accused of raping white women being one of the primary factors in lynching, and black women being seen, legally, as unrapeable.” Lindsey believes that these ideas have become internalised by some African Americans: “‘Oh, those girls knew what they were doing.’ And that is part of why it becomes difficult to see a 14-year-old girl on a child abuse sex tape as wholly a victim.”
Chance the Rapper pointed to another reason why some have been slow to condemn R Kelly, saying: “We’re programmed to really be hypersensitive to black male oppression.” Lindsey adds: “There’s definitely black folks of all genders defending Kelly, who are fearful of what this means for this larger historical narrative of black men being inherently criminal and aggressive. In the context of a racist country, one black person’s actions become illustrative of the depravity of an entire community. Harvey Weinstein isn’t an indictment of white men. But R Kelly can be used by some as an indictment of black men.”
Although the rapper French Montana later said he supported the alleged victims, when asked about Kelly, he grumbled that “they don’t let nobody have their legendary moments” – a sentiment shared by another rapper, Waka Flocka Flame, who, in the wake of the Bill Cosby scandal, said: “Every time a famous minority make it, they throw salt in the game.” Kelly has tried to leverage this sentiment – a representative described the #MuteRKelly campaign as the “attempted public lynching of a black man who has made extraordinary contributions to our culture”.
It is precisely these contributions that are Kelly’s most potent weapon. Listening to him can feel like a struggle between two impulses – to condemn the abuser but adore the artist whose best work touches greatness. She’s Got That Vibe, his debut single from 1992, roared joyously out of the New Jack Swing scene and immediately established a core part of his appeal: the ability to sing lecherous lines (“The tight miniskirt you wear … I can’t help but stare”) with such earnestness that they almost appeared romantic. That earnestness was intensified on his biggest hit, I Believe I Can Fly, a ballad of self-determination so structurally perfect that the words didn’t feel outlandish or silly.
Kelly’s first US No 1, Bump N’ Grind, acknowledged the moral wrongness of his desires, but framed himself as helplessly in thrall to them – a cornily manipulative trick that the excellence of the songwriting makes seductive. Kelly had to present himself as defined and ruled by his sexuality, both to enhance his sex appeal and to absolve him of his problematic libido. Ignition (Remix) was one of the greatest pop songs of the 00s, its double entendres, car horns and atmosphere of three-drink tipsiness so potent that it became a global hit a mere four months after Kelly was indicted on 10 counts of child pornography.
Fans don’t want Kelly to be a paedophile or rapist because that would ruin the music. As Common said in the wake of the documentary: “Instead of trying to be like, ‘Let’s go and try to resolve this situation and free these young ladies and stop this thing that’s going on,’ we were just like, ‘Man, we rocking to the music’.” That effect has endured even now – streams of Kelly’s music have increased since Surviving R Kelly aired.
The love for Kelly’s songs such as these is intensified by their communal appeal: they are the soundtrack to joyful memories of dancefloors and karaoke. As Lindsey says: “His music signals so many moments for us, whether it’s weddings or graduations or your first kiss.” Neal agrees: “He knew how to make songs that a black community would find value in, in black social life,” he says. “Step in the Name of Love at weddings; I Believe I Can Fly – if you’re at a kindergarten graduation, you’re singing this song.”
Less successful singles were still touched with brilliance. One lyric on I’m a Flirt, “like a dog on the prowl when I’m walking through the mall”, is even more sinister when you consider, as Lindsey says: “Any of my black girlfriends from Chicago had an R Kelly story, and most of them involved a high school, or mall, these spaces where he clearly is finding vulnerable black girls.” But the line is – perhaps deliberately – given a spectacularly carefree, beautiful melody.
Listening now to songs such as I’m a Flirt, it feels as if Kelly was getting a kick out of hiding in plain sight. Many of his songs express a desire for control through marriage and impregnation in the starkest terms, such as Marry the Pussy and Pregnant. Songs such as It Seems Like You’re Ready are excruciating given what we know about Kelly’s penchant for underage girls.
Kelly also leveraged the very iconography of R&B. By brazenly embracing a cartoonishly horny image, from 1993’s I Like the Crotch On You to the faceless, naked women on the cover of his 2013 album Black Panties, he made the stories of “sex cults” seem like a joke. “This virility, sexually assertive to the point of aggressive, is a part of a particular R&B persona, and R Kelly is in tradition with that,” Lindsey says. Was Kelly really an abuser, audiences might wonder, or just participating in a tradition of playful lechery going back to 70s soulmen such as Marvin Gaye, Isaac Hanes and Teddy Pendergrass?
Then there are Kelly’s experiences as a victim of sexual assault: in his autobiography, he wrote that, growing up, he was repeatedly sexually abused by a family member. Was this the wellspring of his sexually aggressive lyrics, and his own abusiveness as an adult?
Kelly’s case is complex: a knot of tensions around race, gender, sex and artistry that must be unravelled in order to ask hard questions about how it might have been allowed to flourish, and to bring justice to his alleged victims. “What would it mean to hold R Kelly accountable now?” Lindsey wonders aloud. It will surely take far more than removing his duets from Spotify, as Lady Gaga has done, in penance but also as a means of erasing the historical record. As Lindsey says: “There’s too much at stake for us not to figure it out.”
• Surviving R Kelly airs in the UK on 5 February, 10pm, on Crime and Investigation.
Surrounded by brown hills close to the Ethiopian border, the town of El-Gadarif is an unremarkable place. A centre for the trade in sorghum and sesame, it is dominated by its huge Russian-built grain silos.
Four weeks ago, however, the eastern Sudanese town was thrust into the spotlight when it became a centre for protests against the regime of President Omar al-Bashir.
Locals say those initial protests comprised largely of secondary school pupils who converged on one of the town’s main markets to voice their anger over a sharp cut to the subsidy for bread. “Hungry people!” they chanted, and “You dancer!”– a mocking reference to Bashir, who often dances at public occasions.
The hubbub of voices was soon drowned out by the crack of gunfire as security forces gunned down 10 protesters, three of them children.
What followed would be significant not only for El-Gadarif, but for the entire country. The next day, townspeople inflamed by the regime’s vicious response turned their fury on offices of the ruling National Congress party and the intelligence services.
In less than a week, the protests had spread from rural centres like El-Gadarif to Sudan’s major cities, exposing a widespread desire for an end to 75-year-old Bashir’s harsh rule.
“The murder of innocent people and children turned the anger against the government,” said Jaafar Khidir, a long-time member of the Sudanese opposition in El-Gadarif. “People came out to protest spontaneously.”
“There was change in people’s hearts,” added Khidir, who has been arrested four times since the beginning of the protests. “Now I expect to be taken into custody at any time.”
Since those initial protests in December, more than 40 demonstrators have been killed nationwide, right groups say, some reportedly shot by the Rapid Support Forces, a government militia. Hundreds more have been injured.
Activists have also been detained in towns and cities across this vast country, often by the intelligence and security services, notorious for their documented abuses and use of torture.
On Thursday, security forces deployed in numbers in the capital, Khartoum, as demonstrators threatened to march on Bashir’s palace. Simultaneous protests were called in 11 other towns and cities, including Atbara, another cradle of the current movement.
The protests may appear to have come from nowhere, but in reality Sudan’s instability has long been prefigured.
Bashir, who took power after leading a military coup in 1989, has survived conflict, protests, years of US-led sanctions and even pursuit by the international criminal court for alleged genocide in Darfur. What is different this time is that the constellation of problems facing the country is having an impact even on the elites who have long supported him.
Two million people are internally displaced, corruption is widespread and mismanagement rife. The country is in the grip of a long-running economic crisis that has its roots in the secession of South Sudan in 2011 and the loss of oil reserves to the new and troubled southern state. Spiralling inflation has hit Sudan’s embattled middle-classes. A cut in the subsidy for bread – the proximate cause of protests in place like El-Gadarif – was merely the spark that ignited deep-seated anger and desperation.
Cracks have appeared on the political front. Bashir faces mounting discontent within his ruling party as well as dissatisfaction in areas in the country’s riverine north, once considered his stronghold.
Another feature is the use of social media. Activists have actively documented confrontations and flooded social media with footage that they claim is “exposing” Bashir’s government.
Observers say the protests have united people from different tribes and ethnicities. Women have joined in, even as the protests escalated into bloody confrontations. Dressed in headscarves, they can be seen in nearly all the footage shared on social media, which in turn has helped to convince even more women to take to the streets.
All of which has led some, including Hafiz Ismail, an analyst at Justice Africa Sudan, to argue that the demonstrations are likely to have sustained momentum.
“The protests won’t stop,” Ismail said, “because the regime doesn’t have any solution for the problem, which is as much political as economic”.
Ismail expects the regime to offer concessions – as happened after protests in 2013 – but said they may not go far enough for Bashir’s opponents.
Particularly problematic for the regime has been the involvement of the Sudanese Professionals Association, a new and broad movement, representing middle-class professions, that has spearheaded the protests, stepping into the vacuum created by the arrest of many opposition leaders.
Mohammed Yousif al-Mustafa, a spokesman for the association and professor at Khartoum University, and a relative of the president, described the moment he realised that the burgeoning protest movement had created a new reality.
“We can’t be behind the people,” he said. “People would laugh at us if we stuck to our position of handing a memorandum to the parliament and asking for a raise in the minimum wage. Our position is opposing the regime and its policies.”
Which raises the question: what next?
“The longer the protests go on, the more violence and abuses we might see the Sudanese government use,” said Jehanne Henry, of Human Rights Watch. “The government uses the same sorts of tactics every time there are protests. The risk is that it will get bloodier.”
“One is that the president survives, though without funds to offer protesters significant reforms, he will likely have to subdue them by force,” said the group. “A second scenario could see protests gathering pace and prompting the president’s ousting by elements within his party or security elites … A third scenario would see Bashir resign. This would allow for a leadership change that could mollify protesters.”
For Henry, the outcome hinges on the regime’s response. “The key question is how much the government feels it is facing an existential threat, and that is hard to predict.”