Celebrating contemporary Indian photography – in pictures

India is the theme of the Fotofest 2018 Biennial in Houston, Texas. Exhibitions across the city showcase the work of 47 photographers and artists, and address issues ranging from race and racism, gender, education and the environment to caste and class, within India and the global Indian diaspora. They run until 22 April, and there is also an accompanying book, INDIA/Contemporary Photographic and New Media Art

Donald Trump Jr cancels US foreign policy speech in India

A scheduled speech by Donald Trump Jr on US foreign policy in India has been abruptly changed to a “fireside chat” hours before the address was supposed to begin in Delhi.

The 15-minute speech was initially called “Reshaping Indo-Pacific ties: the new era of cooperation”, but the title was amended on the website of the business conference to remove any reference to a topic.

Trump Jr was interviewed instead by the journalist Supriya Shrinate about his experiences as the son of the US president and his views on India’s business culture.

Ethics watchdogs and Democratic lawmakers had questioned why Trump Jr, who has been in India since Tuesday touring properties licensed by the Trump Organization, was discussing US foreign policy on what was ostensibly a business trip by a private citizen.

The US state department and the US embassy in Delhi have denied any involvement in the speech or knowledge of its contents.

Organisers of the business summit, which was also addressed by India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, and several cabinet ministers, did not respond to questions about why the topic and format of Trump’s appearance had been changed.

Trump Jr told the audience of about 2,000 people he rarely talked politics with his father any more. “We see him so little that when we’re together it’s really about being a family,” he said.

Asked about corruption in India, his response – “There’s an entrepreneurial spirit here … that’s different to elsewhere in the world” – drew laughter from the crowd.

Trump stressed he was “here as a businessman, not representing anyone”.

The New Jersey senator, Bob Menendez, said earlier this week his visit could send the “mistaken message” that he was speaking on behalf of the US government.

In a letter to Kenneth Juster, the new US ambassador to India, Menendez said he expected the US state deparment and the embassy in Delhi to “treat Mr Trump no differently than it would any other American individual visiting on private business, and will take every effort to avoid any perception of special treatment or a conflict of interest”.

He asked whether US officials would have any role in a dinner hosted by Trump Jr on Friday with investors in a Trump Organization-licensed project in Gurgaon, a city about an hour’s drive from Delhi.

One partner in the project boasted that the visit, announced in front-page advertisements in national newspapers, had generated around $15m (£10.7m) in sales for the project.

At least one journalist allowed to interview Trump Jr said they were given strict instructions that political questions were off limits, and that minders had blocked several questions about his father.

Trump Jr spoke of his frustration at not being able to do new business deals, a measure his father imposed to avoid conflicts of interest, but which ethics lawyers say does not sufficiently isolate Trump’s policy decisions from his finances.

“When we’re out of politics, I think we will get some credit for it and will be welcomed again with open arms,” Trump Jr said.

The Trump Organization has licensed its name to four other projects in Gurgaon, Pune, Kolkata and Mumbai.

Trump Jr has no official role in the Trump administration and took the reins of the family company, with his brother Eric, after their father was inaugurated.

Hindu nationalists and Dalits clash in India over 200-year-old battle

The commemoration of a 200-year-old British military victory in India has spilled over into days of violence and protests in Mumbai and across Maharashtra state.

Streets in Mumbai were deserted on Wednesday as hundreds of Dalit protesters blocked roads and train lines and attacked buses, forcing transport delays and the closure of schools and shops in the financial hub.

Roadblocks, arson and the death of a teenager were reported in towns elsewhere in the state where Dalits, formerly called untouchables, were protesting against the alleged disruption of a memorial event by Hindu nationalist groups.

An estimated 300,000 Dalits had gathered in the Maharashtra village of Bhima Koregaon on Monday to celebrate the 1818 victory of the British East India Company over the Peshwas, a faction of the Maratha empire that ruled much of the subcontinent before the British.

Hundreds of Dalits were involved in the battle on the side of the British, forming part of battalion of 900 soldiers that repelled Peshwa forces numbering 20,000 by some estimates.

The Dalits, who occupy the lowest place in the Hindu caste system and have suffered thousands of years of exclusion and extreme poverty, sided with the British in response to mistreatment by high-caste Peshwa rulers. Today the battle is regarded as a historical moment of self-assertion by members of the community.

The 200th anniversary memorial on Monday turned violent when Dalit activists allege members of two Hindu nationalist groups attacked processions near an obelisk installed by the British to commemorate the battle.

One man died and dozens of cars were burned in clashes between the two groups. At least 100 Dalits were reportedly arrested in the protests that followed on Tuesday, which quickly spread to Mumbai and drew national media attention.

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On Wednesday, outside Chembur railway station, a centre for the protests, one activist said police had been trying to shut down demonstrations in a “brutal” fashion.

“They attacked us with lathis [clubs],” the young man identifying himself as Sumit said. “I have a mark here on my back from last night.”

There were reports of journalists being attacked and vocal anger towards the media, whom one protester accused of ignoring violence against Dalits and being “sold to politicians”.

“Our women and small children were attacked in Bhima Koregaon and in Mumbai,” said the demonstrator, Rajesh. “Why don’t they talk about that?”

Fleets of protesters on motorbikes were also seen roaming the empty streets of Mumbai shouting “Jai Bhim”, a Dalit protest slogan.

Order began to return to the city by early evening on Wednesday after a key Dalit leader, Prakash Ambedkar, called for an end to the protests.

The Maharashtra chief minister, Devendra Fadnavis, has asked for a judicial inquiry into Monday’s violence.

Caste was officially abolished by the Indian constitution in 1950 but remains deeply embedded in social customs and still shapes the lives of most Hindus.

  • Additional reporting by Anish Gawande in Mumbai