Julie McCarthy

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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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

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.

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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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

For generations, India has tried to embrace religious freedom despite a history of religious violence. A recent election in the country's largest state is putting that tension front and center again. Here's NPR's Julie McCarthy.

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