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Lauren Frayer

Lauren Frayer covers India for NPR News. In June 2018, she opened a new NPR bureau in India's biggest city, its financial center, and the heart of Bollywood—Mumbai.

Before moving to India, Lauren was a regular freelance contributor to NPR for seven years, based in Madrid. During that time, she substituted for NPR bureau chiefs in Seoul, London, Istanbul, Islamabad, and Jerusalem. She also served as a guest host of Weekend Edition Sunday.

In Europe, Lauren chronicled the economic crisis in Spain & Portugal, where youth unemployment spiked above 50%. She profiled a Portuguese opera singer-turned protest leader, and a 90-year-old survivor of the Spanish Civil War, exhuming her father's remains from a 1930s-era mass grave. From Paris, Lauren reported live on NPR's Morning Edition, as French police moved in on the Charlie Hebdo terror suspects. In the fall of 2015, Lauren spent nearly two months covering the flow of migrants & refugees across Hungary & the Balkans – and profiled a Syrian rapper among them. She interviewed a Holocaust survivor who owed his life to one kind stranger, and managed to get a rare interview with the Dutch far-right leader Geert Wilders – by sticking her microphone between his bodyguards in the Hague.

Farther afield, she introduced NPR listeners to a Pakistani TV evangelist, a Palestinian surfer girl in Gaza, and K-pop performers campaigning in South Korea's presidential election.

Lauren has also contributed to The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and the BBC.

Her international career began in the Middle East, where she was an editor on the Associated Press' Middle East regional desk in Cairo, and covered the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war in Syria and southern Lebanon. In 2007, she spent a year embedded with U.S. troops in Iraq, an assignment for which the AP nominated her and her colleagues for a Pulitzer Prize.

On a break from journalism, Lauren drove a Land Rover across Africa for a year, from Cairo to Cape Town, sleeping in a tent on the car's roof. She once made the front page of a Pakistani newspaper, simply for being a woman commuting to work in Islamabad on a bicycle.

Born and raised in a suburb of New York City, Lauren holds a bachelor's degree in philosophy from The College of William & Mary in Virginia. She speaks Spanish, Portuguese, rusty French and Arabic, and is now learning Hindi.

Pakistani TV shows a bloodied Indian fighter pilot in captivity, sipping tea while being interrogated. He addresses his captor as "sir." But he refuses to divulge any information.

Bindu Sampath listens over and over to a voicemail of the giggling granddaughter she's never met. She wonders if she ever will.

Sampath's daughter Nimisha, the child's mother, abruptly left their native India three years ago. She'd gone to dental school a few hundred miles north of their hometown in the southwestern state of Kerala. It was there that she met her future husband. She converted to Islam from Hinduism, and he from Christianity. Authorities say they both joined ISIS.

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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been reelected and his party is poised to take more seats than the 2014 election, signaling India's support of the strongman leader and his Hindu nationalist ideology.

The voting lasted almost six weeks to accommodate nearly 900 million people who were eligible to cast their votes.

On Thursday, the ballots were counted and results showed Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party, or BJP, winning more seats than any other party.

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

It looks like a landslide victory for Prime Minister Narendra Modi in India. Votes are still being counted today after elections that lasted six weeks. NPR's Lauren Frayer has been following all of it, and she joins us live from Mumbai.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Early vote results show a landslide victory for Prime Minister Narendra Modi in India. Votes are being counted today after elections that lasted six weeks. NPR's Lauren Frayer has been following it and joins us from Mumbai.

In a dusty lot between farm fields, an Indian Cabinet minister wades into a crowd of supporters chanting his name. Local men climb a tree to catch a glimpse of the famous politician. Women in colorful saris fan their babies in 100-degree heat, and applaud.

Rural communities like this one in India's most populous state, Uttar Pradesh, are where Indian elections are hard fought and won. Two-thirds of Indians live in the countryside, and they vote at a higher rate than their urban counterparts.

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Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Tobiron Nessa has lived in the same impoverished village in northeast India all her life. So has her husband. They married young and raised five children, and now, at age 45, Nessa is about to become a grandmother.

But she has suddenly found herself in an unexpected predicament: Nessa is now the only one in her immediate family whom the Indian government recognizes as a citizen. Her husband and five children have all been left off the National Register of Citizens.

Before dawn, men gather in a suburban Mumbai park to play team-building games, meditate, chant Sanskrit mantras from Hindu scripture and salute a saffron-orange flag — the color, sacred to Hindus, of robes worn by Hindu monks.

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Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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Outside a barn in a jungle north of Mumbai, dozens of cows roam in the shade of mango trees and palm fronds. They're doted on by the farm's caretaker, a Hindu monk draped in white robes.

Cows are sacred to Hindus. Saved from slaughter, they live out their days in tranquility at shelters like this across India, courtesy of donations made by worshipers at temples.

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At 80, Syed Ikhlaq Latifi's face is lined and leathery, with a stark white beard. But he's still able to scramble up three flights of stairs to his roof to describe what he watched from there, in horror, nearly 30 years ago.

On Dec. 6, 1992, a mob broke through barricades around the Babri Masjid, a 16th century mosque in Latifi's hometown of Ayodhya in northern India. He points to where the mosque's three massive stone domes used to be. It's now an open, dusty lot, as wide as a football field, lined with barbed wire.

A husband and wife. A pair of brothers from a wealthy, upper-class family. A man with a law degree. Another who studied in the United Kingdom and did postgraduate work in Australia, before coming home to settle down in his native Sri Lanka.

Those are the profiles emerging Wednesday, according to Sri Lankan officials and local media, of the suicide bombers who killed more than 350 people in sophisticated, coordinated attacks on churches and hotels there on Easter Sunday. If the Islamic State's claim of responsibility is true, it would be the group's deadliest terror attack.

Tens of millions of Hindus took a ritual dip in the Ganges River this winter as part of the largest religious festival in the world — the Kumbh Mela. For centuries, the festival has been held in various cities in northern India, including Allahabad.

But when pilgrims arrived this year for the Kumbh Mela, Allahabad had a different name.

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

So a number of arrests in Sri Lanka, and the government there has named an Islamist militant group it believes carried out yesterday's attacks. For more on that group, we called on NPR's Lauren Frayer. She reports on South Asia from Mumbai.

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