The high court in India's Uttarakhand state issued a ruling March 20 recognizing the Ganga (Ganges) and Yamuna as "living entities," officially giving these rivers that have seen long years of ecological damage a legal voice. "This order may be seen as a precedent and come across as strange but it is not any different from the status of being a legal entity as in the case of family trusts or a company," said Raj Panjwani, attorney with India's National Green Tribunal, a body charged with prosecuting enviromental crimes. Under the ruling, the rivers are accorded all rights guaranteed by India's constitution, including the right not to be harmed or destroyed. The ruling, which comes in a public interest litigation brought by the NGT, mandates action by the national government if Uttarakhand state authorities fail to meet their responsibilities regarding the rivers.
The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists on Jan. 26 moved the minute hand of its symbolic Doomsday Clock from three minutes to two-and-a-half minutes to midnight. On this year that marks the 70th anniversary of the Doomsday Clock, the Bulletin notes (full text at PDF; links added by CountrerVortex): "The United States and Russia—which together possess more than 90 percent of the world's nuclear weapons—remained at odds in a variety of theaters, from Syria to Ukraine to the borders of NATO; both countries continued wide-ranging modernizations of their nuclear forces, and serious arms control negotiations were nowhere to be seen. North Korea conducted its fourth and fifth underground nuclear tests and gave every indication it would continue to develop nuclear weapons delivery capabilities. Threats of nuclear warfare hung in the background as Pakistan and India faced each other warily across the Line of Control in Kashmir after militants attacked two Indian army bases."
Our last annotated assessment of Barack Obama's moves in dismantling, continuing and escalating (he has done all three) the oppressive apparatus of the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT) must inevitably be viewed in light of the current countdown to the death of democracy and the imminent despotism of Donald Trump. The fact that the transition is happening at all is a final contradiction of Obama's legacy. He is fully cooperating in it, even as his own intelligence agencies document how the election was tainted. Following official findings that Russia meddled in the elections, the White House has slapped new sanctions on Russia—deporting 35 Russian officials suspected of being intelligence operatives and shutting down two Russian facilities in New York and Maryland, both suspected of being used for intelligence-related purposes. The latest bizarre revelation—that Russian intelligence can blackmail Trump with information about his "perverted sexual acts" involving prostitutes at a Moscow hotel—broke just hours before Obama delivered his Farewell Address in Chicago. The speech was surreally optimistic in light of the actual situation in the country, and contained only a few veiled swipes at Trump. The best of them was this: "If every economic issue is framed as a struggle between a hardworking white middle class and undeserving minorities, then workers of all shades will be left fighting for scraps while the wealthy withdraw further into their private enclaves."
The UN on Oct. 27 adopted a resolution—hailed by disarmament campaigners as an important landmark—to launch negotiations in 2017 on a treaty outlawing nuclear weapons. The resolution was approved at a meeting of the First Committee of the General Assembly, which deals with disarmament and international security matters. A total of 123 nations voted in favor of the resolution, with 38 voting against and 16 abstaining. The resolution will set up a UN conference beginning in March next year, open to all member states, to negotiate a "legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination." Among the 57 co-sponsors of the resolution, Austria, Brazil, Ireland, Mexico, Nigeria and South Africa took the lead.
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) on Oct. 5 refused (PDF) to hear a claim by the Marshall Islands that the UK, India and Pakistan have failed to halt the nuclear arms race, finding that it does not have jurisdiction over the matter. The Marshall Islands was the site for numerous nuclear tests carried out by the US during the Cold War arms race, and claims that such experience allows it to testify on the danger of a nuclear arms race. The nation accused nine countries of not complying with the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation (PDF). However, the ICJ can only consider the cases for Britain, India and Pakistan, as China, France, Israel, North Korea, Russia and the US have not recognized the court's jurisdiction. The Marshall Islands claims that these countries have breached their obligations under the treaty, which commits all states with nuclear capabilities "to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament."
India's highest court ordered (PDF) the state of Karnataka to share water with the neighboring state of Tamil Nadu on Sept. 12. The two states have disputed rights to the Cauvery River for decades. Last week the court ruled that Karnataka must share 15,000 cubic feet per second for 10 days, but Karnataka appealed that decision. Karnataka officials argued that the state does not have enough water to share and that Tamil Nadu is not suffering hardship over the water. The court ordered Karnataka to release 12,000 cubic feet per second instead of 15,000. After the decision violent protests erupted which led to attacks on hotels, shops, and buses. In response, police deployed 15,000 officers to the area and are prohibiting large public gatherings.
The India branch of Amnesty International (AI) temporarily closed its office Aug. 17 after the organization was accused of sedition and anti-India sentiments. The accusations arose after AI promoted a human rights seminar in Kashmir, focusing on alleged human rights abuses carried out by the Indian security forces. AI responded to the accusations by stating that the accusations "are preventing the families of victims of human rights violations in Jammu and Kashmir from having their stories heard. And preventing civil society organisations from enabling these families to exercise their constitutional right to justice."
Protesting the flogging of a Dalit ("Untouchable") family in Una, Gujarat state, for skinning a dead cow, thousands of Dalits gathered in state capital Ahmedabad July 31 to declare a new mobilization for their rights and diginity. They announced a cross-county march from Ahmedabad to Una, to arrive on Aug. 15, India's Independence Day. Leaders asked Dalits to stop disposing dead cattle and cleaning sewers to "send a strong message" to the state government. The Una Dalit Atyachar Ladat Samiti (UDALS), which is organizing the march, accuses the BJP government in Gujarat of giving a free hand to gau rakshaks—Hindu fundamentalist "cattle vigilantes" who have launched a series of attacks on Dalits, Muslims and others to enforce reverance for the sacred cow and their proclaimed ban on beef consumption. (Indian Express, Aug. 1; Indian Express, July 31)