In Episode 178 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg notes the new eruption of ethnic violence in Northeast India’s state of Manipur, which was the scene of far deadlier inter-communal clashes last month. The spark was the current bid by the Meitei people to become a “scheduled tribe,” granting them access to resource-rich forestlands. This is opposed by the Kuki and Naga peoples, whose tribes are already “scheduled”—but are nonetheless being targeted for eviction from Manipur’s forestlands under the guise of a crackdown on opium cultivation. The Kuki and Naga leadership perceive a land-grab for their ancestral forest territory by the Meitei—the dominant group in Manipur, who already control the best agricultural land in the state’s central Imphal Valley. The Kuki (including their Jewish sub-group, the Bnei Menashe) and Naga have long waged insurgencies seeking territorial autonomy, or even independence from India. And both their traditional territories extend across the border into Burma (where the Kuki are known as the Chin), pointing to potential convergence of the armed conflicts either side of the international line. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Photo of Naga festival: Yves Picq via Wikimedia Commons)
Hindu militant groups disrupted Christmas celebrations and vandalized decorations in parts of India this season. The most serious incident was in Silchar, Assam state, where apparent followers of the Bajrang Dal “manhandled” Hindu youth who attempted to join observances at a Presbyterian Church on Christmas Day. Bajrang Dal is the youth arm of the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP), a right-wing organization allied with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The VHP has been named as one of the groups involved in the 2002 Gujarat genocide. So it turns out that in one country on Earth where there really is a “War on Christmas,” it is being waged by followers of Donald Trump’s good friend and ally Narendra Modi. Life’s little ironies. (Photo via Article 14)
If nothing sad happens in the next weeks, India’s restive Northeastern region will complete another year without any incident of journo-murder, maintaining a hopeful trend. The region, comprising eight states with multiple armed insurgencies, witnessed the slaying of journalists for the last time in 2017. However, the country as a whole continues to lose scribes to targeted killings. To date, the nation in 2021 has seen the murder of five journalists, while acclaimed Indian photojournalist Danish Siddiqui was killed in Afghanistan. India lost 15 scribes to assailants in 2020, one of the worst records on Earth. (Map via TFI Post)
China has mobilized thousands of troops backed up by armored vehicles to a contested area along the border with India in the Himalayas, where troops last month hurled stones at each other across the unmarked boundary known as the Line of Actual Control (LAC). The area in question is in the Galwan River valley between Ladakh, in Indian-administered Kashmir, and Chinese-administered Aksai Chin. Top generals from both sides held talks in Moldo, on the Chinese side, but tensions remain high. India charges that Chinese forces are hindering patrols by its troops along the LAC in Ladakh and Sikkim, and refutes Beijing’s claim that Indian forces have crossed to the Chinese side. (Map via Wikipedia)
In Episode 47 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg speaks with Punnag Tej Hazarika of the Brooklyn-based small-press imprint Coolgrove and affiliated BorderTalk blog, which explores questions of cultural intersection. Among Coolgrove’s recent titles is Winged Horse: 76 Assamese Songs, a collection of translated lyrics by Tej’s father, Bhupen Hazarika, the “Bard of Brahmaputra,” who campaigned through his music for a dignified place in India for the peoples of Assam and other minority ethnicities. Last year, Tej traveled to New Delhi to receive the Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian award, on behalf of his late father. But the honor came with India—and especially Assam and the restive Northeast—on the cusp of exploding into protest over the Citizenship Amendment Act. The politics of the situation, and dilemmas of interculturality from Assam to New York, are discussed in a wide-ranging interview. Listen on SoundCloud, or via Patreon. (Photo via Time 8, Guwahati)
In Episode 45 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg notes with alarm the rapid consolidation of a global detention state, extending across borders and rival power blocs. In the United States, Trump moves toward indefinite detention of undocumented migrants, with horrific rights abuses widespread in the fast-expanding camp system. In China, up to a million Uighurs have been detained in “re-education camps,” and are facing such abuses as forced sterilization. As India hypocritically protests China’s treatment of the Uighurs, it is also preparing mass detention of its own Muslim population. Russia’s Vladimir Putin is similarly preparing mass detention of the Crimean Tatars. In Syria, the Bashar Assad regime has detained hundreds of thousands, and is carrying out a mass extermination of prisoners, almost certainly amounting to genocide. In Libya, countless thousands of desperate migrants have been detained, often by completely unaccountable militias, and an actual slave trade in captured Black African migrants has emerged. Yet Trump exploits the mass internment of the Uighurs to score propaganda points against imperial rival China—and some “leftists” (sic) in the US are so confused as to actually defend China’s detention state. International solidarity is urgently needed at this desperate moment to repudiate such divide-and-rule stratagems. Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon. (Photo of Homeland Security’s Otay Mesa Detention Center from BBC World Service via Flickr)
India’s northeastern state of Assam has exploded into protest over the passage of a new national citizenship law. The army has been deployed, a curfew imposed in state capital Guwahati, and internet access cut off. At least five people have been killed as security forces fired on demonstrators. The new law allows religious minorities from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan to apply for Indian citizenship. This means it effectively excludes Muslims, and mostly apples to Hindus and Sikhs. Critics of the ruling Hindu-nationalist government say it therefore violates India’s founding secular principles. But while secularists and Muslims are protesting the Citizenship Amendment Act on this basis elsewhere in India, the biggest protests have been in Assam—motivated by fear that the state will be overrun by an influx from Bangladesh, threatening its cultural and linguistic identity. (Image: Sowmya Reddy)
Amid moves toward mass detention of Muslims in Kashmir and Assam, a growing atmosphere of terror, and persecution of government critcs, India’s arch-reactionary Prime Minister Narendra Modi cynically places an op-ed in the New York Times extolling Mohandas Gandhi on his 150th birthday. In Episode 40 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg calls this out as Orwellian propaganda, and documents the historical reality: Modi is not the inheritor of the tradition of Gandhi, but that of his assassin. Those who assert that Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party has fascist roots are factually correct. Progressives in recent years have been rethinking the sanctification of Gandhi, and that is one thing. But Modi should not be allowed to get away with wrapping himself in the legacy of a man who was the antithesis of everything he represents. And US political figures like Tulsi Gabbard who pretend to be progressives while embracing the fascistic Modi must be exposed and repudiated. Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon.. (Photo via Biography.com)
Well, this is grimly hilarious. Genocide Watch has issued two “warning alerts” for India—one for Kashmir and the other for Assam, with Muslims held to be at grave imminent risk of persecution and mass detention in both. Pakistan’s semi-official media are jumping all over this news, which is hardly surprising. But Pakistan is closely aligned with China due to their mutual rivalry with India, so it is also hardly surprising that Pakistani media have failed to similarly jump on the Genocide Watch report on the Uighurs of Xinjiang—despite the fact that the group categorizes the situation there as “preparation” for genocide, a more urgent level than “warning.” China itself has issued a protest to India over the situation in Kashmir. Delhi shot back that Kashmir is an internal matter. Beijing has been similarly dismissive of India’s protests over the mass detention in Xinjiang. (Photo via Bitter Winter)
In the coming days, up to four million Muslims in India’s northeastern state of Assam could find themselves officially stateless, and facing detention or expulsion from the country. Last year, the Assam state government published a National Registry of Citizens—excluding the state’s Muslims, who now have until Aug. 31 to prove their residence in India before a 1971 cut-off point. State authorities are planning huge new detention camps for those deemed aliens. Rights groups are warning of a “Rohingya-like refugee crisis” in the making. Like the Rohingya of Burma, Assam’s Muslims are considered by authorities to be Bangladeshi citizens—yet this citizenship is not recognized by Bangladesh. (Photo via KashmirWatch)
Rival factions of India's longest running ethnic insurgency are divided on whether to accept a peace deal with the government—as Delhi turns up military heat on the hold-outs.
National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) militants shot dead at least 50 adivasis, or tribal people, in a wave of coordinated attacks across India's northeast state of Assam.