South Asia
tripura

India: press freedom at stake amid communal violence

Charges under India’s draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) have been brought against two human rights advocates and a journalist for their reporting on an outbreak of communal violence in the northeastern state of Tripura. Widespread attacks on Muslims erupted in response to attacks on Hindus across the border in Bangladesh during the Durga Puja festival. In the Tripura violence, mosques were vandalized, and Muslim shops and homes ransacked. These attacks were denied by the authorities until they were documented in a report by the rights advocates—who now face criminal charges for their efforts. Journalist Shyam Meera Singh was charged merely for tweeting “Tripura is burning.” (Photo via Twitter)

South Asia
ayodhya

Indian writer sued over Hindutva-jihad comparison

A criminal complaint was registered against Indian politician and former union minister Salman Khurshid over statements made in his recent book Sunrise over Ayodhya: Nationhood in Our Times. The complaint was filed under sections of the Indian Penal Code that protect “religious sentiments.” It alleges that Khurshid offended the religious sentiments of Hindus by comparing Hindutva (Hindu nationalism) with the ideology of terror groups such as ISIS and Boko Haram. Khurshid’s book on the Ayodhya holy site dispute created an uproar upon its release, with Hindu militant organizations calling for its suppression. (Image: Penguin Books)

South Asia
Maharashtra

India: anti-mine protesters face repression

Police in Gadchiroli district of India’s Maharashtra state broke up a thiya andolan (sit-in) by local peasants and adivasis (tribal people) at the site of the contested Surjagarh iron-ore mining project, and arrested six of the organizers. Gadchiroli is within central India’s “Red Corridor” of Naxalite guerilla activity, and local authorities accuse the rebels of stirring up the protests. Following a demonstration at the mine site earlier in the week, two attendees were arrested by a local police “special operations team” as they departed, on charges of being Naxals. The mine at Surjagarh, in Etapalli taluka (subdistrict), is under lease by Lloyds Metals & Energy Ltd (LMEL). Since it began operations in June, it has faced repeated protests from local residents over its ecological impacts and usurpation of traditional lands. (Map: Google)

South Asia
underground asia

Book review: Underground Asia

A dauntingly detailed book from Harvard University Press on the roots of Asia’s anti-colonial movements documents the early influence of anarchism, and how it was ultimately displaced by nationalisms of different stripes—from the Moscow-aligned Leninist nationalism of Ho Chi Minh, to the fascist-inspired Hindutva movement that effectively rules India today. The early vision of a universalist, libertarian anti-colonialism evokes a tantalizing sense of what might have been. A timely book for a moment of re-emerging popular rebellion, from the militant farmer protests in India to the pro-democracy upsurges in Thailand, Burma and Hong Kong. (Image: Harvard University Press)

South Asia
adivasis

India: tribal rights activists accused as ‘Naxals’

The Bombay High Court issued a notice to India’s National Investigation Agency (NIA), directing it to file a reply to the bail plea of Anand Teltumbde, a Goa-based professor and civil rights activist who faces charges under the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) in relation to the notorious Bhima Koregaon case. In the case, dating to 2018, several advocates for Dalits (“untouchables”) and Adivasis (tribal peoples) are accused of links to the Maoist guerillas known as the Naxalites. Fifteen face lengthy prison terms and are still being denied bail. The case was back in the news in July, when a 16th among the accused, Jesuit priest Father Stan Swamy, 84, died in a hospital in Mumbai after taking ill in jail. His medical bail plea was still pending when he expired. (Photo via Intercontinental Cry)

South Asia
kashmir

Kashmir under internet blackout —again

Indian-administered Kashmir was plunged back into internet darkness as India’s central authorities enforced lockdowns and a news blackout following the death of Syed Ali Geelani, a prominent separatist leader. Geelani’s body was immediately seized by authorities, and buried in a quiet funeral held under harsh restrictions. His son, Naseem Geelani, said the family had planned to bury him at the main martyrs’ cemetery in Srinagar, as specified in his will, but was not allowed to do so. Police also charged family members under an anti-terrorism law for wrapping his body in the Pakistani flag and raising anti-India slogans. Kashmir spent months without internet following an August 2019 crackdown. High-speed mobile internet was only restored earlier this year. (Photo: Kashmir Global via Nationalia)

South Asia
Mushtaq Ahmed

Bangladesh: protests erupt as writer dies in prison

Hundreds of demonstrators took to the streets and blocked intersections in Dhaka to protest the death of a writer and commentator in prison, who had been charged under Bangladesh’s controversial Digital Security Act (DSA). The deceased, popular author and blogger Mushtaq Ahmed, had been arrested last May after posting comments on social media in which he criticized the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. At least 10 others were also charged with sedition under the DSA that month, including political cartoonist Kabir Kishore, who remains imprisoned. At a court hearing last month, Kishore passed a note to his brother stating that he had been physically abused in prison, resulting in severe injuries. The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists is demanding his release, and that the claim of maltreatment be investigated. (Photo via Twitter)

Africa
Chagos Islands

UN tribunal rejects UK rule of Chagos Islands

The International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea ruled that the United Kingdom does not hold sovereignty over the Chagos Islands, allowing a maritime border dispute between Mauritius and Maldives to be adjudicated. The ruling follows an objection from the Maldives, which claimed the tribunal could not decide the matter due to the existing dispute between Mauritius and the UK. The decision confirms the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice that the UK had unlawfully detached the archipelago from Mauritius when it incorporated the islands into the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) in 1965, during the decolonization of Mauritius. The UK has rejected calls for returning the islands to Mauritius, considering them strategic to its security interests. The Chagos Archipelago hosts a US military base on the island of Diego Garcia. (Photo: WILPF)

South Asia
ahmadiyya

Pakistan: crackdown on internet ‘blasphemy’

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has issued notices to Google and Wikipedia censuring them for “disseminating sacrilegious content” through their platforms. The notices accused the these sites of hosting “misleading” content referencing the present khalifa (spiritual head) of Islam. The PTA specifically cited articles and search results allegedly portraying Mirza Masroor Ahmad, the current leader of the Ahmadiyya Muslim sect, as the “present khalifa of Islam.” Additionally, the PTA demanded the platforms remove an “unauthentic” version of the Quran published by the Ahmadiyya community from the Google Play Store. The PTA warned the platforms “to remove the sacrilegious content to avoid any legal action” under the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act. (Image: Ahmadi Answers)

South Asia
kashmir

India extends internet restrictions in Kashmir

The government in the Indian union territory of Jammu & Kashmir issued an order extending the suspension of high-speed 4G internet services. The government said it received credible reports of terrorists attempting to infiltrate from across the Line of Control that separates the territory from Pakistan-controlled Kashmir. The order ostensibly seeks to deter recruitment of youth into terrorist groups, and the circulation of provocative videos and “fake news” on social media. The restrictions are held to constitute the longest such outage ever imposed by a “democratic” government. The Jammu-Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) called the outage a form of “collective punishment” against Kashmiris and accused New Delhi of “digital apartheid.” (Photo: Daniel Bachhuber/Flickr via Oxford Human Rights Hub)

South Asia
hazara

Pakistan: Hazara massacre sparks hunger strike

Members of Pakistan’s Hazara people have launched a sit-in and public hunger strike after a massacre targeted the Shi’ite minority at a coal-field in a remote area of Balochistan province. Hundreds have been blocking a major thoroughfare through the provincial capital, Quetta. Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid was sent in to meet with a delegation of the Majlis-e-Wahdatul Muslimeen, the organization leading the sit-in, but his offer of compensation to victims’ families was rebuffed. In the attack, armed men rounded up miners from worker housing at the coal-field. Those determined to be Hazara, 11 in all, were marched into the hills and summarily shot. Many had their throats slit or were otherwise mutilated. The local franchise of the “Islamic State” claimed responsibility for the massacre. Families of the victims are refusing to bury their loved ones, but have brought the bodies to the site of the sit-in, demanding the Balochistan government either arrest the killers or resign. (Photo via Twitter)

South Asia
Karima Baloch

Pakistani rights activist found slain in Toronto

Pakistani human rights activist Karima Baloch, 37, was found dead in Toronto, Canada. Baloch went missing the previous day. The Toronto Police stated that “officers have determined this to be a non-criminal death and no foul play is suspected.” But Baloch, from Pakistan’s restive Balochistan region, fled her country in 2015 because of threats on her life. As a campaigner with the Baloch Students’ Organization, she harshly criticized the Pakistani military and state over ongoing rights abuses in the region. She continued to campaign for the rights of people in Balochistan while in exile, and the threats against her did not stop after she left Pakistan. Baloch’s close friend, Lateef Johar Baloch, told reporters that she had recently received anonymous threats. (Photo via TimesNowNews, India)