South Asia Theater
Nepal over the past weeks has repeatedly seen both anti-India and anti-China protests, concerning charges that both of the country's giant neighbors are claiming pieces of its territory. On Nov. 19, President Xi Jinping was burned in effigy at one protest. Confusingly, nearly all accounts (seemingly drawing from one report by Asian News International in Hindustan Times) placed the protest in "Saptari, Bardiya, Kapilvastu district," but these are actually three different districts, not even bordering each other, and all along the border with India rather than China. (See Wikipedia entries for Saptari, Bardiya and Kapilvastu districts.) This may loan credence to claims that the anti-China protests were fomented by India. A week earlier, protesters in Kathmandu burned a map of India, Al Jazeera reports.
The Supreme Court of India issued a unanimous ruling Nov. 9 in the decades-long Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land case, finding for the Hindus. A small plot of land, of about 1,500 square yards, in the city of Ayodhya in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh has traditionally been believed by Hindus to be the birthplace of the god Ram. The location is also venerated by Muslims because it was the site of the Babri Masjid, a mosque built in the sixteenth century by the first Mughal emperor Babur. Both religious communities have fought over ownership of the site since the beginning of the British Raj in 1857. The current case came out of appeals of four different suits filed from 1950 to 1989.
Police in south India's Tamil Nadu state have detained nine Tibetan activists, apparently in a move to pre-empt protests ahead of the upcoming visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping for bilateral talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Among those arrested was Tibetan writer and poet Tenzin Tsundue, who was detained Oct. 13 in the town of Kottakuppam, within 100 kilometers of Mamallapuram, the city where the three-day summit is to be held. Tenzin had been arrested twice previously during visits by Chinese leaders. In 2002, Tsundue unfurled a banner reading "Free Tibet" at a hotel in Mumbai where Chinese premier Zhu Rongji was speaking. He was again arrested in Bangalore in 2005 for protesting then Chinese premier Wen Jiabao. Police in Tamil Nadu said he was planning a similar action during Xi's visit.
Thousands of university students have held protests in Bangladesh, blocking roads in Dhaka and other cities, since the Oct. 6 killing of an undergraduate student, Abrar Fahad, who was beaten to death at the prestigious Bangladesh University of Engineering Technology (BUET). Several campus militants of the Chhatra League, youth wing of the ruling Awami League, have been arrested in the slaying. BUET administrators initially said Fahad died while being "interrogated" on suspicion of belonging to the Islami Chhatra Shibir, youth wing of the Jamaat-e-Islami, an oficially banned opposition group. But protesters say what was really at issue was Fahad's recent Facebook post critical of a water-sharing agreement just signed between Bangladesh and India during Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's visit to New Delhi. Under the agreement, signed one day before the murder, India is granted the right to withdraw 1.82 cusec (185,532 liters per hour) of water from Feni River.
Amid moves toward mass detention of Muslims in Kashmir and Assam, a growing atmosphere of terror, and persecution of government critics, 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 progressive while embracing the fascistic Modi must be exposed and repudiated. Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon.
Rights groups say there's a "climate of intense fear" in the Bangladesh refugee camps for Rohingya who have fled Burma, following the killings of six refugees by police officers. Police officials say the men were involved in the murder of a local Bangladeshi man and killed in "crossfires"; critics say such language is often used to cover up extrajudicial killings. Tensions with the host community in southern Bangladesh have risen over the last two years as the refugee emergency evolves into a long-term crisis. This week, six UN rights watchdogs warned of escalating restrictions in the refugee camps following the Bangladeshi man's murder, a failed attempt to kickstart refugee returns to Burma, and a large protest marking two years since more than 700,000 Rohingya were forced out of Burma. What the watchdogs call a "sudden crackdown" includes a ban on mobile phone services, suspensions of some NGOs working in the camps, and renewed discussions on surrounding the massive camps with barbed-wire fences. Most Rohingya say they want to return to Burma if their safety and citizenship are guaranteed. But a UN rights probe released this week noted that little has changed in the Rohingya homeland of Rakhine State: "If anything, the situation of the Rohingya in Myanmar [Burma] is worse," investigators reported.
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 draft National Registry of Citizens. supposedly lisiting all those who legally reside in the territory. Four million people, mostly Muslims who have been living in India for decades, were excluded from the list. Those people have until Aug. 31 to prove their residence in India before a 1971 cut-off point, or they will be deemed illegal. State authorities are rapidly expanding tribunals to determine citizenship status, and planning huge new detention camps for those deemed aliens. Many of those whose citizenship is now being questioned were born in India and have exercized full citizenship rights, such as voting. Rights groups are warning of a "Rohingya-like refugee crisis" in the making. Like the Rohingya of Burma, many Assamese Muslims are considered by authorities to be Bangladeshi citizens—yet this citizenship is not recognized by Bangladesh. (Gzero, SBS News, Indian Muslim Observer)
India's government has flooded the northern state of Jammu & Kashmir with troops and cut off internet access upon announcing Aug. 5 the revocation of its constitutionally protected autonomy, and plans to divide the disputed territory into two new political entities with reduced power. Section 144 of India's criminal code, imposing emergency measures, has been instated in the capital Srinagar, and two leading opposition politicians in the territory's legislature, Omar Abdullah of the National Conference and Mehbooba Mufti of the Peoples Democratic Party, have been placed under house arrest.