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On 16 February 2015, Two motor cycle borne persons shot at Govind Pansare, the 81 years old CPI leader, and his wife Uma, when they were on a morning walk, near their residence in Kohapur. A bullet hit Uma’s head, she survived the attack but suffered paralysis. Pansare died on 20 February 2015, while undergoing treatment in a Mumbai hospital. Police suspect that Vishnu Gaikward, a ‘’full time member’’ of radical Hindu organisation Sanathan Sanstha had conducted a reconnaissance of the spot, where Pansare was killed. Police are probing if Gaikward had a role in the murders of rationalist Narendra Dabholkar and Kannada scholar Kalburgi. The academic and writer, M M Kalburgi from Karnataka, was shot in the head at his home. He spoke out against idol worship, and angered hard-line Hindu groups. The motive for Kalburgi’s killing is unknown, but the 77-year-old had been given police protection in the past, after receiving death threats from Hindu hard-liners. Kalburgi regularly spoke out against superstitions, and had questioned the worth of idol worship by Hindus. Rationality has no meaning to the religious fanatics. It doesn’t matter whether they belong to this faith or that.

Violence in Kashmir
Kashmir Valley witnessed 113 militancy related incidents in 2013. This increased to 155 in 2014. In 2015, there were around 160 incidents of conflict. The 25-year-old Kashmir militancy has been characterised in 2015, by mysterious killings, repeated attacks on mobile networks, weapon snatching and other illegal militant activities. The indigenous Hizbul Mujahideen is the dominant militant group now. The militancy incident figures of 2013, are probably the lowest since 1990. Since Kashmir Valley plunged into violence in the late 1980s, the violent incidents of 2015 are unusual and do not fit into the pattern of militancy observed in the valley earlier. Mid-September 2015, the bodies of three young men were discovered in an orchard in Pattan. At least one of them belonged to Laskkar-e-Islam, reportedly a splinter group of Hizbul Mujahideen. There are allegations by Hizbul Chief Syed Salahuddin that the militants were tortured and killed by security forces. Since May 2015, the LeI group carried over two dozen attacks on mobile phone towers. This was in retaliation for the seizure of a communication system that militants had installed on a telecom tower in Sopore. The LeI has been issuing posters in Urdu, in various towns of Kashmir, with warnings to people to stop running mobile phone business, and demanding those with towers on their premises to switch them off. Girls have been warned not to use mobile phones. As panic spread, hundreds of towers were switched off. There were sporadic attacks on installations related to the mobile phone business. Though there has been a lesser number of suicide explosions and high impact improvised explosive devices blowing-up, milder grenade throwing and weapon snatching has become routine. Militants are firing at road opening parties of the Central Reserve Police Force in Anantanag and Pulwama, and snatching AK-47 rifles and Insas rifles.

War in Syria
Russia and Iran remain resolutely opposed to Syria’s President Assad’s removal, under any circumstances. After a meeting in late July 2015, between Russia’s President Putin and Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s Quds Force, the international arm of the Revolutionary Guard, Russia has been escalating its military build-up in Syria, as part of secret deal with Iran, to steady up the Assad regime. More than 1000 Russian troops are in place, alongside special forces units deployed recently in eastern Ukraine. Russian tanks, armoured cars, helicopters and unmanned drones have been shipped into Syria, in Antonov AN-124 cargo planes. Special communications equipment, housing units, and other logistical support have been established. The Russians are in a strong position to mount an assault, and prepared to be there for some time. Russia claims that supporting Assad’s forces could help tackle the rise of ISIS.

Germany’s Demographics
Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany presides over a ‘grand coalition’ that does not face any parliamentary challenge from the right. The country expects to absorb at least 500,000 refugees from Africa and the Middle East for 2015, and an equal number of other migrants every year. This amounts to an annual one million newcomers. Germany’s population was set to shrink from 80 million to 70 million by 2050. Britain was expected to have overtaken Germany, as the most populous nation in western Europe. This would leave fewer than two people of working age in Germany, to support one pensioner, in the country’s generous welfare state. Thanks to the migration influx, Germany’s population will be growing in the next years. Between 1955 and 1973, millions of workers from southern Europe and Turkey were hired in Germany, to fill jobs in the booming job market. More than 16 million Germans have a ‘‘migration background’’. Most refugees are young, well-educated and highly motivated. Germany cannot any more fill the jobs available with Germans only. The migrants could, like the guest workers (Gastarbeiter) from decades ago help preserve and improve Germany’s prosperity. Germany will spend 3.3 billion Euro more for language lessons and benefits during training for refugees in 2016 alone, or about 7 billion Euro a year by 2019. There is almost united response of Germany’s government, industry and media to Europe’s largest refugee crisis, since the Second World War.

Colombians Flee Venezuela
Crossing the Simon Bolivar bridge, over the Colorado river, hundreds of Colombians are fleeing across the border, running from a crackdown on immigrants, initiated by Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro. Since 21 August 2015, the Venezuelans President has ordered troops to close the border, in response to an episode in which three Venezuelan soldiers were shot and wounded by an attack from a Colombian para-military group, obeying the orders of a former Colombian President, Alvaro Uribe. Mr Maduro says the Colombian immigrants include smugglers, who carry much needed goods out of Venezuela, worsening chronic shortages, and black marketers who drive up prices for products in Venezuela, where inflation is soaring. A state of emergency has been declared in a stretch of territory along the border. More than 3000 people have been deported from Venezuela.

Frontier
Vol. 48, No. 24, Dec 20 - 26, 2015