News Wrap


At a special court CBI has filed a charge sheet in July 2013, against seven Gujarat police officers, stating that in the June 2004 killing of 19-year-old Mumbai Student Ishrat Jahan and three men, the four were abducted and eliminated in a ‘‘fake encounter’’ in collusion with the Intelligence Bureau. The killing was a ‘‘joint operation’’ of the Gujarat Police and the Subsidiary Intelligence Bureau (SIB), which works under the Union Government of India. The CBI has claimed that sophisticated weapons were planted on Ishrat and the three men, after they were procured from the SBI, by one set of police officers. On 15 June 2004, the four victims were brought blindfolded to a site near Kotapur waterworks, close to the Ahmedabad airport. The victims were made to stand on the road divider, and shot dead by the police.

Railway Lines in J and K
Kashmir Valley received its first rail network in Oct 2008, when the 66 km stretch from Anantnag in South Kashmir to Mazhama in Central Kashmir, part of the Qazigund-Baramulla stretch was inaugurated. In Jan 2009, the 34 km stretch from Mazhama to Baramulla, in north Kashmir, got linked. The 18 km stretch from Anantnag to Qazigund, in South Kashmir, was thrown open in Oct 2009. The 17.68 km stretch between Qazigund and Banihal was inaugurated in end June 2013. One of the most difficult projects undertaken by the railways, the train to Kashmir, called the Jammu-Udhampur-Katra-Qazigund-Baramulla Link (JUSBRL) has been afflicted with inordinate delays and several piecemeal inaugurations. The missing line, the Katra-Banihal part, passes through territory, where little habitation, or road or tracking path exists. The line will have the highest railway bridge, at a height of 359 m, above the Chenab. Cutting through the Pir Panjal, Tunnel T80 is India’s longest rail tunnel. During excavations, there have been unexpected bursting of rocks, and encounters with villagers over the tunnel alignment.

Forest Operations and Maoists
Since end June 2013, there has been an ongoing joint operation of the Jharkhand police and CRPF in the deep forests of Kumandi and Ambatikar in Latehar district. About ten Maoists have been killed in gun battles; however no bodies have been found yet. Security forces claim to have cornered top level CPI (Maoist) leaders. Even though exit routes and supply lines have been cut off, the Maoists are securing strategic positions. Cadres of the People’s Liberation Guerilla Army, who accompany senior Central Committee members, like Arvind alias Nishantji are highly motivated. Normally Maoist shelters are olive green or black in colour. Yellow tarpaulins, masquerading as a shelter, are traps fitted with explosive devices. On 02 July 2013, a Superintendent of Police and five other policemen, were killed, and three others injured in an ambush by Maoists, in Jharkhand’s Dumka district.

In the Bastar Maoist Movement (Chattisgarh state), women in Maoist cadres are being recruited increasingly for military operations, and less in roles as cooks, motivators and human shields. Holding important positions at special zonal committee rungs, women Maoists prominently participated in the Jiram Valley attack on the Congress convoy, in June 2013. Women constituted 40% of the Maoist cadres in 2012, which has now risen to 60%, in a situation where many male rebels are quitting the movement. Women Maoists convey social acceptability, and serve better in collecting intelligence inputs. The cultural wing of the Maoists, the Chetna Natya Mandali plays a leading role in recruiting women. Over 20 of the 27 divisional Maoist committees of Bastar, operating under Dandakaranya Special Zonal Committee, are being led by women Maoist cadres.

Myanmar’s Prejudices
With anti-Muslim prejudices spreading across Myanmar’s fragile new democracy, many influential Buddhist monks are supportive of Myanmar’s most radical religious leader, Venerable Wirathu, who preaches a doctrine of social exlusion, against Myanmar’s Muslims, who make up 5% of the country’s 60 million people. Venerable Wirathu’s teachings, known as the ‘‘969 movement’’ gained popularity after a series of clashes between Muslims and Buddhists, that killed more than 200 people, over the last year. The rioting in western Rakhine state and other provinces, has left 140,000 people living in makeshift camps. Venerable Wirathu feels that laws like the proposed marriage curbs, are designed to protect Buddhist women from Muslim men, who are threatening to convert and engulf Myanmar’s majority Buddhist population. Only muslims have been tried and convicted of violence, so far. The high risk of disease, especially during the monsoon season, is making thousands of muslims impatient in refugee camps.

Law in Myanmar explicitly forbids recruiting children under 18 years age to the armed forces. To offset high rates of desertion from the army, army recruiters are under pressure from central command to maintain high rates of enlistment, and continuously bring in new recruits. Since April 2009, the International Labour Organisation has verified over a thousand cases of under age recruitment, including children as young as 10, and at least 40 cases in 2012. Under an agreement with the UN Security Council, the Myanmar government has agreed to release all children from the armed forces by Dec 2013. But children continue to be recruited and very few have been released so far. Only an estimated 66 children were released from government forces between June 2012 and Jan 2013.

Trade Privileges
After the disasters in Bangladesh’s multi million dollar clothing export factories, the US administration has decided to suspend trade privileges for Bangladesh. The decision follows a petition from the AFL-CIO, the largest US union federation, complaining about labour and safety standards in Bangladesh. The Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) is a status that allows recipient countries to export some goods tariff free. The suspension of Bangladesh from GSP, is largely symbolic, because it does not cover garments. In 2012, USA imported $4.9 billion worth of goods, nearly all of that clothing and related goods.

Vol. 46, No. 8, Sep 1-7, 2013

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