News Wrap


India has given a dissenting signature to the UN’s Permanent Court of Arbitration award, granting Bangladesh 106,613 sq kms of a total of 172,613 sq kms, that according to New Delhi was under dispute, but should belong to India. The dispute has been rooted in India’s partition of 1947. The UN Tribunal’s definition extends to coastal waters running all the way down Odisha’s coast till Sandy Point, near Visakhapat-nam in Andhra Pradesh. India has won a tiny island, known as New Moore or South Talpatti, in the shallow seas just south of the Sunderbans, which some satellite images suggest may have drowned in recent years. Indian fishermen are denied access to the part of the sea, lost to Bangladesh, as per the verdict of the UN Bench. India will be unable to tap natural oil and gas reserves, predicted in that region by the ONGC.

The Union Government of India ceded Kachchativu, an uninhabited barren islet in the Palk Strait, to Sri Lanka, by an agreement of June 1974. The maritime boundary, between the two countries, was redrawn and agreed upon in March 1976. Articles 5 and 6 of the 1974 agreement ensures the rights of Indian fishermen and pilgrims to enjoy access to visit Kachchativu. The Sri Lankan authorities have been honouring Article 5, but not Article 6 which assures vessels (trawlers) of India and Sri Lanka to enjoy each other’s waters. Without any Indian Ministry of Fisheries, to look after neglected fisherman, since June 2014 there have been almost daily attacks and abduction of Indian fishermen and destruction of their trawlers by the Sri Lankan navy. Tamil Nadu has never acquisced to 1974 and 1976 agreements and has been demanding the retrieval of Kachchativu.

Violence and Terror
Trinamul Congress leaders in West Bengal, like Manirul Islam, Arabul Islam, Anubrata Mandal and Tapas Paul, MP, Lok Sabha have been using foul language of threats of physical violence, murder, rape and arson in their public speeches, directed at the opposition, as part of terror tools. Between May 2011 Assembly elections and August 2014, about 170 activists and leaders of the Left Front and CPI(M) have been murdered in West Bengal. During the June 2014 Lok Sabha polls, around 12 Left Front workers were killed and 8785 seriously injured. The politics of vendetta spearheaded by Trinamul, through rape, murder, violence and intimidation has caused large scale disruption of agricultural activity, and displacement of poor and marginal farmers, in all 17 districts of the state. 27283 farmers were evicted from their lands, preventing cultivation in 9,811.83 acres of land. About 49000 families were evicted from their homes, 6152 houses completely destroyed by arson, and 1365 CPI(M) offices ransacked. Without any strong action against the cultprits, the state police have taken into custody, the victims. 5732 CPI(M) and Left activists are under arrest, from false charges. In West Bengal, since Trinamul came to power, 294 women have been raped, 685 molested and 1045 physically assaulted. TMC goons are preventing Congress Panchayat members from cultivating agricultural land. BJP supporters, who left the Trinamul party recently in districts like Birbhum, have been attacked with bombs and fire arms. Roofs of many of their houses have been blown off by bombs.

Mediterranean Migrants
Between January and August 2014, about 80,000 migrants and refugees from North Africa have arrived in four different ports of Italy. In the aftermath of two disasters in mid-2013, in which around 400 people died at sea, since October 2013, the Italian navy has been carrying out a Euro 9 million a month (7.2 million Pound) operation in the Mediterranean, aimed at intercepting rickety migrant boats before they experience trouble. The Mare Nostrum (‘Our Sea’) operation is credited by the Italian Government and NGOs on the ground, having saved countless lives. Sicilian towns, from Catania on the eastern coast to Palurmo in the north, have been transforming sports halls, churches and other buildings into adhoc facilities for the arrivals. Basic food and shelter are being provided to about 8000 unaccompanied minors, who arrived on the Italian coast this year. A ‘‘supra-national approach’’ in conjunction with the UN and the EU, is required to help the refugee crisis. Hundreds are fleeing poverty and war in Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sudan and Libya for Malta, Sicily and Lampedusa. Many migrants die at sea from asphyxiation and drowning. At end June 2014, a fishing boat containing the bodies of about 30 people was towed by an Italian navy frigate to the Sicilian port of Pozzalo. Refugees from sub-Saharan Africa, also include people from Syria, Senegal, Gambia and Mali.

Migrants and refugees, held in government run detention centres in Libya, are being tortured and abused, according to Human Rights Watch. Most of the 6000 people intercepted by Libya’s coast guard, were attempting to cross the Mediterranean, in order to reach Europe, or have been picked up after entering the country illegally. They are detained in severely over crowded conditions with dire sanitation in Libya. Testimonies indicate whippings, electric shocks, beatings, strip searches and being hung upside down from trees.

Vol. 47, No.9, Sep 7 - 13, 2014