News Wrap


After the three-week long stand-off in the Ladakh Sector Depsang plains of Daulat Beg Oldie (DBO) of May 2013, the situation along the banks of the 90 sq km Pangong Lake, two-thirds of which is in China, has always remained volatile. Chinese troops have been intercepted by Indian Army patrol several times. China has managed to construct a road up to Finger IV area, which also falls under Sirjap area, and is 5 km deep into the Line of Actual Control (LAC). On 08 March 2016, a platoon of at least 11 People’s Liberation Army (PLA), led by a Colonel-rank officer crossed over the imaginary LAC at Finger VIII Sirjap-I area, close to the Pangong Lake. The Chinese soldiers entered in four vehicles, two light, one medium, and one heavy. Crossing the Thakung border post of India, they reached 5.5 km deep inside Indian territory. The Chinese side retreated, after being ‘countered and engaged’ by a patrol of Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), for a few hours. Transgressions take place along the LAC due to different perceptions of the border.

Church Vandalised
A band of Bajrang Dal activists, alleging conversion of poor Hindus, vandalised a non-attached church at Kachna village on 06 March 2016, on the outskirts of Raipur, state capital of Chattisgarh. Saffron activists were chanting ‘Jai Sri Ram’, while disrupting the prayers in the church room, and desecrating the Bible, pictures and altar. The attackers wounded at least six people, during the Sunday prayers. They did not spare even women and children. Not associated with any of the institutionalised churches of Chattisgarh, the Church was recently built by a few local people for the Sunday Mass. Pastors from Maharashtra help the local congregation, in the conduct of prayers. The attacking mob came in motor cycles. There were around 40 people inside the Church, when the group came. Local police suspect that the matter stemmed from an issue over the Church hall being built, on encroached land. A police case has been registered, and three people detained. Disagreements on the encroachment of land has been a matter of fierce debate in Kachna village, for the past two years. Every Sunday, Christians, many from outside the village, come to pray at the Church hall. The prayer hall is locked now.

Increase in Joblessness
India’s joblessness has increased in villages across all religious communities, with the unemployment rate increasing from 1.6% (2004-05) to 1.7% (2011-12). Joblessness is highest among Christians in comparison with other religious groups. The unemployment rate in the Christian community stands at 4.5% in villages, and 5.9% in cities and towns for 2011-12. Muslims come next with an unemployment rate of 3.9% in rural, and 2.6% in urban areas. The Christians have the highest percentage of graduates. The unemployment rate in urban areas declined for all religious groups from 4.5% (2004-05) to 3.4% (2011-12). But it remained higher than in rural areas. Unemployment rates were lowest for Sikhs in villages (1.3%), and Hindus in urban areas (3.3%). Majority of workers in rural areas were self-employed. Proportion of self-employment among males was the highest for Christians (56.6%). Among females the share of the self employment was the highest among Sikhs (79%). In rural areas, 35% of males and females are engaged as casual labour. The proportion of regular wage or salarised employment in rural areas was highest for Christians, being 16.1% for males, and 14% for females.

NLD in Myanmar
Aung San Suu Kyi led the National League for Democracy (NLD) in November 2015, to a landslide victory in Myanmar’s elections to the lower house, that has been accepted by the army aligned government. In the third week of February 2016, after a third transition meeting between Myanmar’s Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing and democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, the powerful army chief has pushed back against any quick changes in the Myanmar constitution. Min Aung Hlaing has conveyed that the junta-drafted constitution should be amended ‘‘at an appropriate time’’, in accordance with constitutional provisions, in chapter XII of the constitution, Myanmar has been undergoing democratisation only for five years. There are reports that the military chief has secured a five-year extension. Under the semi-civilian government since 2011, the military still holds considerable political power. Suu Kyi needs to forge a relationship with the armed forces to govern effectively. Unelected military MPs hold a quarter of the seats in Myanmar’s national parliament. The same position holds for smaller state and regional parliaments. The military has control of three key ministries, viz defence, border affairs, and home affairs. The 2008 document bars Suu Kyi from becoming president. The NLD dominated parliament sat for the first time on 01 February 2016. Aung San Suu Kyi has been criticised for not speaking out more strongly on the plight of the persecuted Burmese Muslims. She has vowed that the first priority of the government will be national reconciliation with the military, and with the half a dozen ethnic groups still fighting in the border areas. Myanmar’s parliament has elected Htin Kyaw, aged 69 years, with more than half of the votes, as president of the country, on 15 March 2016. He is a confidant of Aung San Suu Kyi. A clause in the military-drafted constitution, forbids people with foreign relatives from holding the office. Suu Kyi’s late husband, and two sons are British. Myanmar faces poverty and an influx of investment, after decades of stagnant growth.

Vol. 48, No. 44, May 8 - 14, 2016