News Wrap


Since July 2016, there has been violence in Jammu and Kashmir, India’s only Muslim-majority state. This has fanned Kashmir separatists’ hopes for a revival of their cause. In Indian Kashmir the talk is usually of ‘‘azadi–freedom’’, not of joining Pakistan. Pakistan’s economy has fallen behind India’s. The Pakistani army is battling domestic extremists, and finding it difficult to help arm and train jihadists in Indian Kashmir. Before regional elections held on 21 July 2016, in Pakistan administered Kashmir, candidates rushed to furnish their credentials as supporters of the separatist cause. Even then big political parties in Pakistan are more interested in accepting the status quo of a divided Kashmir, and focusing on trade.

Meanwhile at least two hundred protesters in Indian Kashmir, have been blinded by Indian soldiers using pellet guns, to quell the worst violence in the region for six and half years. Over 200 protesters are permanently blinded, and more than 1000 people suffered damage to their eyes. New Delhi defended its use of pellet guns as a non-lethal weapon, against large numbers of stone throwing mobs. Lead pellets have been fired in Kashmir, since the unrest erupted in 2010. Suspected terrorists of the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) outfit attacked an army camp in Uri (Kashmir), killing about 20 Indian soldiers on 18 September 2016. The bulk of the fatalities occurred in a cook house and store room, which burned down, during the attack. The terrorists had a high degree of knowledge about their targets, as the two buildings had been bolted from outside, to prevent those inside from escaping before being set on fire.

Singur and Land Lease
The Tata group expects compensation for losses that it had incurred in Singur (Bengal), of about Rs 154 crore, which it had paid to the erstwhile Left Front regime, while buying land for its Nano Car Project. The company has decided to waive off around Rs 1246 crore that it had incurred as losses, when it had to shift its project to Gujarat. From land acquisition till the point of departure from Singur, the Tata Group spent around Rs 1400 crore. Of this, approximately Rs 154 crore was paid to the Bengal State Government, for buying the land after it was acquired. The company had to abandon its plans for Nano Car Factory in Singur, in 2008, after Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress had led protests in Singur, against land acquisition. The compensation issue stems from a clause in the land lease agreement of 2007, between the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation and Tata Motors. The Corporation had indemnified (compensate for harm of loss) the company against losses that could arise from an imperfect title of the land.

Sedition cases
Civil rights activists, student leaders, cartoonists, writers, actors and poets in India have been bearing the brunt of whimsical registration of sedition cases. As per the National Crime Records Bureau Report, 47 cases of sedition were filed in 2014, with 58 persons being arrested in connection with these cases. The government managed only one conviction. Cases had been lodged against writer Arundhati Roy, cartoonist Aseem Trivedi, civil rights activist Binayak Sen, sixty seven Kashmiri students in Uttar Pradesh, actor Aamir Khan, Tamil folk singer S Kovan and JNU Students Union President Kanhaiya Kumar to ‘‘threaten’’ them. The Supreme Court on 05 September 2016, asserted that ‘‘making a strong criticism of the government’’ is not even defamatory, let alone seditious. In Kedar Nath Singh versus State of Bihar, 1962, a constitutional bench had ruled in favour of the constitutional validity of Section 124A (Sedition) in Indian Penal Code. However, the caveat is that a person could be prosecuted for sedition, only if his acts caused ‘‘incitement to violence, or intention or tendency to create public disorder, or cause disturbance of public peace’’. The Supreme Court has directed all authorities, including police and trial judges, to follow the Constitutional Bench Ruling. The Bench maintained that adjudication by the Apex Court has to be ‘‘case-specific’’, and no single order could be passed in criminal cases, arising out of different facts.

Arctic Border Fence
The squalid tent city of Calais, sheltering thousands of migrant refugees, is known as ‘‘the Jungle’’. The port city of Calais is a crucial hub for British trade, and gateway to Europe for millions of British holiday makers each year. The Jungle is home to an estimated 10,000 migrants, including hundreds of children, many from Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq. Higher and stronger fences have been installed around the Calais rail and ferry terminals, but no amount of security seems to deter the migrants from trying to reach the promised land of Britain. Vehicles with UK numberplates are the preferred target for gangs of refugees, being herded into highways by highly-paid people-traffickers with bolt-cutters for severing the padlocks on lorry doors, and chain-saws for cutting down trees, for use in the roadblocks. Migrant gangs wielding machetes and spears are building burning barricades in a bid to stop and board British lorries. Dismembered burning trees, serve as ambush in the night, set up by migrants to stop lorries, so that they could clamber abroad, and smuggle themselves into Britain. Refugees have been camping in Calais since the late 1990s. Child refugees in Calais are risking their lives more than 2000 times a week, in a desperate attempt to reach Britain. An estimated 95,000 unaccopmanied children are standard in camps in Greece, Italy and France.

A 12-feet high fence has been built by Norway, along its Arctic border with Russia, to prevent migrants entering Norway, and seeking asylum. The fence constructed on the only road connecting Norway and Russia, is along the restricted border area around the Storskog crossing, about 200 miles into the Arctic Circle. Norway’s asylum system has been one of the most generous in the world. In 2015, more than 31,000 people from more than 50 nations, sought asylum in Norway, in a country of just 5 million people. Nearly 6000 of them poured in via the Arctic route from Russia, overwhelming the scarcely populated municipality of Kirkenes. Although not a member of the European Union, Norway is part of the passport-free Schengen area. Norway’s fortifying its border with Russia is part of Europe-wide crackdown on irregular migration.

Vol. 49, No.20, Nov 20 - 26, 2016