News Wrap


On 22 August 2017, a five-judge Constitutional Bench of the Supreme Court, by a majority of 3 : 2, struck down instant triple talaq (divorce) or talaq-e-biddat. The 1400-year-old practice among sections of the Muslim community, was quashed on several grounds, including that it was against the tenets of the Holy Qur'an, and that it violated the Islamic law Shariat. Talaq-e-biddat is an irrevocable form of divorce, consisting of three simultaneous pronouncements of talaq to a woman by her husband. Any violation of the Supreme Court judgment can be addressed under the domestic violence law. The divorce rate among Muslims is around 0.56%, which is lower than the 0.76% among Hindus. In most Islamic countries, including Bangladesh and Pakistan, the instant triple ‘talaq’ is prohibited, because the Islamic courts do not allow it. The majority verdict ensures gender justice, by reconciling theology and law. India’s secularist foundations are limited by extensive protections for minorities to practise ‘‘personal law’’. The Supreme Court has stated that the ban on Islamic instant divorce would stay in place, to allow time for the government to legislate. If the government did not do so, the ban would be extended.

Rohingyas in Jammu
More than 13700 foreigners, including Rohingya Muslims and Bangladesh nationals are settled in Jammu and Samba districts. The refugee population has increased by over 6,000 between 2008 and 2016. The Rohingyas are a Bengali dialect speaking Muslim minority, in Myanmar. Many of them entered India illegally through Bangladesh, and took shelter in Jammu region, as a result of continued persecution in their own country. The Rohingya refugees board trains at Kolkata/Howrah and disembark at the terminal station, Jammu. These refugees are always in fear of deportation. The refugee camps are scattered on the Jammu-Pathankot highwarys, as at Narwal, Bhagwati Nagar, Ban Talab, Channi and Bari Brahmana. Until the situation improves in Myanmar, the Rohingyas are unwilling to return to their own country. The UN Secretary General has advised the Union Government of India, that the refugees should not be returned to the countries, where they fear persecution.

Bengal Borrowings
The West Bengal state government has recorded a debt of Rs 1.13 lac crore, in the shape of open market borrowings, since mid-2011. This is in addition to the Rs 1.93 lac crore the CPI(M)/Left Front borrowed in 34 years. Mid August 2017, the state government again borrowed around Rs 2000 crore from the open market. The state finance department claims the money is borrowed ‘‘towards meeting the requirement for development expenditure’’. The Rs 2000 crore is borrowed for a term of 10 years, and the principal amount is scheduled to be repaid on 09 August 2027. The state government will pay interest to the borrowers on 09 February and 09 August every year. The fresh borrowing added to the outstanding debt burden that stood at Rs 3.06 lac crore, as on 31 March 2017.

Migrant Women
The Black Axe, originated in the 1980s at Benin University as one of Nigeria’s ‘‘campus cults’’. The anti-elitist student confraternities later became associated with violence. The organisation extends around the worldwide Nigerian diaspora. In a toast of blood and spirits, initiates are beaten, and made to pledge allegiance. These Nigerian groups have the same characteristics, and operate in the same way as the Italian Mafia. The Sicilian Mafia in Palermo have changed the traditional map of organised crime. The surge of illegal migration across the Mediterranean have enlarged profits from human trafficking, drug trading and rural slavery rackets. Weakened by years of trials and arrests, the Sicilian Mafia has cashed in on prostitution, a trade once considered shameful by the old dons. For the machete-wielding Nigerians of the Black Axe gangs, the trade is slavery and prostitution. The Sicilian Mafia has cut a deal with the Black Axe, to split up territory and divide the spoils. The Africans have agreed with the Mafia with machetes. Like the Black Axe, the women come from Benin City, in Southern Nigeria. Till they arrive in Italy they are not aware of what awaits them.

A night club ‘‘mama’’ of Benin City puts the girls through a video ritual, where they swear an oath of obedience to the ‘‘mother of water’’, to protect  them from the desert and the sea. On arrival in Palermo, the only way to be freed is to pay Euros 25,000 (£ 22,000), earned from customers. Nigerians are the biggest group among the more than 200,000 migrants who have been taken ashore in Italy so far in 2017. They account for some 10,000 of those saved at sea by naval ships and aid groups. Almost all the women from Nigeria, who risk the desert journey through Libya to cross the Mediterranean, come from Benin City. Huge migrant influx is fuelling the supply of illicit labour, and reaping profits for the Black Axe, in Southern Italy. Boys, mostly minors, are lured from migrant reception centres and used as drug couriers. Men and women are put to work in the fields and vineyards. Italy failed to persuade its European partners to take in more people, or to let rescue ships dock in other European ports.

Vol. 50, No.19, Nov 12 - 18, 2017