News Wrap


About 28% of West Bengal’s population is Muslim. The percentage of Muslims is between 0% and 3%, in nearly all of West Bengal’s universities and institutes of higher education. In a report of July 2017, for the year 2015-16, among the elite institutions that could not enrol any Muslim student in 2015-16 are the Presidency University (Kolkata), Vishwa Bharati University (Shantiniketan), the Indian Institute of Technology (Kharagpur) and the Indian Institute of Information Technology (Kalyani). The overall literacy rate of Muslims is 69.5%, which is substantially affected by the higher population share of Muslims in rural areas. The drop-out rate of students from primary and secondary schooling is higher among Muslims. It is the lack of education at the primary and secondary levels that stops Muslims from progressing to universities of higher education. In Jadavpur University (Kolkata) and Indian Statistical Institute (Kolkata) only 0.6% and 1.08% respectively were Muslims amongst enrolled students. Aliah University (Burdwan) and Gaur Banga University (Malda) enrolled 27% or more Muslim students, consistent with their demography. Enrolment of Muslims in Bengal universities is abysmally low.

Hindu Beef Ban
Traditional Muslim butchers of Uttar Pradesh are on the front line of a battle of saffron-clad Hindu militants to wipe out their way of life. The cow is revered by millions of Hindus as sacred. Its slaughter is illegal in almost every state of India. But buffalo meat has long been staple food, and business among Muslims. Supply of buffalo meat is now under threat. India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, a strict vegetarian championed ‘‘cow protection’’ in his election manifesto. Since the last nine months, he backs a crackdown on the meat industry, enforced by armies of Hindu vigilantes. In May 2017, Modi’s Union Government of India banned the trade of cattle for a slaughter. Since then the word ‘‘cattle’’ applies not just to cows, but to buffalos and camels. Most buffalo meat traders in Uttar Pradesh have been among the hardest hit. UP is India’s most populous state, with a sizeable Muslim minority. Stories are heard of stray dogs that once ate buffalo bones, attacking children. UP’s chief minister, Yogi Adityanath, a controversial hard line religious teacher came to power in March 2017. The new rules governing the meat trade, formed by Adityanath have impoverished the Muslim community and shut market places. Butcher’s blocks in century-old bazaars are now selling baby clothes and skirts. Workers of meat shops are operating ice cream carts.

Hindu ‘‘cow protection squads’’ armed with sticks, have attacked lorries transporting cattle, to combat any underground activity by butchers. Making up only 14% of India’s 1.3 billion people, Muslims often face disadvantages. 3.5 million Muslim butchers in Uttar Pradesh, have been hit since March 2017. Many of the customers in the meat shops were Hindus. Buffalo meat, being cheaper than the price of goat and chicken, was consumed as protein by lower castes and labourers. India’s buffalo meat exports have fallen by 35% from April 2017. The leather industry is struggling in West Bengal and Kerala, the two states where cow slaughter is legal. The beef ban has turned into a financial attack on Muslim meat shop owners and workers. Since the last week of June 2017, the Bajrang Dal and Viswa Hindu Parishad (VHP) in Gujarat have launched a ‘Trishul Diksha’ programme to arm the self styled cow vigilants with sharp weapons. The VHP maintain that the Hindu youths have been given the tridents, to save cows from slaughter and Hindu women from ‘‘love jihad’’, a term to describe a Hindu girl’s affair with a Muslim youth, culminating into marriage. Another declared purpose of the ‘Trishul Diksha’ is to fight for Ram temple, in Ajodhya. However, cows continue to die due to munching toxic grass, donated to ‘gaushalas’ by industrialists running chemical units or eating plastics.

Bhutan Tri-Junction
Doka La is the Indian name for the Bhutan tri-junction region, which Bhutan recognises as Doka-lam, while China claims it as part of its Donglang region. China maintains that the Sikkim section of the boundary has been defined by the 1890 convention between Great Britain and China, which India’s former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru endorsed in 1959. The Chinese view that Doklam belongs to China. China and India have been engaged in stand-off in the Doka La area, near the Bhutan tri-junction since beginning June 2016. The Indian army has stopped People’s Liberation Army of Chinese troops from constructing a road near Sikkim, amid the stand off, Chinese soldiers destroyed Indian army bunkers. China asserts that India has no right to interfere with the China-Bhutan boundary talks, nor is it entitled to make territorial claims on behalf of Bhutan. The Chinese troops are building a road close to the Siliguri corridor ‘Chicken Neck’ in the Sikkim sector, which could endanger India’s access to its north-eastern states. In 1956, China built a 1200 km long road across Aksai Chin, of which about 180 km is claimed by India. The road carves a route for Sianking, China’s western most province, into Tibet. China still refuses to formally accept the MacMohan Line. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor of the past four years, passes through Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir.

On July 2017, around 15 to 20 troops of China’s People’s Liberation Army came 800 metres inside Indian territory in Chamoli district. They threatened the shepherds grazing cattle in the Barahoti area, during their two hours stay. Barahoti is a ‘‘disputed area’’, listed by India and China in 1958. Indian and Chinese troops frequently cross the Line of Actual Control, depending on the perception of each country.

On 28 August 2017, the 70-day tense stand-off between Indian and Chinese troops at the Doklam plateau ended peacefully, with the two sides almost completing disengagement ‘‘under verification’’. The Chinese claim that most Indian troops had withdrawn earlier. For now China has stopped road construction and road extensions in Doklam, claimed by both China and Bhutan. China insists its border guards would remain in Doklam to exercise its ‘‘sovereign rights’’ there. India has pulled back a bull dozer, that had irked the Chinese.

Vol. 50, No.22, Dec 3 - 9, 2017