News Wrap


At a village in Madhya Pradesh’s Satna town, more than 30 priests and seminarians singing Christian carols were detained on 14 December 2017. Bajrang Dal activists had accused them of forced conversion. On 15 December 2017, one Christian priest was also arrested, under the state’s anti-conversion law. Some of the priests and seminarians were allegedly roughed up by members of the right-wing group, on the police station premises. Eight priests who had come to the civil lines police station on 15 December 2017, to inquire about the previous day’s detentions were also detained while their car was torched. On allegations of offering money to convert to Christianity, M George, who teaches at St Ephrem Theological College, and five unknown persons were booked under the Freedom of Religion Act and Sections 153B and 295A of the Indian Penal Code, on a complaint by a Hindu youth. There are allegations that the police stood by as the priests and seminarians were assaulted, by religious nationalists. Carol singing programmes are a routine practice during Christmas season, for the last thirty years.

Telengana Encounters
In the Gangaram forest area of Tekulapally mandal (Bhadradri-Kothagudam division, Telengana), eight naxalites of the CPI (ML) Chandra Pulla Reddy (Bata), a recently floated left-wing group, were killed in an ‘‘encounter’’ with security forces, on 14 December 2017. Left-wing organisations have termed it as a ‘‘fake encounter’’, in a traditional stronghold of the naxalites. The ‘‘underground squad’’ leader Etti Kumar, alias Rakhi, aged 35 years, of Marrigudem in Kothagudem division, and seven members of the dalam were killed. Police claim that a police team came under fire from a group of armed persons, clad in olive green uniform, during a combing operation, in the forest area under Bodu police station limits. Weapons, ammunition, revolutionary literature were recovered from the encounter site. The armed cadres of the CP (Bata) group were allegedly involved in a series of offences, including extortion cases under various police station limits in Yellandu sub-division. Senior leaders of CPI (ML-ND) allege that Telengana state is witnessing a brutal repression against those waging mass movements, more severe than the ‘‘Emergency period’’ of the 1970s.

Kobad Gandhy, aged 71, was released from Viskhapatnam Central Jail on 12 December 2017 night, on bail, after spending eight years in prison. He was first arrested in Delhi, in September 2009, on charges of being a member of the banned CPI (Maoist) and charged under sections of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. Though he was acquitted in the case he had several other cases against him.

Clean India
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘‘Clean India’’ addresses urban sanitation. The cost of poor sanitation in 2015 India, was $106.5 billion, i.e. over 5% of India’s GDP. Less than half of India’s households have access to proper toilet. Many people defecate in public spaces, implying 500 to 600 million people leave their body waste out in the open. There is a link between open defecation and stunted growth as 38% of India’s children are stunted. Open defecation leads to spread of germs and parasites. Exposed to this environment, children contract illnesses which can affect the absorption of nutrients, that are critical to boosting height and weight. Stunted Indian children are higher in number, than among the children of sub-Saharan Africa. The caste system is still prevalent among the majority of India’s population, resulting to a situation where no one is willing to clean out the pit latrines, that are being built, for fear of losing caste. The lower caste members who would have done the work a long time ago, now do other tasks, having become beneficiaries of government programmes, promoting their uplift. Hence, no one uses the pit latrines, and open defecation continues.

Dams on Tibetan Rivers
Partially operational in 2014, the Zangmu dam in Tibet over the Brahmaputra river raised serious concerns in India, as the first major hydro-power project, among a few more planned by China, on the trans-border river in Tibet. With a reservoir capacity of just 86.6 million cubic metres of water, the dam accounts for just tiny portion of the average annual runoff of the Brahmaputra. Tibet wants to accelerate water-resource exploitation. To transfer Tibet’s electricity out to economically prosperous regions, the exploitation of hydro-power resources in Tibet, is being mainly concentrated on the Jinsha river, Lancang river and Nujiang river, which are located close to the border area, between Tibet and other Chinese provinces. The hydro power stations in trans boundary rivers flowing from China to India, such as the Yarlung Zangbo river (Brahmaputra) are not isolated from the plan to transfer Tibet’s electricity out. The US 3 billion dollar Suwalong project over the Jinsha river, which is a tributary of the Yangtze river, is located at the junction of Mangkam county of Tibet and Batang county of Sichuan province in south-west China. It will be the largest power station in Tibet, upon completion, bigger than Zangmu dam over the Brahmaputra. Having a designed capacity of 1.2 million kilowatts, the power station will be able to generate about 5.4 billion kwh of electricity per year. The reservoir with a 112 metre high dam, would store about 674 million cubic meters of water. The generators could start operations in 2021.

Mugabe is Gone
Ex-President Robert Mugabe’s rule came to a close in the second fortnight of November 2017. The 93-year-old Mugabe, lost power after ruling Zimbabwe for almost 40 years, since Zimbabwe’s independence from white minority rule and assumption of power in 1980. Mugabe was ousted by dismissed Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, after Mugabe’s decision to nominate his 52-year-old wife, Grace, to succeed him. The army moved into Harare on 15 November 2017, and put Mugabe and his family under house arrest. Senior Zanu-PF figures met on 17 November and drafted a resolution to dismiss Mugabe. The army described the situation as a ‘‘bloodless correction’’. The African Union has strict policies against military coups. Zanu-PF branches in Harare, Midlands, Masvingo and Mashonaland East, passed vetos of no-confidence on Mugabe, along with 10 other provinces. Soldiers whipped-up anti-Mugabe marchers into a frenzy of cheering and dancing in Harare. The students of Zimbabwe University, protested and refused to sit for exams, singing and demanding that Mugabe step down. A strange mixture of Jesuitical and Marxist doctrines had guided Mugabe’s career.

Emmerson Mnangagwas was sworn in as Zimbabwe’s President on 24 November 2017. As part of a deal negotiated with the aging autocrat, before the resignation, Mugabe would be paid not less than $10 million. Mugabe has been granted immunity from prosecution, and guarantee that no action will be taken against his family’s extensive business interests. Zimbabwe’s economy is in a very bad state. It has not recovered fully from crises in the last decade, when rampant inflation grew so bad that the country had to abandon its own currency. 90% of the people are unemployed. Since military intervention, Zimbabwe’s main industrial index slumped by 40%, and the stock market has shed $ 6 billion in a week.

Vol. 50, No.34, Feb 25 - Mar 03, 2018