News Wrap


At summer 2009 in India, there were 35 missing monuments. The missing monuments have risen to over 60. The Archeological Survey of India (ASI) is the custodian of India’s 3686 protected monuments. Amongst the missing monuments, 14 were ‘‘affected by’’ rapid urbanisation, 12 were submerged by reservoirs or dams, and the rest were untraceable. Urbanisation may have led to loss of ‘‘Guns of Emperor Sher Shah’’ in Assam, a whole ‘‘Copper Temple in Lohit’’, European tombs in Pune, and ancient cemeteries. Even as the Kutumbari Temple in Almora (Uttarakhand state) is lost, architectural members of the temple can be seen in the houses nearby. Many monuments are neglected or destroyed due to vandalism or attrition. Many monuments have changed addresses or re-located. Protected monuments are required to be verified with reference to old records, revenue maps, and published reports.

Ancient monuments are susceptible to attacks by religious zealots. In Chickmagalur, the Rashtriya Swayam-sevak Sangh (RSS) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have been trying to make the Baba Budan Giri Hills, a Southern Ajodhya, into the property of Hindu extremists alone. Presently, it is a syncretic site, visited by Hindus and Muslims. In Dakhina Kannada, religious sites are endangered owing to the capturing instincts of fundamentalist Hindus, Muslims and Christians.

Cutting Off
Female genital mutilation continues in the Bohra community in India. There is an ongoing case in the Supreme Court, on whether Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), practised among the two lac Bohra Muslim community be banned. A recent survey indicates that of 4710 Muslim women from the economically weak strata, 78% had been given unilateral divorce by their husbands. At least 90,000 women from the Bohra Muslim community, across all economic strata, have maintained that they have been cut, and want the practice to end. The Union Ministry of Women and Child Development (WCD) maintains that there is no official data or study that supports the existence of FGM in India. FGM is a crime under Indian Penal Code and Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012. The Bohra ritual of FGM or ‘‘Khatna’’ involves snipping of the tip or hood of a young girl’s clitoris, which is defined by the World Health Organisation as Type I FGM, or clitoridtectomy. This is done in a clandestine manner, when a Bohra girl turns seven, by mid-wives or doctors in Bohra-run hospitals. According to members of the sect, it is rooted in the patriarchal belief that the sexuality of girls needs to be curtailed, so that they do not become ‘‘promiscuous’’. The mutilation is done to ‘‘tamper a woman’s sexual desire’’. ‘‘Khatna’’ is performed on young minor girls, who do not have the freedom to choose. Their bodies are violated. More than 23 countries, viz US, UK, France, Australia, Sri Lanka have banned FGM. Some Bohra women maintain that female circumcision performed by Dawoodi Bohras is absolutely harmless. In December 2014, the UN General Assembly adopted a Resolution to ban FGM worldwide. Ending FMG is a Sustainable Development Goal of the UN.

Street Vendors Act
The West Bengal State government is yet to notify a set of rules, based on the Central Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Act, 2014. Even though the rules were to be notified within a year of its coming into force, the draft of the rules is still lying with the legal cell of the state government. In August 2017, the Calcutta High Court had given the state government 12 weeks to form a town vending committee to regulate roadside hawking in Kolkata City. The last remaining pavements for pedestrians have been snatched by hawkers, taking benefit of the government’s inaction. A piece of pavement can be purchased in Gariahat for a price higher than that of commercial real estate. Similar stakes pervail in other illegal hawking zones like New Market, Chowrin-ghee, Burrabazaar and Hatibagan. The hawker’s union is paid a fee by hawkers, for space and immunity from police action. Pedestrians have lost the right to move freely and use the footpaths and roads without any impediments. Indiscriminate growth of hawking has left no earmarked space for vending zones, viz restriction free vending zones, restricted vending zones and no-vending zones.

A least developed country, Myanmar has a relatively low population of 50 million, with a GDP of only $64.3 billion, a growth rate of 6.5% in 2015-16 and 70% of the population dependent on agriculture. It badly needs foreign investment. The $5 billion Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) that Myanmar received between 2011 and 2014, principally came from China, Thailand and Hong Kong. China has a growing influence in Myanmar and Bangladesh. Far from world markets, the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor (CMEC) runs parallel to the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar initiative. The Chinese strategic footprints in Myanmar have been firmly established by the commissioning of the 1060 km gas and oil pipelines from Kunming in China to Kyaukphyu port in Rakhine in 2013 and 2015, respectively. The project involved Chinese investment of $7.5 billion. The CMEC begins from Kunming in Yannon, to go south to Mandalay in central Myanmar, extends east to Yangon and west to the Kyaukphyu Special Economic Zone, that China helped Myanmar to establish.

Protest in Iran
Since end 2017, hundreds have been protesting and marching through Teheran, Mashhad, the holy city of Qoom, with people chanting ‘‘Death to the dictator’’ and ‘‘Free political prisoners’’. There were even chants in favour of the monarchy toppled by the Islamic Revolution of 1979 in Iran. Others criticised the present supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khomenei. Police responded with water cannons and arresting over 100 protesters. Media coverage in Iran focused almost exclusively on pro-regime rallies held on 30 December 2017, to mark the defeat of last major protest movement in 2009, which hardliners call ‘‘the sedition’’. The protests initially targeted economic problems, but quickly turned against Iran’s Islamic regime as a whole. In the central city of Isfahan, protesters joined a rally held by factory workers, demanding back wages. Youth unemployment in Iran is about 29%. On 31 December 2017, ten people were killed during protests in Iran, as armed demonstrators tried to seize police stations and military bases, but were repulsed by security forces. In the continued violence over fifty people lost their lives, on the streets in more than 70 towns and cities in Iran.

Vol. 50, No.38, Mar 25 - 31, 2018