News Wrap


Armed with explosives and military grade weaponry, Maoist ultras on 24 April 2017, killed at least 25 CRPF personnel of a road opening party, and injured ten others at Burkapal village,  in the worst Maoist affected Sukma district of Chattisgarh, about 460 km south of state capital Raipur. More than 300 Maoist rebels, split into different teams, ambushed the CRPF party, at lunch time. The 90-member road opening squad of 74 battalion of CRPF had moved in to the area in the morning, to sanitize the Kala Pathar—Chintagurfa area for an ongoing road construction work, connecting Burkapal to Dornapal village, which is part of the liberated zone of ‘‘Naxals’’. The Maoists snatched arms, ammunition and wireless sets. The whereabouts of seven missing CRPF jawans are not known. About 90,000 CRPF personnel are deployed in the Maoist strongholds in Chattisgarh, Jharkhand and Andhra Pradesh. Twelve CRPF personnel were killed on 11 March 2017, when Maoists ambushed a CRPF patrol, and looted their arms in Sukma. On 24 April 2017, the Maoists got the movement of the CRPF convoy, monitored by the villagers, throughout the way. Evidently there was gross negligence on the part of the local intelligence and police. The attack was the first major strike by Hidima, in his thirties from Andhra Pradesh, elevated as commander of the People’ Liberation Guerilla Army (PLGA), a specialized group formed in 2000, to improve Maoists’ military capabilities. The PLGA consists of platoons, companies and battalions, similar to any organised paramilitary force. A women’s wing of the Maoists had played a key role in the strike. The 300-odd Maoists used several villagers and women as human shields. In the gun battle, a dozen Maoists were reportedly killed, but the insurgents took away the bodies. In the conflict-torn Bastar region, in south Chattisgarh, the Maoists have started promoting local tribes to higher level of military hierarchy, who were not so long ago used as foot-soldiers, informers and lackeys. Local hands, especially those belonging to the Dandami Maria tribe, are being assiduously trained in guerilla war.

Muslims attacked in Jammu
There is rising cow vigilantism in Jammu region. On 09 October 2015, a Kashmiri trucker, Zahid Ahmed, was killed at Udhampur, after the discovery of cattle carcasses. He was attacked with a petrol bomb, and his truck was set on fire. Investigations revealed that the cows had died of food poisoning. Rumours of slaughter had been spread to inflame passions.

Thousands of Muslim nomads from Poonchi, Rajouri, Reasi and other districts of Jammu migrate to Kashmir, during the summer, with their sheep, goats and sometimes cows and bulls. Cow vigilantes on 22 August 2017, assaulted a group of nomad families in the Talwara area of Jammu’s Reasi district. They were migrating to Kashmir with their livestock, in keeping with a centuries-old practice. The attackers took away their money and possessions, including cattle and dogs. The mob suspected the families of smuggling cattle to Kashmir for slaughter, although the nomads, called Gujjars and Bekerwals have been taking their livestock to graze in the Kashmir valley’s meadows every summer. Four persons, including an elderly man and a woman were injured in the assault. A boy is missing. Attacks against the Gujjar migration, have been happening for a long time.

Satluj Yamuna Link Canal
The quantum of surplus river water (11.17 million acre foot) available to Punjab, to be shared with Haryana was based on assessment conducted in 1981. Now the Punjab state government maintains that the available surplus Ravi-Beas waters has reduced to 13.38 MAF, based on the flow series of 1981-2013. Punjab looks forward to a fresh assessment to determine if the state has surplus water or not. Punjab maintains that instead of forcing it to construct the Satluj-Yamuna Link Canal, Haryana should explore alternative sources to meet its irrigation needs, and build capacity to fully utilise Yamuna water. Haryana insists that the state has legitimate rights over the river water, as per the agreement between the two states in 1981, which the Supreme Court also upheld in 2002, over the construction of the canal. Punjab is losing 12 MAF of ground water every year. It has expressed inability to share water with its neighbouring states, in view of the critical water situation in the state. Haryana is keen for the completion of the remaining portion of the Satluj-Yamuna Link (SYL) canal, at the earliest.

Ire over Giant Cross
The ruling Left Front government in Kerala conducted a crackdown in the hilly resort of Munnar, with the aim of removing a giant cross, planted by a Christian group, on a vast patch of encroached government land. The cross did not belong to any Christian mission, but had been illegally installed by a prayer group. None of the Christian missions have objected to the eviction in the third week of April 2017. The mission heads are unanimous on their approval, of clearing any encroachments made in the name of religion. Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has stated that the officials should have been more careful in the action. Some Church leaders raised objections to the manner in which the 20-feet cross was brought down, with the help of an excavator. The head of the Syro-Malabar Church Alanchery feels that the manner in which the religious symbol was removed caused ‘‘mental agony’’. ‘‘Spirit in Jesus’’, the prayer group, had placed the steel cross. Worshippers had been praying at the spot for decades. However, there is no doubt that the prayer group was trying to grab government land, under the cover of installing a cross, and convert it into a pilgrimage spot.

Taliban Attacks in Afghanistan
March 2017 witnessed a barbaric Taliban attack in Kabul, when Taliban gunmen entered Afghanistan’s main military hospital, disguised as medical staff, and went from floor to floor, slaughtering doctors and patients, by shooting them or cutting their throats. The attack was claimed by ISIS, although CCTV footage showed attackers shouting Taliban slogans. As many as 150 soldiers were killed after Taliban fighters in army uniforms drove through check points at the base, near the city of Mazar-i-Sharif in Balkh province, and began gunning down troops eating lunch or finishing Friday prayers on 21 April 2017. The group attack by the Taliban in the 209th crops mosque occurred when Afghan soldiers were standing for group prayers. The massacre came nine days after USA dropped the Moab, its biggest conventional bomb, on an ISIS base in the Achin district, in eastern Afghanistan. ISIS has only 700 fighters in Afghanistan, and is restricted to small areas. The Taliban are present in every province, and took 15% more territory in 2016, leaving the Afghan government in control of just over half the country. Helmand is now in Taliban hands. More than 100 of the 456 British soldiers who died in the conflict, lost their lives in Helmand. NATO forces officially ceased combat operations in 2014. 6800 Afghan soldiers and police were killed in 2016. Morale is low.

Vol. 50, No.4, Jul 30 - Aug 5, 2017