News Wrap


On 26 January, 2018 (India’s Republic Day), at least three shops, two private buses and a car was torched, after 22-year-old Chandan Gupta was killed in clashes, following stone pelting by a mob on a motor cycle rally, taken out to celebrate the Republic Day, in Kasganj (Western Uttar Pardesh). Kasganj lies in an area of near total domination of agrarian communities, viz Lodh-Rajputs, Kacchi (Shakya) and Yadavs, all OBC communities, along with a significant presence of people from the minority community.  Rresidents of Badu Nagar, a Muslim dominated locality of Kasganj had gathered at Veer Abdul Hamid Chowk and arranged chairs on the road, in preparation of hoisting the national flag and celebrating Republic Day. A large number of young men on motor cycles arrived, waving both the tri-colour and saffron flags (BJP and RSS). The unauthorised ‘‘Tiranga Yatra’’ to mark Republic Day wanted to pass through the congested by-lanes of the Muslim locality. They demanded the chairs in the square be removed, to allow their bikes to pass. The Muslims refused and asked them to join their flag hoisting programme instead. Arguments and jostling followed, with the Hindu youth shouting provocative slogans, and asking the local Muslims to go to Pakistan. The ‘‘Tiranga Yatra’’ participants regrouped and attacked other Muslim dominated areas in the town also. A dome like structure on the wall of Eidgah was damaged. Shops by Muslims at Ghasttaghar Chowk in Kasganj have been gutted. At least 40 Hindu workers and helpers have lost jobs.

Wages of Unskilled Workers
The unskilled and semi-skilled workers of 13 states draw higher wages than their counterparts in West Bengal. As per a recent finding by the Union Ministry of Labour and Employment, the wages paid in Bengal are not only lower than in other states, but lower even than the national average. The state ranks third in terms of wages paid to the skilled and highly skilled workers. The wages paid to unskilled and semi-skilled workers in Bengal are lower than in Assam, Haryana, Jharkhand, Kerala, Delhi, Mizoram, Punjab, Sikkim, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Chandigarh, Lakshadeep, Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu. Earlier the wages in Bengal were extremely low, and reportedly raised three times since Trinamul Congress came to power in 2011. During 2017, two workers from Malda were killed in Rajasthan, in hate crimes. In Bengal, unskilled workers receive a minimum daily wage of Rs 211 to a maximum of Rs 278, and for semi-skilled workers the wages are minimum of Rs 232 a day, to a maximum of Rs 306. At Delhi, unskilled workers get Rs 331 to Rs 368 a day, and semi-skilled workers get Rs 366 to Rs 407 a day.

Border Displaced
The people of international frontier villagers in the Jammu region, displaced by the last six months’ cross-border flare-up, say they are afraid to return home. They have demanded early sanction of the ‘‘promised’’ plots in safer zones and the construction of underground bunkers. Residents of Abdullian village and Bhera village assert that they are not safe even in their own homes, as shells pierce the roof and walls. The state government of Jammu and Kashmir has set up three relief camps, one housing 150 inmates at the Indian Training Institute Complex, Jammu. The unabted firing from Pakistan continues over the past four years. The promised five ‘‘murals’’ of land away from the firing zone is yet to be provided by the state government. The ruling ally BJP, to the Progressive Democratic government, had promised five ‘‘murals’’ or 6,806 sq ft of land, in a safe place for each border-dwelling family, during the campaign for the December 2014 State Assembly election. In 2017, the Union Government of India, told the State Assembly that it would build bunkers in the border district, instead of allotting land, since shifting the population would hurt the interests of J and K state and the nation. The central government in December 2017, sanctioned the construction of 14,460 underground bunkers for Jammu’s border villagers, at a cost of Rs 415.75 crore.

Iran’s Extending Influence in Middle East
For decades, areas in the Golan Heights was Israel’s quietest border. Local members of the Drnze minority sold apples to the Syrians, and vineyards flourished in the hillside soil. The area was captured from Syria during the six-day war in 1967, and formally annexed by Israel in 1981, in a move that is not internationally recognised. Just as the ISIS crumbles, the area is at the forefront of escalating tensions between Israel and Iran, that could ignite a new conflict in the region. Israeli backed forces are now entrenching themselves on Israel’s borders, particularly in the northern outposts. The civil war and battles against ISIS jihadists, in Syria, have allowed Iran and its proxies, to exert their power throught the Middle East. A land corridor of influence has been created that stretches from Teheran to the Mediterranean. After nearly seven years of conflict, President Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian regime and his Iranian and Lebanese backers are moving closer towards victory, taking back territory from the rebels, surrounding the Israeli-held part of the Golan Heights. In December 2017, the Syrian regime retook a village, a mere two miles from the Israeli border. Behind official silence, Israel is responding with force inside Syria, and on its border. At end 2017, Israel stepped up strikes on Iranian targets in Syria. There was an attack on an Iranian base near Damascus, attributed to Israel. Beginning January 2018, Israeli jets and ground to ground missiles struck an arms depot, belonging to the Damascus regime. Hezbollah and its allies have a significant presence both on Israel’s border with Lebanon, which is a site of a short and brutal war in 2006; and its border with Syria. The entrenchment of Hezbollah or Iran-backed Shi’ites militias on Israel’s borders is considered as enemy action by Israel. Threats to Israel also extend to Gaza, where Iran is accused of funding the terror group Islamic jihad, and giving support to Hamas, the militant organisation that runs the 25-mile coastal strip. Playing up the Iranian threat gets Israel sympathy in Washington.

Vol. 50, No.41, Apr 15 - 21, 2018