News Wrap


The Union Ministry of Defence, Government of India had allocated Rs 344.84 crore in 2016-17 for the Final Location Survey of four strategic railway lines on the China border. The rail lines, the 378 km Missamari-Tenga-Tawang line, the 498 km Bilaspur-Manali-Leh line, the 227 km Pasighat-Tezu-Rupali line, and the 249 km North Lakshmipur-Barne-Silapathar line will pass through high altitude terrain of the Himalayas. There are issues pertaining to stability, geology, construction, maintenance and repairs. Once constructed, the Bilaspur-Manali-Leh corridor will be the highest railway line in the world, surpassing China’s Quinghai-Tibet railway. The construction costs are expected to be very high because of the very difficult terrain, in which the lines will be constructed. The railways have declined to fund construction of these four lines, as they are commercially unviable, both in projected passenger and freight traffic. The Union Government is unable to find an estimated Rs 2.1 lac crore, required to construct the four ‘‘priority’’ strategic railway lines.

The Lingayat Issue
The panel, headed by former judge N Das, of Karnataka High Court, set up by Karnataka state minority commission, had favoured the grant of minority tag to the Ligngayat community, in a 200-page report. The Lingayat community, in Karnataka state, is part of a an overall sect, which comprises the Veerashaivas, as well. The Lingayats, per se, are followers of 12th century social reformer, Basavanna, who advocated women’s empowerment, in addition to abolition of idol worship, and the associated rituals. The Veerashaivas follow rituals and religious practices akin to the Hindus. The difference has forced the Lingayats to demand a separate religion tag for themselves, while even seeking a minority status, something which the Veerashaivas oppose vehemently. Siddaramiah, the former Congress party Chief Minister of Karnataka favours the grant of minority status to the Lingayat community, if only to split the BJP votes. One or two Karnataka state ministers have even campaigned in Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh, to gather support from the Lingayats in those regions. BJP leaders, B S Yeddyurappa is considered a leading leader of the Lingayat community. The community forms 17% of Karnataka state’s population. It plays a dominant role during elections, along with the Vokkaligas, who are equally large in numbers. Karnataka’s state government has finally agreed to accord the status of minority religion to a section of the Lingayat community, which follows the teachings of Basavanna the 12th century social reformer. The state government has forwarded its recommendations to the union government for approval. In an internal note the Union Ministry of Home Affairs has recorded if given the minority status, the Lingayat would be deprived of Scheduled Caste status.

Women Volunteers
Around 1100 women from villages surrounding Ahmedabad and Surat have undergone training on gender issues, self-defence and basic police work, since November 2017, at the rural police headquarters. From April 2018, they have taken charge as Mahila Police Volunteers (MPVs), marking a first in Gujarat state, and acting as a bridge between victims of crime against women in their villages and police. The volunteers ensure that cases are lodged. The MPV project was launched in March 2017 by Gujarat’s Department of Home, Women and Child Welfare. Areas were identified to launch the initiative. One woman was selected from every village in those areas, after inviting applications. Social health workers, the village head and based on the criteria of Class 12 school pass, over 21 years of age, and with no criminal record. The volunteer is a Muslim, in villages that are Muslim dominated. A Dalit representative is chosen in villages, with a large Dalit population. Gujarat is the second state after Haryana to have MPVs in villages. The candidates are paid Rs 1000 per month, and provided ‘‘salwar-kameez’’ uniform, along with sports shoes. After training, the volunteers attend panchayat meetings and intervene in cases discussed. They go on rounds in the village regularly, and speak to other women. Becoming a police volunteer has given the women dignity and respect. Women are made to understand that they are not there to be beaten up by their husbands. Enthusiasm among volunteers is tempered with caution, given the ground reality of caste and community. Gujarat police have recruited 474 women volunteers from villages around Ahmedabad, and 567 women volunteers from rural areas surrounding Surat. Of the Rs 127 crore budget for the project, 60% is from the central government, and 40% from the state government. Given the response the Gujarat state government plans to extend the initiative in other areas by end 2018.

Russian Children and IS
Thousands of children were born to or brought with the men and women, who had flocked to Syria, in support of the Islamic State. As the US-led coalition and Syrian government captured cities that had been held by the IS, they found among the ruins, a grim human wreckage of children, arising from the IS’s once successful recruitment drive. The Russian government is bringing home and caring for Russian children, who were raised by Islamist militants, in the Islamic State. In Dachu-Borzoi, outside Grozny, repatriated children talk very little and play violent games of ‘‘little war’’. Russia has so far returned 100 children and 45 women, since August 2017, which reflects a hardhead security calculation. The authorities feel it is better to bring children back to their grandparents now, than have them grow up in camps, and possibly return as radicalised adults. The children had seen terrible things. When they are put in a different environment, with their grandparents, they change quickly. As many as 5000 family members of foreign terrorist recruits are now marooned in camps and orphanages in Iraq and Syria. Russia and Georgia are in the forefront of countries helping family members to return. Most of the returning children of the Caliphate, were exposed to unspeakable acts of macabre violence, including roles in execution videos. Many children were desensitised to violence through ceaseless indoctrination, paramilitary training, and participation in various other crimes.

Vol. 50, No.48, June 3 - 9, 2018