News Wrap


Sandeep Sharma, aged 36, a stringer for the Bhopal-based (Madhya Pradesh) News World TV channel, who exposed illegal sand mining, and had even sought police protection after getting threats in the wake of a string operation on illicit mining in Bhind, and against the Sub Divisional Police Officer, was mowed down by a truck on 26 March 2018, near Kotwali Police Station in Bhind town. He was riding a two-wheeler. The police have registered a case of culpable homicide not amounting to murder.

Navin Nischal, aged 35, was working for The Dainik Bhaskar, and his associate Vijay Singh, aged 25, was working for a Hindi magazine, in central Bihar’s Bhojpur district. They were returning home on a motor-bike, after covering a Ram Navami rally on 25 March 2018 evening, when a speeding Scorpio hit them from behind, and rammed into their bike, killing them on the spot, in Garhani block. The SUV was driven by a former village Mukhiya, Mohammed Harshu. The former village Mukhiya was allegedly unhappy with the journalists’ coverage of local issues like anti-encroachment drive in Garhani to vacate government land and reports on a human chain against dowry and child marriage. The driver of the SUV was arrested, after angry locals had protested the murder and set the vehicle ablaze. This is the fourth incident of killing journalists in Bihar, in the last two years.

Cauvery river management
Of the four Cauvery riparian states, Karnataka is the lone state opposing the Supreme Court order of 16 February 2018, to set up a Cauvery Management Board and a Cauvery Water Regulation Committee. Being the state where the Cauvery originates, Karnataka wants to keep its waters under its absolute control, irrespective of the party in power in the state. Karnataka was releasing 324.6 tm cft of water into Tamil Nadu’s Mettur dam, until 1974. The Cauvery Water Dispute Tribunal’s interim report of 1991, reduced the quantum to 205 tm cft. The final award of 2007, reduced it further to 192 tm cft. The Supreme Court by allotting additional 14.75 tm cft to Karnataka curtailed Tamil Nadu’s entitlement to 177.25 tm cft. Tamil Nadu has 20 tm cft of ground water. Karnataka has much more ground water, 97% of it potable. The 1956 inter-state river water sharing law does not authorise the union government or the judiciary to arbitrate on ground water. The Supreme Court has affirmed that the waters of an inter-state river passing through the corridors of the riparian states, constituted national asset, and cannot be said to be located in any one state. Being in a state of flow, no state can claim exclusive ownership of such waters.

Rohingyas in West Bengal
Since mid-December 2017, Kuruli village in South 24 Parganas district of West Bengal, has welcomed 109 Rohingya refugees, in four batches. Now the village is scared to accept any more refugees. A group of 109 Rohingya refugees who had arrived at the Kuruli village refugee camp in Baruipur on 13 March 2018 were not allowed to settle there, with the villagers driving them out. The refugees were not allowed to settle in Kuruli because of political turmoil and constant police watch. The villagers of Kuruli have been regularly receiving threats from a political outfit for giving shelter to unknown foreigners. Police are visiting the village almost every day, and are asking a lot of questions to women and children. The local villagers continue to be sympathetic to the Rohingyas, and are not asking the ones who are already settled to go away. But they do not want any more. With the large number of Rohingya refugees pushed back from the village, a minority federation has settled the refugees at a temporary shed in Ghutiary Sharif, around 10 km from the existing Kuruli camp. This minority federation has asked the NGO in Kuruli, which was facilitating movement of Rohingya refugees from other parts of India to West Bengal, not to bring any more refugees at the moment. The new batch of Rohingyas has been settled in Ghutiary Sharif by All Bengal Minority Youth Federation.

The truck load of 80 Rohingya refugees, belonging to 27 families had reached Kuruli village, around 45 km from Kolkata, on 13 March 2018. They had come from Mewat village in Haryana’s Nuh district, where they lived in refugee camps for several months. The NGO Desh Bachao Samajik Committee has been facilitating the settlement of Rohingyas in Bengal, from other states. Following the arrival of the refugees, rumours spread fast that batches of Rohingyas had crossed the Indo-Bangladesh border in neighbouring North 24-Parganas district, and had come to settle in Baruipur. Besides massive police interrogation and the checking of documents, alleged BJP supporters are reportedly threatening the NGO workers and villagers for providing shelter to the Rohingyas. Pushed back from Kuruli, the fresh batch of Rohingyas has been put up in makeshift tents made of bamboo, polythene sheets and old saris at Makhal Pala in Ghutiary Sharif. The settlers who had come in earlier batches are now feeling intimated. Till March 2018, there were about 109 refugees in Kuruli camp. Around 35 have subsequently left, some in search of work, and some to renew their permits issued by United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The refugees had fled from Myanmar, 28 months ago. There are 33 minors in Kuruli camp.

Dalits and Tribals
The 2016-17 national crime bureau report of the Union Government of India on atrocities on Dalits, indicates that 40,881 cases of atrocities on Dalits were registered, in 2016-17. Crimes against Scheduled Castes had increased by 5.5% and against Schedule Tribes by 4.7%, since 2014. 75% of those accused of atrocities on Dalits went scot-free, without any punishment. The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act of 1989, was strengthened in 2015, because existing laws were felt to be too inadequate to deal with the atrocities against India’s weakest sections. On 20 March 2018, a two-judge bench of the Supreme Court laid down stringent rules for the implementation of the Act, to check the ‘‘rampant misuse’’. Anticipatory bail for the accused has been allowed. If the accused is a public servant, he can only be arrested with the permission of the appointing authority. In other cases, the permission of the Senior Superintendent of the Police of the district will be required. The lengthy judgement speaks of ‘‘vested interests’’ misusing the Act against political opponents and to settle private disputes. The Supreme Court’s recent verdict has increased the feeling of insecurity among SCs, STs and other oppressed classes. The judgement has ignored the social reality of caste oppression, harassment and atrocities perpetrated on Dalits on a daily basis. Further, the Central Government’s counsel did not respond properly, and raise objections against the dilutions of the provisions of the Act.

Religious Tolerance in Pakistan
Violence against religious minorities is a familiar story. But in Mithi, in Tharparkar region of Sindh province, where Hindus make up about 85% of the population, Hindus and Muslims have long lived peacefully. On 23 February 2018, morning, the brothers Dilip and Chandra Kumar were shot by two men driving past on a motorcycle, in front of their grain store, in Mithi. The doctor in the hospital at Mithi, in Southern Pakistan did not know how to remove a bullet. Suddenly, the killing of the Hindu Kumar brothers has raised worries that the famous tolerance of Mithi town is eroding. There has been a steady influx of outsiders, belonging to Muslim extremist groups and sectarian parties that have been moving into Mithi town and other parts of Sindh province, as they seek new havens. Mithi is a desert community of about 80,000 people and this kind of violence has been rare. Mosques and colourful religious temples are lined up next to each other in Mithi, in sandy and curving alley ways. Cows considered sacred by Hindus, roam freely on the streets, stopping at the doors of Hindu and Muslim families alike and expecting to be fed. During Ramadan, many Hindus hold dinners at sunset for fasting Muslims. A large number of Muslims frequently attend Holi and Diwali celebrations. However, organisations like Al-Khidmat, a charity focused branch of Jamaat-e-Islami political party, had recently built hospitals and mosques in the area. Affiliates of Jamaat-ud-Dawa, a branch of the militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba, as well as Lashkar-e-Jhansvi, a Sunni setarian militant group have made in-roads into Sindh.

Vol. 50, No.50, June 17 - 23, 2018