News Wrap


Demand for cattle is crashing in India, as the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its right-wing supporters elevate protection of cow, an animal revered by many devout Hindus as semi-divine, as a national policy priority. The Ramgarh Road livestock market on the outskirts of Jaipur, is an important regional hub for the bovine trade, the economic life blood for many North Indian villages. At Ramgarh, Pehlu Khan, a Muslim dairy farmer from Haryana, spent Rs 76,000 ($1180), on 01 April 2017, to buy three cows, and their calves to boost his milk production. Returning home, Mr Khan aged 55, and his companions were stopped on the highway by self styled ‘‘cow defenders’’, who let the Hindu truck driver go, then brutally beat the Muslim farmers. Mr Khan succumbed to his injuries three days later. Emboldened vigilantes, like those that set upon Khan, are terrorising those transporting cattle. Sale of buffalos at the markets has fallen by 70%. The cow protection movement is clamouring for a national slaughter ban and harsh punishments, such as life imprisonment for transgressors. The ruling party’s growing focus on cows, and its reluctance to condemn violence carried out in their name as the BJP ruled state of Rajasthan, is a deliberate strategy to unite Hindu voters, ahead of India’s next parliamentary elections in 2019. End March 2017, the Gujarat state government has tightened the punishment for the slaughter of cows, to a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

‘No’ to Funds
With India’s prime minister Narendra Modi’s government widening its crackdown on civil society organisations, India has barred Public Health Foundation of India, the country’s largest independent public health organisation from receiving foreign funds. The PHFI is a large health research and policy think tank, runs training and health promotion programmes across India. Its permission to receive foreign funds had been suspended after India’s union home affairs ministry raised questions about the use of funds for its programmes on Tobacco and Aids, which both receive Gates Foundation backing. Overseas contributions already received would be frozen in its bank accounts. Big tobacco companies, right-wing groups and the BJP affiliate Swadeshi Jagran Manch have been hostile the PHFI’s large health care programmes. Recently New Delhi cancelled the registration of a large US based Christian, Charity, Compassion Internal, which was providing social services to poor children. Religious conversion was a fear.

Islamists in Canada
Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has publicly opened Canada’s doors to refugees and presented a face of tolerance and inclusion. While Canada’s immigration policy has transformed the nation over decades, pockets of intolerance have grown across the country. A group called ‘La Meute’ or Wolfpack has Facebook page and 15,000 followers, to discuss and stop the spread of ‘‘Invasive Political Islam’’ in Canada. The group has galvanised such numbers in Quebec, where many people refer to themselves as pure ‘laine’, or pure wool, direct descendents of the 17th century settlers of New France. The emotional response has focused on conservative Muslim immigrants. Muslims represent just 3% of Canada’s population. While Islam is one of the fastest growing religions in the country, Muslims will still account for less than 6% of the population in 2050. Groups like La Muete believe there is a real threat that Islamists are bending Canada’s tolerant culture to their will. The group’s main concern is political Islam pushed by the Muslim Brotherhood, the Pan-Arab movement that grew out of Egypt, after the fall of the Ottoman Empire, following World War I. Friends of the La Muete group are motivated by the 2014 killing of two soldiers in Canada, in separate episodes, both at the hands of Canadian extremists, who had converted to Islam.

Starvation in South Sudan
South Sudan, the world’s youngest nation, was born six years ago, after liberation from its northern neighbour. Hunger has pushed more than a million to the brink of starvation. It is the only full blown famine to be declared anywhere in the world, and one entirely of human making. A power struggle between political leaders, has descended into open ethnic conflict, pitting the majority Dinka people against their largest rival, the Nuer, and dragging in an increasing number of sub-tribes. Soldiers and fighters allied to the government sweep into villages, torching huts, stealing livestock, raping women, slitting the throats of civilians and driving them from their homes. Villagers flee into islands with swamps, eating only water lilies to survive. The violence resembles the brutal conflict with Khartoom, that South Sudan sought independence to escape from. South Sudan’s economy has crashed. Soldiers’s salaries are no longer being disbursed, replaced by a policy of allowing them to loot and rape, in lieu of proper payment. Whole villages lie burnt, with blackened outlines of where the huts once stood, in the landscape. Aid convoys trying to reach those fleeing violence have themselves been targeted by both sides. Fighters commander supplies for themselves, rather than let them fall into enemy hands. Intense negotiations precede air drop of aid. Arrangements are made to drop food, including that bought with funds from the British government, to land on both sides of the front line, at the same time, to prevent a bloody scramble. Aid agencies store their supplies, in the town of Lear, once a prosperous town. Lear has been emptied by marauders, who looted the food from the warehouses, then burnt them down.

South Sudan teeters on the brink of genocide, perpetrated both by president Kiir’s side and that of the rebels, led by former Vice President Riek Machar, a Nuer, son of Leer. In February 2017, famine was declared in Leer and its surrounding counties. Violence and famine spread to new areas. A vote for an arms embargo in the UN Security Council failed in December 2016, after countries including Russia, Japan and China abstained. Tribe after Tribe has been sucked into the conflict, with the Dinka dominated government, its Nuer rivals, along with the Azande, the Acholi, the Pajulu and the Kuku, completing the national holocaust. Refugees walk for two weeks to cross into Uganda, part of a swelling exodus that has created the world’s largest refugee camp, Bidi-Bidi, where 275,000 South Sudanese live.

Vol. 50, No.7, Aug 20 - 26, 2017