News Wrap


The East Kolkata Wetland (EKW) with 264 bheris, was declared a Ramsay site in 2002. A field study in 2014 could not trace out 60 of the 264 bheris. Eight more bheris in 2017, covering more than 650 acres, where fish was farmed, have either disappeared completely or partially. Of the bheris seized by land sharks, five are in South 24 Parganas, and three in North 24 Parganas. With three water bodies aggregating 445.9 acres, Dhapa Manpur mouja under Bidhannagar Municipal Corporation is the worst hit by encroachments. The largest water body is the 218.4 acres Narkeltala bheri in Dhapa Manpur mouja, under Bidhannagar South Police Station. The sale of one encroached daag number has been publicly announced. The China Singh Bheri has covering 177.5 acres has been encroached upon. Only a cluster of small ponds and paddy fields can be spotted in the Durgabhashan Bheri. Dhapa Manpur mouja is adjoining Salt Lake. There is a huge pressure on bheri workers to abandon their livelihood, so that water can be drained and converted to land, for real estate development. In South 24 Parganas, for bheris close to the Eastern Metropolitan By Pass, like Heder bheri (Mukundapur mouja), Jagatipota Matsya Samabay Samity (Jagatipota mouja) and Belakhali bheri (Kharki mouja) filling up with earth, sale of realty sites and construction of housing complexes are progressing.

Infrastructure Project
With roads, bridges and railways the Union Government of India is pushing a Rs 3270 crore infrastructure project, aiming for inroads into Bastar district of Chattisgarh state. In the district, about 200 metres to the right of roads in Bhejji and Burkapal are forests. Highways of development are pushing Maoists into a corner. From Maoist attacks in Bhejji on 11 March 2017, thirteen died; and in Burkapal on 24 April 2017, 25 died. The Maoist attacks are being interpreted by the government as an effort to stop Bastar’s infrastructure development. Construction material for new roads and diversions for bridges, are piled up next to security camps. The roads lead to Maoist controlled areas. Over the past three years, the 56 km Dornapal-Jagargunda stretch, on which Burkapal falls, has seen 15 encounters, that have killed 35 security personnel, and 18 Improvised Explosive Device (IED) blasts. The Injeram-Bhejji stretch, has seen 15 exchanges of fire, 47 recoveries of 48 IEDs, and 15 jawans killed. The construction of roads, bridges, mobile towers and rail lines has the shadows of rising exploitation and increased militarisation. Sukma and Bijapur are the worst affected by Naxal violence. Arterial roads, such as the Sukma-Konta stretch of National Highway 30, to a bridge across the Shabri river at Dornapad, to roads that seek to cover the ‘‘security vacuum’’ in areas such as Jagargunda and Pamed, are part of the government’s infrastructure push.

A steel plant and superspeciality hospital are planned for Jadgalpur. A bridge in Konta (Chattisgarh) will connect to Motu in Odisha. Work has begun on National Highway 63, on a stretch between Tarlaguda and Bhopalapatnam in Bijapur. The railways have introduced a new night train from Jagadalpur to Vishakhapatnam. The railway line from Jagadalpur to Vishakhapatnam is being doubled. The roads are in various stages of construction and are being built with the aid of security forces. Roads and bridges such as Dornapal-Jagarargunda, Injeram-Bhejji and the national highway between Sukma and Konta are expected to usher in building of schools, hospitals, electricity and generate livelihood opportunities and better connectivity for traders. A 25 crore project airport is coming up in Bastar. The rail project, with an estimated cost of Rs 3500 crore, connecting Jadgalpur to Raipur via Raoghat and Bhanupratapur in Kanker will also aid mining in the Raoghat hills.

Assassination of Rajiv Gandhi
The Union Government of India set up a Multi-Disciplinary Monitoring Agency in the Central Bureau of Investigations, 18 years ago, to investigate an alleged larger conspiracy behind the assassination of India’s late premier, Rajiv Gandhi. The designated TADA Coutt in Chennai, which tried the case and sentenced all the 27 accused to death, had in July 1999 acquiessed to the MDMA probing the conspiracy angle, based on the 1998 recommendations of the Justice M C Jain Commission of Inquiry. The MDMA is yet to submit any report. Four of the 27 whose death sentences were upheld by the Supreme Court, are still in prison. The Tamil Nadu state government has been making repeated moves to free the four, as they have completed 16 years in jail. They were thwarted by the union government, who stated that the state government had no power to set the prisoners free, since the case was investigated by the CBI. The CBI has submitted that many of the suspects were absconders and living abroad. One of the four death row prisoners, A G Perarivalan was a teenager at the time of the assassination. His crime was to fetch a battery cell, without any knowledge that it was going to be used to detonate the human bomb, that killed Rajiv Gandhi. In the explosion, the battery was blown to smithereens, leaving no trace. The actual assassin died along with Rajiv. The assassination squad led by Sivarasan was gunned down, on the outskirts of Bengaluru. Nalini, another incarcerated, accompanied the hit squad from Chennai to Sriperumbudur, on the fateful night. Murugan was an errand boy of Sivarasan. The Special Investigation Team was on the lookout for ‘Gundu’ Santhan of the LTTE, and arrested Santhan, a Sri Lankan Tamil in search of job, because of mistaken identity. In the TADA court, the onus of proving counters to accusations, lies with the accused and not on the prosecution.

Parliament Invaded
On 27 April 2017, pro-Kremlin thugs invaded Macedonia’s parliament, wearing black balaclavas, allegedly loyal to the government. More than a dozen opposition MPs were seriously injured. Among those hurt was Zoran Zaev, leader of the left leaning SDSM party, who is vying to be the next prime minister. The violence was prompted by the election of Talal Xhaferi, an ethnic Albanian, as parliamentary speaker. Part of his role would be to formally petition the president, Gjorge Ivanov, to grant Zaev to form a government. Ivanov who is close to the nationalists, has hitherto refused to support Zaev. The attack on parliament was orchestrated by politicians, who are unwilling to relingquish power. They co-ordinated the assailants, and removed parliamentary security to let the mob-in. No proof has been produced of Russian intelligence meddling in Macedonia. A country of two million people, Macedonia is a candidate for membership of the European Union and NATO. Russia has links to the governing party and the opposition leaders accuse the Russian Federation of making a final push for influence in Macedonia. Moscow accuses the West of ‘‘gross interference’’ in Macedonia, aimed at ‘‘removing the legitimate government from power’’. Kremlin has sided with the nationalists of the centre-right VMRO-DPMNE, who have been clinging to power. Since narrowly losing December 2016 elections, Macedonia, a Slavic Orthodox country, has a large ethnic Albanian minority, who make up about a quarter of the population. President Ivanov claims Zaev’s proposed coalition, which incldes two Albanian parties, would undermine the nation’s sovereignty and national identity. Following the fortnight’s violence of end April and beginning May 2017, Serbia and other neighbouring countries have deployed troops, amid fears that the violence would spill over their borders.

Rules for Ethnic Minorities
The western frontier region of Xinjiang in China has 11 million Uighurs, a muslim ethnic group with Turkic liguistic and cultural ties. Xinjiang is also home to a host of smaller minority groups with Muslim adherents, including Mongolians, Tajiks, Kazakhs and the Hui. Uighurs in particular have experienced an increasing number of restrictions on dress, religious practice and travel, after a series of deadly riots in 2009, in Urumqi, Zinjiang’s capital. The Chinese authorities have recently banned parents from giving newborns muslim names, such as Mohammed, Jihad, Fatima, Saddam, Islam, Mecca and Quran. Names must not have connotations of holy war or of separatism. Those who do not comply with the new naming regulations will not be able to receive a ‘‘hukow’’, or household registration, an essential identification document, needed for access to education, welfare benefits and employment. In the past few years, authorities have forbidden certain symbols of Islam, such as beards and the veil. The region’s 800 civil servants are prohibited from taking in religious activities.

Vol. 50, No.8, Aug 27 - Sep 2, 2017