News Wrap


India's Supreme Court has dubbed the cases of lynching by cow vigilantes as a crime, and not merely a law and order problem. On 03 July 2018, the Supreme Court put the onus on the states to check such incidents, saying no one can take the law into their hands. Lynching by cow vigilantes is happening despite the top court's orders directing the state governments to appoint nodal officers in each district. The states are under obligation to prevent any such incidents. The Supreme Court described the incidents as mob violence, which is a crime. The bench maintained that anyone can be a victim of mob violence, and it cannot be linked to any particular religion or caste.

In the last one year, over 30 people have been killed in about 20 cases of lynching, by frenzied mobs blinded by viral rumours of child-kidnappers, on the prowl across nine states, from Assam to Tamil Nadu. In the killings, the nearest police station was 2 to 20 km from the spot, on an average within 10 km. Police were unable to reach on time, and in a handful of cases, they were heavily outnumbered. In the months leading up to the attacks, no previous case of kidnapping was recorded, or even suspected, in any of the lynching spots. In all the cases, the victims were not known to the accused, and were merely passing through. The union home ministry on 05 July 2018, asked the states and union territories to check the incidents of mob lynching, fuelled by rumours of child lifting on social media.

Garbage & Garbage
In the metropolitan area of Delhi, which included the capital New Delhi, trash heaps are towering monuments, to India's growing waste crisis. About 80 billion pounds of trash has accumulated at four official dumping sites, on the fringes of New Delhi. The capital is already besieged by polluted air and toxic water. Sometimes a 17-storey high mountain of trash, breaks away from the mass during monsoons rains, and crashes into nearby canals, which creates a surge of sewage. Garbage in village Ghazipur piles higher and higher over the years, and wafts a sickening cocktail of airborne particles that infects the inhabitants, with tuberculosis and dengue fever. Tress are singed, and ground water turns a filthy yellow. The dumps in Delhi and in cities like Mumbai and Kolkata have become some of the largest, least regulated and most hazardous in the world. The Indian government has vowed to eliminate single-use plastic by 2022. Installing trash cans around Delhi has not been done, partly because garbage collection is not guaranteed, and many residents are used to simply flinging trash on to the ground. In the last two decades, Delhi's population has quickly risen to about 19 million, from about 12 million. Infrastructure and government services have not kept pace. During roughly the same period, the amount of waste ferried to the dumps has accumulated rapidly, growing from 8 million pounds, to at least 20 million pounds daily.

Rising Violence
The gun that was used in September 2017, to kill prominent journalist Gauri Lankesh, was the same weapon employed in the murder of scholar M M Kulburgi, two years earlier. The victims had same ideological learnings. A forensic report points to the same gun. Ms Lankesh and Mr Kulburgi were known as "rationalists", a term used in India to describe those who oppose the use of religion in politics. They were both accused by right wing groups of insulting Hinduism, and killed at their homes, in the Southern State of Kanrataka. The current government of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been accused of tolerating its supporters' use of violence, to intimidate critics and stoke sectarian tension. When the BJP rose to power in 2014, with the election of Narendra Modi as prime minister, right wing groups like Rastriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the ideological parent of the BJP, vowed to transform India, into a "Hindu nation". Since the elections, intolerance has worsened, sometimes leading to violence against religious minorities.

On 14 June 2018, aged 52 years, Shujaat Bukhari, editor "Rising Kashmir" and veteran journalist who had championed peace in Jammu and Kashmir, was gunned down in Srinagar. He was abducted by pro-India militants in the 1990s, and by suspected anti-India insurgents in 2006. Close to the power centres in J and K, he is believed to have engaged in some "peace initiative" on Kashmir, that apparently angered the militants.

US Green Berets
Saudi-led forces in Yemen, are battling rebels who pose no direct threat to the United States. The American military for years, has sought to distance itself from a brutal civil war in Yemen. In a continued escalation of America's secret wars, late 2017, a team of about a dozen Green Berets arrived on Saudi Arabia's border with Yemen. The US army commandos are helping locate and destroy caches of ballistic missiles and launch sites that Houthi rebels in Yemen are using to attack Riyadh and other Saudi cities. Details of the Green Beret operations which have not been previously disclosed appear to contradict Pentagon statements that American military assistance to the Saudi campaign in Yemen, is limited to aircraft refuelling, logistics and general intelligence sharing. There is no indication that the American commandos have crossed into Yemen, as part of the secretive mission. Sending American ground forces to the border is a marked escalation of western assistance to target Houthi fighters, who are deep in Yemen. There is a purposeful blurring of lines between train and equip missions and combat. There has been no US Congressional vote on the authorisation for the use of military force. Weeks after a ballistic missile fired from Yemen sailed close to Riyadh, the Saudi capital, the US Green Berets, the US Army's Special Forces were deployed to the border in December 2017. The American ground troops commandos are training Saudi ground troops to secure their border. They are also working closely with American intelligence analysts in Najran,  a city in southern Saudi Arabia, that has been repeatedly attacked with rockets, to help locate Houthi missile sites within Yemen.

The Americans, along the porous border, are working with surveillance planes that can gather electronic signals to track the Houthi weapons and their launch sites. The United States has about 50 military personnel in Saudi Arabia. In March 2018, the US state department approved the sale of an estimated $670 million in anti-tank missiles, in an arms package that also included spare parts for American-made tanks and helicopters, that Saudi Arabia previously purchased. The presence of the Green Berets is the latest example of the expanding relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia, under President Trump and Prince Mohammed. Houthi rebels could hide mobile missile launchers, anywhere from inside culverts to beneath highway over passes.

Vol. 51, No.12, Sep 23 - 29, 2018