News Wrap


Maoists are active in Kerala's northern districts, such  as Malappuram, Kozikhode, Wayanad and Kannur. The state police's "Operation Anaconda" for the elite Thunderbolt Force is for tackling rebels in the region. Police maintain that CP Jaleel, aged 30, was killed after a five-hour gun fight at a resort off the busy Kozikhode-Bangalore highway on 06 March 19 night. As per police reports, Jaleel and another person had come to the resort demanding money and food. He was unusually not wearing the Maoists' standard khaki uniform. The companion was seriously injured. Resort staff have contradicted the police, saying the two Maoists did not fire first, or provoke the police in any way. Local staff claim that they had not informed the police about the "extortion" bid. Jaleel's body was found face down inside the resort compound, indicating he was shot in the back, while fleeing. Only a country made revolver was found near Jaleel's body, although the police claim the Maoists used AK-47s. This is the second killing of a Maoist since the Left Front came to power in 2016. In November 2016, a central committee member of the CPI (Maoist), Kuppuswamy Devaraj, and his companion Kaveri alias Ajitha were gunned down in the Nilamber forests of Mala-ppuram district. Both belonged to the Tamil Nadu cadre. Kerala's ruling party, CPI(M) is silent over Jaleel's killing. Adivasi leaders and activists state that Maoists accuse the Kerala's state government of apathy towards the August 2018 flood victims. The Maoists pasted posters against the local CPI(M) leadership, after a co-operative bank employee committed suicide. The Maoists of Kerala are generally confined to mostly organising marches and pasting anti-government posters especially on weekly market days.

Aravali Forest Cover
The 692 km Aravali range spans parts of Delhi, Haryana, Rajasthan and Gujarat. It serves as the lungs of highly polluted National Capital Region (NCR), and is a national shield against the creep of the Thar Desert. Apart from preventing the spread of desertification, it hinders the dust laden winds from Rajasthan to enter the NCR, where the air quality is ahead alarmingly poor. The ground water of the region is recharged by the hill range. Aravali Hills is the source of origin of several rivers and rivulets, including Sabarmati, Luni, Chambal and Krishnavati. It is the catchment of lakes like Damdama, Dhauj, Badkhal and Surajkund. Harbouring rich biodiversity, the range hosts numerous species of plants, birds and animals. Several kinds of animals like leopards, hyenas, jackals and mongoose enjoy the corridor between Asola Bhatti sanctuary (Delhi) and Sariska (Rajasthan).

The Punjab Land Presentation Act (1900) had barred all non forest activities in and along the Aravali hills, to preserve the ecology of these mountains. But the Haryana government has opened a sizeable part of the Aravalli hills for commercial activities, after amending the law that protected the forest cover, and blatantly flouting the Supreme Court's injunctions against it. The statute has been amended to legitimise the illegal encroachments and misuse of the Aravali forests for realty, mining and other commercial purposes, which have been going on since the 1970s. On the fragile mountainous track, lacs of dwelling units, commercial buildings and industries have already come up. Though notified as protected forests under the PLPA, around 30% of the Aravali areas falling in the Faridabad and Gurugram districts, three unautho-rised colonies and over 140 private farm houses and banquet halls, and two educational institutions have sprung up in the Wildlife Institute of India describes the Haryana portion of the Aravali range as India's most degraded forest. In the Rajasthan segment of the Aravali, 31 out of the 128 hills have totally disappeared, flattened by the land and mining mafias. Haryana has the lowest forest cover in the country, barely 3.59%. The Supreme Court is concerned with Aravalli, and has warned the Haryana state government of doing anything with Aravalli or Kant enclave, where the top court has ordered demolition of buildings due to illegal constructions in forest areas.

New school curriculum
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ruled Rajasthan state till November 2018. The new text books of Rajasthan at the Saifee Senior Secondary School, whose students are Dawoodi Bohras, a small Islamic sect that has been based in India since the Mughal era, teach that the "glorious" period of Indian history occurred before Muslim rule. In the medieval era there were only wars in India. Since beginning 2018, students at the Saifee School have been using new textbooks, published by the Rajasthan state government, which was run by the Hindu nationalist BJP, that dominates India's parliament and state legislatures. The new text books promote the BJP's political programme and ideology. The veracity of Vedic myths is glorified, ancient and medieval Hindu rulers are praised, the independence movement is recast as violent battle led largely by Hindu chauvinists, loyalty to the state is demanded and the policies of the BJP prime minister Narendra Modi are praised. Over five centuries of rule by a diverse array of Muslim emperors is reduced to a single "Period of Struggle" in one book. Many of the leading figures are demonised. The text books are in Hindi and English. They are part of the BJP's ongoing campaign to change how Indian history is taught in middle and high schools. Resembling the Hindu triumpalism and Islaophobia, there are similar text books used in 2017, by Gujarat and Maha-rashtra, two other states under BJP rule. In a similar fashion, updates have been made in May 2018, to central text books.

The BJP came to power in 2014. Since then it has stacked educational institutions with Hindu nationalist ideologues, presided over an increase in Hindu extremist vigilantism, and replaced Islamic place names with the names of Hindu nationalist heroes. A foundation for slowly remaking India into an essentially Hindu country, is provided by the textbooks' promotion of an essentially Hindu history. Between the 1960s and 1990s, India's school and preliminary college textbooks were stronghold of the country's left-wing ruling class, represented by the dominant Congress party. Distinguished scholars such as the historians Romila Thapar and Satish Chandra wrote text books that were strikingly erudite. Since 2004, the Congress led ruling coalition introduced the Textbook Development Committees, composed of authorities from a variety of professions and academic disciplines, rather than commissioning individual authors. The TDC's authority has evidently been usurped by the increasing bureaucratic and political power of "Hindutva" (Hinduness), the BJP's official ideology. The text books have become essentially political manifestos. The treaty of versailles is frequently criticised, Mussolini's success are enumerated, and Adlof Hitler and Nazi party fascism are praised.

Altar of Xi
Chinese communist officials have ordered Tibetans to replace altars to prominent Buddhist figures in their homes, with images of president Xi Jinping. Monasteries have been instructed to put up images of party officials, under an order to "promote stability and protect the community's welfare". Monks have been threatened with punishment for holding Tibetan language classes in monasteries. Parts of ancient temples have been converted into tourist facilities, as Beijing promotes Buddhism as a money earner. The authorities have issued a database of "verified" reincarnated lamas for worshippers. 2019 is a year with highly sensitive anniversaries. It will be 30 years in June since the brutal suppression of the Tiananmen Square democracy protests. Ten years ago in July, the bloody riots in Xinjiang, the majority-Muslim province led to hundreds of thousands detained in indoctrination camps.

Vol. 51, No. 44, May 5 - 11, 2019