South Asia Theater
Sri Lanka's Marxist party Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) is demanding the government conduct a comprehensive investigation into a mass grave uncovered by a construction project late last year in the Central province town Matale, asserting that the more than 140 sets of human remains date to a wave of bloody repression 25 years ago. In 1988 and '89, when the JVP was outlawed and led an armed insurrection, paramilitary groups and death squads were formed by the army, and some 60,000 were killed in massacres and assassinations. The JVP was allowed to re-enter the political process after 1993 peace accords and now holds seats in parliament, but charges that there has never been an accounting for the bloodletting of the 1980s. (Groundviews, Feb. 24; Sunday Leader, Feb. 10; Colombo Page, Feb. 5, JVP)
The International Crimes Tribunal Bangladesh (ICTB) on Feb. 28 sentenced to death Jamaat-e-Islami party (JI) leader Delwar Hossain Sayeedee. Following the death sentence, violence between police and activists from Sayeedee's party ensued throughout the country resulting in at least 30 deaths while more than 300 were wounded. Sayeedee was found guilty by the court for mass killing, rape, arson, looting and forcing minority Hindus to convert to Islam during the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War. He is the third senior party official convicted by the international tribunal. Defense counsel stated that he will appeal the sentence. Sayeedee is a former member of Parliament in the National Assembly of Bangladesh and one of the leaders of the JI Bangladesh. He has been charged with 20 crimes contained in the International Crimes (Tribunals) Act of 1973, including genocide, arson, rape and torture.
Afzal Guru, a Kashmiri militant who received the death penalty for participating in the 2001 attack on India's parliament, was executed on Feb. 9. Guru was hanged after India's president, Shri Pranab Mukherjee, turned down his plea for clemency. Following Guru's execution, India's government imposed a curfew in the India-controlled section of Kashmir and deployed hundreds of police in anticipation of protests and potentially violent clashes. A group of 400 protesters gathered in the Kashmiri city of Muzzafarabad vowing to continue Guru's mission. Guru's hanging was only the second execution carried out by India's government since 2004, with the other being Mohammad Ajmal Kasab, a gunman in the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks, who was executed in November.
The International Crimes Tribunal Bangladesh (ICTB) on Feb. 5 handed down its second verdict, sentencing Abdul Quader Mollah, leader of the Islamist party Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), to life in prison. This sentence comes a week after televangelist Abul Kalam Azad, also known as "Bachchu Razakar," was sentenced to death. Both were indicted for crimes committed during the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War.
Following a series of raids on the strongholds of Naxalite rebels and the slaying of top commanders, authorities say the guerillas' leaders have taken refuge in India's northeastern hinterlands, seeking to regroup and resupply—through control of opium production in their traditional strongholds. Home Ministry Joint Secretary MA Ganapathy said that Naxalites in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Andhra Pradesh are producing opium in their jungle territories. "Intelligence reports say that the Maoists have joined hands with drug cartels to cultivate opium, which is subsequently delivered to the mafia, who convert raw opium into heroin and smuggle the drug outside the country," he said. The proceeds are reportedly used to purchase weapons in the northeast that come across the border from Burma.
The deadly gang-rape of a 23-year-old medical student in a moving bus in Delhi has sparked outrage across India. But it remains to be seen if the protest movement will address the institutionalized use of rape to enforce India's caste system. Since the notorious Delhi case, horrendous incidents against low-caste women and girls have been reported in India's press—but have failed to galvanize the same outcry. A 15-year-old Dalit ("untouchable") girl was apparently held captive and repeatedly raped for 15 days by three men in Dharauli village in Sultanpur district of Uttar Pradesh. The incident was reported after she was "freed" on Dec. 30. According to police the girl went missing on Dec. 14 while going to school.
Thousands of Bangladeshi workers blocked the streets of the Savar industrial zone near Dhaka Nov. 26, throwing stones at factories and smashing vehicles, to demand justice for 112 people killed in a garment factory fire. Responding to the protests, authorities two days later arrested three managers of the plant. Some 200 factories were closed for the day throughout the Ashulia industrial belt that rings the capital. Although the factory had a total of 335 fire extinguishers and 300 trained employees to fight fire in emergency situations, there was no visible efforts to douse the flames. The fire alarm went off, but witnesses say that a number of doors were locked by the management, preventing workers from escaping.
The only surviving shooter from the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks was executed at a prison in India Nov. 21 hours after President Pranab Mukherjee finally rejected the gunman's clemency appeal. Pakistani national Mohammad Ajmal Kasab was hanged and buried in the prison yard in the central Indian city of Pune just days before the fourth anniversary of the Mumbai attacks. Kasab was convicted in May 2010 on more than 80 charges of waging war against India, multiple murders and conspiracy for his participation in the attacks, during which the group of gunmen killed more than 160 people in three days of targeted assaults on luxury hotels, Mumbai's main railway station and a Jewish cultural center.