South Asia Theater
A horrific case in India's impoverished Chhattisgarh state has won a modicum of international headlines. A surgeon has been arrested on charges of "attempted culpable homicide" in the deaths of at least 13 women who underwent sterilization operations at a field camp in the village of Pandari. Dr. RK Gupta and his a team operated on 83 women in just six hours Nov. 8—in a filthy room, with rusty equipment. Gupta—who had performed over 50,000 sterilizations, and was awarded a state honor for his work—was arrested after initially fleeing, and remains intransigent, blaming the deaths on painkillers the women were given by a village clinic. The death toll may rise, as many women are gravely ill, apparently from infection. The desperately poor women were paid 1,400 rupees ($23) for the surgery. "Health workers" (sic!) also received payments for bringing women to the camp.
The Bangladesh International Crimes Tribunal on Nov. 13 convicted (PDF) opposition politician MA Zahid Hossain Khokon to death for his role in killings and other war crimes perpetrated during the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War. The Tribunal found the accused guilty of the offenses of "murder, torture, deportation, rape, confinement, abduction and other inhumane acts" within the crimes against humanity sections of the International Crimes (Tribunals) Act of 1973. Khokon, a member of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), was tried in absentia and is currently a fugitive believed to be residing with his family in Sweden.
A special tribunal in Bangladesh on Oct. 29 sentenced Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) leader Motiur Rahman Nizami to death for crimes committed during the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War with Pakistan. The former Cabinet minister was tried on charges that included genocide, rape, murder and torture, and was accused of personally carrying out or ordering the deaths of nearly 600 Bangladeshis while serving as supreme commander of the Al-Badr militia. The JI party has released a statement denouncing the verdict, and the defense has announced its plan to appeal, contending that the charges were not proven beyond a reasonable doubt and that the tribunal went beyond its jurisdiction.
The underground Maoist Communist Party Manipur (MCPM) issued a statement appealing to the paramilitary Naga Regiments to resist government plans to deploy them to the Maoist guerilla stronghold areas of India, especially the Dandakaranya Revolutionary Zone in Chhattisgarh state. The MCPM's Comrade Nonglen Meitei urged in the statement issued to the media that the Nagas, an indigenous group on northeast Nagaland state, not to go to Chhattisgarh as "slaves" to fight other excluded tribal peoples in the region. The statement called on the Naga troops to lay down arms in the spirit of "revolutionary internationalism." (Nagaland Post, Oct. 23)
India has opted to buy Israel's Spike anti-tank guided missile, a New Delhi defense ministry source told Reuters—evidently rejecting a rival US offer of Javelin missiles that Washington had lobbied hard to win. India is to purchase at least 8,000 Spike missiles and more than 300 launchers in a deal worth 32 billion rupees ($525 million), the source said after a meeting of India's Defense Acquisition Council. Spike beat out the Javelin weapons system, built by Lockheed Martin and Raytheon, that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel had pitched during Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Washington last month. (Reuters, Oct. 25)
A former Bangladeshi Islamist party leader, who was imprisoned for war crimes last year, died on Oct. 23 of a heart attack in a prison cell of a government hospital. Ghulam Azam was 91 when his life support was removed at the Bangabandhu Sehikh Mujib Medical University. Azam was sentenced last year to 90 years in prison on 61 charges of war crimes during the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War. Azam led the Islamist party until 2000, and was still considered to be its spiritual leader.
Pakistan's Lahore High Court on Oct. 16 upheld the death sentence for Aasiya Noreen (better known as Asia Bibi), who was convicted of blasphemy in 2010. Bibi, a Christian woman, was alleged to have insulted the Prophet Mohammed while working in a field with several Muslim women. Bibi maintains that she never blasphemed against the Prophet, but that she had an argument with the other field-hands over a pot of water. The lower court convicted Bibi for blasphemy, stating that there was no chance Bibi was falsely implicated, and there were "no mitigating circumstances."
Renewed fighting between India and Pakistan across the Line of Control in Kashmir has killed at least 19 civilians over the past week—11 on the Pakistani side; eight on the Indian side. Thousands of villagers have been displaced by the fighting, as each side blames the other for breaking the 2003 ceasefire. (BBC News, Oct. 9; India Today, Oct. 8) At Kishtwar, in India-controlled Kashmir, Muslim protesters defied security forces, marching through the town and hoisting the Pakistani flag Oct. 8. (Kashmir Media Service, Oct. 8) Local anger is deepened by last month's devastating floods, in which large parts of Srinagar, capital of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, were inundated, leaving a still undetermined number dead. New Delhi has come under harsh criticism for its response to the disaster—prioritizing the rescue of tourists as little was done to assist locals. Local government was paralyzed by the collapse of the telecommunications system. (Saudi Gazette, Oct. 8)