South Asia Theater

Protests rock Jammu and Kashmir

Srinagar and other towns in India-administrated Jammu and Kashmir are under curfew following unrest over the killing of four protesters by the Border Security Forces (BSF) on July 18. The killings took place in the Gool area of Ramban district. According to locals in Ramban, protests erupted after BSF personnel roughed up a religious leader's brother following an argument over offering late-night Ramadan prayers. The BSF dismisses this version, saying a mob attacked their camp and tried to storm their storehouse of arms and ammunition.  Separatist leader Syed Ali Geelani has called for a three-day general strike in response to the incident, while several other prominent separatists have been arrested. A clash between demonstrators and security forces at the town of Doda, in Chenab valley, left 20 injured, including five police officers. The Amarnath Yatra, an annual Hindu pilgrimage to a sacred cave associated with the god Shiva in the mountains of Kashmir, has been ordered suspended. (Hindustan Times, CSM, July 19)

Bangladesh Islamist sentenced for war crimes

Islamist leader Ghulam Azam, 91, was sentenced to 90 years by the Bangladesh International Crimes Tribunal (ICTB) on July 15 for crimes against humanity during the country's 1971 independence war. The tribunal stated that Azam deserved capital punishment, but was given a prison term because of his advanced age. Bangladesh maintains that Pakistan's army killed 3 million people and raped 200,000 women with the assistance of local collaborators during the war. From 1969 to 2000, Azam was the leader of Jamaat-e-Islami party, which is accused of organizing the collaborationist attacks. He is the third Islamist leader to be convicted in recent months for violence in the 1971 war. At least three people died in clashes in Dhaka after the verdict was announced. (AP, NYT, BBC News, AFP, Al Jazeera, July 15)

India: bomb blasts at Buddhism birthplace

A string of nine near-simultaneous bomb blasts in and around the Mahabodhi temple at Bodh Gaya in India's Bihar state, revered as the birthplace of Buddhism, left two monks injured on July 7. Another two live bombs were reportedly found near the temple and defused There was no damage to the temple, or to the holy bodhi tree within the complex, said to be that under which Gautama Buddha attained enlightenment. The right-opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) immediately accused the central and Bihar governments of failing to take steps to avert the attack despite warnings from the intelligence services.

Nepalese Maoists betray Indian Maoists

For those who are following the twin Maoist movements in India and Nepal, there was a delicious irony May 30 when Prachanda, leader of the Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (UCPN-M), sent a condolence letter to Indian political boss Sonia Gandhi over the recent attack by Maoist Naxalite guerillas in which 27 were killed, including senior leaders of Gandhi's Congress Party. "Our party UCPN-Maoist is deeply shocked and saddened by the demise of leaders and workers of the Indian National Congress in the recent attack in Chattisgarh...unleashed by Indian Maoists," Prachanda wrote. Zee News notes that among the dead was Mahendra Karma, a notorious paramilitary leader who was accused of atrocities against perceived guerilla sympathists. A like letter from Nepali Congress party leader Sushil Koirala said: "I am extremely shocked and deeply saddened by the news of the death of senior Congress leader Mahendra Karma, other leaders and cadres of your party along with other innocent people in the ambush by the Maoists in Chattisgarh." 

India: para chief among dead in Naxal ambush

Naxalite rebels ambushed a convoy in a densely forested area of India's Chhattisgarh state as the Congress party members were returning from a rally May 25, leaving 28 dead and nearly as many injured. Four state party leaders and five police officers were among those killed. Other victims were party supporters. Police identified one of those dead as Mahendra Karma, also known as the "Bastar Tiger," a Congress leader in Chhattisgarh who founded a local militia, the Salwa Judum, to combat the Maoist guerillas. Authorities were forced to rein in the militia after it was accused of atrocities against adivasis—indigenous people on the bottom rungs of India's rigid social ladder. (AP, PTITimes of India, May 26)

May Day rocks Bangladesh, Athens, Seattle

In Dhaka, Bangladesh, an angry May Day march descended on the city center with drums, red flags, and chants of "Hang the killers, Hang the Factory Owners!" In Jakarta, Indonesia, some of the tens of thousands of marchers were dressed as ants—complete with bright red outfits and antennae—to depict the exploitation of workers. In Hong Kong, the ranks of marchers were swollen past 10,000 by striking dockworkers and their supporters. In Greece, transport came to a halt as thousands of public-sector workers walked off the job in a one-day strike. May Day protests in downtown Seattle turned violent, with police using pepper spray to disperse anarchists who pelted them with rocks, bottles, metal pipes, fireworks and a skateboard. (CSM, CNN, AFP, SCMP, May 1)

Workers' uprising in Bangladesh

Garment workers in Bangladesh walked off the job, blocked roads, attacked factories and smashed vehicles April 26, paralyzing at least three industrial areas just outside the capital Dhaka. Some 1,500 workers, many armed with bamboo sticks, marched to the Dhaka headquarters of the main manufacturers association. The uprising began when police fired tear-gas and rubber bullets at anxious relatives as they massed at the site of a collapsed factory where resuce workers were attempting to dig out their loved ones trapped under rubble. About 3,000 people are thought to have been in the Rana Plaza complex in Savar industrial zone on the outskirts of Dhaka, when it collapsed on the morning of April 24 shortly after the workday started. Only some 60 have been found alive; some 1,000 are thought to have escaped unharmed. The complex housed factories that made clothes for retail chains BenettonPrimark, Matalan, Children's Place, Cato Fashions, Mango and others.

India: victory for tribal people in mining struggle

In a landmark ruling April 18, India's Supreme Court today rejected an appeal to allow Vedanta Resources to mine the Niyamgiri hills of Orissa state. The court decreed that those most affected by the proposed mine should have a decisive say in whether it goes ahead, recognizing the rights of the Dongria Kondh indigenous people. The decision found that the traditional land rights of the local residents must be "protected and preserved." The project is now suspended until a traditional community assembly, or gram sabha, of the impacted villages can be held to assess the project.

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