IRS |Institute of Regional Studies

Islamabad

Contemporary Regional Developments in India

14th March - 3rd April

    Woman cries as she watches the body of Zubair Ahmed Turay, a suspected militant, being carried away during his funeral procession in South Kashmir's Shopian district on April 1, 2018. (Photo courtesy: Scroll.in)
  • India's Gorakhpur hospital: The night the children died on the night of 10 August 2017, some 30 children died at a hospital in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, highlighting chronic malaise in the public health system. The hospital and state government denied the deaths were caused by a lack of liquid oxygen after bills went unpaid. "She was alive until the morning and then after half past six I saw her shake and crumble in front of my eyes." Mohamed Zahid's five-year-old daughter Khushi was among those who died at Baba Raghav Das Hospital in Gorakhpur. It was the first time the family had gone to a government hospital and Mr Zahid feels guilt ridden. There was no offer of a post mortem - which would be routine in many other countries - into any of the deaths that night. But he is convinced he knows why his daughter and other infants died: "I'll tell you why, because they didn't have oxygen! If my daughter had had sufficient oxygen she'd have survived."
    (April 1, 2018)
  • Deadly Clashes in Kashmir Between Indian Army and local Militants
    An Indian Army operation against militants fighting Indian rule in the Muslim-majority Kashmir Valley killed at least 12 militants, the largest one-day death toll in recent years, officials in Kashmir said. At least three soldiers and four civilians also died, and about 70 other people were wounded in the army crackdown in the district of Shopian, according to the Kashmir authorities. Army officials called the operation a major success. “It is a special day for our forces,” Lt. Gen. A. K. Bhatt said. Kashmir — caught in a territorial dispute between Hindu-majority India, which controls much of the territory, and Muslim-majority Pakistan — has endured brutal conflict for decades. (New York Times 1 April, 2018) India’s ‘encounter strategy’ has pushed Kashmir into a situation where violence has become a norm.
    (3 April, 2018 Scroll. In)
  • India Spurns the Dalai Lama’s Celebration, Worried About China An original song of thanks to India had been rehearsed, and a stadium in New Delhi had been reserved for a celebratory rally — all a gesture of gratitude from the Dalai Lama and his followers for India’s role in sheltering them after a Chinese crackdown on rebellious Tibetans 60 years ago. Instead, the planned “Thank You India” celebrations, set for this coming weekend, set off apprehension in New Delhi and embarrassment among Tibetans. A directive from India’s foreign secretary urged officials to discard their invitations, and it was blunt in saying the timing of the events coincided with a “sensitive time” for New Delhi’s relations with Beijing. A series of high-level meetings between Indian and Chinese officials are being billed in India as an attempt to smooth over an increasingly tense relationship. Invitations to top officials were withdrawn, and the event was moved from a stadium in the capital to the secluded northern town of McLeod Ganj, home to the Dalai Lama’s temple and the seat of the Tibetan government in exile. A scheduled interfaith prayer in New Delhi was flatly canceled rather than moved, given the lack of other religious representatives in McLeod Ganj. “In Delhi, we approached many dignitaries and invited them,” said Sonam Dagpo, a spokesman for Tibet’s government in exile and the chief organizer for the planned events. “But the foreign secretary’s notice says very clearly that Indian officials shouldn’t attend. So why continue? It’s futile.” The canceled events underline India’s struggle to both court and counterbalance China, an increasingly difficult feat given China’s recent willingness to flex its military growth. India has continued to host the Dalai Lama and his fellow Tibetan Buddhist exiles even though China condemns them as dangerous separatists. But the Indian government has also sought at times to rein in the religious leader at crucial moments in the relationship with China, and this is certainly one of them.
    (29 March, 2018 New York Times)
  • Assault on freedom of press in India:
    When Kamran Yousuf, a young Kashmiri photojournalist, stepped out of an Indian jail, he was gaunt and visibly weaker. Mr. Yousuf, who was released on bail Tuesday night after being imprisoned for six months, has found himself at the center of a dispute that has captivated Kashmir. The Indian authorities who arrested Mr. Yousuf questioned his journalistic credentials. They accused him of throwing stones at Indian forces in the bitterly disputed border territory, as part of a group working with a terrorist organization from Pakistan — charges Mr. Yousuf’s friends and family say were concocted to punish him for documenting antigovernment protests. On Monday afternoon, a thaw of sorts was reached when a judge in the New Delhi court overseeing Mr. Yousuf’s case ruled that there was not enough credible evidence to detain him before trial. Mr. Yousuf’s grandfather, Mohammed Yousuf Ganaie, said by telephone: “He is innocent and has not committed any crime. The court has done him justice.” Rubeena Tasin, Mr. Yousuf’s mother, with his camera gear at his house in Pulwama, in Jammu and Kashmir. Credit Atul Loke for The New York Times Kashmir has endured bloody conflict for decades as the subject of a brutal territorial dispute between India, which controls much of the territory, and Pakistan. Unrest has surged in recent years, with many young Kashmiris accusing India of using excessive force to quell protests, including firing blinding pellet guns into crowds. Mr. Yousuf, 21, dropped out of college to document the conflict, carrying his camera equipment around the Kashmir Valley on his grandfather’s motorbike. He was known for capturing images of riots, militants’ funerals and protests. But in September, the career Mr. Yousuf had built came to an abrupt halt when he was arrested and accused by India’s National Investigation Agency of throwing stones as part of a campaign supported by an international terrorist body in Pakistan. Indian soldiers and police officers in Kashmir frequently face stone-throwing crowds, and the confrontations sometimes turn deadly. The agency said Mr. Yousuf could not possibly be a journalist because he never took pictures of government development projects or of the openings of hospitals, schools or bridges. Many journalists in the region saw the arrest as an assault on freedom of the press, pasting posters on the sides of buildings that read: “I am Kamran Yousuf. I am caged for fair journalism.”
    (New York Times, 14 March 2018)
7th March - 13th March
  • PM Modi speaks to Rajnath Singh over attack on statues, govt takes serious note: Prime Minister Narendra Modi condemned incidents of vandalism reported from some parts of the country and warned of stern action against those found guilty. Modi spoke to home minister Rajnath Singh and expressed his strong disapproval of the incidents, a government spokesperson said even as reports of another statue being defaced in West Bengal emerged. “MHA (ministry of home affairs) has asked the states that they must take all necessary measures to prevent such incidents...,” the spokesperson said. BJP chief Amit Shah had a warning for party workers. “I have spoken to the party units in both Tamil Nadu and Tripura. Any person associated with the BJP found to be involved with destroying any statue will face severe action from the party,” Shah tweeted. A Facebook post, which has since been deleted, by senior Tamil Nadu party leader H Raja talked about Periyar statues meeting the same fate as that of Lenin in Tripura. “Who is Lenin and what is the connection between Lenin and India?... Lenin’s statue has been removed in Tripura. Today it is Lenin’s statue in Tripura, tomorrow it will be the statue of caste fanatic EVR Ramasamy,” he had posted on Tuesday, referring to social reformer popularly known as Periyar. A few hours later, a Periyar statue was vandalised in Velloreand petrol bombs thrown at BJP office in Coimbatore. In West bengal, members of an ultra-Left student outfit vandalised and defaced a statue of BJP ideologue Syama Prasad Mookerjee in Kolkata.Police arrested six members of the “Radical,” believed to be a pro-Maoist students body formed in Jadavpur University four years ago, over the incident at South Kolkata’s Tollygunge. According to a senior home ministry official, Singh spoke to Tripura governor Tathagata Roy after he appeared to justify the toppling of Lenin’s statue in South Tripura district.“What one democratically elected government can do another democratically elected government can undo. And vice versa,” the governor had tweeted. Responding to reports of Singh’s intervention, Roy had tweeted, “The Governor has received no such written communication from the Union Home Minister…”Later Roy tweeted, “I am advised that pulling down statues (Lenin’s or anyone else’s) unless done by lawfully empowered authorities, qualify as ‘Mischief’ under Indian Penal Code. They are bailable and non-cognizable offences. Trying to blow them up to something like rioting or murder is unwarranted.”
    (Hindustan Times, 7.3.2018)
  • Macron visit to India: Chinese ambition in the Indian Ocean region is bringing France and India closer French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte begin a key, three-day visit to India on 7.3.2018. India sees France as a key partner, both politically and strategically, especially now, as an island of political stability and continuity in an increasingly uncertain world. The past year has seen great political upheaval not only in the United States of America with the arrival of a whimsical and often contrary president, but also across Europe, which has witnessed enormous political upheaval. Britain, caught in the negotiating coils of Brexit, has little time for anything but its own woes with the EU. Italy has just shooed in an extreme-right, anti-immigrant, anti-EU political formation with gigantic question marks hanging over the type of government that will emerge. Germany, the powerhouse of the European Union, has returned Angela Merkel to chancellorship, but with a substantially weakened hand. Spain is locked in an internal separatist debate while countries such as Hungary, Poland or the Czech Republic are all moving towards the extreme right. Europe is in the midst of identity angst. It is with this backdrop that Macron, elected President with more than 65% of the vote and a thumping parliamentary majority for his Republique En Marche! party, comes to India for a State visit that is likely to produce several positives for both sides. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Macron will co-chair the founding conference of the International Solar Alliance, an Indian initiative first mooted at the Paris Climate Change Conference of 2015. Both India and France have pledged to substantially reduce their carbon emissions and work towards energy transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy.
    (Hindustan Times, 9.3.2018)
28th February - 06th March
  • I-T sleuths unearth Rs 3,200 crore TDS scam
    The income tax department has unearthed a Rs 3,200 crore scam where 447 companies deducted tax from its employees but did not deposit with the government and diverted to further their business interests.The TDS wing of the I-T has initiated prosecution against these firms and in some cases, warrants have been issued, sources said. Under the Income Tax Act, the offences attract a minimum punishment of rigorous imprisonment of three months to a maximum of seven years with fine. Prosecution is initiated under Section 276 B. I-T is contemplating adding IPC Sections of cheating and criminal breach of trust as this act amounts to duping its employees, sources said. The offenders mainly include builders with one of them, a leading and politically connected, diverting Rs 100 crore collected from his employees for business purposes.
    (Times of India: 05.03.2018)
  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Saudi Arabia had granted Air India permission to fly over its territory on its new routes to and from Tel Aviv.
    (The Hindu, 06.03.2018)
  • Britain to take up ‘persecution’ of religious minorities in India
    Britain will raise the issue of alleged persecution of Christians and Sikhs in India during the April meeting of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in London and Windsor, following demands by MPs to take it up with Prime Minster Narendra Modi. During a lengthy debate at the Westminster Hall of the House of Commons on ‘Freedom of religion or belief’ last week, MPs cited details of alleged persecution in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and elsewhere, and demanded that ministers discuss it when Commonwealth leaders are here for CHOGM. A ministry of external affairs officer in India said the ministry would need to see the transcript of the debate before making any comments on the issue. Martin Docherty-Hughes (Scottish National Party) mentioned the detention in Punjab of his constituent, Jagtar Singh Johal, allegedly without charge, and claimed that “members of the Sikh community across the UK have become gravely concerned that they, too, may be detained on the simple premise of being a member of the Sikh faith”.
    (Hindustan Times, 05.03.2018)
  • Central Bank's New Directive Threatens To Bring Down India's Booming Digital Wallets Industry; In 2016, the Indian government force-fed the idea of a cashless society to its citizens, pushing them into the arms of the digital payments industry through its demonetization programme that abruptly scrapped 85% of its currency. It led to the rapid digitization of India’s monetary system, slated to grow $500 billion by 2020, contributing to 15% of GDP, with a slew of public and private players, from the government and multiple fintech companies to messaging apps vying for customers’ wallets. While digital wallet companies such as Paytm, MobiKwik, FreeCharge, Ola Money, and Amazon Pay gained massive ground, Alibaba-backed Paytm, India's top digital payment firm, hit 100 million downloads on Google Play Store in December. Two years later, the scene has changed. Strict regulation of Indian central bank, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), has dealt a blow to the growing digital wallet business. It all started last October, when the RBI directed digital payments companies to ensure that the payment instruments issued by them adhere to know-your-customer (KYC) norms -- a process through which financial institutions verify information about customers, including their identification details and biometrics -- by February 28 to pave the way for interoperability between prepaid payment instruments (PPIs), bank accounts and cards in a phased manner. Ironically, this regulation comes at a time when mobile wallets reported a 14% growth in January transactions at 113.6 million compared to 99 million in December 2017.
    (Forbes, 04.03.2018)

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