Indian police on April 24 arrested Sikh separatist leader Amritpal Singh after a month-long manhunt. Singh gained notoriety for supporting the Khalistan movement, which calls for the establishment of an independent Sikh homeland in the northwest state of Punjab. He was taken into custody in the gurdwara (Sikh place of worship) in the village of Moga, Punjab. He is charged with attempted murder, obstructing law enforcement, and disturbing the peace under terms of the harsh National Security Act. The charges concern a Feb. 23 incident in which hundreds of followers of Singh's organization Waris Punjab De (Heirs of Punjab) stormed a police station in Amritsar with sticks, swords and firearms, demanding the release of a detained member of their group. During the manhunt for Singh, authorities cut off internet access to all Punjab, a state of nearly 30 million. (Jurist, Mint)
Taliban fighters—now acting as the security forces of the self-declared "Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan"—used tear-gas to break up a protest by women in Kabul on Jan. 16, called under the banner of "Rights and Freedom Now." The small demonstration in the vicinity of Kabul University especially called attention to two incidents in recent days—the detention of three women activists at a protest in the northern city of Balkh, in Mazar province, who have yet to be released; and the slaying of two young women of the Hazara ethnic minority by Taliban gunmen at a checkpoint in Kabul. Taliban authorities are calling the Jan. 14 killings at the checkpoint an "accident," and have reportedly arrested one of the fighters involved. In the continuing protests since the Taliban seizure of power, women have been in the vanguard. (TOLO News, Kabul. Times of India, The Independent)
Gunmen stormed a memorial ceremony honoring a martyred leader of the Hazara Shi'ite minority in Afghanistan's capital March 6. Key politicians including chief executive Abdullah Abdullah were on hand for the commemoration of the Hazara Mujahedeen commander Abdul Ali Mazari, who was assassinated by the Taliban in 1995. At least 27 people were killed in the attack, and some 30 more wounded. Soon after the massacre, the Taliban issued a statement denying responsibility. Shortly after that, the Islamic State-Khorasan Province (ISKP) claimed the attack in a communique, and also asserted that the actual death toll was 150. An ISIS-claimed attack on the same ceremony last year saw a barrage of mortar fire that killed at least 11 people. The new attack comes just as a tentative "peace deal" with the Taliban is raising concerns for the fate of Afghanistan's ethnic and religious minorities. (Khaama Press, Defense Post, NYT, The Fortress)
India's northeastern state of Assam has exploded into protest over the Dec. 11 passage of a new national citizenship law. The army has been deployed, a curfew imposed in state capital Guwahati, and internet access cut off. At least five people have been killed as security forces fired on demonstrators. The new law allows religious minorities from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan to apply for Indian citizenship. This means it effectively excludes Muslims, and mostly apples to Hindus and Sikhs. Critics of the ruling Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) say it therefore violates India's founding secular principles. But while secularists and Muslims are protesting the Citizenship Amendment Act on this basis elsewhere in India, the biggest protests have been in Assam—motivated by fear that the state will be overrun by an influx from Bangladesh, threatening its cultural and linguistic identity.
The Aug. 6 massacre of six worshippers at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wis. is revealing in its reactions from across the spectrum, but let's start with Mitt Romney. The media have noted his embarrassing blooper of confusing the words "Sikh" and "sheikh," but failed to note that the very quote in which he made the gaffe was not merely ignorant but insidiously sinister. Here it is: "We had a moment of silence in honor of the people who lost their lives at that sheik temple. I noted that it was a tragedy for many, many reasons. Among them are the fact that people, the sheik people, are among the most peaceable and loving individuals you can imagine, as is their faith." (AP, Aug. 7) Right, as opposed to those dirty you-know-whos. Numerous commentators (mostly on the left, natch) have pointed out that the emphasis on the fact that Sikhs aren't Muslims sometimes comes close to implying that violent attacks on Muslims would be OK. Romney's subtext is clearly that the Sikhs are good, domesticated wogs that white America can tolerate, while those bad Muslims have got it coming, because their faith is not "peaceable and loving."