South Asia Theater

India: press freedom at stake amid communal violence

The Supreme Court of India ordered the Tripura police Nov. 17 to refrain from taking any coercive measures, including arrest, against two lawyers and one journalist booked under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act of 1967 (UAPA) for their social media posts and reports on the recent communal violence in the northeastern state.

Indian writer sued over Hindutva-jihad comparison

A criminal complaint was registered Nov. 12 against Indian politician and former union minister Salman Khurshid over statements made in his recent book Sunrise over Ayodhya: Nationhood in Our Times. The complaint was filed under Sections 153 and 295A of the Indian Penal Code, which protect "religious sentiments." The complaint, filed by lawyer Bharat Sharma at a Jaipur police station, alleges that Khurshid offended the religious sentiments of Hindus by comparing Hindutva (or Hindu nationalism) with the ideology of terror groups such as ISIS and Boko Haram.

India: anti-mine protesters face repression

Police in Gadchiroli district of Nagpur division in India's Maharashtra state broke up a thiya andolan (sit-in) by local peasants and adivasis (tribal people) at the site of the contested Surjagarh iron-ore mining project, and arrested six of the organizers Oct. 29. Gadchiroli is within central India's "Red Corridor" of Naxalite guerilla activity, and local authorities accuse the rebels of stirring up the protests. Following a demonstration at the mine site earlier in the week, two attendees were arrested by a local police "special operations team" as they departed, on charges of being Naxals. The mine at Surjagarh, in Etapalli taluka (subdistrict), is under lease by Lloyds Metals & Energy Ltd (LMEL). Since it began operations in June, it has faced repeated protests from local residents over its ecological impacts and usurpation of traditional lands. (Times of India, ToI, ToI)

Book review: Underground Asia

Underground Asia
Global Revolutionaries and the Assault on Empire
by Tim Harper
Harvard University Press, 2021

This dauntingly detailed book on the roots of Asia's anti-colonial movements documents the early influence of anarchism, and how it was ultimately displaced by nationalisms of different stripes.

India: tribal rights activists accused as 'Naxals'

The Bombay High Court on Sept. 13 issued a notice to India's National Investigation Agency (NIA), directing it to file a reply to the bail plea of Anand Teltumbde, a Goa-based professor and civil rights activist who faces charges under the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) in relation to the notorious Bhima Koregaon case. In the case, dating to 2018, several advocates for Dalits ("untouchables") and Adivasis (tribal peoples) are accused of links to the Maoist guerillas known as the Naxalites. Fifteen face lengthy prison terms and are still being denied bail. The case was back in the news in July, when a 16th among the accused, Jesuit priest Father Stan Swamy, 84, died in a hospital in Mumbai after taking ill in jail. His medical bail plea was still pending when he expired.

Kashmir under internet blackout —again

Indian-administered Kashmir was plunged back into internet darkness Sept. 2 as India's central authorities enforced lockdowns and a news blackout following the death of Syed Ali Geelani, a prominent separatist leader. Geelani, 91, died at his home the day before. His body was immediately seized by authorities, and buried in a quiet funeral held under harsh restrictions. His son, Naseem Geelani, said the family had planned to bury him at the main martyrs' cemetery in Srinagar, as specified in his will, but was not allowed to do so. Police also charged family members under an anti-terrorism law for wrapping his body in the Pakistani flag and raising anti-India slogans. Kashmir spent months without internet following an August 2019 crackdown. High-speed mobile internet was only restored earlier this year. (TNH, AP, The Guardian)

Bangladesh: protests erupt as writer dies in prison

Hundreds of demonstrators took to the streets and blocked intersections in Dhaka on March 1 to protest the death of a writer and commentator in prison, who had been charged under Bangladesh's controversial Digital Security Act (DSA). The deceased, popular author and blogger Mushtaq Ahmed, had been arrested last May after posting comments on social media in which he criticized the government's response to the COVID-19 pandemic. At least 10 others were also charged with sedition under the DSA that month, including political cartoonist Kabir Kishore, who remains imprisoned. At a court hearing last month, Kishore passed a note to his brother stating that he had been physically abused in prison, resulting in severe injuries. The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists is demanding his release, and that the claim of maltreatment be investigated.

UN tribunal rejects UK rule of Chagos Islands

The International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea ruled Jan. 28 that the United Kingdom does not hold sovereignty over the Chagos Islands, allowing the dispute between Mauritius and Maldives in regards to the delimitation of their boundaries to proceed. The ruling follows a preliminary objection from the Maldives government, which claimed that the tribunal could not decide the matter due to the existing dispute between Mauritius and the United Kingdom regarding the sovereignty of the archipelago. The tribunal rejected the objection.

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