South Asia Theater
China has mobilized thousands of troops backed up by armored vehicles to a contested area along the border with India in the Himalayas, where troops last month hurled stones at each other across the unmarked boundary known as the Line of Actual Control (LAC). The area in question is in the Galwan River valley between Ladakh, in Indian-administered Kashmir, and Chinese-administered Aksai Chin. Top generals from both sides held talks in Moldo, on the Chinese side, on June 6, but tensions remain high. India charges that Chinese forces are hindering patrols by its troops along the LAC in Ladakh and Sikkim, and refutes Beijing's claim that Indian forces have crossed to the Chinese side. (SCMP, NDTV, NDTV)
Tropical Cyclone Amphan unexpectedly intensified into a rare "Super Cyclonic Storm" on May 18—becoming the northern hemisphere's strongest tropical cyclone yet in 2020. Amphan made landfall two days later, leaving a trail of destruction along coastal areas both in India and Bangladesh, impacting tens of millions of people. At least 77 deaths in India and 25 in Bangladesh have been reported so far. Over three million people in both countries remain displaced from their homes, taking refuge in community shelters—obviously placing them at risk of contracting COVID-19. In India's West Bengal state, thousands of people evacuated from their homes are crammed inside buildings that were being used as COVID-19 quarantine centers, because there is no other shelter available. (ReliefWeb, The Watchers, ThirdPole)
Unemployed migrant workers left stranded by the COVID-19 lockdown have repeatedly clashed with police in India's industrial hub of Gujarat state, and the situation is fast escalating. Protesters demanding transport back to their homes were again attacked by police at a market on the outskirts of Surat on May 4; tear-gas canisters were met with pelted stones. (NDTV, GulfNews) Riots yet again erupted four days later in Ahmedabad, as security forces attacked residents defying stringent lockdown orders. (AFP, FirstPost)
Bangladeshi counter-terrorism authorities announced the arrest in Dhaka April 7 of Abdul Majed, who faces the death penalty for involvement in the 1975 assassination of the country's founder, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Independence leader "Bangabandhu" Rahman served as the country's first prime minister from 1971 until the 1975 coup in which he was killed along with his family. Only his daughters Sheikh Hasina Wazed and Sheikh Rehana Siddiq survived, as they were in West Germany at the time. Although forbidden from returning to Bangladesh during the subsequent 15-year period of military rule, Sheikh Hasina became prime minister in 1997 and then again in 2009. Majed has publicly admitted his involvement in the massacre, but, like the others involved, faced no legal consequences during the period of military rule. After Sheikh Hasina first became prime minister, Majed went into hiding. In 1998, he was tried in absentia and sentenced to death. The Supreme Court of Bangladesh in 2009 upheld the sentences of Majed and 11 others convicted in the case. In 2010, five of the convicts were hanged; five remain at large, and one has died of natural causes.
At least 27 are dead in five days of communal violence in Delhi that coincided with Donald Trump's first visit to India as president. The violence began as protests against India's new citizenship law sparked a reaction by Hindu militants, who began attacking Muslims and torching Muslim-owned shops. Delhi judicial authorities have opened an investigation, and ordered police officials to view video clips of incitement by local leaders of the ruling Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). (Jurist, India Today)
Sri Lanka's Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa announced Feb. 19 that his government will withdraw from co-sponsorship of a 2015 UN Human Rights Council resolution calling for an investigation into war crimes committed on the island during the internal conflict with Tamil rebels. UNHRC Resolution 30/1 was actually a compromise measure, after the Sri Lanka government rejected calls for creation an international tribunal. Withdrawal from the resolution is seen a response to the US imposing a travel ban on Sri Lanka's army commander Shavendra Silva and his family over complicity in human rights violations during the conflict, which ended in 2009 after 26 years. (Jurist, NYT, Feb. 19)
In Episode 47 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg speaks with Punnag Tej Hazarika of the Brooklyn-based small-press imprint Coolgrove and affiliated BorderTalk blog, which explores questions of cultural intersection. Among Coolgrove's recent titles is Winged Horse: 76 Assamese Songs, a collection of translated lyrics by Tej's father, Bhupen Hazarika, the "Bard of Brahmaputra," who campaigned through his music for a dignified place in India for the peoples of Assam and other minority ethnicities. Last year, Tej traveled to New Delhi to receive the Bharat Ratna, India's highest civilian award, on behalf of his late father. But the honor came with India—and especially Assam and the restive Northeast—on the cusp of exploding into protest over the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act. The politics of the situation, and the dilemmas of interculturality from Assam to New York, are discussed in a wide-ranging interview. Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon.
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.