South Asia Theater

Nepal protesters defy repression

Nepalese police fired tear gas and charged with batons in clashes with pro-democracy activists in Kathmandu Jan. 21. Street battles lasted for two hours around Durbar Square. The protests came after the house arrest of political leaders campaigning to force King Gyanendra to give up power. Over 500 activists were arrested in the sweeps, including former foreign minister Ramsharan Mahat, former finance minister Mahesh Acharya, both from the Nepali Congress party. (NDTV, India, Jan. 22)

Strike for peace in Sri Lanka

Business and commerce in Sri Lanka's port city of Trincomalee were paralyzed as a three-day strike in protest against renewed violence by the Tamil Tiger guerillas entered its last day Jan. 14. Main roads in the town were deserted except for government troops on patrol. Shops, government offices, schools, public markets, banks and transportation were all closed in the hartal (strike) called by the Sinhala Vimukthi Sanvidanaya, a civil organization of the dominant Buddhist Sinhalese ethnicity. A Jan. 13 rally in support of the strike was reportedly attended by Tamils and Muslims as well as Sinhalese. (Qatar Gulf Times, Jan. 15) Authorities said they also suspected that the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) was involved in the work stoppage. The Marxist JVP is currently a key ally of President Mahinda Rajapakse's government. (PTI, Jan. 13) The TamilNation website accuses the JVP of representing "Sinhala Buddhist fundamentalism in Marxist garb."

Nepal: Maoists attack capital; Buddhists march for peace

Maoist guerrillas bombed two police stations and a municipal office on the outskirts of Kathmandu Jan. 14, killing at least 11 officers in the first attacks in the capital region since the rebels ended their cease-fire on Jan. 2. Hours earlier, 16 guerillas and a government soldier were killed in a firefight in Syangja, a Maoist stronghold 140 miles west of Kathmandu. Two days earlier, 10 rebels were killed in the same area, the army said.

Burma resumes crackdown on Naga guerillas

Naga separatist guerillas in India's remote northeast are once again being hunted down by the authorities in neighboring Burma (Myanmar), where they had previously been granted refuge. This appears to be leading to a two-front insurgency in which the Naga separatists are seeking an independent state straddling the current Burma-India border. On Jan. 10, Naga guerilla leaders claimed to have killed seven Burmese soldiers while losing three rebel fighters in a heavy gun battle in Burmese territory.

Pakistan: Baluch rebels blow up pipeline

The gas pipeline to the Uch power plant in the southwestern Pakistani province of Baluchistan was blown up late Jan. 3, cutting off gas supplies to the plant. The attack came as sporadic rocket and artillery duels continued between Pakistani security forces and Baluch insurgents in the town of Dera Bugti.

Nepal: Maoists in accord with democratic opposition

In a surprising shift of strategy, Nepal's Maoist guerillas have reached a 12-point common agenda with the top parliamentary parties, subsequently endorsed by UN secretary-general Kofi Annan. The new pact between the armed rebels and political opposition does not seek abolition of the monarchy, but envisages a limited monarchy where the king's powers are well-defined and constitutional. It calls for elections for a constituent assembly, prior to which Maoists will desist from violence and place their arms under the supervision of the UN or other international agency.

Pakistan: Baluchi rebels behind KFC blast?

A powerful blast outside KFC fast-food franchise killed three people and wounded at least 15 others in Pakistan's southern port city of Karachi early Nov. 15. The Baluchistan National Army, a separatist guerilla group in restive southwestern Baluchistan Province, claimed responsibility for the attack. But Pakistani officials deny the existence of the group. "We did it to protest, and we did it to pressure the government for our rights," a guerilla spokesperson, identified as Chakar Azam, told the AP. Pakistani officials dismissed the claim.

Hope in Kashmir, terror in Delhi: unity of opposites?

Well, India and Pakistan make a courageous and historic decision to open the militarized Line of Control that divides Kashmir in order to allow aid through to remote earthquake-stricken villages (Reuters, Oct. 29). What, putting aside sectarian and geo-political concerns in the interests of humanitarianism? We can't have that! Immediately before the announcement, bombs explode in a crowded market in Delhi... From the BBC:

Delhi on high alert after blasts
India's capital Delhi has been put on high alert after three explosions rocked the city killing at least 55 people and injuring many others. The government has called on people to stay indoors, and armed police have taken up positions outside key buildings and the main public areas.

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