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.
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)
Taliban forces dramatically stepped up their rapid advance across Afghanistan over the past days, seizing 11 capitals of the country's 34 provinces. First, on Aug. 6, Zaranj, capital of Nimruz province in the southern Taliban heartland, fell to the insurgents. But then they switched the offensive to the north, taking Sheberghan, Jawzjan province; Sar-e-Pul and Kunduz, of their respective eponymous provinces; Taluqan, Takhar province; Aybak, Samangan province; Farah, Farah province; Pul-e-Khumri, Baghlan province; and Faizabad, Badakhshan province. Herat and Ghazni, a strategic southern gateway to the national capital Kabul, were the most recent to fall, on Aug. 12. The northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif is besieged, and India's military is mobilizing an airlift to evacuate the country's nationals there. Kandahar, back in the Taliban's southern heartland, is also the scene of heavy fighting, as is Lashkar Gah, capital of adjoining province of that name.
In Episode 64 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg notes the maddening and telling irony that while we're all supposed to be ga-ga with triumphalism over NASA's latest Mars probe, it has received practicailly no attention that Afro-Brazilian peasant communities are being forcibly removed from their traditional lands to make way for a US-backed expansion of the Alcântara Satellite Launch Center in impoverished Maranhão state. This juxtaposition of news stories is paradigmatic of the whole global struggle—sustainable, Earth-rooted cultures against a hypertrophing technosphere that is now colonizing the very heavens. Meanwhile, there are already so many satellites in orbit that near-Earth space is experiencing a fast-growing "space junk" problem. And economic austerity down here on terra firma is compounding the agonizing impacts of the pandemic. Whatever useful knowledge may be gleaned from the Mars probe, accounts don't note that Halliburton is drawing up plans for mining operations on Mars. We recall Gil Scott Heron's wry reaction to the 1969 Moon landing ("Whitey on the Moon"), and say with Marvin Gaye: "Spend it on the have-nots!"
The first nuclear disarmament treaty in more than two decades came into force on Jan. 22, following its 50th ratification last October, which triggered the 90-day period required before the treaty entered into effect. The UN completed negotiations on the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons at its New York headquarters in July 2017. The treaty constitutes "a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading to their total elimination." Following negotiations, the treaty was open to signatories beginning in September 2017.
The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has issued notices to Google and Wikipedia censuring them for "disseminating sacrilegious content" through their platforms. The notices, issued Dec, 24, accused these sites of hosting "misleading" content referencing the present khalifa (spiritual head) of Islam. The PTA specifically cited articles and search results allegedly portraying Mirza Masroor Ahmad, the current leader of the Ahmadiyya Muslim sect, as the "present khalifa of Islam." Additionally, the PTA demanded the platforms remove an "unauthentic" version of the Quran published by the Ahmadiyya community from the Google Play Store. The PTA warned the platforms "to remove the sacrilegious content to avoid any legal action" under the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act.
The government in the Indian union territory of Jammu & Kashmir issued an order Dec. 25 extending the suspension of high-speed 4G internet services for a further two weeks. The order is efffective across the territory, excluding the districts of Ganderbal and Udhampur. The government said it received credible reports of terrorists attempting to infiltrate from across the Line of Control that separates the territory from Pakistan-controlled Kashmir. The order ostensibly seeks to deter recruitment of youth into terrorist groups, and the circulation of provocative videos and "fake news" on social media.
Thousands of farmers from across India's north marched on Delhi despite efforts by police to block them with road barricades, tear-gas and baton charges Nov. 27. The cross-country march, which converged from Punjab and Haryana states, entered the capital one day after several Indian states were shut down by a general strike in support of the farmers' demands. This was called by a newly formed Joint Platform of Central Trade Unions bringing together 10 of the country's major organized labor federations. Leaders claimed 25 crore (250 million) workers participated in the strike. The "Chalo Delhi" (Go to Delhi) mobilization was called to protest a package of agricultural reform laws passed in September that lifts requirements for government purchases of grain at guaranteed prices. (IndustriAll, FirstPost, PTI, Al Jazeera, NDTV, AP, NewsClick)