Muslim Activists’ Homes Razed, BJP MLA Calls Custodial Torture Payback; How Ambedkar Won Republic’s Stamp Of Approval
Gag order on Wildlife Institute of India, Modi pressed Lanka for project for Adani, South Asia’s oldest mosque reopens, link between Indus script and Tamil graffiti, and Gir lion gets cataract surgery
A newsletter from The Wire & Galileo Ideas | Contributors: MK Venu, Seema Chishti, Siddharth Varadarajan, Sidharth Bhatia, Sushant Singh and Tanweer Alam | Editor: Pratik Kanjilal
Snapshot of the day
June 13, 2022
On Wednesday this week, it’ll be the second anniversary of the deadly clash between Indian and Chinese soldiers at Galwan in Ladakh. On Saturday, at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, US Secretary of Defence Lloyd J Austin said, “Beijing continues to harden its position along the border that it shares with India.” This was the second such observation about the LAC by a senior US official within a week. On June 8, US Army Pacific commander General Charles A Flynn, on a visit to India, said new Chinese infrastructure near the border is “alarming”, and Chinese activity in the region as “eye-opening”. About ties, he said, “I am especially thinking of India, the world’s largest democracy. We believe that its growing military capability and technological prowess can be a stabilising force in the region.”
At the same event, responding to a question on the ongoing standoff, Chinese Defence Minister General Wei Fenghe said, “The merits of the China-India border conflicts are very clear, and the responsibility does not lie with China.” Wei said that neighbours should maintain good relations, “which is what China is striving to do”. Wei said he had communicated to Defence Minister Rajnath Singh that the responsibility does not lie with China. Singh himself did not attend the Shangri La dialogue or bother to depute a junior minister.
India Today reports that China has increased the deployment of fighter aircraft near Indian territory. “The Chinese Air Force is operating from its main base in Hotan during the conflict. They are now maintaining around 25 fighter aircraft there. This is much higher than what they used to keep earlier… China is also developing a new fighter aircraft base in Shakche which is expected to strengthen the Chinese Air Force along the LAC with India. Military airbases under Indian watch include three opposite Eastern Ladakh ― Kashgar, Hotan and Ngari Gunsa. The other bases include Shigatse, Lhasa Gongkar, Nyingchi and Chamdo Pangta.
The grapevine has it that the 16th round of India-China border talks is likely to be held in Ladakh on June 14-16, but there is little expectation of any breakthrough on Depsang and Demchok. The government is likely to announce its penny-pinching tour of duty scheme for short-term contractual soldier recruitment tomorrow. Senior officers have expressed misgivings about some of its implications.
Two Indian soldiers have gone missing in Arunachal Pradesh. The Army maintains that they went to a river and probably drowned, but the families aren’t buying it. They have been missing for over a fortnight from their unit.
Tencent of China has bought a $264 million stake in Flipkart from co-founder Binny Bansal through Tencent Cloud Europe BV. Singapore-headquartered e-commerce firm Flipkart only operates in India. Bansal retains 1.84% in Flipkart after the sale. PTI reported this yesterday, but the transaction was done on October 26 last year, and details were shared with the government at the beginning of the current financial year.
The 14 members of the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) held their first informal meeting in Paris, with the US hoping to start negotiations on the trade pillar, including contentious issues like labour and environmental standards. India was represented at the meeting by Additional Secretary for Commerce and Industry Amit Yadav. Business Standard reports that it is too early to learn if India would join the negotiations on the trade pillar.
Bangladesh will not compromise on any issue involving the honour of the Prophet, though the controversy triggered by remarks by two former BJP spokespersons is largely an “external issue”, the Bangladesh information minister told Indian journalists.
The homes of some prominent activists, all Muslims, one ‘accused’ of organising protests over the BJP spokespersons’ remarks on the Prophet, were razed yesterday. It’s a shameful new low in the rapid downhill journey of institutions which refuse to speak up as protesters are demonised and the homes of their families are pulled down, without legal basis. “It doesn’t feel like my story alone… Any Muslim family today feels if they speak out, the police may walk in and arrest a loved one.” With her father arrested, her home demolished and her mother and sister detained, said UP activist Afreen Fatima, 25. Javed Mohammed’s lawyer reveals that the home demolished belongs to Javed’s wife ― her father had gifted it. He has petitioned the Chief Justice of the Allahabad High Court. Modern legal systems rest on the principle of individual liability, not collective punishment, which violates basic international laws and the Geneva conventions.
Another controversy erupted in UP after a BJP MLA hailed custodial torture as payback. Some Muslims who had taken part in Friday’s protests over the Prophet issue were allegedly beaten in a police station. “Balwaiyon ko return gift (return gift to the rioters),” said BJP MLA Shalabh Mani Tripathi, former media advisor of UP CM Yogi Adityanath. He also posted a video of the brutal beating inside what appeared to be a police lock-up.
The Delhi High Court has upheld the Delhi Police’s refusal to file an FIR against BJP leaders Anurag Thakur and Parvesh Verma for hate speech comments made in 2020 on the grounds that the government has to first give “prior sanction” for any hate speech prosecution and that this sanction has not been obtained.
The Constitutional Conduct Group has put out an open statement on sedition law and the Supreme Court, calling for a basic structure principle to safeguard citizens’ rights: “Given that no democracy can exist without freedom of speech and expression, including the right to promote opinions unfavourable to the government, the Supreme Court should use this opportunity to declare an overarching ‘basic structure principle’ of the Constitution protecting freedom of speech and expression including the reasonable restrictions mentioned in Article 19(2), so that government interference with individual freedom of speech and expression can be prevented.”
People from Punjab are seeking asylum in Canada and the US using letters that portray them as victims of state-sponsored persecution. Law enforcement agencies are examining the pattern, which they describe as disturbing, given that attempts are being made to paint India as a police state for seeking political asylum abroad. Such conspiracies are helping to whip up pro-Khalistan sentiments in Europe and the US, and are now on the rise in Punjab, government sources stressed. Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar), for instance, has been giving out such letters to those wanting to migrate to the US and Canada.
A portrait of policeman turned suicide bomber Dilawar Singh, the assassin of former Punjab chief minister Beant Singh, will be unveiled at the Central Sikh Museum at the Golden Temple tomorrow, says the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC). Dilawar joined the Babbar Khalsa and killed Beant Singh on August 31, 1995.
The 5.2% increase in the MSP for paddy is worryingly inadequate, says Avinash Kishore, research fellow at the New Delhi office of the International Food Policy Research Institute. “It is not enough incentive for farmers to produce more rice when wheat is in short supply and there is some uncertainty around the monsoon,” Kishore said. “Remember, rice is a different ball game. The world depends on India for rice.”
A few years ago, former French president Francois Hollande said Narendra Modi had foisted Anil Ambani on France as the partner for the Rafale deal. Now, a senior Sri Lankan official claimed that Modi insisted on a power project deal for the Adani Group, only to dramatically retract his statement. The Indian PM had ‘pressured’ Sri Lanka’s president to have a wind power plant in Mannar allotted to the industrialist, the Ceylon Electricity Board chief had said in his original statement. On Monday, the hapless official put in his papers. The retraction does not hold much water in Sri Lanka and India, given existing patterns of patronage.
The Union Environment Ministry has imposed a gag order on the Wildlife Institute of India. Its scientists cannot publish findings and reports without prior government approval. Some of its reports cover the impact of private industrial and development projects on biodiversity. A recent one focused on projects by Adani and other companies, which the Supreme Court took cognizance of.
UN Security General Antonio Guterres yesterday announced the appointment of Amandeep Singh Gill of India as his Envoy on Technology. Gill is an Indian Foreign Service officer who has spent years working on arms control and disarmament.
Scholars in Tamil Nadu have long spoken of a link between graffiti marks unearthed during excavations in the state and the undeciphered script of the Indus Valley Civilization, but a methodical study was pending. Now, the Tamil Nadu government will undertake a comparative study of the graffiti and potsherds, and the Indus Valley script. The Tamil Nadu State Department of Archaeology will collaborate with the Roja Muthiah Research Library, which has an exclusive Indus Research Centre. A possible link between graffiti marks and Indus signs was first expressed by Dr BB Lal, director general of the Archaeological Survey of India in 1962. The late epigraphist Iravatham Mahadevan believed that the Indus Valley people spoke a Dravidian language and migrated to the south.
Ganesh Devy is racing to document India’s languages (and their 12,000 years of history) as the government pushes a Hindi-first agenda, reports The New York Times.
And the District Magistrate of UP’s Fatehpur has seven government vets looking after her cow, one for every day of the week.