Nagaland Situation Grim After ‘Ambush’, Mathura Tense On Babri Anniversary; At Delhi’s Borders, Mahatma Gandhi Is Alive and Well
India’s regional influence falling, INSACOG flip-flops on booster shots, Indian-origin mathematician tipped for prize, Pulwama makes India’s pencils, and new UP road breaks under inaugural coconut
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
December 6, 2021
On the anniversary of the Babri Masjid demolition today, the focus is on Mathura, which was already under Section 144 restrictions. Apart from heavy deployment of security forces, traffic curbs have been imposed and the police are patrolling social media.
A case of “mistaken identity” in Nagaland left 15, including 14 innocent civilians, dead in an “ambush” by security forces, believed to be the 21 Para Special Forces battalion. Six labourers returning home from a coal mine were killed in the ‘ambush’ in Oting village in Mon district on Saturday evening. Locals torched vehicles of the security forces. The soldiers fled, shooting dead more civilians, alleged Nyawang Konyak, president of the Mon BJP unit. Another villager died yesterday as angry mobs attacked an Assam Rifles camp and the force, which operates under the Army, opened fire. The killings triggered fresh demands to repeal the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA), 1958, including from Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio and Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad Sangma, both of the NDA. The forces were accused of trying to take away the bodies, and public anger is running deep. In Kohima, residents told security forces to “go back”. It may be recalled that indiscriminate killing in Nagaland in 1956 had triggered a turning point in the insurgency.
Shekhar Gupta @ShekharGuptaIntel behind ‘botched’ Nagaland ambush will be probed too as tensions over civilian deaths grow @sneheshphilip reports #ThePrintDefence https://t.co/mQ89C1vOR0
Chief Minister Rio said that a Special Investigation Team would probe the incident. A case of murder has been filed. A Court of Inquiry has been ordered, and the Army said one of its personnel was killed and several seriously injured in the incident, which is “deeply regretted”. BJP’s state unit said, “It is therefore tantamount to war crimes during peace time and amounts to summary execution as well as genocide”. The Hornbill Festival is suspended, mobile internet and SMS are shut down, and Mon is under curfew. Its location on the Myanmar border makes alienation a serious problem.
This is where the Modi government had declared its Naga Framework Agreement as historic in 2015, but no details have been so far revealed. NSCN-IM has termed the killing a “black day”. Former interlocutor and Nagaland governor RN Ravi, who signed the agreement, left Chennai for Delhi yesterday, apparently for an emergency meeting. Ravi stepped down in September, after NSCN-IM demanded his removal.
India lost its ‘major power’ status last year and is still falling on the annual Asia Power Index, which ranks 26 countries and territories, measuring resources and influence to assess their relative power. “India exerts less influence in the region than expected… Its negative power gap score has deteriorated further in 2021.” India has lost heavily as a cultural influence and on economic metrics.
It’s becoming harder for the government to avoid discussion on intrusions by China. BJP MP Subramanian Swamy calls PM Modi’s denial a “fool’s paradise”. He says: “Koi aaya nahin is not true. Koi Ladakh LAC cross nahin kiya is not true. Koi Macmahon Line par karke Arunachal mey aaya nahin is not true.” The BJP in Arunachal Pradesh has been dragged into the fracas.
The government has said that “there is no proposal for banning any organisation named ‘NSO group’”. Israeli cybersecurity firm NSO group is under fire following the alleged use of Pegasus spyware on Indians. Samajwadi Party leaders and Rajya Sabha MPs Vishambar Prasad Nishad and Sukhram Singh Yadav had asked if “the USA had banned NSO Group and Candiru, for providing Pegasus spyware”, and if India plans a ban, too. Elsewhere, pressure on NSO is growing, after it emerged that US officials were attacked by Pegasus in Uganda.
India-born US mathematician Nikhil Srivastava has been jointly selected for the inaugural Ciprian Foias Prize for “highly original work” in Operator Theory by the American Mathematical Society. Read an earlier interview with him.
In a seminar at the Center for Contemporary South Asia, Brown University, Salman Rushdie said that “Pakistan has not improved, but India has deteriorated”. Ugly incidents like those in Gurugram, where Hindutva mobs prevent Friday Namaz, are making international headlines.
Nobel Laureate economist Abhijit Banerjee has said that people in India are in “extreme pain” and the economy is still below 2019 levels, with “small aspirations” of people becoming even smaller. Warnings about the growing trade gap keep coming in.
But the BJP’s financial health is glowing. Of Rs 245.72 crore that the Prudent Electoral Trust got from 19 entities in FY 2021, Rs 209 crore went to BJP, Rs 2 crore to the Congress and Rs 34 crore to other regional parties. Interestingly, Rs 100 crore came from Coimbatore-based Future Gaming and Hotel Services, ahead of Assembly polls in Tamil Nadu.
Five days after it suggested that fully vaccinated people above 40 be given a booster shot, the SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG) has taken a U-turn, saying that its earlier statement “was not a recommendation or suggestion”. Its weekly bulletin on December 4 parrots the government’s stance that boosters need more scrutiny. As Bihar reconciled its Covid data, India saw a single-day rise of 2,796 fatalities, pushing the official death toll to 4,73,326.
The sharpest rise in death by suicide was seen in 2020, a 53-year high of 11.3 per lakh.
Veteran journalist Vinod Dua, Padma winner and popular, acclaimed and influential pioneer of electronic media, died on Saturday after a long struggle with Covid-19. He was watching How to Become a Dictator in his last few months, and remained vocal and active despite his physical frailty. Effusive tributes and remembrances poured in.
Since the early Nineties, there has been concern about the Taj aging. Now, a study finds that hydrogen sulphide released from polluted water has a more corrosive impact on the monument than sulphur dioxide emitted by Agra factories.
Mumbai-born New Zealander, spin bowler Ajaz Patel, scored the perfect 10, becoming only one of three players in Test history to take all 10 wickets in an innings. He recalls the journey of a young immigrant boy to Test cricket.
The surface of a new 7 km road in Bijnor district, UP, cracked under the impact of the inaugural coconut, which remained intact. Upset BJP MLA Suchi Chaudhary sat on a dharna and scolded officials. Roadworks had cost Rs 1,16,00,000.
And on Navy Day, new service chief Admiral R Hari Kumar waded into deep waters to deal with ships.