Supreme Court Hears Plea Against UAPA; Govt School Enrolment Up

Chinese ‘land grab’ in Bhutan, forces do heavy lifting in Op Hercules, gurudwaras and a Hindu offer premises for Gurgaon namaz, Chandrayaan-2 evades collision, Woody Guthrie inspires again―in Hindi

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
November 18, 2021

Pratik Kanjilal

Days after the administration in Gurgaon in BJP-run Haryana cited “objections from local residents and RWAs” to withdraw permission for Friday prayers by the Muslim community at eight of 37 public sites where it was allowed earlier, a committee overseeing five gurdwaras has offered their premises for namaz. On Tuesday, Akshay Yadav, 40, had offered his vacant shop in Gurgaon for namaz, and 15 prayed there last Friday.

In Srinagar, the families of businessmen Mohammad Altaf Bhat and Mudassir Gul, who were killed by security forces and buried at a graveyard reserved for militants, staged separate protests and asked the government to return the bodies. Gul’s wife Humaira, who brought her two-year-old daughter to a protest, said the toddler had been crying and looking for her father. Late at night, the police switched off lights and took away the families under cover of darkness. Eyewitness accounts say that Gul and Bhat were used as human shields, and then shot. The police had admitted to getting Gul and Bhat to knock on doors to flush out alleged militants. In that case, wondered former chief minister Omar Abdullah, how could they be called militants. “They were civilians because they were put in harm’s way,” Abdullah tweeted. A magisterial inquiry has now been ordered.

India and China will hold a virtual meeting of the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination today, chaired by a joint secretary in the foreign ministry. Such meetings had led to the Corps Commanders meetings in Ladakh, last held on October 10, which ended in acrimony. Defence Minister Rajnath Singh will pay homage at the Rezang La memorial today, commemorating the eponymous battle 59 years ago. The memorial was revamped recently to include the names of 20 soldiers killed in the Galwan clash in June 2020.

Satellite images confirm that the Chinese have built and inhabited at least four villages in the Doklam plateau in Bhutan. Parts of the Indian media are talking about a “massive land grab” in Bhutan, which “once relied on India for security”. Chinese road-building in Doklam had led to a very assertive move by India in 2017, but Bhutan and China have since opened direct border negotiations. Is Thimpu trying to move out of the Indian sphere of influence? It it unsure of the protection India can offer?

Yesterday, according to a statement by the Defence Ministry, the Indian Air Force and Army conducted a major drill, Operation Hercules, to strengthen logistics supply in the northern sector: “The effort was a real-time demonstration of the inherent heavy-lift capability of the Indian Air Force, which has played a major role in ensuring the ability to quickly respond to any contingency during the past.” The drill seems to be a response to images of a Chinese H-6K strategic bomber, apparently deployed in the Himalayas (see yesterday’s Cable).

The Supreme Court has issued notice to the Centre on a plea against the Unlawfu; Activities (Prevention) Act. Pointing out that the average rate of conviction has been 2.19%, former IAS officers Harsh Mander, Wajahat Habibullah, Amitabh Pande, Kamal Kant Jaiswal, Hindal Hyder Tyabji, MG Devasahayam, Pradeep Kumar Deb, Baldev Bhushan Mahajan, ex-IPS officer Julio Francis Ribeiro, Ish Kumar and former IFS officer Ashok Kumar Sharma said that this shows that “prosecution under the UAPA is either initiated in ‘bad faith’, or the quality of the evidence is not sufficient.” Also, a special bench led by the Chief Justice protected two lawyers and a journalist booked under UAPA from “coercive action” by the Tripura Police. The lawyers had led a fact-finding mission on “targeted political violence against Muslim minorities in the state” in October, and the journalist had tweeted: “Tripura is burning”. It was, as ground reports by The Print and The Wire show

Mizoram yesterday resumed construction work on the border with Assam, which it said did not stop development despite an order from the Centre to maintain the status quo after five Assam Police officers were killed following a dispute in July. Mizoram claims it has been building roads and bridges to link police posts and camps in border areas.

“My regret is that I could not completely demolish the feudal culture in which you serve,” wrote outgoing Madras High Court chief justice Sanjib Banerjee, who has been transferred to Meghalaya, in a letter to lawyers, judges and court officers who had worked with him during his brief 11-month tenure. Banerjee heaped praise upon the Madras High Court’s lawyers ―  “You are amongst the best in the country” ― and thanked them for putting up with “a talkative and sometimes grumpy old judge with more patience, respect and understanding than I may have deserved.”

The Supreme Court has appointed a retired judge of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, Rakesh Kumar Jain, to monitor the probe into the Lakhimpur Kheri violence “to assure full and complete justice to the victims of crime” in which eight persons, including four farmers, were killed on October 3. The bench reconstituted the SIT formed by the UP government by appointing three IPS officers suggested by the state.

India being able to vaccinate all adults by the end of the year continues to appear to be a long shot, but the number of fully vaccinated individuals yesterday surpassed those partially vaccinated. The share of the population which is fully vaccinated remains well below the world standard. The government, aided by a door to door campaign, which it had once dismissed as impossible to conduct, hopes to administer the first shot to all by the first week of December.  

India’s Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft performed an evasive manoeuvre to prevent a collision with NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. A very close conjunction between them was feared on October 20 this year at 11:15 am IST near the lunar north pole.

The Delhi High Court is unhappy about the surge in the numbers of unauthorised hawkers in the capital: “We can’t let the city go to the dogs.” An unfortunate construction, and the court ignores the role of jobless growth in the phenomenon, and the prime minister’s advocacy of pakodanomics

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