Saturday, November 27, 2010

Northeast and other updates (November 28, 2010)

1) Book review: When Churchill starved India Linky

Churchill’s racism toward Indians, especially Hindus, is no longer news, such has been the tide of revisionist thinking that began with the historian John Charmley’s 1993 book Churchill: The end of glory – A Political Biography. Nevertheless, the scale of British perfidy towards the 400 million people of India, and the scale of the famine that befell Bengal in 1943, are recounted by Mukerjee with such blistering coolness that one is left reeling. The fact that today, these things should be so badly forgotten, or treated as a surprising revelation, also gives pause for thought.

India’s job in the 1940s, as far as the British were concerned, was to ward off the Soviets from Afghanistan, to join in the defeat of the Germans in the Middle East and Africa, and, after Pearl Harbour, to join in the defeat of the Japanese. But there was another job Britain did, too: it removed India’s best troops from India, so that no nationalist mutiny there could be successful. Added to this, as Mukerjee makes clear, the colony’s entire output of timber, woollen textiles and leather goods, as well as three quarters of its steel and cement, were diverted to the defence of the British Empire. India was, next to Britain, the largest contributor to the Empire’s war.

Minutes from Britain’s War Cabinet in February 1940 record that Churchill regarded the ‘feud’ between Hindus and Muslims ‘as the bulwark of British rule in India’. The more Britain built up IOUs to India, the more Churchill came to favour partitioning India and creating Pakistan. The liberal-leaning Conservative elder statesman Leopold Amery (who had drafted the 1917 Balfour Declaration promising Jews a homeland in Palestine) was, as Churchill’s secretary of state for India, more cautious than his boss. On the other hand, Lord Cherwell, the Anglophile German scientist and War Cabinet member F A Lindemann, could massage any statistic to reinforce Churchill in the view that emaciated Indians were in fact thoroughly greedy in asking for food supplies (indeed, Cherwell also singled out the working-class areas of Dresden for bombing with incendiaries). But even Field Marshall Archibald Wavell, who became viceroy at the end of October 1943 and who often opposed Churchill’s policy of starving the Indians, at the same time felt that they had reached, at best, the ‘tiresome’ age of adolescence. Even if, as a one-time friend of Lawrence of Arabia, he could also see the merit of supporting what for him were martial Muslims over conniving and more populous Hindus.

2) Raju Barua bail: Linky

Barua was released from Central Jail in Guwahati at 11.30am after being granted bail in two TADA cases and a CBI case. A festive atmosphere gripped Barua’s native village when he reached there around 1pm.
Barua told reporters that Ulfa wanted talks to be held with full dignity and honour. “We will not hold talks by keeping people in the dark.” He said they wanted Ulfa commander-in-chief Paresh Barua and general secretary Anup Chetia to join the peace process.

3) Rail and road connectivity: Linky

The Ministry of Railways has an investment plan of over Rs 17,000 crore in different projects in the North-east, which are scheduled for completion by 2015. The Central Government has also approved augmentation of foodgrain storage capacity in the region by 5.25 lakh tonnes, more than doubling the existing storage capacity of 4.58 lakh tonnes. On the Railway Ministry’s investment plan of more than Rs 17,000 crore in projects in the region to be completed by 2015, it was assured that those projects would be taken up as per schedule and funding would not be a constraint. On the road sector, it was emphasized that NH-44, NH-53 and NH-39 would be taken up on priority and efforts would be made to speed up work, including maintenance, before the onset of the next monsoon. The need for regular maintenance of the roads, particularly by BRO, was also stressed.

Sentinel adds: Linky

“The Ministry of Railways has an investment plan of more than Rs 17,000 crore in projects to be completed by 2015. Eleven new line projects, three gauge conversion projects and one doubling project are in progress. These projects will be taken up as per schedule and funding will not be a problem. Other issues will be taken up by the ministries and the State governments concerned at the earliest,” he said.

4) The former Chief Secretary of Assam writes on the Look-East Policy and Burma: Linky

Considerable progress has been recorded in trade between India and the ASEAN countries in the past few years. The volume has risen from US $40 billion in 2007-08 to US $44 billion in 2009-10. A Free Trade Agreement (FTA) was signed between India and the ASEAN countries in Bangkok on August 13, 2009. It is proposed to increase the trade volume to US $60 billion in seven years and to reduce the tariff rates drastically.
It is appropriate that the LEP first touched Myanmar. Myanmar has a common border of 1643 km with four of India’s States, namely, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram. For trade with China and the Southeast Asian countries by the land route, all movement has to be through Myanmar. It is true that Myanmar itself is poor. It does not have as much manufactured goods to offer as the other Southeast Asian countries. But it has vast natural resources which are yet to be tapped. In recent years the volume of trade between India and Myanmar has gone up to US $1.2 billions. At present India’s imports include pulses, wood and wood products, fruits and nuts, natural rubber and paper and paper pulp. India exports drugs and pharmaceutical products, machinery and instruments, steel and transport equipments. Moreover, Myanmar’s geo-strategic location cannot be ignored. That is why India is building the trans-Asian railway network through Myanmar to Singapore. The Asian road highway is also under construction through Myanmar. The ultimate idea is to link up the Indian ocean with south China sea. Besides, India has taken up several infrastructure projects in Myanmar. The Tatas are setting up a truck-manufacturing plant at Magway, the ESSAR group is joining in the attempt to build the multi-model Kaladan transport project, the National Hydroelectric Power Corporation will build the Tamanthi power project, and GOI will help Myanmar to build a new port at Sittwe.

All this effort to achieve closer Indo-Myanmarese relations reflected India’s present pragmatism in matters relating to foreign policy. It may be recalled that writing about India’s foreign policy in the Asian context, the former Indian Foreign Secretary, JN Dixit, had suggested that our trade relations with Myanmar should be normalized irrespective of the government that might be in power there because that country is geo-strategically important to India. Such close cooperation with Myanmar is also necessary in order that India may curb smuggling, border crimes, drug movement and insurgency. Dixit, however, never envisaged the LEP although he had devoted three chapters of his book to India’s relations with the countries of Asia.

India is now following a different policy towards the autocratic junta which controls Myanmar while at the same time supporting the world community’s effort towards assisting the Nobel Laureate Aung San Su Ki’s fight for democracy in her country. This is realpolitik. It is in pursuance of this realpolitik that India and Myanmar have exchanged high-level visits in recent times. The most important visit perhaps is that of the Myanmarese senior General Than Shwe, who as the “Chairman of the State Peace and Development Council of Myanmar” heads the autocratic government of that country. During his discussion with the Indian Prime Minister on July 27, 2010 India and Myanmar agreed on “close co-operation between the security forces of the two countries in tackling the pernicious problem of terrorism”. Arrangements were also finalized for Indian participation in critical areas like medical science, education, telecom services and in major projects and manufacturing industries.

5) NSCN-K and NSCN-IM peace moves: Linky

The National Socialist Council of Nagalim (NSCN-IM) has backed out of the ongoing Naga reconciliation meet at Chiang Mai, Thailand, providing yet another hiccup to the peace process. The meeting, under the aegis of Forum for Naga Reconciliation and Quakers from the UK, began at Chiang Mai yesterday. Representatives of the Government of the People’s Republic of Nagaland/National Socialist Council of Nagaland (GPRN/NSCN), formerly known as NSCN (Khaplang), and Federal Government of Nagaland (Singnyu faction) are attending in the absence of representatives from NSCN (Isak-Muivah).

Meanwhile, Linky

All medical, paramedical as well as fourth grade staff of Haflong Civil Hospital staged a sit-in in front of the Deputy Commissioner’s office on Saturday demanding immediate arrangement of security in the backdrop of extortion threat, allegedly by the NSCN, asking all the staff to pay 24 per cent of their salary per month to the outfit. Dr Pradip Kumar Baruah, Superintendent of the Civil Hospital, told The Sentinel over telephone from Haflong on Saturday that panic-stricken staff had no alternative but to seek intervention of the administration. Already two doctors had left Haflong and others were trying to manage transfer, added Dr Baruah, who himself had received an extortion note on November 19. Dr Baruah said, the administration had provided police security in the hospital campus, but about 200 staff were under constant mental pressure. The medical service in the 100-bed hospital has been badly been affected. It is to be noted that Dr Nityananda Naiding of the Civil Hospital had been abducted by local miscreants from his official quarters on October 30, and he was released on the same day allegedly after making a hefty ransom. Babul Haflongbar, who was the kingpin in the abduction, was picked up by Haflong police from Dimapur, and he admitted that he had kidnapped Dr Naiding with the help of Naga miscreants.

And, Linky

A Naga separatist group has started a parallel census of non-Nagas in Dimapur district since the first week of November even as the state government is gearing up for the second phase of Census 2011. Sources said the NSCN (K) which is now known as “GPRN/NSCN” (Government of the People’s Republic of Nagaland/National Socialist Council of Nagaland) had taken this unauthorised and illegal headcount to identify and record the number of non-Naga households. A similar exercise had been conducted by the Isak-Muivah faction of the NSCN for the past couple of years in Naga-inhabited areas. State government officials said they did not know anything about the parallel census.

6) Hindu Bengalis in Assam: Linky

Altogether 12 organisations representing the Hindu Bengalis in Assam have moved President Pratibha Patil seeking her intervention to stop the alleged harassment of genuine Indian citizens by the state government in the name of detection and deportation of illegal foreigners. The co-ordination committee of the Hindu Bengali Organisations of Assam today said it had submitted a memorandum to the President appealing that the Hindu Bengalis of Assam should be identified as “political sufferers of and victims of Partition of the two-nation theory” and should be protected from harassment According to them, there are nearly 65 lakh Hindu Bengalis in the state who were separated during Partition.

The committee said the Centre had provided protection to the Hindu migrants from West Pakistan to the states of Gujarat and Rajasthan by making appropriate legal provisions in 2004 and the state governments in Gujarat, Rajasthan, Bihar, Tripura and West Bengal were patronising the Hindu migrants but the Assam government was penalising the Hindu Bengali migrants by labelling them “D-voters”. Foreigners’ notice was served on a Hindu Bengali freedom fighter, Prafulla Chandra Saha, a few years back and chief minister Tarun Gogoi had to apologise for that.

Sentinel op-ed: Linky

Many of the names on the lists of ‘D’ voters are Hindu Bengalis. The largest number of cases filed on the ground of being suspected Bangladeshis are Hindu Bengalis. Reports of several being harassed and even pushed back to the other side of the border and being subjected to untold mental and physical harassment are not rare. This only brings out the total indifference and apathy of the Centre and the State towards Hindu migrants, the victims of atrocities in Bangladesh, taking shelter in Assam.

According to the latest information, 80% of the 1.5 lakh persons on the lists of ‘D’ voters are Hindu Bengalis. The police is active to hunt them down, but dare not touch the infiltrators, fearing backlash. NRC update has been held up due to violent protests by the All Assam Minority Students’ Union (AAMSU). Why are Hindu Bengalis the prime target? Reason is not far to seek. It is more on political consideration that the Centre and the state work in cohort known for their brazenly minority appeasement policy, feel circles concerned here. The present UPA government led by Dr Manmohan Singh has been totally indifferent to complete fencing of border, allowing aliens to sneak into from Bangladesh, the circles feel.

The BJP, while welcoming the NRC update of 1951 with the cutoff date of 1971 voters lists, has reminded the Centre of the assurances of national leaders and the relevant laws enacted after the partition of the country in respect of enrolment of Hindu Bengalis. It was on the basis of the assurances of Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru and Sardar Vallavbhai Patel that The Immigrants (Expulsion from Assam) Act, 1950 had been enacted and became effective from the same year. The Act has clearly spelt out that any person displaced from his place of residence due to civil disturbances in any area now forming part of Pakistan and subsequently living in Assam shall need special protection. The Act thus makes clear distinction between refugees and infiltrators. It needs no repetition why Hindus have to leave East Pakistan, now Bangladesh, and seek shelter in India. The worst thing to happen in Assam was the enactment of the Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunals) Act of 1983 replacing the 1950 Act. It helped to protect the infiltrators more than the victims of atrocities in East Pakistan, now Bangladesh. It was, however, annulled in 2005 by an order of the Supreme Court. With the revival of the Act of 1950, it is natural that the Hindus among the ‘D’ voters should be restored their right to vote and given refugee status.

It is to be recalled that the NDA government led by Atal Bihari Bajpayee amended the Citizenship Act of 1956 in order to treat the Hindu migrants from Pakistan in the wake of 1965 and 1971 wars seeking shelter in Gujarat and Rajasthan as refugees. UPA government of Dr Manmohan Singh ratified the amendment. There is no reason why the Hindus, the victims of partition, Indo-Pak war of 1971 and the continuous chain of torture and atrocity in Bangladesh should be treated differently.

7) Border fencing: Linky

The construction of a 9.3km barbed wire fencing along the Indo-Bangla international riverine border in Moslabari Char of Dhubri district has made little progress since it was started in 2006. The fencing, being done under the pilot project, if proved to be feasible and successful, would be extended to the remaining 35km of the riverine border. However, only 60 per cent of the work has been completed in the past four years.
Officials from the National Building Construction Corporation (NBCC) said they had understood it was going to be an uphill task for them to implement the project as everything, from material to machinery, had to be transported to the char by boat. South Salmara-Mancachar sub-divisional officer Swami Biswanathan said 60 per cent of the total work had been completed since 2006 and the rest of the construction would be completed by January next year. “I shall, however, have to visit the site to assess the progress of the project and within a couple of days, I shall be able to speak about the present status of this project,” Biswanathan said.

An intelligence source said since the beginning of the fencing work in 2007, clashes between BSF jawans and cattle smugglers have been on the rise. Six separate clashes took place last year. “On many occasions, the BSF had to fire to stop the cattle smugglers from transporting cattle to Bangladesh or to disperse village mobs which often came out to defend the smugglers,” the source said. “Besides Moslabari, Mantrir Char, Bhogdohar and Mahamaya Char border fronts also have been identified as very sensitive for the same reasons. Hundreds of Bangladeshis often gather at night on the other side of the border with public announcement systems and abuse the BSF personnel for hours together and attempt to instigate BSF,” the source added.

8) Sana Yaima and UNLF: Linky

The Manipur unit of the CPI today said it would continue to mount pressure on New Delhi to know the whereabouts of the UNLF chairman. The announcement came a day after CPI general secretary A.B. Bardhan passed on to the state CPI unit the information provided by Bangladesh Communist Party that Sana Yaima was arrested from Dhaka and taken to India. The party reported the matter after Bardhan contacted Manjur Hassan Khan, the chairman of the Bangladesh Communist Party, about the case.
He said the CPI MPs were preparing to raise the Sana Yaima issue in both Houses of Parliament. “Instructions were given to the MPs in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha to take up the matter,” Iboyaima said.

9) Indian counter-moves in SL: Linky

Pushing for national reconciliation in Sri Lanka, India on Saturday opened its consulate in Jaffna, the Tamil heartland, and inaugurated the Northern Railway lines for which New Delhi has pledged a $800-million credit that will spur the reconstruction of the war-ravaged northern region. Besides its high commission in Colombo, India has a consulate in Kandy, in the tea-growing region populated by “Indian Tamils”. Now, besides Jaffna, another consulate has opened in Hambantota, in the Sinhalese-populated south which is the political hub of President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

In an ambitious move that can transform the region, Krishna also formally inaugurated works for the reconstruction of the Northern Railway lines with the launch of the Medawachchiya-Madhu line in presence of Minister of Economic Development Basil Rajapaksa, Peiris and Transport Minister Kumar Welgama. India has pledged a line of credit of $800 million at concessional rates for various aspects of the Northern Railway project, including reconstruction of railway lines, installation of signalling and telecom systems and the procurement of rolling stock. “Work will also begin simultaneously on the Madhu-Talaimannar and Omanthai-Pallai railway lines,” Krishna said. Krishna and Peiris on Friday held wide-ranging talks by unveiling projects worth over $1 billion and expanded cooperation in areas ranging from transport and energy to defence and security as New Delhi pressed for a lasting political settlement.

10) Arup Mochi: Linky

Maoists lost toehold in Dalma — their second stronghold after Saranda forests — three months ago following uprising by village vigilantes, and sub-zonal commander Arup Mochi was on a desperate mission to revive his squad when he was killed in an encounter on November 22. This important piece of information, which is likely to buoy anti-insurgency operations, was provided by three Mochi aides — Manoj, Maheswar and Dara — arrested during Monday night’s encounter at Bardih village in the Karadoba panchayat area of Ghatshila.

11) Keynote talk on history matters: Linky

Delivering the keynote address, former ASI Director-General Prof. B. B. Lal spoke about “postulates [that] have been distorting our vision of India's past”. Among these is the belief that the Vedas are no older than 1200 B.C. and that Vedic people were nomads. Recent excavations at sites in Rajasthan, Punjab, Haryana and Gujarat and a fresh study of Vedic texts, he said, have proved that most of these postulates are “ill- founded.” According to Prof. Lal, these excavations proved that the Rigveda is older than 2,000 BC and people of this civilisation were not nomads. Quashing the “Aryan invasion theory” he said that the Harappan civilisation did not become extinct, and C-14 dating procedures proved that Harappan and Vedic people were indigenous, not invaders or migrants.

12) Diabetes has reached epidemic proportions in India: Expert Linky

"More than 75 percent of heart attack patients are either diabetic or undiagnosed. A vast majority of patients undergoing renal dialysis and transplants have diabetes as the underlying cause," said Prof. Jamal Ahmad, director, Centre of Diabetes and Endocrinology, J.N. Medical College, AMU. He said the country had 50 million diabetes patients, and more than 95 percent of the population suffers from some form of the disease. "Early diagnoses and optimal management can significantly decrease the mortality associated with this dreaded disease," he said.

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