BBC News – Scot back in police custody in India over fresh claims

Glasgow, 17 November 2017.  A Scottish Sikh is back in police custody in India, following new allegations against him.

Jagtar Singh Johal, 30, has been in custody for a fortnight. He appeared in court early on Friday and was sent to prison until 30 November.

However, he was returned to court to face new allegations over the death of a Christian priest in 2015.

He has not been charged with any crime and his lawyer claims his client has been tortured by police.

Indian police have accused Mr Johal of financing the purchase of weapons used to kill Hindu leaders, but his lawyer said he is now accused of involvement in the death of a priest in Ludhiana in July 2015.

Mr Johal was taken from a street in the Indian state on 4 November.

His family say he was there on holiday having married in the region in October.

Appearing earlier on Friday, Mr Johal was presented at a lower court in Bagha Purana, Moga.

He entered the court room flanked by half a dozen Punjabi officers.

Prosecutors did not ask for Mr Johal’s police custody to be extended.

During the brief hearing, he was transferred from police to judicial custody after the judge questioned the prosecution about claims the accused was tortured.

A British High Commission official was also in court and met with the accused.

The court also allowed Mr Johal’s mother-in-law and father-in-law to meet him briefly.

‘Concerns of torture’

Campaigners have called for the immediate intervention of the British Foreign Office in the case.

On Thursday about 400 British Sikhs demonstrated outside the Foreign Office in London demanding more be done to help him.

The Sikh Federation said it feared Mr Johal was being targeted over his work highlighting the Sikh genocide in 1984.

A Foreign Office spokesman said: “Our consular staff in New Delhi have visited a British man who has been detained in Punjab. We have met his family to update them, and have confirmed that he now has access to his lawyer.”

On allegations of torture, the spokesman added: “We take all allegations or concerns of torture and mistreatment very seriously and will follow up with action as appropriate.

“When considering how to act, we will avoid any action that might put the individual in question or any other person that may be affected at risk.”

http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-scotland-glasgow-west-42023302

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BBC News – Torture claims over Scottish activist held in India

The lawyer representing a Scottish Sikh activist being held in India claims his client has been tortured by police

Glasgow-Scotland-UK, 14 November 2017.Jagtar Singh Johal, from Dumbarton, was taken from a street in the state of Punjab on 4 November.

He not been charged with any crime, and his period on remand has now been extended until Friday.

The Sikh Federation has criticised the UK government’s response and said Mr Johal had made allegations of “extreme police torture”.

His lawyer claimed his client had been electrocuted and subjected to “body separation techniques”.

The Indian authorities have not responded to requests for comment on the allegations.

Last week the chief minister of Punjab and the local police chief released a statement saying they were holding Mr Johal on grounds of financing the purchase of weapons used in the killing of prominent Hindu leaders in Punjab.

The 30-year-old, who was born in Scotland but was in India for his wedding, denies the allegations.

His brother, Gurpreet Singh Johal, said the family have had no access to him since his arrest.

Mr Johal’s MP Martin Docherty-Hughes and Preet Gil MP, who chairs the all-party Parliamentary Group for British Sikhs, have expressed concerns about the case.

Feel pressure

Bhai Amrik Singh, the chair of the Sikh Federation (UK), said the British High Commission had not taken any action to protect a law-abiding British citizen.

He said the commission and the Foreign Office would be accused of “looking the other way”.

“The prime minister and foreign secretary will feel our pressure in the next seven days in parliament via hundreds of MPs who have been contacted by constituents who are unhappy with the lack of action to secure Jagtar’s immediate release and return to the UK,” he added.

It is running a lobbying campaign using the hashtag #FreeJaggiNow.

Mr Johal, who arrived in India last month, appeared in court the day after he was arrested by plain clothes officers.

According to the Sikh Federation, Punjab police asked for him to spend 10 days in remand but were granted five days by the judge.

Mr Johal returned to court on 10 November but the British High Commission representative, his lawyers and his family were all denied access to him.

Punjab police were then granted another four days remand.

Brutal torture

That period on remand has now been extended to 17 November.

In a statement posted on its official Facebook page, the Sikh Federation (UK) said: “In our view this is to allow the police to continue with their brutal torture to try and extract a false confession in the absence on any evidence against Jagtar Singh, who only visited Punjab this year to get engaged and married.

“His passport, that has been lodged by the family with the British High Commission in Delhi, proves he has not been to Pakistan as claimed by the police and the Chief Minister of Punjab.”

The Federation said the British High Commission and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office had failed to attend the hearing, which directly resulted in the further three-day police remand.

Last week the federation said it feared Mr Johal had been targeted over his work highlighting the Sikh genocide in 1984 and amid claims he was “influencing the youth through social media”.

The Foreign Office confirmed it is not updating its statement from the weekend.

It read: “We are in contact with the family of a British man who has been detained in India.

“Our staff are in contact with the Indian authorities regarding his case.”

http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-scotland-glasgow-west-41984339

BBC News – Remembering the last Mughal emperor

Anbarasan Ethirajan

Yangon (Rangoon), Myanmar (Burma), 8 November 2017. For more than a century the last Mughal emperor was almost forgotten, but a chance finding of his grave helped resurrect the legacy of a man revered as a Sufi saint and one of the finest poets in the Urdu language.

Only a handful of relatives were present when Bahadur Shah Zafar II breathed his last in a shabby wooden house in Rangoon (now Yangon) in 1862.

That very day, his British captors buried him in an unmarked grave in a compound near the famous Shwedagon Pagoda.

Defeated, demoralised and humiliated, it was an inglorious end for a man whose Mughal ancestors had for 300 years ruled a vast territory including modern-day India, Pakistan, large parts of Afghanistan and Bangladesh.

Though his rule could not compare with that of illustrious ancestors like Akbar or Aurangzeb, he became the rallying point for the failed “Indian uprising” of 1857, when soldiers from undivided India rose against the British East India Company.

After they lost, the emperor was tried for treason, imprisoned and exiled to other territory under British control, in what is now Myanmar (Burma).

He died in custody on 7 November aged 87 – but his poetry lived on. The pen name he used, Zafar, means victory.

The great Mughal empire had lost much of its influence and territory by the end of the 1700s. When Zafar came to the throne in 1837, his rule extended only to Delhi and its surroundings. But for his subjects, he always remained Badshah, the King.

Like other Mughal emperors he’s said to be a direct descendent of Mongol rulers such as Genghis Khan and Timur. With his death, one of the world’s greatest dynasties came to an end.

The British buried him in an unmarked grave to keep his followers away. News of his death took a fortnight to reach India and almost went unnoticed.

Then, for more than 100 years, Zafar faded from memory. But in recent decades interest in his legacy has been revived.

A 1980s Indian TV serial rekindled memories, and roads bear his name in Delhi and Karachi. Dhaka renamed a park after him.

“Zafar was a remarkable man,” historian William Dalrymple, author of The Last Mughal, told the BBC.

“A calligrapher, notable poet, Sufi pir [spiritual guide], and a man who valued the importance of Hindu-Muslim unity.”

“While Zafar was never cut out to be a heroic or revolutionary leader, he remains, like his ancestor the Emperor Akbar, an attractive symbol of Islamic civilisation at its most tolerant and pluralistic,” writes Mr Dalrymple in his book.

Zafar’s religious tolerance, some suggest, also reflects his mixed parentage. His father, Akbar Shah II, was Muslim while his mother, Lal Bhai, was a Hindu Rajput princess.

Zafar’s unassuming tomb in a quiet avenue in Yangon is a poignant and silent reminder of one of the most tumultuous periods of Indian history.

Though local people knew Zafar was buried somewhere inside the compound of the local cantonment, where he and his family members were confined, they didn’t find it until 1991.

Workers digging for a drain came across a brick structure which turned out to be the former king’s grave. It was later renovated with the help of public donations.

Compared with his ancestors’ grand mausoleums in India, Zafar’s tomb is modest. An arched iron-grill bears his name and title. The ground floor houses the graves of one of his wives, Zinat Mahal, and his grand-daughter, Raunaq Zamani.

In a crypt beneath, Zafar’s grave is strewn with rose petals and other flowers.

A long chandelier hangs above, while paintings of him hang on the walls. There is a mosque next door.

The dargah or shrine has become a pilgrimage site for Yangon’s Muslim population.

“People from all walks of life come to the dargah because he’s considered a Sufi saint,” says Al-Haj U Aye Lwin, treasurer of the management board of the Bahadur Shah Zafar Mausoleum.

“They come to meditate and pray near his grave. When people’s wishes are fulfilled they donate money and other things.”

Zafar is particularly remembered for his mystical work in Urdu. His ghazals about life and love are famous and often sung or read out in Yangon’s mushairas, gatherings at which Urdu poetry is recited.

Banned from using pen or paper, he is said to have written in charcoal on the walls that confined him. A few of the poems attributed to him have been reproduced in the mausoleum.

As an emperor, Zafar did not command an army but he became the symbolic head of a revolt which united both Muslims and Hindus. Historians point out that thousands of soldiers from both religions came together to rebel against their British officers in support of restoring Mughal rule.

This year, 2017, is the 160th anniversary of the uprising but it is barely being marked, whether in India or elsewhere.

At a time when nationalism and fundamentalism are on the rise, historians say Zafar’s religious tolerance remains relevant to this day.

He may have lost his title and dynasty. But he succeeded in conquering hearts and lives on as a Sufi saint and mystical poet.

To read the full article and to see the interesting pictures :

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-41884390

BBC News – India uncles convicted of raping and impregnating child, aged 10

Chandigarh-Panjab-India, 31 October 2017. A fast-track court in India has convicted two men of raping a 10-year-old girl who gave birth to a baby girl in August.

Both the men were the child’s uncles. The sentencing is set for Thursday.

Her pregnancy was discovered in mid-July when she complained of a stomach ache and her parents took her to hospital.

The second uncle was arrested after the baby’s DNA sample did not match that of his older brother, the first suspect.

The final arguments were completed by the defence on Monday. On Tuesday, the two men were declared guilty in court.

The older uncle’s trial took a month, while the younger uncle has been convicted in a remarkable 18-day trial, BBC Punjabi’s Arvind Chhabra reports from Chandigarh.

The harrowing case of the 10-year-old has made headlines for weeks, both in India and globally.

She was 30 weeks pregnant when a local court in Chandigarh turned down her abortion plea on the grounds that her pregnancy was too advanced. A doctors’ panel had advised that a medical termination would be “too risky”. Later, the Supreme Court also refused to allow an abortion for her on similar grounds.

Indian law does not allow terminations after 20 weeks unless doctors certify that the mother’s life is in danger.

The girl was not aware of her pregnancy, and was told her bulge was because she had a stone in her stomach, says the BBC’s Geeta Pandey in Delhi. She gave birth in August and the baby was given away to child welfare authorities for adoption.

The girl initially told police and child welfare activists that she had been raped several times in the past seven months by the first uncle, who is in his 40s.

She had also testified to the court by video link and very clearly named the uncle and revealed details about her abuse.

The girl’s father had told the BBC that the first uncle had not denied the charges against him. Police also said he had admitted to the allegations.

But after his DNA test results did not link him to the baby, police began searching for more suspects, and arrested the second uncle in September. A DNA test confirmed that he was the baby’s father.

The country’s courts have received several petitions in recent months, many from child rape survivors, seeking permission to abort.

In most cases, these pregnancies are discovered late because the children themselves are not aware of their condition.

In September, a 13-year-old girl was given court permission to terminate her pregnancy at 32 weeks. The boy she was carrying was born alive in Mumbai but died two days later.

In May, a similar case was reported from the northern state of Haryana where a 10-year-old, allegedly raped by her stepfather, was allowed to abort. She was about 20 weeks pregnant, doctors said.

None of the girls can be named for legal reasons.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-41817519

BBC News – Is Narendra Modi losing his mojo?

One of the reasons why Narendra Modi swept to victory with a historic mandate in 2014 was his combative and upbeat oratory. Three years on, the Indian prime minister is beginning to sound unusually defensive.

Soutik Biswas, India correspondent

Op/Ed, 19 October 2017. Many say Mr Modi’s characteristic bluster and bombast have begun to wane. In recent speeches, he has described his critics as doomsayers, blamed the previous Congress government for India’s economic ills, painted himself as an “outsider” and said he was “willing to drink poison” for the good of the country.

Has the victor turned victim?

“A small number of people weaken us,” Mr Modi told a gathering of company secretaries recently. “We need to recognise such people.”

So is Mr Modi beginning to lose his mojo? Three years ago, when he won his landslide, he promised reforms and jobs. But under his leadership, and at a time when the world economy appears to be taking off, India is looking like a sorry outlier, battling an economic slowdown and a jobs crisis.

Banks are struggling with mountains of bad loans, which in turn has choked credit and hurt domestic investment. “India’s economy is grounded,” says economist Praveen Chakravarty.

Mr Modi’s response has been criticised as piecemeal and clumsy. A controversial currency ban last November, politically sold as a crackdown on the illegal economy, ended up halting growth and causing a lot of misery.

July’s introduction of a much-lauded countrywide Goods and Services Tax (GST) to help India move towards a common market has caused widespread business disruption because of what is seen as shoddy execution.

In cities and towns, traders are upset over the grinding tax bureaucracy engendered by the GST. In villages, nearly half of Indians are engaged in agriculture, farmers are complaining of income insecurity as they believe the government isn’t paying them enough for their produce.

No challenge

Also, for the first time since winning power, Mr Modi’s government is under attack.

A senior functionary from Mr Modi’s party, the BJP, recently blamed his government for the economic slowdown. “The prime minister claims that he has seen poverty from close quarters,” former finance minister Yashwant Sinha wrote. “His finance minister is working overtime to make sure that all Indians also see it from equally close quarters.”

And Mr Modi is taking flak from the opposition too for a change. His main political rival, Rahul Gandhi, of the once mighty Congress party, appears to be suddenly re-energised and has been taking on Mr Modi more aggressively than ever before.

Added to this, the son of Amit Shah, Mr Modi’s closest aide, is accused of corruption. Jay Shah denies the allegations and has threatened to sue non-profit news website The Wire over the story.

Thus far since taking office, Mr Modi has been greatly helped by four unrelated things.

Low oil prices, India imports most of its crude, helped boost growth and tame inflation. Second, a chunk of the domestic mainstream media which depends on government advertising has been largely uncritical of his government.

Third, Mr Modi faces no leadership challenge from within his party, which he and Amit Shah dominate. Lastly, and most importantly, a political opposition largely in disarray has failed to offer aspirational Indians an alternative, and persuasive, narrative of hope.

Still, there’s “something in the air”, as Shekhar Gupta, editor of The Print news site, says.

One indication is that even Mr Modi’s fiercely pugnacious supporters are markedly subdued on social media these days. On the other hand, social media is awash with memes making fun of the prime minister.

Mr Modi’s politics are also causing discontent. By whipping up what many say is hysteria over the sale and consumption of beef and pandering to Hindu radicals, observers say his party has begun to frighten off many young people and urban folk.

To make matters worse, his party appointed a controversial Hindu religious leader known for anti-Muslim rhetoric to run the political bellwether state of Uttar Pradesh, where the BJP won a decisive mandate in March.

About a fifth of Uttar Pradesh’s 200 million people are Muslim.

Not a reformer

In 2014, Mr Modi secured the overwhelming majority of the young votes. But is support from this quarter waning? BJP-supported student unions have lost elections in three major universities in Delhi and Hyderabad.

Last month’s unrest in a leading university in Mr Modi’s constituency in Varanasi, in Uttar Pradesh, where police beat female university students protesting against an alleged sexual assault, will not endear him and his party to young voters.

On the economy, Mr Modi clearly seems to have overplayed his hand and questions are being asked over whether he can fulfil expectations. In June, the Economist said Mr Modi was “not the radical reformer he is cracked up to be”. The magazine said he had few big ideas of his own, the GST, for example, had been initiated during the previous, Congress, regime.

Critics say despite running India’s most powerful government in recent history, he has achieved little in creating functioning markets for land and electricity, and reforming labour laws.

On his politics, they say, Mr Modi appears to be hostage to the party’s ideological fountainhead, the right-wing Hindu nationalist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (National Volunteers’ Organisation), known for what many say are visions of Hindu glory and achievement.

Economists such as Dr Chakravarty believe Mr Modi still has time to revive the economy by exploiting the buoyant stock market, which is flush with money from foreign institutional investors. Money could be raised by divesting stakes in state-run companies and used to recapitalise and clean up the ailing banks, so that they can begin lending again.

Also the rupee could be depreciated to boost exports, the GST simplified further to help small businesses and interest rates lowered to spur growth. Growth will also depend on social stability, but it is not clear whether Mr Modi will be able to rein in the radical hotheads.

Fighter politician

However, Mr Modi is a redoubtable fighter. It is too early to say the tide is turning against him decisively. One opinion poll in August indicated he would win handsomely if elections were held. But then again, a month can be a long time in politics.

State elections in BJP-ruled Gujarat in December will offer some clues, a recent survey by the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) suggested people were “unhappy with GST”. Nobody expects the BJP to lose, but the margin of victory will be closely watched.

Among his supporters, Mr Modi enjoys a reputation of being a hardworking and honest prime minister. “What has helped in stopping this wind of dissatisfaction from turning into a strong hurricane are two factors, the absence of a viable alternative, and the personal credibility of Mr Modi,” says political scientist Sanjay Kumar.

“The only question that remains is: how long will Mr Modi be able to hold down this wave of resentment with his own image and credibility?” And right now that answer is blowing in the wind.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-41563751

BBC News – India jobs: The signs point to a bleak outlook for employment

On the campaign trail in 2013, Narendra Modi told Indians that his party would create 10 million jobs if it came to power.

Soutik Biswas, India correspondent

New Delhi, 6 October 2017. A year later, his BJP swept to power in Delhi with a resounding majority. This January, India’s Economic Survey hinted that things were not going well, and that employment growth was sluggish.

New government data shows that the unemployment rate had risen to 5%, up from 4.9% in 2013-14, the year before Mr Modi came to power.

The picture may be actually a lot bleaker. A recent study by economist Vinoj Abraham, using recent jobs data collected by the labour bureau, reckons employment growth in India has slowed down drastically between 2012 and 2016.

What is more worrying, according to his study, there has been an absolute decline in employment, drying up of existing jobs, between 2013-14 and 2015-16, possibly for the first time in independent India.

Dr Abraham believes that existing jobs may have been drying up in India for a while now. Jobs in farming where nearly half of Indians are engaged for their livelihood, too many people cultivating too little land, are disappearing.
Successive droughts and unremunerative prices have pushed people out of farms to seek jobs in construction and rural manufacturing. A McKinsey Global Institute study says farm jobs had reduced by 26 million between 2011 and 2015.

But a slowdown in growth, GDP growth has been falling for six consecutive quarters and hit a three year-low of 5.7% during April-June, triggered in part by a controversial cash ban last year and July’s imposition of a sweeping but clunky Goods and Services tax that has adversely affected labour-absorbing sectors like farming, construction and private businesses, hitting jobs further.

Hiring in more than 120 companies, metal, capital goods, retail, power, construction and consumer goods, has fallen, according to an analysis by The Indian Express. This, a top HR executive told the newspaper, “reflects upon the lack of expansion plans and near-term growth expectation of these companies”.

India’s Economic Survey says creating jobs is India’s “central challenge”. More than 12 million Indians will be entering the labour market and looking for jobs every year until 2030. Some 26 million Indians, roughly a population equal to Australia’s, already are looking for regular work.

Scratching a living

India has a curious jobs problem. Unlike in the West, there are no dole queues, for example, which are a marker of unemployment. Economist Vijay Joshi says poverty and lack of a social security system “ensure that most people have to scratch a living somehow, simply in order to survive”.

Also there are many “openly unemployed people” who are supported by their families. Then there’s a vast amount of underemployment, too many people sharing work that could be done by fewer hands. Many work for long hours with poor returns.

Also, most people, more than 80% of the labour force, work in the sprawling, unorganised or informal industries with poor working conditions, paltry wages and scanty benefits. Very few of these jobs lead to security of income, location or employment.

Only 7% of Indians actually work in the formal economy with full benefits, according to estimates.

“The future of employment looks even worse because the labour force is expected to grow rapidly. Around a million new work seekers will enter the labour force every month for the next three decades.

As things stand India is well on the way to perpetuating a two-tier economy,” says Dr Joshi, author of India’s Long Road – The Search for Prosperity, an excellent exposition of the economy. (A two-tier economy is one in which one group of workers receive lower wages or employee benefits than the other)

“India has an employment problem only in the sense that the workforce is maldistributed: employment in the high-labour productivity organised sector is growing too slowly, and at the same time, too much labour continues to be bottled up in low labour productivity, ill-paying unorganised sector.”

Missed the bus?

One way to create more jobs is to pay more attention to labour-intensive industries like garments, apparel and leather, which employ more workers.

But the government appears to have shot itself in the foot by closing abattoirs operating without licences, much of India’s leather factories are in the informal economy, and restricting cow slaughter, leading to a drop in India’s exports of leather goods.

Ruchir Sharma, chief global strategist at Morgan Stanley Investment Management, says India’s continued lack of success in industries manufacturing low-end goods like toys and textiles “may be the single biggest reason why it keeps falling short of China and why the jobs market is so weak”.

Has India already passed up its best chance to create jobs?

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-41495792

BBC News – Vijay Mallya: India tycoon faces new money-laundering charges

London, 3 October 2017. Indian drinks tycoon Vijay Mallya, who is charged with committing fraud in India, has been re-arrested in London.

He appeared at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday afternoon, after India issued new charges of money-laundering against him.

Mr Mallya denies any wrongdoing. The allegations are linked to the collapse of his airline, Kingfisher.

The 61-year-old left India in March 2016 more than Rs 1 billion (£755m) in debt, after defaulting on bank loan payments.

He was released on police bail after the hearing.

Mr Mallya’s monetary affairs are being investigated by India’s Central Bureau of Investigation, and the Enforcement Directorate – which handles financial crimes.

He was originally arrested and bailed in April after India asked for his extradition in February.

The mogul has rejected claims that he fled his home country over circling creditors, saying outside court: “I have not eluded any court. If it is my lawful duty to be here, I’m happy to be here”.

Mr Mallya is a flamboyant figure previously dubbed “India’s Richard Branson” and the “King of Good Times” for his lavish lifestyle.

He built his fortune from Kingfisher beer, before branching out into Indian cricket and Formula 1 racing.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-41480692

BBC News – Are the Rohingya India’s ‘favourite whipping boy’?

Soutik Biswas, India correspondent

New Delhi, 25 September 2017. At home in Myanmar, they are unwanted and denied citizenship. Outside, they are largely friendless as well. Now the government says that Rohingya living in India pose a clear and present danger to national security.

First, a government minister kicked up a storm earlier this month when he announced that India would deport its entire Rohingya population, thought to number about 40,000, including some 16,000 who have been registered as refugees by the UN.

The Rohingya are seen by many of Myanmar’s Buddhist majority as illegal migrants from Bangladesh. Fleeing persecution at home, they began arriving in India during the 1970s and are now scattered all over the country, many living in squalid camps.

The government’s announcement has come at what many say is an inappropriate time, as violence in Myanmar’s western Rakhine state has forced more than 400,000 Rohingya Muslims across the border into Bangladesh since August.

When petitioners went to the Supreme Court challenging the proposed ejection plan, Narendra Modi’s government responded by saying it had intelligence about links of some community members with global terrorist organisations, including ones based in Pakistan.

It said some Rohingya living here were indulging in “anti-national and illegal activities”, and could help stoke religious tensions.

Experts agree the threat from Myanmar’s newly-emergent Rohingya militant group, the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (Arsa), should not be underestimated. Analyst Subir Bhaumik describes Arsa as “strong and motivated”, although its exact size and influence remain unclear.

The current crisis began in Rakhine in August with an Arsa attack on police posts which killed 12 security personnel. Reports say the group has at least 600 armed fighters.

Bangladeshi officials claim that Arsa has links with a banned militant group Jamaat-ul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), which was held responsible for the July 2016 cafe attack in Dhaka in which 20 hostages died. Delhi believes groups like Arsa pose a threat to regional security.

But critics of the move wonder how much credible intelligence India has on Rohingya refugees on its soil with terror links.

They say India has fought long-running home-grown insurgencies with rebel groups in the north-east and Maoists in central India, which have arguably posed a greater threat to national security than what they say is a rag-tag and scattered Rohingya population.

Also, many question a proposed move to punish a community for the perceived crimes of some – in other words, is it right to consider all Rohingya a security threat?

On the other hand, India’s Home Minister Rajnath Singh insists Rohingya are not refugees or asylum-seekers. “They are illegal immigrants,” he said recently.

But critics say this is untenable because India is legally bound by the UN principle of “non-refoulement” – meaning no push-backs of asylum seekers to life-threatening places.

Also, India’s constitution clearly says that it “shall endeavour to foster respect for international law and obligations in the dealings of organised peoples with one another”.

Like much of Asia, which is home to a third of the more than 20 million displaced people in the world, India has a curious track record in refugee protection.

Although the country is not party to the 1951 UN Refugee Convention and its 1967 protocol and doesn’t have a formal asylum policy, it hosts more than 200,000 refugees, returnees, stateless people and asylum seekers, according the UN refugee agency, UNHCR.

These include more than 100,000 Tibetans from China and more than 60,000 Tamils from Sri Lanka.

At the same time, India has always taken in refugees based on political considerations. It took in tens of thousands of refugees from Bangladesh during the country’s 1971 war of independence from Pakistan even as it trained and supported pro-liberation guerrillas, for example.

Many like Michel Gabaudan, former president of the advocacy group Refugee International, believe that India distrusts the international refugee process partly “because it [has] received little recognition for taking in refugees” in the past.

Unenviable

A 2015 paper by a group of Indian researchers said the image of Rohingya in India was “unenviable – foreigner, Muslim, stateless, suspected Bangladeshi national, illiterate, impoverished and dispersed across the length and breadth of the country”.

“This makes them illegal, undesirable, the other, a threat, and a nuisance,” the paper said.

This also makes them, says analyst Subir Bhaumik, “a favourite whipping boy for the Hindu right-wing to energise their base”.

“Remember how the issue of the Bangladeshi illegal migrant was invoked by Mr Modi and his party during the 2014 election campaign?” he said, referring to the prime minister’s efforts to generate support from his Hindu base in areas with many migrants.

In the end, many say, what is is deeply troubling is a country talking about returning Rohingya people to Myanmar even as they appear to be the target of what the UN says “seems a textbook example of ethnic cleansing”.

“Any nation has a right, and indeed a responsibility, to consider security risks, but that cannot be confused as an excuse to knowingly force an entire group of people back to a place where they will face certain persecution and a high likelihood of severe human rights abuses and death,” Daniel Sullivan of Refugees International told me.

That is something India would possibly do well to remember.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-41318225

BBC News – Rohingya crisis: Are Suu Kyi’s Rohingya claims correct?

Myanmar’s de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, has been speaking about the violence and refugee crisis in Rakhine State.

The BBC’s South East Asia correspondent, Jonathan Head, who has been covering the story of the Rohingya people from both sides of the Myanmar-Bangladesh border, assesses her claims.

Rangoon, 19 September 2017. Aung San Suu Kyi: “There have been no conflicts since 5 September and no clearance operations.”

On 7 September, I was on a government-organised media trip in the town of Alel Than Kyaw, where we heard automatic weapons fire in the distance and saw four large columns of smoke, indicating villages being burned.

Later that same day, we came across the Rohingya village of Gaw Du Thar Ya being set alight by Rakhine Buddhist men, in front of armed policemen and close to a police barracks.

Now, from Bangladesh, we have seen columns of smoke on the other side of the Naf River large enough to suggest villages being burned.

Aung SanSuu Kyi may not term these “clearance” operations, but given the heavy military and police presence in these areas, close to the riverbank, it is difficult to believe they do not have at least tacit approval from the authorities there.

Aung San Suu Kyi: “Action will be taken against all people’s regardless of their religion, race or political position who go against the laws of the land and who violate human rights as accepted by our international community.”

In more than 70 years of recorded abuses by the Burmese armed forces, there are almost no records of military officers being disciplined in Rakhine State or in the many other areas where armed conflicts continue inside the country.

It is hard to see that happening now, with the military insisting all of the more than 400,000 Rohingyas who have fled did so because of their involvement in the attacks by the militant group known as the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army.

One colonel in Maungdaw told me the many allegations of rape made by Rohingya refugees could not be true because his men were too busy fighting to rape and would find the Rohingya women too unattractive.

Aung San Suu Kyi: “All people living in the Rakhine State have access to education and health care services without discrimination.”

This is patently untrue. Rohingyas have been subjected to discriminatory restrictions for many years barring them from moving, even getting married, without official permission, which often involves paying bribes.

Since the 2012 communal violence, Rohingyas have had even tighter restrictions imposed on them.

Many in the displacement camps within Myanmar are confined to those areas unless they have special permission to leave, which is hard to get.

I know students inside the camps whose education has been halted for the past five years.

Four years ago, I visited the Rohingya village of Ah Nauk Pyin, south of Rathedaung, where the inhabitants were unable to leave even for medical treatment because of the hostility of the surrounding Rakhine Buddhist communities.

On Monday, in Bangladesh, I met Abdulmajid, from Gaw Du Thar Ya – the village I saw being burnt.

He told me for “the last five years, we couldn’t go outside our village for work”.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-41312931

BBC News – Why inequality in India is at its highest level in 92 years

Did India’s economic reforms lead to a sharp rise in inequality?

Soutik Biswas, India correspondent

New Delhi, 12 September 2017. New research by French economists Lucas Chancel and Thomas Piketty, author of Capital, the 2013 bestselling book on capitalism and increasing inequality, clearly points to this conclusion.

They studied household consumption surveys, federal accounts and income tax data from 1922, when the tax was introduced in India, to 2014.

The data shows that the share of national income accruing to the top 1% of wage earners is now at its highest level since Indians began paying income tax.

The economists say the top 1% of the earners captured less than 21% of the total income in the late 1930s, before dropping to 6% in the early 1980s and rising to 22% today. India, in fact, comes out as a country with one of the highest increase in top 1% income share concentration over the past 30 years,” they say.

To be sure, India’s economy has undergone a radical transformation over the last three decades.

Up to the 1970s, India was a tightly regulated, straitlaced economy with socialist planning. Growth crawled (3.5% per year), development was weak and poverty endemic.

Some easing of regulation, decline in tax rates and modest reforms led to growth picking up in the 1980s, trundling at around 5% a year. This was followed by some substantial reforms in the early 1990s after which the economy grew briskly, nudging close to double digits in the mid-2000s.

Growth has slowed substantially since then, but India still remains one of the fastest-growing economies in the world.

The ongoing slowdown, growth was 5.7% in the April-June quarter, the slowest pace in three years, largely triggered by feeble demand, a controversial cash ban, declining private investment and weak credit growth, is a cause for concern.

And the need for fast-paced growth, according to Nobel Prize winning economist Amartya Sen, is “far from over since India, after two decades of rapid growth, is still one of the poorest countries in the world”.

From their latest work on income inequality, Lucas Chancel and Thomas Piketty contend that there has been a “sharp increase in wealth concentration from 1991 to 2012, particularly after 2002”.

Also, they conclude, India has only been really shining for the top 10% of the population – roughly 80 million people in 2014 – rather than the middle 40%.

The economists plan to release the first World Inequality Report, produced by a network of more than 100 researchers in December, where they will compare India’s inequality with other countries and suggest ways to tackle it.

Striking transition

They agree that unequal growth over a period of time is not specific to India, but market economies are not bound to be unequal.

India’s case is striking in the fact that it is the country with the highest gap between the growth of the top 1% and that of the full population. Incomes of those at the very top have actually grown at a faster pace than in China.

The economists contend that the growth strategy pursued by successive governments has led to a sharp increase in inequality. China also liberalised and opened up after 1978, and experienced a sharp income growth as well as a sharp rise in inequality. This rise was however stabilised in the 2000s and is currently at a lower level than India.

In Russia, the move from a communist to a market economy was “swift and brutal” and today has a similar level of inequality to India.

“This shows that there are different strategies to transit from a highly regulated economy to a liberalised one. In the arrays of possible pathways, India pursued a very unequal way but could probably have chosen another path,” Dr Chancel told me.

While inequality is rising in most parts of the world, certain countries are resisting this trend. For example, he says, the rise in inequality is much lesser in western Europe than in the Anglo-Saxon world or in emerging markets.

“This largely owes to social security mechanisms that are relatively more favourable to workers than capital as compared to other parts of the world, to relatively more efficient tax systems and government investment in public goods such as education, housing, health or transport.”

Clearly, the new research should help promote a vigorous debate on what more can be done to promote more inclusive growth in India and the need for more transparent income and wealth data.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-41198638