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Assam: friction in a crucial corridor July 30, 2012

Posted by sandygordon in : Bangladesh, Bhutan, Gordon, Sandy, India , comments closed

Sandy Gordon

A week ago some 48 people were killed in Assam in clashes between the Bodo ethnic group (a Tibetan-Burmese people who are now predominantly Christian and Hindu) and Muslim Bengali immigrants, mainly from Bangladesh and its previous incarnations. Approximately 400,000 have also been displaced from their villages. These are by no means the first such ethnic clashes in Assam, the most recent being between Bengalis and Bodos four years ago, which left 70 dead. The worst attacks occurred in 1983, when an estimated 2000 Bengali Muslims were killed.

Since well before the British left in 1947, Bengali Muslims have been crossing into Assam. Pushed by desperation, they often occupied the shifting char lands – dangerous but fertile flood plains of the rivers that criss-cross the region. Since independence in 1947, East Pakistanis, and later Bangladeshis, have continued to cross the poorly policed, poorly defined border. There are now an estimated 10-20 million Bangladeshis in India. But of course not all Bengali Muslims are in Assam illegally and many have been there for generations. As pointed out by the New York Times, it is well nigh impossible to distinguish between those legitimately in Assam and those who have come illegally.

Besides the devastating displacement and loss of life, ethnic unrest in Assam is important for a number of reasons.

India's North East - this version includes Sikkim


Afghanistan releases hydrocarbon acreages July 26, 2012

Posted by nishankmotwani in : Afghanistan, By country, Future Directions International , comments closed

Liam McHugh


In July, the Afghan Mining Ministry announced the release of exploration rights for oil and gas developments in the state’s north-west. Extractive industries could provide Kabul with much needed revenue as it enters the next stage of its post-Taliban reconstruction period. The existence of resources, however, does not automatically translate to productivity. Geopolitical politicking, corruption, governance issues and the security situation may constrain the sector.

Sources: U.S.G.S.; Afghanistan Geological Survey; U.S. Department of Defense


Rebalancing Asia: Panetta visits India July 24, 2012

Posted by nishankmotwani in : By contributor, India, Merrington, Louise , comments closed

Louise Merrington

US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta’s visit to India in June highlighted both India’s increasing importance as a regional balance in the US ‘pivot’ to the Asia Pacific and the extent to which the US–Pakistan relationship has deteriorated in recent months.

Although the US–India relationship reached a high note with the 2008 civilian nuclear deal, several sticking points remain. First, India’s nuclear liability law, designed to guard against a repeat of the Bhopal disaster, made the manufacturers of nuclear reactors liable for accidents caused by faulty equipment. (more…)

Indian citizenship and the resilience of democracy July 17, 2012

Posted by southasiamasala in : Guest authors, India , comments closed

Ornit Shani

India’s founding leaders were determined to create a democratic state when the country became independent in 1947, but becoming and remaining a democracy was by no means inevitable.

The difficulties were daunting: the mass killings and violence unleashed by the subcontinent’s partition, widespread illiteracy, dire poverty, and the country’s profound religious, ethnic and social diversity. How, in such adverse circumstances, were democratic citizenship and practices institutionalised in India? And how has India’s emerging framework for membership in the nation, the essence of citizenship, enabled the endurance of its democratic polity?


Reviving local level democracy in India July 13, 2012

Posted by southasiamasala in : India, Kumar, Vikas , comments closed

Vikas Kumar, Alok Tiwari and Ragupathy Venkatachalam

India is suffering from policy paralysis due to a crisis of credibility across the political system. The world’s largest democracy is threatened by a growing disconnect between the electorate and elected representatives, which is expressed as distrust and a general sense of a lack of accountability of the latter. Money and power are partly to blame for this disconnect, as is the first-past-the-post electoral system. This is evident at the local level where India’s democracy tends to degenerate into ethnocracies that disenfranchise smaller groups.


Nepal’s polity continues to fracture July 5, 2012

Posted by southasiamasala in : Dowler, Amy, Nepal , comments closed

Amy Dowler

On 19 June 2012 the ‘hardline’ faction of the ruling Unified Communist Party of Nepal – Maoist (UCPN-M) formally split to form a new party.  The new party, confusingly called the Communist Party of Nepal, Maoist (CPN-M), is led by former UCPN-M Vice-Chairman Mohan Baidya.  (Note the People’s Front of Judea-level subtlety of the move from a dash to a comma, to avoid replicating the title of yet another party).

Communist Party of Nepal, Maoist (Photo: CPN, Maoist)


Since 28 May 2012 Nepal has been ruled by a self-styled transitional government with no constitutional basis.  The government is led by the UPCN-M, which had the most seats in the now dissolved Constituent Assembly (CA), and its Vice-Chairman Baburam Bhattarai has continued in his role as Prime Minister.

The transitional government arose after the CA’s failure to promulgate a new constitution by the 28 May deadline, itself a product of parties’ failure to agree on a basis for forming states.  Bhattarai has said his transitional government will remain in place until elections are held in November.  Opposition parties have been calling for Bhattarai’s resignation and either the reinstatement of the CA, or formation of a consensus government to oversee the fresh elections.

The ideological rift between Baidya and the ‘establishment faction’ of Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal (Prachanda) and Vice-Chairman Bhattarai dates from 2005 when the Maoists embraced parliamentarianism.  (The UPCN-M itself was formed in 1995 when then-considered radicals Prachanda and Bhattarai split from another Communist party in reaction to its participation in the parliamentary process.)  Baidya was strongly opposed to the move, made while he sat in a jail in West Bengal, India (some say he blames Bhattarai for setting him up).      (more…)

Cartoon controversy July 5, 2012

Posted by southasiamasala in : India, Nelson, Barbara , comments closed

Barbara Nelson

Textbooks are back in the news in India. The Republican Party of India (RPI) Athavale held a press conference in April to demand the removal of a 1949 Shankar cartoon depicting Ambedkar and Nehru from a Class 11 textbook, Indian Constitution at Work. This led to the government apologising and promising to remove the cartoon. Minister for Human Resource Development, Kapil Sibal, also commissioned a review of the six textbooks in Political Science “to identify educationally inappropriate material”. The report (Report of Committee to Review NCERT Textbooks and Note of Dissent by M. S. S. Pandian) is available from the Kafila website.