Watch – Sharjeel Imam Says CAA Last Straw That Broke Muslims’ Back

After a massive manhunt, Delhi Police has arrested Sharjeel Imam, one of the organisers of anti-CAA protests at Shaheen Bagh. Police in four states have filed cases against Imam under various charges ranging from sedition and inflammatory speech to challenging the integrity of India. LokMarg spoke to Imam about his views on CAA, Assam and Shaheen Bagh, a few days before his arrests.

Sedition Accused JNU Scholar Sharjeel Arrested

Sharjeel Imam, the research scholar of Delhi’s prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru University who is facing sedition charges, was arrested on Tuesday from his hometown in Bihar’s Jehenabad. 

A spate of police cases are registered against Imam after a clip of him allegedly making anti-national comments was widely circulated online.  

His family has denied the allegations of sedition, saying his comments were taken out of context and they had full faith in the court of law.  Appearing before the media earlier today, his mother said he was “not a law-breaker and would surrender to the investigating agencies”.

“Nobody should do anything that is not in the interest of the nation. The accusations and the arrest – the court will decide on the matter,” Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar told ANI after the arrest.

A sedition case was registered in Delhi for his alleged call to sever the whole of the northeast from the rest of India after the imposition of the Citizenship Amendment Act or CAA. He is also wanted in other states, including Assam, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh.


Growing Chinese Footprint In Myanmar: Should India Be Worried?

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s two-day visit to Myanmar (January 17-18) was closely watched by India. Xi reinforced his pet Belt and Road Initiative which had slagged, though Myanmar had signed in by 2018. President Xi’s personal push will give the much needed political impetus to bring fresh energy to the BRI projects in Myanmar.

Myanmar is in the doghouse at the moment with few Western corporates willing to invest in the country, since the 2017 military crackdown on Rohingya minorities, many of whom had to flee the assault of local Buddhists as well as the army. The UN had termed it a genocide against the country’s Muslim minorities. All through this period and even earlier when the military junta got no truck from the Western democracies for the house arrest of pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, China had steadfastly stood with Myanmar.\

Once again when the government as well as democratic leader Aung San Suu Kyi have been heavily criticised for not protecting the Rohingyas, China sided with the government in power. China’s stand was on expected lines as the Communist Party of China had never bothered much about human rights, leaving it to individual nations to deal with their problems. The one exception is Kashmir, where it has consistently supported ally Pakistan and raised the matter twice at the United Nations Security Council. Even that did not pay off as no resolution was passed against India, thanks mainly to other members of the UNSC.

ALSO READ: Nepal Joins The Chinese Checkers Game

With Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the saddle, Rohingyas who would in normal circumstances thronged to India, were not welcome. So they fled to Bangladesh and few have the confidence to return home. New Delhi went out of its way to stand by Aung San Suu Kyi and her government. So while the rest of the international community, led by the US and Europe had turned against Myanmar, Asian giants India and China have continued their steadfast support to the government in Naypyitaw, Myanmar now has excellent political relations with both countries.

Despite the common approach to Myanmar, India is uneasy at China rapidly spreading its wings in a country on its backyard, bordering its sensitive north eastern states. For any country, its immediate neighbourhood is vital for its security and having China on its very door step is a matter of grave concern to strategic planners. Every neighbour of India and China like to play out the rivalry of the two Asian powers to their own advantage. It has happened in Nepal and in Sri Lanka under Mahinda Rajapakse. It can also happen in Myanmar.

ALSO READ: India-Sri Lanka: Off To A Fresh Start

For now China is way ahead of India in Myanmar. As the world’s second largest economy, China has the economic clout to finance infrastructure projects across the world. Developing nations are desperate for money and one that comes with no strings attached on democracy and human rights is what these nations want. This is why Myanmar is so happy with President Xi Jinping’s visit. For Myanmar, largely isolated from the international community since the 2017 massacre of Rohingyas, China’s support is a boon. And it is reinforced by generous financial gains for Myanmar.

At the end of the visit the joint statement released by the two sides is an indication of the growing trust between leaders of both countries.  The statement read that China “firmly supports Myanmar’s efforts to safeguard its legitimate rights and interests and national dignity in the international arena”, an obvious reference to Western criticism of the country. China was also keen to advance “peace, stability and development in Rakhine State”. China is today Myanmar’s largest investor. Significantly, Xi and Suu Kyi talks yielded thirty three agreement, though as always these remain opaque.

One of the earlier schemes, was the Kyaukphyu deep sea port in Myanmar restive Rakhine state. This was signed by Xi when he visited Myanmar as vice president in 2009. The project is of vital geostrategic significance as it gives China access to the Indian Ocean. Chinese submarines and warships have in recent years extended its presence in the Indian Ocean, through which much of its oil is transported from the Gulf. India has been worried about China’s growing presence in the Indian Ocean.

Kyaukphye is emerging as a vital cog in the BRI scheme. Kyaukphyu is the terminus of Chinese oil and gas pipelines. This area has oil and since May 2017, it has carried 22 million tons of crude oil from Kyaukphyu to Yunnan province of China The Kyaukphyu deep-sea port and economic zone calls for an investment of nearly $1.3 billion. The China-Myanmar Economic Corridor was added when Aung San Suu Kyi visited China in 2017. The economic zone envisages a railway line between Kyaukphyu to Kunming the capital of Yunnan province, through Mandalay. Aung San Suu Kyi once a great friend of India, has played her cards right and hopes to benefit from friendship with both Asian rivals, now that the US and Western democracies have turned against her.

During a banquet for Xi, Aung San Suu Kyi assured China that her country always stand by its giant neighbour. “It goes without saying that a neighbouring country has no other choice, but to stand together till the end of the world,” reports quoted her as reassuring the visitor. Myanmar’s military are also on board. While on a visit to Beijing last April, commander-in-chief of Myanmar’s army, senior General Min Aung Hlaing had assured his hosts that the armed forces backed China’s BRI and wanted it to be a success in Myanmar.

ALSO READ: India’s Soft Power Drives Hard Bargains

Considering the current bonhomie between China and Myanmar, where does India stand? As pointed out earlier, political relations are excellent, with India going out of its way to extend support to Myanmar over the Rohingya issue. Concern about China’s growing footprints in Myanmar in 1992, when it was under military rule and Aung San Suu Kyi was backlisted by the junta, made Narasimha Rao change track. India had, like the Western world, refused to deal with the military rulers. But seeing Beijing fill in the vacuum, Rao decided to engage with Myanmar’s ruling regime. Now Myanmar is seen as a bridge between India and the ASEAN nations.

During the first NDA government headed by Atal Bihari Vajpayee, talk of connectivity projects took shape. The Kaladan Multi Modal Transport was conceived and begun around 2010. Yet even now the project is not complete, though India has completed the deep sea Sittwe project, again in Rakhine state and handed it over to the Myanmar government. The problem with Indian projects is that the time taken to complete a project takes too long. The government realises this and steps are now being taken to co ordinate work between different departments of the state and central governments and Myanmar authorities better.

To compete with China in the neighbourhood, India needs to be much more efficient in executing projects. Delhi needs to consider why it has done so well in Afghanistan and replicate that model. India is lagging far behind China and needs to be more focussed unless it wants to lose Myanmar to the Chinese dragon. Efficient execution of projects and abundant cash flow has made China a potent force in the region.

India has lost much valuable time but can catch up if it gets its act together. Instead of concentrating on massive projects, India’s strength is in institution building and working in fields of agriculture and small water projects which touch lives of ordinary people. Delhi has to play to its strengths and not imitate China. Perhaps that it the key to success against the rising Asian super power.

Arvind Kejriwal’s Road Show

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal greets his supporters during a roadshow, at Gandhi Nagar in New Delhi on Monday. He was showered with rose petals during the roadshow.

ITBP Jawans Celebrate R-Day

The ITBP jawans were at a height of 17,000 feet and temperature was well below zero degrees Celsius. The ITBP is a specialised mountain force, most of whose officers are trained mountaineers and skiers.

Shah Allocates ₹1,500 Package For Bodo Areas After Pact

Terming the agreement with all factions of the banned National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) as ‘historic,’ Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Monday said the pact is in line with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision for the progress of the Northeast region.

The Home Minister said the Centre will provide a special development package worth Rs 1,500 crore to undertake specific projects for the development of Bodo areas.

“A historic agreement signed between GOI, Assam Govt and Bodo representatives to end a 50-year-old Bodo crisis. The agreement is in line with PM Shri Narendra Modi’s vision for the progress of the North East and empowerment of the people of the region,” he tweeted.

“Around 1500 cadres of NDFB(P), NDFB(RD) & NDFB(S) will be rehabilitated by GOI and Assam Govt. A Special Development Package Rs. 1500 Crore will be given by the Union Government to undertake specific projects for the development of Bodo areas,” he said in another tweet.

The minister said the NDFB factions will leave the path of violence, surrender their weapons and disband their armed organizations within a month of signing the deal.

“Final & comprehensive solution to their demands has been made while retaining the territorial integrity of Assam. After the agreement, NDFB factions will leave the path of violence, surrender their weapons & disband their armed organizations within a month of signing the deal,” he tweeted.

“About 4000 people died in the Bodo movement. This historic agreement will usher in a new dawn of peace, progress and prosperity in the state of Assam. I congratulate CM Sarbanand Sonwal for his pioneering efforts to make North-East the Ashta Lakshmi of PM Modi Ji’s vision,” the minister said in another tweet.

This is the third Bodo accord which has been signed in the last 27 years since the movement for a separate Bodoland state commenced in Assam.

The first Bodo accord was signed with the All Bodo Students Union (ABSU) in 1993, leading to the creation of a Bodoland Autonomous Council with limited political powers.

In 2003, the second Bodo accord was signed with the militant group Bodo Liberation Tigers (BLT), leading to the formation of a Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) with four districts of Assam, Kokrajhar, Chirang, Baska and Udalguri, called the Bodoland Territorial Area District (BTAD).

The BTC was formed under the 6th Schedule of the Constitution. The demand for a separate state for the Bodos has been going on in Assam for about five decades.


Orissa Villagers Retaliate Against Maoists, Kill One

In retaliation to Maoists disrupting the development work in the region, villagers of the cut-off areas in Malkangiri district on Sunday clashed with the armed group, following which two wanted Maoist cadres were found injured by the security forces.

The two were found after the security forces, who received information about the presence of Maoists in the region, conducted cordon and search operations to track them down.

According to officials, one of the Maoists was later pronounced dead at a hospital.

The villagers of the cut-off areas, particularly of Jodamba, Badapada, Papermelta, who used to support the Maoists out of fear, have started standing up to the militants after realising the importance of being part of the mainstream.

This change comes after a series of initiatives for road connectivity and other developmental activities were undertaken by the government.

Armed Maoist cadres and sympathisers had come to Janturai village of Jadamba in the cut off areas of Malkangiri in the intervening night of January 25-26 and allegedly attacked the villagers for supporting the developmental work in the area.

The villagers had retaliated to the attack by Maoists, following which they were grievously injured and later found by the security forces.

The two “hard-core Maoists” have been identified as Jipro Hatrika and Ganga Madhi, ACM and members of the Guma Area Committee respectively.

They had been involved in a series of incidents and had a reward of Rs 4 lakh and Rs 1 lakh on their heads respectively, officials said.

Officials said that the people of the cut off areas, who were deprived of benefits of developmental projects of government, are now realising that the Maoists are the “real stumbling blocks” for their growth.

Two Maoists were on Sunday allegedly stoned to death by some locals at Janturai village under Chitrakonda police limits in Malkangiri district after they told the villagers not to celebrate the Republic Day and opposed the development work in the area.

Last week, suspected Naxals had also torched some vehicles used in road construction and later thrashed the workers at Niyamgiri area of Rayagada district here.


Delhi Air Quality Plunges To ‘Very Poor’, AQI 336

After a brief improvement in the air quality of the national capital, the Air Quality Index (AQI) crippled down to ‘very poor’ category on Monday wth overall Air quality Index (AQI) docking at 336.

The AQI in the area around Delhi University was recorded 346 at 9 am today which falls under the ‘very poor’ category. Similarly, Chandni Chowk, Pusa Road, and Lodhi Road had an AQI of 336, 304 and 316, respectively.

An AQI between 0-50 is considered good, 51-100 is satisfactory, 101-200 moderate, 201-300 poor, 301-400 very poor and 401-500 is marked as severe/hazardous.

The maximum temperature in the capital will be 23 degrees Celcius and the minimum will be 8 degrees Celcius.


India Shows It Defence & Cultural Might On R-Day

India’s military might was on display at Rajpath on Sunday as the country celebrated its 71st Republic Day with pomp and show.

The parade that saw many firsts, including made in India ‘Dhanush’ gun system, commanded by Captain Mrigank Bharadwaj.

The 155mm/45 Caliber Dhanush gun system is a towed Howitzer designed indigenously by the Ordnance Factory Board. The gun with a maximum range of 36.5 km has the capability of automatic gun alignment and positioning.

Also in another first, Jammu and Kashmir took part in the Republic Day parade as a Union Territory, since the abrogation of Article 370 on August 5, 2019.

Breaking from tradition, Prime Minister Narendra Modi paid homage to the fallen soldiers at the newly built National War Memorial in New Delhi for the first time instead of the Amar Jawan Jyoti beneath the India Gate arch.

Captain Tanya Shergill, a fourth generation lady officer with the Army’s Corps of Signals, who became the second woman parade adjutant for the Republic Day parade, led an all-men contingent at the march past in Rajpath.