Bangladesh agrees with Myanmar to complete Rohingya return in two years

Above, Rohingya refugees line up for daily essentials distribution at Balukhali camp, near Cox's Bazar in Bangladesh on January 15. (Reuters)
Updated 16 January 2018
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Bangladesh agrees with Myanmar to complete Rohingya return in two years

DHAKA: Bangladesh has agreed to complete the process of returning Rohingya Muslims to Myanmar within two years after repatriation begins, the south Asian nation said on Tuesday, following a meeting of the neighbors to implement a pact signed last year.
A statement by the Bangladesh foreign ministry did not say when the process would begin. But it said the return effort envisages “considering the family as a unit,” with Myanmar to provide temporary shelter for those returning before rebuilding houses for them.
The statement said Bangladesh would set up five transit camps, which would send Rohingyas to two reception centers on the Myanmar side of the border.
“Myanmar has reiterated its commitment to stop outflow of Myanmar residents to Bangladesh,” it said.
The meeting in Myanmar’s capital Naypyitaw was the first for a joint working group set up to hammer out the details of the November repatriation agreement.
The Myanmar government has not issued its own statement after the meeting and government spokesman Zaw Htay was not immediately available for comment.
Zaw Htay said earlier, however, that returnees would be able to apply for citizenship “after they pass the verification process.”
A Myanmar agency set up to oversee repatriation said in a statement last Thursday that two temporary “repatriation and assessment camps” and one other site to accommodate returnees had been set up.
Myint Kyaing, permanent secretary at Myanmar’s Ministry of Labour, Immigration and Population, said earlier this month Myanmar would be ready to begin processing least 150 people a day through each of the two camps by January 23.
The Rohingya crisis erupted after Rohingya insurgent attacks on security posts on August 25 in the western state of Rakhine triggered a fierce military response that the UN denounced as ethnic cleansing. Some 650,000 people fled the violence.
Myanmar denies ethnic cleansing, saying its security forces had mounted legitimate counter-insurgency clearance operations.


Devotees throng Indian flashpoint temple, but no women

Updated 5 min 50 sec ago
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Devotees throng Indian flashpoint temple, but no women

  • India’s Supreme Court ruled in September that all females, including those of menstruating age, could enter the shrine perched in a tiger reserve in the southern state of Kerala
  • Hindu hard-liners clashed with police, assaulted journalists and prevented the court order from being implemented, when the temple reopned

PATHANAMTHITTA, India: Tens of thousands of pilgrims thronged one of Hinduism’s holiest temples in southern India Saturday as it reopened amid high security, but women aged between 10 and 50 were absent despite a court order allowing them to enter.
Hindu activists meanwhile imposed a strike to protest that the security measures were impeding their ability to worship at the Sabarimala shrine, closing shops and reducing traffic to a trickle.
India’s Supreme Court ruled in September that all females, including those of menstruating age, could enter the shrine perched in a tiger reserve in the southern state of Kerala.
But when the temple reopened for several days last month, Hindu hard-liners clashed with police, assaulted journalists and prevented the court order from being implemented.
With thousands of extra riot police on duty and police barricades set up, the hilltop temple reopened late on Friday a day ahead of the start of a Hindu festival period.
Among the several hundred thousand people who have registered to pray at the temple over the coming weeks are around 700 women, setting the stage for a major showdown.
However, no women have yet tried to approach the site ahead of a hearing next week at the Supreme Court of a motion announced late Friday by the board managing the temple site.
It aims to ask the court, likely on Monday, to allow more time to admit women, citing the lack of infrastructure following major floods in August, a spokesman told AFP.
On January 22 the Supreme Court will also hear challenges to its original September ruling, one of a series of recent liberal decisions including the decriminalization of gay sex and of adultery.

One woman who did want to get to Sabarimala on Friday was activist Trupti Desai.
But a crowd of around 500 people staged a sit-in and prevented her from leaving Kochi airport and late Friday she and several women companions flew back to Mumbai, Indian media reported.
“We tried to hire taxis several times but the agitators are not allowing them to take us. They have threatened violence if they do,” Desai told Indian television.
Separately late Friday police arrested another woman, K.P Sasikala, a local community leader, for seeking to defy a ban on spending the night at the temple site.
Sasikala is over 50 so Hindu organizations are not opposed to her entering the site.
Instead they were incensed that restrictions were being imposed on pilgrims and called the local strike for Saturday.
“Hindu community leaders called for the strike and we support it,” P.S Sreedharan Pillai, the local president of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) told AFP.
“The police are putting restrictions on devotees who want to go there and pray,” Pillai added.
A few protesters pelted stones at public buses on the roads in some parts of the state, a Kerala police official told AFP.
Local media reports said about 2,000 protesters gathered around a police station in Pathanamthitta district, 65 kilometers (40 miles) from the temple, where Sasikala was being held.
“Sasikala was detained as the police had instructed that devotees will be not allowed to stay around the temple at night, which she insisted,” Kerala police spokesman Pramod Kumar told AFP.
Women activists say the ban on women between 10 and 50 at Sabarimala reflects an old view that connects menstruation with impurity.
They argue that women are allowed in most Hindu temples and the practice at Sabarimala is part of their tradition, and not anti-women.