Anger brewing on Indian archipelago over ‘anti-Muslim’ legislation

Anger brewing on Indian archipelago over ‘anti-Muslim’ legislation
Photo/Wikipedia
Short Url
Updated 26 May 2021

Anger brewing on Indian archipelago over ‘anti-Muslim’ legislation

Anger brewing on Indian archipelago over ‘anti-Muslim’ legislation
  • They warn that the changes, seen by some as blatantly anti-Muslim, threaten the peace and “COVID-free status” of the Muslim-majority archipelago

NEW DELHI: In a rare show of discontent on the Lakshadweep islands, off the coast of the southern Indian state of Kerala, locals are complaining about a string of policies initiated by a new administrator appointed five months ago.
They warn that the changes, seen by some as blatantly anti-Muslim, threaten the peace and “COVID-free status” of the Muslim-majority archipelago.
Lakshadweep is a union territory run by an administrator appointed by the central government. Only 10 of its 36 islands, which are spread across a 32-square-kilometer area in the Arabian Sea, are inhabited. Muslims account for 93 percent of the islands’ 70,000-strong population. Kerala, the closest Indian state, is 240 kilometers away.
Since India’s independence in 1947 the administration of the archipelago was always overseen by a bureaucrat, until December last year when the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, appointed former politician Praful Khoda Patel as its administrator. Patel was Modi’s home minister in the western Indian state of Gujarat before Modi became prime minister in 2014.
In the five months since taking up his position, Patel has announced a series of decisions that have sparked controversy, such as a proposed ban on the slaughter of cows and the consumption of beef; draft legislation that would disqualify people with more than two children from contesting local elections; and the introduction in January of the Prevention of Anti-Social Activities Act (PASA), a draconian law under which individuals can be detained, without any public disclosure, for up to a year.
Another contentious proposal from his office is the Lakshadweep Development Authority Regulation 2021, a draft law that gives the administrator the power to remove or relocate islanders from their properties if required by planning or development activities.
Locals are outraged by what they see as the “majoritarian mindset” behind the policies, and Patel is facing opposition from islanders and politicians in Lakshadweep and neighboring Kerala.
“There is a lot of anger among locals over decisions taken by the administrator,” Dr. Ayshabi Kalpeni, chief medical officer at the Life Care Hospital in Malappuram, Kerala, told Arab News.

BACKGROUND

New administrator accused of imposing ‘unilateral, authoritarian and undemocratic’ policies in Lakshadweep that threaten peace and safety of the islands.

“Our existence has come to be questioned with these decisions and we feel that the government is working with the same majoritarian mindset here as it is working elsewhere in the country.”
She also questioned Patel’s decision to open up the islands to tourists during the COVID-19 pandemic that is raging across the country.
“(Lakshadweep) did not have a single coronavirus case in the past year but since Patel allowed tourists to visit … it has over 7,000 cases and scores of deaths,” Kalpeni said.
It is imperative that the number of infections is reduced, she said, because Lakshadweep does not have critical healthcare facilities; patients who require ventilators or other advanced forms of treatment have to be flown to Kerala.
“By the time you airlift the patient and take them to a hospital on the mainland, crucial time is lost; that’s why many people have lost their lives,” she added.
According to media reports, nearly 2,000 local residents have been removed from public roles in the past few months. Kalpeni said this has added to the increasing mood of discontent on the islands.
“The way the government is trying to settle outsiders in Kashmir, I feel a similar design is at work on the islands,” she added.
Some have also questioned the need for the PASA legislation. Authorities argue that it is designed to control antisocial and anti-national activities, but Anees Nasir, president of the Lakshadweep Student Association, said that the territory has a very low crime rate and its jail is nearly empty.
“The act has injected a great sense of fear in us, and we fear we might be detained if we speak against the policies,” he told Arab News. “What is the need for an act like PASA in Lakshadweep where the crime rate is negligible?
“Some of the proposed regulations are a challenge to our way of life on the islands.”
Lakshadweep’s only Muslim parliamentarian, Mohammed Faizal, agreed and told Arab News: “The administrator wants to create fear among people so that they cannot protest against the new land laws.
“What is the need for PASA in a peaceful region like Lakshadweep, and why does the government want to ban beef in a Muslim-majority area?”
Similar sentiments are echoed by politicians and activists in Kerala who, along with islanders, have launched a “Save Lakshadweep” campaign.
“The whole idea of the BJP is to change the demography of Lakshadweep and create another Kashmir in southern India,” Tasleem Rehmani, a member of the Kerala-based Muslim Political Council of India, told Arab News.
The BJP denied the allegations.
“This is a hate campaign by Kerala-based parties and there is nothing wrong in the administrative reforms because the locals themselves were demanding development for the past 10 years,” K. Surendran, the BJP’s president in Kerala, told Arab News.
“There is no beef ban in Lakshadweep; the meat is only banned in the noon meal for school students on the advice of experts.”
However, opponents and analysts have described the recent proposals as “unilateral, authoritarian, undemocratic and anti-Muslim.”
“The (proposed) cow-slaughter ban is a clear expression of Patel’s vindictive agenda targeting Muslims,” K. A. Shaji, a political analyst in Kerala, told Arab News. “The local community is angry but helpless.
“I do believe this is a move to weaken the Muslim demography on the islands and to open up the islands to private corporations from the mainland.”


Manchester Arena bomber ‘should have been questioned’ on return from Libya

Manchester Arena bomber ‘should have been questioned’ on return from Libya
Updated 14 sec ago

Manchester Arena bomber ‘should have been questioned’ on return from Libya

Manchester Arena bomber ‘should have been questioned’ on return from Libya
  • Salman Abedi in contact with three other ‘subjects of interest’ in lead-up to deadly 2017 attack, inquiry told

LONDON: The Manchester Arena bomber should have been questioned by police when he returned to the UK from Libya four days before the attack, a senior British intelligence officer has said.

Salman Abedi had been assessed by MI5 in the months leading up to the attack and was found to have been in touch with three other “subjects of interest,” the officer, referred to as Witness J, told the inquiry into the bombing.

But the officer said there was no intelligence suggesting a threat to national security, the BBC reported.

However, he said that it was a mistake not to ask police to question Abedi when he returned to the UK from Libya on May 18, 2017.

Abedi detonated a suicide bomb in the foyer of the arena as people left a concert by US singer Ariana Grande on May 22.

The blast killed 22 people and injured hundreds, many of them children who had gone to watch the performer.

The inquiry heard that between 2013 and 2017 Abedi had been in direct contact with one person suspected of planning to travel to Syria, another with links to Al-Qaeda and a third linked to extremists in Libya.

Between 2016 and 2017 he was also identified as a second-level contact with three more “subjects of interest” linked to Daesh.

Witness J said that it did not “necessarily follow” that having contact with “subjects of interest” was a cumulative risk.

But stopping him “would have been the better course of action,” he said, referring to the decision not to question Abedi on his return.

Abedi was a “subject of interest” for five months before his file was closed in July 2014.

The UK-born son of Libyan parents is believed to have joined an extremist militia when he traveled to Libya during the uprising against Muammar Qaddafi in 2011.


German Daesh bride sentenced to 10 years over Yazidi girl murder

German Daesh bride sentenced to 10 years over Yazidi girl murder
Updated 26 October 2021

German Daesh bride sentenced to 10 years over Yazidi girl murder

German Daesh bride sentenced to 10 years over Yazidi girl murder
  • The tribunal handed down the verdict to Jennifer Wenisch, 30, in one of the first convictions anywhere in the world related to the militant group’s persecution of the Yazidi community

MUNICH: A Munich court on Monday sentenced a German woman who joined the Daesh group to 10 years in prison over the war crime of letting a five-year-old Yazidi “slave” girl die of thirst in the sun.

The tribunal handed down the verdict to Jennifer Wenisch, 30, in one of the first convictions anywhere in the world related to the militant group’s persecution of the Yazidi community.

Wenisch was found guilty of “two crimes against humanity in the form of enslavement,” said presiding judge Reinhold Baier of the superior regional court in Munich.

She was also guilty of aiding and abetting the girl’s killing by failing to offer help as well as membership of a terrorist organization.

She and her Daesh husband “purchased” a Yazidi woman and child as household “slaves,” whom they held captive while living in then Daesh-occupied Mosul, Iraq, in 2015, the court found.

“After the girl fell ill and wet her mattress, the husband of the accused chained her up outside as punishment and let the child die an agonizing death of thirst in the scorching heat,” prosecutors told the court.

“The accused allowed her husband to do so and did nothing to save the girl.” Baier said the defendant had often complained about the girl and accepted the deadly consequences of her “punishment.”

“You must have known from the start that a child shackled in the blazing sun would be in mortal danger,” he told Wenisch.

The proceedings lasted two and a half years due to delays linked to the pandemic and other factors.

Wenisch’s husband, Taha Al-Jumailly, is also facing trial in separate proceedings in Frankfurt, where a verdict is due in late November.

According to media reports, Wenisch converted to Islam in 2013 and traveled the following year via Turkey and Syria to Iraq where she joined the militant group.

Recruited in mid-2015 to the group’s self-styled hisbah morality police, she patrolled city parks in Daesh-occupied Fallujah and Mosul.

Armed with an AK-47 assault rifle, a pistol and an explosives vest, her task was to ensure strict Daesh rules on dress code, public behavior and bans on alcohol and tobacco.

In January 2016, she visited the German embassy in Ankara to apply for new identity papers. When she left the mission, she was arrested and extradited days later to Germany.

Federal prosecutors had called for a life sentence for Wenisch.

Identified only by her first name Nora, the child’s mother has repeatedly testified in both Munich and Frankfurt about the torment visited on her child.

The defense had claimed the mother’s testimony was untrustworthy and said there was no proof that the girl, who was taken to hospital after the incident, actually died.

Wenisch’s lawyers had called for her to receive a two-year suspended sentence for supporting a terrorist organization.

When asked during the trial about her failure to save the girl, Wenisch said she was “afraid” that her husband would “push her or lock her up.”

At the close of the trial, according to the daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung, she claimed she was being “made an example of for everything that has happened under Daesh.”

A Kurdish-speaking group hailing from northern Iraq, the Yazidis were specifically targeted and oppressed by the IS beginning in 2015.

London-based human rights lawyer Amal Clooney, who has been involved in a campaign for Daesh crimes against the group to be recognized as a “genocide,” was part of the team representing the Yazidi girl’s mother.

Germany has charged several German and foreign nationals with war crimes and crimes against humanity carried out abroad, using the legal principle of universal jurisdiction which allows crimes to be prosecuted even if they were committed in a foreign country.

A handful of female suspects are among those who have appeared in the dock.

In November 2020, a German woman identified as as Nurten J. was charged with crimes against humanity allegedly committed while she was living in Syria as a member of Islamic State.

In October 2020, another German court sentenced the German-Tunisian wife of a rapper-turned-jihadist to three-and-a-half years in prison for having taken part in the enslavement of a Yazidi girl in Syria.


Taliban to form new armed forces including former regime troops

Taliban to form new armed forces including former regime troops
Updated 26 October 2021

Taliban to form new armed forces including former regime troops

Taliban to form new armed forces including former regime troops
  • So far unclear if military set up would win support from international community

KABUL: Afghanistan’s Taliban-led government on Monday announced it is to form new armed forces for the country including soldiers from the previous regime’s military.

The former Afghan military and Western-backed government collapsed on Aug. 15 when President Ashraf Ghani fled Afghanistan as the Taliban took control in a lightning offensive while the US and its allies were withdrawing troops after 20 years on the ground.

In September, the Taliban appointed an interim government in Afghanistan, declaring the country an Islamic emirate.

Defense Minister Mullah Mohammed Yaqoob, the son of Taliban founder Mullah Omar, announced the formation of new armed forces on Sunday, in an audio message released by the defense ministry.

He said the ministry intended
to create a national and independent army, with ground and airspace capabilities to “defend the country with high values,” and would try to equip it with modern weapons.

Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, told Arab News: “Army is a priority and urgent need of the country. The Islamic emirate would work on forming an empowered army that would be responsible for protecting Afghans and would have the ability to defend the peace of Afghanistan at any cost.”

He said that the new army would be comprised of Taliban fighters and soldiers of the former regime.

“This army would be formed from new forces and also those forces who served the Afghanistan National Army. We would work together to form a powerful army from both forces that are serving and have served Afghanistan,” Mujahid added.

However, there was no comment on whether the formation of the new armed forces would be supported by other countries.

Kabul-based economist, Hamayoon Frotan, said: “Forming a new army needs money and human resources, as billions of dollars in Afghanistan’s central bank assets held abroad have been frozen following the Taliban takeover.

“I believe that the Taliban have human resources, also part of the equipment that the army needs the Taliban have got from the Americans.”

He pointed out that support might come from China and Russia, as Russia’s state-owned news agency TASS last week quoted President Vladimir Putin as saying the removal of the Taliban movement — outlawed in Russia — from the list of terrorist organizations was possible.

But during a plenary meeting of the international Valdai Discussion Club on Thursday, Putin said such a move would have to take place at the UN level.


After delta surge, Philippines reports low-risk for COVID-19

After delta surge, Philippines reports low-risk for COVID-19
Updated 26 October 2021

After delta surge, Philippines reports low-risk for COVID-19

After delta surge, Philippines reports low-risk for COVID-19
  • New daily cases decreased by 48% in the last two weeks, with healthcare capacity at ‘moderate risk’

MANILA: The Philippines is now “low-risk” for COVID-19, the Department of Health announced on Monday, over a month after the country experienced its peak infection rates fueled by the highly transmissible Delta variant.

The country’s daily case count has decreased by 48 percent over the last two weeks, while its healthcare capacity was at “moderate risk,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said in a press briefing.

In mid-September, the Philippines was recording over 26,000 new infections daily, as the Delta variant swept the country. On Monday, authorities reported 4,405 new infections, bringing the total number of cases to 2.76 million, with nearly 42,000 deaths.

“Nationally we are at low-risk case classification with a negative two-week growth rate at negative 48 percent and a moderate-risk average daily attack rate of 5.89 cases for every 100,000 individuals,” Vergeire said.

“Along with the decline of our cases, we see that the weekly deaths are also in a downtrend since the start of October.”

As increased mobility will be expected in the coming months ahead of Christmas, Vergeire urged the 110 million-strong public to remain vigilant and continue to observe health protocols. In accordance with tradition, Filipinos flock cemeteries to honor their departed on All Saints’ Day, with authorities on Monday announcing the closure of graveyards and memorial parks from Oct. 29 to Nov. 2.

“We are not saying that we are out of the woods,” Vergeire said. “The fight is not over yet. We cannot be complacent at this time. We can go out but we have to be careful.”


Israel slammed over ‘vicious’ attacks on Palestinian civil society

Israel slammed over ‘vicious’ attacks on Palestinian civil society
Updated 26 October 2021

Israel slammed over ‘vicious’ attacks on Palestinian civil society

Israel slammed over ‘vicious’ attacks on Palestinian civil society
  • Israel listed and banned six Palestinian NGOs, including the Defense for Children Palestine and the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees
  • CAABU: The UK government should pledge and demonstrate concrete support for Palestinian civil society in a vicious scenario of shrinking space in which they operate

LONDON: The Council of Arab-British Understanding has condemned Israel’s “vicious” crackdown on Palestinian NGOs and urged the UK government to act in support of Palestinian civil society.

Last week Israel listed and banned six Palestinian NGOs, including the Defense for Children Palestine and the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees, accusing them of links to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

“Israel has yet to provide any evidence to substantiate its claims,” said CAABU. “The Israeli listing and banning of these organisations is based on confidential reports. If there was evidence against any specific Palestinians working in these groups, Israeli forces would have no doubt arrested them.

“The UK government should pledge and demonstrate concrete support for Palestinian civil society in a vicious scenario of shrinking space in which they operate. They suffer from sustained and systemic attacks from Israeli authorities. Such a move is designed to silence those who speak out against illegal Israeli policies. ”

CAABU has worked closely with many of the banned organizations, including introducing some to British parliamentarians. 

They “remain an essential and important resource to our political advocacy work as they are to governments and parliamentarians from across Europe,” the group said.

CAABU director Chris Doyle told Arab News that these actions were resonant of “tyrannical regimes using counter-terrorism legislation as a cover to stop criticisms of their actions. It’s the sort of thing one would expect from the likes of the Syrian regime, for example.”

He said the onus was on the Israeli government to demonstrate “immediately and in full that there is substantive evidence (to support the crackdown).”

Civil society, he added, viewed the latest attack on NGOs as “another part of a continuing Israeli attempt to crackdown on civil society, to shrink the space for holding them to account — all of which we’ve seen before.”

Raiding offices, freezing accounts and “using satellite organizations to smear their reputations” was something that had been happening for decades.

“One can go back to the first intifada when Palestinian universities were closed down, where Palestinian schools were closed down, to actions against specific individual NGOs that also weren’t substantiated. Most recently there was a case of so-called pro-Israel groups that had been spreading unsubstantiated accusations about Palestinian textbooks. We have seen this time and time again.”

Many international NGOs and charities, as well as human rights organizations, have also strongly condemned Israel’s attacks on Palestinian charities and NGOs.

In a rare joint statement, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch — two of the most prominent human rights advocacy organizations in the world — condemned the bans.

“This appalling and unjust decision is an attack by the Israeli government on the international human rights movement,” they said. “For decades, Israeli authorities have systematically sought to muzzle human rights monitoring and punish those who criticize its repressive rule over Palestinians. While staff members of our organizations have faced deportation and travel bans, Palestinian human rights defenders have always borne the brunt of the repression.

“This decision is an alarming escalation that threatens to shut down the work of Palestine’s most prominent civil society organizations.”

Echoing calls by CAABU for greater British involvement in the defense of Palestinian rights, they called on the international community to challenge Israel over its actions.

“The decades-long failure of the international community to challenge grave Israeli human rights abuses and impose meaningful consequences for them has emboldened Israeli authorities to act in this brazen manner.”

Doyle said: “The extremely strong unified reaction from civil society, and 22 Israeli civil society organizations, demonstrates that they simply attach no credibility to the Israeli claims about these organizations."