Sunday, September 30, 2018

Chinese oppression in Xinjiang

China is facing growing criticism over its persecution of some Muslim minority groups, huge numbers of whom are allegedly being held in internment camps.
In August, a UN committee heard that up to one million Uighur Muslims and other Muslim groups could be being detained in the western Xinjiang region, where they're said to be undergoing "re-education" programmes.
The claims were made by rights groups, but China denies the allegations. At the same time, there's growing evidence of oppressive surveillance against people living in Xinjiang.
Human Rights Watch says Uighur people in particular are subject to intense surveillance and are made to give DNA and biometric samples. Those with relatives in 26 "sensitive" countries have reportedly been rounded up, and up to a million detained. Rights groups say people in camps are made to learn Mandarin Chinese and criticise or renounce their faith.
Former prisoners told BBC of physical as well as psychological torture in the camps. Entire families had disappeared, and  we were told detainees were tortured physically and mentally. We also saw evidence of almost a complete surveillance state in Xinjiang.
There's growing international criticism of China's treatment of Uighur Muslims but, as of yet, no country has taken any action beyond issuing critical statements.

Indonesia earthquake

A powerful earthquake has struck off the coast of Indonesia, triggering a tsunami warning.
The huge 7.5 magnitude quake was recorded near the island of Sulawesi, east of Borneo, the US Geological Survey said.
Authorities lifted an early tsunami warning within an hour, although officials warned those in the area to remain vigilant as a number of aftershocks hit.
“We advise people to remain in safe area, stay away from damaged buildings,” Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, spokesman for the National Disaster Mitigation Agency, said in a televised interview.
“It is better not to be in a house or building because the potential for aftershocks can be dangerous. People are encouraged to gather in safe areas. Avoid the slopes of hills.”
He added that the national agency in Jakarta was having difficulties reaching some authorities in island's Donggala province, home to around 300,000 people.
The US Geological Survey initially reported the quake as magnitude 7.7, but later downgraded it to a 7.5 reading.
Mr Nugroho warned the second quake had been felt “very strongly”, adding he expected more casualties and more damage to follow.
The scale of the destruction caused by the quake, which hit as the sun was setting, would not be known until Saturday, according to officials.
A local disaster agency official in Donggala, named only as Akris, told Associated Press many houses in the area had collapsed following the second tremor.
“It happened while we still have difficulties in collecting data from nine villages affected by the first quake,” he said. “People ran out in panic.”

The airport in Central Sulawesi province's capital, Palu, halted operations for 24 hours due to damage, according to a notice from AirNav, which oversees airline traffic in Indonesia
A series of earthquakes in July and August killed nearly 500 people on the holiday island of Lombok, hundreds of miles southwest of Sulawesi.
Indonesia sits on the Pacific Ring of Fire and is regularly hit by earthquakes.
In 2004, a big earthquake off the northern Indonesian island of Sumatra triggered a tsunami across the Indian Ocean, killing 226,000 people in 13 countries, including more than 120,000 in Indonesia.

Rohingya Massacres: State Dept. Post Report as UN Agency Formed to Assist ICC

Very quietly, without fanfare, in a story that went by almost unnoticed, the U.S. State Department website posted a report this week on the Rohingya massacres and atrocities.  Based on a survey, for which it contracted a Washington-based law firm (PLPG — Public International Law and Policy Group) to conduct the interviews, the report relied on 15,000 pages of supporting evidence.  It documented a planned, organized effort to terrorize and drive out the Rohingya community.  The firm, too, has posted data and legal findings on its own website.
PILPG’s investigators conducted 1024 interviews with Rohingya survivors in Eastern Bangladesh refugee camps and settlement areas.  They drafted an initial overview for the State Department followed by detailed documentation in the form of a database with more than “13,000 coded instances of grave human rights violations.”  A second report titled, “Factual Findings and Legal Analysis Report” is expected to be issued sometime next month (October 2018).
The State Department report notes specifically that any hearsay evidence was not recorded; the interviewees were eyewitnesses to the horrors.  Eighty-two percent actually saw the killings and a similar number observed the destruction and burning of huts and villages.  There are numerous aerial views of the destruction, patches of lifeless brown in a lush, green landscape.  Fifty-one percent witnessed sexual violence of which 45 percent constituted rapes — 18 percent were gang rapes.
The military were by far the worst perpetrators.  Others involved were police or armed civilians.  The  methods employed in some cases were designed to cause “mass casualties … locking people in houses to burn them, fencing off entire villages before shooting into the crowd, or sinking boats full of hundreds of fleeing Rohingya” (p. 2).
Gang rapes were common.  In one case, they abducted some 80 women to rape.  In another, a mother reported that “during a rape of roughly 100 women, her daughter was raped, then mutilated and killed … .”   Other mutilations included “cutting babies out of their pregnant mothers’ bellies … .”  Soldiers are reported to have “cut off the breasts of women they raped … mutilated genitals or other parts of their bodies” (p. 17).
Systematic, organized atrocities perpetrated by a de facto authority are considered crimes against humanity.  These include massacres, summary executions, rapes, religious persecution and the terrorism experienced by the Rohingya.  Article 7 of the Rome Statute establishing the International Criminal Court is reproduced under the UN’s  definition of crimes against humanity.  Any one of the ten actions described are sufficient for guilt and in Myanmar the authorities perpetrated at least eight.
The State Department report carefully avoids calling the acts, ‘crimes against humanity,’ a term that could have legal implications and obligate it to “stronger punitive measures.”  However, the UN Human Rights Council continues to forge ahead and on September 27 it set up an agency to collect and consolidate evidence to facilitate any future prosecutions by the ICC.
The UN’s 440-page report released the previous week on September 18, documented in detail the horrific damning evidence and called for the Myanmar military and six senior generals including the commander-in-chief to be referred to the ICC.  The latter has commenced its own preliminary investigation.  Let’s hope the mercurial Mr. Trump wakes up peevish on the wrong side of the bed one morning soon.  Even that might not be enough for the generals to face justice as ICC investigations require cooperation by the Myanmar government.

World Court - Palestine files complaint over U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - The International Court of Justice on Friday said it has received a complaint from the “State of Palestine” against the United States, arguing that the U.S. government’s placement of its Israeli embassy in Jerusalem violates an international treaty and it should be removed.
The ICJ, known as the World Court, said in a statement Palestine argues the 1961 Vienna Convention of Diplomatic Relations requires a country to  locate its embassy on the territory of a host state. While Israel controls Jerusalem militarily, its ownership is disputed.

Seven Palestinians killed as Israeli troops fire on Gaza protest

GAZA (Reuters) - Israeli soldiers shot dead seven Palestinians, including two boys, who were among thousands of people who thronged to the fortified Gaza Strip border on Friday as part of weekly protests launched half a year ago, Gaza health officials said.
Israel’s military said its troops resorted to live fire, and an air strike, after explosive devices and rocks were thrown at them and to prevent breaches of the border fence from the Islamist Hamas-controlled enclave.

Gaza health officials said 505 people had been wounded, 89 of them by gunshots. They identified the dead as males, two of them aged 12 and 14. The boys’ families could not immediately be reached for comment.
At least 191 Palestinians have been killed since the Gaza protests began on March 30 to demand the right of return to lands that Palestinian families fled or were driven from on Israel’s founding  in 1948, and the easing of an Israeli-Egyptian economic blockade.
Hamas said Friday’s protest also marked the 18th anniversary of the launch of the last Palestinian revolt against Israel.
A Gaza sniper has killed one Israeli soldier and incendiary devices flown over by Palestinians using kites and helium balloons have set off fires that destroyed tracts of forest and farmland in Israel.
Israel accuses Hamas, against which it has fought three wars in the last decade, of having deliberately provoked violence in the protests, a charge Hamas denies.
More than two million people are packed into Gaza, whose economic plight is a focus of so-far fruitless U.S.-led efforts to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, stalled since 2014.

Saudi Arabia, UAE Fail to Halt UN Yemen Human Rights Inquiry

By Jason Ditz
In a 21-8 vote, the UN Human Rights Council has agreed to extend the inquiry into human rights violations committed during the Saudi-led war in Yemen. Saudi Arabia and its allies in the United Arab Emirates both condemned the news.
Such votes happen every year around the UN General Assembly meeting, with the Saudis trying to limit such votes and insisting that any investigations are only going to “deepen divisions” in Yemen.
The council spent several days debating the matter, with those in favor of more investigations, led by the Netherlands and Canada, winning out handily, while many other nations chose to abstain.
British officials say that they were comfortable letting the investigation continue, but that subsequent reports need to focus on condemning the Shi’ite Houthi movement instead of criticizing the Saudis for their massive civilian death toll from airstrikes.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

The World Disorder – Part 1

The World Disorder – Part 1


Habib Siddiqui

The preamble of the United Nations states:


·        to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, and

·        to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small, and

·        to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, and

·        to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,


·        to practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbours, and

·        to unite our strength to maintain international peace and security, and

·        to ensure, by the acceptance of principles and the institution of methods, that armed force shall not be used, save in the common interest, and

·        to employ international machinery for the promotion of the economic and social advancement of all peoples,


Accordingly, our respective Governments, through representatives assembled in the city of San Francisco, who have exhibited their full powers found to be in good and due form, have agreed to the present Charter of the United Nations and do hereby establish an international organization to be known as the United Nations.”

This past week during the 73rd UN General Assembly meeting, the world community heard loud and clear from the world leaders and dignitaries that the UN has failed to live up to the lofty goals for which it was created after the World War II. As a matter of fact, human race is in a dire state today than ever before in the last 70 years.

Millions of people have been rendered homeless as a result of war, political unrest and economic insecurity that have become the new norms these days.  Some four million Syrians have fled their homes to escape murderous assaults from its own government - the criminal Assad regime. They have found refuge in neighboring Turkey, which continues to spend billions of dollars to look after them.

Almost a million Rohingya Muslims and Hindus have been forced out of the Rakhine (formerly Arakan) state of Buddhist Myanmar who have now settled inside Bangladesh since September 2017 to escape government-orchestrated genocide there. Tens of thousands of Rohingyas have also been killed and gang raped by Suu Kyi’s government forces and Buddhist fascists that want to make Myanmar religiously free of non-Buddhists. The Myanmar government forces are also at war with separatists in various Christian-majority states.

In next-door India, some 100,000 Kashmiri civilians have been killed by government security forces since 1989 to ensure that the Muslim residents of the restive territory are denied their overdue rights to a long-promised plebiscite to determine whether they want to secede or remain part of the so-called ‘democratic’ India.

Under Narendra Modi’s rule, Hindutvadi fascists are rejuvenated and are making a mockery of country’s secular constitution and thousand-year old history of religious co-existence by lynching minority Muslims daily under the pretext of saving ‘sacred’ cows. In the BJP-run state of Assam some 4 million Indians have been rendered stateless a la Myanmar-style. Because of their non-Assamese heritage, they are falsely accused, much like in Myanmar, to be infiltrators from Bangladesh. Deleted from the NRC (National Registration Card) list are 3.8 million Bengali-speaking Indians of which 2.5 million are Hindus, the rest 1.3 million are Bengali-speaking Muslims. Names of some people who appeared on voters’ list way back in 1965 and 1966 were deliberately left out this time. Even family members of a freedom fighter have been excluded. Some 1,200 people, including children, have also been kept in detention camps because they protested.

India has also threatened to expel nearly 40,000 Rohingya migrants it says have illegally settled in the country, including 15,000 registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), provoking sharp criticism from the UN.

While their troops may be involved in periodic stand-offs on the disputed Himalayan border and they may be competing for influence in Myanmar both India and China are on the same page regarding the Rohingya crisis. Within the UN, they have tried to protect Suu Kyi’s government that has been committing war crimes against the Rohingya. These two governments have huge infrastructure projects in the Rakhine state, the ancestral home of the Rohingya.

The India-funded Kaladan multi-modal project is designed to provide a sea-river-land link to its remote northeast through Sittwe (formerly Akyab) port. The China-funded Kyauk Phyu port is to be the starting point of an oil-gas pipeline and railroad link to Yunnan state in China. The wider efforts to take Myanmar oil and gas from the Shwe gas field to Guangzhou, China, are well documented.

The broad and sustained offensive on human rights that started after President Xi Jinping took power some six years ago shows no sign of abating. The death of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo in a hospital under heavy guard last year highlighted the Chinese government’s deepening contempt for human rights. The near future for human rights appears grim, especially as Xi is expected to remain in power at least until 2022.

In Xinjiang, a nominally autonomous region with 11 million Turkic Muslim Uyghurs, authorities stepped up mass surveillance and the security presence despite the lack of evidence demonstrating an organized threat. They also adopted new policies denying Uyghurs cultural and religious rights. The authorities have long persecuted them, collectivizing them, bulldozing their residences, requiring them to submit to invasive DNA and biometric tests.

The Chinese government has long conflated peaceful activism with violence in Xinjiang, and has treated many expressions of Uyghur identity, including language and religion, as threatening. Since October of 2016, authorities have arbitrarily recalled passports from residents of Xinjiang. Since about April of 2017 authorities have arbitrarily detained thousands of Uyghurs and other Muslims in centers where they were forced to undergo “patriotic education.” Authorities also ordered Uyghur students studying abroad, including in Egypt, to return to Xinjiang; and in July, Egyptian authorities rounded up those who had failed to return, possibly at China’s behest. By September 2017, about 20 Uyghurs were forcibly repatriated to Xinjiang while 12 were released. Some of those who returned were detained; a Xinjiang court sentenced Islamic scholar Hebibulla Tohti to 10 years in prison after he returned with a doctorate degree from Egypt’s Al-Azhar University. In April 2017, the Xinjiang Counter-Extremism Regulations, which prohibit the wearing of “abnormal” beards or veils in public places, became effective. Also, in April, Xinjiang authorities issued a new rule banning parents from naming children with dozens of names with religious connotations on the basis that they could “exaggerate religious fervor.”

Chinese officials, since early 2018, have imposed regular homestay programs on families in Xinjiang. These visits are part of the government’s increasingly invasive “Strike Hard” campaign in the region. During these visits, families are required to provide officials with information about their lives and political views, and are subjected to political indoctrination. Since 2014, Xinjiang authorities have sent 200,000 cadres from government agencies, state-owned enterprises, and public institutions to regularly visit and surveil the Uyghur people. Cadres also carry out political indoctrination, including promoting “Xi Jinping Thought” and explaining the Chinese Communist Party’s “care” and “selflessness” in its policies toward Xinjiang. They also warn people against the dangers of “pan-Islamism,” “pan-Turkism,” and “pan-Kazakhism” – ideologies or identities that the government finds threatening. The authorities expect all of these to be done through “heart-to-heart” talks about everyday life.

It is believed that as many as 1 million Uyghurs are confined to re-education camps. There they are detained arbitrarily by Chinese authorities and subjected to forcible re-education that includes declaring Muslim worship sinful, until the government decides to release them. The camps are described as an organized form of “disappearances.” News reports indicate that the children of Uyghur parents sent to these re-education camps are put in orphanages, where, as one orphanage worker described it, the children are “locked up like animals in a shed.”

As of September 2017, more than 90,000 police and security officials were posted in the province. Reports indicate that Uyghurs experience increased beatings, arrests, interrogations, wait times at checkpoints, and forced assimilation. A Freedom House report on the state of religious freedom in China suggests that Uyghur Muslims are among the most highly persecuted religious groups in China.

It goes without saying that China’s deeply invasive forced assimilation practices of Hanification against Muslims not only violate basic rights but are also likely to foster and deepen resentment in the region.

>>>> To be continued.

Assame Bengalis are victims of Hindutvadi-Assamese fascism

Assam under BJP rule is seeing a new wave of marginalizing its Bengali speaking citizens who are falsely depicted as foreigners from Bangladesh. See the report below from Said Khalid, written nearly 3 months ago.

'Harassed, discriminated': Story of Assam's Bengali origin people

As Assam counts its citizens, the fate of nearly 250,000 people, whose cases are pending in Tribunals, remains in limbo.
By Said Khalid
Assam, India - At around midnight of November 29, 2016, Morjina Bibi was woken up by repeated knocks on her door.
"When I opened the door, I saw two female police officers. Within a minute, several other policemen entered my house and asked me go with them," the 27-year-old told Al Jazeera.
Bibi was thrown into detention centre for being a "Doubtful" or "D" voter - a concept introduced by India's Election Commission in 1997. Those marked as "D" in electoral rolls are stripped of their citizenship rights.

As Assam counts its citizens, Muslims fear they may be left out

She walked free on July 17, 2017 after it turned out she was a case of mistaken identity.
Bibi, who is from Fofanga Part I village in Assam's Goalpara district, had spent nearly nine months in detention.
I couldn't eat, I couldn't sleep. The only thought that came to my mind was, 'What did I do? Why did they put me in this hell?'"
Morjina Bibi
"I asked them, 'What was my fault, why are you doing this to me?' I had not done anything wrong. They ordered me to keep quiet," she said.
She was sent to Kokrajhar detention centre the next day. 
"I couldn't eat, I couldn't sleep. The only thought that came to my mind was, 'What did I do? Why did they put me in this hell?'" she said, sitting in the courtyard of her hut.
Bengali origin people suffer from mass illiteracy and poverty [Al Jazeera]
Life inside the detention centre was difficult with poor quality food and crowded cells, she said. 
"In one room, there were between 50 and 60 people. People collided with each other while sleeping on the floor."

Mistaken identity

She had been mistaken for Merjina Begum, a woman from another village.
Bibi's case was taken up by All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF), a party that advocates for people of Bengali origin, who have often complained of harassment at the hands of authorities.
"When we found that another woman of the same name had a case, we filed for her bail," said Aminul Islam, AIUDF's general secretary.
The fear [of undocumented immigrants] was real, but it was amplified by the media
Sushanta Talukdar, senior journalist based in Guwahati
Bibi says police have yet to apologise or offer compensation.
Activists say police harassment in the name of detecting so-called foreigners has ripped apart families and instilled fear among the people.
Ruhul Amin, an 18 year old from a village near Assam's capital, Guwahati, was inconsolable as he narrated the story of his parents, who are currently stuck in separate detention centres.

Assam forces accused of waterboarding detainees

In 1997, his father and mother Ayub Ali and Rahima Khatun were sent a notice to prove their nationality, which meant they were required to prove their legitimacy in one of the 100 Foreigners Tribunals (FTs), specialised courts to decide on the citizenship of people who are suspected of being foreigners.
After losing their case in Guwahati High Court in 2015, they were taken into custody.
"We sold the shop to fight the case in Supreme Court. Father had already sold the land to fight the case in high court," said Amin, through tears.

Detention centres

Amin was forced to drop out of school to support his siblings, including his 14 year old brother. His elder sister was married with the financial help from neighbours and relatives.
"Boys of my age are studying. I too had a dream to study and do something good in life but that dream is not going to be fulfilled any more," he said.
Amin, like many members of the community, is terrified of the police. He fears he could also be declared a foreigner.
"If they arrest me and put in the detention centre what will happen to my younger brother? Who will look after him?"
Ruhul Amin's parents are among 899 people who are in six detention centres across Assam [Al Jazeera]
His hope is now pinned on the Supreme Court. If they lose the case in the top court, the parents will languish behind bars for life.
They are among 899 people who are in six detention centres across Assam - all of which are currently located inside district jails.

In India's Assam, boat clinics save lives on Brahmaputra river

The government is planning to build a large detention centre in Goalpara district. 

NRC exercise

Meanwhile, Assam is carrying out a massive operation and counting its citizens to update the National Register of Citizens (NRC) - the first since 1951 - aimed at finding out the exact number undocumented immigrants.
But more than 250,000 cases of "D" voters and suspected citizens pending in FT courts have been excluded from the NRC process, which means that their lives will remain in limbo in the years to come.
Their children born after 2003 will also not be eligible to become Indian citizens, putting their future in jeopardy.
Moreover, those who won't find place in the NRC list, slated to be published end of June, will have to go through the long-drawn and arduous process in the tribunal courts.
"It will take several generations for the cases to be finalised. What will happen to their children? Neither they can study nor can they get jobs," said Islam, the AIUDF leader. 
He called for fast track courts to expedite the cases as India's judiciary is already burdened with some 30 million backlogged cases.
The state government, led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), came to power in 2016 on an anti-foreigner platform. The right-wing party denounces people of Bengali origin as infiltrators.
Some 15,000 people were declared foreigners last year under the BJP administration. According to government figures nearly 90,000 people were declared as foreigners between 1985 and 2016.
The uncertainty has led many to commit suicide. 
Last week Gopal Das, 65, ended his life apparently after he received a notice from the Foreigners Tribunal in Udalguri district. His family, as reported by a local news website, claims his name is included in the 1966 voters list.

Wrongly detained

Activists say some of the detained were wrongly declared foreigners in judgements where defendants did not turn up in courts.
They also allege that many of the so-called declared foreigners did not receive notice from the court.
Aman Wadud, who practices at the Guwahati High Court, says the process of identifying undocumented immigrants or "D" voters is "arbitrary", "random" and done without proper investigation.
You are putting people on trial without an investigation. It's like filing a charge-sheet in a criminal case without investigation
Aman Wadud, lawyer
"You are putting people on trial without an investigation. It's like filing a charge-sheet in a criminal case without investigation," Wadud said.
The process of proving one's citizenship takes a heavy financial toll on the people who are summoned, most of whom are poor or marginal farmers, who earn 250 and 350 rupees ($3.6-$5) a day.
"They sell their cattle and lands to pay legal fees, which may go up to 50,000 rupees ($734)," said Wadud, who has successfully fought the cases of wrongfully declared foreigners.
Lawyer Aman Wadud says the process of proving one's citizenship takes a heavy financial toll on the people [Al Jazeera]
"People are spending their lifetime of income in proving their citizenship as there are few pro bono lawyers or those who charge less," he said.
In the current environment, genuine Indian citizens are being declared foreigners and people are sent multiple notices.

Genuine citizens harassed

Ajmal Haque, who served in the Indian army for 30 years, was asked to prove his citizenship by border police - a specialised force of more than 4,000 personnel tasked with identifying undocumented immigrants since it was formed in 1962.
He subsequently proved his citizenship.
Though procedures have been laid out, activists and those accused have said it is hardly followed on the ground.
"Election commission can mark 'D' voters without hardly any investigation while the border police follow few procedures in identifying suspected citizens," said Wadud, the lawyer.
Our basic job is to submit the names to the Foreigners Tribunal after proper verification of the papers if any individual is suspected to be illegally staying here
Raunak Ali Hazarika, Border Police chief
Sanjoy Hazarika, International Director of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, says due process should be followed in handling "D" voters cases and the NRC process.
"The process must be clearly in accordance with India's international obligations" he said.
Sajahan Kazi, a government school teacher from Barpeta district, was marked "D" voter in 1997. It took 20 years for him to prove his citizenship, during which he was stripped of voting and other rights.
People of Bengali origin feel discriminated and harassed by police.

Police refute the allegation of harassment

Moinal Mollah of Barpeta district's Bohri village was detained despite his parents and grandparents declared as Indian citizens with the necessary documents.

Protest poetry: Assam's Bengali Muslims take a stand

He remained in Goalpara detention centre for nearly three years until the Supreme Court ordered his release. A non-profit, MY-FACTS, provided free legal assistance to Mollah.
"My brother took money on interest and spent nearly two lakh rupees ($2,938) while we were fighting the case in the high court. Till today we are repaying the debts," Mollah told Al Jazeera as his parents sat beside him.
"I didn't receive any compensation from the government, neither have they apologised to me."
 Assam border police chief Raunak Ali Hazarika refuted the allegation of harassment.
"Legally it's not possible. Our basic job is to submit the names to the Foreigners Tribunal after proper verification of the papers if any individual is suspected to be illegally staying here," Hazarika told Al Jazeera.
Nearly 2,000 people were masscared in Nellie village in 1983, but no action has been taken against perpetrators, say community leaders [Al Jazeera]
He denied that linguistic minorities or Bengali-origin Muslims were being harassed.
"No way that's possible, as the process of enquiry does not have any specific criteria to enquire on religious or linguistic line".

Indigenous versus the outsiders

Assam is home to 32 million people - one-third of them are Muslim, most of them Bengali origin.
The first arrival of Bengali cultivators began in the 19th century after British colonial rulers took over Assam from the Ahom king in 1826.
Back then, Assam was sparsely populated with dense jungles. In 1855, an English military officer, Major John Butler, called Assam a "dreary and desolate wilderness ... devoid of man, beasts, or birds".
By the early 20th century, millions of Bengali people were settled in Assam, as part of the British policy. The fertile land of Assam attracted people not only from Bengal but also from Bihar and Odisha states.
The policy of bringing more Bengali immigrants by the government of Sayed Mohammad Sadullah in the 1930s as part of its "Grow More Food" programme further polarised Assam's politics on the issue of indigenous versus the outsiders.
CS Mullan, superintendent of the 1931 Assam Census, likened Bengali immigrants to "an invading, conquering army, to a terrifying birds of prey, and to insects".
For Mullan, an Indian civil service officer, Bengali immigrants were like "vultures" looking to grab lands.
"The motivation behind such irresponsible and utterings was clear. He wanted the Assamese and the immigrants to be set against each other," wrote academic Amalendu Guha in his book, "Planter Raj to Swaraj".
After India's independence in 1947, more than 200,000 Bengali people were deported to what was then East Pakistan under the Prevention of Infiltration from Pakistan scheme.
Author Rizwana Shamshad wrote in her book, "Bangladeshi Migrants in India: Foreigners, Refugees, or Infiltrators?", that a narrative was built around Bengali origin people as "land grabbers" and "settlers" against ethnic Assamese depicted as "vulnerable".

Colonial role overlooked

The dominant narrative in Assam has overlooked the colonial role in bringing immigrants to Assam.
Sushanta Talukdar, a senior journalist in Guwahati, said the media helped "perpetuate the stereotype about the community".
"The fear [of undocumented immigrants] was real, but it was amplified by the media," he said.
"We cannot deny that there is no problem, but media should have played a responsible role in finding out facts and instead of being carried away by the agenda of the political parties."
Hafiz Ahmed based in Guwahati has been vocal about the problems faced by his community [Al Jazeera]
India's Supreme Court quoted Mullan in its 2003 judgement, when it scrapped a controversial tribunal, the Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunal) Act (IMDT), set up in 1983 to try suspected foreigners.
Assam politicians had demanded the repeal of the IMDT Act, under which the burden of proof was on the state.
"The SC brought back foreigners Act 1946, a British era law, under which the burden of proof shifted to suspects," Wadud said, adding that it is against natural justice.
Islam of the AIUDF party says the agenda over who is a foreigner has gradually changed over the years.
"In the 1970s, they said remove outsiders, including Indians from other states. Then they said remove foreigners, including Nepalis and Bangladeshis," Haque said. "Now they are saying exempt Bengali Hindus and deport Bengali origin Muslims. From outsiders it has come down to just Muslims. It's a secular state, rules should be applied equally to all."

The sons of the soil

Among those of Bengali origin, such as Suleman Qasimi from Nellie village, there is a belief that people who have harmed and killed Muslims have enjoyed impunity.
"We are bhumiputra, the son of the soil. Do not call us Bangladeshis, we are Indians," he said, anger palpable on his face.
His brother was among the nearly 2,000 people massacred in 1983 in his village during the height of anti-Bengali movement.
"[Until now], no one has been charged for the carnage, except for a compensation of 5,000 rupees ($73)," said Qassemi, who is the leader of a local mosque.
We are bhumiputra, the son of the soil. Do not call us Bangladeshis, we are Indians
Suleman Qasimi, community leader
"Muslims were killed because they voted in defiance of the election boycott called by the protesters. My brother died for democracy," he said, claiming that those who harassed and killed Muslims during the Assam Movement have been rewarded.
In 2016, the BJP government in the state announced compensation of 500,000 rupees ($7,345) to the more than 800 killed during the anti-Bengali Assam agitation.
But successive Congress governments, Qasimi said, did nothing to provide justice to the victims.
Organisations and political groups such as All Assam Students Union (AASU), which led the Assam agitation between 1979-85, have played on the fear of undocumented immigrants.
"The problem is that the BJP is creating a fear psychosis that Muslim population is growing by leaps and bounds and they are going to swamp the local indigenous population," Assam Congress leader Prodyut Bordoloi said.
He said that the migration from Bangladesh has "almost stopped in the past 25 to 30 years".
Muslims have been well represented in the state Assembly with 30 members from the community in the 126-seat state assembly, but they are at the bottom of development indices.
The community suffers from mass illiteracy and poverty while the fear of being branded foreigners persists.

Assimilated into Assamese society

Hafiz Ahmed, a Guwahati-based Bengali-origin Muslim and activist, says that Muslims face discrimination and harassment despite having living in the state for generations.
Children of people whose cases are pending in Foreigners Tribunal are also not eligible to become Indian citizens [Al Jazeera]
"My grandfather came to Assam … We do not need any certificate that we are Assamese," he said. "Muslims have contributed a lot to the Assamese language and culture. And they have always wanted to be assimilated with the greater Assamese nationality."
The 54-year-old started writing Miya poetry to express the anguish and pain at the way the community has been treated.
"Miyan means gentleman but here it is used in a derogatory manner to refer to Bengali origin people," he said. "Miya poetry is a voice against injustice and discrimination.
"For the first time we have seen that some young people from the community have come out. They have used literature as a means of protest."
Kazi Neel is one among the young protesters from the community who has picked up a pen.
The land that makes my father an alienThat kills my brother with bullets My sister with gang-rapeThe land where my mother stokes in heart live burning coals
That land is mineI am not of that land
The land where limb after limb is chopped and sent afloat the riverWhere in 1983, the executioners danced a shameless grisly dance of celebration
That land is mineI am not of that land
The land where my homes and hearths is uprootedWhere my heritage is negatedWhere they conspire to bind me forever in darknessWhere they pour gravel, not gruel on my plate
That land is mineI am not of that landThe land where my throat cracks with appeals and no one hearsWhere my blood flows cheap and no one paysWhere they do politics over my son's coffinAnd gamble with my daughter's honour The land where I wander crazy, confused as a beast
That land is mine I am not of that land
[Poem originally written in Miya dialect by Kazi Neel. Translated into English by Shalom M Hussain]
Kazi Neel writes poetry in Miya dialect and also teaches children from the community [Al Jazeera]

Why does violence continue to plague Assam?

Inside Story
Why does violence continue to plague Assam?
SOURCE: Al Jazeera News

Report of the OHCR on Mynamar

                                 A/HRC/39/L22  Inline imageGeneral Assembly                                    Distr:Limites 
                                                                                                                                                           25 September 2018 

                 Original: English                               

Human Rights Council Thirty-ninth session 
10–28 September 2018 
Agenda item 2 
Annual report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and 
reports of the Office of the  High Commissioner and the Secretary-General 
 The Human Rights Council, 
Guided by the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations, 

              Reaffirming the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and recalling the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Convention on the Right of the Child, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, and other relevant international human rights law, 

             Recalling relevant resolutions of the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council, the most recent being Assembly resolution 72/248 of 24 December 2017 and Council resolutions 29/21 of 3 July 2015, 34/22 of 24 March 2017, S-27/1 of 5 December 2017 and 37/32 of 23 March 2018, and Council decision 36/115 of 29 September 2017, 

            Welcoming the work of the independent international fact-finding mission on Myanmar and its oral updates to the Human Rights Council, while deeply regretting that the Government of Myanmar has not cooperated with the fact-finding mission, and urging the Government to grant it full, unrestricted and unmonitored access to all areas and interlocutors,
             Welcoming also the work and the reports of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, deeply regretting the decision of the Government of  Myanmar to discontinue cooperation with the Special Rapporteur and to deny her access to Myanmar since January 2018, and calling upon the Government to resume its cooperation with the Special Rapporteur without delay, 

       Welcoming further the appointment by the Secretary-General of a special envoy, the cooperation of the Government of Myanmar with the special envoy and the agreement on the opening of an office in Nay Pyi Taw, and commending the work of the special envoy since her nomination, including her recent visits to the region and the her consultations with a range of interlocutors,

       Welcoming the cooperation extended by the Government of Bangladesh, allowing in this context the Special Rapporteur to visit the country from 29 June to 8 July 2018, while reaffirming the importance of cooperation with the Government of Myanmar in taking all necessary measures to promote and protect human rights in its territory without any discrimination,

        Expressing deep concern about the ongoing non-cooperation of the Government of Myanmar and its denial of access to the fact-finding mission and the Special Rapporteur, 
        Expressing deep concern also that, despite the signing of the bilateral instruments between Bangladesh and Myanmar and the subsequent formation of the Joint Working Group on the Repatriation of Displaced Myanmar Residents from Bangladesh, no displaced Rohingya person has been able to return to Myanmar to date owing to the fact that no visible effort has been made to create a conducive environment for the safe, voluntary, dignified and sustainable return of displaced Rohingya, including assurance of nonoccurrence of violence, assurance on rights, including citizenship and mobility, or assurance of accountability of perpetrators and justice for victims, and owing also to the very slow verification process of the list of intended returnees handed over to Myanmar, 
         Expressing concern at the reports of continued intimidation and violence against the remaining Rohingya Muslim population and other minorities in Myanmar, 

        Recognizing the initial steps taken by the Government of Myanmar to address the underlying causes of the situation in Rakhine State, including the setting up of the Central Committee for the Implementation of Peace, Stability and Development in Rakhine State and the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State, established on 5 September 2016 at the behest of the State Counsellor of Myanmar, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, and chaired by former Secretary-General Kofi Annan, while regretting that the Government has not yet fully implemented all recommendations of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State, 

         Acknowledging the establishment of an independent commission of enquiry by the Government of Myanmar on 30 July 2018 as a step towards ensuring accountability for the gross human rights violations and abuses committed in Rakhine State, and expressing hope that the commission of enquiry, unlike previous national investigative mechanisms, will be able to work with independence, transparency and objectivity, 

        Acknowledging with grave concern the statements made by the Secretary-General on 26 February 2018, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on 7 March 2018 and the Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights on 6 March 2018, as well as by the Secretary-General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation on 27 February 2018, on the situation of human rights in Rakhine State, in which they referred to ethnic cleansing in Myanmar, and recalling resolution 59/45-POL of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation adopted by the Council of Foreign Ministers at its forty-fifth session on the establishment of an ad hoc ministerial committee on accountability for human rights violations against the Rohingya, and the recommendations made by the participants in the international consultation meeting on the Rohingya crisis, held on 6 July 2018 in Ankara,  

      Acknowledging the request made by the High Commissioner during the thirty-eighth session of the Human Rights Council on the situation of human rights of the Rohingya population and other minorities in the Rakhine State of Myanmar, that the Council, in view of the scale and gravity of the allegations, consider making a recommendation to establish a new impartial and independent mechanism, complementary to the work of the fact-finding mission

      Stressing that States have the primary responsibility to respect, protect and fulfil human rights,

       Reiterating the urgent need to ensure that all those responsible for crimes related to violations and abuses of international human rights law are held to account through credible and independent national or international criminal justice mechanisms, while recalling the authority of the Security Council to refer the situation in Myanmar to the International Criminal Court, 

        Recalling the responsibility of States to comply with their relevant obligations to prosecute those responsible for violations of international law, including international humanitarian law, international human rights law and international refugee law, and for abuses of human rights law, and to provide an effective remedy to any person whose rights have been violated, with a view to end impunity, 

       1. Expresses grave concern at the findings of the independent international factfinding mission that there is sufficient information to warrant the investigation and prosecution of senior officials in the Tatmadaw chain of command so that a competent court may determine their liability for genocide in relation to the situation in Rakhine State, and that crimes against humanity and war crimes have been committed in Kachin, Rakhine and Shan States, including murder, imprisonment, enforced disappearance, torture, rape, sexual slavery and other forms of sexual violence, persecution and enslavement, and that children were subjected to, and witnessed, serious human rights violations, including killing, maiming and sexual violence, as part of a widespread and systematic attack on a civilian population warranting criminal investigation and prosecution, and that the military has consistently failed to respect international human rights law and international humanitarian law; 

      2. Strongly condemns all violations and abuses of human rights in Myanmar, as set out in the report of the fact-finding mission,1 including widespread, systematic and gross human rights violations and abuses committed in Rakhine State, including the presence of elements of extermination and deportation and systematic oppression and discrimination, which may amount to persecution and to the crime of apartheid, also strongly condemns the disproportionate response of the military and the security forces, deplores the serious deterioration of the security, human rights and humanitarian situation, the exodus of more than 723,000 Rohingya Muslims and other minorities into Bangladesh and the subsequent depopulation of northern Rakhine State, and calls upon the Myanmar authorities to ensure that those responsible for violations of international law, including human rights violations and abuses, are held accountable; 

     3. Calls for a full and independent investigation of the reports of systematic and widespread human rights violations and abuses committed, as reported by various United Nations bodies, including the Human Rights Council, the fact-finding mission and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict;

      4. Calls upon the Government of Myanmar to ensure the protection of the human rights of all persons in Myanmar, including of Rohingya Muslims and other minorities; 

     5. Also calls upon the Government of Myanmar to take all measures necessary to ensure accountability and to end impunity for all violations of human rights by undertaking a full, transparent and independent investigation into reports of all violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law; 

      6. Further calls upon the Government of Myanmar to grant full, unrestricted and unmonitored access for the fact-finding mission, other human rights mechanisms and relevant United Nations agencies, as well as for relevant international and regional human rights bodies, including the Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, and to ensure that all individuals have unhindered access to and can communicate with the United Nations and other human rights entities without fear of reprisal, intimidation or attack; 

      7. Welcomes the holding of the third session of the Twenty-first Century Panglong Conference from 11 to 16 July 2018 and the progress made towards the principles of a future democratic federal union of Myanmar, while calling for further steps, including an immediate cessation of fighting and hostilities, of targeting civilians and of all violations and abuses of international human rights law and international humanitarian law in northern Myanmar, and of the harassment, intimidation, arrest, detention and prosecution of human rights defenders and activists demonstrating for peace, the provision of immediate, safe and unhindered humanitarian access, including to areas controlled by ethnic armed groups, in particular in Kachin and Shan States, and the implementation of an inclusive and comprehensive national political dialogue ensuring the full, effective and meaningful participation of all ethnic groups, women and young people, and persons with disabilities, as well as civil society, with the objective of achieving lasting peace; 

       8. Calls upon the Government of Myanmar to take the measures necessary to address the spread of discrimination and prejudice and to combat the incitement to hatred against Rohingya Muslims and other minorities by publicly condemning such acts and enacting necessary anti-hate speech laws, in accordance with international human rights standards, and by promoting interfaith dialogue in cooperation with the international community, and encourages political and religious leaders in the country to work towards national unity through dialogue; 

       9. Also calls upon the Government of Myanmar to make efforts to eliminate statelessness and the systematic and institutionalized discrimination against members of ethnic and religious minorities, in particular relating to the Rohingya Muslims, by, inter alia, reviewing the 1982 Citizenship Law, which has led to deprivation of human rights; by ensuring equal access to full citizenship through a transparent, voluntary and accessible procedure and to all civil and political rights by allowing for self-identification; by amending or repealing all discriminatory legislation and policies, including discriminatory provisions of the set of “protection of race and religion laws” enacted in 2015 covering religious conversion, interfaith marriage, monogamy and population control; and by lifting all local orders restricting rights to freedom of movement and access to civil registration, health and education services and livelihoods; 

     10. Strongly urges the Government of Myanmar to take all measures necessary to implement fully all recommendations made by the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State;

     11. Notes with concern the continued departure of members of the remaining Rohingya population and other minorities for Bangladesh, strongly urges the Government of Myanmar and the armed forces to lift the curfew order in Rakhine State, in particular to ensure freedom of movement and the safety and security of all persons without discrimination, and to put an end to extortion against and the intimidation of the Rohingya population; 

      12. Calls upon the Government on Myanmar to allow free and unhindered access for local and international staff of humanitarian and other relevant international agencies to provide humanitarian assistance, including gender-responsive assistance, and encourages the granting of access for the diplomatic corps, independent observers and representatives of the national and international independent media, without fear of reprisal, and to safeguard those who report abuses;

      13. Stresses the need for the creation of the conditions for the safe, voluntary, dignified and sustainable return of Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh to their places of origin, offering dignified solutions to displacement, in consultation with the populations concerned and in accordance with international law and standards, with international oversight and monitoring with the free and informed participation of refugee communities; 

     14. Strongly calls upon the Government of Myanmar to expedite the safe, voluntary, dignified and sustainable return of all internally displaced persons in conditions of safety and dignity to their homes in Myanmar, including the approximately 120,000 internally displaced Rohingya and Kaman persons currently in camps near Sittwe in central Rakhine since 2012 by offering dignified solutions to displacement, in consultation with the populations concerned and in accordance with international law and standards;

      15. Call upon the Government of Myanmar to provide any returnees with freedom of movement, unimpeded access to livelihoods, social services, including health services, education and shelter, and compensation for all losses; 

    16. Calls upon the United Nations and encourages other international agencies to provide all support necessary for the Governments of Bangladesh and Myanmar to expedite the safe, voluntary, dignified and sustainable return of forcibly displaced Rohingya Muslims and other minorities from Myanmar, including internally displaced persons, including through the early implementation of the memorandum of understanding signed by the Government of Myanmar, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the United Nations Development Programme; 

      17. Urges the Government of Myanmar to take all measures necessary to reverse and abandon policies, directives and practices that marginalize Rohingya Muslims and other minorities economically, to prevent the destruction of places of worship, cemeteries, infrastructure and commercial or residential buildings belonging to all peoples, and to ensure that displaced Rohingya Muslims and other minorities in Rakhine State do not lose their rights to their homes and properties, including by reviewing relevant laws, and to address the root causes of their vulnerability and forced displacement;

      18. Expresses grave concern that the journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, who were investigating the Inn Dinn killings, have been jailed, prosecuted and sentenced, and calls for their immediate and unconditional release, and calls upon the Government of Myanmar to allow unhindered access of journalists throughout Myanmar, in particular in Rakhine, Kachin and Shan States; 

       19. Welcomes the signing by the Governments of Myanmar and Bangladesh of an arrangement on the return of displaced persons from Rakhine on 23 November 2017 and of a physical arrangement for the repatriation of displaced Myanmar residents from Bangladesh on 16 January 2018 as important first steps towards the safe, voluntary, dignified and sustainable return and repatriation of Rohingya refugees, and acknowledges the cooperation of Bangladesh with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, while urging all parties to invite the Office of the High Commissioner, the International Organization for Migration and other relevant international organizations to fulfil their mandates and to participate fully in the work of the Joint Working Group on the Repatriation of Displaced Myanmar Residents from Bangladesh and to ensure the transparent, effective and sustainable implementation of the returns process, in accordance with international law and with the free and informed participation  of refugee communities; 

         20. Acknowledges the signing of a memorandum of understanding on 6 June 2018 by the Government of Myanmar, the United Nations Development Programme and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the creation of a technical working group to oversee implementation as an important and necessary step to create conditions for the safe, voluntary and dignified return of refugees from Bangladesh, and encourages the immediate publication of the memorandum;

          21. Also acknowledges the establishment of an independent commission of enquiry by the Government of Myanmar on 30 July 2018, and calls for its close cooperation with all United Nations bodies and mandates, in particular the independent international fact-finding mission and the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar to ensure that all those responsible for crimes involving violations of international law, including violations and abuses of international human rights law, such as conflict-related sexual and gender-based violence and the attacks on children perpetrated during the military “clearance” operations in northern Rakhine State, are held to account; 

         22. Decides to establish an ongoing independent mechanism to collect, consolidate, preserve and analyse evidence of the most serious international crimes and violations of international law committed in Myanmar since 2011, and to prepare files in order to facilitate and expedite fair and independent criminal proceedings, in accordance with international law standards, in national, regional or international courts or tribunals that have or may in the future have jurisdiction over these crimes, in accordance with international law;

        23. Also decides that the mechanism shall: 
            (a) Be able to make use of the information collected by the fact-finding mission and continue to collect evidence;
            (b) Have the capacity to document and verify relevant information and evidence, including through field engagement                         and by cooperating with other entities, as appropriate; 
           (c) Report on its main activities on an annual basis to the Human Rights Council as of its forty-second session and to the
                General Assembly as of its seventy-fourth session; 

         24. Takes note of the International Criminal Court Pre-Trial Chamber’s ruling that it may exercise jurisdiction over the deportation of the Rohingya people from Myanmar to Bangladesh, and requests the mechanism to cooperate closely with any of its future investigations pertaining to human rights violations in Myanmar; 
         25. Requests the Secretary-General to appoint of the staff of the mechanism as expeditiously as possible, taking into account the experience of other relevant mechanisms, and to recruit or allocate impartial and experienced staff with relevant skills and expertise, drawing upon terms of reference prepared by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights;

         26. Calls upon all States, including the Government of Myanmar and its independent commission of enquiry, and encourages civil society, business enterprises and other relevant stakeholders to cooperate fully with the mechanism to effectively fulfil its mandate and, in particular, to provide it with any information and documentation they may possess or come to possess, as well as any other forms of assistance pertaining to their respective mandate;

         27. Requests the United Nations system as a whole to cooperate fully with the mechanism and to respond promptly to any request made by the mechanism, including access to all information and documentation; 

       28. Requests the Secretary-General to allocate the resources necessary for the implementation of the present resolution, including the logistical and technical resources necessary to support the functioning of the mechanism; 

      29. Encourages the General Assembly to consider taking further action to address the serious human rights violations committed in Myanmar, particularly in Rakhine, Shan and Kachin States, as documented in the final report of the fact-finding mission,1 and to seriously consider the recommendations contained therein and to pay due regard to the establishment of the mechanism; 

       30. Decides to extend the mandate of the independent international fact-finding mission, established by the Human Rights Council in its resolution 34/22, until the new mechanism is operational to ensure that the large and continually increasing amount of evidence of human rights violations and abuses it has collected is fully documented, verified, consolidated and preserved in order for the material to be effectively shared, accessed and used by the mechanism, and requests the fact-finding mission to submit a final report on its main activities to the Council at its forty-second session; 

      31. Requests the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to present a written report, to be followed by an interactive dialogue, to the Human Rights Council at its forty-third session, on the root causes of the human rights violations and abuses the Rohingya Muslim minority and other minorities in Myanmar are facing, including discrimination, racial intolerance and xenophobia and Islamophobic practices, in violations of international human rights law and contrary to international declarations, including but not limited to the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, and to recommend concrete measures to be taken by the Government of Myanmar and the international community to address the current situation; 

        32. Encourages the United Nations system to give due consideration to the recommendation by the fact-finding mission on conducting a comprehensive, independent inquiry into the involvement of the United Nations in Myanmar since 2011 with a view to establishing whether everything possible to prevent or mitigate the unfolding crises was done, identifying lessons learned and good practices, making recommendations as appropriate, including on accountability, and enabling more effective work in future; 

        33. Appeals to all States, international agencies and other donors to step up support for victims, including support for refugees, displaced persons and host communities, possibly through the establishment of a trust fund to address their needs, including the needs of those who have been victims of sexual violence, as well as child victims and witnesses. 

  * State not a member of the Human Rights Council. 
 † On behalf of the States Members of the United Nations that are members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation