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International

Why I love living in Wuhan and worry for its future

It fills me with sadness that Wuhan is currently becoming synonymous with the coronavirus that is causing a national emergency and concern around the world. I see the news coming out of Wuhan daily, the city I’ve come to love and call my home. Stories of infections increasing, stories of exhaustion, worry, isolation but also stories of self-sacrifice, support and hope. Wuhan, where the virus is believed to have surfaced, remains on lockdown and outbreak has killed more than 420 people around the world.

For several years, I’ve been talking about Wuhan to whomever would listen. When mentioning the name, people would often just stare and say, “Wu… what?” “Wuhan”! “Where’s that?” “Hubei Province, Central China, a city of more than 11 million people …” “Mhhh, never heard of it.” End of conversation.

I’ve talked about the beauty of Wuhan, how the city keeps changing, becoming more interesting day by the day. It has a growing art and creative scene, new green and recreative spaces springing up everywhere.

I’ve talked about Wuhan University, which boasts China’s most beautiful campus. As a foreign expert on secondment from Dublin City University (DCU) to Wuhan University from 2017 to 2019, I’d the privilege to work alongside a team of professionals and share in the personal growth of some of China’s brightest students. I’ve lived in Ireland for almost 25 years and returned to Dublin last summer, but I recently chose to move back to Wuhan because I’d missed my life in this city.

I consider myself very lucky to be able to call this place my home. I was once asked what stories could be told to the world about Wuhan. I said that I’d write about its natural beauty in all its variation, the campus, the lakes, the mountains and rivers. I would write about long walks along the East Lake and bike rides criss-crossing the mighty Yangtze river. I would write about the city’s culture and art and music. I would try and capture the sounds of frogs and birds singing outside my window at 3.30 in the morning.

I would describe the intoxicating scent of osmanthus in autumn and the amazing sunsets all across the city. I would bring the reader on a culinary tour of Wuhan’s local foods, on a visual tour of the city’s arts and culture, and on a sound tour of its music. I would introduce them to the strength and the kindness of its people … and much, much more. I said that I hoped, one day, to find the time to sit down and start writing. I never did but I’ve been trying to get friends, family and colleagues to visit this city that recently appeared high up on a list of the most attractive cities in China. It’s attraction is also for its status as the Chinese city that hosts more institutions of higher learning than any other in the country, a place of phenomenal economic growth, a city also that has witnessed growing engagement with Irish business and education, including the long-standing partnership between DCU and Wuhan University that brought me there in the first place.

After returning to Wuhan in early December of last year to take up a position as lecturer in intercultural communication at Wuhan University, everything seemed to have fallen into place for me – I was already familiar with the city and the campus, I was given the warmest of welcomes and I was looking forward to starting my teaching load after the spring festival. I was also looking forward to family and friends visiting so that they could see the place none of them had ever heard of and which I was incessantly talking about.

At the end of December, a few cases of “novel pneumonia” were detected in the city of Wuhan. We all took notice but assumed that this was nothing to worry about. We started wearing masks and decided to be more vigilant, and avoid crowded places. Other than that, it was life as normal and I continued exploring the city for new music venues, exhibitions and the likes. With the impending Chinese Spring Festival and associated holidays everyone was excitedly talking about their holidays – some within China and others abroad. I myself had made plans to travel to Beijing, Shenyang and Dalian to visit friends. There were end of year gatherings and then we all said our goodbyes. I took a small bag and headed to Beijing with the intention of returning to Wuhan on January 30th.

Sylvia Schroeder: 'I consider myself very lucky to be able to call this place my home'
Sylvia Schroeder: ‘I consider myself very lucky to be able to call this place my home’

Between the time I left Wuhan and the moment I arrived in Beijing – a short four and a half hour high-speed train ride – it was becoming clear that something was beginning to change. The news about the number of infected people increasing, and the coronavirus (now often dubbed the “Wuhan virus”) spreading to other parts of China and abroad was becoming more urgent, more serious. I was also starting to receive messages from family and friends, from former colleagues back in Ireland, from other people I had worked with in China and abroad. Many of these people had only known Wuhan from my stories and most would never have got in touch with me, except that they suddenly made a connection – Wuhan had finally entered people’s consciousness, they were able to place it on a map, but unfortunately for all the wrong reasons.

As I spent these last few days in Beijing but the situation changed from one where I had planned to return home to Wuhan a few days ago to one where I cannot return to my home as the city is now under lock down, and it is difficult to know when it will be okay to return. I headed, instead, to Europe with my small bag holding only the most essential items. I also carry with me all my memories and my love for Wuhan and its people. I’m determined to return as soon as I can though, in the meantime, I worry for the people I’ve left behind, the friends I am in daily contact with.

The city of Wuhan
The city of Wuhan

What I’ve seen over the last few weeks is a city that has come together with an unrivalled resolve to overcome a major crisis through combined strength of solidarity in the face of adversity, a people working together in self-sacrifice, an unbelievable determination to get the situation under control, and a hope for normality to return as soon as possible. People are going out of their way to help and support each other. They choose to believe that they can beat the crisis to return life to normal as quickly as possible. But, people are also worried about how the world might now view them and their beloved city.

Health

Japan quarantined a cruise ship with 3,700 people onboard after coronavirus outbreak

  • Japan quarantined a cruise ship and is screening all 3,711 people onboard after a passenger was tested positive for the deadly Wuhan coronavirus.
  • An 80-year-old man who had been on The Diamond Princess’ first leg tested positive in Hong Kong on January 31, and is deemed to have the virus.
  • He had disembarked from the ship earlier, but hundreds of other passengers remained.
  • The ship arrived back in Yokohama, Japan, on Monday. All 2,666 passengers and 1,045 crew members are now being held in quarantine to be screened for the virus.
  • A passenger has been sharing photos of the quarantine from inside the ship. Scroll down to see some of them.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Japan has quarantined a cruise ship carrying more than 3,700 people after one tested positive for the Wuhan coronavirus last week.

An unnamed 80-year-old man boarded The Diamond Princess in Yokohama on January 20, disembarked in Hong Kong on January 25, and admitted himself to the hospital on January 31. He was deemed to have contracted the virus.

The cruise ship, operated by Carnival Japan, arrived back to Yokohama on Monday. It was placed under quarantine upon arrival, Reuters reported.

japan diamond princess cruise route

There are a total of 2,666 passengers and 1,045 crew members on board right now, according to the cruise operator.

Upon arrival in Japan passengers were told to remain in their cabins, and were on Tuesday visited by medical crews, who took their temperatures and gave them a questionnaire to fill out.

Medics the diamond princess japan cruise

Those displaying any signs of the virus, including high temperatures and fevers, would undergo further tests from medical staff, Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said, according to The Japan Times.

Guests were allowed to resume their onboard activity after being screened, but the casino, shops, and photo studio have been shut, Reuters reported. It’s not entirely clear what the other activities available are.

A passenger on board has been tweeting images of the ship amid the quarantine. They show heavily-protected medical workers in blue walking up and down the deserted hallways, and once-populated attractions – like the rooftop pool – totally empty.

Last week Italian authorities quarantined a cruise ship carrying more than 6,000 people at Civitavecchia, Italy, amid fears that two passengers had the coronavirus. They were released on January 31.

The coronavirus has hit the travel industry hard as multiple airlines canceled flights to mainland China, and countries advised against visiting there. Shares of airlines, hotels, and cruise lines have been trading lower since the virus began.

The virus has killed 426 people and infected more than 20,000 since it broke out in early December 2019. It has spread to 24 countries.

Environment, Nature

Wetlands of Assam need urgent conservation measures

Chandan Kumar Duarah : Wetlands in Assam have been carrying out a great role minimising intensity of flood in Brahmaputra valley. Better conservation of wetlands in the state may be the most effective way to control flood and erosion problems. Because wetlands store a large amount of excess water during flood.

Most of wetlands in the state have become shallow due to turbidity, silt and sediment deposition. As they are becoming shallow the capacity of flood water storage also decreasing. So if these wetlands can be dredged and make deeper these will have more capacity to store more amount of flood water. Continue Reading

Diplomacy

‘Will never accept this solution’: Palestinian prez threatens to sever ties with Israel, US

The US plan would grant the Palestinians limited self-rule in parts of the occupied West Bank, while allowing Israel to annex all its settlements there and keep nearly all of east Jerusalem.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas arrives for an emergency meeting with the Arab League's foreign ministers after U.S. President Donald Trump announced his Middle East peace plan, in Cairo.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas arrives for an emergency meeting with the Arab League’s foreign ministers after U.S. President Donald Trump announced his Middle East peace plan, in Cairo. (REUTERS)

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas threatened to cut security ties with both Israel and the U.S. on Saturday, in a lengthy speech delivered at an Arab League meeting in Egypt’s capital that denounced a White House plan for ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The US plan would grant the Palestinians limited self-rule in parts of the occupied West Bank, while allowing Israel to annex all its settlements there and keep nearly all of east Jerusalem.

The summit of Arab foreign ministers in Cairo was requested by the Palestinians, who responded angrily to the American proposal.

Abbas said that he told Israel and the US that “there will be no relations with them, including the security ties” following the deal that Palestinians say heavily favors Israel.

There was no immediate comment from US or Israeli officials.

The Palestinian leader said that he’d refused to take US President Donald Trump’s phone calls and messages “because I know that he would use that to say he consulted us.”

“I will never accept this solution,” Abbas said. “I will not have it recorded in my history that I have sold Jerusalem.”

He said the Palestinians remain committed to ending the Israeli occupation and establishing a state with its capital in east Jerusalem.

Abbas said that the Palestinians wouldn’t accept the US as a sole mediator in any negotiations with Israel. He said they would go to the United Nations Security Council and other world and regional organizations to “explain our position.”

The Arab League’s head, Ahmed Aboul-Gheit, said the proposal revealed a “sharp turn” in the long-standing US foreign policy regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“This turn does not help achieve peace and a just solution,” he declared.

Aboul-Gheit said that the Palestinians reject the proposal. He called for the two sides, the Israelis and the Palestinians, to negotiate to reach a “satisfactory solution for both of them.”

President Trump unveiled the long-awaited proposal Tuesday in Washington. It would allow Israel to annex all its West Bank settlements — which the Palestinians and most of the international community view as illegal — as well as the Jordan Valley, which accounts for roughly a fourth of the West Bank.

In return, the Palestinians would be granted statehood in Gaza, scattered chunks of the West Bank and some neighborhoods on the outskirts of Jerusalem, all linked together by a new network of roads, bridges and tunnels. Israel would control the state’s borders and airspace and maintain overall security authority. Critics of the plan say this would rob Palestinian statehood of any meaning.

The plan would abolish the right of return for Palestinian refugees displaced by the 1948 war and their descendants, a key Palestinian demand. The entire agreement would be contingent on Gaza’s Hamas rulers and other armed groups disarming, something they have always adamantly rejected.

Ambassadors from the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Oman attended the Tuesday unveiling in Washington, in a tacit sign of support for the US initiative.

Saudi Arabia and Egypt, Arab states that are close US allies, said they appreciated President Trump’s efforts and called for renewed negotiations without commenting on the plan’s content.

Egypt urged in a statement Israelis and Palestinians to “carefully study” the plan. It said it favors a solution that restores all the “legitimate rights” of the Palestinian people through establishing an “independent and sovereign state on the occupied Palestinian territories.”

The Egyptian statement did not mention the long-held Arab demand of east Jerusalem as a capital to the future Palestinian state, as Cairo usually has its statements related to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Jordan, meanwhile, warned against any Israeli “annexation of Palestinian lands” and reaffirmed its commitment to the creation of a Palestinian state along the 1967 lines, which would include all the West Bank and Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem.

Jordan and Egypt are the only two Arab countries that have peace treaties with Israel.

Human Rights

Gunman fires at anti-CAA protest rally in Delhi in presence of police

Image result for gunman fire on protesters in presence of police

A teenager today pulled out a gun and fired at students protesting against the citizenship law near Jamia Millia University in Delhi, injuring one student. Only after he fired the shot did the police, present in large numbers to keep a check on the protest, react.

The protests spiraled as hundreds more joined in, breaking police barricades as they tried to march towards Rajghat.

Home Minister Amit Shah said he had ordered stringent action in the shooting incident and “the culprit will not be spared”. The probe has been transferred to the Crime Branch of the Delhi Police.

In a chilling video, the teenager is seen walking backwards as he points his gun at protesters. Dozens of policemen in riot gear are seen behind him, but none of them is seen trying to stop the shooter.

Yeh lo azaadi (here’s your freedom)” he sneers at the protesters. After he fires the shot, one police officer is seen walking towards him and grabbing him. Saying that he was a juvenile, police officials said that the attacker cannot be named.

While being taken away, he shouted “Delhi Police zindabad (Long live Delhi Police)”.

The shooter has been detained and is being questioned. “A crowd was coming from Jamia. The person came from the crowd,” senior police officer Chinmoy Biswal told NDTV as the police faced questions about their slow response.

The incident comes against the backdrop of hate speeches made during the campaign for the February 8 Delhi election; Union Minister Anurag Thakur has been banned from campaigning for 72 hours after he was caught on camera encouraging the slogan “Desh Ke Gaddaro Ko, Goli Maaro S***** Ko (Shoot the traitors)” at a rally.

The teenager is from Uttar Pradesh’s Jewar, near Delhi. Details on his Facebook page soon started emerging.

The man had gone live on Facebook minutes before he drew out his gun. Videos on his Facebook timeline showed him walking around in the crowded road – the venue of the protest – with a red backpack on. His previous posts seemed to indicate that he had come prepared for the consequences of his action. “On my last journey, take me draped in saffron and shout slogans of Jai Shri Ram,” one of them in Hindi read. Another more threatening post read, “Shaheen Bagh, Game Over”, referring to a massive protest against the citizenship law taken up by women and children.

“We were standing near the barricades when suddenly this outsider, whom none of us recognised, tried to disturb the peace of the march. He marches forward with a revolver in his hand. We were all trying to stop him and calm him down. The policemen were standing there. We tried to approach them to stop that guy. But they just kept standing there simply. When we tried to take the revolver from his hand, he shot one of our friends,” Jamia student Aamna Asif, who witnessed the terrifying incident, told NDTV.

“He was definitely not one of us. He was from outside,” she added.

The student who was shot at has been identified as Shadab Farooq and was seen being taken away, as he walked with his left hand in blood. He has been taken to the trauma centre of the All India Institute Of Medical Sciences (AIIMS).

The locality has been heavily barricaded after the firing and traffic has been diverted from all the roads near the area.

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Shadab Farooq, the injured student, is helped after an unidentified man opened fire during a protest against the new citizenship law outside Jamia Millia Islamia. (Reuters)

Violence broke out at Delhi’s Jamia Millia Islamia university last month during a protest against the citizenship law; the police were accused of using excessive force on students. Earlier this month, masked goons attacked students and teachers at JNU, triggering nationwide outrage and protests.

Today, hundreds of women protesting at Shaheen Bagh, not far from Jamia, for around six weeks were denied permission by Delhi Police to take out a march from Jamia Millia Islamia to Rajghat, Mahatma Gandhi’s memorial. The protesters said that they had planned a peaceful march to the Rajghat on the death anniversary of the Mahatma Gandhi.

The firing took place days after Union Minister of State for Finance Anurag Thakur urged a crowd at an election rally in Delhi to say “goli maaro” – or shoot down traitors.

Thousands, including students in multiple cities and towns across the country, have taken to the streets since last month to protest the new citizenship law that they say discriminates against the minority Muslim community.

The Citizenship (Amendment) Act, for the first time, makes religion the test of citizenship in India. The government says it will help minorities from three Muslim-dominated countries to get citizenship if they fled to India because of religious persecution. Critics say it is designed to discriminate against Muslims and violates the secular principles of the constitution.

Health

How to get rid of deadly Coronavirus

JCK Duworah:

A deadly new strain of coronavirus has killed over 2oo people in China, and infected thousands more across the world. India’s first case of Coronavirus of a student from Wuhan University has been reported in Kerala.  Thousands infected after the outbreak of the deadly Coronavirus. China has sealed off several cities, effectively trapping tens of millions of people, in a bid to contain the spread of the virus. Indian authorities are working to pre-empt the spread of the infectant, known as the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV).

Apart from infections raising concern is Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, caused by a type of coronavirus, which emerged in 2012. Infection with the MERS virus can cause fever, cough and shortness of breath, and is particularly deadly in older people or people with weakened immune systems or other illnesses.Jan 30, 2015

To protect yourself
  • wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
  • avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • There is no cure, so treatments include taking care of yourself and over-the-counter (OTC) medication:
    1. Rest and avoid overexertion.
    2. Drink enough water.
    3. Avoid smoking and smoky areas.
    4. Take acetaminophen, ibuprofen or naproxen to reduce pain and fever.
    5. Use a clean humidifier or cool mist vaporizer.
    6. Recommended for the vaccination of healthy dogs as an aid in the prevention of disease caused by canine distemper virus, adenovirus type 1 (hepatitis), adenovirus type 2 (respiratory disease), canine parainfluenza virus, canine parvovirus, and coronavirus.

What are the symptoms of coronavirus infections?

  • Common symptoms of a coronavirus infection include fever, cough
  • 2019-nCoV detected after mysterious pneumonia cases were reported in China

The symptoms of a coronavirus infection depend on the type of infectant, but “common signs include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath, and breathing difficulties,” the World Health Organisation (WHO) says.

Severe infections can cause conditions like pneumonia and can even be deadly, the UN body adds. In fact, 2019-nCoV was detected after Chinese health authorities reported mysterious pneumonia cases in Hubei, a central province (more on that later).

The WHO has published an exhaustive list of clinical syndromes linked with nCoV infections.

India has asked citizens who feel sick while travelling in China — or within a month of returning from China — to promptly seek medical help and follow standard guidelines, available here. The government has also advised citizens against travelling to China. An earlier advisory advised against “non-essential travel”.

Citizens who’ve come into contact with people infected with 2019-nCoV should monitor their health for a 28-day period and seek medical attention if they develop a fever, cough or breathing difficulties, the Indian health ministry says.

How dangerous is the Wuhan coronavirus?

A still from a real-time visualisation of coronavirus cases in mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and South Korea by the John Hopkins Centre of System Science and Engineering, accessed at 11.00 am IST on January 28, 2020. The largest red circle shows Hubei province, where most of the deaths have occurred.

Where did the current outbreak begin?

The outbreak of 2019-nCoV has been linked to the Huanan Seafood Market in the Chinese city of Wuhan, where wildlife was being sold illegally (although this theory has now been questioned). Remember, coronaviruses are initially transmitted between animals and humans.

Reports by TIME and the Wall Street Journal say the market sold all kinds of wildlife, from ostriches to porcupines.

“It was no secret to anyone in Wuhan that Huanan Seafood Market sold a lot more than its name suggested. While one side of the low-slung warren of stalls did primarily stock fish and shellfish, the other offered a cornucopia of spices, sundries and, if you knew where to look, beavers, porcupines and snakes.”

– Excerpt from TIME magazine report, Janaury 24

SECTION SNAPSHOT

  • WHO recommendations include good hand and respiratory hygiene
  • India has advised citizens to avoid non-essential travel to China

The WHO’s standard recommendations for protection from a variety of illnesses apply to the coronavirus outbreak. Check out the infographic above for a brief overview.

India has cautioned its citizens against travelling to China.

Indians who feel sick while in China, or within a month of returning from China have been asked promptly seek medical help and follow standard guidelines.

For more information and links to resources, read our full article on coronavirus precautions.

What is India doing to monitor the threat?

India is monitoring individuals who may have been exposed to 2019-nCoV and has an Air India plane on stand by to evacute its nationals from Wuhan, and has made a formal request to Beijing for help.

The World Health Organisation says the new coronavirus epidemic is a high global risk but hasn’t declared it a Public Health Emergency of International Concern, or PHEIC.

The national helpline for information and assistance related to the coronavirus threat is 011-23978046.

This guide contains everything you need to know about coronaviruses, and the 2019-nCoV in particular. It will be updated daily as and when new information becomes available.

SECTION SNAPSHOT

  • 2019-nCoV appears to have lower fatality rate than SARS virus
  • But it seems to be spreading faster, said to be infectious during incubation period

The World Health Organisation’s global risk assessment for 2019-nCoV is “high”. It is “very high” for China, the source of the outbreak. But the UN body hasn’t declared a “Public Health Emergency of International Concern” — or PHEIC — like the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo last year.

Over 130 people have died so far, all of them in China. Thousands of others have been infected across multiple continents — a number that rose sharply in a very short timespan. (See Reuters graphic below.)

Little is known about 2019-nCoV. China has confirmed human-to-human transmission, and said the virus is infectious during its 1-14 day incubation period — in other words, before the first symptoms appear.

For now, 2019-nCoV appears to have a lower fatality rate than the SARS virus, but it is certainly appears to be spreading quicker.

Scientists have identified 2019-nCoV’s genetic code, enabling scientists to work on vaccines. There’s currently no vaccine or specific treatment for infections.

What are coronaviruses?

Notice the spike proteins on the surface of the avian infectious bronchitis virus virion on the left. They create an effect resembling the solar corona (see photo of total eclipse on the right) and give the family Coronaviridae its name. (Credits: CDC/Fred Murphy; Sylvia Whitfield (left) and NASA/Aubrey Gemignani. Montage by ITGD Design Team/Vikas Vashisht)
  • Coronaviruses get their name because of their protein spikes
  • They’re transmitted between animals, humans; 7 kinds infect people

The Wuhan coronavirus, or 2019-nCoV, is part of a family of viruses named for the effect created by spike proteins on their shells, or capsids. Think of how the outer layer of the sun’s atmosphere, known as the corona (Latin for crown), appears during a total solar eclipse.

“Any vaccine for the Wuhan coronavirus would focus on the antigenic viral spike proteins which look like a halo or crown…of bulbous spikes for which the coronavirus is named. This protein binds to the ACE2 receptor in our lung cells like a forged key to break in.”

– Eugene Gu, MD, Founder-CEO of Cool Quit

Seven kinds of coronavirus can infect people, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). They include 2019-nCoV, and the viruses that cause Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV), both of which have killed hundreds (see microscope images below).

SARS virions, left, and a single MERS-CoV virion. (Credits: CDC/Charles D Humphrey and TG Ksiazek (left), and US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Montage by ITGD Design Team/Vikas Vashisht)

Coronaviruses are initially transmitted from animals to humans. China says 2019-nCoV can be transmitted between people.

The health ministry has published FAQs for citizens and guidlines for healthcare practitioners. (Follow the health ministry on Twitter at @MoHFW_INDIA and visit the Disease Alerts page at https://mohfw.gov.in/media/disease-alerts)

The national helpline for information and assistance related to the coronavirus threat is 011-23978046.

Indigenous People

Indigenous lands hold 36% or more of remaining intact forest landscapes

Children watch as a group from the Saginaw Chippewa Reservation in Mount Pleasant, Michigan enter an encampment where hundreds of protestors have gathered on the banks of the Cannon Ball River to stop construction of the Energy Transfer Partners’ Dakota Access oil

 

by

More than one-third of the world’s remaining pristine forests, known as intact forest landscapes, exist within land that’s either managed or owned by indigenous peoples, a new study has found.
Politics

Ex-JNU student Sharjeel Imam remarks do not constitute a crime and FIRs must be quashed, writes Markandey Katju

  • Sharjeel Imam came to the limelight on Sunday during the ongoing protests at Shaheen Bagh
  • He allegedly delivered inflammatory speeches against the CAA and NRC
  • The police of Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Assam have registered FIRs against him on sedition charges, and are seeking his custody

Sharjeel Imam, a former student of Jawaharlal Nehru University, gave a speech on 16 January in Aligarh during an anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) protest meeting, asking people to cut Assam and the North East off from the rest of India. Consequently, the police forces of Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Assam have registered FIRs against him on sedition charges, and are seeking his custody.

But has he committed any crime ?

To recap, Sharjeel came to the limelight on Sunday during the ongoing protests at Shaheen Bagh, for allegedly delivering inflammatory speeches against the CAA and the proposed National Register of Citizens. The Delhi Police was quoted as saying, “[Sharjeel] had previously delivered one such speech in Jamia Millia Islamia on 13 December last year and thereafter one even more inflammatory against the government which is being widely circulated on social media.”

The cops went on to add that the speeches had the “potential to harm the religious harmony” and the unity and integrity of India, for which the case was registered against him.

However, I submit he has not committed a crime. In Brandenburg versus Ohio, 395 US 444 (1969), the Supreme Court of the US held, “The constitutional guarantee of free speech does not permit a state to forbid or proscribe advocacy of the use of force or of law violation except where such advocacy is directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action.”

 Ex-JNU student Sharjeel Imam remarks do not constitute a crime and FIRs must be quashed, writes Markandey Katju

File image of Sharjeel Imam. Twitter @MilitaryUpdate_

This decision has stood the test of time, and is the law of the land in the US ever since. It was followed by two decisions of the Supreme Court of India in Arup Bhuyan versus State of Assam and Sri Indra Das versus State of Assam (both in 2011), and therefore is the law of the land in India too.

Accordingly, inflammatory speech is also protected by the Freedom of Speech guaranteed by Article 19(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution — unless it incites or produces imminent lawless action.

I disapprove of Sharjeel’s speech, and I am against the cutting-off  of Assam or the any part of the rest of the North East from India. However, I do not see how his speech would incite or produce imminent lawless action. The word ‘imminent’ in the Brandenburg test is extremely important. It stresses on the time element, and makes more defined and more rigorous Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes’ ‘clear and present danger’ test laid down in Schenck versus US, (1919) — Holmes’ test had replaced the vague ‘bad tendency test’ employed previously.

Therefore, I am of the opinion that Sharjeel Imam committed no crime and the FIRs against him deserve to be quashed by the high court under Article 226 of the Constitution or Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC).

In my opinion, applying the Brandenburg test, the prosecution against the Bhima Koregaon-accused Professor Saibaba of Delhi University, Dr Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah, Mehbooba Mufti, Sajjad Lone, Syed Ahmed Shah Gilani, Shah Faesal and other political figures also deserves to be quashed. None of these persons in detention said anything that incited or produced imminent lawless action.

The author is a former judge, Supreme Court of India

Development, Economy

Grim reality on roti-kapda-makaan provides stark contrast

India Jai Mrug 

  • In December and January, VMR conducted a nationwide stratified survey of about 5,000 citizens to understand what the purported economic slowdown meant to them
  • A key indicator of the downbeat mood in the economy is the perceived unaffordability of day-to-day goods, an indicator of the growing aspirational lifestyle of individuals
  • Enhancing middle bracket incomes and giving them larger confidence to spend their rupee would do a greater service to the economy

Poll on poll indicates that the Narendra Modi government still remains the most popular government of the day, yet poised to win a Lok Sabha election if it may come. However, in the same breath they point out to many agreeing that this could be India at its economic nadir.

In December and January, VMR conducted a nationwide stratified survey of about 5,000 citizens to understand what the purported economic slowdown meant to them. Or did they feel at all there was one? It also tried to estimate, if there would be an uptick due to an economic stimulus—basically, where would the rupee go. This was done to estimate a potential new normal for the economy as well as potential sectoral growth. Our sister concern M76 Analytics analysed the data in the light of the economic events of the last year to project future trends in the economy.

More than a third—35.5 percent, said that in their opinion their economic condition was the same as before. An equal number—28.5 percent, each felt that their condition had either improved or deteriorated. A smaller number— about 7 percent felt that their economic condition was extremely hurt. The verdict also conveys a certain split mandate.

 Narendra Modi govt thrives on popularity in polls, but grim reality on roti-kapda-makaan provides stark contrast

File image of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. PTI

Amongst those who say better, are the upper-most strata of the middle class and the lower-most strata of the society. Those in between, especially the middle class, and the lower middle class do not feel as positive about the economy. Clearly, the expansion of the welfare state has created a fair deal of hope amongst the lower classes. So, where is the money? However, the dispensation to make an expenditure is quite unlike a growing or aspiring economy, and that is where concerns emerge about the future of the economy. A hypothetical question was asked to the respondents about what they would do if they were given an extra lakh rupees to spend—akin to an economic stimulus percolating to the ground.

A staggering huge number—about 62 percent of them, said that they would simply save the money rather than spend it. So while the economy may not stagnate like many doomsday prophecies, a huge phoenix-like recovery is also not expected. And the quantum of quantitative easing does not matter, as it is simply the directional choice that the consumers would have made.

What should still add another level of discomfort for the economy is the fact that another 17 percent said that their priority would be simple to clear debts. So only about 21 percent of the respondents said that they would push the money directly into things that move consumption. It is only such expenditure that is likely to have a multiplier effect on the cash flow.

Of all those who said that they would like to spend more on goods and services, most said that the largest expenditure would be on buying more groceries and other days to day consumables. Clearly, roti and other roti-related consumables, hold the priority for the poorest. The next set of spends would be on makaan. After the consumables, they said that they would spend more on real estate/housing. The priorities do not change across different classes, just that their priorities change—for the Uber-rich the proportions are in more equal measure, about 40 percent each. This means that a house of one’s own or real estate as investment still matters a lot to the country’s denizens.

A key indicator of the downbeat mood in the economy is the perceived unaffordability of day-to-day goods, an indicator of the growing aspirational lifestyle of individuals. Remember the last time there was excessive inflation in India, they blamed it on the greater purchasing power in rural India. So a revival along those lines, would also mean a rise in inflation.

Now we take a look at the other sector which is likely to see a revival—Housing. As per a report in Business Today on 4 October 2019), a record of 13 lakh houses worth Rs 9.38 lakh crore or about 5% of India’s GDP lie unsold. So the aspirational purchase of houses is also likely to only exhaust the excess supply rather than trigger any new activity or produce another multiplier effect in the economy. Thus, Prime Minister Awas Yojana (PMAY) would be a clear winner as far as aligning with the aspirational needs of the lower classes is concerned. However, it is unlikely to generate the huge monetary velocity that could provide the proverbial Midas touch to the economy. Most importantly, it could well suck out the liquidity, cannibalising the other sectors of the economy.

Different strokes

We judged the inclination to spend by asset ownership, like say a house. As the asset ownership declines, the number of people aspiring to spend more on food and related consumables increases. The poorer the respondent, the more the larger desire to spend on daily use items.

Clearly, these are seen as an affirmation of lifestyle. However, if a cash crunch were to continue, there would be a realignment of priorities. The White Goods sector would be the first one to be hit. This means a larger hit on manufacturing if things don’t improve. What is equally distressing is the fact that in either case the purchase of automobiles/tractors is completely low on the priority. This means that auto purchase is unlikely to pick up, even if the economy pulls through. The auto sector would remain in distress.

Putting money in the pockets of the people is therefore as important for long-term sectoral growth as it is for generating immediate cash to circulate in the economy. Harking back on the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA) or farm income support schemes are likely to have limitations, as they are likely to spur only the lower-most segments, whose biggest priority is spending on food and daily use items only. This is not going to increase expenditure on evolved manufacturing goods that create a larger velocity of money in the ecosystem, and a larger tax footprint. Enhancing middle bracket incomes and giving them larger confidence to spend their rupee would do a far greater service to the economy than pushing more cash down infrastructure sector and subsistence wage schemes. That could only mean lengthening the exit for the vortex of the slowdown.

(The author is founder of M76 Analytics, a decision science company)

Human Rights

The ICJ’s Ruling on the Rohingya and What It Means for India and the CAA

On January 23, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) passed an order in the case of Gambia against Myanmar about the treatment of the Rohingya in Myanmar. The UN and other international bodies have said that Myanmar conducted genocide against Rohingyas. India has been in denial. The Narendra Modi government wants the Rohingya to be pushed back to their country of origin. Rohingya refugees fleeing what the world now recognises as genocidal conditions in Myanman have not been permitted to enter the country and have been denied appropriate human and humane conditions of work. This was brought to the attention of the Supreme Court in vivid terms, with the Union of India still in denial. Under the Indian constitution, persons (not just citizens) are entitled to equality, life and liberty and due process.

Around 740,000 Rohingyas fled to Bangladesh following the crackdown of 2017. This does not count the refugees who fled to other countries and the many who were massacred in Myanmar before and after the crackdown.

Last November, the tiny West African nation of Gambia had the courage to file a case against Myanmar over the treatment of Rohingyas in the ICJ at The Hague in General List No.178 entitled: Request for the indication of provisional measures. At issue was the ‘Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide”.

Gambia’s Justice Minister Abubacarr Tambadou talks to the media outside the ICJ. Photo: Reuters/Eva Plevier

Myanmar was given notice and heard. Gambia’s team had eight persons making the case. Myanmar had four, led by State Counsellor Aung Sang San Suu Kyi. It may be recalled that in December 2019, she appeared before the ICJ to say no genocide had occurred and that measures had been taken to protect the Rohingya. After discussing the legal authorities on genocide, the court concluded (para 76-82) that Myanmar was bound by the Genocide Convention and made the following directions which need to be quoted from the order:

76. From all of the above considerations, the Court concludes that the conditions required by its Statute for it to indicate provisional measures are met. It is therefore necessary, pending its final decision, for the Court to indicate certain measures in order to protect the rights claimed by The Gambia, as identified above (see paragraph 56). 

77. The Court recalls that it has the power, under its Statute, when a request for provisional measures has been made, to indicate measures that are, in whole or in part, other than those requested. Article 75, paragraph 2, of the Rules of Court specifically refers to this power of the Court. The Court has already exercised this power in the past (see, for example, Alleged Violations of the 1955 Treaty of Amity, Economic Relations, and Consular Rights (Islamic Republic of Iran v. United States of America), Provisional Measures, Order of 3 October 2018, I.C.J. Reports 2018 (II), pg.651, para.96). 

78. In the present case, having considered the terms of the provisional measures requested by The Gambia and the circumstances of the case, the Court finds that the measures to be indicated need not be identical to those requested.

79. Bearing in mind Myanmar’s duty to comply with its obligations under the Genocide Convention, the Court considers that, with regard to the situation described above, Myanmar must, in accordance with its obligations under the Convention, in relation to the members of the Rohingya group in its territory, take all measures within its power to prevent the commission of all acts within the scope of Article II of the Convention, in particular: (a) killing members of the group; (b) causing serious bodily or mental harm to the members of the group; (c) deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; and (d) imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group. 

80. Myanmar must also, in relation to the members of the Rohingya group in its territory, ensure that its military, as well as any irregular armed units which may be directed or supported by it and any organizations and persons which may be subject to its control, direction or influence, do not commit acts of genocide, or of conspiracy to commit genocide, of direct and public incitement to commit genocide, of attempt to commit genocide, or of complicity in genocide. 

81. The Court is also of the view that Myanmar must take effective measures to prevent the destruction and ensure the preservation of any evidence related to allegations of acts within the scope of Article II of the Genocide Convention. 

82. Regarding the provisional measure requested by The Gambia that each Party shall provide a report to the Court on all measures taken to give effect to its Order, the Court recalls that it has the power, reflected in Article 78 of the Rules of Court, to request the parties to provide information on any matter connected with the implementation of any provisional measures it has indicated. In view of the specific provisional measures it has decided to indicate, the Court considers that Myanmar must submit a report to the Court on all measures taken to give effect to – 24- this Order within four months, as from the date of this Order, and thereafter every six months, until a final decision on the case is rendered by the Court. Every report so provided shall then be communicated to The Gambia which shall be given the opportunity to submit to the Court its comments thereon.

The ICJ also observed that it could take further provisional measures.

As an authoritative pronouncement, it is both symbolic and law. That said, I am uneasy on three counts. First, it throws the Rohingya back into the lions’ den and tell the lions not to be hungry. Second, it asks Myanmar to take measures to stop this genocide. It is easy for Myanmar to enact policies and law. It will tout this as compliance. Third, they are expected to report back in four months and thereafter every six months.

Every commentator seems to say that the ICJ cannot enforce its decisions but Myanmar’s vulnerability may persuade the country to do so. My fear is that they will report and fill it with lies, deceits and untruths or twisted truths. Where will we go from there? I think a UN Special Rapporteur on Genocide should monitor this genocide, past or future, and also human rights organisations.

Explainer: The International Court of Justice’s Rulings Are Final but Not Enforceable

Whatever its limitations, the ICJ’s provisional measures are a victory for humanity. Will what the world court has said have an impact on India and on the debate over India’s Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA?I think it does.

Firstly, India is bound by the ICJ’s decision. Recall that the decision was unanimous and confirmed by all judges, including India’s Justice Dalveer Bhandari. Of course, Justice Bhandari cannot act on Narendra Modi or Amit Shah’s instructions. But his concurrence in this case is important.

Second, if we look at the CAA, we will notice the target beneficiary countries of the Act do not include Myanmar. The Rohingyas are Muslims and the double whammy is that Muslims are excluded from the CAA, even from Bangladesh, where many have sought refuge.

Protest against the CAA and NRC in Mumbai on Sunday. Photo: PTI

What is India’s stance in relation to the Rohingya? In fact, they cannot be repatriated to their country of origin (Myanmar) or their transit country (Bangladesh). Bangladesh does not want them back. One of the backbones of the CAA is to confront persecution. Here is a clear case of persecution in a near neighbouring country, which, till 1937, was administratively part of India. There cannot be a hiatus between India’s new law on persecution – the CAA – and its own internationally binding obligation under many composite human rights instruments. Even though it has not signed the Refugee Convention, it sits on the executive committee of the United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees and Indian courts have mandated that some refugees have a right to process their status.

by Rajeeb Dhavan, The WIRE