Looking Back at 2012 in South Asia – Part II

Pakistan's dismal human rights record just gets worse, India's rising rape rates have sent the society into a flux, Bangladesh rejected Myanmar's Rohingya refugees, the regions relatively stable country – Maldives- saw a spiraling political crisis, and protests in post-war Sri Lanka against price hikes were met with police brutality.

It has been a rough year in South Asia. And we have been covering the bad and the good, all year at Global Voices. Here are some highlights from this year's coverage.

Plight of minorities

In Pakistan, we saw the rise of a new wave of terrorism unleashed on minorities. Many Shiites spanning from Karachi to Kohistan have been specifically targeted and killed. In the Balochistan province, where a separatist movement is gaining momentum, we saw extra judicial abductions of Baloch nationalists, separatists and leaders. This year targeted violence against the Shia minority Hazara community by outlawed militant groups also picked up in Balochistan. Additionally, we showed that physically and mentally challenged people in Pakistan are subjected to discrimination everyday.

The Hazara members were travelling by bus before the shooting attack occurred in Quetta. Image by RFE/RL RFE/RL, copyright Demotix (04/10/12).

The Hazara members were travelling by bus before the shooting attack occurred in Quetta. Image by RFE/RL RFE/RL, copyright Demotix (04/10/12).

In Bangladesh, after bouts of sectarian violence between the Rohingya and Rakhine in Western Myanmar, the government restricted the influx of Rohingya refugees crossing borders. An action many netizens opposed citing humanitarian reasons. Religious extremists in Bangladesh attacked Buddhist temples and households on charges a member of their community had desecrated the Quran. However many analysts saw the motives as political rather than communal.

Indigenous students hold placards at a protest rally in Dhaka against the attack on the indigenous people in Rangamati. Image by Firoz Ahmed. Copyright Demotix (24/9/2012)

Indigenous students hold placards at a protest rally in Dhaka against the attack on the indigenous people in Rangamati. Image by Firoz Ahmed. Copyright Demotix (24/9/2012)

In Sri Lanka, around 2,000 Buddhist monks and local residents staged a violent protest in Dambulla town in Sri Lanka demanding that a mosque along with a Hindu temple situated in an area designated as a Buddhist sacred zone be demolished.

In India, fighting between indigenous Bodo tribes and Muslim settlers in the State of Assam killed at least 32 people and wounded many more. Social Media was blamed for fueling this unrest. In November, after an intercaste marriage fueled a  2,000 strong mob to attack three Dalit settlements in the Dharmapuri District of Tamil Nadu.

Violence against women

A number of working women had been abducted and raped in the city of Gurgaon, located within 30 kilometres of the Indian capital. The police response was to ask working women to stop working after 8pm to prevent rape incidents which has prompted a heated debate in social media. In May, Kolkata city formally joined the global SlutWalk movement to campaign to stop violence against women.

Rape in the Indian state of Haryana has also increased, with as many as 19 cases reported in one month. As a result of the rapes, women have been advised to avoid going to pubs, using mobile phones and wearing jeans.

Illustration by Samia Singh. CC BY-NC-ND 2.5

Illustration by Samia Singh. CC BY-NC-ND 2.5

A 23 year-old woman was stripped, beaten and raped in a moving bus in South Delhi on December 16, 2012, stirring shock and outrage in India. Shocked at the brutality of the incident, Indians are asking for stricter laws and harsher punishments for violence against women. Stirred by this outrage, a group of activists in neighboring Nepal started protests demanding justice for Sita Rai, who was raped in Kathmandu.

In Pakistan, the blasphemy law has been the focus of a heated debate yet again, after a minor christian girl named Rimsha was accused of blasphemy and sent to jail.

“Eve teasing” has become a disease in Bangladeshi society because of the silence of the citizens. But one blogger stood against one such incident and asked fellow bloggers help in exposing the harassers.

Human Rights and protest

In Pakistan terrorist attacks and sectarian violence was commonplace. It became so overwhelming that we could only cover some bomb explosions and attacks on military bases. Karachi saw incessant sectarian violence which killed more than 300 people in three months.

People and Security officials gather at site after bomb blast near Imambargah Hyder-e-Karrar in Orangi Town in Karachi. Image by Owais Aslam Ali. Copyright Demotix (21/11/2012)

A number of human and women rights activists were targeted and attacked in Pakistan. Including in the list are Fareeda Kokikhel Afridi, a prominent and tireless rights activist, Ghazala Jawad, a charismatic Pashto singer, Malala Yosufzai, the female education activist and Mehzar, the youngest victim of violence against Shiites.

Also in Pakistan, an angry mob lynched an alleged Blasphemer and burnt him alive. The mob broke inside the jail, took the alleged blasphemer outside and burned him out in the open. The lives of 240,000 innocent children are at stake due to the recent ban on polio inoculation by the Taliban in the region of FATA. Recently, health workers administering polio vaccines were shot.

The brutal murder of a journalist couple in Bangladesh has shocked the nation and the inability of the authorities to nab the killers has enraged netizens. Bloggers marched for the Murdered Journalist Couple.

Indian Border Security Forces have killed more than 1,000 Bangladeshis in the last ten years. To protest the killings some bloggers called for a campaign to boycott Indian products and services on March 1, 2012 which got much support online.

Post-war Sri Lanka saw a turbulent economy with price hike and imposition of surcharges earlier this year, which provoked widespread protests. Netizens protested police brutality in enforcing law and order.

Screenshot of the video showing the protest of the evictees of the Omkareshwar Dam project

Screenshot of the video showing the protest of the evictees of the Omkareshwar Dam project

Opposing a dam, 51 residents of Ghongalgaon village of Khandwa district in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh launched a ‘Jal Satyagraha’ protest, by standing neck deep inside the backwaters of Omkareshwar dam on Narmada river.

Power protests 

As South Asia observed Earth Hour by turning off its non-essential lights for one hour, netizens argued whether that is an appropriate campaign to address climate change as millions of people in South Asia have no access to electricity.

Koodankulam Nuclear Plant, Tamil Nadu, India. Image by Flickr user Eunheui. CC BY-NC 2.0

Anti-nuclear activists and inhabitants of nearby villages in the Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu, India protested against the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KKNPP). They want the plant to cease operations.

In Phulbari, Bangladesh, local communities have come together to raise their voices against the proposed Phulbari open pit coal mining project.

Political corridors

Maldives went in to deep political crisis as the police force and some military personnel revolted against the government in a follow-up to three weeks of protest by civilians. Mohamed Nasheed, the president of Maldives most famously known as a climate champion, was coerced to announced his resignation on February 7. The crisis took an ugly turn following his resignation as police brutally beat and injured his protesting supporters, who claimed the move was a coup that removed the island nation's first democratically elected president from power.

Soldiers who mutinied shake hands with public. Image by MUHA. Used with permission

In April in India, a well respected newspaper reported an attempted coup in the Indian capital. Everybody from the government to the common people dismissed the Indian Express front-page story. The Indian State Assembly Elections were one of the most talked about issues in the Indian blogosphere. We saw some interesting news such as draping of statues because they resembled a party symbol. In Uttar Pradesh, the largest state in the country saw an unexpected outcome that shocked everyone.

A religious union of 40 different parties by the name of Difa-e-Pakistan Council (DPC) has emerged as the representative of Pakistan's extreme right-wing parties. In March, Karachi (Sindh) hosted a massive rally for the independence of Sindh from the Pakistani state which was organized by the Long-Live Sindh National Front (JSQM) under the leadership of Bashir Khan Qureshi. Pakistani netizens expressed their reactions on the sudden and untimely death of Bashir Khan Qureshi in the following month.

The Pakistani Supreme Court ruled that Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani had been disqualified ever since April 26, when it gave the final ruling on a contempt case imprisoning him for a few seconds.

Art and culture

In the past decade hundreds of cinema halls have closed down in Bangladesh. A popular cartoon show dubbed in Hindi stirred debate in Bangladesh.

Signboard of the office. Screenshot from the video The Musalman

Signboard of the office. Screenshot from the video The Musalman

India's ‘The Musalman’ is probably is the last handwritten newspaper in the world.

A new Indian TV talk show titled Satyamev Jayate (Truth Alone Prevails) hosted by Bollywood actor and filmmaker Aamir Khan is debating taboo and sensational social issues which are engaging more and more Indians.

We took a walk down memory lane with netizens to pay tribute to Ghazal legend Mehdi Hasan from Pakistan, writer and director Humayun Ahmed of Bangladesh.

We also posted stories on the crowning of Miss Nepal 2012, celebrations of Bengali New Year Pahela Baisakh (first day of summer), Dhaka's Hay Festival, Karachi Literature Fest, a social campaign using street theatre in India called Kochi-Muziris Biennale and Pakistan's first Oscar winner Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy.

Part I of this post took a deeper look at the rising role of social media in South Asia.

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