Year 2009 – An unending SA collage on conflicts

As we all understand, the year 2009 was in no way a safe and a peaceful year for us in South Asia, with conflicts reaching out across borders and with external forces trying to decide the future of most conflicts and their ferocity. The seriousness of allowing such conflicts to linger and grow more complex that we in SA should solve by ourselves, can be gauged if we list all conflicts into a single sheet.

Yet, this in no way is a complete or comprehensive list of conflicts and conflict related issues and events in our South Asia region, in the year 2009.

It is a time consuming effort to collect all information into a single list. Also, there could be issues of interpretations between different perceptions, in choosing incidents and events that would fit in here.

We nevertheless believe a comprehensive list of conflicts if compiled, would serve all of us, in understanding our own world better.

We therefore wish to invite you to volunteer in sending us information that could go into this list and make it complete for future reference, for any one who wish to have such information.

Thank you,

Editorial, SAS

Year 2009 – SA conflicts in summary

On 01 January, the Indian government adopted the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment (UAPA) Bill and the National Investigation Agency (NIA) Bill that is now considered more draconian than the POTA which the government abrogated in 2004 after pressure from HR activists.

On 01 January, a bomb blast in Guwahathi in Assam, killed 05 including a boy and a woman whilst injuring around 50 others.

On 01 January, 02 senior Al Qaeda leaders were claimed killed by missiles from US drone attacks in Afghanistan.

On 08 January, in Sri Lanka,  Sunday Leader Editor Lasantha Wickramatunge was killed in broad day light in a high security area in a suburb of Colombo.

On 09 January, the tri-lingual website “LankaDissent” published from Colombo, decided to close down, in the face of serious threats to the media and journalists in Sri Lanka.

On 21 January, Pakistan daily ‘The News’, reported Taliban enforcement of a complete ban on female education in SWAT district. Around 400 private schools enrolling 40,000 girls had been shut down. At least 10 girls’ schools that tried to open after the January 15 deadline by the Taliban were blown up by militants in the town of Mingora. More than 170 schools had been bombed or torched, along with other government-owned buildings.

On 23 January, the first drone attacks on Afghanistan after Barak Obama was sworn in as US President were carried out, when 02 separate attacks killed at least 14 people in Waziristan.

On 09 February, Pakistan Geo TV reported the Pakistan government had decided to file case against Ajmal Kasab the lone accused in the Mumbai 26/11 attack along with 09 others accused of planning the attack, which killed over 170 people.

On 26 February, the Bangladesh Riffles (BDR) mutiny in Central Dakha, left over 90 killed and about 49 Army officers among them. Initially it was said to be about pay hikes, but later there were suspicions of extremist Islamist groups’ involvement.

On 03 March, in Lahore, Pakistan, the visiting Sri Lankan cricket team was attacked by gunmen  injuring a few players and killing at least 07 other people including policemen. This raised speculation as to whether the same Lashkar-e-Taiba group involved in the 26/11 Mumbai attack was again responsible for the attack on SL cricketers.

From March 26, the Indian parliament, the Lok Sabha stood dissolved to hold elections in April – May, 2009.

On 27 April, the Pakistan government declared war against SWAT valley Taliban fighters presumably under pressure from US and after the peace deal with Taliban leaders led to anarchy in the area. Within 03 weeks of heavy fighting, including aerial bombing and artillery fire left an unending exodus from SWAT valley that left an estimated 02 million refugees and the numbers still growing. UNHCR termed the displacement the worst crisis since the Rwandan refugee crisis in 1994.

On 04th May, Pushpa Kamal Dahal, better known as Prachand, the Maoist leader elected as first PM of republican Nepal in August the previous year, resigned, over conflicts on sacking the Army Chief.

By 14 May, the Sri Lankan “war against Tamil Tigers” was said to be on its final stage  with the SL army advancing on a tiny 840 acre land in the coast of Mullaitivu where around 200,000 civilians were said to be trapped.

On 18 May, the Sri Lankan war was officially declared as over by President Rajapaksa addressing parliament, with the Tamil Tiger leadership eliminated. Over 250,000 people were left severely broken and displaced and held behind wired camps under military supervision.

On June 04, the 15th Lok Sabha sittings began with a record number of 59 women MPs elected.

In June, a spate of savage attacks on minorities were reported in Bangladesh, among them an armed attack on an Adhivasi village Porsha Upazila of Naogaon district and burnt-down 74 houses and also Jumma vilagers being attacked in Jalia Para under Ramgarh Upazila in Khagrachari district. Extremist Islamic groups are suspected of most attacks on minorities with Awami League also accused on such attacks.

In mid June, Lalgarh area in West Bengal, erupts with adivasi-moolvasi people’s movement, first against policed atrocities and then spreading to the entire Jangalmahal region of West Bengal,  as a struggle for dignity and the right to be free from state terror in their daily life. This was later turned into an anti terror campaign by the State government backed by the Centre.

On 23 June, US drone attacks in Makeen area killed over 80 people who were attending the funerals of people killed earlier in the day. After wide spread protests, US had to accept there were civilian killings.

On 12 July, President Rajapaksa made hurried changes in his security establishment, appointing army commander Gen Sarath Fonseka as Chief of Defense Staff with effect from 15 July and appointed Wanni Security Commander Lt Gen Jagath as army commander. Navy Commander, Admiral Vasantha Karannagoda was appointed to a new post as National Security Advisor to President, with Chief of Navy Staff Thisara Samarasinghe appointed as navy commander.

On 6 August, Nepal’s defence minister Bidhya Bhandari, on her return from a visit to India  said that India had pledged to resume lethal military aid as per Nepal’s need and demand. The prime minister, on his own trip to India on 19-22 August, has been more circumspect.

On 10 August, pro democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi was further detained under house arrest for 18 months for supposed violation of security regulations. The decision was widely condemned by world leaders. A notable silence in condemning the decision were India and China, the trading partners of the Myanmar military junta.

On 18 August, Afghan elections were held in which Karzhai was re-elected, but was said to be heavily rigged and a run off was ordered. Result of the recount was not to the liking of US and NATO authorities and the UN staff was to organise another round of elections towards end November or early December.

On 31 August, a Colombo High Court delivered its verdict of 20 years rigorous imprisonment on J.S. Tissainayagam, a senior journalist who contributed to the mainstream English print media and was editor of North East Monthly magazine, who was indicted under the PTA after over 150 days of detention, holding him guilty of racial hatred when he had only written about the government’s initial war efforts in the East with reservation in 2006 and determining guilty of using funds from Tamil Tiger terrorists when he had only raised funds for his magazine. AI considers Tissainayagam a prisoner of conscience.

On 23 September, Forum for Naga Reconciliation (FNR), a peace making body of Churches and mass based organisations, which initiated a peace process that went on for more than a year, brought all three insurgent factions together and the Naga National Council/Federal Government of Nagaland (NNC/FGN) to sign the Covenant of Reconciliation, in Chianmai, Thailand, ending factional clashes between feuding Naga groups and providing space for a political solution

On 02 October, J.S Tissainayagam was awarded the first Peter Mackler Award for courageous and ethical journalism, as announced by the Global Media Forum and the US branch of Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

On 12 October, Jarkhand witnessed a chain of 05 bomb blasts by Naxal groups, one damaging the railway route, after intelligence wing police officer Francis Induwar was abducted by Naxals on 06 October and later slain.

On 15 October, news leaked in Colombo of President Rajapaksa requesting outgoing Indian High Commissioner in Colombo, Alok Prasad to advice India of a possible military coup against his government and to help the SL government in such an eventuality.

On 21 October, the military junta in Myanmar warned Buddhist monks in a website “Kyaymon” of sever crackdown if they once again try to organise another “saffron protest” as in 2007 and requested civilians not become “victims of protesting monks”.

On 21 October, US State Department submitted its unclassified report to Congress in which it raised issues of war crimes against the government of Sri Lanka and the now defeated Tamil Tiger leaders in the latest war declared over in 18 May.

On 28 October, UN staff handling elections in Afghanistan was targeted by a Taliban suicide attack killing at least 05 people in a UN guest house in Kabul.

On 05 November, UN decided to temporally pull their staff out of Afghanistan after the Taliban attack on a UN staff guest house in Kabul and the expatriates numbered over 5,700 said reports.

On 12 November, President Rajapaksa accepted General Sarath Fonseka’s resignation from the post of Chief of Defense Staff at a one to one meeting in Temple Trees residence. Although Gen Fonseka had indicated his resignation would be effective from 01 December, President Rajapaksa decided the resignation would be effective with immediate effect.

On 27 November, Sri Lanka Elections Commissioner Dissanayake announced presidential elections to be held in 26 January, 2010 for which nominations were to be accepted on 16 December, 2009. Speculations about retired army commander Gen Fonseka contesting as the common presidential candidate of the opposition was later confirmed positively.

On 04 December, Pakistan opposed US drone attacks being extended into its tribal areas and possible attacks on Baluchistan area, in supplementing the expansion of war under Obama.

On 09 December, Union Railway Minister and Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee decided to take over the 990 acres of land in Singur, West Bengal lying idle after Tata Nano car project was shifted out in October, 2008 due to protests led by Banerjee herself and farmers refused to allow land to be used by Tatas. The farmers were allocated 400 acres from the acquired land.

On 14 December, Supreme Court in Delhi dismissed a plea against Tata company that in October, 2008 acquired 110 acres of land for a car plant in Ahmedabad.

On 18 December, the special court on Mumbai 26/11 terror attack started recording statement from Ajmal Kasab accused for his part in the attack.

On 18 December, Philip Alston the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions sent a letter to the government of SL through the UN Permanent Representative’s office in Geneva, asking for clarifications on retired army commander, Gen Fonseka’s statement to Sunday Leader news paper on killing white flag carrying LTTE surrendees in the final days of the Mullaitivu war, which implicates the Defense Secretary.

On 30 December, the Bangladesh foreign ministry announced it had reached agreement with Myanmar foreign ministry to repatriate 9,000 Rohingya Muslims from among over 30,000 Rohingya refugees living in Bangladesh, having fled Myanmar to escape persecution from the Myanmar military regime that does not accept Rohingya Muslims as an ethnic minority.

On 30 December, the Centre in Delhi agreed in principle for a separate Telangana State and Union Home Minister Chidambaram announced the government would initiate a process for the creation of a new State, thus ending the fast unto death by veteran Telangana leader, K. Chandrasekhara Rao.

In 2009, there were an estimated 4.7 million internally displaced people due to  armed conflicts, who at times crossed borders into neighbouring countries.

The year 2009 ended with over 49 US drone attacks on Afghanistan that claimed killing over 570 Al Qaeda and Taliban leaders and fighters, but had very many civilians killed.

02 January, 2010.

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