Key trends in South Asia over the past three weeks include: escalation of violence in demonstrations across India against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 (CAA); demonstrations in Bangladesh and Pakistan against the CAA; militant attacks on health workers and security personnel associated with the anti-polio vaccination campaign in Pakistan.
In India, violent demonstrations continued against the controversial CAA. The CAA, which has been regarded by opposition parties as ‘discriminatory’ and ‘anti-Muslim’ (Al-Jazeera, 16 December 2019), was passed by the parliament of India on 11 December 2019. In the state of Uttar Pradesh, police firing and violent demonstrations resulted in the reported deaths of 15 people. The state responded with the suspension of mobile and internet services in about a dozen districts, including the state capital, Lucknow, and Aligarh. Aligarh, home to Aligarh Muslim University, was the scene of a police crackdown on students demonstrating against the CAA, resulting in widespread protest across the state (News 18, 20 December 2019). In Karnataka state, two demonstrators were reportedly killed when security forces resorted to aerial firing; a man was also reportedly killed during demonstrations in Kerala.
Demonstrations against the CAA were also reported in Muslim majority Bangladesh and Pakistan. In Bangladesh, several demonstrations were held in the capital, Dhaka, against the Indian Government over the enactment of the CAA. Similarly, in Pakistan, demonstrations were held in the capital, Islamabad, and several cities of Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces.
Elsewhere in India, mobile messaging services were restored amid increasing protests in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir. The restoration of mobile messaging came nearly five months since its suspension on 5 August 2019 when the Indian government stripped the former state of its autonomy and enforced a communication blackout in the region. Broadband internet services were also restored at government hospitals across the Union Territory in January, although use by civilians remains uncertain (The Hindu, 2 January 2019).
In Pakistan, an anti-polio vaccination campaign in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was marred by violence against health workers and security personnel associated with the campaign. In Lower Dir, Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militants reportedly shot dead two police constables deployed to protect a polio vaccination team while in a second incident unknown assailants opened fire at a polio vaccination team. In Lakki Marwat, a suicide bomber targeting a polio vaccination team prematurely detonated his bomb, injuring a passerby. The vaccination team remained safe. In April 2019, a similar nationwide polio campaign was suspended following attacks on health workers and policemen escorting vaccination teams (Gandhara, 27 April 2019).
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