Thursday, July 21, 2011

Nandkumar Patel's Escape: Maoist Attack in Chhattisgargh.

India's Maoists targeted a convoy of the leader of the Congress Party in Chhattisgargh, Nandkumar Patel on July 20, 2011. They blew up a bridge in the Gariyabandh area, just after the convoy passed, but damaged some vehicles following it. Then the rebels fired at the vehicles. Four people were reported dead and five were injured in the attack.

The attacks by Maoists, commonly known as the 'Naxalites' are growing in number. The term Naxalite has been broken from the village Naxalbari in West Bengal, where a peasant uprising erupted in 1967. Initially, the Naxalites were composed of a militant faction of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)-CPI(M). In 1969, they formed the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist)-CPI(ML).

Naxalite groups grew in many parts of the country, especially along the Western parts of India. Marginalized tribal groups are the main supporters of these groups. The various groups did not have a unified command. This changed when two of the main Maoist groups, People's War Group of Andhra Pradesh and the Maoist Communist Center of Bihar joined in 2004 to form the Communist Party of India (Maoist). Since then, CPI(Maoist) has become the vanguard of the 'Naxalite' movement, and Naxalites have grown in to such proportions that they have influence in more than 45% of India's land mass. They have created a 'red corridor' from West Bengal to Andhra. No wonder India considers the Naxalites to be the greatest internal threat she faces!

Photo: The "Red Corridor"-Wikimedia Commons

At Last, Something Japan could Cheer about: FIFA Womens World Cup 2011

The Japanese people have something to cheer about for the first time after the March 2011 disaster at Sendai and Fukushima. The Japanese women's team recently became world champions in football after defeating the United States in a penalty shootout. Thus, Japan became the first country in Asia to win a FIFA Women's world cup.

The 2011 Women's world cup was held in 9 venues across Germany. Sixteen nations took part in the event, which culminated at the final at Frankfurt on July 17.

Japan played in the Group B at the preliminary round and won 2 of their three games, going down 2-0 against the English. In the knockout stages, they pulled some fine wins as they progressed. In the quarterfinal, the Asian ladies defeated the host country, Germany, ranked second in the world, courtesy of a goal by Karina Maruyama at extra time. In the semi final, they easily beat Sweden by 3-1.

Nearly 49,000 spectators witnessed the Japanese taking on the formidable U.S.A. team at Commerzbank-Arena in Frankfurt. It was an encounter where fortunes fluctuated between the teams. Morgan's goal in the 69th minute brought the U.S. up by 1-0. But, just 9 minutes prior to the finish, Aya Miyama sent the ball past the best goalkeeper of the tournament, Hope Solo. The game went to extra time.

It was the same story once again. Abby Wambach brought the U.S. back to the top but just three minutes before the close of the extra time, Japanese captain Homare Sawa scored her fifth goal of the tournament. This gave her the golden boot for the highest number of goals scored and her team went on to win in the penalty shootout.

The penalty shootout was where the luck went drastically away from the U.S. team. Hope Solo was helpless and Ayumi Kaihori was brilliant in their respective goals. Americans missed their first three penalties and were finally defeated 3-1 in the shootout.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Unrest in Chile

When one go higher up, he is always liable to fall very rapidly. The President of Chile, Sebastian Piñera is now experiencing such a plunge.

He is almost totally to be blamed for his own plight. When he won the presidential election narrowly, it was taken as a rare incident where the left wing of Latin American country suffered an electoral defeat in recent years. Later, when 33 miners were miraculously rescued, his popularity rose to more than 60%, an all time high up to date. But, his popularity has now reached its lowest ever to date, dangerously approaching the 30% mark.
The main reasons for this fall of grace is the proposed HidroAysén electricity scheme, by which five dams are to be constructed across two rivers, two on Baker river and three on Pascua river, in the pristine wilderness of Patagonia. This will flood 5,900 hectares of nature reserve. The government gave approval for the project in May 2011 but thereafter has been challenged by massive protests against the scheme.

The president is not a consensus builder like his predecessor, the popular Michelle Bachelet. He was known as a business tycoon before coming to politics and is known for the centralized decision making and his ministers have little power. In such an administration, the leader gets all the credit when everything goes right. But when it goes wrong, he must bear the blame also.

This is what is happening to Piñera today. The president is accused by some for being too close to the company which is engaged in the scheme. Even though the environmental impact is the major concern of the protestors, it is not the only case. The monopolistic power exerted by the energy companies has also been a cause of debate.

Along with this, the ongoing student protests are also a concern for Chile. This is to demand the end of the schools voucher system and to establish a proper public education system. The president's offers have not been able to mollify the students and the crisis continues with no agreement forthcoming.

With things standing as such, politics in Chile is turbulent to say the least.

Photo: River Baker

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Thai People go to Polls

The Thai people have started voting in a landmark election. Of course, in a country which has seen coups and protests as much as and even more than elections, almost every election is a landmark election.

Thailand is, to say the least, a divided country. It is divided over the elites and the poor, the cities and the countryside, the North and the South and even on religious grounds. In mainstream politics, it is divided between the 'two shirts', yellow and red.

The central figure of this division is Thakshin Shinawatra, Businessman, two time elected former Prime Minister and fugitive from Thai justice. In the eyes of the elites he has done the unforgivable, that is the political mobilization and empowerment of the rural poor, mainly from the backward North. naturally, this has turned him into a 'demi-god' like figure in the North.

His original Thai Rak Thai Party and its successor the PPP were both dissolved over allegations of fraud. Now, a re-incarnation of the party in the name of Pheu Thai (For Thai) is back in contest, with Thakshin's youngest sister, albeit a political novice, Yinglick Shinawatra, as the leading figure. They are expected to defeat the Democrats led by incumbent Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva.

The Pheu Thai intends to grant amnesty to exiled fugitives, a move naturally geared towards bringing Thakshin back to Thailand. Whether the elite, and especially the Army, would stay doing nothing at such a move is contentious. The Army would feel powerless if the Pheu Thai win a sizable majority.

Whatever is the outcome, Thailand would be a divided nation for years to come.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Royal Wedding of Monaco

Photo: Monaco by Salvatore.Freni

Monaco is the world's most densely populated country with the highest life expectancy and the highest per capita GDP. Its size is a mere 2.05 square kilometers and hence is the second smallest sovereign state in the world. From 1297, Monaco has been by the House of Grimaldi and the current ruler is Prince Albert II.

And he was a bachelor until July 1, 2011.

On that day, the prince married Charlene Wittstock, a Zimbabwean born South African. She was a former Olympian swimmer. The prince also has represented Monaco at the Olympics.

Around 3,500 guests, including royalty, celebrities and sports personnel have been invited for 'the greatest party in Monaco' in 55 years, after Prince Albert II's father, Rainier III married in 1956. These guests include the crown prince of Bahrain and the king of Swaziland, a fact largely ignored by many, unlike the case when they were invited for the Royal Wedding of UK last April. Invitees also include many former royalty, including the Empress of Iran.