The HINDU Notes – 14th January 2020 - VISION

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Tuesday, January 14, 2020

The HINDU Notes – 14th January 2020

📰 Raisina Dialogue to kick off with panel of former world leaders on January 14, PM Modi to attend

12 Foreign Ministers and many heads of State to take part

•At least 12 Foreign Ministers including Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, and Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne, as well as seven former heads of state and government will attend the Ministry of External Affairs’ “Raisina Dialogue” jointly organised with the Observer Research Foundation (ORF) that begins on January 14 in Delhi.

•Also attending are the Afghan National Security Adviser (NSA) Hamidullah Mohib and the U.S. Deputy NSA Matthew Pottinger.

India’s contribution

•“The Dialogue has been India’s contribution to global efforts to discover solutions, identify opportunities and provide stability to a century that has witnessed an eventful two decades,” said an MEA statement, explaining the significance of the annual conference.

•Prime Minister Narendra Modi will attend the inaugural session where former leaders, including former Afghan President Hamid Karzai and former Prime Minister’s Helen Clark of New Zealand, Stephen Harper of Canada, Carl Bildt of Sweden, Anders Rasmussen of Denmark, Tshering Tobgay of Bhutan and Han Seung-soo of South Korea, will discuss future global issues.

•The title of the Raisina Dialogue this year is “Navigating the Alpha Century”.

•Mr. Modi will also host a meeting of all the visiting Foreign Ministers together.

•The conference, which is in its fifth year, will host 700 participants from more than 100 countries, a statement by the Ministry of External Affairs said, adding that at least 40% of the speakers will be women.

Australian PM skips

•Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who was due to give the inaugural keynote address had to pull out due to the fire crisis in Australia, which means that unlike previous versions of the conference, this year will have no sitting head of government or state attend.

•Bangladesh Deputy Foreign Minister Shahriar Alam cancelled his participation at the last minute, but Information Minister Mohammad H. Mahmud is outlooked to attend the conference.

•Another key feature of the event, a session on the Indo-Pacific that includes military or naval commanders from the “Quadrilateral or Quad”, Australia, India, Japan, and the United States, will also have a French Defence official on the panel this year.

📰 Inscriptions confirm presence of two medieval monasteries at Moghalmari

‘Two monasteries in a single compound is unique in this part’

•A study of inscriptions on clay tablets recovered from recent excavations at Moghalmari, a Buddhist monastic site of the early medieval period in West Bengal’s Paschim Medinipur district, have confirmed the presence of two monasteries — Mugalayikaviharika and Yajñapindikamahavihara.

•Details of the study of these inscriptions were published earlier this month in PratnaSamiskha, a leading peer-reviewed journal from Bengal on Indian Archaeology.

•“The presence of two monasteries dating to the same period within a single compound is unique in eastern India. Earlier excavations had indicated the presence of two monasteries on the basis of the structural plan,” Rajat Sanyal, who deciphered these inscriptions, and is the author of the paper, told The Hindu.

•Prof. Sanyal, who is associated with the Department of Archaeology, University of Calcutta, was a member of all the six seasons of excavations carried out at the site by the university. The monasteries at Moghalmari date from 6th century CE and were functional till the 12th century CE.

Tiny fragments

•During one of the later seasons of excavations by the Directorate of Archaeology and Museums, Department of Information and Cultural Affairs, Government of West Bengal, six tiny fragments of inscribed seals were found. “Each of them contained a set of letters accompanied by the deer-dharmachakra symbols. We had to arrange them through different permutations to read and make sense of names inscribed on these tablets,” Prof. Sanyal said.

•The inscriptions are in Sanskrit and the script is a transitional phase between later north Indian Brahmi and early Siddhamatrika.

•The first name Yajñapindikamahavihara, implying etymologically ‘a place of sacrificial offering’ is of special significance. The second name on the seals, Mugalayikaviharika, bears a phonetic resemblance to the modern name of the site, Moghalmari.

In Xuanzang’s travels

•Archaeologists and historians point out that famous Chinese traveller Xuanzang (more widely identified as Huen Tsang), who visited India in the 7th century CE, referred to the existence of ‘ten monasteries’ within the limits of Tamralipta (modern day Tamluk in adjoining Purba Medinipur district). However, he did not refer to any specific name or location.

•With the discovery of the site and the deciphering of the inscriptions, at least two of these monasteries are now identified, Prof. Sanyal said. He added that it was known from Buddhist texts that Buddhist monasteries have a definite hierarchy — Mahavihara, Vihara and Viharika — which is reflected in the inscriptions found.

•“The study provides the only contextual epigraphical proof for the existence of a viharika (Mugalayikaviharika in this case) as early as the 6th century in this part of the subcontinent,” Prof. Sanyal said. The study of the inscribed seals suggests that the monastery was called Mugalayikaviharika. Its continuation in the modern name of the area “still remains a riddle which needs more careful inspection and study,” he said. “Apparently, the name Mugalayika suggests a fair connection to the modern place-name Moghalmari,” he added.

•In his paper, Prof. Sanyal refers to L.S.S. O’Malley’s gazetteer of 1911, where the name Moghalmari is said to trace its name to a medieval battle between the Mughals and Pathans, sometime in the 16th or early 17th century. “It is difficult to ascertain if the name written on the seals indeed represents an early toponym of the modern village of Moghalmari.”

📰 Supreme Court not to review Sabarimala case, to examine ‘larger issues’

Bench not to go into legality of issues such as the practice of polygamy and ‘nikah-halala’ in Islam.

•A nine-judge Bench led by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Sharad A. Bobde on Monday said its objective was not to review the Sabarimala women entry case but examine “larger issues” of law like the prohibition of women from entering mosques and temples to genital mutilation among Dawoodi Bohras and the banning of Parsi women who married inter-faith from entering the fire temple.

•Instead, the Bench would examine the legality and essentiality of religious beliefs which prohibit women from entering into mosques and temples; which allow genital mutilation by Dawoodi Bohras; and which ban Parsi women who married inter-faith to enter the fire temple.

•The Bench, however, clarified that it would not go into the legality of issues such as the practice of polygamy and ‘nikah-halala’ in Islam.

•Chief Justice Bobde explained that the basis of the Bench's judicial enquiry would be seven questions referred to a larger Bench by a five-judge Bench on November 14, 2019.

•On November 14, the five-judge Bench led by then Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, instead of deciding the Sabarimala review entrusted to it, sought an “authoritative pronouncement” on the Court's power to decide the essentiality of religious practices. Framing seven questions, the Bench referred them to a seven-judge Bench. These referral questions included whether “essential religious practices” be afforded constitutional protection under Article 26 (freedom to manage religious affairs).

•Chief Justice Bobde, who succeeded Justice Gogoi, formed a Bench of nine rather than seven judges to examine these referred questions which concern multiple faiths.

•On Monday, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said the referred questions were too broad and needed fine-tuning.

Directive to lawyers

•The CJI asked lawyers involved in the case to hold a conference on January 17 to reframe/add issues to be examined by the nine-judge Bench. The court posted the case for hearing after three weeks.

•When lawyers sought to remind the court that the case challenging the Citizenship (Amendment) Act was scheduled for January 22 and the hearing before the nine-judge Bench ought to be heard without a break, the CJI said cases were being heard “chronologically”.

•The CJI explained that the nine-judge Bench was only examining propositions of law raised about religious practices believed to be essential to various religions. The Bench would not go into the individual facts of the various petitions that make the body of the case before it.

•“We will decide questions of law on women's entry to mosques/temples, genital mutilation by Dawoodi Bohras, entry of Parsi women who marry outside their community into fire temple. We will not decide individual facts of each case,” Chief Justice Bobde addressed the lawyers in the courtroom.

Senior lawyers’ contention

•But senior lawyers like Indira Jaising and Rajeev Dhavan said the Supreme Court cannot decide on the essentiality of religious practices. It was outside its jurisdiction. “This Court cannot tell how religion is to be practised,” Mr. Dhavan submitted.

•They drew the Bench's attention to the Shrirur Mutt judgment of the Supreme Court of 1954. According to the 62-year-old verdict, the essentiality of religious practices should be decided in accordance with the religious doctrines of each faith. The Supreme Court has limited power of judicial review, they argued.

•The 1954 judgment held that any regulation could only extend to religious practices and activities which were economic, commercial or political in their character.

•Lawyers even asked whether the numerically stronger nine-judge Bench was formed to test the Shrirur Mutt verdict delivered by a seven-judge Bench, which had reduced the court's role and left the question of essentiality of religious practices to the wisdom of religious texts.

•“The only reason to refer this to a nine-judge Bench seems to be that Shirur Mutt was decided by a seven-judge Bench. But no one has questioned that judgment,” Ms. Jaising said.

📰 Govt. gets cracking on GST evaders with data analytics

Official teams have booked 6,641 cases involving 7,164 entities till November last year and have, so far, recovered about ₹1,057 crore

•The Department of Revenue has identified as many as 931 cases of fraudulent GST (Goods and Services Tax) refund claims through data analytics and has now tasked the GST data analytics wing to scrutinise all past and pending refund claims filed all over the country for inverted duty structure, sources said.

•Refund claims worth more than ₹28,000 crore are said to have been filed by over 27,000 taxpayers so far on account of inverted duty structure in the current financial year.

•The sources said such identified taxpayers, who had purchased goods from tax-evading, non-filers, would face verification and scrutiny as necessary.

•This is being reviewed and monitored weekly by Revenue Secretary Ajay Bhushan Pandey.

•The sources said to curb input tax credit (ITC) frauds, data analytics is to be done on all refunds since 2017, keeping an eye on the modus operandi of unscrupulous refund claimants or fly-by-night or shell business entities for availing fake ITC.

•GST formations have booked 6,641 cases involving 7,164 entities till November last year and have, so far, recovered about ₹1,057 crore.

•The highest number of such fraud cases have been booked in the Kolkata zone, followed by Delhi, Jaipur and Panchkula (Haryana), the sources said, adding that fraud recently detected by central tax authorities in Delhi, involving GST refund for inverted duty structure, was deliberated at the second National Conference on GST last week.

Fake ITC credit

•The sources also said investigators in Delhi had cracked — through data analytics — a significant fraud case wherein fraudsters created a network of over 500 entities comprising fake billing entities, intermediary dealers, distributors and bogus manufacturers of ‘hawaii’ chappals for availing and encashing fake ITC credits.

•The bogus ‘manufacturers,’ created in Uttarakhand, were making supplies to other fictitious entities and retailers in Gujarat, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu.

•The raw materials for the chappals, known as EVA compound, are chargeable at 18% duty whereas chappals are chargeable at 5%, sources said, adding that as a result, the law allowed the manufacturers to claim refunds of the inverted duty structure in cash. GST investigators found an ongoing parallel investigation in Uttarakhand to be connected and took swift action in preventing refund claims of ₹27.5 crore.

•Through meticulous cyber-planning, fraudsters had created over ₹600 crore of ‘fake credit’ which they would have continued to encash had it not been busted.

•The main accused in this case was arrested in December and continues to be in judicial remand.

•It was also through data analytics that recently, GST formations had identified a few exporters with ‘star’ status who were fraudulently availing IGST refund and were untraceable at their registered addresses.

•In these cases, an exporter with over ₹50 crore of shipments of readymade garments had taken refund of ₹3.90 crore while the entity’s total GST payment in cash was a mere ₹1,650.

•In another case, tax payments in cash have been made for ₹51,201 while the exporter had obtained refund of ₹9.59 crore. The GST data analytics wing had been able to identify all such cases involving fake invoicing and fraudulent tax credits, which have been encashed through the facility of IGST refunds, the sources said.

📰 Retail inflation at 5-year high of 7.3% in December

The retail inflation based on Consumer Price Index (CPI) was 2.11% in December 2018 and 5.54% in November 2019.

•Retail inflation soared to a five and a half year high of 7.35% in December 2019, with the shortage of onions driving the surge.

•According to information released by the National Statistical Office on Monday, retail inflation based on the Consumer Price Index was only 2.11% in December 2018 and 5.54% in November 2019.

•The last time retail inflation was this high was the 7.39% recorded in July 2014, just after Prime Minister Narendra Modi began his first term in office.

•The hike in inflation in the ‘vegetables’ category was at 60.5% last month in comparison to December 2018. Onion prices were above the Rs. 100 per kg mark in many major cities last month, due to a 26% fall in production.

•Overall, food inflation rose to 14.12 per cent in December as against a negative rate of -2.65 per cent in the same month of the previous year. It was also significantly higher than the 10.01% recorded in November 2019. Along with vegetables, high prices of pulses, meat and fish also contributed to last month’s spike.

•The Centre has mandated the Reserve Bank of India to keep inflation in the range of 2-6%. The RBI, which mainly factors in the CPI based inflation, is scheduled to announce its next bi-monthly monetary policy on February 6. In its December policy, the central bank, which had been reducing rates, had kept the repo rate unchanged citing inflationary concerns.

📰 Is a new India rising?

The new generation is laying down its own terms for the country’s future discourse

•The tsunami of protests across the length and breadth of the country has several fascinating facets. Are there any significant pointers in it?

•First and foremost, these are clearly the civil society’s autonomous protests, devoid of any organic links with any political party. Barring issuing some statements in support or occasional visits by leaders to a protest site, even political parties have kept themselves at a distance from these protests. Underlying the autonomy is perhaps an unarticulated feeling that the issues evoking the protests go beyond electoral battles; that these concern the very life and blood of society’s future. There is also an unarticulated assumption that the solution lies beyond the ken of one or the other political party or indeed all parties together. Therefore, reliance on a party or a group, any group, might end up in diversion, which often becomes equivalent of betrayal. The one possible link with political parties is perhaps a potential realisation by them that they might be left aside by the people if they keep the distance intact — a case of people leading the parties instead of the other way round.

The power of resistance

•A consequence of civil society’s direct involvement is that it is refusing to buy the current regime’s divisive Hindu-Muslim formula. This formula has already fetched the National Democratic Alliance two terms in Parliament but seems to have hit a wall. Resistance began with society’s response to uncalled-for police brutality on students in Jamia Millia Islamia and Aligarh Muslim University. And soon the chief target of resistance became the Citizenship Amendment Act-National Register of Citizens-National Population Register strategy devised by the regime to pit the Muslim community against the rest. The wide-ranging and unrelenting participation of people from all groups in the protests is clear enough signal of society’s refusal to fall for it. Interesting also is the Muslim community’s refusal to fall for the strategy of making their identity dichotomous with their Indian identity; the Muslims have instead sought to assert their religious identity in full concert with their Indian national identity by flaunting both at the same time, which in any case is far truer than the one which counterposes the two.

•The resistance from the students is an amazing aspect even as it is wise to remind ourselves that their community has been the most energetic element in India’s various resistance movements — and for that matter elsewhere around the world, whether in the anti-colonial struggles in Asia, Africa and Latin America, or the anti-Vietnam war protests in the U.S. Their protests have also grown in dimensions from repression in universities to the regime’s hitherto successful Divide and Rule policy and its latest version encapsulated in the CAA-NRC-NPR. Neither has the government’s incessant attempts to convince them of the honesty of its purpose, which could also be called brainwashing, failed to persuade them, nor has the repeated assertion by Home Minister Amit Shah of not budging an inch deterred them.

•One of the most vociferous charges made against the government has been its grave attempt to prevent students and others from questioning it by simply branding such people as “anti-nationals” of which various equivalents have been newly minted: “anti-Modi”, “anti-Hindu”, “Urban Naxal”. The government has also unleashed a barrage of filthy abuse and threats on social media through a highly organised IT machine under the BJP’s control. A good segment of the media — now being called ‘Modia’ — has also pitched in with its aggressive campaign of malice against anyone with the mildest of doubts against the government’s extravagant claims.

•Yet, all this could not crush the spirit of questioning, especially on campuses, repression notwithstanding. The examples are now beyond count: there are protests in Hyderabad University, Jadavpur University, Banaras Hindu University, the Indian Institutes of Technology, Aligarh Muslim University, Jamia Millia Islamia, Delhi University and even in some of the safe and secure private universities. Jawaharlal Nehru University is an outstanding instance of standing up to repression for over four years now. Repression in any case is not the most durable of all forms of governance; this is one of history’s abiding lessons. The wider society is waking up to the limits of repression as state policy and responding.

Quality of leadership

•One of the most endearing aspects of the current wave of protests is the exemplary quality of leadership displayed by students from the underprivileged social strata. Kanhaiya Kumar has become a national figure thanks largely to the Modi government’s atrocious handling of his “crime” which enabled him to demonstrate his extraordinary oratorical skill and his clear-headed perspectives to put forward his case with almost devastating ease. It is fascinating that the extempore slogan he raised on the JNU campus for “azadi” on his release from jail in 2016 has now become the national war cry for students and the youth. But he is one among innumerable other emerging leaders of student movements across the country. It is heartwarming to see young women taking up verbal, and now even physical, challenges to articulate their feelings and thoughts lucidly, fearlessly and forcefully. JNU Students’ Union president Aishe Ghosh has once again occupied premier space on this front, thanks again to the mishandling by the Modi regime. One also comes across a large number of such promising student leaders on local channels speaking in their local language. This is where one sees promise of a new generation refusing to buy any “line” of any party but laying down its own terms for the country’s future discourse. The conflict is no longer between the BJP and the Opposition parties’ vote banks; it is now firmly situated between the BJP government and the people of India.

📰 In the name of self-defence

The U.S. strike in Iraq that killed Soleimani was in violation of UN norms proscribing such unilateral use of force

•The killing of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani near Baghdad in drone strikes carried out by the U.S. earlier in January raised the spectre of war in West Asia. Later, U.S. President Donald Trump threatened to attack cultural sites in Iran in the event of reprisals by Tehran. The next week, Iran retaliated by carrying out missile attacks on two facilities housing U.S. troops in Iraq. These incidents give rise to some interesting legal questions: Was the U.S. attack on Soleimani legally justified? And can cultural sites be legitimately attacked in any armed U.S. response?

•Under international law, there is a general prohibition on the use of force, articulated in Article 2(4) of the UN Charter. The Article proscribes any use of force by members against the “territorial integrity or political independence” of a state. However, the Charter recognises two limited exceptions: first, in the use of force by a state in the lawful exercise of its right to self-defence; and second, when such an act is carried out with the prior authorisation of the UN Security Council (UNSC) and acting pursuant to the Council’s emergency powers “to maintain or restore international peace and security”.

Without prior consent

•The use of force by the U.S. in Baghdad to kill Soleimani without prior consent from Iraq or the UN was, hence, a violation of such proscription, unless the U.S. can justify it as a lawful exercise of its right to self-defence. Not surprisingly, the Donald Trump administration was quick to claim that the killing was in exercise of its right to “anticipatory” self-defence. Mr. Trump claimed, without any further elaboration, that Soleimani was planning “imminent and sinister” attacks against U.S. diplomats and personnel.

•The legal basis for “anticipatory” self-defence remains deeply controversial and contested. There are both legal and policy arguments against recognising a right to anticipatory self-defence. First, Article 51 of the UN Charter recognises the inherent right of every state to use force in self-defence, only “if an armed attack occurs”. Second, unlike an “armed attack”, which is an objective standard, an “anticipated” armed attack is a subjective one, open to abuse by states. Since the object and purpose of the general prohibition on the use of force is to minimise resort to unilateral use of force, a stricter and restricted notion of the right to self-defence is perhaps more appropriate.

•Those arguing in favour of a right to anticipatory self-defence, however, stress on its customary character and frequently reference the Caroline incident. In 1837, British militia from Canada crossed into U.S. to set ablaze the ship Caroline, which had been used to ferry American insurgents that had mounted attacks in Canada. In diplomatic correspondence following the incident, the U.S. Secretary of State noted that Britain must show “a necessity of self-defence, instant, overwhelming, leaving no choice of means, and no moment of deliberation”. In reality, the destruction of Caroline was a response to an attack and its expansion rather than for averting any not-yet-mounted attack. Moreover, the incident took place before the conception of the UN Charter.

An anticipatory move

•Nevertheless, contemporary Western scholarship, in view of the rise of terrorism and advancement of weapons technology, continues to advocate for a right to anticipatory self-defence. However even assuming that any such right has come into fruition, its contours are to be narrowly understood. As indicated, the threat of an armed attack must be so imminent that the need to act in self-defence should be “instant, overwhelming, leaving no choice of means, and no moment of deliberation”. The legality of the Trump administration’s decision to target Soleimani through drones in Iraq would, therefore, hinge on the disclosure of facts with regard to the imminence of a planned attack. Moreover, the administration will have to show that the strike was proportional to such (imminent) armed attack and necessary to respond to it. It will also have to justify its use of force in Iraqi territory and prove that Baghdad was either unable or unwilling to prevent the imminent attack. Finally, the U.S. will have to provide an explanation for the use of drones during peacetime, which resulted in collateral casualties.

•Further, Mr. Trump’s specific threat to target cultural sites in Iran was in breach of the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property during armed conflict. It also violated UNSC Council Resolution 2347, sponsored by the Trump administration, which in the context of the Islamic State (IS) invasion declared that destruction of cultural property would constitute “war crimes”. It was therefore not surprising that Pentagon distanced itself from Mr. Trump’s position.

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