News

Gorkhaland protesters demand own state / Ogoni women sue Shell / Catalonia’s independence referendum bill

30 June to 6 July

Gorkhaland statehood poster.
Gorkhaland statehood poster. Autor/a: Adam Jones @ Flickr
WEEKLY ROUNDUP. It is for three weeks now that protests and violent clashes are ongoing in Gorkhaland, a territory in India where demands for an own state are being voices. The conflict is decades-long, just as those in the Niger Delta and Cyprus are. As regards the former, four Ogoni women are suing Shell over repression and killings after 1995 protests. As regards the latter, a new round of negotiations have failed to bring a final deal to reunify the island along federal lines. Meanwhile, the Catalan government has unveiled the 1 October independence referendum bill.

NEWS HIGHLIGHT

Gorkhaland long-term conflict marred by violence. Over the week, violent clashes have occurred in Gorkhaland, a semi-autonomous Indian area around Darjeeling. Protests are ongoing since three weeks. Demonstrators are demanding that Gorkhaland be separated from the state of West Bengal and be declared a state of its own within the Republic of India. The current mobilization was started in June by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha party (GJM), which won all 45 seats of the Gorkhaland assembly in the 2012 election. The GJM argues that the Gorkha people —who inhabit the Darjeeling region and are mostly of Nepali language— need their own state to have their linguistic and cultural rights guaranteed, which, according to the party, is not the case in a Bengali-majority state. The party also holds that the creation of Gorkhaland would help visualize the Gorkha, even though they are Nepali speakers, as full Indian citizens. Support for the establishment of the Gorkhaland state is not unanimous among all the area’s diverse linguistic groups. Indian ruling party BJP is rejecting calls for Gorkhaland statehood:

Demands for the creation of a Gorkhaland administrative unit date back to 1907, and were at the center of a violent conflict from 1986 to 1988. Clashes have intermittently arisen in subsequent years. The current wave of protests was triggered by an order from the West Bengal government to introduce mandatory Bengali language classes in schools throughout the state.

MOREOVER

Draft law on Catalan independence referendum unveiled. The Catalan government has revealed the text, which bases its reasoning on the right of peoples to self-determination. The bill —which is not expected to be passed before the last days of August— states that the Parliament of Catalonia will proclaim independence two days after the final results of the vote are declared, in case of a “yes” victory. If voters reject independence, then a fresh Catalan election will be called. The president of the Catalan government, Carles Puigdemont, has argued that “nothing will stop” —not even the Spanish authorities— the referendum. Turnout and results, Puigdemont has said, will only “depend on the [Catalan] people”. President of the Spanish government Mariano Rajoy has described the bill as an “authoritarian delirium”. Spanish vice president Soraya Sáenz de Santamaria has recalled that the Spanish government can stop the soon-to-be law at any given time.

Esther Kiobel raises voice of Ogoni people against Shell. Kiobel and another three women have sued the multinational oil company in a case related to the execution of nine Ogoni activists (Niger delta, southern Nigeria) in 1995. At that time, after mass street protests by the Ogoni people to denounce the contamination of their territory at the hands of Shell, nine men leading the protests —including Kiobel’s husband and writer Ken Saro-Wiwa— were executed by Sani Abacha’s regime. In their case, the four women argue that the company colluded with the Nigerian regime to have the nine men executed, in a legal process that human rights organizations denounce that did not meet the minimum legal guarantees. Shell denies any involvement in the facts.

Yet another negotiating round in Cyprus ends with no deal. The conference that took place in Switzerland over the last two weeks has not resulted in a final agreement to solve the Cypriot conflict and the division of the island. Sources suggest that Turkey’s refusal to withdraw its troops from Cyprus has prevented talks from moving forward. UN secretary ceneral António Guterres has left the door open to new “initiatives”. But skepticism has arisen over whether negotiations can be resumed in the short term.

Euskadi, Navarre, Iparralde to jointly promote Basque. Navarrese and Basque governments and the Northern Basque Country’s Public Office of the Basque Language have signed an agreement over five areas: teaching of the language, promotion in the fields of work and leisure and the digital world, promotion of spaces for reflection, sociolinguistic research, and lobbying for a European funding that meets the needs of Basque. The deal, however, does not economically compel any of the three public bodies, its implementation being subject to their paces and possibilities.

Historic Sardinian independence activist Salvatore Meloni dies. Doddore Meloni, as he was known, has died after a 66-day-long hunger strike, which he was holding in protest against a sentence over a tax offense. His supporters blame the Italian authorities of having murdered him. Without being that explicit, former Italian MP Piergiorgio Massidda has admitted he feels “embarrassed to belong to institutions that have not got to intervene to save his [Meloni’s] life.” In 1981, Meloni was detained —and later sentenced to 9 years— together 15 others under charges of organizing an armed plot to declare Sardinia independent from Italy. In 2008 Meloni proclaimed —on an uninhabited islet, as a symbolic act of sovereignty— the Republic of Malu Entu, with a look at the future independence of all of Sardinia.

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