IAMC Weekly News Digest, 12th November 2021
Federal law enforcement agents descended on a massive temple in New Jersey on Tuesday after workers accused a prominent Hindu sect of luring them from India, confining them to the temple grounds and paying them the equivalent of about $1 an hour to perform grueling labor in near servitude. Lawyers for the workers said in a lawsuit filed Tuesday that Bochasanwasi Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha, a Hindu sect known as BAPS that has close ties to India’s ruling party and has built temples around the world, had exploited possibly hundreds of low-caste men in the yearslong construction project. The workers, who lived in trailers hidden from view, had been promised jobs helping to build the temple in rural Robbinsville, N.J., with standard work hours and ample time off, according to the lawsuit, a wage claim filed in U.S. District Court in New Jersey. The majority are Dalit, the lowest rung in India’s caste system. They were brought to the United States on religious visas, or R-1 visas – temporary visas used for clergy and lay religious workers such as missionaries – and presented to the U.S. government as volunteers….
The death of a young Muslim man in police custody in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh and the subsequent clarification by the police has triggered outrage in India. Police on Wednesday said 22-year-old Mohammad Altaf hanged himself after he went to the washroom in a police station at Kasganj district in Uttar Pradesh – India’s most populous state governed by the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)…. The Times of India newspaper on Thursday reported that Altaf was about 5ft 6 inches (167cm) tall and the water pipe was less than three feet (91.4cm) from the ground. Five police officers have been suspended for negligence in the case and police said it was investigating the incident. But Altaf’s family has demanded an inquiry by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) into his death…. Rights activists and opposition parties have questioned the police theory behind Altaf’s death….
In the bright mid-morning sunlight, Mohammad Sanohar Ali was distraught as he stared at the remnants of his shop that was partially burnt down by a Hindu mob on 26 October…. Even as Ali and other Muslim shop-owners in Rowa Bazaar calculated their losses, on 6 November, the West Agartala police station of the Tripura Police filed criminal cases against 102 social media handles that had called attention to the developments in Tripura…. The social media handles the police selected for criminal cases had posted opinions and comments on the violence; some had shared reports. The police’s letter claimed they had used photographs or videos of unrelated incidents, and had “fabricated” statements and commentary. The police demands from Twitter included registration details of the handles, browsing logs “from the date of registration”, lists of IP addresses used to log into these handles, linked mobile numbers and linked accounts. Barring a few, most of these handles belong to Muslims…. it is still unclear how many and which of them may face charges under UAPA or sections of the IPC….