News Timeline: South Asia 2017


March 21 – India
The High Court of northern Indian state of Uttarakhand declares the Ganges and Yamuna rivers living entities and grants them legal status as persons in an attempt to help in their cleaning and conservation.[1] To protect their rights, the rivers have two appointed legal guardians. The Ganges River is the holiest for the Hindu population, but also the most polluted. People also rely on its waters for their livelihood.

March 23 – Afghanistan
After a year-long battle with Afghan forces and its Western allies, the Taliban militants capture the crucial town of Sangin, securing the strategic district of Sangin in the southern province of Helmand. The Taliban can now connect Helmand with Kandahar, Afghanistan’s second-largest city. The district is also known for its lucrative opium production. Because of its strategic importance, the Allies invested in its defense of Sangin with many casualties among the NATO troops in the past few years.[2] The loss of Sangin highlights the Taliban’s resurgence and security challenges in Afghanistan.

April 30 – Afghanistan 
In its April 2017 Report to the United States Congress, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) states that preventing insurgents from increasing their control of the country continues to be a challenge for the Afghan forces. Afghan forces now control 60 percent of the country and the Taliban 11 percent. General John W. Nicholson Jr., commander of U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan, says that he is particularly concerned about the high level of Afghan forces casualties. The Report also states that there are 8,300 U.S. forces serving in Afghanistan who mostly train, advise, and assist Afghan security forces. Between January 1, 2015 and March 30, 2017, a total of 33 U.S. military personnel were killed and 161 wounded in action. General Nicholson stresses the importance of the U.S. continued involvement in Afghanistan by arguing that the Afghanistan-Pakistan region has the highest concentration of terrorist groups anywhere in the world and the U.S. counterterrorism mission there plays a key role in the U.S. national security.[3]
Full SIGAR report.

July 13 – India
India’s National Green Tribunal (NGT), the highest authority in environmental protection, issues several ordinances in an effort to clean up the Ganges River. The new regulations ban dumping of waste or human remains in waters of the Ganges, nor within 550 yards from its shore. They also ban construction within 100 yards from the shore of the river. The NGT also directs the state of Uttar Pradesh to move its tanneries, the leather-making industries, to other locations and set up anti-pollution devices. Anyone violating these provisions can be fined up to $770. To oversee the implementation of these ordinances, the NGT formed a supervisory committee.[4]

The Ganges River provides livelihood for more than 500 million people who live along its banks. But it is the world’s most polluted river, with millions of gallons of raw sewage, domestic waste, riverside cremation, or dead bodies simply set afloat and industrial contaminants dumped in it every day.[5]
More on the importance of the Ganges River, its pollution, and challenges to restore it

July 20 – India
Members of India’s parliament elect former governor of Bihar, Ram Nath Kovind of India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), as the country’s next president. India’s position of the president is largely ceremonial, but it is prestigious with such powers as calling elections, breaking ties in Parliament and issuing death-row pardons.[6] Also, Kovind’s electoral success will help Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s political agenda as both are from the same party. What is rare about this election is that Ram Nath Kovind comes from the lowest caste in Hinduism’s hierarchy, the Dalits, one of the most deprived and discriminated social groups in India formerly known as untouchables. This might help secure the Dalit vote in future elections for the BJP.
What is India’s caste system?

September 11 – Bangladesh
In response to recent persecutions of the Rohingya minority in Myanmar, which has led to more than 430,000[7] of them fleeing to Bangladesh, UN human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein denounces their treatment and says “the situation seems a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”[8] The recent violence was sparked by attacks by Rohingya militants on 30 police posts in northern Rakhine region on August 25. The militants claim to protect the Rohingya Muslim minority from state repression. In response, Myanmar’s security forces and local militia initiated a brutal crackdown on the Rohingya civilian population killing many of them and burning their villages. Aid agencies and the UN are working to provide food, water and shelter for the huge influx of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh. The Rohingya are one of the most persecuted minorities in the world with no home or citizenship.[9]
More on the Rohingya people from Amnesty International

November 8 –  India
Pollution levels in India’s capital, Delhi, have reached 30 times the World Health Organization’s safe limit in some areas. Conditions worsen every winter when famers in nearby states burn leftover crops in their fields.[10] Delhi is one of the world’s most polluted capital cities. Because of poor air quality four out of every 10 children in Delhi suffer from severe lung problems.[11]
Experience how it is to drive through Delhi’s smog.
“Air pollution” from the World Health Organization
“Case studies of healthy, sustainable cities” from World Health Organization

December 12 – India
India’s court sentences six men to death and two others to prison for brutally hacking to death a Dalit man who married a girl from a higher caste. One of the men sentenced is the bride’s father who disapproved of the marriage. The court also issues directions to the government of India to enact laws to curb “honor” killings, which are meant by caste supremacists to deter intercaste marriages. Under the guise of ‘honor’ killing, castes are promoted and perpetrated.[12]
What is India’s caste system?


[1] Trivedi, Anupam and Kamal Jagati. “Uttarakhand HC declares Ganga, Yamuna living entities, gives them legal rights.” Hindustan Times. 22 March 2017. Web. Accessed 7 April 2017.
[2] Shah, Taimoor and Rod Nordland. “Taliban Take an Afghan District, Sangin, That Many Marines Died to Keep.” The New York Times. 23 March 2017. Web. Accessed 10 April 2017.
[3] Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR). “Quarterly Report to the United States Congress.” 30 April 2017. Accessed 26 July 2017.
[4] “NGT recommends measures for Ganga clean up, including Rs 50k fine for dumping waste.” The Times of India. 12 July 2017. Accessed 25 July 2017 from
[5] Somvichian-Clausen, Austa. “The World’s Most Polluted River Revealed in Photos.” The National Geographic. 12 April 2017. Accessed 25 July 2017 from
[6] Najar, Nida. “India Picks Ram Nath Kovind, of Caste Once Called ‘Untouchables,’ as President.” The New York Times. 2- July 2017. Accessed 21 July 2017.
[7] “Who are the Rohingya and What is Happening in Myanmar?” Amnesty International. 26 September 2017. Web. Accessed 3 October 2017.
[8] “UN human rights chief points to ‘textbook example of ethnic cleansing’ in Myanmar.” UN News Centre. 11 September 2017. Web. Accessed 3 October 2017.
[9] Ibid 7.
[10] Pandey, Vikas. “Hair-raising drive through Delhi smog.” BBC video, 00:59, posted by BBC News. 8 November 2017. Web. Accessed 1 December 2017 from
[11] Mail Today Bureau. “Nearly HALF of Delhi’s children suffer ‘severe’ lung problems due to air pollution.” Daily Mail India. 4 May 2015. Web. Accessed 6 December 2017 from
[12] “Six men sentenced to death in India for Dalit ‘honour’ killing.” The Guardian. 15 December 2017. Web. Accessed 4 January 2018.