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18.05.2024 | 14:45 UTC
 
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In this edition: 
Hindu marches followed by clashes with Muslims have become a growing concern for nominally secular India. What's behind the violence?

Plus: China's once unstoppable economy is slipping into deflation as exports decline. Now the government wants to boost domestic consumption, but experts are not convinced the country is on the right path.

On the ground in Thondi: In India, conservationists and the government are working together to protect dugongs, the only herbivorous marine mammal in the world.

DW on YouTube: Every week we feature a long-form, Asia-focused video from DW's YouTube channels. This week, check out "Myanmar — How the Chin are fighting the Junta" from DW Documentary.

These stories and more in today's DW Asia newsletter.

- DW Asia team

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Recent violence in a majority Muslim town left a path of devastation

India's religious violence: What's behind raging clashes?

Hindu marches followed by clashes with Muslims have become a growing concern for nominally secular India. Analysts say Hindu nationalists, including the ruling BJP, are partially to blame.

Read Murali Krishnan's report from New Delhi

The northern state of Haryana — bordering on the Indian capital, New Delhi — has become the latest hot spot for religious violence in  Indiaafter a hard-line Hindu group marched through the Muslim-dominated Nuh district in late July.

Clashes in the state, which is ruled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), resulted in the death of six people and left more than 50 injured.

Government responds to religious violence

The violence then spread to the city of Gurugram, where a mob set fire to a mosque and killed one of its leading imams. The rioters also torched shops and vehicles in a mostly Muslim working-class part of the city.

The authorities responded as they have done in other BJP-ruled states by pulling down shops and makeshift structures owned by Muslims which they claimed had been built illegally.

The authorities demolished 94 houses and 212 other structures, taking the total number of buildings razed by the authorities to more than 750 over the past four days. The operation was only suspended this week, when the state's high court ordered a pause.
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Last year, a similar demolition drive in New Delhi was brought to an end by a court order

The state government has been accused of targeting Muslims with its response, even though they were also targets of the violence.

Asaduddin Owaisi, a lawmaker and chief of the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen political party, slammed the BJP government, saying they had let the perpetrators go free.

"It is unilateral action. Those who commit violence are walking freely. Hundreds of poor Muslims have become homeless as targeted demolitions have predominantly affected them," Owaisi told DW.

This type of government response "happens especially after religious violence or protests," he added.

Read the rest of Murali's report
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China: Will more domestic consumption bolster the economy?
China's once unstoppable economy is slipping into deflation as exports decline. Now the government wants to boost domestic consumption, but experts are not convinced the country is on the right path.

Read Mu Cui's report

Hopes were high that the Chinese economy would recover after the end of its restrictive zero-COVID policy. However, these hopes have been dashed. 

Exports are at their lowest level since spring 2020. Gross domestic product (GDP) is well below recent forecasts. The Purchasing Managers' Index, a leading indicator of economic activity, has been falling for four months. And youth unemployment has risen to a record high of over 20%.

But Beijing has a plan. Just last week, the central government announced measures to boost domestic consumption. Chinese consumers will receive subsidies to buy electric cars, and access to social housing will be expanded. The goal is to get more spending cash into Chinese pockets. 

Observers are skeptical that such measures will work. "Too selective, too little. They only help with the symptoms," criticized Rolf Langhammer, an economics professor at the Kiel Institute for the World Economy. "It's like a straw fire. It burns quickly, but goes out very quickly, too."
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China's government appears to be hoping that higher domestic consumption will be a panacea for many economic ills
 
Failing trust

For this economist and China expert, the main problem is that people in China no longer have much trust in the country's economy. "That's why the Chinese government is currently unable to provide sustained support for the economy," he told DW. 

High youth unemployment and the fear that incomes will stagnate are two factors that have led to this loss of confidence.

At a press conference on the measures to promote consumption, Li Chunlin, vice chairman of China's National Development and Reform Commission, admitted that many Chinese consumers "have very little confidence and are very concerned about the economy." Now, more effective measures were necessary, he said.

"If you don't know how the economy is going to develop, then you're more cautious when it comes to consumption, because of the great uncertainty and also because savings often serve as a retirement pension," explained Vera Eichenauer, an economic researcher at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich.

"The high number of unemployed young people has an effect on the willingness to spend, because young consumers have no money," Eichenauer continued. That means parents often have to step in and provide more support, which in turn means they, too, will have less to spend. "China also risks deflation, which means that prices could do down. At first glance, that would be good for consumers. But they would consume less today because they expect an even lower price in the future."

Read the rest of Mu's report
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On the ground in Thondi

India: Mission to save the dugong to help marine ecosystems
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It's estimated that only about 250 dugongs remain off India's coastline
 
Dugongs are the only herbivorous marine mammal in the world and rely on seagrass for food. They play an important role in coastal marine ecosystems.

Read Catherine Davison's report from Thondi

The government of India's southern Tamil Nadu state announced the country's first-ever conservation reserve for the dugong last year. 

Situated in the Palk Bay area of the Gulf of Mannar, the reserve not only aims to protect the marine mammal against poaching and harmful fishing practices, but may also help to shield the coastline from the worst impacts of climate change.

Dugongs, the only herbivorous sea mammal in the world, are classified as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Their decline may have wider consequences, however, and present a threat to the fragile ecosystem that depends on them. "Dugongs feed exclusively on seagrass, and the two have a highly mutually dependent relationship," said Rukmini Shekar, a former project fellow at the Wildlife Institute of India.

"The dugong keeps the seagrass cropped," she said, which helps to regenerate the grass and prevent algae growth. "And it also helps the dugong, because they prefer foods that are rich in nitrogen and low in fibre."

Seagrass, a marine plant which grows in shallow waters, is hugely beneficial to coastlines. It produces oxygen and cleans coastal waters, and protects against rising sea levels and natural disasters by absorbing wave energy.

Read the rest of Catherine's report
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A recent incident in the South China Sea involving the Chinese coast guard and a Philippine resupply mission has aggravated tensions between the two countries.

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Myanmar - How the Chin are fighting the Junta | DW Documentary
In the mountains in the remote west of Myanmar, a bitter war is raging. The Chin, a primarily Christian minority, still control most of the area after putting up a fierce resistance against the Myanmar military.
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