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Kashmir should be united and free from India and Pakistan

Discuss about the world's headlines

Re: UN fears India may initiate ethnic cleansing in Kashmir

PostAuthor: Anthea » Sat Aug 10, 2019 4:07 pm

On August 5 India revoked
the provisions of Article 370


The NC on Saturday reiterated its demand of lifting siege on Jammu and Kashmir and releasing its party leaders including president Farooq Abdullah and vice president Omar Abdullah from "continued detention" after "robbing" of the special entity of the state

"The idea of secular and democratic India is in peril in this part of the country which is undergoing (the) most traumatic phase in its history," senior leaders of the National Conference said in a resolution adopted at a meeting at Sher-e-Kashmir Bhavan here.

The leaders expressed anguish over "detention" of hundreds of party leaders in the Valley, Jammu region and Ladakh, saying it was "chilling and unprecedented".

The prevailing situation is worse than the 1975 emergency with the tragic difference of Jammu and Kashmir losing its identity and stature, they said.

The dejected people, irrespective of region and religion, are feeling deprived of their existence in the wake of harsh measures unleashed by the BJP, they added.

History will remember these as "Himalayan blunders", they said, adding that muzzling the voice people is a blot on the largest democracy of the world.

With restrictions imposed on the movement of senior provincial leaders, the meeting was chaired by state secretary Rattan Lal Gupta and participated by over 20 leaders.

https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/ne ... 619537.cms
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Re: UN fears India may initiate ethnic cleansing in Kashmir

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Re: UN fears India may initiate ethnic cleansing in Kashmir

PostAuthor: Anthea » Sun Aug 11, 2019 10:13 am

Kashmir tensions spill over to UK’s
Pakistani and Indian communities


Ever since thousands of troops placed Indian-administered Kashmir in lockdown, Sohail Nasti has been sitting in the living room of his north London home frantically trying to communicate with his family

With ALL mobile phone networks, landlines and internet access cut off in the region, it has been impossible to establish how they are faring.

The best he has managed is to get through to a local police station via satellite phones being used by security forces.

“They just told me that everything is fine and that there’s nothing to worry about. Kashmir is normal, they said, but from here in London it’s anything but that,” said Nasti.

As the head of a global charity, he has good reason to be concerned about the Himalayan state in which he was born, which again finds itself plunged into turmoil after the Indian government revoked its special status.

Known as Article 370, it stripped away the autonomy that Kashmir was granted in exchange for joining the Indian union after independence in 1947.

The controversial move by India’s Hindu nationalist prime minister, Narendra Modi, has led to fears of widespread unrest and paralysed normal life as tens of thousands of extra troops and security personnel were dispatched to add to the estimated 500,000 already present, making it one of the world’s most militarised zones.

But thousands of miles away from the verdant valleys and stunning mountain-top scenery that have led some to describe Kashmir as “paradise on Earth”, towns and cities across Britain are also feeling the repercussions.

Of the 1.1 million British Pakistanis, more than one million originate from the part of Kashmir governed by Pakistan.

While there are no official figures for the number of Indian Kashmiris in Britain, the overall British Indian community numbers almost 1.4 million and support for India’s position is strong among some sections.

Wedged between India and Pakistan, Kashmir is divided between the two nations and bitterly contested by them. Both claim it as their own, have fought two wars over it and made it a volatile nuclear flashpoint, given their respective arsenals.

“It’s a very sensitive issue for both communities and I’m worried that it could damage relations between the two. We have to make sure that whatever we do, it does not spill over into unrest or hatred between British Indians and Pakistanis,” said Raja Sikander Khan, a London-based campaigner on Kashmir human rights.

On Thursday, which is India’s independence day, a big demonstration is planned by pro-Kashmir groups outside the Indian High Commission in central London.

A counter demonstration is scheduled by British supporters of India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata party (BJP). A number of other events are also set to take place to draw attention to the Kashmir issue over the coming weeks while leading British Pakistani politicians have written to the Foreign Office and the UN calling for action against India over its current actions.

Lord Nazir Ahmed, one of the signatories who originates from Pakistan-administered Kashmir said: “There is bound to be some heated debate between the two communities but we have to ensure that it remains just that.

“We are determined to put pressure on the international community because what India has done is illegal. But the solution is through peaceful dialogue, both between British Indians and Pakistanis and the respective governments of each country.”

The Indo European Kashmir Forum was established in London in the late 1980s to represent the interests of Kashmiri Hindus, who once made up a significant minority in India’s only Muslim majority state.

The bulk fled in 1990 as a popular insurgency against Indian rule took hold. Next month, the organisation is holding a number of events across Britain in support of the revoking of article 370, which it has welcomed with open arms.

Forum president Krishna Bhan said: “We have the support of many British Indians, not just those who originate from Kashmir, and several parliamentarians. I accept that things are a little tense between the British Indian and Pakistani communities at the moment but I’m confident that matters will settle down. Revoking article 370 will lead to a better future for Kashmir.”

Underpinning Modi’s stance on Kashmir is the growth of Hindu nationalism in India in recent times, exhibited in the landslide victory of the BJP during general elections earlier this year.

This has resulted in a small number of incidents where members of minority groups, like Muslims, have been assaulted and even hanged for allegedly killing cows, a sacred animal in the Hindu faith, to more prevalent cases where domestic airline crews have been told to proclaim “Jai Hind,” (victory to India) when making announcements.

Officials claimed that it was introduced to reflect “the mood of the nation”.

With no end in sight to Kashmir’s current isolation, for Nasti the arduous wait continues

He said: “I keep calling and calling in the hope that the lockdown will be lifted so that I can speak to my family and friends and also visit soon. My beautiful Kashmir has been plunged into the darkness and I pray that it will soon return to the light.”

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/ ... ommunities
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Re: UN fears India may initiate ethnic cleansing in Kashmir

PostAuthor: Anthea » Sun Aug 11, 2019 10:24 am

Life after 370:
Beyond the silence of Kashmir Valley

On the boulevard along Srinagar’s Dal lake, there is silence. Barring the horns and screeches of a few vehicles that are on the road with special permission, there’s emptiness. Tourists, both Indian and foreign, have departed. Houseboats are vacant. The boatmen are sleeping or sitting idly on their shikaras

Mohammed Iqbal, a shepherd from Sonmarg, landed in Srinagar on Monday morning with a few companions: 50 sheep, a big goat and a helper.“I came to Srinagar to sell my sheep. But curfew began the day I reached. Now, I am worried. I don’t know if the situation will improve at all even after the restrictions are lifted. Maybe, I should return to my village,” Iqbal says in despair. If he does return to the village with the animals, that would mean zero business before Eid and a weeklong walk to Sonmarg, about 95 km north of Srinagar.

There’s something else he is worried about. “Hum log se dapha 370 cheen liya gaya hain (Article 370 has been snatched from us),” he says loudly, almost like a slogan, as a few passers-by turn to look.

The shepherd from Sonmarg may not be able to articulate the nitty-gritty of the controversy and its precise fallout on him and other Kashmiris. But he is sure that this time they are staring at something far bigger than what they faced after Burhan Wani’s killing.

Wani, a homegrown Hizbul Mujahideen terrorist and poster boy of Kashmir militancy, was eliminated in July 2016, triggering massive protests, stone-pelting and a virtual shutdown of the Valley for at least three long months. Iqbal says: “Dapha 370 kaafi lamba khisega (The trouble over Article 370 will last longer).”

Over the past week, the Narendra Modi government revoked Jammu and Kashmir’s special status embedded in Article 370 of the Indian Constitution and bifurcated the state into two Union territories — Jammu and Kashmir with a legislature and Ladakh without one — upsetting the majority of its residents.

Since then, the Valley has remained peaceful mainly due to enhanced security measures and a massive deployment of troops. Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) has been in force since the night of August 4, prohibiting assembly of more than four persons.

The restrictions on the ground seemed like a well-enforced lockdown. In several dozen locations across the city, roads are blocked for vehicular traffic. In some pockets, pedestrian movement is restrained as well. Srinagar is now a city of barricades.

At the time of filing this report, only a few incidents of stone pelting have been reported from the city. I saw broken bricks only on one road — at a tri-junction between the airport and downtown.

Beneath the uneasy calm in Srinagar, people are shocked and angry. Between Wednesday and Friday, ET Magazine visited Lal Chowk, Rajbagh, Dal Lake, Jawahar Nagar Colony, Batmaloo, among others, to understand the ground situation. Moving from one place to another is a nightmare.

For the locals, the challenges include managing their daily rations and bringing patients to hospitals. A large number of ambulances are on the roads, but with telephone lines down, the ambulance helplines are not working. At Dalgate junction, the CRPF personnel, however, seem to be sympathetic to those who say they have a medical emergency.

I saw women and the elderly being allowed to move even if they are not carrying a curfew pass. For tourists, most of whom had left by Monday, security personnel check air tickets.

People are angry mainly on two counts. One, they feel their decades-long privileges were undemocratically and unceremoniously curtailed. Two, they are distraught by a total communication blackout for most part of the past week, with mobile phones, landline, internet and other messaging tools not working in the Valley. DTH television and radio are functional, though, and there’s no major power cut.

Limited text message facilities, though irregular, are also available in certain post-paid telephone connections. For example, Pawan Kumar from Lucknow, who works as a chef in a Srinagar hotel, says he has been contacting his family through texts since Sunday on Reliance Jio.

“One of my family members purchased an air ticket for me and texted me the PNR details. I am taking an Air Asia flight to Delhi today (Friday),” says Kumar. Like him, there are tens of thousands of migrants in Kashmir Valley. They work in roadbuilding, real estate and hospitality. By August 9, most of them had returned home.

For tourism-dependent local entrepreneurs, it’s a huge blow. This is peak summer season. “Our hotel had bookings worth Rs 30-35 lakh. All those were cancelled. Now, there is zero business for us. The curfew may go on for longer than what we expected. But that’s only a minor concern.

Our real loss is that Article 370 has been snatched away from us,” says Danish Farooq, 27, owner of Hotel Paradise located near Dal. Others echo similar sentiments, saying they are willing to sacrifice their business to protect their self-esteem.

This is precisely the challenge confronting the government and why it needs to tread carefully.

The Political Vacuum

In the past, Kashmir’s mainstream political leaders played a pivotal role in winning back sections of those who got alienated. Today, they are under detention. About 300 political leaders, including two former chief ministers — Omar Abdullah of the National Conference (NC) and Mehbooba Mufti of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) — are either under house arrest or detained in guest houses.

In an interview to Press Trust of India earlier this week, J&K top cop Dilbagh Singh said situation in the Valley was peaceful with no untoward incident. On Wednesday, the government released a video of National Security Adviser Ajit Doval sharing a meal with a few people of Shopian on the roadside, arguably the worst terrorist-hit district in Kashmir, giving an impression that things are gradually becoming normal.

No doubt, Doval’s presence in the trouble-torn pockets of J&K has helped the government machinery handle the critical situation, apart from boosting the morale of security forces, especially the CRPF personnel, who mostly man the Valley. But to assume that peace has returned to the Valley is fallacious.

In Rajbagh, a group of 20 young men stops me from taking photographs of vendors selling apples, saying the “Indian media” is trying to create a false narrative about the Valley limping back to normality. One tall man in his 20s starts shouting, attempting even to grab my camera before others intervene.

The group checks the recent photos in the camera, one by one. They calm down only when two photographs of apple vendors wooing customers are deleted. The incident, however, terrifies my driver so much that he refuses to go any further than dropping me straight to the hotel.

In the middle of a silent city, a handful of shops are open, selling mainly essential commodities. In Rajbagh, for example, Sarwan Hakum, 30, is buying apples. Hakum, who has a crockery business in nearby Budgam town, is accompanied by his wife.

There’s 55-year-old vegetable vendor Ali Mohammad. He doesn’t have to go through police checkpoints in the city as he has a country boat to ferry his vegetables from his farm. “Curfew or no curfew, I have been selling vegetables every day,” he says, adding that prices are only marginally higher due to lockdown. Mohammad is selling tomatoes for Rs 30 a kilo and cabbages for Rs 20. “Gourd is Rs 20 a piece, no matter the size,” he says.

Not far from Mohammad’s makeshift shop, two elderly women are selling fish. Both decline to talk. With the Centre taking drastic and dramatic steps on Kashmir, upsetting even the mainstream political leaders in the Valley, the question is, how would it gear up to face multiple challenges that include security and diplomacy?

Future Tense

In New Delhi, AS Dulat, former chief of India’s external spy agency Research & Analysis Wing (R&AW), tells ET Magazine that the intelligence agencies now need to be more alert. He says: “My apprehension is, and I hope I am wrong, the recent steps in Kashmir will only increase violence. I don’t think anything major will happen in 10-15 days. But these measures have made the rest of India more vulnerable.

The intelligence agencies have to be highly alert to spot where, when and how that violence may occur.” Dulat, who was also an adviser on Kashmir to former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, adds that Vajpayee wouldn’t have done something like this. “Vajpayee was worshipped in Kashmir. He is still worshipped in Kashmir. Vajpayee wouldn’t have abrogated Article 370 or divided J&K into two,” says Dulat.

In an address to the nation on Thursday night, Prime Minister Narendra Modi reached out to Kashmiris by promising more schemes and jobs, adding that he would give Jammu & Kashmir full statehood once situation improves, indicating that the Union territory status is only temporary.

He further elaborated on how 42,000 people have lost their lives in Kashmir since Independence, reminding everyone that measures adopted so far have not yielded the desired results. The PM’s speech also hinted that there could be some relaxation on restrictions so that Kashmiris can peacefully celebrate Eid on Monday — 97% of people in the Valley are Muslims.

However, for most people in Kashmir Valley, 370 is not just a number. They say it’s their identity. The challenge from now on for the government is, what can replace it? What solution and what scheme can substitute that?

https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/ne ... 622668.cms
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Re: UN fears India may initiate ethnic cleansing in Kashmir

PostAuthor: Anthea » Sun Aug 11, 2019 8:51 pm

Exiled leaders ask UN to intervene
as tensions increase in the region


Kashmiri leaders are appealing for the United Nations to urgently intervene in the rising tensions over the future of the Himalayan territory

One key leader told Sky News: "Even if the world doesn't care about Kashmiris, then care about humanity because what happens in Kashmir will affect the whole world."

Mushaal Hussein Mullick, who is in exile in the Pakistani capital Islamabad, said she was speaking for those, including her arrested husband, "who have no voice".

Her partner, Yaseen Malik, is considered the founder of the armed struggle in Kashmir and is one of the most popular separatist leaders.

He is the foremost advocate for the separation of Kashmir from both India and Pakistan but he's currently in India's Tihar jail awaiting trial on terror offences.

He denies the accusations.

Mr Malik leads the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front and renounced violence in 1994, instead adopting peaceful methods to try to reach a settlement on Kashmir's future.

Before his recent arrest he had one-on-one meetings with the president of Pakistan, the prime minister of Pakistan, the prime minister of India and other world leaders.

Now though, his wife says his health has dramatically deteriorated in jail because of "torture" she claims he's enduring.

She said he is "critically ill" and needs to be moved to an intensive care facility.

The couple have been married for ten years and have a young child but Mrs Malik said they've spent only 60 days together throughout their marriage because of her husband's repeated arrests and prison terms.

Hundreds of political leaders, activists and academics have been rounded up over the past few weeks and months in a widespread clampdown on Kashmir by India

The tension escalated dramatically a week ago when the country's prime minister revoked the territory's special status which guaranteed it certain autonomy.

Communications in the territory have been mostly cut ever since with internet and phone lines shutdown - and a rolling curfew.

Both India and Pakistan lay claim to Kashmir but the Indian leader overturned a 70-year-old agreement guaranteeing autonomy to the territory when he revoked Article 370 last Monday.

The two nuclear-armed neighbours have already fought two wars over the legitimacy of Kashmir and the area has been a source of continued tension since independence in 1947.

A furious Pakistan has now cut trade ties and downgraded diplomatic relations with India in protest at the latest move by Delhi - with the Pakistan prime minister accusing his Indian counterpart of acting like Hitler.

But India has held fast, claiming it is restoring an historical wrong by bringing the territory under the control of the central government.

India has long accused Pakistan of fostering terrorism and mounting terror attacks from within the Himalayan territory.

In an address to the nation earlier this week, India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the revocation of Article 370 would unleash a host of fresh jobs and business opportunities for the territory which he said had been left behind and deprived.

Reports from inside the territory are of food shortages and growing signs of desperation and anger as the isolation of Kashmir continues.

Thousands of Indian soldiers are patrolling the area and there are army checkpoints throughout the territory.

https://news.sky.com/story/kashmir-exil ... n-11782874

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UNITED FREE KASHMIR
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Re: Kashmir should be united and free from India and Pakista

PostAuthor: Anthea » Wed Aug 14, 2019 11:13 am

Politician Shah Faesal prevented
from leaving India and detained


“Constitutionalists are gone. So you can either be a stooge or a separatist now. No shades of grey," he tweeted

Meanwhile, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan today expressed solidarity with the Valley as he criticised India’s decision to repeal Article 370.

Security was stepped up in the Valley and movement further restricted ahead of Independence Day tomorrow, even as the government on Tuesday said restrictions imposed after the repeal of Article 370 would be a removed in a ‘phased manner’.

The state has been in a lockdown since the Narendra Modi government’s decision to scrap the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcate it into two Union Territories.

On the political front, senior Congress leader P Chidambaram today hit out J&K Governor Satya Pal Malik for his “invitation” to Rahul Gandhi to visit the state, saying it was just a tool of propaganda.

“J&K Governor's invitation to Rahul Gandhi was never a sincere invitation. It was a tool of propaganda.

“To say that Rahul Gandhi put conditions is rubbish. Rahul Gandhi asked for freedom to meet everyone, including soldiers. How is that putting conditions? Can a visitor not ask for freedom to meet different sections of the people and to enquire about the welfare of the soldiers?” asked Chidambaram.

A war of words ensued between Malik and Gandhi after the former said he would send an aircraft for the Congress leader to come and tour the state and take stock of the peaceful situation.

Gandhi replied to the invite, saying he did not need an aircraft but instead freedom to move around and interact with the stakeholders affected by the curfew-like situation.

To this, the Governor said Gandhi was politicising the issue. Gandhi has put forth many conditions for the visit, including meeting mainstream leaders under detention, the governor said in a statement.

Malik said he had never invited the Congress leader with "so many pre-conditions" and has referred the matter to the local police and administration for further examination.

"Rahul Gandhi is politicising the matter by seeking to bring a delegation of opposition leaders to create further unrest and problems for the common people," he said in the statement.

https://www.news18.com/news/india/jammu ... 69845.html
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Re: Kashmir should be united and free from India and Pakista

PostAuthor: Anthea » Fri Aug 16, 2019 12:24 am

Kashmir: A priority for British Asians?

Among the thousands of people gathered outside the Indian High Commission in London on Thursday, a woman stood with tears in her eyes as she joined in the chants: "What do we want? Freedom."

Part of the city was brought to a standstill as crowds of anti-Indian government demonstrators flooded the road, protesting against the country's decision to place part of Kashmir under lockdown.

Police had to keep them apart from a separate group who had gathered to celebrate India's Independence Day.

But for the protesters - passing around black strips of cloth which they tied to their arms and waving photographs from Kashmir - it was a "black day".

The protest came as Indian PM Narendra Modi said his decision to strip Indian-administered Kashmir of its special status, which gave it significant autonomy from the rest of India, would restore the region to its "past glory".

But how much of a priority is the issue for British South Asians?

Razaq Raj, from Leeds Beckett University, was at the protest in central London
Image caption Razaq Raj, from Leeds Beckett University, was at the protest in central London

Riz Ali, 34, travelled for about three hours from Peterborough to be at the protest. He calls what is happening in Kashmir, the birthplace of his grandparents, "disgusting".

"It's another version of what Hitler did," he says.

However, the tensions don't affect his everyday social life, or relations with British Asians of Indian descent. "We're Muslim and our religion teaches us to show peace," he says.

Razaq Raj, a lecturer from Leeds, whose parents are from the Pakistan-administered Kashmir, says the political crisis is not divisive in his daily life - but is adamant that he will not buy Indian products.

"We are all Asian, our heritage is Asian," he says. "Indians are as good as anybody to me. It's not the Indian people, it's the Indian government."
'They've got other concerns'

But away from the protests, South Asian activists in the charity sector tell BBC News that combating social injustices unite communities regardless of their faith or ethnicity, and suggest that younger generations are more likely to be divided over tensions between India and Pakistan.

Neelam Heera, 30, from Huddersfield, is of Indian Sikh descent. She says her family's ethnicity never comes up in conversation - except on social media "where people find it easy to argue with each other".

She founded Cysters, a charity that combats misconceptions around reproductive health, and works extensively with women from a range of South Asian communities.

"These health conditions and medical conditions don't discriminate, so why should we?" she asks.

She says that tensions between Pakistan and India have never been raised in the meetings or online communities.

"For these women there are far bigger things to think about. They're living in chronic pain, so dealing with Kashmir, and which side you're on, isn't something that is going to come across [their minds]. It's not their priority, they've got other concerns," she adds.

'Really inclusive'

Like Heera, Khakan Qureshi, an LGBT activist from Birmingham, says common goals unite people from all faiths and nationalities.

Mr Qureshi, 49, also works with people from a broad range of backgrounds as part of BirminghamAsianLGBT, a voluntary-led organisation for LGBT South Asians in the UK.

"Everybody tries to be really inclusive of one another, that's what makes us bond together and connect. If I connect with somebody I don't really consider their faith or religion, it's their personality," he says.

But he is concerned that is not always the case for younger generations.

"Now people are trying to be much more specific when it comes to identity, when it comes to identity politics." he says.

"Myself and all my peers we're trying to support commonality, in that we're looking at building bridges, friendships, regardless of whether we identify as Pakistani, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh or Indian.

"I feel that the younger generation are looking at identity and are wanting to be much more separated - in some cases, not always."

'More divided'

Pragna Patel founded Southall Sisters, a secular organisation made up of black and minority women which challenges gender-based violence. She says she has fostered an ethos that aims to unite people against inequality.

"But outside of our centre, of course the currents are swimming against us," she says.

"People are divided more and more, it's harder to forge solidarity among South Asians, let alone among all minority groups. That is because religion has become too politicised as an identity."

She says younger people are more likely to "think of themselves in opposition to others" because they have no memory of Partition - in which up to 1 million people died and millions more were displaced when British-ruled India became the two new nations of India and Pakistan in 1947 - and have grown up amid increasingly polarised politics.

What is going on in Kashmir?

Kashmir was plunged into an unprecedented lockdown this month, following the revocation of Article 370, the constitutional provision which gave the state of Jammu and Kashmir special dispensation to make its own laws on everything apart from matters of foreign affairs, defence and communications.

Telecommunications were cut off and local leaders were detained as tens of thousands of troops were deployed to patrol the streets.

The UN said the restrictions are deeply concerning and "will exacerbate the human rights situation".

Last week the BBC witnessed police opening fire and using tear gas to disperse thousands of people who took to the streets to protest. The Indian government denied the protest took place.

The Himalayan region of Kashmir is claimed in its entirety by both India and Pakistan, but they each control only parts of it.

There is a long-running separatist insurgency on the Indian side, which has led to thousands of deaths over three decades. India accuses Pakistan of supporting insurgents but its neighbour denies this, saying it only gives moral and diplomatic support to Kashmiris who want self-determination.

Mr Modi defended his highly controversial decision to remove the special status accorded to Kashmir, calling it a "new era" for the Indian-administered part of the region, while large numbers of Indians celebrated the move.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-49361717
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Re: Kashmir should be united and free from India and Pakista

PostAuthor: Anthea » Fri Aug 16, 2019 2:34 am

Tensions erupt after eight left dead
in horrifying Kashmir clashes


Pakistan’s army has said at least three Pakistani and five Indian soldiers have been killed after an exchange of gunfire took place near the Kashmir border. India’s army had allegedly opened fire over the fortified line of control, killing three soldiers, before Pakistan returned fire killing five.

Delhi has, however, disputed the claim, denying it took place. Writing on Twitter, Major General Asif Ghafoor, spokesman of Pakistan armed forces, said: In efforts to divert attention from precarious situation in IOJ&K, Indian Army increases firing along LOC.

“Three Pakistani soldiers embraced shahadat. Pakistan Army responded effectively.

“Five Indian soldiers killed, many injured, bunkers damaged. Intermittent exchange of fire continues.”

The showdown came as Pakistan held a symbolic “black day” of protest to coincide with India’s independence day on Thursday.

The day was initially set to ease tensions in the region following an imposing curfew set by the Indian government, where Kashmiri’s experienced a total media shutdown - being without access to landlines, mobiles, or internet.

Talking to Al Jazeera, Mr Ghafoor claimed that three civilians had also been caught up and killed in the border war on the Pakistani side.

An Indian army spokesperson was soon to counter the claims, assuring that there were "No casualties. This assertion is wrong”.

The skirmishes come during a period of mounting tensions between Pakistan and India after New Delhi revoked Kashmir’s special status last week.

Advancing on this, India mobilised thousands of troops and arrested high-profile political figures in Kashmir.

New Delhi has denied Pakistan's claims

One of whom, Omar Abdullah, was a descendant of a prominent political Kashmiri family and former chief minister of state.

Both Pakistan and India are nuclear-armed, leading global powers to fear things could get out of hand.

The bad-blood goes back to 1947, when India and Pakistan won independence from Britain, but Kashmir gained special independent status.

Ever since, the two nations have battled over ownership of the region, resulting in decades of political and religious tension.

https://www.express.co.uk/news/world/11 ... an-updates
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Re: Kashmir should be united and free from India and Pakista

PostAuthor: Anthea » Sun Aug 18, 2019 12:01 pm

India's move on Kashmir
spells trouble for other states


Delhi's move has upset India's delicate federal balance

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has always fashioned himself as an advocate of federalism - someone who believes in giving the country's states more independence.

But last week's revocation of special status to Jammu and Kashmir - as the Indian state was known - and the move to split it into two union territories while imposing an unprecedented lockdown there is being seen by many as a major weakening of India's federal structure.

The new union territories (Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh) will be ruled directly from Delhi. Union territories have far less autonomy from the federal government than states. Sumantra Bose, a professor of international and comparative politics at the London School of Economics, calls them "glorified municipalities of Delhi".

By revoking the special status of Jammu and Kashmir, ostensibly to put it on the same footing as the rest of India, Mr Modi's government, in the words of one commentator, has "upset India's delicate federal balance".

In many ways, Article 370 - as the constitutional article guaranteeing special status is known - was more symbolic, as presidential decrees over the years had already eroded much of the autonomy it guaranteed.

What was more important, many say, was the spirit of the status: it signalled that the Indian constitution was malleable enough to make space for people who felt alienated or estranged from the mainstream.

Kashmir has been put under an unprecedented lockdown

India's federalism has in fact, been hard-earned and hard-fought.

Unlike more economically advanced and culturally homogenous countries with a federal system of government like the US and Canada, consensus over power sharing in a culturally and religiously diverse, poorer country like India has not been easy to forge. Thankfully the Indian constitution has provided a clear division of powers between the elected federal government and the state legislatures.

"The constitution strives to strike a delicate balance between the unitary and federal systems," says Yamini Aiyar, chief executive of Delhi-based think tank Centre for Policy Research.

However, there have always been doubts about what some commentators call the "authenticity of Indian federalism".

State governors, usually political appointees of the the ruling federal government, have helped clamp direct rule in states where there has been a "failure of constitutional machinery". (An adverse report by the governor on the affairs of the state can become the basis of president's rule, or direct rule from Delhi, and authorise the dismissal of a state government.)

Such direct rule has been declared in Indian states 88 times between 1951 and 1997

Many believe the revocation of special status from Indian-administered Kashmir - without consulting the local people and political leaders and implemented when the state was under direct rule - is another taint on India's federal record.

"The single biggest significance of this move is that we are moving towards a unitary state, and abrogation of democratic principles. This is weakening federalism in India.

People are so busy celebrating the move that they don't seem to get the big picture," Navnita Chadha Behera, a former visiting scholar at the Brookings Institution and the author of Demystifying Kashmir, told me.

"What is more worrying is this can happen to any other state. The federal government can dissolve a state government, ride roughshod over the consultative process, split the state and downgrade its status.

Also worrying is the near-complete collapse of resistance to the move with most of the civil society, media and regional parties remaining silent or protesting very feebly."

Yamini Aiyar believes "federalism, which the framers of India's constitution saw as necessary to India's democracy, today has far fewer takers than it did in 1947. This is dangerous for India's democracy".

Supporters of the move say that strife-ridden Kashmir is a "special case", and a consultative process in an insurgency-hit and militarised region next door to India's nuclear-armed rival, Pakistan, would have led nowhere.

Also Mr Modi's Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has for years consistently demanded the revocation of Article 370, calling it an example of "appeasement" in India's only Muslim-majority state.

However, India has a history of reconciling separatist aspirations. Where else, many say, could an insurgent leader who fought a guerrilla war for independence for a quarter of a century go on to become an elected state chief minister?

But this is exactly what happened when the rebel leader Laldenga signed an accord with the Indian government in the north-eastern state of Mizoram in 1986.

Power sharing and inclusivity have only bolstered democracy in India and made the country more resilient.

India's Supreme Court, in the past, has clearly said that the "fact that under the scheme of constitution greater power is conferred upon the centre vis-a-vis the state does not mean that states are mere appendages of the centre."

"Within the sphere allotted to them, states are supreme. The centre cannot tamper with their powers," the court added.

It has also been unequivocal about the status of federalism as a basic constitutional structure.

It will be interesting to see how India's Supreme Court deals with the legal challenges against the move on Kashmir. "This will be a test case for the top court's independence," says Dr Behera.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-india-49329370
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Re: Kashmir should be united and free from India and Pakista

PostAuthor: Anthea » Thu Aug 29, 2019 10:53 pm

Kashmiris allege torture
in army crackdown


Security forces in Indian-administered Kashmir have been accused of carrying out beatings and torture in the wake of the government's decision to strip the region of its autonomy

The BBC heard from several villagers who said they were beaten with sticks and cables, and given electric shocks.

Residents in several villages showed me injuries. But the BBC was not able to verify the allegations with officials.

The Indian army has called them "baseless and unsubstantiated".

Unprecedented restrictions have put Kashmir into a state of lockdown for more than three weeks and information has only trickled out since 5 August when Article 370 - as the provision giving the region special status is known - was revoked.

Tens of thousands of extra troops have been deployed to the region and about 3,000 people - including political leaders, businesspeople and activists - are reported to have been detained. Many have been moved to prisons outside the state.

The authorities say these actions are pre-emptive and designed to maintain law and order in the region, which was India's only Muslim-majority state but is now being divided into two federally-run territories.

The Indian army has been fighting a separatist insurgency here for over three decades. India blames Pakistan for fomenting violence in the region by supporting militants - a charge that its neighbour, which controls its own part of Kashmir, denies.

Many people across India have welcomed the revocation of Article 370 and have praised Prime Minister Narendra Modi for taking the "bold" decision. The move has also been widely supported by mainstream media.

I visited at least half a dozen villages in the southern districts which have emerged as a hub of anti-India militancy in the past few years. I heard similar accounts from several people in all these villages of night raids, beatings and torture.

Doctors and health officials are unwilling to speak to journalists about any patients regardless of ailments, but the villagers showed me injuries alleged to have been inflicted by security forces.

In one village, residents said that the army went from house to house just hours after India announced the controversial decision that upended a decades-old arrangement between Delhi and Kashmir.

Two brothers alleged that they were woken up and taken to an outside area where nearly a dozen other men from the village had been gathered. Like everyone else we met, they were too afraid of reprisals to reveal their identities.

"They beat us up. We were asking them: 'What have we done? You can ask the villagers if we are lying, if we have done anything wrong?' But they didn't want to hear anything, they didn't say anything, they just kept beating us," one of them said.

"They beat every part of my body. They kicked us, beat us with sticks, gave us electric shocks, beat us with cables. They hit us on the back of the legs. When we fainted they gave us electric shocks to bring us back. When they hit us with sticks and we screamed, they sealed our mouth with mud.

"We told them we are innocent. We asked why they were doing this? But they did not listen to us. I told them don't beat us, just shoot us. I was asking God to take me, because the torture was unbearable."

Another villager, a young man, said the security forces kept asking him to "name the stone-throwers" - referring to the mostly young men and teenage boys who have in the past decade become the face of civilian protests in Kashmir Valley.

He said he told the soldiers he didn't know any, so they ordered him to remove his glasses, clothes and shoes.

"Once I took off my clothes they beat me mercilessly with rods and sticks, for almost two hours. Whenever I fell unconscious, they gave me shocks to revive [me].

"If they do it to me again, I am willing to do anything, I will pick up the gun. I can't bear this every day," he said.

The young man added that the soldiers told him to warn everyone in his village that if anyone participated in any protests against the forces, they would face similar repercussions.

All the men we spoke to in all the villages believe the security forces did this to intimidate the villagers so that they would be too scared to protest.

In a statement to the BBC, the Indian army said it had "not manhandled any civilians as alleged".

"No specific allegations of this nature have been brought to our notice. These allegations are likely to have been motivated by inimical elements," army spokesperson Col Aman Anand said.

Measures had been taken to protect civilians but "there have been no injuries or casualties due to countermeasures undertaken by the army", he added.

We drove through several villages where many residents were sympathetic towards separatist militant groups, whom they described as "freedom fighters".

It was in one district in this part of Kashmir in February that a suicide attack killed more than 40 Indian soldiers and brought India and Pakistan to the brink of war. This is also the same region where popular Kashmiri militant Burhan Wani was killed in 2016, after which many young and angry Kashmiris joined the insurgency against India.

There's an army camp in the region and the soldiers regularly comb the area to track down militants and sympathisers, but villagers say they often get caught in the middle.

In one village, I met a man in his early 20s who said the army threatened to frame him if he didn't become an informant against militants. When he refused, he alleged, he was beaten so badly that two weeks later he still cannot lie on his back.

"If this continues I'll have no choice but to leave my house. They beat us as if we are animals.

They don't consider us human."

Another man who showed us his injuries said he was pushed to the ground and severely beaten with "cables, guns, sticks and probably iron rods" by "15-16 soldiers".

"I was semi-conscious. They pulled my beard so hard that I felt like my teeth would fall out."

He said he was later told by a boy who had witnessed the assault that one soldier tried to burn his beard, but was stopped by another soldier.

In yet another village, I met a young man who said his brother had joined the Hizbul Mujahideen - one of the largest groups fighting Indian rule in Kashmir- two years ago.

He said he was recently questioned at an army camp, where he alleged he was tortured and left with a leg fracture.

"They tied my hands and legs and hung me upside down. They beat me very badly for more than two hours," he said.

But the army denies any wrongdoing.

In their statement to the BBC they said they were "a professional organisation that understands and respects human rights" and that all allegations "are investigated expeditiously".

It added that 20 of a total 37 cases raised by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) in the past five years were found to be "baseless", 15 were being investigated and "in only three cases allegations were found to be probe-worthy". Those found guilty, the statement added, are punished.

However, earlier this year, a report released by two prominent Kashmiri human rights organisations documented hundreds of alleged cases of human rights violations in Kashmir over the past three decades.

The UN Commission on Human Rights has also called for setting up a Commission of Inquiry (COI) to conduct a comprehensive independent international investigation into allegations of human rights violations in Kashmir. It has released a 49-page report on alleged excesses by security forces in the region.

India has rejected the allegations and the report.

What is happening in Kashmir?

    Kashmir is a Himalayan territory which both India and Pakistan say is fully theirs. Each country controls part of the territory. They have fought two wars and a limited conflict over the region.

    The Indian-controlled side - the state of Jammu and Kashmir - until recently had partial autonomy under Article 370 of the Indian constitution.

    On 5 August the government in Delhi revoked Article 370. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his ruling Bharatiya Janata Party argued Kashmir should be on the same footing as the rest of the country.

    Since then the Indian-controlled part has been in lockdown although there have been some large protests which have turned violent. Pakistan has reacted furiously and called on the international community to intervene.
Link to Article - Photos (some upsetting):

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-india-49481180
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Re: Kashmir should be united and free from India and Pakista

PostAuthor: Anthea » Tue Sep 10, 2019 3:06 am

Dead mobile phones
longing and tears in Kashmir


In neat cursive handwriting, a woman from Delhi wrote a letter to friends in Indian-administered Kashmir last month

She had visited them on a holiday in July. Now, she was desperately trying to find out how they were doing.

"Alas, such cruel times," the woman wrote along single-space, dark black lines.

"The night is darkest before the dawn and the dawn is yet to arrive." She signed off as "terribly broken hearted."

The reason for such anguish was obvious.

'Black hole'

The troubled region where some 10 million people live had been placed under a security lockdown on 5 August, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi stripped it of its autonomy and downgraded its status.

The isolation is exacerbated by an unprecedented communications blockade: landline phones, mobiles and the internet were suspended. Kashmir sunk into what a local editor called an "information black hole".

More than a month later - apart from the restoration of what the government claims to be 80% of landline phones - the blockade remains in place.

Vikar Sayed, 27, had flown to the capital to access the internet, and pitch some ideas to news outlets.

On a whim, he had posted a message on the social networking site, saying people from his home district in Kashmir could inbox him messages for their families with their addresses. He would, he wrote, "try his best to reach every address" on his return.

Two days later, Mr Sayed flew back to Srinagar with 17 such messages on his phone from people around the world. They were addressed to family and friends who lived in three districts of southern Kashmir, the most restive region in the Muslim-dominated valley.

Many had sent digital messages. Others had written letters on paper, photographed them and sent them via Facebook Messenger.

The Delhi-based woman - who is not a Kashmiri - was one of them. In her letter, the anxiety triggered by the communications blackout is evident. She writes of how her "fingers have turned sore" dialling numbers in Kashmir without success, and "frantically at night I get up to check my messages, dial a few numbers and go through the pictures of my holiday in Kashmir over and over again".

Back in Kashmir, Mr Syed became an itinerant messenger. He drove out of Srinagar to deliver the messages to homes in shuttered towns and villages. His lifeless mobile phone had turned into a carrier of precious tidings.

"I tracked down the homes of people, knocked on their doors and showed them the messages on my phone. Most of them were good news."

There were emotional moments. At one home, parents of a college-going son studying in Chandigarh in northern India found out that he had come second in his exam. "His mother hugged me and began weeping," says Mr Sayed.

"You are like my son," she told him.

A communications blackout can end up reviving lost habits. In Kashmir, it has meant the return of letter-writing.

Irfan Ahmed, who is 26, is in love with a university student who lives down his street in Srinagar. They began writing and throwing "paper ball letters" into each other's homes to keep in touch and set up meetings. These were crumpled missives of love, longing and anxiety.

"After the blockade, we could not talk on the phone and meet, so we began to write letters," says Mr Ahmed, who works as an office receptionist.

"We would tell each other how we missed each other, and how cruel this breakdown in communications was. So I would write a reply, crumple the paper, and throw it into her bedroom. We exchanged quite a few."

The blockade has also seen the resurrection of landline phones, which people had largely stopped using.

India has more than a billion mobile phone subscribers and 560 million internet subscribers - it is one of the world's fastest growing digital markets. In comparison, there are only 23 million landline phones.

But in Kashmir people are applying for new landline connections or trying to restore unused ones. As the shutdown entered its second month, more such phones sputtered back to life. But people complain that they are often not able to get through to "working" lines.

On the streets security forces have set up free makeshift phone booths - a plastic table, a few chairs and a working Chinese-made phone - and some police stations are offering free calls.

At one booth, Manzoor Ahmed's dilemma was illustrative of how the blockade is hurting people and livelihoods.

The 55-year-old shawl trader was trying to call customers outside Kashmir who owed him money. "They sent me cheques. I went to the bank [some of the banks are open], but they said they have no connectivity and are not able to process the payment. So I am walking around town and looking for a phone to call my customers and ask for a bank transfer," he says.

Yasmeen Masrat who runs a one-room travel agency in a part of Srinagar where some lines were restored decided to do her bit to help people connect. She bravely opened her office in mid-August, and offered free calls from her single landline phone.

There are notices on the wall asking people to "make calls short and to the point, as it is chargeable to us". In no time, her office was swamped: more than 500 people have turned up, and made some 1,000 free calls every day since the news of her service spread through word of mouth.

Among them were cancer patients calling doctors and shops in Indian cities for prescriptions and drugs, which are difficult to get locally. One day, a distraught eight-year-old girl arrived with her grandmother. She wanted to speak to her mother, a cancer patient receiving treatment in a Mumbai hospital. They hadn't been able to connect for 20 days. "You get well and come back soon," she told her mother repeatedly.

"It was a very emotional time," says Ms Masrat. "Everyone in the room was sobbing." Another time, a man arrived and called his son to inform him that his grandmother had died some days ago.

And when even landlines are difficult to get through to, Kashmiris living elsewhere in India and abroad are flooding a local news network with messages to their families.

Gulistan TV, a Delhi-based satellite and cable news network, has been receiving messages and videos that it plays on a loop during and between news bulletins. It also carries messages from locals in Kashmir.

The network says it has run hundreds of messages of cancelled weddings - this is peak wedding season in Kashmir - on an extra scrawl on its English and Urdu language bulletins, as well as video messages from people living outside the region.

One morning last week, Shoaib Mir, 26, arrived in the network's office in Srinagar with a curious request: could they help him track down his missing father?

The 75-year-old from Bemina, some 12km (7.5 miles) away, had gone out for a morning walk the previous week and disappeared. Mr Mir says they searched far and wide and drove miles before filing a missing person's report at a police station.

"There are no people on the roads, everything is shut, and the police are busy enforcing the shutdown. Maybe a video message from me with my father's photograph will help track him down," he says.

While the channel has helped connect families, it struggles to do its work. The shutdown has hurt local media like never before. It has made newsgathering difficult. A courier from a news network flies to Delhi every day carrying three to five 16GB pen drives containing footage and news. The material is then edited and broadcast from the office in Delhi.

Local newspapers have shrunk to six to eight pages from the usual 16 or 20. For weeks, some 200 journalists crowded around 10 internet-enabled desktops at a makeshift government media centre in Srinagar.

Here, they access email, send stories, pictures and video. Couriers download news from the wires onto their pen drives and run to the newspapers to help them fill the pages.

"This place is a test of our patience. The other day it took me seven hours to send some pictures," a photographer says.

Kashmir is not new to internet shutdowns. According to the tracker internetshutdown.in, this is the 51st time the internet has been suspended in the region this year. There have been more than 170 shutdowns since 2011, including a six-month-long irregular suspension in 2016.

Anuradha Bhasin, executive editor of Kashmir Times, has petitioned the Supreme Court challenging the information shutdown and curbs on the movement of journalists. She calls it a "grave violation of human rights". The shutdown, she says, also means that media cannot report on developments and residents of Kashmir don't get access to information available to the rest of Indians.

The government says the information shutdown is required to prevent violence in a region that has been wracked by a separatist insurgency for more than three decades. India blames Pakistan for fomenting violence by supporting militants - a charge that its neighbour, which controls a part of Kashmir, denies.

"How do I cut off communications between the terrorists and their masters on the one hand, but keep the internet open for other people? I would be delighted to know," India's foreign minister S Jaishankar said recently.

Curfew has been implemented across Jammu and Kashmir to thwart any protests. All the communication channels have been blocked across the valley.

But research shows that such shutdowns can end up leading to more violence.

Jan Rydzak of Standford University who has studied network shutdowns says they are "found to be much more strongly associated with increases in violent collective action than with non-violent mobilisation". His findings imply that information blackouts compel "participants in collective action in India to substitute non-violent tactics for violent ones that are less reliant on effective communication and coordination".

As Kashmir's future remains uncertain, it is not clear when the information blockade will be lifted or even eased. But there are glimmers of hope. One morning last week, a leased line at a news network in Srinagar miraculously croaked to life. There was muted jubilation. "Maybe things will get better now," says chief reporter Syed Rouf. "We live in hope."

Link to Article - Photos:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-india-49631186
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Re: Kashmir should be united and free from India and Pakista

PostAuthor: Anthea » Thu Oct 03, 2019 1:03 pm

Kashmir's crippled courts
leave detainees in limbo


Thousands of people have been detained in Indian-administered Kashmir following a government move to strip the region of its special status. Worried family members have been flocking to the courts - but to little avail

Altaf Hussein Lone looked anxious as he sat on a red printed sofa in a large hall of the high court in Srinagar, the main city of Indian-administered Kashmir.

Since there is no public transport readily available, he had to pay an exorbitant amount to travel from his home in Baramulla, more than 50km (30 miles) away.

Life here has come to a standstill since the region lost its partial autonomy on 4 August. Internet and mobile phone connections remain suspended, roads and streets are largely deserted; and tens of thousands of extra troops have been deployed.

Despite government assurances that schools and offices can function normally, that has not happened. Most businesses have stayed shut as a form of protest against the government, but many owners also say they fear reprisals by militants opposed to Indian rule if they go back to business as usual.

Kashmir valley remains shutdown for the 55th consecutive day following the scrapping of Article 370 by the central government which grants special status to Jammu &

Thousands of locals, including political leaders, businesspeople and activists, have been detained. Many have been moved to prisons outside the state.

Mr Lone was at the court looking for a lawyer to represent his brother, Shabbir, a village leader who had been arrested under the highly controversial Public Safety Act (PSA), which among other things, allows detention without formal charge for up to two years.

But he was unable to find one. Ironically, the lawyers of the Jammu and Kashmir Bar Association in Srinagar - a body representing more than 2,200 professionals - have been boycotting the courts for more than 50 days over the arrest of their present and former presidents, Mian Abdul Qauyoom and Nazeer Ahmed Ronga.

Both men were arrested under the PSA and sent to two different prisons in distant Uttar Pradesh state for "advocating secessionism" - a move that some lawyers describe as a "political vendetta".

This has left family members of detainees in the lurch.

Without a lawyer, Mr Lone is unsure of how to proceed - he has already submitted a habeas corpus petition to quash the charges against Shabbir.

Habeas Corpus, which translates from Latin to "you may have the body" is a writ that traditionally requires a person detained by authorities to be brought to a court of law so that the legality of the detention may be examined.

More than 250 petitions have been filed since 5 August, but none are being heard as the court has assigned only two judges to hear them. Apart from a lack of lawyers, the court is down to nine judges from the usual 17.

"I don't know what else to do," said a despondent Mr Lone, adding that he is now taking care of Shabbir's family - his wife and two young children - and their 80-year-old mother.

Lawyers say the strike will continue for as long as it takes to get their colleagues released.

While some lawyers are still helping people file habeas corpus petitions on behalf of family members, many don't appear in court. Petitioners or their relatives present themselves before the judge only to find out when they should appear in court next.

There has been a lot of anger against the Indian government decision

Tariq (name changed) who was also at the Srinagar court, said he was looking for a lawyer to represent his father-in-law who was arrested on 7 August. He said the 63-year-old was taken away by security forces close to midnight and spent several days at the local police station before being moved to Srinagar Central Jail.

"He followed the ideology of Jamaat-e-Islami [a militant group opposed to Indian rule in the region] but abandoned it five years ago," Tariq added. "We have been running around for a month now. He has had two surgeries."

The dismal state of affairs in the Srinagar high court was raised in the Supreme Court, and even prompted chief justice Ranjan Gogoi to announce that he would visit Srinagar to see for himself if the situation was as bad as reported. He has not announced a date to do so as yet.

Thousands of Kashmiris remain detained in prisons around the country

"Normally, the court has to issue a notice within 48 hours of a Habeas Corpus petition being filed and the state has to respond before the case is listed on the fourth day. The case then has to be decided within 15 days. Now the process will take weeks, months and sometimes years," said Mudasir, a lawyer and a member of the Jammu and Kashmir Bar Association.

Lawyers are also struggling to run their practices.

"We are not able to contact clients. During the initial days, there was a shortage of stamps and papers. We wrote bail applications on normal white paper," said Rafique Bazaz, a senior lawyer.

"People walked long distances to police stations for information and reports. We are short on stenographers to write petitions. No internet means we do not know the grounds of detention."

Despite the consequences however, Mr Bazaz said the strike would continue.

"This is a matter of rights and identity".

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-india-49848899
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Re: Kashmir should be united and free from India and Pakista

PostAuthor: Anthea » Wed Oct 09, 2019 1:31 am

Struggling to survive
in the $1bn lockdown


The lockdown in Indian-administered Kashmir has cost the region's economy more than $1bn in two months, according to industry experts

Mushtaq Chai recalls the afternoon of 2 August when he received a "security advisory" from the administration. A prominent local businessman, he owns several hotels across the Muslim-majority valley in Indian-administered Kashmir.

The note warned of "terror threats" and advised that tourists and Hindu pilgrims should "curtail their visit... and return as soon as possible".

Mr Chai, like many others, took the advisory seriously. Two years before, seven Hindu pilgrims were killed in a militant attack while returning from the Amarnath cave, a major Hindu shrine in Kashmir's Anantnag district.

"This was the first time in Kashmir's history that tourists and pilgrims were asked to leave," Mr Chai says.

Soon officials arrived to enforce the order, and Mr Chai and his staff made arrangements for all of the guests to leave immediately.

Days later, on 5 August, the federal government stripped the region of its special status and placed it under a communications lockdown.

Two months on, the situation is far from normal. Internet and mobile phone connections remain suspended, public transport is not easily available, and most businesses are shut - some in protest against the government, and others for fear of reprisals from militants opposed to Indian rule.

There is also a shortage of skilled labour, as some 400,000 migrants have left since the lockdown began.

What's more, the streets are deserted and devoid of the tourist business which had supported up to 700,000 people.

The lockdown has not come cheap.

A government official, who did not wish to be named, says they are "awaiting a financial package" from the federal government. But the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry estimates the shutdown has already cost the region more than $1.4bn (£1.13bn), and thousands of jobs have been lost.

"There are around 3,000 hotels in the valley and they are all empty. They have loans to pay off and daily expenses to bear," says Mr Chai, sitting in his mostly empty hotel in the capital, Srinagar.

Only a handful of his 125 staff are at work. Many haven't returned because of lack of transport - or fear. Tensions have been high in the region, and there have been a number of protests in the city.

But the situation may improve in the coming days as the government has announced that tourists will allowed in the state from Thursday.

But it isn't just the hotels which have suffered.

"No internet has meant more than 5,000 travel agents have lost work," says Javed Ahmed, a travel agent himself. "The government says give jobs to the youth. We are young but jobless. We have nothing to do with politics. We want jobs."

Srinagar's almost 1,000 iconic houseboats have also been running empty.

"Every houseboat needs up to $7,000 a year for maintenance," says Hamid Wangnoo from the Kashmir Houseboats Owners Association. "For many, this is the only source of livelihood."

And it isn't just tourism.

"More than 50,000 jobs have been lost in the carpet industry alone," according to Shiekh Ashiq, president of the chamber of industry.

He says July to September is when carpet makers usually receive orders for export – especially overseas, so they can deliver by Christmas.

But they are unable to contact importers, or even their own employees, because of the communications lockdown.

In southern Kashmir, the region's famous apples are still waiting to be plucked from the trees. But shops and cold storage units are shut, and the main apple market is empty. Last year, it did business worth $197m, local farmers say.

"I feel so much pain seeing my apples hanging from the trees that I don't go to the orchard anymore," says a worried apple grower, who did not wish to be named.

"Apples account for 12–15% of Kashmir's economy, but more than half of this year's produce has not been plucked," says economic journalist Masood Hussain. "If this continues through October, it will have devastating consequences."

In Srinagar, some shop owners wait outside their stores and open them for a customer before closing them hurriedly - until the next customer arrives.

One such owner says he is unhappy with the government's decision, but he is also scared of angry locals who want him to keep his business closed.

"But how do I survive without my daily earnings?" he asked.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-india-49956960
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Re: Kashmir should be united and free from India and Pakista

PostAuthor: Anthea » Fri Oct 18, 2019 2:26 am

Five killed in Kashmir

Five people were killed in Indian-administered Kashmir on Wednesday, thought to be the deadliest day in the region since it was stripped of its autonomy this summer

Two non-Kashmiris – an apple trader from Punjab and a migrant labourer – were killed in separate attacks by suspected militants in Shopian and Pulwama, south Kashmir. A second apple trader was in a critical condition.

Earlier on Wednesday security forces killed three alleged rebels near Bijbehara town, 28 miles south of the main city of Srinagar.

Kashmir has been under a security lockdown since 5 August when the Indian government scrapped its special status. Mobile phone services were restored for some users on Monday after a 72-day blackout but internet services remain suspended.

Before Delhi’s announcement that it was to remove Kashmir’s autonomy, the leader of the region’s largest militant group, Hizbul Mujahideen, had warned that the move would make Indians in the territory legitimate targets.

Indian officials argued that removing Kashmir’s special status, which granted it its own constitution and rules protecting land ownership, would bring greater development and rid the state of terrorism.

Some policy experts say the high death toll on Wednesday undermines such pledges. “The government’s claims are really falling flat,” said Khalid Shah, an associate fellow at the Observer Research Foundation. “My sense is that the violence is only going to increase, it’s not going to decrease, and to what extent, where it leaves Kashmir, is very difficult to say.”

An insurgency has waxed and waned on the Indian-administered side for three decades, and tens of thousands of people have been killed. Critics say Delhi’s actions have undermined the political mainstream and created fertile ground for militant groups.

Kashmir’s most prominent political and business leaders as well as the president of bar association are all in detention. Officials said such detentions were to prevent unrest, but others warned of a dangerous power vacuum.

Last weekend a spokesman for al-Qaida in Indian Subcontinent described Indian-administered Kashmir as “the worst prison” and called for attacks against the Indian government and army.

In Anchar, a neighbourhood of Srinagar where residents have fought back against security forces, graffiti on the wall reads “Welcome Taliban”.

In an attempt to win over Kashmiris, the Indian government placed a front-page advert in one of the region’s most popular newspapers, Greater Kashmir, urging people to resume normal life. “Closed shops, no public transport? Who benefits? Are we going to succumb to militants? Think!”, the advert said.

In Srinagar, government offices are operating but shops are open only during early morning hours and children are not attending schools. Residents told the Guardian that the refusal to open businesses was an act of defiance. Some reported that residents were complying with a shutdown because they were afraid of being targeted by militants.

Arshad, who lives in south Kashmir, where sympathies for militants are widespread, said he would welcome “any external support” that came for Kashmir’s separatist struggle.

“We cannot fight this war on our own, we need external support whosoever it be,” he said. “So far Pakistan has pleaded our case and supported us, but even if South Sudan or China offer us help I will be the first to raise their flag here,” he said.

Arshad, who has a postgraduate degree and who agreed to be identified by his first name only, said Delhi had restricted all scope for all political activities in the region, which would push militants to the centre stage.

“I think militants will now have a dual role of carrying out the armed struggle as well as taking over the role of political leadership and I feel they are already doing that,” he said.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/ ... ial-status
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