The News – Horrific details of how India suppressing protests in occupied Kashmir

Srinagar – Jammu & Kashmir – India, 21 August 2019. Rafiq Shagu’s wife died shortly after Friday prayers in Indian occupied Kashmir (IoK) when tear gas smashed through a window in their home and filled the room.

Now, with Indian authorities denying their troops have caused any civilian deaths while enforcing a lockdown of more than two weeks in the Himalayan region, he is facing what may be a futile quest to hold those responsible to account.

“They (the police) are not ready to take responsibility for the death. We want answers but I don’t know where to seek justice,” Shagu said.

In an interview with AFP, Shagu recalled the horrific events of the August 9 afternoon when he said his wife, Fehmeeda, was teaching her two children at their home in Srinagar, the largest city of occupied Kashmir.

Shagu said there had been small clashes between government forces and protesters nearby, then police started firing tear gas and pepper shells into residential houses.

The clashes occurred four days after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government stripped occupied Kashmir of its autonomy, with tens of thousands of extra troops deployed there ahead of the announcement to stop residents from protesting.

“We couldn’t see each other in the room as the smoke was so dense. There were three huge thuds when the canisters burst,” Shagu said.

“We somehow removed the children from the room and as she tried to run out amid the chaos, she fell. By the time we moved her out of the room she was unconscious and frothing.”

He said Fehmeeda was taken to hospital on a motorcycle where doctors were unable to revive her.

The medical report seen by AFP said she “had inhaled toxic gas from a tear gas shell” and that a possible cause of death was a “toxic lung injury”.

No deaths

Indian authorities have sought to block any news coming out of occupied Kashmir since imposing the lockdown.

Aside from deploying the extra troops, they cut off telephones, mobile phones and the internet – though some landlines have now been restored.

Authorities say there is no credible proof that anyone has died in occupied Kashmir as a result of the lockdown, and only that eight people have been injured.

But multiple hospital sources told AFP at least 100 people had been hurt, some of them by firearm injuries.

Others were treated at home, fearing that they may be arrested if they visit hospitals, people who had been hit by pellets told AFP.

Unaccounted deaths

AFP also spoke with relatives of two other people died due to violence from the security forces.

One of the reported victims was Usiab Ahmad, 15, who drowned on August 5.

His family said Ahmad was near his home when police used live ammunition and tear gas shells and chased protesters towards the river bank where the student drowned.

“His body was taken out after five hours from the water and his funeral was attacked by police,” one of Ahmad’s relatives who could not be identified for security reasons told AFP.

“They tried to snatch away the body because they feared more protests,” he said.

Another alleged victim, Mohammad Ayub Khan was standing outside his home in downtown Srinagar on Saturday when police fired tear gas canisters to break up a small group of stone-throwing protesters, according to multiple family members and neighbours.

Two shells fell in front of the 62-year-old timber trader, immediately causing him to collapse on the road and froth from the mouth.

The father of three daughters was declared dead at the hospital but police forcibly took over his body.

Just 10 family members were allowed for the funeral and burial that took place under police watch in the dead of night.

“The police officer threatened us that he will throw the body into the river if we talk to media or try to make a procession,” Shabir Ahmed Khan, his younger brother told AFP.

“We were escorted by four police vans to the graveyard,” he said.

Khan’s family has visited the hospital multiple times for a death certificate but doctors told them police had instructed them not to issue it.

“His death will probably not even get recorded by the government but for us he is a martyr,” Khan said.

“His death is another example of India’s brutality.”

The Tribune – Meeting between Punjab and Haryana on SYL remains inconclusive

Ravi S Singh, Tribune News Service

New Delhi – India, 21 August 2019. A joint meeting of officials of Punjab and Haryana governments led by their respective chief secretaries which was convened by the Union Jal Shakti Ministry on the Sutlej Yamuna Link (SYL) canal imbroglio on Wednesday remained inconclusive with both sides remaining steadfast to their earlier stands.

Another round of a similar meeting of both the sides is expected to be convened by the ministry within a week.
“The meeting has been inconclusive. Both sides are engaged in talks on SYL,” said Union Jal Shakti Secretary UP Singh.

“The ministry’s role is limited to facilitate meetings between both the sides so that they could talk on resolving the issue as asked by the Supreme Court,” Singh added.

The Punjab legislature’s impugned termination of Agreement Act had junked all agreements to share the state’s river waters with other states.

With regard to apex court’s judgment, Punjab Government has taken the stand that the rivers in the state have shrunk and the state was not in a position to share waters as it had become water-deficit.

The two states have hardened their position following the judgment, resulting in the logjam.

The apex court has listed hearing in SYL issue on September 3 before which all sides will need to firm up their positions.

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Man in Blue – J&K: Donald Trump reiterates offer to resolve ‘explosive situation’ between India and Pakistan

The US president added that the neighbours were ‘not exactly friends’ at the moment and said ‘a lot has to do with religion’.

United States President Donald Trump on Tuesday reiterated his offer to mediate in the Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan. The crisis in Kashmir “is a big deal”, Trump said, adding that it was an “explosive situation”.

Washington DC – USA, 21 August 2019. India ended Jammu and Kashmir’s special status on August 5, and moved to split the state into two Union Territories. The Centre also imposed a security lockdown and a communications blackout. New Delhi’s actions were swiftly condemned by Islamabad, which downgraded diplomatic ties and ended bilateral trade.

Since then, Pakistan has attempted to raise the Kashmir matter at the United Nations Security Council, saying India’s decisions were a threat to regional and global peace. On Tuesday, Pakistan said it would approach the International Court of Justice.

When a reporter asked Trump if the bilateral crisis was solvable, the US president spoke about the history of the region. “Well, they have been having this, these talks for hundreds of years, even under different names,” he told reporters in the White House.

“But this is, but it is Kashmir. And Kashmir is a very complicated place. You have the Hindus and you have the Muslims, and I would not say they get along so great. And that is what you have right now.”

The US president added that millions of people “want to be ruled by others, and maybe on both sides”. “And you have two countries that haven’t gotten along well for a long time. And, frankly, it’s a very explosive situation.”

On Monday, Trump spoke to both Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Pakistan’s Imran Khan in an effort to bring down the tensions in the region. He also said that he would meet Modi in France over the weekend during the G7 summit, indicating that he would discuss the matter with him.

“They’re both friends of mine,” Trump said, referring to Khan and Modi, adding that they were both “great people” who love their countries but are in a “very tough situation” now.

“Kashmir is a very tough situation,” he added. “And, you know, we are talking about, this has been going on for decades and decades. Shooting. I don’t mean shooting like shooting a rifle, I mean like major shooting of howitzers, of, you know, of heavy arms. And it’s been going on for a long period of time. But I get along really well with both of them.”

The US president said his government was trying to help, adding that there were tremendous problems between India and Pakistan. “And I will do the best I can to mediate or do something.” He added that India and Pakistan were “not exactly friends” at the moment and said the situation was complicated. “A lot has to do with religion. Religion is a complicated subject.”

Last month, Trump had inserted himself into the dispute by claiming that Modi had asked him to mediate in the Kashmir dispute. The US president reiterated his willingness to help India and Pakistan resolve the decades-old Kashmir dispute “if they wanted”.

While India refuted the claims, the Trump administration said the president stood firm on his statement. Last week, Indian Ambassador to the United States Harsh Vardhan Shringla said Trump had made it clear that his mediation offer was “not on the table anymore”.

Trump’s latest attempts to help came on a day when India’s Defence Minister Rajnath Singh told United States Secretary of Defense Mark T Esper that Jammu and Kashmir was an internal matter of India. A statement by the Ministry of Defence said Esper appreciated New Delhi’s stance on the troubled region.

The Hindu – Ayodhya case: present evidence on temple claim, Supreme Court tells lawyers

Legal Correspondent

New Delhi – India, 21 August 2019. The Supreme Court on Wednesday asked the Hindu parties’ lawyers to present objective evidence to show that a temple, especially one dedicated to Lord Ram, once stood on the Ramjanmabhumi.

Both Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and Justice D Y Chandrachud said the lawyers need not labour to prove that people believed in Ramjanmabhumi. People’s faith had never been in question. The lawyers instead should present evidence on their claim that a massive temple stood on the exact spot.

21 August saw senior advocate C S Vaidyanathan for Ram lalla concluding his arguments by submitting that the Ramjanmabhumi was itself a deity and could not be partitioned. “If the property itself is the deity, nobody can claim ownership of the land. Nobody can claim adverse possession [on the basis of Babri mosque],” he submitted.

Mr Vaidyanathan contended that if there was once a temple on the Ramjanmabhumi and people were worshipping there as the birthplace, then nobody could possibly claim ownership by adverse possession.

He said the Ayodhya deity was a perpetual minor. The property of a minor cannot be dealt with, sold or alienated. He questioned how the Allahabad High Court, in its verdict in September 2010, could have handed over the property of the minor Ayodhya deity to others.

BBC News – Kashmir: A priority for British [South] Asians?

Hazel Shearing & Francesca Gillett

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.”

London – UK, 20 August 2019. 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 lock down.

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?

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 lock-down 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. – Punjab Flood Alert: SGPC announces to provide free food and accommodation to the sufferers

Sikh24 Editors

Chandigarh – Panjab – India, 18 August 2019. Recognizing the duty towards service of humanity, the apex Sikh body Shromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee has announced to food and accommodation to the villagers who have been evacuated from their villages in the wake of possible release of water from the Bhakra Dam reservoir.

It is learnt that the SGPC has gone active to help the victim villagers.

Speaking with media, the SGPC’s chief secretary Dr Roop Singh informed that the managers of state-wide Gurdwara Sahibans have been directed to make sufficient arrangements for accommodating the victim villagers and offer them food till the situation doesn’t get averted.

He has appealed the Punjab masses to contact the Gurdwara Sahiban authorities if they feel any need.

It is noteworthy here that the Bhakra Beas Management Board is likely to release water in more than usual quantity due heavy rainfall in the region. The Bhakra Dam reservoir is learnt to be only five feet below its upper mark.

Punjab Flood Alert: SGPC announces to provide free food and accommodation to the sufferers

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TRT World – Pakistan needs to do more than renovate temples to tackle minority issues

In recent years, Pakistan has increasingly invested in renovations to both Sikh gurdwaras and Hindu temples, but structural problems still exist with its minorities.

Haroon Khalid

Lahore – Panjab – Pakistan, 20 August 2019. On the morning of December 7 1992, a mob gathered in the courtyard of the Valmiki Hindu temple in Anarkali Lahore, one of the two functional Hindu temples in the city, which had a considerable Hindu population before the creation of Pakistan in 1947, including several functioning temples.

According to mythology, the origin of Lahore, the second-most populous city in Pakistan, is attributed to the son of the Hindu deity, Ram. During Partition riots, communities that had lived together for generations were torn asunder, with the majority of Hindus, Jains, Buddhists, and Sikhs, forced or choosing to migrate to India.

A day before the gathering in Lahore, news of the destruction of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya, India, had dominated headlines. Led by the Hindu right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), a mob had brought down this historic mosque. They claimed the mosque had been created after destroying a Hindu temple that marked the place of birth of the Hindu deity, Ram.

In retaliation to the destruction of the mosque, hundreds of mobs gathered all over Pakistan seeking to ‘avenge’ desecration of the mosque. Numerous Hindu temples were destroyed, as the state quietly looked on. Like numerous other Hindu temples, most of which were either abandoned or taken over by people to be used as residences and for other purposes, the Valmiki Temple in Anarkali was looted, destroyed and then burned.

Carved out of British-India, the two countries of India and Pakistan became Hindu and Muslim dominated respectively. While India shocked by consciously defining itself as a ‘secular’ country, Pakistan whole-heartedly embraced its Muslim identity.

On the one hand, this Muslim identity meant taking up Islamic symbols and the Islamisation of state institutions, on the other hand, it was defined in opposition to the ‘Hindu identity’.

Festivals that had Hindu origin, words which had entered the vernacular via Sanskrit, and other customs that were perceived to be part of ‘Hindu culture’ were jettisoned. The phenomena gained momentum particularly in the aftermath of the 1965 and 1971 wars with India. Hindu became synonymous with India, the enemy.

Anti-Hindu rhetoric gained currency in public discourse, including the education system, with Hindus being labelled as ‘cunning’, ‘scheming’, ‘deceptive’ and ‘mischievous’ in school textbooks that were taught to young students all across the country. As these children grew up the narratives became part of the worldview of the politicians, bureaucrats, judges, army officers and media representatives.

With the Hindu minority in Pakistan dwindling, generations of Pakistanis grew up without ever encountering a Hindu in their social setting. ‘Hindu’ became a distorted figment of their imagination rather than an actual person. In this environment, acts of violence against the minuscule Hindu minority, including forced conversion, and the property grabbing of Hindu temples went unnoticed.

The situation began to change in the last couple of decades under the military dictatorship of Pervez Musharraf. With Pakistan in limelight in the aftermath of 9/11 and the war on terror, the state was desperate to project a more ‘progressive’ image of the country.

Calling it ‘Enlightened Moderation’, the Musharraf government particularly reached out to the religious minorities and oversaw the renovation of a few Sikh gurdwaras and Hindu temples. For example the ancient Hindu temple of Katas Raj in Punjab was renovated and opened to pilgrims.

Similarly a historical Hindu temple in Islamabad was renovated and made part of the ‘model village’ of Saidpur. With the patronage of the state, the media responded as well, increasing the coverage of minority issues in Pakistan.

In 2008, Pakistan elected a civilian government, which continued the promotion of this ‘soft image’. Many more Sikh gurdwaras and Hindu temples were renovated. Just last month, a historic Hindu temple in Sialkot was renovated. The action received widespread appreciation.

It seems as if the state which in 1992 had looked on passively as mobs destroyed Hindu temples has taken a swift turn and is now actively protecting its Hindu heritage, a far cry from what has happened across the border during Indian Prime Minister Modi’s tenure in office.

While these actions are praiseworthy and do to some extent represent a qualitative change in how the state views itself, it needs to be kept in mind that these actions are more symbolic than they are a systematic change.

The fact remains that the Hindu minority of Pakistan is a persecuted minority. The forced conversion for many Hindu girls is a widespread issue and often representatives of the state are silent spectators as these atrocities occur.

The education system remains problematic, continuing to depict Hindus in an ‘otherised’ form. Journalists and sometimes politicians often resort to an ‘anti-Hindu’ language when tensions flare with India. The Pakistani identity it seems is still deeply rooted in separation from the ‘Hindu identity’.

While lip service is paid to the need to secure rights for religious minorities in Pakistan, with the renovation of a handful of Hindu temples as an example of this, the social structures that result in this persecution and exclusion remain intact.

These acts might win the state accolades but it hardly changes the reality of religious minorities in Pakistan.

Disclaimer: The viewpoints expressed by the authors do not necessarily reflect the opinions, viewpoints and editorial policies of TRT World.

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Dawn – Nobel laureate Amartya Sen slams decision to revoke occupied Kashmir’s special status

New Delhi – India, 20 August 2019. Indian economist and Nobel laureate Amartya Sen has slammed the Narendra Modi-led government’s decision to revoke occupied Kashmir’s special status, saying that India had “lost the reputation” of being the world’s first non-Western country to adopt a democratic system.

“As an Indian, I am not proud of the fact that India, after having done so much to achieve a democratic norm in the world, where India was the first non-Western country to go for democracy, that we lose that reputation on the grounds of action that have been taken,” he said in an interview with NDTV on Monday night.

On 05 August the Indian government repealed Article 370 of the constitution that granted occupied Kashmir special status and prevented non-Kashmiris to buy property or start business in the region. A strict curfew and communications blackout is still in place in the region while international news agencies have been reporting protests held by residents.

Sen said that the decision to allow non-Kashmiris to buy property in the region should have been left for the Kashmiri residents because “it is their land”.

“That is something for the Kashmiris to determine. If that is the will that the Kashmiris have on democratic grounds, we can accept it.”

“This is something in which Kashmiris have a legitimate point of view because it is their land,” he added.

He also criticised the imposition of a lock-down, that has been in place for over two weeks, in the occupied region as well as the arrests of Kashmiri leaders under the pretext of preventing violent protests in the valley, calling it a “colonial excuse”.

“That’s how the British ran the country for 200 years. The last thing that I expected when we got our independence is that we would go back to our colonial heritage of preventive detentions.”

More than 4,000 people have been arrested by the Indian forces in occupied Kashmir under the controversial Public Safety Act (PSA) that allows authorities to imprison someone for up to two years without charge or trial, AFP reported last week. Several prominent Kashmiri leaders, including former chief ministers of occupied Kashmir, have been placed under house arrest.