The Hindustan Times – Jammu & Kashmir remains out of bounds for politicians, opposition delegation sent back from Srinagar

A delegation of opposition leaders, including former Congress president Rahul Gandhi, were detained on arrival at the Srinagar airport on Saturday and sent back to Delhi by the Jammu and Kashmir administration.

New Delhi – India, 24 August 2019. The administration said the presence of the opposition leaders, who had intended to assess the ground situation in Jammu and Kashmir after the effective revocation of its special status, could affect normalcy in the state.

Leaders present alongside Gandhi, who travelled to Srinagar in a 11:50am Vistara light on Saturday, said they were detained at the airport there for three hours and then sent back on another flight at 4pm.

Once detained, the leaders were shown a J&K government order, which said the state dispensation was apprehensive of locals being mobilised to stage protests and breaking the peace in the region.

“It has come to my notice that consisting of following honourable members of Parliament and other political leaders intend to mobilise people, on the 24th of August 2019.

After their arrival at Srinagar international airport, in connection with recent Parliament proceedings, vis-a-vis abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution of India,” the order, signed by the district commissioner Budgaum, read.

Parliament on August 5 and 6 effectively revoked Article 370 of the Constitution, which conferred special status on Jammu and Kashmir, and Article 35A, under which benefits such as government jobs and property ownership were reserved for those deemed to be permanent residents of the state. The Centre also bifurcated the state into Union Territories, J&K and Ladakh.

In a video released by the Congress party, Gandhi is seen speaking to J&K officials. “The Governor has said that I am invited. Now that I am here, you are saying that I cannot be here. The government is saying that everything is working here and everything is normal.

So, if everything is normal, then why are we not allowed out? It’s a bit surprising. We want to go to any area which is peaceful, talk to 5-10-15 people, that’s all; we don’t want to do anything more. And if it’s 144, then I am ready to go individually,” Gandhi is heard saying in the video.

Section 144 of the Indian Penal Code bars the public assembly of five or more people. Restrictions clamped on public movement and communications links in the Kashmir Valley to deter protests are still in place in some parts of the region.

The Rashtriya Janata Dal’s Manoj Jha is seen asking an officer in another video shot by one of the leaders that in the absence of mobile connectivity, what does one do in case of a heart attack.

When the police officer replies that the communication blackout was a “precautionary measure”, Nationalist Congress Party’s Majeed Memon is seen saying that the opposition leaders had not been consumed by politics when they travelled to Kashmir.

Trinamool Congress’s Dinesh Trivedi inquires about local political leaders, Peoples Democratic Party chief Mehbooba Mufti and National Conference’s Omar Abdullah, who are under detention and whether they are safe. As the officials do not relent, the delegation writes a memorandum.

“We are here at the public invitation of the honourable Governor who asked us to visit and see for ourselves the peace and normalcy that prevails. We are responsible political leaders and elected representatives and our intentions are entirely peaceful and humanitarian,” the memorandum read. “We record our strong objection to the basis of our detention, which prima facie is undemocratic and unconstitutional.”

Jha said several media personnel travelling on the flight were manhandled by the local police. “The officials did not allow us to meet our own citizens, and the manner in which media personnel were manhandled, leads me to say that I will not want to agree that the situation is normal.”

Communist Party of India leader D Raja said: “This is a denial of our democratic rights; we went there on the governor’s public invitation. We now understand is that the situation is not normal at all.” He added that on the flight, several Kashmiri travellers came to Gandhi and others to recount their problems.

Gandhi was accompanied by several senior leaders, including party colleagues Ghulam Nabi Azad, Anand Sharma and KC Venugopal, Loktantrik Janata Dal leader Sharad Yadav, Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Sitaram Yechury, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam’s Tiruchi Siva, and Janata Dal (Secular) leader D Kupendra Reddy, apart from Jha, Memon, Raja and Trivedi.

In Delhi, Gandhi and others addressed the media at the airport. “Some days ago, I was invited by the Governor to visit Jammu and Kashmir. So I accepted the invitation,” Gandhi said.

“The Governor had suggested that everything was normal and that he would send me a plane to visit the state. I told him I don’t need your plane but I will accept your invitation and I would come to Jammu and Kashmir,” Gandhi said.

“We wanted to get a sense of what people are going through and help the situation if we could. But unfortunately we were not allowed to go beyond the airport. The press people with us were mishandled, beaten. It’s clear that things are not normal in Jammu and Kashmir.” – Ban on SFJ: Indian tribunal issues show-cause notice to Sikhs for Justice

Sikh24 Editors

New Delhi – India, 24 August 2019. On 23 August, a tribunal constituted by the Indian government issued a show-cause notice to the US based pro-freedom Sikh outfit ‘Sikhs for Justice’ to look into the material facts whether or not the separatist organization be declared unlawful. It is learnt that the SFJ has been asked to respond within 30 days from the date of serving this notice.

Besides it, the association has also been directed to make a personal appearance before the tribunal on September 20, 2019.

On July 10, the BJP led Indian government had declared SFJ as an unlawful organization. On August 7, the government had constituted the tribunal comprising Delhi high court chief justice DN Patel for adjudicating as to whether there is sufficient cause for declaring the SFJ as an unlawful association.

“Now, a show cause notice has been issued to SFJ as to why the association declared unlawful, be not adjudicated to be so and why an order confirming the declaration be not made,” said the official spokesperson.

It is noteworthy here that the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) constitutes a tribunal every time it bans an organization under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) to give the outfit a chance to present its case. But the exercise usually remains a no-show as the tribunal mostly endorses the government’s move.

At the time of declaring SFJ an unlawful outfit, the MHA had said that the group’s primary objective was to establish an independent and sovereign country in Punjab and it openly espouses the cause of Khalistan.

“In exercise of the powers conferred by sub-section (1) of section 5 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 (37 of 1967), the Central Government hereby constitutes an Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Tribunal, consisting of Justice DN Patel, Delhi High Court Chief Justice, for adjudicating whether or not there is sufficient cause of declaring the SFJ as an unlawful association,” read the MHA notification.

Ban on SFJ: Indian tribunal issues show-cause notice to Sikhs for Justice

Gentbrugge: Gentbrugse Meersen

Gentbrugse Meersen
14 August 2019

Schermbloemigen or Apiaceae
I am not sure which member of this plant family this is

Schermbloemigen or Apiaceae

Schermbloemigen or Apiaceae

Schermbloemigen or Apiaceae

Schermbloemigen or Apiaceae

Gentbrugse Meersen
15 August 2019

The cattle grazing in the Gentbrugse Meersen

More Belgian pictures to be published
Harjinder Singh
Man in Blue – A wave of solidarity with Kashmir is spreading across the globe

Skanda Kadirgamar

Srinagar – Jammu & Kashmir – India, 16 August 2019. Tragedy is unfolding in Kashmir. Split between India and Pakistan, the state has been under military occupation as a result of the partition of the subcontinent in 1947 and a war between the two powers the following year.

On 5 August, however, the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party-led government (BJP) annulled laws that framed a fragile autonomy for people living on the Indian side. Law 370, which conferred autonomy upon the state over all matters with the exception of defense, foreign affairs and communication, and 35A, which prevented non-residents from purchasing property, were scrapped by Indian Home Secretary Amit Shah.

This would allow Indians to buy land in Kashmir, which has been a key point of a Hindu supremacist agenda bent on marginalizing Muslims throughout South Asia.

India’s leaders have long viewed incorporating Kashmir as essential for their nationalist project. Moreover, they view support for Kashmiri autonomy and all forms of protest against the occupation as evidence of Pakistani aggression.

India being led by a Hindu nationalist administration for the past five years and the lack of a unified parliamentary opposition to the BJP have only escalated these dynamics. This jingoism has contributed to marginalizing major concerns about Kashmiris’ right to self-determination.

Moreover, the cancellation of both laws coincides with a massive upswing in violence by the Indian state. Political leaders, even those who favor unification with India, were placed under house arrest. Human rights leaders have been detained.

More Indian troops surged into what is already one of the world’s most militarized areas. Media and communication were blacked out as internet and mobile devices were taken offline. These developments have shaken Kashmiris everywhere.

Resistance has emerged, not only within Kashmir, but throughout the Kashmiri diaspora. Members of the diaspora have been largely responsible for subverting the information blackout, encouraging little leaks where they can. This entails furtive communication with friends or family members taking advantage of sparse Wi-Fi in hospitals and other places.

Journalists in the area say that they are unable to do their work due to the suspension of communications infrastructure and active obstruction by the military.

Many commentators say India is setting the stage for an ethnic cleansing that would drive out Muslim residents and replace them with Hindu settlers. This has inspired historic resistance as Kashmiris around the world are leading protests against these acts of aggression.

Diaspora communities lead in acts of solidarity

On 09 August, Kashmiris and their allies in New York City turned the area around the Indian consulate into a launching point for a global wave of solidarity for Kashmiri self-determination. Demonstrations are taking place across the country and across the world. In the past, mass outpourings of this scale have been relegated within Kashmir itself. The show of support has been unprecedented.

During the Stand With Kashmir rally in New York, Kashmiri scholar and activist Hafsa Kanjwal addressed a crowd posed half a block away from the Indian consulate. The Kashmiris who had turned out to demonstrate had a plethora of diverse allies.

“Today we have people from all over New York City,” Kanjwal announced, “from every single solidarity movement there is!”

Palestinian organizers, Syrians opposing the regime of Bashar al-Assad, Filipinos rejecting dictator Rodrigo Duterte, activists for Puerto Rican self-determination and anti-gentrification activists from Harlem were all in attendance.

“This is a historic moment,” Kanjwal said. “The Indian government has shown the world what its true intentions are and what they’ve always been. To completely subjugate and suppress a people who have been demanding freedom for over 70 years. That changes today! We are not going to sit by as India murders, rapes and ethnically cleanses Kashmiris from their land!”

Kashmiris’ have waged a decades-long struggle for self-determination. In 1949, the United Nations urged a plebiscite or referendum on whether Kashmir would become part of Pakistan of India. Amidst all this, demands for independence also became popular amongst Kashmiris. In the 1950s, India essentially abandoned this process. This would spark an armed uprising in the late 1980s.

Though armed resistance in Kashmir gradually waned in the 2000s as thousands of insurgents died and people grew weary of fighting, Indian armed forces remain in the region. Kashmiris continued to resist, though. Tactical emphasis shifted to strikes, marches and, at times, pelting military police with stones. Guns had largely vanished from Kashmiri hands.

Regardless, India’s responses have consistently been traumatizing. Mass rape and sexual violence are touchstones of the regional superpower’s collective punishment strategy for the region. The army’s alleged treatment of the villages of Kunan and Poshpora during the 1990s insurgency stands out as an example.

Between 23 and 100 women were said to have been raped by soldiers who claimed to be looking for fighters. Women presumed to be sympathetic to militants are often raped by soldiers. The Indian army has “punished” Kashmiri fighters by raping their female family members as well.

In an overview of abuses by Indian army personnel, Human Rights Watch (HRW) noted that the majority of Kashmiris who were detained were tortured. According to HRW’s report, torture in Kashmir is “used to coerce detainees to reveal information about suspected militants or to confess to militant activity” and that “it is also used to punish detainees who are believed to support or sympathize with militants and create a climate of political repression.”

HRW also noted that the forms of torture “included severe beatings, electric shock, suspension by the feet or hands, stretching the legs apart, burning with heated objects, sexual molestation and psychological deprivation.”

Mass maiming is also a crucial part of the offensive against Kashmiri liberation. Enraged by the killing of Burhan Wani, a popular militant, Kashmiris turned out in crowds to protest the military’s presence.

In 2016, the army responded by unleashing an “epidemic of dead eyes” in Jammu and Kashmir by using blinding pellet guns and tear gas on demonstrators. Hundreds of people, many of them young, who were struck in the face by pellet ammunition had their eyes perforated and torn asunder.

Earlier this year, India also showcased its penchant for forcing compliance by making Kashmiris disappear. In February, the occupying forces carried out mass arrests after more than 40 soldiers in the town of Pulwama were killed in a suicide attack by a 22-year-old named Adil Ahmad Dar.

The mass blinding of 2016 has been suggested as a factor behind Dar’s decision to carry out the bombing. Hindu mobs in Kashmir and across India began attacking Kashmiri Muslims as well.

Among those seized by the Indian forces were leaders of the Hurriyat Conference, an organization of multiple political groups that spearheads the nonviolent resistance to India’s presence. Jamaat-e-Islami, a religious-political organization, was also banned by the Indian government.

The targets of the crackdown were not limited to political leaders. India also used the Pulwama attack as a pretext to round up hundreds of young Kashmiri men for either having participated in protests or simply being suspected of holding pro-freedom sympathies. The ban on Jamaat-e-Islami compounded the impact on Kashmiri youth as the organization provided schooling for thousands.

Another dimension of the occupation is its impact on intercommunity relations among Kashmiris. Muslims and the Kashmiri Pandits, a community of Brahmin Hindus, have been pitted against each other by India’s territorial claims. The Pandits’ stories have been politicized and thus interpreted in a number of different ways.

Many Pandits left Indian-occupied Jammu and Kashmir in the early 1990s, after the insurgency had begun. The Hindu right wing seized upon this as evidence of a cleansing or genocide carried out by the Muslim community.

This narrative has become a popular with diaspora Pandits who align with the agenda of the BJP. This has become a key talking point in light of the repeal of laws 370 and 35A, which some Pandits have hailed as enabling their ability to finally return home.

Pandits who stayed in Kashmir, however, contradict that version of what happened. While acknowledging that communal tensions did flare up during the insurgency, they point to discrepancies in the Hindu right’s narrative of intercommunity violence. They also criticize their Muslim neighbors for having been too slow to act when insurgents threatened Pandits.

Additionally, while acknowledging that killings of Kashmiri Hindus did take place during the 1990s, they also note that the Hindu right dramatically inflates the number of dead and presents a faulty timeline of events. Crucially, this narrative emphasizes that Kashmiri Muslims often supported and defended their Pandit neighbors.

These Pandits often were not financially able to leave Kashmir, but also often cite relationships with their Muslim neighbors as having motivated them to stay. Many Muslims were willing to defend their Pandit friends and decry insurgent aggression. Notably, Pandit scholars outside of Kashmir have corroborated this account and are calling on their community to reimagine the terms by which they will return home.

Some Kashmiri activists say that this model of intercommunity solidarity is being threatened by the Hindu right’s vision of repatriating Pandits. They worry that the repeal of both 370 and 35A could enable a situation similar to Israeli colonization of the West Bank with Muslims being physically segregated and kept away from areas designated for Hindus.

Speaking to Truthout, Hafsa Kanjwal volunteered suggestions for those looking to stop India’s “grotesque escalation” in Kashmir.

Those just learning of the struggle in Kashmir must understand that call for self-determination is not merely coming from “grassroots freedom movements but is enshrined in multiple UN resolutions,” says Kanjwal. In other words, violations of Kashmiri autonomy raise serious concerns when it comes to international law.

Kanjwal also says that the most important thing those who have become allies to the freedom movement can do is to help change the narrative that Kashmir is an “integral part” of India.

This means finding connections and parallels with other solidarity movements that oppose occupation, like the struggle against Israeli apartheid. They also need to dispel the assertion that every uprising in Kashmir is instigated by Pakistan, which is prominent amongst the “myths that the Indian state peddles.”

Skanda Kadirgamar is a New York-based writer who covers race, labor, housing, policing and South Asia.

Dawn – ‘If this is how India behaves with its own, what expectation can Pakistan have?’ asks FM Qureshi

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Saturday drew attention to the increasingly apparent divisions within India after an 11-member contingent of its opposition parties was prevented from visiting Srinagar in occupied Kashmir, as a security clampdown there entered its 20th day.

Islamabad Capital Territory – Pakistan, 24 August 2019. “This is the true face of the Indian government which the world is witnessing today,” said the foreign minister as he addressed a press conference in Islamabad.

“Today the fascist attitude of the Modi administration was demonstrated at the Srinagar airport,” he said, referring to the arrest of former Congress president Rahul Gandhi and other opposition leaders shortly after they landed.

“I call upon democratic nations of the world to view that footage. When they treat their own this way, what expectation can be had when we [Pakistan] are told to hold a dialogue with them?” said Qureshi.

He then highlighted the stifling communications blockade in the disputed territory which had forced media to use whatever “broken equipment” they have to record footage and send it out through their relatives.

“So in this environment, he [Gandhi] goes to assess the situation and wishes to meet the Kashmiri leadership. He is arrested at the airport and transferred to New Delhi on the next flight,” he said.

He also spoke of how his party’s spokesperson, while attempting to hold a media briefing in protest, was arrested mid conference.

The foreign minister said that he spoke to the United Nations Secretary General António Guterres about this recent event as well as yesterday’s protest in various places after Friday prayers in which “tear gas and pellet guns were employed to injure people”.

He said his aim was to apprise the UN secretary general of the situation in occupied Kashmir since after a meeting of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) was held.

“He is in Paris and I spoke to him. I thanked him for his statement and the way he presented a legally and politically sound stance on the issue. I’m sure Kashmiris must have also gained courage from his statement,” he said.

Qureshi said he also thanked the United Nations for convening the UNSC session. “With the closed-door meeting the message we got was that it is the wish of all members that the matter be resolved peacefully,” he said.

“But I also wish to draw your attention to the fact that on the one hand we are being advised to move forward peacefully, and [on the other] today is the 20th day of curfew, the curfew continues day and night,” said Qureshi of his conversation with Guterres.

“I also drew his attention to the fact that yesterday prayers were impeded, a fundamental right of every Muslim, a lot of mosques were locked up, and some people who wished to proceed to the UN office there, were fired upon with pellet guns and shelled and were tortured,” he said.

The foreign minister said he had told the UN secretary general that of the three parties to the Kashmir dispute, two had clearly presented their stance regarding the 05 August measures taken by India.

Pakistan, in every possible shade of its political opinion, has rejected the 05 August action which stripped Kashmir of its autonomy, he said. “It has declared the move unconstitutional, illegal, in contravention of the UNSC resolutions, in violation of the UN charter.”

“All Kashmiris have also rejected these measures,” he said.

“The third dispute to the party stands divided. And it was evident in the way things played out at the Srinagar airport today,” said Qureshi.

“I also talked about the human rights violations, thousands of detentions, food shortages, medicine shortages because I feel his voice has weight. This is such an organisation. When the secretary general of the United Nations gives a statement, it has moral weightage. And the world listens.”