BBC News – Kashmir conflict: Pro-India politicians feel ‘betrayed’ by Modi

Srinagar – Jammu & Kashmir – India, 04 December 2019. Dozens of mainstream political leaders and workers have been under detention in Indian-administered Kashmir since August, when India stripped the region of its semi-autonomous status. Sameer Yasir reports on why political workers in the valley feel betrayed.

Saleem Mir stood pensively by the window of his room overlooking the Jhelum river, which cuts through the heart of Srinagar and flows into Pakistan. Mr Mir, who toiled for years to get people to vote for Kashmir’s oldest political party, the pro-India National Conference, now feels like a total outcast in his own homeland.

Kashmiris like Mr Mir are used to being branded as “traitors” by their own people for siding with India during the 30-year armed revolt against Delhi’s rule in the Muslim-majority region. Many have relatives or friends who have been killed by militants for siding with India.

“Now we are also enemies in the eyes of India,” said Mr Mir, who belongs to Kulgam district, a region that has witnessed a spiral of deadly violence in recent years.

Enemies of India

In August, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) oversaw a crackdown that they argued was necessary to prevent disorder in the disputed region.

It was stripped of its autonomy, split it into two federally-run territories, put under a lockdown, and most of the state’s political leaders and workers, including those who have been loyal to India, were incarcerated.

“Our intention is that politicians do not engage in any activities that could serve as a magnet for violence, as it has been the case in the past. A related issue is that social media and the internet have been used to radicalise. We want to prevent the loss of life,” India’s Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said.

Mr Mir was among more than 5,000 people, including businessmen, civil society members, lawyers and activists, who were detained. Those still under detention include former chief ministers Omar Abdullah, Farooq Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti, the first woman to be hold the position, as well as several former lawmakers.

Former chief minister Mr Abdullah, still a member of parliament, has been detained under the controversial Public Safety Act (PSA), which allows detention without formal charge for two years, among other things.

Mr Abdullah, whose family had been instrumental in tying Kashmir’s future to Delhi, appeared on television before his detention and appealed to the people of India, saying he had stood with them and it was their time to reciprocate.

Mir Mohammad Fayaz, an MP belonging to the PDP, has written to the federal Home Minister Amit Shah, demanding the release of all political leaders. He said that the leaders had been recently shifted to a new jail in “a very humiliating and downgrading manner”.

Wiping out the middle ground

Kashmir’s political parties have always operated in a middle-ground, between integrating completely with India and seeking outright independence.

By the very act of participating in India’s democratic processes and fighting elections, they acknowledged Delhi’s right to have a say in the affairs of the region. But in order to win votes, they have had to speak the language of popular sentiment.

Therefore, its two main parties, the National Conference (NC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) officially stand for Kashmir’s right to autonomy and self-rule within the federal structure of India.

And for more than a decade, after the insurgency ebbed, the status-quo in Kashmir largely worked in India’s favour. People voted in elections and India said it proved that democracy was thriving in the region. With the detention of the leaders, things have changed.

The latest move by Delhi has “wiped out the middle-ground held by Kashmiri politicians” and this void could be very well “filled by militants”, said Siddiq Wahid, a historian.

Mr Wahid added people would now confront these political parties by saying: “We knew it, we told you so all along.”

No trust

“The idea of mainstream politics is dead in Kashmir now,” says Kapil Kak, a retired air vice-marshal.

Mr Kak, a native of Kashmir who has been part of many initiatives aimed at resolving the dispute, said India has lost 70 years of its hard work in Indian-administered Kashmir: “Who will vouch for it now?”

Political workers, who have backed India despite facing threats, attacks and public humiliation, feel completely let down and fear for their safety now.

“We should have never trusted India,” Mr Mir, now a free man, said.

Rehman Sheikh, whose cousin, a founding member of PDP, was killed and his house set on fire in Shopian district, said Mr Modi’s government had simply “belittled my brother’s sacrifice”.

“The India for which we bled so badly has rendered us worthless by forcibly taking away our basic political rights,” Mr Sheikh said.

“Party workers come to us and ask ‘what is our future?’,” said Tanveer Alam, whose cousin, a former lawmaker, is also being detained. “I have no answers. I keep silent.”

We are finished

Mumtaz Peer, who saw his father killed by militants, said if “gunmen arrive at my door, no one will now come to save me”. “We are finished,” Mr Peer, who worked for a former state lawmaker, said. “We are just waiting for this time to pass.”

Mr Peer said that had the valley’s mainstream political class invested time and effort to lobby for Kashmir’s independence instead of trying to strengthen India’s hold on the region, people “would have achieved the goal of independence”.

“Our only problem is we are Kashmiris and Muslim. We fought for India in Kashmir and this is what we got in return,” Mr Peer said.

Ghulam Hassan Rahi, a politician who fought many elections in northern Kashmir during the heyday of insurgency, and continued his activism despite threats from militants, said now when he meets his political workers, he keeps his head down.

One worker, Mr Rahi said, recently confronted him, telling him that it doesn’t matter “how much bidding Kashmiri Muslims will do for India, Delhi will never trust them because they are Muslims”.

“I kept my head down and walked away,” Mr Rahi said.

The Tribune – SGPC raagis to perform kirtan at Kartarpur

Committee to send them on rotational basis; also to complete their official formalities

Tribune News Service

Amritsar – Panjab – India, 04 December 2019. In a first, the Indian Sikh ‘raagis’ would recite gurbani kirtan at the Gurdwara located across the border regularly on a rotational basis. The SGPC has prepared a list of ‘raagi’ jathas (group of sacred hymn singers) to be deputed at Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib in Pakistan.

Under the plan, the first ‘raagi’ jatha will leave on December 16 morning through the Kartarpur corridor from Dera Baba Nanak and return after offering their day-long services at the Gurdwara. There has been upsurge in the flow of pilgrims who visit the Gurdwara through the corridor but several shortcomings in arrangements were also observed.

It was felt that more number of ‘raagis’ were required to continue the regular gurbani kirtan at Gurdwara Darbar Sahib, Kartarpur.

Sikhs in Pakistan are in micro-minority and consequently there has been shortage of professional ‘raagis’ compared to the number of Sikh Gurdwaras located in the Muslim-dominated country.

SGPC chief secretary Dr Roop Singh said for the day-long continuous flow of gurbani kirtan, the apex body had offered services of its ‘raagis’ at Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib.

For the first day, Bhai Shaukeen Singh-led ‘raagi’ jatha would reach the Gurdwara on 16 December through the dedicated terminal and return the same evening. The following day, Bhai Gurmel Singh would take his jatha.

Though the duties would be designated by the SGPC, these jathas would go like the ordinary pilgrims, after furnishing their antecedents online and paying the service fee of $20 each. All this would be arranged by the SGPC well in advance.

The SGPC had earlier appealed to the Centre to take up the issue at the diplomatic level with its Pakistani counterparts so that special permission could be granted to the SGPC to send its ‘raagi’ jathas and sewadaars under a special category.

Now, the SGPC has decided to offer the service instantly through the ordinary channel. Dr Roop Singh said the plan of providing service of ‘raagis’ was offered in the backdrop of the feedback received from the devotees.

“The devotees who paid obeisance at Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib observed the shortage of ‘raagis’ which posed as a hindrance and cumbersome for a handful of Pakistani raagis in continuing with the gurbani kirtan the whole day at the Gurdwara.

We decided to send our jathas on our own through the available channel. They will go like other pilgrims and return after offering their services the same evening,” he said.

Golden Temple’s [Harmandr Sahib] additional manager Rajinder Singh Rubi said at present there were more than 70 ‘raagi’ jathas associated with the shrine. “We plan that the instruments like harmonium, table and other allied items that were required in reciting gurbani kirtan should be donated at Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib,” he said.

Gent-Sint-Pieters – Gentbrugge Melle Leeuw – Gent Tarbotstraat and Hand in Hand

20 November 2019

Train to Eupen via Brussel and Leuven

IC to Eupen
The engine is pushing the train, the driver is in front

Melle Leeuw – Terminus of Tram 2
20 November 2019

On the left the tram that just arrived
On the right the departing tram to Zwijndrecht

22 November 2019

Gemeenteschool – Municipal School

Hand in Hand
Neighbourhoodcentre Lousbergpark
22 November 2019

Preparing the bags in which the Speculaas will be packed
Sale of Saint-Nicholas Speculaas

Sitting: Dirk I, standing Dirk II

More Belgian pictures to be published
Harjinder Singh
Man in Blue

India Today – 1984 riots could have been avoided, if Narasimha Rao had listened to I K Gujaral: Manmohan Singh

Manmohan Singh on Wednesday said that if then Home Minister Narasimha Rao had paid heed to IK Gujaral’s suggestion to call in the army, the 1984 Sikh riots could have been avoided.

Anand Patel

New Delhi – India, 04 December 2019. Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has said that the Sikh massacre of 1984 in Delhi could have been avoided had the then Home Minister Narsimha Rao acted upon the advice of Inder Kumar Gujral. He was speaking at a ceremony to mark the 100th birth anniversary of former prime minister Gujral in the capital on Wednesday.

“Gujral Ji was so concerned that he went to the then Home Minister Narsimha Rao that very evening. The situation is so grave that it is necessary for the government to call the army at the earliest. If that advice would have been heeded perhaps the 1984 massacre could have been avoided,” Manmohan Singh said.

The 1984 Sikh massacre, which followed the assassination of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi at the hands of her four Sikh security personnel, had left over 3,000 Sikhs dead across the nation.

Also speaking at the event, Former President Dr Pranab Mukherjee regretted the then Congress high command’s decision to withdraw support from I K Gujral-led United Front government in 1998. He said that the decision allowed BJP to come to power.

“Many architects of the United front government are here, Sitaram Yechuri is here, he has to face angry crowd, calling him responsible for the mischief of bringing down the coalition government, short point I am trying to make is that these decisions perhaps we could have deferred the BJP from coming to power in 1998 and the government could have continued with our support for full term,” Pranab Mukherjee said.

Dawn – Mob besieges Dawn offices in Islamabad

The Newspaper’s Staff Reporter

Islamabad Capital Territory – Pakistan, 03 December 2019. A few dozen unidentified people on Monday staged a protest outside Dawn offices over publication of a news report regarding the ethnicity of the London Bridge attacker who stabbed two persons to death last week.

The charged mob, carrying banners and chanting slogans against the newspaper, remained outside the office building for nearly three hours, besieging the premises and making the staffers hostage.

They prevented the employees from entering or leaving the building and demanded a written apology. Some of the protesters also misbehaved with the newspaper as well as Dawn TV employees when they arrived at the office.

Security guards at the media house had to lock the gates to prevent the protesters from entering the premises before police and officers of the capital administration arrived.

After lengthy negotiations with the newspaper management in the presence of an assistant commissioner, the protesters finally agreed to disperse after hurling warnings.

Meanwhile, the incident was widely condemned by leaders of various political parties, parliamentarians and journalist bodies.

Chairman of the Senate Functional Committee on Human Rights Mustafa Nawaz Kokhar has also taken notice of the besieging of Dawn offices by the unidentified persons and directed the inspector general of police Islamabad to submit a report on the issue to the committee by December 6. He had also sought details of the action taken by the police against those who had besieged the media house.

Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari in a statement condemned the incident, saying that “no one should be allowed to attack media outlets in the name of protest”.

Mr Bhutto-Zardari demanded “action against the crowd which attacked the newspaper office and vowed to side with the journalist fraternity”.

PML-N Information Secretary Marriyum Aurangzeb called for a high-level investigation into the incident to identify and punish the perpetrators.

In a statement, Ms Aurangzeb said it was imperative to set a precedent by awarding strict punishment to those who attacked the newspaper office so that it should act as a deterrent in future.

“Such actions are unacceptable in any civilised society,” she said, pledging that the people, politicians and media will join hands in the fight against such elements.

National Party (NP) Punjab president Ayub Malik termed it as an “attack on media freedom”. He also called for strict action against the “unidentified persons” for holding the newspaper employees hostage. He asked the government to identify the people with the help of video footages available on social media.

Meanwhile, office-bearers of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) and the National Press Club (NPC) also condemned the incident.

Newly-elected president of the PFUJ-Afzal Butt Group Shehzada Zulfiqar and secretary general Nasir Zaidi demanded an inquiry.

The incident, they said, was an eye opener for the government and must not be ignored.

NPC President Shakil Qarar, in a statement, said working journalists would not allow curbs on press freedom, and asked the government to take steps for the protection of media persons.