ThePrint – J&K de-empanels 34 newspapers, suspends ads for 13, issues notice to 17 for ‘malpractice’

The decision, taken in December 2020, cites plagiarism and poor content, and is based on a four-month-long investigation into complaints received from media fraternity.

Azaan Javaid

Srinagar – Jammu and Kashmir – India, 17 January 2021. The Jammu and Kashmir government has de-empanelled 34 newspapers and suspended advertisements to 13 publications for violating norms of circulation and other publication guidelines.

Notices have also been issued to 17 other news publications for “alleged plagiarism” and “poor content”.

According to government officials, the decision was taken on 7 December after a four-month-long exercise was conducted to verify and examine the workings of dozens of newspapers in the Union Territory.

The UT administration said it had been receiving complaints of alleged malpractice and violation of the advertisement policy against these organisations from within the media fraternity.

The notices to the 17 publications asked the news organisations to adhere to the standard of new media policy unveiled in June 2020, under which the government examines the content of print, electronic and other forms of media for “fake news – plagiarism and unethical or anti-national content”.

Official documents which ThePrint accessed show that the committee also took a lenient view that newspapers that could not publish their issues regularly during the Covid-19 pandemic since March 2020.

“Despite that, many news publications were indulging in malpractice and providing wrong information about their circulation.

Action against news publications has been taken after due diligence and a four month long hectic exercise conducted by the Committee constituted by the Government,” said a government official requesting anonymity.

“The publications, since 2017-18, had indulged in clear violation of advertisement policy and had tried to deceive the authorities on matters ranging from their circulation, ownership and quality of publications,” the official added.

Among the publications facing action are Rising Kashmir, Galaxy News, Kashmir Images, and Apna Jammu.

The government’s Empanelment Committee, constituted on 15 May 2020 and comprising senior officials of the Finance Department and Directorate of Information and Public Relations, took the decision.

‘Malpractice by newspapers’

A J&K administration official told ThePrint that the government action is not based on the size or name of the newspapers but due to alleged malpractice.

A second official said providing wrong information about circulation, misinformation about real ownership and content being produced, quality of the paper (colour newspapers get more government funds), plagiarising content from the internet or other newspapers were some of the alleged violations that came to light during the investigation.

Among those de-empaneled in Jammu division are lesser known newspapers such as Hill People, Naweed, Dainik Kashmir Times, Swarn Samarika, Nai Roshni, Height of Life, Zameer-e-Khalq, Galaxy News, Apna Jammu, The Earth News and Lok Shakti.

“At many places, such as newspaper stands and vendor shops, our teams conducted raids and checks to check circulation of papers, and we found out the newspapers only existed in government records.

There were others which only printed one copy to be sent to the Information Department,” said a government official privy to the investigation.

According to data with ThePrint, there are 164 empanelled publications in Kashmir, including newspapers, magazines, weeklies and fortnightlies.

These included 41 English dailies, 59 Urdu dailies and 56 English and Urdu weeklies.

In Jammu, there are 248 empanelled publications, including 84 English dailies, 31 in Urdu, 24 in Hindi, 14 multilingual (Hindi/Dogri) weeklies, 37 Urdu weeklies and 30 English weeklies.

So far, 24 news publications were de-empanelled in Jammu, 17 were served notices to adopt the new media policy 2020 and ads to five have been suspended.

In Kashmir, 10 newspapers have been de-empanelled and advertisements have been suspended for eight others.

Vigorous News, State Monitor, and Trade and Jobs were among those de-empanelled by the government for falsifying circulation numbers. In Kashmir, the presses for eight newspapers, including, Wadi Gulpish, Sadaqat-e-Rehbar, Haq Nawaz, and Sad-Rang Sehar were stopped.

FirstPost – Testing India’s patience would be a mistake, says army chief General M M Naravane on Ladakh standoff

Naravane, however, added that India is committed to resolve the eight-month-long military standoff with China through talks. He was speaking at the Army Day parade in New Delhi.

New Delhi – India, 15 January 2021. In a tough message to China amid the Ladakh standoff, Army Chief General M M Naravane on Friday said no one should make any mistake of testing India’s patience even as he asserted that a befitting response was given to the “conspiracy” of unilaterally changing the status quo along the northern frontier.

Naravane also said that India is committed to resolve the over eight-month-long military standoff with China through talks.

In his address at the Army Day parade in Delhi Cantonment, Naravane said the deaths of the “Galwan heroes” in eastern Ladakh in June last year will not go waste and that the Indian Army will not allow any harm to the country’s sovereignty and security.

“We are committed to resolve disputes through talks and political efforts but no one should make any mistake of testing our patience,” he said in the presence of the country’s top military brass including Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat, Navy Chief Admiral Karambir Singh and IAF Chief Air Chief Marshal R K S Bhadauria.

Indian and Chinese troops are locked in a bitter standoff in eastern Ladakh since 5 May as multiple rounds of military and diplomatic talks have not yet produced any breakthrough.

Referring to the situation along the Line of Control (LoC), Naravane said Pakistan continues to shelter terrorists and 300 to 400 of them are waiting in training camps on the Pakistani side of the LoC to infiltrate into India.

On the situation in eastern Ladakh, Naravane said despite the severe cold weather, the morale of the Indian soldiers is “higher” than the region’s mountain peaks “which they are protecting effectively and with promptness”.

“Last year was very challenging for the Army. You are aware of the tension with China along the northern border. A befitting reply was given to the conspiracy of unilaterally changing the status quo on the border,” he said.

“I want to assure the country that the sacrifice of the Galwan heroes will not go waste. Indian Army will not allow any harm to the country’s sovereignty and security.”

Twenty Indian Army personnel lost their lives in a fierce hand-to-hand combat on 15 June 2020 in the Galwan Valley, an incident that marked the most serious military conflict between the two sides in decades.

China is yet to disclose the number of its soldiers killed and injured in the clash though it officially admitted to have suffered casualties. According to an American intelligence report, the number of casualties on the Chinese side was 35.

Naravane also noted that eight rounds of military talks were held between India and China to bring the situation under control. “Our efforts will continue to find a solution to the current situation on the basis of mutual and equal security,” he said.

About cross-border terrorism emanating from Pakistan, he said there has been 44 percent increase in ceasefire violations that reflects the neighbouring country’s sinister design.

“Strong response is being given to the enemy on the other border. Pakistan continues to provide safe haven to terrorists. In the training camps, across the LOC around 300-400 terrorists are ready to infiltrate,” he said.

“There was an increase of 44 percent in the ceasefire violations last year which is proof of Pakistan’s sinister plans. There were also attempts to smuggle weapons using drones,” he added.

“There were efforts to smuggle in weapons (into India) from across the border using drones and tunnels,” he said.

The Chief of the Army Staff said India’s active operations and strong counter infiltration grid not only inflicted heavy losses on the enemy but they contained infiltration attempts as well.

Naravane said the Army killed over 200 terrorists in counter-terror operations and on the LoC last year, adding these measures have provided people of Jammu and Kashmir relief from terrorism.

On the security situation in the North East, he said major success was achieved in anti-militancy operations conducted by the Army in cooperation with the Myanmarese Army.

Naravane said around 600 militants had surrendered last year in the North East due to proactive operations by the armed forces. Myanmar is one of India’s strategic neighbours and shares a 1,640-km-long border with a number of northeastern states including militancy-hit Nagaland and Manipur.

There has been increasing cooperation between Indian and Myanmarese armies in the last few years in guarding the border. Some militant groups from the North-East region are taking shelter in Myanmar.

FirstPost – In Kashmir’s struggle between ‘national integrity’ and ‘identity’, land has remained a quiet catalyst around its politics

When politics around ‘identity’ and ‘development’ has juxtaposed in Kashmir, land would always be the centrepiece.

Muzamil Yaqoob and Aijaz Ashraf Wani

Srinagar – Jammu & Kashmir – India, 01 January 2021. Land has always been integral to politics in Kashmir. While it has immensely shaped the political developments in the erstwhile state; it continues to hang high on recent developments as well.

It won’t be surprising to see the future political formations being shaped around the issues concerning land.

The debate intensified recently when the Central Government notified the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation (Adaptation of Central Laws) Third order, announcing a plethora of changes to the existing land laws, thereby heralding a new era in the land politics of Jammu and Kashmir.

Much has been talked about how politics in Kashmir has drastically changed after Article 370 was read down from the Indian constitution last year.

While alterations with the federal structure have been numerously enumerated upon, however, such analyses of Kashmir politics would rather give it only a perfunctory treatment if we don’t understand how intimately has been land linked to different epochs of post-1947 politics.

In order to understand how land issues have shaped the politics in Kashmir throughout modern history, it is imperative to reflect upon the recent changes which would potentially change the agrarian relations in Kashmir forever.

However, that would in no way diminish the importance land holds in Kashmir politics and we believe that land would remain a preponderant feature of how we analyse the regional political dynamism from within and without.

The recent changes

The central theme running through the recently notified legislations, such as the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation (Adaptation of Central Laws) Third order, the Big Landed Estates policy, and the newly formed Domicile Rules, is that they have massively liberalised the criteria for not only acquiring the residency rights but also for acquiring property anywhere in the erstwhile state.
These changes invited a mixed response.

While the political parties and civil society groups from Kashmir have unequivocally condemned the move which they argue are aimed at ‘disempowering’ the ‘domiciles’ and aimed at altering the demographics of the region.

Even in Hindu dominated Jammu region one does not see overwhelming enthusiasm to these changes, although the region continues to vote for BJP (recent BDC elections is a case in point).

The mainstream Indian response, on the other hand, has been cordial to such changes with the ruling government realizing its electoral promises to opening the gates of ‘paradise’ to them.

However, what was common to these narratives is that they have personified land as something integral to ‘identity’ in the former case and ‘national integrity’ in the later, thus reiterating and upholding the tradition of land-centric populist politics in Kashmir.

Revisiting how land issues shaped politics post-1947

The agrarian history of Jammu and Kashmir has never seen a day of stability. In order to understand these nuances, it is important to reflect upon the backdrop of how different epochs of history have witnessed a sharp contestation over how land relations were structured.

After 1947, redistribution of land was probably the most powerful method to ameliorate the crises which the agrarian sector in Kashmir was engulfed with.

Pre-1947 saw political mobilisations around land issues against the Dogra oppression and the regressive taxations being followed.

In such a political milieu, the historic Big Land Estate Abolition Act, 1950 was introduced which radically reshaped the agrarian politics and ended feudal landlordism.

How much prosperity did the peasantry witness under the changed conditions is however another debate? (see Aijaz Ashraf Wani, What happened to governance in Kashmir, OUP, 2019).

It is, however, important to note that lakhs of acres of land were gradually transferred to landless tillers, thus ushering a new era in the agrarian history of the state.

Different populist trends have marked the Kashmir history differently. In a situation where more than 90% of the Muslim population was landless, the possibility of any land restructuring was bound to benefit the Muslim peasantry directly, wrote David Devdas in The Wire.

However, it does not mean that non-Muslim landless peasantry did not benefit. After the early redistributions, the significance of land and politics over the issue further intensified.

It is in this direction that during the Sadiq’s liberalisation era, the progressive taxation system was introduced to liberate the small land-owning class from the payment of land revenue.

Another phase in land politics was witnessed during Mir Qasim’s rule. The introduction of the Jammu and Kashmir Reform Act 1972 redefined the land ownership and ceiling rights.

Sheikh Abdullah after resuming the charge in 1975 again resorted to the earlier strategy and resultantly the Jammu and Kashmir Agrarian Reforms Act 1976 was passed; abolishing the absentee landlordism and redistributing the surplus land.

This opened another chapter in the history of land reforms in the state which not only helped Sheikh to restore his lost glory to some extent but fashioned the future politics to operate within the populist frame which was crafted decades ago.

Why study history?

If language can shape the way we think, history should in every way fashion our understanding of the present.

It becomes necessary to perceive the Jammu and Kashmir State Lands (Vesting of Ownership to the Occupants) Act — also named Roshni Act 2001 — in the backdrop of various historical trajectories which have shaped the counters of state politics since 1947.

The Act was originally passed in 2001 during Farooq Abdullah led NC-Congress coalition government. However, further amendments were introduced by Mufti Syed led PDP-Congress coalition government in 2007.
In the changed political milieu of the state, it was first repealed in 2018 and transaction made under the scheme were probed after Article 370 was read down in 2019.

The story however doesn’t end here, propaganda over ‘land jihad’ and later the petitions to review the terms of judgement by the government was peddled in the wake of DDC elections in the region. This again reified the age-old tradition of populist politics in Kashmir.

With such historical baggage, land issues in Kashmir reached new ascendency, thus stretching out their influence over the decades.

If we appraise the major political developments since 1947, land has in one or the other way been the focal point of all the regimes to materialise their ‘legitimation crises’, no matter what the circumstances.

Approaching to investigate and understand history in this way becomes more important now like never before, when politics around ‘identity’ and ‘development’ has been juxtaposed, making land the centrepiece.

Muzamil Yaqoob is a post-graduate from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New-Delhi and Aijaz Ashraf Wani is a senior Assistant Professor of political science in the University of Kashmir and the author of What Happened to Governance in Kashmir? published by Oxford University Press, 2019.

The Hindustan Times – Mehbooba Mufti seeks impartial and swift probe into Lawaypora encounter

Three youths from south Kashmir were killed on Tuesday inside a house by the security forces in a joint operation. Security forces maintain they were terrorists but the families of the killed youth claim they were students.

Mir Ehsan – Edited by Abhinav Sahay

Srinagar – Jammu & Kashmir – India, 01 January 2021. PDP president and former J&K chief minister, Mehbooba Mufti on Friday wrote a letter to Jammu and Kashmir Lt Governor, Manoj Sinha seeking an impartial and swift probe into the killing of three youths in Lawaypora encounter on the outskirts of Srinagar city and also demanded that their bodies be returned to the families.

Three youths from south Kashmir were killed on Tuesday inside a house by the security forces in a joint operation, while police and army claimed they were militants, relatives claim they were students.

In her letter to L-G, Mehbooba Mufti said that justice can be only served when impartial and swift investigation is done in the case.

“Three boys, the youngest being all of 17 years old, were killed, in what the family has alleged to be staged gunfight. The encounter has come close on the heels of an enquiry report that held an army captain guilty and responsible for the fake encounter at Amshipora (in) Shopian.

Again, the three victims now established as innocent through an investigation, were killed and dubbed as militants,” Mufti said in her letter.

The letter further said. “You and I may not agree in most political matters that concern J&K but I am certain we agree that such incidents bring disrepute to the armed forces and are a grave violation of human rights.”

Former J&K chief minister said that while the J&K administration is apprehensive about returning the bodies to the families, this “callous” decision will only exacerbate their sense of loss and pain.

“One hopes that you will rethink this decision and allow them to get closure. A mother who grieves the sudden and tragic death of her beloved son shouldn’t be deprived of the last chance to see his face,” reads the letter.

The security forces on Wednesday had said that three local militants were killed in an encounter at Lawaypora on the outskirts of the Srinagar city.

Families of the slain, however, rebutted the claim and said the youth killed in the encounter were civilians. The families also held a protest outside the police control room in Srinagar.

At a press briefing on Wednesday, General Officer Commanding (GoC) Kilo Force, H S Sahi had said that the militants were planning to attack the security forces on the national highway and different agencies were getting inputs about the same.

“We had been getting inputs about the militants’ movement on the national highway. The operation was launched last evening after getting inputs that militants were inside a house close to the national highway.

They were asked to surrender, however they responded with firing and the operation was suspended for the night and when operation was resumed again in the morning, they were again given an offer to surrender, however, they again started firing and hurled grenades which gave an indication they had no intention to surrender.”

Three youth killed in the encounter are identified as Zubair Ahmad from Turkawangam, Shopian, Ajaz Maqbool and Athar Mushtaq from Putrigam, Pulwama. Their families claimed that they were students who had left their homes yesterday before they were picked up and killed in a ‘staged’ encounter. – ‘Example of democracy’?: Despite Modi’s claims, allegations of horsetrading mar Kashmir local polls

In the absence of an anti-defection law in the territory, the Centre-backed Apni Party has been courting winning candidates from other parties.

Safwat Zargar

On 26 December, Prime Minister Narendra Modi claimed the recently held District Development Council elections in the Union territory of Jammu and Kashmir were an “example of democracy”.

But the same day, former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister and National Conference vice-president, Omar Abdullah, held a press conference at which he accused the government of “discrediting” democracy in the Union territory.

Winning candidates of the Peoples Alliance for Gupkar Declaration “are being threatened, humiliated and coerced to join Apni Party, which is a B-team” of the Bharatiya Janata Party, Abdullah was quoted as saying.

The Peoples Alliance for Gupkar Declaration, of which Abdullah’s National Conference is a member, is a conglomerate of Kashmiri regional parties and the Communist Party of India (Marxist).

They are demanding the restoration of statehood for Jammu and Kashmir and its special status under Article 370 of the Constitution that were revoked in August 2019. The alliance won the highest number of seats in this month’s District Development Council elections.

This was the first direct election after the tumultuous changes brought about in 2019, but it was accompanied by allegations that leaders of the Gupkar Alliance were detained arbitrarily and that winning candidates are being offered inducements to switch parties.

At least six major leaders, three each from the National Conference and Peoples Democratic Party, have been in “preventive detention” since 21 December. Since the election results were announced, some winning candidates say they have been placed in police-protected accommodations.

During his press conference, Abdullah alleged that the government of the Union territory was using the police to pressure winning candidates from the Gupkar Alliance to join the Jammu and Kashmir Apni Party.

“The prime minister says that these elections have given rebirth to democracy in J&K,” Abdullah told reporters. “So, we request that they should tell their administration, their police and civil officers not to interfere with the DDC results.”

Small numbers – big aspirations

The Apni Party is new to the political landscape of Jammu and Kashmir. Consisting mostly of former Peoples Democratic Party and Congress members, the Apni Party was formed with the Centre’s blessings in March to “look beyond Article 370”.

In Jammu and Kashmir, the party is widely seen as an attempt by the Centre to nurture an entity in Kashmir that will not question its decisions of 05 August 2019.

On 22 December, when the results for the District Development Council elections were announced, the Apni Party’s performance was tepid. Of the 134 candidates it fielded across Jammu and Kashmir, it won only 12 seats, nine of them in the Kashmir Valley.

But with a series of defections across the Kashmir Valley over the past week, the Apni Party tally has reached 20.

The party claims that it is set to control at least four of the Union territory’s 20 district councils. The party seems to be banking on gaining the support of independent candidates and on defectors from other political parties. The party is using the absence of an anti-defection law in Jammu and Kashmir to its advantage.

“In Kashmir, we are sure about forming a majority in Shopian and Srinagar district and in Jammu, we are looking to control the district councils in Poonch and Reasi districts,” said Vikram Malhotra, spokesperson of Apni Party.

In order to reach the majority mark in the district councils, Malhotra said, the party will welcome to its fold successful independent candidates as well as winners who contested on the tickets of other parties.

The arithmetic of control

For the District Development Council elections, each of Jammu and Kashmir’s 20 districts was divided into 14 constituencies.

Each constituency will have one representative. For a party to control a district council and elect its chairman, it must have a minimum of eight seats.

Out of total 278 seats for which the results were declared on 22 December, the Gupkar Alliance won 110. It won a majority in six out of the ten district councils in the Kashmir Valley.

In three other districts, the alliance is one seat short of getting a majority. In one of these, Bandipora, the result for one seat is yet to be declared.

With the support of the Congress, which won 26 seats, the Gupkar Alliance could easily take control of the councils in Shopian, Baramulla and Bandipora districts. In Srinagar district, where the alliance won only four seats, it could gain control by getting four independents on its side.

In Jammu, the Gupkar alliance did not win a complete majority in any of the district councils. But it could gain control of at least three of the region’s ten district councils if it manages to form a coalition with the Congress and independents.

But the leaders of the Gupkar Alliance in Kashmir allege that they are not being allowed to discuss options with independent candidates or other parties.

“The administration has now taken on the responsibility of trying to collect independent candidates for the BJP and its recently formed subsidiary,” Omar Abdullah said in a tweet on December 23, a day after election results were announced.

“It seems the government doesn’t have enough to do & has branched out in to this line of work as well.”

In some cases, the administration was openly stopping representatives of the Gupkar Alliance from meeting independent candidates, Abdullah alleged.

A former National Conference legislator from Shopian, Showkat Ganie, was “taken away by the police to stop him [from] contacting the independent DDC members elected in his district”, he alleged in another tweet.

Defections in Shopian

Abdullah’s 26 December press conference was dramatic. He brought up the defection of his party’s candidate Yasmeena Jan to the Apni Party. Jan had contested from Imam Sahib-I in South Kashmir’s Shopian district.

Abdullah played a recording of a phone call involving her husband that he said was proof of pressure being brought on winning Gupkar Alliance leaders.

“He was asked to make his wife join Apni Party forcibly in lieu of getting her brother-in-law released from detention,” Abdullah alleged. “I don’t know the reasons on whose command this all is being done.”

He added: “This way democracy is being murdered in J&K. I wonder if Parliament has an anti-defection law, and the Assembly too has it, why the same is not being implemented in J&K and those switching sides being disqualified.”

The National Conference is not the only party to lose candidates after the results. A Congress candidate and a Peoples Democratic Party candidate in Shopian have also joined the Apni Party.

Switching sides

In Shopian, the alliance had won seven seats and was just one short of a majority. With Jan’s defection, the party’s seat count had dipped to six.

After that, Abdul Rashid Lone, a Peoples Democratic Party candidate switched to Apni Party as well, reducing the share of Gupkar Alliance seats to five. However, the alliance was able to attract two independents on its side, maintaining its original score of seven seats in the district.

The only party to gain from these defections is the Apni Party. Along with the defections from three parties, National Conference, Peoples Democratic Party and Congress, the party has been able to get an independent candidate on its side.

This has taken the Apni Party’s tally from two seats to six seats in Shopian district. It needs only two more seats to take control of the district council.

According to the Apni Party, the winners switching over to it were only “loosely aligned” to the parties on whose tickets they contested.

“The people who are joining our party were not the committed members or cadre members of these parties,” claimed Malhotra, the spokesperson of the Apni Party. “They were just loosely aligned to them. We don’t expect a committed member of these parties to join us”

Though he conceded that these defections would not have been possible if the anti-defection law was implemented in Jammu and Kashmir, Malhotra denied any use of force or money.

“There’s no doubt these people contested on the mandate of these parties [Gupkar Alliance] but when they see an option of a bright future in Apni Party, they switch over,” he said. “You can’t project it like that they are being forced and lured by money.”

Meanwhile, the National Conference said it is looking into how to address the issue of defections. “Within the party, we are discussing how to go forward on that. Obviously, it will include legal aspects as well,” said Imran Nabi Dar, the party’s spokesperson.

“In every direct election across the country, the anti-defection law automatically applies. What’s the reason they are singling out DDC elections? It’s very strange.”

Before Jammu and Kashmir’s special status was revoked last August, the erstwhile state had a stronger and stringent anti-defection law than the rest of the country. But since it was split and downgraded into two Union territories, the administration has not taken any decision on implementing anti-defection law.

On December 28, Divisional Commissioner Kashmir, P K Pole told reporters in Srinagar that he would check with the Rural Development department if the anti-defection law could be enacted in Jammu and Kashmir.

‘No space to us’

A day before the scheduled counting of votes for district development council elections on 22 December, Jammu and Kashmir police detained three senior leaders and close aides of Peoples Democratic Party president Mehbooba Mufti, a member of the alliance.

On 23 December, two National Conference leaders, including a former Member of Legislative Council Showkat Ganie, were detained in Shopian. Two days later, another National Conference leader was detained in North Kashmir’s Bandipora district.

“There’s a pattern to these detentions,” said a National Conference leader. “All these detentions are taking place in districts where the alliance doesn’t have a clear majority.

The idea is to keep our workers and leaders in detention and allow the Apni Party to lure other successful candidates and engineer defections.”

So far, the government has not given any official reason for detaining these leaders. On 26 December, Reuters reported at least 75 other Kashmiri political activists had been taken into preventive detention after the conclusion of the election.

The detainees included separatist leaders as well as those from banned outfits like the Jamaat-e-Islami.

Another news report put the number of those detained to around 100 and said they will either face preventive detention or be booked under Public Safety Act to prevent “breach of peace”.

The families of the people detained have been kept in dark about the reasons for which their relatives have been taken into custody.

“We haven’t been given any explanation or document as to why they are detaining them,” said a relative of one of the detained leaders in Srinagar, requesting anonymity.

“We tried to reach out to the administration but there’s no response.”

Even some winning candidates of the Gupkar Alliance have faced restrictions. In Shopian, Raja Waheed, a successful district development council candidate from Peoples Democratic Party, has been placed in a government accommodation under police protection since 24 December.

“I was at home. The police picked me up from home and put me here,” Waheed told “Since then, I am here.”

Waheed shares the police-protected accommodation with an independent candidate from the district who won a seat. “He’s not allowed to move out at all,” said Waheed.

Had he been free, Waheed said, he would be on ground and making efforts to gather support in favour of the Gupkar Alliance. “But by putting us here, they are not giving us chance to speak to people and canvas for support,” he said. “We are unable to communicate.” sent written queries to Rohit Kansal, spokesperson of Jammu and Kashmir government about the detentions in the Valley following the elections, asking why anti-defection law is not implemented in Jammu and Kashmir and about allegations against administration of working in favour of Apni Party.

This article will be updated if he responds.

Meanwhile, the Apni Party says more successful independent and party candidates are likely to join it. “The talks are on,” said party spokesperson Malhotra. “In coming days, you’ll see many more independent and other party’s candidates joining us. All of them will be taken.”

He added that his party has the allegiance of several independent candidates across the Union territory. “Many independents were affiliated to us and they will also help us in staking claims for a majority in district councils,” he added.

The Asian Age – Gupkar alliance poised to win big in DDC polls

Yusuf Jameel

The BJP has also performed well by winning an election for the first time from any seat in the predominantly Muslim Kashmir Valley

Srinagar – Jammu & Kashmir – India, 23 December 2020. The People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD), a conglomerate of J&K’s mainstream regional Opposition parties and their allies from the national Left parties, is poised to win big in the Union territory’s first-ever District Development Council (DDC) elections.

However, its arch-rival, the BJP, has also performed well – mainly in the Jammu region. What is also spectacular for the saffron party is that it has won an election for the first time from any seat in the predominantly Muslim Kashmir Valley.

The PAGD led by former chief minister Farooq Abdullah won 70 of the 177 seats the results of which were declared till this report was filed and is leading in over 40 seats. A total of 48 seats have gone to the BJP, while its candidates have a comfortable lead over their rivals in over 30 seats.

The Jammu and Kashmir Apni Party (JKAP), known in local political circles as the BJP’s tacit ally, has bagged seven seats and the Congress 14 seats.

One seat has gone in favour of the National Panthers Party. The Independents, some known to be proxies of the BJP, and others too have made a mark by winning as many 38 seats so far.

Former chief minister Omar Abdullah termed the results an eye-opener for the BJP and its “proxy political party” (an obvious reference to JKAP), and said the people had rejected the Centre’s move to strip J&K of its special status and splitting it up into two Union territories in August last year.

Earlier, in a tweet, he also said: “The trends that have emerged in the DDC polls in J&K are very encouraging for the @JKPAGD.

The BJP had made this election a prestige issue about Art 370 & J&K’s special status. The people have now spoken & it’s for those who believe in democracy to pay heed to these voices”.

Among the PAGD winners is Waheed Ur Rehman Parra, a youth leader of its constituent People’s Democratic Party (PDP), who was arrested by the National Investigation Agency on charges of helping separatist militants on 25 November, a day after he filed his nomination papers from home district Pulwama.

Mr Parra polled 1,323 votes, defeating his nearest BJP rival Sajad Ahmad Raina by a margin of 1,002 votes. PDP president and former CM Mehbooba Mufti tweeted: “Couldn’t be prouder of PDP’s @parawahid who won his maiden election by a huge margin of votes.

Despite being arrested on baseless charges right after filing his nomination people have shown their love & trust for Waheed. Hope justice prevails.”

The BJP’s victors from the Valley are Aijaz Hussain (Khonmoh-II seat in DDC Srinagar), Aijaz Ahmad Khan (Tulail seat in Bandipora district) and Minha Latief (Kakapora (Pulwama).

After being declared winner, Mr Hussain told reporters outside the counting centre: “This is a win for the BJP. The propaganda has been bust as people have shown their faith in the Prime Minister and his policies. This is a message that nationalists are prospering in Kashmir.”

However, among the BJP’s prominent losers is its spokesman Altaf Thakur, who finished third in Dadsara segment of Pulwama DDC. Mr Thakur bagged 235 votes as against 246 polled by Independent Avtar Singh, whereas PAGD nominee Ali Muhammad Butt secured 243 votes.

Voting for 280 DDC seats, 14 in each of J&K’s 20 districts, took place in eight phases over 25 days and ended on December 19. Nearly 4,200 candidates, including over 450 women, had joined the fray.

These are the first elections held in J&K after the abrogation of Article 370. PAGD was formed initially by seven mainstream parties to seek restoration of the erstwhile state’s special status. However, the BJP termed its launch as a “conspiracy” against the people of J&K.

Omar Abdullah, after the PAGD’s fabulous performance in the DDC elections, said it “is an alliance that emerged out of the betrayal of the people of J&K on 5th Aug 2019.

We have faced every obstacle, illegal detentions, agency threats & pressures, our candidates were locked up to stop them campaigning & from all this we are emerging victorious”.

The Statesman – Early trends show Gupkar alliance ahead of BJP in J&K local body polls

The early trends in the District Development Council (DDC) elections in Jammu and Kashmir on Tuesday gave an edge to the Farooq Abdullah-led People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration.

New Delhi – India, 22 December 2020. The early trends in the District Development Council (DDC) elections in Jammu and Kashmir on Tuesday gave an edge to the Farooq Abdullah-led People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration.

This is the first election in Jammu and Kashmir after the scrapping of the special status and making it a Union Territory.

In the early vote count trends, the Gupkar alliance which has National Conference (NC) and Mehbooba Mufti’s People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and other regional parties is leading in 81 seats, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in 47 and Congress in 21.

In the Jammu province, BJP is ahead in 44 seats, while the Gupkar alliance in 20. In Kashmir region and the regional parties group is leading in 61 seats and BJP is at three.

The votes are being counted for 280 seats, with 14 seats in the 20 districts of the Union Territory. In the DDC elections, ballot papers have been used instead of electronic voting machines (EVMs).

The Jammu and Kashmir District Development Council (DDC) elections were held in eight phases and was concluded on December 19 and the results will be declared on December 22.

The Gupkar alliance was formed after the abrogation of Article 370 which gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir. Former chief ministers Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah, Mehbooba Mufti and others leaders of the valley were detained in August last year to prevent protests.

The NC leaders Farooq and Omar Abdullah were released in March while PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti was released in October after over a year of being detained.

The BJP incharge for the DDC polls Anurag Thakur said, “The results will be out today and I am confident of Bhartiya Janata Party’s performance. People want to see new leadership take charge in J&K that will help resolve issues in their constituencies.”

He further added, “Even though people were threatened, they came out in huge numbers to cast their vote. This is the victory of democracy. PM Modi’s dream that at grassroots level – panchayat, BDC & DDC elections should be held in J&K – has been fulfilled.”

The decision to fight the DDC election was taken by the Gupkar alliance and it announced that it will field joint candidates and even issued list of their ‘unanimous’ candidates for first five phases but a fight over seat sharing forced them not to release list for the remains three phases.

The Gupkar alliance had alleged that their candidates had been kept in security enclosures and were not allowed to campaign for security reasons.

The BJP, on the other hand flew central leaders to campaign for the J&K elections.

The Hindu – Constant vigilance: on Khalistan threat

The Khalistan movement is non-existent, but security agencies must watch fringe sections

New Delhi – India, 09 December 2020. The arrest of five terror suspects in Delhi, two of whom were allegedly involved in the murder of Shaurya Chakra awardee Balwinder Singh in Punjab in October, has turned the spotlight on the embers of the long dead and buried Khalistan movement.

The Delhi police have claimed that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) is seeking yet again to link up terror outfits in Kashmir with pro-Khalistan activists; three of the others arrested were from Kashmir.

While these claims need to be investigated before any conclusion can be made about the presence of a link, the central government should not take the threat lightly. The Khalistan movement has long become moribund with the neutralisation of the threat and the ending of the Punjab insurgency in the early 1990s.

The movement has lost support from the Sikh community within India and the Sikh diaspora across the world. The killing of Balwinder Singh is one of a few isolated and sporadic incidents that have occurred in the last decade but attempts to revive the movement from fringe groups have failed.

There is also no truth in the allegation that there are pro-Khalistani sections as part of the large-scale protests led by farmers in Punjab.

The irrelevance of the Khalistan movement notwithstanding, agencies such as the ISI have not stopped trying to foment such violence, either directly by funding fringe sections or by linking them with terror groups in Kashmir. Security agencies must therefore remain vigilant.

Even if the Khalistan movement has been interred, the threat of terror in Kashmir remains well and truly active. Terror incidents and fatalities since the revoking of special status and statehood for Jammu & Kashmir in the last year have remained high.

Data from the terrorism monitoring portal,, show that there were 382 incidents related to terrorism and 302 fatalities in 2020 so far in J&K compared to 369 and 283 in 2019, respectively.

While many of these incidents have occurred due to acts of terror emanating from within the Union Territory, infiltration of terrorists from Pakistan continues apace as well, which is also correlated with the increased ceasefire violations at both the Line of Control and the International Border.

The lull in terror activities and the relative peace in the Valley from 2011 to 2015 are now a thing of the past and renewed violence besides disaffection have become a new normal, even if they have not reached the high levels of the 1990s and the early 2000s.

The persisting disaffection in the Valley can only be addressed by a new political process that seeks to review the unilateral changes made to the region’s status and restores its full statehood.

The Hindu – India rejects OIC reference to Kashmir

Regrettable it continues to allow itself to be used by a certain country, says New Delhi

Special Correspondent

New Delhi – India, 30 November 2020. India on Sunday ‘strongly’ rejected the criticism of its Kashmir policy by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.

The Ministry of External Affairs hinted at Pakistan and said the OIC is being used by that country for its campaign against India.

“We strongly and categorically reject the factually incorrect, gratuitous and unwarranted references to India in resolutions adopted by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) at the 47th CFM Session in Niamey, Republic of Niger, held on 27-28 November 2020,” said the Ministry.

The report of the OIC Secretary General on its activities submitted to the 47th session of the Council of Foreign Ministers referred to the situation in Jammu and Kashmir and said, “The decision of the Indian government on 5 August 2019 towards changing the demographic and geographic composition of the territory, and the continuous blockade and restrictions together with human rights abuses, had awakened renewed efforts of the international community towards a resolution of the conflict”.

The statement also acknowledged the support that Pakistan has been providing to keep the Kashmir issue on the agenda of the organisation.

In response, the MEA said, “It is regrettable that OIC continues to allow itself to be used by a certain country, which has an abominable record on religious tolerance, radicalism and persecution of minorities, to indulge in anti-India propaganda.”

The Indian Express – ‘Fighting elections in alliance also anti-national now?’: Mehbooba Mufti, Omar Abdullah hit back at Amit Shah over ‘Gupkar gang’ jibe

“BJP can stitch as many alliances in its hunger for power but somehow we are undermining national interest by putting up a united front,” Mufti said in a tweet.

New Delhi – India, 17 November 2020. Taking exception to Amit Shah calling the alliance of mainstream political parties in Jammu and Kashmir as ‘Gupkar Gang’, former chief ministers of the erstwhile state, Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah, hit back at the Union Home minister, saying the BJP can stitch as many alliances “in its hunger for power” but “we are undermining national interest”.

In a series of tweets, Shah alleged that the Congress party and the ‘Gupkar Gang’ want to take Jammu and Kashmir back to the era of terror and turmoil.

“They want to take away the rights of Dalits, women and tribals that we have ensured by removing Article 370. This is why they’re being rejected by the people everywhere,” he tweeted.

Mehbooba Mufti, in her response, said, “Fighting elections in an alliance is also anti-national now.

BJP can stitch as many alliances in its hunger for power but somehow we are undermining national interest by putting up a united front.”

Mufti also said that Shah’s attempt is just to project the Gupkar alliance as “anti-nationals” after BJP’s ‘tukde tukde gang’ narrative.

“Old habits die hard. Earlier BJPs narrative was that the tukde tukde gang threatened India’s sovereignty & they are now using ‘Gupkar Gang’ euphemism to project us as anti-nationals,” the PDP leader said.

Terming it as a stale and predictable tactic, Mufti further said that the BJP projects themselves as “saviours” and political opponents as “internal and imagined enemies”.

“Love jihad, tukde tukde and now Gupkar Gang dominates the political discourse instead of rising unemployment and inflation,” she added.

Apart from Mufti, National Conference leader Omar Abdullah also targeted the BJP saying that only in J&K can leaders be detained and called anti-national for participating in elections supporting the democratic process.

“We are not a “gang” Amit Shah ji, we are a legitimate political alliance having fought and continuing to fight elections, much to your disappointment,” Abdullah said in a tweet.

“The truth is all those who oppose the ideology of the BJP are labelled corrupt & anti-national,” he added.

Mufti’s rebuttal came after the Home minister termed an alliance of political parties of the Union Territory as “Gupkar Gang”.

Shah also targeted Congress leaders Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, saying if they support the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD), a conglomerate of regional and national political parties in Jammu and Kashmir formed to demand the restoration of the Article 370, scrapped last year.

The Congress party had formally joined the Gupkar Alliance on November 13 ahead of the eight-phase District Development Council (DDC) that are to be conducted between November 28 and December 19.