India Today – Sikh youth killing: Thirty panch, sarpanch resign en masse in Pulwama

Srinagar – Jammu & Kashmir – Pakistan, 10 January 2019. Following the killing of a Sikh youth by unknown gunmen in Tral, 30 panch and sarpanch have resigned in the Pulwama district of South Kashmir.

The slain youth, who was identified as Simranjeet Singh, was the brother of a newly elected sarpanch.

According to All Parties Sikh Coordination Committee (APSCC), “About 30 in number, all Sikhs who recently won panch and sarpanch elections in South Kashmir, have resigned en-masse in view of security concerns, following the killing of a Sikh youth in Tral area of South Kashmir.”

The APSCC said that some people with vested interests were trying to harm the centuries-old communal harmony in the Valley.

However, the authorities have not accepted their resignations yet.

In the last panchayat election that was held in 2011, more than two dozen elected panchayat members were killed by militants following which at least 148 panchayat members resigned.

Approximately 25,000 panch and sarpanch have been elected in the recent panchayat elections in Jammu and Kashmir, held in the end of 2018.

“It is now the responsibility of the government to provide us security as millitant outfits have already threatened those who participated in the panchayat polls,” an elected panch, on condition of anonymity, said.


Pakistan Today – Sikh community condemns killing of youth in Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK)

Islamabad Capital Territory – Pakistan, 07 January 2019. Various Sikh groups on Monday strongly condemned the killing of youth belonging to the Sikh community in the Tral area of Pulwama district of Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK).

The Sikh groups, during a meeting in Jammu, criticised the Indian authorities for not providing foolproof security to the families of the panchs and sarpanchs who contested the so-called panchayat elections, Kashmir Media Service (KMS) reported.

As per the statement, the meeting was chaired by Sardar Darbinder Singh, president, Shromani Akal Dal, and attended by representatives of Bhai Kanahyia Nishkam Sewa Society, AISSF, Sikh Naujwan Sabha, Sikh Welfare Society and other Sikh groups.

The meeting condemned the killing of a 25-year-old youth, Simranjit Singh, son of Sardar Nanak Singh of Khasi Pura, Tral, who contested the recent panchayat elections.

The Sikh groups demanded that the family of the deceased youth be given a compensation of Rs2.5 million and his murderers be arrested at the earliest.

The Statesman – Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) refugees demand relief on par with Kashmiri Pandit migrants

PoK refugees are demanding implementation of the cash package of Rs 25 lakh for each refugee family that had been approved by the then National Conference-Congress coalition government in 2014

Jammu – Jammu & Kashmir – India, 02 January 2019. The indefinite chain strike of refugees from Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) demanding relief on par with Kashmiri Pandit migrants entered 7th day here on Wednesday. The sit-in strike has been organised by the SOS International, an organisation of PoK refugees.

Rajiv Chuni, President of the SOS International, said the BJP government at the Centre and the J&K government were treating the PoK refugees as children of lesser gods while Kashmiri Pandit migrants and their children were being provided cash incentives and reservation in professional institutions.

Chuni regretted that the government was discriminating against the PoK refugees vis-a-vis the Kashmiri Pandits. He said the current agitation was in support of the demand for implementing the cash package of Rs 25 lakh for each refugee family that was approved by the National Conference-Congress coalition government in 2014.

The Narendra Modi government cut the package to Rs 5.5 lakh, and there had been discrepancies in payment during the past nearly five years, he said.

Chuni demanded that the nearly 5,300 families of PoK refugees who had been settled in other states should also be registered as refugees as they had illegally been deleted from the list. He also demanded that the 8 500 posts reserved in government departments for PoK refugees by the then NC-Congress government should be filled up by giving employment to their wards.

The refugees were also demanding that at least eight seats out of the 24 reserved for PoK in the state Assembly should be earmarked for the PoK refugees who migrated here 71 years ago. The SOS International has also sent a representation to the election commission in this regard.

They are also demanding that the money left behind in the accounts of the refugees in the J&K Bank branch at Mirpur in PoK should be paid to them by the bank.

BBC News – Finding God in the anguish of violence

Srinagar – Jammu & Kashmir – India, 26 December 2018. As violence has intensified in Indian-administered Kashmir, people have been flocking to the region’s fabled Sufi shrines in search of solace. Sameer Yasir speaks to photographer Azaan Shah, who has been documenting the anguish of the devotees.

Bakhti Begam is a regular at Khanqah-e-Moula, a Muslim Sufi shrine located on the banks of river Jhelum, which careens through the heart of Srinagar city.

She arrives quietly, holding a framed photograph of her missing son in a torn plastic bag. She places it on the stairs leading to the sanctum sanctorum and prays to be united with him.

“Please listen to me, my peer [saint]. I am broken, my peer,” the 75-year-old cries with folded hands. Her son, Manzoor Ahmad Wani, who was 25 at the time, disappeared on 22 December, 2001, a few days after he got married.

Bakhti Begam regularly makes the 80km (50-mile) trip to the shrine from her home. But her prayers are yet to be answered.

“I have come from far away, my peer. Please give me my Manzoor. I will sleep peacefully after 17 years,” she laments.

Bakhti Begam is just one of the many characters featured in the works of photographer Azaan Shah.

Mr Shah came into the limelight when his pictures were published in a book called Witness along with a number of other photojournalists who have worked in the state during decades of conflict.

The book was among the 10 best photo books of 2017 chosen by the New York Times.

Separatists have waged a violent campaign against Indian rule in Muslim-majority Kashmir since 1989. The region remains a subject of bitter dispute between India and Pakistan, who have fought two of their three wars over it. India has long accused Pakistan of fuelling the unrest, a charge Islamabad denies.

The insurgency, which had begun to wane since the late 1990s, intensified in 2016 after forces shot dead popular militant leader Burhan Wani.

Human rights organisations estimate that about 100,000 people have died as a result of the violence since the 1980s, many of them civilians. As a result, fear dominates the streets and few venture out after dusk.

Many find salvation in Sufi shrines to heal the wounds of war – not just in Srinagar, but even in remote areas of the region.

Like Bakhti Begam, there are thousands of Kashmiris, particularly women, for whom Sufi shrines have long been places of hope. Many of them, psychiatrists say, show symptoms of depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Maroofa Ramzan is among them. Every week she meets a psychiatrist at Srinagar’s Shri Maharaja Hari Singh Hospital. Her mental health has worsened in recent years after the death of her son.

In the darkness, she claims to hear the voice of her son, Abir Ahmad, laughing and talking. He was shot dead by the army in 2010 during a protest.

After consulting the doctor, Maroofa Ramzan takes a bus to the Dastgeer Sahib, a 200-year-old shrine.

“He is alive, isn’t he,” she asks the Sufi saint at the shrine. Then, after some time, she slowly moves towards the gate and waits for the bus that will take her home.

A survey by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in 2016 found nearly 1.8 million people, translating to roughly 45% of the population in Indian-administered Kashmir, suffering from similar symptoms.

Azaan Shah’s pictures of devotees to Sufi shrines, all of whom have their own stories of pain and loss because of the violence in Kashmir, are intentionally blurred, shaky or tilted to give a sense of chaos and uncertainty in the moment.

Mr Shah says he tries to capture the unflinching faith of thousands of devotees who converge at these shrines.

“I prefer a tilted angle because it creates a psychological uneasiness. Things feel off-kilter, unsteady and unusual,” he says, adding that he tries to convey the fact that “you can’t control peoples’ emotions”.

“People find a mediator between God and themselves in these shrines,” says Showkat Hussain, a professor of Islamic Studies at the Islamic University of Science and Technology, who has written on mysticism in Kashmir.

Arshad Hussain, a leading psychiatrist based in the region, adds that in Kashmir, these spiritual spaces serve as institutions of distress alleviation. “They started in times when there was no institution [to help] or redressal mechanism. Then it became a culture. People with sickness and domestic issues would end up in shrines with their pleas.

“In the current situation, after a conflict, many distressed women after paying me a visit end up in these shrines. They feel better talking about distress in spiritual spaces than to an individual.”

To see the photographs by Azaan Shah click on the link below

BBC News – Why are Kashmiris sharing photos of traditional dress?

Srinagar – Jammu & Kashmir, 20 December 2018. Officials in Indian-administered Kashmir have reversed an education department ban on employees wearing traditional dress to work, following an outcry on social media.

“All officials visiting the office are advised to visit in proper dress code during any official visit. It is recommended that no official will visit this office wearing pheran, traditional trousers and slipper/plastic shoes,” an 11 December circular said.

In response, Kashmiri social media users protested by sharing images of themselves wearing the pheran – a traditional long coat or cloak worn by both men and women.

The ban was later scrapped, though a separate local government proscription on wearing the pheran remains in place in the Civil Secretariat in Srinagar city.

The outcry comes as Indian-administered Kashmir remains under direct rule from Delhi after the collapse of the coalition government led by former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti in June.

Many of those to post decried what they saw as an attack on their cultural heritage.

Omar Abdullah, a former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, described the ban as “regressive”.

Some of those sharing images told of the significance of the pheran to them.

Others described the ban as a “cultural onslaught” and pointed to the practical benefits of the long cloak in cold weather.

Inevitably, at least one social media user looked to cats to make their point.

Abdul Rashid, the zonal education officer who ordered the ban, confirmed to the Indian Express it had been overturned.

“People used to walk into offices wearing pherans and… I had asked for that to be banned,” he said.

“The chief education officer called me and asked me to revoke the order, so I have.”

This is not the first time the pheran has been proscribed.

In 2014, the Indian army told journalists not to wear the pheran while visiting a corps headquarters in Srinagar.

Later, the army retracted the order, saying the guideline had been “inadvertent”.

By BBC UGC and Social News and Pratik Jakhar, BBC Monitoring

Dawn – Kashmir dispute ‘not a bilateral issue’ between Pakistan and India, PM tells UN chief

Islamabad Capital Territory – Pakistan, 20 December 2018. Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday telephoned United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres to convey his “deep shock and grave concern” at the human rights violations committed by Indian security forces in occupied Kashmir, a statement issued by his office said.

The premier during the conversation “underscored the UN’s role to end these violations”, the statement added.

Citing the recent escalation in violence in the restive valley, especially the killing of more than a dozen civilians and injuries to over 300 protestors, Khan termed the situation as “unacceptable”.

“Jammu and Kashmir dispute is not a bilateral issue between Pakistan and India but an internationally recognised dispute and an outstanding agenda item in the UN Security Council,” the statement quoted the prime minister as telling the UN chief.

Khan urged Guterres to intervene and “stop India from perpetrating state repression, violence and brute force against Kashmiri youth, women and children”.

He demanded that a Commission of Inquiry be urgently dispatched to investigate the situation in occupied Kashmir, as was recommended in a June 2018 report by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

He also reiterated the proposal to appoint a special UN representative for resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute.

The premier expressed the fear that the imposition of presidential rule in occupied Kashmir could “further aggravate the already serious situation”.

‘Terrorist act’ in Kashmir

Khan’s call to the UN chief comes days after he strongly condemned the killings of innocent civilians at the hands of Indian security forces in Indian occupied Kashmir’s Pulwama area.

“Kashmiris must be allowed to decide their future,” the prime minister had said in a tweet, vowing that his government will raise the issue of Indian’s human rights violations in occupied Kashmir and demand that the UN Security Council “fulfil its J&K plebiscite commitment”.

At least seven civilians were killed and over three dozen injured when Indian forces fired at protesters in Pulwama over the weekend. Residents had accused troops of directly spraying gunfire into the crowds.

The 57-member Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) had condemned the shooting at demonstrators as a “terrorist act” and called upon the international community to intervene.

Saturday’s shooting ignited fresh anger across the region that has witnessed its bloodiest year since 2009 and increasingly violent public opposition to Indian rule.

Popular support for the Kashmiris fighting for independence or a merger with Pakistan has grown in recent years and villagers, sometimes in their thousands, swarm the sites of gun battles with government forces to assist fighters.

The weekend violence also saw three fighters and an Indian soldier killed in a shootout.

Outlook India – J&K: When a Sikh girl’s desire to donate a kidney to a Muslim friend becomes a long battle

Authorities at the SKIMS have not cleared the case as Kohli’s father has made a representation against her decision.

Naseer Ganai

Srinagar – Jammu & Kashmir – India, 08 December 2018. When 23-year-old activist Manjot Singh Kohli decided to donate her kidney to her ailing friend Samreen Malik in the summer of this year, little did she know that she had to face a long battle.

Five months down the line, Kohli is so angry with the “delaying procedure” of the Sheri Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences Srinagar (SKIMS) that she says she will move the Jammu and Kashmir High Court to settle the case.

“I think this case will not take much time in the High Court as I am a major,” Kolhi told Outlook. “I expect in one hearing the High Court would give decision in the case as any delay will cost life here,” she added.

She says judgments of different courts are clear that any major person in good health can donate her kidney according to her own will.

According to Kohli, in August this year she came to know through social media that Samreen was suffering from kidney failure. “I was shocked. I called Samreen and she confirmed it. I came to Srinagar as her family had brought her here for the treatment,” she said.

Kohli hails from Udhampur district while Samreen is from Rajouri. Kohli after completing her B.A Hons in English from Shimla in 2015 started her social work in Jammu. She also runs an NGO called ‘International Anti-Corruption and Human Rights Council’.

It is during her work as an activist, she met Samreen who is a graduate from the University of Jammu, and they became good friends. “When I heard about her illness, I realised that I must help her out,” she said.

Samreen’s family members were ready to donate kidney to her but their kidneys didn’t match her. Her mother’s kidney was also rejected due to ailments. As Manjot offered her kidney to Samreen, doctors found it a perfect match. However, when when Manjot conveyed her decision to her parents, her father didn’t agree.

“I can understand his anxiety. He is a father and like every father he is worried about his child. But I am a major, I have taken a decision and it is biggest decision of my life,” she said, adding “for girls of my age marriage is a biggest decision of their life but for me Samreen’s life is priority.”

Authorities at the SKIMS have not cleared the case as Kohli’s father has made a representation against her decision. “The institute convey its reservations through the media but they don’t talk to us. I have written to the SKIMS authorities that they should directly communicate to us so that we can approach the court,” said Kohli.

Dr Farooq Jan, Medical Superintendent of SKIMS, says the father of the donor has made a representation against allowing the girl to donate her kidney, adding the authorization committee of the hospital has decided that the case will be decided by the court now.

But Kohli rejects it. “Rajasthan High Court’s recent judgment and other judgements of different courts are explicit about the issue. The family cannot come between in a decision of an adult person about donating kidney for transplant. Besides, I am living separately and I must be allowed to take decision about my body,” says Kohli.

Samreen is overwhelmed by the support from Kohli who is with her for the past five months. She hopes for a better future now and wants to study fashion designing. “We have been friends and sisters and we will be like this always,” she said.

Kohli has won hearts in Kashmir. “Manjot Singh Kohli it is people like you that keep human values and humanity alive and thriving in this world. More power to you,” read a Facebook post. And, there are hundreds of such posts.

The Telegraph – Inter-faith kidney offer turned down

Hospital heeds dad’s objection; prospective donor to approach Jammu and Kashmir High Court

Our Special Correspondent in Srinagar

Srinagar – Jammu & Kashmir – India, 06 December 2018. A hospital in Srinagar has rejected the plea of a Sikh girl who had offered her kidney to save her terminally ill Muslim friend, accepting the objections raised by the prospective donor’s father.

The girl has now decided to knock on Jammu and Kashmir High Court’s door against the hospital’s decision.

Jammu-based human rights activist Manjot Singh Kohli, 23, won many hearts after she offered her kidney to her Muslim friend from Rajouri, Samreen Akhtar, 22, who is suffering from renal failure.

But Manjot is facing stiff opposition from her family, which says she is risking her life and is being pressured to donate a kidney.

Srinagar’s Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences, where the surgery was supposed to take place, had set up an authorisation committee last month after Manjot’s father Gurdeep Singh approached it against the procedure.

SKIMS medical superintendent Farooq A. Jan said the committee had not cleared the organ donation.

“The authorisation committee has not cleared the case…. Her father has written that she is under some hypnotic effect, which means she cannot give consent. Now let the court decide,” Jan told The Telegraph.

Jan said Manjot’s father had warned the hospital of legal action if a surgery was performed on her daughter.

“She has also hired a lawyer, who had come to the institute. Under these circumstances the committee has not cleared the case,” Jan said.

An official claimed that the seven-member committee constituted under the J&K Transplantation of Human Organ Rules was empowered to reject a case on the basis of a “complaint or doubt” even if the donor was a major.

“This is not an ordinary case and involves people from two communities. This could lead to communal trouble,” the official said.

The official said Samreen was discharged from hospital on Wednesday, but she has to undergo dialysis till she gets a suitable donor.

Manjot said she would approach the high court in the next few days.

“This (approaching the hospital) was our first step. Basically, we had not included law (legal provisions allowing the donation) in it (the offer letter).

We have been intimated that once we include law in it, they will be bound to do it. Law is definitely in our favour,” Manjot said. – Peace between India-Pakistan directly linked to Kashmir dispute, not Kartarpur Corridor: Dal Khalsa

Sikh24 Editors

Chandigarh – Panjab – India, 01 December 2018. The Dal Khalsa has stated that peace between India and Pakistan is directly linked to resolution of Kashmir dispute and the Kartarpur corridor can play only a limited role in facilitating the dialogue.

Spokesperson of the organization Kanwar Pal Singh in a statement said directly linking the opening of the corridor with India-Pakistan peace overtures is not only exaggeration of issue but sinister move to ensure that the project runs into rough weather.

He made it clear the setting-up of corridor by both Pakistan and India was a welcome step as it fulfills Sikh aspirations for direct access to Kartarpur Sahib that has been a long cherished dream of the Sikhs and that nothing more should be attributed to it.

Moreover, he said the peace in the region will only be restored once rights of struggling peoples, ethnic minorities and nations will be recognized and respected by New Delhi.

The Dal Khalsa was of the considered opinion that the peace between both the hostile and nuclear countries rests on finding political solution to Kashmir dispute as per the aspirations of Kashmiris.

To drive his point home, he said Pakistan PM Imran Khan has categorically stated during groundbreaking ceremony that contentious issue between both the nuclear countries is Kashmir.

Referring to the statement of Indian PM Narendra Modi comparing the opening of the border through the corridor to the bringing down of the Berlin Wall and upping the ante, he said it’s the Indian leadership and the media that tried to create this perception only to downplay or ridicule later on.

Stating that fear looms amidst hope and prayer, he quoted Punjab local bodies minister Navjot Singh Sidhu stating to the media that Kargil happened after visit by then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to Lahore by bus.
“Sidhu appears apprehensive that after his visit something may happen to scuttle Kartarpur corridor project”, he said and echoed his fears.

He said this corridor is the outcome of Sikh prayers and that Imran-Bajwa-Sidhu troika has just become the medium to deliver it. He said it’s the Sikh nation’s case and that we have to be alert in our utterances and actions so that none can hinder the Kartarpur corridor becoming a reality in 2019.

He said the irresponsible media and petty politicians of all shades were playing the role of spoilsport and slammed those who had made Sidhu-Chawla meet an issue out of non-issue.

DNA India – J&K Sikh girl offers to donate kidney for ailing Muslim buddy

Srinagar – Jammu & Kashmir – India, 01 December 2018. When 23-year-old entrepreneur Manjot Singh Kohli got to know about her ailing friend Samreen Malik, she immediately boarded a flight to reach Srinagar and offered to donate her kidney, despite reservations from her family.

Samreen, a devout Muslim from Rajouri, had been suffering from kidney failure and doctors have advised her to undergo transplant. While her family members were ready to donate a kidney, they were not a match to Samreen.

Her mother’s tests came positive, but due to ailments of her own doctors rejected taking her kidney.

When Samreen’s family had almost given up, Manjot, a devout Sikh, landed in the hospital and offered her kidney. Manjot, who was a perfect match for Samreen, completed all the formalities but faced an obstacle from the hospital authority.

Authorities claimed that the authorisation committee has not cleared the case “since the father of the donor has made a representation cautioning against removing kidney of his daughter for the transplant”.

“We can’t blame them (family). They are emotionally attached to their child. I cannot say they are wrong. From their point of view what they are doing is right. But I think rising above the emotions, we should do what God has sent us for.

All the relations will stay here and saving life is most important. Plus I am a major and I can take decisions of my own,” said Manjot.

Hailing from Udhampur in Jammu, Manjot met Samreen four years ago and since then they had been friends. “Since I am a social activist and she used to participate in my activities we became good friends. Five months back, I read a Facebook status of our common friend about Samreen.

I was confused whether she is the same Samreen. Next day I took the flight to meet her,” said Manjot, who is one of the youngest women entrepreneur of J&K and chairperson of NGO ‘International Anti-Corruption and Human Rights Council’.

Waiting her transplant at Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS) Srinagar, a frail but confident looking Samreen said Manjot can do anything for her.

“For the last four months she has not budged from her stand. She is the finest example of true friendship,” said Samreen, who dropped out from masters programme after her illness.

Samreen’s father Mukhtar Ahmad Malik, however, is worried. “I am a simple tailor and have spent RS 7-8 lakh for treatment.

But her condition is deteriorating by the day. Even after Manjot offered the kidney and completed all the formalities, her father is not accepting. I have told her that family is her priority and she should back out,” he said.

Dr Farooq Jan, Medical Superintendent of SKIMS, said father of the donor has made a representation to the institute that they should not allow the girl to donate the kidney.

“Although she might be major, the authorizsation committee has to see the pros and cons. They have to satisfy themselves. So far the committee, comprising eminent experts of healthcare, NGOs, senior citizens and lawyers, is not convinced and no clearance has come from their side,” said Dr Jan.