The Hindu – Kabul gurdwara attacker left a wide footprint

He did small jobs in Bengaluru, Malaysia, Saudi and Dubai before joining IS

Suhasini Haidar – Vijaita Singh

New Delhi – India, 29 March 2020. The man from Kasaragod in Kerala, who is suspected to be one of the three attackers who killed 25 Sikh worshippers in Kabul, Afghanistan, has been on the move since he was 16, taking up small jobs in Bengaluru, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia and Dubai before making his way to Afghanistan to join the Islamic State.

Meanwhile, the body of Tian Singh, the lone Indian killed in the March 25 attack, is expected to be brought to India on Monday, sources told The Hindu. His body will be brought on one of the special flights expected this week to take out about 2,500 Afghan tourists and temporary visitors.

On 25 March, his widow Rajeet Kaur and one son, Jagmeet Singh, had written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi asking for an early repatriation of his last remains, as all commercial flights had been cancelled owing to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sources said the government gave special permission to the Afghan embassy in Delhi to operate several special flights, the first of which flew to Kabul on Saturday, and also put in a request for the return of Tian Singh’s body.

Two other children who are unable to travel from London have also tweeted an appeal for visas from the Indian High Commission in London and permission to return and “attend and perform the last rites” of their father.

A loner with no known friends in India, Muhammed Muhsin, 29, is said to have contacted his mother about nine months ago Telegram, when he was thought to be in Dubai, a senior official said. Muhsin, he said, had asked his mother to join a group called ‘Gentleman’ on the app.

On March 26, she received a message from a Telegram ID, ‘@war3030’, that her son was dead.

One of his brothers confirmed to security agencies that the photograph of the attacker published by Al Naba, the propaganda wing of the Islamic State in Khorasan Province (ISKP), is that of Muhsin’s.

The officials have claimed that though Muhsin was never on the radar of the police, the security agencies had noticed his father’s mobile phone number in a WhatsApp group created by Rashid Abdullah, alias Abu Isa, who led the group of 21 men and women from Kerala that had left India in 2016.

“While verifying the details of the members of the WhatsApp group moderated by Rashid, it was found that Muhsin was then in Dubai,” said the official. The official said Muhsin dropped out of a government school in Class XI. He also went to a madrassa in Class VII.

He moved to Bengaluru to work in a hotel but returned after a year. He then moved to Dubai where he worked at Emirates Petroleum. On his return, he moved to Malaysia.

“He came back in 2015, stayed for a few months in Kerala only to move to Saudi Arabia in 2016,” the official said. He came from Saudi Arabia in 2018 and stayed in Kerala for four months. He left for Dubai the same year and did not return. He last contacted his mother nine months ago.

As reported by The Hindu, the family did not inform the police that Muhsin was missing. Officials suspect he moved to Afghanistan from Dubai to join the ISKP.

https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kabul-attacker-left-a-wide-footprint/article31195055.ece

The Hindu – 277 people evacuated from corona-virus-hit Iran reach Army facility in Jodhpur

Among them were Shia 273 pilgrims

Jaipur – Rajasthan – India, 25 March 2020. A batch of 277 people evacuated from the corona-virus-hit Iran arrived at the Jodhpur airport in Rajasthan on Wednesday early morning, a defence spokesperson said.

He said preliminary screening of the evacuees, mostly pilgrims, was conducted at the airport upon arrival and thereafter they were taken to the Army Wellness Facility set up at the Jodhpur Military Station.

The Army, in coordination with the Rajasthan state medical authorities and civil administration, has made adequate medical and administrative arrangements to ensure a comfortable stay for the evacuees and provide prophylactic medical support, he said.

The defence spokesperson said that the facility has a dedicated team of Army doctors, who will be constantly monitoring the health parameters of the evacuees for the duration of their stay.

Additional Chief Secretary (Health) Rohit Kumar Singh said that 273 of the evacuees are pilgrims. Among the people were 149 women and girls.

Follow the link below to read a previous article about Indian Shia pilgrims stuck in Iran

https://maninblue1947.wordpress.com/2020/03/20/huffington-post-…us-cases-in-iran/

https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/277-people-evacuated-from-coronavirus-hit-iran-reach-army-facility-in-jodhpur/article31159754.ece

The Hindu – Halt use of capital punishment: UN on Nirbhaya convicts’ execution

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres’ spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said the world organisation calls on all nations to stop the use of capital punishment or put a moratorium on it.

New York – United Nations, 21 March 2020. The UN has called on all nations to stop the use of capital punishment or put a moratorium on it, a day after four men convicted of gang-raping and murdering a 23-year-old woman were hanged in India.

Seven years after the rape and murder of the young medical student, who came to be known as ‘Nirbhaya’, sent shock waves across the country, the four convicts, Mukesh Singh (32), Pawan Gupta (25), Vinay Sharma (26) and Akshay Kumar Singh (31), were hanged to death on Friday at 5.30 am in New Delhi’s Tihar Jail.

Responding to the hanging, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres’ spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said the world organisation calls on all nations to stop the use of capital punishment or put a moratorium on it.

“Our position has been clear, is that we call on all States to halt the use of capital punishment or at least put a moratorium on this,” Mr. Dujarric said at the daily press briefing on Friday.

The horrific gang-rape and murder of the physiotherapy intern on 16 December 2012, who came to be known as Nirbhaya (the fearless), had seared the nation’s soul and triggered countrywide outrage.

This was the first time that four men have been hanged together in Tihar Jail, South Asia’s largest prison complex that houses more than 16,000 inmates.

The executions were carried out after the men exhausted every possible legal avenue to escape the gallows. Their desperate attempts only postponed the inevitable by less than two months after the first date of execution was set for 22 January.

Only stupid countries like China, the USA, Pakistan and India still insist on murder as a form of punishment

https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/halt-use-of-capital-punishment-un-on-nirbhaya-convicts-execution/article31126187.ece

The Hindu – CPI(M) slams ‘horse-trading’ for toppling elected governments

Special Correspondent

New Delhi – India, 16 March 2020. The party said Union Home minister Amit Shah’s statement in Parliament that nobody would be marked as a doubtful citizen in the NPR updation process was of no consequence as long as the Rules under the Citizenship (Amendment) Act-2003 remained.

In light of the developments in Madhya Pradesh, the Communist Party of India (Marxist)’s Polit Bureau has denounced the “brazen horse-trading and the use of threats” to enforce defections of MLAs to topple democratically-elected governments and violate the people’s mandate.

“Earlier too, in Karnataka and elsewhere, similar tactics betrayed the people’s mandate in the States,” the CPI(M) said in a statement on Monday, following a meeting of its Polit Bureau on March 14-15.

“These are anti-democratic acts which make a mockery of popular verdict of the people and democracy,” the Left party added.

Coronavirus awareness

The party called upon its cadre to create public awareness on the precautions that need to be adopted for containing the coronavirus pandemic. The Polit Bureau commended the Kerala government’s efforts in arresting the spread.

It also criticised the Centre for the partial modification of an order that earlier had envisaged providing compensation to families which have lost a member to the virus and for the cost of treatment of positive cases.

“This has to be reversed immediately,” said the party, which also demanded that the government provide assistance to workers in the informal/organised sectors who may have lost jobs due to the epidemic-triggered shutdowns.

The CPI(M) said Union Home minister Amit Shah’s statement in Parliament that nobody would be marked as a doubtful citizen in the NPR updation process was of no consequence as long as the Rules under the Citizenship (Amendment) Act-2003 remained.

Demanding that these norms be scrapped, the party said, “Unless these measures are undertaken by the government of India, the peaceful protests will continue”.

Delhi violence

The party also condemned the recent communal violence in Delhi and sought a time-bound, court-monitored probe for bringing the guilty to justice. It also condemned the Home minister’s statement on the use of facial recognition technology to identify those involved.

“The government, itself, has admitted before the courts that this technology had an accuracy rate of only 2% in 2018, which dropped to a mere 1% in 2019. This opens up possibilities for harassment and persecution of innocent people. Moreover, there is no legal framework or any judicial order to use such technology for such identification,” it said.

For relief to the victims, the party had collected more than Rs 6 crore, with the Kerala State committee having raised more than Rs 5.3 crore.

Jammu & Kashmir [bold]

Welcoming the release of MP Farooq Abdullah after seven months of detention, the Polit Bureau demanded the immediate release of all those detained from the night of August 4/5, 2019. “J&K Statehood with special status, as it had [been] under the Indian Constitution, must be restored immediately,” it said.

The Polit Bureau also discussed the “collapse” of Yes Bank and observed that “in a classic instance of privatisation of profits and nationalisation of losses, the State Bank of India has been asked to bailout this bank”.

https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/cpim-slams-horse-trading-for-toppling-elected-governments/article31083446.ece

The Hindu – Government revokes detention of Farooq Abdullah

Dr Abdullah was first detained on 05 August 2019 and was arrested under the J&K Public Safety Act on 15 September 2019.

Peerzada Ashiq

New Delhi – India, 13 March 2020. The J&K administration on Friday released National Conference (NC) president and Member of Parliament, Srinagar, Dr Farooq Abdullah, who was in detention over seven months. He was detained immediately after the Centre revoked J&K’s special status on August 5 last year.

“The J&K government has issued orders revoking detention of Dr Farooq Abdullah,” said J&K government spokesman Rohit Kansal.

Principal Secretary, Home, Shaleen Kabra, in an order, said the detention of Dr Abdullah under the Public Safety Act (PSA), issued on 15 September has been withdrawn, ending his detention immediately.

Dr Abdullah, 82, remained under house arrest after the government booked him under the stringent PSA and lodged him in his own house on Gupkar Road, which was designated as a sub-jail. The J&K’s home department had in December extended his detention by another three months.

Dr Abdullah’s release is the first of the three detained former chief ministers of the erstwhile State. NC vice president Omar Abdullah and Peoples Democratic Party president Mehbooba Mufti continue to remain in detention.

Dr Abdullah was arrested in the wake of Centre’s decision to scrap J&K’s semi-autonomous status on August 5 last year.

Leaders welcome Farooq Abdullah’s release

Welcoming Dr. Abdullah’s release from detention, Congress leader Shashi Tharoor tweeted “Welcome the belated release of Dr Farooq Abdullah…his detention was a disgrace.”

Peoples Conference leader Imran Ansari too welcomed the government’s decision. He demanded the release of party leader Sajad Lone and party workers. “We welcome the release of Dr. Farooq Abdullah. And I take this opportunity to demand the release of our Chairman Mr Sajad Lone.

He is under strict house arrest after being in detention at MLA hostel for six months. We also demand release of our workers who are detained under PSA,” said Mr. Ansari said.

https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/govt-revokes-detention-of-farooq-abdullah/article31058587.ece?homepage=true

The Hindu – Delhi violence ‘one-sided, well-planned’, says minorities panel

Report says extensive damage to Muslim houses, shops and workshops everywhere, but at Yamuna Vihar shops and houses belonging to both communities were affected

Shinjini Ghosh

New Delhi – India, 04 March 2020. The Delhi Minorities Commission in its assessment report of events which unfolded recently in northeast Delhi has concluded that the violence which erupted was “one-sided, well-planned” and involved support from locals with maximum damage being done to shops and houses belonging to the minority community.

The Commission also said that compensation announced by the Delhi government was inadequate, considering the extent of damage caused due to the violence.

“We found extensive damage to Muslim houses, shops and workshops everywhere we went.

We found that people were visiting their damaged houses for the first time since they fled on February 24-25 but since the houses and shops were badly damaged and debris lying, there was no question that they will be able to start living there any time soon,” the panel said.

The delegation, which included commission chairman Zafarul-Islam Khan, in its report also highlighted instances like those in Bhajanpura, where “Muslim-owned shops like a travel agency and motorcycle showroom were looted and torched while Hindu-owned shops were left untouched.”

The panel’s report also cites residents of Gali number 5 in Khajuri Khas claiming that the violence on February 23 began “shortly after the threat and ultimatum” by BJP leader Kapil Mishra.

“This ‘gali’ is a blind alley where 100 persons lived and they could not on their own flee from the main road. They left the place under police protection in the morning of February 25. In this ‘gali’, we found the house of BSF jawan Mohammad Anis which was badly damaged,” the panel said.

At Yamuna Vihar, however, the report states that shops and houses belonging to both communities were affected.

“On the one side of the road are Muslim houses and shops while on the other side are Hindu houses and shops. Both areas were affected by looting and burning. At a charred petrol pump, the owner Mahinder Aggrawal claimed that 30 vehicles were torched there,” the report states.

The panel also refers to testimonies by Raj Kumar, a driver with the Rajdhani School which was also burnt.

“Mr Kumar told us that some 500 persons barged into his school around 6.30 pm on February 24. They wore helmets and hid their faces. They remained there for the next 24 hours and went away next evening after the arrival of police force in the area.

They were young people who had arms and giant catapults which they used to throw petrol bombs from the school rooftops,” the report states.

Fact-finding committee

The Commission chairman said that a fact-finding committee would be formed which would include journalists, human rights activists and civil society members.

“We have said that the violence was one-sided as that’s what we felt from what people told us. They said that it was not possible for outsiders to pin-point shops and houses owned by Muslims. So there had to be insiders who we’re helping the outsiders,” said Mr Khan.

Adding that the commission has urged Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal to double the compensation, Mr Khan said, “We have also asked the government to fix the compensation depending on the damage caused.

For example, a person whose garage has been burnt cannot sustain with the compensation announced by the government. The damage caused might be more and money not enough.”

https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Delhi/delhi-violence-one-sided-well-planned-says-minorities-panel/article30979785.ece

The Hindu – Mobs and rulers masquerading as leaders cannot be allowed to dismantle a marvellously democratic experiment

It can be safely presumed that an American President was invited to our shores because we wanted him to see for himself our ‘new India’. And, it can also be asserted with confidence that the India the visitor from Washington ended up seeing was an old India, drenched in medieval animosities and passions.

And, if it is to be assumed, as is being suggested by the ruling party’s apologists, that a ‘conspiracy’ was afoot to mar the Donald Trump visit then we are staring at a terrible failure of all our institutional arrangements and of our rulers’ pretentious assertions.

This failure has been in the making for some time now, and can get only aggravated because our cunning political saviours remain indifferent to their obligation to strive for healing and harmony in society.

De-legitimising a movement

The rough and ready violence, witnessed in Delhi these last few days, had almost become a certainty because with each passing day it was becoming imperative to de-legitimise Shaheen Bagh and the resistance it came to symbolise against a flawed and discriminatory law like the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, or CAA, 2019.

For over two months, the entire nation has seen images of Muslim women, old and young, staying put, peacefully, braving Delhi’s winter, refusing to get provoked by threats or temptations.

Shaheen Bagh also saw Muslims innovatively using ‘national’ symbols, the Constitution, the Flag and the Anthem, to assert their rights as citizens and as a religious minority. Soon ‘Shaheen Bagh’ became a secular project, even though the ‘boots’ were provided mostly by the Muslim community.

A new civic imagination was at work, and, what was more, ‘Shaheen Bagh’ also acquired a moral sheen and attracted global media attention. And, before the managers of ‘new India’ could catch their breath, Muslim women across the land were replicating ‘Shaheen Baghs’ in towns and cities.

A new defiance was crawling its way to the centre of our political landscape. This was deeply galling to those who thought they had the dominant control over the street, the media and the national imagination.

The Shaheen Bagh experiment and its peacefulness became deeply frustrating for those who had conceptualised the new citizenship law as a clever project in political polarisation. Even more exasperating for these self-styled chankayas was a failure to cast Shaheen Bagh as a case of “Muslim uprising”.

Shaheen Bagh became a perplexing affront to our new rulers who have come to believe that state repression can overcome any political dissent and democratic resistance. Shaheen Bagh, with all its imaginative invocation of republican values and secular chants, had become an ideological eye-sore to the impresarios of a ‘New India.’ Something had to give.

After the election rebuff

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leadership, overloaded with self-belief, saw an opportunity in the Delhi Assembly election. From the Union Home Minister downward, the BJP leaders, from all over India, were commandeered for election duty in Delhi where they worked themselves into frenzy, inciting violence and invoking ‘deshbhakti’.

The voters were invited to send out a message to the Shaheen Bagh protesters. The BJP strategy was to convert the Delhi Assembly polls into a referendum on its politics of religious polarisation and the presumed popularity of its leaders. The Delhi voters denied, firmly and clearly, the BJP this endorsement.

Undaunted by the humiliating defeat, the BJP leadership and its cheer-leaders refused to acknowledge the rebuff, and, instead, chose to take comfort from the party’s vote-share and applied itself once again to provoking the Shaheen Bagh constituency. What followed was BJP leader Kapil Mishra’s ultimatum to the Delhi Police to clear the roads of anti-CAA protesters in Jaffrabad.

Perhaps the BJP leadership had also shrewdly gauged the unhappiness in the traditional Muslim leadership with the Shaheen Bagh model, the women were in the forefront whereas the mullahs, the imams and maulvis had been pushed into the background. The Shaheen Bagh model is as much a challenge to familiar ‘community leaders’ as it was to the saffron extremists.

The traditional Muslim leaders were losing control over their women and the ‘kaum’. The traditionalists were deeply disconcerted that the Supreme Court-appointed interlocutors were engaging with the women at Shaheen Bagh, and not with them.

Nor could the BJP leadership have been unaware that just a few miles across Shaheen Bagh in Yogi Adityanath’s Uttar Pradesh the police force had been let loose on anti-CAA dissenters.

Tales of excesses by the UP police against the Muslim community floated across the Yamuna, inducing doubts about the efficacy of a peaceful, silent Shaheen Bagh; but worse was the total absence of any institutional restraint on a vindictive regime in Lucknow. Neither the judiciary nor the political parties nor the media nor civil society was able to intervene effectively against a biased, rogue police force.

There was anger, and, helplessness in the Muslim ‘street’. The traditional hotheads knew that Muslim lumpens and under-classes were on a short fuse.

Two extremist factional impulses had a convergence: the coherence and solidarity of the Shaheen Bagh model and its secular promise had to be undermined; the Constitution-waving crowd had to be dissolved into a mob. This convergence finally produced the explosion in Delhi over the weekend. The veterans of the 2002 Gujarat riots perhaps thought that they had a mastery over the art of choreographing street violence.
The sly manipulators can take some comfort that finally the capital has witnessed a full-scale communal riot, first since the 1984 carnage against Sikhs; there must be considerable satisfaction in some quarters that we are back on the familiar Hindu-Muslim divide terrain, with an enticing prospect of a rich electoral dividend.

Defeating sectarianism

But this is also precisely the moment to remind ourselves that this ugly denouement was inevitable, given the Modi regime’s barely concealed commitment to dismantling the inclusive and pluralistic elements of the Nehruvian consensus. And, that is the challenge: are our constitutional institutions and instruments robust enough to roll back a ‘this-land-belongs-to-the Hindus-only’ politics?

A deeply divided society may reward a few practitioners of conspicuous bigotry but it becomes the sacred duty of all our democratic arrangements to defeat a sectarian regime and its perverse policies and priorities.

The other day, a judge of the Supreme Court of India, Justice Deepak Gupta, came very close to identifying the crux of our, and our rulers’ dilemma. “Rule of majority is an integral part of democracy but majoritarianism is an anti-thesis of democracy,” argued Justice Gupta. The judge reiterated the basic principle: a political party could possibly come to power, winning 51% of the popular vote, but that did not mean that the remaining 49% were to remain dis-empowered for the next five years.

This simple truism should be obvious to one and all, yet it took a Justice Gupta to remind us that the Constitution of India imposes an inescapable obligation on every single office, from the President of India to the Prime Minister down to the lowly police constable, to work for the welfare of all citizens.

It is this kind of clear-headedness that the Shaheen Bagh imagination had sought to re-kindle. The Shaheen Bagh protest is anchored in a hope and a belief that a democratic arrangement can find peaceful ways of addressing the grievances and anxieties of a minority.

And, it would be an unmitigated tragedy for Indian democracy if the violence instigated in Delhi is used to delegitimise Shaheen Bagh’s democratic potential and promise. Inshallah (National Security Adviser Ajit Doval permitting).

Harish Khare is a senior journalist based in Delhi

https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/hope-belief-and-the-candles-of-shaheen-bagh/article30935340.ece?homepage=true

The Hindu – Shared values between India-USA are discrimination, bigotry, hostility towards refugees: Amnesty International

Amnesty International hit out at the Indian government over the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, saying it legitimises discrimination based on religious grounds

New Delhi- India, 24 February 2020. The shared values between India and the USA are “discrimination, bigotry, and hostility towards refugees and asylum seekers”, Amnesty International USA said in a joint statement with Amnesty International India ahead of USA President Donald Trump’s visit to India on Monday.

Trump, accompanied by his wife Melania, daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner as well as senior officials of his administration, landed in Ahmedabad on the first leg of his two-day visit to India.

“Anti-Muslim sentiment permeates the policies of both the USA and Indian leaders. For decades, the USA-India relationship was anchored by claims of shared values of human rights and human dignity. Now, those shared values are discrimination, bigotry, and hostility towards refugees and asylum seekers, Margaret Huang, Amnesty International USA’s executive director, was quoted as saying in the statement.

It was a reference to the anti-CAA protests in India, the internet lockdown in Jammu and Kashmir and the Muslim ban expansion by President Trump affecting Nigeria, Eritrea, Myanmar, Kyrgyzstan, Sudan and Tanzania, the statement said.

It added that Amnesty International USA’s researchers travelled to Lebanon and Jordan to conduct nearly 50 interviews with refugees that as a result of the previous version of the ban have been stranded in countries where they face restrictive policies, increasingly hostile environments, and lack the same rights as permanent residents or citizens.

The statement also came down hard on the Indian government, hitting out at the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) 2019 and saying it legitimises discrimination based on religious grounds.

It criticised statements such as identify them (the protestors) by their clothes or shoot the traitors by Prime Minister Modi and his party workers. Such remarks “peddled the narrative of fear and division that has fuelled further violence”, it said.

The internet and political lockdown in Kashmir has lasted for months and the enactment of CAA and the crackdown on protests has shown a leadership that is lacking empathy and a willingness to engage.

We call on President Trump and Prime Minister Modi to work with the international community and address our concerns in their bilateral conversations, Avinash Kumar, executive director, Amnesty International India said in the statement.

https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/shared-values-between-india-us-are-discrimination-bigotry-hostility-towards-refugees-amnesty/article30901690.ece

The Hindu – CAA will adversely impact Muslims in India, says USCIRF

The panel’s report says Act and NRC are based on Hindutva ideology of BJP

Kallol Bhattacharjee

New Delhi – India, 20 February 2020. The new citizenship law of India will adversely impact the Muslim community of the country, a legislative report in the United States has declared.

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) said the Citizenship (Amendment) Act 2019 and the National Register of Citizenship were based on the Hindutva ideoglogy of the BJP and expressed concern that Muslims may become stateless in India.

“With the CAA in place, Muslims would primarily bear the punitive consequences of exclusion from the NRC which could include statelessness, deportation, or prolonged detention,’ said a new factsheet on CAA produced by USCIRF.

The report also highlighted comments from various members of the BJP, who expressed plans to exclude Muslims from India.

The observations are significant as they come three days before the arrival of President Donald Trump and are amplified by similar concerns that were conveyed to the government by USA Congressmen Ami Bera and George Holding, who met Foreign Secretary Harsh Shringla on Wednesday.

“Hindutva political rhetoric questions the legitimacy of Muslims’ Indian citizenship and perpetuates the further marginalization of this faith community. The BJP Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh Yogi Adityanath, for example, promised in 2005 to cleanse India of other religions, calling this the ‘century of Hindutva’,” said the USCIRF.

The document also cited extensively from concerns expressed by the UN reports and observations that have described the controversial CAA as biased against the minority Muslim community of India.

https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/caa-will-adversely-impact-muslims-in-india-says-uscirf/article30868490.ece

The Hindu – Congress leader Mani Shanker Aiyar slams envoys

Special Correspondent

Srinagar – Jammu & Kashmir – India, 17 February 2020. Congress leader Mani Shanker Aiyar, who was restricted to a Srinagar hotel and prevented from participating in a conference here, termed the Kashmir situation far from normal and criticised the foreign diplomats who claimed to see signs of normalcy during their recent visit.

“Any foreign Ambassdor who went to Srinagar just two days before I did and claimed that he has seen signs of normalcy should never have been promoted to above third secretary status. I say this as an Indian foreign service officer,” Mr Aiyer told The Hindu.

Mr Aiyar and O P Shah, who heads the Centre for Peace and Progress, had planned a meet and invited civil society groups.

”The hotel where we were staying had just three rooms booked. It was me, Mr. Shah and an armed policeman who monitored movement of all those who visited us. Hours before the conference was to start, the police barricaded the hotel. We were also restricted to its premises,” Mr. Aiyer said.

”If the foreign envoys could visit and meet the groups of delegations recently despite Section 144, why can’t we meet groups inside a hotel? It’s clear there is no normalcy. If Amit Shah regards disallowing this kind of meeting as normalcy I would like him to explain what is normalcy,” he said.

“I decided to visit J&K because the Prime Minister said opposition leaders should go there and see for themselves. Besides, Mr Amit Shah said he is not placing any restrictions on people going or coming. In effect, if one goes to endorse their normalcy, you are allowed to go.

If you want to listen to people and see what is boiling in their hearts, it’s not allowed,” said Mr Aiyer.

He said during his stay in Kashmir he just witnessed empty hotels, shikara-walas (boat owners) waiting to host a tourist and armed security personnel manning the streets.

“It’s clear there is no normalcy. If Mr Amit Shah regards disallowing this kind of meeting as normalcy I would like him to explain what is normalcy. What are they afraid of if normalcy has returned? Why are they continuing with restrictions on the people of Kashmir.

There is fear and apprehension everywhere that the lid on the steam kettle will blow off by the internal pressure. Though nobody is able to say when and what will be the trigger. Many here fear ailing Hurriyat chairman Syed Ali Geelani’s death could provide that trigger,” he added.

This kind of behaviour, he said, showed that the situation in Kashmir is not under control of the Government of India. “The huge military presence seems an attempt at dominating the local population,” he added.

The Congress leader said there were bogus attempts at creating some kind of alternative to the genuine leadership, which is in the prison.

“I realised that the entire Sheikh family is now in detention of one kind or other without recognition to the fact that this is the family that acceded with India and upheld the flag of India for 70 years in every corner of Kashmir,” he added.

He lamented that there was no attempt to reach out to the people. “It’s believed that by intimidation and by cultivating quislings, the Centre will be able to sell development discourse.

J&K is far ahead on most of the development indices because of Article 370. In fact, there is plummeting of J&K’s GDP since August 5. The Kashmir problem is far from over but got aggravated instead,” he warned.

https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/congress-leader-mani-shanker-aiyar-slams-envoys/article30837856.ece