Briefing (December 29, 2019 – January 04, 2020)

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KUALA LUMPUR

Last time, Imran Khan met his counterparts, Turkish Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Malaysia’s Mahathir Mohammad, the common thread that was the net outcome of the New York meeting on the sidelines of the UN Summit was the consensus to fight Islamophobia. They said they will set up an Al-Jazeera style news outlet to fight the crisis. Unlike most of the Muslim world, Turkey and Malaysia had responded to Kashmir developments of August 5, strictly in accordance with Islamabad’s position thus impacting their diplomatic and economic relations with Delhi.

Two months later, they are on two sides of a divide that Malaysia’s Kuala Lampur Summit (KL Summit) triggered. Hosted by Mahathir, the 3-day (Dec 18-20) Summit to discuss the issues confronting the Muslim world was attended by only 20 of the 57 countries forming the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC). Pakistan and Indonesia skipped attendance at the last moment. Erdogan later alleged that Pakistan stayed away as it buckled under Saudi Arabia’s pressure that threatened it by pulling out its deposits from its central bank and sending its 40 lakh workers in Saudi Arabia home. Islamabad and Riyadh have denied the same but Khan cancelled his participation after making a quite flight to Saudi Arabia for a meeting with MBS.

Muslim countries having strong economic ties with USA including Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt, Bahrain, Indonesia and Pakistan stayed away from the Summit amid claims that the KL Summit was being projected as an alternative to the OIC, that Saudi leads. Though the Summit hosts denied the allegation, the speeches made at the Summit did attack Muslim block’s failure in addressing the issues confronting the Muslim world. Along with Mahathir and Erdogan, two other leaders who were in the frontline of the Summit were Iranian President Hasan Rouhani and Qatar’s pro-Assad Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamid Al-Thani. All these countries have one or the other issue with Riyadh and they do not believe its Khadimain-e-Haramain status should give the country a position that undermines the significance of the rest of the Muslim world. Though all these four countries have issues with their own democratic set-ups, still the monarchs in the Middle East dread the Arab Spring.

As the Summit came to a close it dissipated with no formal declaration. However, the exercise that was attended by more than 450 officials from the Muslim world led to 18 agreements in between and a lot of serious talking on the economic issues. Despite being the world’s second most populous faith, Muslim countries barely contributed around 7.6% (US$6.5 trillion) to the global GDP, last year. They discussed the sanctions and the ways-out. Mahathir suggested a gold dinar or national currencies for intra-Muslim trade as Rouhani suggested crypto-currency. There were calls for richer Muslim nations investing in poorer countries as well.

Interestingly, Imran Khan is facing a lot of criticism over ducking the event because it could have given him yet another platform to preach Kashmir and get a bit of investment back home. This, however, has not prevented Mahathir or Erdogan to talk on Kashmir. “For Delhi too, the divisions in the Islamic world are of significance,” observes strategic affairs writer, C Raja Mohan. “If Malaysia and Turkey have become increasingly critical of the NDA government’s policies, the UAE and the Saudis have given India the benefit of doubt, until now. The Qatar-owned Al Jazeera channel has run a far more damaging campaign against Delhi in recent months than the much-maligned New York Times.”

KOLKATA

At the Pous Mela grounds, in Santiniketan, the ruling Trinamul set up its own stall to explain the party’s stand against the NRC and the Citizenship [Amendment] Act. At the last moment, it also had a stall selling Kashmir handicrafts manned by three Kashmiri youth – Nasir Ahmed, Tariq Ahmed and Ramiz Ahmed. The south Kashmir trio was selling shawls to the Amarnath pilgrims and they got a client named Abhijit Sinha. He is a Trinamul leader. They became friends. After August 5, Sinha invited them to West Bengal and finally helped them get the space in the party stall. By the time The Telegraph visited the stall, the trio had sold half of the 1200 shawls. “At the last minute, the district (Birbhum) leaders have woven Kashmir into the narrative by putting up posters urging people not to forget the plight of Kashmiris and to stand by them,” the newspaper reported. The trio is happy as they are back to business. Hence proved: every politics has its economics and vice versa.

MUMBAI

Post-1990 tradition has remained that every ruler of Kashmir makes a visit to Mumbai to invite Bollywood to reconnect with Kashmir. Dr Farooq, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Omar Abdullah, Mehbooba Mufti, almost everybody did it when they held the chief executive position in the erstwhile state. Last week, it was Farooq Khan, one of the advisors to Lt Gov of the Union Territory. Speaking to a gathering organised by Spandan Arts in connection with the presentation of 11th Mohammed Rafi awards, Khan told the industry that the picturesque Kashmir is known for hospitality too. “This is not a place of terrorism, but a paradise of tourism,” Khan, who was the chief guest of the function, was quoted saying. “To see the reality on the ground, you will have to visit the place and I am sure you will find it as peaceful as any other part of the country.” Post-August 5, Kashmir’s hospitality sector took a huge hit. In comparison to 2018, the footfalls reduced by a whopping 87%.

LUCKNOW

In the aftermath of the violence over the citizenship law, the UP police are looking for 60 to 70 youth who are from Kargil and Leh. Apparently, they are enrolled in the local educational institutions. The violent agitation led to more than 15 killings last week. However, a madrasa teacher in Muzaffarnagar was quoted by The Telegraph saying that the six of his institution’s students being labeled as “outsiders” by the police were locals and were in the hostel when the rioting was going on. Police said they have not been able to identify all the “outsiders”. Of the 72 people arrested in the district 40 were students of the Saadat Madrasa  and 12 of them were from Kargil, Leh and Bhopal. A day later, Junior Home Minister Nityanand Rai told a gathering in Samastipur (Bihar) that “Stone-pelters from Kashmir were called to participate in the ongoing anti-CAA protests across the state of UP.”

15.8% population in Jammu and Kashmir suffers from hypertension, according to a study published in the British Medical Journal.

BAREILLY

The cancer patient, Parvaiz Ahmad Palla, 34, a resident of Motibug in Kulgam, has returned home after spending four months in Bareilly prison. Suffering from papillary thyroid cancer, Palla, a father of two minors, told The Indian Express that he was given same pain killers for every pain he suffered during incarceration. He alleged he had developed some fungal infection and as his situation was worsening he was let free. Palla was arrested on August 6 and booked under the Public Safety Act (PSA) for being “threat to safety and security of general public and sovereignty of the nation”. After a day at Central Jail in Srinagar, he was flown to Bareilly along with 19 others. Mostly restricted to his cell, Palla was permitted a 30-minute walk every morning and evening. His father, Mohammad Ayoub told the newspaper that he “begged and borrowed” to get him out of the jail. When Ayoub reached Bareilly with medicines he was denied a meeting. He finally succeeded in meeting him on October 25.

POONCH

In the 1980 summer, his father took Mohammed Taj to Attock in Pakistani Punjab to meet his uncle. There, the two brothers decided to get him married to his cousin, Khatija. Since then, a son and two daughters were born to the couple living in Poonch. For all these 39 years, she was on visa that required to be extended every three or four months. Finally, last week, Rahul Yadav, the Deputy Commissioner in Poonch, handed over to her the Indian citizenship under section 5(1)(c) of the Citizenship Act, 1955. The couple was too happy to get it and they thanked the MHA for the rare honour.

8742 students from Jammu Kashmir applied for NEET on-line

QAMARWARI

Last week, it was the gurdwara Dumdum Saheb at Zainakote and this week, it is a mosque that the community agreed to demolish and relocate to pave way for the new highway. Almost 40-year old mosque would be relocated so that a long-awaited bridge over Jhelum completes. Outcome of Deputy Commissioner, Shahid Iqbal Choudhary’s meeting with the custodians, the mosque dislocation would help complete the Rs 10 crore 166-metre two-lane bridge connecting Qamarwari with Noorbagh. The government will reconstruct the mosque within a year. The new highway was facing 18 bottlenecks including two religious spaces, a fire station and 16 residential homes.

5538 concrete bunkers, of them 503 bigger community dungeons, have been constructed in the border areas: 1234 in Samba, 918 in Jammu, 1193 in Kathua, 1744 in Rajouri and 449 in Poonch

72 companies comprising an estimated 7000 paramilitary personnel were withdrawn from Kashmir.

JAMMU

After Ludhiana’s textile engineer, Varuna Anand married Parveen and settled in Jammu, her husband set up Splendour of Kashmir because she loved textiles. He died in 2012 forcing Varuna to take over the company. Her experience in designing sarees and home furnishings for offshore clients helped her to master the new responsibility. She had earlier worked with House of Fraser, John Lewis, Galleries Lafayette Printemps, Laura Ashley, Tommy Hilfiger, and Satya Paul. Her knowledge of Kashmir shawls was not beyond her trousseau. However, she infused Rs 15 lakh in her new venture in 2012 and started offering a comprehensive range of curated shawls. Apart from trendy and economic Shawls, now she markets classic Jamavar shawls with traditional patterns. Her Ethereal & Classic collection, dubbed the Heirloom Collection, is endorsed and curated by Sara Abdullah Pilot, daughter of Dr Farooq Abdullah. This exclusive Kani shawl collection comprises extensively hand-embroidered Jamavar shawls. Now she is into promoting Kalamkari shawls, which are hand-painted and then hand-embroidered. Varuna sells her products online and through exhibitions only.

DELHI

A serving Major in the Indian army, Anoop Mishra has developed a level-4 bullet-proof jacket, Sarvatra, which can provide full protection against sniper rifle bullets. It was developed at the College of Military Engineering in Pune. The invention fetched the Major, Army Design Bureau Excellence Award. His motivation for working on the BP jacket came from the instances of sniper fire at the Line of Control, where the rival sides use high-precession snipers to hit each other. The jacket has been tried and tested by the Infantry at their test facilities and the army is expected to issue a tender for bulk purchase to be produced by one of the selected Indian defence industry partners, The Indian Express reported.

DELHI

With Kashmir on the wrong side of the digital divide since August 5, a media group and a tech team managed a way-out. They converted the curated data from their own website and converted it into a tele-text and used SMS service to reach the youth in Kashmir. Vice Media joined hands with Dentsu Webchutney and set up a portal The 8-Bit Journo, now termed to be world’s first tele-text news portal. The idea came after Kashmir completed 100 days of the internet gag. “News stories with cultural relevance to youth were carefully curated and then converted into visually impactful pieces with the objective to facilitate a faster integration of Kashmiris back into the global fold,” a news report about the new invention said. “An introductory message inviting people to subscribe to the 8-bit Journo and access headlines across the globe was sent out. Once subscribed, a story was automatically pushed out to them each day.” Sarvesh Jasuja, who led the programme said they used open-source software for the conversion of data. Users can share the article using SMS. Was this the reason for banning the SMS service again?

SRINAGAR

It was a good cheering crowd that braved the Chillaie Kalan chill to watch the Real Kashmir FC making its first win of the I-League season against Chennai. The match, under massive security arrangements, was the first sporting event in Kashmir after August 5. The team now called The Snow Leopards firmly in control of the game. Danish Farooq managed the first goal followed by Bazie Armand by another one, five minutes after. Chennai did manage a single goal. Interestingly, the official broadcasters, Sport, could not telecast the match live due to internet connectivity issues in Srinagar. Cheering crowd included BJP General Secretary Ram Madhav who said he is RKFC fan. RKFC had its two earlier matches drawn because of weather.

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