Briefing (February 02-08, 2020)

BRUSSELS

The External Affairs Ministry is working overtime to minimise the diplomatic costs of the joint motion involving five resolutions moved by 559 of the 751-member parliament. CAA apart, one resolution is exclusively on Kashmir that invokes UN resolution to solve Kashmir. The resolutions will be put to vote early March.

Policymakers in Delhi have said that the resolutions have not been passed for the first time against India and that these will not have any impact with on the diplomatic relations between India and EU countries. Earlier such resolutions were passed in case of Afzal Guru and Nirbhaya gang rape.

The resolutions were pushed by Shaffaq Mohammed, a Kashmir origin British Liberal who represents Yorkshire and the Humber constituency in the EU.

Earlier, Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla wrote to European Parliament President David Maria Sassoli over the resolutions, saying it was inappropriate for one legislature to pass judgement on another and the practice can be misused by vested interests. PTI reported that one of the six groups behind the resolutions has withdrawn its resolution and references to the revocation of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir in some of the resolutions have not been included in the final motion.

Later, India’s Ambassador in Brussels Gaitri Issar Kumar has met the six groups behind the resolutions criticising India, as well as individual MEPs who might oppose them. Currently the Indian diplomacy is working to suggest amendments to the final joint motion that would soften the harsh language in the main drafts. Interestingly, of the 23 MEPs, who were flown to Srinagar earlier, at least eight have also tabled resolutions against the government’s actions over the CAA and Article 370.

Congress has termed the happening a ‘failed foreign policy’. “I never imagined that a subject that is an internal matter to India will be discussed in the US or the European Union. This is a great failure of our foreign policy,” Kapil Sibal was quoted saying. “There are five resolutions against what’s happening. They (Indian government) may try to reach out, but the fact that it will be discussed in the European Parliament shows that the government has internationalised Kashmir and CAA.”

Meanwhile, the 28-nation EU foreign office in Delhi has said the resolutions do not represent the EU official position. Diplomats said that the resolutions, even if passed, are no legal binding and are only “handed over to the European Commission” for its consideration. If passed, The Indian Express wrote, the resolution may increase pressure on the Indian government at a time when the government is facing protests across the country and abroad.

“The diplomatic backlash by the European lawmakers against India comes ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Brussels for the India-EU summit in March. The EU may raise the issue during Modi’s visit to the country. The EU has already expressed concern about the situation in Kashmir as it cancelled foreign delegates visit to the valley,” the newspaper reported. “The EU is India’s largest trading partner, accounting for 92 billion Euros worth of trade in goods in 2018 or 12.9% of total Indian trade, and also a key source of inward FDI, which was worth 5 billion Euros in 2014.”

BIJBEHARA

Javaid Ahmad Tak, 46, who was conferred Padma Shri for his services to the well being of the specially abled people in south Kashmir has said the honour must make him more responsible. “I realised that after my 25 years of struggle to get empowerment for people like me, who are wheelchair bound or face any other kind of disability, recognition is important,” Tak, who runs a special school and an NGO for specially abled people in Bijbehara was quoted by The Tribune saying. “It gives you hope that your voice is being heard.”

Tak has thanked Javad Abidi, a renowned disability rights activist , N N Vohra, former Governor of Jammu and Kashmir NN Vohra for always supporting him and his cause.

Tak became permanently disabled on March 21, 1997, when bullets pierced his spinal cord. Later, he founded the Humanity Welfare Organisation Helpline that also runs Zain Apa School. Almost 100 people work with him. Tak has masters in social work.

BANDIPORE

Schools in Kashmir’s Bandipora district will soon get low-cost sanitary napkin vending machines to ensure menstrual hygiene among students. Vending machines are being installed in 65 secondary and higher secondary schools in the first phase and in next phase the machines will be installed at panchayat level. The machine unit, funded by Swachh Bharat Mission includes a dispenser and an incinerator for proper disposal of used napkins. The sanitary napkins will be sold to the students for less than a third of the market cost.

SRINAGAR

Altaf Bukhari-led group of politicians that is being seen as an alternative politics by Delhi is planning a visit to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah. They are seeking statehood for Jammu and Kashmir and protection of domicile rights. Bukhari has already had a meeting of politicians, academicians, lawyers, social activists and other like-minded in Srinagar. This meeting decided to send a delegation to Delhi and also explore possibilities of a political alternative. Bukhari has said he will work on achievable goals like restoration of statehood and protection of employment and land rights. “I can only promise and fight for what is doable,” The Hindustan Times quoted him saying. “Protecting the rights of my people is possible. I cannot make the same promise about the restoration of Article 370 and it would be wrong to take my people down that road.”

Though Bukhari and Muzaffar Hussain Baig are talking in almost same language over the issues, albeit separately, it remains to be seen how ‘survival of the fittest’ will eventually make things clearer.

SRINAGAR

Viral photograph of Omar Abdullah’s on the social mediaDropping the pre-fixing of Sher-e-Kashmir from the police gallantry medal, routinely being announced by the Jammu and Kashmir government in anticipation of January 26, was coincided with the dramatic release of Omar Abdullah’s photograph on the social media. Though smiling, Omar seemed almost unrecognisable sporting a salt and pepper beard, triggering reactions of awe and anger from netizens, including West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. The photograph literally set the social media afire. Though the Tamil Nadu BJP sent a virtual razor order to Omar, it withdrew the tweet quickly.

“I could not recognize Omar in this picture,” West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee wrote on twitter. “Am feeling sad. Unfortunate that this is happening in our democratic country. When will this end?”

“How bad must it be that we are feeling happy just to see a smiling pic of the former CM of J&K @OmarAbdullah. Would truly be a happy moment when he and the rest are out and about, not under house arrest, hear them speak and read his tweets. Till then just the pic brings hope!,” Shiv Sena Deputy leader Priyanka Chaturvedi said.

“Equally concerned about Farooq Abdullah, MehboobaMufti & other Kashmiri leaders who are incarcerated without trial or due process. Union Govt must immediately release all political prisoners and restore normalcy in Valley,” DMK President M K Stalin wrote while sharing Omar’s photo sporting an overgrown beard with a caption: “Deeply troubled to see this picture of @OmarAbdullah.”

Kashmir parties, however, remained restricted in condemning the erasing of Sheikh’s title from the awards. UT administration, NC former lawmaker, Peer Afaq was quoted saying, “moves to trim every single symbol of J&K’s political individuality”. Added Yousuf Tarigami: “No words are enough to condemn such foolish orders of the administration.”

On the flip side, there is a new development. Khalida, the estranged sister of Dr Farooq Abdullah, has spoken to her brother indicating mending of fences. Wife of Ghulam Mohammad Shah, Khalida founded Awami National Conference after her husband overthrew Farooq with Indira Gandhi’s help in 1984. The two siblings have remained estranged since then.

However, Khalida’s son Muzaffar Shah has recently said that his mother is in touch with Farooq. “I can tell you he (Farooq) is in high spirits,” he was quoted saying.  Safia, Farooq’s daughter, has also been visiting her detained aunt and uncle Mustafa Kamal at their home since the removal of Article 370.

BANGALORE

Yusuf Jameel, senior Kashmir journalist, was selected for the 2019-20 PEN Gauri Lankesh Award for Democratic Idealism. “His work in journalism shows an exemplary commitment to professional integrity and the ideals of democracy,” reads the citation of the award, carrying a cash of one lakh rupees. Jameel is Kashmir’s celebrated journalist who, at one point of time, symbolised the media in Kashmir. Writing in Urdu and English, for print and broadcasting media for over 35 years, he has worked with world’s major media outlets in his career. He was arrested for his reporting and barely survived as assassination bid in 1995. Later, he was awarded the International Press Freedom Award from Committee to Protect Journalists in 1996. Jameel was chosen by a jury of scholar Chandan Gowda, Editor Vinutha Mallya and poet Asiya Zahoor. The jury is established afresh each year.

AGRA

Kashmir Bar Association’s long time president, Mian Abdul Qayoom, survived a cardiac attack in the Agra Jail. He was quickly removed to the S N Medical College hospital in Agra where he stabilised. Mian Qayoom has been battling diabetes, hypertension and prostate malfunction inside Agra jail since August 5, when he was rounded along with hundreds of many others. His case is still undecided in the court of law. A day later, his three family members met him in the jail. Bar Association in Srinagar said that three ECGs and echocardiography was conducted and the tests indicated serious problems, including blockage of 60 per cent.

For potential investors, UT administration is identifying 50,000 kanals of land in Jammu and 10,000 kanals in Kashmir. In Kashmir, most of this land will be identified in South Kashmir

JAMMU

BJP has flown its national general secretary Ram Madhav to observe the “martyrdom day” that the rightwing party has been celebrating since 1953. Six Praja Parishad activists, which eventually merged with Bharatiya Jan Sangh, were killed in police firing in border Jourian town in Jammu during Ek Vidhan, Ek Pardhan and Ek Nishan agitation on January 31, 1953. Identified as Waryam Singh, Basant Ram, Baldev Singh, Mela Ram, Sain Singh, Nanak Chand and Trilok Singh, they were killed while replacing the state flag by the tricolour. The movement also saw the death of BJP ideologue, Dr Shama Prasad Mokerjee, in Srinagar was launched by the Sangh Parivar in early 1950s seeking total integration of Jammu and Kashmir with the Indian Union.

ANANTNAG

Tariq A Mir resembles Game of Thrones and Hollywood star Peter Dinklage. Tariq A Mir resembles Game of Thrones and Hollywood star Peter Dinklage. As it was noticed, he got a role in Salman Khan’s song Slow Motion. He is set to act in another Hindi film starring Ritesh Deshmukh. Resident of Bumthan, Mir, however, faced a crisis. He landed in Srinagar and then August 5 happened and he remained disconnected from Bollywood and lost many opportunities.

“I had been rejected before because I am a dwarf,” Mir was quoted by The Tribune saying. “But now I am happy that I am in demand because of this feature only. I used to play small roles in local Kashmir serials or music videos but now I even get to work in advertisements like the ITC MasterChef. I also get invited to stage shows all over India because of my resemblance to Dinklage.”

Mir was actually noticed when The Cure, a Kashmiri tribute to the Game of Thrones made by a group of local youth, went viral.

SRINAGAR

The internet embargo continues to take its toll on Kashmir. In September, LIC wanted to hire 8000 agents across India including 124 from Jammu and Kashmir. Nobody could apply, according to AK Bhatnagar, vice-president (north) of All India Insurance Employees’ Association. All other positions were taken by other states.

Almost six months after the blockade, the government has restored 2G and it is not helping anyone, anyway. With the authorities keen to push Kashmir behind a firewall with access to almost 300 websites, Kashmir has become a new VPN capital of the world. Now people are using VPNs to bypass the firewalling.

“You can get VPN app through mobile-to-mobile sharing,” Outlook quoted an officer saying. “VPN apps have spread in Kashmir like flu. People meet, share VPN and move on but it is not an alarming situation.”

Now the J&K Home Department and the cellular companies have brought information technology (IT) experts from outside J&K to create a permanent firewall to stop VPNs from functioning and prevent access to social media. The Hindu quoted a BSNL official saying that the Home Department has asked it to refrain from restoring fixed-line broadband services till all the social media sites are firewalled.

POONCH

The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has sanctioned an excavation project aimed at tracing the limits of the Indus Valley civilisation in Poonch. “The area under survey is close to the Akhnoor-Poonch highway. And, in Manda in Akhnoor, we found the northernmost tip of the Indus Valley in the 1970s. So there is a strong probability that we find roots of the Indus Valley civilisation in Poonch,” an ASI officer was quoted saying. In Akhnoor, artefacts unearthed after excavations included pre-Harappan and Harappan red ware such as jars, dishes, goblets as well as copper artefacts, bone arrowheads, terracotta bangles, cakes, chert blade, etc. ASI officials from J&K division said that the region has traces of Kushana and Mauryan Periods as well. Historian Dwijendra Narayan Jha was quoted by The Hindustan Times saying that it is too early to say whether Poonch could have a link to the Indus Valley civilisation.

Of 17396 panchayat berths in Kashmir, the UT administration is planning to hold elections for vacant 11778 panchayat positions in February

JAMMU

The UT administration has changed the reservation rules by reserving 4% jobs for the Pahari speaking people. Now, 10% jobs are reserved for backward areas, 4% for Pahari-speaking people, 10% to economically weak sections, 8% to SCs, 10% to STs, 4% to weaker and underprivileged classes, 4% to residents of areas living closer to the LoC and border. Besides, there is 6% horizontal reservation for ex-servicemen and 4% for persons with disabilities. For admission in professional institutions, there will be 8 per cent reservation for SCs, 10 per cent for STs, 4 per cent for residents of areas along the Line of Actual Control, 10 per cent for residents of backward areas, 4 per cent of Pahari-speaking people, 4 per cent for persons with disabilities, 10 per cent for EWS, among others. The open merit goes half or even less.

Kashmir’s tourist footfalls nosedived by 86% since August

 

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