Briefing

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“I will not say anything on Jammu and Kashmir. At this juncture, it is better to maintain silence.”

Dr Karan Singh, Kashmir’s first and the last Sadr-e-Reyasat, whose father acceded to India in 1947, said in Pune.

DELHI

Last week when the Bigg Boss’s Season 13 was aired, two contestants took centre stage – Asim Riaz and Mahira Sharma, the first two Kashmiris of the show ever. Asked to introduce himself, Riaz yelled: “Mujhekuch mat kehna, main Jammu aur Kashmir se hoon(Don’t mess with me, I’m from Jammu and Kashmir).” Sharma has appeared in Colours TV’s Naagin3, while Riaz is a model. They both appeared to develop a kinship and spoke about going to Kashmir together on several occasions. Hina Khan earlier appeared in the show but media commentators term her half-Kashmiri as she was only born in Kashmir and raised in Delhi.

KREERI

The greed has its costs. A resident of Kreeri befriended a woman Rose Darbo on Facebook. She claimed to a resident of Liberia but currently living in Refugee camp in Senegal. Assuring him that she will transfer US $3.5 million to him for helping Kashmiri poor, Rose cited different charges and duties for transferring that amount into his bank account and induced him to deposit amounts ranging from Rs. 45,000 to Rs 7 lakh in different bank accounts maintained in different names in various banks across India. The state police Crimes Branch that investigated the case said she duped him of Rs 83 lakh. The case goes on.

KARACHI

Mehwish Hayat, one of Pakistan’s major actors is facing music for refusing to speak on Kashmir. A leaked video clip suggests the Na Maloom Afraad star telling the reporter, mana kar diya hai (I’ve been asked not to speak) on Kashmir. After the mega-star was trolled for being “inconsiderate”, the Load Wedding star had to explain her position. “This was a charity event & was requested by the PR not to be political &not distract from the orphans I was there to help,” she said in a tweet. She is an ambassador for Penny Appeal, a Muslim relief and development organization working in 35 countries. Her refusal to talk Kashmir was in UK where British Muslim Charity was honouring the orphans at a function. Mehwish was trolled even by the fellow stars. Singer Rabi Pirzada literally went after her. “No doubt Mahwish is much better than me, my parents won’t allow me to do item song like BILLI or have friendships with important people,” Pirzad wrote on twitter. “I’m far behind her in experience. But I couldn’t imagine anybody in Pakistan refusing to talk about Kashmir under any circumstances.”

RIYADH

NSA Ajit Doval has met Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman and explained Delhi’s Kashmir stand. In the 2-hour meeting, various bilateral issues were discussed. Later, Doval met his Saudi counterpart, Musaid Al Aiban. Saudi and UAE have been involved between India and Pakistan since February. MBS has emphasized the need for de-escalation. The two countries have strong economic ties: India’s 17 per cent crude oil comes from Saudi along with 32 per cent of LPG requirements. However, Indian Express reported Doval visit was aimed at briefing Saud Arabia – the first Arab member of Financial Action Task Force (FATF) since June, and seek support for India to blacklist Pakistan. FATF plenary session is scheduled for October 13-18. Pakistan is already in 39-member FATFs grey list, a notch down from blacklisting. Saudi government has maintained a sort of a neutral stand on Kashmir post-August 5.

SRINAGAR

Srinagar based media persons had symbolic protest against the continued communication blockade for the last two months. Dozens of reporters and editors assembled in the premises of the Aiwan-e-Sahafat, the Kashmir Press Club and sought the end of the blockade. They were carrying placards highlighting the plight of the media in absence of the basic facility. Later, they marched peacefully and silently to the Press Colony where they had a brief sit-in. For the last two months, the entire media is operating from a 10-computer lab that the government put in place in a Srinagar hotel. One placard said: “You Call It Media Facilitation Centre, We Call It Media Monitoring Centre”.

The communication blockade is gradually pushing Kashmir to Stone Age. A news report in The Hindu said the Srinagar Municipal Corporation is unable to register births or even deaths. “The official record showed no deaths or births registered between August 5 and August 26. However, in the month of September, the department only managed to issue 467 temporary ‘under-process’ certificates to the needy,” the newspaper said. The SMC would routinely issue 1500 birth and death certificates a month.

Students are in a sort of crisis as there is only one computer in TRC where a person is filling their on-line admission forms.

More than 100000000 people could die if India and Pakistan wage nuclear war, according to study by Rutgers University-New Brunswick in the US that Science Advances published. It could release 16 to 36 million tons of soot that would interrupt the sunlight reaching earth by up to 20-35 percent; reduce rainfall by 15-30 percent; impact vegetation by 15-10 percent and reduce ocean productivity by 5-15 percent.

SRINAGAR

The police in Kashmir is getting air borne. It has placed an order for 50 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). MHA has approved the category-3 drone purchase, Hindustan Times reported. These are to be deployed for keeping an eye on protesters and the militants. Tenders have been floated and indication suggest the drone will be up and flying by the year end. The drones will operate from various districts. The newspaper said the Army is using UAVs for a few years in different parts of the Valley, including during the gun battles in south Kashmir.

LUCKNOW

The 1300-AMU students turning down his request, notwithstanding, the UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath finally got a group of 70-Kashmiri students to interact. “We are living in a democratic society and it should be kept in mind that dialogue could be the most important medium in it. We have to make new efforts with this view in mind,” Yogi was quoted saying the Kashmir students. “We also need to understand what democracy actually means. There will be prosperity in our lives only when there is development. How could we become a part in the development process?” He told them that “a solution to issues” can be found for creating “a better atmosphere”. The Article 370 abrogation, he asserted will not have any adverse effect on Kashmiris and instead, it will accelerate the development.

NADIA

BSF Sub-Inspector ParitoshMondal went missing after he drowned in swelling Aik Nallah on September 28 while saving lives of two of his colleagues. Three days later, the Pakistan Rangers fished out his body from the other side of the LoC. The AikNallah flows from India to Pakistan. The corpse was returned.

NEW YORK

Even though the premiers of India and Pakistan returned home after their UN speeches, the Kashmir tensions continue. US Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sikh-Canadian politician Jagmeet Singh have made public statements in support of Kashmiris and against the human rights violations in the region. “Our entire community’s prayers n support are with the families of Kashmir as we work to establish peace and justice there & throughout the world,” Cortez was seen writing in her message on board set up at a protest site in the US. She later re-tweeted photos from the event and called for an end to the communication blockade in the region.

“The Indian government shut down telephones, cell phone communication, and blocked media,” Canada’s New Democratic Party leader Jagmeet Singh was quoted telling a gathering last week. “Anywhere in the world, if the cell phones are being blocked, the telephones are being shut down, and the media is not allowed to go there, I can assure you, there are human rights violations going on.”

Earlier, US Congresswoman Ilhan Omar had sought access to international organizations to document ground realities in Kashmir. Bernie Sanders, US Senator and Democratic candidate for the 2020 election, had also highlighted the human rights crisis in Kashmir ahead of the Howdy, Modi event in Houston. Last month, Indian-American lawmaker Pramila Jayapal along with 13 other US Congressmen urged Modi to address concerns over the human rights situation in Kashmir and lift the communications blackout.

China, Turkey and Malaysia apart, UK’s Labour Party passed a resolution condemning the situation in Kashmir. The party’s leader Jeremy Corbyn called for UN intervention and a political resolution that upholds the rights of Kashmiris. Sweden’s premier Margot Wallström also said that the EU supported a bilateral political solution between India and Pakistan over Kashmir, emphasising that “dialogue through diplomatic channels is crucial”.

Now, a US Congressional sub-committee has said it will hold a hearing on human rights situation in South Asia with focus on Kashmir on October 22. Acting Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Alice Wells, who oversees all State Department policy towards South Asia will testify at the hearing, Congressman Brad Sherman, Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Asia, was quoted saying. “The hearing will focus on the Kashmir Valley, where many political activists have been arrested and daily life, the internet, and telephone communications have been interrupted,” Sherman said in a statement. “The panel will also review the humanitarian situation in Kashmir and whether Kashmiris have adequate supplies of food, medicine and other essentials.” Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, Scott Busby, who oversees human rights efforts in South Asia will also testify.

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar has categorically rejected any scope for third party mediation between India and Pakistan on Kashmir, saying India’s stand had been clear for decades and the two countries can discuss the issue bilaterally.

Jaishankar discuss Kashmir with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in a meeting at the Foggy Bottom headquarters of the State Department. A statement said the two leaders “discussed a range of issues, including the growing US-India strategic relationship, developments in Kashmir, and global issues of concern”.

For 2780 positions in JAKLI, the army has started recruitment in Srinagar and Jammu.

KISHTWAR

Police have charged Congressman and former minister, Ghulam Mohammad Saroori’s brother Mohammad ShaffiSaroori of helping militants in their movement and shelter. He has five more co-accused: Masood Ahmad Mattoo, Mohammad Muzaffar Shah, Touseef Ahmad Gundna, and Syed Ahmad. The case was registered on basis of the disclosures made by some nine “militants” during interrogation. Both the Saroori brothers have denied their involvement.

NEW YORK

A day after his emotional speech over Islamophobia in the United Nations, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan had a meeting with his Turkish and Malaysian counterparts RecepTayyipErdogan and Mahathir Mohamad where they decided to set up a TV channel for a counter-narrative to Islamophobia. Khan announced the decision in a tweet. The channel is expected to be a news channel that will also have emphasis to counter Islamophobia.

GAWHATI

The Indian Institute of Technology-Guwahati (IIT-G) is planning to enrol 100 meritorious students from Jammu and Kashmir under Prime Minister’s Special Scholarship Scheme (PMSSS). Under the MoU that it signed with All the India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), the IIT-G will enrol 100 meritorious students from Jammu and Kashmir in batches of 25, for internship at IIT Guwahati from May 1, to May 30, 2020.

KATRA

Northern Railways started India’s fastest and world class train Vande Bharat Express between Delhi and Katra for Navratra festival. The train that would run for the entire week except Tuesday will get pilgrims to Katra in eight hours. Literally non-stop, it will have 2-minute halts each at AmbalaCantt, Ludhiana and Jammu Tawi. The train had two trial runs in September and has a velocity of 130 kms, an hour. The fully air-conditioned train has 16 coaches, adjustable seats, CCTV and is specially designed. Yet another train bypassed Jammu!

JAMMU

Veteran Jammu boxer, Rajan Sharma, was appointed as Manager of the Indian Elite Women’s Boxing team travelling to Russia for AIBA World Women’s Boxing Championship. He has been boxing for last 40 years. Before the Russian assignment, Rajan was part of the London Olympics as technical observer, followed by the similar job at Jakarta Asian Games 2018. In his career, Rajan won gold at Punjab Invitational Boxing in 1980 and represented J&K in the senior Nationals for five years in a row up to 1984.

TRAL

Mohammad Ashraf Bhat, 69, who unsuccessfully contested the Assembly elections in 2008 and 2014, has gone into hiding after the government withdrew his security cover including 25 CRPF personnel who were guarding his Tral home. Bhat’s three family members – his father and two brothers – were killed by militants in the last 30 years. Bhat’s ancestral home was blown up in 1989. Two years later, militants killed his father Mohammad SubhanBhat, an NC lawmaker. His brother Showkat was killed by militants outside their home, the same day. In 2002, Bhat’s second brother Fayaz Ahmad, a naibtehsildar, and his personal security officer were killed. Following this attack, the government enhanced their security cover and set up five bunkers around their home. Now, only two people live in the 2-storey house: Bhat’s wife and widow of Fayaz and her two children.

DELHI

Media house India Today has done an undercover sting investigation codenamed Operation Kashmiri Almonds to suggest that traders in Delhi are still able to manage fund supply to Kashmiri separatists. It traced three traders in Delhi – two of them in dry fruit, who said they can transfer any amount to Srinagar – in Rajbagh and Batamaloo, for Rs 1300 commission per one lakh rupee. Earlier, a similar sting operation led to the arrest of Naeem Khan who is still in jail along with many others in the money laundering case. The network said the NIA will examine the entire raw footage of its latest sting operation.

MALAYSIA

Talking also costs. Days after the Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Bin Mohamad raised Kashmir in his UN speech, a campaign started on social media to boycott Malaysia especially tourism. He accused India of “invading and occupying the country” of Jammu and Kashmir “despite the UN resolution”. It was responded by a hashtag #boycottMalaysia that was trending on the social media for a few days. Soon after the government raised import tax on Malaysian refined palm oil by 5 percent making it dearer in India. Malaysia was reportedly targeting a million tourists in 2020. Financial Express reported that India has put on hold Indian Navy’s US$2.3 billion project of acquiring fleet support ships (FSS) from Turkey’s M/s Anadolu Shipyard. Malaysian Foreign Minister DatukSaifuddin Abdullah has said that they are willing to reply if India makes a statement on the tourism campaign.

117 is the latest count of Jammu and Kashmir residents affected by the vector-borne dengue disease in 2019, so far.

BATOTE

Not knowing what a gun-battle is all about, the residents in the highway township of Batote climbed the house roofs to watch an encounter in which a soldier and three militants were killed. Identified as Osama, Zahid and Farooq, they were killed while attempting an escape from a house. The slain soldier was Naik Rajinder Singh from Jaisalmer. Seven personnel including SPO Imtiaz Hussain were injured as well. The trio had barged into the house of BJP worker, Vijay Kumar Varma and held him hostage.

Since the encounter broke out in broad daylight, residents risked their lives by climbing atop their houses to witness the gun-battle. Residents said the militants were first spotted near Kundrala on the national highway where they exchanged fire with a road opening party and fled. They surfaced in the town at around 12:30 pm when they took Mehra as hostage in his own house.

After being rescued Mehra said he had given up his hope when he actually came out taking advantage of the smoke from his own house. He told police that initially the militants spoke in Kashmiri but later they communicated in coded language with each other. With his house destroyed, Mehra, 62, a professional tailor, has turned insomniac as memories of being a hostage haunt him. He had proved intelligent in pushing his wife and daughter-in-law out of his home and telling them who the intruders were. Later, he offered tea to them which they refused. Eventually Mehra tried to move out along with his neighbour but militants stopped him. By then the army had cordoned the house and the encounter started with the smoke grenades landed in his home. 20 minutes later, militants were killed and the house was no more.

But the other encounter that started the same day in TrumkhalGangabal (Ganderbal) continued for almost a week. Officials said two unidentified militants (one report said four) were killed so far. Indications suggest a larger group of militancy was engaged in an encounter. Police admitted that the group had infiltrated through Gurez when it was intercepted in the woods. The gunfight is raging on at an altitude of 4,000ft and the area is inaccessible by road.

This has led to the review of the alertness. Media reports suggest that the security grid has identified over 20 entry routes along the India-Pakistan border and put in place multi-tier security to prevent any infiltration. Assessments suggest 60 infiltrations have taken place in last two months, mostly from LoC. The routes being monitored fall in belts of Kathua, Samba, Jammu, Rajouri, Poonch, Baramulla, Bandipora and Kupwara.

The United States, meanwhile has voiced fears that Pakistani militants might launch strikes in India. “I think many have concerns that Pakistan keep a lid on militant groups that might conduct cross-border activities as a result of the Kashmir decisions, and I don’t sense that China wants that kind of conflict or would support that,” Assistant Secretary of Defence for Indo Pacific Security Affairs, Randall Shriver, has told a Washington audience.

NAGPUR

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) has expressed its concern over the recently released web series on streaming service Amazon Prime Video, The Family Man featuring Manoj Bajpayee as the protagonist. The Panchjanya, its mouthpiece has singled out few scenes related to the situation in Jammu and Kashmir. “In the series, a woman affiliated to the National Investigation Agency is shown speaking to her male colleague at Srinagar’s Lal Chowk, decrying the fact that Kashmiris were being oppressed by the Indian state as it had shut down phones and internet and used measures like the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act,” A news report in The Hindu quoted the article reading. “At one point she asks her male colleague, who appears quite affected by her talk, whether there is any difference between the Indian officials and militants.” The article claimed that The Family Man portrayed that the problem of terror began after the 2002 Gujarat riots as it showed a character turning to terrorism after his family is killed in the incident. “More than 300 Hindus were also killed in the riots, why hasn’t anyone turned to terror yet?” the article asked.

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