Briefing (October 20-26, 2019)

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GANGBAL

After three weeks the operations in Kangan’s Gangbal forests was declared officially over. With only two militants killed, the army said they are actually searching the remaining dozen-odd members of a group that had infiltrated through Gurez and escaped a gunfight on September 27. A Warpora Sopore family claims one of the slain militants is their ward and identified him as Qamar-ud-din War, who had gone to Pakistan on a valid passport, a year ago. The operation witnessed the first controversy when a doctor and four paramedics sent on army’s request to conduct an autopsy did not return for three days leading the hospital staff at Kangan to resort to protest. By the time the sit-in was over, they reported back saying they trekked a long distance to finish the assignment. Cops apart, they were accompanied by 20 villagers who eventually buried the lone corpse in the area while it was snowing. Police sources say the operation is still on in the Trumkhal belt. Print website quoted locals saying the “choppers made nearly 25 trips” to airdrop soldiers.

In the plains, the security grid is still not out of the law and order mode. However, two militant associates Chandi Khatana and Wajid Ali Khatana, both residents of Rajouri, were arrested by Ganderbal police. In Srinagar, there were two grenade explosions as well. In south Kashmir’s Pazalpora village, three militants were killed in a quick encounter.

HarinderBaweja reported in Hindustan Times that army has not been able to pick up communication between militants and their handlers across the LoC since August 5. The sleuths, it said have not been able to figure out if the militant groups “have switched to a new system or just changed their frequency”.

But the LoC continues to be in a state of high alert. The rivals continue to hit each other’s position and in the recent duel, two soldiers, Naik Subash Thapa, 25 and Jharkhand’s Santosh Gope, were killed in Rajouri and Uri sectors. Sepoy Abhijith PS, a soldier from Kollam (Kerela) was killed in Nowgam sector when he accidentally stepped on a mine during patrolling.

The civilian causalities  are also mounting. Pakistan said it lost three civilians including a child in shelling. India said one woman, Shameema Akhter of Shahpur, died in Rajouri. Interestingly, her 18-days-old kid survived the shell impact.

The situation was reviewed at a high level meeting of the army commanders in Delhi in which, according to India Today, the drone-threat on the International Border was discussed. The report said that though no drone related activity was reported from anywhere on the LoC, the army will be inducting systems for use of Artificial Intelligence as part of the surveillance mechanism within the next two years.

Additional troops have been deployed. “We have brought in additional soldiers from outside Northern Command to strengthen our counter-infiltration posture along the LoC. Troops have also been pulled out of pockets where terror has been dormant and sent to forward locations,” Lt Gen Ranbir Singh, who heads the Northern Command has said. “No patch of the border is unguarded and we have repelled the majority of infiltration attempts.”

KUALALAMPUR

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Free lunches never existed. The in-thing is that even talking costs. As part of its response to Kashmir-related statements, Delhi has decided to impose costs on Malaysia. Global news-gatherer Reuters said India may limit palm oil imports from the island nation. While suggesting a bilateral way-out on Kashmir,  Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad told the UN in September that India had “invaded and occupied” Jammu and Kashmir. Now India, the world’s biggest importer of edible oils, is planning to substitute Malaysian palm oil with supplies from countries Indonesia, Argentina and Ukraine. Palm oil accounts for nearly two-thirds of India’s total edible oil imports and most of the 9 million tonnes comes from Indonesia and Malaysia. Till the UN speech, India had imported 3.9 million tonnes from Malaysia in nine months. Indonesia is keen to see its palm oil exports to India surge and is willing to take sugar in exchange.

Delhi–Kualalampur relations were already tense over the extradition of Islamic preacher and Peace TV founder Zakir Naik, who is living in Malaysia since 2017. NIA has said his speeches were responsible for indoctrination of 127 Indian Muslims to ISIS ideology.

Mahathir has said his government will study the impact of the action taken by India. “They are exporting goods to Malaysia too. It’s not just one-way trade, it’s two-way trade,” Mahathir was quoted saying. Malaysia imports petroleum products, live animals and meats, metals, chemicals and chemical products from India. The latest is that Malaysia has offered raising imports of raw sugar and buffalo meat from India, an indication towards easing trade tensions. India is the world’s biggest exporter of buffalo meat and sugar producer.

India was Malaysia’s third-largest export destination in 2018 for palm oil and palm-based products worth 6.84 billion ringgit (US$1.63 billion). Malaysia’s exports to India were worth US$10.8 billion in the fiscal ending March 31, against imports worth US$6.4 billion.

SOURA

Police said in the arrest of Hayat Ahmad Bhat, they have actually rounded up the brain behind the Anchar unrest that started with the abrogation of Article 370. The area witnessed massive protest and police action on August 6 and 7, the footage of which was aired by all the global TVs. Bhat, police said, was formerly affiliated with Muslim League, and was charged twice under the Public Safety Act even as 16 cases of disturbing law and order stand registered against him. Bhat’s arrest was planned using technological and human intelligence and finally cops in civvies managed to locate and arrest him. Anchar, Bhat’s hometown, remained out of bounds for security grid since August 5 following residents digging up roads and setting up barricades to prevent police entry. In his last speech at the local shrine-mosque complex, The Hindu reported, Bhat said: “Dialogue is the only way forward.” A commerce graduate from the Islamia College for Science and Commerce, Bhat 44, has three FIRs against him for this summer. He was arrested in 2016 and 2018 and walked home only on Eid ulFitrin June 2019.

ISLAMABAD

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Imran Khan has raised Kashmir situation with the visiting Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William and Kate, who are on a five-day official visit to Pakistan. A foreign ministry read-out stated that Khan “apprised the Royal couple of domestic priorities and Pakistan’s perspective on external environment, including relations with India post August 5 and support for peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan”. Ahead of their visit, a statement issued from Kensington Palace said that the visit of the couple would “focus on showcasing Pakistan as it is today – a dynamic, aspirational and forward-looking nation”. Pakistani media that is giving wall-to-wall coverage to the royal visit is comparing this visit with the trips made by Prince William’s mother, Princess Diana, in 1986 and 1999. Diana was a close friend of Imran Khan. Middleton actually wore a salwarkameezof green and blue hues on the first day, which apparently harked back to Diana’s clothing choice.

A British newspaper reported that Diana visited Pakistan in 1991, 1996 and 1997 as part of her “pursuing an ill-fated romance with the Pakistani heart surgeon, Hasnat Khan” in which Imran Khan and his then wife, Jemima, were acted as go between. Diana would meet surgeon’s mother every time but never succeeded in getting her consent for the marriage.

BALGRADE

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Prominent Congressman ShashiTharoor objected to Pakistan’s raking of Kashmir at the Asian Parliamentary Assembly (APA) in Belgrade. The APA was convened on the sidelines of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) annual meet in which the chairman of the Pakistani Senate said the Kashmir developments prevented Pakistan hosting the APA plenary in Islamabad. Tharoor said Pakistan must avoid raking up Kashmir, India’s internal matter. “There is nothing in the situation in Jammu and Kashmir that in any way affects the living and working conditions in his country, let alone in Islamabad,” Tharoor was quoted saying. “India’s internal matters do not spill over its borders and do not impinge upon our neighbours.” Later, speaking at the IPU, he said:  “We expect better from parliamentarians then vituperative mudslinging.” He termed Pakistani diplomat’s intervention as “indistinctly unhelpful.”

ALIGARH

Kashmiri students of Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) held a silent protest against the administration’s decision for not  allowing them an Art and Photography Exhibition at AMU’s Central Canteen. The exhibition motive was to highlight the ongoing lockdown. The university has a sizable chunk of students from Kashmir and is always in focus of the security set-up. In protest, they boycotted the annual Sir Syed Day celebrations by observing a day long hunger strike.

A report in The Hindu said there was a protest in  Delhi University against the communication blockade in Kashmir. The highlight of the protest was speech by members of Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression, which had recently visited parts of Kashmir.

DODA

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A 33-year-old man from Tanta (Doda) has been admitted to the Government Medical College Jammu for his spinal cord injury. Identified as BasharatHussain, he has alleged that police arrested him on a complaint by an influential contractor, RiyazZargar, beat him and threw him out from a window. In the fall, he suffered a spinal cord injury. Sole bread winner for his family comprising, father wife and five children, Hussain was working for Zargar and had some issues that led to his arrest. Police, however, has claimed that he suffered injury while escaping from custody. Now which side is correct?

For 103 posts, more than 2200 youths from restive south Kashmir districts of Anantnag, Kulgam and Pulwama lined for recruitment as soldiers in Jammu and Kashmir Light Infantry Regimental Centre at Rangreth

SRINAGAR

CBI that is investigating the Rubiya Sayeed kidnapping and the IAF personnel killing case of 1990 has arrested former JKLF leader Javid Mir from his Srinagar residence. Police sources said he is being produced before the TADA designated court in Jammu. The High Court on the CBI request allowed the transfer of proceedings and the writ petitions in the cases related to the killing of the four IAF personnel in the Rawalpora area of Srinagar in 1990 and the December 8, 1989, kidnapping of Rubaiya Sayeed, daughter of the then Home Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, to its Jammu wing on March 13, 2019. Earlier in 2009, the JK High Court had stayed the trial proceedings in both cases before a TADA court in Jammu while acting on a petition by Malik.

Against an average 200 pieces of carom boards that 15 Jullundur-based manufacturers would supply to Kashmir per month, the demand has reached 700 pieces after August 5

HAZRATBAL

A 17-member delegation of grave and shrine custodians led by Syed Naseruddin Chisti of the Ajmer Dargah faced hostile worshippers when they visited the Hazratbal shrine. People literally got furious as the delegation group attired in saffron robes got into the mosque. They did not visit the shrine of Mukhdoom sahib even after driving there. One report said an uptown shrine closed doors on them. They also faced hostile questions in a press conference in which they appealed people that they should not fall victim to the Pakistani propaganda. The group had come under the banner of All India Sufi Sajjadanashin Council (AISSC). This was the first delegation that Jammu and Kashmir government hosted after the August 5 decision. Chisti refused to talk on Article 370 and denied his team came at the government’s behest. He said the visit was aimed at integrating Kashmiris with the national mainstream and revive Sufiyat in Kashmir.

WASHINGTON

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In anticipation of a Congressional hearing on Human Rights in South Asia, five Indian diplomats led by ambassador Harsh Vardhan Shringla made history by briefing members of the committee over Kashmir. Congressman Brad Sherman, the Democrat who heads the Asia Subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC) hosted the session. It was response to an increasing voice of dissent and uneasiness among American lawmakers on the curbs in Kashmir. Shringla and other diplomats from the Indian Embassy and its consulates in New York, Chicago, Atlanta, Houston and San Francisco, have reached out to hundreds of Congressmen and their aides after abrogation of the state’s special status. They have briefed them about the restoration of nearly four million post-paid mobiles in Kashmir after more than 70 days. Reports said Shringla briefed lawmakers on the historic context of the Kashmir problem, and the steps being taken by India post August 5. US lawmakers have raised issues of missing persons, restrictions on movement, and communication blockade. They questioned the Ambassador on why foreign journalists were not allowed to go into Kashmir, if things were good.

The session was attended by HFAC ranking member and Florida Republican Ted Yoho, California Democrat and Indian American Ami Bera, South Carolina Republican Joe Wilson, Virginia Democrat Abigail Spanberger, Rhode Island Democrat David Cicilline and Texas Republican Pete Olson. However, PramilaJayapal, a Chennai-born progressive Democrat who has been vocal about the restrictions in Kashmir was not present.

KOCHI

Briefing - Kashmir -kochi bike womenRegardless of the happenings in Kashmir, an all-women group of bikers from Kochi have left for Srinagar. Terming the trip Tribute to Womanhood, they started from the Kapashera border of Delhi to each Jammu. Though the group was supposed to comprise 25 bikers, the prevailing situation reduced to it to only two – Remya R Pillai and Sruthi R. They will complete the trip in a month and would ride on Royal Enfield. They are members of the Dauntless Royal Explorers Kerala, the first women Bullet club. They plan to reach Srinagar and go to Ladakh and use the Manali road to reach Himachal and go to Jaipur, Udaipur, Gujarat, Mumbai, Belgaum, Kasaragod, Kozhikode, Kochi, Thiruvananthapuram to reach Kanyakumari.

SRINAGAR

Weeks ahead of the formal rollout of the Union Territory (UT) of Jammu and Kashmir, the government abolished the 62-year-old Jammu and Kashmir State Legislative Council, the house of elders in state’s bicameral legislature.

All its 116 staffers were asked to report to the General Administration Department (GAD) by October 22. Its records were directed to be transferred to the Law Department, vehicles to the State Motor Garages and the building along with furniture and electronic gadgets to the Estates department.

Established in 1957 when the Jammu and Kashmir state adopted its own constitution, the 36-member house was used to give mandatory assent to the lower house lawmaking and give representation to the sections that were unrepresented in the direct election. The government had eight nominated seats for a six years term. At the time of its abolition, it has 22 members – 12 from BJP and 10 from PDP, some of them already in jail.

Its abolition was the outcome of Section 57 of the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Bill, 2019, introduced in the RajyaSabha on August 5 and subsequently passed by both Houses of Parliament. Now, the UT of Jammu and Kashmir, unlike its Ladakh counterpart, will elect its own assembly that would  be one of the least powerful in India.

Since 2016, 183 instances of internet shutdowns were recorded in Jammu and Kashmir, the highest in India. Post-Burhan Wani killing followed the longest recorded shutdown between July 2016 and January 2017. Hindu newspaper reported India got the “Unenviable position” globally for topping the list of highest number of shutdowns between January 2016 and June 2018 (160) with Ethiopia at No 2

SRINAGAR

After a court of inquiry established that a Mi-75 V5 chopper was hit by an IAF missile and killed six air force personnel on board on February 27 in Srinagar, the IAF has initiated court martial proceedings against its two officers. The investigations revealed that the officers had switched off FOF system as well as IFF. The latter is Friend or Foe Identification system. The helicopter was hit by “a surface-to-air missile system around the same time Indian and Pakistani fighter jets were engaging each other over Nowshera” on 27 February 27. “The Pakistani Air Force, after intruding in Rajouri sector of Jammu region, was attempting a similar misadventure in Uri sector around the time the helicopter was airborne from Srinagar airfield,” Hindustan Times reported. “The air traffic control had called back the chopper in the middle of the aerial dogfight between fighters of the Indian and Pakistani air force. The ATC should have vectored away the helicopter or kept in holding at a pre-designated area when an airfield is under attack.”

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