“More than 1.5 crore people of Jammu and Kashmir were deprived of the benefits of laws that were enacted for the benefit of the people of India,” Prime Minister Modi asserted on August 8, in justification of the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Bill. “Imagine children in rest of the country have a right to education while children in Jammu and Kashmir were deprived of this right.…”
Four months later, a Niti Aayog’s Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) India Index Report shows – on various parameters, Jammu and Kashmir is better even in comparison to Gujarat. “On key social indices — no poverty, zero hunger, quality education, gender equality, sustainable consumption and production — Gujarat is at the bottom of the ladder while the undivided state of Jammu and Kashmir is among the performing states,” The Telegraph reported. “On gender equality, Jammu and Kashmir is among the top-performing states — in a league of three, the other two being Himachal Pradesh and Kerala. Jammu and Kashmir outperform the other two by a notch with a score of 53 while Himachal scored 52 and Kerala 51.”
The report shows the “Gujarat model” at the bottom on more indices than that of Jammu and Kashmir. However, Jammu and Kashmir, now a UT, lags behind as an “aspirant” colour-coded red on the development goals linked to decent work and economic growth; industry, innovation and infrastructure; reduced inequalities; and sustainable cities and communities.
“A major fault-line in India is in achieving gender equality, where barring middling performers such as Himachal Pradesh, Kerala and Jammu & Kashmir, the rest of the country falls short,” The Hindu commented in an editorial.
In the midst of the debate on the land and the special status, a New Jersey-based Kashmiri Pandit, RakeshKaul put in public record a letter written by former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi to New York-based Dr Nirmala Mitra, a paediatric neurologist, expressing her unhappiness on Article 370 and treatment of Kashmiri Pandits and Buddhists in the state. She had written a letter to Mrs Gandhi in December 1980, to which a response came on January 8, 1981. “I too am unhappy that neither you who were born in Kashmir nor I whose forefathers came from there can own a small place of land or home,” Mrs Gandhi wrote. “But at the moment, the matter is not in my hands and the Indian press, along with its foreign counterpart are so busy depicting me as authoritarian that makes it all the more difficult to do necessary things.” The Prime Minister assures the paediatrician that she will “enquire into your niece’s case. It ends with the line: “But the Kashmiri Pandits and the Buddhists in Ladakh are unfairly treated and discriminated against.”
The year 2020 came with the abolition of the age-old toll tax that commercial transport was supposed to pay to enter Jammu and Kashmir. It effectively makes Jammu and Kashmir part of the single India market, a process that was initiated with the implementation of the GST in Jammu and Kashmir in BJPDP era. It will result in a loss of around Rs 1500 crores to Jammu and Kashmir but is expected to marginally reduce the costs of some items. Toll tax was used by Jammu and Kashmir government to protect its own industry by heavily taxing the imports. The tax was levied on a weight basis: Rs 100 per 100 kgs of cement, iron and other construction materials; Rs 900 per 100 kg of chickens, Rs 400 on clothes and Rs 100 on flour, pulses, and vegetables. Cigarettes would have an additional cost of Rs 8000 per 100 kgs. A section of the state bureaucracy had strongly opposed the move asserting that it will kill the local industry. Unlike the manufacturing sector, the trade has welcomed the move. Earlier on February 6, 2018, the government had abolished two major toll posts at Lower Munda along Jammu-Srinagar Highway in Anantnag and Borehallan (Heerpur) along Mughal road in Shopian. Seven minor inter-state posts located at Nagri, KotPunnu, Mandi, Basohli, Thein, Hut Mashka and KeerianGandial, under the Lakhanpur toll posts in Kathua, bordering Punjab and Himachal Pradesh have also been closed.
“The withdrawal of the toll tax will prove as a ‘Black Death Warrant’ for J&K Industrial Sector”, Bari Brahamna Industrial Association said in a statement. Markets insiders said, unlike Jammu where the industry will suffer a literal death blow, Kashmir manufacturing sector will survive owing to the freight benefit.
Post-abolition, the gateway to Jammu and Kashmir is deserted. As the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) is awaiting the UT government’s nod to set up its own toll post, the 165 officials who were managing the post are busy preparing inventories of the personnel items and locking offices. Reports suggest that almost 80 transport agencies and scores of eateries are closing and it will make almost 1000 people jobless.
The gateway was a barrier to prevent smugglers, drug-peddlers and anti-social elements. Most of the willow clefts, poppy straw, codeine, drugs, capsules, nag shatri smuggling was detected at this post. Not anymore. Now, nobody in Jammu and Kashmir will know the exact status of the market, especially on items not falling under GST.
Kashmiri student Asiya Ashraf was one of the 19 child scientists whose promising project was chosen from amongst 1200 student delegates at the 27th National Children’s Science Congress at Thiruvananthapuram. She was one of the 16 delegates, eight each from Kashmir and Jammu, from Jammu and Kashmir. Asiya, a 10th class student had created a model that consumes Wazwan plastic waste into a ‘Samawarkiln’. In her model, the Samawar first chamber (usually used for tea) will be stuffed by plastic and the inner chamber will continue with the charcoal. As it heats up the plastic melts and is drained out in the solid form. The gas that’s emitted is passed through a water bag and changed to liquid form. This liquid is then used to create tiles.
The other models that the little inventors showcased were also interesting. A sixth grader converted walnut covering into printing ink. Another developed an alarm for electric blankets so that the user switches it off.
Vijay Kumar, the 1997 Batch IPS officer has replaced Swayam Parkash Pani as the new Kashmir Police Chief (IGP). Pani oversaw the transition of Jammu and Kashmir state into the UT on the law and order front that came after the withdrawal of special status to the erstwhile state. Kumar has served as SDPO Ganderbal, SP (Ops) Pulwama, SP Awantipora, SP Kulgam, SP Vigilance, DIG Traffic Kashmir, DIG South Kashmir range and IGP Armed Kashmir. Apart from serving as IGP Chhattisgarh, Kumar served as IGP of CRPF’s Commando Battalions for Resolute Action, (CoBRA), a specialized counter-insurgent force which has been raised for jungle combat. Pani is now IGP (Armed).
After hue and cry over the High Court of Jammu and Kashmir opening the doors for the non-locals to apply for jobs in Jammu and Kashmir was withdrawn. Earlier the High Court had invited applications for 33 non-gazetted positions including senior and junior stenographers, typists, compositors, electricians and drivers irrespective of their residence. The move was sharply reacted by the political parties, mostly from Jammu. A day later the Registrar General of the High Court withdrew the job notice with immediate effect. No reasons were given for the withdrawal. A report in Daily Excelsior said that the MHA is working on a comprehensive notification to protect the jobs and land ownership of the residents of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.
For every hour of internet ban, the cell phone operators lose around 24.5 million rupees ($350,000) in revenue. India’s smart-phone users require a monthly 9.8 gigabytes of data, the highest in the world.
GulMakai, the Bollywood biopic on Pakistani activist MalalaYousufzai who defied Taliban is being released later this month. GulMakai is the pseudonym of Malala who used to write blogs for BBC Urdu during the Taliban rule, an action that led her to get fatally injured and survive miraculously. This got her Nobel Prize. The film directed by Amjad Khan was mostly shot in Kashmir. Actors ReemShaikh, DivyaDutta, Mukesh Rishi, Abhimanyu Singh and Ajaz Khan are part of the film cast about the most famous teenager of the last decade.
In 2019, 160 militants, 11 JKP cops, 72 personnel from other forces were killed as security grid arrested 102 militants. Police Chief Dilbagh Singh said 150 local militants along with Pakistanis are still active. He asserted the number of youth joining militant ranks has gone down from 218 in 2018 to 139 in 2019. Singh said there were only 481 (law and order) incidents as compared to 625 in 2018.
The 100-page Annual Human Rights Review 2019 by the Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) revealed that 662 residents, mostly youth, were booked under PSA of whom 412 after August 5. Of these cases, the PSA stand quashed in 116 cases including 14 after August 5. The report said 80 civilians and 159 militants were killed in the year that saw 87 gun battles and 195 CASOs. Of the slain civilians, the report links six deaths to the post-August 5 situation. In one case, a young boy drowned in a river while being chased by police and in five other cases the individuals died on inhaling pepper or tear smoke, the report alleged. Authorities have admitted one civilian death only. The report has identified these civilians as Arsar, UsaibAltaf, 17 (August 5), Fehmeeda Begum (Bemina, August 9), Mohammad Ayoub Khan, 57 (August 17, SafaKadal), Abdul GafarWani, 65, (Galwanpora, August 22) and Riyaz Ahmad Tikrey (Handwara, September 6), according to The Telegraph.
Iltija Mufti, former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti’s daughter, was restricted to home so that she won’t be able to go to her grandfather Mufti Sayeed’s grave in Bijbehara. Mufti’s death anniversary falls on January 7.
Her mother is already in jail since August 5. Iltija, who remained mostly outside Kashmir since August 5, had flown home to oversee preparations for the anniversary. “I am detained at my own house. They are neither allowing me to move out nor allowing anybody to come in,” Iltija, 32, was quoted by The Telegraph saying. “All I wanted was to visit Muftisahab’s grave but they didn’t allow me to do so. It is my grandfather’s grave and it is so personal to me.”
Meanwhile, authorities have started permitting the “detained” politicians to go home. Initially, five of them – Zahoor Mir, Badhir Mir, Yasir Rishi (PDP), DrGhulamNabi and IshfaqJabar (NC) were sent home at the year end. Last week, PDP’s Rafi Ahmad Mir and Abdul MajeedPaddar were released. A report said that all the 26 politicians, currently held in the MLA hostel, are being set free in batches barring five: Ali Sagar, Sajad Lone, Dr Shah Faesal, NaeemAkhtar and WaheedurRehaman Para.
The hero-worship in Telgu cinema is changing. It is now following the Bollywood to tackle the security issue in its own way. In the last few years, the Telgu cinema successfully tasted the security theme with AlluArjun starrer Naa Peru Surya, AdiviSesh’sGoodachari, and Praveen Sattaru’sPSV Garuda Vega dealing with issues of soldiers, RAW secret agents, and special units meant to prevent terrorism. The trend is growing. In Venky Mama, for instance, Naga Chaitanya played a commando who crossed the border on a secret mission to destroy terror camps. Now, Mahesh Babu’s film SarileruNeekevvaru revolves around an army officer leading a counter-insurgency unit in Kashmir. Early 2019, another film Operation Golden Fish was set in Kashmir that had plenty of references to the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits, terrorism, and Article 370. It was unimpressive on the box office, however. Telgu fans are keenly watching for AdiviSesh starrer Major, which is based on the death of Major SandeepUnnikrishnan, an NSG commando, during 26/11 Mumbai attack.
In 2019, 79.5 lakh pilgrims visited Vaishno Devi against 85 lakh in 2018.
Facebook has blocked the live streaming of news bulletins by Radio Pakistan and the key reason is said to be its coverage of Kashmir. Now Pakistan’s official broadcaster has gone to YouTube. The blockade is the outcome of its violation of “community standards on dangerous individuals and organisations”. Facebook restricted 5690 items within Pakistan during the first half of 2019 and 4174 pieces from the second half of 2018. Latest reports said Facebook has restored the facility.
MHA is drafting a policy that will get every soldier 100 days to spend with his family in 365 days.
The Jammu and Kashmir Police’s Crime Branch has charge-sheeted SandeepKoul for allegedly forging letters of former external affairs minister SushmaSwaraj to avail helicopter tickets to Shri Mata Vaishno Devi cave shrine back in 2017. After procuring the tickets, Koul later sold them in the black market at Reasi. Son of PranNath, Koul runs Desh Pradesh Tour and Travels at Shastri Nagar in Jammu).
It is hard to believe but the fact is that a Jammu woman, aged 43 and mother of two kids, has won four medals at the Asian Classic Power-lifting Championship at Kazakhastan. Identified as Sapna Jain, she being a habitual gym-goer took to power-lifting at the age of 40 has won gold, silver and two bronze medals in the 47-kg masters’ category in the competition and lifted a total of 237.5 kg weight in her category. Her last total was 220kgs. She lifted 75-kg squat, 47.5 kg bench and 115 kg in deadlift. A Delhi graduate, Sapna married Jammu businessman Pankaj Jain and started power lifting after 23 years of her marriage. The three-time national gold medalist, Sapna, was trained by coach and physique trainer Rahul DevManhas. She participated in three national competitions: 2017 at Jammu, Jamshedpur in 2018 Idduki, and Kerala in 2019. Interestingly, before she got into weight-lifting, Sapna was suffering from a disc problem, cervical, and sciatic nerves – all the ailments that have evaporated now.
Jammu and Kashmir’s First Lady Smita Murmu made her maiden appearance at the Nari Niketan and Bal Ashram at RS Pura last week. Director-General, Social Welfare, Jammu, Rehana Batul and other senior officials of the Social Welfare Department accompanied her. Smita, media reports suggest enquired about the basic amenities besides boarding, lodging, health and medicare facilities of the inmates. She has presented sanitation kits to the inmates and advised them to adopt healthy habits by practising personal hygiene and cleanliness.