Briefing September 13-19, 2020

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SRINAGAR

Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha addressing his maiden Press Conference in Srinagar on Friday, September 11, 2020. KL Image by Bilal Bahadur

Lieutenant Governor, Manoj Sinha last week launched the Jammu and Kashmir Integrated Grievance Redress and Monitoring System (JK-IGRAMS). Under the revamped system, handling and redressal of public grievances has been decentralised to Deputy Commissioners as the primary level of receiving, disposing and monitoring grievances. The system now involves additional 1500 public offices in 20 districts from the existing 250 offices. It will run 24 x 7 but the phone call facility will be available between 9.30 am to 5.30 pm for six days.

BALTISTAN

Khairrunnissa, a Leh village housewife washed away by the river to Baltistan being fished out on September 8, 2020. Pic: Tehreer News

Clans divided by the Line of Control (LoC) in erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir always throw up plots for films. The latest tragic story came from remote Leh wherein Turtuk belt, a housewife, Khair-un-Nissa came out of her husband Abbas Ali’s Bogdang home and went missing on August 26. After searching her around, they failed to trace her and eventually informed the police. Since ferocious Shayok River passes through the village, they also informed their relatives, living on the other side the LoC in Thugmas village of Baltistan that their member went missing. Bogdang was wrested by the army in 1971 war. Though the two villages are barely 4 km apart, they live on either side of the LoC. The only connects is the river that drains Bogdang and travels almost 10 km to reach Thugmas.

In the Chhorbat belt of Baltistan, the Leh family’s relatives traced the body floating in the river. They fished it out, offered the funeral prayers and informed the local government. A local journalist, Sher Ali Anjum tweeted that the body be handed over to the family on the LoC at Thang and avoid driving it to 5000 km via Wagha. In Delhi, United News of India located the tweets and quickly rang up R K Mathur, the Lieutenant Governor of Leh to get additional details. He told them: “You e-mail me the questions”. Even the police offered no detail. The UNI report carried by Qaumi Awaaaz was picked by somebody and tagged Sajad Kargil, a journalist in Kargil. He retweeted seeking the UT Ladakh administration help.

In Srinagar, Waheed ur Rehman Parra, a political activist picked Sajad’s tweet and re-tweeted it by tagging the External Affairs Minister and Pakistan Prime Minister on September 9. In Pakistan, columnist Mehr Tarar picked the information and got in touch with the concerned in Baltistan. The response came quickly, Gilgit Baltistan Home Secretary, Mohammad Ali Randhawa put on Twitter that the body has been actually retrieved. The GB administration took up the issue with the army and it was decided that the body be driven to Uri. So the corpse was driven from remote Baltistan to Muzaffarabad and then to Uri – a journey of nearly 1000 km. Had not the two neighbours being in the cold war, this basic human tragedy could have been managed in 30 minutes as the two places are 4 km apart.

MUMBAI

Bollywood actress Kangna Ranaut

Kashmir was a brand and Kashmiri were a race. Now both are “items” that vested interests in diverse fields abuse to make their ends meet. The latest is the case of celluloid queen, Kangna Ranaut, who picked a battle with Maharashtra’s Shiv Sena government by terming it like “Pakistan occupied Kashmir”. The central government took the actor’s side and ensured she gets the best security cover. It turned out as if the two governments were fighting over a woman. Mumbai government, in retaliation, sent BMC bulldozers to her office and demolished part of it saying it was illegal.

In reaction, the actor released a short video on social media saying now she understands the pain of Kashmiri Pandits better. “I now feel the pain of the Kashmiri Pandits,” she said vouching she will make a film on Kashmiri Pandits.

Perhaps for the first time, some of the Pandit intellectuals and activists reacted. “I am sorry, but from the demolition of a wall you cannot understand the pain of Kashmiri Pandits. You do not know how it is when all your hair turns white in three days; you do not know how it is when old people die in exile, crying about their inability to see home one last time,” journalist novelist, Rahul Pandita, reacted, “For God’s sake, stop taking our name in vain. We refuse to be pawns in your battles of puny egos. Do not belittle our tragedy. Tomorrow your finger might get hurt somewhere. What will you say? I understand the pain of Kashmiri Pandits? Pleaseeeee!.” Added oncologist, Dr Sameer Koul: “We Kashmiri Pandits initiated this indiscriminate and compulsive chest-thumping and offered ourselves for exploitation. Enough now.” In between, there was a bit of washing the dirty Lenin in public too. After all, Bollywood uses the smartest lenin to ensure the shit stays away from the casting couches.

SRINAGAR

Rep Picture

Perhaps for the first time, the Jammu and Kashmir Police registered a formal case against a Solina family for violating the SOP guiding the counter-Covid-19 efforts by organising a larger gathering at the marriage of their daughter. The police may not have opted the option had the family not used huge firecrackers to trigger panic in the locality.

Covid-19 continues to be unmanageable so far. The latest data suggest that Jammu and Kashmir has reached 54000 cases of whom 36000 have recovered. The deaths are fast approaching a 1000 mark. The new change in the pattern is that Jammu is now reporting more cases than Srinagar for the last few days.

SRINAGAR

Members of Kashmir Editors Guild in a meeting in 2018 in Srinagar. (File Image)

More than a year after the last meeting, Kashmir Editors Guild (KEG) met last week to discuss the “special and extra-ordinary situation” of Jammu and Kashmir in which “the highs and lows of the crisis” along with their impact on the “process of collection, processing, and disbursal of the information directly and indirectly” were discussed. The editors’ body identified the issues and explored the ways and means of solving them. Asserting that despite the “overwhelming situation” they managed to keep history on record. At the same time, they took a strong note of the “vilification” by the “vested interests” from “within the systems of governance, within and outside the wider social media and offshore”. It said the Kashmir media has proved its mettle throughout Kashmir’s recent history and will continue to do so. For this rear fiat, it added, it has paid costs. The objective of the campaign, the body said is “aimed at undoing the Himalaya of reportage on which Kashmir’s history rests”.

LONDON

Moin Ali, a Kashmir origin British cricket

It took barely moments for the newsbreak to get viral that a Kashmir origin cricketer captained England cricket team against Australia.  Moeen Ali, an all-rounder got the chance when Eoin Morgan, the English Skipper got injured in the second match. Moen’s grandfather had migrated to the UK from Mirpur. Even Moen was excited to get the rare chance. ESPN quoted him saying: “When Morgs told me last night, I was over the moon. I don’t feel proud a lot of the time, but that was one of my proudest moments. To lead my country out was amazing. I’ll never, ever forget it.”

LEH

Tsewang Rigzin

On a BJP complaint, police arrested a Leh newsperson Tsewang Rigzin. On September 3, an unidentified member of a Facebook page called Ladakh in Media posted a comment on Jammu and Kashmir BJP leader Vikram Singh Randhawa. Subsequently, the police arrested Rigzin on September 5, because he administers the FB group. Rigzin was instrumental in filing an FIR against Randhawa last year for allegedly bribing journalists at a press meet “to influence the outcome of the Lok Sabha elections” just a day before the polls. Rigzin is the general secretary of the Ladakh Journalists Union. He was formally arrested and later set free.

TEL AVIV

Indian police cadets at the National Police Academy in Beit Shemesh (Israel). Photo: Ministry of Public Security, Government of Israel

India and Israel have signed an agreement in 2914 that the latter will impart training to the police in counter-insurgency tactics. Now, 40 human rights activists in Tel Aviv have gone to the court with the plea that the government must pre-screen the cadets so that cops involved in violating human rights in Kashmir are not trained. The government has filed its counters the case is still not decided.  So far 120 cops from India have been trained by Israel experts.

SRINAGAR

Former chief minister Omar Abdullah coming out of his residence to address media in 2014 (KL Image: Bilal Bahadur)

NC Vice President and former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah will have a new address by early November as he is vacating the government accommodation at Gupkar. He uploaded his letter to the government on his Twitter handle suggesting that the decision was voluntary. “Consequent upon the change of entitlements for former CMs of J&K. some months ago, I now find myself in unauthorised occupation of this accommodation, as no attempt has been made to regularise the allotment to me on security or other grounds. This is a situation that is unacceptable to me. I have never held on to any government property I was not entitled to and 1 have no intention to start now,” the letter reads.

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