Reporting PAIN

Half widows are one of the seriously suffering lot of the population in Kashmir. They have their husbands missing in custody and nobody is telling them whether they are dead or not. They can not be widows unless their husbands are claimed dead.

Lawyer and civil liberty activist Parvez Imroz released a 48 page report – Half widows, half wife? Responding to Gender Violence in Kashmir – documenting their pain. Compiled by Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS), it was released with applauds of an army of half widows and their families in Sher-i-Kashmir Park.

The report focuses on the effect of disappeared fathers on the lives of their children. These children live a cursed life anyway; they either grow up in the insecurity that dominates their mother’s life or live in orphanages with the stigma of being fatherless. Their childhood with memories of injustice against their family result in the feeling of resentment, loneliness and anger, reads the report.

The report reveals there are 1500 half widows in the state. This section of the population suffers on social as well economic fronts. Many of them do not remarry. They devote their lives to bringing up their children.

Half widows are described as the symbols of “immense strength and resilience” in the report. But they are deemed ineligible for pensions and other governmental relief. The report calls the current legal remedies as unclear, exhausting and degrading.

Half widows represent various insecurities, signify rights violation, stand as a constant reminder of alienation and thus impede resolution of Kashmir, the findings say.

The report recommends that the government should immediately streamline the compensation system, should organize a special bench of high court to expedite their cases and must pass special legislations on enforced disappearances, keeping in view the International convention for the ‘protection of all persons from enforced disappearances’, which Indian government has signed and must rectify. It also recommends the civil society to recognize and advocate issues faced by the families of disappeared person.


A Petty FIGHT

They fought Panchayat polls on non-party basis and once results were out they started staking claims over numbers. Now they have locked horns over physical demonstration of the claims they are making.

Things actually went bitter when PDP’s Muzaffar Hussain Baig, came heavily on the ruling NC and accused it of trying to subvert the party’s Panchayat Conference, earlier scheduled for July 28. The party claimed it had written to DC Srinagar on five occasions seeking permission for the function at TRC Ground but there was no response from the government. While the PDP was busy making preparations, the government scheduled the oath-taking ceremony of Panchs and Sarpanchs from different districts on the same day. The party rescheduled the event for July 30 and the government announced it will hold elections for of Naib Sarpanchs, the same day.

Blueprint of the PDP plan is to get as many as 8000 Panchs and Sarpanchs to the city. They have already been issued party identity cards and in fact the party had arranged hotel accommodation for its members driving from Poonch and Rajouri. The party say the event is aimed at educating the Panchs and Sarpanchs about their duties and responsibilities.

“We decided against cancelling the event,” party spokesman Naeem Akhter said. “We are holding the event and in fact hundreds of our members came from Poonch and Rajouri through the Mughal Road.” He said they might face certain problems in the respective constituencies because of deputy sarpanch elections. As the Panchs and Sarpanchs started arriving, the TRC grounds became a crowded place Friday night.

However, NCs Ali Mohammad Sagar who is the law and the rural development minister says their schedule was pre-planned and had nothing to do with the PDP plans. The government, he said, is committed to go for next tier of polls after the holy month of fasting so they had to be quick and place the records before the cabinet.


Come Kashmir GERMANY

In a boost to crisis hit Kashmir’s tourism industry, Germany said last week it had changed its travel advisory for its nationals to say foreigners were not a “target” in Kashmir. It has become the first European Union country to amend its travel advisory following a sharp decline in militant violence in the scenic Himalayan region.

“The travel advisory issued by the FFO (Federal Foreign Office) for German nationals travelling to Kashmir has been revised,” German embassy spokesman Jens Urban said in a message. “The situation has now calmed down considerably,” the new advisory says, adding that “foreigners are generally not direct targets of clashes.”

“We have done a redo of the existing advisory on the state,” Jens Urban, spokesman of German Embassy in New Delhi said He said the revision was done following the visit of German Ambassador to India Thomas Matussek to Kashmir in June this year. Chief Minister Omar Abdullah called it a “pragmatic decision.”

Out and TAGGED
Ghulam Nabi Fai, a Kashmiri-American lobbyist who was charged last week for his alleged involvement with the Pakistani spy agency ISI, has been released on bail. However, he will remain under constant surveillance with a GPS device that will remain tied to his foot to facilitate FBI to monitor his movement.
US Magistrate Judge John Anderson ordered that the passport of Fai and his Chinese wife Chang Ning Ying Q shall remain with the court. His movement would be restricted to his Fairfax, home in Virginia where the couple lives with their two children. Fai runs the risk of going to jail for five years if he is proven guilty in the trail. FBI believes he was funded by the ISI to the tune of four million dollars to tilt US foreign policy towards the right of self determination for the people of J&K, an official stand of Islamabad on Kashmir.

A Deal In The MAKING
J&K’s only listed company, the J&K Bank is considering a major decision in coming days. In fact, ahead of the formal decision and announcement it is excited that its profits will boost this year, thanks to the entry of PNB – India’s second largest bank – into the MetLife, a joint venture that has many partners including the J&K Bank. The strategic relationship that PNB and MetLife announced last week is expected to appreciate the share of the private insurer.

Excited they are but they are unwilling to share the details. Possibly, it will be only after the Board of Directors have a sitting, it might be announced. Insiders in the market told Kashmir Life that the bank is offloading part of its shareholding in the MetLife at “handsome” rates that would fetch it a good income.

The bank had taken 25 percent of the shares in the MetLife in 2002 and had invested more than Rs 200 crores. Apart from being one of the promoters, the bank stays as MetLife’s front running corporate agent. In fact, part of its non-interest income comes from the commission it gets for selling MetLife products. The earnings on this front were at Rs 15.15 crores by the end of March last and it is expected to increase this fiscal.

Soon after the take off, when the insurance sector started exhibiting the phenomenal thirst for more capital, RBI in 2009 issued guidelines restricting the investments of the banks in to insurance sector beyond 10 percent of their net worth. This led to the J&K bank diluting its shareholding. Now the entry of PNB has helped J&K Bank to get good returns of its investments. It came soon after the JV started showing profits. MetLife posted a net profit of Rs 35.35 crores for the first time in 2010-11, a year after it booked a loss of Rs 274.82 crores in 2009-10.

Death of A GUERRILLERO
On July 19, 2003 Subash Kumar Shan left home and never returned. At the age of 17, he took the name of Wasif, joined militants and became a Hizb-ul-Mujiahdeen commander in Pir Panchal belt. Last week, he was killed in a security force ambush during a cordon and search operation.

Jeevan Lal Shan, Subash’s father who is a senior grade constable in the state police, had lodged a missing report with the police. More than 45 days after, Jeevan received a letter from his son saying he had “embraced” Islam and become a “militant”. Last week the police – after the encounter at Kukundro area of Nawapachi Marwah – approached Lal to handover the body of slain Shan to him but he refused to take it. Later the slain militant was buried in Muslim graveyard at Nawpachi Marwah as per the Islamic tradition and the funeral was attended by a large number of people.

Being a Hindu, he got a name and a bit of fame in his area for becoming one of the top commanders in the region. Subash was said to have been a close friend of the entire militant leadership in the region which included HUJI militant, Dawood and HM top mentor, Jehangir Saroori, who is active since 1989.

Subash first became an area commander in 2003 and then was elevated to District Commander in 2007. Later, he took over the reigns of HM as its Deputy Divisional Commander. His family members say he was the most intelligent and hardworking.

But Shan was not the first Hindu militant in J&K. There have been a number of Hindu youth who joined fugitive ranks. The first known case of Hindus in militant ranks was in 2005 when Anar Singh was killed in a shootout with security forces in Bhaderwah area of Doda district. So far, around half a dozen Hindu militants were killed and about the same number have surrendered, while about a dozen are still active.

The LoC MEETING
As India and Pakistan foreign ministers met to strengthen the trans-LoC trade – the only CBM of any consequence in Kashmir, the traders have different priorities. A delegation of Poonch traders met at Chakan da Bagh and exchanged the list of defaulters.

The two delegations jointly comprised 105 traders – almost as good as a political rally in Kashmir. They had officers from the two governments along with them. In the four hour meeting, they expressed satisfaction over the outcome of the talks at Delhi. They later handed over the list to the respective Trade Facilitation Officer (TFO) and returned.

J&K delegation comprised of 49 traders from Poonch, Rajouri and Jammu and those from PaK were from Hajeera and Poonch totalling 56. Three traders from Poonch skipped the meeting because they had become defaulters. There are 23 defaulters in PaK and 31 in J&K as per the records exchanged on the LoC.

The meeting had been an improvement over the last. In that interaction the two sides came to blows against each other over the issue of defaults and other trade disputes. It was in fact the security men of the two sides who prevented a large scale crisis on the no-man’s land.

Traders suggested that though the two governments increased the trading days from two to four, they must increase the number of trading items from 21 to 35. Besides, they suggested that some of the items from approved 21 were never traded by the two sides and merit deletion from the list. They also sought lifting of ban on items like dal moong, ginger, and garlic.

Traders continue to remain mixed in their reactions to the talks in Delhi. Most of the traders in Kashmir say the fundamentals need to be decided first before any expansion in the barter. There is nothing much that can make us happy,” said Abdul Hamid Punjabi, the senior vice president of the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry. “They are talking about peripheral issues of the exercise and skipping the fundamentals.”

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