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Centre’s Mission Kashmir 2.0: US ambassador among 15 envoys arrive on two day visit

Mudassir Kuloo

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Srinagar, Jan 09:  Centre embarked on `Mission Kashmir 2.0’ on Thursday when they brought 15 foreign diplomats in a special charter plane for on the spot assessment of the situation in Kashmir post abrogation of Article 370.

The delegation included US Ambassador to India Kenneth I Juster.  Besides, diplomats from Brazil, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Norway, Maldives, South Korea, Morocco, and Nigeria were also part of the team. Indian diplomats also accompanied the envoys to Kashmir.

Soon after landing in Kashmir, the delegation drove to army’s 15 corps headquarters where they were briefed by top army commanders on the situation. 

 

Later they met several politicians and civil society groups’ separately. Tight security arrangements were made to ensure incident free visit.

A group of expelled and current PDP leaders led by former finance minister Altaf Bukhari and former tourism minister Ghulam Hassan Mir also met the delegation. 

“It was free and fair discussion. They raised certain questions and we apprised them about the pain we felt when Article 370 was abrogated. More political activities will be seen after incarcerated political leaders are released”, said Bukhari.

Democratic Party National (DPN) president Ghulam Hassan Mir said the envoys wanted to know what happened after abrogation of Article 370. “Abrogation of Article 370 was a shock, but the government of India managed it in a way that there was no bloodshed. Government of India used to say that Article 370 was a hurdle for development. Ball is now in their court to prove this claim,” Mir said.

Javid Ahmad Beigh, former PDP legislator from Baramulla, said they demanded statehood for Jammu and Kashmir and sought talks between India and Pakistan.

“Peace is not possible unless there is dialogue between India and Pakistan. We told them how Kashmiris are suffering in absence of internet. We also sought protection in jobs and land. We raised all issues concerning common people,” Beigh said.

PDP leaders Rafi Ahmad Mir, Noor Mohammad Sheikh, Abdul Majeed Paddar, Abdul Rahim Rather, and Congress leader Shoib Lone were also part of the delegation.

Youth political leaders Tauseef Raina and Junaid Mir also met the envoys.  “We told them dialogue is must to resolve all the problems. We told them there is no space for extremism. We have seen bloodshed and want to become part of solution not the problem,” Tauseef said.

Some lesser known civil society groups, singers, activists also met the visiting delegations. The envoys are also scheduled to meet Lieutenant Governor Girish Chandra Murmu on Friday in Jammu.

This is the first official visit by diplomats since abrogation of the J&K’s special status on August 5 last year.   In October, over 20 EU Parliamentarians, most of them from far-right groups arrived in Kashmir on an unofficial visit. The visit had suffered a setback when Kashmir gave a thumbs-down to the visit of European Union (EU) parliamentarians by observing a complete protest shutdown.

Envoys brought to endorse claims of normalcy: NC

Monitor News Bureau

Srinagar Jan 9: National Conference Thursday said it was disappointment with the way the foreign envoys were brought to Kashmir to “endorse the Centre’s claims of normalcy”.

In a statement, the party said the visit was a repeat of the visit of European Members of Parliament and the envoys were brought on a guided tour.

“The envoys have been brought here on a guided tour, where access has been severely limited to those handpicked individuals who will toe the government line,” NC spokesperson said in the statement.

Envoys from 15 countries, including US Ambassador to India Kenneth I Juster, arrived in Srinagar on Thursday on a two-day visit to Jammu and Kashmir, the first visit by diplomats since August last year when the state’s special status was revoked and it was downsized to a union territory.

“National Conference wishes to ask these envoys that if the situation in Jammu and Kashmir is ‘normal’, then why are scores of people, including three former Chief Ministers, under detention for almost 160 days and why have the people of Jammu and Kashmir been denied access to the internet for over five months?” he asked.

The spokesperson added that while the rest of India is told that peaceful dissent is the cornerstone of democracy, the same right “does not seem to extend” to the people of J&K.

“Are the people of J&K expected to live without the fundamental rights accorded to other Indian citizens?” the spokesperson said.

He added that while these sorts of visits “may provide short-lived propaganda victories, true normalcy will only be achieved when all detainees are released, communications and internet restored and genuine political activity resumed.”

Attempt to normalise clampdown: PDP

Monitor News Bureau

Srinagar, Jan 9: The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) on Thursday said the visit of envoys of various countries to Jammu and Kashmir was an attempt by the government to “normalise its clampdown” in the Valley, daring the Centre to allow the dignitaries to meet the detained political leaders.

“Today that @PMOIndia lets a 2nd batch of envoys to “see” the situation in #Kashmir, it only seems like an attempt to normalize the Govts own clampdown. The dare is on @PMOIndia will they ever let these Foreign Envoys meet political detainees who are jailed since 160 days now?” the PDP said on its official Twitter handle.

Envoys from 15 countries, including US Ambassador to India Kenneth I Juster, arrived in Srinagar on Thursday on a two-day visit to Jammu and Kashmir, the first visit by diplomats since August last year when the state’s special status was revoked and it was downsized to a union territory.

The envoys, who are here as part of the government’s diplomatic outreach to rebut Pakistan’s propaganda on the Kashmir issue, met some political leaders, including former PDP leader Syed Altaf Bukhari, soon after their arrival.

The PDP, commenting on a meeting of breakaway leaders of the party led by Bukhari with Lieutenant Governor G C Murmu earlier this week, said the government “jails those who aided its democracy and strings up puppets who are ready to bargain at the cheapest price”.

“The government should understand that those who really love Kashmiri soil are not for sale!” it said.

‘Modi, Shah can’t be coerced’

Art 370 was hollow: Muzaffar Beigh

Monitor News Bureau

Srinagar, Jan 9: Echoing former minister Altaf Bukhari’s views on the same subject, senior PDP leader Muzaffar Hussain Beigh Thursday said people in Kashmir needed to move beyond Article 370 as the law had become “hollow.”

Beigh, who addressed a presser in Jammu said PM Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah “successfully managed to establish peace” in Jammu and Kashmir following the abrogation of the state’s special status and its division and downgrading into two Union Territories.

“Article 370 was a hollow and there was nothing in it. We have to move forward and think beyond it,” he said.

Holding party president and former CM Mehbooba Mufti responsible for the present “mess” in Jammu and Kashmir, Beigh said Mehbooba made “harsh statements” and “tried to coerce Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah.”

“If you want to talk about issues relating to people of Jammu and Kashmir, you will have to talk in a dignified and civilized manner. You can’t achieve anything by coercing Prime Minister, Home Minister and National Security Advisor,” he said.

Criticism of visit unfounded: MEA

Press Trust of India

New Delhi, Jan 9: The External Affairs Ministry on Thursday said the objective of the visit by foreign envoys to Jammu and Kashmir was for them to see firsthand efforts to normalise the situation there and termed the criticism that it was a guided tour unfounded.

Ministry of External Affairs Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said a similar visit to Kashmir can be organised in future including by EU envoys.

The team of 15 envoys which included the U.S. Ambassador to India Kenneth Juster arrived in Srinagar on Thursday on a two-day visit to Jammu and Kashmir, the first visit by diplomats since August last year when the state’s special status was revoked and it was downsized to a union territory.

Kumar said that the visit was facilitated by the government and the envoys met security officials, political leaders, civil society groups and media.

“The objective of the visit is to see first-hand efforts to normalise the situation in Kashmir,” he said.

“The visit to J&K was organised considering prevailing situation,” he said.

Asked about political leaders who met the group, Kumar said the visit by the envoys to Kashmir is not yet over.

The EU envoys wanted to visit Kashmir in a group and the government did not extend invite to all, he said.

The criticism that this is a guided tour is unfounded, he said.

Govt adopting double standards: Cong

Press Trust of India

New Delhi, Jan 9: The Congress on Thursday accused the government of adopting double standards by resorting to “guided tours” to Jammu and Kashmir for foreign envoys, but not allowing Indian politicians to go there.

The party’s attack on the government came hours after US Ambassador to India Kenneth Juster and envoys from 15 other countries arrived in Srinagar on a two-day visit to Jammu and Kashmir, the first visit by diplomats since August last year when the state’s special status was revoked and it was downsized to a union territory.

“Government adopting double standards by allowing foreign envoys to visit J&K, but not Indian politicians,” senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh said at a press conference.

“We demand that the government allows unfettered access to J&K to all politicians and not resort to guided tours for envoys,” he said.

The Congress wants meaningful political activities in Jammu and Kashmir, Ramesh said.


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Centre’s `massive outreach’ programme to begin from Jan 18

Mudassir Kuloo

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Srinagar, Jan 16: Five months after the abrogation of Article 370, Narendra Modi-led government has embarked on an outreach programme to make people aware about the “positive” impacts of the revocation of special status of Jammu and Kashmir.

Source said at least 36 ministers are scheduled to visit Jammu and Kashmir for a week from January 18. They are schedule to address people at 59 places including 51 in Jammu and eight in Kashmir. 

Among the five central ministers who will be addressing people in Kashmir are Ravi Shankar Prasad, G Kishan Reddy, Shripad Naik, Niranjan Jyoti and Ramesh Pokhriyal.

 

“G Kishan Reddy will address people in Ganderbal town on January 22 and Manigam on January 23. Ravi Shankar Prasad will address people in Baramulla on January 24. Niranjan Jyoti, Ramesh Pokhriyal and Shripad Naik will address gatherings at SKICC Srinagar,” sources said.

Sources said Prakash Javadekar may also address rallies in Kashmir.  Smriti Irani, Piyush Goyal, V K Singh, Anurag Thakur, R K Singh and Giriraj Singh are among union ministers who would address rallies in Jammu.

However, the schedule for the visit will be finalised at a meeting of the Union Council of Ministers on Friday.

Ministry of Home Affairs has also sent background material about developmental activities to the ministers.

A top official said all the preparations are being made for the visit. “Police and central forces have been directed to ensure adequate security arrangements,” he said.

The official said ministers however won’t visit restive south Kashmir. “They will address at those places which are relatively peaceful,” the official said.

A BJP leader said the visit is part of Centre’s “massive outreach programme” to interact directly with the people of J&K. “BJP workers and leaders would also attend these rallies. Ministers will try to make people aware about positive impact of Article 370 abrogation,” he said.

On January 14, Minister for Home Affairs wrote a letter to J&K Chief Secretary B V R Subrahmanyam informing him about the contours of the visit. “Union Minister Amit Shah has desired that all members of the union council of ministers shall pay a visit to the Union Territory with the objective of disseminating information about the importance of the government policies with regard to overall development of J&K and its people along with the steps taken by the Government of India in this direction particularly in the last five month,” reads the letter.

The delegation will interact with the people during the visit to different districts and educate the people under various themes including rapid development after President’s Rule from June 2018 and now after re-organization in August, 100 percent coverage of 55 beneficiary oriented schemes to all residents of J&K, rapid infrastructure development including implementation of PMDP, flagship schemes and iconic projects, Good governance and rule of law with equality of opportunity to all, rapid industrial growth with employment and rapid economic growth in all sectors with focus on incomes.

Under the public outreach programme, the Union Ministers will visit different districts in both the divisions of the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir, with the objective of disseminating information about the importance of the Centre’s policies for the overall development of the Union Territory and its people along with the steps taken by the government particularly in the past five months after the abrogation of Article 370 provisions and bifurcation of erstwhile state.

If everything is normal, why send 36 ‘propagandists’ to Kashmir: Sibal

Press Trust of India

New Delhi, Jan 16: The Congress on Thursday slammed the government over its decision to send 36 Union ministers to Jammu and Kashmir and said if everything was “normal” there, what was the need to send “propagandists”.

A group of Union ministers will visit Jammu and Kashmir later this month to spread awareness about the positive impact of abrogation of Article 370 provisions and the development measures taken by th government for the region.

The schedule for the visit of the ministers to the union territories of Jammu and Kashmir is likely to be finalised at a meeting of the Union Council of Ministers on Friday.

“Amit Shah says all is normal in Kashmir. If so, why send 36 propagandists to Kashmir? Why not allow non-propagandists to go and understand the situation prevailing there?” tweeted senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal.

Thirty-six Union ministers will visit different districts in both the divisions of the Union Territory starting from January 18 to January 24 and the Home Ministry is coordinating it.

“36 Ministers running around J&K in 6 days is a sign of Panic not normalcy. Abrogating Article 370 was a blunder & no quick fixes will work Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall, Humpty Dumpty had a great fall; All the king’s horses and all the king’s men Couldn’t put Humpty together again,” tweeted Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari.

This will be the second round of visit by the Union ministers to Jammu and Kashmir after the abrogation of the special status of the erstwhile state on August 5.

Earlier this month, in one of the meetings of the council of ministers, a presentation was also been made on the development initiatives taken by the Centre following the imposition of the governor rule in the region.

Release detained leaders if Kashmir situation normal: Cong

Agencies

New Delhi, Jan 16:The Congress on Thursday slammed the Modi government’s plan to take 36 Union ministers to Jammu & Kashmir, saying if it believes that everything is normal in Kashmir then itshould release the detained Kashmiri leaders first.

Speaking to IANS, Congress spokesperson Jaiveer Shergill said, “Either Modi government trusts the European MPs, who believe in going on tours and that was the reason why they were brought to Kashmir.”

He said that the government was taking its 36 ministers to Kashmir to mislead the people about the situation in the newly-created Union Territory. Slamming the government for putting the opposition leaders under house arrest, Shergill said, “They have made Kashmir as a zoo, where the opposition leaders have been put under house arrest. And now they are taking their leaders to visit the zoo.”

The Modi government on August 5 abrogated Article 370 of the Constitution from Jammu & Kashmir that gave special status to the erstwhile state and bifurcated the state into two Union territories — Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh.

Following the abrogation of Article 370, the government suspended internet and mobile services in Kashmir and also put several opposition leaders including three former Chief Ministers — Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti under house arrest.

Taunting the BJP government, the Congress leader said, “If the government wants to bring the situation in Kashmir to normal then they need to release the opposition leaders and pay damages to the people of Kashmir whose businesses have suffered in last five months.”

He also said that the government also needs to rework the image of the country after putting Kashmir under a communication blackout.

Slamming the BJP-led NDA government, Shergill said that the government is only “champion in headline management” and they are zero on the economic front and they have no focus on national security and Kashmir.

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Airfares go through roof: SXR –DEL @ Rs 26k, DEL-DXP @ Rs 11k

Firdous Hassan

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Srinagar, Jan 16:  Believe it or not, but it is true. Flying to Dubai is cheaper than traveling to Srinagar from -New Delhi.

Thanks to the National Highway closure, air fare has skyrocketed in Kashmir.  For the next three days, one way air fare from Srinagar to New Delhi ranges from Rs 11500 to 25300. It is over 200 per cent higher than the normal airfare of Rs 4000-5000. One way air fare from New Delhi to Dubai on Friday is Rs 10841.

An inter-state trip is equally costlier. The air fare between Jammu and Srinagar has increased by 500 per cent this week. An airfare from Srinagar to Jammu ranges between Rs 11500 to 15000. 

 

Even after hike in air fare, the flights operations from Srinagar airport has been hit due to slippery conditions. Around 14 flights got cancelled on Thursday due to the slippery condition of the runway.

“12 out of 26 flights operated today. The visibility was clear today but the runway was not cleared. After Air Force cleared the runway, the flight operations resumed,” said Santosh Dhoke, Director Airport Authority of India, Srinagar.

The hike in airfare and repeated cancellation of flights is causing huge inconveniences to the people. “My mother who suffers from Asthama needs to travel to New Delhi for monthly follow-ups. We have been reaching airport every morning and the flights are getting constantly cancelled,” said Sajad Ahmad, a resident of Soura.

On the other side, vehicular traffic remained disrupted on Srinagar- Jammu National Highway on Thursday. Only stranded vehicles were allowed at evening hours to cross the landslide prone areas.

“The highway was cleared today. Only few of the stranded vehicles were allowed to pass through the Digdol, Monkey Stand and Panthal towards Jammu. Subject to the weather and road conditions, only stranded vehicles will be allowed to move,” said an official at Traffic Control Room Ramban.

 As many as 5000 vehicles have remained stranded on the highway for the last four days.

Meteorological Department has forecasted scattered light rains and snow for next 24 hours in Kashmir regions. A MeT official said that 1.0mm rains were recorded in Qazigund on Thursday while Srinagar received rains which weren’t measurable. He said Batote and Badarwah in Jammu division recorded 2.8mm and 11.9mm rains respectively.

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Police `solves’ two grenade attack cases;Five JeM cadres arrested

Firdous Hassan

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Srinagar, Jan 16: Police on Thursday claimed to have busted a Jaish-e- Mohammad (JeM) module by arresting five persons who were allegedly involved in two grenade attacks in Srinagar.

Deputy Inspector General of Police, Central Kashmir Range, and VK Birdi said investigation launched by the police revealed that these five persons carried out grenade attacks to “enforce shutdown in Srinagar.”

“Recently some grenade attacks were reported in Srinagar, particularly on January 8 at Habbak crossing which resulted injuries to few civilians. An FIR number 02/2020 under sections 307, IPC and ¾ Explosives Act was registered at Police Station Nigeen,” he said.

 

Birdi said during investigation Aijaz Ahmad Sheikh, a driver from Hazratbal, Umar Hameed Sheikh, vendor from Hazratbal were arrested. “Both these admitted their role in grenade attack. They also provided leads for similar attack at Sir Syed Gate of Kashmir University on November 26,” he said.

The DIG said three more people were arrested during raids at various spots in the area. “Imtiyaz Ahmad Chikla and Naseer Ahmad Mir, both from Hazratbal and Sahil Farooq Gojri from Soura admitted their roles in November grenade attack at Sir Syed gate of Kashmir University,” he said

Birdi said police recovered incriminating material including gelatin sticks, explosives, detonators, arms, explosive body vests, batteries and nitric acids during investigation. “They were active cadres of JeM,” he said

Birdi said the main motive of the arrested persons was “to enforce shutdown and cause IED type blasts in the city.”

“Shops in the market had opened but they wanted to shut them down. Recovery also suggested that they were also planning some IED attack.  Further investigation is underway to unearth conspiracy,” he said.

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