By deferring the hearing of the petitions against Article 35-A of Indian constitution till August 27 by the Supreme Court, the anger and resentment in Jammu and Kashmir has not only deepened further but spread in the far and wide of the state as well. The protest shutdown call by the separatist leadership had massive response beyond the valley. Rajouri, Poonch, Banihal, Doda, Kishtwar, Ramban, Bhadarwah and dozens other smaller segments in Jammu region sided with the valley by observing shutdown and holding protest demonstrations on the issue. The majority of the people across the state have shown extreme degree of unity and demonstrated common concern if the top court diluted Article 35-A. The Constitutional provision gives special rights to Jammu and Kashmir’s permanent residents. It disallows people from outside the state from buying or owning immovable property there, settle permanently, or avail themselves of state-sponsored scholarship schemes. It also forbids the J&K government from hiring people who are non-permanent residents. The common refrain is that there should be no tinkering with Article and the petitions should be dismissed to restore the confidence of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. Former chief minister and PDP chairperson Mahbooba Mufti has rightly said that delaying is no solution. The petition should rather be dismissed. However, it is the separatist leadership that leads the way. It is, however, sad to note that at a time when all sections of the society have joined together to defend the individuality of the state, National Conference is trying to play the spoilers. NC vice president and former chief minister Omar Abdullah projected himself in poor light when he tried to push the separatist leadership to wall by taunting them that defending Article 35-A amounted to accepting Indian constitution. Omar appears to have got frustrated by having been pushed to the sidelines of the scene. This made him to take to twitter to demonstrate his frustration. Whatever the reason, his remark, however, is seen as an attempt to damaging the common cause of the people of the state. National Conference has an inherent problem to go against the people’s aspirations. Right from 1947 till date, the party’s history is full of treasonous conduct on crucial occasions. One does not know whether they do it by design but the truth is that they have a character problem.
Separatists, however, have asked the people to get ready for a decisive problem. It is in the interest of all the pro India groups to show solidarity with the overall sentiment of the people of the state. “Azadi” may not be the slogan of every resident of Jammu and Kashmir but the special status of the state under Indian constitution is close to heart of every citizen here. The silence of Jammu Bar Association is quite meaningful in this regard. The Bar, which has historically remained anti-Kashmir, has maintained discreet silence over the issue. However, 300 lawyers associated with the Bar have signed a petition in favor of the continuation of the Article 35-A. Some sections in BJP too have expressed their anger against the attempts of repealing 35-A. A senior BJP leader, Rajesh Gupta has publicly come in support of the continuation of 35-A arguing that repealing the constitutional provision would open gates for outsiders to settle in Jammu that would have adverse impact on the economy and job opportunities in the region. That makes the issue Jammu and Kashmir versus New Delhi. The people in power at the centre should understand the emotions of the people of Jammu and Kashmir with regard to the state’s individual character. Saner voices at national level, who have some knowledge of politics and power in Kashmir, too have warned of the threats involved in tampering with Jammu and Kashmir’s special status. Some newspapers have editorially commented that India would have no legal claim on Kashmir if Article 370 is removed. It would be in India’s national interest that the central government listens to saner voices and BJP which is ruling at the centre should think beyond the arithmetic of election gains.
It was yet another bloody day for Kashmir. The horrible deaths and injuries of civilians on Sunday have seen streets of Kashmir smeared with blood of innocent civilians. At least seven persons were killed and around 50 others wounded in a blast in southern Kulgam district. The blast took place at an encounter site at Laroo village almost an hour after the gunfight between militants and security forces ended. The security forces used highly improvised ammunition and rockets to blow up the house militants had taken shelter in. Three militants were killed in the gunfight. As the security forces left the place, a huge crowd of local residents gathered on the encounter site to douse the fire the house had caught during the encounter: then occurred a sudden but enormous blast causing havoc.
Limbs of dead and injured persons scattered around, a person without hands; another person with visible chest bones; blood oozing out from the head of other injured persons; some motionless bodies lying here and there is what a journalist on the blood scene witnessed. The bloodbath has caused outrage across the valley. Politicians of all hues including pro India National Conference and PDP have come out with statements expressing anger over the bloody incident. The valley shut on Monday to mourn the death and injured. People used social media to express their anger against the killings. Killing of any person, more so when he or she is a civilian, is always a brute thing never to be condoned. The blame directly lies on the doors of the police and security forces that left unexploded ammunition behind. They left the encounter site without any thorough search for explosives which is mandatory under the Standard Operating Procedure. In 2011 the then government had asked the police, army, and paramilitary forces to draft a standard operating procedure for avoiding the loss of human life after IEDs remain undetected owing to non-clearance of debris at encounter sites. The government had instructed all deputy commissioners and the police to sensitize the people to the risk of visiting encounter sites before the debris is cleared. The most inhuman on the part of the police is that instead of expressing regret over the incident they put the onus the victims saying that the deaths were caused by the “non-cooperation” of the people. As the house was in flames, it was natural for the local residents to gather at the site and try dousing the flames. It is what they did. They did not gather there for some picnic. One must say that the police authorities exhibited extra degree of irresponsibility by putting the blame on the victims.
This capricious behavior of police authorities have added to the outrage caused by the Kulgam killings. Police authorities need to do some soul searching and demonstrate a human heart and face while dealing with common people. Governor and his advisors should take note of the irresponsible and ruthless statement of some senior police officer regarding the incident. Given the amount of anger and outrage in the wake of the killings, it was expected that the people in government would realize their folly and discipline the forces, they only but added to the anger in the streets by their stupid stuff. The incident was avoidable had the police and other related forces acted responsibly. In the first place, they should not have left the place before it was cleared. But once they left, they should have warned residents not to visit the place before it was cleared. They could have used public address system of local mosque for asking people to remain away as they often use it during search operations. By putting blame on the people, they are simply demonstrating their inhuman mindset.
Shocker from Ghulam Nabi Azad
Nothing more can explain the plight of Muslims in India than theassertions of former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir Ghulam NabiAzad. On Wednesday Azad, in a function at Lucknow, said that the Hinducandidates of his party who used to invite him for campaigning inelections avoided him now. “Since the days of the Youth Congress, Ihave been campaigning across the country from Andaman to Lakshadweepand 95 per cent of those who used to call me were Hindu brothers andleaders, and just 5 per cent were Muslim brothers,” said Azad. “But inthe last four years, I have observed that the figure of 95 has droppedto just 20 per cent. This means that there is something wrong… Aajdarta hai admi bulane se… iska voter pe kya asar hoga… (Today peopleare afraid to call me… wondering what effect would I have on thevoter), Indian Express quoting Azad reported on Thursday. Azad’sstatement is direct indictment of communal polarization that is beingpromoted in the changing political culture across India. Ghulam NabiAzad is perhaps the senior most leader of the present Congressleadership. He has been associated with the Congress since the days ofSanjay Gandhi. He has occupied high positions in the party as also thegovernment. He had been minister in various Congress governments,party’s general secretary and presently he is leader of the oppositionin the Rajya Sabha. He enjoys an impeccable integrity as Indianpolitician. His revelations are shocking and serious. It is a gravereflection on the idea of India (secularism) it was founded on in 1947after the exit of British. Since the rise of BJP in power in 2014, India is a deeply divided state with Hindu majoritarianism beingpromoted as new idea India. The BJP and its allied group have openlybeen advocating for Hindu India, and some rabid and vocal Hinduleaders have even said that India would be a Muslim-free country by2021. Muslims all across the country are the prime target of Hinduzealots. In the name of cow protections, dozens of Muslims have beenlynched to death, mostly in BJP-ruled states with discreet silence bythe present dispensation at the centre. The silence of the centralgovernment, more particularly by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, isviewed as official approval to this new idea of India. The communal(anti Muslim to be direct and straight) has now penetrated deep intothe Indian society to such a scale where people like Ghulam Nabi Azadfeel unwelcome. With media on their side, the Hindu zealots arefinding it quite convenient to dug deep and strong the wells and wallsof communal hatred. Every evening debate is conducted on different TVnews channels to whip Muslims on one or the other issue. The divideseems unbridgeable as the people in power have a vested interest inpolarizing the country on religious bases. The BJP has largelybenefited in elections from the communal polarization. The onslaughtagainst Muslims is carried out mostly in the states where BJP is inpower. The silence of the government at the state as well as centrallevel is virtually serving as license to the Hindu killing squads.This does not auger well for a country acknowledged across the worldas tolerant and accommodative democracy. If one goes by the newsreports and opinion pieces in the international media about the risingHindu extremism, India is losing credibility drasticallyinternationally. This in all respects is a serious challenge for Indiato keep on its image of a tolerant nation. All is not however lost.There are still people who are worried about the drift India as anation is facing. The protests by right thinking people across severalstates of India, held in recent past, against the murderous assault onMuslims provide a hope. They however have to assert more forcefully toinfluence the public thinking to stop the rot.
The US-Taliban peace talks
The Trump administration’s special adviser on Afghan peace met last week with Taliban representatives in Qatar for talks that included “working toward finding a peaceful resolution” to the war. Zalmay Khalilzad, a hawkish diplomat appointed as the US special representative for Afghanistan reconciliation last month, has met with six Afghan Taliban leaders. Zalmay had earlier held consultations in Islamabad, Riyadh and Doha also. The meeting, in all cases, is a significant development towards finding peace in Afghanistan. This also reflects the America’s fresh thinking to acknowledge the political and military reality in Afghanistan. America invaded Afghanistan in October, 2001 in the aftermath of terror attacks on the US on September 11, 2001 resulting in dislodging of Taliban government, which the America thought, was shelter the master-minds of American attack. After initial defeats, Taliban, however, gathered their strength again pushed the American and its allied forces to the wall by capturing almost 45 percent territory of the country. The Afghan strategy by Trump last summer, which aimed at boosting Afghan security forces and the presence of the US troops, did not prove to be effective enough to defeat the Taliban. The US seems to have got frustrated by the Taliban attacks in the capital Kabul and other strategic cities. What is most worrisome for the US is that it is losing on all counts and finds itself in a nutcracker situation. It can neither afford to exit as a defeated super power, nor can it stay for long. It has lost the war but is not acknowledging it and badly wants a face saving formula. It can exit only through Pakistan and not via northern network which is no more available to ship out heavy baggage. The US is faring poorly on all other fronts including the domestic front where Trump has become highly unpopular. Both Pakistan and Taliban are defiant and holding their ground. The pressure on Pakistan too seems to have failed.
Since the rise of Imran Khan to power in Pakistan, Pakistan civil and military authority appear on the same page, and publicly demonstrate their guts to say “no” to Washington. The emergence of Sino-Russian camp and the possibility of Pakistan slipping into it with Iran and Turkey, is also giving the Trump administration sleepless nights. The US fears the possibility of Russia giving surface-to-air missiles to the Taliban to counter air threat. The superiority of America in air attacks is the only factor that stops Taliban from walking Kabul. The Russian supplies would then boost Taliban to undefeatable forces. India’s walking into America’s lap and its involvement in Kabul is the last thing Pakistan and Taliban would ever accept. The demise of Tahreek Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has dealt a severe blow to India’s interests. Pakistan’s decision to repatriate Afghan refugees was another shock not only for India but also for the US and Ashraf Gani administration of Kabul as well. Pakistan also undertook the construction of 830 km border fence and setting up of 400 border forts along the harshest border terrain with Afghanistan. The construction work is expected to be completed by 2019. This has given a major advantage to Pakistan to guard itself against the enti Pakistan elements in Afghanistan. The Pakistan-China economic cooperation in the form of CPEC has come up as a another hissing cobra for both USA and India, which would not only smash their global ambitions and isolate them, but also strengthen their foes China and Pakistan.
The Trump administration seems to have finally understood the dangers of continuing its military engagement in Afghanistan. It is for this fact that voices of talks with Taliban are coming equally from the civil and military administration of the United States. Pakistan has long been pleading for ending the war through negotiations with Taliban; the Afghan and U.S. officials have accused it of aiding and abetting Taliban. Washington, in a bid to put pressure on Pakistan, has suspended $300 million in military aid. A key part of Khalilzad’s assignment is to persuade Pakistan to actively back peace talks. It is quite a positive development happening in the region. Rising above petty interests, all the powers involved in should contribute to these peace efforts.
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