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Editorial

India, the new lynchdom

The Kashmir Monitor

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On 17 July the supreme court of India condemned the epidemic of mob lynching in India, and asked the Indian parliament to draft legislation that would stop people from taking the law into their own hands. But as the lynching continues unabatedly and with impunity, it appears that the people in power have little respect for the highest seat of justice in the country. Only last week, a 28-year old Muslim youth Rakbar Khan was lynched to death by a Hindu extremist mob in Rajasthan’s Alwar district. It was a murder committed in style. The Hindu mob started it and police finished it. His attackers, as they do in most epidemics of lynching that have created a new band of terrorists, accused him of being a cow smuggler. As the Hindu terrorists, who in the name of cow protection are ruling the streets, were beating him with bamboo sticks and iron rods, police watched as mute spectator. The mob leaves him near-dead. The police instead of shifting him to hospital first took the cow to a shelter, washed down the battered Khan, took him to police station, stopped to have a leisurely cup of tea and three hours later take him to hospital only to be declared brought dead. One of the ring leaders of the cow terrorists revealed that police too beat him in the police station.
There are no two opinions about the fact that lynching of Muslims has official patronage. The BJP, which is ruling at the centre and in 22 states of India, is using it political card to consolidate the support of Hindu majority. That the lynch has the patronage of the state and the ruling BJP can be understood from the fact that a minister in Narendra Modi’s government Jayant Sinha garlanded and feted eight men convicted in the Ramgarh lynching case in Jharkhand after they were released on bail last month. The life sentences handed to the eight men, including a BJP functionary, was suspended by the high court and they walked out of the Jai Prakash Narain Central Jail and headed straight to the residence of Sinha, where the minister garlanded them. The convicts were led by local BJP leader Amardeep Yadav, who is also the OBC Morcha president of the party.
The message is clear that cows are more valuable for them than Muslims. In fact cows too don’t matter for them. It helps them in its default mode of polarization, and of tapping the majoritarian project ahead of general election scheduled in March next year. That makes the case more worrying. The lynching is unlikely to stop in immediate future as the state looks away. It is the only bet for the BJP to make elections Hindus Vs Muslims.
In UP assembly elections, last year, BJP effectively disenfranchised Muslims by not giving a single ticket to a candidate in a state where Muslims form 20 percent of the population. Amit Shah is repeating the same model in 2019 general elections too. As the elections approach, The BJP strategists are flexing majoritarian muscles. It may benefit BJP electorally but India, as a state and nation, is losing its face in the eyes of international community. It is now being looked at as a country that has descended to medieval madness in targeting Muslims in particular and Dalits in general. A report released by US Commission for International Religious Freedom that monitors violation of religious freedom abroad, some months back had stunning revelations about religious persecution in India. The report had recommended the US Government to put religious freedom and human rights at the heart of all trade, aid, and diplomatic interactions with India.


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Editorial

Kulgam mayhem

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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.

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Editorial

Shocker from Ghulam Nabi Azad

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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.

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Editorial

The US-Taliban peace talks

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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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