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No more ‘discriminatory’ Mehram-during-Hajj ruling for women: PM

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New Delhi, Dec 31: Terming the policy of allowing Muslim women to perform Hajj only in the company of a male guardian as “injustice” and a “discriminatory”, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on Sunday, said his government has removed the restriction following which hundreds of women have applied to travel alone for the pilgrimage.
According to the Ministry of Minority Affairs, now Muslim women aged above 45 will be allowed to go for the pilgrimage without ‘mehram’ in a group of at least four.
In his monthly radio address ‘Mann ki Baat’, the prime minister said removal of the restriction of having a male guardian or ‘mehram’ may appear as a “small thing”, but such issues “have a far reaching impact on our image as a society”.
He said when he first heard of the restriction, he was surprised as to who would have drafted such a rule. “Why this discrimination? And when I went into the depth of the matter I was surprised to find that even after 70 years of our independence, we were the ones who had imposed these restrictions. For decades, injustice was being rendered to Muslim women but there was no discussion on it,” he said in his broadcast.
He pointed out that such a restriction is not prevalent in many Islamic countries.
“I am happy to note that this time about 1300 Muslim women have applied to perform Haj without ‘mehram’ and women from different parts of the country from Kerala to north India, have expressed their wish to go for the Haj pilgrimage,” he said.
He said he has suggested to the Ministry of Minority Affairs that they should ensure that all women who have applied to travel alone be allowed to perform Haj.
“Usually there is a lottery system for selection of Haj pilgrims but I would like that single women pilgrims should be excluded from this lottery system and they should be given a chance as a special category,” he said.
He said it is his firm belief that the journey of India’s progress has been possible due to women-power and on the basis of their talent…it should be our constant endeavour that our women also get equal rights and equal opportunities…,” he said.
Modi also mentioned the J&K KAS topper Anjum Bashir during his speech.
“Recently I came to know of the inspiring story of Anjum Bashir Khan Khattak, he extricated from sting of terrorism and hatred and topped in Kashmir Administrative Examination, today he is an inspiration not only for J&K but India,” he said.
While referring to Muslim women and their rights, the prime minister did not mention about the bill passed by Lok Sabha last week which bans the practice of instant triple talaq.
He, however, had referred to the issue of instant triple talaq or ‘talaq-e-biddat’ while inaugurating the 85th Sivagiri Pilgrimage Celebrations at Sivagiri Mutt in Kerala via video conference this morning.


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Phase II LS Polls: Srinagar PC records 14% turnout

District-wise: Srinagar 7%, Budgam 21%, Ganderbal 16% ;
Boycott, shutdown, clashes witnessed; 70% turnout in Udhampur PC

Mubashir Bukhari

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Srinagar, Apr 18: Srinagar Parliamentary Constituency Thursday sided with poll boycott as merely 14.1% voters exercised their franchise in the constituency where elections were held in tight security.

In the 2014 general election, Srinagar had witnessed a turnout of 25.86 per cent which fell to 7.2 per cent in the 2017 Lok Sabha bypoll.

Udhampur Constituency, on the other hand, witnessed 70.1% turnout during the day.

 

The polling for the second phase of Lok Sabha elections in Jammu and Kashmir “remained peaceful and incident-free”, Chief Electoral Officer Shailendra Kumar told reporters here.

Kumar said Srinagar district recorded the lowest turnout of 7.69 per cent while Reasi district in Udhampur constituency recorded the highest of 73 per cent among the nine districts where polling was conducted Thursday in the state.

Ganderbal district recorded 16.7 per cent while in Budgam district, the turnout was 21.5 per cent, the CEO said.

According to sources, as many as 90 polling booths, mostly in downtown Srinagar, saw no voting. Srinagar constituency had 1,716 polling stations.

As per reports, at least 25 youth and government forces’ personnel were injured in clashes in several parts of central Kashmir.

A constable of Armed Police Vipon Kumar of 5th battalion was injured after being hit by a stone during clashes at Charar-i-sharief in Budgam, Head Constable Hafizullah was injured at Kakaring Charisharief, Head Constable Ghulam Mohammad of IR 4th, constable Sajad, constable Rahul Malik and three CRPF men were injured in Beerwah Town.

Similar reports of clashes were reported from Machowa, Kralpora, Hafroo, Chadoora in Budgam, Srinagar’s Safakadal, Nowabazar, Gojwara, Hawal, Batamaloo and some parts of Ganderbal including Mammar Kangan and Barsoo.

The government forces deployed in these areas used tear smoke shells, pellets and few aerial shots to disperse the protesting youth during which eighteen persons including a woman were injured.

Among the injured, one youth namely Mohammad Asif Bhat sustained a bullet wound in his thigh at Hafroo Chadoora and was immediately taken to nearby hospital from where he was referred to Bone and Joints Hospital in Srinagar for specialised treatment.

Meanwhile, the internet services were suspended in poll-bound districts of Valley since Tuesday night while as the speed was throttled elsewhere in Kashmir.

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MHA suspends cross LoC trade

‘Route illegal inflow of weapons, narcotics currency’

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Srinagar, Apr 18: The Government of India Thursday suspended trade along the Line of Control at Salamabad and Chakan-da-bagh in J&K stating that the routes were used for “inflow of weapons, narcotics and currency”.

According to the order issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), the action was taken after the Ministry “received that cross LoC trade routes in J&K are being misused by Pakistan based elements. The misuse involves illegal inflows of weapons, narcotics, and currency”

It said the cross-LoC trade mechanism is therefore suspended till a stricter regulatory regime is put in place. “This is to ensure that only bonafide trade takes place, for the benefit of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, through this mechanism,” it said.

 

The trade was part of the confidence-building measures (CBMs) between India and Pakistan and was started in October 2008.

The Cross LoC routes — Srinagar-Muzaffarabad route in Kashmir valley and Poonch-Rawalakote route in Jammu division — which are being used to ferry goods between J&K and Pakistan administered Kashmir (PaK). More than 600 traders are registered for the cross LoC trade and 21 items are on the approved export and import list from both the routes.

Mehbooba, Omar flay decision

Former state chief ministers, Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah, on Thursday criticised the Ministry of Home Affairs’ decision to suspend cross-LoC trade in Jammu and Kashmir.

“Using Kashmir as a scapegoat to claw its way back to power won’t help BJP. It’s an excuse to worsen ties with Pak despite their peace overtures. By doing this, PM Modi has dismantled a CBM initiated by Vajpayee ji. Won’t be surprised if an attack on Pak is in the offing,” PDP president Mehbooba Mufti tweeted soon after the MHA ordered the suspension.

Omar Abdullah too reacted: “The Modi Govt buries another of the Vajpayee era CBM. Cross-LoC trade was a legacy of the Vajpayee Govt to facilitate greater people-to-people contact across the Line of Control in J&K”.

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‘I voted to get a passport and see my son in Pak’

Hirra Azmat

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Srinagar, Apr 18: As the elderly seemed enthused by the idea of electing a representative in Srinagar parliamentary elections, many of them had their own distinctly apolitical (and probably unachievable) expectations from the voting process.

This reporter Thursday visited various polling booths of the uptown areas here. A posse of gun totting CRPF personnel guarded all of them.

In one such booth in government girls’ higher secondary school Rajbagh, a frail woman walked in. A young man held her arm as she slowly walked towards the booth where the voting machine was set up.

 

Clad in a light pink salwar kameez and a ruffle shawl, the woman was limping her way (probably due to tender ankles or knees) to the actual booth.

She had her own motherly reason to take this painful walk. 

Misra Begum, 70, a resident of Ikhrajpora said her primary reason to vote was to get a passport and travel documents to see her son in Pakistan.

“My son crossed the border for arms training twelve years ago but he never came back and is now settled in Pakistan. More than a decade has passed and I am yet to see his face,” she said.

“I am dying to meet him. At least once before I close these eyes forever, I want to see my son again. My only purpose of casting a vote is to get me a passport and the travel documents,” Misra said.

Misra’s eyes twinkled as she stared at this reporter. It seemed she even expected this reporter could do something to end her wait and help her meet her son.

Like Misra, 70-year-old Abdul Majeed Shah too voted to bring his sons back. 

“I am casting a vote to bring my sons home,” said Majeed, heaving a sigh as he sat on his haunches in the lawn of Chanapora higher secondary school.

 “Both of my sons have finished their degrees and were jobless and in great distress. With no option left, they left Kashmir and are now working in other states,” he said.

“My wife suffers from paralysis and I also suffer from multiple ailments. We want our sons to be around us in this age but what to do? We are helpless. I am hopeful that a new CM and party will bring happiness in our lives,” Majeed said, apparently not knowing the difference between Parliamentary and Assembly elections.

Shameema Begum, 60, who seemed to have respiratory problems as she talked, had a more text-bookish answer when asked why she voted.

“Why should I waste my fundamental right to vote? We need good roads, and uninterrupted electricity supply. There are so many problems that can only be addressed by good leadership,” she said in a panting voice. 

Shameema, however, gave a puzzled look when asked about the threats hovering on Article 35-A and Kashmir’s special status.

 “I don’t know what that is. I only believe we can get our basic facilities when we cast a vote,” she said.

At the polling booth in Burn Hall school of Sonwar Constituency, Ghulam Nabi, 56, sat on the wooden bench while talking animatedly with a local police man.

“For the last four and half years, PDP-BJP has done absolutely nothing for the state. Look at the condition of the roads and how the youth of the valley are suffering in absence of any employment,” said Ghulam, who is associated with Tourism sector.

“Dr Farooq Abdullah is the only leader who can truly represent the aspirations of the people and resolve the Kashmir issue,” he said revealing that he, like many, was a staunch NC supporter.

Another man in his early seventies overheard the conversation and was desperate to chip in. He spoke in a hoarse voice, “Ghulam Nabi Sahab is absolutely right. Only NC can bring the people of Kashmir out of misery.”

 “I have come here at the break of the dawn when everyone was asleep. I have always voted for NC and will continue to do so. The love for the party runs in my blood,” the man said.

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