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Rakhine to Kashmir: Away from genocide, Muslim refugees battle harsh valley winter

Monitor News Bureau

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Srinagar, Jan 19: On chilly Friday afternoon, Haroon Rasheed, a Rohingya Muslim refugee, rests on a rock outside his rental accommodation at Khimber here, loudly praying in his native language.
He raises his hands westwards, and prays for peace in Rakhine state of Myanmar from where Muslim have been fleeing to other parts of world to escape ethnic cleansing being executed by the country’s army.
His eyes moisten and sobbing rises as he takes the names of his slain kin: Qasim, his uncle, and Abdul Mutalib, brother-in-law, both of whom “the Buddhist cut into pieces”.
Subconsciously, Rasheed puts on his ragged boots and heads home.
Hesitatingly, he begins narrating his ordeal from the harrowing past, a detail painful enough to make 50-year-old him break into tears like a child.
He recalls January 2014, when had been expecting a good winter harvest at his native place.
“I had never imagined that my condition would be this worse in future. I was a rich man three years ago and now I am living in a shack, far away from my native land. We would have vegetables in our gardens ready to be transported to the market at this time of the year,” he remembers.
Rasheed, a farmer, lived in Mondo, Myanmar, along with his family of five.
In 2014, he, like thousands of other fellow Rohingyas, had to flee in the dead of the night after local Buddhists started attacking Muslims in the area.
“I can’t narrate the scene when I saw my brother-in-law in a pool of blood. All the villagers left and ran for safety,” he says.
Rasheed, pointing to his rugged appearance, says, I “was never like this.”
“I had 20 acres of land, 15 cows and nearly 40 sheep and hens,” he says, refusing to be photographed or filmed.
Tagging along his family, Rasheed, in search of safety and hopefully life, first landed in Bangladesh.
Not satisfied with the earnings and growing expenses, he entered into India via West Bengal border.
“We faced a lot of problems in Bangladesh, where we struggled to find work. The value of money there is too less to suffice our needs. We had to put our lives in danger and entered into Indian Territory,” Rasheed says.
Fearing deporting by the local government in West Bengal, Rasheed says he had to wander in cities like Hyderabad and New Delhi to find a place to live in.
“The voice against the Rohingyas was already growing strong in India, so we had to look for an even safer place,” he says.
His family along with many refugee families lived in a makeshift camp in Jammu for Rs 1,000 a year till 2016.
Rasheed claims that Jammu had not been safe for them initially, as the local Hindu populace would often threaten to exile them.
“Many Rohingya refugee families are living there in Jammu. But we felt that Kashmir, being a Muslim-majority place, would be safer for us, which we do feel here,” he says.
A year of safety, food and shelter in Kashmir is not that satisfies these Rohingyas refugees. All these 11 refugee families long to return to their homeland.
“If anyone tells me peace has returned to Burma, I won’t stay here for a moment. Our country is a part of our Imaan (faith). Even if we are offered biryani, or any other cuisine to eat, it doesn’t equal a simple roti available at home,” Rasheed says.
Rasheed is joined by another Rohingya refugee Anayatullah, a student turned labourer, who said that living in Kashmir during winters have been challenging for them.
“We are refugees without enough clothes or food. We came from a warm place and our body cannot bear this bone-chilling cold here,” he says.
Anaytullah claims they rarely get any help from the locals and have to toil hard during harsh winters to eke out their living.
“Initially, the nearby villagers came to help us by donating rice and vegetables. But then, we had to arrange everything ourselves by doing menial jobs,” he says.
“During winter there is not much work, even if we find work, it is hard to take up the job during the cold climate.”
Although they get good returns compared to other states, Anaytullah says, they have to pay a hefty sum as rent for their stay in Kashmir.
“Each family which has sole earner has to pay Rs 2,000-3,000 for each room. But the problems like health issues and food is consuming our earnings,” he says.
The refugees say they often have to struggle for basic needs like electricity and water at their rented accommodation.
“Our women have to walk a kilometre at least to fetch water. Then this absence of electricity has made our lives miserable during cold weather. We can’t even complain, as we are refugees here,” he says.


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Lead Stories

Big fish in anti-corruption net soon: Guv Malik

‘Wish I’d power to confiscate properties of corrupt’

Firdous Hassan

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Governor inaugurating Kargil Ladakh Tourism Festival on Sunday

Srinagar, Jul 21: Reiterating his tough stance against corruption in the state, Governor Satya Pal Malik Sunday said that in the next few months, he was expecting to corner and catch at least “two big fish” who had engaged in high-profile corruption during their time in power.  

“These big families have built their bungalows in Dubai, Delhi and London. Retired forest officers have their houses in posh locality of Vasant Kunj in New Delhi. Soon, you will see that at least two big fish (high profile corrupt people) will be caught in the coming two months. They have looted the wealth of Kashmir for decades,” Malik said.

The Governor was addressing people during the inauguration ceremony of Kargil Ladakh Tourism Festival 2019 at Khree Sultan Choo Sports Stadium in Kargil on Sunday.

 

If he had the power, the Governor said, he wished to confiscate the property of such corrupt people who had built several properties at the cost of Kashmiri people.

“I wish I had the power to confiscate their (corrupt people) properties by taking them to the court. Corruption is turning out to be the biggest problem in Jammu and Kashmir. These people build properties while we see common people living in poverty in Ladakh and even in Srinagar’s downtown,” Malik said.

He said that corruption was taking the shape of a ‘dreadful disease’ in the state, which required to be “uprooted”.

Malik said that there should be a constant public pressure on corruption and corrupt people.

Inaugurates Kargil Ladakh tourism festival

Governor Satya Pal Malik inaugurated Kargil Ladakh Tourism Festival-2019 at Khree Sultan Cho Sports Stadium Kargil here today.

Speaking on the occasion, Governor observed that the twin districts of Kargil and Leh of Ladakh Division have huge tourism potential and emphasized on organizing more events like the Tourism Festival to promote the diverse tourism opportunities available in the region.

Governor said that the expansion work of Kargil Airport for which Rs 200 crores have already been sanctioned will be taken up soon.

This will not only provide round the year connectivity but also give a new dimension to the tourism sector in the region, he added.

Governor said that the State Administration is committed for the holistic development of Ladakh division and concrete measures are underway to pursue this goal. Government is taking strict measures to bring transparency in the system and removing various bottlenecks in the path of progress and development, he added.

Governor, on the occasion, announced the establishment of two degree colleges for Kargil district including a Women’s Degree College. He said that a 2500 MW solar power project will be starting soon to augment power sector in Kargil.

Governor also inspected and appreciated the various stalls of local handicrafts, handloom, agricultural and horticulture products, ethnic food and ancient artifacts which had been put up by various Government departments and social groups.

 Feroz Ahmad Khan, Chairman and Chief Executive Councillor LAHDC, Kargil expressed his gratitude to the Governor on behalf of the people of Kargil district for having fulfilled the long pending demands of the people by granting divisional status to Ladakh, creation of 495 posts for Ladakh Division and allotment of equal number of directorates to both districts, sanctioning of Rs 200 crores for expansion of Kargil Airport and Rs 280 crores for completion of languishing projects.

The CEC also projected several demands and sought the intervention of the Governor for their early redressal including establishment of women’s police station and IRP Battalion in the district, early start of work on Zojila Tunnel and release of the pending dues of casual labourers.

Various multicultural music and dance performances were presented by the artists of the Purgi, Balti and Shina Dardi ethnic tribes and a polo exhibition match was also organized to mark the occasion.

 Baseer ul Haq Choudhary, Deputy Commissioner and CEO, LAHDC, Kargil gave the vote of thanks and expressed his gratitude to Governor for gracing the occasion with his presence.

Haji Anayat Ali, Chairman, Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Council,  Feroz Ahmad Khan, Chairman and Chief Executive Councillor LAHDC, Kargil,  Jamyang Tsering Namgyal, Member Parliament,  Er Phunsog Tashi,  Syed Mujtaba,  Syed Abbass Razvi,  Muhammad Ali Chandan- Executive Councillors, Maj. Gen Sanjeev Dogra,  GOC 8 Mountain Division,  Prasanna Ramaswamy G, Additional Secretary, Tourism ,  Baseer ul Haq Choudhary, Deputy Commissioner and CEO, LAHDC, Kargil, Dr Vinod Kumar, Superintendent of Police Kargil,  Nissar Ahmed Wani, Director Tourism Kashmir, Councillors of LAHDC Kargil were present among other dignitaries on the occasion.

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Guv to militants: Why target innocent, why not corrupt?

Firdous Hassan

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Srinagar, Jul 21: Jammu and Kashmir Governor, Satya Pal Malik Sunday said that the militants, if they have to, should kill the corrupt people who have looted Kashmir instead of the innocent.

Inaugurating the Kargil Ladakh tourism festival 2019 at Khree Sultan Choo stadium in Kargil, he said: “Why are you (militants) killing innocents including SPOs and PSOs. What will you gain by this?

“If you have to kill, why don’t you kill the corrupt who have looted the country and Kashmir for so long.”

 

Malik said that the militants do not have the power to erode the authority of the Indian government. “Yours is a futile struggle. You are losing your lives for nothing. Guns haven’t fetched you anything, particularly in India where government doesn’t bow before guns. You should know that there was one terrorist organisation LTTE but they all got killed. One doesn’t fight with governments in this manner,” Malik said.

He said that “only 250 militants were left in the valley now.”

“100 are from Pakistan and the rest are locals who are inexperienced with no weapon,” he said.

“The local militants are being killed within two hours of operation in the state. Foreigners take two days to die,” he said.

Launching an attack on politicians of Kashmir, Governor said they have always had two different stands, one in Delhi and another in Kashmir.

“Yeh dilli main hote hain to humko darate hain aur fir yahan bachun ko bhadkate hain (when in New Delhi they threaten us and later mislead and instigate the boys here). We told them to speak only one language. I am assuring you that these politicians won’t give you autonomy,” he said.

Malik said “the religious leader were equally misleading youth of Kashmir.

“Maulvis were promising them (militants) heaven after death. I cannot question your religious belief. But, I can give you two heavens instead of the one promised to you by your ”maulvis”. I can give you Kashmir, which is a heaven on earth, and if you live like good human beings, you will get another heaven after your death.”

He expressed satisfaction over the change in the ground situation in Kashmir, saying that the people are now talking of peace.

“It is for the first time in 30 years that there was no strike on the visit of the country’s Home Minister to Kashmir,” Malik said referring to the recent visit of Amit Shah to the Valley.

He also spoke of the administration’s attempts to bring back the Kashmiri Pandits saying that the effort has been welcomed by Hurriyat Conference chief Mirwaiz Umar Farooq.

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Imran Khan in US, to meet Trump today

Press Trust of India

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Washington, Jul 21: Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan arrived here Saturday afternoon on a three-day official trip to the US.

Khan, 66, is scheduled to meet US President Donald Trump at the White House on Monday, July 22 during which the American leadership will press him to take “decisive and irreversible” actions against “terrorist” and militant groups operating from Pakistan and facilitate peace talks with the Taliban.

The cricketer-turned-politician arrived here abroad a commercial Qatar Airways flight and is staying at the official residence of the Pakistani Ambassador to the US, Asad Majeed Khan.

 

He was welcomed at the airport by his foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi. A large number of Pakistani Americans also welcomed him.

Nawaz Sharif was the last Pakistani prime minister to visit the US on an official working trip in October 2015. During his stay in Washington DC, Khan, in addition to his meeting with Trump, is also scheduled to meet IMF acting chief David Lipton and World Bank President David Malpass.

He is scheduled to address a gathering of thousands of Pakistani Americans at capitol One Arena in downtown Washington DC on Sunday, July 21, and speak at the US Institute of Peace think-tank on July 23.

The Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will call on him on Tuesday. Trump, in addition to a one-on-meeting in the Oval Office will host the visiting delegation over a working lunch at the White House on Monday.

He is also scheduled to meet lawmakers at the US Capitol Hill. Before becoming the prime minister, Khan used to visit the US regularly and has a sizeable support base among the Pakistani diaspora.

This is after several decades that a visiting Pakistani leader has been welcomed by members of the Pakistani diaspora in such a large number.

Meanwhile, hours before his arrival Pakistan hired the services of lobbying firm Holland & Knight.

The memorandum of understanding on this was signed between former Republican Congressman Tom Reynolds and Pakistani Ambassador to the US, Majeed Khan.

Reynolds will lead a team comprising other former members of Congress, former senior Administration officials, Capitol Hill veterans and other professional experts to lobby in the US on behalf of the Government of Pakistan.

The Embassy had no lobbyist during the past six years. Khan’s visit to the US is also marked by protests by several ethnic and religious minorities of Pakistan, including Baloch, Sindhis and Mohajirs.

The Baloch groups Saturday started a mobile billboard campaign in America’s national capital urging President Donald Trump to help end “enforced disappearances in Pakistan.

A bipartisan group of 10 influential American lawmakers Saturday asked US President Donald Trump to raise the issue of human rights abuses in the Sindh province in his meeting with the visiting Pakistan Prime Minister.

Protests have been planned in front of the White House and Capitol Hill Arena by these groups over the next few days.

Saved his country money: Omar backs Khan

Srinagar, Jul 21: As Twitterati took a dig at Imran Khan, who was reportedly not received by any official upon his arrival in the United States, National Conference leader Omar Abdullah on Sunday threw his weight behind the Prime Minister, saying he saved Pakistan’s money.

Quoting a tweet by Pakistan-based journalist Fawad Rehman, who posted the video of Khan’s arrival, Abdullah said that the reported absence of a state protocol to Khan “reflects badly” on the Donald Trump administration.

“He saved his country money it didn’t need to spend AND didn’t wear his ego on his sleeve like most “leaders” do. Remind me again why that’s a bad thing. This reflects badly on the American establishment rather than on @ImranKhanPTI IMO,” the former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister tweeted.

Khan is currently on a three-day visit to the US. The cricketer-turned-politician, who took a commercial flight instead of a private jet to cut down on expenses, was instead received by his Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and others at the Dulles International Airport.

A video shared by PTI showed Khan deboarding the commercial flight and later being received by Qureshi and Pakistan’s ambassador to the US Asad M Khan. He also took the people mover for leaving the airport.

As Khan did not receive his due welcome, netizens used this opportunity to have a good laugh. “Pakistan didn’t do very well in the World Cup, but this seems a harsh punishment,” a Twitterer said.

In a bid to cut costs with a struggling economy back home, Khan had earlier expressed his wish to stay at the ambassador’s residence during his visit to the US capital.

Pakistani daily, The Dawn, had reported the news while adding that the US Secret Service, which is responsible for the security of all visiting dignitaries, is not “very receptive” towards the idea as it could pose security risks and cause inconvenience to the people. Local authorities, who are responsible for the smooth flow of Washington DC traffic during a foreign dignitary’s visit, have not expressed their keenness either.

Khan is expected to discuss Afghanistan and peace in the South Asian region during his upcoming meeting with Trump on July 22.

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