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Editorial

Tearing the secular fabric

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Indian army has had the tradition of remaining aloof from political statements and controversies and never did any service chief made statements of political nature or talked about publicly on the issues concerning foreign affairs or country’s relations with its neighbours. However, the present chief of the army seems to be an exception. He often has been making his opinion known on the subjects he is little supposed to speak about. The other day he ‘advised’ Pakistan to become a secular if it wanted to stay together with India. He was responding to Pakistan Prime Minister Imran’s statement in which he had said that Islamabad wanted a “civilised relationship” with India. “Pakistan made itself an Islamic state. If they have to stay together with India, then they have to develop as a secular state,” the Chief of Army Staff said. “We [India] are a secular state,” General Rawat said last week, after the Passing out Parade of the 135th course at the National Defence Academy (NDA). Though the response should have come from the political leadership but in the changing political scenario, army does not see it forbidden to comment on the country’s domestic and foreign matters. However the Army leadership perhaps is ignoring the fast changing scenario in otherwise secular Indian where a section of population, encouraged by some right wing politicians bent upon the changing the basic fundamentals of the country. When such voices were heard for the first time, few years back, they were termed to be that of a fringe which does not command support of the political leadership. However, of late, senior politicians have jumped into the arena making highly sensitive and controversial statements that are bound to lead to communal tensions, tearing apart the secular fabric of the country.

Right-wing extremists not only occupy seats of power here but, in fact, owe their rise to to religious extremism. They caught the imagination of the Indian voters only after the demolition of the Babri Masjid. Atal Bihari Vajpayee became Prime Minister only after the BJP popularized itself on the issue of Babri Masjid demolition.

Ironically, the incumbent Prime Minister Narendra Modi also owes his popularity among Indian masses to yet another incident of religious extremism. But, leter, he emerged as national hero which ultimately saw him taking the control of the Prime Minister’s House in 2014. Modi scored an unprecedented landslide victory. Amit Shah, who was home minister during Gujrat riots and faced jail in yet another fake encounter case of Sohrabuddin is BJP’s national president and poster boy of “new India”.

The mass mandate to Modi and Shah is seen as authentication by the electorate to their extremism. It is perhaps for this fact that extremist groups have taken control of the streets across India. Not a single day passes without killing an innocent in one or the other corner of the country. Justifications are galore and come handy. Carrying or eating beef is the primary one. And if you are not carrying beef then you must be a child-lifter or a love-jihad activist. Killings made so easy. The religious persecution is not restricted to Muslims only. Other minority communities and Dalits too face discrimination and persecution. Since BJP’s ascendance to power in 2014, hate crimes, social boycotts and forced conversion have escalated drastically. 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. General Rawat has ignored all these realities that have changed the whole idea of India. Before advising other countries to go secular, India needs to re-establish itself as a secular state first. Only then the words of the army chief would carry some weight.


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Editorial

Trump’s U-Turn on Pakistan

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Former spy chief of Pakistan late Hameed Gull had all along stood for taking a strong position against America rather than toeing to its line on Afghanistan. However, different governments—right from Musharraf to Nawaz Sharief chose to ignore Gen Gull’s advice, and instead play only second fiddle to America. That cost Pakistan heavily in terms of men and material. The anti American militant groups inside Pakistan and Afghanistan got a readily available pro American target in the form of Pakistan to take revenge of American’s who attacked Kabul in the aftermath of 9/11 terror attacks in New York. The carpet bombing by US army killed civilians and destroyed vast swaths of Afghanistan instantly. The Americans targeted civilians, school children, marriage ceremonies, Taliban and everything that came their way.

Thousands of Afghans have got killed since the US invasion in 2001. The Afghans which are known for not accepting any foreign control fought back and brought the world’s super-most to the knees. But Pakistan, in the meantime, became hub of bloody attacks for being a partner in America’s so called war on terror. These elements later got monetary and arms assistance from the adversaries of Pakistan making it a battle of Pakistan Vs Pakistan. Pakistan, indeed, had to pay a huge price for being America’s partner in war on terrorism. Its areas bordering with Afghanistan became hub of anti Pakistan terrorists. It took almost 10 years of military operation to eliminate the terrorists and clear the area from them. Around 30,000 Pakistan soldiers are reported to have died in the operations against terrorists during this period. But it still proved a thankless task for Pakistan. America always wanted Pakistan to do more. The resurge of Taliban in Afghanistan caught America in blind alley. It found no way other than leaving from a country it had entered into with the aim of staying permanently there. America tried to conceal its failures by putting blame on Pakistan. The rise of Trump to the government in Washington was the most difficult period for Pakistan. Trump directly accused Pakistan of harbouring and sponsoring the terrorists, and wanted Pakistan to fight the America’s war in Afghanistan. Trump issued threat and warnings to Pakistan with the intention that like in the past it would succumb to such pressure. But as it saw Taliban capturing more and more areas, Trump stopped all military and economic aid to Pakistan to make Islamabad more pliable. America even threatened Pakistan of military action if it did not comply the US orders. But much to the chagrin of Trump, Pakistan saw the rise of Imran Khan on the power horizon of Pakistan. Imran Khan, in his very first statement on foreign policy said that his country would no more be a partner in war with America. He said that Pakistan would now on be partner in peace. This infuriated the American Trump further but the firmness with which Imran Khan meant it finally made the American’s feel their folly. Last week Imran Khan reminded the Americans that Islamabad was no more ready to become hired gun of any other country. It against this backdrop the American President Donald Trump has made a written plea to Imran Khan to help in resolving the Afghanistan issue and establishing peace in the decades old war torn country. It is unprecedented that Trump is seeking help from the same Pakistan which he accused of ‘lies and deceit’ in a New Year tweet. In fact, only recently he accused Pakistan of providing shelter to al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden — something that led to a war of words between him and Prime Minister Imran Khan. So, what has really prompted Trump to take a U-turn and reach out to a country, which he earlier thought, only deceived the United States? The answer is the never-ending war in Afghanistan. American officials have now admitted that the Taliban control more than 60 per cent of the territory in Afghanistan. Hence, the Trump administration has finally come to the conclusion that there is no other option but to talk to the Taliban. The U-Turn by Donald Trump is a huge indicator that no country, howsoever powerful it could be is invincible. It needs the courage of saying no to get it on knees. Though belatedly, Gen Gull has proved right.

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Editorial

World human rights day and Kashmir

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Each year, Human Rights Day is observed all over the world, especially by the oppressed nations on December 10, as on this very day in 1948, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The day is also celebrated in Kashmir where protests, demonstrations, seminars and conferences usually mark it. But the people in power have always played as villains in curbing such activities. In contrast, the day—in the rest of the world—is observed to protect the rights of the people. That makes Kashmir quite differently exceptional. It is not going overboard to say that animals have more rights than humans in Kashmir. Last year former MLA Engineer Rasheed and his supporters led a march of animals-a mule, dog, goat and a cow with cards slung on their necks; animals have more rights than the people in Kashmir, he only but highlighted what was evident. Srinagar municipality, a few years back, came up with a plan to restrict the growing dog population—which had grown to disturbing proportions (reportedly 2 lakh), the animal ‘lovers’ all across India made hue and cry against the plan. Many of them including BJP leader Manika Gandhi barged into Srinagar to protect the dogs. One has never heard Manika Gandhi or any other animal lover ever raising voice against the rights violations of humans in Jammu and Kashmir. In the past 30 years, thousands of people have been killed, maimed and jailed by government forces. Around 10000 people are reported to have gone missing after their arrest by security forces, and nobody knows their whereabouts. The systematic killings continue unabated but discreet silence is maintained in the name of national interest. In 2008 and 2010 and 2016 around 300 persons, most of them young boys, were killed in disproportionate use of force by the police and CRPF to quell street protest. The brutality played in Kashmir streets was enjoyed like some action film. International human rights organizations like Amnesty International and Asia Watch besides some civil rights individual and groups within India have censured India for its decimal human rights record. Lately, United Nations too have come out with a damning report of anti human acts of security forces in Kashmir. The irony is that the violators of these rights have been given legal protection under Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSA). It is very sad state of affairs in Jammu and Kashmir that any demand for revocation of AFSPA is seen as ‘anti national’. Just a feeble mention of the demand gives belly bouts to the whole media, political and security establishments all across the country. On occasions it appears that some sections are deriving sadistic pleasure from the miseries of the people of jammu and Kashmir and they want to keep them under check for ever. Jammu and Kashmir is presently one of the most highly militarized regions in the world. The history of military violence—disappearances, shootings, extrajudicial killings, torture, arson, and rape—has touched virtually every home and family in Kashmir. The total number of those killed, maimed, and otherwise harmed will probably never be known. To date, no one has been held accountable for these atrocities. Personnel responsible for such crimes enjoy impunity under AFSPA.

Soldiers who commit violence against women get away with it by invoking the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act. People live in permanent fear worrying every moment for their lives property and honour. The so called representative governments led by National Conference, Congress, PDP and BJP on different occasions are equally guilty of committing crimes against the people of Jammu and Kashmir. When out of power, these parties, barring BJP, would demand withdrawal of AFSPA but back in power they would plead for its continuation. This duplicity and hypocrisy by the NC and PDP is condemnable in every sense of term.

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Editorial

The Drabu drop scene

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In politics, as said, nothing happens by accident. If it happens, you can bet it was planned that way. Dr Haseeb Drabu has finally bid adieu to the PDP. On Thursday, Drabu sent his resignation letter to the PDP president Mehbooba Mufti calling it a day with the PDP. It is not known whether Drabu has bid adieu to his political career as well but the way he was treated by the PDP over the past one year, it is not unreasonable for him to be feeling cynical about politics. Drabu may not be a political saint or sage but he definitely gave PDP a meaning, both, in terms of politics and governance. PDP, for all probabilities, was founded on vague and nebulous ideas with no clear direction and outlook. The slogan of so called Self Rule was simply a misnomer with no party leader, including Mufti and his daughter little knowing what it meant. The slogan was borrowed from Pakistan President Gen Parvaiz Musharraf’s four point formula but Drabu gave it the shape of ideological frame and document. Before it, PDP would cross all borders in search of identity. From extreme separatist position to ultra-nationalist stand, PDP leadership, more particularly Mehbooba Mufti, tried every trick in the book to invent a new identity, way away from her past baggage. She revealed it on the floor of the state assembly during previous NC-Congress rule that Haseeb Drabu (he was Chairman, J&K Bank then) had drafted the document of Self-Rule for PDP. Indeed, it provoked a serious reaction from NC legislators in the House. Many people believe that this became a drop scene for Drabu’s removal as J&K Bank Chairman. Mufti many a time told the press that Drabu was the author of all the election manifestos of PDP. What prompted Mehbooba Mufti then to throw Drabu out of the cabinet should be read and understood in the proper context. Nobody can deny this fact that Mehbooba Mufti was going through a serious crisis of self-image after the death of her father Mufti Mohammad Sayeed. The BJP’s aggressive positioning and posturing on key issues directly related with the sentiments of the state’s majority community had taken heavy toll on her image. No doubt PDP, in real, owes its popularity and rise mostly to Mehbooba Mufti. But this too is an undisputable fact that the fall of PDP has also begun with her. One had expected her to take advantage of the Chief Minister’s office and strengthen her position as a credible and dependable voice of Kashmir.

But she, for all probabilities, proved a disaster. She could not be even a pale shadow of her yester-year’s self. Embarrassment and humiliation had become core of BJP’s agenda of governance with PDP. Dropping Drabu from the cabinet was her desperate attempt to remake her image. It was Haseeb Drabu who wove the alliance with the BJP twice paving way for Muftis—first Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and now Mehbooba—to take control of the state. Mufti, known as a master planner with astute sense of politics, gave no leverage to BJP to dictate terms. However, his death on January 7, 2015, virtually dealt a severe blow to the PDP.A section of PDP leadership began to hobnob with the BJP to form the government bypassing Mehbooba caused added damage to whatever the remains of the PDP. Sensing coup, Mehbooba again fell back upon Drabu to save the day for her. However, the same section of the PDP leadership crafted a narrative of “Drabu being a ‘BJP-man, RSS-man, a Delhi-man’. Ironically, Mehbooba not only allowed this smear campaign against Drabu swell but also adopted those very people in her coterie who had engineered coup against her. Drabu negotiated power with BJP for Muftis, not for himself. He did not do it by himself. He had the party’s and leadership’s (Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and Mehbooba Mufti) instructions and mandate. PDP, more particularly Mehbooba Mufti cannot be more dishonest and ungracious than seeing the man who brokered power for her out of the party.

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