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To assess feasibility of assembly polls: Special Election Observers arrive in Srinagar

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Srinagar, Mar 14: The three special observers appointed by the Election Commission of India arrived in Srinagar on Thursday to gauge the mood and to hold deliberations with the security officials in Kashmir and Jammu regions to prepare a final feedback report as to whether atmosphere was conducive for Assembly polls.
On March 10, the ECI had appointed former IAS officers Vinod Zutshi and Noor Muhammad, and former IPS officer A S Gill, as special observers to assess the situation in Jammu and Kashmir.
As per their mandate, the observers would make a real-time assessment of the situation by meeting political parties, district and state authorities and other stakeholders.
All three observers arrived in Srinagar where they would hold talks with the representatives of political parties—National Conference, People’s Democratic Party, Congress and others. However, NC decided to stay away from meeting the delegation citing that the ECI should have announced holding of polls—Lok Sabha and Assembly polls together.
However, ECI announced only to hold Parliamentary polls and defer the Assembly polls citing security situation and non availability of forces personnel for the contesting candidates.
Reliable sources that the observers will meet the top security brass and get the feedback on the present prevailing situation. “They will meet the officers from police, CRPF, and the army and also the intelligence officials,” sources said. The observers will also meeting common citizens to prepare a final report on the overall ground situation in J&K.
The observers after spending a day or so in Kashmir will fly to Jammu and hold talks with the various segments of society. The security top brass had in the previous meeting held with the ECI in Srinagar expressed concerns over the security scenario in south Kashmir with the result, ECI announced three-phased Lok Sabha polls for Anantnag seat, first time in the poll history of Jammu and Kashmir.
Hundred companies of additional forces including CRPF and BSF have already reached Srinagar for being deployed for the election duties. The observers, sources said will ask the police and other heads of forces about the plan to be adopted for ensuring smooth and fair conduct of Lok Sabha polls commencing from April 11.

NC, other parties boycott visiting ECI team


Srinagar, Mar 14: A three-member team “special observers” appointed by the Election Commission of India (ECI) arrived in Srinagar on Thursday to “assess the ground situation” for conduct of assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir.
The ‘special observers’ including former IAS officers Vinod Zutshi, Noor Muhammad, and former IPS officer A S Gill were scheduled to “assess the situation” here besides holding deliberations with the mainstream parties for the conduct of elections.
However, the mainstream parties showed mixed response over meeting the ECI delegation as some among them didn’t turn up to meet while some called upon them and pitched for simultaneous elections yet again.
The parties including National Conference (NC), CPI (M), People’s Democratic Front (PDF) and Democratic Party Nationalist (DPN) didn’t turn up to meet the delegation while People’s democratic Party (PDP), Congress apprised the delegation about ground situation.
The parties who didn’t meet the delegation said they have already met the EC team headed by Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora and have apprised them about the ground situation assessed by them for the polls here. “We have already pitched for the simultaneous elections in the State. We have nothing to say in this regard now,” they said.
However, the parties including state Congress and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Peoples Conference (PC) and Bharatiya Janata party (BJP) met the ECI delegation here and sought simultaneous elections here.
The Congress delegation headed by former minister and senior leader Taj Mohi-ud-din and former MLA Bandipora Usman Majeed while as PDP delegation headed by former minister and former MLA Sonwar, Muhammad Ashraf Mir and former MLA Batamaloo Noor Muhammad met the ‘Special Observers’ here and reiterated their demand of simultaneous elections in the State. Peoples Conference (PC) delegation led by Abdul Gani Vakil and Junaid Azim Mattoo and BJP leaders led by Asif Masoodi and M M War also called on ECI delegation and discussed the conduct of assembly elections.
PDP leader, Muhammad Ashraf Mir met the ECI delegation and pitched for assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir, saying that they had already urged the ECI to hold polls simultaneously and pitched for the early polls yet again.
Jammu and Kashmir Pradesh Congress Committee (JKPCC) General Secretary, Usman Majeed said that they apprised the ECI delegation about the ground situation and the resentment among the people after the ECI’s decision to delay the assembly elections.
“We informed them that people here feel fishy behind withholding the assembly elections as if the atmosphere is conducive for Lok Sabha election then why not for assembly elections,” he said, adding that the ECI’s decision has affected the reputation of Election Commission and it seems they are following the policy of GoI.
“We demanded simultaneous elections here and I am sure the ECI delegation will take this issue with higher ups and the elections will be conducted before June,” he said.
PC leaders have also pitched for early assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir during the meeting with special observers.
BJP General Secretary (Organization), Ashok Koul told that a team of the party comprising Asif Masoodi and M M War met the ECI delegation and pitched for early elections in the State. “We had pitched for simultaneous elections in the past and raised similar views this time again,” Koul said.
Notably, the Election Commission of India (ECI) on Monday announced seven-phase parliamentary polls, but decided not to hold assembly elections in J&K, which is presently under the president’s rule.
Pertinently, on March 04, a high-level delegation of the ECI arrived Srinagar on a 2-day visit to J&K for consultations with various political parties, state administration and other stakeholders ahead of upcoming election-2019.
The team began its visit by meeting the representatives of various political parties in Kashmir Valley to seek their opinion regarding the elections.
Election commissioners, Sushil Chandra and Ashok Lavasa, Deputy Election Commissioner, Sandeep Saxena, Director General ECI, Dilip Kumar, ADG Sheyphali Sharan, Director Nikhil Kumar, Chief Electoral Officer J&K, Shailendra Kumar were present during the meeting. (KNS)

 
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Internet blockade fails to curb violence: Stanford study

JK loses $28.4 million due to 3-day internet blackout’

Firdous Hassan

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Srinagar, Mar 25: Kashmir has recorded the highest number of the internet shutdown in India, however, such information blockades have proven less effective in controlling violence, says a study by Stanford University.

The study ‘Of Blackouts and Bandhs: The Strategy and Structure of Disconnected Protest in India’ by Jan Rydzak, Global Digital Policy Incubator at Stanford University, shows that nearly half of the internet shutdowns in India last year were witnessed in Kashmir.

As per it, India witnessed 134 network shutdowns in 2018 of which 47 per cent occurred in Kashmir.

 

“In India, the majority of shutdown events occur in the relatively volatile western or northwestern states of Gujarat, Rajasthan, Haryana, and particularly the contested territory of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). Out of 36 states and union territories, these four regions account for more than 75% of all recorded shutdown events in India (2012-17), while Jammu and Kashmir alone comprises about 47%,” the research says.

While the government enforces these internet shutdowns with an aim to restrict agitation and maintain ‘law and order’, the Stanford University research challenges this theory claiming “rumours and disinformation continue to spread with or without access to digital communication networks.”

“If shutdowns truly disrupt the spread of rumors and the coordinated collective action that stems from it, a disproportionate increase in riots, which are more disorderly and more loosely coordinated than peaceful resistance, should follow,” it reads.

“The findings cast considerable doubt on whether shutdowns are a useful device in the quelling of unrest. These (shutdowns) are less reliant on effective communication and coordination,” it adds.

“It is as important to consider whether particular patterns of repression are effective as it is to determine whether they produce uniform patterns of dissent. Considering differences in levels of coordination, I expect that the incidence of riots will increase and that of non-violent demonstrations will decline when a blackout is in place,” it says.

The Stanford working paper said that the effectives of these internet shutdowns to curb unrest was not even known to the Government of India.

“Despite the prolific use of network shutdowns across the country, neither India nor any other national government has conducted publicly acknowledged studies on the effectiveness of shutdowns as a means of suppressing unrest,” it said.

“While shutdowns are occasionally spurred by security concerns during peaceful mass events such as festivals and processions, a large proportion of known cases are implemented with the explicit goal of ensuring or restoring public order. In most instances, this has been tantamount to preventing or quashing protests, riots, or collective violence.”

The Stanford study also explains how colonial era laws have been used by the government’s to justify it blackouts, particularly during discontinuing of 22 social media websites in Jammu and Kashmir during 2017.

“Colonial-era laws such as the Telegraph Act of 1885 have also been used during the disconnection of 22 social media services in Jammu and Kashmir in April 2017. In August 2017, India’s Ministry of Communication announced new regulations governing the suspension of telecommunication services, amending the Telegraph Act (2017),” it said.

“ Empirically, these regulations have done little to dampen shutdown occurrence or usher in more prudence in executing them; 29 incidents were recorded in the final five months of the year and a further 45 in the first four months of 2018,” the study said.

Putting up the impact of internet blackouts on economy, the study claims that a three day without internet services cause a loss of $28.4 million in Jammu and Kashmir.

“The economic loss of approximately $3.04 billion during the total duration of shutdowns in India between 2012 and 2017, which accumulates 16,315 hours (680 days). 2018’s calculation of the costs of shutdowns in India, a three-day blackout equates to a revenue loss of at least $559,000 while the work of civil society organizations suggests that a blackout of the same duration in J&K would cost the state economy $28.4 million.”

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Farooq hints long term NC-Cong tie-up ; Files nomination for Srinagar LS constituency

Mudassir Kuloo

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Srinagar, Mar 25: National Conference president Farooq Abdullah Monday filed his nomination papers for the Srinagar Lok Sabha constituency.

Farooq, who is seeking re-election from the constituency, was accompanied by his son and NC vice-president, Omar Abdullah and other party leaders to the office of returning officer, Srinagar, where he filed his nomination.

Talking to the reporters after filing the papers, he said: “Fascist forces are emerging in the country.  We all are together to fight evil in India.”

 

Asked over the reports about rift between the Congress and National Conference over contesting of seats, he said: “There is no difference. We all are together to fight the fascist forces.”

He, however, refused to comment whether or not 2019 elections will see a ‘Modi wave’ like the one in 2014 when the BJP swept the Lok Sabha polls.

Farooq is the joint candidate of the National Conference and Congress.  The Srinagar Lok Sabha seat is going to polls in the second phase of the general election on April 18.

He was declared the winner of the Srinagar Lok Sabha by-election in April 2017. He defeated the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate Nazir Khan by 10,766 votes.

Earlier, Farooq suffered the first-ever defeat of his career in 2014 when he lost to the then PDP candidate, Tariq Ahmad Karra.

Only a few vehicles of the NC leaders were allowed inside the deputy commissioner’s office complex in Tankipora area.

The police had barricaded the entire area as part of security arrangements to prevent any untoward incident and did not allow any supporters at the venue.

The returning officer had earlier issued guidelines, saying the maximum number of people allowed at the time of filing of nomination by a candidate would be five, including the candidate, whereas the maximum number of vehicles allowed would be three.

The Srinagar Lok Sabha seat is spread over three districts: Srinagar, Budgam, and Ganderbal. It has 12,90,318 voters who will cast their votes at 1,716 polling stations set up in the constituency. The last date for filing nomination papers for the second phase is March 26 and the scrutiny of the papers will be conducted on March 27. The last date for withdrawal of nominations is March 29 and the polling will be held on April 18, from 7 am to 6 pm.

Rasheed files papers for Baramulla seat

Srinagar, Mar 25: Awami Ittihad Party (AIP) supremo Er Rasheed on Monday filed nomination papers from Baramulla constituency which is going to polls in the first phase on April 11.

Speaking to journalists outside the DC office in Baramulla, Rasheed said that National Conference (NC) is “more dangerous” than the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and that NC should come clean on its alliance with Congress.

While Farooq Abdullah talks day and night of supporting Congress but NC’s parliamentary candidate Mohammad Akbar Lone calls Congress more evil and harmful than BJP and both Congress and NC need to tell the truth about their agenda of exploitation and vote grabbing politics.”

He also accused Peoples Conference candidate Raja Aijaz Ali of exploiting the sentiments of Pahari community.

“Just being a member of a particular community does not mean that any person has a right to mislead the deprived and oppressed masses of that community,” Rasheed said.

He also lashed out PDP president saying that Mehbooba Mufti can go to any extent to get power and can join hands with any one.

Rasheed asked people to judge his ten-year tenure as MLA before deciding to vote for any particular party and ask their conscience who can represent them better in parliament.

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Stronghold! In 4 decades, NC has lost only twice in Srinagar

Hirra Azmat

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Srinagar, Mar 25: National Conference has lost the central Kashmir Parliamentary seat only twice since 1977 emphasizing the party’s stronghold on the constituency from which Farooq

Abdullah filed his nomination on Monday.

The Srinagar Lok Sabha constituency is scheduled to go for polls on April 18 and has 12,90,318 voters, who will cast their votes at 1,716 polling stations set up in the constituency.

 

The Srinagar Lok Sabha seat is spread over three districts: Srinagar, Budgam, and Ganderbal. It has 12,90,318 voters who will cast their votes at 1,716 polling stations set up in the constituency.

While Farooq, who submitted his nomination papers on Monday, is a joint candidate of the National Conference and Congress, the Peoples Democratic Party has decided to field Aga Syed Mohsin from Srinagar.

The National Conference president was earlier declared the winner of the Srinagar Lok Sabha bye-election in April 2017.

He defeated the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate Nazir Khan by 10,766 votes.

Earlier, Farooq suffered the first ever defeat of his career in 2014 when he lost to the then PDP’s leader Tariq Hamid Karra.

The NC faced a defeat in 1996, when the Congress candidate Ghulam Mohammad Mir (Magami) emerged winner from Srinagar parliamentary constituency.

In rest of the elections, the NC candidates emerged winners from Srinagar Lok Sabha seat.

Begum Akbar Jehan Abdullah represented it in 1977, Farooq Abdullah-1980, Abdul Rashid Kabuli-1984, Mohammad Shafi Bhat 1989 (uncontested), Omar Abdullah-1998, 1999, 2004, and Farooq Abdullah-2009 against PDP candidate Iftikhar Ansari.

National Conference, General Secretary, Ali Mohammad Sagar, said that people of Kashmir need a ‘louder and credible” voice to represent them in Parliament.

“Dr Sahab (Farooq Abdullah) is the one who can raise the issues of Kashmiris. He is a well experienced politician and Kashmiris have no other choice,” Sagar said.

“Dr Sahab has done a lot for Kashmiris. The National Conference has taken many welfare initiatives in the state, which are non-comparable,” he added.

While the PDP seems sure of its candidate’s ‘win’ despite him being a lesser known face. “You can measure from the works we did during our tenure. Our candidate is a well-respected and honest person. People shall give him a chance and see how he will represent them in the Parliament,” PDP Chief Spokesperson Rafi Ahmad Mir said.

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