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Tourist’s death a blot on our value system: CM

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Srinagar, May 08: The body of a 22-year old tourist from Chennai killed by stone pelters here was flown home on Tuesday as Kashmiris cutting across the political spectrum continued to condemn the cowardly act.

The grieving parents and sister of the slain R. Thirumani, whose vehicle was among many attacked on the Srinagar-Gulmarg road on Monday, accompanied the body on an Indigo flight, an official of the tourism department said.

 

Thirumani was hit on the forehead and nose when the stone pelters targeted several vehicles with rocks during protests called against the Sunday killings of five militants and six civilians in Shopian district.

On Tuesday, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti reiterated her condemnation of the tourist’s killing.

“I have no words strong enough to condemn this tragic incident or even condole with the family,” she said in a statement.

She described the incident as a blot on the cultural value system of Kashmir and an attempt to bulldoze its economy.

The Chief Minister, who went to meet the tourist’s family at the hospital immediately after the killing, had said on Monday: “My head hangs in shame.”

In a statement, the Chief Minister said the unfortunate incident of the killing of 23-year-old R Thirumani is heartbreaking which goes against the Kashmiri ethos of hospitality and respect for guests.

“I have no words strong enough to condemn this tragic incident or even condole with the family”, she said in her statement. She described the incident as a blot on the cultural value system of Kashmir and an attempt to bulldoze the economy of the place.

Immediately on learning of the incident at 9 pm in the evening on Monday, the Chief Minister rushed to the Police Hospital, Srinagar and condoled with the parents and co tourists of R. Thirumani, said the statement.

She conveyed the sympathies of the people of the State to the bereaved family while directing the administration to extend all support and help to them in this hour of grief.

The Chief Minister also expressed concern over the injuries caused to a girl from Handwara in the same incident while wishing her a speedy recovery.

The Chief Minister reiterated that without “meaningful dialogue, Jammu and Kashmir will get pushed deeper into this vortex of gloom”.

“It’s truly heartbreaking when a family saves for years to realize their dream of visiting Kashmir & while they are here they face their worst nightmare. I have no words strong enough to condemn this tragic incident or even begin to condole the family,” she tweeted.

She further said, “Without a sustained, meaningful dialogue & outreach, not just from the govt but from the entire country, J&K will get pushed deeper into this vortex of gloom. My deepest condolences to the deceased’s family & my prayers go out to the girl who was injured in the same incident.”

Her predecessor and National Conference leader Omar Abdullah said: “We have killed a tourist by throwing stones at the vehicle he was travelling in. Let’s try and wrap our heads around the fact that we stoned a tourist, a guest, to death while we glorify these stone pelters and their methods.”

Senior separatist leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said: “Deeply saddened by the news of the death of a tourist due to stone pelting. I condemn such hooliganism and rowdiness.

“It is totally against our ethos of treating tourists as respected guests and brings a bad name to the people’s movement.”

The common man in the valley is no less shocked. Those who earn from tourism are particularly shocked.

“What have we proved by doing this? We claim to be the most hospitable society and here we have a guest killed in stone pelting,” said Zahoor Ahmad, 33, a taxi operator.

“What crime had the tourist committed? His only crime was that he trusted his life with us,” Ahmad added.

“What message are we sending out? Those who targeted the tourists cannot be fighting for the rights of Kashmiris. The incident has deeply shocked us all,” said Nazir Ahmad, a hotel owner in north Kashmir’s Sonamarg tourist resort.

“How can anyone claim to be fighting for human rights by violating the rights of others? The guilty need to be exposed,” said Bashir Ahmad, a university employee here.

Some locals who too condemned the attack added that all innocent killings, including those of Kashmiris, also needed to be denounced.

“Nobody will support an attack on an innocent tourist. At the same time, there must be unequivocal condemnation of killings of innocent Kashmiris as well”, said Mehrajuddin, a fruit seller in Srinagar.

Stone pelting has become a part of street protests in the Kashmir Valley, particularly in Srinagar, the urban hub of a separatist movement that has claimed thousands of lives since 1989.

As security personnel advance to disperse mobs, bands of young men attack them with stones and then disappear into narrow lanes.

Last week, a school bus came under attack in Shopian, badly injuring a young boy.


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To ‘build image’, counter criticism: Kashmir parties get savvy, plan social media ‘troll army’

Nisar Dharma

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Srinagar, Mar 24: A few valley-based political parties are planning to create multiple phony accounts on several social media platforms and use them as a “troll army” to deal with the criticism against them and improve their overall image, The Kashmir Monitor has learnt.

Highly placed sources said the parties, both old players and news ones in the political arena, are in the process of employing people to monitor and use the social media channels as a tool to “counter criticism and build a positive image.”

“The parties are planning to create at least two to three thousand Facebook and Twitter accounts in the coming weeks. It is on a similar pattern as that of BJP, although not as extensive,” sources said.

 

The accounts, they said, would be used to post “positive messages” and, more importantly, counter any criticism.

“Whenever there would be a discussion about the leaders of these parties, these phony accounts would monitor it and even jump in to change the course of the discussion. Their job will be to shut out those critical of the party or its leaders,” sources added.

By this way, the parties, they said, aim to “clear misconceptions youth may have against them”.

“Apart from the traditional methods of campaigning for the parties, they also want to use these virtual platforms to target youth,” sources said.
With Lok Sabha and Assembly polls in fray, the political atmosphere in J&K is charged up these days.

Most of the prominent J&K politicians are very active on social media.

Among them, NC’s Omar Abdullah and PDP’s Mehbooba Mufti, exhaustively use Twitter to convey their messages or react to local, national and international developments.

Their posts on Twitter trigger a chain of reactions, which, most of the times, are picked up and reported by both print and electronic media.

Bureaucrat-turned-politician Shah Faesal too has a very strong social media presence: over 83,000 followers on Twitter and 1.53 lakh on Facebook.

In fact, his party ‘JK Peoples’ Movement’ that he launched earlier this month is asking people to join it by filing a form on its website. In the ‘how can you help’ section, the party has listed
‘Social media – FB Instagram etc’ and ‘Whatsapp Groups’ as one of the options new-joinees can choose from.

BJP was the first party to realise the potential of social media and is still formidable in the digital space.
It has approximately 1.2 million ‘volunteers’, an ever increasing network.

However, as per ‘I Am a Troll: Inside the Secret World of the BJP’s Digital Army’, a 2016 book by journalist Swati Chaturvedi these ‘volunteers’ are “the BJP’s digital army” that constantly “peddle hate tweets and conspiracy theories and slander journalists.”

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LS polls:Mehbooba counts PDP’s yet-to-be-fulfilled promises

Says punishing people, choking democratic space ‘new GoI policy’

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Srinagar, Mar 24: While counting her party’s unfulfilled promises, former Chief Minister and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) President Mehbooba Mufti said on Sunday that “choking democratic space and punishing people collectively” is, unfortunately, a new policy adopted by the Government of India to deal with Kashmir.

Addressing the youth convention here in which youngsters in thousands took part, Mehbooba said that the purpose behind the “repressive” measures being taken by the BJP led government in Jammu and Kashmir is “to show the electorate how tough is the saffron party against Kashmiris”.

Referring to the ban imposed on JKLF and Jamat-e- Islami, Mehbooba, as per a statement, said it is ironical that on the one hand government of India is claiming to have launched a rehabilitation scheme by which the militants who lay down arms will be encouraged to join the mainstream and on the other hand, organisations like JeI and JKLF are banned which have avowedly rejected violence as a method of achieving any goals and have distanced themselves from it.

 

“JKLF is committed to resolution through political means while as the Jamaat-e-Islami is a religious and social organisation running schools and orphanages across the state. Such repressive measures will shrink the already limited space and will only increase the level of alienation and frustration among the people,” Mehbooba, as per the statement, said.

In a customary tone of a politician in opposition, Mehbooba said that PDP is “seeking resolution of problems through the democratic process and there is already a common space on which we can work and on which the people of Jammu and Kashmir are united”.

“It is more or less around the agenda of the PDP which includes opening of roads across the LOC, safeguarding special status of Jammu and Kashmir, fulfilment of constitutional commitments, utilisation of state’s water resources for the benefit of the state, establishment of joint council between Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan administered Kashmir so that matters pertaining to trade, tourism, commerce, natural disasters, global warning are jointly taken care of,” she said.

The PDP chief termed present elections crucial in determining the future course of history.

“We are at a stage where the people of the state are facing more challenges than ever. As the largest political party of the state, we have always strived for the resolution of the problems through peace and empowerment of people. Whether we were in opposition or in government, we have established the idea of Mufti Mohammad Sayeed of having a party with peace, dialogue and end of repressive measures as a prime agenda. But the challenges at present are in different forms. People are knowledgeable enough to know what are the threats and the stakes involved,” she said.

She says PDP is firm in its belief that resolution of Jammu and Kashmir problem is possible if both India and Pakistan leave their ego for the betterment of the largest human mass residing in South Asia and same can be achieved by addressing the aspirations of the people of Jammu and Kashmir and also while safeguarding the integrity of both the countries.

“A very positive beginning in this regard was made in the past, however, subsequent governments didn’t pursue it. Kashmir is now facing worst turmoil and unfortunately, the present government thinks that the issue can be resolved by enforcing the peace of the graveyard, squeezing spaces of dissent and dialogue and banning organisations. Such steps can be very dangerous as established by recent unfortunate bombing in Pulwama which almost brought the two countries to the brink of a nuclear war,” Mehbooba said.

Baramulla LS Constituency:Cong replaces Salman Soz with new face

Srinagar, Mar 24: The Jammu and Kashmir Congress Committee has replaced Salman Soz for Baramulla Lok Sabha constituency with a new face, Haji Farooq Ahmed Mir.

Earlier, Congress had announced the name of Salman Soz for their north Kashmir seat.

“Yes…we have made a rethink and have replaced Salman Soz with Haji Farooq Sb,” PCC president G A Mir was quoted saying by Kashmir News Service.

For rest of the seats, names of candidates will be cleared in coming days, Mir said.

NC has already fielded Akbar Lone for Baramulla-Kupwara, while for PDP, Qayoom Wani will contest on the seat. For Jammu-Poonch, NC will not field any candidates as per the pre-poll alliance agreement between the two parties.

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Shutdown observed against JKLF ban

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Srinagar, Mar 24: A complete shutdown was Sunday observed across Kashmir against the Government of India ban on Yasin Malik led Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF).

The ban comes days after state’s largest socio-religious party Jamaat-e-Islami was banned and its leadership arrested.

Reports said all the shops and business establishments remained shut across Kashmir including the summer capital Srinagar and passenger traffic was also minimal on the roads.

 

Hurriyat (M) Chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq himself summoned by National Investigative Agency (NIA) to Delhi for questions in connection with a funding case was placed under house detention to prevent him from taking any protest rally. Train services from Banihal to Baramulla also remained suspended.

The shutdown call was issued by Joint Hurriyat Leadership comprising Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik against the ban on JKLF.

Joint Hurriyat had said the government of India’s decision of banning the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front for five years is highly “authoritarian, autocratic and pure political vendetta.”

The central government banned the JKLF on Friday labeling it an “unlawful party”.

Malik has also been booked under the Public Safety Act (PSA) and lodged in a jail in Jammu division of the state.

The government formally banned Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front vide notification No. 1403 (E) dated March 22, 2019.

As per the notification issued by the union Home Ministry, the Central Government is of the opinion that the said organization is involved in “anti-national and subversive activities and is in close touch with militant outfits and is supporting extremism in the state.”

The notification further says the party propagates “anti-national and separatist sentiments and escalates secessionist moments.”

As such, the notification reads, the origination stands banned as per the provisions of sub-sections (1) and (3) of section 3 of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 for a period of five years.

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