Jammu and Kashmir schools open but students play shy

The Jammu and Kashmir administration”s big push for restoring normalcy in Kashmir by opening schools has received a major jolt as students have stayed away.

Last week the government announced opening of primary and middle schools in the valley but here in the capital city hardly any students have turned up for their classes.

visited some prominent Srinagar schools like Tyndale Biscoe, Mallinson, DPS and National School but couldn”t find students in any of them.

“Admission for LKG scheduled for August 19 and 20, stand postponed. New dates will be announced later,” read a notice on the gate of the DPS while at Mallision, school has put up a notice issuing interview dates for fresh admissions.

“Teachers are coming to the school but not the students,” said one official from the Delhi Public School (DPS).

Though the government has lifted restrictions on the movement of traffic in most parts of Srinagar and restored landlines in few pockets of the capital city, yet a looming fear of violence erupting any time has kept most parents jittery and they have not mustered the courage to send children back to schools.

“Sending my children to school is just not the priority right now, it is very risky, let the situation stabilize, then only I can think of sending them to school,” said Abdul Rasheed in old city area of Khanyar.

However, the government says it is working out the step by step plan of opening of the schools notwithstanding thin attendance of students.

“A total of 1,500 primary schools and 1,000 middle schools were opened although attendance continues to be very thin in so far as students are concerned. The Education Department will try to operationalise primary and middle schools in areas where there are no restrictions,” said Rohit Kansal, government spokesperson.

The real challenge though for the government will be opening the higher secondary schools and colleges which have witnessed student protests in the past.



As Pak cries foul over Kashmir, United Arab Emirates to honour Modi

At a time when Pakistan is virtually begging for support from the Muslim world against India for Kashmir, it faces a huge rebuff from the United Arab Emirates (UAE), with the key Islamic nation set to host Prime Minister Narendra Modi and honour him with the countrys highest civilian award.

This comes days after UAE”s Ambassador to India, Ahmad Al Banna, said his country found nothing wrong in the Modi government”s decision to reorganize Jammu and Kashmir and that it was purely an internal matter of India.

The UAE does not see the decision to end special status of Jammu and Kashmir and its bifurcation as some unique incident and views it as a measure aimed at reducing regional disparities.

Against this backdrop, Modi will be in UAE for two days from Friday and will meet Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, to discuss bilateral, regional and international matters of mutual interest.

A major highlight of the visit will be the presentation of ”Order of Zayed”, the highest civilian honour of the UAE, to Modi. The UAE had announced the honour for Modi in April this year for giving a boost to the bilateral relations.

The award is instituted in the name of the country”s founding father Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan and is being presented to Modi in the year of his birth centenary, which adds even greater significance to it.

This is the third visit by Modi to UAE in four years and has added importance considering the fact that it is taking place at a time when Pakistan is trying to garner support, particularly from the Muslim countries, against India over abolition of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcation of the state.

In that context, it marks a major setback for Pakistan and highlights the extent of isolation it has been subjected to, even in the Islamic world.

The UAE, which is the largest business hub in the Gulf region, hosts a big Indian diaspora and is a destination for a huge number of Indian tourists.

India-UAE ties were elevated to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership in 2015. In February 2018, Modi visited the UAE as Chief Guest at the World Government Summit. The Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi was the Chief Guest at the Republic Day celebrations in 2017.

India-UAE bilateral trade stands at $60 billion, and the UAE is India”s third-largest trade partner. The UAE is also the fourth-largest exporter of crude oil for India and is home to a 3.3 million-strong Indian community.

The Prime Minister”s visit will be marked by the launch of RuPay card, “an Indian indigenous equivalent of Mastercard or Visa”, making the UAE the first country in the Middle East to have it, Indian Ambassador Navdeep Singh Suri said in an interview to Emirates News Agency.

“A Memorandum of Understanding, MoU, to establish a technology interface between the payment platforms in India and UAE, would be exchanged between the National Payments Corporation of India and UAE”s Mercury Payments Services. This will enable the RuPay card to be used at point-of-sale terminals across the UAE,” Suri said in the interview on Wednesday.

He said introduction of RuPay card is expected to benefit the Indian diaspora as also tourism and trade.



Will meet Modi in France, do best on Kashmir: Donald Trump

After speaking with the leaders of India and Pakistan and urging them to reduce tensions over Kashmir, US President Donald Trump on Tuesday said he would be meeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the weekend at the G7 in France, and he would do his best to mediate in the issue.

Addressing reporters in the White House, President Trump said: “Kashmir is a very complicated place. You have the Hindus, and you have the Muslims, and I wouldn”t say they get along so great. And that”s what you have right now.”

“And you have millions of people who want to be ruled by others, and maybe on both sides, and you have two countries that haven”t gotten along in a long time.

“And frankly it”s a very explosive situation. I spoke to Prime Minister Khan, and yesterday I spoke to PM Modi; and they are both friends of mine, and they are great people, they”re great people. And they love their countries, and they are in a very tough situation.

“Kashmir is a very tough situation, and this has been going on for decades, and decades; shooting, and I don”t mean shooting like shooting a rifle, but major shooting of howitzers, of heavy arms, and this has been going on for a long, long period of time.

“But I get along really well with both of them, As you know Prime Minister Khan was here just recently.

“And I”m going to meet Prime Minister Modi, I will be with PM Modi over the weekend, in France.

“And I think we”re helping the situation, but there”s tremendous problems between the two countries. And I will do the best I can to mediate or do something,” he said.

On Monday, Trump spoke on the phone with his “two good friends” Prime Ministers Narendra Modi of India and Pakistan”s Imran Khan and urged them to work towards reducing tensions over Kashmir. He also advised Pakistan to “moderate its rhetoric with India” over Kashmir.

“Spoke to my two good friends, Prime Minister Modi of India, and Prime Minister Khan of Pakistan, regarding Trade, Strategic Partnerships and, most importantly, for India and Pakistan to work towards reducing tensions in Kashmir. A tough situation, but good conversations!,” he tweeted.

Earlier, Trump first called up Modi on Monday during which they held a 30-minute talk.

Prime Minister Modi conveyed that “extreme rhetoric and incitement to anti-India violence by certain leaders in the region was not conducive to peace”, in a reference to the Pakistani leadership spewing anti-India venom over the Kashmir issue.

A White House readout of his talk with Imran Khan said, “PresidentATrumpAspoke by telephone with Imran Khan to discuss the need to reduce tensions and moderate rhetoric with India over the situation in Jammu and Kashmir.

“Trump reaffirmed the need to avoid escalation of the situation, and urged restraint on both sides. The two leaders also agreed to work together to strengthen United States-Pakistan economic and trade cooperation.”



First encounter in Jammu & Kashmir since Art 370 abrogation

The gun battle between security forces and militants in Baramulla district of Jammu and Kashmir continued till late into the night on Tuesday.

Army authorities said there was heavy exchange of gunfire between both sides even as they refrained from divulging the exact number of militants that were involved in the encounter.

Security agencies, including the Jammu and Kashmir police, were fighting the militants in the encounter.

“Firing began at 5 p.m. with the militants in Old Baramullah. The operation is under way,” said a Army official.

The area was cordoned off for the public as soon as the gunfight began.

Ever since the Union government abrogated special category status to Jammu and Kashmir on August 5 by abrogating Article 370 of the Constitution, this is the first encounter between security forces and militants in the Valley.

As per sources around 2-3 terrorists were engaged in a gunfight as the joint operation between the Army, Jammu and Kashmir police and other security agencies was launched. Baramullah is located around 54 km from Srinagar.

Kashmir Valley has been by and large peaceful barring stray incidents of stone-pelting and protests since August 5. The number of ceasefire violations by Pakistan across the LoC have increased, however, over the past week after a lull in the first fortnight of August.



Rahul Gandhi condemns arrest of Jammu & Kashmir Congress chief

Jammu, Aug 16 Former Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Friday condemned the arrest of the party”s Jammu and Kashmir unit chief Ghulam Ahmed Mir and another party leader saying the government has delivered another body blow to democracy.

“I strongly condemn the arrest of our J&K PCC Chief, Ghulam Ahmed Mir and spokesperson Ravinder Sharma in Jammu today. With this unprovoked action against a national political party, the Govt has delivered democracy another body blow. When will this madness end?” Gandhi tweeted.

Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala also took to Twitter and shared a video in which the police can be seen taking the party”s state spokeperson Ravinder Sharma from the press conference along with them.

“Government claims total normalcy in J&K, blatantly and illegally arrests Congress chief spokesman Ravinder Sharma from Jammu while he was briefing the media and places PCC Chief Ghulam Ahmed Mir under house arrest. If this is normal, how are murder of democracy and seize defined?” he said in a tweet.

The remarks of the Congress leaders came after Mir and Sharma were arrested in Jammu during the day.

Senior Congress leader and former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad also accused the government of not allowing him to hold a press conference in Jammu and condemned it for detaining him.

Condemning the action of the government, in a statement the Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha said, “On one side the State and Central government are asserting that Jammu is normal and people are celebrating, while at the same time the leaders of opposition parties are not even allowed to address the press conferences.”

“This double speak of the government has exposed it on a number of occasions,” he said.

Azad also condemned the government”s action of detaining him and taking him to some undisclosed location. He said that this action of the government is in total violation of any democratic norms.

Azad also demanded the immediate release of former Chief Ministers Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti and senior leaders of other political parties.



Plea filed in SC against restrictions in Jammu & Kashmir

A plea has been filed in the Supreme Court against restrictions imposed in Jammu and Kashmir since August 4 in connection with the Centre’s decision to end special status and bifurcate the state.

The plea, filed by social activist Tehseen Poonawalla, alleged that Jammu and Kashmir was witnessing undeclared curfew/restrictions, arbitrary arrests, shutdown of phone services and snapping of internet and blocking of cable TV having news channels.

This amounts to suspension of Article 19 and 21 of the Constitution, he contended.

The plea said: “The actions taken by the Union of India pertains to gross abuse of its powers under law, whereby the people of the J&K are suffering on account of unwarranted imposition of undeclared curfew and further emergency like restrictions are being imposed under the garb of Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.”

The petition contends that this information regarding the lockdown has been confirmed by the fact that the citizens are barred from access to basic healthcare, educational institutions, banks, public offices, food-vegetables and ration supply establishments and all other basic necessities.

The plea claimed that the inhabitants are facing difficulties to access the basic day to day necessities particularly patients, children, women and infants who have literally been arrested in their own houses for no reason.

Moreover, the political leaders of J&K including former Chief Ministers, Union Ministers, legislators and political activists are arbitrarily held under arrest.



IMA withdraws nationwide strike due to Kashmir, floods

 In view of the prevailing situation in Kashmir as well as some parts of the country being hit by floods and the demise of former External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, the Indian Medical Association (IMA) has decided to call off its nationwide strike opposing the National Medical Commission (NMC) Bill on Thursday.

But the IMA said it will continue to fight against the NMC bill and carry out an aggressive public campaign against it.

“IMA emergency action committee had proclaimed on Sunday a nationwide withdrawal of services on Thursday, August 8, 2019. Medical students and resident doctors are on a warpath. A delegation of IMA under the leadership of IMA National President, Dr Santanu Sen along with other senior leaders, medical student representatives and junior doctors met Dr Harsh Vardhan, Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare,” IMA said in a statement.

“Certain clarifications and assurances given by him and considering the prevailing situation in Jammu and Kashmir, heavy flood situation in North East, Karnataka, Maharashtra and other parts of the country as well as untimely sad demise of former Union minister Sushma Swaraj and the need for further dialogue and creating awareness about hazards of certain provisions of NMC, IMA defers its call for withdrawal of services to a later date of choice,” said Sen.

A statement issued by IMA said “it supports the medical students and resident doctors and will continue to add momentum to the movement till justice is rendered. IMA has decided an aggressive public campaign against section 32, 50 and 51 which legitimises quackery and promotes crosspathy, section 10.1.i on capping of fee in undergraduate and post-graduate medical education, on section 15 the lingering uncertainty of the career of medical students and section 29.3 and 28.7 on quality of medical education.”

IMA also appealed to the President to withhold assent to the Bill until the dangers to the health of the nation accruing from several sections are adequately addressed. It said it has faith in the judiciary in correcting the aberrations in this “black law”.

“The struggle of IMA against the deleterious clauses of NMC Bill 2019 will continue till the medical education and the health of the nation are out of harm’s way. IMA will consult with all the stakeholders especially the medical students and resident doctors on further course of action,” said the statement.



Kashmir Valley calm so far, gun duel on Line of Control

There are no reports of violence in the Valley ever since the withdrawal of special status to Jammu and Kashmir and its bifurcation but the ceasefire on the Line of Control (LoC) since the decision, according to a security assessment.

Late on Wednesday evening, Pakistan violated the ceasefire, firing small arms and mortar shells from across the LoC in Sunderbani sector in Rajouri district. The firing began around 10.15 p.m., following which the Indian Army retaliated.

Prior to this, a cease-fire violation was reported on the night of August 5 from the Machil sector of J&K’s Kupwara district when an infiltration bid by five to six armed militants was foiled and a soldier was also injured. On the other hand, the number of cease-fire violations at the LoC had peaked in the month of July.

The spurt in firing in July coincided with Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s meeting with US President Donald Trump in Washington. The month saw 272 ceasefire violations, the highest in 2019.

According to defence officials, the hinterland of J&K has witnessed no major incident of violence over the past three days while the LoC too has remained mostly calm, apart from these two incidents.

“There are no directions as of now for deployment of additional forces in the Valley. Situation across the Valley has been peaceful over the past three days with no violence reported from the hinterland or cease-fire violations at the border,” a senior army official said.

On the intervening night of July 31 and August 1, at least five to seven special services personnel of Pakistan’s Border Action Team (BAT) were gunned down by alert troops in the Keran sector of Kupwara during an infiltration bid.

“Four bodies were sighted on the Indian side of the border. Pakistan was informed about it. However, they are yet to claim the dead bodies which are still lying near a forward post of the sector,” added the official.

The Indian armed forces suffered six casualties during cease-fire violations by Pakistan between January and August 7. The second highest number of cease-fire violations in the year was recorded in March when both countries were in a conflict over the Pulawama incident and the subsequent air strikes carried out by the IAF in Balakot.

There were 267 cease-fire violations in March while the two preceding months of the year had recorded 203 and 215 incidents, respectively. The corresponding figures for the months of April, May and June, respectively, stand at 234, 221 and 181.



Closely following events in Jammu and Kashmir, says US

The US said that it has taken note of India’s move to change the status of Jammu and Kashmir and that New Delhi has described it as “strictly and internal matter”.

In a cautious statement, State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus voiced concern over reports of the detention of some Kashmiri leaders, and urged “respect for individual rights” and talks with those affected.

The US also urged for peace and stability along the Line of Control (LoC).

The statement read: “We are closely following the events in the state of Jammu and Kashmir.A We take note of India’s announcement revising the constitutional status of Jammu and Kashmir and India’s plan to split the state into two union territories.

“We note that the Indian government has described these actions as strictly an internal matter.

“We are concerned about reports of detentions and urge respect for individual rights and discussion with those in affected communities.

“We call on all parties to maintain peace and stability along the LoC.”

On Monday, the Central government scrapped Article 370 of the Constitution that gives special status to Jammu and Kashmir and converted the state into a Union Territory with a legislature.

It also split the state by hiving off Ladakh region and making it into a Union Territory without a legislature.





Ex-Jammu & Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti arrested

Almost 24 hours after former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister and PDP President Mehbooba Mufti was put under house arrest on Sunday night, she was arrested on Monday evening moments after Rajya Sabha passed the Bill to bifurcate the state into Union territories.

Sources said Mehbooba was arrested on the orders of the Executive Magistrate in Srinagar and shifted to Hari Niwas guest house.

In his order, the First Class Executive Magistrate cited apprehensions of law and order situation and breach of peace and tranquillity in Kashmir.

“Your (Mufti) activities are likely to cause breach of peace keeping into consideration your recent activities that may likely lead to serious law and order situatuion and breach of peace and tranquillity in Kashmir,” the order said.

It said Mehbooba and her party activists were about to proceed in a procession in public which could threaten law and order. “Keeping into consideration the present situation in Kashmir…I do hereby immediately order your detention,” said the Executive Magistrate.

Earlier in the day, Mufti described scrapping of Article 370 of the Constitution which gave special status to the state as the “blackest day in Indian democracy”. The government earlier in the day revoked the state’s special status, provided under Article 370, via a Presidential order.

Hitting out at the government, Mufti in an audio message on Twitter said Parliament which gave a lot to Jammu and Kashmir “has snatched everything from it like thieves”. “Today is the blackest day in Indian democracy. The Indian Parliament just like thieves today snatched everything it has given,” she said.

The former Chief Minister had been under house arrest since Sunday evening. She said the security forces were increased in Jammu and Kashmir in recent days on the pretext of security threats to the Amarnath Yatra and tourists from Pakistan. “Such a big country got frightened … and made Kashmir an open jail so that no one can raise voice against the illegal proposal,” she said.

The PDP leader said that “we had good relations which the government” but said this had changed just like Israeli government changed it to illegal occupancy.

“Today people of Jammu and Kashmir are forced to think that the decision of our leaders to reject Pakistan and join India was not right. The conditions with which we joined them have been broken by India. For the respect and dignity of Kashmir, we have no other way,” she added.

The PDP leader also said that the decision to revoke Article 370 will have “catastrophic consequences”.

“The decision of the J&K leadership to reject the two-nation theory in 1947 and align with India has backfired. Unilateral decision of GOI to scrap Article 370 is illegal and unconstitutional which will make India an occupational force in J&K,” she tweeted.

“It will have catastrophic consequences for the subcontinent. GOI’s intentions are clear. They want the territory of J&K by terrorising its people. India has failed Kashmir in keeping its promises,” she said.



Pak urges US to persuade India to accept mediation on Kashmir

The Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi on Friday urged the US to persuade India to start mediation talks on the Kashmir issue.

His remarks come at a time when the US President Donald Trump has said that “it is up to Prime Minister Modi” to accept America’s offer to intervene in the Kashmir issue while India has clearly rejected mediation on the matter.

Talking to some Pakistani journalists, the Pakistan Foreign Minister said that India has raised questions on the US’ offer to initiate mediation talks.

Qureshi also said that India is avoiding talks on this issue and does not seem willing to address the matter.

Reiterating the allegations of violation of human rights in Jammu and Kashmir, he said that on the one hand India is saying that Kashmir is a bilateral matter, but even then it is not ready to come to the negotiating table.

The Foreign Minister added: “Trump has given the mediation proposal in view of the regional situation, and we thank him for this. India will not agree to negotiate easily. We appeal to the US to use its influence to persuade India to start talks.”

He also said that he is going to write a letter to the United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres in this regard.



State Department now backs Trump’s claim on Kashmir mediation

The State Department now appears to stand behind US President Donald Trump’s claim that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had asked him to mediate or arbitrate the Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan, moving away from a Department official’s clarification that it considered it a bilateral issue.

Asked by a reporter if there has been any change in US policy on Kashmir, Department Spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said in Washington on Thursday, “I don’t have anything to say beyond the President’s statement.”

This would be a step back from an attempt by Alice G Wells, the Acting Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, to ease tensions with India over Trump’s claim, which India has denied.

Soon after Trump’s made the claim before reporters as he and visiting Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan were preparing to meet at the White House on Monday, Wells tried to clarify Washington’s position affirming that Kashmir was a bilateral matter, conforming to India’s stand.

She tweeted under her initials, AGW, on her bureau’s twitter account, “While Kashmir is a bilateral issue for both parties to discuss, the Trump administration welcomes #Pakistan and #India sitting down and the United States stands ready to assist.”

Ortagus moves the Department position back to Trump’s although she does not explicitly call it a change in the policy.

Trump had said, “I was with Prime Minister Modi two weeks ago, and we talked about this subject. And he actually said, ‘Would you like to be a mediator or arbitrator?’ I said, ‘Where?’ He said, ‘Kashmir.'”

Foreign Minister S Jaishankar has denied in Parliament that Modi had made any such request when he met Trump in Osaka on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Japan.

He said on Tuesday, “I assure the House categorically that no such request has been made by the Prime Minister to the US President. It has been India’s consistent position that all outstanding issues with Pakistan are discussed only bilaterally. Any engagement with Pakistan would require an end to cross-border terrorism.”

The episode illustrates the frequent foreign — domestic — policy confusions brought on by a mercurial president and efforts by officials to salvage situation while working at cross purposes.
Ortagus sidestepped another question by reporter asking how US-Pakistan and India-Pakistan relations would proceed after Khan’s admission on Tuesday that there 30,000 to 40,000 terrorists who had fought in Kashmir and Afghanistan were in Pakistan.

Ortagus, instead spoke in general terms about the interactions between Khan and US leaders. She said, “This was an initial meeting. This meeting, of course, gave the chance for the President and the Secretary (of State Mike Pompeo) to meet with Prime Minister Khan, to build a personal connection and rapport. And now we think it’s time to make progress on the success of this first meeting.

Without addressing the presence of terrorists, she added, “I would note one of the things that the prime minister says, that he vowed to urge the Taliban to negotiate with the Afghan Government. We are committed to peace in Afghanistan. We think that was an important step. And there was a number of issues that were discussed not only in the President’s meeting but with the Secretary’s meeting as well, and now is the time to build upon that meeting and to build upon those commitments.”

This reinforces the sense that Trump’s priority right now is making a deal with the Taliban in order to pull US out of Afghanistan so that he can claim to have kept a campaign promise, having failed to carry out most of them. And because of Pakistan’s patronage of the Taliban, Khan can make the Taliban make an agreement with the US.



Pak-based terrorists fought in Kashmir, JeM operates in India: Imran

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has acknowledged that some terrorists in Pakistan had fought in Kashmir while asserting that he had the army’s support for disarming them and for overtures to India.

Speaking at the US Institute of Peace in Washington on Tuesday, he tried to make the case that the army and the security forces were not patronising the terrorist groups and backed the crackdown, while letting slip about their role in Kashmir.

He also admitted that the Pakistan-based terror group Jaish-e-Mohammed was operating in India.

He said that because some of the terrorists were trained and had experience of fighting in Kashmir the police can’t handle them and the army’s help is required.

Khan said: “It was said normally that the security forces patronised the groups. We would not be disarming if the security forces were not standing behind us. You cannot disarm because the police is incapable of disarming these groups. They are trained, these people have experience of fighting in Afghanistan, some in Kashmir. The police cannot go after them, so it is the army that is helping us disarm all militant groups in our country.”

In a country where the military has ruled directly or from behind the scenes ensuring its hardline policies were followed and toppling elected governments there is skepticism about how far a civilian government can set the agenda.

Khan tried to dispel this notion where his elected civilian government was concerned, even in regard to India, and assert that he had the military’s backing.

But he stopped short of claiming that the military establishment was under civilian control as it should be in a democracy.

“Whatever our policies from the day we arrived, on peace with India, they were behind (me), when I decided to release the Indian pilot who had been shot down in Pakistan, the army was right behind me,” Khan said. “So today as we speak, you know, there is no difference between the policies of the Pakistan security forces or Pakistan’s democratic government”.

Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman was captured by Pakistan when his Mig-21 was shot down along the Kashmir border in the days after the Phulwama attack in February and returned to India.

He said that even before the Phulwama terrorist attack in which a convoy of Indian security forces were attacked by a car bomb, Pakistan had decided to disarm “all militant groups” and all the political parties had backed it.

“But because this group claimed responsibility, which was in India as well — Jaish-e-Mohammed was operating in India — Pakistan suddenly came in the limelight,” he said.

“Even before this had happened, we had already decided that we will disarm all militant groups in Pakistan. And it is Pakistan’s interest, I repeat it is in our interest, because the country has had enough of militant groups,” he added.

However, Khan tried to brush off the role of Pakistan-based terror groups in the Phulwama incident claiming that it was an indigenous attack by a “Kashmiri boy radicalised by the brutality of the security forces”.

Khan admitted that whenever there was progress in improving ties between India and Pakistan it was met by some incident that caused a reversal. But he did not say who was behind the incidents that setback peace.

He said, “Unfortunately because of one issue of Kashmir whenever we have tried, whenever our relationship has started to move in the right direction with India, some incident happens — and that is all related to Kashmir — we go back to square one.”

Khan claimed that two of the three former Foreign Ministers who had joined his party “told me that actually, they came pretty close in the time of General (Pervez) Musharraf and when (Atal Behari) Vajpayee was the Prime Minister of India, apparently they came pretty close, there was some sort of convergence on a phased movement on Kashmir, on various steps to be taken and over a period of time some sort of a referendum”.

He did not say who they were, but one of the former foreign ministers with him is Shah Mehmood Qureshi, who holds the portfolio now, and another is Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri, who was in office when Vajpayee was Prime Minister.

“Anyway, I don’t want to say anything right now because it is a delicate issue, but there is a solution and the solution has to be with the will of the people of Kashmir”, he added.



Rajnath Singh inaugurates two bridges in Jammu Kashmir

Defence minister Rajnath Singh on Saturday inaugurated two bridges in Kathua and Samba districts of Jammu and Kashmir during his daylong visit to the state.

A defence statement said on Saturday, “Ushering in a new revolution in the connectivity of roads and bridges in border areas, Rajnath Singh inaugurated the 1000 metre-long Ujh bridge in Kathua district and 617.40 metre-long Basantar bridge in Samba district today.

“The event was attended by MoS PMO Jitendra Singh, Army Chief General Bipin Rawat, Director General Border Roads Lt Gen Harpal Singh and many other Army and Civil administration dignitaries.

The 1000 metre long Ujh bridge is the longest bridge constructed by the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) and also has the distinction of using the technology of Pre Cast Segmental bridge with 60 metre spans. It has been constructed at a cost of around Rs. 50 crore. Basantar bridge has been constructed at a total cost of Rs 41.7 crore.

These bridges will provide smooth connectivity and are vital for the mobility of security forces in the border areas. They will be a big relief for the villagers of Kathua and Samba as road connectivity used to get affected during the monsoons.

Terming the construction of the Ujh and Basantpur bridges a great achievement by the BRO, the Defence Minister said that roads and bridges are the lifeline of any nation and play a vital role in the socio-economic development of far flung regions and population. He praised the BRO personnel for working in difficult areas, far away from their families and rendering commendable services through construction and maintenance of roads and bridges in border areas fulfilling the strategic need of the Indian Defence Forces. Reiterating the Central Government’s commitment to the development of connectivity in Jammu and Kashmir area, he said that “our Prime Minister is regularly monitoring the progress of these projects and funds are being ensured accordingly”.

“Jitender Singh also highlighted the development programme of Central government and PM Modi’s steps for boosting connectivity in the state.

“Lt Gen Harpal Singh, DG Border Roads Organisation underlined the contribution of BRO to the nation in far flung areas of the country under extremely difficult and harsh conditions.



Kashmir issue has no solution: Former External Affairs Min. Singh

Former External Affairs Minister Natwar Singh has said the Kashmir issue has no solution as the relation between India and Pakistan is “accident-prone”.

Speaking at the launch of the book “Indo-Pak Relations: Beyond Pulwama and Balakot” by U.V. Singh here on Thursday, the former Union Minister said the future of both countries lies in the past as they carry lot of baggage, finding it almost impossible to jettison.

He said one country’s victory will be another’s fall. “Pakistan is suffering from chronic inferiority complex when it comes to India,” Singh said.

Giving the example of International Court of Justice (ICJ) judgment in the Kulbhushan Jadhav case, Singh said the verdict was favourable to India (15:1) but Pakistan Foreign Minister said that it was favourable to them.

“They are not ready to concede anything in favour of India and this shows the mentality of ‘I don’t agree’,” he said.

He said India is not obsessed with Pakistan but Pakistan is obsessed with India.

The former Minister also said any decision of the Pakistani government needs an approval or disapproval of the Pakistani army.

Besides the army in Pakistan, Singh said the other factor was the ISI that needs to be consulted on every issue.



The latest UN human rights report on Jammu and Kashmir

The latest UN human rights report on Jammu and Kashmir, slammed by India as a “continuation of the earlier false and motivated narrative”, has several discrepancies that show up on closer reading and contradicts its own picture of Jammu and Kashmir as virtually bereft of human rights.

In its second report on Kashmir in 13 months, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) reiterates its accusations about the rising human rights violations and deaths of civilians between May 2018 and April 2019.

The report, released with former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet as the UN Human Rights Commissioner, draws its conclusions on the figures of civilian deaths and situation in the state mainly on the basis of reports by the Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS), and dismisses the Ministry of Home Affair’s lower figures on the number of civilians deaths, the number of injured and so on.

While it is critical of the human rights situation in Jammu and Kashmir, and terms the Armed Forces Special Powers Act as a key obstacle to accountability and the prosecution of armed forces personnel, on the other hand, it states clearly that the “quantity and quality of information available” on Jammu and Kashmir “contrasts significantly” to that available in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

On the Indian side, it notes: “Despite significant challenges, NGOs, human rights defenders and journalists are able to operate, generating documentation on the ongoing human rights violations there.”

However, in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, “restrictions on the freedoms of expression, opinion, peaceful assembly and association” as well as in Gilgit-Baltistan “have limited the ability of observers, including OHCHR, to assess the human rights situation there”.

It quotes the JKCCS to say that “around 160 civilians were killed in 2018, which is believed to be the highest number in over one decade”. It noted that the Union Ministry for Home Affairs claimed lower figures of “only 37 civilian” deaths.

While it is critical of the Indian security personnel, and points out that “no security forces personnel accused of torture or other forms of degrading and inhuman treatment have been prosecuted in a civilian court”, on the issue of “Abuses by Armed Groups” or by militants, it makes no comment.

It dismisses, in a single clinical sentence, the brutal killing on March 22 this year of 12-year-old Aatif Mir, who was held hostage by Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorists in Bandipora and subsequently killed.

Mir had applied for admission in Sainik School and Kendriya Vidyalaya and was keen to go to boarding school. The militants, who held him hostage during a gunfight, refused to let him go despite pleading by his mother and village seniors to release the boy. Kashmiris had condemned the killing of the boy by the terrorists, who, according to reports, had wanted to sexually abuse his sister, who had been helped to escape by the family.

On the militant groups threatening Kashmiris against participating in panchayat elections, which are the backbone of democracy and mark the grassroots participation of the people in governance, the report did not make any adverse comment against the threats or killings by the militant groups.

Its description of the Pulwama suicide bombing, that killed 40 Indian security personnel and brought India and Pakistan to the brink of an armed conflict, was equally clinical and non-committal. It does not mention the number of CRPF personnel killed in the initial part, but does so later down in an update.

The report takes care to mention Pakistan’s denial of every Indian allegation of Islamabad’s tacit complicity, and even its denial of the Jaish-e-Mohammad, which was behind the attack, of operating from Pakistani territory.

On Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, the OHCHR in its report highlights that the Interim Constitution “places several restrictions on anyone criticizing the region’s accession to Pakistan, in contravention of Pakistan’s commitments to uphold the rights to freedoms of expression and opinion, assembly and association”.

The amended Interim Constitution of 2018 has retained the clause, and the electoral law continues to disqualify anyone running for elected office who does not sign a declaration agreeing to the “State’s Accession to Pakistan”.

In Gilgit-Baltistan too, similar provisions exist that restrict the rights to freedoms of expression and opinion, assembly and association. “Members of nationalist and pro-independence political parties there claim that they regularly face threats, intimidation and even arrests for their political activities from local authorities or intelligence agencies,” it says.

It says journalists “continue to face threats and harassment in the course of carrying out their professional duties”. On the issue of enforced disappearances in the area, it says the OHCHR has received credible information of enforced disappearances of people, including those who were held in secret detention and those whose fate and whereabouts continue to remain unknown.

In its conclusions, the report says it has highlighted “serious human rights violations and patterns of impunity in Jammu and Kashmir”. However, on Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, where the report mentions significant human rights abuses, its language is kinder, terming it “significant human rights concerns”.

On its method to obtain information, it says the information used in the report “is available in the public domain, some of which was obtained by various parties in India through the Right to Information Act, and also reflects the findings of research and monitoring carried out by local, national and international non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and human rights defenders. Wherever possible, OHCHR has used official documents and statements, such as Parliamentary questions, court orders, and police reports”.

It says the OHCHR conducted a small number of confidential interviews to obtain or corroborate information and for expert opinions.

It also says that since OHCHR has been denied access to Jammu and Kashmir, “it was not possible to directly verify allegations”.

“OHCHR bases its factual findings on the ‘reasonable grounds’ standard of proof. This standard is met when a reliable body of information, consistent with other material, based on which a reasonable and ordinarily prudent person would have reason to believe that an incident or pattern of conduct had occurred,” it says.



India slams UN report on Kashmir as ‘false & motivated narrative’

After a UN human rights report on Jammu and Kashmir said the number of civilian casualties in the state since May 2018 could be the highest in over a decade, the Indian government on Monday trashed it as “a continuation of the earlier false and motivated narrative” on Kashmir.

Responding to the Update of the Report by the Office of the High Commission for Human Rights (OHCHR) on Jammu and Kashmir, which was released on Monday, Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) spokesperson Raveesh Kumar in a statement said: “The assertions by the UN body are in violation of India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and ignore the core issue of cross-border terrorism.”

He said in the report, the OHCHR “analysed” a situation created by years of cross-border terrorist attacks emanating from Pakistan without any reference to its causality.

The MEA termed the Update a “contrived effort to create an artificial parity between the world’s largest and most vibrant democracy and a country that openly practices state-sponsored terrorism”.

The Ministry spokesperson also voiced “deep concern” that the report “seems to accord a legitimacy to terrorism that is in complete variance with UN Security Council positions”.

He said that the UN Security Council had in February 2019, strongly condemned the dastardly Pulwama terror attack and subsequently proscribed Masood Azhar, the self styled leader of terrorist entity Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM).

“However, in the Update, terrorist leaders and organisations sanctioned by the UN are deliberately underplayed as ‘armed groups’,” he added.

He slammed the OHCHR for “distorting India’s policies, practices and values”, which undermined the credibility of the UN body.

“Its failure to recognise an independent judiciary, human rights institutions and other mechanisms in the Indian state of Jammu & Kashmir that safeguard, protect and promote constitutionally guaranteed fundamental rights to all citizens of India is unpardonable,” the spokesperson said.

“Even more so, as it belittles constitutional provisions, statutory procedures and established practices in an established functioning democracy.

“The legitimisation of terrorism has been further compounded by an unacceptable advocacy of the dismemberment of a UN member State,” he said and added that the entire state of Kashmir was an integral part of India.

“Pakistan is in illegal and forcible occupation of a part of the Indian state, including the so-called ‘Azad Jammu and Kashmir’ and ‘Gilgit-Baltistan’, through aggression. We have repeatedly called on Pakistan to vacate these occupied territories,” he said.

According to the UN OHCHR report, tensions in Kashmir, which rose sharply after the Pulwama suicide bombing in February, “continue to have a severe impact on the human rights of civilians, including the right to life”.

Quoting data gathered by the local civil society, the Update said that “around 160 civilians were killed in 2018, which is believed to be the highest number in over a decade”.

It alleged that the Union Ministry for Home Affairs published “lower casualty figures, citing 37 civilians, 238 terrorists and 86 security forces personnel killed in the 11 months up to 2 December 2018”.

“Of the 160 civilian deaths reported by local organisations, 71 were allegedly killed by Indian security forces, 43 by alleged members of armed groups or by unidentified gunmen, and 29 were reportedly killed due to shelling and firing by Pakistani troops in areas along the Line of Control. According to the Government of Pakistan, a further 35 civilians were killed and 135 injured on the Pakistan side of the Line of Control due to shelling and firing by Indian forces during 2018,” it said.

Raveesh Kumar said: “India has registered strong protest regarding the Update with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.”

“The release of such an Update has not only called into question the seriousness of OHCHR but also its alignment with the larger approach of the United Nations,” he added.

“The Government of India follows the policy of zero tolerance towards terrorism and will take all measures to protect its territorial integrity and sovereignty against cross-border terrorism. Motivated attempts to weaken our national resolve will never succeed.”



Jammu and Kashmir government suspends rapid water rafting

The  government on Friday suspended rapid water rafting in the valley’s Lidder and Sindh streams.

An order issued by the director tourism said till a proper safety mechanism is put in place rafting in the two streams will remain suspended.

The suspension order was issued after two fatal accidents occurred during rafting expeditions in the Lidder stream of Pahalgam area.

On June 1, a tourist guide, Rouf Ahmad Dar died while saving the five tourists during a rafting accident in Lidder.

On June 18, two people including a tourism department employee were killed in another rafting accident in the same stream.



‘No evidence of Lanka bombers getting trained in Kashmir’

Reacting sharply to Sri Lankan Army chief Mahesh Senanayake’s statement that some of the 12 suicide bombers who carried out the Easter Sunday bombings were trained in Kashmir, a top intelligence officer here said that there was no input to prove the claim.

Speaking to IANS, the officer, who did not wish to be named, said: “We have no such information. The Sri Lankan intelligence has not sent us any input on this so that we can work on those links.

“As far as our information and inputs are concerned, there is nothing to prove that any of the suicide bombers involved in the attacks in Sri Lanka had visited Kashmir in connection with any subversive activity or for obtaining terror training.”

Backing the officer’s statement, a Union Home Ministry official said, “Sri Lanka hasn’t shared any such information with us. More importantly, Sri Lankan security agencies have themselves ruled out this possibility after investigation.”

There have been instances in the past when foreign militants, other than those belonging to Pakistan, got involved in militant activities in Kashmir.

Militants from Afghanistan, Sudan and even Chechnya have been killed by the security forces in Kashmir in the last 32 years. However, there have been no militancy-related incidents proving the involvement of Sri Lankan militants here.



Choose wisely; Omar cautions Jammu and Kashmir voters

Former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah on Thursday urged the people of Jammu and Kashmir to vote wisely as those chosen for the new Lok Sabha will have to espouse their concerns for the next five years.

“To all the voters in Baramulla, Kupwara and Bandipore districts, please go out and vote. Your vote is an opportunity to choose a representative who will espouse our causes and fight our fights in the Lok Sabha for the next five years. So choose wisely,” he tweeted.

Jammu and Baramulla saw voting on Thursday in the first phase of the Lok Sabha elections.



UN ignores Imran Khan’s claim on Kashmir annexation

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s assertion that India was going to “annex” Kashmir has failed to evoke any reaction from the UN’s leadership.

Asked during a briefing on Tuesday by a Pakistani journalist for reactions on Khan’s statement, Secretary General Antonio Guterres’s spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said: “I have not seen those comments and we tend not to comment on things that have not happened.”

General Assembly President Maria Fernanda Espinosa’s spokesperson Monica Grayley said: “On your particular question today, I don’t have any comment.”

She added: “But we will recall that Espinosa visited both countries and a few weeks ago, when we had tensions in the region she asked for calm and constructive dialogue.”

Espinosa had visited India in August before she took over as the President of the General Assembly, and Pakistan in January after she assumed the office.

Khan had linked Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s pledge to annex Israeli settlements on the occupied West Bank to Bharatiya Janata Party manifesto’s proposal to end the special status for Kashmir under Article 370 of the Indian Constitution and called them election ploys.