Kashmiris fear India wants ‘to make us a minority in our land’

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Kashmiris fear India is trying to turn them into a minority by removing the "special status" of Jammu and Kashmir state. (AP file photo)
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Kashmiris walk past a blockade put up by residents in Srinagar ahead of the Eid-al-Adha prayers during restrictions after the scrapping of the special constitutional status for Kashmir by the Indian government. (Reuters)
Updated 14 August 2019

Kashmiris fear India wants ‘to make us a minority in our land’

  • Bone of contention is New Delhi’s revocation of special status for Jammu and Kashmir state

SRINAGAR: Kashmiris are fearing demographic change following the revocation of Article 370 of the constitution.

Article 370 gave exclusive land rights to the people of Kashmir and blocked outsiders from seeking jobs and settlement in the state. 

However, people in the valley are apprehensive about the intent of New Delhi after the government removed the special status on Aug. 5.

“There can be no doubt that the Indian government is planning demographic change in the valley,” said Altaf Hussain, a Srinagar-based political analyst and journalist.

“Immediately after the removal of the article, thousands of Hindus — who migrated from Pakistan and have been living without voting rights in the Jammu region — were entitled to exercise their franchise.

“Kashmir is a Muslim majority state, which should be maintained by the Indian union. But the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), along with its patron Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), wants to create a Hindu nation. It intends to change the demography of the state through the legislative change,” added Hussain.

He told Arab News that “the BJP has been talking about a Hindu chief minister for the state. I’m sure sooner or later the ruling party will initiate the project of turning Jammu and Kashmir into a Muslim minority state. India has gone back on its promise of giving the people a special status. There must be a larger agenda to this turnaround.”

Professor Sheikh Showkat from the Central University of Kashmir said: “The demography of the state has been changing since 1947. In Jammu City, the Muslim population was 37 percent, now it is 7 percent.”

“Hindu radical groups like the RSS want the same changes. Its chief Mohan Bhagwat has been saying that the only solution to the Kashmir problem is the change in the demography of the state,” Showkat said.

He added that “a few weeks ago, the governor of the state said that Kashmir is an integral part of India and whoever is happy with that can remain there and whoever has problem can migrate. My fear is that there is a larger design of ethnic cleansing in the valley.

“It seems that this government has created an iron curtain around Kashmir. With the restrictions in place, we don’t know what is happening in other parts of the valley.”

HIGHLIGHTS

• People in the valley are worried about the intent of New Delhi after the government removed the special status on Aug. 5.

• A group of civil society activists from Delhi condemned ‘the decision of the government to abrogate Article 370 and put the entire state under deep pain.’

Showkat said the “language used in the Parliament by Home Minister Amit Shah and his colleagues was not appropriate for a statesman. We fear this kind of abrasive behavior.”

Tabrez Alam, a Srinagar-based trader, said: “This government has pursued Muslims since 2014. Look at how the minority community is being harassed in different parts of the country. Lynching has become regular news.

“Muslim majority Jammu and Kashmir is an eyesore to the BJP regime. They want to bring in outsiders to this state and make us a minority in our land. We have to be really alert on this.”

On Tuesday, a group of civil society activists from Delhi visited Srinagar and “condemned the decision of the government to abrogate Article 370 and put the entire state under deep pain.”

The activists — Jean Drèze, a famous Indian economist; Kavita Krishnan of the All India Progressive Women’s Association; Maimoona Mollah, vice president of the All India Democratic Women’s Association; Vimal Bhai of the National Alliance of People’s Movement —  said in a statement: “The people of Jammu and Kashmir must be allowed to express their protest and gags on them must be lifted.”

They said: “What we call the Indian government is a BJP government, and this Hindu organization is implementing its agenda in the valley.

Vimal added: “The whole state is a prison under military control. As an Indian citizen I reject the Indian government’s treatment of the people of the valley.”

He told the press that the BJP wants to undermine the Muslim majority state and change its character.

“This has been an old policy of the RSS and we should resist any attempt to alter the character and demography of the state.”

Krishnan said: “It pains us to see the restrictions and blanket ban on the democratic rights of the Kashmiri people.

“The government and its embedded media are spreading false propaganda of normalcy in the state. The truth is completely opposite. Right-thinking Indians should save Kashmir from the majoritarian design of the Narendra Modi regime. We should not allow a new Palestine to come up in South Asia.”

Kashmir-based leader Atlaf Thakur said that “fear-mongering should not be allowed to spread.”

He added that “the only agenda the BJP government is working on is to develop the state economically and promote a new political culture in Jammu and Kashmir.”


Euro MPs set seal on Brexit in emotional vote

Updated 29 January 2020

Euro MPs set seal on Brexit in emotional vote

  • The UK will leave the EU at midnight Brussels time (2300 GMT) on Friday

BRUSSELS: Britain’s departure from the European Union was set in law Wednesday, amid emotional scenes, as the bloc’s parliament voted to ratify the divorce papers.
After half a century of sometimes awkward membership and three years of tense withdrawal talks, the UK will leave the EU at midnight Brussels time (2300 GMT) on Friday.
MEPs voted by 621 votes to 49 to pass the withdrawal agreement, which sees Britain leave the EU institutions but remain under most EU rules during a transition until the end of the year.
Following the vote, MEPs burst into a chorus of “Auld Lang Syne,” a traditional Scottish song of farewell.
The transition will see Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government try to negotiate an ambitious free trade agreement with his 27 former partners remaining in the bloc.
“Only in the agony of parting do we look into the depth of love,” EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen told the chamber, quoting British author George Eliot.
“We will always love you and we will never be far. Long live Europe.”
In the Brussels parliament, many MEPs made it clear that they were voting for the withdrawal deal not out of any support for Brexit, but to avoid the disruption of a chaotic no deal divorce.
Some expressed real anguish and regret, and pointed to Britain’s role not only in the development of the European unification project but also to its historic battles against tyranny on the continent.
“If we could stop Brexit by voting ‘no’ today I would be the first to recommend it,” former Belgian premier and chairman of the parliament’s Brexit steering group Guy Verhofstadt said.
The day began with Britain’s permanent representative to the EU Tim Barrow — from Saturday to be its ambassador — handing back the withdrawal agreement signed by Johnson, to be stored in Brussels.
It was an emotional day in the chamber, steeped in a mixture of nostalgia, political carnival and historical metaphor.
Nigel Farage, veteran MEP and leader of Britain’s Brexit Party, was in triumphant mood after two decades as a thorn in Brussels’ side.
After his final speech in parliament, in which he described Brexit as a victory for populism over “globalism,” Farage and his MEPs brandished British flags, in contravention of the rules, then left before returning to vote.
Earlier, Farage said he had loved playing the “pantomime villain” in the Strasbourg assembly, feeding opposition to Europe at home with theatrical YouTube clips.
But he insisted on the seriousness of Brexit, comparing its significance to king Henry VIII taking Britain out of the Catholic church in 1534.
“He took us out of the Church of Rome, and we are leaving the Treaty of Rome,” he said, referring to the EU’s 1957 founding document.
The historic vote to incorporate the withdrawal agreement into EU law was the last legislative act of the 73 remaining British MEPs, and departure was hard for some.
Iratxe Garcia Perez, the Spanish leader of the Socialist group, choked back tears as she said farewell to her British Labour Party comrades.
After Brexit the United Kingdom will be what the EU calls a “third country,” outside the union, but the political and economic drama will continue.
Britain and Europe will apply EU rules on trade and free movement of citizens until the end of the year, while negotiating a free trade agreement.
In the face of skepticism in EU capitals, Johnson — who will make an address to the nation at 10:00 p.m. London time on Friday — insists he is optimistic that a comprehensive free trade deal can be done before the next cliff-edge.
In an online question and answer on Wednesday Johnson said he would be celebrating on Friday, but in a “dignified” way.
“It is a great moment for our country, it is a moment of hope and opportunity but it is also, I think, a moment for us to come together in a spirit of confidence,” he said.
But negotiations between the world’s sixth biggest economy and a 27-nation single market with a population of 450 million will be tricky.
Fishing rights, residency and working rights for citizens, tariff free trade, access to Europe for Britain’s huge services sector: all will be on the table.
“We are considering a free trade agreement with zero tariffs and zero quotas. This would be unique. No other free trade agreement offers such access to our single market,” von der Leyen said.
“But the pre-condition is that European and British businesses continue to compete on a level playing field. We will not expose our companies to unfair competition,” she warned, to applause.
Johnson’s government hopes more trade with the United States and Asian powers can help offset the costs of Brexit.
But the British premier was facing difficult talks on Thursday with President Donald Trump’s secretary of state Mike Pompeo.
Trump backed Brexit, but Washington opposed Johnson’s decision to allow Chinese telecoms giant to work on Britain’s 5G telecoms network despite security fears.

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