Govt bars India’s opposition from visiting Kashmir

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Kashmiris living in Bangalore protest on Aug. 24, 2019 to seek an end to the communication blockade in Indian-controlled Kashmir. (AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi)
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Indian paramilitary soldiers stand guard near a temporary checkpoint during lockdown in Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir, Friday, Aug. 23, 2019. (AP)
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A security personnel stands guard in front of closed shops in Srinagar on August 23, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 25 August 2019

Govt bars India’s opposition from visiting Kashmir

  • The local administration had warned the opposition leaders on Friday evening not to come, as it might raise tensions
  • Communication blockades continue and people of the region are still cut off from the rest of the world

NEW DELHI: A delegation of senior opposition leaders, including Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, were detained at Srinagar Airport and sent back to New Delhi on Saturday, when they tried to visit the Kashmir Valley.

The 11-member delegation representing eight parties had planned to visit various parts of Kashmir to get a sense of the situation in the area.

The local administration had warned the opposition leaders on Friday evening not to come, as it might raise tensions.

As soon as Gandhi and other opposition leaders landed, security forces surrounded them and did not allow them to leave the airport.

There are reports that members of the media were manhandled when they tried to follow the politicians.

“We wanted to get a sense of what people are going through, but we weren’t allowed beyond the airport,” Gandhi said.

“People with us were mishandled, beaten. It’s clear that the situation in Jammu and Kashmir isn’t normal,” Gandhi told the media after returning from Srinagar.

The Communist Party of India in a statement said: “The denial of entry to well-known leaders of recognized political parties is an outright attack on the rights of political parties to meet and address their constituents.”

It added that the plan of the delegation was “to visit various parts of the state over the next few days, talking to various people and sections of the populace and shades of political opinion to ascertain the situation existing on the ground and the difficulties that they are encountering as a result of the shutdown in the Kashmir Valley.”

Kashmir has been under security lockdown since Aug. 5, the day when the Indian government rescinded Article 370 that gave a special autonomous status to Jammu and Kashmir under the Indian constitution. 

Jammu and Kashmir Gov. Satyapal Malik doubted the opposition’s intentions and said that they wanted to “aggravate the situation” through their visit.

“If Rahul Gandhi wants to aggravate the situation and come here to repeat the lie he told in Delhi, it is not good,” Malik told the media in Srinagar.

The situation remains tense even three weeks after the abrogation of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir. Schools, colleges and businesses remain shut despite a government’s order to reopen them.

Communication blockades continue and people of the region are still cut off from the rest of the world.

Traffic movement has increased on major roads but round the clock vigilance by security personnel continues with paramilitaries manning key strategic points across Srinagar.

“In south Kashmir — be it Pulwama, Shopian or Anantnag — life is at a standstill. People are living in fear because of the random arrests by the security forces,” Manzoor Ul Hassan, a Srinagar-based journalist said.

A government official in Srinagar told Arab News: “We have asked people to start resuming normal life but that is not happening.”


Most overrated? Ex-US defense chief Mattis laughs off Trump insult at charity gala

Updated 9 min 30 sec ago

Most overrated? Ex-US defense chief Mattis laughs off Trump insult at charity gala

  • Trump demeaned Mattis as “the world’s most overrated general" when pressed about his unpopular Syria pullout decision
  • Mattis resigned as defense secretary last December after Trump said he intended to pull 2,000 American troops out of Syria
NEW YORK: Former US Defense Secretary James Mattis is laughing off an insult hurled at him by President Donald Trump.
Speaking at a New York charity event Thursday the day after Trump demeaned him as “the world’s most overrated general,” Mattis joked that he took it as a compliment.
“I’m not just an overrated general. I’m the greatest, the world’s most overrated,” he told diners at the annual Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner.
“I’m honored to be considered that by Donald Trump because he also called Meryl Streep an overrated actress,” he said. “So I guess I’m the Meryl Streep of generals, and frankly that sounds pretty good to me.”
Trump lashed out at his former defense secretary Wednesday, during a contentious White House meeting with members of Congress.
The meeting was intended to be a bipartisan discussion of Trump’s decision to pull US forces from northern Syria, but it broke up after a testy exchange between Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Before the walkout, Trump disparaged Mattis, who had argued as defense secretary that US troops were needed in Syria to prevent a resurgence of Islamic State fighters.
Trump said Mattis was “the world’s most overrated general. You know why? He wasn’t tough enough.”
“I captured Daesh,” Trump went on to say.
Mattis resigned as defense secretary last December after Trump said he intended to pull 2,000 American troops out of Syria. In his resignation letter, the retired Marine general told Trump he had “the right to have a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned with yours.”
Since then, he has largely refrained from criticizing the administration publicly, saying he owed the commander in chief “a duty of silence.”
But he did save a zinger for Trump at the laughter-filled gala, saying the “overrated” moniker didn’t bother him.
“I earned my spurs on the battlefield ... and Donald Trump earned his spurs in a letter from a doctor,” Mattis joked.
On a serious note, Mattis alluded to Trump’s decision to have US troops stand down in Syria, clearing the way for Turkey to launch an offensive against Kurdish forces who had been US allies in the fight against the Daesh group. On Thursday, the US and Turkey agreed to a five-day cease-fire that requires the Kurdish fighters to vacate, largely solidifying Turkey’s position in the region.
“We owe a debt to all who fought for liberty, including those who tonight serve in the far corners of our planet, among them the American men and women supporting our Kurdish allies,” Mattis said.
The annual gala draws luminaries from finance and politics. Hosted by Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the archbishop of New York, the benefit is named after a former New York governor who was the first Catholic to receive a major party nomination for president in 1928, before losing the general election.