India’s top court to examine change in Kashmir’s status

India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) said the decision to abolish Article 370 had been taken in the “larger national interest.” (AFP)
Updated 28 August 2019

India’s top court to examine change in Kashmir’s status

  • 5-judge bench set up to hear challenges to Article 370 abrogation

The Supreme Court of India on Wednesday set up a five-judge constitutional bench to hear challenges to the controversial scrapping of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status and its division into two states.

The bench refused to accept Indian government legal arguments that the move might have “cross-border repercussions” and was “liable to be misused.”

The court also cleared the way for the general secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) to visit Jammu and Kashmir and will hear a representation relating to the curbing of press freedoms in the valley from executive editor of the Kashmir Times, Anuradha Bhasin Jamwal.

Shehla Rashid, leader of a newly formed Jammu and Kashmir political movement, said the court’s move was the “first step in the long battle against (Article) 370 abrogation.”

Advocate S. C. Gupta, a constitutional expert based in Jammu, told Arab News: “Article 370 has been removed without consultation, without the concurrence of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. If the Supreme Court reinstates Article 370 it would be a victory for democracy.

“The way Article 370 has been removed from the constitution, amounts to bulldozing the constitution. The voice of the people of Jammu and Kashmir is being suppressed with all the might of the state,” Gupta said.

He added that “democracy is at stake now. The Supreme Court is an important pillar of democracy and it has to assert its role. The court should look into the matter of whether Parliament really functioned in a democratic manner when the special status of Jammu and Kashmir was removed.”

Delhi-based political expert and journalist Urmilesh Singh said that in the past the court had succumbed to political pressure but its “guiding principle is the constitution. I believe that the court will act according to the constitutional provisions.”

He added: “The way Article 370 has been made ineffective, the question arises can you nullify it (Article 370) without taking the consent of the state assembly? Can the governor who is an appointee of New Delhi be the voice of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, and can he recommend the abrogation of Article 370 on behalf of the state?

“I feel the government’s decision is unconstitutional, illegal and politically unwise.”

Prof. Apoorvanand of the University of Delhi questioned the wisdom of the Supreme Court and the delay in taking up the issue when the “voices of the people of a whole state are being muzzled.”

He described the decision to set up the bench as too little too late and told Arab News: “The situation warrants immediate attention but that does not reflect in the response of the Supreme Court. Essentially the sensitivity of the Indian state is being held paramount against the will of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, which concerns all of us.”

Apoorvanand also questioned the court’s silence over the issue of the detention of hundreds of political and civil activists. “By the time the court takes a call, much water and much blood must have flown down, which the people of India will not see because the Indian media is not interested in showing the reality.”

India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) said the decision to abolish Article 370 had been taken in the “larger national interest.”

Young BJP leader, Pappu Nirala, said: “By removing Article 370 the party wants to strengthen the unity of the country. We want to integrate the people of Jammu and Kashmir into the national mainstream. Whatever curbs have been imposed in the state are to avoid any untoward incidents and killings.”

Hong Kong police warn of ‘live fire’ if they face deadly weapons from protesters

Updated 17 November 2019

Hong Kong police warn of ‘live fire’ if they face deadly weapons from protesters

  • Protests have tremored through the global financial hub since June
  • China has repeatedly warned that it will not tolerate the dissent

HONG KONG: Hong Kong police Monday warned for the first time that they may use “live rounds” after pro-democracy protesters fired arrows and threw petrol bombs at officers at a beseiged university campus, as the crisis engulfing the city veered deeper into danger.
Protests have tremored through the global financial hub since June, with many in the city of 7.5 million people venting fury at eroding freedoms under Chinese rule.
China has repeatedly warned that it will not tolerate the dissent, and there have been concerns that Beijing could send in troops to put an end to the spiralling unrest.
Three protesters have been shot by armed police in the unrelenting months of protests. But all in scuffles as chaotic street clashes played out — and without such warnings being given.
A day of intense clashes, which saw a police officer struck in the leg by an arrow and protesters meet police tear gas with volleys of petrol bombs, intensified as night fell.
Clashes rolled across Kowloon, with the epicenter around the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU), where scores of defiant demonstrators set large fires to prevent police from conducting a threatened raid on the campus.
They hunkered down under umbrellas from occasional fire from water cannon and hurled molotov cocktails at an armored police vehicle, leaving it ablaze on a flyover near the campus.
Police declared the campus a “riot” scene — a rioting conviction carries up to 10 years in jail — and blocked exits as spokesman Louis Lau issued a stark warning in a Facebook live broadcast.
“I hereby warn rioters not to use petrol bombs, arrows, cars or any deadly weapons to attack police officers,” he said.
“If they continue such dangerous actions, we would have no choice but to use the minimum force necessary, including live rounds, to fire back.”
Police said they fired at a car late Sunday that had driven at a line of officers near the campus — but the vehicle reversed and escaped.
Protesters at the campus appeared resolute — a twist in tactics by a leaderless movement so far defined by its fluid, unpredictable nature.
“I feel scared. There’s no way out, all I can do is fight to the end,” said one protester joining the barricade in front of the university building.
“We need a base to keep our gear and have some rest at night before another fight in the morning,” another called Kason, 23, told AFP.
On Sunday, activists parried attempts by police to break through into the PolyU campus, firing rocks from a homemade catapult from the university roof, while an AFP reporter saw a team of masked archers — several carrying sports bows — patrolling the campus.
Violence has worsened in recent days, with two men killed in separate incidents linked to the protests this month.
Chinese President Xi Jinping this week issued his most strident comments on the crisis, saying it threatened the “one country, two systems” model under which Hong Kong has been ruled since the 1997 handover from Britain.
Demonstrators last week engineered a “Blossom Everywhere” campaign of blockades and vandalism, which forced the police to draft in prison officers as reinforcements, shut down large chunks of Hong Kong’s train network and close schools and shopping malls.
The movement, characterised by its fluidity and unpredictability, has started to coagulate in fixed locations, showing the protesters’ ability to switch tactics.
The protests started against a now-shelved bill to allow extradition to China but have billowed to encompass wider issues such as perceived police brutality and calls for universal suffrage in the former British colony.
The financial hub has been nudged into a recession by the unrelenting turmoil.
A poster circulating on social media called for the “dawn action” to continue on Monday.
“Get up early, directly target the regime, squeeze the economy to increase pressure,” it said.
The education bureau said schools will remain closed again on Monday.
Earlier on Sunday, dozens of government supporters gathered to clear barricades near the university campus — a sign of the divisions slicing through the city.
Many residents are wearied by the sapping protests. Others support the Chinese-backed city government.
Some applauded a Saturday clean-up by Chinese troops from a garrison of the People’s Liberation Army in Kowloon.
The garrison is usually confined to the barracks under Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, although it can be deployed at the request of the city’s government to help with public order breakdown or natural disasters.
Hong Kong’s government, which presides over a city that enjoys greater freedoms than the mainland, said it did not ask the PLA for help on Saturday.
The choreographed troop movement “has only compounded the impression that Beijing has simply ignored” Hong Kong’s unique political system, said analyst Dixon Sing.