Thousands detained in Indian Kashmir crackdown, official data reveals

Indian security personnel stand guard on a deserted street in Jammu on Monday. Photo: Reuters
Updated 12 September 2019
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Thousands detained in Indian Kashmir crackdown, official data reveals

  • Bulk of those arrested - more than 3,000 - were listed as “stone pelters and other miscreants”
  • Data for the first time shows the extent of the detentions

SRINAGAR/NEW DELHI: Authorities in Indian administered Kashmir have arrested nearly 4,000 thousand people since the scrapping of its special status last month, government data shows, the most clear evidence yet of the scale of one of the disputed region's biggest crackdowns.
Muslim-majority Kashmir, claimed by both India and Pakistan, has been in turmoil since India stripped its portion of the region of its autonomy and statehood on Aug. 5, leading to clashes between security forces and residents and inflaming tension with Pakistan.
India said the removal of the status that its part of Kashmir has held since independence from Britain in 1947 would help integrate it into the Indian economy, to the benefit of all.
In an attempt to stifle the protests that the reform sparked in Kashmir, India cut internet and mobile services and imposed curfew-like restrictions in many areas.
It has also arrested more than 3,800 people, according to a government report dated Sept. 6 and seen by Reuters, though about 2,600 have since been released.
A spokeswoman for India's interior ministry did not respond to a request for comment. Neither did Jammu and Kashmir police.
It was not clear on what basis most of the people were being held but an Indian official said some were held under the Public Safety Act, a law in Jammu and Kashmir state that allows for detention for up to two years without charge.
The data for the first time shows the extent of the detentions, as well as indicating who was picked up and where.
More than 200 politicians, including two former chief ministers of the state, were arrested, along with more than 100 leaders and activists from an umbrella organisation of pro-separatist political groups.
The bulk of those arrested - more than 3,000 - were listed as "stone pelters and other miscreants". On Sunday, 85 detainees were shifted to a prison in Agra in northern India, a police source said.
Rights group Amnesty International said the crackdown was "distinct and unprecedented" in the recent history of the region and the detentions had contributed to "widespread fear and alienation".
"The communication blackout, security clampdown, and detention of the political leaders in the region has made it worse," said Aakar Patel, head of Amnesty International India.

'RIGHT TO LIFE'
India says the detentions are necessary to maintain order and prevent violence, and points to the relatively limited number of casualties compared with previous bouts of unrest.
The government says only one person is confirmed to have died compared with dozens in 2016 when the killing of a militant leader sparked widespread violence.
"The right to life is the most important human right," India's national security adviser Ajit Doval told reporters recently.
The report contains data from the 13 police districts that make up the Kashmir Valley, the most populous part of the Himalayan region where the main city of Srinagar is located.
The largest number of arrests have been in Srinagar, the data shows, at nearly 1,000. Earlier unrest often centered in rural areas.
Of the detained political leaders, more than 80 were from the People's Democratic Party, formerly in coalition in Jammu and Kashmir state with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.
About 70 are from the National Conference, which has for years dominated politics in Indian administered Kashmir, and more than a dozen from India's main opposition Congress party.
Police also arrested more than 150 people accused of association with militant groups fighting Indian rule.
An Indian official said it was likely that more than 1,200 people were still held, including all the high-profile politicians and separatists mentioned in the report, while dozens more are being arrested every day.
In the 24 hours before the report was compiled, more than two dozen people were arrested, mainly on suspicion of throwing stones at troops, the data showed.
The data did not include those under informal house arrest, nor people detained in a round-up of separatists that began in February after a bomb attack by a Pakistan-based militant group on Indian troops.
Days before India's move to strip Kashmir of special status, one prominent separatist leader told Reuters that more than 250 people with links to the movement were already in detention.
 


Pakistan’s health care facility at Torkham border a big leap for Afghans

Updated 17 September 2019
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Pakistan’s health care facility at Torkham border a big leap for Afghans

  • Prime Minister Imran Khan will officially inaugurate the hospital on Wednesday
  • Afghan patients will no longer have to travel to other Pakistani cities for medical treatment, official says

PESHAWAR: Afghan nationals on Tuesday praised the Pakistani government for setting up an advanced medical facility at Zero Point on Torkham border crossing, saying it would serve many people who required medical assistance in their country.
Syed Bilal Hussain, media officer to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s health minister, told Arab News that the government would encourage Afghans to benefit from the “health care city in the border district of Khyber.”
“Afghan patients will no longer need to travel to other Pakistani cities for medical treatment because the Pak-Afghan Healthcare Referral Facility on Torkham border contains state-of-the-art paraphernalia. There are also highly qualified medical practitioners and surgeons who will treat the patients,” he said.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan will formally inaugurate the facility at Zero Point on Wednesday.
Yasir Hikmat, an Afghan national studying BS Computer Sciences at the COMSATS University Abbottabad, described the hospital as a brilliant step by the administration in Islamabad that would benefit poor patients who could not afford to travel to big Pakistani cities.
“This is a noble thing to do and will built ties between the two governments and their people. I pray this hospital lives up to the expectations of Afghan patients and offers them medical treatment for all disease under one roof,” he said while talking to Arab News.
Hikmat added the hospital would be more successful if Pakistan eases the visa regime for ailing Afghans who needed to travel on medical grounds.
Hussain said the vibrant Out Patient Department (OPD) at the hospital would function diligently to facilitate patients on a priority basis.
“The facility has a laboratory and labor room along with ultrasound and electrocardiogram (ECG) facilities,” he added.
Kiftan Bacha, an Afghan trader who frequently uses the Torkham border crossing, lauded Pakistan for establishing the spacious health care facility.
“It is really commendable,” he said. “Roughly 400 Afghan patients cross the border every day to get treatment at Pakistani hospitals. It was also a good idea since there is no such facility within the 15-kilometer radius of the Zero Point.”
However, he suggested that patients who reached the hospital should be treated by doctors even if they did not possess passports, visas or other legal documents.
Hussain expressed his optimism that the hospital would also positively impact the Pak-Afghan relations on political and diplomatic levels.
“We want to promote medical tourism from Afghanistan,” he informed. “The health care city will function under public-private partnership and provide wide ranging medical facilities.”
Sayed Alauddin, another Afghan student at the Department of Optometry in the Hayat Medical Complex (HMC) in Peshawar, noted that Afghan patients faced tough challenges while reaching Pakistani hospitals, adding that this facility would offer them huge relief.
“This will be a great service to ailing Afghans,” he said, “because the hospital on the border will help save time and money of poor patients.”