Activists call for 'restoration of democracy' in Kashmir

In this file photo, a Kashmiri man sits in front of closed shops during a lockdown at Anchar Soura in Srinagar on Sept. 26, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 06 December 2019

Activists call for 'restoration of democracy' in Kashmir

  • Say 40,000 people have been detained so far
  • Indian government maintains the situation in Kashmir is normal

DELHI: As four months have passed since the special status of Jammu and Kashmir has been revoked, civil society activists from different parts of India called on Thursday for the “restoration of democracy” and an end to “human rights violations” in Kashmiri territory.
In a special press conference in New Delhi, the activists narrated their recent experiences in Jammu and Kashmir and how their pro-democracy march from Jammu to Srinagar was foiled by authorities.
“More than 50 activists started the ‘restoration of democracy’ march from Jammu to Srinagar on Nov. 26, but police did not allow us to go beyond Jammu and created lots of hurdle,” said Sandeep Pandey, a prominent social activist, internationally recognized for his work for the empowerment of marginalized communities.
“There were people from all walks of life in the march and they really wanted to see the situation in the valley. But only five managed to reach Srinagar,” he said.
“What we saw in Srinagar was only suffering and silence by force. Contrary to the claims by the government in Delhi, there is no normalcy in the valley. Shops open only for a few hours, only teachers are attending school, children on the streets feel suffocated in the heavy presence of security forces and Internet lockdown,” Pandey told Arab News.
On Dec. 5, four month have passed since Article 370 of the Indian constitution, which granted special autonomous status to Jammu and Kashmir, was repealed.
On Aug. 5, in a sudden move the the Indian government annulled the special status of India’s only Muslim-dominated state and bifurcated the region into two centrally administered union territories (UT) – Buddhist-dominated Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir. A UT is a half-baked state where the elected government has limited authority and a New Delhi-appointed lieutenant governor (LG) enjoys overriding power.
The Indian government maintains the situation is normal.
On Nov. 20, Home Minister Amit Shah told the parliament “there is no curfew in the valley and the situation in the region is normal.” Internet networks would be restored when the local authorities decide to so keeping security in mind as “there are activities by Pakistan in Kashmir region,” Shah said.
On Nov. 30, the minister told a group of businessmen in Mumbai that “the situation in the valley is normal and industrialists should visit the state to see the real situation there.”
Activists from Kashmir and Delhi, however, have not witnessed normalcy in the region.
Bilal Khan, the president of Jammu and Kashmir-based Haq Insaf Party came all the way from Jammu to speak to the media in Delhi. “There is no outlet to express oneself in Srinagar and Jammu. Kashmir has become a graveyard of democracy,” he said.
“The press is not allowed freedom and politicians are not given liberty to interact with the people and media,” Khan told the Delhi press conference and added that the situation in Jammu is as bad as in Srinagar. “We cannot practice politics there also. This part of Kashmir has never seen such a huge presence of security forces as it is witnessing now”.
Jammu-based activist and president of Jammu and Kashmir Forum for Peace and Territorial Integrity of the State, I.D. KHajjuria, said that contrary to popular perception, people in Jammu were very unhappy about the abrogation of Article 370. “They have lost 70 to 80 percent of their businesses because of the clampdown in the valley for the last four months. Jammu has been heavily dependent on the valley for its business.”
He said that in Jammu, just like in the Kashmir Valley, people feared the entry of outsiders into their land as the State of Jammu and Kashmir has been stripped of its special status. “I don’t see the situation improving soon.”
Rajendran Narayanan, a Delhi-based activist who marched up to Srinagar said “the situation is so bad that people are being stopped by the security forces from interacting with activists like us.”
“I was almost arrested when I was interacting with an old man near Srinagar. The old man was so angry with the situation that he vented his anger, but the police came and stopped me and wanted to take my recorder. I somehow managed to sneak out.”
According to Narayanan, at least 40,000 people have been detained in what has been announced as “preventive measures,” and only those get released who get a bond signed by their local community expressing approval of the revocation of Article 370.
Arun Srivastva of the Loktantrik Janata Dal (LJD) party, who participated in the march, said that what he witnessed “was a deep sense of fear and uncertainty among people.”
He said it was tragic that the BJP had abolished the special status in its majoritarian politics. “The failure of the Supreme Court to facilitate political discourse is also disturbing,” he said.


Pakistan cruises to 2nd Twenty20 win vs Bangladesh

Updated 25 January 2020

Pakistan cruises to 2nd Twenty20 win vs Bangladesh

  • Babar Azam, who was out for zero on Friday in Pakistan’s five-wicket win, remained not out on 66
  • Bangladesh’s top-order batsmen struggled for the second consecutive day as the side was restricted to 136-6

LAHORE: Captain Babar Azam and recalled Mohammad Hafeez struck unbeaten half centuries as Pakistan cruised to a nine-wicket victory over Bangladesh in the second Twenty20 on Saturday and kept alive its hopes of retaining the No. 1 ranking.
Pakistan could stay top if it completes a 3-0 clean sweep by winning the final Twenty20 of the three-match series on Monday.
Recalled 39-year-old Hafeez made an unbeaten 67 off 49 balls while No. 1-ranked Twenty20 batsman Babar remained not out on 66 as Pakistan eased to 137-1 with more than three overs to spare.
Both batsmen entertained a weekend crowd of around 20,000 at the Qaddafi Stadium with a splendid 131-run stand against a listless Bangladesh bowling attack.
Shafiul Islam was the lone successful bowler when he had Ahsan Ali caught at mid off for a duck in his first over before Babar and Hafeez took charge. Bangladesh’s disappointing performance was summed up when wicketkeeper Liton Das dropped Hafeez soon after he had reached his half century.
Hafeez, who completed his half century with two successive fours off Shafiul in the 13th over, struck nine fours and a six while Babar, who was out for zero on Friday in Pakistan’s five-wicket win, hit seven boundaries and a six.
In the absence of the banned Shakib Al Hasan and Mushfiqur Rahim, who pulled out of the tour due to security concerns, Bangladesh’s top-order batsmen struggled for the second consecutive day as the side was restricted to 136-6.
Earlier, opening batsman Tamim Iqbal labored for 53 balls on his way to a top score of 65 before he was run out in the 18th over as the Bangladesh innings struggled to build any momentum against the Pakistan pace attack.
The inexperienced pace trio of Mohammad Hasnain (2-20), Shaheen Afridi (1-22) and Haris Rauf (1-27) combined to bowl 12 overs, conceding only 69 runs between them and sharing four wickets.
Captain Mahmudullah, who won his second successive toss, surprisingly didn’t put himself in the top order while another experienced batsman, Soumya Sarkar, came in after the fall of Tamim’s wicket with only 14 balls left in the innings.
Bangladesh will round out the first phase of the Pakistan tour on Monday. The team didn’t want to stay in Pakistan for more than a week due to security concerns.
The tour was only finalized last week when Bangladesh agreed to split the Twenty20 series and the two ICC World Test Championship matches into three phases after the countries’ national cricket boards reached consensus in Dubai during a meeting facilitated by International Cricket Council chairman Shashank Manohar.
Bangladesh will return for the first test in Rawalpindi from Feb. 7-11. After a break of almost two months, Bangladesh will play an ODI and the second test in Karachi on April 3-9.
Late last year, Sri Lanka also split its tour to Pakistan into two phases when it played a Twenty20 series in Lahore and then returned in December for two test matches in Rawalpindi and Karachi, staying in Pakistan for 16 days.