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DELHI: As four months have passed since the special status of Jammu and Kashmir has been revoked, civil society activists from different parts of India called on Thursday for the “restoration of democracy” and an end to “human rights violations” in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passed since Article 370 of the Indian constitution, which granted special autonomous status to Jammu and Kashmir, was repealed.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.


COVID-19: Pakistani celebrities who have lived to tell the tale

Updated 40 min 26 sec ago

COVID-19: Pakistani celebrities who have lived to tell the tale

  • Arab News speaks to notable Pakistanis about their experience testing positive for the coronavirus and the road to recovery 
  • Around 234,509 Pakistanis have so far tested positive, many of them politicians and celebrities from the entertainment and fashion industries 

KARACHI: As more and more notable Pakistanis test positive for COVID-19, Arab News spoke to some members of the entertainment and fashion industries about their experience with the coronavirus, the road to recovery and the lessons learnt along the way: 
Abrar ul Haq, famed singer, politician and philanthropist, told Arab News on Sunday that he suspected he had caught the virus while building a coronavirus hospital in Lahore, and soon learnt that his wife and son were also positive, though his one-and-a-half-year-old daughter was not. The family immediately quarantined in different rooms of the house for almost 20 days and received advice from doctors over the phone while the daughter was sent to live with her grandmother.
Haq said he had used his time in quarantine to produce a song, soon to be released on his YouTube channel, which paid tribute to the doctors and nurses fighting against the coronavirus outbreak.
Yasir Nawaz, a film and television actor and director, and his wife Nida Yasir, a famous morning show host, both tested positive for the coronavirus in May, and quarantined themselves in the upper portion of their house, isolating themselves from their children and household staff. The maids who brought them food were given PPE suits to wear, Yasir said. 
“We used disposable plates and cups and didn’t waste our trash outside but kept it in a separate place on the terrace,” Yasir added. 
An asymptomatic carrier, she tested negative for the virus in 14 days and believes a clean diet and strong immune system might have helped keep her safe from complications.
“I was already taking lots of fruits and vegetables,” she said. “Besides I was regular on Vitamin C, Zinc and Calcium for my general wellbeing, that also worked against COVID.” 
Yasir said she had wanted to donate her plasma but doctors advised that as an asymptomatic carrier, her plasma probably had not produced enough antibodies needed for the treatment, which involves the infusion of plasma from a recovered COVID-19 patient to a recovering one as a source of antibodies, a widely sought method in Pakistan despite limited information on its effectiveness.
Yasir’s husband Nawaz, however, said he had donated his plasma to Dow University Karachi and was informed by the hospital that his plasma had been infused in a number of patients, of which one woman who had been on a ventilator was now recovering. 
Maheen Khan, a 75-year-old top Pakistani fashion designer, said her symptoms included fever, body pains and headache and she also lost her sense of taste and smell.
“I had read a lot about the virus, so I immediately tested myself and after testing positive, just quarantined myself at home for the next 21 days,” she said, adding that she opted for a “holistic approach” to recovery, staying away from all medication except pain killers and eating raw food like mango with yogurt, milk and honey, and taking lots of Vitamin C. She also tried to rest a lot and do breathing exercises. 
“Calm yourself first if hit by the virus, try your best to be cured at your will but if the symptoms still get worse, see a doctor,” Khan said. “At 75, I put myself on strict care as I was the most vulnerable.”