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DELHI: As four months have passed since the special status of Jammu and Kashmir has been revoked, civil society activists from different parts of India called on Thursday for the “restoration of democracy” and an end to “human rights violations” in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passed since Article 370 of the Indian constitution, which granted special autonomous status to Jammu and Kashmir, was repealed.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


PM Khan asks international community to return stolen assets of developing states

Updated 24 September 2020

PM Khan asks international community to return stolen assets of developing states

  • Says his government has taken several steps to stop financial crimes and bring their perpetrators to justice
  • Urges the world community to discard ‘unequal investment treaties’ and adopt a fair adjudication system to handle financial disputes

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Thursday that the international community should act against perpetrators of financial crimes and return the stolen assets of developing countries, reported the Associated Press of Pakistan.
Addressing a panel on Financial Accountability, Transparency and Integrity (FACTI) on the sidelines of the 75th United Nations General Assembly session in New York through a video link, he said: “One trillion dollars is taken out each year by these white-collar criminals. Twenty to forty billion dollars is in the form of bribes received by the corrupt. Seven trillion dollars in stolen assets is parked in safe tax ‘haven’ destinations. Five to six hundred billion dollars is lost each year in tax avoidance by multinational companies.”
Pointing out “billions of dollars” of illicit outflow of money from developing countries, Khan maintained his government had received “a robust public mandate to get rid of this menace from the country.”
He said that his administration had “taken several initiatives domestically” to deal with the situation, adding that “the stolen assets of developing countries, including the proceeds of corruption, bribery, and other crimes, must be returned immediately.”
“The authorities in ‘haven’ destinations must impose criminal and financial penalties on their financial institutions, which receive and utilize such money or assets,” Khan said.
He also noted that the “enablers” of such crimes, including accountants, lawyers and other individuals, must be regulated and held accountable.
Khan criticized the “profit-shifting” practice of multinational corporations, saying these organizations took their money to low-tax zones of the world to retain as much of their profit as possible.
“Unequal investment treaties should be discarded or revised and a fair system for adjudication of investment disputes set up,” he recommended.
The prime minister also appreciated the initiative by Nigeria and Norway to establish the panel on International Financial Accountability. He also welcomed the interim FACTI report, calling the figures of illicit flows of money mentioned in it “staggering,” and pointing out that “this bleeding of the poorer and developing countries must stop.”