Archive for ‘Kashmir’

09/07/2019

Rights violations in contested Kashmir continue unchecked, U.N. report says

SRINAGAR, India (Reuters) – Tensions in disputed Kashmir after a deadly suicide bombing earlier this year are having a severe impact on human rights in the region, a United Nations report released on Monday said.

Muslim-majority Kashmir is claimed in full by India and Pakistan, who both rule it in part and have fought two wars over the territory. They came close to a third in February after the suicide bombing of a convoy claimed by a Pakistan-based militant group killed 40 paramilitary police.

India accuses Pakistan of funding these groups, who want independence for Indian-administered Kashmir, a claim Islamabad denies.

The report, by the U.N. Human Rights Council, says that arbitrary detentions during search operations by Indian troops are leading to a range of human rights violations.

Despite the high numbers of civilians killed in the vicinity of gun battles between security forces and militants, “there is no information about any new investigation into excessive use of force leading to casualties”, it said.

The report was also critical of special legal regimes used by India in Kashmir, saying accountability for violations committed by troops remains virtually non-existent.

The report says that in nearly three decades that emergency laws have been in force in Jammu and Kashmir, there has not been a single prosecution of armed forces personnel granted by the central government in a civilian court.

It called for the repeal of special powers protecting troops from prosecution.

The United Nations also flagged a spike in hate crimes against Kashmiris in the rest of India following the February attacks, calling on India to do more to prevent the violence.

In response, India’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Raveesh Kumar said the report presented a “false and motivated narrative” on the state of the region.

“Its assertions are in violation of India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and ignore the core issue of cross-border terrorism,” Kumar added in a statement.

Though the majority of the allegations in the report pertain to Indian-administered Kashmir, it was also critical of Pakistan for detentions of separatists in its portion of the region.

A spokesman for the Pakistan embassy in New Delhi did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Source: Reuters

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25/06/2019

Police arrest newspaper publisher in midnight raid in Indian Kashmir

SRINAGAR (Reuters) – Police arrested the publisher of one of the most widely read newspapers in Indian-controlled Kashmir in a midnight raid over a decades-old case, the police and his brother said on Tuesday, highlighting the difficulties facing media in the region.

Tension has run high in the Himalayan region since more than 40 Indian police were killed in a February suicide car bomb attack by a militant group based in Pakistan.

Muslim-majority Kashmir is at the heart of more than seven decades of hostility between nuclear archrivals India and Pakistan. Each claims it in full but rules only a part.

Ghulam Jeelani Qadri, 62, a journalist and the publisher of the Urdu-language newspaper Daily Afaaq, was arrested at his home in the region’s main city of Srinagar, half an hour before midnight on Monday.

“It is harassment,” his brother, Mohammad Morifat Qadri, told Reuters. “Why is a 1993 arrest warrant executed today? And why against him only?”

Qadri was released on bail after a court appearance on Tuesday.

The case dates from 1990, when Qadri was one of nine journalists to publish a statement by a militant group fighting against Indian rule in Kashmir. An arrest warrant for Qadri was issued in 1993, but it was never served.

Qadri had visited the police station involved in the arrest multiple times since the warrant was issued, most recently in 2017 to apply for a passport, his brother added.

Asked why Qadri was arrested at night, Srinagar police chief Haseeb Mughal told Reuters, “Police were busy during the day.”

The Kashmir Union of Working Journalists condemned the arrest, saying it seemed to be aimed at muzzling the press.

“Qadri was attending the office on a daily basis and there was absolutely no need for carrying out a midnight raid at his residence,” it said in a statement.

Journalists in Kashmir find themselves caught in the crossfire between the Indian government and militant groups battling for independence.
Both sides are stepping up efforts to control the flow of information, with the situation at its worst in decades, dozens of journalists have told Reuters.
India is one of the world’s worst places to be a journalist, ranked 138th among 180 countries on the press freedom index of international monitor Reporters Without Borders, with conditions in Kashmir cited as a key reason.
Source: Reuters
28/05/2019

Pakistan PM Khan speaks with India’s Modi to congratulate him on election win

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan on Sunday spoke to Narendra Modi and congratulated the Indian leader on the runaway election victory of his Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), both countries said on Sunday.

“Prime Minister Imran Khan spoke to Prime Minister Narendra Modi today and congratulated him on his party’s electoral victory in the Lok Sabha elections in India,” Pakistan’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

“The Prime Minister expressed his desire for both countries to work together for the betterment of their peoples.”

Tensions between India and Pakistan, both nuclear-armed countries, flared in February with cross-border air strikes and a brief battle between fighter jets above Kashmir.

India’s Ministry of External Affairs confirmed Khan had called Modi on Sunday, adding the two leaders had discussed fighting poverty together.

He (Modi) stressed that creating trust and an environment free of violence and terrorism were essential for fostering cooperation for peace, progress and prosperity in our region,” the ministry added in a statement.

Source: Reuters

24/05/2019

Indian forces kill leader of al Qaeda affiliate in Kashmir – police

SRINAGAR (Reuters) – Indian forces have killed the leader of an al Qaeda affiliated militant group in Kashmir, police said on Friday, triggering protests in parts of the disputed region.

Zakir Rashid Bhat, 25, was trapped by security forces in a three-storey house in southern Kashmir late on Thursday, said a senior police officer, adding that the house was set ablaze during the operation.

“As we were clearing debris from the house, he tried to get up. Our troops fired at him and he was killed,” said the officer, who declined to be named because he was not authorised to speak to media.

For decades, separatists have fought an armed conflict against Indian rule in Kashmir, with the majority of them wanting independence for the Himalayan region, or to join New Delhi’s arch rival Pakistan.

India has stepped up an offensive against militants in the Muslim-majority region since a suicide attack in February killed 40 Indian troopers in Kashmir and brought India and Pakistan to the brink of war.

Pakistan denies giving material support to militants in Kashmir but says it provides moral and diplomatic backing for the self-determination of Kashmiri people.

Protests by supporters of Bhat broke out in parts of Kashmir on Thursday and there were reports of demonstrations early on Friday, the police officer said.

Fearing more unrest, authorities said schools were closed and railway services suspended in the affected areas.

Any large scale unrest in the region would be a challenge for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi as he prepares for a second term after winning a general election on Thursday.

Bhat, a former commander of the Hizbul Mujahideen, the largest of the militant groups fighting against Indian rule in Kashmir, founded his own group and declared its association with al Qaeda in 2017.

Also known as Zakir Musa, he was seen as a successor to Burhan Wani, a popular Hizbul Mujahideen commander whose death in 2016 sparked clashes that left 90 civilians dead.

Source: Reuters

12/05/2019

Indians vote in penultimate phase of seven-round general election

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – Voters in north India lined up early on Sunday to cast their ballots in the second-to-last round of a seven-phase general election, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi facing a diverse group of opposition parties seeking to deny him a second term.

More than 100 million people across seven states are eligible to vote in the sixth phase of the 39-day-long poll, which Modi began on April 11 as front-runner after an escalation of tension with neighbouring Pakistan.

But opposition parties have recently taken heart at what they see as signs Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) may be losing ground and have begun negotiations over a post-election alliance even before polling ends on May 19. Votes will be counted on May 23.

The president of the main opposition Congress party, Rahul Gandhi, said the main issues in the election were unemployment, distress in the countryside, the demonetisation of bank notes and a new sales tax.

“It was a good fight,” Gandhi said after he cast his vote.

“Narendra Modi used hatred, we used love. And I think love is going to win.”

A lack of new jobs – despite annual economic growth of about 7% – and the plight of farmers struggling with falling crop prices have been major worries for voters.

A new good and services tax (GST), as well as Modi’s shock ban on all high-value currency notes in 2016, hurt small and medium businesses.

Some voters in the capital, New Delhi, said they were backing Modi because they were won over by his tough stand on security.

Indian warplanes attacked what the government said was a terrorist training camp in Pakistan in February, soon after a suicide car bomb attack in the disputed Kashmir region killed 40 police officers.

BIG CHANCE FOR SMALL PARTIES?

The aggressive response stirred nationalist passions that pollsters said could favour Modi in the election.

“I have voted for Modi’s sound foreign policy and national security,” said a 36-year-old first-time voter who declined to be identified.

“The demonetisation has affected jobs growth but over time, the positive effects of GST and demonetisation would take care of jobs,” he said.

But concern about unemployment and crop prices have put the BJP on the back foot, and the opposition has in recent days felt more upbeat about its chances.

Political analysts say state-based and caste-driven parties could be decisive in determining the make-up of the next government.

“Regional parties will play a bigger role compared to the previous 5 years or even 15 years,” said K.C. Suri, a political science professor at the University of Hyderabad. “They will regain their importance in national politics.”

Recent weeks have also been marked by personal attacks between leaders, including comments from Modi about the family of Congress President Rahul Gandhi, the scion of the Nehru-Gandhi political dynasty.

At a recent rally Modi called Gandhi’s late father, former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, “corrupt no. 1”. The BJP says Modi was reacting to Rahul Gandhi calling him a thief.

“The political vitriolic has become intense, and negatively intense,” said Ashok Acharya, a political science professor at the University of Delhi.

“It seems as if this particular election is all about a few political personalities. It is not about issues, any kind of an agenda.”

Source: Reuters

11/05/2019

Islamic State claims ‘province’ in India for first time after clash in Kashmir

NEW DELHI/SRINAGAR, India (Reuters) – Islamic State (IS) claimed for the first time that it has established a “province” in India, after a clash between militants and security forces in the contested Kashmir region killed a militant with alleged ties to the group.

IS’s Amaq News Agency late on Friday announced the new province, that it called “Wilayah of Hind”, in a statement that also claimed IS inflicted casualties on Indian army soldiers in the town of Amshipora in the Shopian district of Kashmir.

The IS statement corresponds with an Indian police statement on Friday that a militant called Ishfaq Ahmad Sofi was killed in an encounter in Shopian.

IS’s statement establishing the new province appears to be designed to bolster its standing after the group was driven from its self-styled “caliphate” in Iraq and Syria in April, where at one point it controlled thousands of miles of territory.

IS has stepped up hit-and-run raids and suicide attacks, including taking responsibility for the Easter Sunday bombing in Sri Lanka that killed at least 253 people.

“The establishment of a ‘province’ in a region where it has nothing resembling actual governance is absurd, but it should not be written off,” said Rita Katz, director of the SITE Intel Group that tracks Islamic extremists.

“The world may roll its eyes at these developments, but to jihadists in these vulnerable regions, these are significant gestures to help lay the groundwork in rebuilding the map of the IS ‘caliphate’.”

Sofi had been involved in several militant groups in Kashmir for more than a decade before pledging allegiance to Islamic State, according to a military official on Saturday and an interview given by Sofi to a Srinagar-based magazine sympathetic to IS.

He was suspected of several grenade attacks on security forces in the region, police and military sources said.

“It was a clean operation and no collateral damage took place during the exchange of fire,” a police spokesman said in the statement on Friday’s encounter.

The military official said it was possible that Sofi had been the only militant left in Kashmir associated with IS.

Separatists have for decades fought an armed conflict against Indian rule in Muslim-majority Kashmir. The majority of these groups want independence for Kashmir or to join India’s arch-rival Pakistan. They have not, like Islamic State, sought to establish an empire across the Muslim world.

Nuclear powers India and Pakistan have fought two wars over Kashmir, and came to the brink of a third earlier this year after a suicide attack by a Pakistan-based militant group killed at least 40 paramilitary police in the Indian-controlled portion of the region.

A spokesman for India’s home ministry, which is responsible for security in Kashmir, did not respond to a request for comment.

Source: Reuters

29/04/2019

Police break up clashes in West Bengal, Mumbai votes in fourth phase of massive poll

MUMBAI/NEW DELHI (Reuters) – Police broke up clashes between rival groups of voters in West Bengal on Monday as some of India’s richest families and Bollywood stars also cast their ballots in Mumbai during the fourth phase of a massive, staggered general election.

In West Bengal, a populous eastern state crucial for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s re-election bid, supporters of his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) clashed with others from the regional Trinamool Congress, police said.

TV footage showed armed security forces chasing away people wielding sticks, although it was initially difficult to determine the scale of the clashes.

There were no immediate reports of any poll-related injuries in West Bengal, where at least one person was killed and three injured during the third phase of voting last week.

The BJP is in a direct, and sometimes bloody, fight in West Bengal with Trinamool, whose chief Mamata Banerjee is one of Modi’s biggest critics and a potential prime ministerial candidate.

More than 127 million people are eligible to vote in this round of the seven-phase election held across 71 seats in nine states. Modi’s coalition won more than 75 percent of the seats in the previous election in 2014.

Many of the constituencies are in Uttar Pradesh in the north and western India’s Maharashtra, where the financial capital Mumbai is located. Uttar Pradesh elects the most lawmakers, with Maharashtra next. Both states are ruled by the BJP and its allies.
However, political analysts say the BJP may struggle to repeat its strong showing this time due mainly to a jobs shortage and weak farm prices, issues upon which the main opposition Congress party has seized.

‘SOME PROGRESS’

First-time voter Ankita Bhavke, a college student in Mumbai, said she voted for economic development.

“I want the country to be at par with the best in the world,” she said. “There’s been some progress in the last five years.”

India’s financial markets were closed on Monday for the election.

Mumbai is home to the massive Hindi film industry, as well as Asia’s wealthiest man, Mukesh Ambani, and India’s richest banker, Uday Kotak.
Ambani, who heads Reliance Industries, and Kotak, managing director of Kotak Mahindra Bank, created a stir this month by publicly endorsing an opposition Congress party candidate from their upscale South Mumbai constituency.
Mumbai, which has six seats, is India’s wealthiest city but ageing and insufficient infrastructure is a major concern. Six people were killed last month when part of a pedestrian bridge collapsed, recalling memories of a 2017 rush-hour stampede that killed at least 22 people on a narrow pedestrian bridge.
The election, the world’s biggest democratic exercise with about 900 million voters, started on April 11 with Modi in the lead amid heightened tension with long-time enemy Pakistan.
The last phase of voting is on May 19, with results released four days later.
There are a total of 545 seats in the Lok Sabha.
Modi sent warplanes into Pakistan in late February in response to a suicide attack by an Islamist militant group based there that killed 40 Indian police in the disputed Kashmir region.
Modi has sought votes on his tough response towards militancy and in recent days has evoked the deadly Easter Sunday bombings in nearby Sri Lanka.
Maidul Islam, a professor of political science at Kolkata’s Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, said long queues outside polling stations would indicate whether Modi’s national security pitch was working.
“Whenever there is a BJP kind of a wave, you see a higher voter turnout,” he said.
Source: Reuters
20/04/2019

Indian foreign secretary heads to China for talks amid tense relations

  • Vijay Keshav Gokhale is expected to meet Chinese deputy foreign minister Kong Xuanyou and Foreign Minister Wang Yi during two-day visit
  • Beijing’s refusal to sanction a Pakistani militant leader and its belt and road push in the disputed Kashmir region have strained ties
Indian Foreign Secretary Vijay Keshav Gokhale will visit China as part of “regular exchanges” between the two countries. Photo: AFP
Indian Foreign Secretary Vijay Keshav Gokhale will visit China as part of “regular exchanges” between the two countries. Photo: AFP
Indian Foreign Secretary Vijay Keshav Gokhale will travel to Beijing on Sunday amid tensions between India and China over Beijing’s refusal to sanction a Pakistani militant leader and its infrastructure push in the disputed Kashmir region.
Gokhale’s two-day visit is part of “regular exchanges” between the two nations, the Indian embassy in Beijing said on Saturday.
During his stay, Gokhale is expected to meet Chinese deputy foreign minister Kong Xuanyou and Foreign Minister Wang Yi.

He will return to India on Monday, three days before the second Belt and Road Forum begins in the Chinese capital. Forty foreign leaders will attend the summit on Beijing’s global trade and infrastructure scheme, the “Belt and Road Initiative”, but India is not taking part.

Wang on Friday called on India, and other countries sceptical of the initiative, to join up, dismissing claims that it is a geopolitical tool. He also said China was ready to hold a leaders’ summit with India like the informal meeting held between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Wuhan, Hubei province last year.

A summit between Xi Jinping (left) and Narendra Modi in Wuhan last year was seen as a breakthrough in China-India relations after the Doklam border dispute. Photo: AFP
A summit between Xi Jinping (left) and Narendra Modi in Wuhan last year was seen as a breakthrough in China-India relations after the Doklam border dispute. Photo: AFP

Gokhale visited Beijing in February last year, and the Wuhan summit happened two months later. That meeting was seen as a breakthrough in the

China-India relationship

after a 73-day military stand-off over the Doklam plateau.

But the progress was overshadowed in February after a terror strike on Indian security forces in the Jammu and Kashmir province, which killed 40 Indian soldiers. The Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed group claimed responsibility for the attack. India has long wanted to designate its leader, Masood Azhar, as a terrorist under international law, but China has opposed the move.

During a visit to Pakistan in March, Kong said Beijing and Islamabad were all-weather strategic partners and would support each other on issues to do with their core interests.

What ‘Wuhan spirit’? Kashmir suicide attack reopens Modi’s China wound

Wang Dehua, head of the Institute for South and Central Asia Studies at the Shanghai Municipal Centre for International Studies, said China and India were looking to prevent their bilateral relations from deteriorating further.

“Both nations will elaborate on their stance on this matter, and China will probably deliver a message that the China-India relationship should not be affected by the dispute over Masood Azhar,” he said. “The positive sentiment out of Wuhan has been affected, and the two sides are seeking ways to continue the spirit of that informal summit.”

Du Youkang, director of Fudan University’s Pakistan Study Centre in Shanghai, said preparations for another informal summit of the nations’ leaders would only begin after India’s general election was over. Polling is being held in seven phases ending on May 19.

Gokhale’s trip would mainly be a chance to see how the two nations can push forward bilateral ties amid their disputes, Du said.

In addition to Azhar, India is also dismayed that some of China’s belt and road projects pass through the Pakistan-administered section of the disputed Kashmir region.

But Wang told reporters on Friday that the initiative did not target any third country, and that relations between China and India had improved after the Wuhan summit.

Source: SCMP

08/04/2019

BJP vows to strip Kashmir of special rights

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – India’s Hindu nationalist ruling party vowed on Monday to strip decades-old special rights from the people of Jammu and Kashmir, making an election promise that could provoke a backlash in the country’s only Muslim-majority state.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)is widely expected to retain power after a general election that starts on Thursday, though with a much smaller mandate, hit by concerns over a shortage of jobs and weak farm prices.

Pollsters say its re-election campaign got a boost from recent hostilities with arch-rival Pakistan, after a militant group based there claimed a February suicide bombing that killed 40 Indian security forces in the Himalayan region.

“Nationalism is our inspiration,” Modi said after releasing the BJP’s election manifesto at its headquarters in New Delhi, as supporters chanted “Modi, Modi”.

The BJP has consistently advocated an end to Kashmir’s special constitutional status, which prevents outsiders from buying property there, arguing that such laws have hindered its integration with the rest of India.

“We believe that Article 35A is an obstacle in the development of the state,” the party said, referring to a constitutional provision dating from 1954, and reiterated its long-held desire to abolish Kashmir’s autonomous status by scrapping another law known as Article 370.

BJP supporters have demanded the removal, expressing anger at many Kashmiris’ resistance to rule by India, which has spent three decades battling an armed insurgency in the region also claimed by Pakistan.

“The BJP’s campaign is largely around nationalism, national security and this is what is getting echoed in their manifesto,” said Sanjay Kumar, director of thinktank the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies.

Repeal would bring widespread unrest, Kashmiri political leaders warned.

“Let them do it and it will pave the way for our azadi,” Farooq Abdullah, president of Kashmir’s National Conference party, told an election rally, referring to freedom for the region. “They are wrong. We will fight against it.”

Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami, the leader of a left party in Kashmir, warned of “disastrous and unimaginable repercussions”.

Voting in the general election reut.rs/2KhaQlG begins on Thursday, but with about 900 million eligible voters, will be spread across several weeks, with ballots counted on May 23.

INCREASED INVESTMENT, TAX REFORM

In its manifesto last week, the main opposition Congress party pledged to create more jobs, hand money to India’s poorest and change a law on special powers for troops in Kashmir.

It dismissed the BJP manifesto as anti-farmer, despite its pledge of a pension scheme for small and marginal farmers who make up more than 80 percent of India’s estimated 263 million farmers, with landholdings smaller than 2 hectares (5 acres).

“Remember the good old days before 2014 when Indians had jobs and a PM that didn’t lie to them,” Congress said on Twitter, with a hashtag calling the BJP manifesto a gimmick.

The BJP also promised capital investment of 100 trillion rupees ($1.44 trillion) in infrastructure by 2024, to help create jobs for millions entering the workforce each year.

It pledged to simplify the goods and services tax, which disrupted businesses and hurt growth when Modi introduced it in 2017.

The party will work to cut tax and boost credit to small businesses to 1 trillion rupees ($14.4 billion) by 2024, it added.

Source: Reuters

07/04/2019

Pakistan says India preparing another attack this month

KARACHI (Reuters) – Pakistan has “reliable intelligence” that India will attack again this month, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said on Sunday, as tension over a February standoff between the two nuclear-armed neighbours had appeared to ease.

The attack could take place between April 16 and 20, he said, adding that Pakistan had told the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council of its concerns.

A suicide car bombing by Pakistan-based militants in Indian-controlled Kashmir killed at least 40 Indian paramilitary police on Feb. 14 and the risk of conflict rose dramatically on Feb. 27, when India launched an air strike on what it said was a militant training base.

The following day Pakistan shot down an Indian fighter jet and captured its pilot who was later released.

“We have reliable intelligence that India is planning a new attack on Pakistan. As per our information this could take place between April 16 and 20,” Qureshi told reporters in his hometown of Multan.

He did not elaborate on what evidence Pakistan had or how he could be so specific with the timing, but he said Prime Minister Imran Khan had agreed to share the information with the country.

India’s foreign office didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

Khan blamed India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for “whipping up war hysteria” over claims that India shot down a Pakistani F-16 during the February standoff.

India said it, too, had shot down a Pakistani aircraft and the air force displayed pieces of a missile that it said had been fired by a Pakistani F-16 before it went down.
The success of Indian air strikes on a camp of the Jaish-e-Mohammed militant group in northwestern Pakistan has also been thrown into doubt after satellite images showed little sign of damage.
Pakistan closed its airspace amid the standoff but most commercial air traffic has since resumed and major airports have opened.
Source: reuters
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