Kashmiri students flee Indian backlash after suicide attack

Videos of Kashmiris being hit and mocked in Indian cities were popular on social media. Above, a Kashmiri woman passes by a random search operation in Srinagar. (AFP)
Updated 21 February 2019
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Kashmiri students flee Indian backlash after suicide attack

  • The crowds shouted “traitors” and “terrorists” at the Kashmiri students’ apartments and hostels
  • More than 500 students and 100 businessmen fled back to Kashmir because of the increasing tension

SRINAGAR, India: Junaid Ayub Rather cowered alongside 30 other students in a small room for two nights while mobs chanted for their blood outside, before finally escaping the rage sweeping India after last week’s suicide bombing in Kashmir.
Similar scenes have played out across the nation as Kashmiris living away from home flee violent reprisals following the latest attack in the restive Himalayan region, which killed at least 40 Indian paramilitary soldiers.
Rather said angry crowds gathered outside hostels and apartments rented by Kashmiri students in Dehradun, north of New Delhi, shouting for the “traitors” and “terrorists” hiding inside to be shot.
“It took us four days to reach home in Kashmir with some help from police and a Muslim businessman,” Rather, who had lived in the northern city for two years, told AFP after reaching his home south of Srinagar.
“Thirty of us slept in one room for two nights before we could mobilize help to flee.”
The businessman let them take refuge in his home until buses could be organized to get them to safety.
Around 11,000 Kashmiri students enroll at Indian universities outside their home state each year.
Many are now clamoring to return home to a region battle-scarred by 30 years of civil war, fearing violent attacks if they stay.
Video footage of Kashmiris being beaten and taunted in Indian cities has been widely shared on social media, while rightwing Hindu groups and pundits on TV news channels have encouraged reprisals.
A professor from New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University this week publicly called for the execution of 40 Kashmiris to avenge the suicide bombing, while two other colleges announced they would no longer accept students from the territory.
More than 500 students, along with 100 businessmen, have already arrived back in Kashmir to flee a “climate of fear and intimidation across India,” said Kashmir Traders and Manufacturers Federation chief Mohammad Yasin Khan.
More were on their way, he told AFP.
“We are continuously receiving distress calls from all kinds of people asking for help,” Khan said.
Some Kashmiri students have also been suspended by Indian universities for allegedly posting insensitive comments on social media about the suicide attack, while others have been arrested on sedition charges.
India’s interior ministry has ordered state governments to protect Kashmiri students — but several political leaders have also stoked aggressive anti-Kashmir sentiment since the bombing.
“Don’t visit Kashmir ... Boycott everything Kashmiri,” Meghalaya state governor Tathagata Roy wrote on Twitter.
More than 500,000 Indian troops are stationed in Kashmir, a territory administered by New Delhi but also claimed by neighboring Pakistan.
The two countries have battled three wars for control of the region, while an assortment of local insurgent groups have fought for a merger with Pakistan or outright independence.
Last week’s suicide attack was claimed by the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) militant group, based in Pakistan.
India has long accused Islamabad of giving official backing to Kashmiri rebel groups.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who faces an election in the coming months and is under pressure to take a tough stand on militants, has promised those responsible for the bombing “will pay a heavy price.”
His Pakistani counterpart Imran Khan promised retaliation against any Indian attack on his country’s soil.


UK prime minister in last-minute push to win Brexit support

A European flag and a British Union flag hang outside Europe House, the European Parliament's British offices in London, Monday, March 18, 2019. (AP)
Updated 32 min 59 sec ago
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UK prime minister in last-minute push to win Brexit support

  • May aims to try a third time this week if she can persuade enough lawmakers to change their minds
  • May’s spokesman, James Slack, said Monday that the government would only hold a vote if there is “a realistic prospect of success”

LONDON: British Prime Minister Theresa May was making a last-minute push Monday to win support for her European Union divorce deal, warning opponents that failure to approve it would mean a long — and possibly indefinite — delay to Brexit.
Parliament has rejected the agreement twice, but May aims to try a third time this week if she can persuade enough lawmakers to change their minds. Her aim is to have the deal agreed before EU leaders meet Thursday for a summit in Brussels.
But there was no sign of a breakthrough, and the government faces a deadline of the end of Tuesday to decide whether they have enough votes to pass the deal, so that a vote can be held on Wednesday.
May’s spokesman, James Slack, said Monday that the government would only hold a vote if there is “a realistic prospect of success.”
May is likely to ask for a delay to Brexit at the Brussels summit. If a deal is approved, she says she will ask the EU to extend the deadline until June 30 so that Parliament has time to approve the necessary legislation. If it isn’t, she will have to seek a longer extension that would mean Britain participating in May 23-26 elections for the European Parliament — something the government is keen to avoid.
May’s goal is to win over Northern Ireland’s small, power-brokering Democratic Unionist Party. The DUP’s 10 lawmakers prop up May’s Conservative government, and their support could influence pro-Brexit Conservatives to drop their opposition to the deal.
Still, May faces a struggle to reverse the huge margins of defeat for the agreement in Parliament. It was rejected by 230 votes in January and by 149 votes last week.
Influential Conservative Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg said he would wait to see what the DUP decided before making up his mind on whether to support May’s deal.
“No deal is better than a bad deal, but a bad deal is better than remaining in the European Union,” he told LBC radio.
British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said Monday he saw “cautious signs of encouragement” that the deal might make it through Parliament this week.
After months of political deadlock, British lawmakers voted last week to seek to postpone Brexit. That will likely avert a chaotic British withdrawal on the scheduled exit date of March 29 — although the power to approve or reject a Brexit extension lies with the EU, whose leaders are fed up with British prevarication.
EU leaders say they will only grant it if Britain has a solid plan for what to do with the extra time.
“We have to know what the British want: How long, what is the reason supposed to be, how it should go, what is actually the aim of the extension?” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told reporters in Brussels. “The longer it is delayed, the more difficult it will certainly be.”
Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders agreed, saying: “We are not against an extension in Belgium, but the problem is — to do what?“
Opposition to May’s deal centers on a measure designed to ensure there is no hard border between the UK’s Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland after Brexit.
The mechanism, known as the backstop, is a safeguard that would keep the UK in a customs union with the EU until a permanent new trading relationship is in place. Brexit supporters in Britain fear the backstop could be used to bind the country to EU regulations indefinitely, and the DUP fears it could lead to a weakening of the bonds between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK
Talks between the government and the DUP are aimed at reassuring the party that Britain could not be trapped in the backstop indefinitely.
May said in an article for the Sunday Telegraph that failure to approve the deal meant “we will not leave the EU for many months, if ever.”
“The idea of the British people going to the polls to elect MEPs (Members of the European Parliament) three years after voting to leave the EU hardly bears thinking about,” she wrote.
But May suffered a setback Monday when former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson refused to support her deal.
Johnson, a staunch Brexiteer, used his column in the Daily Telegraph to argue that the backstop left the UK vulnerable to “an indefinite means of blackmail” by Brussels.