India’s top court orders protection for Kashmiris

An Indian paramilitary trooper stops Kashmiris driving on a scooter for a security check in Srinagar on February 11, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 22 February 2019
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India’s top court orders protection for Kashmiris

  • More than 700 Kashmiri students, workers and traders have returned to the Himalayan region from the rest of India to escape reprisals
  • Video footage of Kashmiris being taunted or beaten has been widely shared on social media

NEW DELHI: India’s Supreme Court on Friday ordered bolstered protection for Kashmiris who have faced a violent backlash from a suicide bombing in the troubled territory that killed 40 paramilitaries.
More than 700 Kashmiri students, workers and traders have returned to the Himalayan region from the rest of India to escape reprisals for the attack, which has escalated tensions with arch-rival Pakistan.
The top court told state governments and police chiefs to ensure there are no “attacks, threats or social boycott” over the February 14 bombing, the worst in the territory in three decades.
Video footage of Kashmiris being taunted or beaten has been widely shared on social media, while right-wing Hindu groups and some TV news channel pundits have encouraged reprisals.
Some Kashmiris have been suspended by Indian universities for their social media comments on the case. Others have been arrested on sedition charges.
“Immediately after the attack, mobs and vigilante groups engaged in vitriolic hate speech and began attacking, and threatening Muslims and Kashmiris throughout the country,” said two activists who sought the Supreme Court action.
Mohammad Yasin Khan, president of Kashmir Traders and Manufacturers Federation, said that threats of violence were still being made.
Khan said 300 students from Uttarakhand state alone have returned to Kashmir.
Kashmir business groups called for a protest shutdown Friday by shops and stores in the territory against the “continuing threats and intimidation” of Kashmiri people in Indian cities.
The suicide attack was claimed by the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) militant group, which has fueled the Indian anger against Pakistan.
New Delhi has long accused its neighbor of backing JeM and other Kashmiri rebel groups, a charge Pakistan denies. Both claim Kashmir, which has been divided since their independence.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who faces a looming election, is under pressure to take a tough stand on the attack, which was condemned on Thursday by the UN Security Council. He has vowed the militants “will pay a heavy price.”
Another militant was killed during an army raid Friday north of the Kashmir’s main city of Srinagar, police said.
Analysts say military action is possible, and villagers in Pakistani Kashmir have been told to take precautions including building bunkers.
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has vowed his country will retaliate if attacked.
India has sought to isolate Pakistan internationally and imposed trade restrictions against its neighbor.
On Thursday, India’s water resources and transport minister Nitin Gadkari reaffirmed an existing plan to restrict the flow of water to Pakistan from three rivers on Indian territory.
The sharing of water from the Indus River and its tributaries is regulated by a 1960 treaty.
Authorities have acknowledged, however, that it will take several years for the threat to have any impact as dams will have to be built to divert water.
Modi has made a similar threat before.


Pakistan wants peace with India, but conducts missile test

Updated 12 min 39 sec ago
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Pakistan wants peace with India, but conducts missile test

  • Pakistan announced that it has conducted a training launch of a Shaheen II, surface-to-surface ballistic missile
  • ‘We never speak bitterly, we want to live like good neighbors and settle our outstanding issues through talks’

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has signaled a willingness to open peace talks with India as Prime Minister Narendra Modi appears set to return to power in New Delhi after an election fought in the shadow of renewed confrontation between the nuclear-armed enemies.
But in a possible warning to India, Pakistan also announced that it has conducted a training launch of a Shaheen II, surface-to-surface ballistic missile, which it said is capable of delivering conventional and nuclear weapons at a range of up to 1,500 miles.
“Shaheen II is a highly capable missile which fully meets Pakistan’s strategic needs toward maintenance of deterrence stability in the region,” Pakistan’s military said in a statement that made no direct mention of its neighbor.
On Wednesday, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmud Qureshi spoke briefly with his Indian counterpart at the sidelines of a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization member states in the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek.
“We never speak bitterly, we want to live like good neighbors and settle our outstanding issues through talks,” he said following the meeting.
The remark follows months of tension between the long-time rivals, which came close to war in February over the disputed region of Kashmir, which both sides have claimed since independence from Britain in 1947.
Following a suicide attack in Kashmir that killed 40 members of an Indian paramilitary police force in February, Indian jets launched a raid inside Pakistan, striking what New Delhi said was a training camp of Jaish-e Mohammed, the radical group that claimed the Kashmir attack.
In response, Pakistan conducted a retaliatory strike of its own and jets from the two countries fought a dogfight in the skies over Kashmir during which an Indian pilot was shot down and captured.
Amid international pressure to end the conflict, Pakistan returned the pilot and there were no further strikes but tensions remained high, with regular exchanges of artillery fire from both sides in Kashmir.
Pakistan has also kept part of its airspace closed to international air traffic, disrupting flights to India and other parts of the region.
Prime Minister Imran Khan has repeatedly offered to start talks with India to resolve the Kashmir issue, and officials have said that they hoped the process could start once the election is concluded.
Khan himself said last month he believed there was more prospect of peace talks with Indian if Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won the election.