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

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.


Bomb ‘intended to kill police’ detonates on Northern Ireland border

Updated 14 min 52 sec ago

Bomb ‘intended to kill police’ detonates on Northern Ireland border

  • Concerns have grown over possible return of hard border between British-ruled Northern Ireland and Republic
  • In April, a journalist was shot dead by Irish republican dissidents during rioting in Londonderry

LONDON: An explosive device described as an attempted trap for security forces detonated in a village on the Northern Ireland border on Monday, but failed to injure anyone.
Police and bomb disposal experts had been working in the area of Newtownbutler over the weekend since receiving an initial report about a suspect device on Saturday.
“I am of the firm belief this was a deliberate attempt to lure police and ATO (Anti-Terrorism Officer) colleagues into the area to murder them,” Stephen Martin from the Police Service of Northern Ireland said in a statement.
Martin later told reporters that two Irish republican dissident groups, the New IRA and the Continuity IRA, “would be a very good starting point for the investigation.”
He added: “It’s fair to say their level of activity has increased this year.”
Concerns have grown that the possible return of a hard border between British-ruled Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland after Brexit could increase security tensions in the once war-torn province.
Martin said violent attacks had grown in recent months, calling on politicians to take action to heal enduring divisions in society.
“Terrorism of this nature is a societal problem,” he said. “We shouldn’t take our peace for granted.”
Three decades of conflict known as “the Troubles,” in which more than 3,500 people were killed, largely ended in Northern Ireland with the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.
Violent incidents have continued, however.
In April, a journalist was shot dead by Irish republican dissidents during rioting in Londonderry.
“I strongly condemn the cowardly actions of those responsible for this bomb attack, which could have had devastating consequences,” Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said in a statement.
“There is never any justification to use violence to achieve political aims,” he said.