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.


France bans Iran’s Mahan Air for flying arms, troops to Syria, elsewhere

Updated 43 min 31 sec ago
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France bans Iran’s Mahan Air for flying arms, troops to Syria, elsewhere

  • The ban will become effective starting April 1
  • The airlines were also banned by Germany since January

PARIS: France has banned flights in and out of the country by Iran’s Mahan Air, accusing it of transporting military equipment and personnel to Syria and other Middle East war zones, diplomats said on Monday, after heavy US pressure on Paris to act.
The decision to revoke Mahan’s license to operate in France was made after Germany banned the airline in January.
Paris had considered revoking its license more than two years ago under the presidency of Francois Hollande, but had backed down because it feared it could harm relations just after a nuclear deal between Iran and world powers was signed in 2015.
The United States imposed sanctions on Mahan Air in 2011, saying it provided financial and other support to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), and Washington has been pressing its European allies to follow suit.
“We knew of their activities from our own intelligence services and after the German move it was a question of credibility,” said a French diplomatic source.
The French ban on the airline, which had four flights a week to Paris from Tehran, takes effect from April 1. The airline’s website is no longer taking reservations and calls to its offices in Paris were not answered.
Tensions between Paris and Tehran have grown in recent months as President Emmanuel Macron and his government have become increasingly frustrated with Iran’s ballistic missile tests, regional activities and a foiled attack on an Iranian exile group in France, which Paris says Iranian intelligence was behind.
Both countries only reappointed ambassadors to each other’s capitals last month after more than six months without envoys.
There are no plans at this stage to ban another airline — Iran Air — said one diplomat.
Mahan Air, established in 1992 as Iran’s first private airline, has the country’s largest fleet of aircraft and has flights to a number of European countries, including France, Italy, Spain and Greece.
European countries have been under sustained US pressure to reimpose sanctions on Iran since President Donald Trump last year pulled Washington out of an international nuclear non-proliferation treaty reached with Tehran under his predecessor Barack Obama.
Along with Iran, the other signatories to the deal — Germany, France, Britain, Russia and China — are still trying to keep it alive and set up in January a mechanism to allow trade with Tehran and circumvent US sanctions.