India’s Priyanka stopped from visiting site of deadly shooting as tensions flare

Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, above, was leading a group of supporters to the village of a few hundred people when police blocked their cars. (File/AFP)
Updated 20 July 2019

India’s Priyanka stopped from visiting site of deadly shooting as tensions flare

  • The shooting happened in Uttar Pradesh
  • The state is known for a pronounced caste system

NEW DELHI: Indian police on Friday stopped opposition leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra from visiting a village where 10 tribal people were gunned down this week over a land dispute, officials said, fueling political divisions.
In an altercation on Wednesday, a village headman and his supporters allegedly shot at a group of tribal people who were working a piece of disputed agricultural land in the state of Uttar Pradesh.
Uttar Pradesh is India’s most populous state and divisions based on the ancient caste system are pronounced, especially in rural areas. Tribal people are perceived to form the bottom rung of that system.
Police have arrested 27 people, including the village headman, but opposition groups said the shooting was the latest sign of deteriorating security in the state governed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party.
Priyanka — she is usually referred to by just her first name — is the sister of Congress party leader Rahul Gandhi and is a party general secretary.
She was leading a group of supporters to the village of a few hundred people when police blocked their cars, saying they could inflame tension.
But Priyanka said she was only going to commiserate with the families of the victims and state authorities were trying to cover up their failure to prevent the violence.
She said that police had been warned of a brewing conflict between the headman and tribal people who had been farming on the land for generations.
“The police were called during the altercation but no help came,” she said. “Where is the law and order system in this state?
Uttar Pradesh, led by firebrand Hindu monk Yogi Adityanath, has been in the spotlight for incidents of lynching over the slaughter of cows, attacks on journalists and a general rise in crime, opposition leaders say.
“There is jungle rule in UP,” said Tej Narain Pandey, a state legislator.
Police said the village headman and his supporters arrived at the disputed tract of land with guns.
Nine people were killed at the site and one died later in hospital.
The Congress, badly beaten by Modi in an election this year, is trying to find ways to make a political comeback.
The party criticized state authorities.
“Instead of reaching out to the families of the victims, the government is trying to prevent opposition leaders only to hide the truth from the public,” Congress said in a statement.


Kashmir protesters defy restrictions, clash with security forces

Updated 23 August 2019

Kashmir protesters defy restrictions, clash with security forces

  • Paramilitary police tried to enter Soura, which has emerged as a center of the protests, as hundreds demonstrated against Narendra Modi’s decision to withdraw autonomy
  • Posters appeared overnight in Srinagar, the Muslim-majority region’s main city, calling for a march to the office of the UN Military Observer Group for India and Pakistan

SRINAGAR, India: Security forces used tear gas against stone-throwing local residents in Indian Kashmir’s main city of Srinagar on Friday, after a third straight week of protests in the restive Soura district despite the imposition of tight restrictions.
Paramilitary police tried to enter Soura, which has emerged as a center of the protests, as hundreds of locals staged a protest march against Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision to withdraw autonomy for Jammu and Kashmir on Aug. 5.
Posters appeared overnight this week in Srinagar, the Muslim-majority region’s main city, calling for a march to the office of the UN Military Observer Group for India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP), to protest against India’s decision.
This was the first such call by separatists seeking Kashmir’s secession from India. India’s move was accompanied by travel and communication restrictions in Kashmir that are still largely in place, although some landlines were restored last week.
The UNMOGIP was set up in 1949 after the first war between India and Pakistan over Kashmir, a Himalayan region both countries claim in full but rule in part. The group monitors cease-fire violations along the border between the countries.
In a narrow lane of Soura, blocked like many others with rocks and sheets of metal, residents hurled stones at the paramilitary police to stop them moving into an area around the local mosque, Jinab Sahib, which had earlier been packed for Friday prayers.
The police responded with several rounds of tear gas and chili grenades but were beaten back by dozens of stone-pelting men. Some men suffered pellet injuries.
The locals said the security forces had been repeatedly trying to move into Soura, often using tear gas and pellets.
“We are neither safe at home, nor outside,” said Rouf, who declined to give his full name. He had rubbed salt into his face to counteract the effects of tear gas.
The afternoon had begun peacefully, with men and women streaming into Jinab Sahib for afternoon prayers. A cleric then raised a call for “Azadi” – Urdu for freedom – several times, and declared Kashmir’s allegiance to neighboring Pakistan.
“Long live Pakistan,” the cleric said, as worshippers roared back in approval.
US President Donald Trump plans to discuss Kashmir when he meets Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the sidelines of a G7 meeting in France this weekend, a senior US administration official said on Thursday.
Trump, who has offered to mediate between India and Pakistan, will press Modi on how he plans to calm regional tensions after the withdrawal of Kashmir’s autonomy, and stress the need for dialogue, the official said.
Some Indian media reports on Friday said “terrorists” were trying to enter India from Afghanistan, citing unnamed government officials.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan responded on Twitter on Friday that such claims were being made to “divert attention” away from what he called human rights violations in Kashmir.
“The Indian leadership will in all probability attempt a false flag operation to divert attention,” Khan said.
Khan’s comments came a day after United Nations experts called on the Indian government to “end the crackdown on freedom of expression, access to information and peaceful protests” in Kashmir, saying it would increase regional tensions.
“The blackout is a form of collective punishment of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, without even a pretext of a precipitating offense,” they said in a statement.
At least 152 people have been hurt by teargas and pellets since security forces launched their crackdown, data from the Himalayan region’s two main hospitals shows.
Large swathes of Srinagar remain deserted with shops shut except for some provision stores with shutters half-down. Police vans patrolled some areas announcing a curfew and asking people to stay indoors.
On the Dal Lake, long rows of houseboats, normally packed with tourists at this time of year, floated closed and empty, as police patrolled its mirror-calm waters in boats.