More than 100 separatists detained in Kashmir raids in pre-election crackdown

Security forces stand guard along the Jammu-Srinagar highway in the Lethpora area of Kashmir, a day after a suicide attack on paramilitary personnel on February 14 which killed at least 40 people. (AFP)
Updated 23 February 2019

More than 100 separatists detained in Kashmir raids in pre-election crackdown

  • The move comes days after a suicide car bombing killed at least 40 Indian security personnel
  • The attack was claimed by Pakistan-based militant group Jaish-e-Mohammed

SRINAGAR/NEW DELHI: More than 100 separatists in Kashmir were detained in overnight raids, police officials said on Saturday, as part of a crackdown on groups that might cause trouble ahead of nationwide elections set to be held by May.
The move comes days after a suicide car bombing killed at least 40 Indian security personnel on Feb. 14. The Indian government has warned that it will use all options in its power to avenge the attack claimed by Pakistan-based militant group Jaish-e-Mohammed.
“The arrival of more troops and the arrests of leaders and activists of separatist groups is part of an election exercise undertaken to ensure free and fair elections,” said one senior police official in the state.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party is set to seek re-election in nationwide polls that are due to be held by May.
“Anti-election campaigns will not be allowed and separatists will be detained to ensure free, fair and transparent elections in the state,” the police official said.
Last week’s attack has also raised tensions between nuclear-armed neighbors India and Pakistan, that both claim Kashmir in full but rule it in part. India blames Pakistan for harboring militant groups operating in Kashmir. Pakistan has repeatedly denied the allegation.
Following the attack, India retaliated by removing any trade privileges offered to Pakistan, and it is now preparing to send as many as ten thousand additional troops to the contested area, according to a letter from the country’s home ministry seen by Reuters.
“India will exercise all instruments at its command, whether it is diplomatic or otherwise,” India’s Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said in New Delhi late on Friday. “This isn’t a one-week battle. It’s to be undertaken in various forms.”
Islamabad in turn has warned it would respond with “full force” if attacked.
The overnight arrests in the state included those of many senior members of Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI), an Islamic organization that wants Kashmir to be independent from India.
The arrests led to violent scenes in parts of Kashmir, with stone-throwing protesters met by police firing tear gas.
JeI’s leader, Dr. Abdul Hamid Fayaz and Yasin Malik, the head of Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) that wants independence from both India and Pakistan, were among those detained.
A spokesman for India’s home ministry did not respond to a request for comment on the arrests or troop deployments.
Next week India’s Supreme Court is also expected to hear a petition attempting to remove an article in the country’s constitution that prevents non-residents from moving to Jammu and Kashmir, the Indian state that contains Muslim-majority Kashmir. If passed it could further escalate tensions in the region.
A spokesman for JeI said the arrests of its members were a “well designed ploy,” ahead of any such ruling.


Brussels to ‘rebuild’ ties with UK after Boris win: EU Internal Market Commissioner

Updated 45 min 9 sec ago

Brussels to ‘rebuild’ ties with UK after Boris win: EU Internal Market Commissioner

  • Both sides then still need to thrash out a new trade and security agreement
  • Any future trade deal had to ensure that the EU’s social and environmental norms were also applied to trade with Britain

PARIS: The EU will have to rebuild its ties with London after Boris Johnson’s election victory which is likely to lead to Brexit in January, the EU’s Internal Market Commissioner said on Friday.
“We now have to rebuild relations with Great Britain which is an important partner,” Thierry Breton told French RTL radio, saying the bloc wanted “balanced” trade relations with the UK.
With almost all results declared for the 650-seat British parliament, Johnson’s Conservative party has secured a sweeping victory and he is now expected to deliver on his promise to “Get Brexit Done.”
His majority should allow him to get the divorce deal he struck with Brussels through parliament in time to meet the next Brexit deadline of January 31.
Both sides then still need to thrash out a new trade and security agreement.
Breton said he expected the European Council meeting Friday in Brussels to give the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier a new mandate for talks with London.
He said Britain was a very important trade partner for the EU, “but we are by far the biggest trading partner for Britain.”
Any future trade deal had to ensure that the EU’s social and environmental norms were also applied to trade with Britain.