India easing restrictions in Kashmir as international pressure mounts

Kashmiri women in Srinagar protest against restrictions. (Reuters)
Updated 17 August 2019
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India easing restrictions in Kashmir as international pressure mounts

  • “Modi must listen to the people in the region, engage with them, and hear what they have to say when it comes to decisions that affect their lives,” said Aakar Patel, head of Amnesty International India

NEW DELHI: Ahead of the  informal UN consultations regarding India’s abrogation of Article 370 of the Indian constitution, the administration of Jammu and Kashmir announced on Friday that restrictions in the valley would be lifted “in a phased manner.”
The state’s Chief Secretary B.V.R. Subrahmanyam said at a press briefing in Srinagar that no lives had been lost, nor anyone injured, “during the course of maintaining peace.”
“We are now taking measures to ease the restrictions in a gradual manner,” he announced. “There will be easing of restrictions in the coming days in an orderly way.”
He said that schools in the state will reopen on Monday and that public transport will be permitted to function in areas around those schools. “Government offices were fully operational today and attendance was high,” Subrahmanyam added.
He claimed that 12 districts in the state were now functioning “normally” and that limited restrictions were in place in only five districts, and that those restrictions had been imposed to counter the threat of “cross-border terrorism,” adding that “a few preventive detentions” had been made “to maintain law and order.”
“The history of terrorism required the government to take steps. A few preventive measures were also made according to the provisions of law,” he said. “Similar measures were taken in the past also. Terror groups carry out attacks in Jammu and Kashmir to create fear and block development.”
His announcement came on the same day that the UN was set to hold an informal discussion on the government’s abrogation of Article 370 — a provision that gave the state of Jammu and Kashmir special autonomous status.
On Thursday, Amnesty International appealed to the Indian government to lift the communications blackout and engage with the people of Jammu and Kashmir.
The human rights NGO told Prime Minister Narendra Modi that if his decision to repeal Article 370 has the support of the people, “then he must immediately lift the communications blackout.”
“Modi must listen to the people in the region, engage with them, and hear what they have to say when it comes to decisions that affect their lives,” said Aakar Patel, head of Amnesty International India.
“The government of India must realize that the ongoing clampdown on civil liberties in Jammu and Kashmir will only increase tensions, alienate the people, and increase the risk of further human rights violations,” he added.
On Friday an open letter from more than 200 writers and activists was published condemning the “mockery of democracy in Kashmir.”
By scrapping the special status given to Jammu and Kashmir in the Indian constitution, the letter said, New Delhi has “violated the solemn promises made to the state by the Union of India during the accession of the state in 1947.”
The letter called on the government “to lift the state of siege imposed on the people of the valley,” and appealed to Indians “to resist this authoritarian challenge to the freedom and autonomy of Jammu & Kashmir.”
On Wednesday a fact-finding team of economists and activists published a report — “Kashmir Caged” — in which they alleged that security forces in the valley had “abducted hundreds of boys in midnight raids and molested women and girls amid the state’s 11-day blackout.”

The activists — Jean Drèze, a famous Indian economist, Kavita Krishnan of the All India Progressive Women’s Association, Maimoona Mollah, vice president of the All India Democratic Women’s Association, and Vimal Bhai of the National Alliance of People’s Movement — spent five days travelling through the valley from August 9.
In a press conference in Delhi they said that “there is an intense and virtually unanimous anger in Kashmir against the Indian government’s decision to abrogate Articles 370 and 35A, and also about the way this has been done,” adding that “the silence in the valley is the silence at gun point.”
They demanded that any decision on the future of Kashmir should not be taken without the involvement and consent of the Kashmiri people.
The Indian government would not allow the team to screen a short film they made about the situation inside the valley.
The opposition Congress party expressed “grave and deep concern” that the Indian government had failed to stop the “internationalization of the Kashmir issue.” Congress party spokesman Abhisekh Manu Singhvi described it as “a great diplomatic and strategic failure of the government.”
Happymon Jacob, a writer who teaches Disarmament and National Security at the School of International Studies in New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University suggests that too much importance is being attached to the UN’s decision to discuss the issue, though.
“It’s only an informal discussion (in which no minutes are taken),” Jacob said.
He told Arab News that by scrapping Article 370, the Modi government “wants to make the Kashmir issue a domestic problem, but the issue has become international and it will have geopolitical consequences.”


Tens of thousands homeless a year after Indonesia quake: Red Cross

Updated 23 September 2019

Tens of thousands homeless a year after Indonesia quake: Red Cross

  • Around 57,000 people “are still living in temporary accommodation, unsure where and when they can rebuild” according to the the Indonesian Red Cross
  • The World Bank offered Indonesia $1 billion dollars in loans to help get the city back on its feet

Jakarta: Nearly 60,000 people are still living in makeshift accommodation nearly a year after a devastating earthquake and tsunami pounded the Indonesian city of Palu, the Red Cross said Monday.
The magnitude 7.5 quake and subsequent deluge razed swathes of the coastal city on Sulawesi island last September, killing more than 4,300 people and displacing some 170,000 residents.
The force of the impact saw entire neighborhoods levelled by liquefaction — a process where the ground starts behaving like a liquid and swallows up the earth like quicksand.
It also destroyed fishing boats, shops and irrigation systems, robbing locals of their income.
A year later, around 57,000 people “are still living in temporary accommodation, unsure where and when they can rebuild” said the Indonesian Red Cross and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).
“We are hoping the government will redouble their efforts to identify settlement areas and help thousands of families... build permanent homes,” said Jan Gelfand, head of the IFRC Indonesia country office.
Saturday marks one year since the double disaster.
Earlier the World Bank offered the country up to $1 billion in loans to get the city back on its feet.
Indonesia is one of the most disaster-prone nations on Earth due to its position straddling the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire, where tectonic plates collide.
The sprawling archipelago is also dotted with more than 100 volcanoes, including one that erupted between Java and Sumatra in late 2018 and unleashed a tsunami that killed more than 400 people.
On Boxing Day 2004, a 9.1-magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Sumatra and triggered a tsunami that killed 220,000 across the Indian Ocean region, including around 170,000 in Indonesia.