Some curbs, including fixed phone use, eased in Kashmir

Kashmiris hold placards as they shout slogans at a protest after Friday prayers during restrictions after the Indian government scrapped the special constitutional status for Kashmir, in Srinagar August 16, 2019. (Reuters)
Updated 17 August 2019
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Some curbs, including fixed phone use, eased in Kashmir

  • Celebrations by Kashmiris over UN meet
  • Much of valley still long way from normal

SRINAGAR: Indian authorities eased restrictions on movement and restored landline telephone links in some parts of Kashmir on Saturday, the biggest relaxation in a crippling lockdown since New Delhi announced it was removing the region’s special status on Aug. 5.

The moves came even as there were celebrations and protests by Kashmiris opposed to the Indian policy in Srinagar on Friday night. The celebrations were to mark the first UN Security Council meeting about the Kashmir issue for about five decades.

Two police officials and a series of eyewitnesses said that demonstrations and celebrations took place in various parts of the city. However, the number of incidents of local residents pelting security forces with stones were low compared with recent days, said a security official who toured Srinagar in the morning.

A witness said that hundreds marched in the Rajouri Kadal area of Srinagar and they also let off some fire crackers. They shouted pro-Pakistani and anti-India slogans during the celebrations, two witnesses said.

For the first time since the Indian government announced that it was revoking Jammu and Kashmir state’s rights to set some of its own laws, police vans didn’t announce imposition of a virtual curfew in Srinagar. The authorities deny there has been a curfew in the past two weeks but on many occasions people have been ordered to stay indoors.

India’s UN Ambassador Syed Akbaruddin said the decision over Kashmir’s status was an internal matter and that the country was committed to ensuring the situation remained “calm and peaceful.”

The Jammu and Kashmir government said that restrictions had been lifted by 35 of the 100 or so police stations across the Kashmir Valley, though it was not immediately clear what this meant.

It said that most of the telephone exchanges for fixed-line phones will be working by Sunday night. In the Jammu area, which is mainly Hindu, mobile services have been restored in some districts.

Despite the relaxation, the situation is still far from normal in Kashmir.

There is still a lockdown in much of the region, including in some parts of Srinagar and in sensitive major towns. There is also no clear indication about when internet and cellphone links will be restored across the region.

Meanwhile, more than 500 political or community leaders and activists remain in detention, some of them having been flown to prisons outside the state.

Some private vehicles were out on major roads in Srinagar on Saturday but the city’s old quarter, long a centre for protests, was deserted, witnesses said. Shops, even grocery stores, remained closed in that area.

The landlines have been restored in some wealthier areas of Srinagar, and in a district near the airport.


At UN, leaders of a warming world gather

Updated 9 min 27 sec ago

At UN, leaders of a warming world gather

  • That large turnout reflects a growing global focus on addressing climate change

UNITED NATIONS: The planet is getting hotter, and tackling that climate peril will grab the spotlight as world leaders gather for their annual meeting at the United Nations this week facing an undeniable backdrop: Rising tensions from the Arabian Gulf to Afghanistan and increasing nationalism, inequality and intolerance.

Growing fear of military action, especially in response to recent attacks on Saudi oil installations that are key to world energy supplies, hangs over this year’s General Assembly gathering. That unease is exacerbated by global conflicts and crises from Syria and Yemen to Venezuela, from disputes between Israel and the Palestinians to the Pakistan-India standoff over Kashmir.

“Our fraying world needs international cooperation more than ever, but simply saying it will not make it happen,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said. “Let’s face it: We have no time to lose.”

This year’s General Assembly session, which starts today and ends Sept. 30, has attracted world leaders from 136 of the 193 UN member nations. 

That large turnout reflects a growing global focus on addressing climate change and the perilous state of peace and security.

Other countries will be represented by ministers and vice presidents — except Afghanistan, whose leaders are in a hotly contested presidential campaign ahead of Sept. 28 elections, and North Korea, which downgraded its representation from a minister to, likely, its UN ambassador. Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu canceled plans to attend and are sending ministers.

Last week, Guterres repeated warnings that “tensions are boiling over.” The world, he said, “is at a critical moment on several fronts — the climate emergency, rising inequality, an increase in hatred and intolerance as well as an alarming number of peace and security challenges.”

With so many monarchs, presidents and prime ministers at the UN this year, “we have a chance to advance diplomacy for peace,” Guterres said. “This is the moment to cool tensions.”

Whether that happens remains to be seen. Many diplomats aren’t optimistic.

“It’s a challenging time for the United Nations,” said China’s UN ambassador, Zhang Jun, whose nation is embroiled in a protracted dispute with the United States over tariffs. “We are faced with rising of unilateralism, protectionism, and we are faced with global challenges like climate change, like terrorism, like cybersecurity.”

“More importantly,” he said, “we are faced with a deficit of trust.”

As the world’s second-largest economy and a member of the UN Security Council, “China firmly defends multilateralism, and China firmly supports the United Nations,” Zhang said Friday.

But divisions among the five council members — the US, Russia, China, Britain and France — have paralyzed action on the eight-year conflict in Syria and other global crises. On global warming, the Trump administration remains at odds with many countries.

This year, the UN has stocked the agenda with a “Youth Climate Summit” ahead of a full-on climate summit for world leaders on Monday. That’s all happening before the leaders hold their annual meeting in the horseshoe-shaped General Assembly hall starting Tuesday morning.

Guterres will give his state-of-the-world address at the opening, immediately followed by speeches from Trump and other leaders including the presidents of Brazil, Egypt and Turkey. Iran’s Rouhani is scheduled to address the assembly Wednesday morning.