Govt bars India’s opposition from visiting Kashmir

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Kashmiris living in Bangalore protest on Aug. 24, 2019 to seek an end to the communication blockade in Indian-controlled Kashmir. (AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi)
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Indian paramilitary soldiers stand guard near a temporary checkpoint during lockdown in Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir, Friday, Aug. 23, 2019. (AP)
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A security personnel stands guard in front of closed shops in Srinagar on August 23, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 25 August 2019

Govt bars India’s opposition from visiting Kashmir

  • The local administration had warned the opposition leaders on Friday evening not to come, as it might raise tensions
  • Communication blockades continue and people of the region are still cut off from the rest of the world

NEW DELHI: A delegation of senior opposition leaders, including Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, were detained at Srinagar Airport and sent back to New Delhi on Saturday, when they tried to visit the Kashmir Valley.

The 11-member delegation representing eight parties had planned to visit various parts of Kashmir to get a sense of the situation in the area.

The local administration had warned the opposition leaders on Friday evening not to come, as it might raise tensions.

As soon as Gandhi and other opposition leaders landed, security forces surrounded them and did not allow them to leave the airport.

There are reports that members of the media were manhandled when they tried to follow the politicians.

“We wanted to get a sense of what people are going through, but we weren’t allowed beyond the airport,” Gandhi said.

“People with us were mishandled, beaten. It’s clear that the situation in Jammu and Kashmir isn’t normal,” Gandhi told the media after returning from Srinagar.

The Communist Party of India in a statement said: “The denial of entry to well-known leaders of recognized political parties is an outright attack on the rights of political parties to meet and address their constituents.”

It added that the plan of the delegation was “to visit various parts of the state over the next few days, talking to various people and sections of the populace and shades of political opinion to ascertain the situation existing on the ground and the difficulties that they are encountering as a result of the shutdown in the Kashmir Valley.”

Kashmir has been under security lockdown since Aug. 5, the day when the Indian government rescinded Article 370 that gave a special autonomous status to Jammu and Kashmir under the Indian constitution. 

Jammu and Kashmir Gov. Satyapal Malik doubted the opposition’s intentions and said that they wanted to “aggravate the situation” through their visit.

“If Rahul Gandhi wants to aggravate the situation and come here to repeat the lie he told in Delhi, it is not good,” Malik told the media in Srinagar.

The situation remains tense even three weeks after the abrogation of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir. Schools, colleges and businesses remain shut despite a government’s order to reopen them.

Communication blockades continue and people of the region are still cut off from the rest of the world.

Traffic movement has increased on major roads but round the clock vigilance by security personnel continues with paramilitaries manning key strategic points across Srinagar.

“In south Kashmir — be it Pulwama, Shopian or Anantnag — life is at a standstill. People are living in fear because of the random arrests by the security forces,” Manzoor Ul Hassan, a Srinagar-based journalist said.

A government official in Srinagar told Arab News: “We have asked people to start resuming normal life but that is not happening.”


US service member killed in action in Afghanistan

Updated 47 min 5 sec ago

US service member killed in action in Afghanistan

  • The death brings the number of US military personnel killed in action in Afghanistan this year to at least 17
  • The latest US fatality comes after talks between Washington and the Taliban crumbled.

KABUL: An American service member was killed in Afghanistan, the US-led NATO mission said Monday, the latest US fatality after talks between Washington and the Taliban crumbled.
“A US service member was killed in action today in Afghanistan,” NATO’s Resolute Support mission said in a brief statement.
The death brings the number of US military personnel killed in action in Afghanistan this year to at least 17, just as Washington is seeking a way out of its longest war.
NATO did not immediately provide any additional information regarding the circumstances of the deadly incident.
About a week ago, President Donald Trump abruptly called off talks with the Taliban, which were aimed at paving the way for an American withdrawal from Afghanistan following 18 years of armed conflict.
“They are dead. As far as I am concerned, they are dead,” Trump said.
The announcement followed Trump’s cancelation of a top-secret plan to fly Taliban leaders and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to the Camp David presidential compound outside Washington for talks.
Trump in part blamed the death of a US soldier in a huge Taliban bombing in Kabul for his change of heart on negotiations.
Until the talks were called off, there had been steadily mounting expectations of a deal that would see the US draw down troop levels in Afghanistan — from roughly 13,000 to about 8,000 next year.
In return, the Taliban would offer security guarantees to keep extremist groups out.
Last week, NATO said the focus of its Resolute Support mission remained “unchanged” — to train and advise local forces.
“NATO will stay in Afghanistan for as long as necessary to ensure the country never again becomes a safe haven for international terrorists,” an alliance official told AFP.