Protests mount in Indian-administered Kashmir clampdown

Tensions remain high in Kashmir after India’s controversial decision last month to revoke the disputed Himalayan region’s decades old semi-autonomous status. (Reuters)
Updated 15 September 2019

Protests mount in Indian-administered Kashmir clampdown

  • Tensions remain high in the disputed Himalayan region
  • New Delhi last month to revoked the territory’s decades old semi-autonomous status

SRINAGAR, India: Kashmir has seen an average of nearly 20 protests per day against Indian rule over the last six weeks despite a security lockdown to quell unrest, a senior government source said.
Tensions remain high in the disputed Himalayan region after New Delhi’s controversial decision last month to revoke the territory’s decades old semi-autonomous status.
Despite a curfew, movement restrictions and the severe curtailment of Internet and mobile phone services, public demonstrations against India — mostly in the largest city Srinagar — have been constant, the source said late Saturday.
Altogether there have been 722 protests since August 5, with Baramulla district in the northwest and Pulwama in the south the biggest hotspots after Srinagar, the source said.
Since that date, nearly 200 civilians and 415 security force members have been hurt, according to the source.
Ninety-five of the civilians were injured in the last two weeks, the official said.
So far more than 4,100 people — including 170 local political leaders — have been detained across the valley, with 3,000 released in the past two weeks, the official said.
It was unclear whether any politicians were among those released.
Indian authorities have so far insisted that outbreaks of violence have been minimal, and that only five civilians have died since the clampdown started.
The relatives of four of those killed said they believed the security forces were responsible for their deaths.
The latest updates came as police said Thursday that three men suspected of belonging to a Pakistan-based militant organization were arrested while transporting weapons and ammunition toward Indian Kashmir.
Nuclear-armed neighbors India and Pakistan have fought two wars over Kashmir, which was split between the two countries in 1947.
India deployed extra troops ahead of the August 5 decision to reinforce some 500,000 soldiers already stationed in the region, one of the most militarized places on the planet.
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday promised to raise the decision to strip Indian Kashmir of its autonomy at the upcoming UN General Assembly session.


Dhaka’s Uber drivers warn of more protests if demands not met

Updated 12 min 11 sec ago

Dhaka’s Uber drivers warn of more protests if demands not met

  • Push for increase in base fare, reducing commission from 25% to 12%

 

DHAKA: Uber drivers in Bangladesh said on Tuesday that they would launch more protests if the authorities failed to meet the demands highlighted in a nine-point program.

It follows a day-long protest staged by the drivers’ union of the popular ride-sharing service and the Bangladesh drivers’ association on Monday.

The nine demands from Uber drivers include an increase in the basic fare, fixing the fare per kilometer and reducing Uber’s commission from 25 percent to 12 percent.

Uber drivers are also pressing for trips to be assigned under the “Destination” option in the app, ensuring the security of drivers; compensating drivers if passengers damage the vehicles; taking action against drivers only after a thorough investigation of complaints; and making it compulsory for passengers to provide their image in their Uber accounts.

“We had two meetings with the Uber authorities in Dhaka last August and September to realize our demands but there was no result. So finding no other alternative, we observed the 24-hour strike on Uber service,” Belal Ahmed, secretary of the Dhaka ride-sharing drivers’ union, told Arab News.

“We are now observing the initiatives taken by the Uber Bangladesh management in regard to our demands. If they don’t listen to us we will announce fresh tougher programs within the next couple of days,” Ahmed said.

San Francisco-based ride-sharing company Uber launched its operations in Dhaka in November 2016, making it the first ride-sharing company to provide its services there.

Other local operators — Pathao, Shohoz, O Bhai, O Car, Car Bangla, Pick me — followed soon after by offering services in the cities of Dhaka, Chottogram and Sylhet.

“We want a perfect ‘way bill’ for our trips which we don’t get in some cases due to technical problems in the Uber app. In these cases, we had enjoyed an adjustment from Uber which has been stopped for the past five months causing a huge loss for the drivers,” Shamim Hossain, president of the Bangladesh ride-sharing drivers’ association, told Arab News.

Justifying the drivers’ demand to reduce the commission given to Uber, Hossain said that all other local ride-sharing operators charged only 15-20 percent commission.

“Uber is not investing in the cars. As an app service provider, they are just bridging the passengers and drivers and charging 25 percent of our income, which is very high,” Hossain said.

Commuters in Dhaka expressed their dissatisfaction over the drivers’ protest.

“The drivers can’t take the passengers as hostage to realize their demand in any situation. It’s a service- oriented issue and drivers should act in a more rational way,” Monowara Begum, 36, an employee of a corporate house in Dhaka, told Arab News.

“We have become dependent on Uber services as they are the most reliable and available. So, both the parties should find a sustainable solution to mitigate the crisis. This sort of strike cases huge disruption in our daily lives,” Momin Ullah, 49, a businessman of Dhaka, told Arab News.

The Uber Bangladesh authority did not comment when contacted by Arab News. A statement released by Uber Bangladesh on Monday read: “We regret the disruption caused to the rider and driver-partner community, due to a small group of individuals. We strive to provide reliable and safe transport options to get around the city and hope to minimize any distress caused.”

“We are committed to providing reliable, convenient and safe transport options to our riders, while providing access to flexible income opportunities for our driver partners. We always prioritize the wellbeing of our driver-partners and have processes in place to address concerns and issues through our Partner Sheba Kendras and in-App feedback,” it said.

Uber operates in more than 550 cities around the world.