Kashmir crisis leaves lucrative apple orchards to rot

Farmers in Kashmir are deliberately leaving their apples to rot, undermining the restive territory’s most lucrative export as bitterness toward the Indian government grows. (AFP)
Updated 29 September 2019

Kashmir crisis leaves lucrative apple orchards to rot

  • New Delhi has deployed tens of thousands of extra troops since early August
  • Farmers have joined in the rebuke of India’s actions by deliberately sabotaging a crop vital to the local economy

SHOPIAN, Kashmir: Farmers in Kashmir are deliberately leaving their apples to rot, undermining the restive territory’s most lucrative export as bitterness toward the Indian government grows.
New Delhi has deployed tens of thousands of extra troops since early August, when it scrapped the region’s decades-old semi-autonomous status, and brought in a communications blockade that cut off Kashmiris from the outside world.
Political leaders and thousands of civilians have been arrested, with allegations of torture and abuse levelled at authorities — which deny them — and protests have since raged.
Either in anger or at the urging of local militants, farmers have joined in the rebuke of India’s actions by deliberately sabotaging a crop vital to the local economy.
The fertile Himalayan region usually sells hundreds of millions of dollars worth of apples each year, and more than half of Kashmiris are engaged directly or indirectly in cultivation.
At one orchard in central Shopian district, Ghulam Nabi Malik and his brother usually sell 7,000 boxes of apples a year for markets and kitchen tables across India, earning them some seven million rupees (nearly $100,000).
Their land is now idle, with branches sagging under the weight of unpicked fruit.
“Let it rot on the trees,” Malik said.
Amid the latest unrest, Malik told AFP that harvesting would allow the Indian government “to tell the world that everything is fine in Kashmir.”
And everything, he says, is far from fine.
Militants have circulated letters and stuck posters outside mosques, appealing to orchard owners not to harvest and instead join the “resistance.”
“Apple growers and students are ready to sacrifice this year and not betray the blood of martyrs,” reads one such notice, nailed to a wooden post and signed by a local rebel commander.
Many farmers say they are willing participants in the campaign, although there have been threats and one orchard owner — a local bigwig close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party — was attacked.
In one village, a former police officer who deserted to join a rebel group set fire to empty boxes his own family had bought for packing fruit.
Militants have also put pressure on fuel stations, forcing off the roads many trucks needed to transport the fruit.
But locals insisted to AFP that the insurgents were not the reason for abandoning what they say is a bumper crop this year.
“To leave the ripe apples rotting on the trees is the only form of protest we can do under the current circumstances,” Malik said.
People say they are more frightened of Indian security forces, who often haul away young men from villages at night.
“There is fear (of the militants), but it’s not like the fear of the state forces,” said one villager who declined to be named, fearing reprisal.
Modi says that with tens of thousands killed in Kashmir’s 30-year-old anti-India insurgency, his government has acted to end “a vicious cycle of terrorism, violence, separatism and corruption.”
New Delhi says most Kashmiris support its move but are scared to say so out of fear of “terrorists” backed by arch-rival Pakistan, which has fought two wars with India over the territory.
The state government has tried to resolve the situation with the apples by promising security for growers and offering to buy apples directly.
It insists these measures are working.
Deliveries of apples to market were only down by around 25 percent, said Metharam Kriplani of the New Delhi-based Kashmir Apple Merchants Association.
The “biggest problem” facing buyers was the lack of phone lines as a result of the region’s communications lockdown, he said.
But growers that spoke to AFP have refused the offer of government support, and fruit markets in Shopian and elsewhere in Kashmir are empty — despite some traders claiming that local authorities attempted to browbeat them into opening as normal.
The authorities “threatened that they would destroy the shops (at the market) if we didn’t open. But the market is deserted,” said Bashir Ahmad Bashir, head of the local fruit-growers association.


In streaming wars, Disney reaches beyond kids and families

Updated 16 min 56 sec ago

In streaming wars, Disney reaches beyond kids and families

  • Disney’s marketing force is reaching beyond its traditional family audience to send a message that its $7-a-month subscription service Disney+ offers something for all ages

LOS ANGELES: During commercial breaks in a broadcast of World Wrestling Entertainment’s WWE SmackDown, fans were shown ads for Walt Disney Co’s new streaming service, Disney+. So were “Monday Night Football” viewers and video gamers watching Twitch.
“Try to keep up,” said Captain Marvel in one ad after a series of fast-paced clips from “Star Wars,” “The Simpsons,” “The Avengers” and other Disney-owned hits from outside of its deep catalogue of children’s classics.
Disney’s marketing force is reaching beyond its traditional family audience to send a message that its $7-a-month subscription service Disney+ offers something for all ages. The service debuted on Tuesday in the United States, Canada and The Netherlands.
“It’s incumbent upon us to market it the right way to emphasize the fact that it’s not just for kids,” Disney executive Kevin Mayer said during a briefing at the company’s Burbank, California, headquarters. “It’s all family friendly, but everyone can enjoy this product.”
Disney has told investors it can hook 60 million to 90 million customers within about five years as it competes for customers in a crowded streaming market dominated by Netflix Inc. 
Signing up adults who do not have children at home is part of that plan.
Consumers may not realize that after a series of acquisitions Disney is much more than classics like “Cinderella” and “Mary Poppins” that charmed generations of families. The company now owns the celebrated “Star Wars” movie franchise; Iron Man, the Hulk and dozens of other Marvel superheroes; “Toy Story” animation house Pixar, and nature programming channel National Geographic.
Previously released movies and TV series from all of those brands, plus 30 seasons of “The Simpsons,” are available on Disney+ alongside decades of Disney’s family-centric offerings.
Disney+ also offers new programming from those brands.
To raise awareness, the company is promoting Disney+ during sports and primetime TV telecasts to get in front of what Hollywood calls the four quadrants of viewers: male, female, young and old.
“We’re unmatched in quality and appeal across our four-quadrant audience spanning a variety of genres, formats and arenas, and will continue to build on that year after year,” said Ricky Strauss, president of content and marketing for Disney+.
In addition to the wrestling, football and gaming contests, ads ran during the World Series and the ABC News late-night program “Nightline,” and on social media networks.
Early testing in The Netherlands, where Disney offered a free two-month trial of Disney+, attracted a “very large and diverse audience,” said Mayer, who runs Disney’s direct-to-consumer and international unit.
“Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD,” a series aimed at 18- to 49-year olds, ranked as the most-watched piece of content, Mayer said. Next was tween-oriented show “The Suite Life of Zack & Cody” followed by “Disney’s Mickey Mouse Clubhouse,” a cartoon for young children.
“Our hypothesis was we will have a lot of different types of viewership, that it’s not going to be centered among any one of our brands,” Mayer said. “It’s quite a nice confirmation of what we want accomplished.”
The initial response in The Netherlands has cheered industry analysts.
“They have some surprising and encouraging signs about this potential that Disney+ is not just kids and family,” Forrester analyst Jim Nail said.
But unlike Netflix, Disney+ limits how far its programming will go to attract older viewers. To keep it family friendly, the service will not have any R-rated movies or TV shows designated TV-MA for mature audiences.
Programming considered too adult for Disney+ may stream on Hulu, which Disney also owns. That will include FX series such as “American Horror Story” and “Fargo” and possibly movies starring Deadpool, a Marvel character known for foul-mouthed humor, when rights become available.
“There are boundaries to what we’ll put on Disney+,” Mayer said. “’Deadpool’ is definitely not for Disney+.”