India puts Modi loyalist in charge of Kashmir

Late Tuesday, authorities lifted a curfew in Srinagar but said restrictions on public movement, transport and commercial activities would continue because of the coronavirus pandemic. (File/AP)
Updated 07 August 2020

India puts Modi loyalist in charge of Kashmir

  • Manoj Sinha is a leader in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling party
  • Last August, Modi’s government removed special privileges accorded to Jammu and Kashmir

NEW DELHI: In a major administrative reshuffle following the first anniversary of Kashmir’s loss of autonomy, India on Thursday appointed a loyalist of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling party as the region’s new lieutenant governor.
Manoj Sinha, a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader and former minister, replaces Girish Chandra Murmu, who abruptly resigned on Wednesday night.
“The president is pleased to appoint Manoj Sinha as lieutenant governor of Jammu and Kashmir,” Indian President Ram Nath Kovind announced early on Thursday.
After the announcement, Sinha immediately left for Kashmir’s capital Srinagar, telling reporters: “It’s a big responsibility.”
On Aug. 5 last year, New Delhi annulled Article 370 of India’s constitution, which had guaranteed Kashmir’s autonomy, and bifurcated the state into the Union Territory of Ladakh and the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.
A union territory’s legislative assembly is subservient to the lieutenant governor, who holds both administrative and political responsibility.
Sinha’s appointment came after authorities imposed a curfew in the Muslim-majority region on Wednesday to prevent street protests on the first anniversary of the revoking of its special status.
“The removal of the (previous) lieutenant governor is an acknowledgment of New Delhi’s policy failure in the past year,” Prof. Sheikh Showkat Hussain, who teaches human rights and international law at the University of Kashmir in Srinagar, told Arab News.
“Murmu is just a scapegoat,” he said.
Hussain described the new regional leader as “a hardcore Hindu leader belonging to the BJP.”
“Let’s see what’s the design behind sending such a political activist to Srinagar.”
Zaffar Choudhary, a Srinagar-based political analyst and editor of online news magazine the Dispatch, said New Delhi’s move may be a sign that political activity will be restored in the region.
The government’s representative is a “political man,” he said, unlike the previous lieutenant governor.
“By sending a full-time politician as the head of Jammu and Kashmir, New Delhi is perhaps preparing to restore the statehood of Jammu and Kashmir and start the political process,” Choudhary said.
However, Hussain argues the situation in the valley cannot be redeemed merely by changing the face of the government representative.
“Ordinary Kashmiris are more alienated and hostile than before the fateful day of Aug. 5,” he said.
“A sense of insecurity looms — it has overtaken even local Hindus in the Jammu region. Kashmir is more volatile than before. Its communication blockade and media censorship surpass global records, and there is a complete exclusion of local people from decision-making at every level.”
 


Seoul expands search for official killed by North Korean troops

Updated 10 min 24 sec ago

Seoul expands search for official killed by North Korean troops

  • Officials in Seoul are calling on North Korea to agree to a joint probe into the incident
  • The North had not responded to the call for a joint investigation
SEOUL: South Korea on Monday expanded the search for a missing fisheries official killed by North Korean troops at sea last week, a day after North Korea accused the South of raising tension by intruding into its territorial waters.
South Korea’s military has accused North Korean soldiers of killing the man, dousing his body in fuel and setting it on fire near the sea border, apparently in an effort to prevent the risk of a novel coronavirus outbreak.
Officials in Seoul are calling on North Korea to agree to a joint investigation into the incident, which prompted an apology from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who said the killing should not have happened.
South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in said on Monday that military hotlines with North Korea should be restored to prevent unexpected incidents. North Korea severed the inter-Korean hotlines this year as relations soured.
Moon called Kim’s apology “unprecedented, very rare and special” and a sign that North Korea did not want relations to worsen. He added that communication must resume to prevent future problems.
As of Monday, the North had not responded to the call for a joint investigation. On Sunday, its state media issued a statement complaining that South Korea’s naval operations had entered its territorial waters in the area, off the west coast of the peninsula, threatening to raise tensions.
“We have never crossed the Northern Limit Line to the North’s side, but there has been differences in how the two Koreas mark the waters,” South Korea Coast Guard Lt. Lee Hong-chear said, referring to a disputed maritime demarcation that dates to the end of the 1950-1953 Korean War.
At least six aircraft and 45 vessels were participating in the search, including 36 ships from the coast guard and navy, and nine boats from the fisheries ministry and private owners, Lee said.
North Korea said on Sunday it was conducting its own search for the man’s body, and said it was considering ways to hand it over to the South if found.