Modi’s ‘settler’ masterplan for Indian Kashmir

Modi’s ‘settler’ masterplan for Indian Kashmir
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Indian policemen detain a Kashmiri Shiite Muslims as he and others attempt to take out a religious procession in Srinagar, Indian-controlled Kashmir, on Aug. 28, 2020. (AP Photo/Mukhtar Khan)
Modi’s ‘settler’ masterplan for Indian Kashmir
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A Kashmiri Shiite Muslim man is detained by Indian police as devotees defy restrictions for a Muharram procession in Srinagar on August 28, 2020. (AFP / Tauseef Mustafa)
Modi’s ‘settler’ masterplan for Indian Kashmir
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A Kashmiri Shiite Muslim is detained by Indian police for defying restrictions for a Muharram procession in Srinagar on August 28, 2020. (AFP / Tauseef Mustafa)
Modi’s ‘settler’ masterplan for Indian Kashmir
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Indian policemen detain Kashmiri Shiite Muslims as they attempt to take out a religious procession in Srinagar, Indian-controlled Kashmir, on Aug. 28, 2020. (AP Photo/Mukhtar Khan)
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Updated 29 August 2020

Modi’s ‘settler’ masterplan for Indian Kashmir

Modi’s ‘settler’ masterplan for Indian Kashmir
  • Modi’s government tore up Kashmir’s special residence rules dating back to 1927 which had ensured only permanent residents could own land and property, secure government jobs and university places and vote in local elections

SRINAGAR, India: Prime Minister Narendra Modi is changing Indian Kashmir’s residency laws for the first time since 1947, in a bid to snuff out any challenge to the disputed territory belonging to India.
Drawing comparisons with Israel’s “settler” tactics in the Palestinian Territories, Modi’s Hindu nationalist government aims to change the demographic makeup and identity of the Muslim-majority region, critics say.
AFP looks at the background, what the new rules are and their implications for the area’s 14 million population.

Siege-like curfew
The Himalayan former princely state has been split between India and Pakistan since independence from Britain in 1947.
In the Indian-administered part a conflict between separatist rebels and government forces has killed tens of thousands since 1989, mostly civilians.
More than 65 percent of the population is Muslim. In the Kashmir Valley, the main center of the rebellion, it is close to 100 percent.
On August 5, 2019 Modi’s government revoked articles in the Indian constitution that guaranteed Kashmir’s partial autonomy and other rights including its own flag and constitution.
A huge accompanying security operation saw tens of thousands of extra troops — adding to 500,000 already there — enforce a siege-like curfew. Thousands were arrested and telecommunications were cut for months.
Jammu & Kashmir state was demoted to a union territory governed directly from New Delhi, while the Ladakh region was carved out into a separate administrative area.
Creating such new “facts on the ground” in Kashmir has long been advocated by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the hard-line Hindu parent organization to Modi’s BJP party.
The move sent a further shudder through India’s 200-million Muslim minority and defenders of its secular traditions, who fear Modi wants to create a Hindu nation — something he denies.
“What I see unfolding is a Hindu settler colonial project in the making,” Mona Bhan, associate professor of anthropology at Syracuse University who has long researched Kashmir, told AFP.

'Demographic flooding'
Modi’s government tore up Kashmir’s special residence rules dating back to 1927 which had ensured only permanent residents could own land and property, secure government jobs and university places and vote in local elections.
Now a raft of different categories of people from anywhere in India can apply for domicile certificates, giving them access to all the above.
These include those living in Kashmir for 15 years, who include around 28,000 refugees who fled Pakistan and as many as 1.75 million migrant laborers — most of whom are Hindus.
In addition, civil servants who have worked in Kashmir for seven years and their children, or students who have taken certain exams, also qualify for domicile status.
The changes are “the most drastic imposed since 1947,” Siddiq Wahid, a historian and political analyst, told AFP. “It was done with the intent to open the gates to demographic flooding.”

Domicile certificates
Locals too now have to apply for the new “domicile certificates” in order to qualify for permanent resident rights.
To get this, they have to produce their Permanent Resident Certificates (PRC), cherished documents valid since 1927, which then become worthless.
Speaking to AFP on condition of anonymity, an engineering graduate said young Kashmiris were in effect being forced to give their political loyalty to India in exchange for a livelihood.
“They say, you want a job, OK, get the domicile document first,” he said.
A few people. Bahadur Lal Prajapati, born in Indian Kashmir to Hindu refugees who fled Pakistan during its first war with India over Kashmir seven decades ago, is finally an official resident and has “never been so happy.”
“We got the right to live in this part of India as citizens after 72 years of struggle,” Prajapati, 55, told AFP from his home in Jammu, the Hindu-dominated district of the region.
One of the first people to receive the new domicile certificate was Navin Kumar Choudhary, a top bureaucrat from the Indian state of Bihar who worked in Kashmir for many years.
Photos on social media of Choudhary proudly holding the certificate sparked huge anger among Kashmiris but delight among Modi’s supporters.

'Travesty'
Some 430,000 new domicile certificates have been issued — despite the coronavirus pandemic. It is unclear how many of them are to people from outside and how many to locals.
Many locals are refusing to swap their old documents, even though this makes life harder. Some do it in secret for fear of censure from their neighbors.
Wary of being labelled “anti-national” by the authorities many Kashmiris are also scared to speak out openly. Some are deleting their Twitter accounts.
“It’s a travesty that I have to compete with outsiders for citizenship rights in my own homeland,” said a student — who also wished also to remain anonymous out of fear of problems with the authorities.

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UK hopes to be able to consider lockdown easing in March

UK hopes to be able to consider lockdown easing in March
Updated 23 min 50 sec ago

UK hopes to be able to consider lockdown easing in March

UK hopes to be able to consider lockdown easing in March
  • Prime Minister Boris Johnson has set a target of vaccinating the elderly, including care home residents, the clinically vulnerable and frontline workers

LONDON: Britain’s government hopes it can meet its target for rolling out COVID-19 vaccines and be able to consider easing lockdown restrictions by March, foreign minister Dominic Raab said on Sunday.
The country, which has Europe’s highest COVID-19 death toll, has been under a national lockdown since Jan. 5, when schools were closed for most pupils, non-essential businesses were shut to the public, and people were ordered to work from home where possible.
“What we want to do is get out of this national lockdown as soon as possible,” Raab told Sky News television.
“By early spring, hopefully by March, we’ll be in a position to make those decisions. I think it’s right to say we won’t do it all in one big bang. As we phase out the national lockdown, I think we’ll end up phasing through a tiered approach.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has set a target of vaccinating the elderly, including care home residents, the clinically vulnerable and frontline workers — or roughly more than 13 million people — by mid-February.
If all goes smoothly, he has said that England can consider easing lockdown restrictions from that time.
The Sunday Times newspaper said British ministers had reached a deal to approve a three-point plan that could lead to some lockdown restrictions being lifted as soon as early March.
Areas will have restrictions eased once their death rate has fallen, the number of hospital admissions drops and some people aged between 50 and 70 are vaccinated, the newspaper said.
The Sunday Times quoted cabinet ministers as saying they were prepared to resist pressure from health advisers to delay the changes until most people are vaccinated, a process that would take until the summer at least.
“For the first time there are no significant divisions between hawks and doves in the cabinet,” a cabinet source told the newspaper. “Everyone accepted that we need to lock down hard and everyone accepts that we need to open up before everyone is vaccinated.”
A spokesman in Johnson’s office declined to comment on the report.