Man From India’s Lowest Caste Elected President

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

Man from India’s lowest caste elected president

Ram Nath Kovind, center, gestures as he leaves his residence in New Delhi on June 20, 2017.

Story highlights

  • Victory could boost support for ruling party among India’s Dalit community
  • President is a largely ceremonial role in India

New Delhi (CNN) A relatively unknown political operator and member of India’s lowest Dalit caste has been elected as the country’s 14th president.

Ram Nath Kovind, who until recently was governor of the eastern state of Bihar, won an overwhelming majority to beat opposition Congress party candidate, Meira Kumar, a former parliament speaker and also a member of the Dalit community.
Kovind secured 2,930 votes in a secret nationwide ballot involving near to 5,000 lawmakers from the central parliament and state legislatures. Kumar received 1,844 votes.
The election of 71-year-old Kovind, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidate, is widely viewed as part of a strategy by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to widen support among India’s 200 million-strong Dalit community.
Kovind is the second Dalit to become Indian president, after K. R. Narayanan, in office from 1997 to 2002.
Dalits, who are often referred to as untouchables, occupy the lowest rung on India’s caste system. Traditionally viewed as “impure” the group continues to grapple with persecution and exclusion.
Kovind, a lawyer by training who has practiced in both the Delhi High Court and Supreme Court, has never held popularly elected office and lacks an independent power base. For the last two years he has occupied the governorship of Bihar, a position appointed by the prime minister. He also served as the national spokesman of the BJP between 2010 and 2012.

Ram Nath Kovind delivers a speech in presence of Gujarat Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) members in Gandhinagar, on July 15, 2017.

Ceremonial role

Though the five-year post is largely ceremonial, Kovind’s election will help strengthen Modi’s grip on power, say analysts.
“Modi would not like anyone in Rashtrapati Bhavan (the President’s House) who can question him, that’s why Kovind was picked,” said Satish Misra, a senior fellow at the Observer Research Foundation, an independent think tank based in Delhi.
Unlike the American president, and in line with other Westminster-style governments, the role of India’s president lacks any real executive authority. All decisions taken by the president require the approval of the prime minister and the council of ministers.
However, each piece of legislation passed by parliament requires the president’s sign-off. As a result, the president can delay key legislation taken by the prime minister, and can symbolically signal disapproval of controversial bills.
Having a compliant president will help Modi if parliament does not cooperate with his agenda. The prime minister can pass ordinances, similar to a US executive order, with the approval of the president, said Shailesh Kumar, a senior analyst with the Eurasia Group.

Dalit identity

Analysts point to the recent rise in mob violence directed at minorities as among the BJP’s primary motives in selecting Kovind.
“There’s a disillusionment among the Dalits,” said Satish Misra. “That’s why it’s necessary for the ruling party to send a signal that we are with you.”
Kovind is also a member of the the Koli ethnic group, an important voting bloc in Modi’s home state of Gujarat. A survey by the Centre for Study of Developing Societiesfound that members of the Koli community, many of whom are Dalit, switched their support from the Congress Party to the BJP between 2007 and 2012.
“Until now, Dalits never voted for the BJP. But in 2014, some percentage of the votes went to the BJP,” Misra added. “The fact remains that Dalits constitute over 20% of the Indian population and they’re a vote bank.”

At least seven pilgrims killed in Indian administered Kashmir

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

At least seven pilgrims killed in Indian administered Kashmir

A police spokesman said the bus was returning from the hard-to-reach Himalayan cave shrine of Amarnath when militants and Indian police exchanged fire at Botengoo, Monday night, on the Srinagar-Jammu national highway, south of the capital Srinagar.
“Terrorists fired on a police checkpoint and the fire was returned. A tourist bus was hit by bullets,” police spokesman Manoj Pandita said in a statement.
An estimated 60 to 70 pilgrims had boarded the bus at the Baltel base camp, reaching Botengoo just after sunset around 8.20 p.m. local time.
The bus was traveling after sunset — which is banned throughout the region due to security restrictions. It didn’t have the usual police escort and may not have had the correct registration paperwork, according to local authorities.
Amarnath is considered one of the holiest shrines in Hinduism. Located at an altitude of 3,888 meteres (12,756 feet) and surrounded by snowy mountain peaks, the annual pilgrimage to the cave shrine kicked off on June 29 and will culminate on August 7.
The last major attack on pilgrims in the area was carried out in August 2002, in which nine people were killed in Pahalgam.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi condemned the attack on social media, saying that “India will never get bogged down by such cowardly attacks and evil designs of hate.”
The attack coincided with the first anniversary of the death of Burhan Wani, a 21-year-old commander of the militant separatist group Hizbul Mujaheedin.
It happened just hours after a government imposed curfew was lifted. The curfew had been placed over the weekend in anticipation of an attack to mark the anniversary.
Wani’s death in July 2016 resulted in violent clashes between between protesters and security forces, that left at least 20 people dead and more than 300 injured.

China Has No Legal Right To Its Land Grabs In Nepal, Tibet, Sikkim-Bhutan

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES)

China can’t find a single post-1962 document to support its Bhutan border claim

24 mins ago Quartz India

Back in the 1950s, Chinese troops marched in and took control of Tibet in what the then newly founded Communist government called a “peaceful liberation.” After an uprising against the Communist rule was thwarted, the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s Buddhist spiritual leader, fled into exile in India, where he lives to the present day.

Tensions between India and China rose after the Tibet episode, culminating in a war over the border in 1962, which ended in India’s defeat. Days of clashes also took place in 1967. Since then, although border incursions still occur from time to time, the two Asian giants have mostly showed military restraint and engaged in diplomatic solutions to settle border disputes.

Suddenly now, India and China seem to be on the brink of a war.

For over a month, the two nations have been involved in a stand-off in the Doklam plateau, which is currently disputed between China and Bhutan, a close Indian ally. The plateau, also known as Donglang in Chinese, lies at the junction of India, Bhutan, and China, near the northeastern Indian state of Sikkim. Doklam is strategically importantdue to its adjacency to the Siliguri Corridor, the so-called “chicken’s neck” connecting India’s seven northeastern states to its mainland.

Doklam map - quartz via Google Maps
(via Google Maps)

The stand-off began in June when India opposed China’s attempt to build a road over the Doklam plains. Delhi says it intervened on behalf of Bhutan, while Beijing accuses India of trespassing in its territory. Bhutan, for its part, says China’s road-building is a violation of a 1998 agreement that calls on both sides to maintain the status quo in the contested area.

From Beijing’s perspective, its claim to the Doklam region is well supported by a series of documents, which the Chinese foreign ministry has been citing in press conferences in the past few days. All of the documents, though, date back to the years before the 1962 India-China War—and at least some of Beijing’s interpretations of them could be misleading.

The Sino-British convention in 1890

In a regular briefing on June 29, the Chinese foreign ministry pointed to an 1890 border agreement between Britain and China for the first time to support its Doklam claim. Article I of the Sikkim-Tibet Convention, signed on March 17, 1890, by Henry Petty-Fitzmaurice, then British Viceroy of India, and Sheng Tai, the Qing dynasty’s “Imperial Associate Resident” in Tibet, states:

The boundary of Sikkim and Tibet shall be the crest of the mountain range separating the waters flowing into the Sikkim Teesta and its affluents from the waters flowing into the Tibetan Mochu and northwards into other rivers of Tibet. The line commences at Mount Gipmochi on the Bhutan frontier, and follows the above-mentioned water-parting to the point where it meets Nipal territory.

Citing this text, Doklam falls to the Chinese side of the water-parting, said foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang, who then displayed a photo allegedly showing that a group of Indian soldiers and vehicles had overstepped the crest into Chinese territory on June 18.

The next day, Lu added some human context to the territorial claim. He said: “Before the 1960s, if border inhabitants of Bhutan wanted to herd in Doklam, they needed the consent of the Chinese side and had to pay the grass tax to China. Nowadays the Tibet Archives still retain some receipts of the grass tax.”

Nehru’s letters in 1959

Beijing went on to state that leaders of independent India endorsed the British-era territorial understanding. On July 3, spokesman Geng Shuang pointed to two 1959 letters from then Indian prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru to his Chinese counterpart Zhou Enlai regarding Sikkim’s border with China. “There is no dispute over the boundary between Sikkim and Tibet, China,” Geng quoted Nehru as saying in one letter written on Sept. 26, 1959.

But Nehru’s letter seems not to refer to the Sikkim-Bhutan stretch that is in dispute today. According to the Hindustan Times, which has viewed the Sept. 26 letter, Nehru wrote:

This Convention of 1890 also defined the boundary between Sikkim and Tibet; and the boundary was later, in 1895, demarcated. There is thus no dispute regarding the boundary of Sikkim with the Tibet region. This clearly refers to northern Sikkim and not to the tri-junction which needed to be discussed with Bhutan and Sikkim and which is today the contentious area. And once more, let us not forget that the 1890 Treaty was an unequal treaty as Tibet, Sikkim and Bhutan were not involved.

The term “unequal treaty” is often used by China to refer to treaties in its own history with Western powers.

The Hindustan Times also reported that, in the same letter, Nehru said that “Chinese maps show sizeable areas of Bhutan as part of Tibet,” and that “the rectification of errors in Chinese maps regarding the boundary of Bhutan with Tibet is therefore a matter which has to be discussed along with the boundary of India with the Tibet region of China in the same sector.” One journalist referred these lines to Geng on July 5, and the spokesman said he would need to verify them.

A 1960 note from India’s embassy in China

The same day, Geng offered additional material to support Beijing’s assertion that India recognizes the 1890 treaty:

In the note it sent to the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs on February 12, 1960, the Indian Embassy in China said, “the Government of India welcomes the explanation given in the Chinese note relating to the boundary with Sikkim and Bhutan on the one side and Tibet on the other. The note states that the boundary between Sikkim and Tibet of China has long been formally delimited, and that there is neither any discrepancy on the maps nor dispute in practice. The Government of India would like to add that this boundary has also been demarcated on the ground.” These contents in that note were all written down in black and white.

Geng did not clarify whether that was the full text of the note.

Over China’s many briefings on this issue, the note above has been the most recent document it cited in support of the idea that India has acknowledged China’s Doklam/Donglang jurisdiction. That might be because relations were frosty for decades after the 1962 war.

It was only after then Indian prime minister Rajiv Gandhi paid a visit to China in 1988 that the two nations started their formal boundary talks in recent history, and then signed a series of border agreements. Some of the most contentious issues between them are still pending resolution.

“Do you have any post-1962 document which proves that India recognizes Doklam as part of China’s territory?” one journalist asked Geng during the July 5 briefing. The spokesman dodged the question.

The Mafia In India

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BLOG SITE ‘NUTCRACK’)

The Mafia In India

Crime does not pay and criminals don’t live long enough to enjoy life.

– D. Sivanandan (Ex. Commissioner of Police, Bombay)

Since the repression of thuggee, there has been a spike in the underworld crime rate over the past few decades. Part and partially thanks to Dawood Ibrahim. After 1947, India opted to run a socialist economy with 5-year plans and state ownership. This meant that most goods and services were substandard and alternative goods had to be smuggled into the country. And the best place to smuggle was Bombay. Several entrepreneurs dabbled with the smuggling of gold because Indians love gold and for a lot of people gold is the only form of saving. In fact, Indian housewives hold more gold than any other place on earth. Even more than Fort Knox.

The Mumbai 1993 bomb blasts

Source: Outlook India

In 1993, 13 bomb blasts in Bombay killed 257 people, injuring over 700. The resulting communal riots that followed ensured tension and fear. A pregnant Muslim woman was slit at the belly, the unborn child was pulled out and hacked to pieces because they didn’t want any more Muslims born in India. So to get the Government to apologize to the Muslims of India and in retaliation to the demolition of Babri Mosque, he planted bombs all over Bombay, which were procured from the ISI, the Pakistan Intelligence. This caused a split in the mafia community between Hindus and Muslims and between Dawood and his longtime friend, Chhota Rajan. Chhota Rajan split from the group and took up the title as the Hindu Don.

The Real Estate Mafia

The smugglers started extorting developers, builders and contractors because the prices of real estate skyrocketed with the influx of new money and investments in the Indian economy. Some developers allied with the mobsters to free up real estate by evacuating the slums and sharing the profits. Most smugglers including Dawood made a huge profit from extortion, racketeering, real estate, smuggling, etc. The black money generated was then used in legitimate building and development deals. Guess he learned a thing or two from Al Capone. Several gangsters such as Haji Mastan saw the opportunity to invest black money in Bollywood films by becoming legit producers.

Source: Amaravati Region

Dharavi is the largest slum in India housing over a million people. Most people come to Mumbai with the dream of making it big in India’s financial and trade capital. But with overpopulation and limited opportunities, most people end up in the slums and become easy targets for cheap labor. Some of these people undertake contract killings, extortion, etc. for really cheap to earn some form of income.

The Sand Mafia

Sand is India’s new gold dust. Thanks to the construction boom, there has been a surge in the demand for sand in the past three decades. With that people realized that they could make a serious buck by illegally mining or extracting sand. Daily wage laborers work 8-10 hours a day, diving 40-50 feet several times without any equipment to bring up sand. These are not criminals, but victims of the sand mafia. The result of the illegal sand mining is it plunders river beds and beach beds causing floods, landslides, contamination of groundwater, destroying farmland, etc. The level of sand around Bombay’s coast has reduced by 10-15 feet.

Illegal sand mining in Tamil Nadu

Source: Wire

Many people have been killed over disputes, including investigating officers. D.K. Ravi, an IPS officer with a clean record was constantly transferred because he stood up to the sand mafia. It is alleged that he committed suicide in 2015, but foul play is clearly evident. He used to receive death threats from among the top 50 tax defaulters, most of whom were builders and developers (Prestige, Embassy, Mantri, etc.) because he was after them. Sumaira, an activist from Mumbai was beaten and hospitalized because she prevented them from taking sand. A farmer by the name Brijmohan had been kidnapped and tortured for three days for complaining to the authorities about illegal sand mining on his farm.

The Drug Mafia

The drug mafia has several points of entry to India, the most prominent locations being Goa and Mumbai. The Goa mafia consists of the Russian mafia, the Nigerian mafia and the Israeli mafia. Goa is a key location for consumption, redistribution of drugs within India and export of drugs to the international market.

An Israeli drug lord named Atala was arrested after a video of him revealing his operation was posted online by his girlfriend. He also said the police and narcs work in collaboration with the peddlers by selling seized paraphernalia back to the dealers. The cops who were named were arrested and evidence shows that over 24 kilograms of Hash went missing from the anti-narcotics warehouse when these guys were in charge. When probed, the Home Minister of Goa said that “the drugs were eaten by ants.”

The Punjab Mafia

The Punjab mafia deserves a mention in this list because they refer to organized criminal gangs from UP and Punjab. These guys ply their trade in contract killings, bouncers, bookies, extortion smuggling, arms dealing, kidnapping and narcotics (especially opium).

India is the world’s largest legal grower of opium and quite a bit gets consumed before it is exported to South Africa or some other country. Diamonds are illegally exported the same way through South Africa and are sometimes used as a concealer to hide heroin.

Narendra Modi to become first Indian PM to visit Israel

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BBC)

Narendra Modi to become first Indian PM to visit Israel

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 30 May 2017 in Berlin, Germany.Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionMr Modi has said India and Israel share a “deep and centuries-old” connection

Narendra Modi will become the first Indian prime minister to visit Israel, when he arrives on Tuesday.

Mr Modi, who recently said India and the Jewish state share a “deep and centuries-old” connection, is expected to agree military and cyber security deals.

Observers note he will not travel to Ramallah or meet Palestinian leaders, as visiting dignitaries often do.

The visit is seen by some as a turning point in India’s position on Israel.

India and Israel have had diplomatic relations for 25 years, but it has always been a balancing act given India’s sizeable Muslim population.

The two countries have been working closely together for years on counter-terrorism, defence, agriculture and the water and energy sectors.

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu has hailed the meeting as a “a very significant step” in strengthening relations, which he said were “on a constant upswing”, reported the Times of Israel.

The Indian leader will also be meeting an Israeli boy, Moshe Holtzberg, whose parents were killed when gunmen stormed a Jewish centre in Mumbai during a 2008 terror attack.

India: PM Modi, Sir India Is Not A Democracy If You Do Not Have Religious Freedom

To India’s Prime Minister Modi:

This article is in regard to a story I read earlier today from the Christian Post. In several regards this article if it is true shows that India is not yet a true democracy. For any country to actually be a democracy there are many issues that must be addressed, in this article I am only going to try to address a few of these ideals. In a true democracy there has to be equality in areas of their caste system where anyone can move up, or down in the financial arenas depending on their own abilities. All adults must be allowed to vote for whomever they chose at least as long as they are not convicted felons who are in jail at the time of the elections. This last issue I have with your government is in regard to India not having true honest religious freedom.

 

I do believe that India is a great country right now yet it could be so much more if the political will is there. The article today in the Christian Post said that six Christian adults were arrested last month for taking 72 Christian children of Christian parents to a ‘vacation Bible school’. A State can not prosper for all of its citizens if they cannot worship their God as they see fit. The only exception to this rule should be if the religion is telling people to go into the population and attack and or kill people who don’t agree with them and their ‘God’s’ teachings. If a person actually knows anything about the New Testament Scriptures of the Bible then they know that the Scriptures do not teach violence toward anyone. As you well know Mr. Modi there are some ‘Religions’ that do teach such violence and not even as arbitrarily, but as a requirement. Mr. Modi, is the Hindu Religion really one of these Demonic Cults? I believe that the Nation of India can be the greatest Democracy size wise on this planet in about 20 or 30 years and you may think it is now but with these glaring flaws that is not so, not yet. If the politicians in your country do not fix these serious issues I believe your future will look like a mixture of Iran and China except not Islamic or Atheist but a horrible debased Hindu State that will end up having no semblance of Democracy or freedom.

India: 6 Christians Charged With Kidnapping For Taking Their Christian Kids To VBS

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CHRISTIAN POST)

6 Christians Charged With Forced Conversions in India After Taking 72 Children to Vacation Bible School

Six Christians who were arrested in May for taking 72 children to a Vacation Bible School camp in Madhya Pradesh state, India, have reportedly been charged with kidnapping and forcible conversions as police refuse to recognize the children as Christians.

(Photo: Reuters/Babu) Women attend a mass inside a church to celebrate Easter in the southern Indian city of Chennai March 31, 2013. Holy Week is celebrated in many Christian traditions during the week before Easter.

Sources told Morning Star News in a report published June 23 that along with the six Christians, a 15-year-old boy was also held in a juvenile detention center for nearly a month, before finally being released last week.

“I missed my home so much — I cried every day, and prayed and prayed,” Akash Gundia said. “Finally, the Lord heard me. I am happy to be back home.”

Gundia was reportedly one of the 72 children detained by Ratlam Railway Police on May 21 as they traveled to the VBS camp in Nagpur. Eight supervisors were also arrested, and despite explanations that all the children had Christian parents, they were accused of trying to convert the children.

Authorities claimed at the time that the parents hadn’t followed the proper procedures in converting to Christianity, and insisted that the children will be treated as Hindus under the law.

“For changing to another religion, one needs to submit a written application to the district collector and only after the stipulated process, a person can change religious identity, which didn’t happen in the case of any of the parents claiming to be Christians,” police superintendent Krishnaveni Desavatu said at the time.

“This is why the children and their parents will be officially treated as Hindu tribals and not Christians,” he added.

Morning Star News noted that the children had permission from their Christian parents to go to the Bible camp program, however.

“I told the police I am a Christian by birth, and we are going to attend the VBS, but they did not listen to me and took us to the police station,” the 15-year-old boy said.

“Children as young as 6 were also in police custody, but when their parents came, the police handed them over to the parents. I was produced in court a day later, and from there was sent to a juvenile detention home,” he added.

Hartesh Singh Gundia, the boy’s father, insisted that Hindu extremist groups put pressure on officials to punish Christians, and blamed them for his son having to spend 25 days in judicial custody

Attorney Anand Nagarkar added: “The charges were framed based on malice and suspicion, and on this basis there can be no conviction, but the police have been taking it slow to file the challan [charge sheet]. They are under pressure by the Bajrang Dal and RSS activists.”

Nagarkar noted that that parents of the 72 children have submitted an affidavit before the court declaring that all the children were born to Christian parents, and that the volunteers came from the Sunday schools of their respective churches.

Christians, who are a growing minority in India, have found themselves attacked by Hindu radicals but also persecuted by authorities antagonistic to their faith, watchdog groups like International Christian Concern have warned.

ICC reported in February that a Christian evangelist fell into a coma following heavy harassment by a group of Hindu radicals in Hyderabad, who were angry at him for distributing copies of the New Testament.

Ronald John, state president of Telangana Christian Joint Action Committee, said at the time that such treatment of Christians is “unacceptable.”

“Even the responsible, so-called law protectors don’t go by the constitution that guarantees religious freedom. This shows how minorities are being treated in this nation,” John said.

‘Trump-Modi nexus’ could spell disaster for regional peace: AJK president

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE PAKISTANI NEWSPAPER DAWN)

Azad Jammu and Kashmir President Sardar Mohammad Masood Khan in a statement on Tuesday warned that a “Trump-Modi nexus” could spell disaster to regional peace.

The statement follows a meeting between US President Donald Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in the run-up to which the US State Department had designated Hizbul Mujahideen leader Syed Salahuddin a global terrorist and slapped sanctions on him ─ a move slammed by the Foreign Office today as ‘completely unjustified’.

Read more: Unjust to designate supporters of Kashmiri struggle as terrorists: FO

The White House had called on Pakistan to ensure that its territory is not used to launch terrorist attacks on other countries, a statement from the White House said.

Sardar Khan, who retired from the foreign service of Pakistan as a career diplomat, claimed that the US had always deceived Pakistan and its latest decision was yet another example of it.

“The US has never acknowledged Pakistan’s sacrifices despite the latter’s being a frontline state in the war against terrorism,” he said.

Khan questioned the justification of the US decision, claiming that the Hizbul Mujahideen had been struggling solely for freedom of India-held Kashmir (IHK), and was neither linked to any terrorist group nor had resorted to any action outside IHK.

“In fact, it’s the Indian army committing terrorism in occupied Kashmir. Ignoring the genocide of Kashmiris by Indian army and declaring freedom fighters as terrorists is a criminal departure from international humanitarian and democratic norms by the US,” he claimed.

Kashmiris protest US move

Hundreds of people from different walks of life staged a rally in the capital of Azad Jammu and Kashmir to condemn the US administration’s decision of designating Salahuddin a terrorist.

Demonstrators started the rally from Muzaffarabad’s famous Burhan Wani Chowk, named after a Hizbul Mujahideen commander who was killed by Indian forces in IHK last year.

Just in front of them, a large Indian tricolour flag was also placed on the ground with two young children standing on it.

Amid loud anti-India and pro-freedom slogans, it was later torched by the demonstrators.

Representatives of separatist groups and political parties took strong exception to the decision which they termed a reprehensible attempt by the Trump administration to please India.

Speaking at the rally, Khawaja Farooq Ahmed, a senior leader of the opposition Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and a former AJK minister, claimed it was the weak foreign policy of the PML-N led government in Islamabad that had encouraged the Trump administration to take this step during Modi’s visit.

“If you are serious in your avowals of extending diplomatic, political and moral support to the Kashmiris, then you should show some strength and as a first step summon the US and Indian envoys in [the] Foreign Office to lodge [a] protest over this unfair decision,” he said, addressing the federal government.

Ahmed also asked the AJK government to give a strike call on both sides of disputed Kashmir, like Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had given for February 28, 1974, to express rejection of the US decision.

“All political parties and mujahideen groups should be taken on board to make this strike a historic one,” he said.

PPP leader Shaukat Javed Mir and several others also spoke on the occasion.

Kashmir Schools Being Closed 60% Of The Time: Causing A ‘lost’ Generation?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF INDIA NEWS 18.COM)

One of the biggest schools of Jammu and Kashmir became a venue to a fierce 16-hour gun-battle between security forces and militants early on Sunday. The encounter inside DPS Srinagar ended when security forces eliminated two terrorists.

In some time from now, security forces will finish a room-by-room search of the school and will announce the school safe. And a few days later its students, a lot of who presumably are right now curiously following the violence unfolding in their classrooms, will be asked to resume classes.

It will be tough, but DPS Srinagar’s students won’t be the only ones who would’ve felt violence unfold palpably close to them, who would’ve stayed away from each other and the school for long periods, and intermittently attended a few school classes.

Over the last one year, schools and colleges in the Valley have remained shut for six out of every 10 working days, leading to near-loss of entire academic year. Since July 8, 2016, educational institutions have stayed open on only 80 out of 197 working days, according to a report by IndiaSpend.

In April, for the first time, one saw images of young school girls flinging stones at security forces in Kashmir.

And during this period, starting from the death of Hizbul commander Burhan Wani, well over 150 people have died, about 20,000 have been injured and hundreds have lost their eye-sight.

“A couple of years ago, it was okay for me and my friends to come back from school in evening. Now, we are home by early afternoon, that is, if we go to school at all,” rues Bashir, a Class 10 student from Pulwama. People in Kashmir are no stranger to the vicious cycle of conflict and violence, and children, like Bashir, are the worst-hit.

Union Home Ministry’s data shows that in 2016 as many as 2,690 incidents of stone-pelting took place. And with every such incident, the state administration’s first response has been to shut down educational institutes as a precautionary measure.

Changing Face of Classrooms

Although schools and colleges have often been used as protest venues by students, it was for the first time that they’ve turned into active battlegrounds.

In April this year, local police barged into a degree college in Pulwama and fired tear-gas shells and pellets at protesting students inside. Over 60 students were injured, most of them girls. In retaliation, for the first time in the Valley, thousands of students across schools and colleges erupted in anger. For the first time, one saw images of young school girls flinging stones at security forces in Kashmir.

Classes were suspended for weeks as educationists kept urging students to go back to schools.

As their schools remain shut most of the times, students are forming neighbourhood groups where those who can afford have hired tutors and those who can’t are helping each other.

Once schools reopened, the discussions in classrooms went beyond topics of the solar system or equations of mathematics. Children were seen huddled, discussing turbulent environment around them, either with a sense of fear or rage, said Nayeema, a teacher based in Pulwama.

“What else do you expect? Students here can’t afford to be innocent. They are deeply political as they the worst-hit. There is no way they can concentrate on academics. The Valley is deep into conflict and the first thing that happens whenever the situation snowballs is a crackdown on schools and colleges,” said Nayeema.

A feeling of being discriminated, Nayeema said, rules the minds of students.

“Forces march inside school and college campuses at their will. Will a normal student be fine with that?” asked Mir, a budding writer and Class 12 student based in Baramulla. Mir recounts the day he was sitting on the window sill of his classroom, along with a friend, when a tear-gas shell was allegedly thrown into the school playground. “We were evacuated by teachers. Many students fell unconscious due to breathlessness,” she added.

“I have lost friends. It’s not like we have seen total peace, but earlier we at least has schools to divert our attention,” said Mir.

Learning Without Schools

Bashir and Mir are among students who are struggling not to lose their grasp on academics. As their schools remain shut most of the times, students are forming neighbourhood groups where those who can afford have hired tutors and those who can’t are helping each other.

“We all try and sit together to study. There are few seniors around my home. So, I take my books and see if they can help. Rest of it is self-study,” said Bashir. His parents said even on days when schools are open, they are scared of sending their son to school.

Nayeema said internet came as a boon for students in the Valley as those who missed school could catch up through online tutorials. But that too remains shut most of the times.

Uncertain Future

Educationists fear that if schools and colleges continue to remain shut, an army of uneducated and unemployable youths will be created, further pushing Kashmir into violence and protests. Angry and directionless youths might also make for easy target of terrorist groups.

“The youth in the Valley is staring at a bleak future. There are no two ways about it. Schools and colleges are shut for most of the times. There are bans on the internet. On top of it all, even if there were community study circles, parents are scared to let their children step out of the houses,” said Mushtaq Ul Haq Sikander, a writer and researcher.

Security forces in and around campuses has become a common sight in the Valley. So is the sight of boys and girls, in their school uniforms, attacking forces with stones.

Vijay Dhar, founder of Delhi Public School, Srinagar, highlighted how the school functioned in the face of constant curbs and shutdowns. “We kept our schools open on Sundays. We conducted pre-board exams in the indoor stadium. Results of the students have been stupendous. So, it’s clearly not like the students don’t want to study. If given a chance, they want to excel,” he said.

Additionally, the school had, during the period of curbs on internet, sent out video lessons on various gadgets to the homes of its students. While Dhar could pull it off successfully, scores of other students who had no access to such lessons at home suffered.

A Fight for Rights

Security forces in and around campuses has become a common sight in the Valley. So is the sight of boys and girls, in their school uniforms, attacking forces with stones. The idea of being looked at with suspicious eyes is a trigger in itself.

“What good will the forces and the administration get by shutting our schools, and then looking at us with suspicious eyes and doing physical search whenever they feel like?” asked Mir.

But, what about those who are found indulging in stone pelting incidents? “They have no option,” said Mir. “We are finding ways to channelise our anger and the environment around us making it worse,” he added.

Dhar said, “Many of them are angry at the sight of forces all around them. But there are also many more youngsters who are furious because they don’t know a thing about their future. Their education is suffering and there are no concrete jobs. Their mindset is that of looking after themselves, and not caring about anyone else.”

“The youths need to be educated. They need to be empowered. The way things are going, Kashmir will have a big percentage of semi-literate generation,” said Mushtaq.

Terrorists Who Attacked CRPF Team Hiding In Srinagar School, Gun battle On

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NDTV)

Terrorists Who Attacked CRPF Team Hiding In Srinagar School, Gun battle On

The terrorists had entered the building yesterday after an attack on the 29th Battalion of the CRPF near the school on Srinagar-Jammu national highway around 5.50 pm.

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Terrorists Who Attacked CRPF Team Hiding In Srinagar School, Gunbattle On

The school staff and students had already left before the terrorists entered the campus.

SRINAGAR:  A gunbattle is underway at Delhi Public School (DPS) Srinagar as security forces are trying to flush out terrorists who took refuge inside the school after attacking CRPF personnel in Pantha chowk area last evening. “The exchange of fire began around 3.40 am,” a police officer said.

The terrorists had entered the building yesterday after an attack on the 29th Battalion of the CRPF near the school on Srinagar-Jammu national highway around 5.50 pm. The school staff and students had already left the campus by then.

A sub inspector died and two jawans were injured after the terrorists opened fire in the high security zone located less than a kilometre from headquarters of Army’s Chinar Corps.

With the area being a busy market place, the terrorists managed to escape. DPS Srinagar is a high profile school and its sprawling campus has about 400 rooms and many complexes which may have helped the terrorists to hide here. Reports suggest that there are at least two to three terrorists holed up inside the building.

The security forces immediately cordoned off the area and launched search operations in the school campus. Sources said drone cameras and other high-tech gadgets are being used to trace the terrorists.

(With inputs from PTI)