China Denies Shift In Stand On Kashmir Issue

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE KASHMIR TIMES AND THE TIMES OF INDIA)

China denies shift in stand on Kashmir issue

PTI | May 3, 2017

HIGHLIGHTS
  • Kashmir is an issue left over from history between India and Pakistan, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson said
  • The CPEC project has not changed China’s stand on this issue
  • China sincerely wants this dispute to be resolved, he said

BEIJING: China on Wednesday denied that it has plans of mediating between India and Pakistan to resolve the Kashmir issue due to its investments in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, saying the $50 billion-project has not affected its stand that the vexed issue should be settled bilaterally.

China’s clarification came a day after an article in the Global Times said that Beijing now has a “vested interest” in mediating between India and Pakistan to resolve the Kashmir issue because of its hefty investment in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) that passes through PoK.

“China’s position on the issue of Kashmir is clear and consistent. It is an issue left over from history between India and Pakistan, and shall be properly addressed by India and Pakistan through consultation and negotiation,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told PTI here.

He also said that China will play a “constructive role” for the improvement of relations between India and Pakistan.

“The building of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) does not affect China’s position on this issue,” he said in a written response to a question about the article in the state-run Global Times, a ruling Communist Party of China publication.

“We sincerely hope that India and Pakistan will properly handle differences by increasing communication and dialogue, and jointly uphold regional peace and stability. China is willing to make constructive efforts for the improvement of India-Pakistan relations,” Geng said.

The article yesterday sparked concerns about a shift in China’s stand on the Kashmir issue as India is averse to any third-party mediation.

The article had also sought to justify Chinese intervention in bilateral disputes on the grounds of protecting heavy investments being made by Beijing under its Silk Road initiative, which is officially called the ‘One Belt and One Road’ project.

The article had said China cannot turn a “deaf ear” to protect heavy investments by its firms in the CPEC and the Silk Road projects by continuing with its policy of non- interference.

Top Comment

I don’t see why we should be hostile? INDIA is maintaining what China is saying. “Solve Bilaterally” And that’s what India wants. China is just offering to Mediate but India can refuse. Ind… Read MoreAamir Fawaz

“Given the massive investment that China has made in countries along the One Belt, One Road, China now has a vested interest in helping resolve regional conflicts including the dispute over Kashmir between India and Pakistan,” it had said.

This was perhaps the first time that the Chinese official media floated Beijing’s interest in playing a mediator role to resolve the Kashmir issue.

Sukma attack: CRPF Jawans were having lunch when Maoists ambushed them

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF INDIA/KASHMIR)

Sukma attack: CRPF jawans were having lunch when Maoists ambushed them

PTI | Updated: Apr 25, 2017, 06.26 PM

HIGHLIGHTS

  • The Maoists squad “very discreetly with the aid of locals” kept tracking the movement of the troops
  • When one party of 36, out of the total three, sat down for lunch, the Naxalites, possessing sophisticated weapons, took them by surprise and rained heavy gun fire

PTI photoPTI photo

NEW DELHI: The 25 CRPF jawans who were killed+ in a deadly Naxalite ambush in Chhattisgarh+ ‘s Sukma, were having lunch when a hail of bullets and grenades hit them fatally.

A party of about 36 troops, out of the total 99, came under the first assault after they had ventured out from Burkapal on Monday to sanitise and provide protection to a 5.5-km long road construction work connecting Chitagufa in the said district, officials said.

The Maoists squad “very discreetly with the aid of locals” kept tracking the movement of the troops when one party of 36, out of the total three, sat down for lunch, the Maoists, possessing sophisticated weapons, took them by surprise and rained heavy gun fire, they said.

A huge assortment of 22 smart arms, including 13 AK series assault rifles and 5 INSAS rifles, 3,420 live rounds of various rifles, 75 magazines of AK rifles, 31 of INSAS, 67 live UBGL rounds, 22 bullet proof jackets, two binoculars, five wireless sets and a deep search metal detector were also looted by Naxalites, they said.

While a top CRPF officer said the killed troops had “finished their lunch” and may be were not in an absolute alert mode for the next few minutes, other officials said “some of them were having their lunch” when the attack was launched around 12.30pm.

While the slain 25 men and about six others who were injured, tried to gather their weapons or take aim at the marauding Naxalites, the others on the guard duty mounted an effective retaliation and saved about 40 civilians and construction workers who were present in the vicinity of the area during the deadly assault+that lasted over an hour.

What has surprised multiple security officials whom PTI talked to, is the fact that the Maoists are understood to have used few under-barrel grenade launchers (UBGL), a smart and sophisticated weapon used by security forces, to inflict fatal casualties on the troops by lobbing grenades in quick succession.

“It is very likely that these UBGLs were looted from security forces only. That could be as recent as the incident where 12 CRPF men were killed in Sukma on March 11,” a senior officer said.

Sukma Attack: 25 CRPF Jawans martyred

Sukma Attack: 25 CRPF Jawans martyred
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He added that while no Improvised Explosive Device (IEDs) was used in the ambush, the favourite weapon for inflicting damage on security forces, what claimed the lives in the biggest Naxalite ambush of the country in the last three years was heavy usage of gun fire and grenades.

Officials said as the troops of the 74th battalion of the CRPF, that came under attack, and few other similar contingents have been going out on the same track for some time and hence there was a possibility that their “presence was being tracked, marked and trailed” by Maoist cadres.

“Our men have told us that the villagers were making movements close to them. Villagers were also taken as shields by Naxalites and that restricted our fire for some time,” the officer said.

At present the troops were securing a culvert that is being constructed on the road and it would have taken about four-five months more to complete this task, the officer said.

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The area where the deadly blood bath took place is considered the stronghold of south Bastar Divisional Committee of the Maoists headed by Maoist commander Raghu and is under the Jagargunda Area Committee led by another Maoist Papa Rao.

Top Comment

Would we not expect that at least half of the group would be on the alert with weapons while the other half had their lunch ? After all these years, don’t the CRPF follow even elementary precautions … Read MoreS Nityananda

Officials said “it is beyond doubt” that the assault would have been led by the the 1st battalion of the Naxalite People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army (PLGA) led by Naxalite commander Hidma who is said to be active in the area at present in view of the Tactical Couter Offencive Campaign (TCOC) undertaken by Maoists during summer months to assert their influence in the area.

A Democratic And Free Jammu And Kashmir, Is It Really Possible, Or Logical?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘GREATER KASHMIR’)

Dr. Ghulam Nabi Fai
Srinagar, Publish Date: Apr 28 2017 11:52PM | Updated Date: Apr 28 2017 11:52PM


Kashmir: What Lies Ahead? File Photo

“The only way forward is the establishment of a free and independent state of Jammu & Kashmir with democratic system of government, a federation of 5 provinces, having friendly relations with its immediate neighbours in particular and with entire world in general.” Excerpt from a letter from Aman Sahib to Dr. Fai dated June13, 2013.

I treasure this opportunity to write on the subject of “Kashmir: What Lies Ahead!” at the anniversary of an iconic leader, Amanullah Kahn Sahib who was a symbol of decency, politeness and uprightness. He was a dominant figure in Kashmiri resistance movement for decades. His consistency of the advocacy of freedom, his steadfastness for his cause and his personal sacrifices had earned him the respect of all factions of the Kashmiri resistance movement.

I recall the meeting that I had with Aman Sahib at Luton, England in 1982. I have a most pleasant recollection of it. Even then he was tirelessly working for the cause of Kashmir in the corridors of power in Great Britain. I found him informed, poised, and engaging. In the annals of Kashmiri resistance, Aman Sahib stands tall.

Now, that the Kashmiri movement for self-determination is at a critical juncture. A youth-led, indigenous and spontaneous mass movement is underway. This movement is both internal, within Kashmir, and external throughout the world.  It is mostly non-violent, pluralistic and resilient. This movement reverberates with cries of freedom and believes in a simple truth: a fair and impartial referendum in Kashmir.  Time and time again, Kashmiris have surprised even the most hardened of their detractors. Attempts at delegitimizing the Kashmiri struggle have fallen entirely on deaf ears.  No amount of wishful thinking has successfully persuaded growing international opinion that Kashmir, is not an integral part of any society other than its own.  This belief is unshakeable, consistent and formidable.

The latest re-polling in Srinagar – Budgam Parliamentary constituency that took place on April 13, 2017 has given enough indications by now to the Government of India that any attempts to assemble fake leadership in Kashmir on a collaborationist or capitulationist platform will take it nowhere. These so-called leaders are so thoroughly discredited that they could not even get 2 % of the votes in this re-poll. By persisting in these attempts, Indian leadership betrays not only cynicism but also an uncharacteristic lack of political sense. This latest election is the proof that the resistance in Kashmir has not weakened, and will not weaken, on account of the paucity of its resources. The hunger of the people of Kashmir for the freedom which has been denied to them supplies it an inexhaustible store of strength.

Fresh thinking is needed to cut the Gordian knot in Kashmir, which has been flailed at for more than half a century bilaterally between India and Pakistan without result. I do not mean to suggest, however, that tackling Kashmir will not be difficult.  I do not want to expose myself to Hotspur’s derisive retort to Glendower when the latter boasted he could call spirits from the vastly deeps: Yes, but will they come when you call for them?

We are fully aware that the settlement of the Kashmir dispute cannot be achieved in one move. Like all qualified observers, we visualize successive steps or intermediate solutions in the process. It is one thing, however, to think of a settlement over a relatively extended period of time. It is atrociously different to postpone the beginning of the process on that account.

The people of Kashmir also understand that it cannot move immediately into a plebiscite. They have watched other processes in East Timor, Montenegro, Bosnia, Southern Sudan, Kosovo and recognize that a transitional period is necessary to build the confidence of all parties and to create a conducive atmosphere for stability.

We owe it to our people to take a rational and responsible position. Accordingly, we have confined ourselves to demands only for those actions at the preliminary stage which do not involve any prejudice to the claims of any party to the dispute – India, Pakistan and the people of Kashmir. However, if India or Pakistan or any other power would like to bring pressure on the people of Kashmir to capitulate, or to agree to any terms which will compromise their freedom, then any so-called peace process is foredoomed. The people of Kashmir wish to leave no doubt in anyone’s mind on that score.

It is known to all that any talks between India and Pakistan on Kashmir will be a charade unless some basic conditions are fulfilled. There must be the end to the campaign of killing of innocent civilians. The representatives of the Kashmiri resistance must be associated with the negotiations. The talks between India and Pakistan must be held at the level of their political leadership.

We do not wish the future dialogue on Kashmir between India and Pakistan to stagnate or be broken off. Nor do we want it to be just make-believe. We remind all concerned that there are equal dangers for peace in the two possibilities. Each of them can be averted only by the mediation of an impartial third party or the United Nations or a person of an international standing, like Kofi Annan or Bishop Desmond Tutu.

Here are my thoughts about a new approach to set a stage for the settlement of the Kashmir problem.

An intra-Kashmir dialogue between the leadership of All Parties Hurriyet Conference, Dogras, Buddhists, Sikhs, and Pandits. This kind of dialogue is not only desirable but also possible because Kashmir is a pluralistic society. It has a long tradition of moderation and non-violence. Its culture does not generate extremism. Can anyone deny the fact – of no small significance – that while the Subcontinent under British rule was the scene of recurrent murderous strife, communal riots were unheard of in Kashmir? That unquestionable fact brings out the real character of Kashmir’s heritage.

Both India and Pakistan should be persuaded to issue relevant travel documents to enable the representatives of the different components of the population of Jammu and Kashmir (The Valley, Ladakh, Jammu, Azad Kashmir and Gilgat-Baltistian) to meet at a place outside South Asia and formulate their proposals for the procedures of a just and lasting settlement. Our concern goes beyond the Kashmiri speaking majority of the State. We are mindful of the interests of the Dogra and the Buddhists communities as well. We demand the establishment of genuinely peaceful conditions in which we can earnestly welcome Kashmiri Pandits back to their homes. Their future as a community lies in Kashmiriyyat with us. They too have suffered, though in a different way, because of then the Governor of Kashmir, Jagmohan’s cruel and shortsighted policies.

India does not want to give up its claim that Kashmir is an integral part of India. Pakistan insists that Kashmir is its jugular vein. And the people of Kashmir do not want to compromise on their right to self-determination. That means a deadlock, which has proved catastrophic not only for the people of Kashmir but for both India and Pakistan as well. Only an impartial mediator can help initiate a process of ‘negotiations without pre-conditions’ whereby all sides can sustain the necessary political support in their respective constituencies to participate in the process. Without an intermediary, our differences will forever keep us divided.

The negotiations should leave aside the question of the end result of efforts towards a settlement. This is most wise. We must stress it again and again that the immediate question is not what is the best solution of the problem but how the problem should be put on the road to a comprehensive solution. Since, we are concerned with setting a stage for settlement rather than the shape the settlement will take, we believe it is both untimely and harmful to indulge in, or encourage, controversies about the most desirable solution.  Any attempt to do so amounts to playing into hands of those who would prefer to maintain a status quo that is intolerable to the people of Kashmir and also a continuing threat to peace is South Asia.

The peace in South Asia will not come without sacrifices.  Each party will have to modify her position so that common ground can be found.  It will be impossible to find a solution of the Kashmir problem that respects all the sensitivities of Indian authorities, that values all the sentiments of Pakistan, that keeps intact the unity of the State of Jammu and Kashmir and safeguards the rights and interests of the people of all the different zones of the State.  Yet this does not mean that we cannot find an imaginative solution. A workable solution will demand some compromises and modifications from each of the parties.

The world powers should be persuaded to play a more activist role in regard to Kashmir by strengthening a peace process. This can take the shape of:

 

i). a polygonal dialogue – USA, China, India, Pakistan, and Kashmir; OR

ii). an appropriate use of the newly developed procedures and mechanisms at the United Nations.

 

In neither case would the handling of the dispute be a rehash of the old arid and acrimonious debates at the U.N. The U.N. would supply the catalyst that is needed for a settlement.  There are alternative courses of action which can be spelled out and involved in a sequence of interactive steps over a period of time. None of them would put the peace process in the straitjacket of rigid adherence to old texts. But if a solution of the problem will be a graduated process, consisting of incremental measures, the violence in Kashmir needs to be brought to a quick end in order to set the stage for a solution.

These ideas need refinement, but they build on the ineluctable truth that nothing fruitful is possible in Kashmir without the primary participation and willing consent of the Kashmiri people. Schemes and negotiations that neglect that truth are doomed to failure, as proven by 70 years of grim conflict in Kashmir with no end in sight.

Finally, win-win solutions are further important because they safeguard against prospective bitterness or humiliation that are the fuel of new conflict.  If one party to a solution feels exploited or unfairly treated, then national sentiments to undo the settlement will naturally swell.   We must not belittle, embarrass, or humiliate any party.  Every participant should be treated with dignity and humanity. Charity, not the triumphal, should be the earmark of the negotiating enterprise. Also, we should not sacrifice the good on the altar of the perfect.  Compromises are the staple of conflict resolution.  To achieve some good is worthwhile even though not all good is achieved.


Dr. Fai is the Secretary General of World Kashmir Awareness  

 

All-Women Police Battalions In Jammu And Kashmir To Deal With Stone Throwers

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF INDIA)

All-women battalion in Jammu and Kashmir to deal with stone pelters

PTI | Updated: Apr 27, 2017, 06.16 PM IST

HIGHLIGHTS
  • An all-women India Reserve Battalion will be raised in Jammu and Kashmir
  • The Battalion will primarily deal with incidents like stone pelting
  • The women battalion would also be assigned other law and order duties

Women police officers dealing with protesters during a clash Women police officers dealing with protesters during a clash

NEW DELHI: An all-women India Reserve Battalion will be raised in Jammu and Kashmir to primarily deal with incidents like stone pelting, a home ministry official said on Thursday.

The move comes days after girl students were seen fighting pitched battles with security forces at Lal Chowk in the heart of Srinagar on April 24, the day the educational institutions in the restive valley reopened after a five-day shutdown.

The exclusive contingent will be among the five IRBs the Centre has sanctioned for the state grappling with persistent violence.

The women battalion would also be assigned other law and order duties but its personnel will be primarily deployed for tackling protesters, the official said.

As many as 1,40,000 candidates have applied for 5,000 posts in the five IRBs. The home ministry decided to go for an all-women battalion after discovering that 6,000 applicants were women.

The issue was discussed today at a high-level meeting chaired by Home Minister Rajnath Singh on the Rs 80,000 crore development package announced for Jammu and Kashmir by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2015.

The process of recruitment to the five IRBs has started. Nearly 40 per cent of the applicants are from the Kashmir valley.

The response is very encouraging with nearly 30 applicants against one post, the official said.

The IRBs are being raised with an aim to provide jobs to the local youths. Sixty per cent of vacancies will be filled with candidates from the border districts.

Top Comment

Allow the para military to use real bullets/pellet guns just raising battalions for number sake and risking their lives for t political oppertunism won’t help Bhattacharyya

The cost of raising each battalion is around Rs 61 crore, and 75 per cent of the expenditure will be borne by the Centre. Personnel of India Reserve Battalions (IRBs) are normally deployed in their respective states but they can be sent elsewhere if there is a requirement.

At present, there are 144 India Reserve Battalions in the country. In addition, four IRBs each are being raised in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, 12 in Maoist-hit states, besides the five in Jammu and Kashmir.
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There Is A Video War Being Played Out In Kashmir

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES)

Video vs Video: The other war playing out in Kashmir

INDIA Updated: Apr 17, 2017 07:39 IST

Toufiq Rashid, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Kashmir unrest

Protesters clash with police and paramilitary soldiers during a protest after Friday prayers in Srinagar.(Waseem Andrabi/HT Photo)

A grainy short video shot with a cellphone shows Wali Mohammed Bhat, a supporter of the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP), apologising profusely and shouting anti-India slogans at gunpoint.The petrified Kashmiri man is heard saying he has long quit all political activities.

In another similar video, a group of security men are seen pinning a youth in a red vest to the ground. His hands are tied behind his back, and the men are beating his legs with sticks.

He screams: “Paani … maafi (water… mercy).”

Read more

The two clips were uploaded on social media on Sunday and quickly became the most shared, watched and commented items online in militancy-riddled Jammu and Kashmir as well as the rest of India.

These are from a long line of videos showing the two stark realities of Kashmir — alleged atrocities of a hardnosed establishment trying to bulldoze the insurgency, and the threats, brickbats and stones that people on the non-separatist side of the political divide face in the Valley.

This is Unacceptable ! Cant do this to our CRPF jawaans .This rot has to stop. Badtameezi ki hadd hai.

The troubled region’s pro- and anti-separatist battle is fought through videos — a quick-reaction psychological weapon that is exploding on social networks more often lately, especially after the protest-blighted by-elections to the Srinagar parliamentary seat on April 9.

At least eight people died in the unrest and hundreds were wounded as security forces fired at and caned crowds that tried to disrupt the bypoll in response to a separatist call to boycott the democratic process.

The video of an armed CRPF trooper being kicked and booed by a group of youth when he was returning from bypoll duty with his colleagues became a nationwide television debate.

Another Socking & Outrageous Video from occupied . Indian Brutality & oppression on its peak

The men in uniform do nothing to the hecklers. They walk on. Their action is peddled on the loop in national television as an epitome of restraint shown by the armed forces.

Read more

The tide turns on April 13 as another explosive clip surfaced. It shows security forces firing at a group, mostly children, throwing stones. The soldiers are seen moving behind a wall, bending, locating the position of the stone-throwers, and firing at a boy. Netizens called it targeted killing.

A day later, a video showed a Kashmiri youth tied to the bonnet of a military jeep as a human shield against stone-throwers. The background audio warns people that “this will be the fate of stone-pelters”.

Here’s the video as well. A warning can be heard saying stone pelters will meet this fate. This requires an urgent inquiry & follow up NOW!!

The video was supposedly shot in Budgam district on April 9 during the bypoll.

Another clip emerged, showing Kashmiri youth protecting a security man who allegedly fell behind from the rest of his troop.

It rained videos last Saturday. One of them shows a child screaming his lungs out as four men in army fatigues beat him mercilessly with sticks. Another one has three Kashmiri youth shouting “Pakistan Murdabad”, allegedly at the behest of a security man, half-visible in the video.

Hindustan Times could not authenticate where and when these videos were shot. But these are having an effect.

Kashmir: 8 Killed During Voting Violence

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES)

8 killed in Kashmir bypoll violence, Srinagar registers poor voter turnout of 7.14%

INDIA Updated: Apr 10, 2017 08:29 IST

HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Bypolls

Srinagar: Youths throw stones on Security forces during clashes in Srinagar on Sunday. Four civilians where killed and more than two dozens were injured during the clashes. (PTI Photo)

At least eight people were killed in clashes with security forces during Sunday’s by-election to the Srinagar Lok Sabha seat, which recorded a poor voter turnout of 7.14%. (HIGHLIGHTS)Violence marred polling in Ater assembly seat in Madhya Pradesh too, where police firing was reported from two places after villagers allegedly threw stones at Congress candidate Hemant Katare’s car. Six vehicles, including police cars, were damaged, sources said.The biggest bloodshed was recorded in Srinagar, where the by-poll was held along with 10 assembly constituencies in eight states, including New Delhi’s Rajouri Garden.

Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) float in a river after protesters attack on polling station at Kanihamma in Srinagar on Sunday. More then 20 people were injured during the clashes. (PTI Photo)

“There were more than 200 incidents of violence, mostly in Budgam district, which included stone-pelting, petrol bomb attacks, setting ablaze of a polling station, some vehicles and attempt to burn another two polling booths,” Jammu and Kashmir chief electoral officer Shantmanu said.

“It was not a good day for us.” And he admitted that the by-poll in Anantnag on April 12 would be a bigger challenge.

Internet services in the Valley have been suspended till Wednesday.

The violence in Kashmir followed a separatist call to boycott the by-election, saying the situation is not right to hold a democratic exercise after last year’s unprecedented public unrest triggered by the killing of popular militant commander Burhan Wani.

People took to the streets to enforce the boycott across the constituency straddling Srinagar, Budgam and Ganderbal districts.

Read more

Polling staff abandoned almost 70% of booths in Budgam district because of the violent protests. Army was called out to help security forces quell mobs throwing stones and petrol bombs at polling stations in Ganderbal district.

Security teams fired bullets as well as the controversial pellet guns to disperse mobs. Pellet guns — a so-called non-lethal weapon — have killed, maimed and blinded hundreds of people during the 2016 unrest.

On Sunday, at least one man died of pellet wounds, director general of police SP Vaid said.

A senior doctor at Budgam district hospital confirmed that the majority of patients were being treated for pellet wounds.

Most of the dead were young men, including a 15-year-old Faizaan Ahmad Rather and Amir Manzoor, who was 17.

Protesters throwing stones at a burning polling staff bus after they attacked a polling station at Kanihama in Srinagar on Sunday. (PTI)

Chief minister Mehbooba Mufti said she was pained that most of them were teenagers. “I am distressed … they were yet to understand the intricacies of the issues,” she said.

Former chief minister and opposition National Conference working president Omar Abdullah, whose father Farooq Abdullah is contesting the by-poll, said he had never seen this level of violence in elections in Kashmir.

“I am talking about having fought my first election in 1998 at the peak of militancy. Even then the environment for campaigning and voting was not as bad as it is today. That may itself tell you just how mismanaged this state is under Mehbooba Mufti,” he said.

Repolling could be ordered in “anywhere around 50 or 100 polling stations or more” because of the violence, according to state poll panel chief Shantmanu.

“The tentative voter turnout is 6.5%,” he said.

That’s much lower than the 2014 parliamentary polls, which recorded 26%.

In the 1989 elections, National Conference’s Mohammad Shafi Bhat won the seat uncontested. The previous lowest turnout in the prestigious seat was 11.93% in 1999 when Omar Abdullah had defeated Mehbooba Mufti in a straight contest.

Police firing was also reported in Madhya Pradesh’s Ater seat after Congress and BJP workers clashed. Polls in the state were preceded by controversies related to electronic voting machines.

People damaged the Congress candidate Katara’s car at Sankri polling booth, where he had gone to check reports of booth capturing by BJP candidate Arvind Bhadoria’s followers.

But the state election commission dismissed reports of booth capturing.

By-elections in another assembly constituency in Madhya Pradesh, two in Karnataka, one each in West Bengal, Assam, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh and New Delhi ended peacefully.

Read more

In all, by-elections were held in nine assembly constituencies in six states, besides the Srinagar parliamentary seat.

Rajouri Garden assembly seat in west Delhi recorded a poor turnout of 47%. The by-election is seen as the trailer to the municipal polls this month. The seat was held by the Aam Aadmi Party’s Jarnail Singh before he resigned to contest the Punjab assembly polls this February.

In Jharkhand’s Littipara assembly by-poll, about 72% turnout was recorded till evening.

The by-poll is viewed as a prestige issue for the ruling BJP and the opposition Jharkhand Mukti Morcha in the state. The BJP is trying to capture a seat that the JMM has held for 40 years.

Polling was peaceful and around 52% votes were cast in six hours in the Kanthi Dakshin assembly by-poll in West Bengal. The ruling Trinamool Congress has nominated former minister of state for health Chandrima Bhattacharya as its candidate.

Bhattacharya had lost from Dum Dum (North) in last year’s assembly polls.

In Karnataka, by-polls to Nanjangud and Gundlupet assembly constituencies were held. Fresh polls had to be called at Nanjanagud as V Srinivas Prasad, the Congress MLA, resigned after he was dropped from the ministry. Prasad is now the BJP candidate.

In Dholpur assembly constituency in Rajasthan, where the BJP is in power, 74% polling was recorded.

Polling was peaceful amid reports of electronic voting machine (EVM) and voter verified paper audit trial (VVPAT) malfunctions at some booths, Rajasthan’s chief electoral officer Ashwini Bhagat said.

(With inputs from HTC Bhopal, Kolkata, Ranchi and agencies)

India Slams Pak Plan To Give Fifth Province Status To Gilgit-Baltistan Region

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES)

India slams Pak plan to give fifth province status to Gilgit-Baltistan region

INDIA Updated: Mar 16, 2017 22:49 IST

HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi

A committee headed by Pakistan’s foreign affairs advisor Sartaj Aziz reportedly proposed fifth province status for the strategic region.(AFP File )

India on Friday reacted strongly to an attempt by Pakistan to declare the strategic Gilgit-Baltistan region, bordering disputed Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK), as its fifth province, saying such move is “entirely unacceptable.”There are reports that a committee headed by Pakistan’s foreign affairs advisor Sartaj Aziz has proposed status of a province to Gilgit-Baltistan.Responding to the reports, external affairs ministry spokesperson Gopal Baglay said any such step would not be able to hide the illegality of Pakistan’s occupation of parts of Jammu and Kashmir, which it must vacate, forthwith.

“The entire state of J&K is an integral part, has been an integral part and will be an integral part of India. No attempt or unilateral attempt or step to change that would have any legal basis, whatsoever, and it will be entirely unacceptable,” the spokesperson said.

The move will not be able to “hide the tremendous, very concerning human rights violations and denial of freedom” that has been going on in parts of J&K controlled by Pakistan for the last 70 years, he said.

Gilgit-Baltistan is treated as a separate geographical entity by Pakistan. It has a regional assembly and an elected chief minister.

Read more

At present, Pakistan has four provinces — Punjab, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan.

It is believed that China’s concerns about the unsettled status of the strategic region prompted Pakistan to explore change in its status.

Asked about Pakistan having expressed concern over acquittal of Assemanand in Ajmer Sharif blast case, Baglay said India completely rejects Pakistan’s “efforts and intention to meddle” in the country’s internal affairs, including in the Indian judicial process.

“We also totally reject the ulterior link which is sought to be established by Pakistan with any other matter under the purview of the Indian courts. A strong Indian democracy and justice system obviously need no self-serving sermons from anybody much less from a country like Pakistan,” he asserted.

The spokesperson also advised Pakistan to refrain from interfering in the internal affairs of India and not to deny the reality of terrorism emanating from its soil, which was affecting not only India but the entire neighbourhood and beyond.

Baglay also reiterated India’s demand that Pakistan should dismantle terrorist infrastructure in its own territory or the territory under its control, and bring to justice the terror masterminds who still operate and continue to enjoy freedom on its soil.

Pakistan foreign office had last week summoned India’s deputy high commissioner J P Singh to express its concern over acquittal of right-wing activist Swami Aseemanand in 2007 Ajmer Sharif blast case.

Nepal Government Trying To Curb Alcohol Abuse

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES)

The Nepal government has approved a stringent policy to regulate the sale of alcohol, including mandatory pictorial health warnings and an age bar for buying liquor, sparking a debate in the country.The National Policy on Regulation and Control of Alcohol 2017, cleared by the cabinet on February 20, will now be sent to Parliament for its endorsement. Under it, Nepal will adopt a zero-tolerance policy against drinking alcohol in public functions, weddings and other social and cultural events.

The policy requires producers to mandatory display a pictorial warning depicting liver cirrhosis and effects on other organs that will have to cover 75% of the packaging of alcoholic beverages.

Nepal will be first country to introduce such a warning for alcohol.

People below the age of 21 and pregnant women will be restricted from purchasing and consuming alcohol. Alcohol will no longer be served at government-sponsored events and it will not be sold at public places such as heritage sites and sports complexes. There will also be a total ban on alcohol advertisements.

The policy will also decrease the availability of alcohol by restricting sales to specially licensed shops for certain hours. Sales will be prohibited from 5 am to 7 pm, and every person will be able to buy only one litre a day.

The health ministry said it was forced to impose such restrictions because of health problems caused by excessive drinking, but there have been calls that the social and religious aspects of consuming alcohol should not be overlooked.

Selling alcohol is not perceived as a mere business in Nepal, as liquor forms an intrinsic part of religious functions for many ethnic communities.

Though the policy has been cautiously welcomed by various stakeholders, some have questioned how it will be implemented, given the country’s weak administrative structure, and how the market will respond. Others have noted the policy is silent on controlling moonshine, the sale of which is rampant in the countryside.

The health ministry has proposed a new mechanism to monitor the policy’s implementation and to take legal action against violators.

The multi-billion rupee liquor industry is in a dilemma as it cannot be seen as opposing a “noble cause” taken up by the government, a senior industrialist told Hindustan Times. The industry will wait till the policy is fully implemented before coming up a reaction, he said.

The tourism industry will back the move, said Biplav Poudel, who runs luxury hotels in Pokhara and Chitwan. He told Hindustan Times that the measures would not affect tourism as almost all tourists drink inside their hotels and not in public places.

The policy also includes income generation programmes and alternative employment opportunities to discourage the production and sale of domestic liquor.

But Gopal Krishna Siwakoti, a prominent rights activist, gave the example of Andhra Pradesh in India, which lifted a ban on alcohol in 1997 after enforcing prohibition for two years. “Such measures are not successful due to leakages within the state and from across borders and this is a lesson for Nepal,” he said.

Unlike in India, selling and consuming alcohol is not restricted in Nepal and experts say this has contributed to health problems. A WHO report of 2014 said around 50 people die of alcohol abuse in Nepal, while the health ministry has estimated 17.8% of the population of nearly 27 million drink every day.

Nepal banned drink-driving in 2012 to reduce road accidents and the move was widely successful.

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India’s Defence Minister Gives Military Commanders Full Freedom To Combat Jihadists

 

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES)

 

Defence minister Manohar Parrikar said on Friday that military commanders had “full freedom” to decide on how to conduct their operations against insurgents and terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir.Parrikar’s remarks come in the backdrop of a debate over army chief Bipin Rawat’s comments that those who hinder counter-insurgency operations or display flags of Pakistan and the Islamic State in Kashmir will be considered as “anti-national”, and soldiers will not hesitate to use their weapons.

The comments have evoked sharp reactions from opposition politicians and Kashmiri separatists alike, most of who said such an attitude will only further alienate the military among Kashmiris and help fuel insurgency.

But Parrikar defended his army chief.

Read: General Rawat, hold your fire. All Kashmiri youth are not aides of jihadis

“Our aim is to neutralise as many Pakistani terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir (as possible) and demoralise the militant ranks before the snow starts melting in the high mountain passes next month,” Parrikar told Hindustan Times.

The defence minister also referred to a shootout between militants and the army in which a major was among four soldiers killed in Handwara on Tuesday. He said an investigation was on to see if any operational intelligence was leaked to the militants.

“The February 14 counter-terrorist operation… was based on specific source intelligence inputs,” he said.

“Our suspicion is that this intelligence got leaked to militants in advance. We are checking the facts. In these circumstances, I have given strict instructions of allowing full operational freedom to the commander on the spot. It is his final call.”

Kashmir remained on the boil for months after government forces killed militant commander Burhan Wani last July. More than 100 people were killed, most of them in police firing, during months-long street protests against Wani’s killing.

Although those protests have tapered, this winter has been one of the most violent in Kashmir with at least two major attacks on army barracks in Uri and Nagrota as well as several fatal shootouts between militants and soldiers. There has also been a spike in militants trying to cross over into India from Pakistan.

Government figures indicate that there are at least 300 “foreign terrorists” in the Valley, with Lashkar-e-Taiba accounting for over 90% of them.

Cross-border “infiltration” bids also stood at about 100 last year, official figures show, but top security officials said the number could be three times higher going by a rise in the number of unknown militants killed this year.

Ten soldiers killed, several missing after avalanches hit Kashmir’s Gurez sector

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES)

Ten soldiers killed, several missing after avalanches hit Kashmir’s Gurez sector

INDIA Updated: Jan 26, 2017 20:55 IST

Ashiq Hussain
Ashiq Hussain
Hindustan Times, Srinagar

Highlight Story

Avalanches struck an army camp and a patrol team in Tulail area of Gurez sector in Bandipora district, resulting in multiple casualties.(AP File Photo )

At least 10 soldiers were killed and several colleagues are missing after avalanches hit an army camp and a patrol in north Kashmir’s Bandipora, officials said on Thursday.They are the latest casualties in the Kashmir Valley swamped by heavy snowfall.

The twin incidents happened barely hours after an Army major was killed in Ganderbal district, also in an avalanche.

A military spokesperson said 10 bodies were recovered since an avalanche struck the camp in the Gurez sector on Wednesday night and a patrol team was buried under a separate snowslide earlier.

Police informed that the men belonged to 51 Rashtriya Rifles.

Rescue teams are working to detect at least four missing soldiers, feared trapped under several feet of snow and rock debris. But the progress is slow because of the harsh weather and terrain.

“Search operations helped us rescue a JCO (junior commissioned officer) and six soldiers, while the bodies of three more could be retrieved this morning (Thursday),” said the army spokesman, giving details about the incident at the camp.

From the patrol, only seven bodies have been recovered.

Read | Despite risk to soldiers, Siachen is vital to India’s security

Kashmir has been witnessing one of the severest winters since 2006 and 1992, with heavy snow across the territory and temperature dropping to minus 7 degrees Celsius. But conditions are expected to improve from January 27.

Besides militancy, weather has been a major adversary of armed forces in Kashmir. Avalanches caused a third of the army fatalities between 2007 and 2012 in the Valley.

On February 3 last year, 10 soldiers were killed after an avalanche hit Siachen Glacier, the world’s highest and coldest battlefield.

The latest disaster zone is close to the Line of Control (LoC), the de facto border with Pakistan.

The Army did not specify the number of missing soldiers. But superintendent of police S Zulfikar said four men were unaccounted for.

Police said heavy snow damaged 13 houses, three shops and a shrine in Budgam and Ganderbal districts. About 150 people were evacuated on Wednesday from avalanche-prone Khadiyall and Ismarg villages of Gurez.

Since the start of heavy snowfall on Tuesday, at least seven civilians have died in the Valley.

Authorities have issued avalanche warnings, advising residents in mountainous areas not to venture out.

Read | A question about Siachen hero’s death: Why are our soldiers dying