Archives  >  2019  >  August  >  14th

Kashmir, in Tears

1. What’s the story?

Kashmir celebrated a strangely dejected Eid-Ul-Adha last Monday. Communication lines remained suspended, news from the valley – especially from rural areas – remained sporadic, and the busiest areas of Srinagar remained deserted on this festival day.
Tell me more.
Kashmir has been on edge since last week, when India announced its landmark repeal of Article 370. A total communication shutdown — with blocks on mobile phones, landlines, internet, and TV – still continues in the valley.

“Last week 10,000 people reportedly took to the streets of Srinagar to protest against Delhi’s decision to revoke Kashmir’s special status. Government forces reportedly opened fire and used tear gas. The Indian ministry of home affairs denied that any protests of more than 20 people took place – though TV footage appeared to show very large crowds chanting: “Go back, go, India, go.”

“Our hearts are on fire,” said Habibullah Bhat, 75, who told Associated Press on Monday that he came to offer prayers despite his ill health. “India has thrown us into the dark ages, but God is on our side and our resistance will win.”

With no way to contact loved ones on a festival day, there was widespread panic in the state. There were reports of people having waited for more than four hours for a four-second phone call.

“We came here at 7 am. It has been 3 hours already. We have to wait this long for just one phone call. Even then, we are allowed to speak only for 4 seconds. What will we say in 4 seconds? We want to know if they are all right. We want to ask them if they have enough money. What will we say in 4 seconds? Providing helpline numbers is a mere formality on the government’s part.”

Even though the Ministry of Home Affairs had denied reports of any unrest last week, it finally changed its tune on Tuesday. “… miscreants mingled with people returning home after prayers at a local mosque” in Srinagar’s Soura, tweeted MHA. According to official Government sources, protests turned violent, but no bullets were fired.
So, what now?
Last Tuesday, the Supreme Court refused to intervene in this.

“The situation in Jammu and Kashmir is “very sensitive” and reasonable time should be given to the government to ensure normalcy there, the apex court said on Tuesday while refusing to pass any immediate order to the Centre to lift restrictions in the region imposed after abrogation of Article 370.”

Meanwhile, the state is all set to host its first Investor’s Summit this October.

No other option but to wait and watch, we guess.

2. What else should I be looking at?

Climate change, that’s what. This summer was the hottest on record for India. However, ironically enough, the high level of pollution in the country may be responsible for fewer heatwaves in this part of the world.

“As climate change takes hold, the expectation is that extreme temperatures – the maximum temperature on the hottest day of each year in a region – would keep rising.

“In all the studies in the US, Russia and Europe that has happened, but not in India,” said Achuta Rao of IIT-Delhi. “But that hasn’t happened in India. They’ve been flat and, in some places, even declined.”

Scientists suspect that this can be traced to two factors: air pollution and irrigation. If India were to clean up its air, thus erasing the elements that block sunlight, heat levels are likely to go up, said Achuta Rao. What is unclear is exactly how much the heatwaves will go up once pollution is taken out of the picture.”

3. What more?

India may have entered a new era of “problematic demand”. The country has historically not been a nation of low demand. In fact, the opposite is actually true. For example, consumer goods and services like telephone connections and Bajaj scooters had long wait periods till the 1990s. However, that era is now over. There is a basic problem of demand today – stemming from stagnant income in the country — especially after demonetization.

“The diagnosis is clear: There is a fundamental problem of demand today — a devil India has never encountered before. At the core of it is incomes that aren’t rising enough. Not only have household savings come down — from 22.5 per cent to 17.2 per cent of GDP between 2012-12 and 2017-18, estimates Kotak Institutional Equities — but consumption is also feeling the pinch now. When jobs and incomes are under strain, how much can loan-pushing by NBFCs help? A two-wheeler loan has to ultimately be paid from one’s salary or wages.”

4. Anything else?

In a strange turn of events, a Kolkata court issued a bailable arrest warrant against popular Congress MP Shashi Tharoor on Tuesday. It was apparently in response to a remark he had made last year regarding the formation of a “Hindu Pakistan”.

“In July last year, Tharoor had said if Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, it would create a condition leading to a formation of a ‘Hindu Pakistan.’

Addressing an even in Thiruvananthapuram, Tharoor had said the BJP will write a new Constitution which will pave the way for a nation, much like Pakistan, where the rights of minorities are not respected.”

5. Is that all?

Hong Kong citizens are still protesting. And now the city has been forced to shut down its airport.

“Authorities in Hong Kong have canceled hundreds of flights this week because of major protests at the city’s international airport. That’s terrible news for companies operating in the financial hub.

The decision to cancel all departures and inbound flights not already in the air on Monday afternoon was made after thousands of pro-democracy protestors gathered at the airport, the region’s third busiest after Beijing and Tokyo.”

China is not pleased. Latest leaked videos show paramilitary forces assembling near the city in order to take down the protestors.         

“In a video obtained and released by Chinese state-owned media website Global Times, dozens of military trucks and over a dozen Armoured Personnel Carriers (APCs) can be seen assembling in Shenzhen — less than 30km from Hong Kong — for military ‘exercises’.”

[6 Things had earlier covered these protests here, here, here, and here.]

6. Before you leave …

Take a look at how there may have been a deadly radioactive blast in Russia last week, even though officially the country has mostly denied all such happenings.

“A mysterious explosion last week in Russia has increased fears of a Chernobyl-like situation — and it may have occurred because Moscow was trying out what could become one of the world’s most dangerous weapons.

It appears that the event increased radiation levels by four to 16 times the normal amount, causing nearby residents to scramble to get iodine, which curbs radiation absorbed in their bodies.”

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