Archives  >  2020  >  January  >  17th

Kashmir, Still Unmoored

1. What’s the story?

Kashmir is still off the grid. Even though a government circular issued on Tuesday was apparently supposed to restore internet in the state, the reality is still far from perfect. With only “institutional access and ‘whitelisted’ sites”, Kashmir is still reeling. The Government has been citing national security as the reason for these strict regulations. Human rights experts, however, feel that freedom of expression of the common people is being curbed. 

Tell me more.

The government circular was issued in keeping with the court’s injunctions to publish all prohibitory orders and review them every week. It restores 2G networks to postpaid mobile numbers in five district of Jammu’s 10 districts. While Jammu already has broadband internet, the order decrees that it be restored to all institutions providing essential services also in Kashmir, such as hospitals and banks, to government offices, and to hotels and other travel establishments.

The current access also comes with similar caveats. Subscribers would only be able to view “whitelisted” sites, largely government websites and those related to other essential services. At government offices and institutions, access would be monitored by gatekeepers. Social media is still banned. So are thousands of broadband connections owned by ordinary Kashmiris.”

The court, when it asked the Government to review its actions, had emphasized the need to restore freedom of expression in the valley. However, that seems to be far from truth here.

So, what now?

Even though Kashmiri political leaders have been indefinitely detained and freedom of movement of the common Kashmiri severely curtailed, foreign dignitaries and union ministers have been visiting the state, in attempts by the Government to show that normalcy has returned in the valley. This, it seems, is quite removed from reality.

Keep your eyes on this space. We’ll keep you updated.

2. Where else should I be keeping my eyes on?

Uttar Pradesh, that’s where. Merely days after the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Act was passed by the Central Government, the Uttar Pradesh Government managed to draw up a list of more than 32,000 refugees. However, this move raises several questions “because the centre has not yet notified the rules for the implementation of the CAA.”

“The central government issued a gazette notification on Friday night and on Monday, Uttar Pradesh energy minister and government spokesperson Shrikant Sharma said that these refugees from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh have been identified in 21 districts and the exercise is being carried out in the entire state. Most of them were based in Pilibhit, according to reports. 

NDTV spoke to officials in the district administration, who said they started surveying people last month on the basis of an unsigned and undated document.

The document, carried by NDTV in its report, asks for a person’s name, father’s name, where they stay in India, when they came to India and from which country. It also asks for a description of the atrocities that the person faced. 

In an interview … minister Shrikant Sharma said that the Uttar Pradesh government started working on the list from long back — as soon as  Parliament passed the Bill.”

Things are bound to get messy. We’ll keep you updated.

3. What more?

Amidst all this unrest across the nation, here’s a quintessentially unifying story from Kerala — “a Muslim theyyam in a Hindu ritual.” (Quick recap: Theyyam is a traditional form of worship and performance art in Kerala.)

“Close to 1 am, a clutch of men begin to beat the chenda, a traditional percussion instrument, to signal the start of the famous Kamballur Mappila Chamundi Theyyam. One of northern Kerala’s ancient dance forms, Theyyam broadly encompasses Hindu ritualistic tenets. But in some places, mythological lore is enmeshed with the area’s social history to introduce Muslim, or Mappila, characters in Theyyam. Kamballur’s is one such fascinating example.

The theyyam proceedings at Kamballur commence with the Kalanthan mukri offering namaz inside an arched gateway at the northern end of the compound. His eyes bulging out as he scans the area, the mukri shouts, ‘Allahu Akbar’ and sprints to the centre of the courtyard. Meanwhile, the chamundi, with intricate face-paint, ornate headgear and a waist-dress made of finely-sliced tender coconut leaves, makes her entry from the western side of the household.

The concept of the Mappila Chamundi theyyam underscores the harmonious relationship that existed between feudal Hindus and Mappilas (Muslims) in the area, that continues to this day. Every year, a senior member of the Kamballur Kottayil Nair household is consulted before the annual schedule of the Makham Urs festivities at the Pulingome mosque is prepared.”

4. Anything else?

Early this month, the Patiala House court issued a warrant of execution on 22nd January for the convicts accused of brutally raping and murdering Jyoti Singh in 2012. However, things have been delayed.. In a new development in this now (in)famous case, “the reason for the delay is that there has to be a gap of at least 14 days between the rejection of the convicts’ mercy petitions.”

“One of the complications in this case is that not all the convicts have filed their mercy petitions, or even the curative petitions which are their last attempt to get the Supreme Court to reconsider their case. Till date, only Mukesh Singh has filed a mercy petition (one of the other convicts had, but then withdrew it) while two of the convicts are yet to file their curative petitions.

Executions of persons convicted for the same offence cannot be carried out until all legal and administrative remedies of all the convicts have taken place, so even if Mukesh Singh’s mercy petition were rejected tomorrow, this would not mean the convicts could be executed within 14 days from then.

Tihar Jail authorities informed the Patiala House court on 16 January that since the convicts didn’t file their mercy petitions within a week from the time, their appeals were dismissed, and they need to follow the procedure laid down in Rule 840 of the Delhi Jail Manual.

Under this, the Superintendent of the Jail has to forward the mercy petition submitted by the convict to the Delhi Government, requesting orders on whether the execution should be postponed and stating that till they receive a reply, the sentence will not be carried out.”

5. Is that all?

In a dramatic turn of events, the entire Russian Government has resigned after President Vladimir Putin proposed reforms that would change the country’s constitution and strengthen his grip on power. 

“The entire Russian government is resigning, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev announced Wednesday, after Vladimir Putin proposed sweeping reforms that could extend his decades-long grip on power beyond the end of his presidency.

Putin thanked members of the government for their work but added that “not everything worked out.” Putin added that in the near future he would meet with each member of the cabinet. The mass resignation includes Medvedev.

The surprise announcement came after Putin proposed constitutional amendments that would strengthen the powers of the prime minister and parliament at the expense of the presidency.

Taking power from the presidency and handing it to parliament could signal a power shift that has been long speculated about in Russia.

Putin’s critics have suggested that he is considering various scenarios to retain control of the country after his presidential term ends in 2024, including the option of becoming prime minister with extended powers. Similarly, in 2008 Putin swapped places with the prime minister to circumvent the constitutional provision banning the same person from serving two consecutive terms.”

6. Before you leave…

Take a look at how in the Philippines, fleeing an active volcano has meant the loss of livelihoods for thousands

“Farmer Rufo Gamaro brought 61 people with him to this Tagaytay center on Wednesday morning. He told NPR that the ash in his barrio, or barangay, is knee-deep.

“Our barangay was buried in so much ashfall … [and it] was so dark that nobody could see where to go or where the roads are,” Gamaro said. He added that he, “lost all the crops, the corn, the fruit, the vegetables. Lost the animals – the pigs, the chickens, the cats, the dogs.”

Gamaro is an elected councilor in the town of Laurel, one of 12 that the Interior Ministry ordered evacuated on Wednesday. He told NPR that he had returned to his home, at great risk, to tend to the few animals that had survived. He said he managed to feed a few of them but that his fish farm was destroyed and all the fish are dead.

Elsie Malabanan is a 44-year-old health worker from the same neighborhood as Gamaro. She says that in the chaos of abandoning her home, she was separated from her family and has been unable to make contact with them. Malabanan is alone and frets about what lies ahead. Wiping tears from her eyes, she says: “I’m afraid that there is nothing to go back go. Our barangay is a ghost town. I don’t know how to start my life over again. It’s so painful to think we’ve lost our livelihood. I don’t know where or how we’re going to be able to start that life again.” ”

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