LANDLINES BACK IN PARTS OF KASHMIR VALLEY, SOME MOVEMENT CURBS RELAXED
18th Aug 2019
The Jammu and Kashmir government eased restrictions in parts of the Valley Saturday and began restoring landline services in some areas. Kashmir has been under an unprecedented communication blackout since August 5, the day the Centre moved to end the special status of the state. "Since morning, relaxations have been provided in 35 police stations across the breadth and length of the Valley," J&K government spokesman Rohit Kansal said at the daily briefing at the Media Facilitation Centre in Srinagar on Saturday afternoon. "While the situation is being closely watched, there has been no report of untoward incident so far. Public transport has also started plying and we are getting encouraging reports of normal movement from lot of rural areas," Kansal told the press conference. However, as the restrictions were relaxed, protests erupted in several parts of the Valley. Protesters threw stones at several places, forcing the re-imposition of restrictions. At least eight protesters were injured in action by police and paramilitary forces. In North Kashmir's Sopore, large number of youths took to the streets to protest against the abrogation of Article 370. They threw stones at security forces, who responded with heavy tear-smoke shelling. Restrictions were re-imposed in parts of Sopore town. Protests also erupted at Singhpora, on the Srinagar-Baramulla national highway. A large contingent of police and paramilitary forces was re-deployed in the area, and restrictions imposed. Paramilitary forces fired dozens of tear smoke shells to disperse the protesters. "On communication, as we speak, 17 telephonic exchanges out of 96 total exchanges in Kashmir Valley are functional, enabling functionality of landline phones," Kansal said. "It is our endeavour and attempt that by today evening, at least half of the total exchanges are made functional and carry forward this process. "We hope by tomorrow evening, barring a very few vulnerable areas or exchanges, all the telephone exchanges shall be made functional," he said. Landlines and cell phones are already functional in the Jammu region, the spokesman said. Kansal said the government was looking forward to opening schools from Monday. However, to prevent protests by older children, schools would be opened only until Class 5. Responding to a question on the release of political detainees, Kansal said: "I reiterate these are directions which are to be taken by local authorities based on their assessment of the law and order situation." PM'S BHUTAN VISIT: SLEW OF MoUs INKED, RUPAY LAUNCHED On his first visit to Bhutan in his second term, Prime Minister Narendra Modi met Bhutan's Prime Minister Lotay Tshering on Saturday, and promised that India's support for Bhutan's five-year plans would continue in the future, based on Thimphu's priorities. After the talks, Modi said, "India is fortunate to be one of the key partners of Bhutan. Modi, who is on his second visit to Bhutan, and the first since his re-election in May this year, inaugurated the 740 MW Mangdechhu hydroelectric power plant, and launched stamps to commemorate five decades of India-Bhutan hydropower cooperation. "Hydropower is an important area of cooperation between our two countries. Together, the two countries have transformed the power of the rivers of Bhutan into not only electricity but also mutual prosperity. Today we have achieved another historic milestone of this journey with the inauguration of the Mangdechhu project," Modi said. The Mangdechhu project is funded by India through a 70 per cent loan and a 30 per cent grant. It is expected to generate 2,923 GWh of electricity. The two countries signed 10 Memorandums of Understanding in the fields of space research, aviation, IT, power and education. Modi also launched the RuPay Card in Bhutan by making a purchase. "I am very happy that today we have launched RuPay card in Bhutan. This will further enhance our relationship in digital payments, and trade and tourism. Our shared spiritual heritage and strong people-to-people relationship are key of our relations," he said. RUSSIA BACKS INDIA AT UNSC, BUT WITH RIDER Russia's support used to be taken for granted in the '50s and '60s when issues related to Goa and Jammu and Kashmir were voted upon in the United Nations Security Council but its latest backing for India did not appear to be unconditional. The closed-door consultations at the UNSC on the situation in Jammu and Kashmir on Friday once again saw Russia supporting India. Speaking before the meeting, Russian diplomat Dmitry Polyanskiy began by hoping that the divergences around Kashmir would be "settled bilaterally by political and diplomatic means only on the basis of Simla Agreement of 1972 and Lahore declaration of 1999". He then went on to add a rider that the settlement should also be "in accordance with UN Charter, relevant UN resolutions". India has always opposed any reference to UN resolutions in any formulation on Kashmir because it believes the Simla Agreement supersedes all previous resolutions. However, but for this speed-breaker, Russia stood with India at the UNSC on all other issues that mattered. It resisted a Chinese proposal to conduct open-door consultations on J&K. Russia also did not see merit in a proposal that sought a statement to be issued at the end of the meeting. Sources said another gesture that went unnoticed was that there was no telephonic conversation between Imran Khan and Vladimir Putin. Instead, as the Russian readout pointedly noted, its Foreign Minister Sergie Lavrov spoke to his counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi at "the initiative of the Pakistani side". In case of the US, which needs Pakistani backing on carving out a peace deal in Afghanistan, its President Donald Trump agreed to speak to Imran Khan, although his advice to settle the issue bilaterally with India would not have gone down well in Islamabad. Imran Khan was also unable to speak to the French President and the solid French backing to the Indian position at UNSC offers a clue as to why Emmanuel Macron did not speak with Imran Khan. INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS ====================== RIVAL RALLIES AS DIVISIONS DEEPEN IN HK Thousands of school teachers joined an 11th weekend of anti-government protests in Hong Kong on Saturday, as shops pulled down their shutters and braced for another restive summer night. Weeks of increasingly violent demonstrations have plunged the city into turmoil. Water-filled barricades fortify the airport and government offices. Posters showing bloody clashes are stuck on street corners and there is a protest nearly every night. The unrest began in June in opposition to a now-suspended extradition bill, and have since grown to include broader demands. Following an escalation in violence over the past few days, rallies on Saturday and Sunday are a test of whether the movement can retain the broad support it has appeared to enjoy. The new marches came as thousands of pro-government supporters-many waving Chinese flags-gathered in a park to condemn their opponents and support the police, a stark illustration of the polarisation now coursing through the city. Saturday's mostly peaceful protest suggested that it may, though thousands also attended a pro-police counter-rally, and a clearer picture is not likely to emerge until Sunday when a protest is scheduled that could draw tens of thousands. "The government has been ignoring us for months. We have to keep demonstrating," said CS Chan, a maths teacher at a rally of teachers, which police said up to 8,300 people had attended, in heavy rain. Organisers said 22,000 were present. Demonstrators say they are fighting the erosion of the "one country, two systems" arrangement. THE REST ======== FIRE AT AIIMS FORCES EVACUATION OF PATIENTS A major fire broke out at the teaching block of the AIIMS here on Saturday, destroying samples and medical reports and forcing evacuation of some patients, though no one was injured, officials said. The fire started at around 5 pm from the Microbiology department and thick plumes of smoke billowed from the building, sparking panic among patients, attendants and staff, and affecting emergency services. At least 34 fire tenders were rushed to the spot as the blaze spread to five floors. Fire-fighters were struggling to completely douse it even after five hours. Vipin Kental, the Director of Delhi Fire Services, said around 32 patients were evacuated after the smoke spread to the gastroenterology wing which is connected to the affected sections through a corridor. Among the evacuated were some patients on life support, he said. Former finance minister Arun Jaitley is admitted at the ICU of the cardio-neuro centre, housed in a different building in the complex. Several prominent leaders have been visiting the hospital for the past few days to enquire about his health. IN SYMBOLIC GESTURE, INDIA'S ENVOY TO UN SHAKES HAND WITH PAK JOURNALISTS India's Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Syed Akbaruddin in a symbolic gesture shook the hands of Pakistani journalists, extending his "hand of friendship" to them as he addressed the media after the UN Security Council held closed consultations on Kashmir. The informal closed consultations, requested for by permanent member China, lasted over an hour on Friday, after which Beijing's Ambassador to the UN Zhang Jun and Pakistan's UN envoy Maleeha Lodhi made remarks to the media at the Security Council stakeout one by one. The two left without taking even a single question from the reporters present. Following the remarks by China and Pakistan, Akbaruddin came to the UN Security Council stakeout to give a statement on India's national position on Kashmir and Article 370. Unlike the Chinese and Pakistani ambassadors, he stayed back after his remarks and told the large gathering of UN reporters that he will take questions from them. "I'm ready if any of you are willing to ask any questions. I will take them." Akbaruddin said he will answer five questions, "five times more than both my predecessors who came here." He gave the first three questions to Pakistani journalists. When a Pakistani journalist asked that will India agree to have a dialogue with Pakistan, Akbaruddin responded, "that there are normal diplomatic ways when countries deal with each other. That is the way to do it. But using terror to thrive and push your goals is not the way that normal states behave. No democracy will acknowledge or accept talks when terror thrives. Stop terror, start talks." A senior Pakistani journalist at the UN asked "when will you begin a dialogue with Pakistan." The Indian envoy said, "So let me begin by coming across to you and shaking your hand, all three of you," walking up from the lectern to him and shaking his hand. Akbaruddin then walked up to the other two Pakistani journalists in the media group and shook their hands with a smile. The gesture was cheered by those present at the UNSC stakeout. "So let me tell you we have already extended our hand of friendship by saying we are committed to the Simla Agreement. Let us wait for a response on that from the Pakistani side," he said. SHAH FAESAL: FROM MEDIA DARLING TO ANTI-NATIONAL Expressing concern over the detention of former civil servant-turned-politician Shah Faesal, as many as 124 students, faculty, alumni and affiliates of the Harvard University on Thursday urged the Indian government to release the Kashmir-based Harvard alumnus and other local leaders. Faesal was detained at Delhi's Indira Gandhi International Airport on 14 August and sent back to Kashmir on the same day. The next day, he was reportedly taken to a makeshift detention centre at the Centaur Hotel in Srinagar. Sharply critical of the abrogation of state's special status, Faesal had called the government's move "daylight robbery" and "greatest betrayal" for the people of Kashmir. He took to Twitter to vent out his anger and said, "Kashmir will need a long, sustained, non-violent political mass movement for restoration of the political rights. Abolition of Article 370 has finished the mainstream. Constitutionalists are gone. So you can either be a stooge or a separatist now. No shades of grey." The repercussions of Faesal's dissent were predictable, with the former IAS officer garnering widespread criticism on social media, including the 'anti-national' tag. Faesal, given his academic credentials and a tragic past, has always been a subject of public attention. But his journey from being a media darling - at least the mainstream Indian media -to a so-called 'anti-national' has been remarkable. KALBURGI WAS TARGETED OVER SPEECH AT MEET AGAINST SUPERSTITION, SAY POLICE Kannada scholar and writer M M Kalburgi was killed on August 30, 2015, by a radical right-wing group over a speech he made in June 2014 in which he referenced an essay by Jnanpith award winner U R Ananthamurthy, a Special Investigation Team of the Karnataka Police has stated. The SIT, which filed a chargesheet in a Dharwad court on Saturday against six persons linked to the right-wing Sanatan Sanstha group for the killing of the scholar, said in a statement that Prof Kalburgi, 77, was targetted by the group over a June 9, 2014, speech made in Bengaluru at a conference to debate a law on banning superstitious practices in Karnataka. "In his keynote speech, he (Kalburgi) had referenced a passage from a book written by Dr U R Ananthamurthy and had made certain observations," the SIT said. "On the basis of this speech, the accused persons identified Dr M M Kalburgi as a "durjan" (evil person) as preached in the Kshatra Dharma Sadhana (a book published by the Sanatan Sanstha). They all jointly hatched a conspiracy to murder Dr M M Kalburgi in furtherance of the achievement of their goals and executed it,'' the SIT said in an official statement placed in the chargesheet filed Saturday. The probe in Karnataka and Maharashtra of the murders of Kalburgi, Dabholkar, Lankesh and the leftist thinker from Maharashtra, Govind Pansare, 81, between 2013 and 2017, were first linked together by ballistic evidence which revealed that Lankesh, Kalburgi and Pansare were fired at with one 7.65 mm country gun while a second gun used in the Pansare murder was used to shoot the rationalist Dabholkar in Pune. JUSTICE CHANDRACHUD, ON INTOLERANCE TOWARDS ART Underlining the importance of art in creating a more inclusive society, Justice D Y Chandrachud on Saturday said, "The freedom for art to expand in all directions is necessary for humanity's collective progress. The danger lies when freedom is suppressed, whether by the state, by the people or even by art itself. Ironically, a globally networked society has rendered us intolerant of those who do not conform. Freedom has become an avenue to spew venom on those who think, speak, eat, dress and believe differently." Delivering the Literature Live Independence Day lecture in Mumbai, before a room packed with prominent members of the legal, theatre and art fraternity, on 'Imagining Freedom through Art', Chandrachud said, "Far more disturbing to my mind is the suppression of art by the state..Whether it be Bandit Queen, whether it be Me Nathuram Godse Boltoy, whether it be Padmaavat or just two months back, Bhobhishyoter Bhoot banned by the West Bengal government because it was a spoof of ghosts among politicians. Politicians were deeply disturbed by the fact that here was this director who had the audacity to talk about the ghosts among politics." FOUNDER GOYAL ADMITS TO 'MISTAKES', PLANS TO ALTER ZOMATO GOLD SCHEME Succumbing to pressure from around 2,000 restaurants across the country that refused to continue with the Zomato platform, the food delivery firm's founder Deepinder Goyal, in a series of tweets, admitted that his company made mistakes with its premium subscription service 'Gold' and would make changes to the appease restaurants. Making changes in the Gold subscription service had also been one of the long standing demands of Zomato's biggest investors. Zomato Gold began last year as an exclusive, invite-only service, targeted at high-end restaurants serving niche customers who may already be their patrons. But its zeal to add more customers to this platform undid the whole concept. Major investors since last year have said Gold should either go through a major brand revamp or its operations be gradually shut down. PUNIA, MALIK BAG KHEL RATNA AWARD A 12-member selection committee has recommended wrestler Bajrang Punia, two-time World Championships medallist, and para-athlete Deepa Malik, silver medallist at the Rio Paralympics in 2016, for the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award. Rifle shooter Anjum Moudgil has been recommended for the Arjuna Award. She is among 19 sportspersons nominated for the prestigious Arjuna Award. The list includes cricketer Ravindra Jadeja. LORD'S TEST, DAY 4: STEVEN SMITH STANDS TALL AGAIN England battled to 96/4 in their second innings by the end of a dramatic fourth day at Lord's to lead Australia by 104 runs and leave the second Ashes Test on a knife-edge on Saturday. England had bowled out Australia for 250, Steve Smith making 92 after retiring hurt when he was struck on the neck by a venomous Jofra Archer bouncer. England, 1-0 down in the series, led by eight runs on first innings but they quickly slumped to 9-2 on a gloomy evening as Pat Cummins dismissed Jason Roy and Joe Root in successive deliveries. The first day and much of the third were washed out by rain. Scores at end of Day 4: England 258 and 96 for 4; Australia 250 GALLE TEST, DAY 4: HOSTS SRI LANKA IN COMMANDING POSITION Sri Lanka's batters set the stage Saturday for a thrilling final day, reaching 133 without loss at stumps on day four as they chased 268 to beat New Zealand in the first Test in Galle. Openers Dimuth Karunaratne and Lahiru Thirimanne were involved in a record opening stand of 133 runs and benefited from some sloppy fielding by the tourists. It leaves Sri Lanka needing a further 135 runs to record their first win in the World Test Championship. Batting fourth in Galle is not the prettiest thing for batsmen and the highest successful run chase here is 99. But this track held together and there weren't any demons for batsmen making life difficult. Scores at end of Day 4: England 258 and 96 for 4; Australia 250 New Zealand 249 and 285; Sri Lanka 267 and 133/0 THOUGHT FOR THE DAY We have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another. - Jonathan Swift OFF TRACK "Mary," asked Dawn thoughtfully one day, "what would you do if you caught your husband with another woman?" "Another woman with MY husband?" Mary thought it over. "Let's see; I'd break her cane, shoot her guide dog, and call a cab to take her back to the institution she escaped from."