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Archive for June 9th, 2009

Young Chief Minister Takes Power In Indian Kashmir

Posted by Kashmir Portal on June 9, 2009


The 38-year-old Omar Abdullah is heir to a political dynasty that has dominated Kashmir since India`s independence.

Young Chief Minister Takes Power In Indian Kashmir

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Kashmir’s youngest-ever chief minister was sworn in on Monday, promising to heal the wounds of a region hit by two decades of separatist rebellion against Indian rule which has killed thousands.The 38-year-old Omar Abdullah is heir to a political dynasty that has dominated Kashmir since India’s independence and the third member of his family to be elected to the troubled state’s top post.

Abdullah’s National Conference party, which backs greater Kashmiri autonomy but rejects separatists’ calls for independence, emerged as the single biggest party in state elections that ended in late December.

Despite a boycott call by separatists, the election had a turnout of more than 60 percent, a boost for New Delhi though many saw it as a vote for better governance rather than acceptance of Indian rule.

Abdullah heads a coalition government with India’s ruling Congress party after a year that saw massive anti-India protests in the state, the collapse of the state government and six months of direct rule from New Delhi.


On Sunday, Abdullah said he was prepared to facilitate talks between New Delhi and separatists, but tempered expectations of a quick fix.

“There is a rider to the talks and that is that the government of India is facing elections and there can be no big ticket decision,” the Indian Express quoted Abdullah as saying.

Abdullah, who won acclaim with a blistering speech to parliament last year, may come as a breath of fresh air, especially to the region’s disaffected youth who have grown up with an insurgency that has killed more than 47,000 people.

“I think the young generation of Kashmir is identifying itself with Omar (Abdullah), and if he also makes an effort to reach out to and identify with a violence-weary generation, he can deliver,” said Bashir Manzer, a Kashmiri political analyst.

But others say he will likely fail to heal deep wounds until he deals with separatist demands.

“(Abdullah) cannot ignore the recent massive freedom demonstrations. If he is sincere he should help address the aspirations of Kashmiris,” said Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, chief of the region’s main separatist alliance, All Parties Hurriyat (Freedom) Conference.

Abdullah may have an advantage as his appointment comes as separatist violence is at a 20-year low, Manzer added. That may allow him to focus on what many see as the real priority for those who voted in 2008 — development.

Congress party chief Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul attended the swearing-in ceremony in the state’s winter capital Jammu, two heirs of another political dynasty with whom the Abdullah family has a chequered history since 1947.

Omar is the grandson of Kashmir’s first political leader after 1947, Sheikh Abdullah, known as the “Lion of Kashmir” for his defiance against New Delhi and his subsequent imprisonment for nearly 20 years.

The England-born Abdullah was sent to Kashmir in 2002 to revive his ailing party, which had lost popularity under his father Farooq, the outgoing chief minister at the time.

The former junior federal minister showed his credentials in a barnstorming speech in defence of secularism in parliament earlier this year, when a row over the government transfer of forest land to a Hindu shrine in the state sparked Muslim anger.

Omar is a much more popular choice than his father, who came under fire in the past for his extravagant lifestyle and outspoken advocacy of bombing nuclear-armed Pakistan, analysts say.

Virender Kumar, a newspaper seller in Jammu, compared the thousands of supporters who greeted Omar Abdullah on his return from brokering a coalition in New Delhi, with the protesters who blocked Farooq’s arrival at the time of shrine crisis.

“Who could imagine that five months back the same lot of people didn’t allow his father (Farooq Abdullah) to come out of the airport?”

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Indian Kashmir Opens International Airport

Posted by Kashmir Portal on June 9, 2009

Last year, nearly 500,000 visitors travelled to the Valley to see its beautiful landscapes, tourism officials say.

Indian Kashmir Opens International Airport
A paramilitary soldier verifies a passenger as another stands guard at the international airport in New Delhi.

India opened the airport in troubled Kashmir for international traffic for the first time on Saturday, as part of an effort to boost the Himalayan region’s ailing tourism industry.

Sonia Gandhi, head of India’s ruling Congress party, inaugurated the new airport, as well as state carrier Air India’s first flight to Dubai from the Srinagar International Airport.

“The start of Dubai-Srinagar international flight will help people (of Kashmir), businessmen and promote tourism,” Gandhi said in her speech.

Security was tight in the new airport, which has opened just a little over a month after a new chief minister took office, promising to help heal a region hit by two decades of separatist rebellion against Indian rule that has killed thousands.

Air India Express, a discount subsidiary of the state carrier, will operate a weekly flight to Dubai initially, with more flights and other airlines added at a later date, said Aviation Minister Praful Patel.

Kashmir was once a top Asian tourism destination, popular among honeymooners, skiers, trekkers and anglers, and attracting about a million tourists a year until 1989, when simmering anger against New Delhi’s rule burst into a violent rebellion.

Recently, visitors have started returning to the scenic Valley as violence declined significantly after India and Pakistan, who claim the region in full but rule it in parts, started a slow-moving peace process in 2004.

Last year, nearly 500,000 visitors travelled to the Valley to see its beautiful landscapes, tourism officials say.

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Kashmir » Syed Ali Shah Geelani (Hurritat Conference)

Posted by Kashmir Portal on June 9, 2009

[…] Syed Ali Shah Geelani (Hurritat Conference) « Kashmir PortalFollowing the advice of his doctors at Apollo Hospital, Geelani was set to travel to either the UK or the USA for specialized treatment. However his request for a visa was turned down by the Americans, and as his health deteriorated he … […]

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Self-determination Vs Elections

Posted by ubaidmushtaq on June 9, 2009


Elections, meant for local governance can not be an alternative to plebiscite. The movement for right to self determination has its own logic and conducting elections cannot impinge upon it, writes Ubaid Mushtaq

Since 1947, India has been using all sorts of State apparatus to track down Kashmir freedom seekers and annihilate them eventually. Hundreds and thousands of military personnel are posted in Kashmir and every part of Kashmir is infested with Indian terror agents. According to official announcements, there are some 700 militants in Kashmir; why India need lakhs and lakhs of military personnel in Kashmir? India seems to follow the imperial logic: if USA could occupy Afghanistan and Iraq and its military ally Israel could “own” Palestine and other Arab lands and even could keep attacking and killing Palestinians, why India could not terrorize Kashmiris, occupying their land.
Even when diplomacy is being preferred by many states to resolve their mutual disputes, India still tries military option to quell the freedom struggle in Kashmiris. While India believes that military solution is a must for Kashmir, it keeps telling Sri Lanka that there is no military solution to Lankan Indians fighting for a separate state for them to be aligned with Indian in due course. No one seems to bother as India determinedly pursues military solution to Kashmir conflict killing innocent Kashmiri Muslims day in day out. Obviously, cash rich India continues to challenge UN and UNSC that have criticized its policies and actions in Kashmir recently. One doesn’t know if India seeks to make a show of its military power to
defenseless Kashmiris or to the world, especially Pakistan and China, or, alternatively, it intends total destruction by this kind of misadventures in Kashmir.
All people have the right of self-determination by virtue of which they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development; this is enshrined in a International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The right to Self-determination is commonly used to justify the aspirations of an ethnic group that self-identifies as a nation towards forming an independent sovereign state. It is not restricted only to people under colonial rule and to particular timeframe of history, but to all people in all times.
It is amazing to see that self-determination movements which led to national freedom to most of the nations in Asia and Africa from colonial rule are now looked upon as a force of primordial nature. The modern Nation-States, like India, justify that right to
self-determination of the people living under colonial rule can only be exercised once to restore sovereignty to people and is never to be used again. This makes sense in terms of political interests of sovereign states who are concerned about their territorial integrity. As a result both coercive state apparatus, as well as benign policies are used to suppress the self-determination movements; human rights violations on one side and economic packages on the other hand. One more gimmick that is used to sabotage and nullify these movements at national and international level is the holding of elections for local governance and considering participation of people at par with their right to self-determination.
The regular election process in India is considered as a scale to measure the success of its democracy, when compared to other South Asian states. The discourse on elections has been also used to bring the places like Kashmir and North-east into India’s democratic experiment. The Indian state have always pleaded a case that people participating in elections in these troubled areas is indication of the acceptance of India’s sovereignty. In case of Kashmir, elections have been claimed to be equivalent to plebiscite as it gives Kashmiri people a political choice to choose their representatives. By considering local elections equivalent to plebiscite, which is backed by UN resolutions, is not only to make fun of principle of
self-determination but also shows political immaturity.
If participation in legislative elections were to be the criterion, the involvement of Indians in the British legislatures (between 1909 and 1946) would have to be accepted as popular verdict in favor of perpetuation of British Raj. Elections presuppose the allegiance of Kashmiris to the Indian Constitution. Which is never accepted by any Kashmiri? The UNSC in its resolutions 91(1951) and 122 (1957) has unequivocally declared that convening of the Constituent Assembly in Kashmir and its decisions, thereafter, would not prejudice the final disposition of the State of Jammu and Kashmir in accordance with the will of people expressed through a free and impartial plebiscite. Though elections do not pose any challenge to the Indian Constitution or its territorial integrity, but at times it was to check the leadership who challenged the legality of the Instrument of Accession. Rigging the elections has been the rule than exception in J&K. On and off there were installation of puppet regimes that were loyal and served the interests; even Nehru’s good friend Sheikh Abdullah was not spared. One of the reasons for alienation of Kashmiri people is figured out to be failure of democratic principles, like free and fair elections. It has been the rigging of 1987 elections that is said to have proved ignition point for the present uprising against Indian State.
The Separatist leaders, including United Jihad Council (UJC) head Syed Salahuddin, who participated in elections in past, talk about the electoral malpractices and failure of Indian democracy. But the failure of Indian State in conducting free and fair elections cannot be considered as reason enough to politicize Kashmiri people for the demand of self-determination. Does it mean that if there would have been a history of free and fair elections, there would have been no movement of self-determination? And should Kashmiris stop this movement of self-determination if in future elections are fair? The answer is no! It is important for the Separatist leaders to be articulate enough when they reason out the causes of the movement and not follow the discourse, which is essentially faulty.
Now looking at the present scenario in Kashmir, the implicit debate over Self-determination vs. Elections is once again in air. The pro-India political parties are energetically preparing their grounds for the coming elections. On the one hand these parties are talking about development and good governance, and on other hand they are busy in accusing each other of human rights violation and corruption. It is noteworthy that these parties, particularly NC and PDP have taken up the slogans which used to be in the domain of Separatists. The issues of human rights, demilitarization, making LOC irrelevant, joint management and even double currency are being discussed in the political rallies of PDP. Even these pro-India parties are aware of the fact that building of dams, roads and highways in Kashmir is not going to bring sense of Indian-ness, though people need them for their requirements. The pouring of resources and lot of investments is not going to make the basis of self-determination less valid.
So far as coming elections are concerned, there has been a change in the in general thinking, and everybody has come out openly for election boycott campaign except some pro-Delhi parties. Elections cannot be compared with self-determination and it is a matter of local governance only. It also becomes important for Separatist leaders, like Geelani and Mirwaiz who lead poll boycott campaign to reason out logically this boycott at different public spheres and not only at Mosques. The Separatist leaders have the responsibility to indulge in these debates of ‘Self-determination vs. Elections’ to make their position clear to people. There is need for every group to come to a common platform to impress upon people that there is unity in them over the basic issues of self-determination; and explain the reason for opting self-determination over elections.
One should be very realistic in accepting the disputed nature of the Kashmir. All those who have watched recent peaceful protests in Kashmir should realize the aspirations of the people of Kashmir, because every class and section of society, including doctors, lawyers etc. came out with only one slogan: Self-determination.
Kashmir was never under the British rule and has a separate history. I ask the so called Indian intellectuals to go back to the history of the world and refresh the objective information that nobody could stop the massive public uprisings, and right of self determination anywhere in the world.


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Kashmir II

Posted by Kashmir Portal on June 9, 2009

Kashmir II, originally uploaded by Max Loxton (Away).

Kashmir II by Max Loxton (Away).

This is the second shot from the Kashmir tour. I found Kashmir to be very beautiful much than anything else I have visited so far.

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