Muted response

The international community continued to treat the Kashmir dispute as a bilateral issue, and Pakistan’s effort to raise it in international forums have met with little success.

The world seems unmoved by the plight of the Kashmiri people who have remained virtually locked up in their homes for almost a month. Pakistan’s efforts to raise the issue in international forums have met with little success so far. The international community continued to treat the Kashmir issue as a bilateral one to be solved through dialogue between the two countries. Although President Donald Trump once again offered to mediate on the “explosive” Kashmir issue if asked by both countries, he has so far bowed to India’s wishes. Before attending the G-7 summit which began in France on August 24, Trump repeated his offer to mediate on Kashmir describing it as a “very complicated place” where Hindus and Muslims do not get along so great.

However, after a meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the sidelines of the G-7 summit, Trump confessed that Kashmir was a bilateral issue. He told the media that Modi had assured him that the situation in Kashmir “is under control.” Modi, on his part, emphasised that all issues between India and Pakistan were bilateral and could be resolved through discussions.

The Trump administration, and for that matter the West had it’s attention focused more on Hong Kong than on Kashmir. China had not bothered to send it’s military to Hong Kong. The two month old protest in Hong Kong had turned increasingly violent. Hong Kong is a global economic hub. In comparison, Kashmir is insignificant in the eyes of global elite.

All the same, the U.S. state department urged the Indian government to restore normalcy at the earliest in the Kashmir valley. “We urge respect for individual rights, obedience with legal procedures and an inclusive dialogue”, a state department official told the media in the third week of August. The Americans have once again urged India and Pakistan to hold direct talks to resolve the dispute on Kashmir.

Senator Bernie Sanders, one of the democratic front runners for the 2020 U.S. presidential election strongly criticised the Indian government’s handling of the situation in Kashmir. Speaking at the 56th Convention of the Islamic Society of America, Sanders said that India’s move to change the status quo in Kashmir was “unacceptable”. He demanded that the communication blockade in Kashmir be lifted and that the U.S. government speak out boldly in support of international humanitarian law in Kashmir.

U.N.’s Stance

The United Nations Security Council has also adopted a heated attitude on the Kashmir issue. It has not called for a formal meeting or issued a statement. The U.N. has repeated it’s stance that it wants India and Pakistan to resolve the Kashmir issue bilaterally. A closed-door private meeting of the 15 member Security Council was held in mid August at the request of China, which too has territorial claims on the disputed region. It was for the first time in more than 50 years that the Security Council held a meeting, although informal, on Kashmir.

High court on test

As the Supreme court begins hearing petition challenging the Center’s decision to null Article 370, it’s reluctant intervention to ensure the release of detainees and the lifting of restrictions on the media fails to inspire hope.

On August 28, when the Supreme Court heard an abundance of petition challenging the constitutionality of the Center’s August 5 decision to null Jammu and Kashmir’s special status, and it’s consequent steps, the Center’s two top law officers, Attorney general of India K.K. Venugopal and Solicitor general Tushar Mehta, made a strange request. Both asked the bench of three judges hearing the case- Chief Justice of India, Ranjan Gogoi, Justice SA Bobde and Justice Abdul Nazeer- not to issue notice to the central government, an essential legal prerequisite to kick-start the process of hearing the disputing parties to the case: the petitioners and the respondents, which include the centre.

They said that the distribution of the formal notice to the centre to respond to the petitioners would lead to cross-border impacts and that Pakistan would use it against India at the United Nations. They suggested that as the governments law officers, were present in court, the formality of issue of notice could be dispensed with.

The bench ignored such “concerns.” The Center’s delusion over a possible misreading of the Court’s distribution of notice to the respondents as it’s complaint by those unfamiliar with legal processes cannot be a ground to dispense with the practice of issuing notice. Besides, there was no former to rely on for dissenting with such a procedural step and it would raise substantial issues of constitutional importance.

It was obvious that the federal government dreaded the prospect of adverse publicity from media reports and the possible implication that by issuing notice the high court entertained doubts over the validity of the nulling of special status for the state and downgrading it into two Union Territories.

A cure worse than the disease

The Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation bill is no cure to the region’s multilayered problems. It has in fact added to the existing problems.

The Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation bill, far from being a cure to the long standing political issues, has created a new set of internal and external problem. In truth, both the supporters and detractors of this legislative move have missed the key nuances. First, the decision to make a state a Union territory on security grounds does not match with recent facts. Officials claim attest to this. There are fresh reports of attempted sneaking from northern Kashmir. Continuing the present scale of deployment of security forces in the Kashmir valley with a communication shutdown in the long term is untenable.

Prime minister Narendra Modi and Home minister Amit Shah defended the removal of the special status to the State on economic grounds, saying this would lead to more development and thus reduce the state’s political alienation. Governor Satya Pal Malik said on August 28 that 50,000 jobs would be created in the next three months. The state sector as a source of employment is already exaggerated. In 2016, the total number of employees working in 27 government departments was 4,84,901. According to an estimate, Jammu and Kashmir had the highest monthly average unemployment rate of 15 percent between January 2016 and July 2019.

The storm beneath the calm

While anger smoulders in Kashmir, the Narendra Modi government resorts to questionable means to prove to its majoritarian support base and also to the rest of the world that all is quiet in the the valley after the calling off Articles 370& 35A.

Over a month after New Delhi ended Jammu and Kashmir’s special status, turning Srinagar and the rest of the Kashmir valley into a large bobbin of concertina wires and snipers. One can see only two implements in Narendra Modi and Ajit Doval’s toolbox. The first is the cruel rejection of dialogue and reconciliation and the use of brute Force to exterminate home-grown militants despite evidence of the failure of such an approach-the year 2018 saw the highest head count of militants, at between 280 and 300, in a decade. The second is a kind of technocratic approach: of using income generation and infrastructure building as a haze to stop dissent. During a recent interview, with an English daily, Jammu and Kashmir governor, Satya Pal Malik said:”We will provide 50,000 jobs. You will see a million people queueing up for these jobs.. There will be no dialogue with the mainstream political parties on the seperatist. How can you have a dialogue with someone who said there will be no one to hold the national tricolor?”

His inflammatory wind, which is sure to give a stimulate to contemporary nationalist darkest impulse, indicated the current regime’s belief that the traditional approach to conflict resolution and peace building by dialogue, political engagement, Force moderation is wholly out of place and needs to be replaced with heightened force, centralisation of power and forceful extraction of loyalty and devotion. This position fails to take note of the actual sources and enablers of militancy, which are injustice, socio political exclusion and lack of ways for dialogue and democratic expression.

Pune: brake on livelihoods

Workers are the worst hit as the slowdown deepens in the automobile manufacturing hub in Pune.

At 5:30p.m. on a weekday, National Highway 4 on the old Mumbai-Pune highway is usually packed with buses bringing to work and taking home employees from the several hundred manufacturing units that are located in the Pimpri-Chinchwad and Chakal-Talegaon belt between Mumbai and Pune. In recent months, the roads wear a depressing look. There are very few buses at this shift changing hour. The downturn in the automobile sector has seen thousands of workers being laid off this past year and more reductions are expected. Dutta Yelwande, president of the Rashtriya Shramik Ekta Mahasangh, one of the worker unions in the Pune automobile belt said that there were slowdown in the past but none was as bad as the present one.

It is almost a year since the decline began. Arvind Goel, from Tata Motors Limited, based in Pune, said:”We thought the situation would improve after the general elections in May, but it has become worse. With an alarming 30 percent drop in the overall sales of vehicles across platforms we are struggling”. In early August Tata Motors shut it’s Pune plant for three days as production was in excess of the demand. Production has been reduced by at least half the usual capacity. Goel said the worst hit were the workers, particularly those who were not permanent. An estimated 40,000 to 50,000 people in the industry belt are though to have lost their jobs in the past two months. “Obvious reduction is a sign of bad times” he said.

Moharram

Moharram is the first month of the Islamic Calendar. The general meaning of the adjective Muharram means “banned, barred forbidden, illegal, illicit, impermisable, prohibited, unlawful, unpermitted, unauhthorized.

It is one of the four sacred months of the year during which warfare is forbidden. It is held to be the second holiest month after Ramadan.

The tenth day of Muharram is known as Day of Ashura. Sometimes as part of the Mournings of Muharram Shia Muslims practice faka(partial fasting) and Sunni Muslims practice fasting on Ashura.

Shia Muslims mourn the death of Husayn Ibn Ali and his family, honouring the martyrs by prayer and abstinence from joyous events. Shia Muslims do not fast on the 10th of Muharram, but some will not eat or drink until Zawal(afternoon) to show their sympathy with Husayn. In addition there is an important Ziyarat book, the Ziyarat Ashura, about Husayn Ibn Ali. In the Shia sect, it is popular to read this Ziyarat on this date.

On a downward spiral

The auto component industry in Chennai is facing a strange slowdown and many major units have announced temporary lock outs and voluntary retirement schemes.

On August 18, K. Pandiarajan, Tamil Nadu Minister for Tamil official language, Tamil culture and Archaeology posted an unusual tweet in response to a newspaper report that the automobile sector would shed about five lakhs jobs in the next quarter:”warning, signal, especially for Tamil Nadu which has the highest concentration of auto sector in India- Central government to act fast announcing fiscal and other incentives to save the jobs!”

The tweet was unusual because Ministers in the Tamil Nadu cabinet or in the party that currently runs the state, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), have rarely said anything that is not complimentry to the Narendra Modi government at the Centre. His tweet immediately bought forth an outbreak of responses from pained executives in the industry and owners of automobile ancillary firms in the state who have been feeling the pinch. One senior industry expert, K.Srinivasan said,” SIAM (Society of Indian automobile manufacturers), the central auto body of India, have declared sale numbers. In every segment we have lost volumes and these are the highest across segments. The job creation of direct to indirect is 1:10 in the auto segment. Serious cause of concern”.

Another person, who said he runs a component industry, SRS Auto Tech, responded: “I am running a small scale industry. This month till date no orders no work. But my expenditure is same 35000 rent, 85000EMI, 35000salary. I don’t know how to tackle this situation. I am from Tamil Nadu.” An auto component manufacturers in Chennai confirmed that the slowdown was real. “I supply small component of the axle. A company used to require about 10-12 lakh pieces of the component that I supply. Now it is down to less than half the number. My orders are down too, but I am one off the better-off people”, said the manufacturer who did not wish to be named.