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Kashmir's politicians, both separatists as well as mainstream, have maintained near-total silence over Taliban's capture of Afghanistan after a prolonged strife of 20 long years. However, the visibility of a wave of jubilation among the separatists, militants and their shrinking supporters is not completely concealed.
As news of the fall of Kabul flashed in the media on Sunday, 15 August, Dr Sheikh Showkat Hussain, formerly a professor of Law at the University of Kashmir and the Central University of Kashmir gave vent to his euphoria. "And say truth has come and falsehood has vanished away", he tweeted a Koranic verse with its English translation. "Falsehood is indeed bound to vanish", Showkat commented, without linking his expression explicitly to Kabul's capture by Taliban.
Showkat embellished his tweet with Iqbal's famous verse: "Yaqeen-e-mahkam amal-e-peham mohabat-e-fatih-e-aalam. Jihad-e-zindagani mein yeh hain mardon ki shamsheeren."
"Can't imagine the feeling of Kashmiris", commented one Shoaib. Another follower appreciated: "Aap kii baat sach nikli"-acknowledging that the retired university teacher's prophecy had come true. Almost all of Prof. Showkat's eight books have been released and appreciated by Kashmir's tallest separatist hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani.
Two days back, when the news of the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani's escape to Tajikistan was circulating in the social media, Showkat cryptically tweeted a Kashmiri folk stanza, linking Kashmir to Kabul and Kandahar. "Ashraf Ghani in supersonic retreat", he observed, with praise on the Taliban co-founder Mulla Abdul Ghani Baradar and a tangent on the third Ghani-senior separatist leader and former chairman of now defunct and disintegrated Hurriyat Conference, Prof. Abdul Ghani Bhat. Bhat, an erudite, moderate separatist, perceived to be Geelani's bete noire, has been living in oblivion since long.
But why are the separatists, militants and their supporters in Kashmir silent, even in social media, over Taliban's conquest in Kabul if they are perceptibly happy?
"Anything they perceive to be India's defeat or embarrassment and Pakistan's gain makes them obviously exultant. For many of them, it stirs their adrenaline. Had it happened in 2018 or before, there would have been nightlong firecrackers and celebrations on the streets in downtown Srinagar", reasons a senior political analyst. He recollects the jubilation triggered by release of five top militants in exchange for Rubaiya Sayeed in December 1989.
"But by the time Taliban sprouted and their friendly Jaish-e-Mohammad (previously known as Harkatul Mujahideen) forced India to release three top notch militants with the hijacking of IC-814 (in December 1999), much of the euphoria had died down in the valley. Pakistan had lost the war in Kargil and the security forces, with the help of (counterinsurgent) Ikhwanis, had almost wiped out the militancy", said the analyst, a former professor of Political Science at the University of Kashmir.
The situation created by dismissal of Mehbooba Mufti's soft-separatist government in June 2018, death of 40 CRPF personnel in a major terror strike in February 2019 and abrogation of Articles 370 and 35-A, coupled with the State's split into two Union Territories in August 2019, are believed to have muted not only the valley's vociferous separatist camp but also its support structure in the mainstream politics.
Kashmir has gone through a sea change in the last over three years as the Centre has tightened its grip with detention and house-arrest of hundreds of the separatist activists who would be usually on the forefront of all the street turbulences-2008, 2009, 2010 and 2016. Killing of civilians in protest demonstrations, clashes with Police and security forces, funeral processions of the slain militants, stone pelting and pellet injuries have fallen to the lowest point of the last 31 years.
Even in the year 2020, the valley's separatist sections sounded ecstatic over the killing of the Indian soldiers in a clash with the Chinese army on the LAC in Ladakh. The sentiment looked phenomenal when former Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah said in an interview that the Chinese would help the Kashmiris retrieve Article 370. Around the same season, many among the separatists began seeing Mohammad Bin Qasim, the conqueror of Sindh, in Ertugrul, the protagonist of a Turkish period serial promoted by Pakistan Television. But it all fizzled out soon when a large number of the Kashmiris began participating in the Government's 'Naya Kashmir' initiative.
The UT administration's recent decisions include surveillance of the government employees' political and social media activities, dismissal of the officials involved in 'anti-national' activities and denial of government jobs, trade licences and passports on the basis of 'negative reporting' by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID).
"Those days are gone when a separatist leader publicly invited Taliban to so-called Jihad in Kashmir; when the Kashmir University students chanted an anthem 'Teri jaan meri jaan, Taliban Taliban'. Yes I agree there was a different situation until the last day of the PDP-BJP government. Had this Taliban takeover happened in that era, the separatists would have brought thousands on the streets", said an assistant professor of journalism at a government college.
"But it's an altogether different Taliban today. Unlike Mullah Omar's Taliban, these people are not carrying out massacres; they seem to be concerned merely on headscarves, not burqas, for women. It is too early to judge but there are sufficient indications that this Taliban wants a stable rule in Afghanistan and it is sensitive to world recognition and diplomacy. For years they have been supported by Pakistan but it is highly unlikely that these people would be misused for guerrilla warfare in Kashmir or Xinjiang. Unlike the pan-Islamist ISIS and AlQaeda, this Taliban looks restricted to the geo-political entity of Afghanistan. But days to come will make the picture clear", said the professor who has visited Afghanistan.
The situation in Afghanistan has impacted the situation in Kashmir in the past. The Russian's defeat and exit in 1989 gave a sense of victory to the Islamists in Kashmir and within a year thousands of the Kashmiris joined militancy. Thirty-two years later, it is arguably a completely different setting in Kashmir.(IANS/TI)
An old signboard hung outside an old dilapidated building in the uptown Koker Bazaar market of Srinagar city, has brought back memories of a famous Kashmiri family and a loving father who was proud of his daughters.
'Javed Sheikh & daughters, Koker Bazar, Maisuma, Srinagar'. This signboard has recently gone viral as it stands to prove that the countdown on gender bias had started in Kashmir at least 51 years back.
Javed Sheikh was the son of one of Kashmir's most respected and renowned businessmen, Sheikh Mohammad Amin.
The family had a timber empire in Kashmir and Javed was its sole owner. The family had palatial houses in Jammu city and Srinagar.
A glimpse of the family's wealth lies in the lavish use of Italian marble in their Jammu house which was built much before Independence.
Javed Sheikh was married to Dilshad Begum Sheikh in 1969. She is the youngest sister of Bollywood actor, Feroze Khan. Her other two brothers are actor/producer, Sanjay Khan and Akbar Khan.
Dilshad Begum is a known socialite in Kashmir and Delhi. She started her clothing line called 'Chosen Few'.
The reason why she chose the name, according to Feroze Khan's son, Fardeen Khan, is because she is very selective about who she sells her clothes to.
Javed died in the mid-1980s. The couple has three daughters, Shahala, Sabah and Sheba.
Shahala stays with her mother in their uptown Rajbagh house in Srinagar during the summers and the two move down to Delhi and Mumbai during winters.
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Shahala is the owner of the famous furniture company 'Woodfort'. She is also an interior decorator and deals in high-end Walnut furniture.
Sabah is an entrepreneur of a candle company called 'Illuminati' while Sheba is a housewife and mother of two kids. (IANS/AD)
The Jammu and Kashmir government is seeking a partner for a public-private partnership (PPP) to set up Indias best mythological theme park in Katra.
The project vision entails that the J&K government will provide all the support to help build a state-of-the-art theme park that helps increase economic activity, generates direct and indirect local employment as well as increases the overall experience of the tourists and citizens of the Union Territory.
The theme park will include adventure, mythology, education, and entertainment. The project location is prime, on the way to and from Mata Vaishno Devi Bhawan with full connectivity. There is guaranteed footfall with 8.5 million footfalls in Katra in 2018, spread across all months of the year.
It caters to the existing gap as white space for recreational activities to be done post 'darshan'. It also provides conduciveness for economic activities in J&K. The J&K government and the Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board have handpicked three prime locations for the project. The J&K government will also provide other benefits including all UT level clearances to be provided within 30 days of applying.
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It will also provide support on other clearances and approvals, such as water at Rs 0.50 per cubic meter, power starting at Rs 3.85 per unit, additional incentives on stamp duty, green industrialization, etc. with the robust Infrastructure of Katra, which is well connected through air, rail and road. The project will also allow other permissible activities, including hotels and stays, F&B, shops, rides and gaming, adventure, and art and entertainment.
The J&K government is looking for a PPP partner who can join in this dream project. The requirement for a PPP partner includes engagement with an international partner with the experience of running a theme/amusement park with an annual footfall of 5 lakh. International safety standards must be adhered to throughout the project. In addition, the business operations should commence with specified minimum requirements within three years of signing the MoU. The final theme must be passed through the DIC, J&K, and the project should generate direct and indirect employment opportunities. (IANS/KB)
At a hurriedly called press conference in Nakyal on May 6 in Pakistani Occupied Jammu Kashmir (PoJK), Awami Workers Party leader Nissar Shah advocate criticized the local Assistant Commissioner, Omar Farooq, for launching what Shah called a vindictive FIR against Shamsher Ali Sher advocate of Samaj Badlo Tehreeks (Change Society Movement) and a candidate in upcoming general elections.
This is not the first time that social justice activists in PoJK are faced victimization and it will most definitely not be the last. In the past, student activists of the Jammu Kashmir National Students Federation (JKNSF) have faced arrests and torture at the hands of the occupation forces.
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Shamsher Ali Sher hails from a respected family of professionals in Nakyal in Kotli district. He is campaigning for the construction of safety walls at blind corners along the Nakyal-Kotli road which is the main cause for frequent road accidents. On December 31, 2020, a Nakyal bound van carrying a family who was traveling back from Gujranwala in Punjab lost control and fell hundreds of feet down into a ravine instantly killing three women and a man.1
In another accident that took place on April 11, 2021, five members of the same family lost their lives. They were traveling from Nakyal to Kotli city. “These losses of lives could have been averted provided there was a safety wall build at the dangerous parts and blind corners of the Nakyal-Kotli Road”, says Sher. And now he himself fears for his life and rightly so.
In the past, Arif Shahid social activist from PoJK paid with his life for raising a voice against social injustice. He was allegedly killed by an ISI hitman outside his house in Rawalpindi on May 14, 2013. Arif Shahid campaign against the increased bar on political parties to participate in general elections unless they signed a document pledging allegiance to Pakistan.
In 2011, a doctor and a human rights activist from PoJK was gunned down allegedly by the Pakistani secret service the ISI.3 Most recently Afzal Sulehria, a high-profile political and human rights activist and leader of Kashmir National Party, allegedly became yet another victim of the ISI. Sulehria was a towering figure in Muzaffarabad, the capital city of PoJK. He vigorously campaigned against the diversion of Rivers Kishan Ganga (Neelum) and River Jhelum, and in December 2020 had written a letter to the Pakistan army chief demanding all
2. Adams, Brad. “Pakistan: ‘Free Kashmir’ Far From Free”. Human Rights Watch. Archived from the original on 2013-03-14. Retrieved 2012-08-08. Choudhry, Shabbir. “PAKISTAN: Another Azad Kashmiri becomes the victim of ISI butchery”. Asian Human Rights Commission. Archived from the original on 2012-03-27. Retrieved 2012-04-14.
Under construction hydropower projects to be brought to an instant halt and deals made between the government of Azad Kashmir and Chinese construction companies be made public. In February 2021, less than two months after he had written to the Army Chief, Sulehria died of a mysterious heart attack. No autopsy was carried out.
It is not uncommon for human rights and political activists such as Shamsher Ali Sher advocate to face persecution after being involved in campaigns that attempt to address issues regarding public interest in PoJK. Those who have raised their voice against the colonial rule of Pakistan, since October 1947, when Pakistan attacked the state of Jammu and Kashmir and forcefully annexed western parts of Jammu province as well as Gilgit Agency, unfortunately, share the same fate.
Human Rights Watch report sums up the ordeal we face in PoJK most convincingly as follows: “the Pakistani government in Islamabad, (read military establishment), the Pakistani army and the Pakistani intelligence services (Inter-Services Intelligence, ISI) control all aspects of political life in Azad Kashmir (PoJK)… Azad Kashmir is a land of strict curbs on political pluralism, freedom of expression, and freedom of association; a muzzled press; banned books; arbitrary arrest and detention and torture at the hands of the Pakistani military and the police. Singled out are Kashmiri nationalists who do not support the idea of Kashmir’s accession to Pakistan.” (IANS/SP)