Rajat Sharma

My Opinion

Centre should hold polls in Kashmir after return to normalcy

akb1408 With the situation in Kashmir valley slowly returning to normal, the authorities are busy making preparations for Independence Day events. A dress rehearsal was conducted on Tuesday at Sher-i-Kashmir stadium in Srinagar.

The state government has also announced that it would host a three-day Global Investors Summit from October 12 in Srinagar. The summit is expected to lead to investments from India and abroad. New industries will create job opportunities for the local youths and instill a sense of confidence in them.

Presently, the common people in the valley are facing problems relating to communications. This is giving rise to unnecessary rumors fanned by Pakistani state media from across the border. The Governor has already indicated that cellphone and internet services will be restored after the Independence Day celebrations are over.

I would suggest two more steps. Firstly, the Centre should start preparations for holding of assembly elections at the earliest so that power can be handed over to the people’s representatives. Secondly, if the assembly polls are conducted fairly and smoothly, the Centre should consider giving back full statehood to Jammu and Kashmir. This will open up avenues of peace and progress.

Pakistan is trying to boost the sagging morale of terrorists and separatists by deploying more troops, fighter jets and artillery near the Line of Control. The Pakistani army chief was present near LoC two days ago to oversee preparations by his forces to destabilize the region. The Pakistani Prime Minister and his senior ministers are camping in Muzaffarabad, Pak Occupied Kashmir, to send the symbolic message that their country stands with the Kashmiris. They are however fighting a futile battle.

Our armed forces have a twin challenge: One, to ensure that peace is not disrupted in the valley and work with utmost restraint, and Two, to foil the nefarious designs of Pakistani terrorists and their handlers from Pakistani army. Our security forces are maintaining utmost vigil.

On the diplomatic front, the Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi returned from China with an empty hand. His Chinese counterpart clearly told him that Pakistan and India should iron out their differences bilaterally. A crest fallen Qureshi had to tell the media in Muzaffarabad that “we should not live any more in a fool’s paradise. Those at the UN are not waiting for us with garlands.” Clearly, Pakistan has been snubbed diplomatically by the US, China and Arab countries on the issue of Kashmir.

The only option left before the Pakistani army establishment is to foment violence both at the Line of Control and in the valley, so that the world can sit up and take notice. Such desperate measures will however not work, because the Kashmiri people have seen through their game.

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Regaining POK is the only unfinished task left

AKBOn August 12, Eid ul Azha, people throughout the Kashmir valley offered namaaz peacefully in mosques and not a single bullet was fired by security forces. The attendance was in thousands, with the largest turnout in Baramulla. The only problem that common people are facing is the lack of internet and cellphone facilities. They are unable to connect with their relatives and other acquaintances.

The Jammu and Kashmir Governor Satyapal Malik told India TV reporter on Monday in an interview that internet and cellphone services would be resumed very soon, probably within a span of five to six days. His concerns, too, are valid. We have seen over the past few years how social media, through internet and cellphones, had been misused to spread fake propaganda and create tension among people.

The Central Reserve Police Force has launched a helpline ‘Madadgaar’, under which any citizen can ring up 14411 and seek assistance. Citizens can go to the Deputy Commissioner’s office and speak on landline phone. A few landline connections have been activated at some reputed shops in Srinagar.

I agree that this is not adequate, but given the security considerations, the common people may have to bear with this for some more days. Let’s hope, all restrictions will be lifted within a week.

The situation will definitely improve in the valley if peace and tranquility prevails. Let’s give peace a chance so that new industries and multiplexes can come up. Let Bollywood return to the valley for film shooting. All these will surely create jobs for the unemployed. Let more schools and colleges come up, so that Kashmiri youths can study and compete with their counterparts in the rest of India.

I am not surprised over the unusually aggressive postures of Pakistan, which has recalled its High Commissioner and has snapped trade, rail and bus links with India. Pakistani authorities are planning to observe India’s Independence Day as ‘Black Day’ in their country to boost the sagging morale of Kashmiri terrorists. Let them do so, but the people of Kashmir have now seen through the veil of lies dished out by Pakistan.

Our security forces are there to tackle any misadventure by Pakistan and its trained terrorists, and I am confident that they will surely come out with flying colors. Jammu and Kashmir was and is an integral part of India, forever. The only unfinished task that remains is: regaining that part of Jammu and Kashmir which was illegally occupied by Pakistani invaders in 1948.

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Let us work unitedly in creating a paradise in Kashmir

AKB_frame_76027Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his first public speech since the scrapping of Article 370, on Friday tried to reach out to ordinary Kashmiri people by promising to restore full statehood at the earliest. Modi said that the people of J&K will get the opportunity to elect their MLAs and a chief minister, once normalcy sets in and assembly elections are held.

In his speech, the Prime Minister described how the people, panchayats and state government employees of Jammu and Kashmir were being deprived of the benefits of Central schemes and laws because of Article 370. Modi however made it clear that the region of Ladakh will continue to have the status of a union territory.

One key thing that the PM said in his speech was that every Indian citizen should come forward to convince our Kashmiri brethren that they are now part of the mainstream and are co-partners in the march towards progress.

I would appeal to all Indians to tell every Kashmiri they meet that the promises made by our PM for the upliftment of their region will be fulfilled and they will no more feel alienated because of hindrances that had been placed by history in the form of Art. 370.

While security forces will continue to do their job of eliminating terrorists in the Valley, it is the duty of every Indian to tell our Kashmiri brethren that they will now enjoy the fruits of development which they had been deprived of till now because of Art. 370.

It was this Article that had created a schism, a wall between Kashmiris and the rest of Indians. It is our duty to ensure that this sense of alienation created over the years is removed and Kashmiris are brought into the national mainstream. We must tell common Kashmiris whom we meet on the streets that our hearts beat for them.

We should tell ordinary Kashmiris that they have suffered enough because of being deprived of benefits due to Article 370, and that the time has now come to script a new history. We should contribute our mite in ushering a new era of peace and progress for the people of Kashmir.

This new era in Kashmir will surely witness a plethora of schools, colleges, universities, hospitals, trains and highways, and the ‘jannat’ (heaven) that had been bedeviled because of violence and terrorism, will truly became a paradise for all. Kashmir will surely become a heaven on earth where people of all religions can live and breath freely in an atmosphere free from hatred and rancour.

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The passing away of Sushma Swaraj has created a big void

akb0808 The sudden passing away of former External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Tuesday night has shocked and saddened the people of India. I knew Sushma Ji for nearly three decades.

Her biggest quality was her communication skill. She was known for her superb oratory, as if the Goddess of Learning, Saraswati, had given her this divine blessing in the form of oratory. She had the knack of dealing with the most difficult topic in a simple manner, understandable to all.

The second big quality was her clean image in politics. Not a single charge of corruption was ever leveled against her throughout her long political career. She had a spotless image.

The third big quality of Sushma Ji was that she was a forthright speaker and never minced words whenever it mattered. She never bothered if any body took umbrage of her plain speaking. She used to speak out her mind clearly in the face of those whom she wanted to criticize.

The biggest quality of Sushma Ji was that she was a nice human being, easily accessible to all and always ready to help those in distress. Her followers on Twitter, both in India and outside, know this very well. Whenever people faced visa-related problems, it was Sushma Ji, who as External Affairs Minister, used to come to their help. As a result, she brought smile on the faces of many. These included Indians, Pakistanis and people of other nationalities.

All these qualities made Sushma Ji a leader with a bigger than life stature. Her absence will surely be felt by all for years to come.

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Modi, Amit Shah deserve credit for heralding a new era in Kashmir

akbThe historic passage of Jammu & Kashmir Reorganisation Bill and the resolution to scrap Article 370 of Constitution that had granted special status to J&K heralds the beginning of a new era. It was a proud moment when 370 members of Lok Sabha voted in favour of the J&K Reorganisation Bill, and 366 LS members voted in support of the resolution to scrap Art. 370. A major historic blunder committed nearly 70 years ago now stands rectified.

Kudos to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Amit Shah for working tirelessly in bringing about the safe passage of these landmark legislative measures in Parliament. This could not have been possible without a strong political will, undaunted courage and careful precision shown by Modi and Shah in bring about structural change in the history and geography of a turbulent region.

For 70 long years, the nation was being ‘warned’ by so-called Kashmir ‘experts’ about the perils of scrapping Article 370 from the Indian Constitution. None of the previous Prime Ministers had the courage and political will to take this drastic step that had bedevilled the lives of several generations of people living in Jammu & Kashmir.

Modi and Amit Shah not only scrapped this Article but did so in such a smooth manner that no less than three-fourths of the members present in Lok Sabha supported the step. Nearly two-thirds of members in Rajya Sabha supported the landmark legislative measures.

Till 11 am on Monday morning, nobody, except a handful of persons, had the slightest inkling of what was going to happen about the future of Kashmir. It was a tightly, closely guarded secret known only to a select few.

Credit goes to Home Minister Amit Shah, who after becoming a Union Minister for the first time, deftly handled the debates in both Houses of Parliament on such a crucial legislative step. Nowhere was it evident that he was a first-timer central minister unable to tackle the flow of debate. Amit Shah skillfully replied to each and every question raised by members in both Houses.

The Opposition failed in both Houses to cite a single valid advantage of Article 370. On the other hand, Amit Shah outlined a plethora of advantages that will accrue to the people of J&K, which they had been deprived of over the years because of Article 370. Education, jobs, panchayati raj, central welfare schemes, sale and purchase of properties, new industries were some of the major advantages that Shah outlined in his speeches.

The political arguments put forth by three former J&K chief ministers, Mehbooba Mufti, Farooq Abdullah, Ghulam Nabi Azad did not hold water, because their present statements were totally at variance with what they had said earlier. After forging a failed coalition government with BJP three years ago, it was Mehbooba who had once said that Modi was the only leader who can solve the Kashmir problem.

A news channel showed how Farooq Abdullah was coming out of a hotel in Srinagar on Tuesday, instead of attending the historic debate in Lok Sabha. Farooq later lied to mediapersons from the balcony of his house by alleging that he was under custody. This was promptly denied inside the Lok Sabha by Home Minister Amit Shah, who said he had spoken to the state police DGP and the former CM was neither under house arrest nor in custody.

The historic steps on Kashmir also exposed in public the rift among the Congress leaders. Senior leaders like Janardan Dwivedi, Deepender Hooda, Manish Tewari, Pradip Bhattacharya and Milind Deora refused to toe the high command’s official line on Kashmir. Hearing Manish Tewari, none could understand whether he was supporting or opposing the legislative measures. All this happened even as Sonia Gandhi was silently watching.

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How Modi rewrote the history and geography of Jammu & Kashmir

akb0806 Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday took a historic decision by taking several vital steps together – a Presidential order repealing the previous 1954 President’s order incorporating Article 35A, a Presidential order rendering all provisions of Article 370 except one ineffective, a Reorganisation Bill for bifurcating Jammu and Kashmir into two entities, one J&K and the other Ladakh, and giving them the status of Union Territories, the former with an assembly, and the latter, without any assembly.

Within hours of the Union Cabinet approving these measures, Home Minister Amit Shah piloted these legislative measures in Rajya Sabha, which after extensive debate, passed them by two-thirds majority. The special status granted to J&K under Article 370 by the Nehru government thus stands null and void.

The consequences of these historic measures will give all Indian nationals the right to purchase property in J&K, right to apply for government jobs in Jammu & Kashmir, industries can now be set up in Kashmir without any hindrance, and all laws applicable to the rest of India can now be enforced in J&K.

The people of Jammu & Kashmir will get all the benefits under Right to Information, Right to Food, Right to Education, Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act and Panchayati Raj Act, which they had been hitherto denied because of Article 370.

The moment these legislative measures get passed on Tuesday in Lok Sabha, where the NDA commands overwhelming majority, Jammu & Kashmir will cease to have a separate Constitution and a separate Flag. Like all other states of India, Jammu & Kashmir will become a part of the Indian Union. Home Minister Amit Shah, while replying to the debate, assured that the status of J&K as a union territory could later be changed into full statehood, once normalcy returns.

With this, a historic blunder committed seven decades ago during Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru’s tenure, has now been set right, largely due to the political acumen and decisive vision of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his astute Home Minister Amit Shah.

The most heartening part of Monday’s debate was that regional parties like AIADMK, Biju Janata Dal, YSR Congress, Telugu Desam Party, Aam Aadmi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party supported the measures to revoke provisions of Article 370 and Art 35A.

The historic move finally buried the ghosts of fear that were being raised by leader like Farooq Abdullah, his son Omar, and Mehbooba Mufti that it may lead to untold consequences in the Valley. Mehbooba Mufti had once threatened that if Art. 370 was revoked, there would not be a single soul to hold the tricolour aloft in the Valley. Farooq Abdullah had recently bragged that nobody, not even Modi, can ever revoke Art. 370. All these bombasts have now been put to rest with a single stroke.

Much meticulous planning had gone into preparing the ground for revoking J&K’s special status. Prime Minister Modi had been working on this for several years, and it was Amit Shah who put in his best efforts to plug all possible loopholes, arranged two-thirds majority support in the Upper House, sent troops into the Valley, and with a single ‘surgical strike’, the dream of “a single flag, a single constitution” was fulfilled within hours.

It was a dream for which men of the stature of Late Syama Prasad Mookerjee had given their supreme sacrifice. A dream for which leaders like Atal Bihari Vajpayee, L. K. Advani and Dr Murli Manohar Joshi, spent the most part of their political life, fighting for a cause.

The story starts from 26th October 1947, when the then Maharaja Hari SIngh of J&K, signed the Instrument of Accession, when Pakistani tribal invaders almost reached the Srinagar valley, and the maharaja had to flee. Two years later, on 17th October, 1949, Article 306 was inserted into the Indian Constitution, which later on, in 1952, became Article 370 giving special status to J&K. It was a “temporary, transitional and special” provision that gave the state of J&K a separate flag and a separate constitution.

For seventy years, no political party or leader had the courage to revoke Article 370 because of vote bank considerations and the fear that it could cause unrest in the Valley, but simultaneously, this was the very Article that was, over the years, sowing the seeds of separatism in the Valley. Article 370 clearly stipulated that most of the provisions of the Indian Constitution, and all legislations passed by our Parliament, shall not be applicable to the state of J&K. Clearly, it was a major aberration, that struck at the very roots of a strong and unified India.

Because of Article 370 that provided for a separate flag, burning of our national tricolour in the Valley was not considered a criminal offence till now. No more. Not only disrespect to national flag, any form of disrespect to our national symbols shall now be treated as a criminal offence. There shall be no “dual citizenship”. The common people of J&K shall have no special privileges and rights, and they shall enjoy all the rights and privileges that are provided to Indian nationals.

You cannot imagine the measure of indignities suffered by refugees who had crossed over to J&K after 1947 Partition. These displaced people were denied government jobs, their children were denied scholarships, they were denied voting rights, they were not considered as “state subjects” of J&K because of the infamous Article 35A that gave rights to only “permament residents”. In 1957, nearly 600 Dalit families began residing in J&K. They were denied government jobs, and were considered only for the menial job of a “safai karmachari”. Over the years, their offsprings became doctors and engineers, and worked in other parts of India, but if they wanted to opt for a job n the state of J&K, the only job that was allowed for them was that of “a safai karmachari”. Such was the indignities heaped on common people due to Article 370 and Article 35A that gave special status to J&K.

And who benefited the most? It was Amit Shah, who told the Rajya Sabha on Monday, that “only three big political families” benefited the most because of the special status to J&K.

A new chapter has now opened in the history of Jammu & Kashmir. With its integration with India, the people of this region can now breathe freely and enjoy all the benefits that are given to all Indian citizens, irrespective of caste and religion. The new era will surely prevent the youths of the Valley from being misguided by radical ‘jihadi’ groups and open up avenues of progress for them throughout this vast Indian subcontinent. There shall be no more discrimination on grounds of “permanent subjects” and “outsiders”. Simultaneously, the peaceful people of Ladakh will surely glow in prosperity, free from decades of neglect and discrimination.

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Why Centre has deployed more troops in Kashmir

akbThe situation in Kashmir valley appears to be tense after the state Home department on Friday advised all tourists and Amarnath Yatra pilgrims to leave the valley at the earliest. Non-Kashmiri students staying in the hostels of National Institute of Technology in Srinagar have been asked to leave the Valley. Nearly 28,000 paramilitary personnel have been deployed in the past one week and around 32,500 troops will be disengaged from Amarnath Yatra security arrangements and moved to other parts of the Valley.

Both the Centre and the Jammu & Kashmir governor have allayed fears of political leaders about any move to abrogate Article 35A of the Constitution that bars outsiders from purchasing property and from getting jobs in state government.

Army and police officials have said that there are intelligence inputs about a major possible terror strike by Pakistan supported terror outfits during Amarnath Yatra, after a US-made sniper rifle, anti-personnel mines and explosives were seized on the yatra route. There are also reports of Pakistan army moving jihadi terrorists back to the Line of Control to carry out cross-border attacks.

Meanwhile, Kashmiri politicians in the Valley are busy with their rabble rousing remarks. Former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti has alleged that the Centre is trying to throttle democracy in the valley. Mehbooba has said that the people of J&K had agreed to accession with the Indian Union in 1947 on the condition that their separate identity would be protected. She has also said that any step towards removing Articles 35A and 370 from the Constitution will have major repercussions.

The common people in the Valley is flummoxed because of unending rumours and panic being created by vested interests. They should trust the Army and state police, whose senior officials said on Friday that Pakistan is planning to carry out major terror strikes in the Valley to shore up the sagging morale of terrorists. The security forces are working on twin objectives: one, to foil Pakistani plot and crush terrorism, and two, preventing youths from joining militant outfits.

Meanwhile, there are moves afoot to hold assembly elections in J&K before winter sets in this year, and the deployment of troops could be one of the steps to ensure a peaceful poll. The common people in the Valley should not be misguided by the fear psychosis that is sought to be created by vested political interests.

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How social media is being misused to foment communal unrest

akb2307The story of the death of a Muslim youth due to severe burns in Chandauli, near Varanasi, took a curious turn on Thursday when police arrested three persons, including the youth’s uncle, on charge of circulating fake news on social media alleging that four Hindu boys had set him on fire for not chanting ‘Jai Shri Ram’.

SP, Chandauli, Santosh Kumar Singh said on Thursday dismissed the theory that four Hindu youths had set the Muslim boy on fire for refusing to chant ‘Jai Shri Ram’. He said, after investigation, it was found that the Muslim youth Abdul Khaliq Ansari had set himself on fire and had concocted the story after he was egged on by three persons including his uncle to add the ‘Jai Sri Ram’ angle.

The victim had earlier told police that he had gone for an early morning stroll, when four youths cornered him and set him on fire. He alleged that the youths were asking him to chant ‘Jai Shri Ram’ but he refused.

Chandauli SP said that some anti-social elements including the boy’s uncle had tutored him to add the ‘Jai Sri Ram’ angle. He said, the victim’s statements were inconsistent, because the sequence of events and location changed in each narration. CCTV cameras on each location were checked and the victim’s versions were found to be incorrect. Police quoted an eyewitness, a newspaper hawker, who said that he saw the boy setting himself on fire and thought the youth was crazy.

During police investigation, it was found that the uncle in question had an old feud with a Hindu neighbour, and in order to take revenge, he told his nephew to name youths from this family and add the ‘Jai Shri Ram’ angle. According to police, the three arrested persons, including the uncle, confessed that they spread this false narration on social media.

During investigation, police put the local social media groups on surveillance, and on Thursday booked all the three arrested persons under sections 153A, 295A, 420, 120B, 182 IPC and section 66 of IT Act.

We have no valid reason to doubt the police version. Since there have been incidents of lynching based on community in the recent past, people normally tend to believe versions that are dished out on social media.

A similar incident took place in Maharashtra involving two Muslim youths and later the communal angle was found to be fake. There were similar fake cases in West Bengal and western UP.

A few days ago, I had revealed in ‘Aaj Ki Baat’ how a rumour was spread on social media about a Hindu youth raping a Muslim girl in Jaipur. There was tension in the locality, and hundreds of Muslims went to the police station to stage protest. Later it turned out that the youth who raped the girl was a Muslim and he was arrested. Jaipur police promptly brought the situation under control.

Last week there was a rumour that a bus carrying Haj pilgrims was stoned by some Hindu youths. Later, some other buses were stoned out of revenge. Later it turned out that no stone was thrown at the bus carrying Haj pilgrims.

I am narrating all these incidents to underline how social media is being misused to create an atmosphere of fear and hatred all over the country. I would appeal to all not to blindly trust such messages on social media, and try to find out the truth before forwarding them to others.

Citizens should inform the local police if such fake messages land up in their phones.It is also the duty of local authorities to act promptly and nip the mischief in the bud. Strong and deterrent action must be taken against those who circulate such fake messages.

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Beware of Delhi’s polluted air before it’s too late

akb1India TV in its prime time show ‘Aaj Ki Baat’ telecast on Wednesday night a detailed investigative report about a medical analysis that shows that polluted air in the nation’s capital could be causing lung cancer. A noted chest surgeon of a Delhi hospital cited several cases where non-smoker patients coming from families with no history of smoking were suffering from lung cancer due to air pollution.

We sent our reporters to speak to these patients, and also leading doctors from AIIMS and other reputed hospitals to check whether the conclusion was correct or not. Almost all medical experts agreed that polluted air in Delhi could be the cause behind rise in lung cancer cases.

Doctors from all over the world had been telling us regularly that smoking was the main reason behind lung cancer. People who smoke constitute the biggest risk category for lung cancer cases. Rampant use of carcinogenic pesticides while growing vegetable and fruits was also one of the reasons for spread of cancer. Ground water polluted due to excessive use of pesticides reach our food chain and can cause cancer.

People can shun smoking tobacco, and avoid consuming fruits and vegetables grown after use of pesticide. They can also take care about drinking water, but what about the polluted air that we all breathe?

Clearly, pollution is our biggest enemy and we cannot afford to lower our guard while tackling pollution. No government on earth can tackle pollution alone. Citizens will have to come forward to combat air and water pollution. We must ensure safe drinking water, non-contaminated food and clean air for our children. Let’s combat pollution in all its varieties right now, because tomorrow could be too late.

In one of my earlier blogs, I had mentioned the name of three plants which you can use in your homes to get pollution free air. Students of IIT, Kanpur had researched about these three plants, which if used in our homes, can give us fresh oxygen and save us from air pollution.

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