Hurriyat accuses India of putting occupied Kashmir on sale

NEW DELHI: Jammu and Kashmir Hurriyat Party and other opposition groups on Tuesday slammed India’s recent move to allow non-Kashmiris to buy land, saying New Delhi had put up Jammu and Kashmir on sale.

In a statement, Kashmir’s All Parties Hurriyat Conference headed by incarcerated Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, said it has “strongly appealed to the international community to take cognizance of the systemic demographic change being foisted upon Muslim majority Jammu & Kashmir, by settling outsiders here including through a new policy of sale of land and natural resources to them.”

APHC said that of Government of India wants to change the demographic character of the Muslim majority J&K and disempower its residents through such diktats. It said the measures were aimed at scuttling “the final resolution of the long-standing international political dispute of Kashmir in accordance with the will and aspirations of its people as promised by the international community, based on principles of justice and international law.”

Since August 2019, in succession one after another authoritarian laws and diktats are being implemented in the state towards this end and “to facilitate the electoral prospects of the ruling party in India as J&K has become its favorite whipping boy.”

The Indian administration was pursuing a divide and rule policy by splitting the population of J&K “on the basis of religions, regions, ethnicities and political interests to fracture political aspirations and voices,” the Hurriyat statement said.

Last week the J&K administration, headed by Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha, changed land use laws and allowed re-classifying agricultural land for non-agricultural purposes.

The decision triggered strong criticism from regional parties, who said the land would be used to settle non-locals.

Recently the government told parliament that only seven plots of land had been purchased in J&K following the scrapping of special status.

Allowing people from outside J&K to buy land in the UT was one of the major talking points for the BJP and the centre, but so far that doesn’t seem to be the case.

APHC said that the situation in J&K is “deeply disconcerting and highly repressive as people are the receiving end of this colonial mindset.”

It asked people not to lose hope but stay vigilant and alert “and safeguard their right over their land and resources as much as possible.”

The Indian government and its handpicked administration have held a real estate summit in Jammu (the first of its kind) to encourage people from across the country to buy land, or a second home, in Jammu and Kashmir.

Hindu religious leader arrested in India for insulting Mahatma Gandhi

Indian police on Thursday arrested a Hindu religious leader for allegedly making a derogatory speech against India’s independence leader Mahatma Gandhi and praising his assassin.

Gandhi was shot dead by a Hindu extremist during a prayer meeting in the Indian capital in 1948 because he was considered sympathetic toward Muslims during the partition of the Indian subcontinent by British colonialists in 1947 into India and Pakistan.

Kalicharan Maharaj was arrested in central Madhya Pradesh state on Thursday for allegedly promoting hatred between religious groups in a speech earlier this week, the Press Trust of India news agency cited police officer Prashant Agrawal as saying.

According to media reports, Maharaj said “Gandhi destroyed the country … salutations to Nathuram Godse, who killed him.”

He will be formally charged in court after the police complete an investigation. If convicted, he can be jailed for up to five years.

Attacks by Hindu hard-liners against Muslims and other minorities have intensified after Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power in 2014, and won a landslide reelection in 2019.

The opposition is also demanding the arrest of several saffron-robed Hindu religious leaders for making highly provocative speeches against Muslims at a closed-door religious parliament, known as Dharam Sansad, earlier this month in the northern holy city of Haridwar. They called on Hindus to arm themselves for “a genocide” against Muslims, according to a police complaint.

Police in Uttarakhand state, which is ruled by Modi’s nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, said they were questioning suspects. No arrests have been made.

Muslims comprise nearly 14 percent of India’s 1.4 billion people.

China warns Taiwan of ‘drastic measures’ if it moves for independence

BEIJING: China will take “drastic measures” if Taiwan makes moves towards independence, a Beijing official warned on Wednesday, adding that Taiwan’s provocations and outside meddling could intensify next year.

China claims democratically governed Taiwan as its own territory and in the past two years has stepped up military and diplomatic pressure to assert its sovereignty claim, fuelling anger in Taipei and concern in Washington.

China was willing to try its utmost to seek peaceful reunification with Taiwan but would act if any red lines on independence were crossed, Ma Xiaoguang, spokesman of the Taiwan Affairs Office, told a media briefing.

“If separatist forces in Taiwan seeking independence provoke, exert force or even break through any red line, we will have to take drastic measures,” Ma said.

Taiwan has emerged as a key factor in strained relations between China and the United States, the island’s most important international backer and arms supplier despite the absence of formal diplomatic ties.

China regularly describes the island as the most sensitive issue in its ties with the United States.

Ma said provocation by pro-independence forces and “external intervention” could grow “sharper and more intense” in the coming months.

“Next year, the Taiwan Strait situation will become more complex and severe,” he said.

Beijing has sent repeated air missions over the Taiwan Strait in recent months to pressure Taiwan. It has said it will not give in to threats.

While the United States recognizes only one China, it is required by law to provide Taiwan with the means to defend itself and has long followed a policy of “strategic ambiguity” on whether it would intervene militarily to protect Taiwan in the event of a Chinese attack.

The defeated Republic of China government fled to Taiwan in 1949 after losing a civil war with the Communists, who established the People’s Republic of China.

PM Imran calls allies’ meeting on mini-budget today

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday called a meeting of the parliamentary groups of parties included in the ruling alliance led by the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) on Thursday (today) amid the government’s plan to introduce the controversial supplementary finance bill — or the mini-budget as the opposition called it — in the National Assembly the same day.

According to the agenda of the National Assembly for Thursday, Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin will introduce the bill in the house to amend certain laws relating to taxes and duties [the Finance (Supplementary) Bill 2021].

NA agenda shows bill will not be passed today

The meeting of the parliamentary group of the ruling alliance will be held at 2pm in the Parliament House. Prime Minister Khan will be in the chair.

According to the agenda of the lower house, the bill will only be introduced, and not passed, on Thursday.

Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry had after a cabinet meeting on Tuesday said that a separate cabinet meeting would be held on the issue of mini-budget during which all government allies would be taken into confidence.

As the opposition has already vowed to block the passage of the bill, fireworks are expected during the NA session. The opposition has claimed that the bill will further increase inflation and add to people’s misery.

The two bills are pending approval from parliament without which the revival of the IMF programme will not be possible.

A senior official said that the cabinet could not consider the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) Autonomy Bill on Tuesday because the law minister was not present at the meeting. So the cabinet’s ratification on the work finalised by the Cabinet Committee on Legislative Business could not be taken up. Secondly, the Tax Laws (Fourth) Amendment Bill was withdrawn because the government could not afford a backlash when the CPI-based inflation already stood at 11.53 per cent for November.

Destitute ‘heir’ of Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar demands ownership of New Delhi’s Red Fort

A destitute Indian woman who claims she is heir to the dynasty that built the Taj Mahal has demanded ownership of an imposing palace once home to the Mughal emperors.

Sultana Begum lives in a cramped two-room hut nestled within a slum on the outskirts of Kolkata, surviving on a meager pension.

Among her modest possessions are records of her marriage to Mirza Mohammad Bedar Bakht, purported to be the great-grandson of India’s last Mughal ruler.

His death in 1980 left her struggling to survive, and she has spent the past decade petitioning authorities to recognize her royal status and compensate her accordingly.

“Can you imagine that the descendant of the emperors who built Taj Mahal now lives in desperate poverty?” the 68-year-old asked AFP.

Begum has lodged a court case seeking recognition that she is the rightful owner of the imposing 17th-century Red Fort, a sprawling and pockmarked castle in New Delhi that was once the seat of Mughal power.

“I hope the government will definitely give me justice,” she said. “When something belongs to someone, it should be returned.” Her case, supported by sympathetic campaigners, rests on her claim that her late husband’s lineage can be traced to Bahadur Shah Zafar, the last emperor to reign.

By the time of Zafar’s coronation in 1837, the Mughal empire had shrunk to the capital’s boundaries, after the conquest of India by the commercial venture of British merchants known as the East India Company.

A massive rebellion two decades later — now hailed as India’s first war of independence — saw mutinous soldiers declare the now frail 82-year-old as the leader of their insurrection.

The emperor, who preferred penning poetry to waging war, knew the chaotic uprising was doomed and was a reluctant leader.

British forces surrounded Delhi within a month and ruthlessly crushed the revolt, executing all 10 of Zafar’s surviving sons despite the royal family’s surrender.

In this picture taken on December 22, 2021, Sultana Begum works on a garment inside her house in Kolkata. — AFP
In this picture taken on December 22, 2021, Sultana Begum works on a garment inside her house in Kolkata. — AFP

d the revolt, executing all 10 of Zafar’s surviving sons despite the royal family’s surrender.

Zafar himself was exiled to neighbouring Myanmar, travelling under guard in a bullock cart, and died penniless in captivity five years later.

Independence symbol

Many of the Red Fort’s buildings were demolished in the years after the uprising and the complex fell into disrepair before colonial authorities ordered its renovation at the turn of the 20th century. It has since become a potent symbol of freedom from British rule.

India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru hoisted the national flag from the fort’s main gate to mark the first day of independence in August 1947, a solemn ritual now repeated annually by his successors.

Begum’s court case hinges on the argument that India’s government are the illegal occupants of the property, which she says should have been passed down to her.

The Delhi High Court rejected her petition last week as a “gross waste of time” — but did not rule on whether her claim to imperial ancestry was legitimate.

Instead, the court said her legal team had failed to justify why a similar case had not been brought by Zafar’s descendants in the 150 years since his exile.

Her lawyer Vivek More said the case would continue.

In this picture taken on December 22, 2201 Sultana Begum walks by an alley in the locality she lives in Kolkata. — AFP
In this picture taken on December 22, 2201 Sultana Begum walks by an alley in the locality she lives in Kolkata. — AFP

“She has decided to file a plea before a higher bench of the court challenging the order,” he told AFP by phone.

‘Justice will happen’

Begum has endured a precarious life, even before she was widowed and forced to move into the slum she now calls home.

Her husband — who she married in 1965 when she was just 14 — was 32 years her senior and earned some money as a soothsayer, but was unable to provide for their family.

“Poverty, fear and lack of resources pushed him to the brink,” she added.

Begum lives with one of her grandchildren in a small shack, sharing a kitchen with neighbours and washing at a communal tap down the street.

For some years she ran a small tea shop near her home but it was demolished to allow the widening of a road, and she now survives on a pension of 6,000 rupees ($80) per month.

But she has not given up hope that authorities will recognise her as the rightful beneficiary of India’s imperial legacy, and of the Red Fort.

“I hope that today, tomorrow or in 10 years, I will get what I’m entitled to,” she said. “God willing, I will get it back… I’m certain justice will happen.