Connect with us

International

India Officially Divides Kashmir After Revoking Special Status

Published

on

  • India has officially divided the state of Jammu and Kashmir into two federal territories and stripped the state of its autonomy.
  • The move enforces a decision made by the Indian government in August to revoke a constitutional provision that had granted Kashmir certain autonomous powers since India’s independence in 1947.
  • Meanwhile, a media blackout and security crackdowns continue in Kashmir, prompting condemnation from human rights groups.

Kashmir Split Made Official

India officially divided the state of Jammu and Kashmir into two federal territories Thursday, effectively stripping the former state of special autonomy granted to it under the constitution and giving the Indian government significant control of the region.

The move comes nearly three months after India’s government revoked the constitutional provision known as Article 370 that gave the state certain autonomous powers such as its own constitution and flag, and the ability to make its own laws.

When India scrapped Article 370, it gave the central government authority over Kashmir and forced the state to abide by Indian laws. That legal change has now taken effect.

Now, instead of one highly autonomous state, Kashmir has been split into two federal territories with significantly less authority.

One of those territories is still called Jammu and Kashmir, and it has a legislative assembly. In general, federal territories have much power than states in India, and the central government has a lot more control over them.

The second territory is called Ladakh, and it will not get its own legislature.

Security Debate

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has continually claimed that revoking Article 370 is necessary to secure the region, which has long been one of the world’s most dangerous flashpoints and one of the most militarized regions.

But many have argued the move is not in the interest of security at all, and just a blatant power grab.

Some even say it will actually likely worsen security in Kashmir for several reasons.

First, in addition to revoking Article 370, the Indian government also said it would let Indians buy property in Kashmir, something only Kashmiri’s had been allowed to do.

Kashmir is one of India’s only Muslim-majority territories, and some experts have expressed concern that allowing Indians to buy property and move to Kashmir would change the demographics of the region and create tensions between Hindus and Muslims.

Others also claim that the decision was just part of an agenda for Modi, a staunch Hindi Nationalist, to intentionally change the demographics in Kashmir. If violence were to break out, he could justify crackdowns on the Muslim population.

At the very top level, some believe the move would cause more insecurity than security simply because it would upset the people of Kashmir.

Military Crackdown Continues

Following the Indian government’s initial announcement, Modi sent tens of thousands of troops to Kashmir to prevent violent outbreaks, functionally putting the territory on total lockdown.

That lockdown has been in place since the Indian government first announced that they were revoking Article 370 in August.

In addition to a massive security crackdown and a near-constant curfew, Indian military forces also enforced a communications blackout, shutting down internet access, mobile and home phone services, and cable TV for the 12.5 million people in the region.

Since August, the authorities have reportedly started to ease some of the restrictions, lifting some roadblocks and restoring some landlines and cellphone services.

Shops, businesses, and schools in Kashmir have still largely remained closed since the crackdown started. Indian forces reportedly have encouraged students to go back to school and for businesses to open again, but Kashmiris have largely stayed home because they fear violence. 

On Thursday, The New York Times reported that 1.5 million Kashmiri kids are still not in school.

While some services have been restored, the authorities have still limited internet access, claiming that it will be used to organize protests.

Since August, hundreds of anti-India protests have erupted all over the region.

Government and military forces have clashed with protestors violently, with authorities firing tear gas, rubber bullets, and sometimes even live ammunition to prevent protesters from marching in the streets.

According to a United Nations report, six people have been killed and dozens more have been injured. It has also been reported that at least 4,000 people have been arrested since the crackdown began.

Meanwhile, human rights organizations have condemned Modi and India for what they are doing in Kashmir.

“We are extremely concerned that the population of Indian-Administered #Kashmir continues to be deprived of a wide range of #HumanRights and we urge the Indian authorities to unlock the situation and fully restore the rights that are currently being denied,” the UN wrote on Twitter.

Amnesty International has also said the crackdown and the media blackout violate human rights.

But Modi has continued on, even going as far as to argue that he is giving the people of Kashmir more rights and better standards of living by bringing them fully under India’s purview.

“Now the real participation of co-operative federalism will be seen,” he said in a speech Thursday. “New highways, new railway lines, new schools, new hospitals will take the development of the people of Jammu and Kashmir to new heights.”

While some of the changes that will happen in this new era for Kashmir are readily apparent, there are still many unknowns.

For example, Kashmir’s official language was Urdu under its Constitution. Now that Kashmir is operating under India’s Constitution, it is unclear if the Kashmiris will be expected to adopt Hindi, which India’s official language.

Regardless, Oct. 31 represents a massive change for the region, and the first day since 1947 that Jammu and Kashmir has officially not been its own autonomous state.

See what others are saying: (Al Jazeera) (The Washington Post) (BBC

International

Hamas and Israel Exchange Deadly Strikes Over Conflicts at Al-Aqsa Mosque and Sheikh Jarrah

Published

on

  • Tensions between Israel and Palestine have risen dramatically over the last month since Israel restricted access to al-Aqsa mosque, along with other religious and traditional sites during Ramadan, Islam’s holiest month.
  • On top of this, there are ongoing clashes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem, where an Israeli court has ordered Palestinian families out of their homes despite a 1956 agreement that stated they could keep their homes after three years.
  • The two situations have jointly fueled weeks of massive protests in Jerusalem, leading to hundreds of injuries.
  • Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, issued an ultimatum to Israel to stop its actions. When the deadline passed Monday night, it launched over 400 rockets into Israel, which retaliated with its own airstrikes.

Actions at Al-Aqsa Mosque and Sheikh Jarrah Fuel Anger

Dozens were killed across Israel and the Gaza Strip between Monday and Tuesday after both sides conducted airstrikes over rising tensions between Israel and Palestinians in Jerusalem.

At play are two unique situations that have led to Palestinians becoming particularly frustrated at what they feel is unjust treatment by Israel. The first is what Palestinians describe as Israeli restrictions on religious and cultural practices during Ramadan. The other is the looming evictions of Palestinians in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of Eastern Jerusalem.

The religious clashes began about a month ago at the start of Ramadan when Israeli security forces put up barriers to stop people from hanging out at the Damascus Gate, a popular spot during the holiest month in Islam.

The situation was made worse when Israel imposed a 10,000 person limit on prayers at the al-Aqsa Mosque, one of Islam’s holiest sites. The 10,000 person limit meant tens of thousands of Palestinians were turned away or forcibly removed in a series of raids into the mosque and compound, the most recent of which caused a fire in a tree in the area.

Israel tried to de-escalate the ongoing protests by removing the barriers at the Damascus Gate to little avail.

Sheikh Jarrah: Microcosm for Entire Conflict

On top of the situation at the al-Aqsa compound, there have also been also large demonstrations over evictions in the neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah. The area was developed in the ’50s by Jordan when it controlled that part of Jerusalem as part of an agreement with Israel. Part of that agreement was that the families living there would be allowed to keep the homes after three years. Jordan eventually lost control of Sheikh Jarrah and seven decades later an Israeli court has ordered Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah to leave their homes.   

The court agreed with the accusation that the homes were illegally built on Jewish-owned land and should be returned to Jewish residents. In turn, Israeli settlers moved into the area and entered homes with families still living inside — a move that has been described as little more than blatant theft.

The evictions at Sheikh Jarrah have led to weeks of massive protests and this past weekend was no different with hundreds of injuries across both sides.

The entire situation was supposed to be settled, at least legally, during a Supreme Court hearing on Monday, but that was postponed until an unknown date, leaving many to feel like the situation won’t be resolved and fueling further protests.

Hamas Issues Ultimatum

In response to all of this, Hamas and its territory of the Gaza Strip decided to issue an ultimatum for Israel to leave the al-Aqsa Mosque complex and the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood or it would launch rockets. When that failed to happen at 6 p.m. on Monday, Hamas launched a massive attack of over 400 rockets into Israel. Many fell short or were stopped by Israel’s Iron Dome defense system.

However, some did find their targets and injured at least 10 Israelis and killing two. Israel responded by conducting airstrikes against Gaza, reportedly killing 26. Both sides have continued to bombard the other through the last 36 hours with promises to escalate the situation further.

Over the next few days, it’s likely that the death tolls will rise and the bloodshed will be used as its own excuse to continue the violent cycle that the region has been locked in since the middle of the 20th century.

See what others are saying: (CBS News) (Jersualem Post) (The New York Times)

Continue Reading

International

German Catholic Priests Defy Vatican by Blessing Same-Sex Unions

Published

on

  • Priests throughout Germany openly defied the Roman Catholic Church and blessed same-sex marriages over the weekend as part of an organized effort that has extended into this week.
  • In the past, the vast majority of willing priests would refuse to bless such marriages due to the ambiguity of the Church’s position, which was clarified in March 2021 as against blessing same-sex unions.
  • The effort by German priests has received some support in progressive nations but has been widely opposed by the greater Church.
  • The Vatican is unlikely to back down from its position; however, the challenge is large enough to potentially set off a debate on the issue within the Church.

Pope’s Stance on Blessing Same-Sex Unions

Catholic priests throughout Germany openly challenged a group of new rules by the Vatican this weekend and set the stage for a large debate over LGTBQ+ issues within the church.

At the center of the debate is a clear and complete ban on blessings of same-sex marriages by the Holy See from March of this year. Pope Francis’ official stance, and thus the Church’s official stance, is that priests cannot bless gay marriages because they are sinful, and the Church cannot “bless sin.”

Blessings are different from engaging in marriage ceremonies themselves and are used to bring marriages carried out by secular officials “into” the church.

The Pope’s stance received a lot of push back both within and outside of the church. Activists around the world felt it was overly restrictive and undermined Pope Francis’ other statements about loving LGBTQ+ members of the church. At the same time, hundreds of clergymen around the world, and especially in Germany, signed open letters with plans to defy the pontiff and bless same-sex unions anyways.

Such blessings weren’t completely unknown in the church because even without the Holy See’s official stance in March, it was assumed by clergymen that such blessings were forbidden; however, some carried them out anyways in secret.

Open Defiance of the Church

That secrecy largely came to an end this weekend in Germany. Sunday morning saw one of the first seemingly organized efforts in that defiance, with priests throughout Germany openly blessing same-sex marriages. The organized effort also includes another event planned for Monday, May 10, including live-streamed services.

Despite the progressive push by parts of the German church, most Catholic dioceses in the country back the Church’s official stance, and that support is even more widespread worldwide.

Beyond doctrinal differences, many German parishes are pushing for more progressive stances to cope with the fact that people are leaving the church in droves, partly because of its social stances. In some respects, those decisions have proven popular. 

As it stands, it’s unclear what will happen next to the priests and bishops who backed blessing same-sex unions, and whether or not other dioceses in progressive countries will take a similar stance and back them. It’s also unlikely that the church will change its stance on same-sex marriages.

In the meantime, hundreds of gay Catholic couples throughout Germany and neighboring countries plan to get their marriages blessed at a Catholic Church for the first time.

See what others are saying: (Washington Post) (BBC) (National Catholic Reporter)

Continue Reading

International

Mukbangs and Ordering Too Much Food Banned in China

Published

on

  • China recently passed a law that bans ordering too much food and sharing content online that portrays overeating.
  • Though food scarcity is not an issue in the country, the law is meant to combat food waste, with authorities pointing out that China tosses 35 million tons of food annually.
  • The law doesn’t penalize consumers at restaurants. Instead, it fines restaurants $1550 for allowing diners to order “more than they need.”
  • TV stations, media companies, or people who post overeating content, such as Mukbangs, can face a $16,000 fine.

The End of Mukbangs

Some of the most popular content across Chinese social media has effectively been banned under an anti-food waste law that authorities passed late last week.

The law bans diners from ordering more than they need, which could hurt an entire class of eating videos, including ones where people enter all-you-can-eat restaurants to consume thousands of dollars worth of food. While it could be argued that if the creators eat all that food, they’ve satisfied the “more than they need” clause, the law also bans binge eating and posting such content online, meaning no more mukbangs for Chinese fans.

Censors have already begun removing overeating content, and much of it went missing overnight from Douyin, TikTok’s Chinese sister app.

The law also affects far more than a fringe group of people making food content. It’s so vague and open to interpretation that it could disrupt everyday restaurant-goers.

President Xi Jinping called food waste a “distressing” problem that threatens China’s food security, despite the fact that China is not facing any imminent food shortages.

Nearly 35 million tons of food go to waste every year in China, though that’s a relatively small amount for its population size. The U.S., for comparison, manages to throw away 66 million tons of food yearly.

Still, the legislation does not come as a complete surprise since Xi launched a food-saving campaign back in August claiming that COVID-19 was threatening the food supply chain.

Who’s Penalized?

Across China, restaurants have already begun to comply with the new rules. Some have set up scales at their entrance to give recommended food portion sizes to customers based on their weight. Meanwhile, others have promised to offer smaller-sized plates as an option.

One standard that many are seeking to enact is the “N-1” rule, which states that the number of dishes should be one less than the number of guests. The rule could be an attempt to curb a cultural practice that sees hosts ordering far more food than could be eaten in an effort to show off wealth.

Under the law, much of the blame towards a consumer wasting food is placed on restaurants, as there’s no clear cut fine for diners violating the law. Any establishment found allowing customers or misleading customers into ordering excessive amounts of food facing a $1550 fine. Showing content related to binge-eating could result in TV stations, online media companies, or even content creators facing a $16,000 fine.

Tuesday seems to have been the first time regulators went after a particular business, warning a Nanjing bakery to stop throwing away pastries that the business didn’t believe would sell because of visual defects. It has promised to donate them instead.

See what others are saying: (SCMP) (The Guardian) (Vice)

Continue Reading