- 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.
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)
200 Children Seeking Asylum in the U.K. Are Missing
The missing include at least 13 children under the age of 16.
Children Missing From Hotels
There are 200 asylum-seeking children missing from government care in the United Kingdom according to the parliamentary undersecretary of state at the Home Office.
When children are seeking asylum in the U.K. alone or separated from their parents, the government puts them up in hotel rooms for temporary accommodation. They have done so since 2021 and have temporarily accommodated 4,600 children in that time. However, Simon Murray, the parliamentary undersecretary of state at the Home Office, said that 200 of the children placed in those hotels are missing, including at least 13 who are under the age of 16.
In response to this information, a collection of more than 100 charities sent a letter to the Prime Minister demanding the end of the procedure of placing kids in hotels over safety concerns. The letter says that these children are at risk of trafficking and exploitation by staying in these hotels alone.
Other officials have echoed these concerns, claiming these hotels are targets for organized crime where people use these vulnerable children for labor or trafficking.
Parliament Calls Incident “Horrific”
Murray told the House of Lords on Monday that despite the media reports, his department does not know of any kidnapping cases, though they are investigating. He went on to say there are many reasons why children go missing.
However, lawmakers were not appeased by Murray’s assurances. In a later debate, one member of Parliament called the missing cases “horrific” and another said that it was “putting children at risk.” The children’s commissioner for England also reportedly chimed in asking for, quote “assurances on the steps being taken to safeguard the children.”
Murray went on to say that the use of hotels for asylum-seeking children will hopefully be phased out as soon as possible but did not give a timeline.
The nonprofit Refugee Council called on the government in a tweet to spare no expense in the location of these missing kids.
See what others are saying: (Washington Post) (The Guardian) (The Telegraph)
100,000 U.K. Nurses Launch Biggest Strike in NHS History
Opposition leader Keir Starmer called the strike “a badge of shame on this government.”
The NHS Grinds to a Halt
Some 100,000 members of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), the United Kingdom’s largest nursing union, launched a historic 12-hour strike Thursday after the government refused to negotiate on higher pay.
The work stoppage, which spans England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, is only the second in the RCN’s 106-year history and the largest the NHS has ever seen. It marks the breaking point for many underpaid nurses and the culmination of a years-long decline in the NHS’s quality of care, put under increasing stress by severe staffing shortages.
Although most NHS staff in England and Wales received a pay rise of around £1,400 this year, worth about 4% on average for nurses, they say it has not kept up with inflation as Britain plunges deeper into a cost-of-living crisis.
When inflation is accounted for, nurses’ pay dropped 1.2% every year from 2010 to 2017, according to the Health Foundation.
Meanwhile, the number of patients waiting for care has reached a record 7.2 million in England, or over one in eight residents, more than double what it was seven years ago.
In July, the cross-party Commons Health and Social Care Select Committee estimated the staffing shortfall could be as high as 50,000 nurses and 12,000 doctors, what one MP called the “greatest workforce crisis in history.”
Many nurses argue that boosting pay will help hospitals recruit more staff.
The RCN demanded a pay raise 5% above the retail rate of inflation, which amounts to a 19% increase, but both Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and the government’s health secretary have claimed that’s not affordable.
During Thursday’s strike, partial staffing continued to remain open for urgent care such as chemotherapy, kidney dialysis, and children’s accident and neonatal units.
Sunak and Starmer Brawl in Parliament
Labor leader Keir Starmer grilled Sunak during Wednesday’s Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) on the upcoming strike.
“Tomorrow will be the first-ever nationwide nurse’s strike,” he said. “All the Prime Minister has to do to stop that is to open the door and discuss pay with them. If he did, the whole country would breathe a sigh of relief. Why won’t he?”
“We have consistently spoken to all the unions involved in all the pay disputes that there are,” Sunak replied. “Last year, when everyone else in the public sector had a public sector pay freeze, the nurses received a three-percent pay rise.”
Starmer fired back: “Nurses going on strike is a badge of shame for this government. Instead of showing leadership, he’s playing games with people’s health.”
Sunak called Starmer’s demand that he reopen negotiations with the RCN “just simply a political formula for avoiding taking a position on this issue.”
“If he thinks the strikes are wrong, he should say so,” Sunak said. “If he thinks it’s right that pay demands of nineteen percent are met, then he should say so. What’s weak, Mr. Speaker, is he’s not strong enough to stand up to the union.”
While Starmer has called on Sunak to negotiate with the RCN, he has not explicitly backed the 19% pay raise himself.
Unless the government returns to the bargaining table, the RCN plans to launch a second round of strikes on Dec. 20 to be followed by ambulance strikes that Wednesday and the next.
If the government still refuses to budge, the union said in a statement that nurses will strike for longer periods in more places starting in January, disrupting more health services.
Other industries are also set to see work stoppages this month, including workers on railways, buses, highways, and borders, as well as teachers, postal workers, baggage handlers, and paramedics.
See what others are saying: (BBC) (CNN) (The Guardian)
Fortnite Developer Sued By Parents for Making the Game as “Addictive as Possible”
One child mentioned in the lawsuit played over 7,700 rounds of Fortnite in two years.
Epic Games Sued
A Quebec City judge recently approved a 2019 class-action lawsuit accusing Fortnite developer Epic Games of deliberately making Fortnite addictive.
The parents who brought forward the lawsuit claim their children have become so obsessed with the game that in some cases, they’ve stopped eating, showering, or socializing. The lawsuit claims that these kids have played thousands of games since Fortnite’s release in 2017. In one example, a teenager played over 7,700 games in less than two years.
If the lawsuit succeeds, players addicted to Fortnite living in Quebec since September 2017 could receive compensation. The plaintiff’s attorney, Philippe Caron, reports that over 200 parents outside the lawsuit have reached out to him, saying their child’s well-being has diminished since downloading Fortnite. He told The Washington Post that they are very confident about their case.
Epic Games Responds
“We plan to fight this in court,” Natalie Munoz, a spokesperson for Epic Games said to The Post, “We believe the evidence will show that this case is meritless.”
Munoz also said that Fortnite does allow parents to supervise their child’s playtime and require permission for purchases.
The parents involved in the lawsuit are claiming that they were not aware of the dangers playing Fortnite could pose for their children.
“If she had been informed by the defendants of the risks and dangers associated with the use of FORTNITE,” the lawsuit says of one guardian. “She would have categorically refused to allow the game to be downloaded.”