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India Officially Divides Kashmir After Revoking Special Status

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  • 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

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Police Arrest Hong Kong Man for Booing Chinese National Anthem

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The man’s boos were launched during the first time the Chinese national anthem had ever been played for a Hong Kong athlete at the Olympics.


Instulting the Anthem

Hong Kong authorities announced Friday that a man was arrested for allegedly booing and “insulting” the Chinese national anthem while watching the Olympics on Monday.

The unnamed 40-year-old, who identified himself as a journalist, was allegedly watching the Olympics fencing medal ceremony for Hong Konger Edgar Cheung at a local mall. When the anthem began playing, he allegedly began booing and chanted “We are Hong Kong!” while waving a British Hong Kong Colonial flag.

The man’s actions were particularly noteworthy because it was the first time the Chinese national anthem had been played for a Hong Kong athlete in the Olympics. Hong Kongers compete at the Games under a separate committee called Hong Kong, China. The last time a Hong Konger won gold was in 1996 for windsurfing, at which time the British anthem of “God Save the Queen” was played.

Concerns for Freedom of Speech

The man is suspected of breaking the relatively new National Anthem Ordinance, which was passed in June 2020, and has a penalty of up to three years in prison and fines of $6,000 for anyone who publicly and intentionally insults the anthem. The law mirrors one in mainland China, but it has faced considerable scrutiny from increasingly persecuted pro-democracy lawmakers in Hong Kong.

They argue that it tramples the right to free speech, which is supposed to be enshrined in the city’s Basic Law. Hong Kong police, however, say that’s not the case and claim that his actions breach common restraints on freedom of speech. Senior Superintendent Eileen Chung said that his actions were “to stir up the hostility of those on the scene and to politicize the sport.”

Police issued a warning that it would investigate reports of others joining his chants or violating the separate National Security law passed last year.

This incident isn’t the only case of alleged politicization of the Games. Badminton player Angus Ng was accused by a pro-Beijing lawmaker of making a statement by sporting a black jersey with the territory’s emblem. The imagery was very similar to the black-and-white Hong Kong flag used by anti-government protesters.

Ng countered that he wore his own clothes to the event because he didn’t have sponsorships to provide jerseys and he wasn’t authorized to print the emblem on a jersey himself.

See what others are saying: (Inside) (Al Jazeera) (CNN)

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Canadian Catholic Priest Says Residential Schools Survivors Lied About Abuse

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The Roman Catholic Church is facing considerable backlash across Canada for its treatment of indigenous peoples in the residential school system, along with its subsequent efforts to downplay the problem.


Priest Sparks Outrage

Father Rheal Forest was put on forced leave Wednesday following remarks he made over a weeks-long period starting July 10 in which he doubted victims of the country’s infamous residential school system.

Residential schools were a system of schools largely for indigenous children that were mostly run by the Catholic Church with federal government funding. The schools were notoriously cruel and long faced allegations that children had been abused or went missing under their care.

To date, over 1,300 unmarked graves have been found at four former residential schools across Canada, a fraction of the over 130 that used to exist.

Forest, of the St. Boniface archdiocese in Winnipeg, was standing in for a couple of weeks while the main priest at his church was away. During that time, Forest told parishioners that victims of the residential schools, particularly those sexually abused, had lied.

“If [the victims] wanted extra money, from the money that was given to them, they had to lie sometimes — lie that they were abused sexually and, oop, another $50,000,” he said.

“It’s kind of hard if you’re poor not to lie.”

In that same sermon, he also added that during his time with Inuit groups in the north of the country, most had allegedly said they appreciated the residential school system. Instead, he said they blamed any abuses on lay people working at the facilities rather than priests or nuns.

Forest’s comments drew a ton of backlash, prompting the archdiocese to place Forest on leave. A spokesperson for the archdiocese said that the institution “completely disavow” Forest’s comments, adding, “We very much regret the pain they may have caused to many people, not least of course Indigenous people and, more specifically, survivors of the Residential School system.”

Overall, the archdiocese has attempted to apologize to indigenous communities for its part in the residential school system, with Archbishop Albert Legatt saying in a video that the way forward was by “acknowledging, apologizing, and acting” on terms set by indigenous groups.

Church Allegedly Kept Money From Victims

Forest’s views and subsequent dismissal aren’t the only public relations scandal the Roman Catholic Church faces in Canada.

According to documents obtained by CBC News, the Church spent over a decade avoiding paying out money to survivors per a 2005 agreement. At the time, it, alongside the protestant churches that also ran some residential schools, agreed to pay an amount to victims of the schools in the tens of millions.

Instead, according to an internal summary of 2015 court documents, the Catholic Church spent much of that money on lawyers, administration, a private fundraising company, and unapproved loans. It seems that some of this was technically legal, such as a promise to give tens of millions back via “in-kind” services; however, there was no audit completed to confirm that these services actually happened or to prove the alleged value of the services. This led to doubts about whether or not they were done effectively.

The Catholic Church was unique among the signatory churches in the 2005 agreement with its efforts to avoid paying victims. All of the other denominations paid out their sums many years before without issues.

While priests such as Father Forest have supported the Church, there has been internal backlash. Father André Poilièvre, a Saskatoon priest and Order of Canada recipient, said the Church’s actions are “scandalous” and “really shameful,” adding, “It was a loophole. It might be legal, but it’s not ethical.”

With these latest revelations, widespread anger at the Church has triggered allegations that indigenous groups are behind a spree of church burnings across the country.

The entire situation is likely going to continue to smolder as a government commission set up to investigate the schools estimates there will be thousands of more unmarked graves found across Canada.

See what others are saying: (CBC News) (The Guardian) (CTV News)

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Tokyo Sets Back-to-Back Records for Number of Daily COVID-19 Cases

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Some positive cases were detected among people attending the Olympic Games, including a handful of athletes.


Cases Going Up

The Tokyo Olympic Games found itself in more controversy on Wednesday after Tokyo experienced a record number of daily COVID-19 cases for the second day in a row.

On Tuesday, the city recorded 2,848 new cases of the virus, passing the 2,500 daily new case threshold for the first time since the pandemic began. Then on Wednesday, it shattered the record again with 3,177 new COVID-19 cases.

At least 155 of those new cases were detected among people attending the Games, including a handful of athletes, which contrasts Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide’s promise that the Olympics wouldn’t be hit with the virus. The spike in new cases has largely been attributed to the delta-variant, something that many countries are dealing with around the world.

Nishimura Yasutoshi, a Japanese economic minister, told a parliamentary panel this week that COVID-19 cases are expected to continue rising for at least a few days. He also explained that many people may have delayed getting tested last week due to holidays, therefore inflating total daily new case numbers.

Governors in prefectures around Tokyo have moved to ask the government for states-of-emergency, which Tokyo is already under.

Doubts About Government Response

The prime minister said in a press conference on Tuesday that “the government has secured a new drug that reduces the risk of serious illness by 70 percent,” adding, “we have confirmed that this drug will be used thoroughly from now on.”

However, he never actually mentioned what drug he was referencing.

“In any case, under these circumstances, I would like to ask the people to avoid going out unnecessarily and to watch the Olympics and Paralympics on TV,” Suga continued.

He also stressed that canceling the Olympics amid the outbreak was completely out of the question, although there have been continued calls from the public and opposition lawmakers for just that.

Beyond refusing to cancel the Games, Suga is facing backlash for refusing to enact strict state-of-emergency protocols. Currently, the measures in Tokyo are almost all voluntary and consist of asking people to stay home, along with requesting restaurants that serve alcohol to completely close and telling all others to shut down by 8 p.m.

See what others are saying: (Reuters) (NPR) (The Wall Street Journal)

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