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Satchu's Rich Wrap-Up
 
 
Thursday 12th of September 2019
 
Morning
Africa


The Latest Daily PodCast can be found here on the Front Page of the site
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Macro Thoughts

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Operation Yellowhammer @Independent
Law & Politics


The Operation Yellowhammer paper released after Boris Johnson’s
failure to fend off an emergency Commons motion on Monday confirms
that ministers are planning for the possibility of two-and-a-half day
delays at Channel ports, food price hikes affecting vulnerable people,
public disorder and disruption to medicine supplies.
But the official five-page “reasonable worst-case planning
assumptions” released hours before the Wednesday-evening deadline set
by MPs was little changed from the leaked version, other than its
title, which previously stated that it was a “base scenario”.

It warns that:

Up to 85 per cent of lorries will be unprepared for new customs checks
imposed by France on day one after a no-deal Brexit;
Queues at Channel ports could reduce the flow of trucks to 40-60 per
cent of current levels within a day, with the worst disruption lasting
up to three months. Even after that time traffic flows may reach only
50-70 per cent of current flow levels and delays could continue for
“significantly longer”;
Disruption in the ports will cause “significant” queues in Kent and
other routes to France and will have an impact on the supply of
medicines and medical supplies;
There will not be “an overall shortage of food” in the UK, but the
choice of products will reduce and prices increase. Low income groups
will be “disproportionately affected by any price rises in food and
fuel”;
Shortages of chemicals could affect the supply of clean water to
hundreds of thousands of people, requiring “urgent action”, though the
risk of this is rated “low”.

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The new battle in Hong Kong isn't on the streets: it's in the apps @techreview
Law & Politics


Activists are using Airdrop, livestreams, and innovative maps to keep
their protest alive. But the authorities have plenty of tech of their
own.
Alice had been marching for hours by the time she got home on the
evening of July 21. It was a Sunday, and the sweltering heat of a Hong
Kong summer had left her exhausted and jittery.
Still, she was transfixed by her phone, which had been buzzing the
entire subway ride.
It was pinging with news alerts about a group of protesters who had
split from the peaceful procession and were facing off against riot
police.
On arriving at her apartment, she opened her laptop and fired up a
website that displayed a dizzying nine separate live shots from
different news outlets.
One stream in particular caught her eye, showing chaos at a nearby
railway station.
She could see men armed with clubs who were terrorizing train
passengers, bursting into subway cars and bludgeoning bystanders who
were kneeling on the floor begging for mercy.
The live stream was gripping and horrifying: Alice felt as if she were
in the middle of the station. She flinched and screamed when an
attacker in a pink shirt hit a reporter who was filming from her cell
phone.
Despite being beaten to the floor by the blows, the journalist kept on
filming and narrating the scene as she got back on her feet.
When the police arrived, Alice saw passengers screaming at them for
turning up only when the violence was over. The crowd’s anger swelled,
and the officers eventually retreated.
“I know I wasn’t there,” Alice, who asked to be identified only by the
English name she uses because of fears for her safety, told me
recently.
“But the experience was deeply visceral. I could feel the mood and the
tension in the station, of how angry everyone was at the police in
real time. There were moments where it felt like the police would also
start beating people. And the reporter narrating, shouting questions …
she sounded like she could be me.”
Hong Kong is famous for its souk-like electronics malls, and it’s
blanketed with high-speed internet. So when protests broke out in June
over plans to implement a controversial extradition law—which would
see Hong Kongers accused of crimes turned over to mainland China’s
notoriously opaque justice system—it was natural that many people
turned to online services for more information and guidance.
Some of these methods have already been heavily documented. Everything
from supplies of food and water to press conferences are put together
in the chat app Telegram, for example.
Meanwhile, LIHKG, a Reddit-like forum that is limited to local ISPs,
provides a sandbox of ideas where a network of anonymous citizens can
exchange memes, protest schedules, and tactics.
Online polls often dictate the location of the next traffic-disrupting
flash mob.
"The audience doesn’t want well-packaged shot—they want to feel what
it’s like to be on the ground, in the most dangerous situation."
And, as in many protests in the past, a small army of journalists and
activists have been live-streaming everything from major marches to
minor spats with police.
The raw videos tap into local media habits—many people leave live
streams playing in the background while they cook dinner or hang out
with friends—and help create a sense of solidarity and belonging, even
among those who are not on the streets themselves.
Gwyneth Ho, the reporter for Stand News who was attacked for holding
the camera that Alice was watching that night, says it creates a very
direct connection for many viewers.
“We disregard quality and framing, but we’re in the middle of the
protesters and even the police, and people get really immersed in the
scene,” she says. “The audience doesn’t want well-packaged shots—they
want to feel what it’s like to be on the ground, in the most dangerous
situation.”
She adds, “A lot of people have told me it was like a VR experience of
getting beaten.”
The protestors are protesting the suspected collusion with Triads from
last weeks Yuen Long West Rail station attacks on protestors and
civilians.
Video footage has been important to protest movements many times
before, of course, and social media and online messaging have been
influential elsewhere as well—including the Arab Spring protests that
spread around the Middle East and North Africa in the early 2010s. But
Hong Kong has developed some of its own techniques, too.
Several teams of volunteers have started constructing and sharing live
maps to help those on the ground during demonstrations.
They’re the brainchild of a man who goes by Orca, an educator in his 40s.
He was spurred into action after seeing “massive panic and lots of
anxiety” during one protest that gave rise to clashes in a high-end
shopping mall (“No one knew where the police were or how they could
get to an escape route,” he told me. “So our team began planning to
map out the next big rally the following week.”)
Now Orca and his team publish dozens of maps during large
demonstrations, updating positions with colors to show the location of
police, “thugs,” and protesters, plus icons to signify first aid,
rest, and supply stations.
All of this is put together by on-the-ground volunteers who draw the
information out on a blank map on their iPads, and send it to an
“integrator” who compares the data with news from live streams and
television stations before putting it all together and sending it out
over Telegram or Apple’s AirDrop file transfer service.
During one rally, an estimated 600,000 people downloaded maps put out
by Orca’s team, just one of three mapping services created during the
protests.
Alice—who has used Orca’s maps on several occasions—never thought her
involvement would extend beyond the occasional march. But something
changed after she watched the subway rampage.
In the days that followed, she spent her daily commute AirDropping
protest art and information about the attack to anyone with an open
connection.
A week later she marched in her first unauthorized assembly, in the
suburb where the train attacks unfolded.
She began donating the little money she could spare to an online
fund-raiser helping pay arrested protesters’ legal fees, and after
being tear-gassed by police herself, she donated boxes of gas mask
filters.
She would leave spare change on top of subway ticket machines,
allowing protesters to buy single-use tickets to avoid being tracked.
Then, three weeks after she watched the train station attack, Alice
decided her contributions needed to become more direct.
During one of the most violent weekends so far, she joined the crowd,
carrying a rucksack filled with supplies: bandages, water, snacks, and
filters for gas masks.
When she saw a call on Telegram, she rushed forward toward police
lines for the first time, opened her bag to those in need, and quickly
retreated, checking Orca’s maps to avoid running into police.
On August 24, Alice looked over a crowd of demonstrators gathered
around one of the 50 smart lampposts that had been installed around
the city since June.
Each one—and another 350 are on order—is stuffed with cameras and
surveillance equipment. Posts on Telegram had told her about the
action that was set to unfold, and she watched as other activists took
power tools to its base.
Alice could no longer call herself a passive participant. She was
dressed in what has become the uniform among demonstrators: black from
head to toe, her face obscured by a black surgical mask and a black
baseball cap.
The towering metal pole fell with a loud clunk, and the crowd erupted
in cheers. Protesters immediately descended on the lamppost and began
pulling out components, photographing manufacturer and component
details and uploading the information.
Demosisto, a pro-democracy political party, published a quick analysis
of each component.
"This moment is our last chance to fight for Hong Kong, or the next
generation won’t even know what privacy is."
Lokman Tsui, an assistant professor at the Chinese University of Hong
Kong and the former head of free expression in Asia at Google, says
that while technology has been crucial in building support for the
movement, many have shifted the focus of their efforts to outsmart the
government.
“In the past few months people have educated themselves incredibly
quickly on end-to-end encryption, only buying single-use transit
cards, and the dangers of widespread surveillance,” he says.
Police have arrested over 1,100 people in the last three months and
have become increasingly aggressive in their tactics. Protesters are
worried, and their behavior—from attacking CCTV cameras by
spray-painting them or smashing them with metal poles to finding ways
to avoid communicating with each other over unencrypted
services—reflects their reaction to this situation.
Tsui coauthored a paper this year showing how many types of data Hong
Kong’s telecommunications companies do not consider to be personal and
protected, including a user’s geolocation and IP addresses, as well as
the information on websites visited.
This interpretation, which was made privately by the companies
themselves and has not been challenged in court, means that police do
not need a warrant to request, say, a list of subscribers who were in
a certain place at a certain time.
Information collected by Hong Kong authorities could also be handed
over to China, Tsui added, since there is no formal agreement defining
what can and cannot be shared.
Protesters have become so wary of sharing any identifying information
that no one directly involved in the protests agreed to be identified
by name.
Orca would only conduct an interview over Telegram; Alice asked she be
referred to by her English name, which is not on her official ID card.
Alice does not even know the real names of several friends she’s made
at the protests. When they message on Telegram, they use their
aliases—all English pseudonyms.
Even though they are anonymous, anyone who is arrested is cut out of
the group for fear that police could compromise their phones.
Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s chief executive, recently announced she
planned to formally withdraw the extradition bill, meeting one of the
protesters’ five key demands.
(Their other requests: Lam’s departure, democratic elections, an
independent investigation into police actions, and amnesty for those
already arrested.)
But the move seems unlikely to placate the public.
Protests continue, with privacy issues and the police—who have faced
many allegations about excessive use of force—now the focus of anger.
The mood was felt almost immediately after Lam’s announcement, not in
people taking to the streets but in online posts echoing a popular
protest chant: “Five demands, not one less.”
With no end in sight, Lam has considered invoking emergency powers,
according to local media. One of her first targets would likely be the
apps that protesters use to organize.
The mere suggestion was so divisive that members of Lam’s cabinet
warned her against the move, and the Hong Kong Internet Service
Providers Association declared that “any such restrictions, however
slight originally, would start the end of the open Internet of Hong
Kong.”
The Chinese government’s concern is that the internet is also the most
likely way the Hong Kong protests could spread to the rest of the
country.
This scenario terrifies Chinese leaders: strict censorship rules have
been issued, and border guards regularly check the phones of people
traveling from Hong Kong for any sign of protest photos or videos.
After Lam’s announcement that she would withdraw the extradition bill,
posts on Chinese social media wondered why those elsewhere in China
face jail time for even a hint of dissent.
The messages quickly disappeared, and search results were replaced
with a message warning that the query “does not comply with relevant
regulations.”
But amid attempts by the Chinese government to deter protesters by
releasing viral clips on Twitter threatening a military crackdown,
there is little sign Hong Kongers are cowed.
Alice feels that their collective efforts are leveling the playing
field between the government and demonstrators.
“When the government lies to the people every week, every day, we
cannot trust their promises or that they will follow the law,” she
says. “This moment is our last chance to fight for Hong Kong, or the
next generation won’t even know what privacy is.
“The government uses an old playbook, but we have created whole new
ways of resisting. And if we didn’t stand up and [we] let Hong Kong
become just another Chinese city, all that creativity would be snuffed
out.”

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Kashmir switched off
Law & Politics


It is the afternoon of 15 August 2019. We sit numb in our rented
apartment in Delhi. While mainstream Indian media busies itself
digging the wounds of Kashmir, barely any news has been allowed to
escape the mountains since 5 August 2019.
We haven’t been home in a long time. “What is the cost of making it
home?” a friend asks. Nobody really has an answer. Whatever the cost,
we decide to go home – to see what is really happening.
The next day, we take the morning flight to Srinagar. Over six days,
we travel about 280 miles across Kashmir, covering five districts. Our
journey – in parts made on foot, sometimes hitching a ride in
ambulances, but mostly in private cars of friends, acquaintances and
complete strangers – is a personal one, in search of truth and
meaning.
***
On 5 August 2019, the home minister of India, Amit Shah, rose from his
seat in Parliament to make “important announcements” regarding
Kashmir. Everyone paid attention. The events that preceded his speech
were telling: people in Kashmir were asked to buy essentials in bulk,
colleges and universities were ordered to shut down.
Non-Kashmiri students, labourers, tourists and Amarnath Yatra pilgrims
were asked to leave Kashmir immediately; buses and flights had already
been arranged.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had been preparing for this moment
for a long time. It is less a political milestone and more a
fulfilling of an ideological commitment, for the party, which won an
absolute majority in the 2019 elections and has since shown little
regard for democratic process.
The restoration of “Hindu pride” is at the heart of the Hindu
nationalist project in Kashmir. According to Hindutva ideology, taking
control of Muslim lands – just as the ‘Muslim invaders’ once did when
they ruled over the Hindus – is part of a broader civilisational
quest.
The abrogation of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, that gave
Kashmir its special status, was, therefore, one of the key nationalist
issues – together with the construction of the Ram Mandir at the site
of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya – for which the BJP and its ideological
head the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) have fought.
In a historic speech delivered in 1952, founder of the Bharatiya Jana
Sangh – which later became the BJP – Shyama Prasad Mukherjee declared:
“Ek desh mein do vidhan, do pradhan aur do nishan nahi chalenge” (One
country can’t have two constitutions, two prime ministers and two
flags). Ek nishan, ek vidhan, ek pradhan – one flag, one constitution
and one prime minister – has since been the driving slogan of the
Sangh Parivar in relation to Kashmir. With the abrogation of Article
370, some commented that Mukherjee’s dream had finally been realised.
On 4 August 2019, a day before Shah’s announcement, after the last
non-Kashmiri civilian was vacated from the region, the government of
India pulled the plug from Jammu & Kashmir (J & K).
Landlines were blocked, internet connectivity snapped, mobile networks
jammed, cable television shut down, and newspapers taken out of
circulation. The FM radio played songs from Delhi on loop.
Additional companies of the Indian paramilitary were deployed to
ensure everything happened as per plan and force was used in any
instance of resistance. Kashmir was effectively under siege, but the
government had already employed its go-to line – that Pakistan was
planning a terrorist attack on the yatra.
Since the threat purportedly came from Pakistan, everybody in India
was forced to fall in line – the media, academia, and civil society.
People in Kashmir sensed what was coming. The talk of the possible
abrogation of Article 370 was already on the streets. But when Mr Shah
announced the proposal for the amendments to Article 370, very few in
Kashmir knew what was happening in New Delhi.
 Not only were they subjected to a complete communications blackout,
they were simultaneously barred from moving out of their houses.
***
Minutes before landing in Srinagar, the summer capital of
Indian-administered J & K, the airplane attendants urge us to lower
the window shades. “Because of the current situation in Srinagar the
government has ordered to lower the window shades till we land,” an
attendant tells us upon enquiry.
We arrive at Srinagar International Airport on the first flight of the
day. Photography is not allowed here because it is a defence airport.
The Indian army and the Air Force are stationed inside. Outside, no
buses are available. We are lucky; a friend who was on the same flight
is expecting her brother.
In a few minutes she spots him and we are offered a lift to Humhama.
We are supposed to deliver some medicine to a friend’s asthmatic
father in a village nearby. However, we are not allowed to move in
that direction, so we begin walking towards Srinagar.
Indian paramilitary personnel are the only other people on the road.
We walk some distance until an auto rickshaw pulls over. “I went to
the airport to call my daughter. She studies medicine in Bangladesh. I
haven’t been able to talk to her since the 4 August,” he tells us.
He has been going to the airport for days in the hope of finding a
telephone. “People in the city said phones are working only at the
airport. Do you have any idea?” he asks us. We do not.
He drops us at an intersection leading to Varmul in the north of
Kashmir and Islamabad (Anantnag) in the south. It is a Friday;
restrictions are more stringent and entry into Srinagar city is
strictly regulated.
Going in would require walking past countless security checks, being
subject to frisking and random questioning, and could even lead to
detention, we are told. Instead of risking that, we decide to go in
whichever direction that we find a cab to take us.
We find a cab that takes us south and we reach Islamabad by lunchtime
after crossing a number of military check posts erected along the
highway, and past dozens of convoy trucks moving into the city. Shops
in Islamabad are all closed. So are the banks.
The entire area is acutely militarised. There are close to a dozen
paramilitary personnel at the entry points of every street. With them
are also about two or three J & K police personnel. None of the
policemen are carrying a gun. They have only been given batons.
The government in Delhi was anticipating a rebellion within the ranks
of the J & K police force. When Amit Shah walked into Parliament on 5
August, he was spotted carrying a folder.
A visible sheet of paper from the folder carried some points of order.
Point number 15 read: “Possibility of violent disobedience in sections
of uniformed personnel”.
Concertina wire had effectively remapped the entire town of Islamabad.
We are allowed entry at one point, but not allowed to exit from the
same point.
The situation in Srinagar, according to reports, is worse. Regarding
the extent of blockade and surveillance there, the Associated Press
(AP) reported:
“Amid the labyrinth whose entry and exit points are changed
frequently, people find themselves disoriented in their own city, and
struggle to memorise its frequently changing street map”.
We produce our air tickets every time we are stopped by the
paramilitary troops. At Khanabal Chowk, Islamabad, a moustached member
of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) hurls abuse at us as we
walk past a barricade. There is aggression in his eyes. We pass
without engaging.
We then walk around three miles to reach, unannounced, at a friend’s
doorstep. His parents look puzzled. Since it’s a Friday, the
paramilitary forces are expecting protests. People are not allowed to
pray in mosques where congregations can become large enough to
challenge the forces.
Hours after Friday prayers, restrictions are eased. We leave the house
and try speaking to the people.
A few pharmacies adjacent to the hospital have their shutters
half-open. A chemist from one of these shops says he has run out of
psychiatric drugs.
“People have been frequenting my pharmacy more these days. They
complain of depression and sleeplessness” he says. “We have been
lucky,” remarks an elderly man in his 70s from the neighbouring shop.
“Our victory in this has been [that] we didn’t let them kill anyone of
us”. The fight against India, he says, is now going to be a long one
“and we need people to live for that.”
Almost all political leaders in Islamabad have been arrested. Those
who belong to pro-India political parties are placed in the local,
government-run guesthouses called Dak Bungalows. Many others,
including former members of the legislative assembly, have been
shifted to Srinagar. We are told that their families have been denied
access.
The resistance leadership and civil-society activists have either been
sent to jails outside Kashmir or to district jails across Kashmir.
The young men who are routinely rounded up on charges of
stone-throwing are mostly kept in cramped rooms in local jails and
sub-jails. Their numbers are not known.
The government has said they don’t have a centralised data system to
know the exact number of arrests and detentions. According to a recent
AP report, numbers could be as high as 4000 or more.
“If you are popular in your friends’ circle, you are being picked up,”
a radio jockey tells us while talking about the mass arrests.
“The police don’t want anyone with a modicum of consciousness left
free,” says a political activist who is on the run. He has been
evading arrest by continuously changing his location.
“I don’t go home. I have been spending nights at different places;
sometimes I crash at friends’ houses and on other occasions I surprise
my relatives,” he says.
It is close to ten in the night. We walk miles through the meandering
lanes of Bakshiabad to meet a prominent local journalist, to gain a
better sense of the impact of the communications blackout.
“I have not been able to file a single story since 4 August. It isn’t
possible to go out and report,” he says.
The district administration has also largely denied local journalists
a movement pass. “Since the phone lines are down I can’t reach my
editor.
I’m not sure if my organisation has been printing anything these
days,” he says. It was only two days later, when we reached Srinagar,
that we found out Greater Kashmir – the newspaper he worked for – was
printing only two pages, and mostly carrying government press releases
as news.
Half of the last page was dedicated to informing people about the
cancellation of wedding ceremonies.
***
It has been raining incessantly since midnight. We convince a friend
that the highway is clear for military convoys, and that private cars
are also allowed. He agrees to drop us at Vejbeour, the hometown of
former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti.
Two military trucks are stationed at the entry point. Some locals sit
tentatively outside a closed shop and observe us passing through. We
reach a small colony in the heart of Vejbeour in search of a
journalist who works for the local English daily, Rising Kashmir, and
a professor. We find the professor.
There is a wedding scheduled in two weeks, but the arrangements have
been cut short. The professor’s younger brother is getting married.
“There will be no wazwan,” he tells us with obvious disappointment.
“We just want to take care of the formalities.”
August-September is the wedding season in Kashmir and hundreds of
wedding ceremonies have had to be cancelled.
“The scrapping of Article 370 wasn’t a surprise for Kashmir. It did
not happen abruptly. The state administration can claim it was
following orders, but that is an abasing defence even by its own
mediocre standards.
They issued orders that created war-like hysteria in the entire
region,” the professor explains.
On the evening of 17 August, we reach Mahind – a small village some
five miles south of Vejbeour. Every evening, the menfolk of this
village gather at a place they call “assembly”, near the local
graveyard.
Such assemblies are a common feature across Kashmir in times like
these. People sit in shop fronts and discuss the political
developments of the day. References are generally made to news
broadcasts from the BBC, Al Jazeera, and Voice of America.
As we get out of the car, a group of men are facing the graveyard
making dua with raised hands. There are six marked graves in front of
them, separated from the rest of the graveyard. A collective epitaph
details the gory story of a massacre.
On 19 January 1994, six members of a family in the immediate
neighborhood were burnt alive by the Indian military for allegedly
hosting a dinner for militants the day before.
Three among the massacred were children. The International People’s
Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice in Kashmir (ITPK) and the
Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP)
in their 2015 report, titled ‘Structures of Violence – The Indian
State in Jammu and Kashmir’, listed this incident amongst 49 cases of
mass violence perpetrated by the Indian armed forces between 1989 and
2006.
“You have come from the 21st century,” a banker says casually to us.
Slowly, a small group gathers around us, eager to find out what is
happening in the outside world. The Indian state has cut off all news
and information.
People are completely unaware of what is happening around them. They
have no news from adjacent villages, let alone from around the world.
***
In the wee hours of the next morning we leave for Srinagar. We stop at
the residence of a prominent human-rights defender, Khurram Parvez. He
is also largely unaware of the situation in and around the city and is
forced to depend on conjecture.
“I don’t have any news of my colleagues,” he says. “People have been
summarily detained and I am not sure who is out and who is not.”
Khurram was previously booked under the Public Safety Act (PSA); the
order was later quashed after an outcry from international
human-rights organisations.
We walk through an eerie, graveyard-like, silent city centre to reach
Shri Maharaja Hari Singh (SMHS) Hospital. The hospital has a
surprisingly low number of patients.
The paediatric ward is absolutely empty. Ward number 8, where pellet
victims are treated, has only four patients with pellet injuries.
“We came here only this morning, they will discharge us by evening,”
one of the patients tells us. “They are not keeping pellet-hit people
here for too long,” an attendant says.
The government has prevented reporters from gaining real-time access
to data and information. “Each day, five to ten patients are brought
here,” a paramedic tells us, wishing not to be identified. “Keeping
them here for a night or longer attracts attention. The government
does not want that,” he explains.
On our way back to the city centre, we run into a researcher who works
for the Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Societies (JKCCS). He
doesn’t have access to information either. “Nobody here is ready to
talk. We are living under an emergency where anyone can be arrested
without charges,” he says, as we keep walking towards Kashmir Press
Club.
The derogation of Articles 370 and 35A has only cemented the fears
Kashmiris have always grappled with. This fear and anxiety has tricked
down even to the children. “
Soun parun gou zaaye” (Our studies are of no use now), says a
ten-year-old, walking outside the hospital gates with her parents,
when she hears our conversation about 370 and 35A.
Her fears are not completely unfounded. The abrogation of Article 35A
means that non-locals can buy and own property in J & K.
This, many argue, is an attempt by the Indian state to change the
demographic composition of the place by enabling an overwhelming
influx of non-Muslims.
We hear people drawing parallels between Israel and India employing
similar tactics of repression, state violence and demographic change.
“Yath gaschi waen tei, Hindustan banayi waen Israelek paenth yati
colony. (This is moving in the same direction. Like Israel does in
Palestine, India is now going to have settler colonies here in
Kashmir),” a trade union member remarks.
There have also been reports of Israeli army contractors possibly
being involved in setting up a large surveillance network in Srinagar.
As we continue, we encounter a few civilians walking across the road.
They are moving with a strange haste. “Where are you heading?” the
researcher asks one of them.
“Gobra, majbori chem. Nat kyati nerha ghari.” (Son, I have to attend
an emergency. Why else would one leave home these days?) the old man
says and keeps walking.
***
At the Press Club, journalists have just started coming in. We meet
several reporters there who tell us about the difficulties of
reporting in the present situation. “Downtown is out of bounds for
us,”  says a reporter who works for a New Delhi-based online portal.
“How is the press in India reporting on Kashmir?” another one asks us.
“Since the clampdown, I feel I am the most uninformed person around.”
We come across three local newspapers printed today. They are only
carrying government press releases. We turn the pages and find the
editorial of the day to be on science and the natural environment.
Kashmir is familiar with a particular kind of ‘parachute journalism’,
where selected reporters are flown in to report a story the way the
government wants it to be reported.
Unjustified curbs on the media are also not new, and are put in place
whenever the Indian state wants to prevent the truth from coming out.
This time, however, the preparations have been more meticulous.
Months before, the editors of two leading English dailies – Greater
Kashmir and the Kashmir Reader – were questioned by the National
Investigation Agency (NIA) about stories and opinion pieces their
newspapers published in 2016.
They were also accused of being part of a terror-funding network. In
addition, a blanket ban on government advertisements in the newspapers
was enforced in a bid to hurt the newspapers financially. All this was
done to force the two media organisations – and, by extension, others
– into silence.
As the day progresses, we move towards Batmaleun – arguably Kashmir’s
busiest location. There we hope to find someone to give us a lift.
There are no hawkers, no vegetable sellers, not even the sound of bus
conductors. We are lucky to find a cab.
“We were at the hospital with a patient from Varmul and now we are
going back. You are not going to find any other cab here,” the man
sitting in the front seat tells us, while offering us a lift.
We reach Varmul at two in the afternoon. We look for all the places we
know, to find something to eat, but the market is shut. Even
pharmacies are closed. We walk across the cement bridge over Jhelum to
reach the Old Town.
We find that no one is allowed to move in or out of this congested
locality. This siege, however, isn’t unprecedented for the people of
Old Town. For decades, this has been the centre of resistance in all
of Varmul town.
We wait on the Varmul-Handwour Highway for anything that can take us
to Peraspore, a small village in Rafiabad. Around an hour later, an
ambulance stops after people wave at the driver.
Close to fifteen people hop on, including the three of us. Most of
these people are patients, returning from clinics and hospitals after
failed attempts at seeing their doctors.
As we get out of the ambulance at Peraspore, a young man shouts at us:
“Hey you are home, everyone is so worried here”. We assume he is
pulling a prank on one of us, Basharat.
We continue to walk on the road leading to the village, without
acknowledging him. But every person we pass greets us with an
unnecessary delight. There is something we don’t know.
The day we left Delhi, Basharat’s maternal uncle had called him on
this cell phone. Not being able to get through, he had called
Basharat’s sister who had informed him that Basharat would be home by
evening. When we hadn’t reached even after three days, the entire
village had assumed the worst.
In Kashmir’s complex political spectrum, Peraspore is a paradox. It
has always been pro-India and voter turnout during assembly elections
has been as high as 90 percent. Now, there appears to be a clear
shift:
“In our village, Pakistan is now a compulsory subject, just like
English language in schools,” a young person remarks. This change of
political mood is telling. From the youngsters on a volleyball field
in the village we hear about atrocities being committed by an Indian
army officer stationed at the Watergam army camp.
The fight for freedom is a fight for space. In Kashmir, the control of
streets is an indicator of freedom. If people control streets, by way
of simple movement or protests, they are free.
The Indian state has always tried to position its troops at locations
which make the nearby streets easily accessible to them, more
accessible than the streets are for fire response, emergency and
health services.
In times like these, the Indian army, and other arms of the security
grid, demonstrate their control over the streets through the
perpetration of absolute violence on the locals.
Most of the youngsters we talk with at the volleyball field in
Peraspore have remained confined to their village for fear of
encountering security officers.
We decide to visit the adjacent village of Chijhoum to find out more.
We meet close to a dozen people who tell us that an Indian army
officer had got into a fight with a local police officer for allowing
a biker to pass through the roadblock.
“He also beat up one of the escorts of the local SHO [station house
officer],” says a shopkeeper sitting outside his shop. “The escalation
was eventually prevented after the army officer was transferred to
some other place,” a district administration officer informs us.
There have been credible reports in the international media of fights
between the J & K police and Indian soldiers after some of the local
police forces were disarmed. Over the years, the J & K Police has been
used as a counterinsurgency force, leading encounters with militants
and responding to the civilian protests in 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2016
that resulted in hundreds of killings and injuries, and thousands of
detentions. The latest move by the Indian state has left them feeling
‘dispirited’ and unwanted. “At the end of the day, we neither belong
to our own nor are we trusted by higher authorities,” an officer was
quoted as saying to AP.
***
The next morning we ask a friend to drop us at Varmul town where we
meet a senior journalist. “I haven’t been able to report anything
since the clampdown and I am feeling suffocated,” he says with a hint
of anger.
In today’s Kashmir, the distinction between pro-resistance and
pro-India politics has ceased to exist and “Everyone is banking on
Pakistan.”
We depart from the journalist’s residence, hoping to make it to Old
Town this time. We find the restrictions still in place.
A paramilitary trooper shouts from a distance, “Go Back”. We don’t
have the liberty to refuse his orders. Ironically, the graffiti on the
brick-wall behind the trooper reads, “Go India, Go Back”.
We hesitantly walk back and rest under the shade of a Chinar tree near
the Varmul maternity hospital. Next to us is a man, perhaps in his
mid-50s. He identifies himself as a schoolteacher.
“How have you been spending your days?” we ask casually.
“I am watching the disgrace of pro-India political parties. They sold
lies to Kashmir for their petty gains. Today they stand exposed,” he
says. Like him, many other people we meet also point out that the
current lockdown has shown the pro-India politicians of Kashmir how
expendable they are for the Indian state.
History is witness to the way the Indian state has created cliental
regimes in Kashmir, who are in power at the will of the government in
New Delhi, carry out its writ in J & K and are then done away with
when the Indian state feels the need to cultivate a new group of
collaborators.
In 1953, Sheikh Abdullah, the then prime minister of J & K was
dismissed by India and jailed for 11 years. Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad was
installed in his place. To the common Kashmiri, this was a blatant
betrayal of trust. Over six decades later, Omar Abdullah has now
spoken of a “betrayal of trust” and Mehbooba Mufti pointed out how
India has been “reduced to an occupational force in Jammu and
Kashmir”. “They want power,” a People’s Democratic Party (PDP) youth
member argues with clear disappointment. “They will forget this
humiliation after a while and start framing their politics within the
argument of statehood now”. Through the decades, these Kashmiri
politicians talked about autonomy and self-rule, and reiterated calls
for the removal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). With
this rhetoric no longer tenable, they are now left with the demand for
statehood, to build their politics on.
Our next destination is Sopur – the hometown of Hurriyat Conference
leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani. This town is known for its staunch
support for the militancy.
From south to north, every town looks similar. Closed markets and
empty streets manned by paramilitary forces. There is nobody to talk
to on the roads. After walking a distance, we spot a vegetable seller
visible on the outskirts of Sopore town.
“Are you coming from India?” he asks, probably noticing our backpacks.
We nod in affirmation.
More questions follow. “Has any country issued a statement on
Kashmir?” he asks and then continues without waiting for our response,
“Only Pakistan would talk about us”. Another person sitting nearby
interjects, “Pakistan can’t do anything. It has its own problems’. The
vegetable seller raises his voice: “It is only because of Pakistan’s
presence and their intervention that Kashmir exists. Had it not been
for her, India would massacre all the Muslims in Kashmir”.
The conversation continues for half-an-hour until a car stops and its
driver offers us a lift. Our next destination is Hardushiva – a
village nestled in the foothills of the Himalaya. Dense forests border
the village to the north and the east, and apple orchards to the west.
On the way to Hardushiva , we have to change our route at three places
because of roadblocks erected by young boys. “We can’t help it. They
[the police and CRPF] come in the night and raid our houses. They have
already picked dozens of youth from this locality,” one of the boys
tells us, as we ask him to let us pass.
We get ourselves dropped-off a few miles away from Hardushiva and
walk. As we enter the house in which we intend to stay, everyone in
the family is surprised. It is difficult to decipher if they are happy
to see us here or not.
“Did they send all Kashmiris back from India?” the family enquires and
the conversation goes on.
After having a cup of nun chai, we set out for Batung – a small
village three miles away from the house we were staying in – to meet
professor Abdul Gani Bhat, executive member of Hurriyat (M), a
resistance group led by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq.
Prof Bhat is the only resistance leader not detained – at least thus
far. He appears circumspect in talking about the current situation. He
instead focuses on the centrality of Kashmir in the larger regional
geopolitics and reiterates the need for dialogue between India and
Pakistan, which involves the aspirations of Kashmiris.
He also cites the importance of the UN Security Council closed-door
meeting on Kashmir that happened on 16 August 2019, after a gap of
around fifty years.
For Bhat, the current clampdown cannot obscure the ‘reality of Kashmir’.
“Information will pile up, people outside will ask questions and
finally it has to come out,” he says.
“India has lost its direction in Kashmir. They have lost the links.
National Conference (NC), PDP and other such parties were their links
in Kashmir. They have lost them as well”.
We ask him about 370 and 35A and he brushes it off as a non-issue. “We
should directly go to the fundamentals of the issue rather than the
offshoots: there are thousands of hectares of land under army control
across Kashmir– they have built huge cantonments. Then there is the
railways and the National Hydroelectric Power Corporation. They have
already taken swathes of Kashmiri land and resources despite 370 and
35A. Indians are guided by emotions and arrogance, taking the position
that Kashmir is an integral part of India – this is not a realistic
position”.
The reaction on Kashmiri streets, the professor argues, should bother
India more. “This is anger with grace,” he says. “They were prepared
to kill, but Kashmir responded maturely”.
***
At nine the next morning, we pack our bags and leave for Bundpur.
Shutters are down. Here- and-there small gatherings of people on the
roads, huddle together – probably discussing the situation they have
no idea about. Much of this public discourse is founded on rumours.
On our way to Bandpur, we meet an officer of the J & K Police. He is
travelling to Srinagar, the location of his posting. He is dismissive
about the obvious suppression and clampdown Kashmir is witnessing. He
also doesn’t admit that the local police have been disarmed.
“It is a normal protocol. In a law and order situation that involves
dealing with public protests, policemen don’t carry guns,” he says. He
is nevertheless worried about some developments in the department.
“Except for three people, all the superintendents of police [SPs] at
the district level are non-Kashmiris. India is making efforts to
ensure that no Kashmiri Muslim is at a decision-making position in the
J & K Police”.
We ask him about the Article 370 and 35A. “The police had an idea
since April this year. All the troop deployment in the recent months
was actually in preparation of a war with Pakistan.”
At Kehnus Bandpur, a stone thrown from a distance by a group of youth
hits our car. They do not want any traffic in the area and have
enforced a kind of spontaneous curfew.
We finally reach our friend’s house at Bandpur. He is a fellow
researcher. His viva dates at the university were announced when we
were in Delhi, but he was unaware of this. We ask him to return with
us to Delhi for his viva.
In Bandpur, we interact with many people, listening to stories of
excessive militarisation, detention and restriction.
“Why aren’t there any large-scale protests?” we ask a young man who is
usually at the forefront of pro-resistance demonstrations
“They have arrested thousands of young boys. The Hurriyat is already
behind bars. They are controlling our Friday prayers. Imams are being
called to the camps regularly. Last week a school teacher was picked
up for casually explaining to a group of villagers what Article 370
was,” he says.
It is three in the afternoon. We head towards Srinagar. On our way,
strangers approach us with Dish TV numbers written on small pieces of
paper; they want their accounts recharged from Delhi.
We reach the press club in Lal Chowk in pursuit of some new
information. We meet journalists and listen to their struggles of
reporting, reaching places amid heavy restrictions and filing stories
from the Sarovar Portico media facilitation centre – a hotel room
where authorities have started an internet facility on four computers
for more than 300 journalists to file their stories.
Late in the evening we drop by a friend’s house in Srinagar,
unannounced, and spend the night there.
***
The next morning our friend joins us and we divide ourselves into two
teams, so that we can reach as many places as possible before boarding
the flight back to Delhi in the evening. The other day, at the press
club, we heard that Saif-u-Din Soz, a senior Congress leader in
Kashmir, had not been detained, so we decide to try and meet him.
We reach his residence only to find that he has been placed under
house arrest. Despite requests, the police officers watching over his
residence do not allow us to meet him.
We leave and to go to the J & K High Court. There are few people
inside the court premises and only two courtrooms are in session. We
spot Shabnam Gani Lone in the lounge area. She is there to file a
petition on behalf of her mother, who has not been allowed to meet
Sajad Lone, Chairman of the Jammu Kashmir Peoples Conference.
“I am under tremendous pressure to not file this petition, but I will
go ahead,” she tells us and desists from engaging in further
conversation.
We meet the son of former Kashmir High Court Bar Association president
Nazir Ahmad Ronga, who has been detained under the PSA. He shows us a
dossier. Among the grounds for his father’s detention: raising
awareness and “being vocal about 370”.
There is very little activity inside the usually bustling court. So we
decide to visit Chashma Shahi, a government guesthouse that has been
turned into sub-jail housing for some of the pro-India politicians.
We mobilise some contacts to help us connect to Chashma Shahi. A
senior journalist tells us that it’s a futile plan as he had himself
tried a few times. We abandon the idea.
***
It is impossible accurately to predict an outbreak of mass violence,
particularly in a conflicted region like Kashmir, where bloodshed is a
normal affair. In the first five months of 2019, more than 100
militants were killed in multiple encounters. Encounters are usually
sites of military confrontation between Indian armed forces and
militants.
But in the recent past, civilians have engaged in stone-throwing at
these sites to help militants escape. These confrontations have also
led to a number of civilian killings, leading to more protests. Thus,
expecting people to explode all at once in response to a structural
change, is a little too far-fetched.
But that doesn’t mean there won’t be a response. Reports coming in
from Srinagar show that large-scale demonstrations have already taken
place. During our travels we also came across several small-scale
‘stone wars’, called ‘twenty-twenty’ in the local parlance.
For now, it looks like Kashmir is waiting for a trigger, or,
conversely, a little space to breathe. Once the forces are withdrawn
from the streets, there is every possibility of things taking a
different turn. That’s exactly the predicament staring the Indian
state in the eye.
After six days of travel, we are only sure about one thing – the
marked uncertainty that the Indian state faces in Kashmir. The
additional deployment of thousands of paramilitary troops patrolling
the street doesn’t seem to be the real reason behind Kashmir’s
unexpected restraint in the face of the abrogation of Article 370.
There is a conscious uniformity in this response. It is a decision to
disown the buffer that Article 370 has represented and with it the
peddling of the Indian narrative in Kashmir.
Despite trying to find meaning in scattered anecdotes, the unease and
uncertainty has not left us. But it is time to leave – so, we pack our
bags and walk back to the airport.

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Currency Markets at a Glance WSJ
World Currencies


Euro 1.1021
Dollar Index 98.599
Japan Yen 107.90
Swiss Franc 0.9922
Pound 1.2332
Aussie 0.6885
India Rupee 71.255
South Korea Won 1184.96
Brazil Real 4.0676
Egypt Pound 16.3998
South Africa Rand 14.66

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Polka-dot dress boosts @ZARA sales in tough retail market @FinancialTimes
World Currencies


The £39.99 polka-dot dress was so popular this summer that it had its
own Instagram account. Wearers say it is comfortable and easy to wear
whether you are tall, short, slim or otherwise and can be worn to the
beach, weddings or work.
It became such a must-have, almost receiving cult status, that it
often sold out and many wearers stopped minding being seen in the same
dress, considering instead that they were part of a club.

read more







South Sudan Leaders Agree to Form Unity Government by Nov. 12 @bpolitics
Africa


South Sudan President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar agreed
to form a transitional government by mid-November as part of a peace
deal aimed at ending a five-year crisis in the oil-rich nation.
“Rest assured that things are going on well,” Kiir told reporters in
the capital, Juba, on Wednesday after meeting Machar. “We are coming
to a solution very soon.”

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21-JAN-2019 :: "money is the most universal and most efficient system of mutual trust ever devised."
Africa


“Money is accordingly a system of mutual trust, and not just any
system of mutual trust: money is the most universal and most efficient
system of mutual trust ever devised.”

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South Africa's unsecured lending boom has left 40% of borrowers in default and millions of people in a debt trap, according to fund manager Differential Capital.
Africa


About 7.8 million of the country’s 60 million residents have taken out
a combined 225 billion rand ($15 billion) of loans without collateral,
mostly for short-term needs such as furniture and urgent family care,
the Johannesburg-based firm said in a report.

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ECONOMY 2019/20 revenue target revised ⬇ by ksh100.6B to ksh2.015T (18.7% of GDP) from ksh2.116T @TonyMurega
Kenyan Economy


2018/19 shortfall cut across all categories. Income taxes ⬇ksh 58.6B
(PAYE ⬇ksh10B)
Fall in PAYE & VAT is evidence of lay offs & reduced consumption.

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@NationMediaGrp share price data
Kenyan Economy


Par Value:                  2.50/-
Closing Price:           39.10
Total Shares Issued:          188542286.00
Market Capitalization:        7,372,003,383
EPS:             5.9
PE:                 6.627

The Trend speaks to a perfect storm of the Switch to Digital [However,
In Africa we have not seen the switch to paid digital subscription
unlike the New York Times and the Washington Post and the FT, for
example]. So there has been a big macro gale force wind and Print has
been in the firing line and the Daily Nation was always the Cash Cow

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@KeEquityBank share price data
Kenyan Economy


Par Value:                  0.50/-
Closing Price:           39.25
Total Shares Issued:          3702777020.00
Market Capitalization:        145,333,998,035
EPS:             5.25
PE:                 7.476

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by Aly Khan Satchu (www.rich.co.ke)
 
 
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September 2019
 
 
 
 
 
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