For the better or worse?

J&K’s 2nd Anniversary

By Insaf

Are the winds of change blowing in Kashmir? Far from it, says the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD). Observing the second anniversary of revocation of Article 370 in Jammu & Kashmir, on Thursday last, members of PAGD claim ‘the situation on the ground is worsening.’In a statement, the PAGD said ‘J&K has been in lockdown since August 2019, the hardline approach of arrests and detentions hasn’t receded in past two years and the clampdown and continuous restrictions on movement and association of people and gagging the media has resulted in a “forced silence.” But Prime Minister Modi tweeted: “A historic day. Two years ago, on this day, the first big step towards a #NewJammuKashmir was taken. Since then, there has been unprecedented peace & progress in the region…” Is he off the mark, as there is disappointment. More so as he had raised hopes after a recent all-party meet with the members, but nothing concrete has come out of it to restore people’s confidence, says the PAGD. Ask the local chambers of commerce and industry, it says as the Centre’s claim of development and investment is hollow. The big question is who will decide whether J&K continues to remain far from Delhi or that it’sdil[heart] of India?

States Disregard SC?
The Supreme Court is aghast. Section 66A of Information and Technology Act 2000, which it declared as unconstitutional, continues to be used by governments! On Monday last, it issued notices to all States, UTs and Registrars General of High Courts, saying “this cannot continue”, while hearing a petition by People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL). The petitioner was too asked to make all States parties to his petition, as police is a State subject. Recall, the apex court had in March, 2015, struck down Section 66A in Shreya Singhal v. Union of India case, saying: the law in its entirety being violative of Article 19(1)(a) and not saved under Article 19(2) clearly “arbitrarily, excessively and disproportionately invades right of free speech and upsets balance between such right and reasonable restrictions that may be imposed on such right”.Given “shocking state of affairs”, the SC asked Centre’s response, which said as police and law and order being State subjects, law enforcement agencies across States share equal responsibility to comply with the ruling. Both Ministries of Electronics and IT and Home had written to States’ Chief Secretaries, UTs administrators and DGPs asking them to sensitise their agencies and direct police not to register cases under the quashed provision.More needs to be done. Where will the buck stop?
N-E Border Skirmishes
All is not well in the north-east. The recent violent skirmishes at Assam-Mizoram border, in which six Assam policemen were killed and over 45 injured, is a cause of concern for North Block. It was jolted to get its act together and had to get the leadership of both States issue a joint statement after a week on Thursday last. The two States agreed to lower tensions and “find lasting solutions to the disputes” through dialogue. But it’s easier said than done. Assam Chief Minister HimantaBiswaSarmaand his Mizo counterpart Zoramthangaagreed to abide by the agreement: maintainpeace in the inter-state border areas, welcomed deployment of neutral forces by Centre; States won’t be allowed to send their forest/police forces for patrolling, domination, enforcement or for fresh deployment to any of the areas where conflict took place between police forces; take all necessary measures to promote, preserve and maintain peace and harmony amongst the people living in the border area, among others. Will peace and harmony be lasting and will governments go all out to honour the agreement? For it’s not the first time that border skirmishes have taken place. The fact is that demarcation of land when States were carved out of Assam, continues to be a sore point with the locals, specially at the border and there is need for the political leadership to have a continuous dialogue and involve them as well. Knee jerk reaction is certainly no solution.
UP Poll Season
The countdown to UP elections has more than begun. While BJP top brass leadership has already started wooing the voter, Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav is realising it’s time to ride the tide. On Thursday last, he embarked on a “cycle yatra” and raise issues such as unemployment, price rise, farm laws and crime rate and not just mark socialist leader Janeshwar Mishra’sbirth anniversary. He is doing what BJP and its Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath are best at – proclaim themselves as winner already. Akhilesh claims SP would win not just 350 seats but 400, given people’s anger. Outstretched, as the Assembly has 403 seats! How will he meet his target? It has already proclaimed not to have any electoral alliance with major political parties (Congress or BSP) but smaller ones. Be that as it may, it’s a long haul before the polls are announced and much could change. BSP too is posturing and its chief Mayawati has ridiculed Akhilesh’s yatra as gaining ‘cheap popularity’. Will SP’s next move of having a ‘Rath Yatra’ in October change minds? What is going to count, however, is the people’s angst against Yogi’s administration and its handling of the second wave of Covid, where lives were lost because of lack of hospital beds and oxygen. The BJP is worried but a lot depends on how the Opposition, including SP,touches the cord of the grieving voters.

Karnataka “Corruption’ Case
No longer in the hot seat and left out in the cold? So seems the case for Karnataka’s former Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa. Having had to step down and hand over the baton to Basavaraj Bommai, he now has to face ‘corruption charges’. The Karnataka High Court has issued notices to him and others, including his son Vijayendra, who is BJP state unit Vice President, to appear before it on August 17 in a case alleging corruption in a housing project. This, after activist Abraham sought the quashing of an order of a lower court, which had dismissed his petition for want of sanction from a competent authority to try Yediyurappa. The petition accuses Yediyurappa and others, including his relatives, of receiving kickbacks from a contractor to restart a stalled Bangalore Development Authority housing project. Though the issue was raised by Congress too in the Assembly in 2020 while moving a no confidence motion, it didn’t lead to anything. However, in the new Cabinet Yediyurappa’s son doesn’t find a place. All eyes rightly should now be on the high profile case. No one should be above law.

Kudos To Odisha
Three cheers to Odisha indeed. It too needs to bask in the glory of the Indian men’s and women’s hockey teams at the Tokyo Olympics. It was the State’s Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, who heralded a new era, when in 2018 his government decided to sponsor both the Indian women’s and men’s hockey teams for five years till 2023. This after Sahara had withdrawn its sponsorship and the Odisha Mining Corporation, stepped in on his instructions to donate Rs 150 crore. It is now being seen that the Rs 20 crore provided to the teams annually has done wonders. Patnaik, an avid hockey player in his school days, sought to spot talent in the sport among tribal youth and also got built infrastructure of international standard. He had said: “Hockey in Odisha is more than a sport; it’s a way of life especially in our tribal regions, where children learn to walk with hockey sticks. No wonder Odisha has produced India’s finest hockey talent.” Importantly, the two Vice Captains of the teams are from his State. Odisha has carved its place and is now at par with Punjab and Jharkhand on the hockey field. Kudos! — INFA