India Insight

Will India’s Kashmir talks offer break fresh ground?

New Delhi said this week it will adopt “quiet diplomacy” with every section of political opinion to find a solution to the problems in India-ruled Kashmir about four years after it opened a dialogue with separatist groups there.

The response to the announcement is on expected lines — the moderates welcoming it and pro-Pakistan hardliners reminding any effort at peace without involving Islamabad would be futile.

New Delhi has not yet made a formal offer for talks. But the timing of the development appears to be significant.

Violence is at a low in Kashmir, elections there were largely successful and last year’s angry public protests against Indian rule have now subsided.

On the other hand, the security situation is at its worst in Pakistan and the war in Afghanistan appears to be in a decisive phase.

Are displaced Kashmiri Hindus returning to their homeland?

Tens of thousands of Kashmiri Hindus, locally known as Pandits, fled their ancestral homes in droves 20 years ago after a bloody rebellion broke out against New Delhi’s rule in India’s only Muslim-majority state.

Now encouraged by the sharp decline in rebel violence across the Himalayan region, authorities have formally launched plans to help Pandits return home.

Will Pandits, who say they “live in exile in different parts of their own country” return to their homeland in Kashmir where two decades of violence has left nothing untouched and brought misery to the scenic region, its people and its once easy-going society?

Is Pakistan still aiding Kashmir militants?

Separatist violence in Kashmir has fallen to its lowest level since an anti-India insurgency began nearly two decades ago.

However, people are still killed in daily firefights and occasional attacks by suspected militants, mostly in rural and mountainous areas.

Is Pakistan still aiding militants fighting Indian troops in Kashmir, despite Islamabad’s assurances and a slow-moving peace process between New Delhi and Islamabad?

Xinjiang – the spreading arc of instability

China’s troubled Xinjiang region shares borders with eight countries, which is perhaps one reason President Hu Jintao dropped out of the G8 summit to head home, underscoring the seriousness of the situation and the need to quickly bring the vast oil-rich region under control.

Xinjiang touches Russia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, besides the Tibet Autonomous Region.

China, as this piece for the Council on Foreign Relations points out, has long been concerned that these states on its periphery both in central and south Asia may be tempted to back a separatist movement in Xinjiang because of the Uighurs’ cultural ties to its neighbours.

Attacks on Indians in Australia: racist or recessionist?

A spate of attacks on Indian students in Melbourne and Sydney has seen the Indian media accuse Australia of being a racist nation.

Newspaper articles warning of a culture of “curry bashings” in Australia have sparked off debate and people around the world have spoken out against the attacks in online forums.

Some insist the majority of attacks may have been purely criminal.

As an Indian studying in the U.S. for the past three years, I am yet to come across any instance of Indians being targeted on the basis of their race.

from Photographers' Blog:

The most difficult thing to shoot in Kashmir…

During nearly two decades of violent Kashmir conflict, I have covered fierce gun battles, between Indian soldiers and Muslim militants, suicide bombings, rebel attacks, massacres, protests, mayhem, violent elections and disasters.

But the question that always comes to mind is "what is the hardest to shoot?'

I always remember protests or riots, clashes between stone throwing protesters and gun-toting Indian troops. Stress levels quickly rise as me and my text colleague, Sheikh Mushtaq, realize that our assignment will not be easy whenever we go out, mostly on Fridays, the day when Muslims offer congregational weekly prayers, which turn into weekly protests against Indian rule in Kashmir.

There is literally no place to hide and shooting is nearly impossible when angry protesters take to the streets and rocks rain down; Indian troops retaliate with tear gas shells, rubber bullets and many times with live ammunition. Most of the time we, with protective gear and camera equipment strapped to our shoulders in backpacks, are stuck in the narrow streets of downtown Srinagar as impatient crowds and ruthless troops battle for hours.

Is caste behind the killing in Vienna and riots in Punjab?

Why did the murder of a preacher in a Sikh temple in Vienna spark riots in the faraway Indian state of Punjab, in which thousands took to the streets to torch cars, trains and battle security forces?

The root cause may lie in India’s caste system that Sikhism officially rejects, but that still grips swathes of India’s billion-plus people, including in Sikh-dominated Punjab state in northwestern India.

“Via Vienna, Sikh caste war returns, sets Punjab aflame” ran the headline of the Hindustan Times.

Is India failing to win hearts and minds in Kashmir?

Is India pushing the ordinary Kashmiri people further away by enforcing regular curfews, putting most of their separatist leaders under house arrest and denying them religious freedom by banning Friday prayers in Kashmir’s Jamia Masjid (grand mosque) on a regular basis to avoid violence?

I travelled to Srinagar, the summer capital of India’s troubled state of Jammu and Kashmir this week, and saw how people were tired of violence and wanted peace and dignity in the region.

Many told me how they felt unhappy each time an incident of violence in a remote corner of the city would scare authorities into shutting down the city and forced them to stay indoors, many without any provisions.

Bihar: after the “Jungle Raj”

“The state government is trying to establish the rule of law…however so mighty someone may be, without any discrimination, whatever their clout is, they will still be put on trial.” 

This is what Neelmani, a senior police officer in Bihar, told me in a recent interview.

He said the “Jungle Raj”, which gave the state a reputation for corruption, kidnappings and crime, is coming to an end.

Cricket in South Asia: critically injured?

This is not the first time cricket or cricketers were targeted in the subcontinent, especially Pakistan.

India’s 1982-83 tour of Pakistan was disrupted after rioting marred the last Test in Karachi. Who can forget the sight of scared cricketers scampering to the pavilion as an angry mob invaded the pitch at the National Stadium.

In May 2002, a car bomb exploded in Karachi in front of the hotel where the New Zealand team was staying, killing 13 people, including 11 French navy experts. New Zealand called off the tour within hours of the attack.

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