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Kashmir: Confusion and alarm as yatras cancelled, Governor tries to reassure, Omar wants clarification in Parliament

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Kashmir: Confusion and alarm as yatras cancelled, Governor tries to reassure, Omar wants clarification in Parliament

Alarm and confusion prevailed in Kashmir after an unprecedented troop build up, cancellation of Machail yatra after Amarnath yatra citing security threat and suspicion that all this was a build-up to withdrawal of special Constitutional provisions relating to Kashmir.

Kashmir is still under President’s rule – euphemism for central rule through the Governor – and statements from the government instead of allaying suspicions have had the contrary effect.

Jammu and Kashmir Governor Satya Pal Malik today (Saturday, Aug 3)  said the state had “no knowledge” of any changes to constitutional provisions. His statement came after a delegation of leaders from the National Conference, led by former chief minister Omar Abdullah, apprised him of the “panic” following the suspension of the Amarnath Yatra and subsequent order for yatris and tourists to leave.

Malik explained that there were “vulnerable” people, who did not know the area and could be targeted in a terrorist or fidayeen attack. “It is the responsibility of the state to provide security to all its citizens.”

On the sudden increase in the deployment of troops, Malik said the security situation has developed in a manner which required “immediate action”.

“There were credible inputs which were available to the security agencies regarding terrorist attacks on the Amarnath Yatra. There has been intensified shelling on the LoC by Pakistan which was responded to effectively by the Army,” the Governor said, adding that it is in this context that the government had issued an advisory asking Yatris and tourists to return as soon as possible.

Also Read: Pak terrorists plan to target Amarnath yatra, sniper rifle & landmine found on route

Abdullah also said that the Governor had “assured” the NC delegation that there were “no preparations” on any announcement on Article 370, 35A or trifurcation of the state.

“We wanted to know about the current situation. When we ask officials, they say something is happening, but nobody knows what is actually happening,” Abdullah said in a press conference post-meeting.

Abdullah said that Malik’s words were not “final” and that he would prefer hearing them from the Centre. “The Governor isn’t the final word on J&K. The final word on J&K is the Government of India. Therefore, I definitely would like to publicly hear from the government that there is nothing people have to worry about.”

He demanded that the government make a statement during the ongoing session of Parliament on the current situation.

A day after cancelling the Amarnath yatra, the J&K administration today suspended the annual Machail Mata pilgrimage in hilly the Kishtwar’s Paddar area adjoining Kashmir Valley.

Machail yatra in Kishtwar’s Paddar area had started last month and it was to continue till September 5. Thousands of people from across the Jammu region visit the temple of Goddess Kaali situated at a height of 9.795 ft above sea level in Paddar area which also has world-famous Sapphire mines located nearby.

The chopper service from Kishtwar to Machail too has been suspended, sources added.

Yesterday, Governor’s administration in an unprecedented decision had suspended Amarnath Yatra 13 days ahead of the schedule, asking pilgrims and tourists in the Valley to leave as early as possible in view of intelligence inputs about terror attacks. The yatra to South Kashmir which had started last month was to culminate on Raksha Bandhan day which falls on August 15.

Unprecedented in the last 30 years of insurgency in Kashmir, these steps have alarmed the people into preparing themselves for emergency. Locals have rushed to stock up on essentials, including petrol, groceries and money from ATMs.

Airlines have waived cancellation charges, tourists are packing up to leave, and even the National Institute of Technology in Srinagar had suspended classes “stands suspended till further orders”.

“We have inputs of a major militant strike on the Yatra and the tourists. There have been some recoveries too, as revealed by the Director General of Police and the Corps Commander in the press conference. That’s why this decision,” Additional DGP (Law and Order) Munir Khan was quoted as saying by The Indian Express (IE).

The seizure of Pak-origin weapons displayed at the press conference yesterday strengthens New Delhi’s case that the terror tap from across the border is still very much open.

There have been conflicting indications from the government before this. Just about a week ago, senior government officials were upbeat about “grassroots democracy” gaining traction in the Valley with panchayats being empowered over the last nine months since elections and were celebrating the fact that yatra pilgrims had breached the numbers recorded the previous year.

Then a couple of days ago, the state government suddenly issued an advisory suspending the yatra for four days citing weather conditions. Simultaneously, it withdrew the Jammu and Kashmir Police’s armed forces from the yatra duty. “For all practical purposes, the yatra is over,” said an official.

Earlier, on July 25, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) ordered deployment of 100 companies of Central Armed Paramilitary Forces (CAPF) to “strengthen the CI (counter-insurgency) grid as well as for maintaining law and order situation in J&K”. This was later described by the police as a “relief to over-stretched training companies of J&K Police on duty since panchayat elections last year”.

The additional troop deployment came on top of 400 companies of paramilitary forces rushed by the Centre to J&K after the Pulwama car bombing on February 14 this year.

Two days later, reported IE, J&K Police sent a wireless message to police officers asking them to “communicate shortfall or riot control equipment/ gas gun…for special law and order duties”. The police in the Valley were also asked to keep a satellite phone and bulldozer at every police station hinting at possible snapping of communication networks.

A day later, on July 28, a Divisional Security Commissioner of Railways in the Valley asked railway officials to store ration for four months, not to keep their family members in Kashmir and to restrict staff leave due to “emergency situations”. The letter said precautionary security measures have been directed after receiving inputs from “different security agencies” including SSP Railways Srinagar regarding “forecast of deteriorating situation in Kashmir valley and issue of law and order for a long period”.

The same day, another order was issued by police asking its officers in Srinagar to “provide details of mosques and their management… for onward submission to higher authorities”.

What was weird was that the government termed these orders as “fake” and even said it would act against rumour mongers. J&K Governor Satya Pal Malik said on July 30, “None of the orders being shown are valid, there is a lot of rumour mongering here and no need to pay attention to that. Everything is fine, everything is normal.”

While these “fake” orders had come from officers, the Governor’s advisor, K Vijay Kumar, said it would not be proper for him to counter every time there was a rumour. DGP Dilbagh Singh said the police would act against rumour mongers. “There is nothing to worry. People should not take these fake orders seriously. Some miscreants are hell bent to disturb peace in the Valley and they will certainly face the music.”

Non-BJP political leaders in the Valley believe all these measures suggest that the establishment is preparing for “defining action” in the Valley which could include diluting or abrogation of Article 35A that defines the state residents of Jammu and Kashmir and their rights.

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Congress appoints Gaurav Gogoi as Deputy Leader in Lok Sabha

Kodikunnil Suresh has been appointed as the Chief Whip.

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The Congress has appointed Gaurav Gogoi as the party’s Deputy Leader in the Lok Sabha. Kodikunnil Suresh has been appointed as the Chief Whip, while Manickam Tagore and Md. Jawaid have been appointed as Whips in the Lower House.

Taking to X on Sunday, Congress general secretary K.C. Venugopal announced the decision and said CPP Chairperson Smt. Sonia Gandhi has written to the Lok Sabha Speaker informing him about the appointment of the Deputy Leader, Chief Whip, and two Whips for the Congress Party in the Lok Sabha.

Congratulating the new appointees, he wrote, “Guided by LOP Shri Rahul Gandhi ji, the Congress and INDIA parties will energetically champion the people’s causes in the Lok Sabha.”

The decision comes barely two weeks before the Union Budget is set to be presented in the Lok Sabha.

Speaking to the media on July 14, Congress leader P Chidambaram detailed his expectations from the Union Budget scheduled to be presented on July 23 and said that the Prime Minister must address unemployment and price rise. He further drew attention to retail inflation as per the government data is 5.1%, and go towards rural areas, it is more than that.

The former Finance Minister said food inflation is 10% and if the budget addresses unemployment and price rise, he will give it 50 out of 100. The remaining 50 will depend upon what policies they follow, the Congress leader added.

The first Union Budget (2024-25) will be presented by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in the Lok Sabha on July 23, with the Parliament session commencing a day earlier and scheduled to conclude on August 12.

Earlier, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kiren Rijiju said that the President of India, on the recommendation of the Government of India, has approved the proposal for summoning both Houses of Parliament for the Budget Session, 2024, from July 22, 2024, to August 12, 2024, (subject to exigencies of Parliamentary Business). Union Budget 2024-25 will be presented in Lok Sabha on 23 July, 2024, he said in a post on X.

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Bypolls results: INDIA bloc sweeps 10 seats, 2 for BJP, independent 1, across 7 states

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said three out of four seats were of BJP which have now been won by TMC.

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The Opposition bloc INDIA swept the by-elections winning 10 out of 13 seats, while the BJP won only two seats across seven states. The independent candidate, Shankar Singh, won the Rupauli seat in Bihar’s Purnea, defeating JDU’s Kaladhar Prasad Mandal by a margin of 8,246 votes.

In Punjab, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) candidate Mohinder Bhagat has won the Jalandhar West Assembly seat, defeating his rival, BJP candidate Sheetal Angural, by a massive margin of more than 37,000 votes. The Trinamool Congress (TMC) is leading on 4 seats in West Bengal.

The by-elections in 13 Assembly constituencies across seven States concluded on July 10. The Assembly seats included Badrinath and Manglaur seats in Uttarakhand; Rupauli in Bihar; Raiganj seat, Ranaghat Dakshin seat, Bagda and Maniktala seat in West Bengal; Vikravandi in Tamil Nadu; Amarwara in Madhya Pradesh; Jalandhar West in Punjab and Dehra, Hamirpur and Nalagarh in Himachal Pradesh.

In Himachal Pradesh, Kamlesh Thakur, wife of Chief Minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu, has won the Dehra constituency. The Congress has secured the Nalagarh seat as well, while the BJP managed to win the Hamirpur seat.

On the by-elections in West Bengal, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said three out of four seats were of BJP which have now been won by TMC. Thanking the people of Bengal, she said this victory is the victory of the people.

Addressing a press conference, Congress leader Pawan Khera said that these by-elections which were held on 13 seats are very important. For the second time in one and a half months, the people of the country gave a strong message to the BJP, he added.

He said the message was very clear in the Lok Sabha elections. The Congress leader also spoke about the by-poll result in Uttarakhand and said the party has won both its seats, Badrinath and Manglaur. In Himachal Pradesh, Congress won 2 out of 3 seats, he further said.

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Baba Ramdev joins celebration, dances with the groom at Anant Ambani-Radhika Merchant wedding

The four-day celebration starts with traditional Hindu wedding rituals like haldi, mehndi, and sangeet and will be followed by a magnificent reception over the weekend.

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Yoga guru Baba Ramdev was among the guests at the grand wedding of Anant Ambani and Radhika Merchant, held at the Jio World Convention Centre in Mumbai on Friday. The Yoga guru was accompanied by his close advisor, Acharya Balkrishna. Ramdev has been seen dancing in a video shared on social media with the groom as a Barati.

Anant Ambani, the youngest son of Reliance Industries Chairman Mukesh Ambani and Nita Ambani, married his childhood sweetheart Radhika Merchant this Friday. The event was an over-the-top affair, attended by global celebrities, business tycoons, sports personalities and politicians. The wedding rituals, which included exchanging garlands and walking around the holy fire, began on Friday and went on past midnight.

The celebrations took place at the Ambani-owned Jio World Convention Centre and the family home. The wedding marked the height of months of events, featuring performances by pop stars like Rihanna, Rema and Justin Bieber. The four-day celebration starts with traditional Hindu wedding rituals like haldi, mehndi, and sangeet and will be followed by a magnificent reception over the weekend.

The guest list comprises prominent personalities such as former British Prime Ministers Tony Blair and Boris Johnson, Saudi Aramco CEO Amin H. Nasser, and celebrities like Adele, Lana Del Rey, Drake, John Cena Kim and Khloe Kardashian, Law Roach, and David Beckham. Almost each and every international guest wore traditional Indian attire designed by major Indian fashion designers.

Anant Ambani, 29, is responsible for the corporation’s renewable and green energy creativities and also runs a 3,000-acre animal rescue centre named ‘Vantara’ in Jamnagar, Gujarat, the family’s hometown. The bride, Radhika Merchant, 29, is the daughter of pharmaceutical tycoon Viren Merchant and serves as the marketing director for his company, Encore Healthcare.

The wedding celebrations are expected to continue through the weekend, with a grand reception planned to cap off the festivities.

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