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Two years of Kashmir unrest, political void and a sinking economy – Al Jazeera English

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Srinagar, Indian-administered Kashmir – Two years after the Modi administration stripped Indian-administered Kashmir of its limited autonomy, political activity in the disputed region is in a deep freeze, businesses are struggling, while people’s rights are being suppressed through stringent laws.

On this day two years ago, India’s Hindu-nationalist government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi scrapped the region’s special status guaranteed by India’s constitution decades ago and turned the country’s only Muslim-majority state into a federally controlled territory.

The move included the removal of a ban on permanent settlement of non-Kashmiris in the region, a step that locals fear is aimed at bringing demographic changes in the region.

The right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government claimed the changes would result in a better development of the region and boost its economy.

But experts and political analysts say the situation has only deteriorated in the last two years.

Political void

The last state elections in Indian-administered Kashmir were held in 2015, when a regional pro-India party, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), allied with the BJP to form the government.

The region has a group of political parties considered loyal to New Delhi. They contest regional and national elections, which are boycotted by the region’s separatist groups, who demand either a merger with neighbouring Pakistan or an independent nation.

In 2018, the BJP withdrew its support to the PDP, toppling the government and putting the state under the direct rule of New Delhi.

The next year, as the Modi government scrapped Articles 370 and 35A which granted Indian-administered Kashmir its autonomy, dozens of politicians from the region, including three former chief ministers belonging to pro-India parties, were arrested. Some of them continue to be in jails.

Meanwhile, the region was split into two federally controlled territories – Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh – and no legislative elections have been announced so far.

Between November to December last year, multi-phase local elections were held in the region to elect 280 district development councillors. Analysts said the polls were an attempt by New Delhi to show “normalcy” in the disputed Himalayan region, also claimed by Pakistan.

While the elected members of the district development councils have no powers to legislate or amend laws, many of them have been since confined to hotel rooms in different places and barred from visiting their constituencies due to “security threats”.

Many elected councillors, angry over the government’s treatment, have threatened to resign.

The region’s pro-India politicians say the government’s controversial decisions “have damaged the very bond of our relationship with the union of India”.

“There is no political space left for anyone,” Mohammed Yousuf Tarigami, a former minister and four-time legislator from the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPM), told Al Jazeera.

Tarigami is convener and spokesman of the People’s Alliance of Gupkar Declaration (PAGD), a coalition of six parties demanding the restoration of the region’s autonomy and statehood.

He said a fallout of the BJP government’s 2019 decision has been “a process of throttling  of democracy and democratic rights, which have resulted in a forced silence” in the region.

“Unconscionable suppression of civil and democratic rights continues unabated. Indiscriminate arrests and harassment of all sections of our people, including government employees, on different pretexts continues.”

There are reports that the federal government has made future elections subservient to what is called delimitation, which means redrawing the region’s assembly constituencies. Residents fear the BJP aims to increase seats in the southern Jammu area of the region in order to reduce the representation of the Kashmir valley in the state assembly.

Suppression of civil rights

A 78-page report, titled Two Years of Lockdown: Human rights in Jammu and Kashmir, released by an Indian civil society group, Human Rights Forum Jammu and Kashmir, on Wednesday concluded that the security situation in the Himalayan region has worsened.

The report referred to rising cases of human rights violations including the crackdown on dissent, arrest of activists and use of draconian laws against journalists for doing their jobs.

“Indeed, new methods that endanger civilian security, political freedoms, government service, and media independence have been added. There appears to be little accountability for violations by the union government and security forces,” it said.

Indian security forces at the site of a rebel attack in Srinagar [File: Farooq Khan/EPA]

The report said close to 1,000 people are still in prison, including minors and elected legislators, some under stringent laws such as the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act or UAPA.

Data from India’s National Crime Records Bureau shows 921 cases were registered in the region between 2014-2019, 500 of which were recorded in 2018 and 2019.

Lawyer and activist Habeel Iqbal told Al Jazeera that in the last two years, UAPA has been used in Indian-administered Kashmir as a “tool for tightening control over its population”.

“Apparently, it is done in the name of security concerns but the real motive seems to be political. People are detained for months without trial and the courts are being used to legitimise the police excesses and arbitrariness,” he said.

Soon after its 2019 decision, the BJP government closed down six semi-autonomous commissions in the region, including the State Human Rights Commission, Commission for Protection and Women and Child Rights, and Commission for Persons with Disabilities.

At the time of its closure, the region’s rights panel had at least 8,000 pending cases of torture , enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killings and rapes. Thousands of families have been left without any hope for justice due to the closures.

Nearly a year after these commissions were shut, India’s National Investigation Agency (NIA) raided the offices and residences of two top rights activists in the region: Parveena Ahanger, the head of the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons, and Khurram Parvez, a member of the Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS).

After the raids, human rights activism in the region has been completely throttled.

JKCCS chairman Parvez Imroz told Al Jazeera that in the past two years, rights violations by India’s security forces have become more brazen in the restive region.

“[…] Because along with political impunity, they now enjoy moral impunity,” he said, adding that the “neutralisation of civil society and human rights groups” is against the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

“Depriving people of their daily rights, using threats and intimidation to silence people … Whatever little agitation and protest victims used to have that space has been choked.”

A Kashmiri villager stands on the debris of a house destroyed in a gunfight in Pulwama, Indian-administered Kashmir [File: Dar Yasin/AP]

No end to violence

One of the arguments the BJP government had made while enforcing its 2019 decision was that the move will reduce the armed rebellion against the Indian rule in the region, which started more than 30 years ago.

But the records tell another story.

A local official, on condition of anonymity, told Al Jazeera that in the first seven months of 2021, at least 80 local youths have joined the rebellion. In 2020, 163 had joined, he said.

Last month, at least 31 armed rebels were killed in more than a dozen gun battles, with the trend showing there is no end to violence in the region.

Civilian fatalities have also risen. While 32 civilians were killed during protests or security operations last year, at least 19 civilians lost their lives in the first six months of 2021, report by a local civil society group says.

Yashwant Sinha, the former federal minister and member of Human Rights Forum Jammu and Kashmir, told Al Jazeera there is a lot of resentment among people because of what happened two years ago.

“The trust deficit has deepened. It is a sullen silence,” he said after his visit to the region last week.

“To tell you the truth, normalcy has not returned to the Kashmir valley. The fact that there is no stone-throwing in the streets and there are no demonstrations does not mean normalcy has returned.”

Fears of dispossession

After it tightened its grip over the region militarily, the federal government also introduced a series of policy decisions and abolished many historic land laws, which protected the land rights of the region’s natives for decades.

New Delhi on Tuesday released a 76-page document, Jammu and Kashmir: Marching to a new tune, highlighting the “achievements” of the government since August 5, 2019.

In the document, the government said it has issued four million domicile certificates issued to people to settle in Indian-administered Kashmir, including 55,931 certificates given to Hindu and Sikh refugees who came to the region in 1947 when the subcontinent was partitioned to form India and Pakistan.

The document further said that nearly 3,000 similar certificates were issued to members of the marginalised Valmiki community, who work as sanitation workers, and to hundreds of Gurkhas brought to Kashmir from Nepal. Until August 5, 2019, these individuals were not recognised as citizens of the erstwhile state.

However, the document is silent on the number of domicile certificates given to people from other Indian states, a silence that is heightening anxiety in the Muslim-majority region about New Delhi trying to alter its demography.

Besides, New Delhi has also thrown open other gates for the outsiders to settle in the region. Jobs earlier reserved for permanent residents of the region are now open to domicile certificate holders.

Moreover, in another disturbing trend, at least 11 government employees have been terminated from their jobs for “being a threat to the state”.

Local political analyst Sheikh Showkat Hussain told Al Jazeera the moves have created a fear of dispossession and loss of rights over jobs and land

“All the apprehensions people had about the status quo have proved true,” he said.

“They were apprehensive that if the status quo continues, they will be outnumbered by those who come from Indian states and they will be dispossessed of their land and identity. All of this has come true.”

Politician Tarigami said people of the region are “being ripped apart into smaller units, ripped off their jobs and rights over the natural resources that are theirs”.

Sinking economy

Perhaps the worst impact of the 2019 decision has been on the region’s economy, which traders and industrialists say has collapsed, with thousands of job losses and rising unemployment.

Sheikh Ashiq, the president of Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry told Al Jazeera that  the region’s economy has suffered losses worth $7bn in two years of consecutive lockdowns, first due to the scrapping of the special status and later due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“When we were hoping to revive the trade after the 2019 lockdown, COVID-19 hit the region. We conveyed to the government the need for comprehensive support to revive the businesses,” Ashiq told Al Jazeera.

Ashiq said at least 500,000 Kashmiris have lost their jobs since 2019, including nearly 60,000 employed in the flagship tourism and horticulture sectors.

With the existing economy of the region on the verge of collapse, local businesses are not hopeful of new investments in the region.

“The businesses who have already invested their blood and money should be saved first,” said Ashiq.

Siddiq Wahid, the former vice-chancellor of the Islamic University of Science and Technology in the region, said New Delhi’s decisions have put even the BJP government “in a difficult position” by creating more trouble spots.

“It has worsened for Delhi,” he told Al Jazeera. “Now, it (government) has four trouble spots to control. The Jammu area feels economically deprived due to land rights that have been taken away from them. Ladakh is another spot as they are not happy with New Delhi because they were promised a union territory with powers of local authority which has not happened.”

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Analysis | Cost of Victory: Converting a Wartime Economy to Peace – The Washington Post

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Strained supply chains, inflationary pressures in the pipeline and worries about the health of the labor market. Sound familiar? This is the US in 1945 as President Harry S. Truman tried to engineer an end to World War II and minimize disruptions that would accompany peace. 

The  role of the atomic attacks on Japan, fears of Russian encroachment and the collapse of Japanese industry are well charted in discussions surrounding Tokyo’s capitulation on Aug. 15, 1945. Less well known is the impact of financial and commercial tensions developing on the home front. I spoke to Marc Gallicchio, professor of history at Villanova University and author of “Unconditional: The Japanese surrender in World War II,” which dives into the debates within Truman’s team about ending the war, including fears of an impending economic calamity.  

These concerns didn’t stop at America’s shores. What did planners envisage for Japan’s economy and did they drop the ball by not thinking more about the prospect that China — a wartime ally — would one day challenge the US? The conversation has been edited for clarity and length.  DANIEL MOSS: Describe domestic economic conditions and how were they shaping Washington’s decisions in 1945? 

MARC GALLICCHIO: From early that year, with the impending defeat of Germany, people were beginning to look past the war. Not only the general public, but also business leaders, who were concerned that not enough emphasis had been placed on reconversion to a peacetime economy. If peace burst upon the US suddenly, the economy would be unprepared. Manufacturers were still in wartime mode, primarily producing goods for the military. There were restrictions on consumer activity, there was food rationing, price limits imposed. There was anxiety that if the war ended suddenly, all these soldiers and sailors would come home and the domestic economy would be in no shape to absorb them into the workforce.  

There was this rising chorus of complaints among executives and legislators — you begin to see it in the newspapers — that the army is absorbing too much manpower and material. Now that they have a one front war to fight, the questions were increasingly about why so much was needed to fight just Japan when they had been fighting both Japan and Germany? The worry was all these wartime jobs and contracts would end and business would not be ready make the transition to domestic production.  

There was great fear of unemployment. That turned out to be less of a problem than expected, but access to consumer goods and worries about inflation were real issues. By the early summer of 1945, the coal industry was warning that unless it could get more miners, there would be shortages. For that they needed personnel released from the army, which was reluctant. Moving people and goods across the US was becoming more difficult after four years. There was a lot of track maintenance that needed to be done. So there were petitions for the early release of people from various professions and the military just didn’t want to do that.     

DM: What priority did Truman give these economic pressures, given the development of the atomic bomb and worries about the implications of Russia’s entry into the war against Japan?

MG: Before Truman went to the final summit of the war at Potsdam in July, he sided with the army. But Treasury Secretary Fred Vinson, in whom Truman had great confidence, opposed the army’s position. It’s not clear what Truman would have done if he didn’t have the bomb.

Truman receives these extraordinary cables from Vinson at Potsdam telling him there will be a serious crisis if the US doesn’t move more forcefully toward reconversion. Vinson starts to suggest that surely the army doesn’t need all these resources. We need unconditional surrender, but maybe we can get there through blockade and bombardment, which would allow for fewer men. The military was against that view because they believed it would lead to a protracted war, the American public would lose interest and the Japanese would use that to their advantage. What Vinson was proposing in order to avoid disaster was a modification of unconditional surrender. He didn’t outright say that, but that would probably have been the result.

Truman learns in Potsdam that the bomb can be deployed months before the scheduled invasion of Japan and probably before Russia came in. I don’t think he thought the bomb would keep Russia out, necessarily. His first reason for using it was to bring about the defeat of Japan, though he may have viewed the possibility that the war could be over before Russia got too far into Northeast Asia as a bonus. 

The bomb made invasion unnecessary. It also meant this slow-moving crisis in the US economy could be addressed. 

DM: There was intense debate over whether to modify the demand for unconditional surrender in hopes of coaxing Japan to lay down its arms. What kind of compromise, if any, was made?

MG: The idea that an imperial institution would remain never made it to the statement issued at Potsdam. But there was this idea of a liberal peace that would allow the return of soldiers to Japan, allow the country to re-enter the world community, have access to raw materials abroad — as opposed to control of them. Japan would be incorporated into a liberal postwar international economy. They could have a government of their choice once they have convinced the peace-loving nations of the world that they would no longer be a threat. You could read between the lines and say that if the emperor shut things down quickly, he would be someone who could lead Japan toward that state described in Potsdam.

DM: The struggle against Covid has often been framed in martial terms. Did the US have what amounted to a wartime economy during the peak of the pandemic? 

MG: We didn’t get extensive regulation of the overall economy. There were big restrictions on bars, restaurants, airlines. State support was there, but it wasn’t as omnipresent during people’s lives as during WWII. What didn’t surprise me one bit was the enormous demand to lift restrictions on social lives and the economy.

We have this collective memory of WWII as being a time when there was unity, where everyone was willing to sacrifice and that’s contrasted with later wars like Vietnam, where there was a lot of controversy. But by 1945, that just wasn’t the case. There was growing dissent, a great deal of anger, directed particularly at the army. 

DM: Did US officials give much thought to what Japan’s economy might look like after the war?

MG: There was clash between New Dealers and business-friendly planners and advisers to Truman. People like Henry Stimson, Secretary of War, and Joseph Grew, Undersecretary of State, saw Japan as having done a remarkable job of industrialization since the late 19th century. They didn’t see the monarchy as an inherently dangerous institution, as far as the US was concerned. All you had to do was sweep away the militarists. Their fear was that if you did away with the emperor and undertook deep, extensive reforms, that would sow the seeds for revolution and communism. 

Then there were New Dealers who saw the problems as much deeper. They felt that in the process of modernization, Japan never moved beyond a feudal structure. They thought the emperor’s status enhanced the power of the military and the big industrial conglomerates. In order to get a really democratic Japan, you have to do away with the emperor, do away with big trusts and democratize Japan socially and economically. Liberate women, allow unions to properly organize and so on.

A lot of critics of unconditional surrender said after the war that Truman should have told Japan it could keep the emperor, since that is what ended up happening anyway. But it’s important to note that after unconditional surrender, the emperor did not have the same authority that he would have had if Truman had committed to keeping Hirohito on the throne. In the end, the US was able to implement a host of significant reforms because Truman insisted on unconditional surrender and occupation. One of the biggest reforms was a new constitution that reduced the emperor to the figurehead that Grew and Stimson mistakenly claimed he had always been.

DM: In 1945, what would they have thought if told that China would emerge as the key rival to the US? 

MG: There was not much anticipation of China playing a leading role in the Far East for quite some time. That was in part the reason why people like Stimson and Grew thought it necessary to build Japan back quickly so it could be a force for stability. None of them foresaw a juggernaut emerging in China.

DM: Was it a mistake to pay insufficient attention to what China might become?

MG: China kind of gets pushed off the page. American military thinking was sequential in that the goal was defeat Japan first and then look over the horizon and see what is out there. It might seem like short-sighted policy, but the view was “look, if we have Japan, we can keep the rest of the world out of the Pacific and we will be able to defend the US come what may in China.”

People just wanted to be done with it, to bring the boys home. Even though American power was at high tide, that tide was also starting to run out. The staying power wasn’t there.

More From Bloomberg Opinion:

• 1947, 1970s, 2008. Take Your Pick, Inflationistas: Daniel Moss

• What the World Got Wrong About Shinzo Abe: Gearoid Reidy

• WWI History Is Wrong, and Skewing Our View of China: Hal Brands

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

Daniel Moss is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering Asian economies. Previously, he was executive editor of Bloomberg News for economics.

More stories like this are available on bloomberg.com/opinion

©2022 Bloomberg L.P.

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Charting the Global Economy: US Inflation Comes Off the Boil – BNN Bloomberg

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(Bloomberg) — Sign up for the New Economy Daily newsletter, follow us @economics and subscribe to our podcast.

Inflationary pressures in the US simmered down on the heels of cheaper gasoline and other fuel costs, which may help persuade the Federal Reserve to ease up a touch on the monetary policy brakes.

In the UK, the economy shrank in the second quarter for the first time since Covid-19 lockdowns more than a year ago. Singapore reduced its growth forecast for this year after its economy contracted last quarter, while rapid inflation encouraged steep interest-rate hikes by monetary authorities in Mexico and Argentina.

Here are some of the charts that appeared on Bloomberg this week on the latest developments in the global economy:

US

Inflation decelerated in July by more than expected, reflecting lower energy prices, which may take some pressure off the Federal Reserve to continue aggressively boosting interest rates. Consumer prices increased 8.5% from a year ago after hitting a more than 40-year high of 9.1% a month earlier.

Ending emergency unemployment benefits had a significant impact on boosting employment, according to a St. Louis Fed working paper that may underline Republican criticism of a 2021 program.

Rental costs are soaring at the fastest pace in more than three decades, surpassing a median of $2,000 a month for the first time ever.

Europe

The UK economy shrank in the second quarter for the first time since the pandemic, driven by a decline in spending by households and on fighting the coronavirus. Gross domestic product fell 0.1% after an 0.8% gain in the first quarter. The Bank of England expects that inflation raging at a 40-year high will tip the economy into a recession later this year.

Spain is opening its doors to foreign workers to fix labor shortages and ease a demographic slump threatening its future prosperity. In contrast with more anti-immigrant politics in much of Europe, the government has loosened rules to allow the recruitment of employees in their countries, mostly in Latin America, for both skilled and unskilled jobs that are hard to fill.

Asia

Singapore trimmed its 2022 growth forecast to reflect an increasingly challenging global environment, after the economy slipped into contraction in the second quarter. Final data for the June quarter Thursday showed gross domestic product shrank 0.2% from the previous three months, and worse than the zero growth estimated by Ministry of Trade and Industry earlier.

A global spell of high inflation, aggressive monetary tightening and the risk of a recession are prompting economists to revise Indonesia’s economic forecasts for the remainder of the year. Analysts raised inflation projections for the third and fourth quarters by almost a full percentage point to 5% and 5.15%, respectively, median forecasts from Bloomberg’s latest monthly survey showed.

Emerging Markets

Argentina’s central bank raised its benchmark Leliq rate to 69.5%, representing the largest hike in almost three years and signaling a more aggressive stance against surging inflation. Mexico’s central bank boosted its key rate to an all-time high of 8.5%.

Brazil consumer prices tumbled by the most on record in July after President Jair Bolsonaro slashed utility taxes to tame the soaring cost of living and lift his re-election chances. 

Kenya’s presidential election took place Tuesday as East Africa’s largest economy grapples with surging living costs and rampant unemployment. Deputy President William Ruto and Raila Odinga, a former prime minister who’s running for president for a fifth time, were the clear front-runners to succeed incumbent leader Uhuru Kenyatta. Final results are expected by Aug. 16.

World

When Group of Seven leaders gathered in the Bavarian Alps in June, they pledged to stand with Ukraine for the long haul. Their Group of 20 counterparts are proving less supportive. Only half have joined the international sanctions imposed on fellow member Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.

Chinese exports to Russia are back near levels seen before the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine, propelling a rebound in trade that’s helped cool off a historic rally in the ruble. Russia bought $6.7 billion of goods in July from China, an increase of more than a third from the previous month and up by more than an annual 20%.

Bloomberg interviewed several families — in Nigeria, India, Brazil and the US — various times between June and August last year about the swaps and sacrifices they were making in order to keep food on the table as prices rose. It turns out, chronicling what was then eye-popping food inflation wouldn’t capture the depths of what was to come. 

©2022 Bloomberg L.P.

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Victoria looks to be a national leader in the circular economy – Saanich News

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When athletes stood on the podium during last summer’s Tokyo Olympics, the medals hanging from their necks were made from melted-down metals in six million old cell phones and other discarded electronics.

Others, nowadays, enjoy having their home moderated by insulation made from the excess scraps of denim that don’t get to become jeans.

Those are two examples of the circular economy that researchers say could recover $4.5 trillion worth of otherwise wasted resources by 2030. Keeping materials out of the landfill in the market is something the City of Victoria hopes to capitalize on as it adds a circular lens to its 20-year economic strategy.

Spurred by a motion from Coun. Jeremy Loveday, the city will now add a section to Victoria 3.0 on becoming a national leader in the circular economy.

“Making sure our economic priorities align with our goals regarding climate action and waste reduction, I think this helps us also to be in a better place to capitalize on the economic benefit of the circular economy which is predicted to continue to grow,” Loveday said before council approved the motion this month.

The action will include ensuring there are zoned areas for circular businesses and non-profits to operate within the city. Those will include light industry spaces, which Victoria-based Project Zero says reduces a key barrier for entrepreneurs trying to scale up their up-cycle or repair businesses.

“There isn’t anything right now that’s on that smaller scale or that’s financially accessible,” said Georgia Lavender, who leads Project Zero’s circular economy program.

The non-profit has been running a local entrepreneur incubator for five years, but the term “circular economy” was still new to people a couple of years ago, she said. But Lavender has been inspired lately by all sectors and levels of government seeing the approach as a way to support local innovation, job creation and supply chain resiliency.

“We’ve seen a really big shift toward regions wanting to implement a circular economy model and really seeing the opportunities it holds, not only from an environmental perspective but also an economic development perspective,” she said.

Some of Project Zero’s Victoria start-ups now commercializing include the cup-share service Nulla and BinBreeze, which uses waste wood to improve compost bin productivity and pest deterrence.

Lavender said the innovators are helping to cut emissions while creating jobs, and Vancouver Island as a whole has the opportunity to position itself as a leader in the circular sector. The focus could help the supply chain be more resilient, Lavender said, by using local manufacturing to reuse resources instead of shipping waste off the Island for processing.

The Victoria direction also commits to business space in the coming Arts and Innovation District, the creation of a circular economy hub, exploring partnerships for a zero waste demonstration site and launching an innovation grant.

“Things like that just create more opportunity for these ventures to keep their operations within Victoria and not have to move to other regions,” Lavender said.

READ: Project Zero aims to create circular Vancouver Island economy

READ: CRD aims to be zero waste national leader, reduce enough to curb landfill expansion


Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email:jake.romphf@blackpress.ca. Follow us on Instagram.
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