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Post Jayalalithaa Tamil Nadu politics: Chinnamma Sasikala to be new CM

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[yt_dropcap type=”square” font=”” size=”14″ color=”#000″ background=”#fff” ] N [/yt_dropcap]ot known as a possible heir during Jayalalithaa’s life time, Sasikala Natarajan, a close friend also involved in Jaya’s disproportionate assets case, will be the next CM of the state as the AIADMK MLAs who full majority in the state assembly have on February 05 elected her as its leader to enable her to become CM of the state.

After a meeting of AIADMK MLAs, chaired by General Secretary VK Sasikala Natarajan on Sunday, the party announced that they had elected her as Legislative party leader. The incumbent CM O. Pannerselvam has since resigned his post and submitted his resignation to Sasikala. Sasikala would be inaugurated as the chief minister on the 9th, and the swearing in may be before 9 February. Outgoing chief minister O Panneerselvam may well be Tamil Nadu’s next deputy chief minister. The post of the deputy chief minister has been vacant ever since DMK lost power to AIADMK in May 2011. MK Stalin had been the first deputy chief minister of Tamil Nadu

AIADMK confirms the change of guard in the party. The party, while dismissing DMK’s criticism of her being inexperienced, says she knows to run the party. However, whether the new leadership is acceptable to people is a major question.

News reports suggest that it was Panneerselvam himself who proposed the name of Sasikala. The move paves the way for Sasikala to take over as the state’s chief minister.

Sasikala belongs to the dominant Thevar community which also is said to have played a major role in Panneerselvam, who is also from the same community, becoming the stop-gap chief minister whenever Jayalalithaa had to step down and even after her death.

Sasikala assumes power in Tamil Nadu without being an MLA, without fighting any poll so far, without any experience in party and government, however, now most ruling party functionaries have decided to stand by her to save the party and government.

Former AIADMK supremo Jayalalithaa had selected O. Pannerselvam to be her successor to rule when she was in jail and she never used Sasikala to shoulder any responsibility both in party and government not even once in her life time.

The news of Sasikala’s elevation as Tamil Nadu chief minister had been doing the rounds ever since she took over as the party chief. The announcement of Sunday’s meeting had triggered speculations that Sasikala would take over reigns from Panneerselvam, but the party had dismissed rumours of any imminent change in the party leadership and said the meeting was to facilitate better communication between the MLAs and the government. AIADMK held a meeting of its MLAs on Sunday, where it was expected that Sasikala, a longtime confidant of the late chief minister Jayalalithaa would take over.

Last month, Thambidurai MP had said that the leadership in both the party and governance should be with the same person, while urging Sasikala to take over as Chief Minister. He had cited the political tussle in Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh to drive home his point that the control of government and party should vest with the same person.

Sasikala: A close aide of late Jayalalithaa

Sasikala, 62, had been a close aide of Jayalalithaa for three decades and was always seen as a power centre in AIADMK. She has been taking care of party affairs, although she never held any formal position in the AIADMK before Jayalalithaa’s death.

The ruling party invokes the late chief minister Jayalalithaa, says ‘Chinnamma’ (Sasikala) will follow the footsteps of ‘Amma’ (Jayalalithaa). The party also said that it is happy with her taking over as the chief minister of the state.

Blamed once for Jayalalithaa’s disastrous election loss in 1996, the 60-year-old Sasikala, who was a video library owner before getting close to the late leader, was always considered having a clout in the running of the party. Having accompanied Jayalalithaa to prison when arrested in a disproportionate assets case, Sasikala’s roller-coaster career saw her being expelled for anti-party activities only to be restored in a few months five years ago.

Jayalalithaa’s demise on 5 December was seen as a personal loss for Sasikala who was a permanent resident of Jayalalithaa’s house Veda Nilayam in Poes Garden, even choosing to stay away from her husband.

Experts say if Sasikala is convicted in the disproportionate asset case after becoming the chief minister, she will have to step down from the top post and she would also be barred from contesting elections. The Karnataka government has filed a plea challenging her acquital in the Supreme Court. The verdict is to come soon.

DMK compares Sasikala’s elevation to that of Rabri Devi in 1997. EVKS Elangovan, senior Tamil Nadu Congress leader, calls Sasikala elevation as the chief minister “totally unacceptable”. Congress calls 5 February a “black day”, In response to the growing chorus for Sasikala taking charge as chief minister, DMK Working President MK Stalin on Sunday expressed worries about divisions in the ruling AIADMK after the death of Jayalalithaa and was keen that it should not affect the functioning of the administration. “The people voted for a government to be headed by Ms Jayalalithaa in May 2016 and not for one to be run by Mr. O Panneerselvam or any other person from Ms. Jayalalithaa’s household,” 63-year-old leader told PTI in an interview.

Control mechanism

Sasikala was appointed as General Secretary by AIADMK’s top decision-making body General Council on December 29. She took charge of the post on December 31, pledging to take forward the legacy of Jayalalithaa. In December last year, four state ministers had asked Sasikala to become the Chief Minister, besides AIADMK General Secretary. A resolution to this effect was passed at a meeting of Tirunelveli Urban Jaya Peravai (Forum), led by state AIADMK secretary and revenue minister R B Udhayakumar on December 17.

On Friday, Sasikala had appointed senior leaders, including some former Ministers and a former Mayor, to key party posts. Former Ministers KA Sengottaiyan, S Gokula Indira and B V Ramana, besides ex-Mayor Saidai S Duraisamy were made the AIADMK’s Organisation Secretaries. The appointments also included that of Fisheries Minister D Jayakumar to a key party post. She had also announced removal of Ambattur MLA V Alexander as AIADMK’s MGR Youth Wing Secretary.He will, however, continue as the party’s Tiruvallore (East) District Secretary, Sasikala had said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the Election Commission has sought a response from the AIADMK on a complaint filed by sacked leader Sasikala Pushpa against the election of VK Sasikala as party General Secretary. Sasikala Pushpa had filed a complaint that the election was not as per procedure, official sources in the poll panel. Pushpa had told the Commission that the elevation of Sasikala as the general secretary of the party was carried out in an “undemocratic manner”.

Sasikala took over as the party chief on 30 December last year, after the untimely demise of long-time leader J Jayalalithaa on 5 December. O Panneerselvam took over as the chief minister.

However, the clamor to see Sasikala as the chief minister grew in the coming days. The rumor mill began working overtime after three senior officers were given the marching orders on Friday. One of them is Sheela Balakrishnan, who had been appointed as the adviser to the Tamil Nadu government by Jayalalithaa after she retired as chief secretary and practically ran the government when the late chief minister was hospitalised between September and December 2016. Panneerselvam was acting under instructions from Poes Garden.

Notwithstanding all “necessary” changes taking place in the party and government, the ruling AIADMK faces a serious problem in making the Tamil people accept Chinnamma Sasikala as their Amma Jayalalithaa. .

Speculation is indeed thrilling!

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South Asia

India’s Continuing Arrogance in Kashmir

Haris Bilal Malik

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On October 31, 2019, India formally split up the Muslim-majority region of Jammu and Kashmir into two federal (union) territories. By doing so India violated the UNSC resolutions on the matter and officially issued a new political map indicating Ladakh and Jammu as Indian Union Territories. According to this formal split,both the Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh union territories will be administered by two lieutenant governors, Girish Chandra Murmu and Radha Krishna Mathur respectively. They are supposed to report to the Indian home secretary based in New Delhi. This clearly defines the motives of the Hindu nationalist government of BJP led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi which revoked Article 370 on August 5.Unfortunately, the prevalent security environment in Kashmir is dominated by the BJP, which has led India’s arrogance to determine the fate of the disputed region.

In the same vein, right before the formal enforcement of the constitutional split, a local body electoral exercise was carried out in the region. The maiden Block Development Council (BDC) Election was held on October 24 under much hype due to the evolved dynamics of the region. However, the region’s main parties such as the National Conference, Peoples Democratic Party, and Peoples Conference and other small parties had boycotted the local elections terming them as an ‘undemocratic’ exercise. These parties which have remained the major stakeholders in the politics of the region had turned out against the abrogation of Article 370 that granted the region special rights. It was also observed that the political parties had perceived this election as instead a “forced election” primarily because the region was still then under severe restrictions. Contrary to this general perception, the Indian government still carried out the post-revocation electoral exercise. This arrogant policy adopted by the Indian government seems to forcefully instill this notion of ‘our plan our vision’ by the BJP to decide the fate of the Kashmir region.

In addition to this notion, the Hindu-supremacist government of India, headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been shamelessly flaunting the narrative that Kashmir has been ‘put in its place’. This means that contrary to the previous position of the Kashmir region as an autonomous entity under the Indian Union, it has been demoted to now being a ‘union territory’ like other union territories under the federal (Union) government of India. By doing so it seems that India is following a dangerous trajectory of dealing with Kashmir vis-à-vis Pakistan and the international community. In pursuit of its fascist vision inspired by its RSS ideology, the BJP led Indian state has blatantly ignored the global implications which its moves could have regarding the disputed region. Moreover, the ongoing crisis also provides an insight into Kashmir being a victim of the so-called rules based international order that has repeatedly failed to shield the Kashmiri people from the human rights violations of the Indian forces and protect their sovereign will.

It is worth mentioning here that Kashmir is one of the oldest issues pending at the UNSC table. The international community acknowledges Pakistan’s significance as the most important stakeholder vis-à-vis any development on the Kashmir issue. Contrary to Indian moves and suppression of Kashmiris, Pakistan has always insisted on the peaceful settlement of the Kashmir dispute under the UN mandate. Moreover, Pakistan has always encouraged international mediation offers from influential countries especially by the U.S. This was evident during Prime Minister Imran Khan’s first-ever visit to the US on July 23, 2019, when President Trump had offered to mediate  between India and Pakistan. The offer was greatly appreciated by Pakistan as it was aimed at some prospect of seeking a settlement given the evolved security dynamics of the South Asian region for the last few months. Whereas, India has often rejected such offers claiming Kashmir as its internal matter.

As evident from the above-mentioned developments, it seems that India aspires to increasingly project itself as a regional hegemon and as a potential superpower that can do whatever it pleases with a complete disregard for basic human rights. Under this notion, the BJP government led by Prime Minister Modi and inspired by Hindutva ideology is taking offensive measures to forcefully make Kashmir an integral part of India via its brutal political and military actions. The most considerable aspect of such belligerence is that India wrongfully perceives that Pakistan is unlikely to or perhaps unwilling respond to any Indian move based on certain political, economic and strategic restraints vis-à-vis India. This however is once again a grave underestimation of Pakistan’s resolve and the sensitivity with which such moves are being taken by the Pakistani leadership.

Hence at the present, the rash and irresponsible actions of the BJP led Indian government has once again put at stake the peace and stability of the entire South Asian region, bringing it once again to the brink of conflict. Despite all the criticism worldwide, with its politico-military offensive in Kashmir, it seems that India has already decided to determine the fate of the disputed region through sheer arrogance and brutality. India is mistakenly perceiving that such moves would likely tighten its grip over the restive region that is at the heart of more than 70 years of hostility with Pakistan. India’s policy to forcefully make Kashmir a part of the Indian Union by annexing it through political and military means would serve as a dangerous precedent. This poses a serious detriment towards the long-desired peaceful settlement of the Kashmir dispute and even with more disastrous consequences for the whole region.

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Remapping Indian Occupied Kashmir: A Multipronged Travesty

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The second Presidential Order on the Reorganization of Jammu & Kashmir by India in 2019 is yet another outlandish decision to challenge the objectives of a peaceful coexistence. It is a call for altering an International Order more conversant to breach the democratic political norms, history and fundamental rights. Kashmiris are once again rebuffed of their demand for self-determination while being locked in an unprecedented brutal curfew entering into more than one hundred days. The desecration is obviously offensive.

Including the areas of Gilgit, Gilgit Wazarat, Chilhas and Tribal Territory of 1947, a part from the remaining areas of Leh and Ladakh districts of 1947 into the Indian Union is a violation of several United Nations Security Council resolutions passed decades ago. The Kargil District was already carved out.

Historically, there were 14 Districts of Jammu & Kashmir at the time of partition, which included Kathua. Jammu. Udhanpur, Reasi,  Anantnag, Baramullah, Poonch, Mirpur, Muzaffarabad, Leh and Ladakh, Gigit, GilgitWazarat, Chilas and Tribal Territory. The new districts included were Kupwara, Bandipur, Ganderbal, Srinagar, Budgam, Pulwama, Shupian, Kulgam, Rajori, Ramban, Doda, Kishtiwar, Samba and Kargil. The illustrative declaration of Muzaffarabad and MirpurKhas areas of Azad Kashmir which are under the administrative rule of Pakistan is an untenable denial of the history of the region.

To refresh their memories India needs to remember that at the time when Maharaja Hari Singh signed the controversial Instrument of Accession with India in October 1947, Gilgit was already inflamed with the passions of rebellion against Hindus and Sikhs living in Gilgit. While representing the will of his people, Muzzaffar, the raja orderly in Chilas said:

“The whole of Gilgit Agency is pro-Pakistan … we could never swear allegiance to Hindustan. Apart from religion, the Gilgit Agency is really a part of the NWFP and is therefore a part of Pakistan. If Kashmir remains independent, well and good … .But if the Maharaja through pig headedness and bad advice, political pressure or attractive remunerations accedes to Hindustan, then there will be trouble here!”

This was sensed by the British Administrator William Brown as well and decided to overthrow the then Governor Ghansara Singh in a bloodless coup d’etat in November 1947 and a provisional government was established by the locals of Gilgit. Raja Shah Rais was appointed as the president and Mirza Hassan Khan as the Commander-in-Chief. Pakistani political agent took over the region, once Khan Abdul Qayyum received a telegraph from Brown on November 16, 1947.

By May1948, the Gilgit Scouts had already taken over Baltistan, Ladakh and Skardu as well. Indian reinforcements were blocked at Dras and Kargil which helped them cut off Indian communications to Leh in Ladakh. However, Kargil was recaptured by them in autumn 1948 but Baltistan remained in control of Pakistan, after which India itself took the issue to the UN.

The current remapping of the region of Jammu & Kashmir is nonetheless not only a snubof facts but also adding into already destabilising factors in the region.The Pakistani parts of Kashmir to the north and west of the cease-fire line established at the end of the Indo-Pakistani War of 1947, or the Line of Control as it later came to be called, were divided into the Northern Areas in the north and the Pakistani state of Azad Kashmir in the south. The name “Northern Areas” was first used by the United Nations to refer to the northern areas of Kashmir. Pakistan has declared that “no step by India could change the disputed status of Jammu and Kashmir as recognised by the United Nations”, and has pledged time and again that it will continue to support the just struggle of the Kashmiris.

In an attempt to rewind the India of antiquity or revitalize the Indian Civilization lost in the international order of nation-states in the post WWI era, Narendra Modi’s arrogant Hindutva regime is non-realistic. The current attempt is a follow up of the Geospatial Information Regulation Bill (GIRB) passed by the Indian ministry of Home Affairs on May4, 2016, during his earlier tenure of rule on India. The Bill was meant to regulate the acquisition, dissemination, publication and distribution of geospatial information of India. It restricted the addition or creation of any information related to geospatial imagery, data acquisition through space or aerial platforms such as satellites, aircrafts, airships, balloons or unmanned aerial vehicles without the permission of the government of India. The Bill also made its violation indictable in contravention of the section 4 with a fine ranging from Rs. 1 crore to 100 crores or imprisonment for a period of up to seven years. The draft resolution had also decided to set up an Apex Committee, A Security Vetting Authority and an Enforcement and Appellant authority to only allow the distribution of maps considered right by the Indian government. It was deceptively declared to ensure the security, sovereignty and integrity of the state of India with impact on all who may or may not agree with the Bill defining the geographical boundaries of India. The spokesman of the Indian External Affairs Ministry Vikas Swarup once reiterated that the state of Jammu & Kashmir was an “integral part of India” and the GIRB was an “entirely internal legislative matter of India.”

Assaulting the international political system, human dignity, basic liberties and perpetual boundary disputes by the Indian offensive posture have added to the stressed political environment of the region. In case of the failure of the domestic proceedings to address human concerns, it becomes mandatory for the world community to ensure the respect of the world peace. History records that after the WWII, there had been 14 out of 21 major inter-state wars on territorial conflicts. Global history of cartography has always been closely linked. Situating the “geobody,” along with altering the archival documents by the nationalist regime of Modi largely emboldened by the Western powers for their own strategic and economic preferences, is a teasing question on the UN partiality. The history of border violations or failed negotiations over an issue increases the likelihood of armed conflict and nonbinding management.

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Kartarpur Corridor: A message of Peace and Prosperity

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Kartarpur corridor was opened on 9 November 2019 (Saturday). It paved the way for the Sikh community to visit one of the most important religious shrines without a visa. There are approximately 150 million Sikhs around the world, out of which around 120 million are living in India. The other countries having the Sikh community are Afghanistan, Pakistan, UK, Canada, and USA.  However, the origin of the Sikh religion in Punjab, which was divided into Indian Punjab and Pakistani Punjab in 1947 at the time of independence of the sub-continent from British rule. The partition of Punjab has divided many Sikh families between Pakistan and India.  Due to political rivalry, among Pakistan and India, has adversely affected the Sikh Community. Some of the family members have never met in the last 72 years and few of them have already expired already.

While Sikh, Muslims and other religions lived together for centuries, especially in Punjab, and enjoyed complete harmony as the language and cultures are identical. But after partition, in 1947, the rivalry between Pakistan and India kept them separated for 72 years. With the opening of this Corridor, the Sikhs community in India becomes the most beneficiary and they are grateful for the gesture of goodwill by Pakistan.

The Kartarpur Corridor connects between Pakistan and India, the Sikh shrines of Dera Baba Nanak Sahib (located in Punjab, India) and GurdwaraDarbar Sahib (in Punjab, Pakistan). The corridor is intended to allow religious devotees from India to visit the Gurdwara in Kartarpur, 4.7 kilometers from the Pakistan-India border, without a visa.

The Corridor was first proposed in early 1999 by the prime ministers of India and Pakistan, Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Nawaz Sharif, respectively, as part of the Delhi–Lahore Bus diplomacy. On 26 November 2018, the foundation stone was laid down on the Indian side and after two days, on 28 November 2018, the foundation stone on the Pakistani side was laid down by Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan. The corridor along with all its allied services and amenities was completed in a record time frame. The corridor was completed for the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev on 12 November 2019. As a special to mark the 550th birth anniversary, the Government of Pakistan has waved the fee amounting to US Dollars 20 for three days. It has created a huge good-will.

The corridor has not only connected the Sikh community on both sides of the border but also opened a new chapter of religious tourism in Pakistan. There are many other religious sites in Pakistan, which belongs to Hindus or Sikhs religion and may attract devotees and visitors in thousands of thousands in number. Kartarpur corridor is just a beginning, if it goes smoothly, many new sites will be open to Hindus and Sikhs as well.

This will also generate an opportunity for economic activities and enhance people to people contact. Promote harmony and understanding between the two hostile nations. In fact, Kartarpur Corridor is a message of Peace and Prosperity.

Pakistan is a peace-loving nation and a very responsible state. Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan is well matured, visionary leader. He said on this occasion “Pakistan believes that the road to the prosperity of the region and bright future of our coming generation lies in peace”, adding that “Pakistan is not only opening the border but also their hearts for the Sikh community”. The Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, compared the decision to go ahead with the corridor by the two countries to the fall of the Berlin Wall, saying that the project may help in easing tensions between the two countries.

Previously, pilgrims from India had to take a bus to Lahore to get to Kartarpur, which is 125 km journey although people on the Indian side of the border could physically see GurdwaraDarbar Sahib Kartarpur on the Pakistani side. An elevated observation platform had also been constructed on the Indian side, where people use binoculars to get a good view.

Indian Prime Minister Modi has thanked PM Imran Khan for his good-will gesture. It is hoped that India will reciprocate in the same manner and provide an opportunity to the People of Pakistan and Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan to thanks Indian Prime Minister Modi.

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