Srinagar, Indian-administered Kashmir – Kashmiris on Saturday voted in the first local elections since the tumultuous abrogation of the Muslim-majority region’s limited autonomy last August, marking the resumption of a stalled political process.
Nearly six million voters across the disputed region’s 20 districts are eligible to elect 280 members of District Development Councils (DDC) who will have no power to legislate or amend laws in the region now directly run from New Delhi. Elections are also being held to fill vacant seats in panchayat (village council) and municipal bodies.
About 1,000 candidates from various political parties, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), are participating in the eight-phase DDC elections for what some Kashmiri analysts say is a symbolic exercise in a region with a deep distrust of India.
Voting is under way for the third phase on Friday. Nearly 52 percent of the people voted on Saturday while the second round held on Tuesday saw 49 percent voting amid tight security, with Pulwama district in south Kashmir registering less than seven percent polling – indicating a seeming lack of interest in the democratic process.
The region’s two bitter rivals – the National Conference (NC) and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), have come together for the first time as part of People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) to contest the elections.
‘Struggle and resist’
The NC, that has ruled most of the last seven decades in Kashmir, has provided three chief ministers while former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti belongs to the PDP. Her late father Mufti Mohammad Sayeed also served twice as the chief minister of the region, the last time in an alliance with the BJP.
The so-called PAGD alliance is contesting the election on a platform of restoration of Kashmir’s special status and statehood.
India’s Hindu nationalist government downgraded Kashmir’s statehood after stripping its special status on August 5 and jailed thousands, including most of the pro-Indian politicians fearing protests in the wake of its unprecedented decision.
Mufti, the former chief minister of the region who was imprisoned under the stringent Public Safety Act (PSA) last year and was released in October this year, told Al Jazeera that Kashmiri parties formed the alliance to not leave “space open for the BJP”.
“If we stay away from it (election) then those elements will occupy this space who will be detrimental to the interests of Jammu and Kashmir,” she said.
“It’s a political fight now for us. It’s not that BJP will last forever in rule and we will not resist. We have to struggle and resist, we can’t stop resisting,” Mufti, who last served as chief minister in a coalition with the BJP, said.
But the BJP has targeted pro-India parties that have dominated politics since the region’s controversial accession to India in 1947 on some of its conditions. New Delhi removed Article 370 that gave Kashmir a measure of autonomy, including its own flag, constitution and the right to make laws.
Aneesa Gul, 32, who is fighting on the BJP’s ticket in central Kashmir’s Chadoora village told Al Jazeera that her party’s “motive is only development and [to] erase unemployment and funding for women”.
“BJP will develop Kashmir better than Gujarat,” said Gul, who has been associated with the BJP since 2014. “The gang made by other politicians (has) cheated Kashmir for 70 years through their rule. They cannot fool people any more. We have to develop Kashmir.”
Zahoor Ahmad from Theed village in the outskirts of Srinagar, told Al Jazeera he “wants to fight to gain power and work for the betterment of youth” in his locality.
“The politics and power has always been held by old people and they didn’t benefit us in any way. We are young and we hope to help young people,” said Ahmad, 32, who is running as an independent.
Suhail Bukhari, a former journalist who is running with the PAGD coalition, accused the region’s New Delhi-run administration of hindering campaign activities of his alliance.
“There have been many instances where the candidates of alliance have been hindered and restricted and others are being facilitated,” said Bukhari who is contesting a seat in Sangrama village, Baramulla district.
“These elections pose a larger political question for Jammu and Kashmir because of the backdrop of the August 5 changes, which was unconstitutional and undemocratic,” he said.
Noor Ahmad Baba, a political analyst based in the region told Al Jazeera that the BJP wants “to change the nature of politics in Kashmir”.
“The situation does not seem to be normal. Everything is governed by Delhi and it is regulating and managing the affairs of the region. The BJP seems to have its own long-term programme for changing the nature of politics in Kashmir. After it removed article 370 last year, there is no local government this time,” he said.
Baba said the political structure was “completely disrupted” by last year’s events.
“People who represented mainstream politics in Kashmir have not been happy and were not taken on board. For most time they remained under restrictions, they have taken a different position, there is a big polarisation,” he said.
The election is significant for both New Delhi as well as the region’s politicians. While the elections will help New Delhi to restart the political process in Kashmir, the region’s political leaders will use the election to make a comeback.
Siddiq Wahid, a political analyst and academic, told al Jazeera that the governing BJP’s agenda is to “show that things are normal in Kashmir” through the elections.
Wahid said that the election has “no credibility because it bypasses institutions and it creates new institutions when you don’t have democratically elected government in place. I don’t think they are very significant elections, though BJP is trying to make it one.”
Thousands of troops have been deployed in addition to the more than half million forces already stationed in Kashmir, to ensure smooth conduct during the elections, as rebels continue to carry out attacks.
KK Sharma, the election commissioner overseeing the polls, in an interview with Al Jazeera defended the opposition allegations, saying the government measures were to ensure candidates’ safety.
Terming the elections as “significant and historic for Kashmir”, Sharma said they were “very democratically contested elections.”
People wave flags atop cars in traffic during a demonstration to voice support for the people of Palestine, at Toronto City Hall in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, on 15 May 2021.
between pro-Israel and pro-Palestine protesters in Montreal was condemned by
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
city police force intervened and declared the protests illegal after tensions
heightened and clashes broke out.
strikes killed 42 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip on Sunday, the worst daily
toll in almost a week of clashes.
– Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Sunday condemned the violence and
“despicable rhetoric” that marked several weekend protests throughout
the country, after clashes between pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian protesters in
worst violence in years, sparked by unrest in Jerusalem, is raging between the
Jewish state and Islamist militants.
strikes killed 42 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip on Sunday, the worst daily
toll in almost a week of deadly clashes.
after protests in Montreal, Trudeau condemned what he said was “despicable
rhetoric and violence we saw on display in some protests this weekend”.
Everyone has the right to assemble peacefully and express themselves freely in Canada – but we cannot and will not tolerate antisemitism, Islamophobia, or hate of any kind. We strongly condemn the despicable rhetoric and violence we saw on display in some protests this weekend.
insisting on the “right to assemble peacefully and express themselves
freely in Canada”, Trudeau stressed in a tweet that there was no tolerance
for “antisemitism, Islamophobia, or hate of any kind”.
on Sunday, Montreal police used tear gas following clashes between pro-Israel
and pro-Palestinian protesters.
hundred demonstrators, draped in Israeli flags, had gathered in a central
Montreal square to express solidarity with the Jewish state.
‘Protesting is a right’
the protest started peacefully, tensions ratcheted up with the arrival of
pro-Palestinian demonstrators and clashes soon broke out.
SPVM, Montreal’s city police force, declared the protests illegal, and squads
of riot police intervened, using tear gas to separate and disperse the two
groups, according to an AFP journalist at the scene.
police spent much of the afternoon in pursuit of the pro-Palestinian
protesters, who spread out and regrouped in commercial streets in the city centre.
the clashes, Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante said on Twitter that
“protesting is a right”, but that “intolerance, violence and
anti-Semitism have no place here”.
Montreal is a city of peace.
thousand pro-Palestinian demonstrators had gathered on Saturday in central
Montreal to denounce what they said were Israeli repression and “war
crimes” in Gaza.
Israel”, some protesters chanted, while others held up a banner that read,
“Stop the genocide of Palestinian children”.
protests happened the same day in multiple Canadian cities, including Toronto,
Ottawa and Vancouver.
“A new app is offering you the chance to do just that.”
When writer Brandon Wong recently couldn’t decide what takeaway to order one evening, he asked his followers on social media app NewNew to choose for him. Those that wanted to get involved in the 24-year-old’s dinner dilemma paid $5 (£3.50) to vote in a poll, and the majority verdict was that he should go for Korean food, so that was what he bought…
NewNew is the brainchild of Los Angeles-based entrepreneur Courtne Smith. The app, which is still in its “beta” or pre-full release stage, describes itself as “a human stock market where you buy shares in the lives of real people, in order to control their decisions and watch the outcome”. For many of us that sounds a bit ominous, but the reality is actually far less alarming. It is aimed at what it calls “creators” — writers, painters, musicians, fashion designers, bloggers etc. It is designed as a way for them to connect far more closely with their fans or followers than on other social media services and, importantly, monetise that connection…
Whenever a vote is cast the creator gets the money minus NewNew’s undisclosed commission… In addition to voting, followers can also pay extra — from $20 — to ask a NewNew creator to do something of their choosing, such as naming a character in a book after them. But the creator can reject all of these “bids”, and if they do so then the follower doesn’t have to part with the money…
Co-founder and chief executive Ms Smith, a 33-year-old Canadian, has big plans for NewNew, and has some heavyweight backers. Investors include Peter Thiel, the billionaire co-founder of PayPal, and the first outside person to put money into Facebook. Others with a stake in the business include leading US tech investment fund Andreessen Horowitz, and Hollywood actor Will Smith (no relation to Courtne). Snapchat has also given technical support.
Saker was Australia’s bowling coach when Bancroft was caught trying to rough up the ball with sandpaper during the third Test against South Africa.
While refusing to be drawn on who knew what, Saker said “the finger-pointing is going to go on and on and on”.
“It’s like the underarm, it’s never going to go away,” he told Fairfax Media, referring to a 1981 incident when Trevor Chappell bowled underarm to ensure New Zealand lost a one-day match at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
The notorious delivery is still cited in New Zealand and in cricketing circles as a prime example of unsporting conduct.
However, the ball-tampering scandal – dubbed “sandpapergate” – had a greater impact on Australian cricket, with the then-captain Steve Smith and his deputy David Warner suspended for a year from all cricket and stripped of their leadership roles.
Darren Lehmann also quit as coach and all the top brass from Cricket Australia left after a scathing review blasted their “arrogant and controlling” win-at-all-costs culture.
No one else among the team or coaching staff was held to account but Bancroft’s remarks in an interview with The Guardian newspaper hinted that the team’s bowlers at least knew about the plan.
“Obviously what I did benefits bowlers and the awareness around that, probably, is self-explanatory,” he said.
Saker added: “There was a lot of people to blame. It could have been me to blame, it could have been someone else. It could have been stopped and it wasn’t, which is unfortunate.
“Cameron’s a very nice guy. He’s just doing it to get something off his chest … He’s not going to be the last.”
In response, Cricket Australia said that if anyone had new information, they would look into it.
Saker said he was not opposed to a fresh investigation but added “I just don’t know what they’re going to find out.”
We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can
trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to
a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism,
top opinions and a range of features. Journalism
strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Washington – Miss Mexico was crowned Miss Universe on Sunday in Florida, after fellow contestant Miss Myanmar used her stage time to draw attention to the bloody military coup in her country.
Sunday night marked the Miss Universe competition’s return to television, after the pageant was cancelled in 2020 for the first time due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Andrea Meza, 26, finished first ahead of the Brazilian and Peruvian finalists in a flashy televised event, hosted by American actor Mario Lopez and television personality Olivia Culpo.
Former Miss Universe contestants Cheslie Kryst, Paulina Vega and Demi-Leigh Tebow (who won the title in 2017) served as competition analysts and commentators, and a panel of eight women determined the winner.
Dressed in a sparkling red evening gown, Meza tearfully walked the catwalk as Miss Universe for the first time, before rushing back for a group hug with the other competitors.
Meza beat more than 70 contestants from around the globe in the 69th installment of Miss Universe, which was held at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida.
In the days leading up to the final competition, Miss Myanmar Thuzar Wint Lwin, who made the top 21, made waves when she used her time in the spotlight to bring attention to the coup in her country.
“Our people are dying and being shot by the military every day,” she said during her biographical video, which showed photos of her taking part in the anti-coup protests. “Therefore I would like to urge everyone to speak out about Myanmar.”
She also won the award for best national costume: during that competition segment on Thursday, she wore an outfit beaded in traditional Burmese patterns and held up a sign that said, “Pray for Myanmar.”
Myanmar has been in uproar since February 1, when the army ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
At least 796 people have been killed by security forces since then, according to a local monitoring group, while nearly 4 000 people are behind bars.
Miss Singapore Bernadette Belle Ong – who did not make the top 21 – also used the national costume portion to make a political statement.
Dressed in a glittering red bodysuit and matching thigh-high boots, she turned around to reveal her cape – in the colours of the Singaporean flag – was painted with the words “Stop Asian Hate.”
“What is this platform for if I can’t use it to send a strong message of resistance against prejudice and violence?” she wrote on Instagram alongside pictures of her outfit.
The United States in particular has seen a surge in anti-Asian violence in the past year, which activists have blamed on former president Donald Trump’s rhetoric, especially his repeated description of Covid-19 as the “China virus.”
The pageant has also drawn criticism in the past for objectifying the contestants.
In recent years, the competition has shifted image, focusing more on female empowerment and activism.