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Analysis

Has Kashmir’s spiral of violence slipped out of control?

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Kashmir Violence

Srinagar, April 18 : An alarming spurt in violence in early spring has been marked by attacks on civilians by militants, the army using a civilian as a shield against stone-pelters, the lowest ever voter turn-out in a parliamentary by-election and the use of social media as a tool to stoke passions.

These are all indications of bad days ahead for Kashmiris, who were looking forward to a calmer summer in 2017.

If this is the bad news, what is even worse is that the situation appears to be slipping out of the hands of both the state and the non-state actors in Kashmir’s sordid drama of pain and suffering.

In the Srinagar parliamentary by-poll on April 9, just seven per cent of the voters came out to exercise their franchise. Eight civilian protesters died while trying to ensure the boycott of an election that was otherwise ignored by a vast majority of Kashmiris.

The fallout of the unprecedented low voter turnout and violence in Srinagar forced the deferment of the Anantnag by-poll that was scheduled on April 12.

While the Election Commission pushed this to May 25, all indications on the ground suggest it would have to be deferred to October or beyond.

In other violence, two civilians were killed in the south Kashmir districts of Pulwama and Shopian for their political affiliations.

Bashir Ahmad Dar of Rajpora town in Pulwama was killed on April 15 by gunmen for his affiliation with the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) while a day later, a young lawyer was killed in Pinjura village of Shopian district for his affiliation with the National Conference (NC).

The young lawyer had served as a public prosecutor during the NC government in the state.

On April 16, a video clip was uploaded on social media of a trader of Pulwama town denouncing India and begging for his life with guns pointed at him.

In another video from the same district a civilian was seen cursing himself for being an activist of a mainstream political party and vowed never to even look at politics in the future.

The recent “video war” in the Valley started after images of a CRPF trooper being heckled by youths during the April 9 election were uploaded on social media.

This was followed by the video of a youth tied to the front of an army jeep, apparently to avoid attacks from stone-pelters.

Then, massive Valley-wide protests by students broke out on April 17 after videos showing students of Pulwama college being ruthlessly beaten by the security forces were uploaded on social media the previous day.

To prevent the use of social media as a tool to stoke passions, the authorities on Monday again ordered the suspension of mobile internet services in the Valley.

Also, the internet speed of fixed-line broadband connections has been lowered to prevent uploading of videos.

Following attacks on the families of policemen, the state police department issued an advisory on April 16 asking its men to exercise extreme caution while visiting their home towns.

On Monday, Amnesty International took serious note of armed groups targeting civilians. The human rights watchdog condemned attacks on civilians for their political affiliations and also on the families of state police force.

The operations of the security forces have been highly compromised by civilian protests while they are on, especially in south Kashmir districts.

Army chief, General Bipin Rawat, visited the state on Sunday. He met Governor N.N. Vohra in Jammu and then Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval in New Delhi.

Gen. Rawat has reportedly expressed displeasure against a youth being tied to an army jeep to avoid stone-pelting.

An FIR has been lodged by the state police against the army personnel involved in the act.

The opposition NC has demanded dismissal of the PDP-BJP government, accusing it of “Pushing Kashmir into darkness”.

The PDP and BJP leaders have, in turn, accused the NC of having left behind the Aegean Stables of trouble during its long years of of rule.

The blame games between the mainstream parties notwithstanding, unless the central and the state governments act fast to pull Kashmir out of its present spiral of anger and violence, 2017 might be worse than what Kashmiris have been through since armed violence started here in the early 1990s.

(Sheikh Qayoom can be reached at [email protected])

Analysis

86% NCR residents cite lack of severe punishment for sexual harassment: Study

For the survey, 5,221 responses were collected from Delhi, Gurgaon and Noida to understand the factors and possible remedies of sexual harassment against women and girls in public places.

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sexual harassment

New Delhi, April 24 (IANS) Lack of severe punishment is considered as the most rampant cause of sexual harassment by 86 per cent respondents in the NCR region, as per as study.

The study, done by Indian Institute for Integrated Women and Child Development (ISI-WCD) and released by the Women and Child Development Ministry, was one of 18 projects the ministry had sponsored, between 2015-17, in areas like economic empowerment of women, skill development, child trafficking, nutrition management and others.

For the survey, 5,221 responses were collected from Delhi, Gurgaon and Noida to understand the factors and possible remedies of sexual harassment against women and girls in public places.

According to the survey, 84 per cent of the responsdents think that availability of pornographic materials on mobile phone is also a cause of sexual harassment in NCR region while 83 per cent believes it is because of easy access to social media site Facebook or the internet.

“Revealing dresses of women has been seen as the reason for sexual assault by 53 per cent, 35 per cent and 37 per cent by residents of Delhi, Gurgaon and Noida respectively while informal behaviour of women has also been seen as the reason by 49 per cent, 30 per cent and 70 per cent from the three locations respectively,” the study notes.

The study also revealed that 35 per cent of men and 50 per cent women have perceived sexual aggression in men as responsible for sexual harassment of women.

It is also found that 70 per cent of the respondents have said to face sexual abuse from work partners or colleagues, 63 per cent from office seniors, 48 per cent from friends and 38 per cent from teachers.

According to the study, 87 per cent respondents agreed that women suffer from verbal abuse, 88 per cent have suffered from physical abuse and 94 per cent stated that they are being stared at.

On enhancing safety for women in public places, 96 per cent respondents suggested that crowded buses or stations should be under constant camera surveillance, 93 per cent wanted public places well lit, 90 per cent prefers frequent police patrolling, 94 per cent said legal punishments should be made harsher while 92 per cent said judicial disposals should be made quicker.

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Analysis

Is UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath losing his sheen?

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UP_CM_YOGI

By Mohit Dubey

Lucknow, April 10 (IANS) Is Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath — in power for just over a year — fast losing his lustre?

Many here feel so..

A litany of complaints about his public conduct, his behaviour with colleagues as well as common people is fast eroding the aura he had built up as the five-time Lok Sabha MP from Gorakhpur who was catapulted to the Chief Minister’s office of a socially diverse and politically volatile state of 220 million people.

Last week, 24-year-old Ayush Bansal shocked many when he broke down in front of media in Gorakhpur and disclosed how the monk-turned-Chief Minister mocked him during a “junta darbaar” where he had gone to complain about a land-grab case in which independent legislator from Nautanwa, Amanmani Tripathi, was involved.

He also accused the Chief Minister of calling him “awaraa” (wayward) and pushing him while throwing his file in the air. “Maharaj ji angrily snapped at me and said my work will never be done and that I should get out of his sight,” Bansal told IANS.

While officials got down to damage control and said the matter was being looked into, the fact that Adityanath behaved in a manner unbecoming of a Chief Minister was neither contradicted by officials nor denied by the ruling party.

Barely had the din over this episode died down when two MPs of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) complained of similar behaviour. In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP MP from Robertsganj Chhote Lal Kharwar, accused Adityanath of “scolding him and asking him to get out”. The MP said he was deeply pained at the behaviour of the Chief Minister as he tried to draw his attention to issues faced by the party faithful.

“Never did the local administration listen to my plants and when I went to meet the Chief Minister twice over many issues, ‘unhone mujhe daantkar bhaga diya‘ (he scolded me and chased me away),” the lawmaker said in his letter.

The BJP leader has also shot off a letter to the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, seeking help. Lal also says that definite proof of wrong-doing and corruption presented by him went unheard and unaddressed.

What is surprising is that all this happened to a man who is the state president of the BJP’s SC/ST Morcha.

While Modi is learnt to have assured Lal of action, there are other similar murmurs about Adityanath’s rough behaviour. Etawah MP Ashok Dohre has also written to Modi accusing the state police of lodging fake cases against SCs and STs during the Bharat Bandh. When asked why he did not petition the Chief Minister, Dohre said he considered Modi his leader, and thus petitioned him.

Alarmed by the sudden “unease” among the party’s lawmakers, Amit Shah summoned Yogi to New Delhi over the weekend and is learnt to have asked him to mend his ways. Adityanth also met Modi. Interestingly, Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya, who party insiders admit doesn’t see eye to eye with Yogi, was also called to Delhi at the same time.

Ironically, till not long ago, the 45-year-old Chief Minister was being venerated by the party faithful as a man next only to Modi. Insiders, however, now admit that not only has Adityanath failed to show his “pakad” (hold) on the party, but is also “awkwardly arrogant in his public conduct”, and not very able in his administration.

“He may be a busy man, so have been his predecessors… he remains inaccessible and uses foul and unacceptable language at times,” conceded a senior minister who did not wish to be named. Though stopping short of calling the Chief Minister arrogant, he suggested that “Yogi-ji is better advised to be more courteous and improve his time management”.

A senior party functionary too noted “the changing ways of Maharaj-ji”, though he felt “mood swings and the tongue-lashings could be because he has to handle a big state like Uttar Pradesh”.

A senior bureaucrat also alleged that the Chief Minister often “goes off the handle” and could be very acerbic in his dealing with officials.

The Chief Minister’s loyalists, however, point out that he does not like people to hang around him and wants officials to deliver fast and work within the system that has been set up. When there is any breach, he loses his temper, a close aide told IANS.

His failure to deliver on his promise to get all pot-holed roads fixed by a given deadline last year; the rollback — under pressure — in privatisation of the power sector in five cities; the poor showing in the Phulpur and Gorakhpur Lok Sabha by-polls and reports that he and his deputy, Keshav Prasad Maurya, don’t get along well have already rung alarm bells in the establishment, sources said.

IANS

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Analysis

Can you have your privacy and eat it too?

The shift in the privacy burden, and it is a heavy burden to bear, onto those we entrust with our data to do right with it, is what is hoped will be key to ensuring much of this.

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Privacy

When Aristotle seminally made a distinction between the polis and the oikos, laying the early foundations of the confidential zone, he did so around clear societal demarcations and a very different understanding of what was private, and what privacy needed protection from.

In an era of automated public and private spheres mediated by all-powerful, all-pervasive online intermediaries, these boundaries have dangerously blurred, and the fallout of this is visible for all to see.

A number of the technologies that we spent the best part of the last decade celebrating have fallen from grace, and more watershed moments than one would have liked have heralded renewed demands for privacy in a new avatar — that what is proverbially whispered into the palm of your hand isn’t proclaimed from the vast house-tops of cyberspace, to your detriment and in ways you cannot even foresee.

In this environment, privacy takes on a whole new meaning and context, and is not just about preserving a sacred mental and physical space, but also informational control. As Danah Boyd recently proffered, beyond simply restricting access, privacy today is about strategically controlling the availability of one’s information in different social contexts, as well as its interpretation and reach.

But how do we balance this with, going back to Aristotle, our inherent disposition to be social animals? Can we continue doing so online and expect a fair privacy bargain in the process?

The privacy paradox — our claim to hold privacy as a high virtue, yet part with our information for a voucher code, Farm Coins, or free Wi-Fi — is very real. The blame for this, however, does not, try as the tech giants might, lie squarely on users, who have every right to be spooked by Cambridge Analytica, Strava or Netflix’s “creepy” tweets — and others that did and didn’t make it to the headlines.

The internet was born as a free and open space for people, who have instead been thrust into walled gardens, unwittingly and systematically misled, monetised, and offered unfair, sometimes dire, choices online. A recalibration then, was long overdue.

For big tech, balancing meaningful privacy and control with business models inherently at cross purposes with the Net’s ethos, is going to be an uphill task. Built around the data-for-ads value exchange, cutting off, controlling or reshaping the supply of that data has direct consequences for businesses, as Facebook, Acxiom and other stock prices reliant on maintaining that status quo have recently shown.

Also challenging is the manner in which the current ecosystem has technologically been constructed. The Move-Fast-and-Break-Things dicta translate into systems designed to incentivise (over)sharing and then vacuum up, analyse and disseminate data, primarily so that it can be monetised with tremendous speed and accuracy.

Imbuing these systems with respect for user-agency, contextual integrity and accounting for meaningful privacy in networked environments — where you may choose to be a social media hermit but turn up regularly on your friend’s (public) Instagram — is going to require going back to the drawing board on several fronts.

As rights go, the solution to addressing this doesn’t lie in simply providing greater individual ownership and control over and consent for using data, although these are key constituents of the privacy toolkit. Preserving privacy includes balancing the data-for-services barter so it is no longer askew. Knowing what you’re signing up for doesn’t make up for being given a raw deal you have no choice but to agree to.

An important premise of right to privacy being inviolable is that choices inconsistent with these rights cannot be presented to begin with, and they cannot simply be circumvented by burying things in fine print and engineering consent.

With comprehensive new data protection regulation flowing from such rights in place and on the anvil in many parts of the world (including in India), carefully accounting for a majority of these issues, the hope this time is that the law will not have to continue to keep playing catch-up, reactively bandaging our privacy wounds one at a time.

Rather, the idea is to send users out into the web forearmed with comprehensive rights, meaningfully in control of their data, and shielded by privacy — by design and default. The shift in the privacy burden, and it is a heavy burden to bear, onto those we entrust with our data to do right with it, is what is hoped will be key to ensuring much of this.

Beyond this, it is also time we as users meaningfully utilised the increased agency we’re being offered. Perfunctorily taking steps like deleting Facebook or slapping a webcam cover on your laptop are, while not entirely meaningless, largely placebos and can leave our understanding of, and response to, privacy stunted, keeping us vulnerable to being gamed in newer ways yet again.

Our informational privacy demands and deserves more of our time and attention, and proactively developing an objective, more nuanced understanding of our personal data, its use and our rights over it is an important obligation we must all fulfil. Our collective action in doing so, backed by powerful rights balancing the scales online, may just let us, at least in part, have our privacy and eat it too.

By : Arnav Joshi

(Arnav Joshi is a technology lawyer, data ethics researcher and Data and Society master’s candidate at the London School of Economics and Political Science. He can be reached via twitter @boom_lawyered)

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