Kashmir Orders Probe Following Separatist Leader’s Inclusion in State-Sponsored Poster

Amin Masoodi
Srinagar, India
171012-IN-kashmir-620.jpg A photograph of Kashmiri separatist leader Asiya Andrabi (top row, second from right) is featured in a poster that includes images of distinguished women as part of a state-sponsored campaign in south Kashmir’s Anantnag district, Oct. 11, 2017.
Courtesy of Sheikh Mashooq

Authorities in Indian-administered Kashmir on Thursday ordered an investigation to determine how a jailed separatist leader’s likeness was featured in a state-funded poster listing distinguished women achievers including Nobel Peace laureate Mother Teresa and former Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

The poster, carrying an image of a veiled Asiya Andrabi, who heads an all-woman separatist organization in the disputed Himalayan region, was released by the state’s social welfare department on Wednesday as part of the government’s “Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao” (save and educate the girl-child) campaign.

An official of the department responsible for what was described as a “goof up” has been suspended, Indian Kashmir’s Social Welfare Minister Sajad Lone told BenarNews.

“At best, Andrabi is an aberration and not a role model for women in Kashmir. The officer responsible for this grave error has been placed under suspension,” Lone said.

Mehbooba Mufti, chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) state (as Indian Kashmir is known), also figured in the list.

Andrabi, 55, has been in jail since May on charges of inciting women to fight against Indian rule in J&K, where a separatist insurgency has led to more than 70,000 deaths since the 1980s.

Andrabi heads Dukhtaran-e-Millat (DeM), or “daughters of faith,” a hardline group fighting to establish Islamic law in the region that is claimed in its entirety by both India and Pakistan and is divided by a de facto border called the Line of Control (LoC).

DeM members contacted by BenarNews declined to comment.

Soldier killed

The government of Muslim-majority J&K, which is led by the People’s Democratic Party in coalition with India’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), ordered the probe on a day an Indian soldier and a civilian were killed in a gun battle along the LoC in the region’s Poonch district.

The fighting came a day after two elite members of the Indian Air Force were killed a gunfight with suspected Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) militants in north Kashmir’s Bandipora district.

The two militants, who were also responsible for killing an off-duty security personnel last month, were gunned down in retaliatory fire, the army said.

“The Pakistan Army resorted to heavy firing along the LoC around 10:30 a.m. Indian side retaliated with full force, prompting the Pakistani side to go silent,” Army spokesman Col. Manish Mehta told BenarNews.

About 20 people, including 14 civilians, had been injured on the Indian side in cross-border shelling across the LoC this week, Mehta said.


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