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Fear in Kashmir as top general talks of ‘deradicalisation’ camps

New Delhi, India – India’s newly recruited Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat has courted controversy after he claimed that so-called “deradicalisation” camps are operating in India, drawing a comparison with the internment of Uighurs in China. “Like what we are seeing in Kashmir … we saw radicalisation happening,” Rawat said addressing the media…

Fear in Kashmir as top general talks of ‘deradicalisation’ camps

New Delhi, India – India’s newly recruited Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat has courted controversy after he claimed that so-called “deradicalisation” camps are operating in India, drawing a comparison with the internment of Uighurs in China.
“Like what we are seeing in Kashmir … we saw radicalisation happening,” Rawat said addressing the media and foreign delegates in New Delhi last week.
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“There are people who have completely been radicalised. These people need to be taken out separately, possibly taken into some deradicalisation camps. We have deradicalisation camps going on in our country.”
Fear among Kashmiris
Rawat’s comments have caused a wave of fear among Kashmiris who claim that India wishes to do what the Chinese are doing in Xinjiang province. Human rights groups say more than a million Uighurs have been rounded up in internment camps, that Beijing dubs as “re-education camps”, to eradicate so-called religious “extremism”.
I don’t see this problem in Kashmir with the prism of radicalization.
Zafar Chowdhary, Kashmiri political analyst

“India should not follow China because India has a claim to constituent democracy,” said Professor Noor Ahmad Baba, a political analyst based in Srinagar, the main city in the Muslim-majority region placed under lockdown for the past five months.

A Kashmiri girl rides her bike past Indian security force personnel standing guard in front of closed shops in Srinagar [File: Danish Ismail/Reuters]

On August 5, New Delhi stripped the region of its autonomy after shutting down its communications. Though mobile phones have largely been revived, the region is still without internet access – the longest internet shutdown in a democracy.
“Kashmir is a political issue, there is nothing like radicalisation. This is not a desirable thing to happen in a democracy. Kashmir is a political problem and needs a political solution,” Baba told Al Jazeera.
Meanwhile, confirming Rawat’s claims, a senior police official in Kashmir told Al Jazeera that the first “deradicalisation” centre in Kashmir is on the cards.
“The Jammu and Kashmir police department has conceptualised one de-radicalization centre for which funds have been granted by the Ministry of Home Affairs but it is yet to be established,” the official, who wished to remain anonymous, told Al Jazeera without elaborating on the “deradicalisation centre”.
The region’s police chief, Dilbagh Singh, also backed the idea of “deradicalisation” centres in Kashmir. “If any such facility comes up in Kashmir that will be a good sign, it should happen. It’ll definitely help people, especially those who have gone astray.”
Rawat’s controversial statements
But Kashmiri political analyst Zafar Chowdhary disagreed with the “radicalization theory about Kashmir”.
“I don’t see this problem in Kashmir with the prism of radicalization,” he said.
A politicised military is the complete negation of democracy.
Gazala Wahab, Executive Editor of Force magazine

“They [young Kashmiris] have been betrayed, cheated a number of times by the political leaders, that is lack of trust in the system which is being portrayed by the army and other people as radicalisation.”
However, this is not the first time that Rawat’s statements have created controversies.
In the past, as chief of the Indian Army, he has been criticised for politicising the military with his statements. Many believe that Rawat’s proximity to the ruling Hindu nationalist government helped him become India’s first-ever chief of defence staff – who will supervise all three wings of the defence forces.Ever since he took over from chief of army staff in 2016, Rawat had courted several controversies. In 2017, Rawat backed an Indian Army officer who tied a Kashmiri youth to a jeep to prevent stone-pelters from targeting his convoy. He went on to award the officer who is now facing court-martial because of his questionable conduct in another controversy.

Kashmir has suffered under the longest ever internet shutdown in a democracy [File: Tauseef Mustafa/AFP]

According to the Indian Army Rules of 1954, officers are barred from commenting on politics.
The rule states: “No person subject to the Act shall deliver a lecture or wireless address, on a matter relating to political question or on a service subject or containing any information or views on any service subject without the prior sanction of the Central Government or any officer specified by the Central Government in this behalf.”
However, that has not deterred the former army chief, and now the chief of defence staff, from making controversial political statements.
Politicisation of military
“It is the most unfortunate thing that a man of his stature is lowering the stature of the Indian army by making such political statements. In fact, he has been doing this for long which clearly says about his political alignment,” said Ajai Sahni, founding member and executive director of the Institute of Conflict Management in New Delhi.
Armed forces are and should be apolitical institutions but such trends are disturbing and will have long-term consequences.
Ajai Sahni, Executive Director of the Institute of Conflict Management

“Armed forces are and should be apolitical institutions but such trends are disturbing and will have long-term consequences,” he said.
Retired Air Vice Marshal Kapil Kak, who has been critical of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government’s move to abrogate Article 370 in Kashmir, voiced his reservation against sending children to “deradicalisation” camps.
“There is no denying that some extremists do try to influence people in Kashmir but it is not politically correct to raise this issue to otherwise Kashmiris. Kids being put up in deradicalisation camps is a horrendous proposition,” he told Al Jazeera.
Kak also fears the increasing “politicisation of military and militarisation of politics”, which, according to him, does not bode well for India’s democracy.
India’s military has traditionally remained neutral, unlike its neighbour Pakistan, where the army wields enormous power over the civilian government.
Gazala Wahab, executive editor of Force, India’s leading magazine on national security, suggested that politicisation of the Indian army has been a “slow and insidious process”.”Of course, this is extremely worrisome. A politicised military is the complete negation of democracy. In a multi-cultural, multi-religious country like India, a partisan military will be disastrous.”
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Attorney General Barr: Religion is ‘under siege’ and the consequences are ‘dire’

Attorney General William P. Barr on Wednesday railed against “militant secularists” who he said are eroding the nation’s moral standards and disrupting the founders’ vision of government, liberty and power. In an address to the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast, he called religion the “foundation of a free society” but said it has been “under siege…

Attorney General Barr: Religion is ‘under siege’ and the consequences are ‘dire’

Attorney General William P. Barr on Wednesday railed against “militant secularists” who he said are eroding the nation’s moral standards and disrupting the founders’ vision of government, liberty and power.

In an address to the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast, he called religion the “foundation of a free society” but said it has been “under siege by secularists” who have undermined religion and tried to replace it with a morality hostile to faith.

“The consequences of this hollowing-out of religion have been predictably dire,” Mr. Barr said at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast. “Over the past 50 years, we have seen striking increases in urban violence, drug abuse and broken families. Problems like these have fed the rise of an ever-more powerful central government.”

Mr. Barr, a Catholic, has sounded that theme repeatedly and has increasingly put the power of the Justice Department behind it. During the COVID-19 pandemic, he has deployed U.S. attorneys to demand that houses of worship be treated at least as well as businesses or racial justice protesters.

He received the prayer breakfast’s Christifideles Laici Award for “fidelity to the church, exemplary selfless and steadfast service in the Lord’s vineyard” and other work.

His stances, however, also have drawn fierce opposition within and outside the Catholic Church.

“We consider Mr. Barr’s recent decisions in actions to be abhorrent in the context of the Catholic faith,” the Association of Catholic Priests said in a statement. “We consider especially scandalous his decision to begin again federal executions after 17 years of a moratorium.”

Other Catholic groups complained that Mr. Barr was a poor choice after he oversaw the clearing of anti-Trump protesters from near the White House in June, in an incident that is under investigation by multiple inspectors general.

But Leonard Leo, president of the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast’s board and co-chairman of the Federalist Society, a conservative legal group, said Mr. Barr is “a Catholic public servant” and “a man of courage.”

“His faith informs the attributes of his public service: integrity, honesty, humility, and sincere and wise counsel,” Mr. Leo said.

Mr. Barr has given a series of high-profile speeches over the past year. At an event hosted by Hillsdale College this month, he said the power of the attorney general is to decide which cases get prosecuted and how.

Last year, he raised his concerns about anti-religious sentiment in a speech at the University of Notre Dame, exploring the historical role of religion in the American political experiment.

That speech fueled a feverish debate that Mr. Barr rejoined Wednesday.

He argued that the kind of self-governance at the heart of the American republican system requires self-restraint, “and there is no greater teacher of self-restraint than religion.”

It builds community and reinforces the common good as a goal, he said. That link, he said, is often forgotten or ignored.

He admonished those who invoke the “separation of church and state” — a line from a letter written by Thomas Jefferson, which does not appear in the founding documents — as a precept of governance. He said the meaning is misunderstood.

“Separation of church and state did not mean, and never did mean, separation of church and civics,” he said.

Mr. Barr said he is witnessing “small but significant steps” toward the restoration of religion to its proper role in America and pointed to a trio of Supreme Court cases.

In one, the justices allowed employers to receive religious and moral exemptions to a federal mandate that they provide health insurance that includes free contraception.

In the second case, the high court protected religious schools from employment discrimination lawsuits.

Justices in a third case struck down a provision in the Montana Constitution that exempted religious schools from a scholarship program for underprivileged students.

“In a sense, it is dispiriting that the disputes in these cases ever arose,” he said. “In each case, the religious litigants were not asking for anything more than their basic freedom to exercise their faith.

“Nevertheless, the recognition of those rights by the courts is encouraging,” he said.

Mr. Barr delivered his speech as President Trump,and Democratic presidential nominee Joseph R. Biden, also a Catholic, sparred for Catholic voters.

Catholics have been a key voting bloc in presidential elections but have supported both Republicans and Democrats. However, they have backed the winner in nearly every recent election.

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Surgeon General Jerome Adams: COVID-19 vaccine in November ‘possible, not probable’

U.S. Surgeon General Jerome M. Adams on Friday said the timeline for a COVID-19 vaccine is based on science, not politics. “We’ve always said that we are hopeful for a vaccine by the end of this year or beginning of next year,” Dr. Adams said, bucking criticism of a potential November target date for a…

Surgeon General Jerome Adams: COVID-19 vaccine in November ‘possible, not probable’

U.S. Surgeon General Jerome M. Adams on Friday said the timeline for a COVID-19 vaccine is based on science, not politics.

“We’ve always said that we are hopeful for a vaccine by the end of this year or beginning of next year,” Dr. Adams said, bucking criticism of a potential November target date for a vaccine on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

Having the vaccine ready early was “possible even though not probable,” he said.

“What people need to understand is we have what are called Data Safety Monitoring Boards that blinds the data,” he said. “So it won’t be possible to actually move forward unless this independent board thinks that there is good evidence that these vaccines are efficacious.”

Dr. Adams also warned Americans not to let their coronavirus guard down over the Labor Day holiday weekend.

Failing to take basic precautions would risk another virus surge similar to what happened following the July 4th holiday, he said.

“We’ve had a decrease of about 40% in cases since that July 24 peak so we’re moving in the right direction, but we can’t afford to backslide,” Dr. Adams said.

He urged everyone to follow what he called the “Three W’s” — wash hands, watch social distance and wear a mask in public.

“We know these things work,” he said. “Look at Arizona that was worst in the nation for a time, but it’s now one of the best in the nation. I want people to understand we have the tools to keep this virus under control. We just need to come together and have the will to actually utilize these tools.”

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Postmaster General Louis DeJoy suspends policy changes to postal service

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy on Tuesday announced he was “suspending” cost-cutting policies blamed for slowing down mail delivery ahead of the November elections, bowing to blistering criticism from Democrats that the Trump administration was intentionally undermining mail-in voting. “The Postal Service is ready today to handle whatever volume of election mail it receives this fall,”…

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy suspends policy changes to postal service

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy on Tuesday announced he was “suspending” cost-cutting policies blamed for slowing down mail delivery ahead of the November elections, bowing to blistering criticism from Democrats that the Trump administration was intentionally undermining mail-in voting.

“The Postal Service is ready today to handle whatever volume of election mail it receives this fall,” Mr. DeJoy said in a statement. “I came to the Postal Services to make changes to secure the success of this organization and its long-term sustainability. I believe significant reforms are essential to that objective and work toward those reforms will commence after the election.”

“In the meantime, there are some longstanding operational initiatives — efforts that predate my arrival at the Postal Service — that have been raised as areas of concern as the nation prepares to hold an election amidst a devasting pandemic. To avoid the appearance of any impact on election mail, I am suspending these initiatives until after the election is concluded,” he continued.

The postmaster vowed that there will be no changes to retail hours at post offices, processing equipment and collection boxes will remain in place, and overtime will be approved for employees.

He also said that he is expanding a leadership task force focused on the election to partner with state and local governments.

The change in Mr. DeJoy’s approach comes as lawmakers on Capitol Hill are prepping to grill him over those new policies. He’s set to testify on Friday in front of the Senate and then Monday in the House.

The new changes reportedly include cuts to overtime pay and changes to mail routes, which have led to widespread claims of delays.

Democrats have argued the policy changes are intended to actively slow down the mail in a bid to undermine the election.

Lawmakers are also concerned about the impact delays will have on rural communities and those relying on the postal service for delivering medications.

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