Amit Shah in Parliament | PTI
Amit Shah in Parliament | PTI
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Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s address to the nation dominates the headlines Friday. “PM reaches out: Upgrade for J&K staff elections soon, UT status is temporary,” says The Indian Express.

“J&K, Ladakh will prosper in new era that has begun: PM,” writes Hindustan Times, while The Hindu goes with: “Statehood for Jammu & Kashmir will be restored: PM”.

The Times of India reports: “PM reaches out to J&K with promise of early polls, restoration of statehood”.

Hindu says PM Modi said “it was a historical move and a new beginning for Jammu and Kashmir as well as Ladakh”.

“Article 370 and Article 35A had only given terrorism, separatism, nepotism and massive corruption to Jammu and Kashmir. These articles have been used as a weapon by Pakistan”, it quotes the PM.

Express brings to light the fact that PM Modi urged the industry, “including the film industry to invest in the region and provide job opportunities to the youth”. It highlights that Modi “used commonplace  —  daily life and work — to make his larger point”.

Meanwhile, HT reports Congress leader and former J&K chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad “was stopped at the Srinagar International Airport” and “sent back to Delhi”.

Express, on the other hand, reports what Karan Singh — son of Maharaja Hari Singh (the last ruler of Jammu and Kashmir who signed the Instrument of Accession in 1947) — had to say. He “took a divergent view”, saying that the “government’s decision on J&K has several positive points”.

Only TOI reports that 26 ‘high-profile’ prisoners “lodged in different prisons” in J&K “were flown in to Agra Central Jail amid heavy security.” This was done as a “temporary arrangement in the wake of the Centre’s Kashmir move.”

It also highlights UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres’s statement “calling on India and Pakistan to refrain from taking any steps that would affect the status of Kashmir”.

Express and Hindu express concern over the state of affairs in Kashmir, covering stories that highlight the volatile situation.

“On the ground at Jammu border with Valley: Protests, hope,” says Express, while Hindu reports: “I just want to tell Ammi I am fine”.

Express also features an exclusive interview with K. Vijay Kumar, adviser to the J&K governor, who says “there will be some relaxation on Friday prayers and call on security for Eid will be taken on Sunday”.

HT reports that the BJP has decided to launch a “nationwide outreach programme to celebrate fulfilling its promise of nullifying Article 370”.

Hindu also mentions a statement from India’s MEA that asked Pakistan “to review its decision to downgrade ties and suspense trade with India.”

Pakistan stops Samjhauta Express

Also making news is another “retaliatory action” from Pakistan is the “halting the main cross-border train service and snapping talks on consular access to former naval officer Kulbhushan Jadhav, sentenced to death by a military court for alleged espionage”, writes HT.

“Samjhauta Express is a bi-weekly train service started in 1976 and whose name means agreement,” it says.

Other news

TOI’s lead on one of its front-page flaps is Supreme Court’s decision to hear Ayodhya case on all the five working days. The Supreme Court Thursday “decided to hear the appeals in the Ayodhya land dispute on all five working days of the week to provide counsel adequate time to conclude submissions and enable the court to render a judgment”, details TOI.

Opinion

Hindu: In ‘Knee-jerk’, Hindu views Pakistan’s downgrade of diplomatic relations with India as a mere reaction. Pakistan’s decision to expel Indian high commissioner and “snap trade relations” could have been triggered by pressure from the international community for Pakistan to respond to India.

The BJP’s move was “correctly described” by the MEA as an internal matter, and while it may be a cause of concern for Indians, the scrapping of Kashmir’s special status does not invite Pakistani “interference”, it writes.

Pakistan is expected to raise the issue at the United Nations, but India is “well-placed” on this diplomatic front given that news of growing economy has boded well with foreign countries. The newspaper proposes that communication between seasoned diplomats on either end may help the situation.

HT: It covers the rise of Home Minister Amit Shah in ‘The ascendancy of Amit Shah’. “Mr [Narendra] Modi remains the boss,” it writes, but in the BJP’s second term, Shah has started attracting far more national attention.

In tracing Shah’s political career, it talks about his “impressive managerial skills” and policy speeches that shaped him into “an effective and strong parliamentarian”.

HT credits him with being at the forefront of the the recent abrogation on Article 370 and bifurcating the state. Though Shah has proved loyal to the prime minister, his increasingly powerful role as number two in government, may pose a threat to the BJP’s “internal power balance” one day.

Prime Time

Kashmir remains the narrative of the day. Channels discussed PM Modi’s speech, Pakistan’s reactions and Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad mocking NSA Ajit Doval’s interaction with Kashmiris in Shopian.

 India TV: Pakistan debated the cancellation of trade, the Samjhauta Express and Pakistan politician Sheikh Rasheed of the Awami Muslim League threatening India with war.

Major General (retired) G.G Dwivedi thought these were diplomatic moves “but we need not take them seriously. “What Pakistan is doing now was expected,” he said.

Major General (retired) Ashwani Siwach said, “Pakistan is agitated because they are worried that after abrogating Article 370, India will take over Pakistan occupied Kashmir.”

He added, “…they (Pakistan) are also trying to show that Kashmir is not an internal issue.”

Major General (retired) S.P. Sinha claimed similar threats of war were made by General Musharraf in 1999. “Since Pakistan has become a nuclear power, they have been playing the nuclear bluff….”

Zee News: Anchor Aman Chopra on ‘Taal Thok Ke’ raised Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad’s remarks on Doval paying locals to interact with him.

Alok Mehta, senior journalist, said, “This is the most hurtful statement I have heard in the last 50 years that I have been around.”

Former diplomat Ashoka Sajjanhar expressed annoyance with Pakistan: “…how much trade is there to begin with? According to the Indus Water Treaty signed in 1960, 60 per cent of our water goes to Pakistan. Should we end that in retaliation?” he asked.

Republic: PM Modi’s address to the nation was the topic of discussion here.

“Everybody has a narrative to sell — the broad outline given by the PM is that there will be fast-track development in the state of J&K. It is a mature, statesman-like speech,” said Major Gaurav Arya (retired).

Political analyst and lawyer M.R. Venkatesh argued: “When genocide of Kashmiri Pandits happened, none of you (those who oppose the move on Article 370) said anything. And today you are shouting because communication is shutdown.”

“The whole Valley is disconnected with the rest of the country, how is it normal?” asked Dr Tasleem Ahmed Rehmani, president of Muslim Political Council of India.

Political analyst Subhransh Rai called the PM’s address a pure “election speech.”

BJP’s Sambit Patra observed tartly that while Azad’s speech was trying to incite people, “the most beautiful part of the PM’s speech was the reassurance, saying ‘don’t worry’”.

CNN-News18: Anchor Bhupendra Chaubey on ‘Viewpoint’ discussed the pressure Pakistan is reeling under following Modi’s ‘Mission Kashmir’.

Mona Alam, Pakistani journalist and political analyst, said, “I personally think that Pakistan is not bothered about being isolated in the entire process, because Kashmir is close to all our hearts.” She added, “I think they (Pakistan) are doing whatever they can to counter India’s move.”

Former Indian diplomat Neelam Deo advised caution. “Imran Khan is not the only actor in Pakistan. We have seen in the past that the army is more decisive and is able to take action…’’

He added that “we shouldn’t be fooled by Pakistan’s immediate response that is not very significant, but things develop over time”.

BJP’s Rakesh Sinha pointed out that Imran Khan wasn’t being supported even by Islamic countries. “This is just him acting out to save face in front of the people of Pakistan, ”  he said.

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