February 9, 2022

Good morning. In today’s either/view, we discuss whether journalist Fahad Shah’s arrest in Jammu and Kashmir is justified. We also look at how Karnataka is well placed to take advantage of the Centre’s semiconductor policy, among other news.


Fahad Shah’s Arrest: Freedom of Press v/s National Security

In a time when the world around us is constantly pointing out the shortcomings of language, some words still manage to wrap entire phenomena up in a neat little bow. “Volatile” is one such word that successfully adds a hefty amount of nuance to things. The climate crisis: volatile. The issues by our borders: volatile. The government’s reactions to those issues: volatile. All this volatility makes it really hard for some people to do their increasingly necessary jobs.

Just the other day, journalist Fahad Shah of The Kashmir Walla was arrested by law enforcement for his posts on social media. According to the police, he had been “glorifying terrorism” through his work. While the press community has vociferously condemned this act and deemed it as just another attempt to silence them, government officials cry “public safety”. Amid all this volatility, who do we believe?


On Friday evening, Fahad Shah, the editor of The Kashmir Walla, was arrested after being summoned by the police. He had been called into questioning four days before to explain the publication’s coverage of a police raid that had turned bloody a couple of weeks ago. This line of interrogation soon became about “uploading anti-national content”, and Shah was booked under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

The police raid in question took place on 30 January and left four people dead – three men and a 17-year-old. According to officials, the three were militants and the teenager, a “hybrid militant”. The article posted on The Kashmir Walla included both the family’s side, who claim that their child was a civilian and the police officials’ side. Yet, it was deemed inappropriate by law enforcement.

Shah, on his own, has been courted by the Kashmiri police before. Currently, he has 3 cases against him, citing that he’s been “glorifying terrorism and spreading fake news”. Something journalists and editors across the continent highly disagree with. Other than running The Kashmir Walla, a media outlet that started in 2009, Shah has worked for major publications like Time, The Nation and Foreign Policy.

Given his general reputation, the press fraternity has come out in support of Shah. They claim that this whole incident is simply another cog in the state-sanctioned machine, working to shut down unbiased voices. The Kashmiri police, on the other hand, has justified their actions by stating that repeated offences in any situation will eventually lead to an arrest.

Public safety as a priority

From law enforcement’s side, it’s simple: there is very little that can be done when public safety is threatened. They have to maintain law and order in society, making sure that the larger will of the people is catered to. Anything coming in the way of that does tend to get trampled. And given the changing face of security challenges in Jammu & Kashmir, the safety of others is of utmost importance.

In the case of the recent police raid in Pulwama, the reason for all of this in the first place, the real point of contention in the region was the “hybrid militant” tag on the teenager. Since mid-2021, the term “hybrid militant” has been taking over official reports and intelligence. The truth is that the form in which risks present themselves in the Union Territory is changing, especially since the abrogation of Article 370 in 2019.

A hybrid militant is one who isn’t outrightly listed as an ultra but has been radicalised enough that they can carry out extremist activities. Often, they help actual militants complete their tasks, like Over Ground Workers (OGW). But unlike OGWs, who mostly focus on providing a well-disguised hideout, hybrid militants remain a part of civilian society while executing a couple of attacks. This back and forth makes them incredibly difficult to track.

Now, Fahad Shah wasn’t the only one who was questioned for their reporting on the Pulwama raid. The week after, at least four journalists were summoned to the Pulwama police station for the same. According to the police, doubting a piece of “credible intelligence” only for the sake of doubting it does little to move the conversation forward. In fact, it leads to agitation due to the perceived incompetence of law enforcement.

In Fahad Shah’s case, police officials have gone on record to say that after enough profiling and questioning, his posts continue to incite the public. This, according to them, often leads to the creation of law and order issues. Simply acquiescing to the same sets up a dangerous precedent for further dealings within the territory. Besides, repeated offences need to be dealt with appropriately.

Continued harassment of the press

Here’s the thing, to maintain a fair democracy, the freedom of press is of utmost importance. The press isn’t meant to just communicate governmental notices to the public. It’s supposed to hold a mirror up to those in their ivory towers and play the people’s perspective. And in India, this has been heavily attacked by the current administration. As per the 2021 press freedom index by Reporters Without Borders, India is ranked 142 out of 180 countries. For a nation claiming to be a future superpower, 142 is an abysmal spot to be in over a fundamental right.

It is important to note that the only state-sanctioned institution coming to the rescue of journalists, especially in Jammu & Kashmir, is the judiciary. In 2021, the Jammu & Kashmir High Court quashed a 2018 FIR against journalist Asif Naik. They said that the freedom of press cannot be fettered by FIRs as this was a reporter “performing his professional duty”. The year prior, the court had quashed an FIR against journalist Saleem Pandit by saying that not doing so would violate “the right of freedom of speech and expression guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India.”

Given that authorities see any independent media outlet as a threat, they’ve figured out sinister workarounds to these judgements. Fahad Shah isn’t the only one from The Kashmir Walla staff who is in custody right now. A month ago, trainee reporter Sajad Gul was detained for “spreading disinformation” on social media. The police never identified him as a journalist. He was just a social media user who went against the norm. The same goes for Shah, where the FIR doesn’t look at the article but the sharing of parts of it on social media by someone with a significant reach.

The act of reporting on police violence has become a crime in Kashmir, and the people have noticed. Last year, the UN’s human rights experts even wrote to the Indian government, asking them to explain the detention and charges against four journalists. Fahad Shah was included in that list as well. The experts never got their response. A year later, several media outlets remain closed, including the Kashmir Times, and now, even the Kashmir Press Club has been taken over by the state. The chokehold that the government has on the Kashmiri press seems to be getting tighter every day.

As for The Kashmir Walla, a day after Gul was granted bail, he was booked under the Public Safety Act, and Shah, under the UAPA, is looking at life imprisonment if convicted. Clearly, these punishments seem unjustified when compared to their alleged “crime”.

What’s your opinion on this?
(Only subscribers can participate in polls)

a) Fahad Shah’s arrest was necessary to maintain law and order in Kashmir.

b) Fahad Shah’s arrest marks another attempt to curb freedom of press in Kashmir.


For the Right:

Modi’s India Does Have Public Funding for Arts. But It’s All Going to Massive Statues.

For the Left:

‘Boring’ Budget is Cool, Shows Government Committed to Continuity and Certainty


Single window system implemented (Jammu & Kashmir) – J&K is the first Union Territory in India to be integrated with the national single window system. The online portal has 130 industrial services, and more than 160 services will be included this year. The aim is to link J&K with domestic and foreign companies. Commenting on its launch, Lt Governor Manoj Sinha said since the onset of the new Industrial development scheme, J&K has amended its policies to make it more competitive and attractive for industries and investment.

Why it matters: In January 2021, J&K announced its new industrial developmental scheme (IDS) with a ₹24,000 crores outlay. Last month, Sinha said J&K achieved its target of ₹70,000 crores worth of investment proposals. In September, the Central government launched the much-awaited single window system for investors and industries. The portal links existing clearance systems of the Centre and States. It’s a one-stop shop for clearances and approvals.

Wooing the semiconductor industry (Karnataka) – The state government is set to come up with a new semiconductor policy. It comes in the wake of the government’s announcement of ₹76,000 crores for the sector. Officials said they have identified locations in Bengaluru, Mysuru, and Dharwad to set up fabrication units. Industries Minister Murugesh Nirani said it can generate employment of about 1 lakh. Depending on the industry’s demand, the state will decide on locations in Tier-II cities.

Why it matters: Karnataka is well-placed to be the biggest beneficiary of the Centre’s policy on semiconductors. It was the first state to introduce a semiconductor policy in 2010. The state, known for its software companies, wants to become a hardware hub. Last December, it allocated ₹2,000 crores over the coming five years and 200 acres of land near Bengaluru’s international airport to help develop its plan to become a hardware hub. Out of the 18 Indian semiconductor start-ups that raised $156 million, 12 are in Karnataka.

Protests against Adani’s venture (Jharkhand) – Residents of Gondalpura are protesting against a proposed coal mining project from Adani Enterprises Limited (AEL). If the project goes ahead, they could lose their agricultural land and more than 4,000 people could be displaced. In November 2020, the Adani Group secured the Gondalpura coal block during the commercial coal auctions. The estimated cost is ₹99,800 lakhs and will take up 513.18 hectares of land.

Why it matters: In June 2020, the Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha, a state-level coalition of people’s organisations, called for protests against the Central government’s plan to open India’s coal sector to commercial mining. They also criticised the state supporting the Centre’s move. The plan included auctioning 41 coal blocks, including 20 in the state. Last September, Tubait villagers rejected offers from the Damodar Valley Corporation (DVC) for their farmland.

Covishield wastage? (Maharashtra) – A report from the state health department has shown that nearly 52 lakh doses of Covishield are lying in reserve in private hospitals across Maharashtra. Pune has the highest number, more than 19 lakh doses, followed by Mumbai with more than 17 lakh doses. Private hospitals have been asked to send information on doses with imminent expiration dates to avoid wastage. According to officials, most of these doses have February-end or early March expiry dates.

Why it matters: There’s concern about vaccine wastage given the number of doses lying unused. Given their expiration dates, there’s concern among the public on its efficacy and use. In December, Union Minister of State for Health Bharati Pravin Pawar shared a list of 25 states that reported vaccine wastage in the past 11 months. In May, the Centre held a meeting where vaccine usage was one of the issues discussed. Officials said states and union territories should make full use of the available stock to accelerate the vaccine drive.

Meeting on 6th Schedule (Meghalaya) – Members of the Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council (KHADC) met with Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma on the recent amendment to the Sixth Schedule. Sangma clarified that the word “Village Council” is being included along with Village Dorbar. It means that either word can be used in the places applicable. Chief Executive Member of the KHADC, Titosstarwell Chyne said Village Dorbar should not be removed.

Why it matters: The Sixth Schedule under Article 244 of the Constitution covers the entire state except for a small area within the capital city of Shillong. It provides administrative autonomy through Autonomous District Councils (ADCs). The regional councils can make laws for the areas under their jurisdiction. The Sixth Schedule is controversial as some see it as discriminatory against non-tribal residents. Last August, Sangma met with members of three ADCs to discuss amendments including unrepresented tribes being nominated in the ADCs.


₹3,976 crores – The amount spent from the PM Cares Fund during FY2020-21, per its audited financial statement. As of March 31, 2021, its balance was ₹7,044 crores.