Kashmir on the boil over militant’s death, 8 killed FM bats for lower rates on deposits
FLASHPOINT Thousands defy curfew to turn up at Hizbul commander’s funeral
Widespread violence across Kashmir brought back fears of a surge in militancy in the troubled region on Saturday, as tens of thousands of people clashed with police over the killing of a top insurgent leader, leaving at least eight people dead and scores wounded.
Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani’s body was buried in his hometown Tral amid mass wailing and angry anti-India slogans, a day after soldiers gunned down the 21-year-old who was the face of militancy in Kashmir for the last five years.
Protesters hurled stones, looted police weapons and set fire to three police stations and two government buildings in towns south of Srinagar. Scores were injured on both sides and three policemen have gone missing, source said.
Saturday’s violence and its fallout are seen as a major political test for chief minister Mehbooba Mufti and her alliance with a party largely unpopular in the region, the BJP.
Experts fear Wani’s killing could become a rallying point for militants to revive an insurgency that has flagged from its peak in the 1990s when attacks were reported daily, the local economy tanked and residents fled the region in droves.
“Burhan’s ability to recruit into militancy from the grave will far outstrip anything he did on social media… Kashmir’s disaffected got a new icon y’day,” former Villagers in Tral attend the funeral of Burhan Wani, chief of operations of Kashmir’s largest militant group Hizbul Mujahideen who was killed by forces, on Saturday. CM Omar Abdullah tweeted on Saturday. The conflict has officially killed some 40,000 people over the past quarter-century, although rights groups put the fatalities at more than twice that number.
Saturday’s deaths were reported from Anantnag, Kulgam, Bijbehara and Kokernag. One person drowned in the Jhelum as security forces sought to disperse a violent mob. Unconfirmed reports put the toll at up to 11.
Expecting trouble during Wani’s funeral, thousands of armed police and paramilitary soldiers in riot gear fanned out across the region and drove through neighbourhoods, warning residents to stay indoors.
Finance minister Arun Jaitley on Saturday partly blamed high returns on savings deposits as a key reason behind costly bank borrowing that is hurting private investment and growth in the broader economy.
While the government has kept interest rates unchanged on state-run small savings for the July-September quarter, Jaitley’s comments can be seen as a signal for banks to reduce lending rates, even if these came at the cost of marginally lower returns on savings and fixed deposits.
Businesses have been pushing for banks to lower loan rates, reduce capital raising costs and aid capacity additions.
“Whether domestic savings are only to be used by such instruments which give you a higher return and create an interest regime which is extremely costly and makes the economy sluggish, or higher returns are to be got from such instruments as funds, bonds, shares (that finance projects and economic activity),” Jaitley said.
“A lot of them have also an 8.1% 8.1% 7.2% 7.4% 7.9% element of secured investment in them which can give people a very respectable return itself,” the finance minister said, arguing in favour of parking money in non-bank savings options such as pension funds.
“That’s the basis on which pension funds the world over have been functioning and I think these are areas of advances as we grow over the next several years and decades. More and more opportunities are going to come to us,” he said. Jaitley was speaking at a function to unveil a commemorative postage stamp to mark 140 years of the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE).
In April, India moved to a market-lined system of state-administered savings rates, announcing sharp cuts in interest earned on a range of government-run schemes including the popular public provident fund (PPF). Market rates move in tandem with government bond rates that are currently on a downward trend.
Should banks lower returns on savings and fixed deposits, the move could allow banks to pass on policy rate cuts by the central bank through lower lending rates.