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Friday, March 17, 2017

PDP in power but contesting elections in worst ever conditions

Tassaduq’s entry raises PDP’s stake; Jamaat’s boycott in South Kashmir, Gujjar-Shia vote in low-turnout polling in Central Kashmir pivotal

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz


Jammu, Mar 16: The fact that the principal opposition parties National Conference (NC) and Congress have combined and fielded their senior most leaders in the State in 1:1 arrangement in the by-elections on two important Lok Sabha seats in Kashmir valley reveals the seriousness of the interim exercise being held in two years of the general elections. Remarkably, the ruling PDP-BJP coalition in contrast has harnessed two greenhorns, both junior most in the ranks, in the election that would definitely have a bearing not only on the Lok Sabha elections of 2019 and Assembly elections of 2020 but also on the Mufti dynasty’s grip on the single largest party.

Farooq Abdullah, the State’s highest profile political leader, who lost his 35-year-long career’s first election to then PDP candidate Tariq Hamid Karra in 2014, is yet again NC’s candidate in Srinagar-Budgam-Ganderbal seat. With the support of Congress, he is in the fray against PDP’s Nazir Ahmad Khan. On Congress ticket, Khan had given a tough fight to NC’s Chief Ministerial candidate Omar Abdullah in the Assembly elections of 2014 in Beerwah. Less than a month ago, Khan shifted from Congress to the PDP. His father Sarfaraz Khan had won from Beerwah on PDP’s ticket in 2002 and later served as a Minister in Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s Council of Ministers.

With one difference, there is an identical contest in the South Kashmir seat, comprising Anantnag, Kulgam, Pulwama and Shopian districts. While the opposition has fielded the Jammu and Kashmir Pradesh Congress Committee chief Ghulam Ahmad Mir, who has served as a Cabinet Minister twice and in the post-2002 era lost only once from his home segment of Dooru, PDP’s Mufti Tassaduq is just three-month-old in the party. Unlike Nazir Khan, he however has the distinction of being the former Chief Minister and the PDP founder Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s only son.

Tassaduq was basically an accomplished cinematographer in United States of America before he shot into prominence with his Bollywood magnum opus ‘Omkara’. Hardly anybody knew him in Jammu and Kashmir until the day he attended his father’s funeral in January 2016. Being baptized into politics with his maiden election, Tassaduq would arguably hold the key to the Mufti dynasty’s influence over the party. His victory could pave his way one day to the hot seat of power but his defeat, in the most hostile ambience, could not only cause fissures in PDP but also lend superiority in the coalition to BJP that would find it easier to accomplish its political agenda in Jammu and Kashmir.

“We have never before contested any election in such a hostile atmosphere but we are still hopeful that our arch rival NC has little capacity and cadre to make inroads in South Kashmir”, said a senior PDP leader, insisting to be anonymous. “Notice that Mehbooba Ji gave a crushing defeat to NC in the Assembly by-election (in Anantnag) last June”.

Ghulam Ahmad Mir, contrarily, claims that with the NC support---as also possible support from the CPM MLA Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami---he would win “hands down” this time in South Kashmir. “They have killed and left injured most of the 90-odd people in South Kashmir in the last 8 months of turmoil. That’s fresh on everybody’s mind. They are being despised for their saffron label and being bedfellows with BJP and RSS. Besides, their government has failed on all fronts---governance, development, employment, restoration of peace. Who on earth will come out to vote for them?”, Mir asserted.

That is not the PDP’s only problem in the current situation. Factionalism seems to have touched its zenith as the family coterie in which Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti’s mother, maternal uncle Sartaj Madni and brother Tassaduq are the most important characters, has emerged as a parallel power centre. A number of the senior leaders have been heard whispering against Madni, Peerzada Mansoor and the all-important Works Minister Naeem Akhtar. Estranged Minister Maulvi Imran Ansari’s MLA uncle Maulvi Abid Ansari has publicly assailed Akhtar for “presiding over mischiefs” when the young Shia leader failed to get a portfolio of his choice in the recent reshuffle.

Even as the most important of the estranged leaders, Syed Altaf Bukhari, has been lately inducted back into the Cabinet and given a prestigious portfolio, MLAs Javed Mustafa Mir (Chadoura), Abdul Majid Paddar (Noorabad) and Mohammad Ashraf Mir (Sonwar) are still perceived to be upset as none of them has been brought back as Minister. Mehbooba had dropped them when she succeeded her father in April 2016. Even late Mufti’s loyal Abdul Rehman Veeri has gone into hibernation after his prestigious Works portfolio was shifted to Akhtar.

Two more of the PDP’s MLAs, namely Mohammad Khalil Bandh (Pulwama) and Abdul Rahim Rather (Kokernag) are also known to have shown little enthusiasm in mobilising their cadres after announcement of the elections.

Possessing impressive organisational capacities, Mehbooba, nevertheless, is expected to keep her flock together and make it deliver. Significantly, it remains to be seen whether she would give in to Imran Ansari’s pressure and give him a better portfolio or stand firm to keep her own prestige.

In South Kashmir, much would depend on Jamaat-e-Islami’s behaviour as its cadres this time around would not find it easy to tilt the balance in PDP’s favour as they are known to have done with 70-80% boycott and 20-30% voting in almost all elections after 1998. NC’s traditional bĂȘte noire, Jamaat, though not contesting elections after 1989, has a substantial concentration in Pulwama, Shopian and Kulgam districts. “It will be seen as open treason this time. None of us will turn out to cast a vote”, said a senior Jamaat leader, though he disputed claims that his party had supported PDP in several elections post-1990.

In the Assembly elections of 2014, PDP had won 11 seats while as NC and Congress had bagged two each in South Kashmir. CPM retained its one-odd seat of Kulgam. NC had fared slightly better in its traditional bastion of Central Kashmir as it had retained 7 seats against equal number by PDP. PDF Chairman had retained his seat in Khansahab. Like Tarigami in South, Yasin is expected to support the NC-Congress alliance in Central Kashmir.

This time around, in Central Kashmir, the opposition is chiefly relying on a substantial committed chunk of Gujjar and Shia voters who, in defiance of the separatists’ boycott calls, have the history of turning up at polling station ahead of all. As Ansari’s Shia followers are still undecided but pretty upset, both factions of the Aghas of Budgam are known to be the NC supporters. In Kangan and Ganderbal, besides in two segments in Budgam, the Gujjar vote being mobilised by senior NC leader and MLA Kangan Mian Altaf Ahmad could be pivotal for Dr Abdullah whose mother was also Gujjar.

Even as much would depend on the actual turnout---expected to be 20-25% in Central Kashmir and 15-20% in South Kashmir---Dr Abdullah, defeated by then PDP’s Karra in 2014, has clearly better prospects in Srinagar. It is an irony that this time Karra would be campaigning for Dr Abdullah. In the thick of last year’s turmoil, he had quit PDP for what he called “brutality” of security forces. He has lately joined Congress.

PDP’s significant advantage is that this party currently is ruling the State in partnership with BJP and controlling the official machinery.



8 VCs’ appointment to be kept in abeyance

 Ahmed Ali Fayyaz


Jammu, Mar 16: Election Commission of India has decided not to quash the appointment of the 14 activists of PDP, BJP and Peoples Conference as Vice Chairpersons of different Public Sector Undertakings, boards and corporations even as that of the eight appointees from Central and South Kashmir would be put in abeyance on Friday.

Highly placed sources told STATE TIMES that ECI has not fully endorsed the opposition National Conference’s complaint that the orders of appointment issued after announcement of the polling schedule was directly a violation of the Model Code of Conduct. However, on a report submitted by Jammu and Kashmir Chief Electoral Officer Shantmanu, ECI has decided to put in abeyance the appointment of the eight PDP and BJP activists who are permanent residents of Central and South Kashmir.

Shantmanu is understood to have been called for a meeting on several election related issues including the NC’s complaint against appointment of the 14 ruling coalition activists as Vice Chairpersons of PSUs. On Friday, NC’s complaint would be disposed of in his presence in New Delhi.

Those who would not be allowed to hold office and function as VCs include Gulzar Ahmad (Jammu and Kashmir Industries Limited), Ataullah Samnani (J&K Minerals Limited), Parvez Ahmad (J&K State Road Transport Corporation), Nazir Ahmad Itoo (J&K Cements Limited) and Muntazir Mohiuddin (J&K Cable Car Corporation) all PDP besides Khalid Jehangir (J&K Projects Construction Corporation) and ‘Dr’ Ali Muhammad (SICOP) of BJP and Rashid Mehmood (J&K Agro Industries Development Corporation) of PC.



Farooq, Ahmad Mir to be opposition’s joint candidates in Kashmir

NC-Congress stitch alliance for Srinagar, Anantnag Lok Sabha seats; Tassaduq Mufti, Nazir Khan are PDP’s candidates

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz


JAMMU, Mar 14: With the Election Commission of India on Tuesday issuing notification for by-election in the Central Kashmir Lok Sabha seat, principal opposition parties National Conference (NC) and Congress have decided to contest jointly in order to defeat the ruling PDP candidates in both the seats of Srinagar and Anantnag.

Both the opposition parties on Tuesday held separate meetings before cobbling an alliance at a joint meeting held secretly at a private residential house in Rajbagh area of Srinagar. While as the NC team comprised General Secretary Ali Mohammad Sagar and former Ministers Choudhary Mohammad Ramzan, Sakeena Itoo and Nasir Aslam Wani, the Congress party was represented by the Jammu and Kashmir Pradesh Congress Committee president Ghulam Ahmad Mir, former Minister Taj Mohiuddin besides MLA Devsar Mohammad Amin Bhat and MLA Sopore Haji Abdul Rashid.

Well-placed political sources revealed to STATE TIMES that later in the afternoon, Ghulam Ahmad Mir drove straight to the NC patron Dr Farooq Abdullah’s Gupkar Road residence where he held a closed-door meeting with him. It was also joined by NC’s acting president and former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah.

The most significant development of the day, according to sources, was that the two parties’ top brass decided to contest the by-election jointly on both the seats. Notwithstanding the NC patron’s reluctance, it was decided that Dr Farooq Abdullah would be the two parties’ joint candidate from Srinagar while as Ghulam Ahmad Mir would be the alliance’s candidate in Anantnag.

Polling is scheduled to be held for the Central Kashmir seat, comprising 15 Assembly segments of Srinagar, Budgam and Ganderbal districts, on April 9. In the South Kashmir constituency, comprising 16 Assembly segments of Anantnag, Pulwama, Kulgam and Shopian districts, polling would be held on April 12. The interim election has become necessary when PDP’s South Kashmir Lok Sabha member Mehbooba Mufti took over as Chief Minister following her father Mufti Mohammad’s death and the Central Kashmir Lok Sabha member Tariq Hamid Karra quit the PDP for what he called “brutality” of security forces, both in 2016.

Earlier on Tuesday, NC’s Core Group meeting was convened at Dr Abdullah’s residence. It was attended by Dr Abdullah, Omar Abdullah, Abdul Rahim Rather, Choudhary Mohammad Ramzan, Ali Mohammad Sagar, Mohammad Akbar Lone, Sakeena Itoo and Khalid Najeeb Suharwardi. Only one member, namely Surjit Singh Salathia, was absent.

According to sources, Dr Abdullah expressed reluctance to contest the elections, arguing that he was now too old to run from one segment to another and was also not in the best of his health. He proposed that someone young like the party’s familiar spokesman Junaid Azim Mattu or Salman Sagar must be fielded against PDP’s green horn Nazir Ahmad Khan from Central Kashmir. However, most of the Core Group members insisted that none other than Dr Abdullah should be the party’s candidate. Their second favourite was senior leader Abdul Rahim Rather.

Leaders present in the meeting maintained that “nothing” was decided. They said that it was left to Dr Abdullah to decide whether NC should go it alone or form an alliance or seat-sharing with Congress. Selection of the candidates, as usual, was also left to Dr Abdullah. However, subsequent developments led to cobbling of an alliance between the two parties which in a coalition ruled the State from 2009 to 2014 but contested the Assembly elections of 2008 and 2014 independently.

“It was almost decided that NC’s Dr Abdullah would be the alliance’s candidate in Central Kashmir and the Congress State chief Ghulam Ahmad Mir would be the joint candidate in South Kashmir. However, an announcement could be made at a press conference in Srinagar tomorrow”, said a senior political source privy to the day’s developments. He said that J&KPCC had previously submitted a panel of three names —Ghulam Ahmad Mir, Peerzada Mohammad Sayeed and MLA Shangus Gulzar Ahmad Wani —to the AICC high command.

Late on Monday evening, PDP’s Political Affairs Committee selected Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti’s brother Tassaduq Mufti as the ruling coalition’s candidate in South Kashmir. A fresh entrant, Nazir Ahmad Khan, who lately shifted from Congress to PDP and gave a tough contest to NC’s Omar Abdullah in Beerwah segment in 2014, would be the PDP-BJP alliance’s candidate in Central Kashmir.

In the general Lok Sabha elections of 2014, PDP had contested independently and bagged all the three seats in Kashmir. Later, in the Assembly elections in 2014, PDP and NC had won 7 seats each in Central Kashmir while as an independent candidate, PDF chairman Hakeem Mohammad Yasin had been returned from Khansahab. In South Kashmir, PDP had bagged 11 seats while as NC and Congress had won 2 seats each. CPI(M) State Secretary Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami had been returned for the fourth consecutive term from Kulgam. Even as they have yet to announce their decision, both Yasin and Tarigami are likely to support the NC-Congress candidates in the current election.



Thousands gather to disrupt Army operation in Pulwama

3 militants, civilian killed during 2 encounters; doctors certify Pulwama civilian's body had no injuries, no fractures

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz


JAMMU, March 9: Amid intense stone pelting and pro-Pakistan slogans from unruly crowds, Police and security forces on Thursday killed two Kashmiri militants of Lashkar-e-Tayyiba in a fierce encounter at Padgampora village in South Kashmir's hypersensitive Pulwama district even as a civilian succumbed to a gunshot injury outside the hamlet and another civilian was found dead in mysterious conditions.

A number of residents, speaking on condition of anonymity to STATE TIMES, insisted that a civilian driver Jalal-ud-din of Tahab died "after he was hit in his head with a stone or a gun by security forces". They alleged that he was the second civilian, after 18-year-old Aamir Nazir Wani of Begam Bagh, who was killed by Police and security forces after two militants were killed in an encounter at Padgampora.

Valley's separatist leadership alleged that the Police and security forces had for the first time on Thursday translated the Indian Army chief Gen Bipin Rawat's February 16th threat into action and killed two civilians in cold blood. It called for a total shutdown in Kashmir to protest the killings on Friday.

Director General of Police Dr Shesh Pal Vaid, however, dismissed the allegation as "totally incorrect" and told STATE TIMES that it was nothing but part of propaganda to defame the Police and security forces. He, as well as DIG South Kashmir Swayam Prakash Pani, maintained that the Police and security forces "despite high provocation" observed maximum restraint while conducting the operation and dealing with the hostile crowds outside. They said that the Police and security forces conducted a "completely neat and clean operation with total professionalism".

"Someone from the crowds fired on our boys and two of them had a narrow escape. With gunshot injuries, we have rushed them to hospital. Around a dozen of our men were injured in stone pelting", DGP said. "Clearly some terrorists had mixed up with the stone pelters".

DIG Pani said that head constable Khalid Hussain with gunshot injuries was rushed to Srinagar and admitted to Army's 92 Base Hospital while as SPO Manzoor Ahmad was under treatment at District Hospital Pulwama. DGP said that DH Pulwama had certified that the civilian Jalal-ud-din had no injuries on his body. He claimed that Aamir, who was among the stone pelters, had got fatally hit "by a stray bullet". "We are not responsible for their death", DGP asserted.

Medical Superintendent DH Pulwama Dr Abdul Rashid Parra corroborated DGP's statement and said: "Jalal-ud-din was brought dead. A team of about 6 doctors headed by Dr Mir Mushtaq examined his body. It had no signs of life. We performed artificial resuscitation but it didn't work. Then we conducted ECG. It was totally flat. Thereafter we conducted head-to-toe examination of the dead body. We observed that it had absolutely no external injuries including bullet or pellet injuries. We then used X-ray to check if there were any fractures or internal injuries. We found none and declared him brought dead".

Dr Parra said that the team of doctors had no means to ascertain where the civilian had died and how. "The prople in a surcharged atmosphere took away the body and did not let us conduct a detailed autopsy to ascertain the cause of death. We can do it only with the permission and request of the family concerned", Dr Parra said. He believed that the cause of death could be "most probably cardiac arrest" but maintained that the actual circumstances leading to the civilian's death could be ascertained only through a detailed investigation.

"If we have no hesitation in saying that we received 3 patients with gunshot injuries and 7 with pellet injuries, what should make us tell a lie to please anyone. We don't act under any influence, fear or intervention from any quarter. The fact is that there were absolutely no injuries or fractures ", Dr Parra said.

Earlier two local militants of LeT were killed in the fierce gunfight. DIG said that Jehangir Ganai of Koil was killed during last night but Mohammad Shafi Shergujri was eliminated in the afternoon on Thursday. He said that SSP Pulwama Mohammad Rayees Bhat got Shergujri's wife and son and they requester him through PAS of a bulletproof bunker to come out and surrender before the SSP. But even after the family made repeatedly requests, Shergujri refused to come out. Thereafter he was killed in exchange of gunfire.

Shafi Shergujri of Bandarpora was a top wanted LeT militant. NIA had carried out different raids to arrest him as he was wanted in a fidayeen attack in Udhampur. According to NIA, Shergujri had helped Pakistani militant Naveed and his associates to reach Samroli Udhampur where they carried out a fidayeen attack on a BSF convoy. Naveed was later arrested in the same area.

Shergujri's militant brother Aadil Shergujri had been killed by security forces in an encounter in Lelhaar village of Pulwama last year.

Meanwhile, one militant of Hizbul Mujahideen was killed in Bandipora in an encounter with forces, while as an army Major was injured late on Thursday.

The militant has been identified as Mushtaq Ahmad of Bandipora. He was killed when police and army laid a checkpoint outside police station Bandipora following specific inputs.

“During the checking, a militant travelling in a vehicle opened fire in which an army Major of 14 RR was injured. The militant was killed in retaliatory fire,” police said.



Centre bracing up for another turbulent summer; sending 12,000 CRPF men to Kashmir

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz


Jammu, Mar 8: Perturbed over sustained threats to peace, including terror attacks and mob violence, Government of India are sending fresh deployment of 120 companies of the paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) to Kashmir.

Sources in Union Ministry of Home Affairs told STATE TIMES that the fresh paramilitary deployment would start arriving in and taking positions mainly in the hypersensitive Srinagar, Anantnag, Pulwama, Kulgam, Shopian and other sensitive districts from next week.

The fresh deployments to assist the Jammu and Kashmir Police and Army in conducting counterinsurgency operations and addressing law and order issues are being briefed about revised Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and equipped with arms and ammunition. Its arsenal would hold some freshly introduced variants of tear smoke and improved shotguns which would be subjected to final testing and demonstration probably on Monday next.

Incharge DG CRPF Sudeep Lakhtakia, according to sources, would visit Srinagar on Sunday. Union Home Secretary Rajiv Mehrishi would personally follow the CRPF chief early next week before the new deflectors and a new variety of tear gas is introduced to deal with the law and order problems.

Centre is said to be perturbed over the failure of the PDP-BJP coalition to restore sustainable peace in Kashmir valley even as intensity of the over four-month long turbulence after the militant Burhan Wani's death in an encounter last year has remarkably reduced. Parallel to violent demonstrations and the crowds disrupting scrores of security forces operations in the last two years, militants have regained their lost ground in many parts of Kashmir valley.

Reports available with the Centre, according to sources, indicate coordination between the separatist demonstrations, mob attacks and terror strikes in the middle of current year.

While as State government claims to be preparing for holding Panchayat elections in April, Election Commission of India is likely to take a final call with regard to holding by-election for the two Parliamentary seats of South Kashmir and Central Kashmir in the next couple of days. Requirement for security forces deployment could increase accordingly in the Valley.


Policeman, 2 militants killed in Tral encounter

Gunfight ends amid intense stone pelting and clashes

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz


JAMMU, March 5: Twenty-hour-long joint operation by Army and Police concluded with the death of two militants of Hizbul Mujahideen and a Police constable at Haffu Nigeenpora village of Tral in South Kashmir’s Pulwama district on Sunday.

IGP Kashmir Syed Javaid Mujtaba Gillani told STATE TIMES that two militants and a constable got killed in the gunfight that began on Saturday evening and ended late on Sunday night. He identified the slain constable as Manzoor of SOG Tral who was a resident of Salamabad Uri. IGP said that Police and security forces had specific information about the presence of two militants and both of them were killed in the fierce gunbattle.

While as the local militant was identified as Aaquib Maulvi of the nearby Hayena village, his Pakistani associate was code-named as Usama. Two rifles, including an INSAS believed to have been snatched away from a CRPF personnel last year in South Kashmir, were recovered from the site of the encounter.

Officials said that three CRPF personnel and Major Rishi of RR 42 Bn sustained injuries during the encounter. They were rushed to hospital and were all reportedly out of danger.

The house of a carpenter Mohammad Ramzan, in which the militants had taken shelter, was razed to rubble with IEDs and it caught fire. IGP said that the local militant’s body was recovered but the Pakistani militants was badly charred and not yet recovered from the debris. He said that Aaquib gave a long and tough fight but was ultimately gunned down.

Sources in Tral said that Aaquib’s body was handed over to his family members late on Sunday night and his funeral rites would be conducted amid tension at his village on Monday. “Some restriction are already in place but there will be no curfew”, IGP said.

This newspaper obtained the recording of a telephonic conversation between Aaquib and his local commander Riyaz Naikoo. Aaquib is heard seeking apologies of his commander who in turn asks him to take care of Usama and make attempts to come out of the cordoned house and try to escape. Aaquib tells Naikoo that the people outside have engaged forces in intense stone pelting  and clashes and there was no chance for the duo to escape.

The audio clip confirms presence of two militants---Aaquib and Usama---inside the house. Naikoo asks him to fight valiantly and cause damage to Army while attempting to escape. The conversation seems to have occurred at the sunset on Saturday.

For the whole day on Sunday, hundreds of people gathered outside the fully cordoned and emptied village and engaged Police and the CRPF outer ring in intermittent clashes apparently helping the holed up militants to escape.

Unconfirmed reports said that there was a concealed hideout under the house which helped the two militants to remain under cover for over 24 hours.


Delhi’s premium on treason and separatism goes meteoric in BJP rule

Kashmiri separatists get top government jobs for their own children through backdoor; Ministerial cars, VVIP treatment, prize postings, PG seats at will



JAMMU, March 5: Leading national daily The Times of India has uncovered how Mehbooba Mufti’s PDP-BJP coalition in Jammu and Kashmir has, in its latest, appointed pro-Pakistan hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s grandson Anees-ul-Islam as Research Officer in Sher-e-Kashmir International Conference Centre (SKICC) at a time when the separatist leader had enforced over four-month-long violent and turbulent shutdown in the Valley.

Suggestions of quid pro quo, apparently spread by the beleaguered BJP are wrong at its face because Mr Geelani continues to be unrelenting in keeping the Valley turbulent and shut. His audacious inspiration is wooing scores of young boys to join the terror camp, kill others and get themselves killed. Ideally, Islamabad not New Delhi should have footed the bills and added comfort to Mr Geelani’s life. That’s what the neighbouring country has been doing without break since 1990. For now, it appears that both Islamabad and New Delhi are partners in the joint venture of taking care of everybody who spits on the idea of India, throws a stone or a grenade, fires a bullet, raises a banner or shouts a slogan against India and in favour of Pakistan.

What The Times of India story has skipped is all the more shocking. The post of Research Officer at SKICC had been specially created by then Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s close relative, Shahnawaz Shah, in 2003. In the autumn of 2016, Shahnawaz was elevated to the rank of Manager when at a senior level between the separatist and the pseudo-separatist mainstream leaders it was decided to appoint Geelani’s grandson as Research Officer. It was felt that the pay scale and the grade given to Mufti’s relative was not commensurate with the ‘taller’ Geelani’s relative.

Under orders of the top echelons of PDP-BJP government, Secretary Tourism was forced to upgrade Research Officer’s pay scale to the pay scale of Tehsildar, BDO, General Manager DIC and other Kashmir Administrative Service (KAS) post’s pay scale of Rs 9300—Rs 34,800 with grade pay Rs 4,800. The idea is to elevate him to grade pay of Rs 6,600 (Deputy Secretary to Government) in the next few years and then induct him into Technical Quota of KAS. In the following years, he would become Deputy Commissioner, Director and then rise to the rank of Commissioner-Secretary and Principal Secretary to Government---all through backdoor.

Under the plan, MBA was fixed as essential qualification for Research Officer. It was decided that in violation of the Cabinet Order of 2010, which makes service in SKICC pensionable, Secretary Tourism would not refer the vacancy to Public Service Commission (PSC) and instead conduct the appointment clandestinely through a selection to be made by a committee of his trusted subordinates and headed by him. To cut down the number of the candidates, cut-off for shortlisting was raised to 75% marks as the candidate to be favoured had 76% marks. The “result” was completed on November 30, 2016 but neither published in any newspaper nor posted on SKICC or Tourism department’s website. All the high-merit candidates, who had performed exceptionally well in interview, including a pass-out of SKUAST Jammu who had 84% marks, were dropped and Geelani’s grandson selected.

On the same day i.e. November 30, 2016, the blue-eyed boy was called to SKICC. Senior officials facilitated his joining and greeted his family as the mission assigned to them was accomplished. Thirty-one candidates, many of them having far greater merit, kept shuttling between their homes and SKICC to learn about the “result”.

“It was on December 25 that we came to know that some Anees-ul-Islam had joined as Research Officer about a month back as we all had been kept in the dark”, said a candidate from Handwara who has 79% marks in MBA. When the dropped candidates failed to get injustice, one of them emailed a detailed complaint to ACB Srinagar of Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). On February 3, he was notified by Google that his mail had failed in delivery.

If sources privy to the process are to be believed, Anees-ul-Islam’s CID verification was returned with “positive” remarks from a top office and did not, like other cases, go to the field.

The story of granting extraordinary favours and privileges to the India-bashers in J&K does neither start nor end here. Previously too, one of this hardcore separatist’s sons was sent for a Forestry training course for which only the in-service candidates were entitled. On completion of the course, then Forest Minister of Dr Farooq Abdullah’s National Conference government, Peerzada Ahmad Shah made a plan to appoint the separatist leader’s son as “Assistant Director Forest Protection Force” on adhoc basis. The idea was to ostensibly engage around 155 youths, including the Minister’s own daughter, on temporary basis and subsequently regularise them against posts of Range Officers and post them as “incharge DFOs”.

Following its exposure in The Indian Express, a number of candidates raised protest and knocked at the doors of J&K High Court. Shortly after this plan failed, same blue-eyed boy and the top separatist leader’s son was inducted on a better position in Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Science & Technology (SKUAST). Another top separatist leader’s brother-in-law was inducted into Technical Quota of KAS and posted on prize positions as HOD while as his senior are still six levels lower to him.

Yet another top separatist leader’s son was granted a contract for supplying computers to the Revenue Training Institute Srinagar in violation of all rules and procedures. Sometime later, his failed rivals filed a complaint that the supplier had been allotted exorbitant rates and he had supplied computers of inferior quality. State Vigilance Organisation conducted a preliminary verification and found the charges true. FIR was lodged and the supplier arrested. The case is reportedly still under investigation.

Another separatist leader’s wife enjoyed prize postings and promotions, both in NC-Congress coalition and the PDP-BJP regime.

Top bureaucrats on condition of anonymity confirm that the separatist leaders have also been getting prize postings for their relatives besides government contracts and supply orders, admissions in prestigious schools and colleges with intervention of government functionaries. At Srinagar airport, officers and security staff are seen arranging for their boarding cards, business class seats and hospitality in VIP Lounge with pride. Much has been already written about the beacon light and hooter-fitted Ministerial cars, escort Geeps and PSOs provided to the separatist leaders mostly during Vajpayee or Modi government. They even raise palatial residential and commercial constructions without even bothering to apply for a building permission.

While the poor Kashmiris remain engaged with different things from stone pelting to studies, the separatist’s children and relatively get passports on priority when their masters in Pakistan allot then a particular quota of MBBS and BDS seats in different Pakistani medical colleges every year. Government has reports that the separatists often sell these seats to different clients for anything between Rs 10 lakh to Rs 30 lakh with fear of action from the government.

The wife of a former ‘Commander-in-Chief’, who is now a separatist leader, works as Public Prosecutor. A young KAS lady officer married a commander-turned-separatist activist a few years back for the premium and glamour attached to separatism. A few years from now, she will be a Deputy Commissioner or Secretary in Home Department and thus custodian of all the State secrets.

On the pattern adopted in case of Geelani’s grandson at SKICC, Hizbul Mujahideen and United Jihad Council chief Syed Salahuddin’s son was a few years back appointed as Manager in Entrepreneurship Development Institute that was attacked and left devastated in two fidayeen strikes last year.

Admittedly, in a democratic country like India, Geelani’s and Salahuddin’s sons cannot be punished for their relationship to the separatists and militants and they are very much entitled to everything from government jobs to prize postings. However, the process becomes fishy and scandalous when it is held clandestinely and surreptitiously and due right is brazenly denied to meritorious and poor candidates who repose faith in democracy and legitimacy of the Indian systems and institutions.

Even in the case of the latest appointment at SKICC, national security has been brazenly compromised as the VVIPs who regularly attend meetings and conferences there include Prime Minister of India, Union Home Minister and heads of security and intelligence agencies. Chief Minister and top Army, paramilitary, intelligence, security and Police officers attend Unified Headquarters meetings at SKICC.

Thus the country’s most sensitive State has been reduced to a ‘Banana Republic’ as the most meritorious and those identifying themselves with India fail to get even an inferior government job and keep shuttling between their homes and government offices till they cross their age bar. Irony is that much of this self-defeating policy has been introduced, pursued and promoted during the BJP regime. Interestingly when the party’s firebrand spokespersons are embarrassed on national television, they invariably say: “You don’t know how much of it we have withdrawn from the separatists. We can’t disclose it publicly”!