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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Services cripple under moderate snowfall in Valley
Surface traffic, air links snapped; Schools shut, KU exams postponed

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Dec 30:  Season’s first snowfall in the Valley plains is not threatening to be intense but it has, nevertheless, crippled essential services as Kashmir remained cut off from rest of the country and the world today. Surface as well as air communication links to the Valley have been snapped and the continuing snowfall, that began last evening, has badly affected supply of electricity and drinking water in all 10 districts in Kashmir province.

Much awaited snowfall began after two hours of moderate rain in entire Kashmir valley last evening. It continued intermittently for 30 hours till midnight today. Reports suggested moderate to heavy snowfall in the high altitude areas. Officials told Early Times late tonight that accumulation of 15 inches had been recorded in Shopian hilly terrain while as it was 16 inches at Jawahar Tunnel, on Srinagar-Jammu national highway, 20 inches at Gulmarg and 14 inches at Sonmarg.

The plains, however, enjoyed a moderate to low snowfall. Authoritative sources maintained that ranging between 2 inches to 8 inches, average accumulation till late tonight was 4 inches in the plains. Officials said that 4 inch snow accumulation had been recorded in Srinagar, Budgam and Pulwama belt. They said it was relatively lower at 3 inches in Baramulla and Tral. Reports from most of the areas late tonight said that the snowfall had subsided but officials at Meteorology Department and Disaster Management cell insisted that combination of rain and snow was likely to continue with uneven breaks for the next 24 hours.

Due to the snowfall, all air and surface transport services from Delhi and Jammu to Srinagar have been suspended. While as Srinagar-Kargil-Leh, Shopian-Rajouri (Mughal Road), Daksum-Kishtwar, Kupwara-Karnah, Kupwara-Machhil and Bandipore-Gurez roads had been closed for vehicular traffic last evening itself, Srinagar-Jammu national highway was closed due to a major disruption in Banihal-Tunnel-Qazigund area today.

Officials said that 75 vehicles got stranded in the 3 Km long tunnel, 50 more outside besides 25 at Lower Munda (Qazigund). They said that passengers of all the buses and medium vehicles had been evacuated to safer places and efforts were underway to push all the stranded vehicles towards their Srinagar and Jammu destinations. They said that more than snowfall, it were the intense slippery road conditions that had forced the authorities to stop incoming and outgoing traffic at Banihal and Qazigund respectively.

Passengers and drivers, however, spoke to this newspaper over telephone and alleged that nobody was coming to their rescue on either side of the tunnel in Qazigund-Banihal area. They lamented that they had been left to fend for themselves.

With two Ministers, namely Mian Altaf Ahmed and Nasir Aslam Wani, touring parts of their snow-bound constituencies in Kangan and Amirakadal respectively, Divisional Commissioner Asgar Hassan Samoon took a meeting with the divisional heads of different government departments and field organizations in the afternoon. On the basis of inputs delivered in the review meeting, Divisional Commissioner claimed that there was no major problem anywhere in the Valley. He maintained that adequate number of JCB machines and snow-cutters had fanned out on all surface communication arteries across the Valley for snow clearance. He claimed that 95% of the supplies and services had been made functional in the capital city till this evening.

Contrary to counterclaims from residents in Srinagar and other districts, SE Muzaffar Matoo claimed that power supply had been restored in 95% of the areas today itself. Consumers dismissed the official claim as “baseless” and complained that over 70% of the areas were in total darkness at any given point of time during the day.

An official spokesman claimed that the power supply had increased from a total of 268 MWs at 1300 hours to a satisfactory 364 MWs at 1500 hours. He claimed that at 1500 hours today, 100 MWs of HT power was flowing to Srinagar from Jammu through Kishenpur-Pampore transmission line and 195 MWs through Kishenpur-Wagora line. Availability was officially 46 MW from the prestigious 480 MW Uri hydroelectric project, 10 MW from 105 MW capacity LJHP besides 13 MW from 105 MW Upper Sindh Hydel Project.

However, consumers in all parts of the Capital city insisted that there was extremely poor and erratic power supply in Srinagar. Supply was badly affected in the metered areas of Jawahar Nagar, Bemina and Civil Lines. Voltage was also reported in the poor range of 50 to 100 v. Drainage and drinking water supply services were consequently affected in almost all parts of the capital city.

Situation was reportedly worse in all nine of the rural districts in the Valley. Residents complained that electricity supply was continuously shut in over 70 percent of the rural areas. It was reported erratic at the district headquarters. Reports said that medical services were also affected though SKIMS and all other hospitals in Srinagar were still functional. Attendance was thin in government services and large number of shops and business establishments remained closed as skeletal passenger services operated in Srinagar and other major towns.

Telecommunication services, particularly those of BSNL, remained badly hit. Informed sources said that private custodians had been regularly collecting fuel for diesel generating sets at their towers but thousands of sites remained completely dead as the fuel was being openly disposed off to tipper drivers. Consumers asserted that for most of the time since yesterday their mobile phones were indicating “Searching” and “No Signal”. They said that even if a call matured, it would snip in just 30 to 40 seconds.

With the help of scores of snow cutting machines and specially hired JCBs and tractors, authorities succeeded in clearing a number of major arteries, particularly Qazigund-Uri, Srinagar-Gulmarg, Srinagar-Kupwara, Srinagar-Bandipore and Srinagar-Tral roads. Roads in interior localities, particularly in upper Budgam, Chrar Sharief and Shopian-Kulgam belt were still covered under snow and not open for vehicular traffic.

Authorities have immediately announced indefinite closure of all high and higher secondary schools that had been kept functional for studies this year. University of Kashmir also announced postponement of all of its examination scheduled for Dec 31, Jan 1 and Jan 2.

Till late tonight, there were no reports of any loss of life. An official spokesman said that in all five residential houses had suffered damage---two at Sallar and one each at Pahalgam, Guree (Bijbehara) and Guchan Sheikhpora (Dooru).


Tuesday, December 28, 2010

SSRB changes criteria to favour non-Forestry candidates

Forestry grads being sidelined in recruitment of Foresters, FPF Inspectors

Early Times Report

SRINAGAR, Dec 28: Jammu & Kashmir Government Services Selection Board’s act of changing criteria in favour of non-Forestry candidates has drawn flak from around 500 unemployed Forestry graduates and post-graduates who have threatened to go on fast-unto-death if justice and transparency were compromised in the current process of recruitment of Foresters and Forest Protection Inspectors.

Subordinate Services Recruitment Board has on Monday notified 279 vacancies of Foresters and Inspectors in the state Forest Department and Forest Protection Force (FPF) respectively. In the previous process of recruitment in 2004, SSRB had fixed 40 points for 10+2 and 25 points for B Sc Forestry for the purpose of shortlisting of candidates.  In the Notification No: 08 of 2010 Dated 24-12-2010, Board has reduced weightage of the professional qualification, B Sc Forestry, from 25 to just 10 points. It has surprisingly added these 15 points to the ordinary qualification of 10+2, taking it to 55 from 40.

Without any plausible reason and logic, Board has fixed just 5 points for M Sc Forestry but tilted the balance in favour of non-Forestry ordinary science graduates with addition of 2 points to ordinary B Sc and 3 points to ordinary M Sc. Twenty points have been fixed for viva voce.

“This is clearly a brazen attempt of recruiting non-Forestry under-graduates and graduates against the professionally technical posts of Foresters and FPF Inspectors”, lamented a delegation of over 50 Forestry graduates and post-graduates who knocked at the doors of newspaper offices at Press Enclave here to seek justice. “It means that if you are simply 12th pass or an ordinary B Sc in medical or non-medical streams, and you have the privilege of being a favourite of influential politicians and bureaucrats, you will be selected and those having B Sc or M Sc in Forestry would be dropped”, simplified one Nisar Ahmed who has been unsuccessfully looking for an ordinary job in the relevant field after completing his M Sc Forestry five years back.

Farooq Ahmed, who has been unemployed after completing his B Sc Forestry in 1998, said: “It’s unfortunate that Forest Minister Altaf Saheb, who is known for his honesty and integrity, has not deviated from the path of his much flayed predecessors---Sofi Mohiuddin, Tariq Hameed Qarra, Qazi Afzal---and disappointed 500 unemployed Forestry graduates and post- graduates”. He said that SSRB and Forest Department at Civil Secretariat had been passing the buck to each other and both were part of a conspiracy to get non-Forestry candidates appointed as Foresters and FPF Inspectors. He complained that State Public Service Commission had already done “great injustice” to the professionally qualified candidates in the current process of recruitment of Assistant Conservators of Forest (ACF) as all ordinary graduates and post-graduates had been declared eligible for the posts being filled up first time in last 27 years.

The delegation pointed out that one Dr Tariq, who had Ph D in Forestry, had been working against a temporary vacancy of Casual Labour since 1998 in State Forest Research Institute (SFRI) for Rs 4,000 a month. Few others having doctorate in Forestry had not been engaged even as daily wagers.

“Why does the Government and its SKUAST increase seats of B Sc Forestry and M Sc Forestry from 6 to 20 but does not allow the professionally trained candidates to become even Foresters? Why does the Government not issue a public interest notification to declare it publicly that B Sc, M Sc or Ph D in Forestry and related subjects was simply wastage of poor man’s money, time and energy?”, asked the delegation of men and women heading towards their age-bar of 37 years.

Yet another Forestry graduate, Tanvir, explained how SSRB officials had been manipulating the shortlisting process by entertaining fake marks certificates of favoured candidates. “They have a sinister system of verifying certificates from BOSE and Universities. They simply seek verification of certificates at a later stage without asking the Boards and Universities to furnish attested copies of full awards of the candidates”, he added. According to him, it was so simple to produce a fake marks certificate of 10+2 with high marks at the shortlisting stage. “Once you are selected and appointed, you produce your original certificates. At that stage officials simply seek confirmation of whether a certificate is fake or genuine. Nobody checks the marks and compares it to those mentioned in fake marks sheets at the shortlisting stage.

While nobody in SSRB responded to phone calls, Minister of Forest, Mian Altaf Ahmed, said that he would take up the matter with Chairman of Services Selection Board to ensure that there was no injustice to the professionally qualified and trained candidates.


World doesn’t understand the language of stone pelting: Dr Gilani

‘J&K CM is constitutionally bound to facilitate cross-LoC visit of interlocutors’

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Dec 28: London-based Kashmiri human rights activist and constitutional expert, Dr Syed Nazir Gilani, today advised Kashmiri separatist leaders to shun their rigidity and negotiate on the Kashmir problem with the Indian Parliamentarians. He said that the civilized world had not, and would never, under the language of stone pelting that, according to him, had exclusively become the mark of identification of Muslims from Kashmir to Palestine.

Addressing a news conference in the midst of his exhaustive visit to his home state after several years, Secretary General of Jammu & Kashmir Council for Human Rights (JKCHR), Dr Gilani, asserted that violent and anarchic expression of a “genuine cause” had done a disservice to the people of the state. According to him, it was strange and surprising that the Valley’s separatist leaders had been regularly interacting with officials of the Government of India but they had invariably decided not to meet the Indian Parliamentarians and other representatives of this country’s people.

Any rigidity, according to Gilani, would just perpetuate the status qua that was ‘selectively detrimental to the cause and interests of the people of Jammu and Kashmir’. “India is not going to lose anything. New Delhi would conveniently convince the world that it had made a sincere initiative to reach out to the constituency of dissent in Kashmir but the separatist leaders were not amenable to reason, logic and reconciliation”, he added.

Gilani argued that the Indian forces were in J&K according to a mandate given to them in follow up to the “provisional” Instrument of Accession for the purpose of protecting life, honour and property of each citizen while assisting the state Police. He refused to endorse that the Indian troops in J&K were “occupational forces” but asserted that every state subject, living in any territory of the state from Kathua to Kupwara and Gilgit, had the right and responsibility of questioning the size, location and behaviour of the soldiers. He said it was being highlighted from a many quarters that only Muslims were indulging in the anarchic form of stone pelting. “Isn’t it a fact that no Hindu and no Sikh is involved in stone pelting?”, Gilani asked.

Gilani declined to accept that J&K was an integral part of India and emphasized that every single state subject would have a vote in determining the status of this state. He said it was unfortunate that the Valley’s separatist leaders had never presented a non-paper (document of roadmap) and forced the Indian political and intellectual leadership to discuss it across the table.

Dr Gilani said that Chief Minister Omar Abdullah was “constitutionally bound” to facilitate the visit of the Indian interlocutors to all areas of ‘Azad Jammu & Kashmir, Gilgit and Baltistan’.

“Our understanding of the habitat and the people of the state is at variance to the understanding of many others and we have a considered view that bulk of the understanding of the Kashmir case is unreliable and far remote from the jurisprudence of Kashmir case”, he said. “The political opinions that exist in all the three administrations of Jammu & Kashmir, the Government of J&K, the Government of AJK and the Government of Gilgit and Baltistan, have failed  in honouring the trust that these Governments owe to the State Subjects living within the territories defined in article 4 of the J&K Constitution”, Gilani added.

“Hurriyat leadership and other political parties that have spearheaded the agenda….to seek the right of self-determination, need to revisit the wisdom of their 20 year politics and consider seriously their understanding of the Kashmir case”, Gilani asserted.

Founded in 1984, Gilani’s JKCHR is a London and Srinagar-based non-profit organisation that has the distinction of being J&K’s only NGO in special consultative status with the UNO’s Economic and Social Forum. A resident of Naranthal village in Baramulla district, Gilani had crossed the LoC in early 1970s. He later worked as Deputy Direction of Information in ‘Government of Azad Jammu & Kashmir’ before becoming a victim of Gen Zia-ul-Haq’s military regime that forced him to leave Pakistan and live in exile in the UK.


Monday, December 27, 2010

Sopore Police unearths nexus between militants, stone pelters, Govt employees

‘Militants raise funds in apple town, pay Rs 400/day to each stone pelter on Friday’

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Dec 27: Police in North Kashmir today claimed to have unearthed yet another module of militants, stone pelters and government employees which allegedly played key role in this year’s street clashes and demonstrations in Sopore. Activists detained by Police have revealed how militants of Lashkar-e-Toiba had been raising funds from local traders and making cash payment to the stone pelters at the rate of Rs 400 per day.

Contrary to the belief of a many politicians from New Delhi to Srinagar, including Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, DIG North Kashmir, Munir Khan, today claimed that there was a working nexus between militants and stone pelters in Sopore area of Kashmir valley. While addressing a news conference, alongwith SP Sopore Altaf Khan, and Commanding Officer of CRPF 179 Bn, V K Singh, DIG Munir Khan said that in his area of operations as many as 26 militants, including five local cadres, had been killed by Police and security forces during current year. He said that 12 more militants, including a foreigner, had been arrested.

DIG said that one Maruti car and a motorcycle, used in a militant attack on MLA Sopore Haji Mohammad Ashraf Ganai’s house at Dangarpora Dooru, had been seized. Arms and ammunition recovered in different operations this year and put at an exhibition on the occasion included 29 AK rifles and eight pistols. He said that a number of detained militants and operatives had been detained under Public Safety Act and other laws.

According to DIG Khan, there was an active network of 21 militants and militant operatives with equal number of women activists that had organized mass demonstrations and street attacks on Police and security forces earlier this year. He said that during investigation, Police learned that some government employees, and even the Imam of a Jamia Masjid at Amargarh, had been associated with the network.

DIG Khan claimed that Police achieved a breakthrough in the arrest of one Firdaus Ahmed Sheikh of Jalalabad, Sopore, who turned out to be the kingpin of the gang of stone pelters. He said that during sustained questioning, Firdaus disclosed that he had liaison with two Pakistani militants, namely Abdullah Uni of Lashkar-e-Toiba and Kaleemullah of Harkat-ul-Mujahideen. Later Police arrested two more guerrilla members of the network, namely Qayoom Bajad and Munshi Khan, who revealed that they had been tasked with providing safe passage of militants from Sopore to Rajouri.

DIG said that during sustained questioning of the detained operatives, Police learned that some Hurriyat activists and a number of government employees were also in the loop. He said that Police subsequently conducted a raid one the house of one Mohammad Amin Dar at Badami Bagh, Sopore, and recovered one Pistol, two Thuraya Satellite Phones, one grenade, one Tata Indicom cellphone set, one AK 47 rifle, two combat uniforms, one composer, three pouches, 11 UBGL shells and one UBGL.

During investigation, one Abdul Lateef Lone R/O Radbugh, Kupwara, working as Imam of Jamia Masjid Amargarh, Sopore was arrested and subjected to prosecution. Lone was claimed to have revealed that militants through local Hurriyat (G) cadres used to collect donations by way of extortion from fruit dealers and sawmill owners and later paid Rs 400/day to stone pelters on every Friday.  

Hurriyat cadres allegedly collecting money for stone pelters were identified as Ghulam Mohammad Tantray R/o Behrampora, currently detained under PSA, Ghulam Hassan Mir @ Chotta Geelani R/o Duroo, currently absconding, Mohammad Rustum R/o Amargarh, Sopore detained under PSA, Gani Guroo R/o Chankhan (Absconding), Ashraf Malik R/o Batpora  (Government Employee of Education Department) currently in custody  and Bashir Ahmad Tali R/o Chankhan, Sopore, (employee of CAPD, currently absconding).

DIG said that some members of the network, including the most wanted Ghulam Hassan Mir of Dooru alias ‘Chhotta Geelani”, were still at large but Police were conducting raids and operations to effect their arrest. He, however, did not reveal if Drawing and Disbursing Officers (DDOs) of the government employees involved in stone pelting had been asked to initiate any action or withhold their monthly salaries.

Khan said that a woman, namely Raja Begum, whose house had perished in a recent gunbattle in Sopore, was among a group of 21 females who had been actively working for the network of militants and stone pelters. He claimed that with the arrest of a number of militants and stone pelters, besides their facility providers, Police and security forces had pre-empted plans of a Fidayeen strike in Sopore.


Saturday, December 25, 2010

Moderate separatists call Kashmir ‘Pakistan’s jugular vein’

Mirwaiz: ‘Pakistan incomplete without J&K’s separation from India

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Dec 25: That New Delhi’s entire investment on encouraging “moderate separatists” in Kashmir has gone down the drain became unmistakably clear today when two of the most influential leaders called Jammu & Kashmir “Pakistan’s jugular vein” and asserted that Pakistan was incomplete without Kashmir’s separation from India.

‘Azad Kashmir Unit’ of Anjuman-e-Sharyee Shia’an, headed by Budgam-based Shia cleric and separatist politician Aga Syed Hassan Al-Moosavi, today organized a conference in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad on “The Kashmir dispute and Quad-e-Azam (Mohammad Ali Jennah)”. While addressing the conference from Srinagar on telephone, Chairman of so-called “moderate faction” of the Hurriyat Conference, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, paid rich tributes to the founder of Pakistan, Mr Jennah, and endorsed his ideology that J&K was Pakistan’s “jugular vein”. He referred to Jennah’s refrain that Pakistan was incomplete without Kashmir’s separation from India and its accession to the Islamic Republic.

Mirwaiz described Jennah a great political visionary and said that creation of a theocratic state in the name of Islamic Republic of Pakistan was his greatest achievement. He said that both Pakistan as well as Kashmir were “incomplete” until the Kashmiris were granted right of self-determination. He asserted that the separatist struggle would reach its “logical end” as hundreds of thousands of people in the “occupied land” had laid down their lives and offered all other sacrifices to see Kashmir separated from India.

In his telephonically delivered speech, Aga Syed Hassan too echoed Mirwaiz Umar’s sentiments and emphasized that India’s claim on permanent membership of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) should be essentially related to its “barbaric role in the occupied territories of Jammu & Kashmir”. He too described Kashmir as “Pakistan’s jugular vein” and lamented that “forcible Indian occupation” should be terminated with mobilization of the public opinion and other means sooner than later.

Aga stressed on implementation of the UN resolutions of 1948-49 and expressed his gratitude to the successive governments in Pakistan for providing all possible support to the Kashmiris who, according to him, were “engaged in their freedom struggle”.

Mirwaiz and Aga respectively are spiritual and political leaders of the majority Sunni Muslim and the minority Shia Muslim communities in Kashmir valley. Mirwaiz was just a student at school when his father and founder of pro-Pakistan Awami Action Committee, Mirwaiz Maulvi Mohammad Farooq, was assassinated, allegedly by militants of a formidable pro-Pakistan guerilla group, on May 21, 1990. Junior Mirwaiz later formed an umbrella of most of the Valley’s separatist organizations, under the banner of Hurriyat Conference in 1993. He served as its Chairman twice before it split in 2003.

Since 1947, Mirwaiz legacy had the distinction of being the most credible pro-Pakistan constituency in Kashmir. However, in 1977, Mirwaiz Farooq became part of Morarji Desai-led Janata Party and created a new history by inviting him to Mirwaiz Manzil in downtown Srinagar during the thick of campaigning for Assembly elections. The alliance, however, received a dressing down at the hustings as JP could bag not more than two segments in entire Kashmir valley. Mirwaiz-supported Abdul Rasheed Kabuli defeated NC’s candidate in Iddgah constituency in Srinagar and JP’s stalwart, Abdul Gani Lone, made his victory from Handwara.

Aga Syed Hassan was also JP’s candidate in the Assembly elections of 1977 in Budgam but NC’s Syed Ghulam Hussain Geelani defeated him with a thick margin of votes. Later, in 1987, Mirwaiz again became part of the newfound alliance of NC and Congress when he joined hands with Dr Farooq Abdullah and then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in lieu of two assured seats to his AAC in Srinagar city. Consequently, NC and Congress helped victory of Mirwaiz Farooq’s nominees, Pir Mohammad Shafi and Mohammad Shafi Khan, who served as MLAs in J&K Legislative Assembly for three years of NC-Congress coalition government.

In sharp contrast to so-called hardliners, like Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Government of India has placed both the separatist leaders, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Aga Syed Hassan, in the highest Z-plus category of security. Over a hundred men of J&K Police have been deployed on their personal protection, house protection and escort duty. While projecting the duo as “neutralizers of hardliners”, officials from Srinagar to New Delhi have also provided to the two separatist leaders almost all privileges and facilities enjoyed by Ministers of the rank of Cabinet.

These state-sponsored facilities include bullet-proof cars, personal security officers, static house-guards, escort personnel, frisking personnel of Security Wing and wireless operators. Government has been spending over Rs 2.00 Cr annually on these facilities provided to the two “moderate separatists”.

Though both the separatist leaders had adopted a “soft line” and they had been talking of only “Azadi”, they have now left behind all hardliners, including Geelani, in toeing a hawkish policy in favour of Pakistan and against the country proving them all mundane privileges and comforts. Successive governments, both NDA and UPA, in New Delhi, have been supporting and encouraging these so-called moderates in Kashmir while facing hard questions and criticism from the Indian taxpayers.


Thursday, December 23, 2010

KU Prof booked for ‘vulgarity’ after receiving award from President Patil

It’s academic terrorism to please hardline separatists: Shaad Ramzan
It’s genuine Police action against promoters of obscenity: SP, DIG

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Dec 23: Days after initiating criminal action against a College teacher for setting ‘objectionable’ question paper, Srinagar Police have booked a senior Professor on the charges of ‘promoting vulgarity’ among the young examinees in Kashmir valley. The high profile academic has received prestigious Sahitya Academy award for his literary works from President Pratibha Patil in Goa in August and has been associated with UPSC, UGC, NBTI, CIIL, Sahitya Academy and J&K PSC as an advisor, jury and expert of Kashmiri language and literature in the last over 15 years.

SP Hazratbal, Maqsood-uz-Zamaan, and DIG Central Kashmir, Abdul Gani Mir, maintained that Prof Shaad Ramzan, a Professor and former Head of Post-graduate Department of Kashmiri Language and Literature at the University of Kashmir, has been booked by Police on December 21st on the charge of ‘promoting vulgarity among the young Kashmiri examinees of undergraduate level’. They told Early Times that Dr Shaad Ramzan had set a question paper for students of B.A. First Year in which students of Kashmiri subject had been asked to translate “an objectionable passage” from English to Kashmiri.

SP and DIG said that Police Station Nageen, Hazratbal, had registered case FIR No: 89 of 2010 under sections 294, 292 and 34 against the identified accused as also others who would be found involved in the ‘criminal act’ during the course of investigation. They said that the accused KU teacher would be arrested and prosecuted like a teacher of Gandhi Memorial College, Noor Mohammad Bhat, who had been booked under Unlawful Activities Act earlier this month and has been languishing in Srinagar Central Jail since last fortnight. Two judicial magistrates have dismissed Bhat’s bail application.

Bhat had been booked and arrested by men of Police Station Nageen, Hazratbal, after mediapersons in Srinagar reported that he had set a question paper and asked the examinees to reply whether Kashmir’s stone pelters were “real heroes”. The text suggested that the Indian State had been committing “genocide” in the Valley.

SP Hazratbal elaborated that during investigating Bhat’s crime, Police learned that Prof Shaad Ramzan too had set “an objectionable” question paper, asking the young examinees to translate an ‘explicitly vulgar’ biological passage from English to Kashmiri. He asserted that Police took a suo motto action and insisted that there were no complainants in the second case.

The passage that Ramzan asked students to translate reads: “From the ancient times, women have been concerned about the shape and size of their breasts. Breast development is the vital part of reproduction in human females. Unlike other mammals, however, human females are the only ones who develop full breasts long before they are needed to nurse their offspring.”

Both SP Zamaan as well as DIG Mir justified the Police action with the argument that “promoting vulgarity among the young examinees” could not be tolerated at any cost. They asserted that protection of society and the social value system was a duty of Police and other law enforcement agencies everywhere in the world. “It was not a question paper of anatomy for MBBS students of a Medical College. It was a language paper for which the teacher could have easily selected a passage from any other subject. Why was he constrained to only pick up a text from biology that generated concern among the society in October?”, SP Hazratbal asked.

He admitted that the passage selected would not be ‘vulgar’ for students of higher classes or even the young students living in different cultures in other states and countries. He, however, asserted that translation of the biological text in Kashmiri language was “offending” even for the students hailing from culturally over-exposed families.

Defending himself firmly, Prof Shaad Ramzan asserted that there was “nothing objectionable” in the text he claimed to have selected from a prescribed textbook of Unani Medicine. He dismissed registration of FIR against him as “academic terrorism” and alleged that Police had resorted to the action “only to appease hardline separatists”. He said that Police had been finding itself at the receiving end since the day of arresting a College teacher as certain political circles had blown it over as interference in academic activity. “They were desperately looking for a neutralizer that could silence the separatists”, Prof Ramzan said.

Shaad Ramzan pointed out that his question paper had been taken by the examinees without any objection and the examination had been conducted as long ago as on October 25th. He pleaded that if there was still anything objectionable, that would have been addressed by the University authorities in due course of time. He said that a couple of days after the day of examination, some of his “professional rivals” had approached some hardline politicians and forced them to issue a statement in which he had been publicly denigrated as an “Indian agent”.

He argued that in case his controversial passage was described as “objectionable”, Police would have to also book senior Ministers, bureaucrats, officials and many other academics for allowing “hundreds of objectionable texts of prose and poetry” that, according to him, existed in syllabi of schools, colleges and universities in J&K. He pointed out to “more explicit references to breasts” in the poetry of legendary Kashmiri poets, including Mehmood Gami, Rasool Mir and Maqbool Kralwari.

Working as a Professor of Kashmiri language and literature for the last about 25 years, Dr Shad Ramzan functioned as Head of Department (Kashmiri) at University of Kashmir until October this year. Author of as many as 20 books on Kashmir’s literature and culture, he received the country’s top most literary award from Sahitya Academy for his publication “Anhaar te Akas”, Kashmiri translation of short stories in different Indian languages. He was honoured on behalf of Sahitya Academy by President of India, Pratibha Patil, in Goa in August this year.

Shad has functioned as an advisor, jury and subject expert of Kashmiri for the last over 15 years with Sahitya Academy, Central Institute of Indian Languages run by Ministry of Human Resources Development, University Grants Commission, Union Public Service Commission, J&K State Public Service Commission and National Book Trust of India.


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Bureaucracy subverting selection process of Director SKIMS

Post advertised 3 years after High Court order; No Selection Committee constituted; CS calls CVs of applicants to Civil Secretariat

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Dec 22: With blatant disregard to directions of Jammu & Kashmir High Court as well as decision of the hospital Governing Body, headed by Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, bureaucracy has begun to interfere with the process of selection of the regular Director for Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS). Even as the top post has been finally advertised with delay of over three years and 13 candidates have submitted their applications, all of their documents and CVs have been forwarded by the autonomous hospital to the Chief Secretary’s office in Civil Secretariat without properly constituting a Selection Committee.

Previous PDP-Congress coalition government, headed by Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, had lost little time in removing Prof Meraj-ud-din as Director of SKIMS on account of his “deep connections” to Dr Farooq Abdullah, his family and the National Conference. Beneficiary of the change of guard was obviously a senior Congress leader’s son-in-law and HoD Cardiology, Dr Sheikh Jalal-ud-din. Mufti-led government started the process in 2004 with constitution of a Selection Committee. Headed by then CS, S S Bloeria, the Selection Committee had bureaucrats Vijay Baqaya and Sonali Kumar, besides then Secretary General Administration Department, as its official members.

Directors of AIIMS, New Delhi, and PGI, Chandigarh, were also associated as its members but, fearing the process as just a fixed match, neither of them participated in any meetings. Government later arranged involvement of eminent physician and former Principal of Government Medical College (GMC), Srinagar, Dr Syed Naseer Ahmed Shah. As widely expected, Dr Jalal was ‘selected’ and appointed as Director SKIMS.

One of the unsuccessful candidates, Dr Mohammad Ashraf Bhat, challenged Dr Jalal’s selection in J&K High Court. In 2007, Mr Justice Hakeem Imtiyaz Hussain quashed Dr Jalal’s appointment with the observation that Chief Minister Mufti had acted as head of the government, not as head of the legitimate appointing authority (Governing Body) and picked up his favourite from the middle of the panel without seeking necessary confirmation from the Governing Body. Court ordered immediate removal of Dr Jalal and issued orders that a suitable incumbent be appointed as interim Director parallel to a fresh process of selection.

An appeal against Single Bench’s judgment was dismissed by a Division Bench which upheld Justice Imtiyaz Hussain’s orders. Ghjulam Nabi Azad-led coalition government appointed HOD Endocrinology, Dr Abdul Hameed Zargar, as the interim Director. However, neither Azad nor his successor, Governor N N Vohra, advertised the post till Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, as head of Governing Body, directed the authorities to start a fresh selection process in accordance with SKIMS appointment rules and orders of the High Court in April 2010.

After a great deal of procrastination, SKIMS issued Notification No: 2 of 2010 on 4-8-2010, seeking applications from the eligible candidates.

Thirteen candidates submitted their applications and CVs till the last date on 31-10-2010. They included incumbent interim Director, Dr Abdul Hameed Zargar, who is otherwise due to reach superannuation in April 2011, Dean of SKIMS Dr Mohammad Ashraf Darzi, Medical Superintendent and HoD Hospital Administration Dr Syed Amin Tabish, HOD Anesthesiology, Dr Shagufta Qazi, HOD Cardiology Dr Khursheed Iqbal, HOD Gastroenterology Dr Shaukat Ali Zargar, HOD CVTS Dr Abdul Gani Ahangar, Professor of Pediatrics Dr Altaf Shera, HOD Social and Preventive Medicine at GMC Srinagar Dr Muneer Masoodi, former Principal of GMC Srinagar Dr Mushtaq Shah, former HOD Surgery at GMC Srinagar Dr Muneer Khan, Principal GMC Srinagar Dr Shahida Mir and Principal SKIMS Medical College Bemina Dr Mushtaq Ahmed.

Implementing the Court orders in breach, authorities avoided to constitute the Selection Committee. Informed sources said that when head of the Governing Body and Chief Minister desired to know about the progress, he was informed on 21-10-2010 that only two candidates had come forward with their applications. Nobody in the meeting pointed out that the last date was still ten days away. Consequently, instructions were issued to instead appoint a “Search Committee”.

Well placed authoritative sources at SKIMS revealed to Early Times that the selection process was underway without constitution of any Selection Committee. They revealed that a group of influential bureaucrats, who have been overtly and covertly supporting a particular candidate, prevailed upon Chief Secretary S S Kapur whose office, in the first week of December 2010, forced Joint Director, Rafeeq Ahmed Mir, to forward applications and CVs of all the 13 candidates to the Civil Secretariat in Jammu.

“Chief Secretary and other bureaucrats/ Ministers have absolutely no authority or intervention in the selection process. The only competent authority is the SKIMS Governing Body that is headed by Chief Minister of the state”, explained an official source. He insisted that certain bureaucrats and officials were trying to mislead Chief Minister so as to help their favourite. He said that under the rules mentioned in the notification, the Selection Committee was supposed to shortlist the most meritorious candidates as per their academic qualification besides their technical, research and practical administrative experience.

“When, there is no Selection Committee, who will conduct interaction with the shortlisted candidates?” asked a couple of officials at SKIMS. They said it was first time that the custodian of the candidates’ applications and CVs had given the same in the unjustified custody of the bureaucrats in Civil Secretariat who have no authority or intervention under rules of appointment.

While JD Administration at SKIMS, Rafeeq Ahmed Mir, was not reachable, sources in his office confirmed that the applications and CVs had been given into custody of Chief Secretary’s office. According to them, Chief Minister and Head of Governing Body, Omar Abdullah, was being misled “only to arrange undue favour to one of the candidates”.


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

100 killings in first 100 days, no killing in next 100 days

So, where does the fault lie?

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Dec 21: For a change, rhymes have replaced the slogans in Kashmir. “khoon ka badla June mein lenge” (We’ll take revenge of all killings in June next) and “bootan sale, bab gau fail” (Enjoy the grand sale of shoes as the father has failed at last). This is the fun that keeps this valley of bloodletting alive for decades and centuries of unbroken jinx.

First one describes the despondency that has befallen droves of Kashmir’s stone-pelters who had discovered the battlefield of advantage on the streets in Srinagar this summer. It also denotes desperation among the urban e-Jihadis who had found free-to-all broadcast stations in YouTube and FaceBook. There’s of course a promise of June next but who doesn’t know it would have been January had the blood been ‘danwari’ or ‘kanwari’ in the Kashmiri or Urdu glossary.

The next rhyme indicates an uncanny sense of celebration among the sidewalk vendors who starved for 120 days of shutdown but are now back to a brisk business. Unmistakably ‘father’ in the stanza means the man whose calls of shutdown froze Valley all through the turbulence for five months. Everybody from the great Indian media to bureaucracy called him ‘The Ultimate’. Unlike the poor, diminutive street vendor, leech politicians fattening on the conflict are still in a state of coma. Elections alone can take them out of the slumber but they are far, far away.

The first mortality---rightfully put in the list of the ‘Police killings’--- happened in the death of 17-year-old Tufail Matoo on June the 11th. The last political killing happened at Palhalan when Police and paramilitaries gunned down four civilians---demonstrators, stone pelters, attackers, whatever---on September 6th. Later, one more of the injured died at a hospital. Next fortnight, 18 civilians and a Police constable died in firing and lynching on September 13th but the primary subject of mobilization was neither Azadi nor an incident of human rights abuse by the ‘ruthless’ J&K Police or ‘Indian forces’. It indeed was a controversial act of blasphemy in USA that outraged the religious sentiment in Kashmir.

In an astonishingly sharp contrast to the bloody mayhem for five months across the summer, nobody on the Valley’s streets has died for Kashmir’s Azadi in the last over 100 days. Admittedly, nobody would make the mistake of concluding that peace had returned and the trouble was over for good.

But, what exactly did suddenly bring the thaw? Chief Minister Omar Abdullah’s tantrum that Kashmir had ‘only acceded to, not merged into India’ ? Home Minister Chidambaram’s out-of-box confession that Kashmir was a “unique political problem that requires a unique political solution”? Srinagar visit of all-party Parliamentary delegation? Harnessing of a fresh team of three interlocutors who have failed to meet a single leader in the Valley’s separatist camp? Grabbing of nearly entire media attention by Commonwealth Games and 2G scams?

Has the UPA government at the Centre revived the dialogue process with Pakistan and the Hurriyat that the J&K Chief Minister believed had led to the crisis in post-2008 Kashmir? Has the United Jihad Council and Hizbul Mujahideen been engaged in a political process? Has the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) been revoked and the 700,000 troops withdrawn from Kashmir? Or, has acquisition of non-lethal pump action guns and ammunition snatched away the separatists’ advantage of having killings in singles and doubles in all street demonstrations?

Those who justified participation of hundreds of thousands of Kashmiris in elections 18 years after the outbreak of movement with the argument of “sadak, bijli, paani”, are now asserting that the Kashmiris are “simply fatigued” after months of ‘repression from Police”. Earlier, they used to rouse the stone pelters with the epic reference of 1,000 years of war. Could detention of 400-odd youngsters really restore calm in a week’s time? Has Omar overnight removed the “governance deficit” from his government that used to be the staple refrain of many from PDP in Srinagar to the Cabinet Committee on Security in New Delhi?

If none of the above is right, one may be left with the last contention that Bill Clinton’s visit consumed 35 Sikhs in 2000 and BURAQ HUSSAIN Obama’s three-times more in 2010. Faiz had said in the middle of last century: “sheeshoon kaa Maseeha koyee nahi, kyon aas lagaye bethe hau?


Friday, December 17, 2010

Ban on main Moharram procession completes 21 years

Ashoora observed with Zuljanah, Alam processions in Kashmir

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Dec 17: Like in last 21 years of the separatist armed struggle, authorities did not allow the main Ashoora procession in this capital city on occasion of the 10th of Moharram---anniversary of the martyrdom of Hazrat Imam Hussain and his associates at Karbala, in Iraq. However, scores of Alam, Tazia and Zuljanah processions were carried out as per tradition in downtown Srinagar and other Shia-dominated neighbourhoods all over Kashmir valley.

Pleading apprehensions of disruption from political elements, vested interests and those having no faith in the Moharram rituals, authorities did not issue permission to the main Ashoora procession that would have, in normal times, initiated at Abi Guzar in Civil Lines area and concluded late tonight at the historic Imambargah of Zadibal.

All J&K Shia Association of the influential Shia spiritual and political leader, Maulvi Iftikhar Hussain Abnsari (currently a Member of Legislative Assembly and senior leader of the principal opposition party, PDP) and Anjuman-e-Sharyee Shia’an of Budgam-based cleric-politician, Aga Syed Hassan (currently a senior leader of separatist Hurriyat Conference, Mirwaiz faction) are the license holders of the main Ashoora procession in Srinagar on a rotation arrangement worked out by then Chief Minister and National Conference founder Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah in 1977.

Authorities have not, however, issued permission to this procession since outbreak of armed insurgency in Kashmir, in 1989. Over 50,000 Shia mourners used to participate in the Valley’s largest attended Moharram procession while reciting, Nowha, Marsiya (elegies), practicing self-flagellation and many of them spilling their own blood on the streets while striking sharp-edged blades on their bodies. This form of street mourning, remembering the martyrs of Karbala and paying tributes to the martyred descendants of Prophet Mohammad by men of Shia community is still in practice in all other Moharram processions in Jammu and Kashmir, including the regions under Pakistan’s control.

Separatist leader and prominent Sunni Muslim clergyman, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, has asked his religious followers to gather at an Ashoora congregation to be addressed him at Narwara in defiance of curfew and other restrictions today. Late last evening, Mirwaiz was picked up by Police from his Rajouri Kadal house, alongwith a number of his activists, and detained at his Nageen residence. Mirwaiz and most of his separatist colleagues were forced to stay indoors at their respective residences in different areas of the capital city. Hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani, who had called for post-afternoon prayer street protests, was similarly put under ‘house arrest’ at his Hyderpora house.

Late last night, authorities had imposed curfew in areas falling under the jurisdiction of seven Police Stations in Srinagar to prevent any attempt of taking out the main Ashoora procession from Abi Guzar. Heavy Police and CRPF bandobust today did not allow any civilian movement or attempt of assembling of men without a curfew pass. Reports said that in the evening, followers of Mirwaiz Umar clashed with Police and CRPF at Alam Sahab Narwara. Stone pelting, anti-India and pro-Azadi slogans and retaliation from the forces continued for about an hour.

Nevertheless, senior separatist leader and JKLF Chairman, Mohammad Yasin Malik, joined Shia mourners at an Ashoora congregation and rally at Zadibal. Reports said that Malik also addressed the gathering and spoke on significance of the Martyrdom of Karbala. Another separatist leader and President of Anjuman Sharyee Shia’an, Aga Syed Hassan, led a traditional Ashoora procession in Budgam.

In Srinagar, thousands of Shia Muslim mourners participated in the largest Zuljanah procession that came out from Gulshan Bagh, Lalbazar, and passed through different localities of the traditional route before culminating into Majlis-e-Shaam-e-Gareebaan at the revered Shia saint Mir Shamsuddin Araki’s shrine at Zadibal. Under the 1977 agreement, this year’s sponsorship of the main Ashoora procession lay with Aga Syed Hassan’s Anjuman-e-Sharyee Shia’an. Last year, this procession had been organized by Maulvi Iftikhar’s Shia Association.

In the forenoon, a relatively thinner Zuljanah procession---that is a post-1989 tradition but without any organisation’s leadership---came out from Sabeelgah Nawab Bagh and ended at Imambara Abul Fazal Abbas, in Baghwanpora area of Lalbazar. Its participants in the afternoon joined the main Zuljanah procession that was on way to Mir Shamsuddin Araki shrine (Zadibal) from Gulshan Bagh.

In rural Kashmir, the largest Zuljanah procession initiated as per a 400-year-old tradition from Imambara of Mirgund and ended at district headquarters of Budgam at around midnight. Thousands of the Shia mourners were still performing traditional Matam (mourning) under sub-zero temperature, with recitation of Nowha, self-flagellation and striking of blades on their bodies at 2330 hours when this report was filed. Officials said that temperature was minus 4 degree Celsius when the procession was about to disperse around midnight.

On occasion of Ashoora, scores of other Zuljanah, Alam and Tazia processions were carried out also in other Shia-population areas of nine of the ten districts in Valley. Shopian happens to be the only district with no Shia concentration.

Earlier, members of Shia community participated in nightlong Marsiya recitation congregations at local Imambaras all over the Valley last night. This evening, Shia clerics addressed Majlis-e-Shaam-e-Gareeban at the culmination of different Zuljanah processions.


Thursday, December 16, 2010

50 judicial courts headless but Minister’s Munsiff son working as HoD in Omar Govt

Kisse vakeel karein, kis se munsiffi chahein?

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Dec 16: Government of India’s interlocutors on the Kashmir problem are by now supposed to be richer in their understanding of the loss of faith of the Kashmiri youth in the Indian system and institutions. They may yet have to learn how even the institution of judiciary is being taken for granted by the executive here to promote individuals---sons and daughters of influential politicians and bureaucrats.

Minister of Agriculture Ghulam Hassan Mir’s son, Afroz Mir, was appointed as a Munsiff around the time PDP-Congress coalition took over in 2002. Within two years, men of consequence in Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s government prevailed upon Afroz’s employer, J&K High Court, and got him on a brief deputation to the Civil Secretariat as Assistant Legal Remembrancer (ALR). Since ALR is a post of Under Secretary to Government, this change of service was like DGP’s deputation as Chief Secretary or Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (PCCF).

Within next year, Afroz was clandestinely elevated to the superior position of a Head of Department (HOD) in the Government of Jammu & Kashmir. Trampling rankers and contenders in the department, Afroz was appointed as Director Defence Labour Procurement (DLP), a position previously held by an IAS officer. All of this backdoor exercise, in breach of all rules, norms and codal procedures, happened when the no-nonsense and meticulously honest Muzaffar Hussain Baig was working as Minister incharge Law.

“I was morally weak in this matter and came under the influence of a fellow Minister (Afroz’s father, Hassan Mir). It was a blunder, something I should have never agreed to do”, Baig later admitted candidly in a television interview.

Then Chief Justice of J&K High Court, Bashir Ahmed Khan, took exception to the briefly deputed Munsiff’s far superior deputation and appointment as Director DLP without the knowledge and approval of the incumbent’s employer, J&K High Court. He called an explanation from Chief Secretary. It never came. The crisis was buried in a hush hush manner. Since 2004, Munsiff Afroz Mir has been firmly functioning as Director of a civil administration department in the state government.

Poor Kashmiri candidates, who cleared the state level competitive examination of the feeding services of Kashmir Administrative Service (KAS) through Public Service Commission in 1999, would not even dream of becoming HODs in the next 15 years. By the time they will be inducted formally into KAS and appointed subsequently as Additional Secretary to Government, their far junior competitor in the judicial service would have served four terms as Director and Deputy Commissioner and probably appointed as Principal Secretary of Law on the pattern of once temporarily engaged Munsiff, Akhtar Kochak. Now retired, Akhtar was the brother of Hassan Mir’s colleague in G M Shah cabinet and then Minister of Revenue, Ghulam Nabi Kochak. With the advantage of his age, Munsiff Afroz may one day retire as Chief Secretary of the State, without ever appearing in any competitive examination at the state or All India level.

Afroz Mir’s extraordinary qualification is nothing other than being the son of a mainstream politician who happens to be a past master in manipulative tactics. Known for his “New Delhi connections”, Mir played a key role in toppling Farooq Abdullah’s government in 1984. Chief Minister, G M Shah, inducted him as Minister of Law. State Vigilance Organisation proceeded against Mir in two matters of corruption and backdoor appointments and established the charges but, nearly 25 later, Omar Abdullah-led coalition government has refused sanction to his prosecution as he continuously happens to be a Minister in the Cabinet.

Hassan Mir is not the only Minister and Afroz Mir the only son of a Minister who has brazenly made a mockery of the Indian system of governance in J&K. The peculiarity in this matter is that even the judiciary---the only institution which has, to a great extent, preserved its credibility in the last 20 years of turmoil---has been taken for a ride by unaccountable politicians and bureaucrats. “Jeevay, Jeevay Hindustan!” is the satirical remark of a poor village boy, now 39 year old, who has a Ph D in Forestry and has been unsuccessfully in search of a class 4th job since 1996.

According to authoritative sources in J&K High Court, Afroz Mir is enjoying his overstretched government deputation at a time when as many as 35 Munsiff courts are headless in Jammu & Kashmir. Remaining 45 are better placed as these are being manned by a judge but most of these judges have to simultaneously dispose work of the headless courts in their respective districts.

Munsiff Karnah holds court for 20 days at Karnah and 10 days a month at Kupwara. Until recently, he used to work for 10 days at Karnah, 17 days at Kupwara and 3 days at Sogam. Now, Munsiff Handwara is dividing his week between Handwara and Sogam. Identical is the situation with more than a dozen other Munsiff courts in Kashmir valley.

Law Commission recommendations are similarly observed in breach for want of judicial staff in around two dozen Munsiff courts in Jammu division. For example, Munsiff Poonch works for 3 days at Poonch and 3 days a week at Mendhar. Munsiff Thana Mandi divides the week between Thana Mandi and Koteranka and Munsiff Sundarbani works 3 days each at Sundarbani and Kalakote. CJM Rajouri is holding the additional charge of Munsiff Budhal.

Munsiff Kathua has a similar schedule between Kathua and Basohli. Munsiff Chinani holds 3 days of his court at Chinani and 3 days at Majalta. Munsiff Ramban has been holding 3 days of business at Ramban and 3 days of every week at Gool. Similarly, Munsiff Thathri is divided between Thathri and Gandoh, in Doda district.

While Munsiffs and Sub Judges/ Chief Judicial Magistrates are overburdened with additional charge of 35 unmanned Munsiff courts, as many as 16 substantive posts of District and Sessions Judges are also lying vacant for years in J&K.

“I have no comments on the deputation of Mr Afroz Mir. As regards the vacant posts of Munsiffs, High Court, with the help of PSC, has recently appointed around three dozen Munsiffs who are currently under training at Judicial Academy in Jammu”, said a High Court official, wishing anonymity. He said that the process of filling up of 16 posts of District and Sessions Judges was also underway and written examination was scheduled to begin from December 26th.  He said that both the recruitment processes were being held first time in the last six or seven years


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

 Coalition partners pulling in different directions

Hassan Mir projects ‘sex scam-tainted’ bureaucrat as CS; Mustafa Kamal, Sham Lal trade fire on key issues

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Dec 15: Attrition and acrimony between the ruling coalition partners, National Conference and Congress, does not seem to be as revealing as it was between PDP and Congress towards the completion of one-third of the previous coalition regime. At this stage, nobody can compare it to the day when Mufti called back a helicopter from Amarnath Cave and forced two of the Congress Ministers, Yogesh Sawhney and Gharu Ram, alongwith their wives, to spend the night there without shelter and security. Observers were sceptical about Mufti-Azad tie-up but most of them believed that PDP-Congress coalition would last for six full years. It did not.

A couple of days after Sham Lal’s diatribe against the “Kashmir-dominated dispensation” in Bani, Minister of Health shared stage with Chief Minister Omar Abdullah at a different place. Both ignored the political tremors generated by Sham’s controversial statement. Relationship between the coalition partners appeared to be equally undisturbed when Omar made a controversial statement with regard to the state’s accession to India in Legislative Assembly in Srinagar.

Much like PDP-Congress unanimity on failing the resolution in the Assembly in March 2006, NC-Congress have been monolithic in supporting safe passage to the Kashmiri militant recruits wishing to return home from Pakistan. But, there is no denying the fact that members of the composite ruling family are pulling in divergent directions.

Azad loyalist, Abdul Gani Vakil, left no stone unturned to berate Mufti and his PDP---even after becoming a Cabinet Minister in 2007---and Mufti’s henchmen burnt midnight oil from Srinagar to New Delhi to smear the politician they called “Delhi’s man in J&K”.  Notwithstanding their exchange of smiles at public functions, JKPCC chief, Saifuddin Soz, and the NC top brass have not been comfortable with each other from day one. This is not for nothing that Omar and Azad have imperceptibly joined hands to target their common enemy---Soz. Supporters of both in the coalition have been laying more stress on Soz’s presence at the dais in Bani than on Sham and his statement.

With the fissures widening, neutral partner Ghulam Hassan Mir has opportunistically thrown his favourite bureaucrat Iqbal Khanday’s hat in the ring to install him as the new Chief Secretary in Jammu & Kashmir. Without taking into confidence anybody among the principal coalition partners, Mir is understood to be pleading Khanday’s case and playing up his ‘Kashmiri Muslim’ card in Delhi inspite of the fact that his client is still a Principal Secretary and junior to four Financial Commissioners, namely Madhav Lal, Parvaiz Dewan (1977), Anil Goswami and Pankaj Jain (1978). Besides, the IAS contender is still an under-trial in a Chandigarh court in the infamous ‘Srinagar Sex Scam’ of 2006 and his conviction can not be ruled out.

Minister of Agriculture, Mir had earlier played key role in Khanday’s reinstatement and winning him a prize position---Principal Secretary Agriculture Production---in Omar Abdullah’s government. He is known as a “hardcore achiever” in everything----grabbing a berth in Cabinet, getting his men, howsoever corrupt and incompetent, on top positions of his portfolio, managing restoration of ‘dignity’ to the bureaucrats outcast by the government in place.

Sham could be played down as an aberration. He remained low-key on his brother Madan Lal Sharma’s left over term of four years in the previous Assembly. He never landed into a controversy on account of his working or statements since he was inducted as a Minister in January 2009, though most of his subordinate officers crossed all limits in corruption and poor performance.

Left out of the Cabinet, Mustafa has been indiscriminately firing salvos not only on Pakistan and the Hurriyat hawk, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, but also on Congress party, Jawahar Lal Nehru, Indira Gandi and New Delhi. But, they are not the two-odd enfant terribles in the ruling coalition. JKPCC chief himself is credited with the creation of turbulence in 2009 when he triggered off the flare-up of “rape-cum-murder” while announcing on day one that he would take up the matter with the Prime Minister.

Even the Mr Clean from Leh and the most sensible in Congress, Rigzin Jora did arrogantly assail not only NC and its founder, Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, but also his Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah, while replying a question regarding the ‘poor’ promotion of Urdu language in J&K in Legislative Council in March this year. He has made no secret of his hatred for NC and the Sheikh dynasty. It looks an irony that G M Saroori, known for his praise and respect for Omar, even after falling from the grace, has reduced to be the only well wisher of the Chief Minister in the Congress camp after Taj Mohiuddin.

Coalition’s independent partners, Charanjit Singh (Kathua) and Tsetan Namgyal (Nobra) have not been expressive in airing out their anger and fate of the promises made to them earlier last year but Engineer Rasheed (Langet) has been publicly calling Omar Abdullah’s coalition as “the most incompetent and irresponsive government”. In utter frustration, he has been openly calling J&K a “disputed state” and delivering his own charity trust’s relief cheques at the residences of Hizbul Mujahideen militants dying in encounters with security forces.

CPI (M) State Secretary, Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami, as well as PDF Chairman, Hakeem Yasin, have also been playing the role of opposition with a minor difference that Tarigami treats Omar’s dispensation as a “lesser evil”.

Omar appeared to be firmly rooted in AICC (read Sonia Gandhi’s home) all through the 2010 turmoil but the fact remains that New Delhi has the history of not changing generals during war. Once the stability is fully back in Kashmir, he could find his coalition partners playing up the “governance deficit” that the Cabinet Committee on Security Affairs has meaningfully not withdrawn.


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Grenade blasts greet Omar during Pulwama meeting
2 personnel, 9 civilians injured in two militant attacks on CRPF

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Dec 14: On day two of the review meetings of District Development Boards in the Valley, militants today attacked security forces and left 11 persons wounded in Pulwama when Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah, and two of his Cabinet colleagues were present at the South Kashmir district headquarters.

Informed sources in South Kashmir told Early Times that Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah, was presiding over the District Development Board review meeting at Pulwama when suspected militants hurled a hand grenade on a CRPF bunker between Rajpora Chowk and Bus Stand at 1455 hours today. The blast occurred on the main Srinagar-Pulwama-Shopian Road at a spot that had crowded markets around. The district headquarters was bustling with business and activity when the explosion occurred and caused a stampede.

Men of CRPF 182 Bn, who were the target, did not open fire, even as at least two suspects were spotted mingling into a fleeing crowd and escaping from the spot.

Half-a-mile away, Chief Minister, two of his Cabinet colleagues, namely Sakeena Itoo and Aga Ruhullah, and Political Advisor, Devender Singh Rana, were taking a meeting with district and divisional level officials and legislators to review the progress achieved on implementation of the annual action plan in Pulwama and Shopian districts. With the exception of MLA Wachi and their party President, Mehbooba Mufti, all of the opposition PDP MLAs were present in the meeting alongwith NC’s MLC, Showkat Hussain Ganai, Congress MLC, Bashir Ahmed Magray and VC of Gujjar & Bakerwal Advisory Board, Bashir Ahmed Naz.

Divisional Commissioner of Kashmir, Asgar Hassan Samoon, IGP Kashmir, S M Sahai, DC Pulwama, Mohammad Afzal, DC Shopian, Mohammad Sharief Sood, and all district level officers of Pulwama and Shopian, were present in the meeting amid tight security arrangements.

Sources said that the blast occurred inspite of checking of many vehicles and frisking of Pheran-clad youth by Police and paramilitary forces.

SP Pulwama, Abdul Razaq, who rushed to the spot and restored order in 15 minutes of the explosion, told Early Times that two CRPF personnel and five civilian pedestrians sustained multiple splinter injuries. They were all rushed to hospital for medical treatment. Later, one of the injured was referred to Bone & Joint Hospital, Barzulla, Srinagar. Others were reportedly discharged by late tonight.

A Police spokesman this evening said: “Militants in the afternoon today hurled a grenade on a security forces mobile bunker in the Rajpora Chowk-Pulwama. As per the initial reports two security forces personnel identified as Head constable Anil Kumar and Constable Manoj Kumar of 182 Battallion Central Reserve Police Force, and five civilians, identified as Zubaida W/o Saif-u-din R/o Daramdar, Pulwama, Pervaiz Ahmad S/o Ghulam Mohammad R/o Srinagar, Mehraj-din S/o Ghulam Nabi R/o Payeen Pulwama, Mohammad Shafiq S/o Ghulam Mohammad R/o Bemina and Mohammad Yousuf S/o Abdullah Mir R/o Maspuna, Pulwama, suffered injuries. Later, one of the injured civilians, namely Mohammad Yousuf Mir S/o Abdullah Mir was referred to Bones and Joints Hospital Srinagar for further treatment”.

Eyewitnesses from the spot said that a Maruti car also suffered extensive damage under the impact of the blast.

Sources said that suspected militants lobbed another hand grenade on a CRPF bunker near Forest Check Post at Kakpora at 1710 hours this evening when Chief Minister’s cavalcade, followed by cavalcades of Ministers and officials, were returning to the summer capital. Even as Chief Minister flew from Jammu to Pulwama in a helicopter, he had later decided to travel by road from Pulwama to Srinagar. Sources said that the blast at Kakpora occurred minutes after the CM’s and other official cavalcades zipped past the spot on Srinagar-Pulwama-Shopian Road.

Official, as well as unofficial, sources maintained that two civilian pedestrians sustained injuries in the blast at Kakpora. They were evacuated and rushed to hospital. Both were reportedly stable late tonight.

It was after months of stone pelting and street demonstrations that militants in South Kashmir surfaced with grenade attacks on CRPF, that too during CM’s presence and movement in Pulwama.

Meanwhile, authorities tonight announced to have imposed curfew in areas falling under five Police Stations---Ram Munshi Bagh, Kothibagh, Maisuma, Kralkhud and Shaheed Gunj---to fail attempts of religious and political groups to take out the traditional 8th Moharram Alam procession, from Shaheed Gunj to Dalgate on Wednesday, in defiance of prohibitory orders.