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Saturday, March 20, 2010

CMO suspended, goes into hiding

Early Times Report
SRINAGAR, Mar 20: Government has placed Chief Medical Officer Pulwama, Dr Ghulam Qadir Sofi, under suspension with immediate effect and given his charge as an additional assignment to CMO Shopian Dr Sonaullah.

Director Health Services, Kashmir, today issued Order No: 102G of 2010 dated 20-03-2010 placing under suspension, CMO Pulwama Dr Ghulam Qadir Sofi, with immediate effect. Without specifying, the order said that Dr Sofi would remain under suspension pending inquiry into the allegations leveled against him. It said that CMO Shopian, Dr Sonaullah, would hold the charge of CMO Pulwama as an additional assignment.

Informed sources said that Dr Sofi has gone into hiding immediately after Government order an administrative action against him. Sources said that DGP Kuldeep Khoda was in touch with IGP Kashmir, SSP Pulwama and SSP Srinagar and a criminal FIR was being filed against Dr Sofi either at Police Station Pulwama where the incident of sexual exploitation of a trained but unemployed nurse of Balpora village took place or at Police Station Kothi Bagh (Srinagar) which first learned about the criminal act but allegedly tried to hush up the matter.

CMO caught on video while raping woman at office

CBI held Dr Sofi guilty in Shopian case but Omar Govt promoted him as CMO in 2009


SRINAGAR, Mar 20: Chief Medical Officer (CMO) of Pulwama, Dr Ghulam Qadir Sofi, has been finally placed under suspension by Omar Abdullah’s NC-led coalition government but not before he was caught on video while committing rape on a 30-year-old unemployed nurse at his office. Even as Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had held him guilty, alongwith five other doctors, of fudging and fabricating evidences in alleged rape-cum-murder incident of two young women in Shopian, state government had promoted Dr Sofi from the position of Deputy CMO to CMO in September last year and continued his posting in Pulwama district.

Enquiries made by Early Times revealed that CMO Pulwama, Dr Ghulam Qadir Sofi, allegedly established contact with a trained but unemployed female nurse of Balpora village and promised her recruitment into government service if she was willing to satiate his sexual desire. On a particular date earlier this month, the woman in her early 30s reached his office to do the needful. However, one or two of Dr Sofi’s contacts, managed to shoot the act on a mobile phone.

Few days later, a compact disc (CD), containing the sexually explicit footage, reached the editor and two sub editors of a local news agency, holding office yards away from Kothi Bagh Police Station. Chief Editor of the news agency also happens to be the publisher and editor of an Urdu newspaper. Rather than making a news of it, they contacted Dr Sofi through his son, Abdul Hamid, and demanded cash worth Rs 1 Crore in lieu of maintaining silence. While the bargaining continued for few days, CMO’s son contacted Inspector Vishal of Special Operations Group (SOG) Srinagar and sought his help with the complaint that some people were blackmailing “my relative”.

Inspector Vishal advised Abdul Hamid to fix the deal with the “blackmailers” and inform him on the moment of handing over money to them. As planned by Inspector Vishal, both the sub editors were taken into custody and handed over to SHO Kothibagh, Inspector Shafeeq Ahmed. Police seized a copy of the CD from the duo. But rather than carrying out any investigation, Police destroyed the CD and even deleted the file from the laptop of the sub editors.

The sub editors claimed that they were not in possession of any other copy of the video. However, fearing that Police were “hand-in-glove” with the doctor, the sub editors circulated copies of the CD among several officials, including Directorate of Heath Services Kashmir, as also among the civil society in Pulwama and Shopian districts of south Kashmir.

Inspector Vishal confirmed to Early Times that he had been contacted by Dr Sofi’s son and on March 17th evening he got both the journalists trapped who, according to him, had lowered demand from Rs one Crore to Rs 40,000. He said that he handed over the duo to Police Station Kothibagh which was holding further investigation. SDPO Sheikh Zulfikar as well as SHO Kothibagh, Inspector Shafeeq Ahmed, maintained that the investigation was in progress. They denied that Police had hushed up the matter to protect the CMO and claimed that necessary action would be taken under law after questioning of certain characters of the story and obtaining certain evidences.

The video clip, now in circulation in the capital city and entire south Kashmir, shows Dr Sofi committing the sexual act on a pretty young woman who enters a room and takes off her trousers. Entire act, in which both the characters are clearly identifiable, takes place on a bed, reportedly in a room of the CMO’s office. However, some people suspect it to be Dr Sofi’s clinic in Pulwama. The woman, wearing an embroidered pink colour Pheran and Shalwar, and half of burqa on her head (which is fully lifted from the front) does not pose any resistance but does not offer any smiles either. Legal experts insist that sexual exploitation of females on the promise of rewarding them with a government job was very much rape and the accused was supposed to be booked for rape.

In three days of investigation, Police have identified the woman as an unemployed nurse of Balpora village of Shopian district. However, she had neither been called nor questioned in custody or otherwise till late tonight.

Interestingly, then Dy CMO of Pulwama, Dr Ghulam Qadir Sofi, was among the six doctors who had been held guilty of fudging and fabricating evidences in the infamous “rape-cum-murder” case of two young woman in Shopian last year. Even as CBI established in its investigation that gynecologist Dr Nighat Shaheen had been influenced by Dr Sofi to collect vaginal smear from a number of women at District Hospital of Pulwama and send it to FSL for making it a case of gang rape in order to fabricate some Police officials, state government did not initiate any action against him. Dr Sofi was, in fact, elevated by Omar Abdullah government in September 2009 to the senior position of CMO with his continued posting in Pulwama district.

According to the CBI investigation, Dr Sofi had played a key role in falsely establishing the Shopian deaths as a matter of “rape-cum-murder” and also creating a huge law and order problem which consumed several human lives in weeks of massive protests all over Kashmir valley. CBI has absolved all the four Police officials, including then SP of Shopian Javed Iqbal Matoo, and filed a chargesheet of fudging and fabricating evidences against six doctors and five lawyers on December 14, 2009.

After Dr Nighat Shaheen and Dr Bilal Ahmed Dalal, Dr Sofi is now third of the group to have been placed under suspension. While as then CMO Pulwama, Dr Ghulam Mohammad Pal has retired from service in September 2009, remaining two of the accused, namely Dr Nazia Hassan and Mohammad Maqbool Mir, are still working in south Kashmir.


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

5 trade union leaders retiring in 2010 may sacrifice arrears on 58-60 demand

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

JAMMU, Mar 17: Unable to pay arrears to its 5 Lakh employees, National Conference-led coalition government is likely to settle the issue of current agitation by way of keeping 5 top-ranking trade union leaders in good humour. If well-placed official sources are to be believed, these trade union leaders, who are all supposed to retire from government service within year 2010, have conveyed to the government that they were ready to sacrifice all of the agitating employees’ demands, including the key demands of release of pay arrears and House Rent Allowance, in case they would be favoured by increasing the age of retirement from 58 to 60 years.

After Chief Minister Omar Abdullah took an unscheduled meeting with members of the Cabinet Sub Committee on implementation of the six pay commission recommendations at his residence tonight, sources revealed to Early Times that there was fundamental difference of opinion among the Ministers with regard to conceding the demand of increasing the superannuation bar to 60 years. Among the Sub Committee members, Minister of Finance Abdul Rahim Rather and Minister of Irrigation & PHE Chowdhary Taj Mohiuddin are said to be strongly averse to “succumbing to the blackmailing of the trade union leaders”. Their apprehension, according to sources, was that it would be widely interpreted as the Government’s surrender before “five particular trade union leaders” who are all supposed to retire from service in the next few months.

According to these sources, remaining three members of the Cabinet Sub Committee, namely Ali Mohammad Sagar, Pirzada Mohammad Sayeed and Surjit Singh Salathia, were in favour of settling all the issues and demands of the agitating employees on the one-odd concession of increasing the retirement limit from 58 to 60 years. Their argument is believed to be resting on an “assurance” that the retiring trade union leaders, who would be the immediate beneficiaries of the extension of retirement bar, would themselves pacify their ranks and convince the employees that other demands would be conceded by the government as and when “supplementary award of 13th Finance Commission” would come from New Delhi.

Amid hectic activity more rounds of discussion on Thursday, members of the Cabinet Sub Committee would be holding a meeting with the trade union leaders on Friday.


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

3 killed, 8 injured as militants strike in Srinagar, Sopore
Incidents will happen as there are 245 listed militants still in Valley: IGP

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Mar 16: Striking in a big way simultaneously in Sopore and the business hub of Lalchowk in Srinagar, militants today left three persons dead and eight others wounded. Those killed in today’s broad daylight attacks on Police and Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) included the PSO of Sub Divisional Police Officer (SDPO) of Sopore and two salesmen.

Informed sources told Early Times that at least two pistol wielding militants fired upon a patrol party of CRPF 132 Bn at the crowded business street of Kokerbazar in close vicinity of Lalchowk. Two CRPF personnel and three civilians were injured in the shootout. They were quickly evacuated and rushed to hospital where one of the critically injured civilians breathed his last. Reportedly a salesman at a shop, he was identified as Khursheed Ahmed Parray S/o Abdul Gani Parray R/o Hawra, Khansahab, district Budgam.

Police and CRPF conducted searches but failed to get any clue with regard to identification and whereabouts of the militants, believed to be two in number.

Somebody, who claimed to be spokesman of the alliance of Al-Nasireen, Farzandan-e-Millat and Shuhada Brigade, told the local news agency, Kashmir News Service, over telephone that militants of the three outfits had jointly launched the operation. He claimed that two CRPF men were killed in the strike.

DIG Central Kashmir, Hemant Kumar Lohia, maintained that CRPF observed restraint and did not fire a single round in retaliation. Another Police official asserted that militants of Lahkar-e-Toiba and Harkatul Mujahideen were believed to have attacked the CRPF party even as some agencies were certain that it was the handiwork of Hizbul Mujahideen. DIG said that the militants left two CRPF personnel critically wounded and escaped while firing in different directions. He said that three civilians got hit in the militants’ indiscriminate firing. He said that one of the civilians, namely Khursheed Ahmed Parray of Hawra, Khansahab, Budgam succumbed to injuries while as one of the two CRPF men was battling for life with remote prospects of recovery at SKIMS.

Businesses remained shut in Kokerbazar, Lalchowk, Amirakadal, Hari Singh High Street, Maharaj Bazar, Goni Khan, Maulana Azad Road and Residency Road in Civil Lines even as the traders did not declare it officially as a mark of protest against the militants. Today’s shootout in Kokerbazar came after militants gunned down two civilians in Bemina and Jawahar Nagar localities of the capital city and also lobbed a hand grenade on a CRPF party at Pathar Masjid in the last seven days.

Sources in North Kashmir said that militants carried out yet another broad daylight attack on a Police party near General Bus Stand in the famous appletown of Sopore today. According to officials, at least two gunmen fired upon the Police party which was busy in a search operation and left five civilians and a PSO of SDPO Sopore wounded. During treatment at a hospital, SDPO Hamit Singh’s PSO, Ashiq Hussain (SPO), succumbed to injuries. Later, a 22-year-old salesman, working at a restaurant and identified as Tanvir Ahmed S/o Bashir Ahmed R/o Maharajpora, Sopore, also succumbed to injuries.

Sources said that four other civilians, including Shabroz W/.o Aijaz Ahmed of Dangiwacha, Rafiabad, besides another SPO, sustained injuries. They said that Shabroz and the SPO had sustained gunshot wounds. They further claimed that Sopore’s most wanted militant, Basharat Saleem, had been identified as one among the two militants who fired upon the Police party. A number of militant attacks on Police, security forces and civilian targets have taken place in Sopore in the last four months.

IGP Kashmir, Farooq Ahmed, told Early Times that Police and security forces had launched a manhunt for the four militants who had attacked the Police and paramilitary parties at the two spots today. “These incidents will continue to happen occasionally as there are still 245 listed militants in Kashmir”, he said. Officials, meanwhile, revealed that Srinagar Police succeeded in arresting a Lashkar-e-Toiba militant alongwith his pistol. He was reportedly a resident of Doda district.


Monday, March 15, 2010

Is Kashmir heading to civil war ?
Absence of a charismatic leader like Sheikh Abdullah may prove to be dangerous for Valley

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

· Sectarian clash in Pattan runs into third month
· Stone pelting unabated in Valley in third consecutive year
· Geelani supporters attack JKLF relief delegation in Sopore
· Jamiatul Mujahideen threatens Mufti Azam over Fatwa against stone pelting
· Jamiat-e-Ahl-e-Hadith calls its own Chief as ‘agency man’

This is what Kashmir has reluctantly and painfully witnessed in the first three months of the year 2010. These ‘anti-movement’ headlines may have found little room on front pages of the vernacular press in Srinagar but the space occupied by an overstretching chain of anarchical events on the landscape of closed-door political debate in the Valley appears to be alarming. Hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s volte face, from audaciously supporting the culture of stone pelting in 2009 to taking the youngsters’ oath against the same in 2010, is perhaps a stark admission of the fact that the leaderless, directionless separatist movement was turning into a civil war in the 21st year of its existence.

Kashmir’s problem is that Geelani alone has the capacity of sailing against the wind. All others, mainstream as well as separatist politicians, have either abdicated their responsibility or forfeited their authority by expediently strengthening Geelani’s constituency. Even as the PDP supremo Mufti Mohammad Sayeed realized the dangers of playing the politics of camouflage during the litmus test of his space and strength in the wake of Amarnath shrine land row in 2008, New Delhi’s recognition of this brand of politics has been emphatic enough to lure the state’s only no-nonsense Chief Minister Omar Abdullah.

For his passion of stealing “Hurriyat’s space”---without realizing that Hurriyat was simply a postal address of the armed insurgency--- Mufti had left no stone unturned in his policy of the appeasement of the Kashmiri separatists. He failed in his mission of demilitarization and revocation of Armed Forces Special Powers Act but succeeded in grabbing erstwhile Muslim United Front’s election symbol, releasing most of the Hurriyat detainees, extending the benefits of ex gratia relief to the slain militants’ families and opening surface communication links between J&K and Pakistan-administered Kashmir. Whatever the reasons, Director General of Police, A K Suri, was removed and got replaced by the dove Gopal Sharma in days of the custodial killing of Hizbul Mujahideen’s “Chief Commander of Operations” Saiful Islam.

And when the litmus test came in August 2008, Geelani was the hero and Mufti a villain, no different from the hawkish Farooq Abdullah and the counter-insurgent Kukka Parray.

Weighing the options between the lessons Kashmir taught to PDP in 2008 and the high value of the politics of camouflage in New Delhi’s South Block, Omar Abdullah decided in favour of the latter. This is what seems to have prevented him from asserting over the massive mandate he got against the masters of anarchy in the Assembly elections of November-December 2009. Good governance does not remain relevant in this kind of a culture which does have a little room for political and administrative accountability but none for the intellectual accountability that has been the corner stone of the idea of India. Demonisation of terror, violence and anarchy are obviously no priorities in this culture.

The free-for-all has been a no-holds-barred phenomenon in the last 15 months of the NC-led coalition Government. Finding the government at a receiving end of all miseries, everybody has found it easy to target the establishment with brickbats. Much more than fighting for their lawful rights, trade union leaders have been publicly abusing head of the government for the “killing” of Zahid Farooq and Wamiq Farooq. If CBI investigation in the Shopian tragedy is to be believed, even the government’s Public Prosecutors have conspired with “anti-national elements” in creating a hostile atmosphere for Police and security forces.

Why would the stone pelting stop if nobody in government or any mainstream political party has the spine to dismiss the menace as an anarchy unacceptable to the government and civil society ? Geelani deserves credit for audaciously asserting against the stone pelting even as he alone had pioneered supporting it in recent past and it had, subsequently, generated more and more admiration everywhere from Kashmir University to Bar to militants.

Significantly, Geelani has now begun to occupy the space that has been left vacant by the government and mainstream politicians in Pattan, which has been a flashpoint of sectarian strife in the last three months. While addressing a well-attended rally, Geelani boldly praised Ayatullah Khomeini and Islamic poet-philosopher Iqbal in his most audacious attempt of joining the warring factions in Magam area.

Courtesy an extension of the healing touch era, Geelani’s constituency is expanding but he too may not be competent enough to douse the flames of internecine feud in Jamiat-e-Ahl-e-Hadith and prevent the radicals from attacking the institution of Mufti Azam. Absence of a leader of Sheikh Abdullah’s stature in Kashmir’s politics today is bound to drift the Valley into a civil war---if not today, definitely tomorrow.

Black-badge protest awaits Dir DD Kashir at SKICC

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Mar 13: Over 200 freelance television producers, based in Kashmir and Jammu are planning to greet Senior Director of Kashir Channel (DD Kashir), Ananya Banerjee, with a black-badge protest over bunglings and brazen violation of guidelines in allotment of the commissioned programmes for 2009-10. Ms Banerjee is scheduled to participate in finale and prize distribution ceremony of DD Kashir’s musical competition ‘Milay Surr’ at SKICC here on March 15th.

Informed sources said that the aggrieved producers, whose proposals have been either fully rejected or slashed to peanuts of two to four episodes to accommodate more than 50 ineligible applicants, have decided to register their protest with black badges on their arms, placards and slogans. Since the allotments were made in October 2009, these aggrieved producers---who include veteran artists, directors, producers and script writers---have been complaining of wanton irregularities in the commissioning process but failed to get any redressal of their grievances.

In scores of representations to senior state and central government functionaries, the aggrieved producers have pointed out largescale violation of DD’s guidelines like allotment of programmes to more than 30 regular government officials, some regular employees of Doordarshan Kendra Srinagar, over two dozen employees of state and central governments who have failed to produce proof of the acceptance of their resignations by competent authority before commencement of the process for empanelment of producers, allotment of 13 episodes of drama serials and non-fiction series without taking the mandatory pilot episode from the allottee producers, allotment of programmes in favour of two to four members of over a dozen families, allotment of highest number of programmes (13 episodes each) to first-timers who were in regular government service until recently and had not requisite experience in the field, rejection of the proposals of high merit producers or reduction of their allotted programmes to just two to four episodes, allotment of 6 to 13 episodes to over 100 people who are completely unknown and anonymous in the community of television producers in Jammu & Kashmir besides allotment of programmes to at least one elected legislator and an elected corporator of Srinagar Municipal Corporation.

Rather than showing any concern for redressal of their grievances, DD authorities at Mandi House in New Delhi have begun to approve scripts and release advance payment in favour of the allottee producers in a high-handed manner.

38-year-old producer dies under stress from DD Kashir

530 J&K producers being forced to cough up Crores on Srinagar-Delhi shuttling

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Mar 13: While Doordarshan is forcing 530 freelance television producers, based in Kashmir valley and Jammu, to spend Crores of Rupees on account of shuttling between the state and the union capital in connection with the commissioned programmes of DD Kashir, scores of the filmmakers in trouble have fallen in deep stress and agony. After he found his programme allotted to a different producer, 38-year-old veteran producer Syed Gulzar Rizvi died of cardiac arrest at his home in Budgam last month.

Syed Gulzar Rizvi was a 38-year-old producer running entire livelihood of himself and his family on the television productions which he continued to pursue in the worst times of Kashmir insurgency in early 1990s. Even after doing his masters from University of Kashmir in Journalism and Mass Communication and even after getting selected for government job twice---last time on January first 2010---Rizvi had made filmmaking as his full-time profession.

Five years back, Rizvi was among 36 producers who had been selected and allotted 26 episodes of a Kashmiri fiction in the toughest ever competition by DD Kashir. Even after the producers were invited for executing agreement, DD revoked the allotment of all the 36 producers, putting them to grave stress and never-ending legal battle. In October 2009, Rizvi received a letter from DD Kashir, which informed him that three episodes of a programme, never submitted by him, had been allotted in his favour.

He made repeated representations and more than 20 telephonic calls to Senior Director of DD Kashir, Ananya Banerjee, that his proposal had been completely “hijacked” and allotted to a different producer. He made it repeatedly clear that he was a contender for a fiction of 13 episodes on Kashmir’s legendary romantic poet, Rasool Mir, but instead had been directed to make three episodes of a documentary film on Mir Shahabadi. “The proposal has been considered under non-fiction category as per the subject”, mentions the remarks column of Rizvi at serial No: 311 of the List of allottee producers available on DD’s website.

After failing to get any positive response from Ms Banerjee, whose mobile phone has received over 20 of the aggrieved producer’s calls, Rizvi suffered a massive heart attack during the night intervening February 8th and 9th and he died in utter haplessness at his home in Dadina village of Budgam district. He had absolutely no medical history of any disease. “He fell in severe shock and stress after he received a letter from Doordarshan in October or November. Thereafter, he did not smile till he died of heart attack under severe stress”, Rizvi’s brother Syed Mohammad said.

By way of retaining DD Kashir headquarters at Mandi House in New Delhi, DD authorities have forced as many as 530 producers, based in Jammu & Kashmir, to spend Crores of Rupees on account of their shuttling between Srinagar/Jammu-Delhi in connection with submission of proposals, personal presentation, execution of agreements, submission of rough cuts, submission of final tapes and release of payment. On an average, each producer has to make at least 5 trips to New Delhi and average cost on each trip is around Rs 30,000. By this calculation, every single allottee producer is forced to spend Rs 1.50 lakh. DD Kashir has taken presentation of 530 producers based in Kashmir and Jammu in the current process of commissioning of programmes for 2009-10 at Mandi House.

Enquiries revealed that highest authorities in Government of India have issued orders as many as three times in the last 10 years for shifting of the DD Kashir headquarters from New Delhi to Srinagar but a mafia of vested interest and brokers have never allowed implementation of such orders. Seven years back, then Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee had personally got a clear-cut order issued on emergency basis on Sunday but that too was never implemented.

Earlier during PM’s visit, his Media Advisor Sudheendra Kulkarni had assured a representative delegation of J&K literary icons, producers and artists that it was “the country’s commitment to you”. Vajpayee made it part of his written announcement distributed at the news conference at Srinagar Airport. Still, DD Kashir headquarters were never shifted to Srinagar.