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Saturday, June 26, 2010

Amid rumours of resignation, CM stresses action against white collar rioters

‘Observe SOP strictly but don’t let 600 men hold 6 million people to ransom’

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Jun 26: In a virtual admonishment of the leadership of Jammu & Kashmir Police---first time in the last 18 months of his government---Chief Minister Omar Abdullah today took a serious note of the phenomenally growing situation of anarchy in “some parts of the Valley” and made it clear that the law enforcement agencies would have to strictly observe Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) but, at the same time, ensure that 600 rioters and their masters are not allowed to hold the population of 6 million people to ransom. Authorities are, subsequently, planning a major crackdown not only against the separatist Hurriyat leaders but also on some top activists of Dukhtaraan-e-Millat and High Court Bar Association.

Realizing the hazards of the lack of accountability and coordination between different institutions and organizations of his government, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah today turned tough on the Police leadership and indicated an enough-is-enough posturing. While chairing an emergency meeting with his Cabinet colleagues and top government functionaries, Chief Minister asserted that nobody in Police and armed forces would be allowed to violate SOP as his government was committed to honouring human rights of all unarmed civilians. He ordered a judicial inquiry, to be headed by former judge of J&K High Court and Chairman of State Human Rights Commission Mohammad Basheer-ud-din, into the circumstances leading to the death of two civilians in Sopore in a shootout by CRPF yesterday.

The meeting was attended by the Deputy Chief Minister Tara Chand, and Ministers, Ali Mohammad Sagar, Peerzada Mohammad Sayeed, Taj Mohi-ud-Din, Mian Altaf Ahmad, Surjeet Singh Slathia, Ghulam Hassan Mir, R S Chib, Advisors to the Chief Minister Mubarak Gul and Devender Singh Rana besides Chief Secretary, S S Kapur, Financial Commissioner Home, Samuel Varghese, Director General Police, Kuldeep Khoda, Principal Secretary to Chief Minister Khursheed Ganai and Additional DG, CID, K Rajindra.

Virtually calling an explanation from DGP Kuldeep Khoda, Chief Minister, according to informed sources, desired to know as to why mob mobilization was assuming alarming proportions for the first time in 21 years of insurgency and separatist movement, particularly so in areas falling under the jurisdiction of four Police Stations in downtown Srinagar besides old towns of Sopore and Baramulla. He made it clear that each and every official of the state Police would be accountable for every single incident and strict action would be taken against those found lacking in initiative.

Chief Minister expressed his concern that “sponsored disruption in few localities” was bringing a bad name to the state and the government could not afford deterioration of the situation to the extent of casting shadows on impending Amarnath pilgrimage and an unprecedented, flourishing tourist season. He made it clear that he would no more tolerate absenteeism in government offices, shutdown or no shutdown.

Calling for strict action against the “white color rioters”, Chief Minister directed Police and other agencies of his government to immediately identify everybody involved in encouraging, instigating and financing these rioters. He issued directions that everybody “however influential” be arrested, booked under law and tackled in a legal battle at High Court and Supreme Court of India level. According to informed sources, Dukhtaraan-e-Millat chief, Asiya Andrabi and HCBA President, Advocate Mian Abdul Qayoom, were most likely to be arrested in the next 24 hours. Chief Minister made it clear that his government would engage the best of the country’s lawyers to defend its case against the “white color rioters and financers”. Sources said that action was likely against two of the high profile business families for their alleged involvement in facilitating money laundering and finances to the riot operatives.

While stressing on administrative matters, sources said that Chief Minister also pulled up his Ministerial colleagues for being “mute spectators” to the entire political scene being dominated by “separatists of no representative character” like Syed Ali Shah Geelani. He asserted that the separatists’ propaganda campaign would have to be contested politically by the people who had been elected and enjoyed mandate to shape the situation of peace.

He said that the government could not afford to be complacent against those who wanted to be a law unto themselves and disturb the peace and tranquility in the state. He said his government was committed to maintaining peace and order and would take strong measures against those elements who, for their own political considerations and vested interests, wanted to exploit and misguide the youth of the state.


Friday, June 25, 2010

2 killed in CRPF firing on mob in Sopore

CRPF opened fire when mourners of 2 slain militants torched a Gypsy; Curfew imposed

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Jun 25: Authorities have imposed curfew on Sopore after two civilians got killed and four others sustained gunshot wounds in a mob attack on paramilitary force this evening. Hundreds of residents carrying dead bodies of two militants, who had earlier died in an encounter with security forces, clashed with CRPF in Krankshivan Colony while shouting anti-India slogans, pelting stones and torching a Gypsy. Both factions of the separatist Hurriyat Conference have called for a total shutdown in Kashmir on Saturday and asked people to march to the apple town in a demonstration of solidarity with the bereaved families.

Informed sources in North Kashmir told Early Times that hundreds of people gathered and began shouting anti-India, anti-forces, pro-Azadi and pro-Islam slogans in Krankshivan outskirts of Sopore immediately after a 20-hour-long gunbattle between militants and security forces ended with the death of two militants at 1600 hours today. They formed a funeral procession and carried dead bodies of the slain militants on shoulders towards Chhann Khan bridge. Suddenly there was a clash between some demonstrators and soldiers. Sources said that the demonstrators attacked the CRPF party on duty and also set on fire one Gypsy which was part of the escort of a Commanding Officer.

Thereupon, troops opened fire on the mob. In all, six of the demonstrators sustained gunshot wounds. One of them, namely Shakil Ahmed Ganai S/o Abdul Aziz Ganai R/o Lalad, succumbed to injuries before reaching Sub District Hospital for treatment. Another critically wounded civilian, identified as Firdaus Ahmed Khan S/o Abdul Rashid Khan R/o Ningli, breathed his last when the injured were being rushed to a Srinagar hospital in an ambulance. Officials said that four others were admitted and treated at SMHS Hospital. They said that three of them were stable but one Merajuddin of Tarzoo was battling for life.

Sources said that immediately after the shootout, thousands of residents took to the streets and they staged protest against killing of two civilians in CRPF firing besides killing of two militants in the overnight gunbattle. Reports said that the demonstrators shouted pro-Azadi, pro-Islam and anti-India slogans and resorted to heavy stone pelting on government installations and CRPF camps at several places in the apple town. They also directed an attack on the residence of some Police officers besides Police Station. Hundreds of the angry youth demolished two CRPF bunkers. CRPF soldiers at Iqbal Market opened fire. Reports awaiting official confirmation till late tonight said that two more civilians sustained injuries.

Divisional Commissioner of Kashmir, Naseem Lankar, told Early Times late tonight that District Magistrate of Baramulla imposed curfew restrictions as the situation was threatening to go out of hand in the wake of today’s encounter and CRPF shootout coupled by demonstrations in several localities in Sopore. She said that DC Baramulla, Bashir Ahmed Bhat, SP Sopore, Altaf Khan, and other officials were camping in Sopore and making efforts to restore peace.

Today’s shootout in Sopore took places minutes after DG CRPF Vikram Srivastava, Special DG of CRPF for J&K N K Tripathi, IG CRPF Srinagar P V Krishna Reddy and IG Operations (CRPF) Kashmir, Dr N C Asthana, met Governor, N N Vohra, at Raj Bhawan. Official sources said that During 90-minute-long meeting, DG CRPF briefed the Governor about various aspects of the obtaining security situation in the State. The Governor discussed with Mr. Srivastava some of his concerns about the arising security scenario in the State, taking into account both the internal and external influences and factors.

CRPF spokesman, Prabhakar Tripathi, told Early Times over telephone from Patna that CRPF, Army and Sopore Police had launched a joint operation in Krankshivan Colony after receiving specific information regarding presence of two militants at a hideout. He said that one of the militants was eliminated last evening itself but the operation was frozen for the night. According to him, “somebody from a mob” fired upon CRPF when the operation was underway in the afternoon. He claimed that Inspector Rohtas Singh of CRPF 177 Bn sustained gunshot wounds in this firing. Troops observed restraint for fear of possible civilian casualties and concentrated on the hideout. Inspector Singh was rushed to Srinagar and admitted to Army’s 92 Base Hospital.

Tripathi added that after both the militants got killed, another mob assembled and started stone pelting and demonstrations. He said that during the course of these demonstrations, some “masked men” from the crowd opened fire on CRPF Gypsy and deflated its tyre. Same vehicle was later set on fire by the mob. He said that the CRPF men under cordon of the mob opened fire in self defence in which two persons got killed. He said that he had immediately no knowledge as to how many civilians had got injured in the shootout.

Reports from Sopore said that amid intermittent clashes with Police and CRPF, besides announcements from public address system of local mosques by the residents, authorities imposed curfew and deployed several companies of CRPF and Army to tackle the law and order situation. These reports said that Tehsildar and SDM were forced to take shelter in a house when another mob directed a heavy attack on Police Station.

Meanwhile, both factions of the separatist Hurriyat Conference, headed by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Syed Ali Shah Geelani, have called for shutdown in Kashmir tomorrow. Mirwaiz has asked the people to stage a protest march to Sopore on Saturday while as Geelani has made similar appeal to the Kashmiris for Monday next.


Thursday, June 24, 2010

Syed Ali Shah Geelani's fresh calendar of shutdowns for June-July 2010

25th June: Shutdown in Jammu & Kashmir

26th June: Hold mass prayers and Qanoot-e-Nazila at mosques

27th June: Write “Go India Go Back” slogans on walls and roads

28th June: Male students to wear black badges on their arms

29th June: Female students to wear black badges on their arms

30th June: Protest demonstrations at mosques between evening prayers

1st July: Women’s march to Pathar Masjid in Srinagar downtown

2nd July: Shutdown

3rd July: Shutdown

9th July: Shutdown

10th July: Shutdown

13th July: Shutdown plus march to two martyrs’ graveyards in Srinagar

3rd July onwards: Indefinite shutdown if Police/forces killed anybody in Kashmir.

[As released by Hurriyat (Geelani) leader and Vice Chairman of Muslim League, Massarat Alam Bhat at a news conference in Srinagar on June 24, 2010]

Courtesy shutdowns, J&K is on verge of economic collapse

General trade alone suffers loss of Rs 40 Cr on each day of Hartal in Kashmir

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Jun 24: If President of Kashmir Traders & Manufacturers Federation (KTMF), Sadiq Baqal, is to be believed, there are around 300,000 shops and various sales units in Kashmir valley. Quoting a survey, he said that 2,35,000 shops had been counted in the Valley two years ago. “In a comprehensive exercise, we have calculated that the Valley’s economy is suffering loss of Rs 100 Crore on each day of shutdown. General trade alone has been suffering loss of Rs 35 Cr to Rs 40 Cr on each day of shutdown”, Mr Baqal told Early Times [].

Leading businessman and President Federation of Chambers & Industries Kashmir (FCIK), Shakeel Qallandar, seconded Mr Baqal and said that each day of a total strike would mean dent of Rs 100 Cr to the state economy. He added that the loss suffered by Kashmir was around 90% and even Jammu division, which rarely observes a shutdown, was being subjected to 10% of the damage on such a day.

With due regards to the spiraling macro economic indicators compiled by Directorate General of Planning and Statistics and presented alongwith his Budget in the Legislative Assembly by Finance Minister, Abdul Rahim Rather, Mr Qallandar insisted that Jammu & Kashmir state’s economy was on the verge of economic collapse. Taking exception to “prejudiced claims” from certain analysts in New Delhi and overseas that J&K was flourishing with a “visible as well as invisible economy”, Qallandar said: “Don’t go by the deceptive indicators of the flowing in vehicles and coming up houses. One must bear it in mind that J&K is currently suffering the trade deficit of Rs 27,000 Cr a year. Total volume of our exports is Rs 7,000 Cr today while as goods worth Rs 34,000 Cr are imported in a year”.

“Everybody in J&K is debt trapped. Residents have lifted loans worth Rs 22,000 Cr from different banks and their liquidity is dismal”, Qallandar added. According to him, in terms of overall economic development, J&K stood among the highest growing eight states in 1988 while as, mainly due to a hostile business atmosphere, it had over the years plummeted to the bottom. He claimed that in 2009, J&K was among the three states of the worst economic development. Yet another negative indicator was a survey by Transparency International which put J&K as India’s second worst state in terms of corruption.

With the state government’s latest statistics putting the number of unemployed youth (between age group of 18 to 37 years) at 600,000, Qallandar insisted that total number of the people with no assured or permanent source of income in J&K was currently 10 Lakh (one million). “Our unemployed ratio has already crossed the red mark of 10 percent. It was just 2 percent in 1988. With 1000,000 unemployed people, we, on the other hand, engage 500,000 skilled and unskilled labours from Bihar, UP, West Bengal, Rajasthan, Punjab and few other North Indian states every year. State does not have institutions to create its own workforce of the skilled labours”, he said.

Another leading entrepreneur, who wished anonymity, told Early Times that frequent shutdowns were the worst enemy of the Valley’s new generation. “If our separatist political leaders continued to fail to introduce some benign form of demonstration of protest in the next couple of years, they will be dismissed by history as the agents of destruction”, he cautioned. He revealed that thousands of youth from the families traditionally associated with Kashmir’s art and handicrafts, living on either side of erstwhile Nallah Mar Road, had been lured into a romanticism of stone pelting and enforcement of shutdown. “They neither work themselves not let others work”, he said while fearing extinction of Kashmir’s unique art and intellectual talent that made the Valley proud for centuries in the past.

(To be continued)


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Kashmir shutdowns

1990: 198
1991: 207
1992: 148
1993: 139
1994: 97
1995: 88
1996: 95
1997: 72
1998: 25
1999: 24
2000: 41
2001: 122
2002: 76
2003: 58:
2004: 25
2005: 18
2006: 26
2007: 13
2008: 33
2009: 35
2010: 22 (till 23rd June)

Total days of shutdown from 01-01-1990 t0 23-06-2010 = 1,562

[Source: Jammu & Kashmir Police]


Kashmir shutdown on 1,562 days in 20 years

While losing Rs 100 Cr on each day of shutdown, J&K has suffered loss of Rs 150,000 Cr

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Jun 23: Thanks to the Valley’s militant outfits and separatist organizations, who have enforced 1,562 days of shutdown in the last 20 years of the secessionist movement, Jammu & Kashmir state has suffered loss of over Rs 150,000 Crore. Government’s contribution is also substantial as the state has additionally suffered loss of Rs 15,000 Crore on account of curfew on 150 days during same period of the political turmoil.

J&K state’s economy is estimated to have suffered loss of around Rs 200,000 Crore during 20 years of the separatist movement. This includes infrastructure destroyed by militants and security forces besides illegal felling of conifer trees and timber smuggling. Shutdown enforced by Hurriyat Conference, its constituents and militant outfits for 1,562 days till date, besides nearly 150 days of declared and undeclared curfew by the government, though mostly restricted to downtown Srinagar, have been the largest contributing factors. Loss suffered by the state’s economy on account of shutdown and curfew accounts for about 80% of the cumulative damage.

While the separatist groups and alliances have been enforcing shutdown mainly to protest human rights abuse by the armed forces, authorities have been resorting to imposition of curfew in extreme law and order situations from day one of the armed insurgency. Capital city of Srinagar, as also the key business townships of Sopore, Baramulla, Handwara, Bandipore, Budgam, Pulwama, Kulgam, Shopian and Anantnag have been the worst hit.

There were nearly 700 days of Hartal in Kashmir valley in the first four years of militancy. According to the official figures tabulated by Jammu & Kashmir Police, year 1990 witnessed 198 days of shutdown. It was followed by 207 days of shutdown in 1991---highest so far. Similarly, the Valley shut for 148 days in 1992 and 139 days in 1993. With the gradual improvement in situation, days of shutdown reduced to 24 in 1999 but again went up to 122 in 2001. Minimum days of shutdown in a calendar year were witnessed in 2007 when the business in Kashmir remained closed for 13 days.

Mainly due to the Amarnath shrine land allotment strife, Kashmir was shut for 33 days in 2008. It jumped to 35 in the first year of Omar Abdullah government in 2009 when Hurriyat and other separatist outfits succeeded in freezing the Valley for different intervals on account of alleged rape-cum-murder of two women in Shopian (which was not proved in CBI investigation) and several related incidents. Second year of the NC-Congress coalition government is threatening to prove worse as the Valley has already observed 22 days of shutdown in just 6 months and 23 days.

All individual outfits and both factions of Hurriyat Conference have been calling for a strike whenever an incident of human rights abuse happens or is perceived to have happened at the hands of Police or security forces. On several occasions, these constituents and alliances have enforced shutdown “in honour” of the militants killed by security forces in gunbattles. Over a dozen historical days, like Republic Day (January 26), Martyrs Day (July 13), Independence Day (August 15), Indian Army’s First Arrival (October 26) besides the assassination anniversary of Mirwaiz Maulvi Farooq (May 21) and death anniversaries of top ranking militants have been marked as red in Kashmir’s calendar. Hardliner separatist leader, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, has attained the highest profile among all political and militant leaders in enforcing a bandh in the Valley.

Sponsors of the shutdown have been justifying their calls for strike with the argument that it was the “only form of demonstration” with the Kashmiris. Though a large number of strike calls have failed to generate desired impact, most of such appeals have evoked substantial response. Guns, grenades and stones have also been used on certain occasion to enforce a shutdown, particularly around Lok Sabha, Assembly and Municipal elections.

(To be continued tomorrow).