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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

This article is available on edit page of all editions of The Hindustan Times dated September 16th, 2010, and on the online editions following link:

All hopes frittered away

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

September 15, 2010

New Delhi’s handling of Kashmir has been emblematic ever since Jawaharlal Nehru took the issue to the United Nations (UN) over 60 years ago in 1948. Some call Delhi’s amnesia on the matter callousness, others complacency. But forget about the clich├ęd UN resolutions. In recent times, every Indian

Prime Minister, from P.V. Narasimha Rao to Manmohan Singh, has conveniently forgotten the promises made to the Kashmiris.

Atal Bihari Vajpayee and, now, Singh have sought to temper things over with so-called ‘economic packages’. Neither of them has been consistent in capacity-building or turning the strife-torn state’s constituency of development into a real stake for residents.

The euphoria generated by the success of the 2008 assembly elections was so dazzling that everybody, including Singh, shut his eyes to the performance parameters of the National Conference (NC)-led coalition government and kept invariably referring to Omar Abdullah’s tender age for over a year.

In Srinagar, when a gentle knock fails, stones work to break a slumber. Those hurling one don’t care about the rebound. The minds of many of those who’ve grown up in the last 25 years of turmoil have been growing harder. The reactions of a vociferous section of youngsters — from the elite to the dropouts — have been anarchic. Quite often they have humbled even the most prominent icons of the separatist brand of politics such as Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Salahuddin.

Separation from India is their slogan. They don’t form the only composition of the crowds taking to the streets these days. Thousands in the Budgam procession last Monday were devout voters of the NC leader and minister Aga Ruhullah. On such occasions, they oblige Aga’s uncle and senior Hurriyat leader Aga Syed Hassan. But on the day of the elections, they all rally behind the young mainstream politician, Ruhullah. And yet, police officials blamed Geelani’s Hurriyat and Massarat Alam’s Muslim League for the mob violence. On September 13, the second-worst day of the recent violence, eyewitnesses insist, followers of a minister Ghulam Hassan Mir, as well as those from the NC and the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) outnumbered the followers of the Hurriyat leaders.

Like in the Amarnath land row of 2008, constituents have, in quick succession, joined Geelani’s ‘Quit Jammu & Kashmir Movement’. Interestingly, Geelani’s newly-coined slogan of ‘Go India Go Back’ can be heard loudest in his moderate separatist rival Mirwaiz Umar Farooq’s bastion in downtown Srinagar. Visibly insecure, Umar Farooq found it opportune to capitalise on his Eid congregation last Saturday to reclaim space — though at the cost of his credibility to keep his marches peaceful.

Under the shadows of an imposing symbolism, interpretations of ‘azadi’ have been varying from one constituent to another. Most of the mainstream political activists — and even the counter-insurgent Ikhwanis — are today at the forefront of the agitation at certain places to ensure their existence in ‘Independent Kashmir’. Even Omar Abdullah’s partyman in Tangmarg, Ali Mohammad Sofi asserted his ‘pro-azadi credentials’ with the burning of a missionary school.

Those mobilised by the PDP leadership are widely believed to be the votaries of Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and his daughter Mehbooba. Nearly 20 per cent of the ‘azadi’ crowds are likely to disappear with Omar’s replacement or dismissal.

Even in this cacophony of ‘azadi’ and demand for a forgotten plebiscite, it is hard to forget the dramatic turnaround when Omar Abdullah came to power. Ad hocism, cheap glorification of dynastic rule and a complacency towards the deeply-planted sentiment of separation have frittered away all the hopes that came with October 2008.

(Ahmed Ali Fayyaz is a Srinagar-based journalist and political commentator. The views expressed by the author are his personal)

Army being inducted for proactive role to fail Geelani offensive

‘Miscreants’ being rounded up; no relaxation in curfew till Sep 25

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Sep 15: Beleaguered Omar Abdullah government has finally decided to induct regular Army for a proactive role to fail separatist hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s plan of organizing mass demonstrations in front of military formations in Kashmir valley on September 21. With Mr Geelani adding fresh intensity to his ‘Quit Jammu & Kashmir Movement’, authorities have significantly decided to continue curfew without any relaxation till September 25th.

In hours of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh asking the state government to restore order, Early Times learned that General Officer Commanding Srinagar-based 15 Corps and Security Advisor to Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, Lt Gen N C Marwah, called a meeting of senior military, paramilitary and Police officials, to review the latest obtaining security situation in Kashmir valley. Main agenda of discussion, according to well-placed authoritative sources, was the Hurriyat (G) Chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s call, asking the Kashmiris to stage protest demonstrations in front of all military formation in the Valley on September 21st.

Senior officials from Army, CRPF, BSF, including GOCs of Kilo Force and Victor Force, besides DGP, Kuldeep Khoda, several IGPs and ADG Law & Order, K Rajindra Kumar, participated in the meeting. Such kind of meeting, if attended and chaired by Chief Minister, are known as Unified Headquarters meetings. However, Chief Minister was not present in the meeting this evening.

“The meeting discussed the measures to effectively counter the protest calendar issued by the Hurriyat and formulated a detailed joint strategy to restore normalcy in Kashmir. The strategy will be implemented with immediate effect”, said a press release from Press Information Bureau (Defence Wing) late tonight. It did not elaborate on the decisions taken in the meeting.

However, informed sources revealed to this newspaper that with necessary approval from Chief Minister, it was decided in the meeting that Army would play a “proactive role” in enforcement of curfew from Sep 18th to Sep 25th, providing all possible assistance to J&K Police, so as to ensure that there was no concentration of civilians around the security forces’ camps on the day of Mr Geelani’s call or thereafter. Sources said that in view of fresh security concerns, arising out of Geelani’s offensive, authorities today decided to continue curfew without any relaxation all over the Valley till September 25th.

If sources are to be believed, telephones of over a thousand ‘potential threats’ have been put on surveillance and a large number of “miscreants” are being rounded up right from tonight in a massive crackdown in the Valley. A manhunt has been launched to arrest the most wanted Muslim League chief, Massarat Alam, Hurriyat (Geelani) activist, Imtiyaz Hyder, and several others.

Sources said, for the first time, authorities were also planning a major crackdown on Internet users who have been uploading “objectionable videos” and posts on social networking sites, particularly FaceBook and YouTube. A notification issued the other day warned that defaulters booked under Information Technology Act and ordinary Ranbir Penal Code would be liable for imprisonment upto three years.

Meanwhile, on the 4th consecutive day today, entire Kashmir valley reeled under curfew without relaxation. Srinagar and few other district headquarters were by and large peaceful and under control of the law enforcement authorities. Officials said that unruly groups violated curfew at more than 20 places across the Valley and engaged Police and paramilitary forces in ding dong clashes. Two official vehicles were torched in Shirmal area of Shopian.

A mob of over 1,000 people from three villages cordoned and attacked National Conference Kashmir Province President Ali Mohammad Dar’s residential village of Dooniwara in Chadoura Tehsil of Budgam district, second time today. Angry over yesterday’s resistance offered to the group at Dooniwara, the mob in broad daylight torched haystacks, damaged peripheral houses and set on fire standing paddy crops spread over hundreds of Kanals of agricultural land while shouting anti-India and pro-Azadi slogans.

Police rushed to the tense village and dispersed the miscreants. An official source said that leader of the mob turned out to be the Halqa President of PDP, namely Ali Mohammad Dar of Zolwa village, who was arrested on the spot. The CRPF-guarded NC leader said that the mob could not reach his house as there was stiff resistance to it from over 2,000 of his fellow villagers.

Meanwhile, a multitude of people gathered at Khushal Matoo locality in Sopore township this evening and launched an attack on a CRPF camp. In the thick of clashes, CRPF opened fire. One person, namely Mudassar Ahmed Kanna, got killed.

SP Sopore, Altaf Khan, told Early Times that immediately thereafter, two militants, both carrying sophisticated AK-74 rifles, fired around 30 gunshots on a Police party from poppy plants at the graveyard near Main Chowk. However, none of the targeted personnel were hit as they ducked immediately. He said that the militants rushed into the crowds and Police could not strike on them for fear of civilian casualties.

SP Javed Matoo, 3 other Shopian officials reinstated

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Sep 15: Ending their 15-month-long suspension, Government of Jammu & Kashmir today reinstated all four of the Police officials who had been removed from duty and subjected to intense investigation in the matter of alleged rape-cum-murder of two young women in Shopian on May 29th last year.

According to a Government Order No: Home-1156(P) of 2010 Dated 15-09-2010, issued by Financial Commissioner Home, Government today ordered reinstatement of SP Javed Iqbal Matoo, Dy SP Rohit Baskotra, Inspector Shafeeq Ahmed and Sub Inspector Gazi Abdul Karim. For their entire suspension period from 24-06-2009 to 15-09-2010 all four officials have been treated as on duty.

FC Home’s order stated that their reinstatement was subsequent to their complete exoneration from all charges by Central Bureau of Investigation, conveyed vide No: 1144/3/8(S)/2009-SCU-I/CBI/SC-I Dated 11-03-2010 followed by Director General of Police Kuldeep Khoda’s letter No: GZ/G-Enq/Spn/2009/10 Dated 10-08-2010.

Official sources said that orders of their posting were likely to issued separately later this week.

Then SP of Shopian (shifted as SP Ramban), Javed Iqbal Matoo, then Dy SP Headquarters Shopian, Rohit Baskotra, then SHO Shopian, Inspector Shafeeq Ahmed and Investigating Officer of the criminal case, SI Gazi Abdul Karim, had been arrested and placed under suspension, pending inquiry, on recommendations of Justice (rtd) Jan Commission amid wide allegations of their involvement in the matter of ‘rape-cum-murder’ of two young women, married Neelofar and unmarried Asiya, found dead in Rambiara Nullah at Shopian on May 30th, 2009.

In the wake of a controversy over the fudged vaginal swabs purportedly collected during per vaginal of the deceased by a team of doctors, Government, on recommendations of J&K Legislative Assembly, had assigned the investigation to the CBI in September 2009. During three-month-long investigation, CBI observed that the vaginal swabs had been fraudulently collected by the doctors from a number of married women examined at District Hospital of Pulwama and not the deceased at District Hospital of Shopian.

CBI observed that 13 persons, including five doctors and six Shopian-based lawyers, had attempted to fabricate evidences and frame the four Police officials in a false criminal matter that involves capital punishment. CBI got the bodies exhumed and established in a fresh post mortem exercise, conducted by a team of about 20 forensic FSL experts and AIIMS doctors, that the women had been neither raped nor murdered. Hymen of the unmarried woman was also found to be not violated.

Consequently, CBI absolved all the four detained and suspended Police officials of all charges against them. It also filed a criminal matter against 13 persons, including five doctors and six lawyers, in its designated court in Srinagar. Proceedings are currently underway, though all the 13 accused have obtained bail against their detention from the court.


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

NC mulling ‘future course’ after all-party meet

Options of Omar’s resignation, parting with UPA ruled out in Core Group

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Sep 14: Hours after Chief Minister Omar Abdullah reacted to media speculations and made it clear that he was not going to resign, National Conference’s Core Group---highest policy making panel--- today observed that the party should devise its “future course of action” over its demand of withdrawal of AFSPA only after watching outcome of tomorrow’s all-party meeting followed by a possible meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security (SSC).

The much awaited Core Group meeting was delayed by over seven hours due to the NC President Dr Farooq Abdullah’s late arrival from Africa. It finally began at Dr Abdullah’s residence at 1900 hours this evening and concluded at 2045 hours. Ferried specially in the state helicopters and an aircraft, all the members, with the single exception of Khalid Najeeb Suharwardi, participated in the meeting. Sources present in the closed-door meeting told Early Times that Dr Abdullah presided over the sitting and Chief Minister Omar Abdullah heard all the members with rapt attention.

Abdul Rahim Rather, Mohammad Shafi Uri, Choudhary Mohammad Ramzan, Mian Altaf Ahmed, Ajay Sadhotra and Sheikh Ghulam Rasool made their respective points without any palpable conflict.

With a review of the latest developing political scenario, coupled with the violence of last three months, participants deliberated on the Centre’s treatment to the NC’s demand of withdrawal of AFSPA from some districts in Kashmir and Jammu provinces. Appreciating Omar Abdullah’s decision of not stepping down under any constraint, most of the participants opined that the party should assert in the best possible manner to pursue its demand but should not seek martyrdom over an issue that was “central to everything” but identified more with Mufti Sayeed’s PDP and the separatist Hurriyat Conference.

According to sources, participants held NC’s demand of ‘greater autonomy’ more important than withdrawal of AFSPA and believed that there would be no room for regular army presence if the demand was conceded by the UPA government. There was unanimity over the suggestion that the party should not rush to any impulsive decision and should, instead, wait for the outcome of tomorrow’s all-party meeting with Prime Minister in New Delhi, followed by a possible meeting by CCS. “We would devise our future course of action thereafter”, said a participant. He indicated that there was no compelling option of breaking away from the Congress-led UPA.

Members pointed out that the conditions needed for invocation of AFSPA in 1990 were no longer existing and removal of bunkers and “dominating military presence” from certain areas would lead to a psychological relief and automatically improvement of situation in both Kashmir and Jammu. They, at the same time, agreed that the demand could not be pressed beyond a reasonable point in absence of necessary capacity building and restoration of morale and dignity to J&K Police. Significantly, all the participants appreciated the role of the state Police in tacking the situation in the last many months and asserted that it needed to provide more support while being made accountable.

It was finally decided that a 5-member delegation, comprising Dr Abdullah, Mohammad Shafi, Abdul Rahim Rather, Choudhary Mohammad Ramzan and Ajay Sadhotra, would leave for New Delhi in a state aircraft tomorrow to participate in PM’s all-party meeting on J&K.

Later tonight, Early Times learned that a 4-member PDP delegation, comprising Mehbooba Mufti, Muzaffar Hussain Baig, Maulvi Iftikhar Hussain Ansari and the party General Secretary from Jammu, Trilok Singh Bajwa, would also participate in PM’s all-party meeting in New Delhi tomorrow. Mehbooba, Baig and Ansari would be flown in by a specially arranged aircraft of the Union Home Ministry. CPI (M) would be represented by its national secretary Prakash Karat and CPI by its country chief A B Bardan. BJP is among a number of opposition parties participating in the meeting with its stated position of opposing the withdrawal of AFSPA in J&K.

Houses of NC leader, ex-MLC attacked

Geelani relaxes shutdown for one working day in next 12 days

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Sep 14: Separatist stone pelters today targeted some camps of security forces and houses of two mainstream politicians in Kashmir valley. However, in contrast to yesterday’s bloodshed, there was no fatal casualty today as not more than three persons sustained minor injuries in a couple of clashes. Hurriyat hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani has, meanwhile, issued yet another shutdown calendar and exempted just one working day from agitation in the next 12 days.

After yesterday’s mayhem, that left one Policeman and as many as 17 civilian demonstrators and arsonists dead, Kashmir valley today remained calm in the sense that just three persons sustained minor injuries in a couple of clashes with police and CRPF. Informed sources said that in addition to around 30 incidents of stone pelting by thin groups at different places, some camps of security forces as also houses of two mainstream politicians were targeted today.

According to these sources, a group of demonstrators attacked the house of the ruling National Conference’s Kashmir Province chief and former MLA of Chadoura, Ali Mohammad Dar, at Dooniwari village. His house guards fired in fir and chased away the stone pelters. In a similar incident, house of a former MLC, Habibullah, was targeted at Watpora near Bandipore. There was no casualty or damage in these attacks.

During last night, a group of people swooped on the residence of some Police constables and torched their beddings and belongings at KP Road in Anantnag. Miscreants also torched a private school at Pulwama in South Kashmir. Residence and cowshed of a Police constable was torched at Thindam in Kreeri area of Baramulla district. Miscreants set on fire slaughter house at Handwara today but Police and fire brigades quickly swung into action and saved the public property from total devastation. Three Police personnel, including SHO, were injured in the clash with stone pelters.

Stone pelters also attacked two camps of armed forces at Zainakote and Boatmen’s Colony, in Srinagar outskirts, and yet another camp at Khanpora, in Baramulla outskirts. Forces managed to disperse the crowds. One each civilian demonstrator sustained injuries in these mild attacks. All three were rushed to hospital.

Sources at SKIMS, Soura, said that in yet another attack, stone pelters left three of the hospital staff, including an associate professor, injured and their vehicles damaged. They said that some hooligans also damaged the tertiary care hospital’s boundary wall.

Curfew remained strictly in forces on the third consecutive day in Srinagar as well as all other major townships across Valley. It was simultaneously a day of shutdown in Geelani’s calendar. Like on every second day this year, Valley remained frozen with all educational institutions and essential services shut.

Releasing yet another shutdown calendar today, Geelani announced that there would be total shutdown in Kashmir on Sep 16, 17, 18, 20, 21, 23, 24, 25 and 26. He announced relaxation on just one working day on Sep 22 and also asked the Kashmiris to enjoy a day of “shopping” on Sep 19th (Sunday) that happens to a holiday for, educational institutions, banks and government offices.

He called for mass march of South Kashmir residents to Pampore on Sep 17 and asked the residents of three Central Kashmir districts of Srinagar, Budgam and Ganderbal to march to Humhama on the same day. People of North Kashmir have been asked to march to their respective district headquarters of Baramulla, Kupwara and Bandipore. He asked computer users to register their strong protest against the “Indian occupation” and human rights abuse on Facebook and other Internet domains on Sep 18th. Geelani himself is a member of the American social networking site.

Asserting his writ parallel to that of the government, Geelani asked all concerned to keep banks, business centers and banks, besides educational institutions open on Sep 19th (Sunday). He called upon the Kashmir to stage a mass march to UNMOGIP headquarters at Sonwar with a resolution of plebiscite on Sep 20 and wanted them to join sit-in demonstrations in front of camps of armed forces across the Valley on Sep 21.


Monday, September 13, 2010

Kashmir burns over religion + politics

  • 17 civilians, cop killed in clashes; SP among 300 injured
  • Tangmarg, Budgam, Pampore major flashpoints of turbulence
  • Christian missionary school, almost all Govt offices destroyed in Tangmarg fire
  • Iranian Press TV banned over controversial coverage of Quran ‘desecration’

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Sep 13: In a fresh wave of violence, building over alleged desecration of holy Quran in United States of America, as many as 17 civilian demonstrators and arsonists today died and over 300 others, including a Superintendent of Police (SP), sustained injuries when protestors clashed with the authorities and Police opened fire at several places across Kashmir valley. With Tangmarg, Budgam and Pampore emerging as the major flashpoints of turbulence, a Christian missionary school and almost all the government offices were destroyed in a major inferno at the tourist resort of Tangmarg that witnessed the maximum violence of the day.

According to the information gathered from the best informed sources, Iranian satellite television network Press TV’s coverage of an incident of purported desecration of holy Quran in USA the other day evoked intense reaction overnight. Teheran and London-based Press TV is professional television news channel but has been operating in Kashmir illegally as it does not carry necessary downlinking license and permission from the Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting in India.

Authorities in Srinagar did not act until damage was done at an amazing scale. It was hours after demonstrations and arson at a large scale had begun that District Magistrate of Srinagar, Meraj Ahmed Kakroo, and Director General of Police, Kuldeep Khoda, learned about the controversial coverage and they asserted to permanently close down the channel. It was late in the afternoon that DGP and Chief Secretary, Sham Singh Kapur, followed by two Cabinet Ministers, namely Ghulam Hassan Mir and Ali Mohammad Sagar, told mediapersons at two separately held press conferences that the coverage was “not real” and there was no reason to resort to any violent reactions. Seeing a “conspiracy” in repeated telecast of somebody purportedly burning the pages of the holy scripture, these government functionaries informed mediapersons that Press TV operation had been completely banned.

However, no case under law was registered against local cable operators on whose platform Press TV has been running for the last over three years.

The fist major reaction in the curfew-bound Valley came from the usually peaceful tourist resort of Tangmarg where thousands of people from Pattan-Tangmarg belt gathered and put almost entire township on fire. While shouting anti-America, anti-Israel, anti-India, pro-Islam and pro-Azadi slogans, crowds swooped on the Christian missionary Tyndale Biscoe School and set it on fire without any resistance from Police or CRPF. Thereafter the crowds set on fire almost all the government buildings, one after another.

The public properties ransacked and destroyed in the inferno included Court of Chief Judicial Magistrate, Tehsil Office, residence and official vehicle of Tehsildar, office of Tehsil Social Welfare Officer, Patwar Khana, Tourist Cafeteria, an old tourist hut, Entry Post of Notified Area Committee and the office of newly created Forest Division.

When the violent crowds were executing a meticulously worked out plan of destruction, Police and CRPF opened fire. At least 50 demonstrators and arsonists sustained gunshot and pellet injuries. One after another, at least six persons succumbed to the injuries at different hospitals till late this evening. They were identified as Tariq Ahmed Ganai S/o Abdul Ahad Ganai R/o Tilgam (Pattan), Ikhlaq Ahmed Khan S/o Mohammad Azam Khan R/o Iqbal Colony, Tangmarg, Mudassar Ahmed Parray S/o Ghulam Rasool Parray R/o Kreshhama, Mohammad Iqbal Malik S/o Bashir Ahmed Malik R/o Tambarhama, Abdul Qayoom Wani S/o Mohammad Akbar Wani R/o Waniloo and Abdul Majeed of Kunzar.

More than 30 of the injured were reportedly still under treatment at different hospitals in Tangmarg, Magam and Srinagar. Over a dozen Police and CRPF men also sustained injuries in today’s clashes at Tangmarg.

While the arson and clashed were beginning in Tangmarg, another demonstration of more than 2,000 people shouted anti-America and anti-India slogans at Ajas in Bandipore area. The gathering reportedly attacked a BSF convoy that opened fire, killing one Nissar Ahmed of Ajas on the spot. At least 15 of the demonstrators sustained injuries.

From early in the morning, thousands of people in trucks, buses and load carriers began pouring into the district headquarters and the Shia spiritual seat of Budgam while shouting anti-America, anti-Israel and pro-Islam slogans. Political slogans in favour of Azadi and against India were added soon after senior separatist leader and President of a faction of Anjuman-e-Sharee Shia’an, Aga Syed Hassan, reached to address the gathering at Bus Stand of Budgam. In his speech, Aga held USA, Istrael and India responsible for genocide of the Muslims and sacrilegious acts like making cartoons of Prophet Mohammad and burning the holy Quran. Some local Hurriyat and Muslim League activists also made virulent anti-India speeches and asked the people to continue their struggle for Kashmir’s separation from “occupier’ India.

Even as Aga asked his audiences to join mass prayers, thousands of the gathering began a march towards Humhama, on way to the curfewed Srinagar, while shouting pro-Azadi, pro-Islam, anti-India and anti-America slogans. Officials said that the gathering attacked headquarters of SOG Budgam at Humhama. Men guarding the encampment opened fire amid a fierce clash with the demonstrators. As many as 25 civilians sustained gunshot wounds. Later, two of them died on way to hospital and two more while under treatment at hospital.

Those killed in the Budgam shootout were identified as Ghulam Rasool Tantray (50) S/o Mohammad Jamal Tantray R/o Gogoland, Humhama, Rafeeqa W/o Abdul Gani Teli R/o Ompora, Nisar Ahmed Kuchhai S/o Ghulam Mohiuddin Kuchhai R/o Humhama; and, Javed Ahmed Lone R/o Humham.

While the injured were being rushed to different hospitals, unruly crowds attacked a constable of Budgam Police, namely Devinder Singh of Baramulla, at Budgam. He escaped towards Police Station but was hit by a private vehicle, carrying some of the injured. Singh sustained critical injuries and later died at the hospital. Four of his colleagues, returning from the hospital, were attacked by another mob, dragged out and beaten up ruthlessly. Thereafter the crowds set their Gypsy on fire and destroyed it well outside the court of District and Sessions Judge of Budgam. Another group of people began stone pelting on Police Station of Budgam. Sentries opened fire, mostly in the air but still four of the demonstrators were left wounded.

Latter thousands of people in buses, trucks and on motorcycles arrived in Budgam from different directions and staged a massive demonstration but Police and CRPF chased them away with continued firing in the air.

Even after the shootout at Humhama and Budgam, yet another violent crowd attacked a business complex owned by the Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad’s brother-in-law, Muzzafar Dev, and set it on fire at Humhama Chowk. The crowds also torched three vehicles of the staff parked on the premises. Earlier, another group of people torched a house of displaced Kashmiri Pandit and a railway hut in the same area. The crowds also dismantled the boundary wall of a BSF formation near Gogoland, outside Srinagar Airport. They also attacked a CRPF bunker. At least three more civilians were reportedly injured in these clashes.

Later, four more civilian demonstrators died in similar clashes with Police and CRPF at the saffron-rich highway township of Pampore. They were identified as Aijaz Ahmed Wagay of Kadalbal, Riyaz Ahmed of Tengan, Muzaffar Ahmed Mir and Javed Ahmed Rather of Kadalbal. However, DIG South Kashmir, Shafaqat Wattali, confirmed only three fatal casualties in Pampore. He said that one more civilian demonstrator, namely Aaquib Ahmed of Sarnal, got killed this evening in a clash with Police at the district headquarters of Anantnag.

In Budgam district, thousands of people also gathered at the shrine town of Chrar-e-Sharief and engaged Police and CRPF in a fierce clash. They attacked CRPF bunkers and torched at least six vehicles including one belonging to Budgam Police. A class 7th student, namely Danish Nabi, got killed and 15 others sustained pellet and gunshot injuries in the clash.

Official sources said that the violent crowds attacked Police Station Tangmarg, SDPO’s office at Tangmarg, Police Station Parimpora and Police Station Budgam. They said that SP Bandipore, Sheikh Junaid Mehmood, was among dozens of Police personnel who got injured in fierce clashes with the unruly crowds in Bandipore. Later, DGP Khoda revealed that the injured SP was airlifted for treatment at a Srinagar hospital.

DGP said at a news conference this evening that 13 persons and a Constable died and 45 sustained injuries in today’s violent clashes. He held Hurriyat (Geelani) and Muslim League activists responsible for today’s disturbances and mobilization in Budgam and asserted that 52 of them were rounded up in a series of raids and operations by Police today. He said that clashes and demonstrations took place at several places.

Sources said that due to today’s turbulent clashes at Humhama, passengers of both flights of Spice Jet (Srinagar-Jammu) and Go Air (Srinagar-Delhi) got held up for hours afte receiving their boarding cards and boarding buses for Awantipore airbase. Both the flights were later cancelled. Sources said that entire operations of Srinagar and Awantipore airports were closed indefinitely as both staff, as well as passengers, were failing to reach Awantipore. They said that the operations were likely to resume in a few moths, subject to improvement in situation and completion of the work at the runway at Srinagar Airport. All the 250-odd passengers were stranded at Srinagar Airport till late tonight.


Sunday, September 12, 2010

Govt offices set on fire, Police Stations attacked

Pro-Azadi groups enjoy field day in arson on Eid-ul-Fitr in Valley

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Sep 11: Apparently upbeat by the palpable response their ‘Quit Jammu & Kashmir Movement’ has evoked from Srinagar to New Delhi in the last three months of turbulence, Kashmiri separatist crowds today turned the religious congregation of Eid-ul-Fitr in a major anti-India political show. Much like in March 1990 and August 2008, Srinagar reverberated with pro-Azadi and anti-India slogans as masked and unmasked men carried green colour flags, zipped past the CRPF bunkers with ‘Go India Go back’ slogans and attacked a number of Police stations and torched government properties---including the offices of IGP Crime, Chief Engineer Maintenance & Rural Electrification, Managing Director of J&K State Power Development Corporation (PDC) and part of the Central Market at Exhibition Grounds.

Apprehending mob attacks, none of the beleaguered mainstream political leaders participated in Eid-ul-Fitr mass prayers at Hazratbal or any other major shrines or mosques today. Before leaving for New Delhi to join his family, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah attended the Eid prayers at Sayeed Sahib Shrine in close vicinity of his Gupkar Road residence. He was accompanied by Ali Mohammad Sagar and few of his party colleagues and government officials. Minister of Agriculture, Ghulam Hassan Mir, was the one-odd mainstream politician who dared to venture out of his home and performed the congregational prayers at a community mosque in his Assembly constituency of Tangmarg. Minister of Finance, Abdul Rahim Rather, joined his family in Jammu and attended the Eid prayers at Eidgah.

Hundreds of thousands of Muslims performed the mass prayers at their local Eidgahs, community mosques, shrines and Imambaras all over the Valley. No untoward incident was reported from anywhere other than the capital city where hundreds of separatist activists set on fire Police barracks at the Auqaf buildings outside the most revered Hazratbal shrine. Finding Police at a receiving end, these violent crowds torched a Police Gypsy and latter turned a vehicle of Fire and Emergency Department upside down.

Officials as well as eyewitnesses said that Police fired hundreds of gunshots in the air and observed maximum restraint so as to ensure that there was no bloodletting on occasion of the Eid prayers. It took Police more than three hours to disperse the unruly crowds. An official spokesman blamed Hurriyat (G) leader, Massarat Alam, and his supporters for the arson.

Even as the clash was underway at Hazratbal, Chairman of so-called moderate faction of the Hurriyat Conference, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, led his 60,000-strong Eid congregation from Eidgah Grounds to the Civil Lines hub of Lalchowk, while shouting pro-Azadi and pro-Islam slogans. Though most of the flags carried by men in the Mirwaiz rally were traditional Islamic banners, eyewitnesses insisted that few people also carried flaunted Pakistani national flags.

Wending its way through Srinagar interior, Mirwaiz Umar’s rally delayed Chief Minister’s departure to Delhi by at least three hours. Authoritative sources said that Chief Minister monitored the situation from his residence and took two meetings with senior government functionaries to ensure that there was no shootout or casualty on the auspicious festival. Officials maintained that the young separatist cleric steered his religious rally and turned it into a major anti-India political show in violation of his assurances to the government.

While hundreds of people, most of them masked and carrying green flags, kept shuttling on the streets in entire capital city on their motorcycles and vehicles, men in the Mirwaiz rally dismantled a number of Traffic Police and District Police posts all through their route to Lalchowk. Police and paramilitary forces had completely cleared out. Police booths were destroyed near the Civil Secretariat entrance and Budshah Chowk. Scores of people hoisted green flags on the lately reconstructed clock tower at Lalchowk and later caused to it massive damage. Mirwaiz addressed the gathering at Lalchowk and vowed to carry on the “freedom struggle” with full zeal and zest.

One Imran Ahmed Bhat fell down and got injured when he was earlier hoisting a green flag at the clock tower. He was rushed to hospital.

While on way back to the downtown, hundreds of men swooped on a major office complex well in front of J&K High Court, Legislature Complex and Civil Secretariat. They ransacked the building and even struck an iron rod blow on an official of Crime Branch. Thereafter the unruly men set the complex on fire. Offices of IGP Crime, CE M&RE, MD PDC were among a number of government establishments that were destroyed in the blaze. The fire also caused damage to a number of shops in the adjoining Central Market at the Exhibition Grounds. There was no resistance to the arson.

An official spokesman later added that unruly crowds also struck on a number of other government buildings and Police Stations without instant provocation. He said that the crowds resorted to heavy stone pelting on the office of SP City (South) and Women’s Police Station at Rambagh.

The spokesman said that violent crowds also made similar attacks on the Police Stations at Hazratbal, Sopore, Pulwama, Kunzar (Tangmarg) and a CRPF camp at State Bank of India building in Sopore.

Breaking his three-month-long silence, Director General of Police, Kuldip Khoda said at a press conference that a group of miscreants tried to disturb peaceful atmosphere at Hazratbal, preventing the people from prayers with a clandestine conspiracy to set on fire the Aquaf building where a police post was located. He said that this post was exclusively meant for the welfare of the devotees coming to the holy shrine and to protect Dargah and the holy relic. He added that their intention was obvious and Police would investigate and unravel their criminal intentions.

DGP was flanked by Commissioner-Secretary Home, B R Sharma, Additional DG Law & Order, K Rajindra Kumar, and IGP Kashmir, S M Sahai.

Mr Khoda said that the administration had deliberately taken a conscious decision not to impose any kind of restriction on the day of Eid and allow people to pray and celebrate peacefully, even when Moulana Umar Farooq established contact with the administration and was allowed to lead an Eid procession upto Lal Chowk without any restriction. “Mirwaiz promised that it would be completely a peaceful procession, but immediately after his address to a gathering of 2000 people at Lal Chowk, PDD complex was set on flames. This has come as the interpretation of their peaceful procession”, DGP said.

“We have proved everywhere from morning to evening an exemplary kind of restrain inspite of the fact that public property was set on flames on the day which is the day of peace. The vehicles were burned and police personnel were assaulted and attacked but it is a proof of our maximum restrain that entire brunt was taken by us without causing any injury to a single person”, DGP asserted. He said that the authorities in future would be extra cautious in taking assurances from the separatist leaders.