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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Govt files criminal complaint against Nizam, Naeem, Dr Shawl

Civil suit, seeking damages worth Rs 10 Cr, being filed separately

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Sep 29: On the eve of a potentially hot session of the state legislature, National Conference-led coalition government today filed criminal complaints against two leaders of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and a Kashmiri-American cardiologist of high international reputation with the argument that the respondents’ accusations of corruption against Chief Minister Omar Abdullah and a junior Minister, Nasir Aslam Wani, were not only baseless but also injurious to their public and private life.

Authoritative sources revealed to Early Times as a sequel to some PDP leaders’ press conference, Managing Director of Jammu & Kashmir State Power Development Corporation (PDC) had approached the state government with the complaint that “unsubstantiated accusations” leveled against its Chairman were highly injurious to his public and private life. Chief Minister Omar Abdullah is the Minister incharge Power as well as Chairman of PDC.

Power Development Department forwarded the submission to Chief Secretary with the request that sanction be accorded to the prosecution of the two PDP leaders who had leveled the allegations of corruption against the Chairman of PDC and Minister incharge Power, Omar Abdullah.

On August 25th, PDP leaders, led by MLA of Bandipore, Nizam-ud-din Bhat and the party Spokesman, Naeem Akhtar, had claimed at a news conference in Srinagar that Chief Minister had received kickbacks worth Rs 500 Cr from a private company on account of the allotment of 690 mw Rattle Hydroelectric Power Project. Dismissing the charge against him as baseless and motivated, Chief Minister had served a legal notice on the PDP leaders, on August 28th, asking them to either withdraw their allegation with a public apology or else face criminal and civil suits in a court of law.

Even as the PDP leaders chose neither to apologise nor to respond to the legal notice, newspapers quoted Naeem Akhtar to have said that his party was prepared for the legal battle and would prove the accusations against the Chief Minister in the court of law.

Sources said that Chief Secretary, S S Kapur, who happens to be the competent authority, granted sanction to prosecution of the two PDP leaders on Tuesday. Consequently, Government today filed a criminal complaint of defamation under sections 499 and 500 of RPC in terms of section 198-A of CrPC in the court of Principal District & Sessions Judge, Srinagar, Mr B L Bhat. Public Prosecutor, Abdul Aziz Teli, appeared in the court to press criminal action under law against the two PDP leaders. Imprisonment upto seven years is the penalty in such matters of criminal defamation.

According to these sources, Minister of State for Housing & Urban Development Department, Nasir Aslam Wani, had approached the government separately, seeking sanction to the prosecution against the Washington DC-based world-renowned cardiologist, Dr Fayaz Shawl, on account of latter’s claim that Chief Minister Omar Abdullah’s Ministerial colleague had demanded a sum of Rs 3 Cr for granting permission to a modern heart center in Nishat area in Srinagar outskirts.

Born and brought up in Srinagar, Dr Shawl, wanted to establish a hospital on the land he purchased in foothills of picturesque Zabarvan. In June this year, he abandoned his plan and left back for USA while complaining publicly that permission to the proposed hospital had been made subject to payment of bribe money worth Rs 3 Cr by men in Omar Abdullah’s government. He reportedly told Chief Minister that corruption was growing as a cancer in his government. He claimed to be in possession of a “smoking gun”.

In days of the cardiologist’s press conference, Mr Wani served a legal notice on Dr Shawl, asking him to withdraw his allegation with a public apology or be prepared to face a libel suit. Dr Shawl could not be reached over telephone but sources said that he clarified to Mr Wani in an email that the text of his assertion was far different from what he had stated at the press conference in Srinagar. He neither withdrew the allegation nor tendered any apology to Mr Wani.

Sources said that like in the PDC case, Chief Secretary, S S Kapur, yesterday granted sanction to the prosecution of Dr Fayaz Shawl under sections 499 and 500 of RPC in terms of section 198-A of CrPC. Consequently, Government today filed a complaint of criminal defamation against Dr Fayaz Shawl in the court of Principal District & Sessions Judge, Mr B Sources said that after hearing preliminary arguments from Public Prosecutor, Abdul Aziz Teli, court issued warrants for personal appearance of all three of the respondents---Nizam-ud-din Bhat, Naeem Akhtar and Dr Fayaz Shawl---in two separately filed criminal complaints against them. While the warrants against Nizam and Naeem are being executed through SSP Srinagar, sources said that summons against Dr Shawl were likely to be served through the American Embassy in New Delhi.

Chief Minister, some government officials as also the mediapersons who attended the separately held conferences of the two PDP leaders and the Kashmiri-American cardiologist, have been mentioned as witnesses. Sources said that the government was separately drafting and filing civil complaints against the two PDP leaders and Dr Shawl, seeking damages worth Rs 10 Cr. Two of senior New Delhi-based Supreme Court lawyers are likely to be engaged in these high profile libel suits. Advocate General, Mohammad Ishaq Qadiri, was currently in New Delhi but it was not immediately clear whether he was approaching the lawyers or was preoccupied with different chores.


Monday, September 27, 2010

20 pc students, 60 pc staff turn up despite attacks on few buses, schools

Educational institutions open in Valley after three months of shutdown

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Sep 27: Even as the separatist hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani asked the Kashmiris not to send their children to school and his followers operated to harass staff, students and parents at several places, educational institutions in Kashmir valley opened today after three months of shutdown. Authorities have resolved to carry out all academic activities, including holding of annual examinations, in defiance of a call from the radical faction of Hurriyat Conference.

Most of the private schools refused to operate in defiance of Geelani’s call but reports available from all ten district headquarters in the Valley said that all government schools and colleges, besides a number of private educational institutions, resumed academic activity after nearly months of continued shutdown and curfew. In Srinagar, all four of the leading Christian Missionary schools---Tyndale Biscoe, Mallinson, Presentation Convent and Burn Hall---opened in the morning. Teaching as well as non-teaching staff turned up for duty but very few students dared to attend their classes.

With enrolment of around 10,000 students, these four schools---partly funded by the state government---are the learning centers of the Valley’s elite. Nervous parents were seen ferrying and escorting their children to the classrooms. Most of remaining private schools had decided to wait and watch results of today’s defiance by some parents and teachers. A number of them are now expected to send their children to schools in view of the annual examinations approaching fast.

Reports said that a large number of government schools opened in the capital city under tight security arrangements but few teachers and students turned up for the classroom activity. According to these reports, parents and students defying Geelani’s call were harassed and sent back to home by saboteurs at several places. Reports of stone pelting on vehicles were also received from at least four places in the capital city.

Government had overnight mobilized its machinery for safe and secure transportation of students and the staff with instructions to Police and security forces that the uniform of pupils and photo-identity cards of teaching and non-teaching staff be entertained as curfew passes. Curfew remained strictly in force till 1400 hours. J&K State Road Transport Corporation (SRTC) had deployed over a hundred buses of its fleet for transportation of students, their parents and staff of all educational institutions in Srinagar alone. Police protection was in place in all buses to ensure safety and security of the young students, their parents and staff.

Reports from remaining nine rural district headquarters said that most of the government-run as well as private educational institutions resumed activity in the face of threats from unruly groups, calling themselves as Geelani’s followers, and reassuring statements from the authorities. Independent reports said that nearly 20 percent students turned up for classroom activity while as around 60 percent of the staff attended duty.

In peripheral areas of the capital city, youngsters on motorcycles appeared at a number of schools and forced their closure with harassment to staff as well as students and their parents. Deputy Commissioner of Budgam, Mohammad Rafi, told Early Times that the staff and the students were harassed at Government High School Bemina, two Higher Secondary Schools at Beerwah besides a number of schools on Srinagar-Chadoura and Srinagar-Neewa Road. He said that there were around half-a-dozen incidents of stone pelting on schools and buses. However, nobody had been reported injured till late this afternoon.

DC Budgam said that a female lecturer got hit against CGI sheets and sustained injuries when unruly groups resorted to stone pelting on a Higher Secondary School at Kanipora. Some parents in Beerwa town expressed surprise over the way authorities had left two major government schools unguarded and there was no Police presence. They said that miscreants harassed and humiliated the staff as well as students and their parents at Beerwah and did not allow the educational institutions function.

Reports from Kupwara said that miscreants resorted to stone pelting on a government-run Degree college and disrupted the B Ed examinations underway. The examiners and the examinees remained in confinement for over two hours. Reports of similar disruption poured in from Rangreth, Rawalpora, Manchhwa and Nowgam localities in the capital city outskirts.

Authoritative sources said that government was initiating action, including detention, against at least ten teachers, three of them in Baramulla alone, who were reportedly found defying government orders and harassing students and their parents by way of asking them to stay indoors.

Expressing satisfaction over opening of educational institutions across Kashmir Valley today, Minister for School Education, Peerzada Mohammad Sayeed, said that 80% students attended their schools in rural areas today. He claimed that 30 to 40% attendance was recorded in urban areas. In Srinagar he said 30% students and 85% of the staff resumed their activities in different government and private educational institutions. He appealed to the microscopic anti-education elements not to harass majority of pro-education population.

Terming the opening of schools as a good beginning in right direction, Peerzada called for avoiding politicking on the issue. “ We cannot afford to derive any political gains on opening of schools and resuming academic activities as the issue concerns career of Lakhs of students, whose future has to be safeguarded by one and all”, he said and added that safety of the young students was the topmost priority.

The Minister said that Department of Education would strictly maintain its examination calendar from 30th September till mid of December in which 11 lakh students would appear. He appreciated the bravery of students and teachers who attended the classes today.

He called for utilizing morning assembly time as well as recess break for compensating academic loss so that students were prepared for the examinations the schedule of which had been already announced.

Peerzada appreciated forthcoming parents and teachers whose dedication, he believed, had helped to open the schools today, bringing good prospects for all the stake holders in education sector.

Giving a break-up of attendance, Peerzada said Anantnag, Kulgam, Baramulla and Kupwara districts registered 75% turnout by students, Shopian 60%, Bandipora and Ganderbal 50% each, Pulwama 30% and Budgam and Srinagar around 30% each.

Harassment by stone palters at Chattabal, Soura, Newtheed, Nowshera, Nowhatta, Middle School Gori Masjid Saidakadal, Rainawari and Bagwanpora was also resisted by parents, locals as well as students. It was with the help of locals that no harm was allowed to cause to school building.

In an interview with a local news agency, Geelani this evening asserted that the government’s plans of opening educational institutions on the day of Hurriyat’s “civil curfew” had ended up in a fiasco. He claimed that very few schools opened---with just skeletal attendance. He claimed to enjoy full support of the Kashmir population to his calendars of shutdown. He reiterated that education was extremely important but the struggle of Kashmir’s freedom from India was supreme and paramount.


Sunday, September 26, 2010

Geelani determined to fail Govt’s academic offensive

‘We called for shutdown for 75 days, Govt enforced curfew for 76 days’

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Sep 26: Separatist hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani today called for “total civil curfew” in entire Kashmir valley on Monday and warned students and their parents against acting on the state government’s academic offensive. Geelani asserted that participation of the Kashmiri students in current political upheaval was “paramount to everything” and nothing could be allowed to serve as an impediment in what he believed as “path to the freedom”.

In a day of Government of India’s virtual snub to Omar Abdullah government over its governance deficit---made public in New Delhi’s 8-point J&K charter---Minister of School Education, Pirzada Mohammad Sayeed, today asserted at a news conference that the academic calendar would be protected at every cost from September 27th. He said that the annual examinations in thousands of schools, scores of degree colleges and half-a-dozen Universities in the state would commence from September 30th without any regard to Hurriyat’s shutdown calendar.

Point No:7 of the charter drafted by Cabinet Committee on Security has urged the state government “to take steps to immediately reopen all schools, colleges, universities and other educational institutions; hold special classes/lectures, if necessary; and to ensure that the examinations for the current academic year (2010-11) are conducted (on time)”.

Even as the authorities woke up quickly to implement the ‘orders’ issued in New Delhi and began mobilizing entire Police and civil administration to keep the educational institutions operational from Monday, Geelani took it as a direct affront. In a statement issued this evening, Geelani asserted that the “movement launched for our nation’s freedom” was supreme and paramount to everything. He said that education was extremely important but it could not be allowed to serve as an impediment in the path of getting “freedom” from an occupier---India.

Geelani ridiculed Omar Abdullah government’s expression of concern for the education of Kashmiri children and pointed out that most of the 109 civilians killed by Police and armed forces in the last four months were students of schools and colleges. According to him, both, the state as well as the Central government, were thirsty of the blood of young Kashmiris and their expression of concern for the students’ academic year was nothing but crocodile tears.

Geelani alleged that the real purpose of holding classes and examinations was “to break our current movement” that, according to him, had unnerved Government of India. He asked the students and their parents to remain confined to their homes and observe “total civil curfew” so as to convey to New Delhi that the Kashmiris of 21st century could not be duped with “false sympathies”. He also called upon teaching and non-teaching staff of all educational institutions not to move in the direction of their places of work on Monday.

On Saturday, Geelani issued a shutdown calendar for the next 10 days while asking the people of Kashmir to observe complete shutdown on all days except on Sep 29th, Oct 1st and Oct 4th. With his typical shutdown calendars, Geelani has completely paralysed life in the Valley and crippled almost all delivery systems of the government since June 11th this year. Of late, authorities have adopted a fresh policy of failing Geelani’s schedule of relaxation in shutdown by strictly enforcing curfew on particular days.

In today’s statement, Geelani held the government responsible for confining the Kashmiris. He said that he had called for shutdown on 75 days but the government had enforced curfew on 76 days in the last 109 days.