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Friday, November 12, 2010

Militant, cop killed in Sopore gunbattle

NC activist gunned down for pursuing murder case of his slain son

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Nov 12: In two days of the death of two CRPF personnel at Pattan, one selection grade constable of Jammu & Kashmir Armed Police (JKAP) and one militant have died in a fierce gunbattle in Sopore outskirts of Baramulla district, in North Kashmir. Suspected militants have, meanwhile, gunned down an activist of the ruling National Conference (NC) in Shopian district of South Kashmir, for pursuing the murder case of his son who had been killed by militants five years ago.

Informed official sources told Early Times that troops of Special Operations Group (SOG) of Sopore Police, alongwith troops of Rashtriya Rifles 52 Bn, swooped on a cluster of houses at Chhankhan Naseem Bagh, in the outskirts of Sopore township, over a specific information late last night. According to the tip off available with SOG Sopore, top wanted local militant of Lashkar-e-Toiba, Manzoor Ahmed Khan alias Burhan S/o Ghulam Mohammad Khan R/o Sangrama, was hiding at the residential house of one Mohammad Altaf Najjar.

Sources said that as soon as the leading contingent of SOG Sopore zeroed in on the identified house, one or two holed up militants fired upon it and attempted to escape. In the initial strike, selection grade constable, Mohammad Rafeeq, got critically wounded and died in a while. One soldier of RR 52 Bn later sustained minor injuries. Resident of Reasi area of Jammu division, Rafeeq was an original recruit of JKAP 7th Bn. During his tenure in SOG, he had participated in a number of search operations and gunbattles with militants. One militant got killed in 10-hour-long operation and Najjar’s house was destroyed with an IED blast. The militant killed in the gunbatle was identified as Manzoor Ahmed Khan alias Burhan S/o Ghulam Mohammad Khan R/o Sangrama.

SP Sopore, Altaf Khan, added that Burhan was involved in a number of guerrilla strikes on soft targets as well as Police and security forces in Sopore area. According to him, it was he who had fired pistol shots towards a CRPF unit at Sangrama during the course of a demonstration in August this year. He said that Burhan was known for arranging medical treatment to the ailing and injured militants as also hideouts and transportation to Pakistani cadres of Lashkar-e-Toiba in Sopore area.

A Police spokesman said that floral wreaths were laid on the mortal remains of selection grade constable, Rafeeq. Top ranking Police officers attended the wreath laying ceremony at Police Control Room Srinagar. They included Zahoor Hussian Chisti, Inspector General of Police Armed/IR-Kashmir Range, Rouf-ul-Hassan, DIG Armed Range Kashmir, J. P. Singh, DIG, IR-Kashmir Range, Deepak Kumar, DIG Central Kashmir Range, Srinagar, Javaid Faroqui, SSP-Police Control Room Srinagar, and all Srinagar based Commandants of JKAP and IR battalions. Dead body was later dispatched to Reasi for funeral rites.

Today’s gunbattle in Sopore happened in two days of the killing of two CRPF personnel in a broad daylight militant strike at Pattan. Death of two militants in a similar gunbattle at Chhankhan Naseem Bagh, Sopore, on June 24/25 had triggered off widespread mass demonstrations and clashes that left a number of civilians dead and scores injured in the apple-rich town in the next over two months.

Meanwhile, informed sources in South Kashmir told Early Times that unidentified gunmen, suspected to be militants, today gunned down 55-year-old Ghulam Mohammad Rather S/o Abdus Samad Rather R/o Littar, Pulwama, at his agricultural farm in nearby Aglar village, falling on the borderline of Pulwama and Shopian districts. Sources said that Rather was associated with the ruling National Conference.

NC’s Kashmir Province President, Ali Mohammad Dar, as well as District President of Pulwama, Ghulam Nabi Wani Neelora, maintained that Rather was associated with their party and had voted for NC in the 2008 Assembly elections but emphasized that he was not a prominent activist or leader of the party. They said they had no reasons to believe that Rather had been eliminated on account of his political affiliation.

Informed sources said that Rather’s son, Maroof Ahmed, had been eliminated by militants in 2005 on the suspicion of having helped security forces in arresting and killing a militant. Militants had announced “death sentence” for Maroof and the son of a retired Tehsildar, Assadullah Wani. Tehsildar and his son migrated to Srinagar and gave their house in custody of a camp of SOG Pulwama but Maroof was captured and gunned down days after his Tata Sumo was torched near his village.

Rather had subsequently pursued the murder case of his son, Maroof, assiduously, in the District & Sessions Court and even identified a detained militant, namely Ashraf Rather, and a slain militant, Gulzar, as the killers of his son. Ashraf Rather was later released. According to officials, he returned to his militant organization and exerted tremendous pressure on Rather for withdrawal of murder charges against him. Officials are now suspecting the militant at large as the man behind Rather’s murder.

Sarkar alone faithful to Geelani’s civil curfew

Traders, transporters defy shutdown call but Govt shops remain closed in Srinagar

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Nov 11: Continually reeling under separatists-sponsored shutdown and Government-enforced curfew since the middle of June, Kashmir valley today rejected hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s call for “civil curfew”. However, more than 5,000 shops belonging to different departments of the state government remained closed in Civil Lines and few other areas in this capital city.

After two days of normal business on Tuesday and Wednesday, Chairman of the separatist conglomerate Hurriyat Conference (G), Geelani had called upon the Kashmiris to observe “civil curfew” today. The umpteenth call for shutdown, however, evoked insignificant response as shops were seen closed in just Civil Lines and few other localities in Srinagar. Reports said that a number of shops were also shut in the South Kashmir towns of Anantnag, Bijbehara, Kulgam and Pulwama. There was no trade activity in old town of Baramulla.

In Srinagar Civil Lines and some other localities, different departments of the state government have more than 5,000 shops. These stand allotted to local traders and remain religiously closed on every day of the separatist-sponsored shutdown. Government has, of late, initiated measures to break impact of the separatists’ shutdown with threats of cancellation of allotment to the traders. A committee, comprising senior officials and headed by Divisional Commissioner Asgar Hassan Samoon, has begun to make the defaulters accountable on account of their illegal act of selling possession of their allotted premises to unauthorized persons against huge amounts of Pagdi.

However, faced with a huge credibility deficit and disloyal bureaucracy---as admitted by Chief Minister Omar Abdullah in an interview to KNS in Jammu today---Government has few takers to its claims. History of the last 22 months of the NC-led coalition government serves as a grim testimony to a sizable gap between the authorities’ saying and doing. For the first time, Omar Abdullah government’s position became awkward last when officers through paid advertisement in local newspapers threatened to dismantle unauthorized structures in Srinagar but within days surrendered before the defaulters.

Fed up with an unending season of five months of shutdown and curfew, people at large have themselves geared up to defy diktats from the separatists. Since last fortnight, traders and transports in Kashmir valley have shown an increasingly cool response to the separatist politicians’ calls for shutdown. Reports from different areas in the Valley suggested lukewarm response to Geelani’s three-day “civil curfew” on November 6th, 7th and 8th. Like on these three days, private and government transport operated normally in Srinagar as well as all other districts in the Valley. Heavy commercial buses were off the road but tippers, trucks, load-carriers and even medium-mode 407-Tata minibuses and small-mode Tata Sumos and three-wheelers operated through the Valley. However, the bandh had substantial impact in few South Kashmir towns.

All government-controlled and private educational institutions operated normally and attendance remained unaffected in most of the government offices. Today’s reports from North Kashmir said that, for the first time this year, even the most disturbed Baramulla town had most of the shops open and transport operational. However, shops remained closed in old town where few stone pelting youth engaged Police in minor clashes. Today’s normality in Baramulla town is widely attributed to the recent arrest of the most wanted stone pelter Javed Ahmed Kaloo alias ‘Meena Kumari’. Quite a number of residents insisted that lukewarm response to the call for “civil curfew” was because of the festivity of Idd-ul-Azha, now just five days away.

In entire Valley, curfew remained officially in force in two-odd villages of Delina and Palhalan, both on Srinagar-Baramulla highway. There were no curfew restrictions even in downtown Srinagar where traders in the morning opened their shops but groups of youth forced them to shut businesses. Consequently, there was partial bandh in half of the capital city.

Peoples’ changing mood is in sharp contrast to the turbulent days of June, July, August and September when Geelani and his hardliner lieutenant, Massarat Alam Bhat, made entire Kashmir valley freeze for weeks together. In the wake of this turbulence, that ran parallel to death of over 100 demonstrators and arsonists in Police and paramilitary action, senior government officials and politicians of all mainstream parties remained confined to their heavily-guarded houses and offices and failed to travel on the streets. For over three months, all major roads and highways remained in total control of the civilian demonstrators and pro-Azadi crowds.

Finally thaw came in September when authorities introduced non-lethal arms and soft means of riot control on one hand but on the other hand got most of the prominent stone pelters and their supports in other institutions arrested. Geelani himself---and now Shabir Shah---was released but almost all others, notably High Court Bar Association chief Advocate Mian Qayoom, advocate Ghulam Nabi Shaheen, Dukhtaraan-e-Millat chief, Asiya Andrabi and Massarat Alam Bhat, were arrested and lodged in different jails. Of the 1200-odd detainees, as many as 950 have been arrested in Srinagar alone. Forty-six of them have been deatined under PSA.

Meanwhile, in a statement today, Geelani complained that Government had let loose a reign of terror “particularly against Tehreek-e-Hurriyat and its key constituent Muslim League”. He alleged that a large number of people were being chased, harassed, arrested and detained on account of their participation in “peaceful demonstrations”. He warned the authorities that this form of “suppression” could boomerang and snowball into yet another spell of anarchy. According to him, peaceful political activists were being chased and treated like hardcore and top wanted militants.

Two CRPF cops gunned down in broad daylight in Pattan

Militants loot weapons of slain cops, vanish in highway township

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Nov 10: Striking in the turbulent Kashmir valley after a pause of nearly three months, militants today gunned down two head constables of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and disappeared in the highway township only after looting weapons of both the paramilitary soldiers. Taking it as a wake up call, authorities have begun to set up a fresh counter-insurgency grid while launching a search for over 50 heavily armed militants who are now reportedly hiding in Bandipore-Sopore-Sumbal belt of north Kashmir.

Informed sources in North Kashmir told Early Times that in the forenoon today at least two militants appeared at the crowded market in Pattan, on Srinagar-Baramulla highway and they simultaneously fired upon two armed soldiers of CRPF in point blank range. While head constable B Teja died on the spot, HC Om Prakash later succumbed to injuries at a hospital. Eyewitnesses as well as officials said that as soon as the targeted soldiers collapsed, militants disarmed them both and decamped with their automatic rifles.

Amid stampede in the township, that often remains dotted by Army and CRPF personnel, Police and security forces reached the spot and made unsuccessful attempts to trace the killers of the two paramilitaries. Officials said that both the militants were believed to be still hiding somewhere in the town but house-to-house searches were not advisable in view of apprehension of firing on the exposed search party from the militants’ hideout.

After months of street turbulence and demonstrations, that are now fading out fast, militants today attacked security forces and succeeded in killing two armed personnel in broad daylight. As a matter of strategy, militants had avoided making attacks on security forces as well as their civilian targets since the sudden eruption of mass demonstrations and street clashes in June this year. Even as Police and security forces killed around 40 militants during the last five months of the civilian strife in different operations, one-odd incident of the guerrilla strike came on the residential house of the ruling National Conference’s Sopore MLA, Haji Mohammad Ashraf, at Dangarpora village in Sopore area on August 22.

A day earlier, on August 21, militants had struck on a Gujjar family at Tangmarg village in foothills of Pirpanjal mountain range and gunned down one Mohammad Hussain Gorsi’s wife, Shakeela, and her daughter, Zareena. During the same night, suspected militants shot dead a civilian, namely Ghulam Nabi Wani, at his home in Chakora village of Pulwama district.

According to a local news agency, KNS, a spokesman of the guerilla outfit, Hizbul Mujahideen, claimed that militants of his organization had eliminated two CRPF soldiers at Pattan. A spokesman of Jamiatul Mujahideen also claimed earlier that the operation at Pattan was the handiwork of his organization.

Highly placed authoritative sources said that after today’s strike at Pattan they were expecting more militant attacks on the hard as well as soft targets from two militant organizations in North Kashmir. They said that militants were expected to raise the level of violence with firing and bomb blasts against Police and security forces. They revealed that a thick concentration of 50 to 60 freshly inducted and well-trained militants was establishing base in Bandipore-Sopore-Sumbal belt. According to credible reports, over two dozen youth had disappeared from Sopore alone in the last two months and all of them were suspected to have joined the militant organizations.

Director DD is India’s RTI shame in J&K
Obama praises India for sunshine law, DD official spits on it in public

Early Times Report

SRINAGAR, Nov 9: President of the United States of America, Barack Obama, was all praise in his speech in the Parliament on Monday for Manmohan Singh’s India over the transparency in governance and implementation of Right to Information (RTI) Act in this country. However, treating Jammu & Kashmir as “a state of special status”, where the Indian systems should be brazenly discredited to erode common man’s faith, Director of Doordarshan Kendra (DDK) Srinagar, Dr Rafeeq Masoodi, has been treating the sunshine law with contempt from his day one in office. Even the Deputy Director General of Doordarshan, incharge North India and an appellate authority for RTI, has failed to discipline this recalcitrant official who has been sticking to his chair courtesy union Minister of Health, Ghulam Nabi Azad.

Under the RTI Act, being smoothly implemented by offices of the Government of India throughout the country, Director DDK Srinagar, Rafeeq Masoodi, and the national broadcaster’s PIO in Srinagar, Shabir Mujahid, were supposed to provide information to an applicant within 28 days. Jammu-based prominent lawyer and RTI activist, advocate Sheikh Shakil Ahmed, has however failed to get a positive response from DDK Srinagar for 235 days to the application he had filed on March 19th this year.

In his application, dated 19-03-2010, Advocate Shakil had sought detailed information with regard to the programmes produced---and their respective payees---by by seven DDK Srinagar producers, namely Swadesh Bakhshi, Kousar Parveen, Syed Zeeshan Fazil, Rashid Javed, Haleema Parveen, Shammi Shayir and Mufti Riyaz. Caring two hoots for the punishment the lawmakers had provided for the defaulters, Masoodi and Mujahid did not bother to even respond to the applicant weeks after the deadline.

Shakil had filed the application after allegations were galore that Director, DDK Srinagar, had swindled funds worth Crores of Rupees in league with the seven particular producers. He planned to file a separate application about the programmes claimed to have been produced by another producer, namely Nasir Mansoor, who alongwith Shammi Shayir had allegedly embezzled 90 percent of the funds provided by union Ministry of Agriculture on account of producing “Krishi Darshan”---a programme for farmers---in the last five years. The applicant had demanded details regarding the in-house programmes claimed to have been produced by seven particular producers since the day Masoodi had joined as head of DD’s Srinagar station.

In his letter dated April 22, addressed to the applicant, PIO Shabir Mujahid sought extra time of “two more weeks” to do the needful. However, not an iota of the information requisitioned has been provided to Mr Shakil in the last 235 days.

“DDK Srinagar PIO initially sought extra time of two weeks. Later, after several weeks, he argued that the information to be collected was voluminous and could not be provided as long as there was disturbance in the Valley”, Shakil told Early Times. He said that when Masoodi and his subordinate officials failed to submit the data for several months, he sent a complaint to the Union Minister of Information & Broadcasting, CEO Prasar Bharti Broadcasting Corporation of India and Director General of Doordarshan.

DD’s Director (Tech) & Chief Public Information Officer informed the applicant in letter dated 1-10-2010 that his complaint dated 13-09-2010 had been treated as formal appeal. DDG Jailkhani was asked to ensure that the information sought under RTI Act was supplied to the applicant without further delay.

Subsequently, in his Order No:DDG(AJ)/Misc(5)RTI/2010 Dated October 11th, 2010, DD’s DDG for North India and appellate authority, Ashok Jailkhani, directed Director DDK Srinagar, Rafeeq Masoodi, to provide full information to the applicant “within the period of one month”.

“It has been observed that the reply/information as sought by the applicant has been delayed considerably. Information regarding points Nos 1 and 2 of the application should not be very difficult for the Kendra to respond to. Information regarding point No: 3 may take some time as indicated by the Kendra. Kendra is advised to pass on the information urgently and make all-out efforts to supply the information within the period of one month”, Jailkhani wrote to Masoodi on October 11th, while outrightly dismissing his argument of “disturbance” in the Valley.

Shakil said that even the appellate authority’s reprimand failed to chasten DDK Srinagar authorities. “Only to make further joke of the RTI, few days back DDK Srinagar official, Shammi Shayir, sent me a letter, predated over 15-07-2010 alongwith a completely irrelevant enclosure of 50 pages. Not a single word or sentence of the plethora of documents provided to me pertains to my RTI application”, Shakil revealed and asserted that he would be returning this uncalled for consignment to the appellate authority in original on expiry of the deadline on November 11th, pressing hard for pronouncement of penalty for the defaulters.

Officials at DDK Srinagar endorsed that unprecedented indiscipline had ruined the station and most of the senior officials were neck-deep in corruption. According to them, it was talk of the town that Masoodi and Shayir had purchased huge houses in the posh Sidhra locality of Jammu through a lumberjack-turned-producer. “But, they would care little about Vigilance and CBI with regard to the assets disproportionate to their legal income as long as they continue to be under the protection of Mr Ghulam Nabi Azad”, said an eminent private producer and director.

'Meena Kumai arrested Sir', SSP tells Omar in teleconference

After DCs, CM takes briefing on Valley situation with SPs

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Nov 9: Hollywood buff Omar Abdullah may not have watched Kamal Amrohi's 1970s blockbuster 'Pakeeza' but a promising Bollywood director's classmate at Sanawar cannot be expected to be ignorant about Meena Kumari, who played the stellar role with Raj Kumar. Omar obviously looked confused when SSP Baramulla, Mansoor Untoo, informed him through a teleconference in the winter capital that 'Meena Kumari' was finally behind the bars.

Omar could not hide his smile when he learned next moment that it was no Bollywood actress but Baramulla's most wanted stone pelter, Pervez Ahmed Kaloo S/o Abdul Ahad Kaloo. A resident of Ganai Hamam locality of the old town Baramulla, 'Meena Kumari' was allegedly involved in most of the incidents of stone pelting and attacks on Police and public properties, including one on the Christian Missionary St Joseph School. According to reports available with Police, Meena Kumari had been arrested after his prominent involvement in the stone pelting of 2008. He had been, however, released on orders of none other than Omar Abdullah when he was sworn in as Chief Minister in January 2009.

On February 22 this year, Meena Kumari was allegedly in the forefront of the mob that had harassed commuters of a bus at Chakla including a woman who, under fear and nervousness, dropped her 11-day-old infant from her lap. This baby was the first of five persons killed in different incidents of stone pelting by unruly mobs this year. According to Police, authorities were desperately in search of the terror who had turned Baramulla into a battleground, resulting in several deaths in Police and CRPF action.

Chief Minister heaved a sigh of relief and learned more from SSP Baramulla who had little signs of nervousness on his face even as dozens of Meena Kumari's associates had immediately resorted to heavy stone pelting, attracting baton charge, tearsmoke shelling and even spraying of pellets. Unlike on scores of occasions this year, Police forced the stone pelters to disperse in minutes of retaliation but not before they completely damaged the official car of additional District Development Commissioner, Shaukat Ahmed Dar.

In a three hour long video conferencing with the district Superintendents of Police (SPs) of Kashmir division, Chief Minister in a general message to the SPs directed them to render their service to the society in the best professional manner. “You are rendering multifaceted duties on various fronts including maintenance of law and order, protection of life and property, combating militancy, dealing with untoward situations and booking culprits responsible for different crimes. This has increased pressure on you”, he said and directed the police force to make restraint and professional dealing as the benchmark of their functioning.

Omar assured them every help and support from the Government for modernizing and strengthening of J&K Police Force to develop it as one of the most competent and able police forces in the country. He said the issues of filling up of vacant posts, rationalizing the duties of police personnel and increasing its number were under active consideration of the Government.
 Interacting with SPs of Police districts of Kupwara, Handwara, Baramulla, Sopore, Bandipora, Pulwama, Shopian, Budgam, Anantnag, Awantipora, Kulgam, Ganderbal, Srinagar, Leh, Kargil, IG Kashmir and Additional Director General of Police turn by turn through Video Conferencing, the Chief Minister reviewed the general law and order situation in the districts in particular and of the division in general.

Chief Minister made queries regarding various issues pertaining to the general policing, maintenance of law and order, combating  militancy, holding of police-public interaction sessions, training of police personnel in mob controlling, measures in place for the security and protection of political leaders, civic action programmes and performance on the front of crime control.

Taking review of the preparedness of Police for conducting peaceful and smooth Panchayat elections in the State, the Chief Minister directed J&K Police Force to be ready in all respects for successful holding of elections to Panchayats. “You have a stupendous task to perform in this regard”, he said and appreciated their role in rendering their duties with devotion on various fronts.

On ensuing Eid festival, the Chief Minister stressed on regular market checking and stern action against hoarders and black marketers. He asked the SPs to keep constant vigil on prices of essential commodities and ensure that unscrupulous elements do not exploit general public by creating false scarcity. He said Police Department and CA&PD should work in unison to ensure supplies on reasonable and fixed prices to the people.

Each SP gave detailed account of the prevailing situation and measures in place to prevent untoward incidents and maintain law and order in his jurisdiction. They also apprised the Chief Minister of their actions regarding bringing crimes under control, maintaining rapport with general public by holding police-public meetings and initiating youth welfare programmes.

The IG Kashmir, S.M. Sahai and Additional Director General of Police, K. Rajendra gave overview of the general situation prevailing in the division. They also highlighted the issues relating to the modernizing of J&K Police Force and strengthening its rank and file.

The Advisors to the Chief Minister, Mubarak Gul and Devender Singh Rana, Director General Police, Kuldeep Khuda and Commissioner/Secretary Home, B.R. Sharma were present.


Sunday, November 7, 2010

Omar’s NC asserts against stone pelting, shutdown culture

2 rallies held at Lalchowk, Shopian; Hurriyat (G) threatens “traitors”

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Nov 7: Chief Minister Omar Abdullah’s politically paralysed National Conference (NC) finally came out of its slumber over the death of two civilians in an incident of stone pelting in Shopian today when two of the party’s Cabinet Ministers came down heavily on the separatist leadership and held it directly responsible for current spell of bloodshed and mayhem in the Valley. Meanwhile, yet another rally assailed sponsors of unending shutdowns in the heart of Srinagar even as it was immediately subjected to an attack by dozens of stone pelters on the third consecutive day of Hurriyat (Geelani)-sponsored “civil curfew” to commemorate the Muslims killed in communal riots in Jammu in 1947.

An official press release claimed it to be a gathering of “at least 9,000” mourners but reliable reports from Shopian said that around 2,000 people formed the audience of Minister of Rural Development, Ali Mohammad Sagar, and Minister of Social Welfare, Sakeena Itoo, when the senior NC leaders arrived in to express their party’s and the Government’s solidarity with the bereaved families at Chitragam Kalan. As already reported, two persons of this village had got killed and three others injured when a group of stone pelters attacked their three-wheeler at Nagbal, on Zainapora-Shopian Road yesterday.

Accorded to the statement of the three injured, recorded by Police today, the ill-fated fleeing auto had skidded of the road and rolled down into a gorge when over a dozen of youth had subjected it to heavy stone pelting on account of defying the separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s call of “civil curfew” for three days. SP Shopian, Shahid Meraj Rather, told Early Times that on the basis of the statements of the injured eyewitnesses, Police were assiduously in the process of identifying and arresting the stone pelters whose action had directly caused the tragedy, including death of two innocent commuters.

Informed sources said that both, Sagar and Sakeena, made hard-hitting attacks on the separatist Hurriyat leaders and their “mainstream supporters” (read PDP) and held them jointly responsible for destruction of Kashmir’s bustling tourist season, closure of schools and colleges besides causing loss of hundreds of Crores of Rupees to the Valley’s economy. Addressing a receptive gathering, they assailed sponsors of the Valley’s shutdowns and stone pelting and charged them with amassing substantial fortunes over hundreds of innocent civilian deaths. They pointed out that most of the Hurriyat leaders and their supporters in different institutions had sent their own children for education, employment and business to different Indian cities and abroad but led an entire generation to death, destruction and penury without achieving anything in the last 21 years of turbulence.

The Ministers handed over cheques worth Rs 5 Lakh each to both the bereaved families as ex-gratia relief from their government. Sources said that a large number of the residents expressed their astonishment over the fact that “a handful of stone pelters” had damaged hundreds of vehicles, extorted money from truck drivers and left hundreds of people injured but Police and security forces had done little to restore confidence among the “suppressed and silenced majority”. The Ministers assured them that their government would leave no stone unturned in taking action against the hooligans and restoring the peoples’ faith in the system. Chitragam village falls in the Assembly constituency of the PDP President, Mehbooba Mufti, who sent her condolences to the bereaved families from London today, albeit without condemning the stone pelters.

NC’s condolence rally in Shopian was significant in the sense that the ruling party remained either in total oblivion or spoke the separatists’ language in the last five months of street turbulence that left over a hundred people dead and thousands more wounded in Kashmir valley. For over three months of this turbulent period, neither the mainstream politicians nor the government functionaries dared to travel on the Valley’s streets, let alone organizing a public rally. Situation finally began to change fast after Police and security forces adopted better means of riot management, got most of the prominent activists---particularly Massarat Alam, Asiya Andrabi and some advocates----arrested in the last few months.

Third and the last day of Geelani’s “civil curfew” passed peacefully with no demonstration or incident of stone pelting taking place anywhere in the Valley. Reports said that shops and heavy modes of passenger transport remained closed but medium commercial vehicles and private traffic operated in almost all the districts. Shops were seen open in several areas of Srinagar and most of the townships though impact of the “civil curfew” was substantial in certain areas. Geelani this evening issued yet another shutdown calendar, for the first time relaxing shutdown for 9 days in the next 12 days. It is partly attributed to growing defiance to the shutdown culture in the Valley and partly to the forthcoming festival of Idd-ul-Azha that falls on November 17th.

Here in the capital city, yet another “peace rally” appeared today with hundreds of men, women and children, mostly traveling in buses, shouting slogans in favour of peace and normalcy. Leaders of the rally, who were all unknown and nondescript faces, came down heavily on the separatist leaders and their stone pelting followers for “making our life a hell with unending hartals”. They pointed out that the sons and daughters of all hues of politicians, as well as bureaucrats and government officials, were enjoying their education, jobs and business in foreign countries but the poor, innocent people were being subjugated and subjected to starvation and penury.

Sources said that a group of stone pelters dramatically appeared in the civil lines and clashed with the “anti-hartal rally” at Lalchowk. Police intervened and rescued the participants of the rally. A thinner rally, comprising school children and their parents, had appeared with similar slogans and placards on Residency Road about a month back.

Hurriyat (G) leader, Nisar Hussain Rather, in a statement described participants of the rally as “NC’s Gujjars and Bakerwals”, called them traitors and threatened them of dire consequences if they persisted with “anti-movement activities”. According to him today’s rally in Srinagar was one of the government’s numerous attempts to fail Kashmir’s separatist movement.