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Saturday, December 4, 2010

School bus torched to enforce Geelani’s shutdown

6 youth on 2 bikes set the bus on fire in Sagar’s Khanyar area

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Dec 4: Even after spearheading the separatist movement for 21 years and claiming himself to be the most influential and the most popular leader of the Kashmiris, Syed Ali Shah Geelani today required burning of a school bus to enforce his shutdown in Kashmir valley. This, however, failed to work as most of the shops remained open and all the educational institutions functioned without taking any fear from the fire in Khanyar area. Geelani had called for total shutdown on Saturday as a mark of protest against the October 29th shootout in which Police claimed to have eliminated three militants after they gunned down a Constable in Qamarwari.

Authoritative sources, claiming to be quoting eyewitness accounts and preliminary investigation, told Early Times that half-a-dozen youth, three each on two motorcycles, appeared at Rangar Stop in Khanyar area of the capital city at 0815 hours. A bus of Tibetan Public School, Badamwari, was parked on the road and a number of the young students were boarding the vehicle. The youth on the motorcycles sprinkled petrol on the bus and set it on fire. Driver Muzaffar Ahmed of Rainawari quickly pulled down one-odd student who had just boarded and taken a seat. Under fear, all the students and their attendants ran away in different directions.

The bus, bearing registration No: JK01N-9076, gutted completely before men from Police Station of Khanyar reached the spot. The rescued pupil’s bag, containing his books, notebooks and lunch refreshment, also perished in the blaze. Eyewitnesses told Police that all the six youth escaped comfortably without facing any resistance. Police Station Khanyar registered a criminal matter and launched investigation.

Official sources later insisted that two of the six youth, who were responsible for torching the school bus, were identified and they were likely to be arrested in the next 24 hours.
SSP Srinagar, Syed Ashiq Hussain Bukhari, refused to confirm or deny that two of the six saboteurs had been identified. He, however, asserted that today’s subversive act was “an organized strike” from Geelani’s followers who desperately wanted to enforce shutdown called by the separatist leader. “We had not put in place any Police or security bandobust as we had not expected any attack on schools, school buses and students. Schools and colleges have been operating in total defiance of Hurriyat’s call since October. No such complaint or apprehension had surfaced in the last over one month”, SSP said.

Though followers of the separatist leaders, particularly those of Geelani, have been pelting stones on school buses and some of the students have sustained injuries in scores of such strikes, it is for the first time that a school bus has been torched to spread fear among students and teachers, obviously in a desperate attempt to enforce shutdown. Geelani, as well as all other separatist and mainstream politicians remained tightlipped and they did not condemn today’s incident.

However, Minister of Rural Development and National Conference’s MLA from Khanyar, Ali Mohammad Sagar, and Minister of School Education, Peerzada Mohammad Sayeed, condemned torching of the school bus in their separately circulated statements.

Reports said that notwithstanding the incident of subversion at Khanyar, all government-run and private educational institutions, including the targeted Tibetan Public School, functioned fearlessly. Students, their parents and teachers, besides the common people, showed no hesitation in publicly condemning today’s incident. They were heard invariably complaining that about 130 days of shutdown and curfew this summer had already spoiled almost the full academic year in the Valley.

Reports said that followers of the separatist leaders appeared on the streets at some places and they pelted stones on the shops and vehicles found open in defiance of Geelani’s call. Some of the shopkeepers shuttered their businesses but most of them remained unfazed. According to these reports, Geelani’s call had some impact in parts of Srinagar, Baramulla, Sopore and Anantnag towns. Still a section of businesses and transport functioned normally in these towns. Reports from other towns said that businesses, schools, government and private offices functioned as usual and there was little evidence of any shutdown.

Three identified youth, killed in the Qamarwari shootout on October 29th, were all militants according to Police who were killed in an encounter after they gunned down a Constable. However, some of the separatist leaders, including Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, besides the ruling National Conference’s Lok Sabha Member from North Kashmir, Sharief-ud-din Shariq, have described the trio as innocent and alleged that they had been killed by Police in cold blood in a fake encounter.


Thursday, December 2, 2010

Qamarwari shootout exposes militant-stone pelter axis

‘Cop killers’ had set out on a deadly mission from Sopore, cellphone CDR shows links with stone pelters

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Dec 2: Monday’s shootout at Qamarwari is leading Police to establishment of “working links” between stone pelters and militants of the formidable guerrilla outfit Lashkar-e-Toiba. One constable and three Kashmiri youth---who were  “cop killers” according to Police but innocent civilians according to the ruling National Conference’s Lok Sabha Member Sharief-ud-din Shariq---had died in the broad daylight shootout.

Commander of Sopore-based “cop killer module”, Waseem Raja Guroo of Seer Jagir locality has been found to have been inducted as Jaish-e-Mohammad’s “battalion commander” by top functionary of the outfit Shoaib alias Yasir, a Pakistani national. His alleged involvement in over a dozen guerrilla strikes in Sopore area made Guroo a “Category A militant” in 2009. Wanted in nearly a dozen strikes, including killing of Police personnel, Guroo, according to Police records, remained active in Sopore-Pattan-Bandipore belt in North Kashmir.

Zahoor Ahmed Hajjam, who operated with code names of Tanvir and Imran, was a resident of Ward No:5 of Bandipore. While continuing his studies, Hajjam was locally trained by some militants of Al-Badar outfit before he was arrested by troops of Rashtriya Rifles 15th Bn on August 23, 2004. During sustained interrogation, he not only handed over his Chinese-made pistol to Army but also got his associate, Hilal Ahmed Shah S/o Mohammad Sultan Shah R/o Hospital Road, Bandipore, arrested. FIR No: 170 of 2004 at Police Station Bandipore shows that seven hand grenades were recovered from Shah. He remained under detention for nearly two years till a court quashed the PSA slapped on him. Months after his release, he was recycled and worked with Jaish-e-Mohammad.

Even after completing his graduation in Education (B Ed) from a private college, Mehboobul Alam, and subsequently working as a teacher at Kousarya Public School, Chak Rishipora, Hajjam went underground in October. His dead body was among the three recovered from the shootout site at Qamarwari on November 29th.

Shariq’s relative, Arshid Bashir Peerzada S/o Bashir Ahmed Peerzada R/o Alsafa Colony, Sopore, was a student enrolled at Government Degree College Bemina. He has no history of involvement with militancy but Police insist that a hand grenade was found tied to his body when it was recovered from the site of the shootout. They also insist that Arshid Bashir’s rented accommodation in Bemina had served as hideout for the trio as also some other “militants and stone pelters”. He happened to be the grandson of Shariq’s brother-in-law, Ghulam Ahmed Peer of Chogal, Handwara. For years, Peer functioned as Jamaat-e-Islami’s Tehsil President in Handwara.

Details collected by Police about Shariq, immediately after he began clamouring about the “cold blooded murder of innocent youth”, revealed that the politician had a longtime association with Jamaat-e-Islami as well as its guerrilla arm, Hizbul Mujahideen. He, in fact, began his political career with unsuccessfully contesting his first ever Assembly elections on Jamaat-e-Islami ticket and symbol in 1972 against then ruling Congress party’s candidate, Abdul Gani Lone.

According to Police records, Shariq was kidnapped by the militants of Allah Tigers from Directorate of School Education in 1991 but was got rescued by militants of Hizbul Mujahideen. In 1993, BSF arrested Hizbul Mujahideen’s first “Commander-in-Chief” (two years after he had launched his own Muslim Mujahideen) from the officially allotted accommodation of NC leader, Mushtaq Ahmed Lone, near Mini Bus Stand Jawahar Nagar alongwith Shariq’s son, Pervez Ahmed, who was later released and appointed as an Inspector in Department of Excise and Taxation. He was again arrested by SOG Srinagar from Flat No: E-28. His interrogation led to the arrest of top wanted Hizb militant, Javed Ahmed Kirmani S/o Maulvi Mohammad Akbar Kirmani of Diwaspora, Handwara.

While Dar was lifted from the flat allotted to Lone---who later became Minister of State for Home and was killed in September 2002 in a militant strike at Tikkipora (Lolab)---Pervez was picked up from the premises allotted to his father, Shariq.

Police records also revealed that one Tassaduq Rasool Shah, grandson of Shariq’s brother, Noor-ud-din Shah, was currently working as a commander at a guerilla training camp in Pakistan-administered Kashmir. He was reportedly a senior functionary in United Jihad Council.

According to well-placed authoritative sources, in its preliminary investigation of the Qamarwari shootout, Police have learned that the three slain youth, Waseem Raja Guroo, Zahoor Ahmed Hajam and Arshid Bashir, had set out from Sopore on a mission of striking on Police personnel in Srinagar.

Tracking call detail record of one of the three mobile phones recovered from the bodies of the youth, Police have learned that the “cop killers” were present in Ontoo Hamam locality of Sopore during the night intervening November 28th and 29th. SIM card of the cellphone recorded that the last call was handled by Airtel’s Ontoo Hamam site at 1801 hours on Nov 28th. On way to Srinagar, one of the day’s first calls came through Airtel’s sites at Mian Mohalla and Malpora in the highway township of Pattan at 0825 hours on Nov 29th.

In Srinagar, the “cop killers” operated the first call at 0929 hours. It was handled by Airtel’s site at Zaima Masjid, Qamarwari. They received the last call of their life at 1218 hours, just 17 minutes before they gunned down Constable Mohammad Ashraf  S/o Mohammad Yousuf Shah R/o Lar, Ganderbal, at Baitul Shafa Medical Hall. It came through a tower at Qamarwari Chowk.

Inquiries revealed that two constables came out of Police Chowki Qamarwari to purchase some vegetables from the market. While Constable Ashraf was busy in buying the vegetables, one of the three youth took out his pistol and pumped two shots into his neck. He fell in a pool of blood and died on the spot. The killer lifted his AK-47 rifle and handed it over to his colleague who was wearing a black colour Pheran. People ran for life at the first gunshot. Constable Shabir, who watched his colleague felling to the bullets and being relieved of his AK-47 in full view of people, decided to hit the trio only after he saw two of them laughing over the assassination and heading leisurely towards Cement Bridge. He was purchasing a jacket inside a nearby shop.

Constable Shabir walked some 20 yards behind the youth who were walking unmindful of their behind and fired on them all with precision. All the three died on the spot. He was later rewarded with four grade promotions, appointed ASI and also given cash reward of Rs 5 Lakh. Those who rushed to the spot after the shootout were also rewarded with one rank promotion each.

Sources revealed that the call detail records of the mobile phones seized on the spot indicated that the slain youth had remained directly in touch with more than 20 stone pelters in Srinagar and Sopore. Some of them have been arrested in the last one month while others are being rounded up. Officials believe that it would be second consecutive confirmation of “close liaison” between militants of Lashkar-e-Toiba and the stone pelters whose activities froze the Valley for over four months this summer. They insist that all the three were lastly working with Lashkar.


Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Qamarwari shootout

A head must roll---either DGP Khoda’s or MP Shariq’s

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Dec 1: In June National Conference’s Minister in the Cabinet, Ali Mohammad Sagar, called CRPF “an unbridled force”. Two months later, NC’s Member of Parliament (Rajya Sabha member) from South Kashmir, Ghulam Nabi Rattanpuri, used the same adjective for Jammu & Kashmir Police. Now, NC’s MP from North Kashmir (Rajya Sabha member), Sharief-ud-din Shariq has audaciously branded J&K Police as “killers”. Shariq has dismissed Monday’s broad daylight shootout in the capital city outskirts of Qamarwari as “cold-blooded murder of three innocent youth”. According to local newspapers, Shariq threatened to take up Monday’s “brutal incident” not only with Chief Minister but also with the Union Home Minister.

Broadcaster-turned-MP Rattanpuri is a green hand politician. Shariq as well Sagar are senior leaders of Omar Abdullah’s NC. Over the last 30 years, Shariq has served as NC’s representative in Parliament as well as in J&K Legislative Assembly. Elected for the Assembly in 1983 with a massive mandate, Sagar has been a Minister continually since 1989. All the three have taken lead over not only Mehbooba Mufti’s PDP but also on both factions of the separatist Hurriyat Conference in demonizing CRPF and J&K Police and discrediting the institutions of the Government of India and Government of Jammu & Kashmir while highlighting the “cold blooded murders” happening in their own leader Omar Abdullah’s government.

These approvers of the “cold blooded murders” of their own government need not to take up the issue of the human rights abuse, committed by J&K Police or CRPF, that has been assisting the state Police in counter-insurgency operations and law and order situations, with Home Minister Chidambaram, Defence Minister Antony or Prime Minister Manmohan Sigh. If they really believe that CRPF and J&K Police have been felling innocent lives, as has been alleged by the Valley’s separatist leaders and Pakistan since 1990, they need to complain the matter to Mr Omar Abdullah, who happens to be not only the head of the government but also the state Home Minister and President of their party.

J&K Police officers, who, according to Mr Rattanpuri, have not only the liberty of killing innocent people but also the temerity of delivering threats by telephone on the ruling party’s Members of the Parliament, function directly under Chief Minister and Home Minister of the state, Mr Omar Abdullah. Sagar’s publicly demonized CRPF has a Special DG posted in Srinagar but, for all practical purposes, this paramilitary force has been working under the command and control of District SPs of J&K Police.

Like Rattanpuri’s and Sagar’s, Shariq’s allegation is directed, more than anybody else, on Chief Minister Omar Abdullah. Police officials, who gunned down three young persons during or after the killing of a Constable in the afternoon on Monday last at Qamarwari, are men of Police Station Parimpora. Shariq and his lawmaking colleagues must be aware of the fact that Police is a state subject and Chidambaram has no constitutional mechanism to chasten the erring personnel of J&K Police.

Again, while Shariq was leveling the allegation of cold blooded murder, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah was rewarding the “killers” by something they could not have imagined in their life. The Constable from a Tangmarg village, who had no SOG background, was instantaneously given not only cash reward of Rs 5 Lakh but also four grade promotions. In the morning on Monday, he was a Constable and the same evening saw him wearing the rank of ASI. Purchasing a jacket inside a shop, he heard gunshots and saw his colleague felling to the pistol shots of two youth well on the highway. As most of the non-SGO men do, he too preferred silence to his own death.

As he told his seniors later, he was driven by impulse only when he saw two youth laughing after the murder and handing over the slain constable’s AK-47 rifle to their pheran-clad colleague. He followed the trio for less than a minute and shot dead all of them. Police records mention that the slain constable’s AK-47 rifle and two automatic pistols were recovered from the possession of the three youth killed. Besides, each of them had two hand grenades tied to their bodies.

If DGP Kuldeep Khoda has judiciously rewarded the constable and others who later came to his rescue, he deserves an applause---not from the common man but from the politicians who have acted like blotting papers in taking privileges and comforts throughout their life from the state and the central governments. Interestingly, Syed Ali Shah Geelani is yet to issue a statement and a call for shutdown over the Qamarwai shootout. Opposition PDP too has withheld its trademark allegations. Mirwaiz Umar Farooq today called it a cold-blooded murder but two days after Shariq took the lead on all others.

In case Shariq has not made the allegation out of his affection for the young boy of Sopore, who was reportedly his relative, and has objectively told the truth, Chief Minister must either remove all the officials, from SHO to IGP and DGP, or at least order a judicial inquiry so as to pre-empt attempts of different players to create another Intifada, that could leave 112 more dead on the Valley streets. In case, Shariq is proved to be a lier and instigator of another Intifada, he must be forced to resign as MP and basic member of NC and facilitated to join Hurriyat Conference.

Hasnain to become first Muslim in 20 years to head Srinagar Army Corps

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

Srinagar, Nov 30: For the first time in the last 20 years of insurgency, Srinagar-based 15 Corps of Army is going to be headed by a Muslim. Lt Gen S A Hasnain, currently a Corps Commander at Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, is tipped to be appointed commander of 15 Corps in a few days. He will be joining his new place of posting under Northern Command in Srinagar later in December.

Hasnain has spent years of career in Army in the insurgency hit Kashmir valley. After functioning as Colonel General Staff at headquarters Victor Force for about three years nearly a decade ago, Hasnain headed a Brigade of 19 Division at Uri for over two years. It was during his command of the brigade that Srinagar-Muzaffarbad Road was opened for cross-Loc traffic through Uri in April 2005.

Hasnain later hogged headlines in the Valley press while conducting court marshal proceedings of a Major of Rashtriya Rifles battalion, posted in Handwara, for his act of intruding into a civilian family and allegedly committing rape of a woman and her daughter. Even as the allegation of rape could not be established before the court of inquiry, Major was subjected to punishment for breaching the command of not venturing out of the unit by way of trespassing into a house without the accompany of the village headman.

Lt Gen M A Zaki was the first Muslim of the sensitive Chinar Corps who functioned as GOC of 15 Corps in 1988-90. After his retirement from Army in 1991, he was appointed as an Advisor to Governor, Girish Chander Saxena and held the most important Home portfolio till re resigned in June 1995.  

Meanwhile, sources said that a new GOC-in-C of Udhampur-based Northern Command would also be joining in the next 10 days.