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Saturday, August 27, 2011

Maulana Shaukat killing probe creates ripples in Kashmir

Separatist outfit calls members of 10-member panel as “India’s and America’s agents”

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Aug 27: Dismissing members of the 10-member separatist panel, who claim to have completed investigation into the assassination of Maulana Shaukat Shah, as “agents” of India and United States of America, one of the constituents of Syed Ali Shah Geelani-led Hurriyat Conference has claimed that Javed Munshi alias Bil Papa was not involved in the Kashmiri cleric-politician’s murder. Raising fingers, directly and indirectly, on the JKLF Chairman Yasin Malik and Hurriyat Chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, “Tehreek-e-Shariat-e-Islami” has also alleged that some separatist leaders were working on behalf of New Delhi and their objective was to hold the militants responsible for each and every killing in Jammu and Kashmir.

Chairman of Jamiat-e-Ahl-e-Hadith (JAH) Maulana Shaukat was killed in a bomb blast on April 8th this year when he was, as per a routine, entering a mosque in the uptown Maisuma locality to perform Friday afternoon prayers. Parallel to Police investigation, a conclave of almost all the separatist groups constituted a 10-member panel on April 18th to investigate the target killing. JAH’s new supremo Maulana Ghulam Rasool Malik, headed the investigation team. Heads of both factions of Hurriyat Conference, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Syed Ali Shah Geelani, were declared as its members.

JAH General Secretary Abdul Rehman Bhat, JKLF Chairman Yasin Malik, Jamaat-e-Islami chief Sheikh Mohammad Hassan, Anjuman Sharyee head Aga Syed Hassan, Anjuman Ittihadul Muslimeen chief Maulana Abbas Ansari, Islamic Study Circle representative Dr Yousaf-al-Umar and Maulvi Shaukat Ahmed Keng, were declared as members of the panel.

In the last over three months of investigation, a Special Investigation Team (SIT) of Srinagar District Police arrested five to six persons and claimed that they had planned, ordered and carried out the operation of eliminating Maulana Shaukat. They included Tehreek-ul-Mujahideen (TM) key functionaries Abdul Gani Dar alias Abdullah Gazali of Russu, Budgam, and Javed Munshi alias Bil Papa of Chhanapora, Srinagar. Jamiat-ul-Mujahideen’s detained supremo Ashiq Hussain Faktoo alias Dr Qasim was also initially indicted but his name was dropped in the end. Challan was accordingly produced in a court in Srinagar.

On August 25th, head of the separatist panel and President of JAH, Maulana Ghulam Rasool Malik, released a letter, he claimed to have received from Lashkar-e-Tayyiba. The communication, significantly, corroborated the J&K Police investigation in part, confirming that Javed Munshi alias Bil Papa had revealed to Lashkar’s detenues in Srinagar Central Jail that he and others of his associates in TM had killed Shaukat in the bomb blast. More significantly, the Lashkar letter claimed that Javed Munshi had also been planning to eliminated Shaukat’s close friend and JKLF Chairman Yasin Malik.

Lashkar, however, labeled Javed Munshi and his associates as “double cross”, claiming that they had been roped in by agencies of the government of India. It claimed that Javed had bungled a quantity of explosives and weapons and also helped Army in conducting certain operations in which some militants got killed. Lashkar, however, gave a clean chit to its Kashmir-based Pakistani commander Abdullah Yuni who was a prime accused in the Police challan.

With the Lashkar letter, released by Maulana Malik, creating ripples in Kashmir valley, Tehreek-e-Shariat-e-Islami today shot a statement, dismissing the 10-member team investigation as an operation controlled by Indian and American agencies. It said that most of these members had become “slaves of the Indian, American and Israeli agencies” even before the separatist movement began in Kashmir in 1988-89. It alleged that these leaders had been “thrust upon the Kashmiris under compulsion”.

While ignoring reference and negative insinuation to Geelani, Tehreek statement made it clear that the organisation was treating just a few of the individuals as the real leaders of the separatist movement. It named them as Ashraf Sehrai, Massarat Alam Bhat, Advocate Mian Abdul Qayoom, Asiya Andrabi, Bilal Sidiquee, Mohammad Ahsan Ontoo, Feroz Ahmad Sheikh and Hafizullah Mir.

The organisation alleged, directly and indirectly, that men like Yasin Malik and Mirwaiz Umar were operating on behalf of the Indian and American agencies and their objective in the current investigation was to establish that all killings, abductions and rapes were the handiwork of separatist militants in Kashmir in the last two decades. This would give a clean chit to the Indian forces, the statement contended. It further claimed that members of the investigation team had got full facilitation from Prime Minister’s Office in Delhi and they had conveyed their report to Delhi and Washington much before it was released to press on August 25th.


Thursday, August 25, 2011

BSF cop, civilian killed in Baramulla blast

12 civilians wounded in another grenade attack at Batmaloo

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Aug 25: Striking after a long pause of calm, simultaneously in Baramulla and Srinagar with grenade attacks, suspected militants today left two persons dead and 15 more wounded.

Authoritative sources in north Kashmir told Early Times that unidentified persons, widely believed to be militants, lobbed a hand grenade on the men of a BSF party who were busy in shopping at a market near SRTC Bridge in Baramulla town at 1230 hours today. The grenade went off with a deafening explosion, causing injuries to two BSF personnel and three civilians. While the injured were evacuated to hospital amid panic and stampede, a critically wounded salesman breathed his last at District Hospital of Baramulla. He was identified as 24-year-old Abdul Gani Gojri S/o Sonaullah Gojri R/o Lar Ganapora, Kralgund (Handwara).

Later, a BSF havildar, namely U Haldar of 9th Bn, also succumbed to injuries on way to 92 Base Hospital of Army in Srinagar. Sources said that the injured civilians, as well as Constable Narendar Singh of BSF, were under treatment at Baramulla and Srinagar hospitals respectively.

Reports from Baramulla said that a group of youngsters began shouting pro-Azadi, anti-Police and anti-forces slogans while carrying the dead body of the slain salesman through streets at the district headquarters. Police and security forces avoided to clash with the demonstrators. Body of the young salesman, who was married and reportedly father of a 5-year-old girl, was later carried to Langet. Reports said that large number of villagers participated in the funeral.

SP Baramulla, Dr Haseeb Mughal, told Early Times that one BSF personnel died and four of his colleagues had a narrow escape. According to reports available with Police, the BSF party from Singhpora-based 9th Bn, had visited a shopkeeper in the narrow Badmaz Gully for the last three days. They had ordered the grocery owner to grind a quantity of spices which they wanted to carry to their post on the LoC. As two BSF men were collecting the spices from the grocery, an unidentified militant lobbed a hand grenade from a distance of less than six yards. It hit the target, killing a havildar and the salesman and causing injuries to two more civilians and a Constable.

SP Baramulla said that some 150 people took out a procession to create false impression that the civilian had died because of a blast from a BSF soldier’s grenade. Demonstrators called for arrest and punishment to the soldiers. However, they dispersed calmly when it became clear that a BSF havildar had also died and the grenade had been lobbed by a militant.

SP said that on their return from the funeral in Handwara, some residents of Baramulla came down from their vehicles at Watirgam and forced a shutdown. However, residents and shopkeepers struck with a counter-attack and left five persons injured. One Mudassar Ahmed, who was hit in his head with a lathi, sustained critical injuries. He was rushed to SKIMS for treatment.

Here in the capital city, suspected militants lobbed a hand grenade towards a Police vehicle that was parked outside Police Station near General Bus Stand of Batmaloo, in the afternoon. It fell short of the target and exploded at a crowded marketplace. As many as 12 persons, all civilians, sustained multiple splinter injuries. Officials said that all the injured were stable.

IGP Kashmir, S M Sahai, said that this kind of attacks were expected from militants who were on the run but were making desperate attacks to unite and spread some fear among the people and forces. He said that the militants responsible for the twin attack would be tracked and brought to justice.


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Now, a VLW journalist in Kupwara!

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Aug 24: Yet another Part Time Correspondent (PTC) of All India Radio (AIR) has turned out to be the regular employee of the Government of Jammu and Kashmir. In a sad commentary on the lack of accountability and rape of service conduct rules in Ali Mohammad Sagar’s Rural Development Department, District Development Commissioner of Kupwara has confirmed that AIR’s Kupwara-based PTC, Mohammad Rafeeq Poswal, was actually a Village Level Worker (VLW) in Wavora, Lolab.

Authoritative sources revealed that as a sequel to the Early Times campaign against double-salaried mediapersons, who have been simultaneously working as permanent employees of the state government as well as journalists in brazen violation of service conduct rules, head of Regional News Units of Radio Kashmir Srinagar and Doordarshan Kendra, Bashir Malik, has sought official reaction from several DCs and Heads of Departments to the cases documented by this newspaper. Malik has also sought details regarding other PTCs from various districts in Kashmir Valley.

In reply to RNU (Radio Kashmir) letter dated July 26th, DC Kupwara Mohammad Shafi Rather has officially confirmed to Radio Kashmir that its Kupwara-based PTC, Mohammad Rafeeq Poswal S/o Jamal-ud-din Poswal, R/o Batpora Haihama, Kupwara, was on payrolls of RDD Kashmir. DC has specified that Poswal was a permanent employee, posted as VLW in Wavora, Lolab. Contents of DC Kupwara’s letter No: DCK/PS/2011/2512-14 Dated 06-08-2011 have been forwarded by Radio Kashmir to Director General of News AIR for necessary action in the matter of cheating by the PTC.

Sources said that in yet another letter to Commissioner-Secretary Tourism and Culture, Atul Duloo, DC Kupwara has confirmed every detail of the Early Times story about one Zahoor Sultan War and expressed surprise how Secretary of Cultural Academy had allowed a permanent government employee and Cultural Assistant to simultaneously operate as a journalist and “Correspondent” of Radio Kashmir’s daily current affairs programme “Sheherbeen”. However, Mr Duloo has not reportedly initiated any action on the letter also addressed to Chief Minister’s Principal Secretary and other government functionaries.

Sources said that Mr Malik has also written a separate letter to DC Baramulla, Bashir Ahmad Bhat, asking his reaction to the Early Times expose on Radio Kashmir’s Baramulla-based PTC Kausar Salam. As already reported, Salam has been regularly taking salary as a Middle School teacher in Chandoosa zone of Baramulla district for long and simultaneously interviewing officers and Ministers as a journalist and Correspondent of AIR and Doordarshan.

Surprisingly, DC Baramulla has not sent any reply till date to Malik’s letter and two follow up reminders, suggesting former’s patronage to the “teacher journalist”. According to regular listeners, Kausar Salam has been enthusiastically projecting certain Baramulla officials including DC in AIR’s and DD’s news bulletins. Even after the Early Times expose, Kausar Salam had sought admission in a training institute operated by Chandigarh-based ‘Day and Night’ satellite television news channel. However, within days the management has terminated his admission when a copy of Early Times was made available to the channel last fortnight.


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Corruption in J&K

Some are guilty till proved innocent, some are innocent till proved guilty!

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Aug 23: On occasion of the oath-taking of J&K State Accountability Commission (SAC) Chairman, Justice retd Y P Nargotra, and Member, Justice Retd Hakeem Imtiyaz Hussain, the other day at Raj Bhawan, Governor N N Vohra broke a tradition. He chose to deliver a speech---to make it clear that he was concerned, like millions of the state subjects, over the non-seriousness successive governments have maintained to eradicate corruption. Governor laid stress on the immediate need of appointment of the constitutional functionaries and staff in SAC, State Vigilance Commission (SVC) and State Information Commission (SIC).

Unlike in the UPA Government’s Bill on Lok Pal, head of the government (Chief Minister) in Jammu & Kashmir is very much liable to trial in a matter of alleged corruption under the law made nine years ago. In 2002, it didn’t take long to realize that Law Minister Muzaffar Hussain Baig’s tantrums over accountability of public men (politicians) were not to be for practice. Then in opposition, National Conference (NC) came forward with its unconditional support to the ‘revolutionary’ legislation. What was translucently communicated to Mufti Sayeed’s government, had not been imagined by the debutants of governance: “If you use it against us today, we will use it against you tomorrow’.

The SAC Bill was passed in days. Commission was not constituted for years, until men like Ali Mohammad Sagar began publicly taunting the PDP regime with “hollow browbeating”. And when Justice retd R P Sethi was finally appointed as the first Chairperson of SAC, he was not allowed to function even for a year. There was amendment after amendment but never the implementation for more than eight years.

NC-led coalition demonstrated the best of its reciprocity. None of the former Ministers, who were exuberantly threatened by Omar Abdullah’s firebrands, was taken to the dock in the last 31 months. NC and PDP asserted for respective favourites in the selection committee meeting last month. Most of the analysts believe this was needless. They feel neither Justice Kakroo nor Justice Khan or Nazki would have run amuck over the politicians in absence of an highly unexpected signal from the top of the government and the opposition.

If participants of the meeting are to be believed, political members from the government defended appointment of only one member with the argument that, after bifurcation of matters between SVC and SAC, the commission would have to deal “just a few cases”. “Unnecessary burden on state exchequer” was offered as another argument. Governor’s unscheduled speech at the swearing-in must have served as a snub for these selectors.

Even before SVC was constituted in March this year, one of the Cabinet Ministers almost warned State Vigilance Commissioner, P L Gupta, against proceeding with the prosecution of the characters of infamous Gulmarg Roshi Scam. Result of the Minister’s letter, coupled by intervention of more than six other Ministers and two former Chief Ministers, is that the case was challaned without an arrest. Not one of the accused was touched even as J&K High Court dismissed their anticipatory bail applications. All the accused continue to retain prize postings. One of them was temporarily removed in a differ matter for few months but his dignity was restored with his appointment in another sensitive department. Minister incharge happens to be his close relative. And the appointment came brazenly in the midst of the Budget session.

So, when MD of J&K Housing Board, Dileep Thusoo, became the first high profile target of State Vigilance Organisation in the Chief Minister’s “Year Against Corruption”, there were no ripples. According to the SVO press release, raids were conducted on several of MD’s houses in J&K, Delhi and other states but the investigation remained restricted to “irregularities” committed in allotment and execution of a bridge in Doda. SVO did not explain why a matter of “disproportionate assets” was not registered against the owner of multiple properties.

Ask anybody in the government why there was not even an attachment, let alone arrest and suspension in these cases, pat will come the reply: “Everybody is innocent till proved guilty”. Ask them why matters against senior officials of SKUAST (J) were dropped even after VC had previously communicated sanction to their prosecution to the Law Department. “Government has its prerogatives”, one would tell you with a smile. And, why an established matter was dropped against a Minister of Gul Shah’s regime who is still a Minister? “Many of the witnesses have either retired or passed away” is the answer recorded in the SVO Ikhtitami.

Scores of the privileged lot have got grade promotions and other elevations even without so-called ‘vigilance clearance’. They figure prominently in the group of nearly a score of the officials, recommended for and inducted into IAS, earlier this month.

A simple application under RTI would make it clear that scores of officials, not enjoying any political or bureaucratic clout, were arrested and jailed for months until they managed to get bail even in matters created on flimsy grounds. Seizure memos made by SVO sleuths mention “khattamband ceiling in one room”, “Maruti-800 car” and even “one two-band transistor”. Scores of this persecuted lot have been subjected to untold miseries, placed under suspension, attached to administrative department, removed to “non sensitive” postings. People from SVO to Law Department to GAD burn midnight oil to fleece these endangered species of the government. “You show me the face, I’ll show you the rule” is a cliché phrase in Civil Secretariat.

“Web don’t need an Anna Hazare. We need a General Musharraf to strike on corruption in Jammu and Kashmir” seems to be the aspiration of an ordinary Kashmiri today.


Monday, August 22, 2011

Mother of 5 children killed, 10 militants trapped in Handwara gunbattle

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Aug 22: A middle aged woman, who was mother of five children, got killed and her husband sustained injuries when militants and security forces locked horns in a major gunfight in Handwara forest area of north Kashmir. According to officials, a thick group of at least ten heavily armed militants has been trapped by armed forces though independent sources insist that the operation had failed and the holed up militants had managed to escape.

Close on the heels of a fierce encounter, that left 12 militants and a JCO dead, on the LoC in Gurez sector, another group of 10 militants has been trapped by Army in the thick forest cover of Handwara. Authoritative sources told Early Times that troops of Rashtriya Rifles 21 Bn and 06 Bn, alongwith SOG Handwara, laid siege to a vast forest area between Hafruda and Zachaldara, about 25 Km from Handwara on Sunday. According to a specific information available with Police and security forces, ten heavily armed militants were present in a Bahak in Padlu, not far away from Satkuji and other hamlets on the LoC in Nowgam sector.

Late last evening, forced zeroed in the group of militants and a fierce gunbattle commenced. None of the militants had been reportedly killed or arrested in the 24-hour-long operation. Sources said that the gunfight, troops targeted a Dhok with the suspicion that some of the militants were hiding in it. Civilian Abdul Rasheed Paswal and his middle aged wife, Saleema, were hit. Even as both of them were evacuated and rushed to hospital, Saleema died on way to SKIMS. Her husband was reportedly out of danger but still under treatment at Sub District Hospital of Handwara.

An official press release issued from headquarters of Kashmir Zone of the executive Police said : “As per the available reports, a heavily armed group of militants had visited a Bhak in Padlu area in the Upper reaches of Handwara during the intervening night of 20/21-08-2011, where 4-5 families are putting up in a dhok and had demanded food.  Militants had asked villagers to guide them towards Brinjal and Ghalali areas, which the former resisted and denied. Aghast by the reaction of villagers, militants asked to provide them food for the next following  night also”.

It added: “After having food in the intervening night i.e 21/22-08-2011, militants left the dhok. The group of militants was intercepted by Army. Militants ran away back towards the dhok, and started indiscriminate firing, which created chaos triggering an encounter. In the exchange of firing,two civilians, Saleema wife of Abdul Rashid Paswal aged 45 years and Abdul Rashid  Paswal son of Jamal din – Aged 35 years received bullet injuries. The former was referred to SKIMS-Soura Srinagar, where she succumbed while the latter is admitted in SDH Handwara and is out of danger. Dead body of  deceased civilian lady was this morning  handed over to her next of kins for last rites. Other civilians have been rescued from the area. The encounter was still going on when the last reports came in”.

Though authoritative sources maintained that the gunfight was still underway and all the ten militants of the group had got trapped, independent reports from Handwara insisted that all the militants had made good their escape under the advantage of thick forest cover and a dark night. Reports said that Army had also requisitioned helicopters but it was not clear where these were providing any combat support to the troops or had been deployed to evacuate the injured civilians and soldiers to hospital.

Detection of second major group of possibly fresh infiltrators within 24 hours of the Gurez encounter is being viewed here as part of a fresh strategy from militants and their sponsors across the LoC. Top ranking Police and Army officials, including J&K DGP Kuldeep Khoda, and GOC of Srinagar-based 15 Corps, Lt Gen Syed Atta Hasnain have said twice in last two days that infiltration attempts were likely to increase in the coming days.