Total Pageviews

Friday, December 9, 2011

News Analysis

AFSPA: Omar’s do-or-die despite round one fiasco

But the law will never go until politicians stop playing to the gallery

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Dec 8: Much like in Ghulam Nabi Azad’s regime, withdrawal of AFSPA and the politics over withdrawal of AFSPA have mixed again. New Delhi did not oblige the frontrunner PDP patriarch Mufti Mohammad Sayeed mainly for two reasons: Not for once did it hear the former J&K Chief Minister publicly eulogize the Indian armed forces for their sacrifices and role---howsoever controversial---in restoration of peace in the strife-ravaged state; one-time union Home Minister also seemed to have ignored that political opinion in this country was essentially subservient to professional analysis by armed forces and other security agencies in all security-related matters. That is why Prime Minister, as well as the UPA leadership, sought the last word from union Defence Minister whose opinion, obviously, was based on the inputs from the country’s principal security organization---Army.

Despite the fact that in 2007-08 Omar was a Member of Lok Sabha, who watched these developments closely and is suspected to have subscribed to  PDP’s headache, he seems to have forgotten certain fundamental lessons on the subject. He has repeated the mistake of the beaten track ad nauseum, particularly in the last few weeks. After 21 years of insurgency, one does not need to be either an active politician or a political analyst to realize that courtroom argument does not work in sensitive matters concerning this country’s “sovereignty and integrity”.

Who doesn’t know that Defence Minister A K Antony’s ‘United Headquarters’ and ‘United Command’ have no mention in this country’s or the state’s law books? Who doesn’t know that revocation of Disturbed Areas notification, that automatically makes AFSPA inapplicable, is prerogative of the civilian government in Jammu & Kashmir in case there is not a declared war or the state is not under Governor’s or President’s rule? But, at the same time, who doesn’t remember that the Congress-led Centre got a Wazeer-e-Azam of Sher-e-Kashmir Sheikh Abdullah’s stature dismissed and handcuffed in a jiffy in the Pakistani style of “protecting the state”?

So, Antony might not be labouring under ignorance. He might be knowing well that after the 1953 trauma, no head of the government in J&K---let alone one holding the chair courtesy Congress--- would have the spine of revoking a security-related law in confrontation with the Centre. And, the Generals in Army are in no confusion to believe that under the existing system Defence Minister would be nothing but rubber-stamp in their “professional analysis”. This is exactly where Omar erred when he agreed to “discuss” AFSPA revocation with the field commanders at his Jammu residence. He should not have interacted with anybody below the person of Antony.

Srinagar Corps Commander Gen Hasnain’s audacity of clubbing the Chief Minister, his government and party with the “Government of Pakistan, ISI Directorate, terrorists and Kashmiri separatists” would have been acceptable only to the level of Home Secretary and DGP or, for that matter, upto Messers Mubarak Gul and Devender Singh Rana.

“No is not an option”, Omar asserted next day. Hours later, he came out with the courtroom argument: “Governor has the authority (to withdraw AFSPA) and in this case he has to act on the advice of the state government”. Ultimately, the chain of errors, that began with CM’s publicly fixing the deadline of “next few days” and “before Durbar Move”, got an undesirable ring when Mr Azad ignored Antony as Mr Nobody and argued that the issue would be settled by “J&K Chief Minister and union Home Minister”. National Conference under anti-Soz euphoria failed to perceive applicability of Newton’s Third Law of Motion in India’s politics. Antony didn’t wait a day to assert that the matter would be settled by “Unified Command, not the Chief Minister alone”.

Be that firebrand Ali Mohammad Sagar or the foot-in-the-mouth Mustafa Kamaal, NC had never dearth of men cursing and demonizing Delhi and her armed forces while, paradoxically, enjoying all fruits of the “occupation”. Mr Kamaal kicked his nephew’s applecart when he outstretched his claws to the forbidden fruit---Rahul Gandhi. He seemed to have also forgotten that Assembly elections were around the corner in five states in the Indian Hindi belt and Congress had high stakes in all the five.

Revoking AFSPA under threat from NC---Kamaal’s parabola of blaming Army for grenade blasts in Valley and demonizing the institution of armed forces publicly in a hyper-Hurriyat style---has every potential of giving the much-needed handle to BJP.

On the other hand, Hurriyat fired the ultimate salvo with identical statements from both of its factions. In obvious reaction to Gen Hasnain’s apprehension that withdrawal of AFSPA would lead to Kashmir’s separation from India within 2016, statements from Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq (which are used as a barometer by New Delhi in such situations) confirmed that revocation of “draconian laws” would inevitably lead to an “unimaginable mass turmoil” in Valley. Who on earth in this country would now run the risk of reviving the separatist movement? This automatically makes Antony heavier than all of his colleagues in Cabinet Committee on Security.

Even if Chief Minister wants to be politically correct for the Valley’s unmeasured separatist constituency and he does not sing a song in Army’s praise for hundreds of its “supreme sacrifices in restoring the peace”; even if he does not acknowledge that Army alone held the throat-slitting Taliban, Al-Qaeda and Haqqani Network away from Kashmir; even if he doesn’t muster courage to call the militants as “terrorists”, he may have to employ reconciliation to achieve his goal.

And, finally Chief Minister may have to remember other part of his statistics: Scores of Police Stations are still the company headquarters of CRPF and BSF; incidents of rape and killing by armed forces have fallen close to zero in the last five or six years; more youths in Valley are asking for a job than asserting against AFSPA and PSA, which are vanishing as nightmares of yesteryears.

Peace has really returned and troops have not been deployed in operations in Central Kashmir in last few years. Better remove camps and bunkers without the 24x7 cursing of AFSPA, seek Centre’s sanction to prosecution of delinquent soldiers and assign all counter-insurgency operations in the hinterland to Police and civil administration. But that will not happen until every single individual in J&K Police becomes a soldier of accountability and commitment and the armed forces are seen off by the state’s politicians with moist eyes and sense of gratitude. Building prestige, ego and jingoism would only be counterproductive. One has seen how Omar’s suggestion of amending CrPC has been assailed by all and sundry from PDP and Hurriyat to BJP and Army.


Thursday, December 8, 2011

Geelani demands blanket ban on liquor in J&K

Hurriyat leader also calls for post-prayer demonstrations at mosques

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Dec 7: Churning out a loud reaction to Dr Farooq Abdullah’s advocacy of cinema and liquor in Jammu & Kashmir, separatist hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani today demanded blanket ban on circulation of alcohol in the Muslim-dominated state. Even as the Hurriyat hawk has not yet served his typical ultimatum on Omar Abdullah’s government, he has called for anti-liquor demonstrations after Friday prayers at all mosques in Kashmir valley on December 9th.

Seeming to be taking diktats in quite a many matters from Geelani, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has, for a change, confronted the Valley’s Islamist icon over seeking total closure of cinema and liquor in the state. Without talking much about liquor, Omar has put a straight poser to the Hurriyat chief. Bollywood movies and dances, according to his averment, are not available to viewers through the big screen alone. “This is all available also through cable and dish. Should he (Geelani) next demand ban on cable and television ?” Chief Minister has desired to know.

Geelani is yet to respond to Omar. He has, nevertheless, begun efforts to mobilize the Kashmiris against production, import, trade and circulation of liquor. Getting the peg from Farooq’s December 5th statement, Geelani has lashed out at the National Conference patriarch and held him responsible for promoting “cultural aggression” and “social evils” in Kashmir. According to him, New Delhi has been using her “foot soldiers” to undermine the value system of the Kashmiris and thus strengthening “forced occupation” on the state.

While emphasizing that moral values of any nation were superior to its economic interests, Geelani has urged the Kashmiris to gear up for a massive agitation against the “social evils so audaciously promoted by politicians like Farooq Abdullah’. He has demanded blanket ban on sale and circulation of liquor in Jammu and Kashmir and asked the Kashmiris to stage demonstrations after concluding Friday prayers at the mosques on December 9th.

In contrast to Finance Minister Abdul Rahim Rather’s announcement on floor of Legislative Assembly in April 2011---‘our government will not issue any more licenses”--- NC’s President and union Cabinet Minister Dr Abdullah has described J&K as a tourist state and called for setting up of liquor shops and cinema theatres. Almost all of the Valley’s clergymen and separatist leaders, including the pseudo-separatist MLA Engineer Sheikh Abdul Rashid, have immediately shot off their negative reaction to Dr Abdullah. However, efforts of getting him declared as “excommunicated” by way of a Fatwa, which a mainstream opposition party had once clandestinely initiated, are not visible at this stage. Maintaining his self-confidence, Dr Abdullah has refused to withdraw or dilute his statement.

Advocates of ban on liquor have been referring to Hindu-dominated and BJP-ruled Gujarat and asking if that state could afford to ban liquor, why a state like J&K couldn’t. Those favouring sale and circulation of liquor argue that the excise revenue of over Rs 350 Cr a year accounted for over 10 percent of the state government’s total receipts. They have also been emphasizing that J&K was a tourist state which had attracted over a million of domestic and foreign tourists in the current year.


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Ashura observed with massive Zuljanah processions in Valley

Main procession disallowed in Srinagar in 22nd year of armed conflict

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Dec 6: Like every year since outbreak of the armed insurgency in 1989, authorities today disallowed the main mourning procession on Ashura in this capital city. Notwithstanding persistent ban on the principal remembrance congregation, Shia Muslims in large numbers participated in massive Zuljanah, Taziya and Alam processions all over Kashmir valley to pay their typical tributes to Prophet Mohammad’s grandson, Hazrat Imam Hussain, and his 72 companions martyred at Karbala, in Iraq, nearly 1400 years ago.

Prominent Shia cleric-politicians, Maulvi Iftikhar Hussain Ansari of All Jammu & Kashmir Shia Association (JKSA) and Aga Syed Hassan Al-Moosavai Al-Safavi of Anjuman-e-Sharee Shia’an (ASS), have been alternately holding license to Kashmir’s main Zuljanah procession in Srinagar for the last over 30 years. Until eruption of secessionist militancy in 1989, this historic procession on 10th of Moharram every year used to originate at Abi Guzar, near Lalchowk area of Civil Lines, and culminate in the evening in the Shia-dominated localities of Zadibal and Hassanabad in downtown Srinagar.

With the authorities declining permission to this particular procession on “security grounds” since 1989, Maulvi and Aga have shifted the solemn religious rally to Zadibal area. On yearly rotation, Maulvi’s JKSA has been taking out the Ashura procession from Lalbazar. It culminates in Majlis-e-Shaam-e-Gareebaan at the historic Imambargah of Zadibal. Next year, Aga’s ASS takes it out from Gulshanbagh, Baghwanpora, in the forenoon and winds it up with a Majlis in the evening at the revered Mir Shamas-ud-din Araki shrine, not far away from Imambara Zadibal.

Both Maulvi as well as Aga have been politically associated with Janata Party, mother of today’s right wing Bharatya Janata Party, and have unsuccessfully contested Assembly elections on that party’s ticket and symbol against Sheikh Abdullah-led National Conference (NC) respectively from Pattan and Budgam segments in 1977. While as Aga’s ASS has been a key constituent of the separatist amalgam, ‘All-Party Hurriyat Conference’ since 1993, Maulvi has been associated with Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s pro-India Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) since 2005 after years of his association with Congress party and NC.

This year being the turn of JKSA, Maulvi Iftikhar led the main Ashura procession in Srinagar from Lalbazar. JKSA put the figure at 100,000 but authorities maintained that over 50,000 Shia Muslim mourners participated in this Zuljanah procession. Holding the tradition, it culminated in a late night tributes and prayers session at Imambara Zadibal. Maulvi delivered his traditional sermon on the philosophy of the martyrdom of Hazrat Imam Hussain and his handful army of 72 companions at Karbala. Typically emotional scenes of mourning were witnessed amid total blackout.

Before the concluding Majlis, the Ashura procession passed through different localities in downtown Srinagar for about 14 hours. Majority of the participants restricted themselves to self-flagellation and recitation of Nowha and Marthiya in praise of the martyrs of Karbala in 1,000-strong groups, called Daiyaras, but hundreds of the male participants also practiced the traditional form of mourning while striking sharp-edged knives on their bodies. Some of them were seen bleeding profusely. Groups of women, mostly covered with Hijab, were seen separately paying their tributes to the martyrs and survivors of Karbala in traditional Kashmiri verse. They, however, dominated the Majlis-e-Shaam-e-Gareebaan with their huge presence in the evening at Zadibal.

Even as the procession passed peacefully, young followers of some separatist leaders shouted pro-Azadi and anti-India slogans and also engaged Police and CRPF in intermittent clashes in Rajourikadal area. This stronghold of the Hurriyat Chairman, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, was tense since last evening when scores of youngsters resorted to stone pelting on Police and moving vehicles. Three vehicles, including an ambulance of Hussaini Relief Committee, were damaged in these clashes. Reports said that thin groups of youth from Zadibal area rushed all the way to Islamia College area and damaged window panes of several houses in retaliation.

However, Mirwaiz Umar and his followers swung into action immediately and succeeding in restoring calm. Again, this particular area remained tense today as the youngsters engaged Police in ding dong clashes. Police used baton charge and tearsmoke to break down the rioters.

SSP Srinagar, Syed Ashiq Hussain Bukhari, told Early Times that despite some intermittent clashes in the Sunni-dominated Gojwara and Rajourikadal, Police controlled the situation. He said that the Ashura procession went on smoothly and there was no incident of disruption. SSP said that other relatively thinner Zuljanah and Alam processions in Srinagar district also passed peacefully. Reports said that Police imposed undeclared curfew in Lalchowk and other Civil Lines area inspite of DC Srinagar Meraj Ahmed Kakroo’s overnight announcement on Radio Kashmir and Doordarshan that there would be no curfew in the capital city on occasion of Ashura on Tuesday. SSP Bukhari declined to call it curfew and maintained that Police created certain barriers only to ensure that a separatist-religious leader’s call does not cause any trouble in Civil Lines.

Another major procession of Zuljanah and Alam came out from Imambara Mirgund under the auspices of Aga Syed Hassan’s Anjuman-e-Sharee Shia’an at 1100 hours today. Thousands of mourners, drawn from Budgam township and other Shia population villages of the Central Kashmir district, participated in this procession. As per its 200-year tradition, it concluded at the historic Imambara of Budgam at around midnight. Sub zero temperature by night failed to dampen the spirits of the mourners.

Aga Hassan addressed the gathering of mourners after leading the afternoon prayers at Bihisht-e-Zahra, a public park created by the state government and decorated by Army beside Deputy Commissioner’s office at Budgam. He lashed out at the administration and complained that no adequate arrangements had been made by the authorities. He was accompanied by prominent separatist leader Shabir Shah.

Reports said that over 20 other relatively thinner Zuljanah and Alam procession in Shia-dominated areas in Srinagar, Ganderbal, Budgam, Bandipore, Baramulla, Pulwama, Anantnag and Kulgam districts were taken out and concluded smoothly.

Devout Sunni Muslims too organized remembrance and tribute paying mass assemblies at several mosques and monasteries in Kashmir valley. Speakers illustrated on significance of the martyrdom of Karbala and said that the good would always triumph over the evil, howsoever mighty and unconquerable, in the world.


Sunday, December 4, 2011

Undeclared curfew, clashes in Srinagar over Moharram procession

100 processionists detained, 10 injured in ding-dong clashes

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Dec 4: Nearly a hundred processionists were detained by Police and about a dozen sustained minor injuries in ding-dong clashes when authorities imposed undeclared curfew in Civil Lines areas under five Police stations and groups of Shia mourners violated restrictions on occasion of 8th of Moharram in this capital city. Like in last 22 years of separatist armed movement, authorities have decided not to permit any Moharram processions in Srinagar Civil Lines in Kashmir valley while quoting “security reasons”.

Sole licensee of the traditional 8th Moharram Zuljanah and Alam procession in Srinagar, Yaadgar-e-Hussain Committee Guru Bazar Shaheed Gunj, which is not led by any prominent religious or political leader, had failed to get District Magistrate’s permission for the procession like in all 22 previous years of armed strife in Valley. It had, consequently, decided to organize a local mourning session at Guru Bazar wherefrom the procession used to originate every year on 8th Moharram since the middle of last century till 1989. Thousands of Shia Muslim mourners, alongwith a number of people from majority sect and even non-Muslims used to participate in the procession to commemorate the martyrdom of Hazrat Imam Hussain and his 71 followers at Karbala nearly 1400 years back.

Main procession of the solemn month of Moharram used to come out on 10th of Moharram, known as Aashoora, alternately under the auspices of Aga Sahab Budgam’s Anjuman-e-Sharee Shiaan and Maulvi Iftikhar Hussain Ansari’s All Jammu & Kashmir Shia Association. Like the procession of 8th Moharram, Ashoora procession too has not been permitted by the authorities in Civil Lines of Srinagar since 1989. Organisers have consequently changed its route and restricted the main Ashoora procession to the Shia-dominated localities of Zabibal, Lalbazar and Hassanabad.

Even as the organizers have been consistently applying, authorities have been denying permission to either of these religious processions since 1989 while quoting “security reasons”.

Like in last several years, authorities today imposed undeclared curfew in areas falling under jurisdiction of five Police Stations of Maisuma, Kothibagh, Ram Munshi Bagh, Kralkhud and Habbakadal. Thick Police and CRPF columns had put in place Concertina wire barriers and no pedestrian or civilian vehicular movement was allowed in Civil Lines.

Notwithstanding these restrictions, thin groups of Shia mourners appeared at several places in their attempts to take out the procession. However, Police and CRPF swung immediately into action and forced dispersal of the youth with baton charge, tearsmoke and pepper gun shelling. In all, 10 processions sustained minor injuries and nearly a hundred of them were detained by Police for the day. Police confirmed detention of 60 persons and claimed that they were taken into custody when they violated the restrictions and turned the religious event into a political show with pro-Azadi and anti-national slogans.