Total Pageviews

Saturday, April 21, 2012

With removal of CRPF bunker, ASI gunned down in Srinagar

Jamiat-ul-Mujahideen, JKIF claim responsibility of the broad daylight cop killing

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Apr 20: Even as Omar Abdullah government was busy in removing a 20-year-old CRPF bunker at Lalchowk and celebrating the “victory”, unidentified gunmen shot dead an Assistant Sub Inspector of Police (ASI) in broad daylight near Safakadal in the capital city today. With many in the town expecting mainstream politicians to lay the blame on security forces, two militant outfits---Jamiat-ul-Mujahideen and J&K Islamic Front (JKIF)--- claimed responsibility of the ASI’s killing.

Superintendent of Police, North, in Srinagar city, Shaukat Sarwar, told Early times that an unidentified gunman, widely believed to be a Kashmiri militant, fired four pistol shots in point blank range on the back of ASI Sukhpal Singh, posted at Police Division Bagyas under jurisdiction of Police Station Safakadal, when he was regulating heavy rush of vehicular traffic at Darishkadal, Safakadal, at 9.40 a.m. All four of the gunshots got pumped into the ASI’s body and he fell in a pool of blood.

Even as the ASI was on duty alongwith two more of his colleagues, the shootout led to a stampede. By the time, the critically wounded ASI was evacuated and admitted to the nearby SMHS Hospital, he had suffered extensive blood loss. Within half-an-hour, doctors declared him dead. His body was carried to District Police Lines (DPL) Srinagar where a wreath-laying ceremony took place. Minister of State for Home, Nasir Aslam Wani, IGP Kashmir, S M Sahai, besides senior officers of Police and paramilitary forces paid floral tributes to the slain ASI.

Sources said that dead body of the 50-year-old ASI, who is survived by his parents, wife and children, was later carried all the way to his residential village of Chatusa, Rafiabad, in Baramulla district for funeral rites.
Broad daylight killing of the Police official happened after months of calm and beginning of a bustling tourist season. Last time, such kind of an incident had occurred at Telbal Adda in Hazratbal area when suspected militants had shot dead Constable Sajjad Ahmad of IRP 19th Bn.

Today’s firing happened within hours of the removal of a 20-year-old CRPF bunker at the business hub of Lalchowk. As Ministers and Police officials were still busy in issuing statements of “victory” and claiming credit for making the capital city free of bunkers and paramilitary forces, suspected militants struck on the ASI at Safakadal.

Even as most of the residents appeared to be indifferent to both---removal of bunker as well as killing of the ASI---quite a number in politics, media and other institutions were not readily inclined to accept today’s shootout as a militants’ handiwork. Journalists were even trying more to contact NC’s leader Dr Mustafa Kamal more than the senior Police officials for comments as they expected the ruling party’s MLA to blame security forces for the “mischief”. In recent past, mainstream politicians like Dr Kamal have been holding security forces responsible for certain guerrilla actions allegedly for the purpose of justifying their continued presence and J&K Armed Forces Special Powers Act.

However, setting aside many of the speculations, two militant outfits, one after another, claimed responsibility for the ASI’s killing. KNS reported that Jamiatul Mujahideen’s spokesman, Jameel Ahmad, and J&K Islamic Front’s Sheikh Jamsheed claimed over telephone separately that militants of their respective organisations had gunned down the ASI.

SP of Special Operations Group (SOG) Srinagar, Tahir Sajjad Bhat, said that Police were working on different inputs to identify and arrest the killer. He said that no raids had been conducted and nobody had been arrested till late tonight. He said that Police interacted with some passers-by and by-standers but none of them was in a position to give any description of the incident or the gunman.

SP North, Shaukat Sarwar, said that Police had received certain clues with regard to identification of the killer and his organisation and hideouts. He said that Police would launch an operation to arrest the killer anytime from tonight. He too asserted that no arrests had taken place. However, residents of Safakadal alleged that Police arrested an auto-driver, namely Imtiyaz Ahmad Burza, of their neighbourhood. They met officials and demanded Burza’s release with the claim that he was innocent and had no knowledge about the killer or involvement in the killing.


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

CS needs to end monopoly in Civil Secretariat

GAD, Law, other key departments need to be refurbished

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Apr 17: ‘Mafia raj’ at Civil Secretariat seemed to be threatened with the appointment of a no-nonsense IAS officer, Madhav Lal, as Chief Secretary in Jammu and Kashmir in February 2011. A full year on, status quo is ruling the roost as it did for years, notwithstanding tantrums of successive Chief Ministers who vowed to demonopolise the services and the departments.

Madhav Lal’s entry happened at a time when contempt to rules, norms, Cabinet orders and the government policies had become order of the day. Outgoing Chief Secretary, S S Kapur, had arranged re-employment or service extension of as many as 87 retired officials in Omar Abdullah government. He was publicly accused of promoting re-employments for the purpose of engineering his own post-retirement rehabilitation as Chairman of State Accountability Commission, State Information Commission or State Vigilance Commission. He retired unceremoniously when media raised a clamour and had to return home disappointed.

Among other evils, Kapur had failed to stop relatives of nearly a dozen Ministers to sneak into their Personal Sections as OSDs, Private Secretaries, Special Assistants and Public Relations Officers. It was during his tenure that bureaucracy sat over sanction to prosecution of influential KAS, IAS and other officers who had been implicated in corruption related matters amid tall claims at the highest offices in the state. None of them was touched, even as courts refused to grant them anticipatory bails.

It was again in Kapur’s tenure that old fossils of bureaucracy stuck to their musical chairs firmly in key departments at Civil Secretariat, even after holding a post for years and decades. One of the senior KAS officers created a record of having joined the General Administration Department in 1984 as Under Secretary and retiring in the same department, without a single transfer order in 26 years, as Special Secretary in 2010. He was among 90-odd “indispensables” decorated with a re-employment. Favouritism and nepotism in induction of officials into KAS had already grown as a cancer in successive governments.

Madhav Lal seemed to be asserting when he removed one of such backdoor entrants and shifted him to an insignificant posting in Poonch. Within weeks, the official, with the support of his mentors, managed to return to a posting in Jammu. Chief Secretary put his foot down and sent him back to Poonch. But, he has yet to submit his report on the controversial appointment and KAS induction of the same official to Speaker of Legislative Assembly who desired a quick action.

The rot remains to be arrested in the field of inducting favourites in the so-called Technical Quota of KAS. Chief Secretary’s assertions had generated a ray of hope among the dutiful in bureaucracy as he looked bitterly critical of a particular KAS officer’s induction into IAS, leading to massive heartburn in the services.

Ruffling feathers among the masses in general and the services in particular, Government disclosed in recent session of legislature that that as many as 147 retired officials had been granted re-employment and extension in service in the last three years. It became clear that poor Kapur had been humbled in the controversial post-retirement rehabilitations by the new bureaucratic dispensation. One of the beneficiaries has been declared as “indispensable” and granted re-employment against the highest monthly remuneration of Rs 88,000 just days after he was implicated in a corruption-related matter by State Vigilance Organization. Not one of the Minister’s relatives has moved out of their Personal Section.

In brazen violation of the government policy, selective officials have been served dozens of transfer orders in the last three years. Others are conveniently stuck to their lucrative and prestigious postings for years and decades. GAD, that is responsible for managing the KAS and IAS services, has become the worst casualty alongwith Department of Law and few other departments.

Recent appointment of the topper of KAS batch-1984, Sheikh Mushtaq Ahmad, has been widely appreciated across all bureaucratic and political cross-sections. Those having served in the department previously for years and lobbying hard to return to the key GAD have not been obliged, rightly. But, pulls and pressures are still underway to win ‘prize postings’ for a number of controversial KAS and IAS officers, known for pursuing their personal agenda.

Department of Law, nevertheless, continues to be the fiefdom of ‘old fossils’. Even after their induction into IAS, bureaucrats have remained untouched and unchanged. This has led to lobbyism and ‘mafia raj’ in the senior administrative services. Ministers and bureaucrats, who have been loudly saying that nobody was indispensable, have perpetuated an ignominious status qua in this key department. The policy framed by Law Department and adopted by the Cabinet says that officials should hold a posting for a minimum of two years and maximum of three years.

Even after veterans like late Ghulam Mohammad Thakur served effectively as Law Secretary and later rose to more coveted positions in GAD and Public Service Commission, many of the previous regimes did boldly break the mafia raj in Law Department.

Late Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah got then District and Sessions Judge, Ghulam Hassan Nehvi, in 1976-77 and appointed him as Law Secretary. Later, another District & Sessions Judge, O P Sharma, also served a tenure as Law Secretary.

Years later, Chief Minister Dr Farooq Abdullah got yet another District and Sessions Judge, namely Mohammad Yasin Kawoosa, and appointed him as Law Secretary despite availability of officials in 1987-88. Messers Sharma and Kawoosa later served as judges in J&K High Court. Even Governor Jagmohan got a local District and Sessions judge, Ghulam Ahmad Lone, who functioned as Law Secretary in the worst of time in 1991-92.

Services and governance analysts hold the opinion that judges drawn from judiciary perform in an independent and objective manner as they happen to be neither members of any bureaucratic or political lobby nor function under fear of transfer. They insist that Government would have achieved great credibility for its institutions and the all-important Law Department if an independent judge would have been got on deputation to frame legal opinions and play a leadership role in parliamentary and judicial services development. They would have been under no bag and baggage to engineer backdoor entry of their sons as their successors in Law Department. Wags call it “SRO-43” at Madhav Lal’s Secretariat.


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

‘Army raped informant woman, delayed action till 5 foreigners were killed’

American book on Al-Faran hostages provides fresh fuel to Kashmiri separatists

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Apr 16: Rendered politically bankrupt in the aftermath of street clashes of the year 2010 and suffering a major setback in Ghulam Nabi Fai’s conviction by an American court, Kashmiri separatists are likely to get a fresh lease of life in a book written on the mysterious kidnapping of six Western tourists in 1995. Compiled by two American authors, the 500-page non-fiction, titled “The Meadow”, claims that the Indian intelligence and security agencies not only delayed action---till five of the foreigners were killed---but also sexually assaulted a woman who had reported to them sighting of a German hostage.

“The Meadow” claims to be based on years of research and hundreds of interviews by authors, Adrian Levy and Cathy Scott-Clark, who worked in South Asia during the kidnappings and for years after. It uses a combination of named and unnamed sources, journals and official files and transcripts to build its case---against the Indian establishment.

On July 4th, 1995, an unknown guerrilla group calling itself ‘Al-Faran’ claimed kidnapping of six tourists in Lidder valley, near Pahalgam, in south-east Kashmir. Keith Mangan and Paul Wells of Britain; two Americans, John Childs of Simsbury, Connecticut, and Donald Hutchings of Spokane, Washington; a German, Dirk Hasert; and a Norwegian, Hans Christian Ostrø, had disappeared mysteriously while enjoying picnic.

A note released by the kidnappers a day after the kidnappings said: 'Accept our demands or face dire consequences. We are fighting against anti-Islamic forces. Western countries are anti-Islam, and America is the biggest enemy of Islam’. Childs was presumably let off, to convey to the world that the hostages were alive and in captivity of the militants. Ostrø was beheaded and his body was found near Saleh village in Aeshmuqam forest range on August 13th.

The kidnappers demanded release of the jailed Pakistani militant, Maulana Masood Azhar, and 20 other prisoners. Several national and international organisations issued appeals to Al-Faran to release the tourists. Representatives of the embassies of the victims' countries also visited Kashmir frequently to seek their release, without success.
In December 1995, the kidnappers left a note that they were no longer holding the men hostage. They claimed that the hostages had got killed when the Indian troops engaged their kidnappers in a gunbattle.

As months of search, subsequently joined also by Scotland Yard and FBI, yielding nothing, one of the detained masons, Nazir Ahmad of Dabran, revealed to his interrogators in May 1996 that Mangan, Wells, Hutchings, and Hasert had been gunned down and buried by the kidnappers near Mati Gawran village in Kokernag. According to his statement, Harkatul Ansar’s local commander Javed Dabrani and Hameed Turki got killed in an encounter between the Indian Army and militants in close vicinity of their hideout on December 13th, 1995. He claimed that immediately after the death of the commanders, HUA militants gunned down all the four hostages and got them buried. Nazir led then IGP Kashmir, P S Gill, and other Police officers to the area but failed to identify the ‘spot of burial’.

Published after 16 years, “The Meadow” alleges that the Indian officials’ actions were part of a larger plan to present Pakistan, and the Pakistan-backed insurgency in Kashmir, in as harsh a light as possible to the world. Ultimately, the men were killed by a second group, funded and controlled by the Indian government, the book alleges. It claims that a local woman approached an Army officer with the information that she had sighted the German hostage, Dirk Hasert. But, rather than moving out to recover the hostages, he sexually assaulted the woman and covered up things for weeks until all the hostages got killed, claims the book.

“All the time New Delhi said it was trying to crack Al Faran, a group within intelligence and the STF (Special Task Force, an Indian Police division) was letting them dangle, happy to let the militants portray themselves as savage criminals,” a Police investigator, who worked on the case, is claimed to have told the authors. He remains unidentified.

The book contains purportedly the blow-by-blow descriptions of the negotiations for the hostages’ release between an inspector and the kidnappers, which seemed to be nearly completed several times, only to be blown apart when the agreed terms of the negotiations were leaked to newspapers, including the Hindustan Times, infuriating the kidnappers. At times when the Indian government claimed the kidnappers and their hostages were untraceable, the book says, they were being watched and photographed by an Indian Army helicopter.

A member of the Crime Branch team who worked on the case describes the “dawning realization that their desire to solve the crime was at odds with the goals of some senior figures in the military and the intelligence services, who could have saved the hostages but chose not to.”

The book points fingers at the central government. An official of the Security Wing of J&K Police then working with Governor K V Krishna Rao’s Advisor Security, who has been identified in the book as Altaf Ahmad is quoted to have told the authors: “Right from the beginning the strings were being pulled from New Delhi. Those of us dealing with the hostage-taking on the ground in Srinigar were not in control.”

India’s top officials aren’t the only ones “The Meadow” lays blame on. Woven into the nearly 500-page book are a number of blunders and miscalculations allegedly made by Indian and foreign officials: the area in Kashmir was not cleared of backpackers after the first kidnappings because of Amarnath pilgrimage in the area; a woman’s sighting of German Dirk Hasert’s kidnapping was not reported immediately because the Indian Army officer the woman approached sexually assaulted her and the Army was trying to hush that assault up; instead of allowing escaped hostage John Childs to lead police to the kidnappers, as he wanted to, American officials whisked him out of the country.

Officials in Srinagar, Jammu and New Delhi are unlikely to swallow what has been written in the book published in USA. Then IGP of CID in J&K Government, Rajinder Tikoo, had headed a team of Police officials who claimed to be interacting with the kidnappers for several days over radio from Shankar Acharya hilltop in Srinagar. Radio intercepts of the conversation, never contested by authorities, later appeared in India Today magazine. Even as the officials, and many of the journalists who covered the kidnapping drama, insist that the hostages were never spotted, traced or photographed till they were suspected to have been done to death in Kokernag,

Valley’s separatist circles and groups claiming to be working for human rights could, on the other hand, set off a fresh hullabaloo over contents of the book, particularly the allegations of rape and the government agencies stage managing  a theatre to discredit Pakistan, Kashmiri militants and the separatists.