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Saturday, July 28, 2012

AFSPA not on Antony’s Kashmir agenda

Defence Minister, Defence Secretary, Army chief to update themselves on security scenario

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Jul 27: Contrary to widespread speculations in media, union Defence Minister, A K Antony, has no agenda of discussing withdrawal of the controversial J&K Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), or an amendment thereto, during his two-day visit to the Valley. Antony, alongwith Defence Secretary, Shashi Kant Sharma, and Chief of Army Staff, Gen Bikram Singh, is arriving here on Saturday to refresh himself on the security scenario.

Well-placed sources in Ministry of Defence revealed to Early Times that Antony and his team were scheduled to hold a series of meetings in the Valley, mostly with GOC-in-C of Nrthern Command, Lt Gen Parnaik, GOCs of Srinagar and Nagrota-based 15th and 16th Corps, besides other senior officials of the three Corps (14th, 15th and 16th) and the Northern Command. They said that Antony would refresh himself about the latest obtaining security scenario, frequency of infiltration attempts, counterinsurgency operations and general defence preparedness.

Sources said that in hours of his arrival in Srinagar, Antony would chair a Unified Headquarters meeting in the afternoon on Saturday at Nehru Guest House. Among others it would be attended by Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, as head of the Unified Headquarters, his Security Advisors (GOCs of 15th and 16th Corps), GOC-in-C Northern Command, Minister of State Home, Nasir Aslam Wani, Chief Secretary Madhav Lal, Principal Secretary Home, B R Sharma, Director General of Police, Ashok Prasad, representative of IB, RAW, CRPF, BSF besides union Defence Secretary and the Army chief.

Sources disclosed that Antony and his team from New Delhi would hold an open interaction with all security related matters, including the mechanism to be devised with regard to return of Kashmiri militants from Pakistan and Pakistan-administered Kashmir under the scheme floated by J&K Chief Minister in coordination with the Centre. Discussion, according to sources, has been necessitated in the wake of the security forces’ observation that a number of the non-applicant militants too were returning to the Valley, alongwith their Pakistani wives and children, through both, specified as well as non-specified routes.

However, sources made it clear that there would be no reviewing of AFSPA---its revocation or amendment---for the Army as well as Defence Minister already made their stand clear on the subject. They, according to sources, are continuously holding the belief that despite considerable improvement in the situation security forces, still operating and being attacked by militants, were in need of legal protection with regard to their activity and operations in J&K. According to these sources, J&K Chief Minister as well as union Home Minister, P Chidambaram, were pressing hard for two amendments to AFSPA but Army and Ministry of Defence had already convinced the highest level forum---Cabinet Committee on Security---that the proposed amendment could have a negative bearing on the security forces’ maneuverability and operations in the disturbed state.

Significantly, in New Delhi, Antony refused to elaborate on what he would discuss with the J&K Chief Minister. "I will also have detailed discussions with Chief Minister Omar Abdullah and our armed forces. Defence Secretary, Army Chief and other officials will be there and we will have a detailed discussion over the security scenario," Antony told the reporters.

It will be for the first time that the new Army chief, Gen Bikram Singh, new Corps Commander (15th Corps) Lt Gen Om Prakash, and the new DGP, Ashok Prasad, would be participating in the Unified Headquarters meeting at Srinagar. Gen Singh has the distinction of having worked as Commanding Officer of a battalion and Brigade Commander in Kashmir. Three of his colleagues, including a Commanding Officer, had died and he had himself sustained critical injuries when militants in ambush near Janglat Mandi, Anantnag, had attacked the convoy that was returning from Achhabal. Death of a resident of Machhil area of Kupwara in this encounter had later led to a controversy as Army described him as a foreign militant and his family members claimed that he was a civilian, never involved in militancy. A petition filed by a human rights group on behalf of the family is still pending adjudication in High Court, even as Gen Sigh has got a clean chit.

Sources said that in addition to a series of meetings with senior officials of armed forces and J&K government functionaries, Antony would call on separately on Chief Minister Omar Abdullah and Governor, N N Vohra, who have invited the Central lead on a lunch or a dinner. He would also visit some forward positions on the LoC and interact with the field commanders and troops. It was not immediately clear whether the Central team would also visit the Indian posts on Siachan glacier and a memorial of the soldiers on occasion of the anniversary of Army’s victory in Kargil War of 1999.


Friday, July 27, 2012

Antony orders inquiry into Bandipore killing

MoS Home, DGP call on bereaved family amid shutdown; Geelani calls for bandh on July 28

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Jul 26: Ahead of his visit to Kashmir, union Defence Minister A K Antony has ordered inquiry into the death of a 25-year-old youth, Hilal Ahmad Dar of Aloosa Bandipore, even as the district headquarters remained shut on a call of local traders’ federation and the separatist hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani called for Valley-wide shutdown on July 28th. Amid the shutdown and clashes today, Minister of State for Home, Nasir Aslam Wani, led a high level official delegation to call on the bereaved family in Bandipore.

During the night intervening, Hilal Ahmad Dar had died in Army’s firing in close vicinity of his village. While as Army maintained that Dar was an armed militant who died in an encounter with a unit of Rashtriya Rifles 27 Bn, family members and residents of several Bandipore villages claimed that he was an innocent civilian who had no militant connections. J&K Police has remained completely non-committal on the controversial shootout, though officials have told various newspapers that Dar had not been a listed or wanted militant in the Police records.

Srinagar-based 15 Corps Commander Lt Gen Om Prakash had asserted that there was no need to hold an inquiry into an encounter in which, according to him, a militant had got killed and arms and ammunition had been recovered from his possession. However, union Defence Minister A K Antony today ordered an inquiry into the circumstances that led to Hilal’s killing and directed the Army authorities to initiate action against the guilty if any found in the whole episode.

In a press released, Srinagar-based Defence spokesman said: “The Hon’ble Defence Minister Shri A K Antony has ordered an inquiry into the incident, which occurred in Bandipora, in Kashmir Valley on the night 24/25 July 2012, resulting in the death of a local villager Hilal Ahmed Dar s/o Ghulam Moiuddin Dar r/o Village Alusa, Bandipora. The Defence Minister also instructed the army to take strict action against anyone found guilty”. Antony’s orders have come two days ahead of his scheduled visit to the Valley alongwith Chief of Army Staff Gen Bikram Singh.

In another press release today, Defence spokesman said that Army was already conducting an inquiry. “Army authorities assured that Army is carrying out detailed investigation into the incident. The investigations will be absolutely fair and transparent and Army also whole heartedly cooperating with the Police investigations.  Action will be taken as per the law of land”, the spokesman said.

With the Army’s volte face, Minister of State for Home, Nasir Aslam Wani, today led a high level official delegation to Bandipore. Officials claimed that the delegations interacted with members of the bereaved family and assured them justice, that, according to sources, would include ex gratia relief and a government job to the family. That is being interpreted as the state government’s admission that Hilal Dar was a civilian killed in an unwarranted firing and not an armed militant killed while attacking troops.

Principal Secretary Home, B R Sharma, DGP Ashok Prasad, IGP Kashmir, S M Sahai, and Deputy Commissioner of Bandipore, Manzoor Ahmad Lone, were in the official delegation that met with the bereaved family in Bandipore. However, independent confirmation of the meeting was still awaited.

Meanwhile, on the call of local traders’ federation, Bandipore and its adjoining villages remained shut today to register protest against Dar’s killing by Army. Reports said that traffic was off the road and most of the shops were closed, particularly in the villages situated on Bandipore-Sopore Road. The slain youth’s village, Aloosa, falls on that every road. Reports said that scores of people brought out different protest processions towards Bandipore and Aloosa but were prevented by Police and CRPF to proceed. In Bandipore town and adjoining villages, youngsters indulged in stone pelting on Police and CRPF. Several people on both sides were reportedly injured.

Police used baton charge and tearsmoke to scare away the demonstrators.

Meanwhile, separatist hardliner and head of a faction of Hurriyat Conference, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, today called for total shutdown in Kashmir valley on July 28th against the killing of a youth in Bandipore, burning down of some mosques and monasteries besides maltreatment of women by Police in several demonstrations.


Thursday, July 26, 2012

Corps Commander, DGP face first killing in Bandipore

Army says Hilal was a militant and died in encounter; Residents call him innocent civilian; 24 wounded in clashes; DC orders inquiry

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Jul 25: New General Officer Commanding Srinagar-based 15th Corps, Lt Gen Om Prakash, and the new Director General of Police, Ashok Prasad, are facing the first controversial killing by Army in Bandipore area of north Kashmir as hundreds of people today staged demonstrations and clashed with Police over the midnight killing of a 25-year-old youth. Even as 24 persons, including 12 from Police and CRPF, sustained injuries in the clashes, Deputy Commissioner of Bandipore motivated angry residents over the funeral of the youth after he ordered a magisterial inquiry and assured the demonstrators that justice would be done in accordance to law.

Authoritative sources in north Kashmir told Early Times that bullet-riddled body of a 25-year-old youth, namely Hilal Ahmad Dar S/o Ghulam Mohiuddin Dar R/o Aloosa, Bandipore, was recovered by a unit of Rashtriya Rifles 27th Bn early in the morning today from an open space in close vicinity of his residential village. Army maintained that the youth was an armed militant who died in an encounter as the troops were already in ambush in that area.

In a press release, Defence Spokesman at headquarters 15th Corps said: “On 24 July, based on information regarding movement of two to three terrorists in the general area Alusa - Halmatpura, a surveillance cum ambush was launched in area Ashtiung Nar on night of 24/25 July 12. At about 2345 hours, the ambush party noticed suspicious movement.  On being challenged, the ambush party of 27 Rashtriya Rifles was fired upon. A brief fire fight ensued.  Later during the search of the site, of one body and AK-47 along with ammunition were recovered. The body was later identified as Hilal Ahmed Dar s/o Ghulam Moiuddin Dar r/o Village Alusa, Bandipur. The body and the recovered arms and ammunition have been handed over to the Police”.

According to the informed official sources in north Kashmir, hundreds of people from Aloosa and adjoining villages gathered around the Company Headquarters of RR 27 Bn. They claimed that Hilal Ahmad Dar was “an innocent civilian” who had been working as a security guard at a private cement factory in Khrew area of Pampore and had never become a militant or gone underground. They alleged that the youth, on way to attend a religious function at a mosque in a nearby village, was gunned down by Army without any reason. They demanded registration of a criminal matter against the troops involved in the “fake encounter”, their immediate arrest and compensation to the bereaved family.

After a while, troops handed over the dead body to the residents of Aloosa and other villages. Rather than performing the funeral silently, hundreds of demonstrators marched towards the district headquarters, carrying the dead body on their shoulders. The demonstration was quickly intercepted by Police and CRPF near Aloosa. Even as a number of persons from both sides sustained injuries in the clashes, the demonstrators succeeded in wending their way to Bandipore. While shouting anti-India, anti-forces and pro-Azadi slogans, the demonstrators were again intercepted by Police and CRPF at Bongam, about a mile short of Bandipore town. In the ensuing clashes, more civilians and Policemen got injured.

On this occasion, Police snatched away the dead body from custody of the demonstrators and carried it back to the company headquarters of RR 27 Bn. A team of doctors from District Hospital Bandipore, which was later joined by another team of forensic experts from Government Medical College Srinagar, conducted post mortem of the slain youth and collected samples from the body for detailed forensic analysis. DIG North Kashmir, DC and SP of Bandipore, as also other senior officials, were present all through the process.

It was late in the afternoon that DC Bandipore, Manzoor Ahmad Lone, pacified the residents to some extent with his assurance that justice would be done in the matter. He announced a magisterial inquiry by additional DC of Bandipore, Tariq Ahmad Zargar. At around Iftaar, family members and residents performed the funeral at Aloosa. Reports said that nearly 3,000 people participated in the funeral procession and the prayers.

Official sources said that 24 persons, including twelve Police and CRPF personnel, sustained injuries in today’s ding dong clashes at Aloosa, Paribal and Bongam. They said that traffic on Bandipore-Sopore Road remained disrupted for the whole day due to demonstrations and violent clashes between the demonstrators and Police. While as the demonstrators shouted slogans and pelted stones, Police and CRPF retaliated with baton charge and tearsmoke. Unconfirmed reports said that Police used firing in air at three occasions. However, nobody reported at the hospital with a gunshot injury.

Reports from Bandipore said that local traders’ federation called for a total shutdown in Bandipore area on Thursday to register strong protest against “killing of an innocent youth by Army and labeling him as a militant”. Authorities have immediately cancelled the inauguration of a sports stadium at Bandipore that was originally scheduled on July 26th.

This is the first controversial killing by Army after Lt Gen Om Prakash assumed charge as GOC of 15th Corps last month and just two days after the joining of Ashok Prasad as the new DGP in Srinagar.

Army maintained that Hilal Ahmad Dar was an armed militant who got killed in an encounter. Police did not issue any statement on the incident. However, senior officials in J&K Police told Early Times that Hilal had never surfaced as a wanted underground militant or an overground activist of any guerrilla group. They said that an inquiry was underway with regard to antecedents of the slain youth and the reality would emerge in the next 24 hours.

On the other hand, Hilal’s family members, neighbours and residents of Aloosa insisted that he had never indulged in any subversive activity. They said that for the last few years, he had been sporting long beard and long hair and occasionally wearing a green colour scarf as he was impressed by a Tableegi Jamaat. They insisted that after performing late evening prayers (Taraveeh) at the local mosque, Hilal was on way to another mosque in a nearby village to attend a function organized by a group of religious activists. However, he was gunned down by Army en route at Helmatpora Gujjar Basti, they alleged.

Residents said that a few days back, troops had similarly fired upon a youth at Malangam village in Bandipore. “He was lucky enough to survive. He sustained gunshot wounds and is currently under treatment at Army’s hospital in Srinagar”, said Ghulam Rasool Bhat of Aloosa. Army has claimed that the Malangam youth got injured in a minor blast in his village but troops airlifted him to 92 Base Hospital in Srinagar where he is recuperating and his family members are attending on him.

Most of the separatist outfits, as also the mainstream opposition party, PDP, MLA Engineer Sheikh Abdul Rasheed and Peoples Conference have condemned the killing of Hilal Dar and demanded justice including action against Dar’s killers.


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

65 J&K dailies blacklisted for ‘irregular’ publication

Now an advertisement scam in Information Department

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Jul 24: Directorate of Information has blacklisted as many as 65 daily newspapers in Jammu and Kashmir after ‘glaring irregularities’ were found in publication during a scrutiny of records.

Even as Director of Information, Zaffar Ahmad, was not reachable for confirmation, highly placed authoritative sources said that the state government’s advertisement support had been immediately stopped to 65 newspapers, claiming to be publishing daily in English, Urdu or Hindi.

Sources said that a scrutiny of records made it clear that the blacklisted newspapers had been publishing just 4 or 5 times a month. After getting the paid advertisements regularly from Directorate of Information, publishers of the dailies had been printing their newspapers of seven or ten days together in just one sitting. Sources said that glaring irregularities were noticed in attendance of the publications supposed to be recorded daily at Directorate of Information.

Under rules, each and every publication has to be printed strictly in accordance to the periodicity mentioned in the declaration. While a daily is supposed to publish 30/31 days a month, a weekly has to be published every week and a monthly every month. It has also been observed that retired as well as serving employees of the Department of Information and their family members had overnight become owners or partners of three to five publications each. However, no action has been initiated against any of them.

Sources said that even in the matter of the irregular dailies, Director had issued only verbal orders and no formal official order was in circulation. However, his subordinate staff has been directed to strictly ensure that not a single advertisement was released to any of the dailies that had been found deficient or irregular in publication.

Editors of two vernacular dailies confirmed, on the condition of anonymity, that advertised had been stopped to them and nearly 60 others since Monday last. They, however, admitted that their publications had been irregular. “But, rule of law has to be observed in all matters”, said one of them. He claimed that “far bigger scandals” in the department were still being brushed under the carpet.

Editor of another daily, that has also been blacklisted unofficially, pointed out that other ‘irregularities’. He claimed that the Directorate of Information was fully aware that as many 20 government departments and government-controlled PSUs and Corporations had been supplying advertisements directly to their friends in media with an aim to promote certain officer’s PR but no action was being initiated against them. According to standing orders from Chief Secretary and General Administration Department (GAD), no government or government-controlled department, corporation or institution can directly supply advertisements to media while bypassing Directorate of Information.

Government Order No: 671-GAD of 2007 Dated 8-06-2007 makes it clear as under:

“Whereas, it has been observed that some Departments and Public Sector Undertakings/Autonomous Bodies are issuing official advertisements directly to the press/media without routing the same through the Information Department which is in violation of the standing instructions of the State Government on the subject; and whereas, there is need to reiterate instructions in this behalf.

Now, therefore, it is hereby ordered that henceforth no Government
Department/Public sector Undertaking/Autonomous Body under the
Government shall, under any circumstance, issue official advertisements directly to the press/media and instead route these invariably through the Directorate of Information.

Failure on the part of any Government Department/Public Sector
Undertaking/Autonomous Body in adhering to the above orders will be viewed seriously and appropriate action taken against the delinquent officers”.

A middle-ranking official at Directorate of Information, who is not authorized to speak to media, claimed that the department had identified over a dozen delinquent departments, PSUs, Boards and Corporations and recommended them for disciplinary action to General Administration Department and administrative Secretary of Information Department. “But, both have been sleeping over the matter for the reasons known only to Secretary GAD and Principal Secretary Information”, he asserted.


Ashok Prasad takes over as DGP
Signal from Delhi: Rajendra would become DGP, Prasad DIB in 2014

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Jul 23: Resident of Bihar and Andhra Pradesh cadre IPS officer of 1979 batch, Ashok Prasad, today joined as Director General of Police in the country’s most sensitive state of Jammu & Kashmir. After B S Bedi, JN Saxena and Gurbachan Jagat, Prasad is the fourth IPS officer from outside the state who has been appointed as head of the Police force in J&K in the last 23 years of armed insurgency.

Early Times had exclusively reported in its issue of July 22 that, contrary to all speculations, Prasad would be taking over as J&K DGP in Srinagar at 1400 hours on July 23rd. On his arrival in Srinagar in the forenoon today, Principal Secretary Home, B R Sharma, issued formal order of appointment in favour of Mr Prasad with approval of Chief Minister and Minister incharge Home, Omar Abdullah. Cabinet had already accorded sanction to Prasad’s appointment as DGP in the last week of May this year. After Kuldeep Khoda’s retirement on May 31st, 2012, senior most of the IPS officers of J&K cadre, K Rajendra Kumar, had been officiating as DGP while holding substantive charge as additional DGP Armed and Law & Order.

On assuming charge as DGP, Prasad met Chief Minister Omar Abdullah at the latter’s residence in the afternoon and later in the evening drove all the way to Raj Bhawan to have a courtesy call on Governor N N Vohra. Sources said that Prasad expressed his gratitude to Chief Minister who promoted his appointment as DGP in recognition of his merit, seniority and J&K experience for years at Intelligence Bureau (IB). He also discussed security, insurgency and law and order related matters with the Governor and Chief Minister, separately.

At the time of his emerging as the top most choice for the prestigious post in J&K, Prasad had completed nearly a year as Additional Director IB in Kashmir. Previously, he had served a stint as Deputy Director of IB in Srinagar.

As exclusively reported in this newspaper, Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh’s son-in-law, Ashok Patnaik, is shortly being appointed as Prasad’s successor in Kashmir. He would be holding the rank of Joint Director, Kashmir, in IB.

Highly placed authoritative sources disclosed to Early Times that that in the last about two months, Prasad had succeeded in convincing the UPA Government at the Centre that he would have to be elevated to the prestigious position of Director IB (DIB) before the Lok Sabha elections in 2014. He, according to sources, has made it clear to the union Ministry of Home Affairs as well as the Prime Minister’s Office that he would be serving as DGP in J&K only till March or April of 2014 as, among the four contenders, he had the first right to become DIB. Sources said that it was only after Prasad received assurance of his appointment as DIB in 2014 from the most responsible quarters that he agreed to join as DGP in J&K.

Prasad’s conditions have made it clear that he would be paving the way for the top most contender among IPS officers of J&K cadre, K Rajendra Kumar, in less than two years from now. Born on 21-01-1956 and inducted into IPS on 13-11-1979, Prasad is due to reach superannuation on 31-01-2016. Clearly, his ambition is to serve as DIB for the last two years of his service. Born on 24-09-1956 and inducted into IPS on 21-08-1984, K Rajendra Kumar is due to retire on 30-09-2016. On completing 30 years of IPS, he would become technically eligible for the post of DGP in January 2014. Thus, among all of his competitors, Rajendra would be the only choice for the post of DGP in 2014. His 1984 batch mate, P L Gupta, who is currently serving as Vigilance Commissioner in J&K, is due to retire from service on 31-08-2015.

In the afternoon today, Prasad was received at Police Headquarters with a ceremonial Guard of Hour. He took over from K Rajendra Kumar who introduced all the senior Police officers to the new DGP. All senior officers of J&K Police holding the rank of DIG and above were present on the occasion. After his joining, Prasad had an informal interaction with them.

While interacting with the officers he enquired from them about the functioning of their respective wings. Each officer gave a resume to the DGP about the different wings and he asked them to furnish the requirement, if any, to PHQ so that these could be fulfilled to enhance the working capabilities of the Police organization.  

Addressing the meeting, the DGP said that all ranks of the force form the Organization and every member of the Organization had to work with dedication making public service their motive. He said that Jammu and Kashmir Police had achieved many successes on different fronts during past 22 years and the pace of success would continue with the cooperation of the people.

He also said modernization of the police force would be his top priority. The DGP implored police personnel to develop people-friendly attitude apart from sticking to their duty with honesty and dedication. He also pledged to take forward the success of Jammu and Kashmir Police and appealed the people of the state to provide full support and cooperation to Police.


Monday, July 23, 2012

Pro-Azadi slogans on Geelani’s arrival at Hazratbal
Separatist hardliner performs prayers on shrine premises after 20 years

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Jul 22: Hardline separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani today created an ambience of secessionism at the state government-controlled Hazratbal mosque-cum-shrine complex when he arrived in to perform his prayers---first time in last 20 years---and a gathering of his followers raised pro-Azadi slogans. Freed from his ‘house arrest’, Geelani was actually scheduled to lead the funeral prayers of a professor of the University of Kashmir who had died of cancer earlier today.

Eyewitnesses told Early Times that the octogenarian separatist icon Syed Ali Shah Geelani drove all the way to Naseem Bagh grounds of the University of Kashmir to conduct Namaaz-e-Janazaah of Dr Meraj-ud-din Dar at around 1330 hours. Director of the University’s Centre of Information Technology and Communication, Dr Merajuddin had earlier today died of cancer after prolonged illness. As the preparations for the funeral prayers and the burial were only half way through, Geelani returned and walked straight into the mosque-cum-shrine premises to perform his afternoon prayers.

Police and security deployment communicated Geelani’s arrival to their higher ups, including SP Hazratbal and SSP Srinagar. However, they were advised not to prevent the separatist leader from performing prayers. It was, nevertheless, made clear to all concerned that Geelani should not be permitted to address any gathering. Sources said that he too cooperated with the authorities and did not make any attempt of delivering a speech. Main congregational prayers had concluded over 20 minutes before Geelani’s unscheduled and undeclared entry. He led a small gathering of his followers in the prayers.

However, immediately after Geelani moved out of the protected premises, hundreds of his followers shouted pro-Islam and pro-Azadi slogans. They steered his way amid shouting of slogans back to Naseem Bagh. Geelani later conducted Dr Merajuddin’s funeral prayers and addressed a gathering on the occasion. He described the professor’s death as a loss for the Kashmiri nation. Sources said that hundreds of students, teachers and ministerial staff of the University of Kashmir participated in the funeral prayers.

Significantly, it was after his umpteen calls of ‘Hazratbal Challo’ (March to Hazratbal) in the last four years---which failed all due to prohibitory orders from the government---that Geelani today arrived in and performed his prayers at the historic place of faith and worship.

National Conference founder, Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, had got an ambitious programme of reconstruction and beautification executed at Hazratbal before his death in 1982. This most revered shrine complex houses a splendid mosque and repository of Prophet Mohammad’s holy relic. Hundreds of thousands of Muslim devotees gather here on five auspicious occasions every year to participate in special sessions of prayers and have a glimpse of the holy relic. Thousand perform daily prayers five times a day on the lush green lawns and a spacious orchard situated on the banks of world famous Dal Lake.

Undisputed leader of Kashmir’s mass movement against monarchy, Sheikh Abdullah had previously turned this religious centre into his political platform. During his years of struggle, when he got the sobriquet of Sher-e-Kashmir, Sheikh had made historic political speeches at Hazratbal. As per his will, he was laid to rest at a reclaimed park, close to Naseem Bagh as well as Hazratbal shrine. Later, his wife, Begum Akbar Jehan, was also buried close to Sheikh’s magnificent mausoleum, now guarded by Police.

In the first six years of separatist militancy, Hazratbal served as a seat of influence and concentration for the separatists. In October-November 1993, the shrine-cum-mosque complex remained under occupation of separatist militants and a siege of security forces for 31 days. Militants were finally given a safe passage to avoid bloodshed. However, in March 1996, as many as 31 armed militants of JKLF (Amanullah Khan group) were killed by J&K Police in a week of stand-off and gunbattle near the shrine complex.

Thereafter, state government-controlled Muslim Auqaf Trust, which is always headed by Chief Minister, reasserted its control on the complex and no political activity was permitted for years. After he returned to power in October 1996, Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah made it a point to occasionally attend prayers at Hazratbal. On one occasion in 1998, he was attacked with shoes by a group of separatists amongst the congregation.

Subsequent Chief Ministers, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and Ghulam Nabi Azad, too visited Hazratbal frequently and strengthened government’s control over it. Mufti introduced several innovations after he created a separate independent trust to manage Wakf properties, including Hazratbal.

Chief Minister Omar Abdullah too visited Hazratbal on several occasions and performed his prayers in the front row of massive congregations alongwith other family members, including father Farooq Abdullah. However, he could not visit Hazratbal even for a day during the street turbulence of 2010. On the other hand, Geelani called for Hazratbal Challo, in an obvious attempt to gain Hurriyat’s control over the Wakf but he failed as the authorities strictly enforced restrictions and held him in home detention. Hurriyat sources insisted today that it was after 20 years that Geelani succeeded in performing prayers at Hazratbal.


Sunday, July 22, 2012

Prasad may join as J&K DGP on Monday

PM’s son-in-law being appointed as IB chief in Kashmir

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Jul 21: Awaiting his formal order of appointment since the day of Mr Kuldeep Khoda’s retirement on May 31st, Additional Director of Intelligence Bureau (IB), Mr Ashok Prasad, is likely to assume office as Director General of Police in Jammu and Kashmir on Monday. His junior in the orgnanisation, Mr Ashok Patnaik, is being appointed as the new Joint Director of IB in Kashmir.

Highly placed authoritative sources revealed to Early Times that decks were finally being cleared for Ashok Prasad’s appointment and taking over as DGP of J&K on July 23rd. Following Mr Khoda’s retirement on May 31st this year, J&K cadre IPS officer of 1984 batch, K Rajendra Kumar, has been officiating as DGP. His substantive posting since 2010 is additional DGP Armed Police and Law and Order. Setting aside all speculations, Mr Prasad is now expected to be relieved as Additional Director IB, New Delhi, on July 23rd. Sources said he was likely to fly to Srinagar on the same day and assume office as DGP at the Police Headquarters at 1400 hours.

Since the state Cabinet has already accorded sanction to Mr Prasad’s appointment as the new DGP, Principal Secretary Home, B R Sharma, would be issuing his formal appointment orders with Chief Minister and Home Minister Omar Abdullah’s approval in the forenoon on Monday. “Let him come first, then we’ll see when to issue the formal order of appointment”, Mr B R Sharma told this correspondent. Previously, Mr Prasad was expected to resume his duty at IB headquarters in New Delhi on July 30th and join as J&K’s DGP in the evening on July 31st. Since last month, he has been on leave.

Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) sources, however, maintained that there was strong likelihood of Mr Prasad being relieved “not before July 30th”, suggesting his previous schedule of joining as DGP of J&K on July 31st was intact.

But, well-placed sources in Police disclosed that Police Headquarters would specially remain open on Sunday. They said that all offices at the headquarters would function on Sunday and make all preparations of Mr Prasad’s joining at 1400 hours on Monday.

Government sources revealed that all decks of Prasad’s appointment and joining on July 23rd were being cleared even as Chief Minister and a number of his Cabinet colleagues would remain preoccupied with their schedules, including a review meeting of District Development Board Jammu, on Sunday. According to these sources, Chief Minister was keen that the new DGP should take over well in advance of the Independence Day ceremonies on August 15th. He is understood to have discussed the subject in detail with the union Home Minister, P Chidambaram, besides union Home Secretary and Joint Secretary incharge J&K in New Delhi last week.

A resident of Bihar state, Prasad is an Andhra Pradesh cadre IPS officer of 1979 batch. He has remained continuously posted in IB since 1986 and risen to the rank of Additional Director. Until recently, he was functioning as Additional Director of IB in Kashmir. According to the Government sources, he was being succeeded by his junior, Ashok Patnaik. Son-in-law to Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, Mr Patnaik is being appointed as Joint Director Kashmir.

With five more years of his service, 55-year-old Prasad is likely to function as J&K DGP for the next two years. Even as the incumbent Director of IB is scheduled to reach superannuation in the last two years, and there are four contenders for his succession, Mr Prasad has bright prospects of becoming the new Director of IB in the year 2014. Much would, however, depend on his performance as DGP of J&K for his unofficially stipulated tenure of two years. If things went in that direction, Mr Rajendra could succeed Mr Prasad as DGP in 2014. Currently, Rajendra has 28 years of service in IPS and he is deficient by two years to claim the top most position in J&K Police.