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Saturday, June 6, 2015

After 'Lashkar-e-Islam', posters of 'Tehreek-e-Talibaan J&K' appear in Sopore

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, June 5: Handwritten posters threatening fuel pump operators against selling petrol to Police and security forces have mysteriously appeared on walls in the much terrorised Sopore township in Northern Kashmir on Friday.

Civilian sources as well as officials said that the handwritten and Xeroxed posters in Urdu, issued under purported seal and banner of hitherto unknown guerrilla group "Tehreek-e-Talibaan Jammu and Kashmir" were spotted at several places in Batpora, Armpora and Bus Stand area in the apple town early in the morning on Friday.

The posters asked the Muslims to be aware of the "conspiracies" and maintain "purely Islamic environment" around their surroundings.

In the fresh posters, fuel station owners have been warned against providing petrol and diesel to the vehicles of Police and the Indian armed forces. "People indulging in trade and consumption of drugs and tranquilisers", television cable operators and the landlords providing accommodation to Bihari labourers besides the gamblers, and those who use their own premises for gambling, have been given the deadline of "only seven days" to abandon these practices.

"Dont take us lightly. When we will come to act, we will award same kind of punishment to the defaulters which has been given out to the mobile phone tower landlords", warned the posters.

Meanwhile, 'Lashkar-e-Islam', the guerrilla group that has forced shutdown of mobile telephony in parts of Northern and Southern Kashmir with a chain of attacks---in which 2 persons were shit dead and five more left injured, has confronted the hardline Hurriyat chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani with questions over the latter's act of calling the group as a "creation of the Indian intelligence agencies".

Lashkar-e-Islam challenged Geelani's assertion and advised him to be careful in choosing his words and taking decisions with regard to the "genuineness" of the State's guerrilla groups. It claimed to be a genuine militant outfit fighting for Kashmir's separation from "Indian occupation". It claimed that the ban on mobile telephony had been imposed "only after it became clear that a large number of the "Mujahideen" had been got arrested and killed only with the help of mobile phones.

In a significantly related development, senior separatist leader Shakeel Bakhshi has also questioned the top separatists' wisdom of labelling the guerilla groups like LEI as the front of the Indian intelligence agencies. He has called for a thorough investigation onto the genuineness of the guerrilla groups.


Friday, June 5, 2015

Out of 25 Police districts in J&K, 11 are militancy-free

In its 26th year, militancy shrinks to only Sopore-Handwara and Pulwama-Awanipore belts

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Jun 4: Armed insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir has passed through thick and thin and completed the quarter of a century but, according to an official document prepared by the State government, it has fallen to the lowest ebb exactly in its 25th year in 2014. On January 1, 2015, as many as 11 Police districts in the State were completely militancy-free even as 90 militants were “active” in the Valley and 15 more in Jammu division.

Compiled by the State Crime Records Bureau of the J&K Crime Branch, an organisation of the Jammu and Kashmir Police, and released by Director General of Police K. Rajendra Kumar last fortnight, ‘Crime Gazette 2014’ claims that by the end of 2014, total number of the “active militants” had reduced to the all-time low of 105. Significantly, it records, that not a single “active militants” exists in Kashmir’s Budgam, Ganderbal and Bandipore districts besides Jammu division’s Jammu, Udhampur, Reasi, Poonch, Doda and Samba districts.

While as there has been no militancy in the twin districts of Kargil and Leh in Ladakh, all the remaining 23 Police districts---13 in Kashmir and 10 in Jammu---do still figure as “Disturbed”, the fundamental requirement for enforcement of the Jammu and Kashmir State Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act [AFSPA]. With the exception of BJP and Congress, besides some insignificant outfits based in Jammu, all the mainstream political parties have been pleading for revocation of AFSPA in a competition with the separatist and the militant groups and conglomerates.

According to the Crime Gazette, in the entire Central Kashmir there are just 2 listed and wanted militants---both in Srinagar district. There is none in Budgam and Ganderbal. However, there are 247 “overground workers”, or "OGWs" (supporters of separatist insurgency who organise protests, demonstrations besides arson and stone-pelting but do not wield weapons or indulge in subversive activities).  Of them, 104 are in Srinagar, 76 in Budgam and 67 in Ganderbal district.

Crime Gazette says there were total of 832 OGWs in Kashmir---247 in Central Kashmir, 361 in North Kashmir and 224 in South Kashmir. In Jammu division, there were 772 OGWs---maximum of 210 in Reasi, 141 in Doda, 133 in Kishtwar but not a single in Jammu and Samba districts.

With the 11 districts being “militancy-free”, there are 10 such districts where the total number of the “active militants” is less than 10 in each district---Kulgam (9), Kupwara (7), Pulwama (6), Baramulla (5), Srinagar (2) and Anantnag (2) in Kashmir and Rajouri (5), Ramban (4), Kishtwar (3) and Kathua (3) in Jammu. In other words, total number of the militants in these 10 districts is 46.

Crime Gazette makes it clear that the armed insurgency has finally shrunk to the Valley’s Sopore-Handwara belt (in North Kashmir) and Pulwama-Awantipore belt (in South Kashmir). Interestingly, with the exception of Sopore and Langet segment, which returned Congress candidate Ab Rashid and independent Engineer Rashid respectively in the Assembly elections of 2014, all the elected MLAs from the two militant hotbeds belong to the ruling coalition. While as Peoples Conference represents Handwara, PDP represents Sangrama, Rafiabad, Pattan, Pulwama, Rajpora, Pampore and Tral.

The PDP-BJP-PC coalition’s MLAs from Handwara (Sajjad Lone), Sangrama (Basharat Bukhari), Pattan (Imran Raza Ansari) and Rajpora (Haseeb Drabu) are also Cabinet Ministers in Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s government.

The document lists Awantipore (18), Sopore (17), Handwara (13) and Shopian (11) as the State’s most militant-infested Police districts.

Crime Gazette claims that on January 1, 2015, there were 18 listed and wanted militants in Awantipore Police District. It includes Pampore and Tral belts of South Kashmir where the Army’s counterinsurgency ‘Victor Force’ has also its headquarters. Together with 6 active militants of Pulwama district and 11 more of Shopian district, this Jamaat-e-Islami-dominated strip continues to be the Valley’s topmost flashpoint. Even in the current year, maximum incidents, including killings, have been reported from here.

Chief Minister Mufti Sayeed’s home district of Anantnag in South Kashmir had just 2 “active militants” in the beginning of the current year.

The government documents have identified Awantipore, Tral, Pampore, Pulwama and Shopian in South Kashmir as the top flashpoints besides Sopore and Palhalan (Pattan) in North Kashmir.

Senior Police officials told State Times that the “active militants” include around a dozen of the foreigners (Pakistani nationals) who often die in the security forces’ encounters but maintain a level with continued infiltration from across the LoC.

“However, the most disturbing information is the fact that at least 18 young boys have been indoctrinated and inducted into their ranks by the commanders of LeT and Hizbul Mujahideen in Pulwama district in the last 4 months”, said an official. He pointed out that the two Policemen, who were posted in the security of a BJP leader and the PDP leader and R&B Minister Altaf Bukhari but deserted and joined the militant ranks recently, were also residents of the same area of South Kashmir.


Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Under pressure from Delhi, Mufti government to restore mobile phone services in 2 days

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz
SRINAGAR, Jun 2: Under pressure from the Government of India, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s PDP-BJP government has finally come out of the slumber and assured the vendors, the operators and the subscribers that it would ensure restoration of all mobile telephony services in Kashmir valley “within two days”.

“We have devised a strategy and we are sure that all the non-operational BTSs will be back to the business within two days. All the modalities have been finalised in a high level meeting Chaired by Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed today”, said a well-placed governmental source. He declined to share the details but asserted that all the frozen towers and services recharge outlets would be made operational “within the next two days.
However, sources said that Police protection would be provided to everybody receptive to the offer of “area security” from the government.  As already reported in this newspaper, out of 12,000, as many as 3,000 networking sites of BSNL, Aircel, Airtel, Reliance, Vodafone and Idea Cellular have been rendered non-functional in Kashmir valley since May 23. The threats, and the attacks to enforce the same, have purportedly come out from the militant group ‘Lashkar-e-Islami. While as two persons associated with the mobile telephony operations have been killed, five others have been left injured.

An official release on Tuesday said that a high level meeting, presided over by Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, reviewed the security and law and order situation. Commissioner-Secretary Home R.K. Goel, DGP K. Rajendra Kumar and the CM’s Principal Secretary B.B. Byas attended the meeting. 

Taking strong note of the disruption of cellular networks in various parts of the Valley, Mufti Sayeed observed that people cannot be pushed into Stone Age as modern-day functioning in Government, Banking, Tourism, Education, and other vital sectors, in particular, old-age pension and e-transfer of insurance claims and compensation to flood-affected victims are totally dependent on internet connectivity. He said cellular networks have become lifeline as these services are availed by all sections of the society”, said the Press release.
It added: “During the meeting, the Chief Minister directed DGP to take all possible steps to thwart any attempt to disrupt cellular networks in Valley and provide security to mobile tower installations and owners. He said the miscreants cannot be allowed to take law into their own hands and police should deal sternly with such elements. The Chief Minister also directed the DGP to ensure that uninterrupted mobile network connectivity is provided to the people”.

Meanwhile, Pakistan-based militant conglomerate United Jihad Council has claimed, in response to an appeal from the senior Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani, that ‘Lashkar-e-Islam’ was “a terrorist organisation floated and funded by the Indian intelligence agencies”.  Geelani has expressed satisfaction over the UJC “clarification” and added that Hurriyat had got substantial evidences to establish that the ‘Lashkar-e-Islam’ was “the creation of the Indian secret agencies”.
“According to these evidences, it looks that this operation is directly looked over by the Indian home ministry and the state administration and even the state police has been deliberately left ignorant in this regard like in the case of Al-Faran group creation and how this organization at first kidnapped and then killed the five innocent European tourists and the state administration and the police were totally unaware about it. While today’s operation is meant to damage the economic and social setup of the Kashmir, according to the reports received by the Huriyat, the pro-freedom leaders can be the target of this operation,” Geelani said in a statement.

For the first time, Geelani (G) statement has alleged that the creator of the counter-insurgent group Ikhwanul Muslimoon, “who is today at the highest position in the policy makers in New Delhi and is second authority after the Narender Modi” is the architect of the group ‘Lashkar-e-Islam’. It is an insinuation to the National Security Advisor Ajit Doval.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Govt. unconcerned over telecom breakdown as 3,000 sites become non-functional in Kashmir

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz
SRINAGAR, Jun 1: Even as over 3,000 Base Transceiver Stations (BTSs), installed over 1200 to 1400 mobile signal towers, of different telecommunication companies have become non-functional in Kashmir valley due to the sustained threats and attacks by a guerrilla group ‘Lashkar-e-Islam’ in the last one week, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s PDP-BJP government in Jammu and Kashmir seems to be completely unconcerned.

The latest grenade attack occurred on a tower at Gadoodbagh, in Habbakadal area of downtown Srinagar on Monday. There was not much of material damage to the steel-fabricated tower but a parked vehicle got hit and one person sustained injuries. The first in the summer capital, Monday’s grenade attack sent shivers down the spine of thousands of the people associated with the mobile telephony operations in the Valley. Official sources admitted that more than 200 BTSs went out of service in the capital in just three hours after the blast. All the companies’ showrooms were closed down in Srinagar in the afternoon.

Only once, in response to a reporter’s question, did Chief Minister make a brief comment, reassuring that the government would not let the peace derail. On two occasions, Director General of Police and Inspector General of Police, Kashmir, came out with their brief statements, claiming that the militants of Hizbul Mujahideen were involved in circulating threats and attacking the civilians who were defying the diktat of “shutting down all Laaptu recharge outlets and mobile towers in entire Kashmir within one day”.

According to Police, the first incident of a grenade attack on a tower at Kralteng in Sopore has been solved with the arrest of two persons. Besides, three persons have been detained for allegedly downloading, printing, circulating and pasting the threat posters of ‘Lashkar-e-Islam’ in Khrew area of Pampore. SSP Awantipore, Mohammad Irshad, said on Monday that their motive was “extortion” and none of them was associated with any militant group. They have been booked under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

The State and the Central government’s near-total silence has buttressed speculations and provided a tool to the rank separatists to attribute the offensive to the conspiracy theory. Over 70 percent people in media and social media have found it easier to allege that it was all “a handiwork of the government-sponsored counter-insurgents”. Union Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar’s suggestion---that India would use terrorists to neutralise the terrorists---came handy to the people who have been holding “India” responsible for everything bad in Kashmir.

“Unfortunately, nobody in the political establishment has even condemned these attacks and the civilian killings, let alone contesting the separatists and the Pakistan-sponsored militants and their support structure in the Valley. Even those known for protests and statements have been completely mute to the offensive. While the PDP leaders, who protested suspension of SMS and Internet services during Omar Abdullah’s rule, have been conveniently silent, Omar himself has avoided being committal on it on Twitter. Most surprising is BJP’s silence. Had it happened during UPA regime, Ravi Shankar Prasad (Union Telecommunication Minister) would have raised a storm”, said a senior Police official, insisting to remain anonymous.

Another middle-ranking officer disclosed that there was “absolutely no pressure” on the Police to offset the ‘Lashkar-e-Islam’ offensive. “Nobody in Police dares to touch, detain or question a suspect during the Mufti government. Arrest of suspects and booking them under PSA has been fully abandoned. Officials are more cautious after the Narbal incident (when some Police officials were arrested and booked for murder before an inquiry into the death of a civilian in the Police firing). Obviously, the other side will reap its benefits. So you can say, whatever the number of the militants and their overground supporters, they are enjoying a field day”, said the officer.

Highly placed sources in the Police Headquarters, however, insisted that the Police would restore operation on all the non-functional towers “within three days” with the deployment of armed guards. “We will relocate and set up some of the towers at protected premises”, said a source. He insisted that “Lashkar-e-Islam” was the front name of a Sopore-based group of six Hizbul Mujahideen militants.

Telecom officials told State Times that they had left the option or closing down or continuing the operations to the landlords and recharge vendors. “We tell them to run it or shut it down as per their own judgment”, said an official.

According to the Telecom sources, currently there were around 9,000 BTSs in the Valley. As two or three companies share a tower and install their BTSs on a tower, the number of the BTSs of BSNL, Airtel, Aircel, Vodafone, Reliance and Idea Cellular closed down in Kashmir in the last seven days was estimated to be over 3,000.

A well-placed authoritative source said that out of Vodafone’s 1400 BTSs in J&K, around 8,00 were in the Valley. As many as 300 sites have been shut down. The last to be taken off the air, was in the capital’s flood-ravaged posh neighbourhood of Rajbagh. “We have reports that voice and data services, including Internet, have stopped on 300 sites of BSNL, 300 of Vodafone, 500 of Aircel and 800 of Airtel. A large number of towers were closed today in Srinagar and South Kashmir’s Shopian township”, he said.

As two persons have been killed and six more left injured in seven attacks since May 23, authorities were reportedly thinking on providing guard to the Mobile Switching Control (MSC) facility of different companies in Srinagar. While as Vodafone’s, Reliance’s and Idea’s MSCs are already in Jammu, Airtel (Highland Automobiles and Gee Enn Bakery M.A. Road), Aircel (Grand Mumtaz and Barzullah) and BSNL (M.A. Road and Barzullah) are operating in Srinagar and Jammu.


Sunday, May 31, 2015

Breakthrough achieved in Kashmir shrine fire

‘Sectarian angle’ ruled out but Police seeking permission for narco-analysis of the key accused

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, May 30: Within 24 hours, Police are understood to have achieved breakthrough in Friday’s mysterious fire in the shrine of Ayatullah Aga Syed Mehdi Al-Moosavi, a 20th century Shia spiritual leader and a prominent preacher of Islam who established his seat in Kashmir’s Budgam town.

Unidentified miscreants, according to the residents and the Police sources, had carried an LPG cylinder and oven to the shrine situated on a hillock in Budgam after breaking into two shops in close vicinity of Budgam Police Station. Some people, including Aga Syed Mohammad Fazalullah, the head of a faction of Anjuman-e-Sharayee Shia’an, who were offering Fatihah to their relatives and forefathers buried in a nearby graveyard, spotted flames and smoke billowing out of the shrine early on Friday morning.

The fire was brought under control before senior Police and civil administration officers, including DIG Central Kashmir Ghulam Hassan Bhat, SSP Budgam Fayaz Ahmad Lone and Deputy Commissioner Mir Altaf Ahmad, reached the spot. President Anjuman-e-Sharayee and senior Hurriyat leader Aga Syed Hassan expressed concern over the incident and demanded a thorough investigation. He implored the public to maintain harmony and let the Police carry out its investigation even as the district headquarters observed complete shutdown on Friday and a protest march was taken to DC's office.

Budgam Police Station, seized the LPG cylinder, registered FIR and started the investigation under continuous supervision of DIG Mr Bhat. Police apprehended three local suspects. Of them, two youths, identified as Saquib and Samir, both residents of Budgam town, according to the Police sources, admitted to have carried out the mischief.

SSP Budgam Fayaz Ahmad Lone refused to share details. He said it could hamper the investigation. He, however, confirmed that the Police had achieved breakthrough.

“We are investigating all possible theories. Yes, it is a fact that we have written to senior officers and we are seeking permission for narco-analysis of the two accused from a court of law”, Mr Lone told State Times . “As of now, we do not find any attempt of creating sectarian disturbance. But, we are still busy with the investigation”, he said.

Sources privy to the investigation said that the key accused Saquib maintained during two days of sustained interrogation that he had set the shrine on fire as he was “burning in rage over the bad things happening inside it”. However, his resistance to the investigators’ attempt of opening the data of his mobile phone led the Police to suspect "some other hand”.

“Before we took him into custody, he had locked his cellphone. He did not cooperate with us and did not disclose the password when we made sustained efforts to analyse his phone’s data. Now, we are seeking call detail record of his phone from the company and assistance from technical experts to check its data”, said an official. “It will help us track the people who have been in touch with this man”, he said. Police believe that burglary and stealing away cash from an iron safe could have been the motive of the miscreants but other theories are also being pursued. Police are also looking for a gas-cutter which could have been used to break the iron-safe.

The shrine is situated outside the battalion headquarters of Rashtriya Rifles 53 Bn and a defunct memorial of the Battle of Budgam of 1947. The shrine is also the mausoleum of Ayatullah Mehdi’s successors Aga Syed Yousuf Al-Moosavi and Aga Syed Mustafa Al-Moosavi.