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Friday, April 29, 2016

Govt. mum on headless Social Welfare, ARI as Minister absent for full month

Sajjad Lone doesn’t react to reports of his resignation; Files piling up for disposal, thousands suffer for missing governance

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz


JAMMU, April 28: With the top government offices closing here on Friday for shifting of Durbar to the summer capital of Srinagar and a Cabinet Minister staying away from office for the full month of April, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti is in no position to take a review of Social Welfare and Administrative Reforms and Inspections Departments. On April 4, Peoples Conference MLA from Handwara and an ally of BJP, Sajjad Gani Lone, had taken oath as a Minister of Mehbooba Mufti’s Cabinet but reportedly displeased over allocation of an “insignificant portfolio” to him, he has neither attended office nor carried out any other activity as a Cabinet Minister.

Noticing his absence from office, media had reported that Mr Lone has tendered his resignation to Chief Minister. However, neither Chief Minister nor any other authorised government functionary reacted to these reports. Till date, Government has neither confirmed nor refuted reports of Lone’s resignation. Even himself he has remained completely noncommittal on it. In his interviews to media on the last fortnight’s incidents in Handwara, Lone parried questions over his resignation and maintained that it was “not the proper occasion” for it.

However, Deputy Chief Minister Nirmal Singh once told some journalists that Lone had submitted his resignation which would not be forwarded for acceptance. He suggested that the issue of his portfolio allotment would be solved within the BJP fold.

General Administration Department’s website mentions Lone as Minister of Social Welfare, ARI and Training but the columns of his official and residential addresses are blank.

According to media reports, Ms Mufti called Mr Lone by telephone on his arrival in Handwara in the thick of the turbulence there. However, she could not keep her schedule of visiting Handwara along with Lone and PDP’s Minister of Law Abdul Haq Khan. Lone joined her in a meeting with some residents, besides a high level official meeting, at Kupwara. Five civilians had died in Handwara and Kupwara areas after clashes erupted between demonstrators and security forces amid an allegation that a soldier had ‘molested’ a teenage girl student in the town.

Lone was in Srinagar when he received the news of his father-in-law and the JKLF co-founder Amanullah Khan’s death in Islamabad, Pakistan. His wife and two children had already reached Mr Khan’s home in Pakistan. None of the leaders of BJP-PDP alliance issued a statement to express condolences to their colleague, obviously for political reasons as Mr Khan was the pioneer of the armed insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir.

Highly placed sources in Mehbooba Mufti’s government told STATE TIMES that Lone’s dissatisfaction over the portfolio was a matter to be resolved “within the BJP” as the Minister was from that party’s quota. They claimed that his resignation was “not pending in CM’s office”. Sources said that Ms Mufti as Chief Minister was, however, perturbed over the piling of files in the two departments as thousands of people were “suffering badly” for non-disposal of their files.

Scores of files of the J&K students, under training in different Indian colleges, are reportedly gathering dust in ARI Department as Secretary Ananl Kumar Gupta or any other bureaucrat or Minister has not been delegated powers of the Cabinet Minister. Only the files not requiring Minister’s approval are currently processed and forwarded to the concerned authorities.

Worse is the condition in Social Welfare Department where the issue of non-payment of honorarium for the last 15 months to the 600 “Helpers to Supervisors” has not been settled. Besides, from transfers and appointments of CDPOs to framing of new policy for acquisition of supplies for thousands of Anganwari Centres, scores of key decisions have been lying in limbo. Sources said that establishment of over 6,000 new Anganwari Centres would also get excessively delayed due to absence of the Cabinet Minister.

Powers of Minister of State incharge Social Welfare Asiea Naqash are restricted to some insignificant matters.

Commissioner-Secretary Social Welfare Sarita Chauhan said that “routine matters” and “coordination matters” were getting through in absence of the Minister. When STATE TIMES wanted to learn from her if a large number of the files and key decisions were pending for want of Minister’s perusal and approval, she maintained that only GAD could answer this question. “I have joined recently and I don’t have knowledge about it”, Ms Chauhan asserted.

However Ms Chauhan’s predecessor, Sanjeev Varma, who is now functioning as Secretary PHE & Irrigation, said that all the files which require the Cabinet Minister’s perusal and approval were pending until the date of his transfer.

“Good governance and good days were the promises of BJP and PDP. Now we don’t see even the bad governance. In fact the governance is completely missing in the two departments”, said a former Minister of Congress party. “Continued absence from office and Cabinet besides not discharging duty is breach of the oath by any Minister”.


[Published in today’s STATE TIMES]

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Srinagar businessman ‘assaulted’ at Traffic Police headquarters

SSP Traffic: He obstructed official, we got him arrested, filed FIR

Businessman: I have filed counter-FIR against SSP, other cops

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz


SRINAGAR, April 26: A Srinagar-based young entrepreneur with stake in hospitality sector has complained to Police that he and his friend were “brutally assaulted” and left injured and got arrested by Traffic Police officials at the Traffic Police Headquarters after they objected to the “highhandedness” of seizing their vehicle without any reason.

Running a chain of restaurants, 27-year-old Adnan Mir of Nigeen has been released on a bond but filed a counter-complaint of assault against SSP Traffic Maqsood-uz-Zaman and other officials of his organisation who allegedly assaulted him and got him booked and arrested in a criminal case.

“My younger brother Hanan and his friend Imran Ayaz were driving in our Hyundai Accent, DL9HC 1207 from Karan Nagar to Lalchowk in the afternoon on Monday. They were stopped by a Traffic Police party at Jehangir Chowk and asked to produce Registration Certificate of the vehicle registered in New Delhi. They showed them the original RC but the cops claimed that it was duplicate. That was very much the original one and is our possession. Thereafter, they asked for Pollution and Insurance documents which my brother had not. The cops asked them to get down as the vehicle was required to be towed away to Traffic Control Room. My brother argued that they could slap a fine but the vehicle could be towed and seized only on a specific violation. They didn’t listen to him. Towed the vehicle to Traffic Police headquarters and showed it falsely that it had been seized for wrong parking”, Adnan complained to STATE TIMES.

“At the Traffic Police headquarters, my brother was asked to deposit Rs 1100 as towing charges and take back the vehicle. He called me on phone. As I reached their to provide them Rs 1100, I found Imran lying on the footpath and writhing in pain. Someone was offering him water. He had been ruthlessly beaten up with lathis and thrown outside as he had argued that Traffic Police were doing atrocities and highhandedness and extorting money from innocent citizens. I asked the officials under what law were they using lathis and manhandling the lawful citizens. One middle-aged official abused and roughed up me. Five or six other Policemen came rushing and abusing. They thrashed me mercilessly”, Adnan said while showing intense bruises on his arm.

According to Adnan, an officer by the name of Raheel came to his rescue and he separated the assaulting men in blue uniform. He told Adnan to take back his car. “I told him Sir it is not the matter of illegal seizure of the car now. It’s a matter of highhandedness and brutality. I told them I will go back only after meeting SSP Traffic. I found SSP already in a heated argument with some lawyers in his office. Some of them were virtually dragged out. I complained to the SSP that his subordinates had illegally seized my brother’s car and beaten him up alongwith his friend. I insisted there should be some accountability. He retorted: ‘Are you the Accountant General? Who are you to ask it?’ He did not listen to anything and directed his subordinates to call SHO Kothibagh and get arrested and booked in some criminal case. Later, when my father met him, SSP told him he had got me booked under a minor crime. He told him that he could have got me booked under PSA”, Adnan added.

He said that he was released on a bond in the evening and his friends carried him to Bone & Joint Hospital where doctors examined him and reported that he had been severely beaten up as his arm was terribly bruised. He said that today he went back to Kothibagh Police Station and filed a “counter-FIR” against SSP Traffic and his subordinates allegedly involved in beating up the two young men. “First they asked us to deposit Rs 1100 and take back the car. Later, they maintained that the car had been seized and it could be released only by a judge. We found, they had immediately deflated two tyres of the vehicle”.

SSP Traffic (City), Maqsood-uz-Zamaan contradicted all the allegations levelled by Adnan. He told STATE TIMES by telephone that the accused had “obstructed the official and prevented him from discharging his duty”. “Even if there was no violation, it constitutes a violation when a public servant is obstructed. He has pushed an official. It becomes 353 RPC. How could they tolerate it. We have seized his vehicle and filed FIR against him. Let law take its course. Let the investigation prove who is right and who is wrong”, Mr Zamaan asserted. He claimed that the Traffic personnel had not beaten up anybody.


[Published in today’s STATE TIMES]

Monday, April 25, 2016


Magisterial enquiry finds Gowhar was shot into head by CRPF

J&K Govt. did not take any action on enquiry into Zainakote engineering student’s killing; Report submitted in Jan, tossed to CRPF in Feb

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz


JAMMU, April 23: A magisterial inquiry ordered by Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s government in Jammu and Kashmir has held the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) officials guilty of killing Gowhar Nazir Dar, a 22-year-old engineering student of SSM College of Engineering, during a demonstration at Zainakote, on the outskirts of Srinagar, on the day of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit. Even as the enquiry has been concluded and its report has been gathering dust in the State’s Home Department since January, Governor Narendra Nath Vohra or Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti has not taken any action against the officials involved in the student’s killing.

Gowhar had been hit in the CRPF action after a crowd of the demonstrators attacked headquarters of CRPF 44 Bn. In his residential village of Zainakote on Srinagar-Baramulla highway, after Prime Minister Modi addressed a joint rally of PDP and BJP workers in Srinagar on November 7, 2015. Then Chief Minister Mufti Sayeed and the PDP President Mehbooba Mufti also addressed the gathering before Modi announced his Rs 80,000 crore special economic package for Jammu and Kashmir.

Mufti lost no time to order a magisterial enquiry into the circumstances that led to Gowhar’s death. Additional Deputy Commissioner, Srinagar, N.A. Baba, was appointed as the Enquiry Officer. He conducted the first visit to the spot on November 19, recorded eyewitness accounts, interrogated Police and CRPF personnel and finally submitted his report to Deputy Commissioner of Srinagar on January 20, 2016, when Mufti had passed away and Governor Vohra was functioning as the head of the government.

Documents accessed by STATE TIMES make it clear that DC Srinagar Dr Farooq Ahmad Lone further submitted the enquiry report to Divisional Commissioner of Kashmir Dr Asgar Hassan Samoon vide No: DMS/Jud/Enquiry/3230/2015 Dated 21-01-2016 for taking up the matter with the Government in Home Department “for further required action in view of the recommendations made by the enquiry officer”.

Additional Commissioner Kashmir in the office of Divisional Commissioner forwarded it to Principal Secretary Home R.K. Goyal vide No: DivCom/RA-Enq/05/2016 Dated 27-01-2016 “for favour of information and further necessary action”.

Tossed to CRPF

Under the direction of Principal Secretary Home, the enquiry report was submitted to Special Director General CRPF, J&K Zone, Bantalab Campus Jammu, by Under Secretary Home Syed Yasir Farooq vide No: Home/ISA/2015/179/1096 Dated 29-02-2016. Making a mockery of the whole exercise of the magisterial inquiry, Special DG CRPF was requested “kindly to take immediate necessary action in the matter and favour with the action taken report to this department at the earliest”.

Even as Principal Secretary Home Mr Goyal was not reachable, sources in the Government insisted that CRPF dumped the enquiry report and did not even bother to respond. Even after Mehbooba Mufti---whose Government last week ordered a similar magisterial inquiry in the circumstances that led to death of five civilians in the firing of Police and Army in Handwara---took over as Chief Minister on April 4, nobody even sent a reminder to Special DG CRPF.

The enquiry report, available with STATE TIMES, notes that Gowhar was hit straight above his ear, causing parieto-temporal wound of one cm diameter with exposed brain matter caused by high velocity impact. The medical report issued by Medical Superintendent SKIMS did not rule out either a bullet or a teargas shell. It mentioned the cause of death: “I. Multiple pellet wounds from left side of the face. Such a wound to be caused by high velocity impact (left parieto-temporal wound). II. Single entry wound in the skull just above the left ear”.

The enquiry report concluded: “There is no controversy regarding death of the victim Shri Gowhar Nazir Dar due to profuse bleeding of left parieto-temporal wound caused by high velocity impact as testified by the attending doctors. There is ample indication that shelling done by the CRPF has hit the victim on the left side of the head above the pinna considered to be direct target on the vital part of the victim and rejecting the safe mode theory of shell firing by the CRPF”.

It added: “There is crystality of the circumstantial testimonies that Bible of the security forces in the nature of SOP has been grossly violated”.

Hit in head

“In the above backdrop, significantly action taken by CRPF under the command of Commandant and Deputy Commandant CRPF 44 Bn on 07-11-2015 does not subscribe to the set canons of law and cardinal principles of SOP, besides it is not co-terminus to their status and ultimate loss could have been avoided by resorting to appropriate preferred methods or hitting the non-vital parts of the body or in such a manner that no human life would have lost”, reads the conclusion.

The enquiry report has observed that both, Commanding Officer Rajesh Kumar and Deputy Commandant Rajnesh Kumar were in their civvies (track suits) “which is a sign of their casual approach and gross violation of SOP”. Contrary to the CRPF claims, it has noted that Gowhar was killed near Ahli Hadees Masjid---850 meters from the CRPF battalion headquarters earlier attacked by the crowd. It noted that Gowhar was hit at 5.30 pm when the situation around that time (5.00 pm to 6.00 pm) was “quite normal”.

Even as the enquiry report has recommended identification of the CRPF involved in the firing and their criminal prosecution under law, besides relocation of the camp so as to ensure that no such clash occurred in future, the J&K Government has not initiated any action. None of the CRPF officials has been included by name in the FIR registered by Police Station Parimpora.


[Published exclusively in today’s STATE TIMES]

Arnabs of the other side

Reporting facts, expressing opinions and doing service to a particular political cause are three completely different things. The first two fall in the realm of journalism. When some people use the noble profession of journalism to espouse or assail a political cause, they become activists of an ideology and instantly lose credibility. Until we remain completely neutral, impartial and unbiased in reporting and honest in expressing opinions---which are liked and disliked by our readers---we will not be treated as journalists. Unfortunately, most of the political conflicts create activists and promoters of ideological causes in the garb of journalists. Such scribes popularise themselves among the followers of a particular genre with populist rants and monologues but readers often treat their works as ‘service’ to a particular political or religious cause or propaganda. Being intolerant and negatively judgemental is their DNA. These Arnabs do exist in all regimentations. We don’t hate them as being deficient in faculty is never their own fault. We love them too but, in the context of our own conflict, view their journalism as ‘sarkari sahafat’ or ‘tehreeki sahafat’. Committed to total neutrality and objectivity, we are bound by our tenets of the profession. In an attempt to win some brownie points from his masters, one of our local answers to Arnab has, lately, attempted to drag my op-ed on Handwara into controversy digging suggestion and drawing conclusions which neither made nor intended to make. He has selectively picked up words and half sentences according to his convenience, suppressed other facts and tried to mislead the colleagues, who are, fortunately or unfortunately, mature enough to read for themselves and draw their own conclusions without being myopic. I did honestly mention that post-2008, there’s a near-total polarisation in the civil society organs within and outside the Valley. I have illustrated how the jingoistic journalism in the Indian national media has caused an “equal and opposite reaction” in the Valley. That never means a negative evaluation of our esteemed colleagues who have worked, and are still working, in the most challenging circumstances. There can be exceptions, but in totality, we have all the good reasons to be proud of our fraternity. In the same article, I have mentioned that “vested interests” are turning the Handwara girl into a football and tossing her from one post to another without caring for her dignity, safety and future. I am entitled to that opinion on my own observations. I have not made a minute suggestion that “Kashmir’s journalists” are players in this game as I strongly believe they are not. Unfortunately, this greenhorn has attempted to spread such kind of an impression. However, he has met with a miserably lukewarm response and he had failed to attract a single comment of convenience. Not one of our esteemed colleagues, who know me closely over the last 26 years, has been misled with the rant of our dear fatwabaz. He has not mentioned my name but rated me among ‘apologists’ and written: “And the irony is that those who are questioning the professional credibility and integrity of Kashmiri journalists are pro-establishment, pro-power, and some extensions of the Indian state”.

First, someone like me, who has upheld integrity in the worst of the conditions in the last three decades and faced threats and attacks from different sides for being professional and for refusing to become sarkari or tehreeki in the reporting, does not need certificate of integrity, from the people who have accidentally sprouted out of the conflict in recent years.

Second, I am proud of it, that I have reported the excesses, atrocities and aggressions of all sides and I have never kept one eye open and another shut. Those who are “pro-power, pro-establishment and extension of the Indian State” do not expose the scandals, suppression and human rights abuse of the power, establishment and its organs. During my years with Daily Excelsior, I singularly did a series of stories on the assassination of Jaleel Andrabi, on hundreds of fake encounters and custodial killings. It was me alone who first reported how an Army officer blew up the 20-year-old bridegroom Tahir Makhdoomi of Tujjar Sharief on the first night of his wedding. Still our fatwabaz has invoked the phrase which fits only on those who do jingoism in the name of journalism from one side or another. I need not fail LitFests in Kashmir for political reasons and at the same time facilitate Indo-German joint ventures of musical concerts for personal benefits. Why should I ever be anybody’s “apologist” and “extension of the Indian State”? This whistle could be blown to the combatants with some other rant! And when our “friend” was passing his fatwa from his drawing room, I was as usual busy in digging out how the Government had dumped a magisterial enquiry on the killing of a 22-year-old Kashmiri student shot dead by CRPF. “Apologists” and “extensions of the Indian State” don’t do that. They do collaborate.

Third, I have never given two hoots to intellectual bullying or blackmail. Not even when everybody here lived at the mercy of the unbridled gunmen of all hues. What I will feel, I will write and report according to the diktat of my conscience and accountability before Almighty, and under the fear of intellectual bullying and the barrel of the gun.

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

April 23, 2016