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Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Top commander says militants have no plan to target Amarnath yatra

Warns attacks on Sainik colonies, Pandit camps, 'anti-Kashmiri' Police officials; asks people to fail Army operations with stone pelting 

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz
SRINAGAR, June 7: Hizbul Mujahideen's top operational commander in Kashmir valley, Burhan Muzaffar Wani, has claimed in a video released by his organisation on Tuesday that the militants fighting the security forces and Police had "absolutely no plans" to target the annual Amarnath pilgrimage being conducted in the months of July and August every year.

"Some BSF officer has, of late, said that the militants were planning to target Amarnath yatra. Let it be clear to all that the militants have absolutely no such plan. Devout Hindus do come here every year to perform their religious rituals and practices. We have got nothing to do with it", Burhan says in Urdu while addressing the Kashmiris in the video of about six minutes of duration shot with a cellphone camera at one of his hideouts. He has two telescopic guns in the background on either side.

Alone in the frame, facing the camera and sporting a modestly trimmed beard, 25-year-old Burhan Wani of Tral, who has grown as an icon for the youths in South Kashmir in 2015-16, however, warns attacks on the proposed Sainik colonies, transit camps of the displaced Kashmiri Pandits besides security forces and Police.

"If the proposed Sainik colonies come up, we will definitely attack them because this is our land and we will not allow any military constructions on it. As regards the Pandits, we have no objection if they return and live in their own villages and houses. But these Israeli-type settlements would not be acceptable. We will strike on them", Burhan adds.

In the beginning of his unusual statement, Burhan calls Jammu and Kashmir Police as "our brothers" but complains that India had pitted the militants and the State Police against each other. "This is all an Indian machination that our own Police brothers are dying at our hands. But unfortunately these people don't understand. They don't budge an inch. They, in fact, continue their actions against the militants and their own people. We will strike on them in retaliation", Burhan says.

"In last year's video, we had warned the Police against striking on the militants and harassing the Kashmiri youths. But now, we won't issue any warning. We will straightaway strike on anyone helping the Indian troops", says the top wanted guerrilla commander while emphasising that the militants' "real fight" is against India.

Burhan asks the youths aspiring to join his organisation to collect complete details about the activities of the Police officers and officials in their respective areas and pass it to the militants so as to sort out the Policemen working against the militants.

"People should stay away from camps besides Police and Army officers because we can attack them anywhere, anytime. However, those loving their life should perform their duty at Police stations and camps. They should not lay nakas. They should not act against the youths or the militants. Whosoever does it, will be himself responsible for his death", Burhan goes on to warn the Police.

While urging the Police to be on the side of the militants, Burhan also implores the Kashmiris that they should herd out the security forces from their localities with stone pelting wherever the troops launch an operation. He expresses gratitude to the Kashmiris for "helping and protecting the militants and providing them support and shelter". He says that one of his colleagues, Tariq Pandit of Kareemabad Pulwama, had got some militants arrested and some hideouts exposed after he was arrested by Army. "But it does not bother us much as every Kashmiri household is our hideout".

Burhan also complains against the media with his allegation that it would report only what India dictated to it. "Recently, India in Kupwara froze all the (Internet) networking to hide some incidents and killings. We can also completely choke it as media calls the militants as terrorists. Everybody here knows that the Indian troops alone are the terrorists and we are not", says Burhan.


[Published in today's STATE TIMES]

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Mehbooba says Omar, media setting J&K on fire

Had we followed your footsteps, the state would have been on fire: Omar

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz
SRINAGAR, June 6: During a spar with the opposition National Conference leader in Legislative Assembly on the controversial proposal of the establishment of Sainik colonies, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti on Monday alleged that Omar Abdullah and some newspapers were "setting the state on fire" with inflammatory tweets and sensational reports respectively.

During Question Hour, independent MLA Engineer Sheikh Abdul Rashid waved a copy of Sunday's 'Kashmir Reader' claiming with the support of a picture that a colony for the soldiers was coming up near Srinagar notwithstanding Chief Minister's assurance that her Government had neither land nor any plan of setting up any Sainik colony in Jammu and Kashmir.

The story carried by Srinagar-based English language newspaper was purportedly based on the content provided by a civil society group espousing the cause of separation from India.

As entire opposition, particularly National Conference and Congress, joined the MLA's clamour seeking an explanation from Chief Minister, Mehbooba rose to shut a many mouths Reiterating that no Sainik Colony was coming up in any part of the state, she said reports springing up in this regard seemed to be "the part of a desperate and sustained campaign by certain quarters to destabilize the situation and put Kashmir on fire again".

“Let it be clear that the Army is not constructing any Sainik Colony in Kashmi", Mehbooba asserted, making it clear that the picture published by the daily was that of the Army's own construction at their land at J&K Light Infantry headquarters. She said that such constructions within the areas under occupation of Army, like the Badami Bagh Cantonment, was a continuous process which was in no way related to the state government.

“Constructions have been going on for decades in the areas which have been allotted to the Army and other security forces for their staff and the families and by playing up the pictures of some residential accommodation in the newspapers, which already exist in most parts of Jammu and Kashmir, an attempt is being made to provoke the situation and create trouble, which won’t be allowed,” she said.

“It is highly unfortunate that at a time when the tourism activity has started picking up in Kashmir and the slumped economy is slowly rejuvenating, a sustained campaign has been launched by certain quarters to dish out concocted and inflammatory reports to provoke the situation,” Mehbooba added.

An infuriated Mehbooba alleged Omar Abdullah had stoked a fire with his tweet on May 7th (sic.) while suggesting that non-state subject soldiers were being settled as permanent residents in Sainik Colonies by the State government. Even after her clarification that the government had neither land nor a plan in hand to raise any such settlement, she complained that the leader of opposition and some newspapers were misleading the people and "setting the state on fire" with tweets and unfounded reports.

"He has himself been Chief Minister and attended four meetings of the Rajya Sainik Board in which the decisions to locate land for Sainik Colonies for state subject retired soldiers were taken. However, when the matter came up during our Government, it was communicated to the concerned quarters that there is no land available for the purpose,” Mehbooba said in a scathing attack on Omar.

"Unfortunately despite knowing everything and talking of peace you are setting the state on fire... doing tweet after tweet after tweet on everything". She said that "one, two or three newspapers" were in a race to carry unfounded stories for waving of the opposition members in the House and warned that as a responsible Chief Minister she would not tolerate it.

She urged the media to play a responsible role by verifying the veracity of the reports before publishing the same. “Please investigate whatever comes to you especially on such sensitive issues before putting the same in the public domain,” she urged the media and said if there is even an iota of truth in any such move, go ahead and publish it, “but for God's sake, please don’t lend credence to hearsay.”

Mehbooba said her Government would not allow anybody to put Kashmir on fire and bring miseries to the people. “I am not here for luxuries, I am here to work and bring relief to the people, who have suffered immensely because of turmoil, mis-governance, corruption and nepotism,” she said. “I will not permit anybody to play with the lives of the people and disrupt peace and would continue to work for the welfare of the people for as long as I am here", she asserted.

The opposition benches protested against the Chief Minister’s outburst saying everything was not media created.

Responding to Mehbooba’s charge, Omar said he had never denied being part of the meetings for setting up of Sainik Colony but had never passed any order like the one he had posted on twitter earlier last month.

“If there is any such order issued during my tenure, please bring it forth. If you are here for welfare of the people, I am also here so that people are benefited,” he said. “I think when the Chief Minister is talking about setting the state on fire, she is confusing herself with me. My tenure as Chief Minister is witness.....Had we followed your footsteps, the state would have been on fire,” Omar said.

Omar said he would continue to raise issues of the publuc interest in Assembly as well as in social media. “Whether I stay in the chair for two days or two years, I will not allow anyone to play with the people of the state", Omar said while asserting that he would neither be apologetic for his tweets nor stop the same. He said that he had indeed sought a clarification from the government eith regard to the people to be settled in the Sainik Colonies. "But after their clarification, we did not rake up this issue. If some other member is raking it up, she must address the nember and not direct her attack on us", Omar added.

The spar between the Chief Minister and the former Chief Minister generated a pandemonium for about 20 minutes in the House.

Omar, who has over 14 lakh followers, also posted his reaction on Twitter. "This tweet's dedicated to @mufti_mehbooba who through her ill tempered assembly intervention made me realise how much she hates me tweeting", he tweeted and also sympathised with the media. "Amazing how she attacked the media as well today. The newspapers must've made for uncomfortable reading this morning. Explains the mood!!!"


Sunday, June 5, 2016

Militants attempting to disrupt Anantnag polls, provoking retaliation for civilian casualties: DGP

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz
SRINAGAR, June 4: Director General of Jammu and Kashmir Police, K Rajendra Kumar, believes that the two audacious strikes by militants on BSF and State Police in Bijbehara and Anantnag respectively on Friday and Saturday were part of their planning to disrupt the Assembly by-elections in Anantnag and the forthcoming Amarnath pilgrimage.

"Striking at crowded public places in Bijbehara and Anantnag makes it unmistakably clear that the militants plan to disrupt the June 22 by-election besides this year's Amarnath Yatra and a flourishing tourist season", Rajendra told STATE TIMES. "They have strategically chosen the holy month of Ramazan, which coincides with the passage of Amarnath Yatra, for creating a 2008-like political turmoil", Rajendra asserted.

"But we have already seen through their intentions and directed the troops and the Police to observe maximum possible restraint and avoid collateral damage", DGP said by telephone. He claimed that the militants' objective was nothing but to provoke retaliation at a crowded place where several people could be killed in crossfiring with a minute mistake or overreaction by the soldiers or Police. "We didn't fall in the trap either yesterday or today", DGP asserted.

DGP said that the authorities would nevertheless take "all the necessary preventive and administrative measures" to deal with the situation and break the militants' and their supporters' network and funding channels. "The separarists in tandem with the militants are desperately trying to create 2008-like turbulence which could come handy in the month of Ramazan", he added. He pointed out that they had first raised the "bogey" of the Sainik colonies and the Pandit colonies besides the new Industrial policy "trying to create a social unrest and disturbance".

"We are clear that we will not fall in their trap. We will get after the militants' support structure but ensure that there is no civilian casualty from our offensive. We will not act on rumours and speculations. We will launch operations only on specific information and conduct the same with total professionalism", DGP asserted.

Rajendra said that the militants' offensive was also a demonstration of their failure and desparation as Police and security forces had carried out dozens of successful operstions this year and neutralised scores of the militants and their supporters in these operations.


[Published in today's STATE TIMES]
ASI among 2 cops gunned down by militants in Anantnag

Within 24 hours of killing 3 BSF men at Bijbehara, motorcycle borne gunmen struck on a Police party in Anantnag

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz
SRINAGAR, June 4: Making their intentions of disrupting Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti's Assembly election of June 22, as also a flourishing tourist season and the forthcoming Amarnath pilgrimage, clearer, unidentified militants carried out second consecutive daredevil strike in 24 hours at district headquarters of Anantnag, killing two Police officials including an Assistant Sub Inspector of Police (ASI) on Saturday.

Residents, claiming to be eyewitnesses, told STATE TIMES that three unidentified persons on a Pulsor-type motorcycle slowed down in front of a small Police party at the exit of General Bus Stand on Khannabal-Pahalgam (KP) Road at Anantnag at 11.15 a.m. Two of them swiftly took out AK-47 rifles from their bags and fired on the unarmed ASI Bashir Ahmad Ahangar and his PSO, Constable Riyaz Ahmad, who had an AK-47 in hand, in point blank range. Both the Police personnel got critically injured. They were rushed to District Hospital Anantnag where doctors declared them dead.

Official sources said that Police managed to obtain a photograph clicked with a cellphone by a resident that helped the authorities identify two of the three assassins.

"According to preliminary identification, one of the assassins is Junaid of Khudwani and another is believed to be a Pakistani militant of Lashkar-e-Tayyiba. However, the process of identification and verification is still inconclusive", said a senior Police official. He said that the militants escaped on their motorcycle through an alley taking off for Chhee village and subsequently passed through Angmattipora village towards Bijbehara-Srigufwara belt.

Officials maintained that the Police party headed by ASI Bashir was clearing a traffic jam at the exit point of the dustrict bus-yard when the militants appeared and shot them like sitting ducks. The militants attempted to take away Constable Riyaz Ahmad's AK-47 rifle but escaped when another constable from a distance fired in the air.

As the killing of the two local Police officials generated palpable resentment in their localities and large number of the residents attended their funeral prayers at Loktipora Ashmuqam and Uttarsu Shangus, none of the militant organisations claimed responsibility of the attack till late on Saturday night.

Residents, as well the officials, said that the broad daylight shootout, which came in 24 hours of an audacious ambush on BSF at Bijbehara, spread a wave of terror in Anantnag district where polling for by-election of Anantnag proper Assembly segment is scheduled to be held on June 22. Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti is seeking mandate as the ruling PDP candidate from the segment that has fallen vacant due to the former Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed's death on January 7 this year. Saturday was the last day of withdrawal of nomination for the nine candidates who have filed their papers. As the independent MLA from Langate (Kupwara) Engineer Rashid withdrew his papers, eight candidates, including Mehbooba, are now in the fray.

Congress has repeated its candidate Hilal Ahmad Shah, who secured over 10,000 votes in 2014 but lost to PDP's Chief Ministerial candidate Mufti Mohammad Sayeed by a margin of around 6,000 votes. National Conference too has repeated its 2014 candidate Iftikhar Hussain Misgar who had polled around 3,000 votes in previous Assembly election. Efforts are reportedly underway between NC and Congress to project Shah as the opposition's consensus candidate.

No electioneering has been witnessed so far in the key constituency from which Mehbooba's victory is a do-or-die matter for the PDP-BJP coalition. Representing Lok Sabha constituency of Anantnag in the Parliament since May 2014, Ms Mufti has taken over as Chief Minister on April 4, around two months after her father's death. She is bound to be elected within six months as a member of Legislative Assembly or Legislative Council. Technically and legally, she is entitled to election as MLC even after losing in the current by-election on Assembly seat of Anantnag. However, her defeat can leave her bereft of the moral ground of continuation as Chief Minister and President of the ruling party. That is why Ms Mufti's victoryvhas a high stake and is extremely important for the PDP-BJP coalition.

Fear of the gun among electorate can drastically reduce turnout and have a negative bearing on the prospects of Ms Mufti's victory even as she has contested two Parliamentary and three Assembly elections from South Kashmir in the last 20 years and won them all. None of her seven rivals in the contest is any match to her high political profile.

Even as none of the politicians was seen around, Director General of Police K Rajendra Kumar rushed to Anantnag to participate in the wreath-laying ceremony of the slain Police personnel. He was also joined by General Officer Commanding Victor Force, IGs and DIGs of Kashmir Police and CRPF besides a number of Army's and CRPF's battalion commanders and all district SPs of South Kashmir. After the ceremony, DGP also chaired a high level security review meeting with Police, paramilitary and Army officers.


[Published in today's STATE TIMES]