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Saturday, July 23, 2016

Bhat to camp in Anantnag as DIG; SP Anantnag removed

With two more fatal casualties, Kashmir turbulence toll reaches 47

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz


SRINAGAR, Jul 22: With South Kashmir continuing to be on the edge and death toll reaching 47 with two more fatal casualties on the 14th consecutive day of shutdown and curfew, after militant Burhan Wani’s killing in an encounter on July 8, Government on Friday ordered replacement of SP Anantnag while asking DIG Central Kashmir Ghulam Hassan Bhat to camp in Anantnag and hold the charge of DIG South Kashmir.

Sources in the State Home Department told STATE TIMES that Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti was getting increasingly perturbed over mounting of the fatal casualties in South Kashmir---ruling PDP’s stronghold in the mainstream political arena. Almost all the 47-odd deaths have occurred in South Kashmir during the two-week-long turbulence even as several Police Stations and vehicles have been torched by angry crowds and a cluster of houses and an apple orchard have been destroyed in Bamdora where Wani had died, along with two more Kashmiri militants, earlier this month.

According to sources, Government had earlier decided substantive transfer of DIG South Kashmir Nitish Kumar and three SPs. However, in the evening it was decided that only SP Anantnag Abdul Jabbar would be shifted substantively to a new place of posting. Home Department’s Order No: 403 said that SP Anantnag Abdul Jabbar and SP Traffic, Rural Kashmir, Zubair Ahmad Khan would swap their places with immediate effect.

Home Department’s Order No: 404 said that DIG Central Kashmir Ghulam Hassan Bhat would hold the charge of DIG South Kashmir and camp in Anantnag with immediate effect till Nitish Kumar returns from foreign training (Core Module IV) scheduled to be held at International Anti-Corruption Academy (IACA) Vienna, Austria with effect from 25-07-2016 to 05-08-2016. With intervals of three months, Mr Kumar is required to attend the studies of a course in Austria for 10 to 20 days.

The order said that incharge IG Traffic Viplav Kumar, who is currently senior most DIG, would hold the additional charge of DIG Central Kashmir during Mr Bhat’s camping in Anantnag.

Toll reaches 47

Earlier on Friday, a 19-year-old Mushtaq Ahmad Bhat of Chursu, Awantipora, was hit directly by a teargas shell, causing a 4-inch wide wound in his abdomen. He was rushed to a Srinagar hospital but he succumbed to injuries. Sources said that Police and paramilitary forces fired tearsmoke canisters when a crowd gathered at the highway at Chursu and staged an anti-India and pro-Pakistan demonstration immediately after conclusion of Friday afternoon prayers.

During previous night, another civilian, Ashfaq Ahmad of Hillar Kokernag, who had got critically injured in Police action on a crowd last week, breathed his last at SKIMS in Soura.

With the addition of two deaths, including a fresh one on Friday, toll has reached 47---including one Police driver---in Kashmir valley in the last 14 days.

On the 14th day of complete shutdown in the Valley and strict enforcement of curfew in several areas, demonstrators clashed with Police and paramilitary forces at around 20 spots in different districts. Official sources said that over a dozen protesters and Police and CRPF personnel sustained injuries. According to the union Home Minister, over 2100 civilians and over 1600 personnel of Police and security forces have sustained injuries during the 14-day-long clashes.

Due to strict enforcement of curfew and all the separatist leaders being either under house arrest or in Police detention, Friday congregational prayers were not held at the historic Jamia Masjid in Nowhatta area of the summer capital and several other community mosques. GPRS Internet services and all mobile phone services, excluding BSNL’s postpaid, have remained frozen after Wani’s death that led to a huge turbulence in the Valley.

Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh is scheduled to arrive in Srinagar for a two-day visit during which he would attempt an interaction with the civil society and hold a high level meeting with the top Government functionaries and representatives of security and intelligence agencies. Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti would also attend the meeting.


[Published in Saturday’s STATE TIMES]

Friday, July 22, 2016

Two NC workers arrested for ‘looting weapons, firing on Army camp’ in Kulgam

Sakeena Itoo: ‘We had built Police Station, Court complex with our sweat and blood. How would our men reduce them to rubble?’

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

DAMHAL HANJIPORA (Kulgam), Jul 21: Two of the opposition National Conference (NC) workers have been arrested by Police with the allegation that they had not only set ablaze a Police station but also looted weapons from its armoury and fired on a camp of Rashtriya Rifles from a huge crowd after funeral prayers for the Hizbul Mujahideen militant Burhan Wani had been performed at Damhal Hanjipora, in South Kashmir’s Kulgam district, on July 9.

A day after Wani died, along with two more Kashmiri militants, in a controversial operation of Police and Army at Bamdora Kokernag, unruly crowds in the Valley attacked and set ablaze several Police installations including Police Stations of Damhal Hanjipora and Kund in Kulgam.

Senior Superintendent of Police Mohammad Irshad confirmed that seven persons had been arrested and subjected to questioning for the firing and torching of public properties on July 9. He confirmed that two detainees, both residents of Khul Ahmadabad, admitted that they had looted weapons from Damhal Hanjipora Police Station and fired on the local Army camp from behind a crowd. Two civilians, including a woman, had got killed in the shootout and several others injured. SSP declined to comment on the political affiliation of the accused but confirmed that both the automatic rifles used in the firing on Army had been recovered from them.

Sources, however, insisted that both the accused were “known activists of National Conference and staunch supporters of the former Minister Sakeena Itoo”.

“During investigation, we learned that these two persons had carried petrol in a big plastic container from their village Khul Ahmadabad, that is 8 Kms away from Damhal Hanjipora, and set on fire CJM’s court and residence and thereafter the Police Station. They have admitted that they looted two SLRs from the Police Station and opened fire on Army’s Casper that was driven in reverse direction back to the camp when the crowd resorted to violence”, SSP Irshad told STATE TIMES.

SSP disclosed that as many as 41 weapons, including SLRs, Insas rifles and AK-47s, were missing after the Police Station, along with its Kot (armoury), was set ablaze by the crowd. “We have recovered 35 guns but 30 of them are charred. Six weapons, including one AK-47, are still missing but we have identified the persons who have looted the same and we are sure to get back every single weapon”, SSP Irshad said. He claimed that none of the 41 missing weapons had fallen in the hands of militants. He said that in addition to 41 Police weapons, 11 AK-47s, seized from militants, were also destroyed in the blaze.

Ms Itoo, who has been NC’s MLA, MLC and Minister several times, strongly dismissed reports that her party’s workers were involved in burning public properties, attacking Police Station or Army camp. “This is absurd and utter nonsense. Our workers are neither stone throwers nor saboteurs. Unlike our opponents, we have been religiously associated with development and peace building. Even in 2008 and 2010 mass agitation, there was not a single incident of violence or clash in my constituency (Noorabad)”, Ms Itoo, herself a resident of Damhal Hanjipora, said.

“I had raised this court complex and Police station with my sweat and blood. These were very beautiful buildings. Our people know it well. How could they even think about burning down such public properties? This is not National Conference’s tradition”, Ms Itoo asserted.

“It may be nothing but a sinister conspiracy to frame our workers in the current turbulence and violence. Everybody knows who these people are. Find about those killed or injured in this turbulence. In 2010, our opposition party (PDP) played a proactive role in the mayhem. Their district youth president died while pelting stones in Anantnag. Even when we were in power and a baseless allegation of a woman’s rape by Army was levelled and projected, Mehboobaji  herself camped in Manzgam (former Minister and PDP MLA late Abdul Aziz Zargar’s village in Noorabad) to create trouble. We reached out to the people and proved that trouble was being created over a baseless allegation. Within two days that lady came out with her statement and called it baseless”, Ms Itoo further said.

According to Ms Itoo, people of different villages gathered at Damhal Hanjipora on July 9th and they performed Burhan Wani’s funeral prayers in absentia. SHO Haider went to the Eidgah and he picked up some youths. Scores of people rushed to the Police Station and implored him to set the youths free. He, however, misbehaved with them. “As the situation came to an altercation and the people began fighting with SHO, his PSO Parvez opened fire in which a woman and a man, who was from a different village and had gone to his relatives after Eid, were killed. The SHO escaped and took shelter in the Army camp. The angry crowd set the Police Station on fire. The last Policeman, Constable Niyaz Ahmad, attempted to put out the fire with the help of three residents, but failed. Soon he too escaped.

Ms Itoo claimed that half of the population in DH Pora was her supporter and another half followers of PDP’s sitting MLA Abdul Majid Paddar, who functioned as Minister of State for Forest in Mufti Sayeed’s government but was not inducted by Mehbooba Mufti. “What were that man and his supporters doing? He too lives in this very village. He has his sons and daughters married in this village”. She said that for several days, Damhal looked like a liberated zone. “SHO and Tehsildar were themselves missing. DC was not visible anywhere. Now they are appearing here and trying to restore the Police Station”.

SSP Irshad declined to engage himself in an argument with any politician but maintained that “not a single weapon” of the Police Station was out in use during the clash.

“Only one weapon was issued to a Constable who was posted with static guard at the court complex. He was the only Police man with a gun. When the mayhem was going on, he took shelter at a friend’s home and concealed his gun there. Parvez carried a gas gun. While fleeing, he had thrown it into Army premises. We have recovered it. He has not fired a single shot as he had no gun with him”, SSP said. He claimed that Army’s Casper at the camp’s entrance had received gunshots and these had been fired from the SLRs looted from the Police Station.

Two FIRs have been filed regarding the shootout and the crowd’s attack on the Police Station, court complex and the Army camp.


[Published in today’s STATE TIMES]

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Army chief visits simmering Kashmir; toll reaches 45

Pak anthem at Valley mosques on 12th day of curfew; separatists extend shutdown further to July 25

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz


SRINAGAR, Jul 20: Even as there was no major incident of violence or clash in the turbulent Kashmir valley on the 12th consecutive day of shutdown and curfew on Wednesday, death toll reached 45 with yet another injured civilian’s fatality.

Official sources said that 55-year-old Ghulam Mohammad Mir r/o Khumriyal Kupwara, who had last week sustained injuries in a clash at his village, breathed his last at SHMS Hospital. One person had got killed and six others injured when troops had opened fire on a crowd at Khumriyal. With this fatal casualty, death toll in the 12-day-long turmoil in the Valley has reached 45. With the addition of the five persons killed in Police and security forces’ firing in Kupwara district after an alleged incident of molestation in April, 50 persons have died in the three-and-a-half month old PDP-BJP coalition regime in Jammu and Kashmir.

Hizbul Mujahideen militant Burhan Wani’s death in a controversial Police and Army operation on July 8 has triggered protest and clashes with security forces in almost all the 10 district of Kashmir valley. While as 45 persons, including a Police driver, have died in the clashes, over 2,000 have sustained injuries---many of them in pellet gun firing.

No major incident of violence was reported on the 12th day of continued shutdown even as minor clashes took place between protesters and security forces at several places. In the evening, Pakistani and Jihadist anthems were played on PAS of many mosques across the Valley that observed ‘Black Day’ on Pakistan’s call in solidarity with Wani and families of over 40 civilians who have died in the turmoil.

In the evening people at several places took out processions and shouted pro-Pakistan, pro-Azadi and anti-Indian slogans. Reports said that over a hundred small processions of 100-300 protesters were taken out. Blackout was also enforced in several areas on Hurriyat Conference’s for half an hour.

Senior separatist leaders Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik have, in a joint statement, announced extension of shutdown to July 25. They have announced relaxation of a few hours from 1400 hours onwards on Thursday.

Authorities on Wednesday said that Government had ordered immediate opening of all educational institutions in the relatively lesser disturbed districts of Budgam, Baramulla, Bandipore and Ganderbal from Thursday.

Mobile phone services and Internet through GPRS remained closed down in entire Valley where the only access to the information highway is BSNL’s landline Broadband. Most of such services have been shut down last week.

Army chief in Valley

Chief of Army Staff Gen Dalbir Singh Suhag reviewed the security situation in Kashmir during his visit to the Srinagar based Chinar Corps.

Army Chief was briefed by the Northern Army Commander Lt Gen DS Hooda and Chinar Corps Commander Lt Gen Satish Dua on the situation along the LC and the hinterland including the measures instituted to ensure close coordination with all security and other government agencies towards maintaining peace in the Valley.

Army Chief, accompanied by the Northern Army and Chinar Corps Commanders, also visited Kupwara headquarters of 28th Division and Awantipora based Victor Force headquarters where he was briefed on the operational preparedness as also the initiatives taken by Army in collaboration with civil administration to alleviate hardships being faced by the populace due to the prevailing unrest. Army Chief also met with the DG of J&K and was reassured about the excellent synergy between Army, Police, CAPFs and intelligence agencies.

In his interaction with officers and troops, the Army Chief commended their operational preparedness and commitment to the cause of national security. He exhorted everyone to ensure strict vigil along the Line of Control. Appreciating the synergy being shown amongst all security agencies that has resulted in successful counter-terrorist operations, he also complimented the troops on ground for showing maximum restraint even in the face of grave provocation. He expressed his grief and concern over the casualties of civilians and security forces during the protests while making an earnest appeal to the people to maintain peace and help security forces serve them better.

 Army Chief also impressed upon everyone to continue their positive engagement with the Awaam and lend them all possible assistance in close coordination with other stakeholders. 


[Published in today’s STATE TIMES]

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Kashmirturbulence toll reaches 44 as another woman dies at SKIMS
Army orders inquiry in Kulgam firing; Corprs Commander, DGP visit Kulgam; Army chief may visit today
Ahmed Ali Fayyaz
SRINAGAR, July 19: With the death of another woman, toll in the 11-day-long Kashmir turbulence has reached 44 even as three protesters sustained injuries in a clash in Anantnag on Tuesday.
Officials told STATE TIMES that 29-year-old Neelofar w/o Ghulam Hassan r/o Churhat Kulgam, who had got critically injured in Army’s firing at her village on Monday evening, succumbed to injuries at SKIMS Soura in the wee hours. Her burial took place amid pro-Pakistan, pro-Azadi and anti-India slogans at Churhat at around 1330 hours.
Sources said that Neelofar and her young son were among seven persons who had sustained injuries in the Army’s firing on protesters in which one 48-year-old woman Saida had died on spot.
Sources said that GOC 15 Corps Lt Gen Satish Kumar Dua, accompanied by J&K DGP K. Rajendra Kumar, Additional DG CID S.M. Sahai and IG Kashmir Syed Javaid Mujtaba Gilani, visited Kulgam area by a helicopter earlier today. They interacted with troops of Rashtriya Rifles 9th battalion at Devsar besides Police and civil officials. Unconfirmed reports said that an interaction with the local civilian population was also organised. They have reached back to Srinagar.
Inquiry ordered, Army Chief visiting today
Sources said that Army has ordered an internal inquiry into yesterday's firing as many believe it could have been avoided as the crowd could not have harmed or torched a bulletproof Casper that is not vulnerable even to militants' firing and grenade attacks.
Army chief Gen Dalbir Singh Suhag is likely to arrive in Srinagar on Wednesday for a thorough interaction with officers and jawans and a review of the strategy for effectively dealing with the protesters. Security forces have temporarily suspended all counterinsurgency operations in Kashmir valley in the wake of turbulence over Burhan Wani’s killing and the demonstrators’ mounting attacks on security forces.
Meanwhile, sources in South Kashmir said that a crowd clashed with Police at the time of withdrawal of deployment at Khannabal Anantnag in the evening on Tuesday. In retaliation to intense stone pelting, Police fired from pellet guns, causing injuries to three persons. Two of them were referred to a hospital in Srinagar.
[Published in today's STATE TIMES]

Woman among two more killed in Army firing in Kulgam; toll 43

Separatists reject Rajnath’s offer of talks, extend shutdown to July 22

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Jul 18: With the killing of two more civilians, including a woman, in the security forces’ firing in Kulgam district of South Kashmir, death toll in the 10-day-long Valley-wide turbulence after the militant Burhan Wani’s killing in an encounter on July 8, has reached 43.

Official sources told STATE TIMES that a crowd of around 200 people, who had blocked the road at Churhat village in Kulgam district, were shouting pro-Azadi, pro-Pakistan and anti-India slogans at around sunset. Meanwhile, a bullet-proof Casper of Rashtriya Rifles 9th battalion was spotted returning to the Army camp in Devsar area. As the crowd blocked its way and subjected the vehicle to intense stone pelting, soldiers from inside opened fire.

Forty-eight-year old Saja Begam wife of Ghulam Hassan Mir and 22-year-old Showkat Ahmad Itoo died on spot while as five more protesters sustained injuries.  Three of them with minor injuries were rushed to Qazigund and given medical treatment. Two more with critical injuries were admitted to District Hospital of Anantnag. One was reportedly stable after a surgery and another was about to be referred to a hospital in Srinagar.

Police version

A Police spokesman said in a press release: “Today in the evening an army mobile domination patrol party while moving towards Devsar tried to clear a road blockade erected by miscreants at Churaht Qazigund. The security force party while removing the obstructions came under heavy stone pelting by the miscreants from two sides. The Army party warned the mob to maintain distance but it did not relent. Some miscreants tried to snatch weapons from them and tried to set ablaze the vehicles. Despite repeated warnings the mob did not disperse and army fired in self-defence in an effort to move out from the spot. Six persons were injured, two of whom later on succumbed to their injuries”.

With the addition of two fatal casualties, death toll in the 10-day-long turbulence in Kashmir has reached 43, including a Police driver. However, officially it is mentioned as 36.

Notwithstanding some incidents of stone pelting, situation on the 10th consecutive day of shutdown and curfew in many parts of the Valley was by and large under control till evening. In the evening, people at several places attack Police and security forces at the time of withdrawal of deployments. Separatist leaders Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik have called for “peaceful protest demonstrations” after the evening prayers at mosques daily.

Shutdown extended to July 22

Curfew imposed by the authorities and shutdown called by the separatist organisations in the wake of Burhan Wani’s killing on July 8, have been running parallel to each other. Even at the end of third extension, the separatist leaders this evening extended shutdown further to July 22. They announced the first relaxation from 1400 hours on nest Thursday. On July 20, Pakistan has called for observance of ‘Black Day’ in that country and Jammu and Kashmir over Burhan Wani’s killing followed by more than 40 civilian killings.

In a statement, the separatist this evening leaders rejected union Home Minister Rajnath Singh’s offer of “engagement with the people” and they dismissed it as “militaristic”. In his speech in Rajya Sabha, Singh had earlier said that he would visit Kashmir, stay at Nehru Guest House and “talk to the Kashmiris” after restoration of normality. He revealed that he was constantly in touch with Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti and had expressed his desire to come down to Srinagar for engaging the Kashmir in a dialogue. He said Mehbooba suggested that this process should be initiated after restoration of peace and after her visit to New Delhi.

 Around 2,000 civilians and 1,600 Police and security forces’ personnel have sustained injuries in the intermittent clashes in the last 10 days. Around 200 of them are still under treatment at different hospitals. Around 600 have been reportedly injured in teargas and pellet gun firing. As many as 25 Police installations, including 8 Police Stations, have been severely damaged in the mob attacks while as 49 other government offices and installations have been set on fire.

Authorities have closed down all mobile telephone networks excluding post-paid and landline services of BSNL. Internet through GPRS on all mobile phone services has been frozen and it is currently operational only through landline Broadband service of BSNL. In North Kashmir, all telephone and Internet services have been blocked. Authorities have also seized newspapers and directed the editors not to publish their dailies till next orders.

Mattoo says heads will roll

Chief Editor of Kashmir News Service Mohammad Aslam told STATE TIMES late this evening that owners of all the local news gathering agencies have been directed verbally by District Magistrate of Srinagar Dr Farooq Ahmad Lone not to circulate their daily bulletins “for the next two three days”.

Interestingly, Chief Minister’s Advisor Prof Amitabh Mattoo told NDTV this evening that the State government had not ordered any ban on media. He asserted that “heads will roll” as the officers involved in the crackdown on media will be taken to task.


[Published in today’s STATE TIMES]

Monday, July 18, 2016

Thaw on day nine; 7 civilians injured in clash in Bandipore

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, July 17: With a near-total communication and information blockade in entire Kashmir valley, no major clash took place between the protesters and security forces on the 9th consecutive day of shutdown after militant Burhan Wani’s death in an encounter in Kokernag area of Anantnag district on July 8.

Authoritative sources told STATE TIMES that a unit of Rashtriya Rifles proceeded to Saderkot Bala in Bandipore district for some minor recoveries, like guillotine rods. During the operation, residents resisted with the argument that the ballistic material being recovered was used under proper license for quarrying at the local sites. After an altercation, there was a clash between the residents and the troops in which seven civilians sustained injuries.

Sources said that four civilians were injured with firearms. All the seven injured were rushed to Srinagar and admitted at SKIMS for treatment. Sources said that six soldiers were injured in the clash as the residents attacked the Army cavalcade including two Casper vehicles. An unconfirmed report said that one of the critically injured civilians succumbed on way to hospital. A Police spokesman maintained that no fatal casualty took place in Saderkot Bala, Bandipore.

In another incident, one protester was hit by a teargas shell in his neck at Rainawari in Srinagar. He was rushed to hospital.

Sources said that around 20 civilian protesters and about a dozen Police and security forces personnel sustained injuries on Sunday in different clashes. Most of these clashes occurred at the time of withdrawal of Police and paramilitary deployments from different places.

Restrictions were in place in downtown Srinagar and several other areas in the Valley even as the separatists-sponsored shutdown crippled normal life on the 9th consecutive day. Government was forced to declare extension of summer vacation of colleges and schools till July 25.

As many as 41 persons, including one Police driver, have died in the Valley-wide clashes in turbulent aftermath of Burhan Wani’s death. Besides around 1700 people have sustained injuries and 25 Police establishments have been destroyed by protesting crowds. Monday is the concluding day of the shutdown call issued by different separatist groups. Even Tuesday can remain disturbed as Pakistan has called for observance of ‘Black Day’ in solidarity with the 40-odd civilians killed and her demand of Plebiscite under the UN resolutions.

In today’s situation bulletin, a Police spokesman said: “The overall situation throughout Kashmir valley remained calm. There was no report of any untoward incident from any part of the valley. However, stray incidents of stone pelting were received from Kunzer in Baramulla, Eidgah in Srinagar and Saderkote Bala in Bandipora”. He said that “some Policemen, CRPF personnel and civilians” received injuries in these incidents.


[Published in today’s STATE TIMES]

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Kashmir newspapers, cable TV ‘banned’ as Police raid GK, RK presses

Editors call it ‘press censorship’, vow to fight it out; Govt remains ‘switched off’, ‘not reachable’, doesn’t issue official statement; death toll in Valley reaches 41
Ahmed Ali Fayyaz


SRINAGAR, Jul 16: For the first time in the last over six years, Government of Jammu and Kashmir has allegedly ordered suspension of all newspapers in Kashmir valley as Police conducted midnight raids on printing presses of two leading dailies and seized copies and plates with the ‘warning’ that no newspapers be printed till clearance from the higher authorities.

Editors of the two leading English language dailies Greater Kashmir and Rising Kashmir, namely Fayaz Ahmad Kaloo and Shujaat Bukhari, said that Police parties from Humhama Police Division of Budgam District Police raided their printing presses respectively at Rangreth and Humhama after last midnight. The Police contingent seized all the bundles of GK’s sister publication ‘Kashmir Uzma’, a daily in Urdu, besides plates of GK. Four employees, including manager of the press, were taken away, detained for several hours without questioning and let off in the morning on Saturday.

Mr Bukhari said that when the Police party reached his press, the newspaper had been printed and sent to a distributor in Srinagar. Police took away the employees to Civil Lines area, seized the bundles and subsequently dumped them at Humhama Police Division.

Editors of two more English language dailies, Kashmir Reader and Kashmir Observer, said that bundles of their newspapers were snatched away by Police from the hawkers and distributors and seized.

Editors and working journalists held sit-in protest over the government action against the newspapers at press enclave and called it “press emergency”. Holding placards, newspaper owners and editors vowed that they would “fight it out”. They attempted to talk to different Government functionaries, including DGP and Director Information but none of them responded to the telephone calls. Subsequently, they called Cabinet’s spokesperson and Minister of Education Naeem Akhtar who told them that the Police action had been decided and ordered by the Government.

Asked if the editors could continue printing their newspapers, Mr Akhtar advised them not to publish any newspapers till July 19. However, nobody in the Government either responded to calls or issued a formal statement on the Police action against the newspapers.

After the meeting, the editors and publishers said in a statement: “An emergency meeting of Kashmir based newspaper editors/owners was held on Saturday afternoon in which the situation arising out of the police raids on all the printing presses was discussed threadbare. This action of the government which resulted in breakdown of circulation of newspapers was strongly condemned”.

The participants termed it as an “attack on the freedom of press” and vowed “to fight it back at all costs”.

Meanwhile, all the local cable TV networks were also taken down for unknown reasons.

When STATE TIMES made repeated attempts to obtain an official version, Chief Secretary B.R. Sharma and DGP K. Rajendra Kumar did not pick up the calls. Cellphone of Principal Secretary Home R.K. Goyal was switched off. He had reportedly secured a BSNL SIM on Saturday but that had not been activated till midnight. BSNL phones of Cabinet spokesperson Naeem Akhtar and Director Information Zuber Ahmad were permanently switched off. One call matured on Mr Ahmad’s phone but he did not respond.

In absence of an official version, it was assumed that the Government had decided to suspend publication of all Kashmir-based newspapers with the apprehension that certain news stories, photographs and statements of some politicians could aggravate the already simmering situation. As many as 41 persons, including a Policeman, have got killed and around 1700 injured in the clashes triggered by the militant Burhan Wani's death.

Sources in the Government maintained that no authority, including Home Secretary and District Magistrates, had issued any formal order for seizing the newspapers or sealing off the printing presses.

Editors said that their staff worked and online editions of all the dailies, which were not disturbed by the Government, would continue. In North Kashmir there was complete information and communication blockade as no phone or Internet services operated. In Central and South Kashmir, only BSNL post-paid mobile phone services, landline and Internet through Broadband operated on Saturday.

Death toll reaches 41

Meanwhile with one more fatal casualty in Kupwara, death toll in the 8 days of turbulence has reached 41. Sources said that a 22-year-old protester Shaukat Ahmad Malik got killed and two more sustained injuries when Police opened fire on an unruly crowd at Hatmulla. The crowd had attacked and attempted to set on fire Police Post of Hatmulla. Sources said that around 35 incidents of clashes and stone pelting were reported across the Valley on Saturday as Kashmir reeled under curfew and shutdown on the 8th consecutive day.

A Police spokesman said: “The overall situation in the valley remained under control today though some incidents of stone pelting were reported. The stray and intermittent incidents of stone pelting were reported from Pothkhah in Sopore, Hatmulla and Khumriyal in Kupwara, Papchan, Nasu and new bus stand in Bandipora”.

“At Hatmulla, a violent mob attacked the police post Hatmulla and attempted to set it on fire.  While dealing with the situation one person was injured, who later on succumbed to his injuries.  An unruly mob set on fire a police guard room at Wullar Vintage Park in Bandipora. Some police and security force personnel including an SI got injured in these incidents and have been referred to Srinagar”.


[Published in today's STATE TIMES]