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Saturday, July 30, 2016

Mehbooba Mufti’s inheritance of loss: How Burhan Wani grew to iconic status in the Valley

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz


Burhan Wani, the 23-year-old Hizbul Mujahideen militant cutting his teeth with India’s glamorous social media, achieved what only the charismatic Sheikh Abdullah had to his credit in Kashmir’s history – a sizeable swarm of people at his funeral prayers, anything between the army’s drone figure of 15,000 and some journalists’ 2,00,000. Over a million had joined the Sheikh’s in 1982 – by far the largest. Many of the 48 youths killed in the clashes triggered by the July 8 encounter died on the day of the funeral.

Funerals of even the iconic militants and separatists have been invariably ignored as their charm faded out the same day. Some pulled a thousand, someone even five or ten thousand. In 20 years, Kashmir has witnessed two massive funerals: around 20,000 attended Mustafa Khan’s during Farooq Abdullah’s regime in Tangmarg and around 30,000 Badshah Khan’s in Kulgam when Mufti Sayeed was chief minister.

It didn’t take Kashmiris long to forget even top separatist leaders Abdul Gani Lone and Sheikh Abdul Aziz – one shot dead by gunmen in Srinagar in 2002 and another killed in security forces’ firing in Baramulla in 2008. Masarat Alam, unparalleled protagonist of the 2010 street turbulence faded into oblivion within days of his arrest. More significantly, nobody died for high profile separatist Afzal Guru whose execution in 2013 was “murder of an innocent” for the average Kashmiri.

So what made Burhan a legend whose death triggered a chain of clashes and left around 50 people dead, hundreds injured and a bustling tourist season that has already suffered losses of hundreds of crores of rupees punctured?

After the Sheikh’s dismissal in 1953 and his successor Farooq Abdullah’s in 1984, no J&K politician has embarrassed New Delhi beyond a point. Mufti alone, who cultivated Congress and floated his own PDP to neutralise Sheikh’s National Conference (NC), took liberties. His detractors insist he had Delhi’s “licence” that eventually made him the only Muslim home minister.

His brief tenure as Union home minister witnessed a fringe insurgency explode with the release of JKLF militants in exchange for his kidnapped daughter Rubaiya in 1989, followed by Kashmiri Pandits’ mass migration in 1990. His outcry over the Ghulam Nabi Azad government’s allotment of land to a Hindu shrine board divided people irretrievably on regional and communal lines in 2008, when secessionism had ebbed and the Valley was blooming with tranquillity.

With a mission to demolish Abdullah’s NC, Mufti and daughter Mehbooba left no stone unturned to discredit and demonise ‘India’ – its body politic, democracy, systems and institutions. With both UPA’s and NDA’s unfettered permission, he laid the ‘road to Rawalpindi’. It won him a chunk of votes and helped him become chief minister twice, but at a price Delhi will have to pay for ages.

For over a decade Mufti and his party only whetted the sense of victimhood and betrayal in the Valley which, in the process, grew rabidly anti-Indian – some of them ferociously Islamist. Omar Abdullah’s deficits of domicile, language and culture forced him to toe Mufti’s line and both, in competition, began discrediting “Indians”.

At the end of the day, nobody in Kashmir respects or loves India. Anybody perceived to be soft on India runs huge risks, such as those meted out to the residents of Kokernag after the July 8 encounter. Their houses were torched and orchards destroyed. The government remained a mute spectator.

The irony is that Kashmir was pushed back to the abyss when complaints of rape, custodial killings and fake encounters against the security forces had dipped to the lowest level of 25 years and India’s best held assembly elections had happened in J&K in 2014. Nobody knew Burhan who was then three years into militancy.

But Mufti didn’t wait much to ride the tiger. He freed Masarat and permitted him to hold a massive pro-Pakistan demonstration in front of J&K police headquarters. It woke up all the lions in hibernation. Within days a young school dropout emerged as an icon of jihad for Kashmir’s Generation Next.

Meanwhile, Mufti’s ally continued to stoke fires. A frenzied group of cow vigilantes killed a Kashmiri Muslim trucker in Udhampur. BJP leaders and friends filed petitions to terminate the state’s flag and special position. The tinderbox needed just a matchstick that came in handy with Burhan’s death.


[Published on editorial page of all editions of today’s TIMES OF INDIA]
Separatists’ march to Jamia Masjid foiled with curfew

Over 100 injured in around 200 clashes as Valley reverberates with Azadi slogans, militant songs at mosque loudspeakers, Pak flags in processions

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz


SRINAGAR, Jul 29: On 21st day of unabated turbulence, triggered by Hizbul Mujahideen militant Burhan Wani’s death in an encounter on July 8, over a hundred protesters and Police and paramilitary personnel, sustained injuries in around 200 clashes across Kashmir valley on Friday as the authorities foiled the separatist’s programme of a mass march to Jamia Masjid in downtown Srinagar with strict enforcement of curfew.

In apprehension of escalation in violence, authorities imposed curfew and other restrictions throughout the Valley and blocked all roads to Srinagar downtown as senior separatist leaders Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Mohammad Yasin Malik had called for mass marches to Jamia Masjid to register protest against killing of around 50 civilians in the aftermath of Burhan Wani’s death. Fifty persons, including two Police personnel, have died in the clashes in the last 21 days while as hundreds have sustained injuries.

Curfew was strictly enforced particularly in Srinagar and other district headquarters and major townships across the Valley. It was the 21st day of curfew and continued shutdown as all shops, business establishments, most of the government offices and almost all banks and educational institutions, remained closed and traffic was off the road. Only some essential services operated.

While as the separatist leaders Shabir Shah and Yasin Malik are already in detention, most of the separatist leaders have been continuously under house arrest. Defying restrictions, heads of the two factions of Hurriyat Conference, Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, came out and attempted to lead toward Jamia Masjid. Both were arrested and detained for several hours respectively at Police Stations of Humhama and Nageen.

Friday congregational prayers were not permitted at Jamia Masjid and several other mosques where the authorities feared trouble and clashes.

Police blocked a group’s march toward J&K headquarters of UNMOGIP at Sonwar. Some activists were injured in the clash and a few of them were taken into custody.

Immediately after conclusion of the weekly Friday afternoon prayers, people at hundreds of mosques across Kashmir staged demonstrations, shouted pro-Pakistan, pro-Azadi and anti-India slogans, took out modest processions and clashed with Police and security forces. Maximum of the day’s 200-odd clashes took place in Budgam, Srinagar, Pulwama, Kulgam, Anantnag and Kupwara districts.

An official spokesman said that 46 Police and security forces personnel, besides 8 civilian protesters, were injured in the clashes. However, STATE TIMES learned from tabulation of figures at different hospitals and other sources that around 100 protesters and Police and forces personnel sustained injuries. Around 30 of them had got injured due to teargas shelling, pellets and bullets. Hospital officials maintained that none of the injured was critical. However, civilian sources from Pulwama said that one Shahid had a serious injury.

At several places, demonstrators attempted to attack Police Stations. At one place in Shopian, a government building was set on fire.

In some processions, demonstrators---many of them masked--- shouted pro-Azadi and pro-Islam slogans while carrying Pakistan flags besides the flags of the militant organisations like Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, Al-Umar Mujahideen and a few ISIS-type black flags. In the evening hundreds of mosques across Valley reverberated with pro-Pakistan and pro-Azadi slogans while as Pakistani militant songs were played on loudspeakers much like in 1990.

Like in 2008 and 2010, separatist demonstrators have occupied most of the Valley’s roads. Consequently, almost entire movement of Police, security forces and Government officials has come to a halt. Security forces have also directed all of their field units and camps to suspend all administrative as well as operational movement for fear of mob attacks. Only in Kupwara district, Army held a flag march. Forces were attacked at three places. Troops opened fire. About 10 persons were reportedly injured.

 Police version

“The situation throughout Kashmir remained under control although there were about 70 incidents of stone pelting across the valley. The miscreants attacked a number of police and security establishments and camps. Militants lobbed a grenade on the police and CRPF personnel deployed for law and order duty at Shopian. Grenade was later-on defused by the BD squad. At Rohama, Rafiabad, a Govt. building was set on fire. The deployments exercised maximum restraint inspite of such serious provocations.

“During these law and order situations 08 persons, 46 police and security force personnel were injured. As a precautionary measure Curfew/restrictions were put in place in the sensitive towns and areas to maintain law and order”

One killed in Budgam

Official sources said that a civilian, namely Abdul Ahad Ganai of Chhil Brass, driving a scooty along with his son Kamran, got killed when his throat got severed with razor wire barricades put up by miscreants on the road to block movement of Police and security forces, near Hardu Punzoo village in Beerwah area of Budgam district. Injured Kamran has been rushed to SKIMS. With this, 51 persons, including two Police personnel, have got killed in the turbulence triggered by Burwan Wani’s death.

Civilian shot dead in Sopore

Sources in North Kashmir said that three persons, believed to be militants, appeared at Saidpora (Tragpora) in outskirts of Sopore late on Friday evening and they called 35-year-old Fayaz Ahmad Rather s/o Mohammad Ramzan Rather out of his home. One of the suspected militants took out a pistol and shot dead the civilian. Rather was owner of a book shop at Watirgam. Unconfirmed reports said that he was also known to be an over-ground worker of Jaish-e-Mohammad militant group.

[Published in today’s STATE TIMES]

Friday, July 29, 2016

Mehbooba says if she knew it was Burhan, her forces would have given him a chance

“Some people lead the youths to security forces’ camps and disappear”

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz


SRINAGAR, Jul 28: Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti on Thursday dropped a virtual bombshell by disclosing to media that her security forces would not have killed Hizbul Mujahideen commander and the State’s most wanted militant Burhan Wani if she knew that he was one among the three holed up militants in the July 8 gunfight at Bamdora, Kokernag, in Anantnag district.

While speaking to journalists at conclusion of PDP’s raising day ceremony near Sher-e-Kashmir Park, Mehbooba claimed that security forces had no knowledge about Burhan Wani being present inside the target house in Kokernag. “They knew that there were three militants holed up but they say that they didn’t know who they were”, Mehbooba sought to make it clear she was not aware of Burhan’s presence. Asked how the security forces would have acted if they knew that Burhan was holed up, she said: “Knowing that the situation (in Kashmir) was improving, I think security forces would have given him a chance”.

Chief Minister’s statement about Burhan came days after PDP’s senior leader and Lok Sabha member Muzaffar Hussain Baig questioned the procedural legality of the operation and emphasised that forces were bound by law and Supreme Court of India judgment to offer ample opportunities to the militant to come out and surrender. While alleging that the operation was part of “business” within J&K Police, Baig had claimed that Chief Minister had been kept in the dark with regard to Burhan’s presence at the hideout.

Mehbo0ba claimed at her interaction with the media that her Government did not have adequate time to put in place necessary restrictions so as to prevent clashes and casualties as she did not know that Burhan had been killed. “Omar Sahab had knowledge of Afzal Guru’s execution and enough time to put in place restrictions and curfew. We didn’t have”, Mehbooba asserted notwithstanding the fact that Burhan Wani’s death became international news at 6.00 pm on July 8 and the clashed occurred on July 9 and onwards.

Chief Minister also said that the clashes and casualties arising out of Burhan Wani’s death in the encounter were “unfortunate” as Police and security forces had been attacked by violent crowds at many places across the Valley. She said that her Police and forces were observing maximum possible restraint.

Suggesting interplay of some political parties and other forces who, according to her were adding to intensity of the turbulence, Mehbooba said that “some people” were encouraging the youths to gather and leading them to the camps of security forces. “We don’t know who these people are who lead the youths to the camps and disappear themselves”, she said.


[Published in today’s STATE TIMES]

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Freedom songs played at Kashmir mosques as youths reject shutdown relaxation

Over 100 injured in around 50 clashes across Valley on 18th day of turmoil

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz


SRINAGAR, Jul 26: Even as authorities on Tuesday lifted curfew for the first time in entire Kashmir valley after the street turbulence was triggered by militant Burhan Wani’s death in an encounter on July 8, unruly youths in the summer capital and elsewhere continued clashes with Police and paramilitary forces while rejecting the separatist leadership’s second relaxation in shutdown.

Authorities announced early in the morning that curfew had been completely lifted from all parts of Kashmir valley with immediate effect. Some relaxations had been granted earlier but it was for the first time in the last 18 days that curfew was not enforced anywhere in the Valley. Separatist leaders Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Mohammad Yasin Malik had announced relaxation in the shutdown from 2.00 pm to 6.00 pm. However, shops, business establishments, most of the government and private offices, banks and educational institutions did not open anywhere during the relaxation period.

It was second rejection of the separatists’ relaxation in shutdown as earlier also people had not opened business establishments. Reports said that transport was completely off the road and only the hospital traffic was allowed to operate. Reports said that many people who were found driving vehicles during the relaxation period faced the unruly youth’s ire. Many of such vehicles were damaged and the motorists either roughed up or rebuked. Government has not been able to operate educational institutions which it had declared open after the summer vacations last week.

Reports said that 50 to 60 clashes took places between the protesters and Police/ security forces in different districts---34 in Srinagar alone. Around a hundred protesters and Police personnel have reportedly sustained injuries in these clashes. Officials said that around a dozen persons with pellet and teargas shell injuries had been treated at different hospitals. Separatists have called for continued shutdown till July 29 while asking the people to gather for a massive march to Kulgam on Wednesday.

Police version

In a statement, a Police spokesman said: “The situation throughout the Kashmir valley remained peaceful and under control today. Curfew was lifted from all the towns/areas of entire valley this morning except Anantnag where it was lifted in afternoon. Shops opened at many places and traffic also plied. There were no reports of any untoward incident from anywhere in the valley although some stray stone pelting incidents were reported from a few places. All post paid mobile services are being restored tonight”.

Toll reaches 50

In the summer capital, a 62-year-old civilian, driving a scooter, hit a road divider near Eidgah in the forenoon when a violent clash was going on between Police and protesters. He was critically injured. Later, he succumbed to injuries at SKIMS. Residents alleged that the biker lost control and hit the divider when a Police contingent was chasing the crowd. However, officials claimed that the civilian died in a simple road accident as no clash was going on that time in Eidgah area. With this fatality, death toll in the 18-day-long turbulence has reached 50.

Pak anthem at mosques

Reports said that organisers of the current agitation have made hundreds of copies of the Pakistani anthem and freedom songs and supplied the same to a large number of village and mohalla mosques throughout the Valley for the purpose of playing the DVDs and pen drives on public address system of mosques immediately after conclusion of the daily evening prayers. These anthems and songs were played throughout Srinagar and elsewhere in all major towns and district headquarters on separatist hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s call. Reports said that authorities did not interfere anywhere.

After the evening prayers, complete blackout was enforced by youths in several localities in Srinagar.

4 militants killed, one held

Official sources said that four Pakistani militants of Lashkar-eTayyiba, got killed in a daylong operation of Army in Nowgam sector, close to LoC, in Kupwara district on Monday. One of the militants, who claimed to be Pakistani national, was apprehended alive.


[Published in today’s STATE TIMES]

Monday, July 25, 2016

Decoding Burhan Wani’s death: Behind hot pursuit, hunt for informer who turned cold

The man they were looking for was a Kokernag cloth salesman called Sartaj Ahmad Sheikh — before becoming the man the SOG most wanted dead, he used to be one of their treasured assets.

Written by Praveen Swami | Anantnag |  July 25, 2016

Fury washed over the small village of Bamdoora as police jeeps took away Hizbul Mujahideen terrorist Burhan Wani’s body in the fading evening light. It swept over businessman Khurram Shafi Mir’s orchard, uprooting the Bulgarian apple saplings he hoped would revolutionise Kashmir’s fruit industry, and torched his workers’ huts and tools. Then, it razed the home of Farooq Wani, where Burhan Wani had come to spend Eid, and six others alongside it.

The villagers of Bamdoora, meanwhile, are struggling to make sense of what happened. Farooq Wani poisoned Burhan Wani, shouts one young man, standing with a stone in his hand at an impromptu barricade on the road to the village. The walls in the house were red with blood, claims another.

But an investigation by The Indian Express, based on interviews with intelligence and police officials involved in the operation and classified documents, has found that behind Burhan Wani’s killing lies a story of deception and betrayal in which his death was just collateral damage — the original target was the man accompanying him.

Who was Sartaj Sheikh?

Late on the morning of July 8, the day Burhan Wani was to die, personnel at the Srinagar unit of J&K’s Special Operations Group (SOG) listened in as Farooq Wani made an innocuous call: he had unexpected guests for Eid. The SOG’s Srinagar unit reached Anantnag just after lunchtime to brief their counterparts in the SOG and the Army’s 19 Rashtriya Rifles on plans to reach Bamdoora without attracting attention.

The man they were looking for was a Kokernag cloth salesman called Sartaj Ahmad Sheikh — before becoming the man the SOG most wanted dead, he used to be one of their treasured assets.

”Sartaj Ahmad Sheikh had become the critical link between the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen’s leadership in Pakistan and their units in south Kashmir. He was the man charged with putting guns in the hands of Burhan Wani’s boys,” said a senior police officer.

Like over a hundred other young Kashmiris, Sheikh had crossed the Line of Control (LoC) to join the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen in 2000. India had won the Kargil war, and Gen Pervez Musharraf’s regime responded by stepping up the jihad in Kashmir to record levels. Attacks on Indian forces surged from 1,390 in 1999 to 1,994 in 2001, while their fatalities shot up from 387 to 577. The numbers of civilians killed climbed sharply, too, from 799 to 971.

Then came the India-Pakistan military crisis of 2001-2002 — and Gen Musharraf’s regime backed down, cracking down on infiltration across the LoC. Sartaj Sheikh was to spend the next nine years in a Hizb camp in Muzaffarabad, living on a dole as the jihad disintegrated.

Born in 1988 to Munawar Sheikh and Nageen Banu, the second of their four daughters and two sons, Sartaj Sheikh was part of the many unemployed, semi-educated men who emerged from Kashmir’s poorer neighbourhoods through its years of violence. The girls did well — Ruqiya Sheikh has completed a BEd, while Saishta Sheikh is finishing her undergraduate education — while both boys struggled in school.

”The boys used to get scolded a lot at home and ended up spending most of their time on the streets. There were no role models for them, except the mujahideen,” said a friend of the family.

In 2009, though, the increasingly frustrated Sartaj Sheikh asked his family to arrange for him to travel back from Pakistan, joining hundreds of other jihadists leaving their camps. The journey home through Kathmandu, family sources said, cost Munawar Sheikh over Rs 2.5 lakh. Sheikh, as part of a deal arranged through the SOG’s Anantnag unit, spent a year in prison, and was then released without having to face charges.

Sartaj Sheikh began working as a salesman at the Malik Cloth House at Anantnag’s Cheeni Chowk but, as the only member of his family in full-time employment, found it hard to make ends meet.

In 2012, as a number of young people again began to join the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen in response to Burhan Wani’s online propaganda, the SOG had an offer for the jihadist-turned-salesman. He was to begin working for the Hizb again — this time, as an undercover agent for the police’s counter-terrorism effort.He was welcomed into the terror group’s ranks: no one else had any real knowledge of fighting, and, with no contacts in its central leadership, Burhan Wani himself was initially seen as a potential traitor by the Hizb leadership in Pakistan.

The hunt for Sheikh

From Sartaj Sheikh’s police dossier, it’s clear his infiltration of the Hizb caused it significant damage. The police were able to closely monitor Muhammad Iqbal Bhat, despatched by the Hizb command through Kathmandu in 2012 to arm and train their new south Kashmir networks. They disrupted the work of Bhat’s successor, Sajjad Ahmad Dar, sent two years later. Fearing betrayal, Burhan Wani himself remained holed up in his Tral heartland, unable to organise units elsewhere.

Because of spies like Sartaj Sheikh, Burhan Wani’s social media charm wasn’t reviving the Kashmir insurgency: the recruitment of young Kashmiris showed an uptick from 2014 — but violent incidents declined, as did attacks on and fatalities of security forces.

In December 2014, though, Sartaj Sheikh disappeared from his home, and broke all contact with the SOG. No one knows exactly why. “He’d been promised a new beginning somewhere else, and instead found himself in constant danger, with no way out. That’s how it is in this game. Perhaps, he cracked. Perhaps, he just got sick of betraying people and watching them die,” said an officer associated with the case.

Finding Sartaj Sheikh became the top priority for the SOG in south Kashmir because he had the ability to compromise their counter-terrorism operations significantly. The SOG mounted multiple raids targeting Sartaj Sheikh in the first half of 2015 — at least two directed at the home of his maternal uncles in Bamdoora, Farooq Ahmad Wani and Nasir Ahmad Wani. They came up blank.

Trap begins to close

In May, however, the trap finally began to close — aided by an unexpected gift delivered to the SOG. Even as Sartaj Sheikh had drifted into the Hizb’s embrace, a key figure in Burhan Wani’s circle was headed out. That month, Tariq Ahmad Pandit, walked out of the orchards near Karimabad in Pulwama, armed with a pistol, six rounds and two grenades. Police records show Tariq Pandit was arrested but sources said that he, in fact, had surrendered. “He’d given up the fight,” said an official.

The 1996-born son of a local butcher in Pulwama’s Neva, Tariq Pandit had finished high school and won a place with Himayat, a Central government skills training scheme that sent him to work at a coffee shop in Hyderabad. He returned after the 2014 floods, though, only to discover there weren’t many prospects for coffee shops in rural Kashmir — and ended up driving a truck.

In March, 2015, Tariq Pandit joined the Hizb, helping police constable Nasir Pandit steal rifles from the home of a PDP minister where he was posted — almost on a whim, family members said.

The following months, though, saw his new friends hunted down and killed. Adil Khandey and Farooq Sheikh, among the men Tariq Pandit first met, died within weeks. Naseer Pandit and Waseem Malla were shot dead in September 2015, followed in quick time by Aafaqullah Bhat and Bilal Bhat this April.

In each case, the Hizb’s internal enquiries suggested the men had been betrayed — often by informers working for the SOG. The Hizb’s clumsy counter-intelligence efforts, however, rarely succeeded in staunching the flow of information to police.

At Naseer Pandit’s funeral, a member of Tariq Pandit’s immediate family told The Indian Express, he became enraged as mourners came in. “Tariq was screaming, saying, ‘You people come here to mourn, and shout slogans for azadi (freedom), and then you go away and sell us’,” said the family member.

For police, Tariq Pandit’s arrest was a windfall. His detailed knowledge of Burhan Wani’s network of safehouses finally forced the Hizb commander to leave Tral. In one case, it transpired, Burhan Wani had been sitting in a hideout built inside a high-school attic, while J&K Education Minister Naeem Akhtar lectured students below.

Then, on June 8, 2016, police and the 42 Rashtriya Rifles cordoned off a school in Lurgam were Burhan Wani was hiding. The Hizb commander managed to shoot his way out, using civilians leaving the building as cover — but would never return to Tral.

PDP leader Muzaffar Beigh has said Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti was not informed of the July 8 raid on Bamdoora, in an effort to distance her from its outcomes. However, highly placed police sources said she was informed, in writing, of the June 8 raid as well as an operation targetting Burhan Wani in March.

Four weeks after he escaped Tral, cellphone records now being analysed by the J&K Police show that Burhan Wani made his last call, using one of over 500 SIM cards he circulated over the last six months through the phone recovered from his body.

The call, records show, was made just a few hours before Sartaj Sheikh came out of his uncle’s home firing, perhaps hoping to cover the escape of the man he’d once helped hunt. Burhan Wani and his relatively unknown associate, Pervaiz Ahmad, tried leaving through the back, police say, and were gunned down.

Late the next night, a small group of armed men visited Shabir Ahmad Pandit and Manzoor Ahmad Pandit, cousins of Tariq Pandit, at their home in Karimabad. They were shot through the legs, a single bullet each, fired at point-blank range — the Hizb’s traditional punishment for police informers in cases where their actions caused significant harm to the group.

The shootings passed almost unnoticed: by then, a wave of carnage no one had expected or foreseen had been unleashed across Kashmir.


Terrorism, 3rd party intervention on Kashmir not acceptable to India: Rajnath

‘Pakistan’s intentions about Kashmir are bad. Attacks terrorists at Lal Masjid but sends them to Kashmir with arms and ammunition’

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz


SRINAGAR, Jul 24: While concluding his two-day visit to the turbulent Kashmir valley on Sunday, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh asserted that neither terrorism nor any third-party intervention on Jammu and Kashmir would be acceptable to India.

Addressing a news conference at Srinagar Airport before his departure for New Delhi, Rajnath said that the Centre and the State Government would leave no stone unturned in restoration of peace and normality in the Valley. He, however, sent a strong message across the border that New Delhi would in no circumstances compromise the country’s security and sovereignty.

“Terrorism is not acceptable to India in any circumstances. You are yourselves the victims of terrorism. To eliminate terrorists, you raided Lal Masjid. But, you are encouraging the Kashmiri youths to pick up guns. This process should be stopped”, Rajnath addressed Islamabad, almost parallel to Sartaj Aziz’s harsh response to the Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s snub to Pakistan. He said that humanity was the corner stone of Kashmiri’s faith in the Indian democracy and it would be maintained.

Asked if New Delhi would engage Kashmiri separatists and Pakistan in a dialogue for resolution of the Kashmir crisis, Rajnath said engagement and talks had no substitute in seeking a resolution and asserted that Government of India would take whatever step necessary for restoration of peace and normality in close coordination with the State Government. “Who we should talk to and who we should not talk to will be decided with the State Government after improvement in the situation”, Rajnath added. “Pakistan’s intention and role vis-à-vis Kashmir is not clean. It will have to change its thinking and attitude”, he asserted.

Rajnath said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was himself concerned about restoration of peace and normality in Kashmir and disclosed that he had spoken to him on telephone during previous night. He said that the Centre had taken certain decisions with regard to restoration of normality which were well in the knowledge of Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti but would not be revealed at the press conference.

Home Minister said that the Centre had already initiated a recruitment process for J&K’s unemployed youths. He said that it would be pushed with more force and zeal in near future.

Rajnath said that during his interaction with different delegations in Srinagar, he had learned that some youths had sustained pellet injuries in their eyes. He said that six of them were already under treatment at AIIMS in New Delhi. “Our Government will make all necessary arrangements for appropriate treatment of these youths. In case they are many in number, we will take them to AIIMS by plane and provide them good treatment. I have requested Health Minister Mr Nada to appoint a nodal officer in his Ministry in New Delhi who would facilitate such patients’ travel and treatment without any hassles”, Rajnath said. He added that he had asked Chief Minister to immediately arrange such patients’ transit to New Delhi.

Significantly, Rajnath asked the Central armed forces to observe “maximum possible restraint” in dealing with the protesters and urged them to refrain from using pellet guns against the Kashmiri youths. He simultaneously made an appeal to the youths to stop pelting stones on Police and security forces. He said that as many as 2,259 civilians had sustained injuries but emphasized that 2,228 J&K Police personnel and 1,100 CRPF jawans had also been injured in the stone pelting and attacks on them by unruly crowds.

Rajnath pointed out that the same security forces personnel had come to the help and rescue of the Kashmiri people during the devastating flood of September 2014.

Home Minister said in reply to a question that mobile phone and Internet services would be restored soon in Kashmir.

Earlier, on the second day of his visit, Rajnath Singh met delegations from almost all the mainstream political parties including the National Conference’s led by former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah. Only Congress turned down an invitation for a meeting with the Home Minister.

Knowledgeable sources revealed to STATE TIMES that senior officials of the Central intelligence agencies and some political conduits attempted to arrange some separatist leaders’ secret meeting with the Home Minister but did not succeed. Sources said that none of the separatist leaders was inclined to even talk to Mr Singh on telephone.

Rajnath held a separate meeting at Nehru Guest House with Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti and her Cabinet Ministers. He also chaired a meeting of senior officials of J&K Police and Central armed forces. Later, he flew to Anantnag along with Deputy Chief Minister Dr Nirmal Singh by helicopter and interacted with family members of a couple of youths killed in the firing of Police and security forces there earlier this month.

Death toll reaches 49

Meanwhile, death toll on the 16th day of continued turbulence, after militant Burhan Wani’s killing along with two more Kashmiri militants in an encounter in Kokernag area on July 8, has risen to 49. Official sources said that Constable Mudassar Ahmad Shah of Konan Bandipora, who had got critically injured in protesters’ and militants’ attack at Yaripora Kulgam on July 15, breathed his last at SKIMS. For about a week he was treated at Army’s 92 Base Hospital.

Sources said that Sameer Ahmad Wani of Khonmoh, who had sustained injuries during a clash at Pampore on July 10, succumbed at SKIMS. With his death, as many as 49 persons, including two Police personnel, have got killed in 16 days of turbulence triggered by Burhan Wani’s death in the July 8 encounter in Bamdora.


[Published in today’s STATE TIMES]

Sunday, July 24, 2016


·        Union Home Minister Rajnath Simgh meets NC delegation headed by Omar Abdullah and other political delegations at Nehru Guest House

·        Congress boycotts, doesn’t meet Rajnath Singh.

·        No separatist comes forward, even for a secret meeting with Rajnath.

·        Rajnath holds a meeting of Unified Headquarters at Nehru Guest House. Top officials of Army, BSF, CRPF, ITBP, J&K Police, IB and RAW attend.

·        Rajnath holds a separate meeting with Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti and her Cabinet Ministers at Nehru Guest House.

·        Before his departure, Rajnath visiting Anantnag by helicopter, meeting families of some civilians killed in firing of Police and security forces.

·        Finally, before take-off for Delhi at 6.00 pm, Rajnath addressing a press conference at Srinagar Airport at 5.00 pm

·        Constable Mudassar Ahmad Shah of Konan Bandipora, who had got injured in a crowd attack in Kulgam on July 15, breathed his last at SKIMS today. He had previously remained under treatment with Army’s 92 Base Hospital.

Valley cool to Rajnath’s visit as Congress, traders turn down invite
Curfew lifted from 4 districts, parts of Srinagar on 15th day of turbulence

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Jul 23: Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Saturday arrived in for a series of meetings over the 15-day-long turbulence in Kashmir valley after militant Burhan Wani’s death in an encounter on July 8, even as Congress and different traders’ bodies turned down invitations from Government of India.

Rajnath Singh, who was received at technical area of Srinagar airport and accompanied by several BJP Ministers, went straight to Nehru Guest House where, official sources said, 24 delegations called on him and discussed the current political crisis. However, Congress and different representative bodies and alliances of traders announced their boycott to Rajnath Singh’s visit. They told media that there was no logic in meeting Mr Singh until his Government stopped “killing of innocent civilians” in Kashmir.

Significantly, PDP’s Ministers were absent, both at the airport as well as Nehru Guest House where Mr Singh is staying for a night before flying back to New Delhi. Sources said that only the Youth PDP President Waheed-ur-Rehman Parra called on Mr Singh and met him briefly.

In the afternoon, Mr Singh drove down to Raj Bhawan and held a meeting with Governor N.N. Vohra and Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti. He was accompanied by union Home Secretary besides DGs of BSF and ITBP.

Before his departure on Sunday, Mr Singh is scheduled to meet different political delegations from PDP,BJP, Panthers Party, National Conference, LJP, CPI and CPM. Independent MLAs Engineer Rashid and Hakim Mohammad Yasin are also expected to call on him. Sources said that Mr Singh was likely hold a larger meeting with senior functionaries of the State Government including Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti and her Cabinet Ministers besides representatives of Police, security forces and the Central intelligence agencies.

The guests would brief him about the reasons behind the 15-day-long turbulence that has left as many as 47 persons dead and, according to official figures, as many as 3000 Police and security personnel and 2200 civilians injured in over 700 clashes after Burhan Wani’s killing in an encounter.

Leading separatist leaders, including Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Yasin Malik and Shabir Shah have already declared that none of them would oblige Mr Singh with a meeting. In a statement, Geelani said that Rajnath Singh was in Kashmir only to praise his armed forces for killing 55 civilians and leaving thousands injured and blinded.

Knowledgeable sources revealed to STATE TIMES that Government of India attempted to arrange Rajnath Singh’s secret meetings with some separatist leaders, traders and members of civil society. However, none of them was inclined to meet the union Home Minister. Government has strictly asked the officials not to disclose identity of any of the visitors who called on the Union Home Minister in 24 delegations on Saturday.

Curfew lifted in 4 districts

Meanwhile, authorities for the first time in the last 15 days lifted curfew in Budgam, Bandipora, Baramulla and Ganderbal districts besides parts of the summer capital of Srinagar. Official said that curfew remained in forces only in jurisdiction of six Police Stations in downtown Srinagar. It was imposed again on Batmaloo as a crowd gathered during relaxation and clashed with Police and CRPF. Reports said that at least five persons sustained injuries in the ding dong clashes.

Officials said that low intensity clashes took place at around 30 different spots in different districts. However, nobody was killed or seriously injured in today’s clashes.

Separatist-sponsored shutdown continued in Kashmir on the 15th consecutive day as transport was off the road and no shops, business establishments, educational institutions or banks opened for business anywhere in the Valley. All mobile phone services, except BSNL's postpaid and landline broadband have been shut down since last fortnight in Kashmir. 

Police Version

A Police spokesman said in a statement that the situation throughout the Kashmir valley remained peaceful and under control.

“Apart from the six Police Stations of Srinagar, Pulwama and Anantnag towns, curfew was lifted from all other places in Valley. However, restrictions on assembly of people continued throughout the Valley. There were no reports of any untoward incident from anywhere in the valley although some stray stone pelting incidents were reported from isolated places. During the law and order situations in last 15 days more than 3000 police and security force personnel suffered injuries across Kashmir”, the Police spokesman said.



Times Now, News X, Zee News TV channels blocked on cable in Kashmir

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz


SRINAGAR, Jul 23: Without issuing an official order, authorities have got three particular Indian satellite news television channels removed from all cable TV networks in Kashmir valley.

Informed sources said that days after writing to the union Home Secretary, officers in Mehbooba Mufti’s Government have got three particular channels blocked. However, all these channels are running uninterrupted through dish.

The State Government is understood to have complained to the Centre that four news TV channels, namely Times Now, News X, Zee News and Aaj Tak were “spreading disharmony” and indulging in “anti-Muslim and anti-Kashmir propaganda” in their prime time news and current affairs programmes on daily basis. It was not immediately clear whether the Centre had suggested blackout of the three channels on cable networks or the officials had managed it through Police of their own.

Inspite of the State Government’s objection, Aaj Tak is still operating through cable networks in the Valley. The cable operators have also shut down Iranian Press TV besides all the Pakistani channels excluding PTV Sports.

Sources said that the action had been taken three days before a PIL came up against these channels in J&K High Court.

[Published in Sunday's STATE TIME]