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Thursday, December 15, 2016

Valley’s shadows and sunshine run parallel to each other

Kashmir calm as 2 militants die in gunfights, CM visits passing-out, DC mired in ex-gratia controversy, separatists reduce shutdown to two-days-a-week

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz


JAMMU, Dec 14: Fourteen years ago when Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed conceived the idea of raising Islamic University of Science and Technology (IUST) at Awantipora, in close vicinity of the headquarters of Army’s counterinsurgency division Victor Force, he dreamt of diverting the Valley’s teenagers to academics, technology and science. Last two years, post-Assembly elections of 2014, this institute of learning has produced a breed of the youngsters who dedicated the prime of their youth to killing and getting killed.

As rhetoric often eclipses intentions, many of the IUST students nourished the dreams of achieving what a generation from Sufi Mohammad Akbar and Maqbool Bhat to Salahuddin and Yasin Malik had failed to accomplish. Paradoxically, they drew inspiration not only from the separatists but also from the genetically equivocal pseudo-separatists who delivered speeches, issued statements, penned articles and sang paeans for everybody from the British soldier Robert Thorpe to Yasin Malik. Many of them are now enjoying dignity and fortunes in the corridors of power in PDP-BJP government.  

Second year student of a diploma in civil engineering at IUST, Basit Rasool Dar, who died in an encounter with Police and security forces in Beowora village, near Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti’s hometown of Bijbehara, on Wednesday, is the latest in South Kashmir who ended up dying as a martyr to the ever-elusive cause of Azadi. His father, Ghulam Rasool Dar of Marhama (Bijbehara), a manager with Jammu and Kashmir Bank in Anantnag, wanted him to rise as an engineer. Basit chose to follow Burhan Wani, became a confidant of his successor and IUST student Zakir, Ishaq ‘Newton’ and others who emerged as “icons of freedom” in the last two years.

When Basit breathed his last, his mother was in Delhi — escorting elder son, who has been posted in the union capital after his selection in J&K Bank. Both returned to home to attend Basit’s funeral rites in the evening. Police maintained around 5,000 participated in the militant’s burial, though some reports put the numbers between 7,000 and 8,000.

But what is significant at the end of five months of the street turbulence in Kashmir is that Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti attended a Police commando passing-out parade a few miles short of Bijbehara and closer to IUST. She spoke of peace and the militants’ families’ right to ex-gratia munificence from the government. Director General of Police, K Rajendra Kumar, and Deputy Commissioner of Pulwama, Muneer-ul-Islam, escorted her to the venue. The spot at Lethapora was just furlongs away from the place on Srinagar-Jammu highway which witnessed hundreds of attacks on the mainstream politicians, officials and even the students ferried to Srinagar for a competitive examination. This is exactly where additional DC of Ramban was attacked while a mob torched his vehicle and his PSO opened fire, killing two persons.

For over three months, nobody from politicians to officials dared to venture into this area. Police and security forces surrendered it completely to militants, stone-pelters and demonstrators. Minutes after Basit’s burial, that marked a few incidents of stone pelting but failed to suspend the train services or traffic on the highway, Valley’s separatist leadership issued the fresh shutdown calendar. To everybody’s surprise, it asked the Kashmiris to continue their shutdown only on Saturday and Sunday every week and resume normal activities on five days a week. This relaxation was granted after five months of turmoil.

While the country’s television channels churned their brains on the Mehbooba Mufti government’s “temerity” of granting ex-gratia relief of Rs 4 lakh to Burhan Wani’s family over their another son Khalid’s death during an encounter in Tral in April 2015, DC Muneerul-ul-Islam stood unfazed, flanking Chief Minister at the passing-out parade.

In North Kashmir, LeT’s “Divisional Commander” Abu Bakar died in another gunbattle in Bomai area of Sopore.

Is this the denouement of the melodrama enacted through summer of the year 2016 that brought enriched statements from the separatists, leading to death of around 90 people, devastation of hundreds of properties and injuries to thousands of “protesters”. “We have been never this close to Azadi in last 26 years”, the separatists told the Kashmiris. Now the same people ask questions: “What have we achieved out of the five long months of shutdown? Where is the Azadi you promised us for five months? What makes you reduce the 24x7 shutdown to just two-days-a-week show?”


[Published in today’s STATE TIMES]

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Ex-Minister Rather’s son claims Nirmal Singh’s JMC issued permission to Paradise Avenue

‘Man masquerading as RTI activist demanded Rs 30 lakh from my firm. We recorded his 40 phone calls. This mafia’s hand can be behind the blackmailing drive’

State Times News


JAMMU, Dec 13: Former Finance Minister and senior National Conference leader Abdul Rahim Rather’s businessman son Hilal Ahmad Rather on Tuesday claimed that a story about Jammu Municipal Corporation’s “illegal permission”, as carried in a Jammu-based newspaper, was “completely baseless” and possibly the handiwork of a blackmailing mafia that attempted an extortion of Rs 30 lakh from him and his partners earlier this year. Disputing the ‘facts’ given in the story point-by-point with his documentary evidences, the real estate entrepreneur claimed that the revised permission to hundreds of flats in his 13-floor blocks at Narwal Bala, christened as Paradise Avenue, had been issued by JMC when none other than the BJP leader and Deputy Chief Minister Dr Nirmal Singh was Minister of Housing and Urban Development in the year 2015.

As quoted by the daily, Nirmal Singh has alleged that the building permission to Paradise Avenue construction had been found “illegal” and the matter was being referred either to Crime Branch or to State Vigilance Organisation for criminal investigation. The daily has claimed that the permission had been granted by the “NC loyalist” Kiren Watal when he functioned as Commissioner JMC during Omar Abdullah’s NC-Congress government.

“It is a fact that the building permission was issued during the NC-Congress government in December 2013 in which my father was a Minister. But, there was never a political intervention. We fulfilled all the legal and procedural formalities. We obtained NOCs from all the concerned departments. Revenue Department verified the titles of the land. JDA gave in writing it was not its land or jurisdiction. Even BDO concerned issued his permission. JMC scrutinised everything. Thereafter, we deposited the fees and the building permission was duly issued by JMC. However, when the PDP-BJP regime took over in March 2015, JMC officials working under the new Housing Minister’s control approached us with the plea that the year 2013 permission would have to be scrutinised afresh. They checked and verified the documents and found everything in place. Thereafter, JMC, under Deputy CM’s control, issued the revised building permission on April 29, 2015”, Hilal revealed at a press conference.

“If the Housing Minister still wants FIR to be registered and this case assigned to Crime Branch and Vigilance, we welcome it. We have everything in place and nothing to worry about. But we alone won’t be in the dock. Housing Minister (Nirmal Singh) will be there too as the JMC under him issued the revised permission when none other than the same man was the Housing Minister”, Hilal asserted, while producing to mediapersons all the NOCs issued and both the building permissions---one issued during Omar Abdullah’s government and another during Mufti Sayeed’s government in which Dr Nirmal Singh functioned as Minister incharge Housing, Urban Development and Power.

“It smacks of political vendetta and targets me only for being an ex-Minister’s son. Behind this well-orchestrated vilification campaign, I also suspect the hand of a blackmailing mafia. I fail to understand how a reputed newspaper has been taken for a ride and how the baseless story has been published without attempting to take our version”, Hilal said at a time when Jammu is abuzz with reports and rumours alleging that a Minister of Mehbooab Mufti’s government extorted an amount of Rs 13 crore from an MLC of his own party for the permission granted to construction of luxury flats around the heritage site of Amar Mahal and close to Raj Bhawan.

 While playing a recorded telephonic conversation, in which two unidentified persons settle a deal over a huge amount to be extorted from the Simula partners, Hilal claimed that a blackmailer in the guise of an RTI activist recently attempted to extort an amount of Rs 30 lakh from his firm. He claimed that his firm had recording of 40 phone calls in which so-called RTI activists demanded money from every partner of his firm in exchange for not publishing the information and documents they had purportedly obtained through RTI application.

The conversation played at the press conference makes it clear that an RTI activist settles a deal with an employee of Hilal’s firm. “We two will take 30% each and your share will be 40%”, says a person about himself and another RTI activist and the employee of Hilal’s firm who seems to have trapped the two RTI activists.

“We will produce this entire documentary evidence to the criminal investigation and press for legal action against these blackmailers. We have no weaknesses, no irregularities that would force us surrender or succumb to any sort of blackmailing”, Hilal Rather asserted.

Hilal, who is a Bachelor of Technology from the prestigious Birla Institute of Technology and Science (BITS), Pilani, admitted that a ‘gair mumkin khud’, consisting of 99 kanals of land existed on a part of his society. He, however, revealed that his permission had been issued and the construction had started over a year before J&K High Court banned constructions on such lands in July 2014.

“Honourable High Court is adjudicating on this issue. Let us have faith in the judiciary and wait for the judgment. How can someone in the government in advance issue a judgment selectively against Hilal Rather with retrospective effect?”, Hilal said. He clarified that even after JMC issued permission in favour of his firm at Narwal Bala and Jammu Development Authority (JDA) gave in writing in the NOC that it was outside its jurisdiction, his firm Simula approached the concerned BDO and also got his permission to the construction.


[Published in today’s STATE TIMES]

Monday, December 12, 2016

Red alert in Anantnag as Hizb ‘highway squad’ planning major attack

LeT claims its J&K chief Abu Dujana escaped but confirms death of two top militants in Bijbehra encounter

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz


JAMMU, Dec 10: Police and security forces on Saturday sounded a red alert in Anantnag area after learning that Hizbul Mujahideen’s ‘Highway Squad’ was planning a major strike on the highway in South Kashmir.

Highly placed authoritative sources revealed to STATE TIMES that according to reliable information, Hizbul Mujahideen’s “Highway Squad” was planning to carry out a major attack on the security forces’ convoy on Srinagar-Jammu highway somewhere between Qazigund and Khannabal. Sources said that the militants of the “Highway Squad”, believed to be residents of Khudwani-Arwani belt, were planning to plant and explode a powerful IED, targeting some convoy of Army, BSF or CRPF in the next two or three days.

While the top officials in Police and security agencies were still blurred over the number and identity of the militants killed in the three-day-long gunbattle near Arwani, LeT confirmed that two of its top operatives, namely Abdul Majid Zargar alias Abu Talha Majid s/o Mohammad Amin Zargar of Gofabal, Kaimoh, and Ibrahim Ruhul Amin s/o Mohammad Amin of Vesu, Qazigund, had got killed in the joint operation of Army, CRPF and J&K Police.

Let spokesman claimed in a press release that the organisation’s J&K chief, Abu Dujana, a Pakistani militant who has been operating in the Valley since 2012, managed to escape from the tightly cordoned area. As already reported, a local civilian was also found dead. His bullet-riddled body was spotted and recovered from the railway track on Thursday.

Officials said that three AK-47 rifles were recovered from the debris of a completely destroyed house alongwith two acutely charred human bodies. However, senior CRPF officials insisted that three militants and a civilian had died in the operation. They said it was being verified whether the third militant, killed in the encounter, was Waseem of Shopian, Junaid Matu of Redwani or someone else. J&K Police officials claimed that only two militants and a civilian supporter of the militants had died in the operation.

Abu Dujana is currently the most wanted militant in Jammu and Kashmir. He was appointed as LeT’s chief for J&K after the organisation’s most dreaded head Abu Qasim of Bahwalpur, Pakistan, was killed in an encounter at Khandaypora, Kulgam, on October 29, 2015. Qasim was believed to be the mastermind of scores of attacks and fatal casualties of Police and security forces, including the August 5, 2015, fidayeen attack on a paramilitary convoy near Udhampur, on Srinagar-Jammu highway.


 [Published in today’s STATE TIMES]