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Saturday, January 2, 2010

J&K Govt loses Rs 100 Cr property in Kolkata
Farooq’s CAS dream finally shatters in Omar’s NC-Congress regime

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Jan 2: With the completion of its first year, Omar Abdullah’s National Conference-led coalition government has shattered Dr Farooq Abdullah’s dream of raising a Kisan Ghar and Controlled Atmosphere Storage (CAS) for the benefit of the state fruit growers in Kolkata as the Government of West Bengal has finally revoked the allotment of seven Kanals of prime land made in 1988. This huge embarrassment for the coalition government has come as a result of the successive regimes’ failure in responding to scores of notices of the Department of Housing & Urban Development and consequently failing to create the facility for which the land had been allotted nearly 20 ago.

Highly placed authoritative sources revealed to Early Times that Government of West Bengal’s Department of Housing & Urban Development (H&UD) has finally canceled allotment of seven Kanals of prime land, valued at more than Rs 100 Cr, which had been made in favour of the Government of Jammu & Kashmir for a period of 999 years in 1988. According to these sources, the allotment has been withdrawn as the coalition government has failed to honour its final commitment of starting the work in March 2009.

As exclusively disclosed by Early Times in its issue of June 18th, 2009, Principal Secretary R K Pradhan had asked his subordinate officials to start process of cancellation of the lease of 6.82 Kanals of land that had been granted to Government of J&K for raising a Kisan Ghar in Sector 3 and a CAS in Sector 5 of Salt Lake area of Kolkata on 16th of January 1988. This prime land had been allotted to J&K Government for a song for 999 years in the wake of then Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah’s sustained persuasion with his West Bengal counterpart Jyoti Basu.

Even after an undertaking of starting the work “within March 2009”, Government in Srinagar and Jammu slept over the notices of the West Bengal government, forcing the latter to take the extreme decision of cancellation of the 1000-year lease within 20 years.

Minister incharge Horticulture in Omar Abdullah’s government, Sham Lal Sharma, confirmed that Government of West Bengal had withdrawn the lease last week. He, nevertheless, expressed optimism that his personal persuasion would convince the West Bengal government to go for reconsideration. “I am leaving for Calcutta very much today. I’m sure they will reconsider and give us a last chance to build the Kisan Ghar and CAS on the same land”, Sham Lal told Early Times.

Omar Abdullah government was ironically well aware of the urgency of responding to the notices of the West Bengal government. Reads a note put up to Chief Minister: “….but in the meeting on 19-02-2009 it was understood that West Bengal Government have run out of patience and gathered an impression that J&K Government is not at all interested in the project and thereby they (J&K Govt) seek extensions only without any cogent reasons”. Even an amount of Rs 10 Lakh had been earmarked for raising the boundary wall. Still the work never started till it lapsed on March 31, 2009.

In May 2009, Chief Minister desired Minister incharge Horticulture to visit Kolkata and submit his report on the subject. That did not happen in the last seven months. Mr Sharma has now set out for West Bengal but only after the lease has been withdrawn.

Failing to break slumber of Dr Abdullah’s own government in 1988-1990, followed by Governor’s administration in 1990-1996 and yet again Dr Abdullah’s regime in 1996-2000, Government of West Bengal cancelled the lease vide Order No: WB-4433 on 11th December 2000. J&K Government did not even take the allotted land into its possession till December 2000. It ignored all the notices and warnings from Kolkata and did not honour the condition of raising the structures in three years. Consequently, Government of West Bengal imposed a penalty of Rs 52,000 in 1995 which was shamelessly paid by Governor’s administration on 17th April 1995. Continued slumber of J&K Government for 12 years led to cancellation of the lease on December 11th, 2000.

In 2003, Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed did a lot of persuasion with the Government of West Bengal and succeeded in getting the lease restored on the condition that the project would be completed “within three years”. Consequent upon the desired disposal of a compromise suit filed jointly by Governments of West Bengal and J&K in a civil court in Kolkata, Government of West Bengal restored lease rights of both the plots vide Order No: WB-834 on 18th November 2004 and thereafter possession in favour of Government of J&K vide Order No: WB-316 on 22nd February 2005. Government of J&K gave yet another undertaking that it would complete the project in the next three years i.e before 22nd March 2008.

Even as dozens of officials from Directorate of Horticulture (Planning & Marketing) as also senior bureaucrats kept shuttling on pleasure trips between Srinagar, New Delhi and Kolkata, paid penalty of Rs 52,000 in 1995 for sustained default and even remuneration of Rs 5 Lakh to a consultancy for preparing a Detailed Project Report (DPR) in 2006, it never started any work. Multinational companies and giants in the corporate sector raised huge buildings around this area but seven Kanals of the land in possession of J&K Government turned into a slum. Reports say that dengue and other mosquito-spread diseases caused casualties when slum-dwellers occupied the land and turned it into a septic basin.

Mufti succeeded in getting fresh lease of life for Dr Abdullah dream project but neither he nor his successors---Ghulam Nabi Azad and Governor N N Vohra---started any work on the facility that would have come up as a boon for J&K’s fruit growers and traders in a potentially strong market. Unless retrieved---that seems to be a remote possibility now--- it has finally died its death ironically in Omar Abdullah’s NC-Congress coalition regime, exactly 21 years after it was allotted in Dr Farooq Abdullah’s NC-Congress coalition.


Wednesday, December 30, 2009

4 CRPF men gunned down in Sopore
Militants decamp after looting weapons of the slain soldiers

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Dec 30: Spreading a fresh wave of terror in Sopore area after two years, militants today gunned down four Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel and made good their escape after looting the weapons of at least two of the slain soldiers. The broad daylight strike occurred in close vicinity of the Sector Headquarters of Rashtriya Rifles in Watlab area.

Informed sources in north Kashmir told Early Times that at least three militants, believed to be the cadres of Lashkar-e-Toiba, struck on a Road Opening Party of CRPF 177 Bn at Janwari Crossing, about 6 Km from Sopore on Sopore-Bandipore Road at 1430 hours. The ROP men were warming themselves with a roadside fire while providing protection to the main ROP from a sidelane some 250 ft away from the main road. According to eyewitnesses, a group of youngsters was playing cricket and the CRPF men were also enjoying it when they were caught unawares and at least three militants fired upon them almost in point blank range.

Sources said that two of the four targeted soldiers were hit in the head and both died on the spot. Two more of their colleagues sustained critical injuries and later succumbed to injuries at hospital. Those killed in the broad daylight strike were identified as Head Constables A K Upadhay and E P Prabhakar and Constables S S Dass and Kuldeep Singh.

Sources said that the militants, widely believed to be cadres of Lashkar-e-Toiba, attacked the CRPF party just 2 Km short of the Sector Headquarters of Rashtriya Rifles. They said that the militants escaped while looting away the AK-47 rifles of two of the slain soldiers. Troops from RR 22 Bn and Police/ CRPF conducted a search operation in the locality minutes after the shootout but failed to get any clue, other than an unclaimed Phiran, with regard to whereabouts of the militants.

SP Sopore, Abdul Waheed Shah, said that post mortem of the slain soldiers was conducted at Sub District Hospital Sopore and the dead bodies were dispatched for a CRPF formation at Humhama wherefrom these would be sent for cremation to respective residences after a wreath laying ceremony tomorrow.

Two years after striking fiercely in Sopore area, where their base had been dismantled almost completely in 2007-09 period, militants have surfaced again in the apple-rich belt in north Kashmir. The other day only, they had lobbed grenades towards the residence of MLA Sopore Haji Mohammad Ashraf and later caused an IED blast in the same locality at Dangarpora, not far away from today’s site of attack. Earlier this month, militants had attacked a CRPF party in Sopore town.


Monday, December 28, 2009

Ashoora celebrated with traditional solemnity across J&K
Thousands participate in over 50 Zuljanah processions in Valley

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Dec 28: Solemn finale of the Moharram mourning, Ashoora, was celebrated today as thousands of Shia Muslim devotees paid tributes to Prophet Mohammad’s grandson, Hazrat Imam Hussain, and other martyrs of Karbala with their participation in over 50 Zuljanah and Alam processions across Kashmir valley. Braving apprehensions of hostile situation and an equally disturbing weather forecast, thick flocks of mourners performed Matam (a typical mourning) and dispersed only after the rallies culminated into Majalis-e-Sham-e-Garibaan at different Imambargahs late in the evening.

Even as the authorities had, as usual since 1989, denied permission to the major Zuljanah procession in this capital city on ‘security grounds’, nearly 50 processions of the Karbala mourners were taken out peacefully in Srinagar and other Shia population localities across Kashmir valley on occasion of Ashoora today. Notwithstanding the forecast of rain and snow by Department of Meteorology on Dec 28th and 29th , as also security-related apprehensions of Police and intelligence agencies, it remained a completely sunny but cold winter day and no untoward incident took place anywhere in the state.

Thin groups of people, dominated by pro-Azadi activists, made routine attempts of defying the prohibitory orders in Civil Lines for half-an-hour in the forenoon but Police foiled their attempts to make any big show. Amid reciting of Nowha and slogan shouting, coupled with baton charge and tearsmoke by Police, over a dozen of the defiant activists were taken into custody and detained for the day at a local Police station.

Valley’s largest attended Zuljanah and Alam procession was taken out as per a tradition from Alipora Botakadal in Lalbazar area at 1100 hours which passed peacefully through its traditional route of Madeen Sahab, Mohalla Syed Afzal, Alamgari Bazar, Baba Mazar and Ghasiyar Chowk Road and finally culminated into a Majlis-e-Sham-e-Gariban at the historic Imambara of Zadibal. Prominent Shia cleric-politician and President of J&K Shia Association, Maulvi Iftikhar Hussain Ansari, led the procession of nearly 100,000 mourners.

Maulvi Iftikhar and JKLF Chairman, Yasin Malik, addressed the congregation of the Karbala mourners at Imambara Zadibal.

In the background of tight security arrangements, Divisional Commissioner, Mrs Naseem Lankar, IGP Kashmir, Farooq Ahmed, DC Srinagar, Meraj Ahmed Kakroo, SSP Srinagar Javed Riyaz Bedar, and other senior officials personally escorted the procession. Different government departments and NGOs had installed Sabeels and relief centers all through the route as the volunteers offered juices, fruit and tea to the participants.

While reciting Nowha and Marthiya in the praise and memory of the martyrs of Karbala, mourners performed Matam with self-flagellation. Particulars groups of the youth spilled their own blood on the streets while striking on their heads and shoulders with sharp-edged blades. Most of the mourners were bare-footed and in black outfits, braving the severe winter chill. This huge procession, which was 100,000-strong according to an official press release, ended at Imambara Zadibal at around midnight.

In Srinagar district, other Ashoora processions were taken out at Hassanabad, Harwan, Nishat, and Balhama. Reports said that 1,000 to 4,000 mourners participated in these processions.

Budgam-based Anjuman-e-Sharayee Shi’aan organized a massive Zuljanah procession which came out from Imambara Mirgund and after walking on its traditional 3 Km route ended at Budgam late in the evening. Officials put the number of participants as 15,000. Anjuman chief and senior Hurriyat leader, Aga Syed Hassan, as also his son-in-law and Ministrer in Omar Abdullah’s Cabinet, Aga Syed Ruhullah, participated in the procession. Parallel faction of the Anjuman, headed by Aga Syed Mohammad Fazallullah and his brother, former Ministrer Aga Mehmood, participated in relatively smaller Zuljanah processions at Bemina and Ichhigam in Budgam district.

Other major processions of the day were taken out in Budgam district at Iskandarpora, Atina, Hayatporan and Magam. Largely attended Magam procession ended at Imambara Goom Ahmedpora where Maluvi Iftikhar Ansari addressed the congregation and explained the philosophy of the martyrdom of Karbala to the mourners.

Reports pouring in from different district headquarters said that well-attended Zuljanah and Alam processions were also taken out at Chhatergul and Sallar in Anantnag, Shahu Shitsan Devsar in Kulgam, Gangoo, Wakharwan and Puner Jagir in Pulwama, Dab Wakora in Ganderbal, Anderkoot in Bandipore, several villages in Pattan area of Baramulla besides Kamalkot (Uri) in the same district.

Reports from Ladakh said that massive Zuljanah and Alam processions were taken out in Leh and several other villages in the district. According to these reports, rival Shia organizations, Islamia School and Imam Khomeini Trust carried out two major Ashoora processions in Kargil.


Ashoora celebrated with traditional solemnity across J&K
Kaba se uthi sada, aao chalen Karbala, sipah-e-Mehdi


JAMMU, Dec 28: Ashoora, the 10th Moharram anniversary of the martyrs of Karbala, was celebrated in Jammu with traditional solemnity as thousands of the mourners participated in the Zuljanah procession which culminated peacefully into Majlis-e-Sham-e-Garibaan at Karbala Complex near Wazarat Road late this evening.

In keeping with the tradition, mourners gathered at Imambargah New Plot in the forenoon, after nightlong Majlis, and walked all the way to Pir Mitha. Immediately after the Zuhar prayers ended, Zuljanah and Alam procession was taken out from Imambara Pir Mitha. Anjuman-e-Imamiya Jammu, Anjuman-e-Hydariya New Plot and Shia Federation had made elaborate arrangements for smooth passage of the procession.

As the groups of mourners recited Nowha and Marthiya and performed Matam with self-flagellation and striking sharp-edged metallic instruments on their own bodies to spill blood on the streets, the procession passed through Lakhdata Bazar, Rajinder Bazar (Talab Khatikaan), Shaheedi Chowk, Wazarat Road and finally culminated into Majlis-e-Sham-e-Garibaan at Karbala Complex, near Wazarat Road.

Spirit of communal harmony was manifest as the non-Muslims provided complete support to the procession and the mourners said in verse: “Had Imam Hussain come to India, he would not have been killed by any tyrant Yazid”. “If ever India desires to be a successful country, it should follow the principles of Imam Hussain”, read a boldly printed banner, quoting Mahatma Gandhi. Hussaini Youth Federation Ladakh had its presence in the procession.

“Kaba se uthi sada, waqt-e-zahoor aagaya, aao chalen Karbala, sipah-e-Mehdi, sipah-e-Mehdi” was the refrain of a Nowha composed and performed by a thick circle of Ladkahi students. Students Association Sofia Imamiya Noorbakhshiya Ladakh had dominated a major part of the procession. The participants included students, government employees and businessmen from Kargil and Leh, besides a large number of government employees and normal visitors from Kashmir valley. Thus the procession had fairly good representation from all the three regions of the state.

Non-Gazetted Secretariat Employees Union, Anjuman-e-Imamiya and Shia Federation besides other NGOs had organized Sabeels at several places en route to Karbala Complex, where hundreds of male and female mourners in black outfits participated in the Majlis-e-sham-e-Garibaan late in the evening. Senior National Conference leader from Kargil and Minister of Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution, Qamar Ali Akhoon, remained camping at Karbala Complex. Maula Gazzanfar Hussain Rizvi addressed the Majlis.

Reports of other Zuljanah processions in Jammu division came in from Poonch, Surankot, Mendhar besides Chanderkot on Jammu-Srinagar National Highway.

In Poonch, Zuljanah procession led by Moulana Naheem Ahmed Abdi and President Anjuman-e-Jaffria Poonch Mr. Rahat Hussain Sahib started from Takia Sharief, Sayed Pehalwan Shah and passing through City Chowk, Main Bazar of Poonch and culminated at Imam Bargah Poonch. Hundreds of mourners participated in the procession reciting and mourning prayers in praise of the martyrs of Karbla.

Similarly, thousand of mourners joined Zuljanah procession in Surankote led by prominent Shia cleric Syed Khadim Hussain Shah and other prominent Muslim scholars including Moulvi Muneer-ul-Hussan, President State Tanzeem-Al-Momineen. The procession passing through main market, culminated at Imam Bargah Surankote.

In Mendhar Tehsil, the procession of Karbala mourners was taken out from Sangla Chowk Gursai to Mendhar. Large number of mourners joined the procession which ended at the local Imambargah.

Zuljanah procession was also carried out in Mandi Tehsil which started from Imamia Park passing through the market and ended at local Imambargah Mandi. Prominent Shia leader Mr. Fida Hussain and other senior citizens led the procession.

District Administration had made elaborate arrangements of security and medicare by providing teams of doctors and First Aid support along with ambulances deployed along route to Zuljanah processions and Shia-dominated localities.


Sunday, December 27, 2009

Moharram processions continue in Valley despite tension in Srinagar
TV camera crews injured in clash after Kangri attack on procession at Maisuma

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Dec 27: Nearly two dozen persons, including six photojournalists and head of a Police Station, today sustained injuries in ding dong clashes between stone pelting groups and Police when an unidentified person lobbed a fire container (Kangri) on a Moharram procession at Maisuma in the capital city. Scores of Tazia and Alam processions were taken out today on occasion of 9th of Moharram in Shia-dominated localities all over Kashmir valley where the month’s largest event, Ashoora, is being celebrated with solemnity on Monday to remember Prophet Mohammad’s grandson, Hazrat Imam Hussain, and 71 of his companions martyred at Karbala in Iraq over 1400 years ago.

Even as scores of Moharram processions were taken out peacefully on occasion of Tasooua (9th of Moharram) all over Kashmir valley and thousands of mourners participated in these solemn congregations while braving the chill of Chilla-e-kalan (core of the winter), one-odd incident of violence occurred in the midtown locality of Maisuma. Eyewitnesses told Early Times that minutes after the procession was carried out, an unidentified person lobbed a Kangri on a circle of the mourners at Madina Chowk, Gawkadal. Residents of Khushal Sar, Zadibal, were reciting Nowha in praise of the martyrs of Karbala in that particular circle. Four to five of the mourners sustained minor injuries.

Lobbing of the fire-container by an unidentified person caused temporary disruption as the men in the procession responded with varied panic reactions. Soon a number of people engaged themselves in stone pelting on Police and CRPF bunkers who retaliated with batons and tearsmoke. Official sources said that 20 to 25 persons, including 8 Police personnel and SHO, sustained injuries in the resultant clashes which subsided in 20 minutes. Those injured in the melee included half-a-dozen camerapersons and videographers of different cable TV channels.

Order was restored by volunteers of the procession shortly as the groups of mourners shouted Shia-Sunni Bhai Bhai slogans. Aga Syed Taqqi, a Budgam-based cleric from Anjuman-e-Sharayi Shi’aan and JKLF Chairman, Yasin Malik, led the procession and addressed the gathering with stress on sectarian unity before it culminated at Mandir Bagh, Gawkadal, in the evening.

Reports said that thin groups of non-mourners pelted stones on Police and paramilitary personnel at five other places, mostly on Nallah Maar Road. Police, as usual, retaliated with baton charge and tearsmoke to disperse these groups.

Reports said that all other processions of the day passed off smoothly. Thousands of mourners participated in a major Tazia and Alam procession which came out from Shamswari in the middle of downtown Srinagar. It culminated at Al-Zahra Islamic Trust, Habbakadal in the evening. Shia cleric-politician Maulvi Abbas Ansari delivered a sermon on the philosophy pf the martyrdom of Karbala late tonight at Habbakadal.

Reports of similar processions poured in from Shalimar, Baba Mazar Zadibal, Mandibal and Bemina within Srinagar municipal limits.

According to these reports, major processions of the day were also taken out at Budgam town and over a dozen towns and villages in Budgam, Baramulla, Bandipore and Pulwama districts. Reports from Uri said that hundreds of Karbala mourners participated in these processions in Kamalkote, Dhani Sayyidan and several others villages on the LoC in north Kashmir.

Notwithstanding a level of tension in Srinagar, where authorities have, as usual, disallowed the major Ashoora procession on security grounds, 10th of Moharram in remembrance of the martyrs of Karabla is being celebrated with traditional solemnity across Kashmir valley on Monday. Thousands of devotees are expected to participate in Zujanah and Tazia processions on this occasion.