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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Was Bacha Khour gang chief’s PSA revoked on CM’s orders?
Baramulla’s Swat under tight scanner as Omar gives catch-or-quit option to Police


SRINAGAR, Feb 24: Stone pelters who struck on the Rafiabad family and caused the death of an eleven-day-old infant on Monday last were not roaming around and unleashing a
reign of terror without reason. Their chief had been held for rioting during the Shopian demonstrators last year and detained at a jail in Jammu but, according to residents, his PSA detention was withdrawn within a couple of months on Chief Minister Omar Abdullah’s orders after intervention of a couple of National Conference (NC) leaders including a Minister of State. Members of this gang were conspicuously present at a valedictory function organized by Police in honour of the outgoing Deputy Commissioner, Lateef-uz-Zamaan Dewa, and SSP, Viplab Kumar, over a month ago. On Tuesday, they audaciously called local cable operators and warned them of “dire consequences” if they dared to play a tape that would have identified the ruffians responsible for the infant’s death.

Residents of the “liberated” Baramulla town, who call themselves the “silent majority” and claim to be 99 percent of the population, made harrowing disclosures with regard to the identification of the ruffians and rioters involved in the killing of an eleven-day-old infant in his mother’s lap earlier this week. “Police are just beating about the bush. They have no intention of arresting the killers”, said a senior citizen and influential businessman who claimed that Police had complete knowledge of the “most wanted” faces who have been holding the old town of 30,000 inhabitants hostage with stone pelting since the Amarnath land controversy of 2008.

“Old town across the bridge (over river Jhelum) has become like Swat and Wazeeristan. Stone pelters, whose number is less than 100, and their sympathizers have been enjoying a field day here as Police or security forces never venture into this liberated zone”, a 60-year-old trader observed. None of these hapless citizens is prepared to be identified in media. They have a reason. “During last year’s Shopian clashes, these people not only occupied SRTC’s yard and raised their own shops but they also dismantled the business centers of Beopar Mandal President and General Secretary in full knowledge of the National Conference-led coalition government”, revealed a resident.

If these representatives of the suppressed civil society are to be believed, even after Chief Minister’s serious concern over the infant’s killing, Police or security forces have neither conducted any raids nor given any indication of arresting the gangsters. According to them, entire Old Town, comprising Tauheed Gunj, Jamia, Qazi Hamam, Kakkar Haham, Jalal Sahab, Ganai Hamam, Syed Kareem, Bangla Bagh, Azad Gunj, Iqbal Colony, Stadium Colony, Armpora, Bagh-e-Islam, Suhail Colony, Qadeem Iddgah, Khwaja Sahab, Mir Sahab, Drangbal and Khandanyar mohalls, is completely “out-of-bounds” for Police and security forces.

(Late night reports, however, said that Police trooped into the old town in search of the stone pelters involved in the death of the infant after Chief Minister Omar Abdullah asked the authorities in Baramulla to either capture the ruffians or quit. Sources said, CM has made it a point to get the ruffians arrested and reveal it during his reply to the discussion on Governor’s address in Legislative Assembly at 1600 hours on Thursday).

Residents revealed that on Tuesday, Police arrested two boys of 12 years of age from among a group of stone pelters who disclosed during questioning that those very people, who had been arrested last year but later released in a couple of months, had not only organized the clash but also intercepted the minibus at Chakla, in Baramulla town outskirts, and caused the death of the ill-fated baby. One of the Police officials confirmed, on the condition of anonymity, that the detained boys, who were later handed over to their parents, had identified Raju Chraloo, Meena Kumari and Itchguard (real names not known) as the key handlers of the stone pelting and clashes with Police. He said that Police got both the boys’ statements recorded on tape.

“Within minutes, local cable operators received threatening calls from telephone numbers 9697982050 and 9858773617, warning them of dire consequences if they played the feed on their networks”, Police sources said. They said owners of both the mobile phones were present on the valedictory function that had been organized by Police in honour of the outgoing DC and SSP last month. Inquiries further revealed that the man, who was identified as “kingpin” of the gang by the detained boys, had been arrested and detained under PSA at a jail in Jammu last year. However, on the intervention of two of the NC leaders, including a Minister of State, Chralu’s PSA was withdrawn on the orders from Home Department within two months. None other than Chief Minister happens to be the Home Minister in Jammu & Kashmir.

One of the cable operators confirmed that he had removed the tape after he received threatening calls from two different telephones. “Everybody in the town is scared. The common impression is that these gangsters are not only hand-in-glove with separatists and militants but also with officers in Police and security forces and even Ministers in the coalition government”, he added. He said that a civil society group, called Falah-ud-Darain, had succeeded in building up some resistance against the criminal gangs but given up as the operators publicly boasted of their connections with Government officials and politicians.

According to the residents, members of the gang have diversified their “business” and organized groups of street criminals. Even an influential Jamaat-e-Islami activist and President of Beopar Mandal, Abdul Rehman Shalla, failed to take on the gang after they caused extensive damage to his shop and threatened “further action”.

Meanwhile, in a statement issued from New Delhi, hardline separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani, who had proudly eulogized and supported the stone pelters last year and until yesterday, has also distanced himself from this anarchical mode pf “resistance” and condemned the killing of an infant in Baramulla by the rioters. According to KNS, Geelani has taken a volte face and expressed concern that anarchical stone pelting would lead the Kashmiris to a very dangerous situation.

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