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Friday, January 22, 2010

IRP opens fire on demo, 23-year-old killed
2 militants trapped in Kulgam gunbattle


SRINAGAR, Jan 22: Indian Reserve Police (IRP), an armed wing of Jammu & Kashmir Police, today opened fire on a demonstration, killing a 23-year-old youth at Yekwanpora village, close to the archeological remains of Parihaspora, in Pattan area of Baramulla district. Authorities have ordered an inquiry even as tension was prevailing in the Shia-dominated area till late tonight. Two militants have, meanwhile, got trapped in a fierce gunbattle with Police and security forces in Kaimoh area of Kulgam in South Kashmir.

Informed sources in North Kashmir told Early Times that that nearly 1,000 residents of Divar and Yakwanpora villages gathered today at the battalion headquarters of IRP 10 Bn at Yekwanpora. While alleging that IRP personnel at the camp had ‘forcibly and sacrilegiously’ removed Moharram banners from the premises of a shrine, they raised the demand of action against the guilty. Even as Commandant of the battalion, Mushtaq Ahmed Keeno, was not present at the camp, his juniors staked claim on the piece of land and refused to accept that removal of the religious banners was any sacrilegious act on their part. They asserted to the crowds that the land had been duly given on lease to the camp and there was no question of giving the people right of way through the protected premises.

As behaviour of the camp officials provoked the demonstrators further, they raised pro-Islam and anti-Government slogans. With the tempers running high from both sides, demonstrators clashed with IRP personnel with intermittent stone pelting. In retaliation and further provocation, IRP guards opened fire on the angry demonstration. A 23-year-old youth, Manzoor Ahmed Sofi S/o Mohammad Ramzan Sofi, was critically hit and he died before reaching hospital for treatment.

Sensing more trouble, authorities dispatched contingents from the local Police Station as well as paramilitary forces who controlled the situation with strict enforcement of prohibitory orders. As Deputy Commissioner, Lateef-uz-Zamaan Dewa, was being relieved under fresh orders from the Government in Jammu and the new incumbent was yet to take over, Additional DC Mohammad Ashraf Shonthu rushed to the spot with SSP Baramulla, Shakil Baig. After a great deal of persuasion, officials succeeded in assuring the angry crowds that the matter of “excessive force” would be investigation and anybody found responsible for over-reaction would be arrested and prosecuted under law.

Amid intermittent clashes and tension in the locality, authorities got Sofi’s post mortem conducted at Sub District Hospital of Pattan. Later this evening, dead body was handed over to the residents who conducted funeral only after the officials succeeded in getting the intervention of prominent cleric-politician Maulvi Iftikhar Hussain Ansari’s younger brother, Maulvi Abid Ansari. Sources said that the officials conveyed to the angry residents that a murder case would be registered immediately after receiving SSP Baramulla’s detailed report on the incident on Saturday. SSP has been directed by Additional DC Baramulla to conduct an inquiry into the circumstances that led to the youth’s killing.

IGP Kashmir, Farooq Ahmed, told Early Times that it was primarily a local dispute on the right of way between the IRP camp and residents of Yakwanpora village. He said it was being looked into as to what prompted the crowds to allegedly resort to stone pelting and why the IRP guards had opened fire. He said that prima facie there was some substance in the peoples’ allegation of unwarranted fire as just one person had been hit and that too fatally. He said that Police had registered a case and begun investigation that would determine what kind of an FIR would be registered. Senior officials said that it was a matter of grave concern as the death of a youth had occurred in firing at a time when Chief Minister was reviewing security and law and order arrangements in the summer capital with top ranking officers.

Meanwhile, late night reports from South Kashmir said that Police and troops of Rashtriya Rifles swooped on a residential house at Rampura hamlet, near Kaimoh village in Kulgam district immediately after receiving a tip off that two armed militants were present at their hideout. IGP Kashmir said that exchange of gunfire began late this evening even as troops and Police were busy in evacuating the civilians from the densely populated hamlet. “Our first priority is to ensure evacuation of all civilians before launching a decisive offensive on the militants”, he said.


Thursday, January 21, 2010

Valley calm on 20th birth day of bloodshed

Yasin addresses 100-strong rally, Geelani shoots off statement from Delhi


SRINAGAR, Jan 21: It doesn’t take much to remember and forget in the Valley. History is replete with remembrance and forgetfulness. Nobody remembered Kashmir’s last monarch Yusuf Shah for over 400 years till Sheikh Abdullah and Yusuf Taing went all the way to Biswak (Bihar) to discover his tomb in 1977. That again ended up as a celestial event. Nobody talked of that Yusuf Shah thereafter. May be someone does in next 400 years.

With the Kashmiris finding Sher-e-Kashmir’s name on the fallen autumn leaves of Chinar in 1950s, he himself had reduced to a sub-conscious entity in early 1970s. Pakistan’s defeat in two successive wars in between pushed Sheikh to a far bitter mundane reality. The referendum in his mind voted for power. Days to come vindicated Sheikh’s decision. Valley dismissed him as a traitor and observed total shutdown on Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s call on the day of his decision to return to the chair of Chief Minister. Three days later, Kashmiris gave him a veritable hero’s welcome as thousands of them gathered on either side of the highway to greet and garland him.

Sheikh conquered Srinagar with a massive gathering as melancholy faded into euphoria and jubilation on his arrival in Lalchowk on that historic day of spring in 1975. One-odd voice of dissent, Sofi Mohammad Akbar, was consigned to oblivion. In contrast to Sheikh’s million-strong funeral procession in 1982, Sofi’s last rites in 1988 became a bit of ‘news’ only when Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah, with a courtesy lift to then Sopore MLA Syed Ali Shah Geelani, came all the way from Civil Secretariat of Jammu and landed his flying machine on the Mahaz-e-Azadi chief’s town. He even set free Sofi’s protégé Azam Inquilabi for whose signing of parole die-hard Farooq Rehmani had failed to find a surety in the valley of four million people.

Nobody remembered Maqbool Bhat on the day of his execution at Tihar Jail on February 11 in 1984. Abdul Gani Lone’s loud calls of shutdown fell on the deaf ears on that day and the following anniversaries. It took the people of Valley six long years to first remember Bhat in February 1990. By that time they had forgotten Sheikh Abdullah and begun to remember Sheikh Mukhtar---the lion of the African desert.

Much like Sofi Akbar’s loneliness in 1988, Sheikh Abdullah in 1990-95 had one-odd homage payer at his grand mausoleum at Hazratbal in Maqbool Shah Khaksaar of Ikhrajpora, who never hid his pride of leading Sher-e-Kashmir’s militia to repulse the Pakistani tribal raider’s invasion in 1947 till he was gunned down by guerrillas outside his mosque in 2005.

In 1990s, Kashmiris did enthusiastically begin to remember another Yusuf Shah, albeit only after his turning into the Hizbul Mujahideen chief ‘Syed Salah-ud-din’. Nobody really knows how long Shah’s guns and amulets loom large on their conscious mind.

It was exactly on this day of January 21 in 1990 that the real foundation stone of a defiant, secessionist movement was laid in Kashmir with a major massacre. CRPF troops opened machinegun fire from their sandbag bunkers on an Azadi procession, killing nearly 50 civilians at Gawkadal. Anniversaries for the next many years did not need anybody’s call to ensure a total shutdown in entire Valley. Those critical of the brutal killing of SHO Maisuma , Sadullah, by the ‘Mujahideen’ a year before, and gunning down of two IB officials around the same spot later, vanished into the thick fog of the sentiment of Azadi.

First murmur of protest in Gawkadal came three years later when JKLF gunmen allegedly committed rape-cum-murder of a mother and daughter of the Braroo family of the staying back Kashmiri Pandits at Basant Bag. It was silenced with just a couple of browbeats.

This Maisuma-Gawkadal-Basantbagh locality, bordering Srinagar uptown and downtown, came to be remembered later for being the residence of JKLF Chairman, Yasin Malik. Much more than the massacre, people later began to remember it for being a rendezvous of the Indian intellectuals, mediapersons and foreign diplomats who for years thronged Malik’s non-descript house and office.

One day, even Kuldeep Nayar found himself tired of offering glasses of juice to break Malik’s weekly and fortnightly fasts-unto-death. And he turned his back on Maisuma. With that change in the atmosphere, it required a much stressed call from militants and Hurriyat to remember the martyrs of the Gawkadal massacre on January 21. In the next couple of years, militants and Hurriyat themselves forgot to issue a call of strike on this historic day.

This Wall Street of Azadi observed total boycott to all Assembly and Lok Sabha elections from 1996 to 2004 but flocked to the polling booths at Veterinary Hospital and Mallinson School in the Municipal Elections of 2005. A couple of years before, Chief Minister Mufti Sayeed’s demolition squads had the temerity of dismantling an unauthorized projection of a shop that belonged to once revered, once dreaded Yasin Malik’s close relative.

In 20th year of the movement, Maisuma-Gawkadal came up with a queer presentation of its split personality as groups of people maintained their stone pelting sessions against Police and CRPF and the JKLF Chief became the glamorous hero of a celebrity wedding with the young Pakistani painter Mashaal Mullick. Amid a razzmatazz, wags were heard shouting: “Bharat teri maut aayi, bhabhi aayi bhabhi aayi---a parody of once the popular slogan “Bharat teri maut aayi, Lashkar aayi Lashkar aayi”.

And look what the champions of Azadi did on the 20th birth day of the Gawkadal massacre: Biggest crowd puller Geelani shot off a statement of tributes from his second home in the Indian Capital, New Delhi; Others from Mirwaiz Umar Farooq to Maulvi Abbas Ansari to Bilal Gani Lone to Prof Abdul Gani to Shabir Shah even didn’t do that in their luxurious drawing rooms in Srinagar. There was no activity in the Valley, either at the Martyrs Graveyard or elsewhere, as everybody seemed to be busy with routine daily chores. Business was brisk at Lalchowk and around. Yasin Malik addressed a gathering of a little over 100 fellow residents at Maisuma to remember the Gawkadal martyrs and tell his audience that their blood wouldn’t go waste.


CM takes serious note of red tapism on relief
Rs 3 Lakh, Govt job being sanctioned for Baramulla family


SRINAGAR, Jan 20: Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has taken serious note of a 25-year-old Baramulla youth Manzoor Ahmed Bhat’s death in helplessness due to his bureaucracy’s red tapism on the urgent relief file for seven long months. While an explanation is being called from the officials who slept over Bhat’s file for 77 days till he died on January 18th, Government is understood to have begun the process of sanctioning relief of Rs 3 Lakh in favour of the bereaved family besides a job for Bhat’s wife in relaxation of rules.

Highly placed official sources revealed to Early Times that immediately after going through the expose of red tapism on the urgent relief file in today’s issue of this newspaper, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah called entire record of Manzoor Ahmed Bhat’s getting injured during a melee in Baramulla in June 2009, his treatment for seven months and finally his death in total helpless on January 18, 2010.

As reported in today’s issue of this newspaper, Bhat had been unlawfully fired upon by Police and security forces, rendering him permanently disabled. Even as Police had bracketed him among the participants of a riot and denied him relief, District Magistrate of Baramulla had conducted an inquiry and found him to be totally innocent. On the basis of eyewitness accounts, SKIMS discharge summary and Medical Board’s observations, Baramulla DM, Lateef-uz-Zamaan Dewa, had certified Bhat as an innocent wrongfully fired upon by Police and security forces.

In a letter to Commissioner-Secretary General Administration Department (GAD), Basharat Ahmed Dhar, with a copy to Chief Minister’s Principal Secretary, Khursheed Ahmed Ganai, Baramulla DM had sought sanction to release of Rs one Lakh worth relief for Bhat’s treatment besides a job for his wife in relaxation of rules on 3-11-2009. Nothing of the sort reached Bhat’s family in Baramulla till he died in penury seven months after falling victim to the armed forces’ unjustified and unprovoked target firing. This all, notwithstanding Chief Minister’s special orders that the victims of Bumai (Sopore) and Baramulla firing be treated as innocent civilians and extra relief of Rs 2 Lakh and one each government job be provided to them in relaxation of all rules.

Sources said that on CM’s orders today, GAD officials obtained latest status of Bhat’s relief case from DC Baramulla, Lateef-uz-Zamaan Dewa. DC reported back that the last seven month’s “living dead body” had finally become a “dead body” as Bhat breathed his last two days ago. Reached over telephone, Mr Dewa confirmed that Government had sought the “latest status” from him in the forenoon today. “Since the youth is now dead, I have sought sanction to grant of Rs 2 Lakh to the family, besides a job to Bhat’s wife in relaxation of rules on the analogy of other victims of Baramulla and Bumai firing”, Mr Dewa said.

DC Baramulla explained that in the wake of complaints, that were established through magisterial inquiries, Chief Minister had rejected Police and security forces’ reports and, for the first time, ordered extraordinary treatment and relief in favour of the victims of “excessive use of force” in Bumai and Baramulla. He said that instead of relief worth Rs one Lakh, given to victims of subversive incidents, Chief Minister had granted relief worth Rs 2 Lakh to these particular victims, in addition to a job for one member of each family. He said that on this analogy and precedence, Bhat’s family was entitled to relief worth Rs 2 Lakh plus Rs one Lakh from District Administration, as also a job for his wife. Later today, sources in the Government said that this relief of Rs 3 Lakh and a job for Bhat’s wife, Amina, was being sanctioned in a day or two.

Sources said that having taken a serious note of the officials sleeping over the urgent relief file at Civil Secretariat, Chief Minister was calling an explanation of the excessive delay of 77 days from two departments working directly under his own command and control. They revealed that on CM’s instructions, Minister of Rural Development, Ali Mohammad Sagar, and Minister of Social Welfare, Sakeena Itoo, were likely to visit Baramulla in a couple of days to deliver cheques of relief worth Rs 3 Lakh and an appointment order for Bhat’s wife.


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

CM’s bureaucracy slept over ‘urgent’ relief file for 77 days
Baramulla picks up stones as victim of Police firing dies in helplessness after 7 months


BARAMULLA, Jan 19: A 25-year-old mason, who had become target of security force’s firing while returning to his home after day’s work on 29th June last year, has died in total helplessness as Chief Minister Omar Abdullah’s relief failed to reach him for seven months in the wake of conflicting reports of the incident from District Magistrate and Senior Superintendent of Police. While the north Kashmir district headquarters observed shutdown as a mark of protest, groups of the violent youth engaged Police in ding dong clashes that left nearly 25 people, including seven Police personnel, injured.

Doctors at SKIMS Soura, who had performed a surgical operation on Manzoor Ahmed Bhat S/o Ghulam Nabi Bhat R/o Drangbal Baramulla, had observed and accordingly recorded in the discharge summary on 2-7-2009 that the “outer crust of a bullet” had ruptured the youth’s spinal cord. This scientific establishment of the youth having been innocent and fired upon unlawfully by Police or security forces was subsequently corroborated by a Medical Board headed by Chief Medical Officer, Baramulla, Dr Jeelani, which had thoroughly examined Bhat.

On receiving the SKIMS discharge summary, findings of a magisterial inquiry and lastly the Medical Board’s opinion sent to him vide No: M Board/2277 dated 6-10-2009, District Magistrate and Deputy Commissioner of Baramulla, Lateef-uz-Zamaan Dewa, had categorically rejected SSP Baramulla Viplab Kumar’s report and sought financial assistance of Rs one Lakh for the injured youth’s treatment from Chief Minister through General Administration Department (GAD).

In his detailed letter No: DCB/R/385 dated 3-11-2009, DC Baramulla had written to Commissioner-Secretary GAD, Basharat Ahmed Dhar, and Principal Secretary to Chief Minister, Khursheed Ahmed Ganai, that Bhat was completely innocent and he had been unlawfully fired upon by Police and security forces. He had described the injured youth as a “living dead body”, explained how his 75-year-old father was living in abject penury and sought special financial assistance of Rs 1.00 Lakh from the Chief Minister’s discretionary grants for the youth’s treatment as also compassionate appointment for his wife. Neither of the two came forth from the Civil Secretariat in Jammu in the last 77 days as Bhat died at his home here last night.

Bhat’s death in total helplessness has now exposed how officials in the “era of accountability” have been continuously sleeping over the files involving matters of life and death of the subjects of the coalition government. This all, notwithstanding Chief Minister’s repeatedly emphasized instructions that victims of the Police and security forces’ excessive use of force at Baramulla on June 29, 2009, be given “an extraordinary treatment” in providing them relief and other ex gratia support from his Government.

“I had brought up Manzoor with the common parental hope of helping me in old age. After working for the whole day (on June 29th, 2009) at Khanpora, he was crossing Drum Bridge to reach back to his home. Far away on the Cement Bridge, there was a clash between demonstrators and Police. Someone from the forces fired upon my son. He was operated upon and later discharged with permanent disability. Whatever we had, we spent on his treatment. DC sahib assured us that entire expenditure on the treatment would come from Chief Minister. Nothing came till Manzoor died last night”, bereaved Ghulam Nabi Bhat said after the funeral of his son.

DC Baramulla, Lateef-uz-Zamaan Dewa, confirmed to Early Times that Manzoor Ahmed Bhat, according to a magisterial inquiry, had been unlawfully fired upon by Police or CRPF even as he was never part of any procession or demonstration at the disturbed town on June 29th, 2009. He revealed that Police had “routinely” described Bhat as a participant in the riots and refused to issue non-involvement certificate in his favour. “After an investigation, I had reasons to believe that Bhat was an innocent youth who had been fired upon without any reason and provocation. I, accordingly, rejected Police version of the incident and sought financial assistance of Rs one Lakh for his treatment, besides compassionate appointment of his wife in relaxation of rules (Qualification Bar)”, DC Baramulla said. He confirmed that there was no response from Civil Secretariat in Jammu in the last 77 days.

A detailed investigation by this newspaper found that over a call of protest from separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani on the alleged rape-cum-murder of two young women in Shopian, Baramulla witnessed ding dong clashes between Police/CRPF and groups of demonstrators on June 29, 2009. These intensified after the Friday prayers concluded at a couple of mosques in old town of Baramulla across river Jhelum. Two hours later, when the demonstrators had thinned out and there was lesser tension in the town, Manzoor Ahmed Bhat was hit in his back on a makeshift bridge, locally called as Drum Bridge, near the site of an under-construction concrete bridge, some 300 metres from the flashpoint.

In quick response to Chief Minister Omar Abdullah’s clear-cut instructions, DC Baramulla submitted a relief proposal to GAD and CM’s Secretariat vide No: DCB/PS/LO/364-65 on 4-7-2009, seeking release of ex gratia from his Discretionary Grants. On CM’s personal initiative, DC Baramulla also sought relaxation in rules of compassionate appointment under SRO-43 wherever needed in terms of age and qualification of the next of kin of the victims of firing.

Even as sanction to the monetary support and government jobs was granted in favour of some persons, it remained pending in the matter of Manzoor Ahmed Bhat as Police clubbed him with the rioters and refused to issue a non-involvement certificate in his favour. Later, after a magisterial inquiry established that Bhat was an innocent victim of the forces firing, DC Baramulla sought extension of the ex gratia support to him. In his letter on 3-11-2009, DC Baramulla referred to CM’s special instructions and asked for financial support of Rs one Lakh for Bhat’s treatment and relaxation of qualification bar for his wife Amina’s compassionate appointment.

Disagreeing with Police version, DC Baramulla mentioned that Bhat had been hit by a “stray bullet” when he was returning to home through the far away Drum Bridge after working for the day at the house of Mohammad Subhan Teli of Khanpora for the whole day. He referred to SKIMS discharge summary and Medical Board finding that forces had fired the “outer crust” (metallic case) instead of a bullet on the innocent civilian.

“Mr Bhat has suffered injury in the spinal cord with the result he is confined to bed and can not, in all probability, move about, let alone work, and is therefore totally dependent upon his aged father who, due to poverty, is unable to bear the expenses so far incurred and to be incurred for the treatment of his injured son”, District Magistrate Dewa mentioned in his letter to GAD and CM’s Secretariat, a copy of which is available with Early Times.

“A copy of discharge summary dated 2-7-2009 from SKIMS Soura, Srinagar, and report of Medical Board Baramulla, submitted vide No: M Board/2277 dated 6-10-2009 is enclosed, which establishes beyond doubt that the injured person is a living dead body and a permanent liability for the aged father alongwith his wife and one child.

“The injury was caused by use of outer crust (metallic case) of bullet by the security forces/ Police”, DC recorded in his letter. He added: “Since Honourable Chief Minister had given instructions for rehabilitation of victims of disproportionate use of force by security forces/ Police, therefore this case is also recommended for sanction of relief of Rs one Lakh from Discretionary Grants and approval to the appointment of Mst Amina, wife of the injured, in relaxation of rules (Qualification Bar) for reasons that her husband has been incapacitated totally due to stray bullet of security forces/ Police which hit him while he was crossing Drum Bridge after working at his respective site at Khanpora”.

“…on the basis of my personal verification, the injured person was, at no stage, part of the procession as he had returned after day’s work from Khanpora and could not have been part of a huge violent mob armed with lathis and stones which is alleged to have come out from old town Baramulla towards Mohalla Jadeed. The SSP has been vide this office No: DMB/R/Misc/07/09 dated 1-10-2009 requested to re-verify the case, enabling placement of it before DLSC (District Level Screening Committee)”, DC had recorded in his November 3 letter.

Death of the injured Manzoor Ahmed Bhat last night led to total shutdown and fresh clashes of Baramulla residents with Police as they shouted anti-India, anti-Government and pro-Azadi slogans. Officials said that five to seven persons sustained injuries but independent reports put the number of injured in today’s clashes between 15 and 25. These reports said that the injured included seven Police personnel.


Monday, January 18, 2010

J&K HC may get first woman judge in 2010
Shan, Seema, Magray, Neeru eying on 5 vacancies


SRINAGAR, Jan 18: With the three berths lying vacant and Mr Justice R C Gandhi, currently posted in Rajasthan High Court, reaching superannuation later this month, process of the appointment of few more judges for Jammu & Kashmir High Court is likely to go on fast track in a few days. Out of the sanctioned strength of 14 judges, Jammu & Kashmir High Court has currently a total of nine incumbents, two of them being from the states of West Bengal and Haryana. J&K has a total of 10 High Court judges, two of them being posted in Rajasthan and Punjab & Haryana High Courts.

After Mr Justice R C Gandhi’s retirement at Rajasthan High Court later this month, J&K will be left with one-odd transfer posting of Mr Justice Pramod Kohli, presently posted in Punjab & Haryana High Court, against two non-state judges, namely Chief Justice Mr Barin Ghosh (West Bengal) and Mr Justice Virendar Kohli (Haryana). With that development, J&K will have a total of nine High Court judges. Of them, Mr Justice Nisar Ahmed Kakroo, Mr Justice Pramod Kohli, Mr Justice, J P Singh, Mr Justice Muzaffar Hussain Attaar and Mr Justice Sunil Hali will be from the Bar quota while as Mr Justice Hakeem Imtiyaz Hussain, Mr Justice, Mansoor Ahmed Mir, Mr Justice Mohammad Yaqoob Mir and Mr Justice Hasnain Masoodi will be from the judicial service.

In the ratio of 60:40, J&K can have 9 High Court judges from Bar and 5 from the Service. By the end of current month, it will be left with just 5 from the Bar and 4 from the Service. In other words, irrespective of the posting of transfer judges and likely appointment of Mr Justice Kakroo as Chief Justice of Andhra Pradesh High Court, President of India would have to appoint 5 new High Court judges from Jammu & Kashmir, as and when such process comes to a logical conclusion from the Collegium (Chief Justice of J&K High Court, First Puisne and Second Puisne), Supreme Court of India and the Union Ministries of Law and Home.

The Collegium, comprising Chief Justice Mr Barin Ghosh, Mr Justice Nisar Ahmed Kakroo and Mr Justice Virender Singh, is understood to have nominated and recommended the state’s senior most District & Sessions Judge, A K Shan, to fill up the one-odd vacancy in Service quota. His appointment is likely to be precipitated after Mr Justice R C Gandhi’s retirement. Mr Justice Gandhi being from the Bar, a number of senior legal practitioners are said to be in the race with all of them eying on the four vacancies. Contenders, according to sources, include Senior Additional Advocate General (Kashmir), Ali Mohammad Magray, former Additional Advocate General (Jammu), Seema Shekhar Khajuria, and Deputy Advocate General, Neeru Goswami. Ten years continuous practice is the basic eligibility criterion for the Bar quota.

Since the state’s first ever woman District & Sessions Judge, Gaus-un-Nisa Jeelani, lately appointed as Principal District & Sessions Judge Srinagar, has bleak prospects of consideration after A K Shan’s nomination from the Collegium in the Service quota, advocate Seema Shekhar could be the beneficiary of Government of India’s newfound interest in having some female judges in all High Courts in the country. There has been considerable emphasis on it ever since Pratibha Patil began functioning as India’s first President. However, as of now, there is no reservation for appointment of female judges in the Indian High Courts.

Daughter of former Director General of Police, Manmohan Khajuria, Seema Shekhar, as well as wife of senior bureaucrat and Principal Secretary to Government Anil Goswami, Neeru Goswami, have the advantage of working as Government advocates from their day one in the Bar. Being from a family of remarkable bureaucratic, political and business background, Neeru Goswami too is being mentioned as a potential contender by a number of politicians and officials in Jammu.

In the middle rung of judiciary, J&K has presently a total of five women District & Sessions Judges in Gaus-un-Nisa jeelani, Kaneez Fatima, Swadesh Warikoo, Jyoti Bala and Nighat Sultana.

DD draws flak on Kashir Channel bungling
High Court calls records, State Govt wants shifting of DD Kashir to Srinagar


SRINAGAR, Jan 17: Drawing flak from a many corners on the largescale bungling in commissioning of programmes for ‘Kashir Channel’, Prasar Bharti Broadcasting Corporation of India has appointed a private consultant to investigate how scores of people having no profile in audio-visual media had been empanelled as ‘private producers’ and subsequently allotted high budget programmes by Doordarshan. Meanwhile, Jammu & Kashmir High Court has directed DD authorities to place entire record related to the allottees before it by the end of January and Government of Jammu & Kashmir has urged Union Ministry of Information & Broadcasting to shift headquarters of DD Kashir from New Delhi to Srinagar.

Informed sources revealed to Early Times that both, the State as well as the Central government, have taken cognizance of largescale irregularities committed in recent commissioning of programmes for DD Kashir and started various initiatives to retrieve the faith of bona fide private producers in the national broadcaster. According to these sources, Ministry of I&B and Prasar Bharti are now shocked over the unprecedented bungling allegedly manipulated by Director General of Doordarshan, Aruna Sharma, and DDG incharge Kashir Channel, Ananya Banerjee, in league with a select group of DD officials and touts.

Even as Prasar Bharti and DD mandarins had conveniently remained mute spectators to the shocking irregularities reported by media in Jammu & Kashmir, Ministry of I&B has reportedly taken serious note of the bungling reported by a leading national daily last week. New Delhi’s largest circulated newspaper, Hindustan Times, had reported how even the cooks of influential private producers, as also ordinary Angan Wari workers and drivers, had been allotted the highest category programmes while as eminent producers with more than 25 years of standing in making films and television programmes had been either fully ignored or given peanuts.

Sources said that a flurry of activity was witnessed on Friday last as CEO Prasar Bharti took an urgent meeting with the officials and desired necessary investigation and remedial measures to restore the faith of genuine private producers. These sources, believed to be privy to the communication between Mandi House and Shastri Bhawan, said that CEO, B S lalli, had explained to Minister incharge, Ambika Soni, that he was neither part of the commissioning process nor duly informed about the allegations of irregularities reported by media and complained by over 40 Srinagar and Jammu-based private producers. He has reportedly argued that DD’s DG and DDG Kashir Channel be held accountable, asked to streamline the process and explain their position in the matter.

Significantly, in addition to separate inquiries by a central intelligence agency and an in-house probe conducted by Ms Supriya Sahu, holding the rank of a Director in I&B Ministry, Government has also engaged a private consultancy to find as to how dozens of the relatives of DD officials and certain private producers—including their cooks, drivers and office boys---had been not only empanelled as private producers but also placed in the highest category of prominent producers like Zamir Ashai, Farooq Masoodi and Mohiuddin Mirza in the final stage of the allotment of programmes. The consultant has been reportedly asked to investigate why the selection committee, working under DG and DDG of Kashir Channel, had marginalized senior producers of more than 25 years of association with DD, by way of either giving them the charity of peanuts or by completely ignoring them.

Meanwhile, in a quick sequence of related developments, Government of Jammu & Kashmir has taken cognizance of the increasingly growing unrest among the community of bona fide and senior filmmakers ad freelance private producers. In a communication to the Minister incharge I&B, Government has reportedly urged shifting of the DD Kashir headquarters from New Delhi to Srinagar. Srinagar and Jammu-based producers have complained that DD authorities forced nearly 800 J&K-based producers to spend over Rs 6 Crore on their shuttling between the state and the Union capital in connection with personal presentation etcetera. Yet another argument was that continuing the DD Kashir headquarters in New Delhi had been sending a wrong signal that Government of India had no place and security for a Kashmir-related TV channel in Srinagar.

Orders of the Union Ministry of I&B for shifting of DD Kashir back to Srinagar have not been implemented in the last 10 years as the officials and producers, who have allegedly developed huge vested interest, have successfully blocked the process with one or the other fallacious argument.

Here in Srinagar, J&K High Court has admitted a writ petition of nearly 40 private producers and issued a notice in the matter. Mr Justice Mohammad Yaqoob Mir has directed Doordarshan and Prasar Bharti to place records related to the allottee producers and their programmes before him on the next date of hearing later this month.

SP’s PSO, civilian killed in militant attack in Sopore
First broad daylight fidayeen-type strike on a Police Station in 7 years


SRINAGAR, Jan 15: In their first ever broad daylight attack on a Police Station in Jammu & Kashmir in more than last seven years, militants today left the Personal Security Officer (PSO) of Additional Superintendent of Police, Sopore, and a 20-year-old youth dead and four more injured. One of the critically wounded Police personnel was battling for life at a hospital late tonight. Militants’ audacious offensive against Police, in which the prime target and SP of Sopore had a narrow escape, has come after a series of attacks on CRPF and soft targets in the last two months in the apple-rich belt of North Kashmir.

Informed sources in North Kashmir told Early Times that unidentified militants lobbed a hand grenade towards Police Station at Sopore at 10.10 a.m. It exploded in the air, causing minor injuries to one Abdul Lateef Mirchal. Resident of Sopore, Mirchal had contested Assembly elections of 2008 but had lost to the National Conference candidate, Haji Mohammad Ashraf Ganai.

Even as the grenade attack caused panic and a high alert was sounded in the township, an unidentified militant emerged from an alley and fired bursts of AK-56 exactly when ASP Sopore, Abdul Waheed, had alighted from his vehicle and was entering the targeted Police Station at 11.15 a.m. SP Waheed had a narrow escape but four of his escort personnel and PSOs sustained injuries. Police could not retaliate due to a large number of civilians running for life. Eyewitnesses said that still a 20-year-old youth, working on a nearby PCO, also sustained critical injuries. He was later identified as Parvez Ahmed Bala S/o Ghulam Hassan Bala R/o Hajam Mohalla, Sopore.

Police personnel, who sustained injuries in the shootout, were identified as SP Sopore’s driver, Constable Ghulam Nabi Bhat of Bandipore, his PSO, Constable Nazir Ahmed of Kupwara, Constable Mohammad Amin of Takenwari, Srinagar and Constable Mohammad Shaban. They were all evacuated, alongwith the critically wounded civilian youth Parvez, examined at Sub District Hospital Sopore and quickly rushed to Srinagar.

One-odd militant, who carried out the daredevil action, vanished back into the locality.

Sources said that Constable Nazir succumbed to injuries en route to Srinagar and Parvez Ahmed breathed his last at SMHS Hospital.

SP Sopore, Abdul Waheed Shah, told Early Times that his driver, Ghulam Nabi, and Constable Mohammad Amin were under treatment at SKIMS and one more of his escort personnel was responding to treatment at Bone & Joint Hospital Barzullah. He said that Constable Amin had sustained critical injuries and he was battling for life at SKIMS after a surgical procedure. He said that three of the personnel hit in the attack were his PSOs and escort personnel and fourth one was a Constable posted at Police Station Sopore.

SP Sopore said that Police, CRPF 179 Bn, CRPF 117 Bn and troops of RR 22 Bn conducted a cordon-and-search operation in several localities in the apple town but did not get any clue with regard to whereabouts and identities of the militants involved in the attack.

Highly placed official sources added that Police and security forces have launched a manhunt for two Pakistani commanders of Lashkar-e-Toiba, namely Abdullah Yoni and Zubair, who had reportedly played key role in reviving militancy in Sopore area after a normality pause of nearly three years. According to these sources, there were estimated 20 to 25 militants, including 10 Pakisnai cadres, in Sopore area who had been setting up hideouts and encouraging many local youth to join the organization.

In the last two months, militants have carried out several attacks on Police, paramilitary forces and civilian targets, killing seven CRPF personnel and three civilians, in Sopore town and its outskirts.

Reports from Sopore said that a pall of gloom descended on the apple town when the young Parvez Bala’s dead body reached there and the funeral was performed with emotional scenes. Situation was more tragic in Kupwara as Constable Nazir Ahmed was the only earning hand in his family. He was the father of two sons and four daughters. Only one of his daughters, just 15-year-old was married four months ago.

Crackdown on unscrupulous tour operators in Valley
Tourists complain harassment, cheating, overcharging at houseboats


SRINAGAR, Jan 14: Receiving serious complaints of harassment, cheating and overcharging from tourists at different hotels and houseboats in Valley, Department of Tourism has launched a crackdown on the unscrupulous but highly influential travel agents and tour operators. To begin with, authorities have canceled the registration of a travel agency after sealing off a houseboat of the same travel agent on Nagin Lake.

Authoritative sources revealed to Early Times that the number of complaints from domestic as well as foreign tourists had increased phenomenally as the accused tour operators enjoyed high level political and bureaucratic clout. It has been observed that one of the houseboat owners has not only constructed Rs 3 Crore residential house in the notified green belt---just 100 metes from the bank of Nagin Lake and a Tourism Department developed public park---but has also indulged in violation of different laws to pursue his business.

Senior officials said that the houseboat owner had been found providing free boarding and lodging to the non-state guests of the officials of Lakes and Waterways Development Authority (LAWWDA) on his houseboats. Officials responsible for disallowing and dismantling unauthorized constructions on the green belt have, in turn, remained mute spectators to the encroachment and violation of rules and laws governing the master plan. Besides, high ranking government officials and a politician, now a junior Minister, attended the influential houseboat owner’s inaugural function at his lately raised mansion. Sources revealed that even a very senior Police official had called on the houseboat owner alongwith his wife to deliver the couple’s greetings.

Even as a number of such highly influential encroachers have been left intact, Tourism authorities have, of late, launched a crackdown on the relatively lesser protected tour operators. Sources said that in addition to closing down three unregistered travel agencies in this capital city, officials of the Directorate of Tourism, Kashmir, had sealed off one Mohammad Rafeeq Karnai’s houseboat, Dilshad, on Nagin Lake, deregistered his agency, Center Tours & Travels, and closed down the agency’s counter at Srinagar Airport.

Director Tourism, Kashmir, Farooq Ahmed Shah, confirmed that there had been a remarkable increase in the tourists’ complaints of harassment, cheating and over-charging against the unscrupulous houseboat owners, hoteliers and tour operators. He said that a team of officials conducted inquiry into dozens of such complaints and observed that some people had been operating unregistered travel agencies in Srinagar. On these findings, he said, three of such agencies were closed down and one more tour operator had been blacklisted. He said that his Department canceled the registration of Center Tours & Travels, Bishambar Nagar, sealed off the owner’s houseboat on Nagin Lake as also sealed off the same agency’s counter at Srinagar Airport.

Farooq Shah said that he had received orders of immediate action against unscrupulous tour operators from Minister incharge Tourism and Commissioner Secretary Tourism. He said that a committee, comprising Deputy Director Registration and Deputy Director Enforcement, was investigating the complaints and action would be initiated against more defaulters in a few days. He said that Government had also constituted a Special Task Force, comprising Deputy Director Handicrafts (Quality Control), Deputy Director (Registration) Tourism and Deputy Director (Enforcement) Tourism to take tough action against handicrafts vendors and shopkeepers who had been selling fake handicraft articles to tourists in Srinagar and other major tourist attractions in the Valley.

He said that officials were also investigating as to how a number of tour operators of bad reputation had succeeded in setting up stalls and counters at Srinagar Airport in league with officials of other departments.

2 militants, soldier killed in Kulgam gunbattle
Hizb ‘Disttt Commdr’ Adil believed dead in second encounter in South Kashmir


SRINAGAR, Jan 13: In twenty four hours of the death of Hizbul Mujahideen “District Commander” Riyaz Deedar in an encounter in Kellar area of Pulwama-Shopian belt, Police and security forces have eliminated two more militants of the same organization while suffering the loss of one soldier in a fierce gunbattle at Tangmarg village in Kulgam-Shopian belt of South Kashmir. Yet another “District Commander” and a close associate of the dreaded militant Saquib, killed in 2009, Adil of Gool Gulabgarh area is believed to be among the dead even as none of the bodies had been recovered from the spot till late tonight.

Authoritative sources in South Kashmir told Early Times that SOG Kulgam, alongwith troops of Rashtriya Rifles 62 Bn and CRPF 18 Bn, swooped on Tangmarg village in Noorabad area of Kulgam-Shopian belt after receiving specific information regarding the presence of two top wanted militants of Hizbul Mujahideen at a hideout. As soon as SOG and troop zeroed in on the hideout, both the holed up militants directed heavy gunfire on them and made unsuccessful attempts to escape. Sources said that the gunbattle continued for several hours at the house of one Nazir Ahmed Kakroo.

Late in the evening, troops destroyed the hideout killing both the militants. Sources said that one soldier of RR 62 Bn got killed and SPO Zahoor of SOG Kulgam sustained critical injuries. He was evacuated and rushed to a Srinagar hospital for medical treatment. Unconfirmed reports said that three SOG personnel sustained injuries.

Sources participating in the operation said that neither of the two dead bodies of militants had been recovered till late tonight. They said that troops and Police failed to even recover the body of the soldier who died in a close encounter with the holed up militants. They said that firing subsided late in the evening with the destruction of the hideout and there was no indication of any more militant’s presence in the village.

Sources said that Hizbul Mujahideen’s top wanted “District Commander”, Adil of Gool Gulabgarh area of Pir Panjal hills, was believed dead in the gunbattle although it could not be conclusively established. Adil happened to be a close associate of Saquib, chief of Hizb’s Pir Panjal Regiment, who died in an encounter with security forces in Shopian area last year.

Killing of two top wanted militants of Hizbul Mujahideen is being rated as a major achievement for Police and security forces as it has come in just 24 hours of the killing of Hizb “District Commander” Riyaz Deedar in a similar encounter at Abhama village of Kellar in Pulwama-Shopian belt.

Sources added that earlier today, Kulgam Police and CRPF 18 Bn succeeded in releasing a surrendered militant, namely Khursheed Ahmed, at Ashmuji village and a CPI (M) activist, namely Mohammad Akbar, at Arigatnu village. Both had been reportedly kidnapped by militants. However, all the militants are said to have escaped.
Lalchowk attack SIM providers held


SRINAGAR, Jan 13: In a major breakthrough, Special Operations Group (SOG) of Jammu & Kashmir have apprehended two persons involved in providing SIM cards to the Lashkar-e-Toiba militants who died in a high drama gunbattle at the business hub of Lalchowk here last week. SOG sleuths are conducting a series of raids in Srinagar as well as in Sopore in search of two more persons who had allegedly facilitated the militant attack on Police.

Informed sources revealed to Early Times that SOG Srinagar today achieved a major breakthrough in last week’s fidayeen attack at Lalchowk as two persons, allegedly in providing SIM cards of Aircel company, have been arrested. Sources said that all through the gunbattle, one unidentified Lashkar functionary from Pakistan was in constant contact from his phone No: 0092-3558130020 with one of the two militants in Lalchowk on their Aircel mobile No: 0091-9697461504.

Two persons, who had allegedly facilitated the fidayeen attack and were involved in providing the SIM card to the two militants, have been identified as Mohammad Lateef of New Colony, Sopore, and Riyaz Ahmed of Rangreth, Srinagar. Sources said that both of them were arrested in a series of raids in Sopore and Srinagar outskirts in Old Airport area. They are said to have spilled the beans during sustained interrogation and identified two more of their associates as Rayees Ahmed and Javed Ahmed, both residents of Sopore. Sources said that SOG sleuths were conducting a series of raids in Srinagar and Sopore localities in search of the two persons identified by the detainees, Lateef and Riyaz.

Two militants of Lashkar-e-Toiba, identified as Manzoor Ahmed Bhat alias Usman S/o Ghulam Rasool Bhat R/o Seer Jagir, Sopore, and Qari, a Pakistani national, had been killed by Srinagar Police and CRPF on January 7th after they attacked a Police party, killing the driver of SHO Maisuma, near Palladium Cinema in Lalchowk on January 6th and later took positions at the nearby Hotel Punjab. This fidayeen-style strike from militants had been witnessed in this capital city after October 2006.

Security and intelligence agencies have reportedly informed the state and Central governments about the telephonic conversation between the Lashkar commanders from Pakistan and those holed up in Lalchowk.

Father of seven killed in Kupwara blast
Hizb ‘District Commander’ had 7 civilian killings on his head


SRINAGAR, Jan 12: A middle-aged civilian, who happened to be the father of seven children, has died in a mysterious explosion in Kupwara district. Recovery of a military helmet from the spot has led to allegations of cold murder against Army even as the deceased was known for his connections with both, security forces as well as militants. Meanwhile, one-odd militant killed in the 30-hour-long encounter in Pulwama district has turned out to be the “District Commander” of Hizbul Mujahideen, Riyaz Deedar, who had at least seven murder cases on his head in south Kashmir.

Informed sources in North Kashmir said that residents of Boninar and several other villages in Kalaroos area of Kupwara head a blast at around 2230 hours last night. Nobody dared to come out of home for the whole night due to fear of security forces and militants. In the morning today, residents of Boninar spotted the dead body of fellow villager, Mohammad Lateef Malik S/o Mohammad Hussain Malik, just 300 metres from his home. With splinter and burn injuries on his body, 52-year-old Malik seemed to have died in a grenade blast.

Police and Army rushed to the spot and recovered smithereens of tinted glasses of a vehicle, some AK-47 rounds and a military helmet. Nature of the recovery led to allegations of the ‘cold blooded murder’ against Army. Hundreds of people gathered and put up a demonstration while demanding registration of a murder case against a local camp of Army. Deputy Commissioner, Shaukat Ahmed Mir, and SSP, Uttam Chand, assured them that Police would conduct an investigation and necessary action under law would be initiated against anybody to be found involved in causing the blast and killing a civilian.

Sources said that for his alleged militant connections, different units of security forces and Special Operations Group (SOG) of J&K Police had arrested Malik in the past. After remaining in jail for some time, he had been released. Thereafter, he maintained open contact with Army and Police. A senior official confirmed that Malik had worked as a source with security forces and helped them in conducting some counter-insurgency operations. However, this could not be confirmed from independent sources.

Family members and residents said that Malik had gone to the district headquarters of Kupwara in connection with the hearing of a case at the court of Chief Judicial Magistrate. Quoting unnamed eyewitnesses, they said that Malik had boarded a red colour Tata Sumo at around 1630 hours at Kupwara, most likely to travel back to his home. However, he did not turn up at his home till this morning when his dead body was spotted in the periphery of his village.

Sources said that father of two married daughters, four unmarried daughters and one twice married son, working at a hotel in Delhi, Malik had gone to the court of CJM Kupwara to pursue a suit of maintenance against his son. His already married son had kidnapped and sexually assaulted a woman which led to registration of an FIR against him under sections 366 and 376 RPC. However, under the pressure of local population, he married the victim but later divorced her in a few months. Claiming right to sustenance, she filed against him a maintenance suit which was listed for hearing on Monday.

SSP Kupwara, Uttam Chand, told Early Times that Police had taken cognizance and subsequently registered a murder case against unidentified persons. He said that inspite of the recovery of some ammunition and a military helmet, it was a matter of investigation and there was immediately no prima facie evidence against any particular individual or agency. He said that Malik had maintained links with security forces as well as militants. Whosoever found involved, would be dealt with under law, SSP said.

Meanwhile, informed sources in South Kashmir said that the overnight gunbattle at Abhama village of Kellar in Pulwama-Shopian belt ended in the afternoon today with the death of one-odd militant who had been trapped at the residential house of one Abdul Hameed Sheikh last evening. He was identified as Riyaz Deedar. Special Operations Group (SOG) of District Police Pulwama and troops of a unit of Rashtriya Rifles 53 Bn carried out the operation and killed the militant in a 30-hour-long gunbattle without destroying the target house. Officials claimed that there was no collateral damage.

Sources said that the recoveries from the slain militant’s possession included a hit list which had names of about a dozen of females and other persons suspected to be as SOG’s and Army’s counter-insurgent sources.

SSP Pulwama, Syed Kifayat Hyder, told Early Times that Hizbul Mujahideen had appointed Riyaz Deedar as its “District Commander” after Rehman Gorsai got killed in an encounter with security forces in December 2009. Gorsai had become “District Commander” when forces had eliminated dreaded militant and a top ranking commander Saquib last year. Riyaz was known for his proximity to Hizbul Mujahideen’s South Kashmir “Divisional Commander”, Fayaz Pir.

SSP said that Riyaz Deedar was involved in a number of civilian killings. As many as seven murder cases stood registered against him with Rajpora and Kellar Police Stations. He said that the slain militant had been directly involved in the killing of Sheeraza of Kellar over a month ago besides three to four girls and a child, all gunned down in the last seven months in Pulwama-Shopian belt. According to residents, it was he who had kidnapped and killed one Mohammad Yusuf Wagay whose dead body had not been recovered till date. Even yesterday, he had snatched away mobile phones of some women in the village and threatened to eliminate them.