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Saturday, February 13, 2010

BSF Commandant’s criminal involvement established

13 cops reveal to IO how Birdi ordered and Lakhwinder gunned down teenager at Nishat


SRINAGAR, Feb 13: Superintendent of Police East, V K Birdi, who is investigating the broad daylight murder of Zahid Farooq Sheikh of Brain Nishat, has established the criminal involvement of BSF Commandant, R K Birdi, as all 13 eyewitnesses of the paramilitary force today deposed that the detained accused, Constable Lakhwinder Kumar, had fired upon the teenager on the orders of his officer. The statements recorded by the Investigating Officer (IO) have made it clear that BSF’s Special Director General, P P S Sidhu, had doled out lies at his news conference here the other day to shield the real criminal of the gruesome killing.

Well-placed sources revealed to Early Times that the IO today recorded statements of all 13 eyewitnesses of the paramilitary force which led to establishment of the BSF Commandant R K Birdi’s criminal involvement in Zahid Farooq’s broad daylight killing. Zahid had been fired upon by a party of BSF 68 Bn in close vicinity of the office of IG CRPF at Brain, Nishat, on the banks of Dal Lake here on February 5th. On February 10th, BSF identified one Constable Lakhwinder Kumar as the man who had fired upon and killed the 16-year-old student and handed him over to Police. On this occasion, BSF’s Special DG, P P S Sidhu, had claimed at a news conference here that others of the party, including the Commanding Officer, had no knowledge of Lakhwinder having opened fire on the group of youngsters.

Sources said that the uniformed eyewitnesses’ statements were recorded today under section 161 CrPC. Senior Police officials, including IGP Kashmir Farooq, Ahmed, and SSP Srinagar, Javed Reyaz Bedar, were also present for some time. Detained accused Constable Lakhwinder’s AK-47 rifle has been seized. It has been observed during investigation that Lakhwinder had fired a burst but only two rounds came out of his rifle. Striking on the target with precise aim, Lakhwinder fired on the fleeing student. He was hit in his back and the bullet came out through his chest. One of Lakhwinder’s colleagues had dropped a round of his INSAS (Indian Small Arms System) rifle which was later seized and handed over to Police.

Today’s statements made it clear that BSF Commandant’s cavalcade comprised of three vehicles---a white colour Bolero, a white colour bullet-proof Gypsy and a blue clour 407. There were total of 15 personnel, including Commandant Birdi and Constable Lakhwinder, in the party that was returning after the officer’s mandatory medical check at a BSF Hospital at Humhama. As exclusively detailed by Early Times in its February 11th issue, Commandant’s movement of the eventful day was tracked by Police with the help of BSNL towers that handled his calls and a CCTV near IG CRPF’s office that had clearly recorded the motorcade’s movement.

It has now become clear that even after the 16-year-old boy was hit from behind, six to eight BSF personnel chased him till he and two of his cricket team-mates reached very close to their residential houses in the locality. Thereafter, Zahid Farooq collapsed. He was rushed to SMHS Hospital where doctors found him critically injured and referred him to SKIMS. He succumbed to injuries in minutes of his admission at SKIMS.

Informed sources revealed that all 13 of the BSF personnel, questioned by the IO and SP East, V K Birdi, corroborated what Lakhwinder as also a civilian eyewitness Bilal had narrated in the last three days. With that corroboration, Commandant R K Birdi’s criminal involvement was established. The eyewitnesses invariably narrated that Constable Lakhwinder opened fire only after his Commandant, R K Birdi, who was in his PT dress (white trousers, white T-shirt and white jacket) ordered him to bump off the youngster. They also stated that it was an over-reaction to some catcalling from the youngsters and there was no provocation like an attack with firearms or stone pelting on the BSF cavalcade.

Sources said that even after things had become fully clear, IO would conclude Commandant Birdi’s criminal involvement in the matter with some other formalities in a couple of days. Even as the Commandant has not been formally taken into custody for questioning in the matter, sources said that he had been attached to the office of IG BSF and directed to remain present at Pantachowk as IG BSF would conduct a departmental inquiry.

“There’s prima facie no misconduct liability. Mr Birdi’s criminal liability has already been established. But BSF headquarters had directed IG (BSF) to conduct a departmental inquiry before the accused officer is passed on to either Police or BSF’s own court of inquiry in a few days”, one of the well placed sources said. He said that P P S Sidhu had made a factually incorrect at his press conference inspite knowing that all members of the BSF party had revealed during their in-house questioning that Lakhwinder had opened fire on the orders of his commandant.


Thursday, February 11, 2010

Padma Shree Mohammad Deen was rewarded with more: blond Reshma and a Philips

Informant of 1965 war rubbed shoulders with scientist Satish Dhawan and painter M F Hussain


SRINAGAR, Feb 11: Barrage of criticism to New Delhi’s ‘blunder’ of nominating an informant of security forces, Ghulam Mohammad Mir alias Moma Kanna, for this year’s Padma Shree award notwithstanding, prominent informants of Indo-Pakistan War in 1965 and the Pakistani tribesmen invasion in 1947 have also been rewarded with a little more or a little less. Mohammad Maqbool Sherwani has a community hall and a residential colony in Baramulla, besides a fashionable business street in Srinagar, in his name for helping the Indian Army repulse an armed invasion in 1947. Mohammad Deen Jagir of Tangmarg was rewarded for failing Pakistan’s Operation Gibraltor in 1965 with a Padma Shree, in addition to two-odd wishes of his life: a pretty Gujjar damsel of his locality and craze of the 1960s, a Philips transistor.

Mohammad Deen Chichi Jagir, an illiterate Gujjar youth of Darakasi village in Tangmarg, had gone to his herd in the picturesque Tosa Maidan grazing fields in Gulmarg-Poonch area when he was intercepted by a group of armed men and assigned the job of arranging Kashmiri outfits and caps for them. Rather than going to the market in Tagmarg, he informed Police about what later turned out to be the secret beginning of Pakistan’s Operation Gibraltor. Even as hundreds of such “Mujahideen” had infiltrated into the Valley and were planning a major strike, J&K Police and the Indian Army foiled Islamabad’s ambition of annexing Kashmir.

After the war ended, Chief Minister Ghulam Mohammad Sadiq did not forget Jagir. For his “great social work”, Jagir was recommended for the country’s fourth highest civilian honour, Padma Shree. From January 1952, when the national honours were reconstituted, nobody other than Sonam Norbo (Civil Service: 1961) had bagged Padma Shree in Jammu & Kashmir till Jagir created history and shared the stage with the country’s celebrated litterateurs, academics, scientists and artists. Those who were honoured by President of India with Padma Shree alongwith Jagir included renowned scientist Prof Satish Dhawan (Science & Engineering) and celebrated artist Maqbool Fida Hussain.

Later, when Prime Minister wanted to know what were his two top wishes Government of India could fulfill, Jagir revealed that marrying his village’s most beautiful but “unfortunately rich” damsel, Reshma, was the dream of his life. Within weeks, Tehsildar of Tangmarg personally went to Rshma’s opulent Gujjar parents and motivated them to tie their daughter’s nuptial knot to Padma Shree Jagir. Jagir’s second top wish---a two band Philips transistor---was fulfilled at the venue in New Delhi.

A year after judge Neelkanth Ganjoo was gunned down by JKLF guerrillas in Srinagar in 1990 for having sentenced Maqbool Bhat to death, Mohammad Deen Jagir was punished at his home at Darakasi. Militants faced no resistance when they shot him dead like a lame duck---the threat that Ghulam Mohammad Mir alias Moma Kanna of the same area refused to take.

Sons of the soil who followed Sonam Norbo (1961) and Mohammad Deen Jagir (1966) in being the recipients of Padma Shree in Jammu & Kashmir included Akhtar Mohiuddin (Literature: 1968), Dr Gh Ahmed Banday (Science & Engineering: 1970), Smt Mali Wali (Social Work: 1972), Ghulam Qadir Lala (Trade & Industry: 1974), artists of Radio Kashmir’s most popular programme “Zoona Dab” Pushkar Bhan, Somnath Sadhu and Mariyam Begam (Civil Service: 1974), legendary physician Dr Ali Jan (Medicine: 1975), author-journalist Mulukh Raj Saraf (Literature & Education: 1976), broadcaster Allah Rakha (Art: 1977), Ghulam Russul Khan (Trade: 1983), physician Dr Syed Naseer Ahmed Shah (Medicine: 1984), Begum Zaffar Ali (Social Work: 1987) and writer Moti Lal Saqi (Literature & Education: 1989).

In post-1990 turbulent era, Padma Shree in J&K state was also awarded to eminent Dogri litterateur Ram Nath Shastri (1990), BSF’s IG Ashok Patel and civil servant Mehmood-ur-Rehman (1991), social activist Shambhu Nath Khajuria (1998), Ladakhi artist Tsering Wangdun (1999), Kashmiri litterateur Prof Rehman Rahi (2000), Radio Kashmir’s popular singer Raj Begum (2002), Ladakhi artist Morup Namgyal (2004), Kashmiri poet Amin Kamil and popular singer Shameem Dev Azad (2005), social activist Ms Mehmooda Ahmed Ali Shah (2006), physician Smt Tsering Landol (2006), artist Sonam Skalzang (2007) academic Prof Amitabh Matoo and historian-critic Mohammad Yousug Taing (2008) and artist Hashmatullah Khan (2009). Year 2010 Padma Shree went to litterateurs Prof Hamidi Kashmiri and Jatinder Udhampuri in addition to Ghulam Mohammad Mir alias Moma Kanna of Magam for his unparalleled profile in providing information about armed guerrillas to J&K Police and security forces which is officially recognized as Social Work in India. Including Kanna, a total of 35 men and women have got Padma Shree in J&K state.

Four-odd recipients of the country’s third highest civil honour, Padma Bhushan, in J&K in the last 58 years are Asaf Ali Faizi (Literature & Education: 1962), T N Raina (Civil Service: 1972), Balraj Puri (Literature & Education: 2005) and veteran Gujjar leader Mian Bashir Ahmed (2008). While the country’s top most civil award Bharat Rattan has not been conferred on anybody from J&K state, former Chief Minister and Congress stalwart Ghulam Mohammad Sadiq (1972) has been the only recipient of India’s second highest civil honour Padma Vibhushan in the last 58 years.

Baramulla resident and National Conference activist Maqbool Sherwani, who misled the Pakistani tribesmen and was gunned down for helping the Indian Army and the Kashmiri militia to fail the invasion in 1947, did not get a national or state honour. He was, nevertheless, remembered when Government raised a municipal hall and a residential colony in his name in Baramulla and the fashionable Residency Road in Srinagar was officially named as ‘Maqbool Sherwani Road’.


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

CRPF’s CCTV, BSNL’s towers tracked BSF cavalcade

Zahid Farooq was gunned down by cop in presence of his Commandant on Boulevard


SRINAGAR, Feb 10: It was probably for the first time in 20-year-long armed insurgency in Jammu & Kashmir that armed forces bucked under Chief Minister’s pressure, exerted through the proper channel of the Union Home Minister, and lost no time in suspending and handing over to Jammu & Kashmir Police an official who was found guilty of gunning down a teenager in broad daylight. Notwithstanding varying statements of senior BSF officials, it has been established with the use of technology that the erring Constable had opened fire on 16-year-old Zahid Farooq in the afternoon of February 5th in Nishat area in presence of the Commanding Officer of BSF 68 Bn, R K Virdhi.

Highly placed authoritative sources revealed to Early Times that immediately after Chief Minister Omar Abdullah’s conversation with the Union Home Minister P Chidambaram on the sidelines of Chief Ministers Conference on Internal Security in New Delhi and the latter’s subsequent directions to senior Home Ministry and BSF officials, J&K Police received remarkable support from the central armed forces. On CM’s instructions, Police had already constituted a Special Investigation Team (SIT), comprising SP East B S Virdhi, SP South Mohammad Irshad, SDPO Nehru Park Muzaffar Ahmed and other officials which worked under constant supervision of SSP Srinagar, Javed Riyaz Bedar. Senior officials, including DIG Central Kashmir, Hemant Kumar Lohia, IGP Kashmir, Farooq Ahmed, and DGP, Kuldeep Khoda, remained in touch with senior BSF officials until the investigation was completed and the man responsible for killing Zahid was identified.

On the directions from New Delhi, BSF’s Special DG flew from Chandigarh to Srinagar on Tuesday and Constable Lakhwinder was placed under suspension and handed over to Police under his personal supervision. Not a single event of this nature could be traced in records of 20-year-long militancy when, on most of identical situations, Central authorities argued that public arrest of a soldier would only ‘demoralise’ the security forces.

Handling a challenging investigation---and to an extent rebuilding the state Police’s image which suffered a setback in SIT’s failure in Shopian last year--- Srinagar SSP’s team left no stone unturned in getting the killer identified and arrested.

Sources revealed that after a detailed questioning of one Bilal Ahmed and his associates, who claimed to be the eyewitnesses of the shootout, SIT began the scan the movement of all vehicles of Police, BSF, CRPF and other armed forces on Srinagar-Nishat Road (Boulevard) on the day of occurrence with the help of modern technology. Since after CRPF’s near-total takeover in the capital city few years back, there has been one-odd BSF formation (Headquarters of 68 Bn at Gupt Ganga Ishbar) in Srinagar, SIT zeroed in on the movement of its officers and units.

Tracking the Commanding Officer (BSF 68 Bn) R K Virdhi’s movement with the call detailed record of his BSNL Mobile phone No: 9419024362, SIT noticed that he had moved from his Ishbar (Nishat) headquarters towards Srinagar city between 0730 and 0745 hours on February 5th. BSNL Raj Bhawan tower handled his call at 0741 hours. Thereafter, he was found stationed in Humhama area from 0821 hours to 1225 hours and In Friends Enclave area from 1226 hours to 1430 hours. Nearly 20 minutes after the shootout, Virdhi reached back to his battalion headquarters at Ishbar.

Even as BSF officials initially refuted the force’s involvement and denied to have made any movement on Boulevard around the timing of shootout, they later admitted that the Commandant had visited BSF’s hospital at Humhama in connection with a routine and scheduled medical check up. Tracking further, SIT found that CRPF’s Closed Circuit TV at the nearby office of IG CRPF Kashmir at Kralsangri Crossing had recorded the movement of Virdhi’s cavalcade of three vehicles, first towards Srinagar in the morning and later back towards his office in the afternoon.

During questioning, Virdhi revealed that he had moved to Humhama for his medical check up. On his way back, he observed some catcalling and ‘disturbance’ from a group of youngsters on Boulevard, in close vicinity of the office of IG CRPF. When the cavalcade screeched to a halt, some of his escort personnel got down and began chasing away the youngsters. It was on this occasion that Constable Lakhwinder opened fire that hit a youngster and later he succumbed to injuries. Immediately after the shootout, BSF cavalcade drove to the formation headquarters at Ishbar. Constable Lakhwinder was subsequently handed over to SIT.

Sources said that during his sustained interrogation, Lakhwinder corroborated the statement of Bilal Ahmed and other of his associates and said that he got exasperated due to the “provocative catcalling” by the students and opened fire from his Insas rifle. He revealed that he was wearing a white civilian jacket which was recovered from him alongwith other things by the SIT.

Lakhwinder has been placed under suspension and handed over formally to Police Station Nishat where an FIR of murder stood registered against the unidentified “security forces personnel”. Sources said that Police prosecutors were now on the job of making a “foolproof” case of murder against him. According to them, investigation would be completed in a couple of days and challan would be produced subsequently in a civil court in Srinagar.


Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Sopore: Yet another broad daylight cop killing


SRINAGAR, Feb 9: In four days of killing a Police personnel and a civilian in a broad daylight strike on J&K Police, militants have gunned down yet another Head Constable well on the entrance of Police Station in the apple-town Sopore.

Informed sources in North Kashmir told Early Times that the militants in ambush fired pistol shots on Head Constable Mohammad Yusuf Sofi S/o Abdul Sattar Sofi of Counter Intelligence Kashmir (CIK) when he had parked his car at the nearby Tehsil Office premises and was entering Police Station of Sopore at 1050 hours. Apparently for fear of civilian casualties, Police guards did not retaliate till one-odd militant escaped from the spot. Sources said that later a guard fired some shots in the air.

Lying in a pool of blood, HC Mohammad Yusuf was evacuated and rushed to Sub District Hospital of Sopore where he breathed his last. According to KNS, Hizbul Mujahideen spokesman, Ehsan Illahi, claimed that militants of his organization carried out the attack and gunned down the Police personnel. Sofi was a resident of Manz Seer, a village in Sopore outskirts.

Even as Government has, of late, created an independent Police District for Sopore and appointed a fresh incumbent as SP Sopore, militants seem to have mounted up their pressure on Police and CRPF with remarkably increasing the frequency of their strikes---almost all carried out in broad daylight. On February 5th, militants had attacked a Police party in main chowk of Sopore, killing Head Constable Irshad Ahmed Mirza (IRP) of Thanna Mandi Rajouri and a local civilian.

Witnessing a flurry of militant activity since December last, Sopore has been gripped by fear of the gun after a pause of nearly three years. On December 30 last, militants gunned down four CRPF personnel at Janwari Crossing on Sopore-Bandipore Road and decamped with two of their weapons in a broad daylight strike. On January 8th, militants gunned down one Bilal Ahmed in Armpora locality for allegedly working for security forces. Later, on January 15th, militants conducted a fidayeen-type strike on Police Station Sopore, again in broad daylight, and left SP Sopore’s PSO and a civilian dead. They again managed to escape. Two of the militants got trapped during a Police-Army crackdown but both of them managed to escape after setting their hiding place on fire.


Monday, February 8, 2010

Valley completes 8 days of shutdown over 2 killings
Geelani, Mirwaiz ask Kashmiris to resume business, observe bandh on Feb 11


SRINAGAR, Feb 8: Reeling under 8th consecutive day of shutdown over killing of two young students allegedly at the hands of Police and security forces in Srinagar, Kashmir valley showed so signs of returning to normality even as heads of both factions of the separatist Hurriyat Conference today asked the Kashmiris to end the uncalled strike and resume business from Tuesday.

Valley today completed eight days of continuous shutdown that had begun with the death of a 15-year-old student, Wamiq Farooq Wani of Rainawari, allegedly in the teargas shelling of Police on a group of youngsters in downtown locality of Rajourikadal here on January 31st evening. While alleging that the boy had died due to getting hit in his head, both factions of Hurriyat Conference had called for a protest shutdown on February 1st.

Though he had pleaded that the teargas shelling was in defence after a group of youngsters subjected him and his colleagues to heavy stone pelting “without any reason and provocation”, Government had placed an Assistant Sub Inspector of Police under suspension and started a departmental inquiry into the incident within minutes of the student dying at a hospital on January 1st.

With the situation deteriorating and stone pelting from unruly groups intensifying on Police and armed forces, Government had enforced curfew without a formal declaration in half of the capital city later. As both, Government’s undeclared curfew and an unending shutdown, called by nobody, continued beyond one-day Hurriyat-sponsored bandh, in downtown Srinagar and businesses remained shut all over the Valley, another 16-year-old student, Zahid Farooq Shah, was hit, allegedly by BSF or CRPF personnel, when they fired upon him without any apparent provocation at Barin, close to the Valley’s CRPF headquarters, in Nishat area of Srinagar outskirts on February 5th.

Government has already launched two formal inquiries---one each by Divisional Commissioner of Kashmir and the local Police Station--- in addition to investigation by at least three intelligence agencies. Government functionaries, including two Ministers and CM’s Advisor, have visited the bereaved family but it has helped just a little in restoration of peace. Family members and residents have been demanding identification, arrest, prosecution and dismissal of the soldiers who, according to them, had fired upon the young student.

On 8th day of continuous shutdown in Valley and undeclared curfew in downtown Srinagar, heads of rival factions of separatist Hurriyat Conference, Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, have today asked the people of Kashmir to end the uncalled strike and resume usual business from tomorrow morning. They have, however, urged them to again observe a shutdown on the death anniversary of JKLF founder-leader Mohammad Bhat on February 11th. Convicted of the murder of a bank manager and a CID official, Bhat had been hanged to death at Delhi’s Tihar Jail on February 11th in 1984.

Meanwhile, authorities today placed most of the separatist leaders under “house arrest”, disallowing them any movement out of their respective residence in the capital city. While Geelani has been putting up at his New Delhi house since last month and Shabir Shah and Nayeem Khan have been detained inn the last few days, those placed under home detention today included Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Maulvi Abbas Ansari and Bilal Gani Lone. Mirwaiz had called for a protest march to Srinagar headquarters of United Nations Military Observers Group for India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) against the killing of two young students, allegedly by Police and paramilitary forces.

Authorities had put up barbed wire barriers at several places en route to UNMOGIP headquarters at Sonwar even as they enforced undeclared curfew strictly and did not allow common civilian movement in half of the capital city. Reports said that shutdown was near-total in other parts of Srinagar as also in rest of the Valley.

Police have reportedly arrested over a hundred youngsters in Srinagar for allegedly indulging in stone pelting and other forms of unarmed violence. Their screening process was reportedly underway and many of them were being detained under Public Safety Act (PSA). Those detained include a District & Sessions Judge Rashid Ali Dar’s brother-in-law, Ehsan Ahmed Bhat, who has been arrested in Rainawari area. Authoritative sources said that Police were close to laying hands on a network of stone pelters who were reportedly being paid handsomely by a hardcore separatist organization.

17 soldiers killed in avalanche at Gulmarg
17 injured among 53 rescued amid heavy snowfall, choppers fail to land


SRINAGAR, Feb 8: Seventeen soldiers of different units of the Indian Army were buried alive under a massive avalanche on the alpine slopes of Khilanmarg, in the world famous winter sports hub of Gulmarg, even as the armed forces’ rescue helicopters and the state government’s ambulances failed to reach the spot due to heavy snowfall. As many as 53 soldiers have been rescued and 17 among them have sustained injuries of varying intensity.

Deputy Inspector General of Police, North Kashmir, Abdul Qayoom Manhas, told Early Times while returning to his Baramulla office from Gulmarg late this evening that Gulmarg-based High Altitude Warfare School (HAWS) of Army had started a basic training course of nine weeks which was scheduled to run from December 26, 2009, to March 01, 2010, at Khilanmarg. Over 400 jawans associated with the HAWS training programme had left their base camp of Gulmarg at 0830 hours and had reached the Skiing course spot of Gujjar Huts in over an hour. They included 301 trainees (39 officers, 10 Junior Commissioned Officers and 252 jawans) and 100 trainers.

While a group of 70 trainees were sipping tea before starting the skiing session in a shed at 1015 hours, a massive avalanche came rolling over the slopes hitting a side of the structure. Others of the party radioed SOS to different units of Army in the area, HAWS headquarters at Gulmarg and Police and launched the rescue operation. Before and after being joined by Police and troops, HAWS soldiers recovered dead bodies of 17 of their colleagues, mostly trainee soldiers. In seven-hour-long operation, they evacuated remaining 53 members of the unit. Seventeen of them were found to have sustained injuries of varying intensity. Four of them seemed to be critical.

DIG Manhas said that all the 17 injured and 53 others of the affected party were carried down to the HAWS headquarters and admitted to the MI Room of the formation. They were under the treatment of Army and civil doctors even as efforts were underway to airlift four of the critically injured soldiers to Army’s 92 Base Hospital in Srinagar. He said that the armed forces’ helicopters and rescue ambulances of the state government could not operate and land in Gulmarg due to continuous and heavy snowfall. Accumulation of 5 to 7 ft had been reported from different points of Gulmarg-Khilanmarg belt till 2100 hours tonight. Mr Manhas claimed that after recovery of the bodies of two missing soldiers, nobody of the party was unaccounted or missing. He said that none of the officers or JCOs had died and those killed in the avalanche included Lieutenant Prateek of 11-Grenadiers. All the dead bodies had reached the HAWS base camp at Gulmarg by 1800 hours this evening.

Meanwhile, official sources said that Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, who was camping in Srinagar to review law and order and the weather hostility after reaching here at 1600 hours, directed Director Health Services, Kashmir, Dr Abdul Hamid Wani, to carry a team of civil doctors to Gulmarg and provide best possible medical treatment to the injured soldiers. Later, Wani led a team of doctors and paramedical staff that succeeded to reach Gulmarg late this evening.

On Chief Minister’s instructions, Minister of State for Tourism, Nasir Aslam Wani, also reached Gulmarg this evening alongwith DC Baramulla, Bashir Ahmed, and officials from Department of Tourism. Sources said that even the operation of ambulances on the 13 Km Tangmarg-Gulmarg Road became impossible as surface of the motorway became dangerously slippery due to fast falling temperature in the evening inspite of four snow-cutters operating round-the-clock.

Sources said it was also being investigated as to why the HAWS party had set off for the risky training mission, notwithstanding repeated warnings against such venturing in Gulmarg, Khilanmarg, Apharwat and other high altitude snow-clad areas in Kashmir Valley from Snow Avalanche Study Establishment (SASE) and Directorate of Meteorology Department in Srinagar that had made a forecast of heavy snowfall from February 6th to February 12th.
"Avalanche warning exists in the high altitude areas for the next 24 hours. People living in the areas are cautioned to avoid movement during snowfall and not to venture out in avalanche prone areas", SASE officials said this evening. Areas, where high danger avalanche warning exists, included Sonamarg, Gagangir, Bhimbat, Drass, Batalic, Dhudi and S M Hills in Kargil district.
They said areas where medium danger of avalanche warning existed included Khilanmarg, Uri, Baaz, Razdan Top, Z-Gali, Keran, Furkian top, Machil, Sadna Top, Urez, Niru, Baruab and Chowkibal in Kupwara and Baramulla districts of North Kashmir.
Areas where low danger avalanche warning exists include both sides of Jawahar Tunnel, the gateway to Kashmir, and its adjoining areas on the Srinagar-Jammu National Highway.

Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah, has, meanwhile, expressed grief over the deaths that occurred at Khilanmarg-Gulmarg due to severe snow avalanche that swept the area early this morning. An official release said that immediately after hearing about the incident, Chief Minister deputed Minister of State for Tourism, Mr. Nasir Aslam Wani to Gulmarg to personally oversee the rescue and relief operations. He directed the Divisional Administration, Kashmir to pace up the rescue operations for the trapped soldiers. He was in touch with the senior officers and top Army brass stationed at Gulmarg and was personally monitoring the rescue operation. Chief Minister has conveyed his condolences with the bereaved families.
Immediately after his arrival in the summer capital, Chief Minister took a meeting of senior government functionaries to take stock of the law and order scenario besides availability of ration supplies and other essential commodities, arrangements being done to tackle the situation created by the continuous rains and snowfall, dewatering, power position and other related matters. Those who attended the meeting included Minister of Rural Development, Ali Mohammad Sagar, MoS Tourism, Nasir Aslam Wani, CM’s Advisors, namely Mubarak Gul and Devinder Singh Rana, DGP Kuldeep Khoda, Divisional Commissioner, Naseema Lankar and IGP Kashmir, Farooq Ahmed.


Sunday, February 7, 2010

DD News editor stops anti-Pak propaganda from R-Day

Upset over State awards, Malik refuses to comment on Rs 120 cr Pak media campaign


SRINAGAR, Feb 7: Doordarshan’s unparalleled anti-militancy hero, Bashir Ahmed Malik Athar, has dramatically stopped all of Srinagar Doordarshan propaganda against Pakistan, militants and the separatist Hurriyat Conference from this year’s Republic Day even as Pakistan has, for the first time, announced to earmark a special outlay of Rs 120 Cr for its anti-India propaganda campaign.

Immediately after Omar Abdullah-led coalition government announced this year’s prestigious State Awards on Republic Day, on January 26, Srinagar DD News Editor, Bashir Malik Athar, has stopped the anti-militant, anti-Pakistan campaign he and his wife have run from the country’s most disturbed beat in the last 20 years of Kashmir militancy. More paradoxically, DD’s news bulletins have been cleared of entire anti-militant, anti-Pakistan and anti-Hurriyat propaganda at a time when Pakistan has, for the first time in last 20 years, officially declared to earmark a special anti-India propaganda outlay of Rs 120 Cr. Senior Pakistani government functionaries made this announcement on the “Kashmir Solidarity Day” on February 5th.

Informed sources in DD revealed to Early Times that Deputy Director of DD News and editor of all DD news bulletins in Kashmir, Bashir Malik, has not only stopped his special anti-Pakistan and anti-militancy capsules but has also directed his staff to work“like everybody else in DD and Radio Kashmir”. According to sources, Malik has been “demoralized” by the way government has conferred the State Awards “even on the peoples who have religiously maligned the Government of India and its institutions” in the last 20 years.

DD’s regular viewers have noticed that Srinagar DD and DD Kashir have not run any anti-militant, anti-separatist or anti-Pakistan capsules in their daily news bulletins from Srinagar since January 27 last. Asked about this sudden change, Malik refused to make any comment. When it was pointed out to him that DD’s anti-Pakistan propaganda had stopped at a time when Pakistan had announced a special outlay of Rs 120 cr for anti-India media campaign on February 5th, Malik said: “I have no comments”.

Malik and his wife, Gurjit Kaur Malik, have been the incharge of entire anti-Pakistan, anti-militant and anti-Hurriyat propaganda from Srinagar station of DD as well as Radio Kashmir Srinagar since 1990. On account of their unmatched propaganda work for the Indian official broadcaster, this couple has been in high security category. Malik has been the only official in DD and All India Radio who could not even attend the funeral of his parents when they passed away one after another in his ancestral village of Damhal Khushipora in the mostly militant-infested district of Anantnag in South Kashmir.

The Malik couple has been indisputably responsible for Government of India’s conducting nearly a dozen Assembly, Lok Sabha and municipal elections with the support of their hardcore propaganda against militants and Pakistan. It was again this couple that was instrumental in shifting the regional news units of DD and All India Radio in 1993 from Delhi and Jammu respectively, in three years of complete closure of DD and Akashwani news in Srinagar in the wake of the assassination of then DDK Srinagar Director Lassa Kaul in March 1990.

Author of four of his poetry collections in Kashmiri and Urdu, besides a book on Indira Gandhi’s life and achievements, Bashir Malik had joined Films Division in 1980. Later, he worked with Press Information Bureau, Field Publicity Unit and other Government of India organizations in Ministry of Information and Broadcasting before joining as Assistant News Editor at DDK Srinagar and Radio Kashmir Srinagar.

Recipient of DD’s prestigious awards for “Best Current Affairs Programme” (Amarnath land controversy) as also winning Best Regional News Unit Award for DDK Srinagar, Malik has had the distinction of having written and produced DD’s first ever anti-Pakistan, anti-militant programme “Agaaz” as also Radio Kashmir’s first ever programme in this category “Sada-e-Jaras” in 1993. Militants have made several attempts to kidnap or eliminate Mr and Mrs Malik in the last two decades of Kashmir insurgency.

Malik had taken a dangerous line by running hardcore propaganda programmes against Hurriyat-sponsored shutdown calls, burning of public properties besides stone pelting of mobs in recent times during Amarnath land allotment controversy in 2007 and later during Shopian-related riots last year. In the last few months, he had run a sustained campaign against stone pelting frenzy and repeated shutdowns in Kashmir.

Sources said that Mr or Mrs Malik have never figured among the nominees of State Awards in media category ever since these wards were, for the first time, institutionalized by Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s government in J&K in 2003-04.

While as Omar Abdullah Government had granted “Outstanding Mediaperson of the Year” (State Awards) for 2008-09 to NDTV’s Srinagar Bureau Chief, Nazir Masoodi, Economic Times Srinagar correspondent, Masood Hussain, and Daily Excelsior photographer late Ashok Sodhi, year 2009-10 State Awards in this category have gone to NDTV’s Nidhi Razdan, Times Now TV’s Mahrukh Anayat (Kashmiri women journalists based in New Delhi), Kashmir Times New Delhi Bureau Chief Iftikhar Gilani, Radio Kashmir’s daily current affairs programme, Sheherbeen, and its editor Maqsood Ahmed. Veteran journalists and founder editors of Urdu daily Aftab and Urdu daily Srinagar Times, namely Khwaja Sonaullah Bhat and Sofi Ghulam Mohammad, who passed away both in 2009, were also awarded posthumously.

Previous recipients have been Ahmed Ali Fayyaz, then Srinagar Bureau Chief of Daily Excelsior (2003-04) and Jammu Bureau Chief of Daily Excelsior, Sanjeev Pargal, and Srinagar Times cartoonist, Bashir Ahmed Bashir, (2004-05). None of the mediapersons was nominated for State Award for the years 2005-06, 2006-07 and 2007-08.