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Saturday, May 29, 2010

CM insisting on arrest of Col Pathania, Maj Bhupinder Singh

2 ‘militants’ killed in Tangdhar may also surface as civilians

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, May 29: Even as Chief Minister Omar Abdullah is understood to be seeking the arrest of senior officials of 4-Rajput involved in the gruesome killing of three civilians in a fake encounter in Kupwara district, two ‘militants’ killed by troops of 11-Jat in Tangdhar last week are also likely to surface as innocent civilians. Meanwhile, burial of the three civilians of Rafiabad area, who had been killed in the Machhil fake encounter on April 30th, today took place amid pro-Azadi demonstrations and clashes in which over a dozen people sustained injuries.

Highly placed authoritative sources told Early Times that in apprehension of a fresh turbulence by the opposition Peoples Democratic Party and the Valley’s separatist camp, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah was putting his foot down to ensure the arrest of senior 4-Rajput officials involved in the Machhil fake encounter in which three innocent civilians had been killed and labeled as “infiltrating militants” on April 30th this year. Officials, whose arrest by J&K Police is being sought at the level of union Defence Ministry, include the main accused Maj Bhupinder Singh and Commanding Officer, Col DK Pathania, who have moved out last week and settled with their battalion in Meerath.

According to these sources, Chief Minister is understood to have discussed the Machhil fake encounter briefly with the UPA Chairperson in a one-on-one meeting with her in Jammu today. He is likely to persuade the arrest of the delinquent officials, on the pattern of a BSF Commandant’s arrest in the infamous Zahid Farooq killing, with the Defence Minister AK Anthony in the Union capital on Monday. In a statement, Anthony has today itself indicated that nobody would be spared if found guilty.

Meanwhile, well-placed official sources in north Kashmir, said that the two “unidentified militants” killed in “encounter” by troops of 11-Jat on a spot close to LoC in Tangdhar, in Kupwara district, on May 25th, were also likely to surface as innocent civilians. Their features, much like those killed in the fake encounter in Machhil, are said to be “not of infiltrators”. Kupwara Police have immediately acquired photographs of the two dead bodies and these were being scanned carefully with the help of counter-insurgency experts. Authorities are said to be considering the suggestion of publishing these photographers in local newspapers which, according to them, might help in the identification.

Reports from north Kashmir said that dead bodies of the three Rafiabad civilians, exhumed at Kalaroos on Friday, were buried at the local graveyard in Nadihal village amid massive anti-India and pro-Azadi demonstrations. While independent reports said that more than 7,000 people participated in a funeral rally and the burial, officials put the number of participants at around 4,000 to 5,000. Sources said that the demonstrators made repeated attempts to carry the dead bodies in a procession to the district headquarters of Baramulla but Police foiled their plans of staging a big show. Sources said that over a dozen civilians and Police personnel sustained injuries in these intermittent clashes.

DC Baramulla, Bashir Ahmed Bhat, and SP Sopore, Altaf Khan, were personally monitoring the situation in Nadihal area.

Sources said that late last night hundreds of outraged residents of Nadihal swooped on the residential house of the counter-insurgent, Bashir Ahmed Lone, involved in the killing of three civilians, and demolished it brick-by-brick before setting the structure and debris on fire. It perished fully. While Bashir Lone has been already arrested by Police and his SPO brother, Qayoom, was taken into preventive custody and questioning today, all other family members have escaped to unknown places.


Friday, May 28, 2010

All 3 buried ‘militants’ identified as innocent civilians

“One shot into each youth’s head in point blank range” established as cause of death

Exhumation, post-mortem conducted
under heavy rains at Kalaroos

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, May 28: All the three persons, killed and labeled by Army as “unidentified militants” on April 29th evening and subsequently buried by residents of Kalaroos village in a local graveyard, today turned out to be innocent civilians when respective family members identified them during a day-long procedure of exhumation and autopsy under heavy rains in Kupwara district. Even as the dead bodies were carried all the way to Rafiabad area of Baramulla district for a fresh funeral peacefully, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has not only ordered a magisterial inquiry but also made it clear to senior Defence authorities that the troops involved in the gruesome fake encounter---including a Major---would have to be arrested and handed over to Police for a proper investigation.

Informed sources in north Kashmir told Early Times that family members and relatives of three missing youth of Nadihal, Rafiabad (Baramulla district), today submitted a formal application to District Magistrate of Kupwara, Showkat Ahmed Mir, with the submission that permission be granted to exhumation of three dead bodies that had been buried as “unidentified militants” in the community graveyard at Kalaroos village of Kupwara in the first week of May. Residents of Kalaroos had conducted the funeral after they received the three dead bodies from Police Division Kalaroos with an Army report according to which these “unidentified militants” had died in an encounter with troops of 4-Rajput at Doshat Post, Tanakpur, across Sonapindi Galli on the LoC, in Machhil sector during the night intervening April 29 and 30.

Police Division Kalaroos had arranged the funeral after case FIR No: 76 of 2010 was registered by Kupwara Police on the report submitted by the troops of 4-Rajput headed by Maj Bhupinder Singh. Even as the case for cash reward of Rs 6 Lakhs for killing the three “unidentified militants” was processed at the level of Commanding Officer, D K Pathania, Maj Bhupinder and his unit shifted their base to Meerath last weekend.

On the proper permission from DM of Kupwara, Police and civil administration conducted the exhumation under heavy rains at Kalaroos graveyard. SP Kupwara, Mohammad Yousuf Mir, Tehsildar Kupwara, Pir Abdul Rasheed, SHOs of Police Stations of Kupwara and Panzla (Rafiabad), village headman of Nadihal, Ghulam Rasool Ahangar, Chowkidar Bashir Ahmed Ganai and PDP’s MLA of Lolab, Abdul Haq Khan supervised the exhumation process. Family members of the three missing youth---Riyaz Ahmed Lone S/o Mohammad Yousuf Lone (20), Mohammad Shafi Lone S/o Abdul Rasheed Lone (22), both unmarried, and Shehzad Ahmed Khan S/o Ghulam Mohammad Khan, married (27)--- were present on the occasion alongwith nearly 100 fellow villagers.

Sources present on spot said that Mohammad Yousuf Lone and Abdul Rasheed Lone identified their sons, namely Riyaz Ahmed Lone and Mohammad Shafi Lone, while as one Showkat Ahmed Khan identified the third exhumed body as that of his missing brother, Shehzad Ahmed Khan, amid emotional scenes.

These three civilians had gone missing from their respective homes on April 29th. After they did not reach back for over a week, family members filed a missing report at Police Station Panzla on May 10th which was ultimately converted into case Fir No: 23 of 2010 under sections 364 RPC (kidnapping). Family members and residents sought permission for exhumation and identification of the three unidentified dead bodies after the photograph of one “unidentified militant”, shown to them by SP Sopore, Altaf Khan, matched with the physical features of a missing youth.

Sources said that after proper identification, the dead bodies were carried to Public Health Centre, Kalaroos, where a team of doctors collected necessary bone and flesh material and conducted the post mortem for over two hours. Block Medical Officer of Sogam, Dr Farooq Qureshi, Dr Firdaus, Dr Nazir and Dr Javed conducted the autopsy procedure. Sources involved in the operation revealed to Early Times that all the three youth were found to have been hit with one shot each into head in point blank range that was prima facie established as the cause of death. “There’s no evidence of the youth having died in an encounter. They seem to have been killed in cold blood, with just one gunshot in everybody’s head”, said a source. Doctors said on record that they would be submitting a detailed post mortem report to the authorities only after completing all formalities in a couple of days.

In the evening, dead bodies were carried to Police Station Panzla. Officials said that these would be handed over to respective families at Nadihal for a fresh funeral late tonight or in the forenoon tomorrow. Reports from Baramulla said that after concluding Friday prayers, residents of Watirgam, Ladoora, Nadihal and adjoining villagers put up a protest demonstration while shouting pro-Azadi and anti-India slogans. They, however, dispersed within an hour as rains intensified and SP Sopore pacified the angry crowds with an assurance that nobody, involved in the gruesome killings, would be spared. He told the gathering that Chief Minister was personally monitoring the situation and he was continuously in touch with senior Defence authorities and Government of India, including Defence Minister and Prime Minister.

Demonstrators demanded that the troopers involved, including Major (Bhupinder Singh), be arrested by Police on the pattern of a BSF Commanding Officer’s arrest in the Zahid Farooq killing case in Brain area of Nishat earlier this year.

Late in the evening, when the dead bodies reached in Nadihal village in an ambulance, hundreds of residents, joined by a large number of PDP workers from about a dozen villages, put up an anti-Government demonstration. Men in the crowd even attacked the ambulance and shattered its windscreens. Sources said that SP Sopore, Altaf Khan, who was himself traveling in the ambulance, had a narrow escape as he managed to hide himself under a seat.

Sharing details of the 16-day-long investigation with Early Times, Police sources revealed that respective family members of the three youth knew it well that a local youth of counter-insurgent background, namely Bashir Ahmed Lone S/o Ghulam Nabi Lone R/o Nadihal, had taken the trio to Kalaroos, Kupwara, on April 27th and dropped them back at their village after paying them an amount of Rs 2,000. He had taken them for working as porters with Army. In company of another counter-insurgent, namely Abdul Hamid Bhat S/o Abdul Gaffar Bhat R/o Kawanar, Sheri (Baramulla) and a Rifleman of Territorial Army 161 Bn, namely Abbas Hussain Shah S/o Qallandar Shah R/o Basgaran, Uri, Bashir Ahmed Lone had again taken the trio via Baramulla in a Tata Sumo to Kalaroos on April 29th. No missing report or FIR of kidnapping was filed for over a week.

After the missing report was filed, Police observed that Bashir Lone was involved in the kidnapping. He was arrested and interrogated. With the help of the Call Detail Record (CDR) of Bashir Lone, Police discovered the presence of the missing youth, as well as Lone and his two associates, in Kalaroos area on April 29th. During sustained questioning, Lone spilled the beans and revealed how his associates, Abdul Hamid and Abbas Shah, had carried the three Nadihal youth to Kalaroos. It was observed that Maj Bhupinder Singh got all the three killed in a fake encounter at the hands of his 4-Rajput troops, labeled them all “infiltrating militants killed in an encounter” and finally got them buried after registration of an FIR at Kalaroos.

According to these sources, Bashir Lone revealed that Maj Bhupinder Singh had paid him and two of his associates Rs 1,50,000 (@ Rs 50,000 each person) for arranging trapping of the three youth whose death as “unidentified militants” in turn would fetch the troops cash reward of Rs 600,000 (@Rs 200,000 each).

SP Sopore, Altaf Khan, said that all the three persons, including the soldier of Territorial Army, have been properly arrested and interrogated by Police and the missing report has been accordingly converted into case FIR NO: 23 of 2010 under section 364 RPC. He said that in the wake of the identification of the dead bodies today, it was being converted into a plain murder case under section 302 RPC and related provisions of law.


Thursday, May 27, 2010

Cold blooded murder of 3 civilians for Rs 6 Lakh

Machhil fake encounter snowballing into a storm for Omar Abdullah Govt

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, May 27: Government agencies have found that a 4-Rajput unit of regular Army has committed cold-blooded murder of three civilians of Baramulla district near Sonapindi in Machhil sector of Kupwara district for claiming reward money of Rs 6 Lakhs during the night intervening April 29th and 30th this year. Much like the infamous fake encounters of yesteryears, these gruesome killings have been put in the account of an “encounter” and all the three slain civilians have been labeled as “infiltrating militants” before their burial at a graveyard at Kalaroos in Kupwara district.

According to highly placed authoritative sources, a gruesome replay of Pathribal and Ganderbal fake encounters has occurred at Sonapindi, close to LoC in Machhil sector, where a unit of 4-Rajput has gunned down three civilians of Rafiabad area of Baramulla district, labeled them all as “infiltrating militants” and claimed to have recovered from them five AK-47 rifles during the night intervening April 29th and 30th. Army has claimed to have killed the three “unidentified militants” in a fierce encounter at Tanakpur Post, near Sonapindi, on the LoC.

Army had later handed over three dead bodies to Police Post Kalaroos. These were further handed over to the residents who buried the bodies in the local graveyard but only after Police took their photographs. Sources revealed to Early Times today that all the three youth have been found to be the residents of Rafiabad area of Baramulla district. Residents have identified one of them with the photographs available with DIG North Kashmir and SP Sopore. According to these sources, Police Station Panzla, Rafiabad, has tracked the movement of one of the three missing civilians with the help of his mobile phone signals which have shown him present in Kalaroos area of Kupwara district on April 27th and 28th.

According to these sources, Army had requested Police Post Kalaroos to record it as a “joint operation” but the men on duty got suspicious over recovery of five AK-47 rifles from just three “unidentified militants” and recorded it as an operation exclusively conducted by Army. It has been observed that the three civilians have been led to Sonapindi area for working as “porters” for the Army and killed only for claiming cash reward of Rs 6 Lakhs. Government has been paying cash reward of Rs 2 Lakh for killing of each militant to Police or armed forces involved in the operation.

Sources said that Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has taken “extremely serious notice” of what could be the first major fake encounter during his 17-month-old coalition government and has all the potential of snowballing into a catastrophe---more so on the eve of the visits of the UPA Chairperson, Sonia Gandhi, and Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh. Chief Minister, according to sources, has immediately taken a meeting with Director General of J&K Police, Kuldeep Khoda, and directed him to collect all details and submit a detailed report within a day. Sources said that Chief Minister, who also happens to be the Chairman of Unified Headquarters, was likely to complain the matter to the top central authorities, including Mrs Gandhi, Prime Minister and the union Defence Minister.

While there was no response to phone calls from the office of Army’s spokesman at headquarters 15 Corps, incharge Superintendent of Police, Kupwara, Mohammad Yousuf Mir, insisted that he had not received any complaint in this matter till date. He said that Police had completed all formalities, including taking pictures of the dead bodies, before conducting the burial at Kalaroos with the help of residents. He, however, confirmed that in the afternoon today he had posted armed guard of 9 Police personnel on the graveyard in which the bodies had been buried in April. Asked why, he said it was “a precautionary measure”.

Police sources in Baramulla said that three youth of Rafiabad area, namely Riyaz Ahmed Lone S/o Mohammad Yousuf Lone, Shehzad Ahmed Khan S/o Ghulam Mohammad Khan and Mohammad Shafi Lone S/o Abdul Rashid Lone, were missing since April 27th and a missing report had been filed by their family members with Police Station Panzla. They said that an investigation was underway during which Police learned from some sources that a local counter-insurgent, namely Bashir Ahmed, had taken these youth to Kupwara in a Tata Sumo. They said Police were investigating whether same youth had been killed in a “fake encounter” after the signals of one of their mobile phones indicated the location of Kalaroos.

Residents of the Rafiabad village today put up a demonstration and blocked vehicular traffic for several hours with the demand that the dead bodies buried at Kalaroos be exhumed and the photographs be provided to them for identification. Authorities pacified the crowds with the assurance that the matter would be investigated. Reports available from Baramulla said that relatives of the missing youth would be submitting a formal application to District Magistrate of Baramulla on Friday to seek orders for exhumation of the dead bodies buried at Kalaroos.

While the most infamous of the fake encounters, including killing of five civilians of Anantnag district at Pathribal Panchalthan in the aftermath of the massacre of 35 Sikhs at Chittisingpura on March 20 in 2000, had happened in Dr Farooq Abdullah’s National Conference regime in 1996-2002 and also previously during Governor’s and President’s rule, four more civilians of Anantnag district and a resident of Banihal had been killed by SOG Ganderbal in a series of fake encounters during Ghulam Nabi Azad-led coalition government in 2006.

CBI has completed the investigation into the Pathribal fake encounter and filed challan against senior officials of Rashtriya Rifles 07 Bn, including a Brigadier. Police have completed the investigation into the Ganderbal fake encounters. A number of SOG Ganderbal personnel, including then SP Ganderbal, Hans Raj Parihar, have been continuously in jail since 2006. However, investigation has been inconclusive in the matter of Army having killed five porters of Jammu---all of them Hindus---in another fake encounter in Kalaroos area of Kupwara district in 2002.


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Omar may drop 5 Ministers in Cabinet reshuffle in June

Govt’s anti-corruption talk has no credibility without action against Ministers, senior officials

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, May 25: Getting disturbing reports from different corners with regard to indulgence of nearly a dozen of his Ministerial colleagues in corruption, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah is likely to shed his complex of the ‘coalition constraints’ and reconstitute his Council of Ministers next month. Sources in top echelons of the state government are expecting Chief Minister to send a “tough and terse message” by way of dropping five of the “most corrupt” Ministers and removing some of the “most indispensable officials” in a major reshuffle of Police and Civil Administration. Chief Minister is said to have begun the exercise of reviewing the performance of his ministers around completion of their first year in office.

Ten of the Ministers, who have reportedly surfaced negatively on the Chief Minister’s radar, include six Cabinet Ministers of the Congress party besides one Cabinet Minister and two Ministers of State of National Conference (NC). According to the serious inputs reportedly available with Chief Minister, over half-a-dozen of the Ministers had acquired substantial fortunes in less than a year of their assuming office. In a demonstration of high level of confidence, some of these Ministers have either built or acquired through other means palatial houses worth Crores of Rupees in posh localities of Humhama, Friends Enclave, Hyderpora, Baghat Barzullah and Rajbagh in Srinagar besides Gandhi Nagar, Chhanni Himat and Sidhra in Jammu.

According to the reports available, some of the mainstream politicians have not only raised immovable commercial properties but also discovered new methods to acquire assets while escaping notice of common people, Income Tax sleuths and anti-corruption watchdogs. In recent past, one of the Cabinet Ministers belonging to Congress party has been found to have paid Rs 3 Crore in cash to his in-laws who purchased a palatial house in the fashionable Rajbagh area and later got it transferred to his own name in the form of a “gift deed”. Another Cabinet Minister from NC has also been found to have purchased a multi-Crore property in the same locality in the name of his son.

If reports from the Union capital are also to be believed, quite a few of the Jammun & Kashmir Ministers have also acquired flats, valued in the range of Rs 1.00 Crore to Rs 2.00 Crore, in some prestigious colonies in New Delhi. A number of such assets are said to be benami---registered in the names of certain politicians’ relatives and friends. Non-existence of State Accountability Commission (SAC), that had been created ostensibly to make the corrupt politicians accountable, has made things easier for a few Ministers and their partners.

Interestingly, none of these mainstream politicians has made any mention of these clandestinely acquired properties either in their annual property statements or their IT returns. At least two of the Cabinet Ministers are said to be owners or partners of multi-crore hotels in Srinagar, Jammu and New Delhi.

Corruption among the mainstream politicians has touched new heights in the last 16 months of the coalition government. A female politician has been found to have purchased a huge house at a stone’s throw from CBI office in Jammu besides over 200 Kanals of land for developing a private housing colony in Zainakote area in Srinagar outskirts.

A senior leader of Congress party has been found to be the owner of six houses in Srinagar and Jammu, besides houses and flats in New Delhi. After raising properties worth Rs 40 Crore in Humhama area, near Srinagar Airport, this particular politician, has recently purchased 83 Kanals of orchard land at Heewudar village in Budgam district at the rate of Rs 2.75 Lakh per Kanal. He had earlier bought 60 Kanals of almond orchard land on Budgam Karewa at the rate of Rs 65,000 per Kanal. Reports said that the politician and his family were now trying to sell same land to the state government at the rate of Rs 17 Lakh per Kanal.

Blowing the whistle prominently include a senior leader and MLC of Congress party, Abdul Gani Vakil, who has publicly urged Chief Minister to force all of the mainstream politicians---particularly Ministers and legislators---to reveal the source of their income, overtly disproportionate to their known sources of income.

Well-placed sources said that Chief Minister’s biggest hurdle was the fact that he could not touch the Ministers belonging to Congress party. They said that the menace of corruption in high offices, according to credible reports, had assumed menacing proportions to the extent that Chief Minister was now likely to take the Congress President Sonia Gandhi into confidence and seek fresh list of her nominees to be inducted from the coalition partner. Change of portfolio is said to be possible in case of certain Ministers who were performing well but still indulging in corruption. As regards NC, sources said that Chief Minister could take the party patron, Dr Farooq Abdullah, on board before going for a Cabinet reshuffle next month.

Search has already begun in NC for replacement of the ailing Sheikh Nazir Ahmed as General Secretary. Name of a Srinagar-based Minister is mentioned as the first probable.


Monday, May 24, 2010

Geelani’s Sopore shuts over NC leader’s killing
Valley’s 1st non-Hurriyat, non-militant shutdown in 20 years

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, May 24: Kashmir valley’s first major shutdown against the killing of a mainstream political leader today happened in the hardline separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s hometown of Sopore. Ironically, none other than the octogenarian Islamist leader has enjoyed monopoly in calling, supporting and enforcing over 1400 shutdowns since the eruption of armed insurgency and separatist movement in the Valley in 1989. Even as Traders Federation of Sopore had restricted its call to the apple town in Baramulla district, Kupwara and Handwara townships too observed total shutdown to register their protest against the assassination of senior National Conference (NC) leader, Ghulam Nabi Khan.

Transport operated as usual and educational institutions functioned without disruption even as almost all shops and business establishments remained closed today in Sopore, Handwara and Kupwara over the call of Traders Federation of Sopore. Traders’ body had called for shutdown of businesses over the killing of its President and senior NC leader, Ghulam Nabi Khan. Fifty-five-year-old Khan, who had never accepted for himself any Police protection, had been gunned down by unidentified gunmen, widely believed to be militants, at a main market in Sopore township on Sunday.

Khan’s killing has sent shockwaves in entire north Kashmir and it is for the first time in the last 20 years of armed insurgency in Jammu & Kashmir that the people at large have registered a strong protest on the elimination of a mainstream political leader in the Valley by closing their businesses. Shutdown, otherwise, has been the mark of identification of separatist leaders and militants---invariably observed against the state government, security forces and Government of India. While over 3,000 residents of Sopore had participated in Khan’s funeral procession, Namaaz-e-Janazaah and condolence meetings at his New Colony residence yesterday, equal number of people are estimated to have visited the bereaved family with condolences and condemnation of the assassination.

Chief Minister Omar Abdullah’s Advisor and senior NC leader, Mubarak Gul, and senior Congress leader and MLC, Abdul Gani Vakil, were among hundreds of mainstream political activists who called on the Khan family today to deliver their sympathies and condolences. Senior separatist leader and former Chairman of undivided Hurriyat Conference, Prof Abdul Gani Bhat, and another senior separatist activist, Mussadiq Adil, were among scores of separatist activists who visited Khan’s family, paid rich tributes to the slain trader-politician and described his killing as an inhuman act.

However, one of the separatist visitors, namely Abu Hamza, asserted at the condolence meeting that Mr Khan had been eliminated by “Indian agents”. With leaders of both factions of the separatist Hurriyat Conference condemning the mainstream political leader’s assassination, hardliner Geelani had on Sunday itself asserted that it could be the “handiwork of a neo-Ikhwani group of gunmen”. In 1995-2002, militants-turned-counterinsurgents had operated under the banner of Ikhwanul Muslimoon and eliminated hundreds of pro-Azadi and pro-Pakistan militants, besides their overground functionaries and civilian sympathizers, with the overt and covert support of security forces, government agencies and counter-insurgent outfits of J&K Police.

At a meeting at their party headquarters today, NC leaders dismissed the separatist leaders’ claim as “absurd” and asked why the pro-Government gunmen would have shot dead a senior leader of the ruling party. Their asserted that there was no existence of Ikhwanul Muslimoon or any other counter-insurgent guerrilla group in Kashmir for the last 10 years. They demanded identification, arrest and prosecution of Mr Khan’s killers as quickly as possible. Otherwise, they apprehended, fear of the gun would rule the roost again and the NC cadres would suffer fresh demoralization.

Khan’s assassination has, in fact, come with more than one irony. Shutdown over the mainstream leader’s killing, allegedly by militants, occurred in Sopore that has been the hometown and Assembly constituency of the Hurriyat hardliner, Geelani, for the last several decades. Geelani had represented Sopore for three consecutive terms in J&K Legislative Assembly before outbreak of the secessionist uprising in Kashmir in 1989. Though he has been living in Hyderpora area of Srinagar continuously since 1987, Jamaat-e-Islami dominated Sopore is still considered to be Gelani’s stronghold.

Geelani has been strongly against shutdown calls sometimes issued by non-Hurriyat, non-militant groups. He had bitterly confronted Majlis-e-Mashawart Shopian when the localized social organization had called for a shutdown without taking Hurriyat into confidence in connection with CBI investigation into the alleged rape-cum-murder of two young women last year.

For yet another irony, slain NC leader’s residence happens to be located at a few yards from that of the dreaded militant, Basharat Saleem, who disappeared in mysterious circumstances last month and is widely believed to have been killed by his militant colleagues in Janwari forest area of Sopore. Very few people were seen visiting his home when the news of his death spread in Sopore. Even Geelani was conspicuously absent. For a change, the conventional beeline of the Valley’s political mourners today seemed to have shifted to a mainstream leader’s residence.


Sunday, May 23, 2010

Terrorists gun down NC leader in Sopore

Traders call for shutdown as killing evokes condemnation from all corners

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, May 23: Unidentified gunmen, widely believed to be separatist militants, today struck their heaviest blow of the last over two years to Chief Minister Omar Abdullah’s National Conference (NC) when they shot dead party’s senior leader and President of Traders Federation, Ghulam Nabi Khan, in the north Kashmir apple town of Sopore, in broad daylight. Khan’s assassination has evoked widespread condemnation from all shades of opinion as the traders have called for a shutdown in protest on Monday.

DIG North Kashmir, Abdul Qayoom Manhas, told Early Times that the senior NC leader and President of Traders Federation, Sopore, Ghulam Nabi Khan S/o Abdul Rahim Khan R/o New Colony, Sopore, was walking in Main Chowk of Sopore when an unidentified youth appeared right in front of him and fired upon him pistol shots at around 1115 hours today. Khan was accurately hit in his forehead. Even as he fell in a pool of blood, local traders and Police rushed him to hospital where doctors declared him ‘brought dead’.

DIG said that the hitman was still unidentified but Police were optimistic about his identification and arrest with tremendous local civilian support. He said that Police had launched an investigation with tracking the movement and communication of two formidable militant outfits, namely Harkatul Mujahideen and Lashkar-e-Toiba, who were remarkably active in Sopore area. Khan’s death has come after killing of nearly 20 civilians, militants and Police and security forces personnel in Sopore area in the last 6 months.

55-year-old Ghulam Nabi Khan was a senior mainstream leader who had remained associated with NC for the last 30 years. In pre-1990 halcyon period, Khan had served as District President of NC’s youth wing before his elevation to the senior position of Vice President for Baramulla district. Alongwith Haji Mohammad Ashraf of rural Sopore, Khan was a strong contender for NC’s ticket in October 2008 Assembly elections. However, Haji got the ticket as the party leadership apprehended boycott in the apple town. While Haji enjoyed substantial support in rural areas of Sopore, Khan had a strong base in the township.

After remaining in oblivion for fear of reprisal from militants for several years, Khan had shot into prominence when he defeated Jamaat-e-Islami and Syed Ali Shah Geelani-supported rival, Noor-ud-din Daandh, a retired Assistant Commissioner, in the traders federation elections in 2005-06. While working as President of Traders Federation Sopore, Khan had continued his activities as a senior NC leader. He was a widely popular social worker and had never accepted Police protection.

Two months ago, Khan had issued a hard-hitting statement against the people enforcing shutdown after shutdown and causing heavy damage to the business in Sopore. He had condemned ‘anarchical stone pelting on every second day’ and sought peoples’ support to his resolve of defying “unwarranted shutdowns and stone pelting”. His death has come in days of the assassination of a cable operator and Geelani supporter, Ashiq Hussain Khan, followed by reported elimination of the most dreaded Harkatul Mujahideen militant, Basharat Saleem, by his colleagues in Janwari forest area of Sopore.

Unlike almost all other killings suspected or believed to be done by militants, Khan’s assassination evoked widespread protest and condemnation in Sopore. Over 3,000 residents of Sopore--- including traders, government officials, intellectuals, religious and social activists---participated in his funeral procession and Namaaz-e-Janazaah at Iqbal
Market. Participants shouted “Khan Sahab amar rahe”, “Qatiloon kau pesh karo” and “Islam zindabaad”. According to those present in the procession, someone also shouted “Ham kya chahte…” but others asked him not to use this popular freedom slogan. Hundreds of grief-stricken people later participated in a condolence meeting at his New Colony residence.

Traders Federation Sopore condemned Khan’s killing and called upon the residents of Sopore and entire business community to observe total shutdown on Monday to register their protest.

Those who participated in Khan’s condolence meeting, condemned the assassination and paid him rich tributes included Speaker of J&K Legislative Assembly, Mohammad Akbar Lone, Minister of Rural Development, Ali Mohammad Sagar, Minister of State for Urban Development, Nasir Aslam Wani, Minister of State for Health and PWD, Javed Ahmed Dar, senior NC leader and MLA Handwara, Choudhary Mohammad Ramzan, NC’s MLA from Sopore, Haji Mohammad Ashraf, and NC’s Kashmir Province President Ali Mohammad Dar.

Witnessing unprecedented condemnation from almost all corners, both factions of the separatist Hurriyat Conference also condemned Khan’s assassination. While Geelani sought to create an impression that a “neo-Ikhwani group” of gunmen could be behind the killing, spokesman of Mirwaiz Umar Farooq-led faction of the Hurriyat said that killing of people on the basis of political indifferences was “condemnable and unacceptable” and thus “harmful to the freedom movement”.

Chief Minister Omar Abdullah described Khan as a sincere and popular human being and condemned his killing. He said that Mr Khan would be remembered for his great contribution in uniting various traders’ federations and maintaining harmony among various sections of the society. Calling the assassination as a barbaric act, Omar said that the forces not happy with peace and tranquility of the State had an ugly agenda to target the popular personalities like Mr Khan. He said the mourning of people of the area and condemnation of such cowardly act by large number of population was a clear indication of the fact that the people were no more ready to remain silent spectators to such acts of violence. They had, accordingly, started expressing their opinion against such brutal killings without any fear. He hoped that all who believed in human rights would unanimously condemn today’s brutal killing. Praying for peace for the departed soul, Chief Minister expressed his heart-felt sympathies with the bereaved family.