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Friday, August 13, 2010

What went wrong with Omar’s Kashmir?


Hardliner Geelani flourished only after 2002
UPA showered adjectives to soothe Omar, lost all gains Delhi made in J&K in 20 years

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Aug 13: It was more than on one occasion that New Delhi attempted to neutralize Paklistan’s plebiscite argument on the international diplomacy front with the participation of the Kashmiris in Assembly elections of 2008. Diminishing militancy was simultaneously celebrated as an achievement. Having meticulously bargained power with National Conference (NC), Congress refused to come out of its complacency. Rather than taking political initiatives from the commanding position it enjoyed first time in the last several years, Congress-led UPA government made hardly any attempt to perceive the back swing in Omar Abdullah’s popularity in the Valley.

Omar alone was never to blame for the reverse. For months, he was beguiled into the uncouth romanticism by the Centre. The attribute of the “youngest Chief Minister’ did not go till the poor politician’s hair turned grey a year later. As lately as on June 7th this year, Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, disappointed many in the Valley by restricting his offer of dialogue to only those sections “who are against violence and bloodshed”. During his visit in Srinagar next day, he described Omar “not only the youngest but also the most competent Chief Minister”. Men like Narendra Modi and even women like Shiela Dixit may not have taken ill of the appreciation as they knew that the Prime Minister’s assessment was based on a PowerPoint presentation---powerful indeed---but not on the real parameters of governance and development.

Earlier, these days last year, Manmohan Singh’s Minister of Home Affairs, P Chidambaram, had set off the balloon of “quiet diplomacy” in Srinagar. That whole drama of “quiet diplomacy” ended with anti-climax when unidentified persons attacked Hurriyat dove, Fazal Haq Qureishi, in vicinity of his residence in Soura.

Sustained marginalization of so-called moderates in the Valley’s separatist camp led to proportionate swelling of hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s influence. Octogenarian Geelani knew that New Delhi’s permissiveness of the hate-India sentiment in Jammu & Kashmir was to the best of his advantage. He also perceived weakness of the rulers in Srinagar to showcase soft corner for the hardliners. It took him just months to realize that the youngest Chief Minister was well on Mufti Sayeed’s track of velvet fist rather than Farooq Abdullah’s iron gloves.

Watching Omar forward PDP’s healing touch policy to the extent of issuing Passports to the most persecuted sections of the separatists and militants and, in fact, beginning his work after expansion of his Cabinet with recruiting over 300 of the Jamaat-e-Islami activists as teachers, Geelani began to assert afresh.

Geelani, indeed, stands out in the crowd of Kashmiri politicians in professing the art of building his strength over the weaknesses of the Indian democratic system. In certain areas, he has indisputably outclassed even the towering Sheikh Abdullah. Contrary to Abdullah, Geelani’s base of influence was for decades limited to just a section of Jamaat-e-Islami.

Even when Sheikh was in jail, Geelani was among the five Jamaat-e-Islami candidates whose victory was dubiously facilitated by Mrs Indira Gandhi’s Congress party in the fraudulently conducted Assembly elections of 1972. It happened years before Bhindranwale was picked up for a role in the SGPC elections in Punjab. By the time a secessionist guerrilla movement erupted in Kashmir in 1989 and the Jamaat firebrand resigned as a MUF MLA, he had represented his constituency of Sopore for three terms and contested more elections than any of the state’s Chief Ministers and their family members.

Geelani’s influence in the separatist camp was penuriously limited till 2002, notwithstanding his acting as Hurriyat’s chairman for a term. Then a Jamaat ideologue, he was harshly pushed out of a condolence meeting over the assassination of People Conference founder Abdul Gani Lone. Many in the PC suspected him of being friendly with Lone’s assassins. They had no hesitation in asserting publicly.

When Mufti Sayeed engineered Hurriyat’s first split in 2003 after 10 years of its existence by inducting Lone’s confidante and PC’s proxy MLA from Handwara, Mohiuddin Sofi, as a Minister, none of the constituents sided with Geelani. Diving in controversy after controversy, Geelani was expelled even from the Jamaat he had served for over 40 years. He was reprimanded by then Pakistani President, Gen Musharraf, for his lack of reconciliation. Then came his real defining moments. He not only launched his own, Tehreek-e-Hurriyat, but also projected an alliance of nondescript separatist groups as the “real” Hurriyat. This is the alliance that is calling the shots in Kashmir today and has, for the first time, brought New Delhi to its knees. Much of its credit unmistakably goes to Mufti, followed by Omar.

(To be continued….)

Thursday, August 12, 2010

What went wrong with Omar’s Kashmir?

Contrary to Sheikh’s egoism and Farooq’s jingoism, the ‘youngest CM’ lived under inferiority complex

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Aug 12: Phenomenal success of the Assembly elections of 2008 set in a wave of jubilation and euphoria in the mainstream political circles and establishment from Srinagar to New Delhi. A little over 61% of the electorate had exercised their franchise---over 1700,000 of them in Kashmir valley alone---without any sort of coercion, fist time since 1987. Few among the political analysts and very senior politicians had expected this historic turnout in an Indian democratic exercise held in weeks of a mass street agitation in the Valley.

Most of the people, who participated in the election, as well as many of those who did not, for varied reasons, seemed to have reasons behind their relief. The elections reversed the situation of an unprecedented regional and communal divide witnessed in the middle of 2008. There was a lot of jubilation over Omar Abdullah becoming the country's youngest Chief Minister. They thought the young Chief Minister understood the importance of blending employment opportunities, development and political resolution of the Kashmir issue by strengthening dialogue between India and Pakistan.

In most of his statements during the election campaign, Omar had underscored the need of responsive governance and specified “better roads, power supplies, drinking water, healthcare and qualitative education” as the major indicators of the government's performance.

Suffering from the disadvantage of being a non-resident politician, whose importance stemmed from his dynastic background, Omar demonstrated his lack of political understanding and administrative acumen from his day one in office. While bargaining partnership with Congress and later making two selections of his Council of Ministers, he made blatant mistakes.

Obviously, in lieu of his full six-year term as Chief Minister, he handed almost all of his flagship portfolios---roads, water, health, education---to the coalition partner, Congress. He lacked numerical strength to form the government of his own but still had nearly double the seats Mufti Mohammad Sayeed possessed in November 2002. Shepherd of the thin herd of 16 in a House of 87, Mufti did not budge an inch from his cardinal demand of holding the first half of his coalition government’s term. He made Congress bow with his obduracy for a full month after declaration of the results.

Omar also humiliated the most influential of his party colleagues, including the one who had secured highest number of votes among more than 2,000 contestants in Kashmir, by keeping them out of his Cabinet. Those inducted were no less disappointed over their 'insignificant' portfolios. Bureaucrats and officials, known for their rank opportunism, political loyalty and proximity to the Opposition, managed to retain key positions in Omar-led coalition government.

Omar’s father, Dr Farooq Abdullah, who shifted to the national platform, was also appointed NC's President. Party’s organizational structure passed through a fresh membership drive but the key office bearers were never appointed. Omar’s predicament became public last month when, during the course of a television interview, he said that he had more time than his father to operate as the NC’s President.

Consequently, an effective delivery system, consistent with NC's election manifesto, vision document and political ideology, failed to be in place. CM never seemed to be having liaison with his party rank and file, including the seniormost legislators and Ministers of his government. Like total inertia during the days of pandemonium over Shopian in 2008, NC’s leaders, legislators and Ministers seldom held a deliberation over the current spate of street turmoil until it blew into a catastrophe two months ago.

Within weeks of his taking over in January 2009, complacency and nonchalance was abundantly in evidence. Chief Minister attended little business in the maiden session of the legislature. He enjoyed alpine skiing over Afarwat on the day of his first reply on the Governor’s address. His notes had been saved meticulously by his officials and aides and the speech was pretty emphatic but his absence from the House was marked with disdain by the Opposition and with concern by the Treasury Benches.

Over the months, Omar seemed to believe that connections with New Delhi were more important than the liaison with his electors in the state. This led almost to a political vacuum and system failure in governance. Ignominiously marginalized by the elections, Valley’s separatist leadership found it easier to stage a comeback. Growing disillusionment among the masses came handy to hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani who literally wept over the Kashmiris’ infidelity of participating in the 2008 elections at a news conference after his release from jail and seemed to be desperately looking for issues until as recently as in May 2010.

Geelani, who was seen using his elbow to grab a bit of the political space with the vegetarian issue of restricting Amarnath pilgrimage to 15 days, with the real concern on ecology, has filled up the vacuum with aplomb and grown as an undisputed king of Kashmir’s secessionist politics in the last two months. He is now deciding on what days Omar and his Cabinet Ministers can move on the roads in Kashmir and when the government’s offices should open and close.

(To be continued....)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Mass Com student found killed in Baramulla

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Aug 10: Dead body of 18-year-old Syed Farak Bukhari S/o Syed Bashir Ahmed Bukhari R/o Kreeri, Baramulla, was recovered today from Ningli Nullah in Chhoora area in Sopore-Pattan belt of north Kashmir. A student of Journalism and Mass Communication at Government Degree College Baramulla, Bukhari had been missing since July 28th.

Informed sources said that a farmer spotted the partly decomposed human body and informed Police. Men from Police Post Chhoora rushed to the spot and recovered the dead body. The teenager was found dead with his hands amputated and the throat slit. Eyewitnesses said that there were clear torture marks on the body.

Large number of people, including more than a thousand residents of Kreeri, rushed to the spot and took the body into custody. While shouting slogans and leveling allegation that Bukhari had been arrested by Police and security forces and done to death in custody, they demanded credible investigation and legal action under the culprits. Reports said that the gathering occupied Srinagar-Baramulla highway and staged a sit-in. Authorities failed to remove the angry crowd till late tonight.

Police had already filed a missing report which was now reportedly being converted into a murder case under section 302 RPC. Officials were reportedly trying to pacify the gathering with assurances of transparent investigation with the plea that Police be allowed to conduct post mortem and carry on the investigation accordingly. Residents had been agitating the matter of Bukhari’s mysterious disappearance since last two weeks by way of demonstrations following which Baramulla Police had constituted a Special Investigating Team.

Sources said that one photo-identity card and two mobile phones with SIM cards were recovered from pockets of the slain student’s clothes which facilitated his identification.


Monday, August 9, 2010

Asiya surprised by minority’s tears over insecurity

‘They (Hindus, Sikhs) will have to be part of Quit J&K Movement’

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Aug 9: Dukhtaraan-e-Millat chairperson and radical separatist leader, Asiya Andrabi, today said that the non-Muslim minorities were free to join or not to join Kashmir’s “freedom struggle” but she made it clear that they will have to observe shutdown over the separatists’ calls and become a part of the current ‘Quit Jammu & Kashmir Movement’.

Disappointed over reports that two delegations of the Hindus and the Sikhs had called on the Hurriyat (G) Chairman, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, and “wept bitterly” over the sense of their insecurity, Dukhtaraan chief said that it had hurt the sentiments of the majority community in Kashmir.

“Delegations of Kashmiri Pandit Sangharsh Samiti and All-party Sikh Coordination Committee have badly hurt the sentiments of the Muslims of Kashmir by weeping bitterly over their insecurity and choosing this form the expression before Syed Ali Shah Geelani”, Asiya said in a statement released here this evening. According to her, Pandits and Sikhs were free to join or not to join the “freedom struggle” but they could not be exempted from observing shutdown over the calls issued by the Valley’s separatist leaders. “Whenever, there is a call for shutdown, nobody will be allowed to operate shops or vehicles. They (Pandits and Sikhs) will have to essentially show their solidarity with Jammu Kashmir Chhordo Tehreek (by closing businesses and freezing vehicles on the days of shutdown)”, Asiya said.

According to her, the religious minorities in Kashmir would have to join ‘Quit Jammu & Kashmir Movement’ as both, majority as well as minority, would have to taste the fruit of the freedom together (after winning it whenever).

Delegations of Kashmiri Pandits and Sikhs had called on Mr Geelani here on Sunday and wept bitterly over their sense of insecurity. They had, reportedly, lamented before the octogenarian separatist leader over incidents of certain people harassing and forcing them to join the separatist demonstrations and other such programmes. Geelani, according to reports, had assured them nobody would be allowed to carry on activities aimed at causing another migration of the minorities.

In her angry terse reaction, 50-year-old Dukhtaraan supremo claimed that the Kashmiri Muslims had always taken “extraordinary care” of the non-Muslim minorities. “Whenever an affliction did befall on the minorities, there was invariably an Indian sinister plan behind. From the mass migration of Pandits in 1990 to the massacre (of Sikhs and Pandits) at Chittisinghpura and Nadimarg, all these catastrophes were the handiwork of top Indian intelligence agencies. Kashmiri Muslims are extremely sensitive and humane”, Asia added.

Mrs Andrabi claimed that even in the current days of crisis, Muslims had been providing maximum of the relief to the non-Muslims, who, according to her, had admitted it for themselves in various statements.

“In 2008, (members of) Sangharash Samiti burnded alive a number of Kashmiri Muslim drivers. It was all horrible and heart-rending but we observed maximum of our restraint and did not harm even a single (Amarnath shrine) pilgrim”, Asiya asserted. As for providing security to the non-Muslim minorities, she argued that the majority community itself was at the receiving end as none of their lives and properties were secure. “When we are ourselves insecure, how can we guarantee security of the minorities?” she asked. “Minorities can ask for security from the majority only after we get freedom from India”, she added. She said that everybody would have to live with a sense of insecurity as long as the Kashmiri Muslims struggled for “freedom for Islam”.

Meanwhile, after Geelani, Jamaat-e-Islami has also assured security and dignity to members of the non-Muslim communities in Kashmir. A spokesman of the organization said in a statement today that the minorities were an integral part of the Kashmir society and they would have to feel secure.

Meanwhile, Kashmir valley today observed total shutdown over Mr Geelani’s call of three days of “protest strike”. Authorities declared and enforced curfew in Srinagar while as similar restrictions were in place at almost all over district headquarters and major townships with formal announcement of curfew. Reports said that there was no major incident of violation or clash with forces, though thin groups of youngsters clashed with Police and CRPF at some places. Official sources said that not a single bullet was fired anywhere as the unruly groups dispersed by tearsmoke. These reports said that a mob manhandled a Police constable and torched his motorcycle at Shopian.


Sunday, August 8, 2010

[Updated at 3.00 pm Indian Standard Time]

Turbulence toll since June 11th is 48
Shutdown, curfew return after a day’s break on Sunday

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Aug 9: With a critically injured youth succumbing at SKIMS, toll of the civilians killed in different incidents of firing in Kashmir valley from June 11th to Aug 9th has reached 48.

Sources said that the critically injured Fida Nabi Lone S/o Ghulam Nabi Lone R/o Ummarabad Shalteng, Zainakote, succumbed at SKIMS Soura late last night after battling for life for over a week. According to the unofficial statistics available till date, number of the youth killed in dozens of clashes with Police and CRPF in the Valley during Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s lately launched “Quit Jammu & Kashmir Movement” has reached 51 with Fida Nabi Lone’s death last night. These include the people who died in an IED while destroying SOG’s camp at Khrew on Aug 1st. Their number was mentioned as six till yesterday.

However, Deputy Commissioner of Pulwama, Mohammad Afzal Bhat, who himself happens to be a resident of Khrew area, told Early Times over telephone from Pampore today that the number of the civilians killed in the IED blast at Khrew on Aug 1st had been exaggerated due to numeous reasons.

Making a clarification, DC Pulwama elaborated that during the mayhem in the twin towns of Pampore and Khrew on Aug 1st, four civilians had had got killed in firing. Two of them were residents of Khrew, one lived in Khonmoh village while the 4th person was actually a resident of Galwanpora Hyderpora, who had been working and living in Galandar (Pampore) for quite some time. He said that two more residents of Khrew later died in the IED blast at SOG’s camp at Khrew. According to him, six persons had in all died in Pampore-Khrew belt on that day of bloodshed and mayhem.

With this correction, the number of civilians killed in clashes with Police and CRPF in Valley since June 11th has reached 48, including the youth of Zainakote area.

Official sources said that four more of the critically injured youth were still battling for life at SKIMS, Soura. They were identified as Mohammad Akbar Wani (28) of Baramulla, Mehran Khan (18) of Chandanwari Uri, Ghulam Mohammad (20) of Ganderbal (who has been severely hit by a stone in his head, allegedly thrown in retaliatory action by Police/CRPF) and Muneera Dhobi (20) of Pulwama. They said that a 12-year-old boy, namely Imtiyaz Ahmed Dar S/o Ghulam Nabi Dar R/o Shilwat, Sumbal, has also been admitted and placed under intensive care after his skull fractured in yesterday’s stone pelting at Sumbal. He became a victim, when stone pelters were enforcing shutdown at Sumbal.

Meanwhile, Valley has shut completely after a day of relaxation on Sunday as there is remarkable response to the three-day shutdown call issued by separatist hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s Hurriyat Conference. In apprehension of fresh clashes, authorities have declared curfew in entire capital city of Srinagar and the curfew without official declaration is being enforced in rest of the Valley. No untoward incident had been reported till 1450 hours today.

12-year-old critically injured in stone pelting at Sumbal

Shutdown enforced with stone peting; Food store looted in Sopore

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Aug 8: Showing little regard for separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s advice, Kashmiri youngsters today resorted to stone pelting on vehicles and shops in business at several places in the Valley to enforce shutdown in the afternoon. A 12-year-old boy, whose head was broken with a stone in Sumbal, was reportedly among numerous drivers and shopkeepers left wounded. Earlier today, business establishments and commercial traffic operated after nearly two weeks of separatists-sponsored shutdown and government-sponsored curfew in the entire Valley.

Shops and other commercial establishments were seen in business today after nearly two weeks of continued curfew, enforced by the government, and shutdown, sponsored by the separatists. Even as government offices remained closed due to the weekly holiday of Sunday, private offices and even some banks worked like on a normal day.

BSNL, according to sources, had decided to keep its offices and revenue collection centers open but senior officials in the circle objected to the suggestion and argued that separatist groups like Hurriyat could not be allowed to dictate schedule of working to a Government of India corporation. However, offices and outlets of private telecommunication companies remained open.

Government schools, colleges and universities had an off day but private educational institutes conducted classes. Teaching activity has remained frozen for over two months and most of the examinations, including recruitment interviews by State Recruitment Board and State Public Commission have been canceled or postponed. Private educational institutes had announced to conduct classes on days of shutdown but they have quickly withdrawn the decision after Dukhataraan-e-Millat chief, Asiya Andrabi, said in a statement last month that she would not be responsible if anything untoward happened with the schoolchildren.

Separatists have refused to listen to the public concern and none of the essential services has been exempted from shutdown. Geelani has now asked the hapless people to arrange at-home tuitions for their children.

After two weeks of frozen life, there was huge rush of shopping as thousands of vehicles were seen in movement, leading to traffic jams in the capital city and other major towns. Customers in distress were seen purchasing stocks in view of upcoming holy month of Ramzan and a fresh shutdown calendar released by Geelani last evening. According to the calendar, only some hours of Thursday next, besides the Pakistani Indepedence Day of Aug 14th, have been declared as open for business and traffic movement in the next eight days. The previously issued calendar had relaxed shutdown from morning to 2.00 p.m. today.

At dot 1400 hours, when the brisk business activity was still underway and traffic was flowing in full swing, stone pelters appeared at several places in the capital city as well as major townships. Without any warning, they resorted to heavy stone pelting on the vehicles in movement and the shops in business. Reports said that dozens of motorists and drivers, besides shoppers and shopkeepers, sustained injuries. The hooligans did not relent even as the hapless drivers and shopkeepers pleaded that Mr Geelani had proscribed the “counterproductive practice of stone pelting, arson and vandalism” in unambiguous terms. Consequently, businesses closed and the people deserted the markets.

Informed sources said that in the same stone pelting, a 12-year-old boy, namely Imtiyaz Ahmed Dar S/o Ghulam Nabi Dar R/o Shilwat, Sonawari, was hit in his head at Sumbal. The class 6th student was returning to his home. He collapsed but was quickly evacuated by residents and relatives to SKIMS, Soura, where doctors described him as critical. They found the teenager’s skull fractured and put him under intensive care treatment. He is the third victim of stone pelting as earlier this year, an 11-day-old child was killed in the lap of his mother at Baramulla and an employee of J&K State Board of School Educatio, a resident of Nattipora area of Srinagar, died after his head was smashed with a massive stone at Batmaloo.

Meanwhile, official sources said that hundreds of people broke locks of the food storage of Consumer Affairs & Public Distribution Department at Hygam in Sopore area of Baramulla district and they looted more than 200 quintals of rice. It was the first case of looting of a public ration store during the current spell of political turbulence and lawlessness in Kashmir. Sources said that another mob had earlier this week looted 1300 quintals of rotten rice that had been stored for disposal. They said that Police have registered FIR and begun the investigation.