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Saturday, November 20, 2010

Hurriyat’s new to Kashmiris: USA, Iran are on our side

Shutdown fails but Geelani says keep it up to have Kashmir in limelight

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Nov 20: Separatist hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani today described continued shutdowns as the only means to keep the Kashmir dispute in limelight. While claiming that the world nations, including USA and Iran, were supporting the Valley’s “freedom struggle”---a claim made simultaneously by head of the Hurriyat’s rival faction Mirwaiz Umar Farooq---Geelani alleged that the government had “purchased” the transporters to fail his calls of strike.

Addressing a news conference at his Hyderpora residence, Geelani argued that observance of strikes and shutdowns had become a “necessity” for the Valley’s separatist movement as these were the only means to keep the Kashmir dispute in limelight to catch the world attention and empathy. Without directly admitting that his calls for shutdown had lost the steam and even today there was only a partial bandh in the Valley, Geelani alleged that the government had purchased the passenger transporters to fail the Hurriyat-sponsored strikes.

Barring shuttered shops in Srinagar civil lines and few other areas, where most of the business centres are the property of the state government, there was hardly any major evidence of a shutdown. Official as well as private transport, including small and medium modes of passenger transport and heavy commercial vehicles, operated throughout the Valley without regard for Geelani’s call. Shops were open in a number of localities in the capital city as also in major townships across the Valley, in sharp contrast to nearly total freeze Kashmir had witnessed for almost four months in the middle of current year. All government offices, private and government educational institutes functioned smoothly and reports said that attendance of the staff was thick.

Notwithstanding the public defiance Geelani’s calls have evoked of late, Chairman of the hardline faction of Hurriyat Conference asked the Kashmiris to observe complete shutdown on two days in the next one week---on November 24th and 27th. He called upon the people to march to Eidgah Grounds in Srinagar after the Friday afternoon prayers on November 26th with a brick in everybody’s hand to lay the foundation of the “Wall of Resistance” at the cemetery of hundreds of “martyrs” who had been killed by the Indian armed forces and Police for their association with the “freedom struggle”.

Geelani argued that because of the current year’s six-month-long turbulence, that had stone pelting from protestors and firing from Police as key features, entire world had focused its attention on the Kashmir dispute. He claimed that many of the world powers, including USA, Islamic Republic of Iran, Norway and China, were now openly supporting the Kashmiris’ “freedom struggle”. He made a particular reference to the Iranian leader Ayatollah Syed Ali Khamnai’s recent statement and conveyed his gratitude to Teheran that it had audaciously supported the Kashmiris’ “freedom struggle” without caring for New Delhi’s displeasure. Geelani pointed out that even Russia was now pleading mediation over the Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan.

[At a separately and simultaneously organized news conference, Chairman of so-called moderate faction of Hurriyat Conference, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, made a similar claim and asserted that the world nations, including USA, Iran, China and Norway, were supportive of the Kashmir “freedom struggle”].

Defending his act of imposing an academic and economic breakdown on Kashmir, Geelani averred that in addition to 117 days of shutdown, observed in the Valley over his calls, government had enforced its declared and undeclared curfew for as many as 97 days in the last six months.

“Our options are now limited. We have reached a stage where we have got to either persist with the strikes or else surrender before India”, Geelani observed. According to him, passenger transporters had sold out themselves and they were continuing business in defiance of the Hurriyat call. He warned India of “unimaginably dangerous consequences” if New Delhi did not stop crackdown against the separatist leaders and the Kashmiris. He said that 1040 people had been arrested by Police who included 52 students and 35 separatist political activists detained under the draconian Public Safety Act (PSA) in the last five months.

Meanwhile, unruly youngsters, describing themselves as followers of the separatist leaders, attacked a passenger bus of government-controlled J&K State Road Transport Corporation (JKSRTC) near SKIMS Medical College in Bemina. It suffered extensive damage. However, none of the passengers was reported injured. A private school bus was subjected to a similar attack at Zaldagar in the capital city interior. Official sources said that two of the female teachers sustained injuries. They were later rushed to SMHS Hospital for medical treatment.

A violent clash occurred between demonstrators and Police when a top wanted stone pelter, namely Bilal Ahmed Fafoo, was arrested from his residential locality in Bemina-Parimpora outskirts. Sources said that eight persons, including three Police personnel, sustained injuries in the hour-long clash.

Stone pelters back in action after 2 weeks 
Eight injured in clashes at several places
Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Nov 19: With most of the people still celebrating festivity of Eid-ul-Azha, at least 8 persons, including a Police official, sustained injuries, when separatist stone pelters returned to the streets after two weeks and engaged Police in ding dong battles at several places in the Valley.

Indicating resurgence of turbulence on the next shutdown day of hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani tomorrow, groups of separatist stone pelters today shouted anti-India and pro-Azadi slogans while engaging Police and paramilitary forces in ding dong clashes at several places in the Valley. Even as people at large were still busy with Eid-ul-Azha celebrations on the third consecutive day of the Islamic festival, stone pelters returned to the streets at over a dozen places and engaged Police and CRPF in intermittent skirmishes.

Informed sources said that immediately after the weekly Friday afternoon prayers concluded at Jamia Masjid, dozens of youth surfaced in Nowhatta-Bohrikadal area in downtown Sribnagar and began shouting pro-Azadi and anti-India slogans. Breaking calm of the last two weeks, these youngsters hurled stone in the direction of Police and CRPF vehicles, besides civilian traffic, and engaged Police in ding dong battles. This inspite of the fact that Geelani or any other separatist leader had not called for a shutdown today. After days of Eid festivity, Geelani has asked the Kashmiris to observe a shutdown on Thursday.

Sources said that the violent demonstrators clashed with Police. They insisted that eight persons, including a Police official, sustained injuries in the subsequent stone pelting and clashes. Reports said that transport and other commercial activities were operational but shops remained closed, alongwith some schools.

It was after a peaceful fortnight that youngsters with stones in their hands surfaced on the streets at Nowhatta, Magharmal Bagh, Hyderpora and Galwanpora. They began shouting slogans and hurling stones on the bunkers and vehicles of CRPF and BSF. “It was clearly a pattern today. There was nothing from Government and security forces to protest against. People were busy with celebrations of Eid-ul-Fitr. But, groups of unruly youth came back on the streets after two weeks and they began pelting stones”, a Police official said. He too confirmed that eight to ten people sustained injuries in today’s clashes. However, he added, tearsmoke or firing in air were not used by Police or CRPF in retaliation.

A mild attack on CRPF this evening by some youngsters, who carried stones in carrybags, at Tagore Hall was surprising for Police in the sense that such an activity had never been witnessed at Tagore Halll in the last 20 years. SP South, Mohammad Irshad, said that Police swung into action and caught four youngsters red-handed. They belonged to Safakadal, Batmaloo and Solina areas. He said that earlier this evening, another group of youngsters pelted stones on Police and CRPF vehicles at Magahrmal Bagh. Stone pelting was also received from Hyderpora and Galwanpora in the capital city outskirts.

Reports said that violent clashes between Police and demonstrators also took place, evidently in an organized pattern, at Murran Chowk and Rajpora Chowk, besides Kakpora and dalipora in Pulwama. Similar clashes also happened at Cement Bridge, Khanpora and Azad Gung in Baramulla town.

An official spokesman added: “In the afternoon today, some miscreants  attempted to disrupt peace at Murran chowk and  Rajpora chowk in district Pulwama,  by resorting to heavy  stone pelting on Police and security forces deployments. Similar incidents were reported from Baramulla, where miscreants surfaced at cement bridge and Khanpora areas, and resorted to  stone pelting on Police and security forces.

“Late in the evening miscreants pelted stones on a security forces near Tagore Hall and Magarmal bagh- Srinagar, One constable suffered injury in the incident. However, Police and security forces exercised maximum restraint while dealing with the situation. Miscreants were later chased away, and situation in these areas was brought to normal”.


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Who’s paying for PR ads of Omar’s Life Banao Ministers ?
BIG misuse of J&K taxpayers’ money!

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Nov 17: They are promoting themselves, as well as the business of Reliance Communication in Kashmir, but who is paying for the advertisement campaigns of Omar Abdullah’s ‘life banao ministers’ to 92.7 FM? While the Department of Information maintains that Government could sponsor only the campaigns promoting its image, programmes or initiatives, Naazirs of respective Ministers insist that discretionary grants supposed to be distributed among widows, orphans and other destitute are being squandered on directions of the members of the Cabinet.

Be it a religious festival or any other event---even no occasion at all--- youngsters’ craze FM 92.7 is deluged with ‘Greetings’ from Ministers, and now self-promoting government officials, in their own voice. Young politicians of the ruling National Conference (NC), Salman Sagar (former Mayor of Srinagar Municipal Corporation) and Aga Ruhullah (Minister of Animal Husbandry), both around 30 years of age, are said to be the biggest contributors to Anil Ambani’s broadcasting venture in the Valley.

Energetic, but equally careerist, Director of Tourism, Farooq Shah, his junior boss and Chief Ministers’ alter ego, Nasir Sogami, have now comfortably taken over Sagar and Ruhullah in this brazenly operational campaign of self-promotion. Department of Tourism, that claims to be burning 10 litres of POL on every day of shutdown and curfew on a motorboat anchored on The Jhelum, behind Grindlays Bank building on the Bund, is understood to have paid huge amounts of money to the private broadcaster on account of promoting tourism at over a dozen spots in the last five months of complete shutdown in Valley. Valley had witnessed total exodus of its flourishing tourist concentration with the beginning of the anarchic turmoil in June-July.

Over a dozen new Heads of Departments HoDs have been lately discovered the craft of self-promotion through non-official electronic media while emptying their public money coffers without the knowledge of the state Finance and Planning departments. Listeners in Srinagar have grown familiar to their radio voice as these ‘public servants’ not only promote themselves in order to impress the government and retain prize postings for years together but also the Reliance business with the company’s popular slogan: “Suno Sunao, Life Banao”. Commissioner-Secretaries of Finance and Planning departments, namely Sudhanshu Pandey and Khursheed Ahmed Ganai, could not be reached for their comments.

However, sources believed to be pretty informed revealed to Early Times that 12 to 16 HoDs had been misappropriating huge amounts of money on their own promotion, including their New Year and Eid greetings to the Valley’s urban listeners. “Half of this money, if spent to educate the youth about hazards of academic and economic breakdown, could have been a service to the nation. Ministers and Government officials, who were previously obsessed with promoting themselves through lavishly printed greeting cards, are now spending sizable amounts of the hapless taxpayers’ money on their self-promotion through private broadcast media”, an insider disclosed. He asserted that rates being paid to FM 92.7 were at the sweet will of Reliance Communication and never approved by the competent authority---Departments of Finance and Planning in Civil Secretariat.

Slots are being repeated every five, ten or fifteen minutes and no tariff has been ever approved by Department of Information. Senior officials in Department of Information maintained that the payment was being made to the private broadcaster without knowledge and approval of the competent authority. They insisted that as many as four repeatedly issued circulars from Chief Secretary had imposed blanket ban on supplying the government advertisements directly to the media organizations as also on making payments to the clients without approval and information of the Department of Information. Naazirs (cashiers) servicing the expenditure of at least three Cabinet Ministers and two Ministers of State revealed that the public men (Ministers) and public servants (officers) were directly dealing with the private broadcaster and making huge payments on account of their purely private and individual radio campaigns.

“These are brazen violations of the financial code and audit objections but their advantage is that none in the government cares about CAG reports in J&K even as one of these this week has not only forced exit of the high profile Minister of Telecommunication, A Raja, but also led to raising of unprecedented questions by Supreme Court of India over Prime Minister’s “continued silence”, said a senior KAS official who lamented that “Backdoor Entrants Association” (blue-eyed boys of influential politicians and bureaucrats) had ruined initially clean image of Omar Abdullah government.

“Government’s failure to appoint Chairmen and members for the chronically dysfunctional State Accountability Commission (SAC) and State Information Commission (SIC), besides lackadaisical attitude in pursuing matters against corrupt officials and initiating action against the smart self-promoters and corrupt officers holding senior positions and prize postings in the administration are themselves big statements encouraging non-accountability among the public men and public servants”, a former judge of J&K High Court observed.


Monday, November 15, 2010

UN may wind up UNMOGIP hqs in Srinagar

Major setback for Kashmir’s separatist leadership

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Nov 15: Immediately after the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) has deleted Jammu & Kashmir from its list of unresolved disputes, Government of India is understood to have begun diplomatic efforts aimed at winding up headquarters of the UN Military Observers Group for India and Pakistan in Srinagar. Omission of the 63-year-old “flashpoint” from the UN list, that has served as lifeline for the sub-continental geo-political strife, has come as an unprecedented setback not only for Pakistan’s diplomacy but also for the Valley’s separatist leadership.

If highly placed authoritative sources are to be believed, Kashmir’s deletion from the list of outstanding world disputes is the result of New Delhi’s aggressive diplomatic campaign in which both United States of America (USA) and United Kingdom (now holding Chairmanship of the UNSC) have played key role. Sources privy to recent developments in South Block insisted that a major diplomatic exercise had been underway, weeks before the US President Barack Obama’s maiden visit to New Delhi, to get J&K removed from the UN list.

According to these sources, winding up UNMOGIP headquarters for ever in Sonwar area of this capital city, was part of New Delhi’s diplomatic exercise. Members of the Cabinet Committee on Security, senior Defence and intelligence officials, as also Jammu & Kashmir Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah, are said to have knowledge of the new development that could have significant diplomatic, strategic and political consequences. Granting India permanent membership in UNSC and settling the J&K dispute “in the next two years” are understood to be interlinked initiatives in which USA, UK and even China were playing a key role.

Even as the United Nations Peacekeeping Forces and UNSC had a complicated procedure to remove their bases from disturbed and disputes parts of the member countries, sources said that efforts were “visibly underway” to permanently close down UNMOGIP headquarters in Srinagar. Acceptable to Pakistan and unacceptable to India, UNMOGIP has been holding its headquarters for six months of the winter at Rawalpindi in Pakistan and for six months of the summer at Srinagar. All the top ranking observers, invariably from some west European countries, are currently at their Rawalpindi office. None of them could be reached for comments.

Stressing on implementation of the UN resolution of 1948 on J&K, Kashmir’s separatist leaders and their followers have been arranging marches to the UNMOGIP to pass on their memorandum to the observers since 1990. These resolutions and consequent placement of Jammu & Kashmir in the list of the world body’s unresolved disputes is being projected as the most authentic argument of the embattled state being a “disputed territory”.

As UNSC has no history of inadvertent lapses, Kashmir’s omission from the list of outstanding disputes has come as an unprecedented shock for heads of both factions of the separatist Hurriyat Conference. Hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani, who is known to react to everything and issues his statement bulletins without break every day, had not reacted to the big news till late this evening. However, his spokesman Ayaz Akbar maintained that it could have been an inadvertent lapse. He told KNS that the UN officials had not only confirmed to the agitating Islamabad but also assured that the lapse was being duly rectified.

In his immediate reaction, Chairman of so-called moderate faction of the Hurriyat Conference, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, said that he was surprised how the UNSC had removed J&K from the list when UNMOGIP bases was still existing in Srinagar as a perpetual endorsement of the 63-year-old dispute. He called it “shocking”.

Inspite of Pakistan’s public protest over Obama’s speech in the Indian parliament last week---when a US President for the first time declared support to New Delhi’s claim over a permanent UNSC seat and did not mention Kashmir---all of the Valley’s separatist leaders had hailed Obama’s reply to a journalist’s question as “victory”. Many in Srinagar understood Pakistan’s predicament and viewed the separatist leaders’ expression of “jubilation” as their attempt to come out of the 5-month-long agitation that is now dying down fast without any achievement for its sponsors. As many as 111 civilians died and more than 3,000 sustained injuries in this spell of turbulence.

Reports from Islamabad and Muzafarabad said that Chairman of United Jihad Council and “Supreme Commander” of Hizbul Mujahideen, Syed Salah-ud-din was viewing it as a major defeat of Pakistan’s diplomacy and foreign policy. In a statement, he is reported to have emphasized that the Kashmir dispute was the creation of none other than the UK (currently Chairman of UNSC) and it was that country’s bounden responsibility to solve it in accordance with the aspirations of the Kashmiris.

With everybody beginning celebrations of the festival of Eid-ul-Azha, that falls on Nov 17th this year, there was immediately no reaction to the unprecedented development from the common people in Kashmir.

SSPs ask CM to dismiss ‘stone pelter Govt employees’

Under pressure from Police, Govt not to release detainees on Eid

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Nov 13: Field officers in Jammu & Kashmir Police have urged Chief Minister Omar Abdullah to initiate process for termination of the services of Government employees who have been detained for their alleged involvement in the Valley’s separatist movement, particularly recent spell of street turbulence. Under pressure from Police, Government is understood to release none of the detainees around the festival of Eid-ul-Azha.

Highly placed government sources today revealed to Early Times that, around the forthcoming Eid, authorities were not going to release any of the people detained recently for their alleged involvement in stone pelting, mass mobilization for street demonstrations and clashes with Police/CRPF. Unspecified number of civilians---officials claim less than 400 and independent estimates put at around 1500---have been picked up and detained by Police in Valley in the last three months. Contrary to the tradition and common perception, “some more miscreants” are being arrested in the next three days, according to official sources.

Police and civil administration, according to these sources, have decided not to take any chances on the day of Eid on Nov 17th and the Friday following on Nov 19th. On both these days, congregational prayers are being organized at Eidgahs and mosques all over the Valley. The Government, according to these sources, has decided to permit all prayer assemblies but clergymen-cum-politicians like Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Syed Ali Shah Geelani, as also other prominent separatist activists, like Shabir Shah and Nayeem Khan, would remain under house arrest. Geelani today announced that he would be performing his Eid prayers on Nov 17th at Hazratbal.

Authorities are taking the “precautionary measures” in view of the turbulence on occasion of Eid-ul-Fitr on September 11th, when Mirwaiz led a rally of over 50,000 participants of the Eid prayers from Eidgah Grounds to Lalchowk and his followers not only caused massive damage to the lately recreated Clock Tower while hoisting Islamic and Pakistani flags but also set a major office complex on fire. Two days later, as many as 18 civilians died in clashes with Police and paramilitary forces, albeit over an incident of the desecration of Quran in USA. “Government will maintain order at any cost as nobody in the Valley has died in political clashes since September 6th when five people got killed in Police firing at Palhalan. As many as 111 civilians have died in similar incidents since June 11th but none in the last two months”, said a senior government functionary.

That the Government this time means business is evident from the fact that it has neither relented to release women like Asiya Andrabi nor allowed bail to succeed in PSA detention of men like advocate Mian Qayoom. Four particular separatist leaders---Geelani, Yasin Malik, Shabir Shah and Nayeem Khan---are understood to have been released after intervention of the Centre’s three interlocutors on Kashmir, Parliament Members of different political parties and some other track-2 activists.

Government is understood to have taken a tough stand in the matter of detention of trouble-makers after a number of SPs cautioned the Chief Minister through a teleconference on Nov 8th that his “velvet glow” policy had every potential of leading to an Eid-ul-Fitr-type mayhem around Nov 17th. District Police chiefs of Kupwara, Bandipore and Ganderbal specifically complained that respective District Magistrates had turned down all the dossiers of PSA detentions. DC of CM’s own constituency of Ganderbal has reportedly returned all the 10 dossiers and has been telling publicly that she had been “directed by honourable CM” not to detain anybody under PSA in her district.

SSPs and SPs have complained to Chief Minister that a large number of government employees had been found involved in stone pelting and other “anti-national political activities” but none of them had been ever dismissed from service in the last 17 years. Srinagar Police have registered FIR against a number of doctors at Government Medical College Srinagar over their “anti-India and pro-Pakistan rally” in July but none of the accused has been arrested, reportedly under orders of the Minister incharge Medical Education. It has been pointed out that among 946 persons, arrested in Srinagar alone, as many as 14 were regular employees of the state government and Police were still in search of 16 more who were absconding. Those arrested on account of their alleged participation in separatist demonstrations and stone pelting include two officials posted in Civil Secretariat.

Srinagar District Police claims to be in possession of “documentary evidence”, including video recording and photographs, to establish that the detained and wanted government employees had actively participated in stone pelting and separatist demonstrations this summer. Sources revealed that when SSP Srinagar, Ashiq Hussain Bukhari, stressed in the teleconference that “some more miscreants” would have to be picked up before Eid, Chief Minister gave him a positive nod and told him to make necessary planning in consultation with IGP Kashmir. According to these sources, three of the SPs made it clear to Chief Minister that the authorities’ battle for peace was not with Hurriyat and militants but actually with their supporters in other institutions, particularly the government employees.