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Saturday, November 27, 2010

Geelani warns Govt against ‘victimization’ of employees

Shutdown fails but SHO-advocate clash gives Hurriyat chief some ‘cause of action’

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Nov 27: Chairman of so-called hardline faction of the separatist Hurriyat Conference, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, has taken exception to IGP Kashmir S M Sahai’s revelation of 135 government employees being involved in stone pelting. Warning a fresh agitation, he expressed Hurriyat’s solidarity with the government employees and asserted that those “pursuing a cause for their nation” would not be left in the lurch.

Like in the last one month, Geelani-sponsored shutdown today was a flop show as official, civilian and commercial transport operated in entire Valley and most of the shops, business establishments, banks, government offices and educational institutes functioned normally. However, a large number of shops in Civil Lines in Srinagar remained closed. Still, over a hundred shops were sighted either fully open or partly shuttered. Like on normal days, there were traffic jams in the capital city, including in the separatist bastion of downtown Srinagar.

Today’s defiance of Geelani’s call---as also that of ten days in the last five weeks---was in sharp contrast to the complete shutdown Kashmir had witnessed for about four months in the middle of the current year. Four months of Geelani’s “Quit Jammu & Kashmir Movement” finally came to a dramatic end with the arrest of Muslim League leader, Massarat Alam Bhat, on October 18th.

Desperately awaited thaw for the government came with the arrest of nearly 1400 “stone pelters”---one thousand of them in the capital city alone---but not before the death of 111 civilians in Police and armed forces action, injuries to 4,000 civilians and even number of Police and CRPF personnel in street clashes and burning of public properties worth over Rs 100 Crore. Reacting to traffic jams on the days of his call for “civil curfew”, Geelani last week alleged at a news conference that the government had “purchased” the transporters to fail his shutdowns.

A day after IGP Kashmir said that all 135 government employees, allegedly involved in stone pelting and mass demonstrations, were being arrested and subjected to prosecution, Geelani said in a statement that those “pursuing a cause for their nation” would not be left in the lurch. He described “victimization” of the government employees as the “worst form of state terrorism”, warned Government against initiating any such action and declared that his conglomerate would strongly support any programme to be issued by the trade union leaders. He asserted that the government employees were part of their society and could not be expected to stand away from their national cause.

Geelani said that Government of India, in tandem with the state Government, was exercising the “same old policy that has miserably failed” with regard to dealing with the political turmoil. He also disputed IGP’s revelation that this year’s street agitation was a changed tactics of the militants. Geelani argued that statements and disclosures extorted from the detained Hurriyat activists like Ghulam Mohammad Tantray of Sopore were neither credible nor tenable in any forum of justice.

Referring to manhandling of an advocate, Babar Jan Qadiri, allegedly by SHO Ganderbal, Inspector Arshid Khan, at Police Station Ganderbal on Friday, Geelani said that it was yet another example of the “state terrorism”. He said that the advocate had visited the Police Station only to seek release of one Bashir Ahmed Qureshi. Quresi, according to him, was a Hurriyat leader and an Islamic scholar. Geelani said that the SHO assaulted the lawyer without any cause and left him “profusely hurt and bleeding”. He said that Hurriyat would soon work out a strategy, in consultation with intelligentsia, to prevent “such acts of state terrorism”.

While SHO Ganderbal was not available for his reaction to Geelani’s allegation, SP Ganderbal, Imtiyaz Hussain Mir, said that Police Station of Ganderbal had registered case Fir No: 176 of 2010 dated 26-11-2010, under section 353 RPC (assault on a public servant) against advocate Babar Jan Qadiri. Quoting text of the FIR, SP Ganderbal said that the advocate had barged into the Police Station and threatened him to release a detenue, Bashir Ahmed Qureshi. He revealed that a resident of Tangdar and working as Imam of a mosque at Wanbal in Srinagar, Qureshi was a member of Islamic Students League and he had been lately appointed as Tehreek-e-Hurriyat’s district incharge for Ganderbal.

Qureshi, he said, had been arrested in Kangan on the day of Eid-ul-Azha after SHO himself heard him making a highly objectionable, anti-national speech. While the remand granted by an Executive Magistrate in Kangan was about to expire, Police brought him to Ganderbal to seek extension in remand from a judicial magistrate. As the detenue and the Police party were about to leave for a local court, advocate Babar Jan appeared and asked the SHO to release Queshi. “You are our own brother. Don’t act like an Indian dog”, advocate is said to have told the SHO when he refused to oblige him.

SP Ganderbal maintained that the advocate assaulted the SHO and made good his escape but independent sources insisted that there was a “verbal clash and brawl” between the advocate and the SHO who were seen abusing and beating up each other. While the advocate called the SHO “an Indian dog”, the SHO called the former “a Pakistani dog” and pounced upon him. Both residents of Srinagar, the SHO and the advocate fought in full view of public and threatened to teach each other a lesson.

Sources said that a judicial court today released Qureshi on bail but members of Bar Association filed a complaint before Principal District and Sessions Judge Srinagar who directed IGP Kashmir to register a criminal case against the accused SHO under section 307 RPC (attempt to murder). IGP has sought a detailed report in the matter from Police Station Ganderbal.

Intifada-2010 was changed tactics of LeT, Pak Army, says IGP

135 Govt officials found involved in stone pelting, 7 held under PSA, 60 more being detained

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Nov 26: Inspector General of Police, Shiv Murari Sahai, today claimed that militant organization Lashkar-e-Toiba and Pakistani Army had a direct hand behind five-month-long street agitation in Kashmir valley this year. He said that in addition to regular separatist activists and social criminals like smugglers and drug racketeers, a section of the state government employees was also in the forefront of the turbulence. According to the head of executive Police in the Valley, as many as 135 government employees had been found involved in stone pelting, of whom seven had been held under Public Safety Act (PSA) and orders had been issued to arrest 60 more of them.

In order to establish that the street agitation was simply the changed strategy of Lashkar and Pakistani Army, S M Sahai produced a lately detained Pakistani militant at a news conference who was identified as Saleem Rehmani alias Abu Sayeed of Nawwab Shah, Sindh. IGP said that he had been arrested over a specific information recently in the Central Kashmir district of Budgam. Sahai, corroborated by Rehmani, said that a large number of Kashmiri and Pakistani guerrilla recruits were currently under training and indoctrination at a number of camps in Pakistan. He even claimed that Pakistani Army was even today supporting and encouraging infiltration of the trained militants one LoC and International Border dividing India and Pakistan. Rehmani, however, insisted that his organization was handling everything independently and he was not witness to any supporting role from the Pakistani armed forces.

Claiming to be quoting Rehmani’s disclosures, IGP said that over 300 cadres had been trained in guerrilla warfare at a number of camps in Pakistan recently and 50 of them were always in the infiltration mode at five lately created ‘launching pads” close to the disputed border. He claimed that 48 of the highly trained militants had succeeded in infiltrating into the Valley in the last few weeks, though three of them had been killed in an encounter with security forces in Lolab valley of Kupwara district. He said that search was underway to get others of the group arrested or eliminated. IGP said that the Pakistan-based militants, particularly Lashkar-e-Toiba cadres, and their sponsors in the Army had adopted stone pelting, attacks on public properties and street clashes with Police and CRPF as a fresh strategy after suffering major setbacks on the guerrilla front.

Sahai said that under orders from their high command in Pakistan, a number of militants were mobilizing the local youth and encouraging them to throw stones on Police and paramilitary forces. He said that some mosques and madrasas in the Valley were being used by these militants to indoctrinate and recruit fresh cadres. According to him, a detained militant had been found brainwashing the youth at a madrasa in Batmaloo area of this capital city. Sahai said that the detained militant had been found involved in throwing hand grenades in Sarafkadal and Safakadal in downtown Srinagar. He revealed that 18 hand grenades had been recovered from the stone pelting youth in Safakadal area while as one rifle grenade and a Police uniform had been seized from a stone pelter in Sopore.

IGP said that drug dealers and timber smugglers, besides Hurriyat activists, had played a key role in fomenting current year’s mass turbulence as they had developed vested interest in the mayhem. He disclosed that a Tehsil President of Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s Tehreek-e-Hurriyat had been arrested, of late, on account of his contact with the Pakistan-based militant, Furqan, in Baramulla, who had also revealed how Intifada-2010 was a “well orchestrated plan of the powers across the border”.

Sahai said that a large number of timber smugglers and drug racketeers had also kept the flames of turbulence high as they had discovered brisk business under the smokescreen of the “freedom struggle”. He said that the most disturbing part of the situation was perceptible involvement of several employees of the Government of Jammu & Kashmir. According to him, 135 government officials had been found seriously involved in carrying out street demonstrations and stone pelting. Of them, seven had been detained under PSA and orders had been issued to arrest 60 more of the unruly youth. IGP said that the state government was mulling strong action against these government officials.

As regards the flow of funds to the militants and separatist activists, IGP asserted that the Government had established control on the turbulence to a large extent and very serious efforts were now underway to lay hand on the financial infrastructure of the guerrilla outfits. 


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

I&B Ministry takes note of DD official’s fraudulent behaviour

Producer Shami Shair’s Oct 20th letter antedated on July 15th to subvert RTI

Early Times Report

SRINAGAR, Nov 24: Taking strong notice of Doordarshan Kendra Srinagar Executive Producer Shami Shair’s fraudulent behaviour, aimed at subverting Right to Information, union Ministry of Information & Broadcasting has not only decided to stop the official’s promotion but also directed DDK authorities to immediately furnish the information to a Jammu-based petitioner under intimation to Shastri Bhawan.

In his petition dated 13-09-2010, RTI activist and leading lawyer, advocate Sheikh Shakil Ahmed, had submitted a formal complaint to Minister incharge I&B, Ms Ambika Soni, and sought her intervention in the matter of denial of information to him by DDK Srinagar authorities. The petitioner had written to the Minister in detail how DDK Srinagar Director, Dr Rafeeq Masoodi, and Public Information Officer, Shabir Mujahid, had been continuously denying him information which he had sought under the central RTI Act 2005 on 19-03-2010.

In the backdrop of large scale bungling by DDK Srinagar officials, ddvocate Shakil had demanded details of the funds provided and claimed to have been spent during Dr Masoodi’s tenure on account of producing in-house programmes by seven particular producers, namely Shami Shair, Kausar Parveen, Haleema Parveen, Swadesh Bakhshi, Mufti Riyaz, Rasheed Javed and Zeeshan Fazil. He had also sought antecedents and addresses of the purported facility providers on whose name payments had been claimed and made in the last two years.

Under the law, DDK Srinagar authorities were supposed to provide complete information to the petitioner within 28 days. However, they ignored not only the petition but also repeated reminders from the petitioner for several months. In fact, one-odd response from PIO Shabir Mujahid made it clear to the petitioner that no information could be provided to him as long as there was “disturbance” in the Valley.

Following a contemptuous treatment to his petition, advocate Shakil sought intervention of the Minister I&B who advised Prasar Bharti Broadcasting Corporation of India and directed Directorate General of Doordarshan to ensure that the information sought under RTI was furnished to the petitioner immediately.

Under Secretary in I&B Ministry, Atyanand, vide his No: 4001/26/2010-BC-I Dated 28-09-2010, communicated to the petitioner that the Ministry had taken cognizance of his petition that had been forwarded to PBBCI and Directorate General of Doordarshan for immediate necessary action. Subsequently, PBBCI’s Director (Technical) & Chief Public Information Officer, George Kuruvilla, directed DDG Ashok Jailkhani to ensure that the information sought was provided to the petitioner. Thereafter, Appellate Authority and DDG Ashok Jailkhani, vide his No: DDG(AJ)/Misc(5)RTI/2010 Dated 11-10-2010, directed Dr Rafeeq Masoodi to ensure that the information was supplied to the petitioner within one month.

Even after such express orders and directions from Ministry of I&B, PBBCI and Directorate General of Doordarshan, Director DDK Srinagar, Dr Masoodi, asked his subordinate Executive Producer, Shami Shair, to send some 50 pages of any irrelevant information to the petitioner and mention the date of July 15th on the forwarding letter so as to pretend to the headquarters in New Delhi that the needful had been done. As per Dr Masoodi’s instructions, Shami Shair mentioned No: DKS/EP(SS)/2010 and Date: 15-07-2010 on the forwarding letter and posted an irrelevant plethora of papers to the petitioner on 20-10-2010. As clear from the post office seal and confirmed by the officials, Shami Shair actually dispatched this antedated letter on 20-10-2010 at Post Office Lalchowk.

However, advocate Shakil returned entire consignment of the 50 pages of completely irrelevant information, alongwith Shami Shair’s fraudulently antedated letter to Minister incharge I&B and sought only departmental action but also a high level inquiry into the conduct and irregularities being committed by DDK Srinagar officials without any fear of law.

Well-placed sources at Directorate General of Doordarshan revealed to Early Times today that the Ministry had taken strong notice of Dr Rafeeq Masoodi’s and Shami Shair’s fraudulent behaviour in seeking to mislead the highest authorities at Shastri Bhawan and Mandi House and a cheap method of subverting the RTI. Sources said that Shami Shair’s promotion, currently under process, was being stopped and she was being asked to explain her conduct in disregarding the Ministry’s, PBBCI’s and DG Doordarshan’s instructions. Her patrons in New Delhi have, nevertheless, begun efforts to prevent action against her and her boss in Srinagar.

Under orders of Ms Ambika Soni, Under Secretary in Ministry of I&B, Atyanand, has now directed DDG Ashok, vide No: 4001/26/2010-BC-I Dated 18-11-2010 to ensure that the information was supplied to the petitioner at an earliest. “I am to request that necessary action may please be taken to furnish the desired information to Sh Sheikh Shakil Ahmed sought under RTI Act under intimation to this Ministry”, Atyanand has written to Jailkhani. DDG has, in turn, directed DDK Srinagar authorities to comply with the headquarters’ orders partly within 15 days and fully within 30 days.


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

DDG admonishes Masoodi for ignoring RTI petition

Jammu advocate approaches Ambika, seeks probe in Srinagar DD scams

Early Times Report

SRINAGAR, Nov 23: Continuously boasting of his “strong connections’ to the Union Minister of Health and former J&K Chief Minister, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Director of Doordarshan Kendra (DDK) Srinagar, Dr Rafeeq Masoodi, has not only ignored directions from Prasar Bharti Broadcasting Corporation of India and Directorate General of Doordarshan but also sponsored a campaign to grab the additional charge of Radio Kashmir Srinagar and Commercial Broadcasting Service of All India Radio in Srinagar.

Well-placed sources in DD revealed to Early Times that immediately after managing his rival Bashir Arif’s unceremonious exit on October 29th by way of a four-month-long agitation in Radio Kashmir Srinagar, Masoodi had begun all-out efforts to get the additional charge of RKS as well as CBS in Srinagar. Even as his patron and CEO of PBBCCI, B S Lalli, has been cut to size by the political establishment and bureaucracy earlier this month, Masoodi is reportedly enjoying remarkable support from Azad and his well-entrenched coterie in New Delhi.

According to these sources, PBBCCI and AIR were in favour of shifting Director of Radio Kashmir Jammu, Javed Iqbal, to Srinagar and appointing him as Director of RKS with additional charge of Director CBS Srinagar. However, Azad is said to be putting his weight behind Masoodi and influencing his colleague and Union Minister of Information and Broadcasting, Ambika Soni, so as to ensure that incumbent Director of DDK Srinagar, Rafeeq Masoodi, was also given the additional charge of RKS and CBS. Assistant Director at RKS, Rukhsana Jabeen, has been officiating as head of both the stations of AIR since last month.

Sources said that for over the last four months, Masoodi engineered the rebellion in RKS in which his relatives and loyalists played the key role. In the wake of unending unrest, ignited and sponsored by Masoodi, Directorate General of AIR recently removed Bashir Arif as Director of CBS and incharge Director of RKS.

In order to restore order and discipline, DG AIR simultaneously removed two of the RKS officials, one of them Masoodi’s close relative on account of creating indiscipline and turning the once famous broadcasting station into a battlefield. From DDK to High Court, Masoodi was spotted openly lobbying and influencing different quarters to see that Bashir Arif’s stay order was vacated and that of his relative and confidant was maintained. As per his scheme of things, one part of DG AIR’s Order dated October 29th has been implemented and another part got stayed.

Impartial officials at RKS insist that Dr Masoodi was already “running Radio Kashmir Srinagar as well as CBS through remote control from Doordarshan Kendra Srinagar”. According to them, almost all Directors of DDK Srinagar have been perceiving Directors of RKS as a threat. “They spend huge money and leave no stone unturned to keep their potential threats in the lowest spirit”, said an official. He said that Masoodi had extra interest and stake in the sense that he has served as head of Radio Kashmir Srinagar and a particular lobby of the station officials is known for its association, relationship and loyalty to him.

Meanwhile, Deputy Director General (DDG) of Doordarshan, incharge of North India and a designated appellate authority for implementation of RTI Act, Ashok Jailkhani has taken strong exception to Dr Rafeeq Masoodi’s act of denying information to a petitioner for 250 days instead of 28 days provided in the law.

“It is not understood why the Kendra has been delaying supplying of the relevant information and despite clear instructions from the Directorate the Kendra has not carried out the orders”, DDG North India and Appellate Authority, Ashok Jailkhani, has written to Masoodi in his letter No: DDG(AJ)/Misc(5)/RTI/2010 Dated 18-11-2010. In a tersely worded direction, he has asked Director DDK Srinagar to provide half of the information sought within 15 days and complete information within next 30 days.

As already reported in this newspaper, Jammu-based RTI activist and leading lawyer, advocate Sheikh Shakil Ahmed, had filed an application under the central RTI Act of 2005 on 19-03-2010 and sought some information from DDK Srinagar which was supposed to be furnished to him within 28 days. He had sought details regarding the funds received and purportedly spent on production of in-house programmes by DDK Srinagar during Dr Rafeeq Masoodi’s tenure. He had specifically demanded details of the programmes claimed to have been produced by seven particular producers/ DDK Srinagar officials, namely Mrs Shammi Shair, Mrs Swadesh Bakhshi, Mrs Kousar Parveen, Mrs Haleema Parveen, Messers Mufti Riyaz, Zeeshan Fazil and Rasheed Javed.

His original application as well as his repeated reminders fell on the deaf ears of the DDK Srinagar authorities, who conveniently ignored to respond for several months. On one point of time PIO, Shabir Mujaid, wrote to the petitioner that the information sought could not be collected and provided to him as long as there was “disturbance” in Kashmir. Advocate Shakil later submitted a petition to Minister incharge Information and Broadcasting, Ambika Soni, following which DDG Jailkhani directed Masoodi to furnish the information to the petitioner by or before 13-11-2010 without further delay and excuses. However, that too failed to move Mr Azad’s man at DDK Srinagar.

Earlier this month, Advocate Shakil was constrained to again seek intervention of the Union Minister of I&B. In his fresh application, he has sought the Minister’s attention towards the rampant corruption and lack of accountability at DDK Srinagar and requested her to order a high level inquiry into the allegation heaping up against senior officials of the station. Jailkhani has subsequently admonished Masoodi and directed him to furnish complete information to the petitioner within 30 days.

Kashmir columnists begin to question Geelani’s ‘obduracy’

As the last Intifada death gets farther, scribes brace up to raise questions

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Nov 22: As both, September 6th (when J&K Police and CRPF left five dead and nearly a dozen injured in an attack on the newly appointed IGP S M Sahai’s cavalcade at Palhalan) and September 13th (when 18 persons fell to bullets while demonstrating against a disputed incident of the desecration of holy Quran in USA) are fading out into the history, a small number of scribes and columnists have begun to raise questions with regard to five-month-long shutdown and stone pelting.

For five hot months of the year, hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani has bagged the credit of a mass mobilisation that, many believed, brought New Delhi literally on the ground over Kashmir. The octogenarian showed no mood of sharing the credit of Intifada-2010 with anybody in the Valley’s separatist camp---not even with die-hard Massarat Alam and Asiya Andrabi.

He enjoyed similar command and confidence even in Intifada-2008 when he publicly humiliated fellow icons of the “freedom struggle”, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik. Without paying any attention to the eagerly waiting ‘Azadi comrades at the 50,000-strong Tourist Reception Centre rally, Geelani yelled as many as 10 times: “ham Pakistani hain, Pakistan hamara hai” (We are for Pakistan, Pakistan is for us). He signed off the event and left the dais without even shaking hands with the young Mirwaiz, whose father held Pakistan’s banner high in the worst of times when Geelani served in the Indian legislature, and Malik, whose JKLF pioneered the armed struggle in 1987-88.

Shedding of tears by the “moderate” duo resulted in a small healing touch. Word of caution and advice of sharing some space with the colleagues poured on to Hyderpora from unknown quarters. Within an hour Geelani called media to his home to rectify “an error”. Adding insult to injury, Hurriyat’s Big Brother played down his 7-minute-long episode of “only me” as “a slip of the tongue” (Sibgat-e-Lisaani). This year around, he got a bigger suppliant in Chief Minister Omar Abdullah who sent his high profile envoy to win the detained separatist icon’s blessings at the Cheshma Shahi jail hut.

Even after his release, Geelani neither listened to Mirwaiz Umar’s advice of moderation not shared the “stage of unity” with him at Eidgah on the day of Eid-ul-Fitr, on September 11th. Much like Sheikh Abdullah, Geelani has not shown the trait of sharing credit. Now that the Ragda--- colloquial phrase for the crass form of resistance--- is over and nobody has died on Kashmir’s streets for Azadi in the last two-and-a-half months, Geelani is singularly at the receiving end of public criticism. He has been firmly arguing that 111 civilian deaths in the five-month-long stone pelting and shutdown have “highlighted the Kashmir dispute” for the world.

One of the widely read columnists, who also teaches at University of Kashmir and has never hesitated to wear his pro-freedom credentials, writes in an op-ed piece in a leading Srinagar daily on Sunday: “Yes Kashmir has been in focus all these months for the simple reason that it made news. Even a calamity-hit region hogs the headline and invites media attention, but who will bring home a disaster to attract spotlight. No dispute, that Indian military occupation in Kashmir is responsible for all the violence and mayhem. No second thoughts, that state crushed a popular resistance by force. No denying, that police mowed down the voices of dissent on the roadside as brutally as it has done in the past. But why do we use this huge monster of state oppression as a fig-leaf to cover our own nakedness.  Our blood is not that cheap to be offered for a mere news coverage even if it's global. Nothing is worth the life of an ordinary human being.  What we feel so triumphant about must be the moment of a devastating grief for all of us”.

“Truth has stung us always. Our failure or success painfully depends on the amount of blood spilt in the streets. What worries us, paradoxically, is not a life lost, but a life saved. Pity the nation whose people stay relevant as long as its streets are drenched in blood. The day stains are washed off, their relevance comes under question”, he adds.

One hundred bereaved families, out of 111, have so far taken home ex-gratia relief of Rs 5 Lakh each in just weeks of the local newspapers highlighting them as the ones who were ready to sacrifice other of their sons for Kashmir’s Azadi. Much like in 2008, there are now traffic jams of the days of “civil curfew” called by Geelani. The other day only, he alleged that commercial transporters had been “purchased by the government”. All government offices and educational institutions remain open and most of the shopkeepers now defy the call for shutdown, of course, without making it a public statement of India’s victory or Hurriyat’s defeat. This has brought confidence back to the scribes who were known for their cynicism and pessimism towards the separatist leadership, though not essentially entire separatist movement.

Shooting salvo after salvo on Geelani--- left, right and center--- editors of two local newspapers---one in Urdu, another in English--- have not only blasted Geelani in their own dailies, but have also made a well-circulated vernacular weekly their platform of attacking the separatist hawk and his methodology of carrying forward “Kashmir’s freedom movement”. Last week, Geelani called a full-length press conference to admonish his detractors, inviting them for a public debate over Intifada-2010 but only to the place of his choice.

“These writers have never penned a word against the atrocities done by Indian forces. We are fully aware of their history, geography and friend circle”, Geelani said about the critics while invoking the cliché insinuation of their being “India’s paid agents”.
Unlike the author of the op-ed piece, Geelani has an advantage over the weekly ‘Chattaan’ columnists. Both, alongwith the editor, have been part of two-decade-long ideological crusade against Jamaat-e-Islami, Hizbul Mujahideen and Pakistan.