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Saturday, August 6, 2011


2 cops arrested in Sopore
custodial killing

SP sent Nazim’s confession to DGP at 10:27 pm

Sopore youth owned 2 murders, revealed how he got Ashraf and Jana Mir killed

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Aug 6: Twenty-eight-year-old Nazim Rashid Shala had confessed his involvement in at least two assassinations before he succumbed to physical torture in custody of Special Operations Group (SOG) of Sopore Police on July 31. This had been conveyed by then SP Sopore to Director General of Police by SMS at 10.27 p.m and same is believed to have flown further to Chief Minister Omar Abdullah. Making first arrests in the custodial killing, Police today took into custody two SOG personnel even as more arrests are likely during the investigation.

Special Investigation Team (SIT) headed by DIG North Kashmir Munir Khan, today arrested two policemen allegedly involved in custodial killing of Nazim Rashid Shala. An official handout identified them as selection grade constables Nisar Ahmad (No: 203/Sopore) and Mohammad Abass (No: 243/ Sopore). Case FIR No: 202 /2011, under section 302 RPC, had been filed in police station Sopore when public outcry against the custodial killing threatened to disturb eight-month-long period of peace in Valley.

Well-placed authoritative sources revealed to Early Times that Government was keenly waiting for the magisterial inquiry being conducted by SDM Sopore, Mohammad Ahsan Mir. “Decision with regard to arrest of senior officials could be taken only after submission of his report by SDM”, a senior official said. He, however, had no idea whether action against the Dy SP, Ashiq Hussain Tak, and then SP Sopore, Altaf Khan, would remain restricted to their attachment and transfer, respectively.

Early Times learned from well-placed sources that Police had picked up Nazim Rashid a day after he figured as the man who had called his friend, Mohammad Ashraf Dar, out of his home. Minutes later, unidentified gunmen had shot dead Ashraf Dar on July 28th. According to sources, Nazim revealed during interrogation on July 30th that he had helped militants of Lashkar-e-Tayyiba in eliminating Ashraf Dar on July 28th and another resident of Sopore, namely Shamsuddin alias Jana Mir, a couple of months back.

Nazim’s interrogation report (IR) explains that he had made a phone call to a Major of Rashtriya Rifles 52 Bn and told him that he had heard some gunshots and somebody had been shot dead by militants in his locality. The Major, in turn, called Ashraf and asked him to find as to who had been killed. Meanwhile Nazim called Ashraf and told him that Major had called him about someone’s killing in the locality. Ashraf told Nazim that Major had made a similar call to him. Thereupon, both decided to venture out and see as to who had been killed. Call detail analysis of the cellphones of Nazim, Major and Ashraf makes it clear that all these conversations occurred at least 15 minutes before Ashraf was actually gunned down.

Chief Minister Omar Abdullah had castigated separatist leaders and their sympathizers over the killing of Ashraf Dar and asked them on his Twitter why they had chosen to be mute to this poor civilian killing.

Since everybody from Chief Minister to Principal Secretary Home to DGP was keen to get a breakthrough in Ashraf Dar’s assassination, SP Sopore, Altaf Khan, informed DGP by SMS that two out of three killings had been solved.

SP Altaf Khan’s SMS, sent to DGP Mr Kuldeep Khoda, at 10.27 p.m on July 30th reads: “Murder case of Ashraf Dar, who was killed day before yesterday, solved with the arrest of Nazim Rashid Shalla @ Naveed Anjum. Furthermore, he has confessed about killing of one Jana Mir, thereby giving lead to his murder as well. Furthermore, he has identified the person who issues death warrants in the area. He will be picked up tonight”.

It was late in the night that a Police party got one Mohammad Shaban Dar arrested when Nazim identified him as the man issuing death warrants. Shaban is the brother of top wanted Lashkar militant, Bilal Ahmad Dar alias Huzaifa, However, Nazim died before he could be confronted with Shaban. Nazim, according to IR, revealed to his interrogators before his death that Bilal Ahmed Dar had shot dead Ashraf in his presence. He also revealed that Jana Mir too had been gunned down in his presence by Bilal Dar and Ghulam Nabi Doglu, who later died in an encounter with forces at Seer. Audio recording of Nazim’s confessions has been preserved and seized by Police.


Friday, August 5, 2011

Dir SKIMS under fire over ‘VIP treatment’ to separatists

DM chief shifted to Central Jail; Geelani’s letters to Dr Zargar under scanner

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Aug 5: Within weeks of his appointment as Director of the prestigious Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS), eminent gastroenterologist Dr Shaukat Ali Zargar seems to be landing in trouble over “providing VIP treatment to hardcore separatist leaders”. Notwithstanding his personal orders of lodging Asiya Andrabi in a VIP Room, authorities have today shifted detained Dukhtaraan-e-Millat Chairperson back to Srinagar Central Jail.

Authoritative sources revealed to Early Times that top echelons of the state administration have taken serious notice of Director SKIMS’ decision of not only providing one of the two VIP Rooms of his hospital to the banned Dukhtaraan chief, Asiya Andrabi, but also prolonging her admission without any compelling reason. Confirmation is still awaited but sources insist that Mrs Andrabi was shifted back to Srinagar Central Jail today after a reprimand on senior SKIMS authorities.

Detained under Public Safety Act (PSA), Mrs Andrabi had been taken to SKIMS for medical examination under court orders in the middle of July. She had complained of backache besides pain in her chest and heart area. On personal orders of Director SKIMS, officials had lodged her in VIP Room of the hospital. Dr Zargar also constituted a team of doctors, mainly from departments of Physical Medicine and General Medicine, for round-the-clock observation and treatment of the separatist leader. Head of Department of Physical Medicine, Dr Ali Mohammad Bohra, was appointed as head of the team.

Sources said that during two weeks of observation and a variety of examinations and investigations, doctors declared Mrs Andrabi fit for discharge though they advised her some physiotherapy exercises because of a disc. They did not detect any other ailment. On July 30th, Prof Bohra ordered on the file that Mrs Andrabi be discharged immediately.

However, within minutes, Director SKIMS called Mrs Andrabi’s file to his office and recorded that the patient be retained in the VIP Room of the hospital. He not only overruled Prof Bohra’s advice but also removed him as head of the team taking special care of the Dukhtaraan chief. Assistant Professor Dr Javed was appointed as the new head of the team.

When authorities in the state government learned that the DM chief was being lodged at SKIMS “without any valid reason” and a VIP Room had been allotted to her, they increased surveillance. It was reported to senior officials in Police and Home department that Dr Zargar had not only provided extraordinary VIP treatment to the radical separatist leader but had also been visiting her two to three times every day.

Authorities, according to sources, also learned that Dr Zargar had received at least three letters of recommendation from Chairman of the radical faction of Hurriyat Conference, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, and acted in accordance with his desire. All these letters, sources said, were on the official letterhead of the Chairman of Hurriyat Conference and President of Tehreek-e-Hurriyat.

Digging deep into his past, Police have observed that in 1991, Dr Zargar, alongwith five other senior government officials, had spearheaded shutdown of government offices for over two months. Their demands included reprimanding India over “gross human rights violations in Kashmir” and holding Plebiscite in Jammu and Kashmir in accordance with the UN resolutions. Governor’s administration had terminated services of all six of the leaders of the agitation.
However, the agitation had been called off over reinstatement of the dismissed officials.

Allegation of “providing VIP treatment to separatist leaders” has surfaced against Dr Zargar at a time when Cabinet Minister, Aga Ruhulla, alleged publicly that he had been maltreated and attacked by Dr Zargar and his PSO when he was attending on his mother at a VIP Room, adjacent to Asiya’s.

Meanwhile, in a press release, officiating Chairperson of Dukhtaraan-e-Millat, Rifat Fatima, expressed her concern over Asiya’s shifting to Central Jail. She alleged that Government of India was pushing the detained separatist leader to death. She said it was surprising that the same doctors, who were preparing her for physiotherapy in the morning on Friday, discharged her from the hospital in the afternoon without explaining any reason. She said that doctors were “clearly under pressure” in discharging Mrs Andrabi. She questioned the administration of justice and lamented that Asiya had been detained under third PSA in the last one year.


Thursday, August 4, 2011

Pulwama tense over killing of LeT commander

Police vehicle torched by mob; 33 injured in clash, firing, stampede

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Aug 4: Reminiscent of an identical incident in 2009, residents of Pulwama, in South Kashmir, today clashed with Police after the death of a Lashkar-e-Tayyiba commander in a fierce gunbattle and set ablaze a vehicle. Ten civilians and 23 Police personnel, including a Dy SP, have reportedly sustained injuries in the resultant firing and stampedes.

Informed sources in South Kashmir told Early Times that Police, CRPF 182 Bn and troops of Rashtriya Rifles 55 Bn launched a cordon-and-search operation at Khaar Mohalla of village Puchhal, in Pulwama district, in the wee hours on Wednesday. According to the source information, one or two militants of Lashkar-e-Tayyiba were hiding in the village at the house of PDP’s elected Sarpanch, Abdul Aziz Khan. Militants opened fire on the troops, triggering off a fierce gunbattle. Stand-off continued for nearly 24 hours.

When firing resumed in the morning today, hundreds of residents from nearby villages of Ratnipora and Trich advanced towards the site of the encounter in an attempt to protect a local militant holed up in the operation. Sources said that Police and CRPF resisted the advance of the crowds with baton charge and tearsmoke. Meanwhile, troops destroyed PDP Sarpanch’s house with heavy firing and IEDs. One militant was found dead. He was identified as Shakoor Ahmad Teli alias Saif alias Abu Bakr S/o Abdul Razaq Teli R/o Bagh-e-Trich, Pulwama. Officials described him as the “District Commander” of Lashkar-e-Tayyiba.

While the operation was concluding with the death of the local militant, crowds shouted pro-Azadi and anti-India slogans. In the fierce clashes between the residents and the Police and security forces, as many as 23 Police personnel sustained injuries. Official sources said that Dy SP Headquarters and a local Chowki Officer were among the 23 injured. According to these sources, nine civilians sustained injuries in these clashes and later one more, reportedly a government employee, were injured during similar clashes at Trichh.

Violent crowds resorted to heavy stone pelting and Police/CRPF retaliated with heavy baton charge and tearsmoke. Ding dong clashes continued for over an hour.

Hundreds of residents later swooped on a Tata-407 of Pulwama District Police when it carried the dead body of the slain militants to his home at Trichh. Sources said that angry crowds engaged in violent clashes with Police and CRPF. They captured the Tata-407 after taking custody of the dead body and set it on fire. It suffered extensive damage. On this occasion, Police again opened fire. Two civilians, namely Farooq Ahmed Mir S/o Mohammad Kamal and Hilal Ahmed Lone S/o Mohammad Yousuf Lone, residents of Ratnipora, sustained injuries. Farooq Mir was immediately evacuated and rushed to Srinagar for medical treatment. Sources said that late tonight, he was recuperating at SKIMS. Those injured at Puchhal and Trichh included an elected Panch.

A Police spokesman said in today’s bulletin: “As soon the advance party was carrying out the search, it was fired upon which was retaliated, thus triggering an encounter. In the ensuing encounter, one militant Shakoor Ahmad Teli @ Saif @ Abu Bakar  self styled District Comdr, of the Lashkar-e-Toiba-(LeT) son of Abdul Razak resident of Bagh-e-Trich Pulwama got killed. The slain militant had been active since 2007 and was involved in a number of militancy related cases and in the killings of civilians- the latest of the incident being, firing on a civilian at Koil area.

“Soon after the operation concluded, some miscreants resorted to heavy stone pelting on Police and security forces deployments and also set ablaze a Police vechicle. In an effort to bring the situation back to normal, two persons, Abdul Rehman Dar son of Ali Mohammad Resident of Ratnipora Pulwama and Amir Ahmad Dar son of Ghulam Hassan resident of Lajoora-Pulwama  received injuries in their  left arm  and left thigh respectively, who  were shifted to Srinagar for further treatment”.

Though SP Pulwama, Amit Kumar, and DIG South Kashmir, Shafqat Watali, did not respond to phone calls, reports from Pulwama said that a suburban Pinglena area, comprising over a dozen villages, was tense with the presence and movement of heavy security bandobust. According to these reports, hundreds of residents participated in the funeral procession and Namaz-e-Janazah of the slain militant commander amid shouting of anti-India and pro-Azadi slogans.


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Valley shuts on custodial killing in Sopore

Cops responsible for causing death of civilian by torture being arrested

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Aug 3: August 2011 is still no match to August 2010 when as many as 30 civilian protestors and arsonists died in Police and paramilitary firing in Kashmir valley in just first half of the month. The custodial killing of a 28-year-old in Sopore has, nevertheless, caused a major threat to the eight-month-long fragile peace. Valley today observed near-total shutdown on the separatist hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s call, even as no significant incident of violence was reported from anywhere and most of the government offices functioned normally.

Geelani’s call, supported by head of the rival faction of Hurriyat Conference Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, evoked substantial response as most of the shops and business establishments, besides commercial transport, remained shut in the capital city as well as other major towns in Valley. Significantly, most of Geelani’s shutdown calls since October last year had been treated with contempt by the Kashmiris, who seemed pretty concerned today over the death of a youth in custody of SOG. Nazim Rashid Shala of Krankshivan Colony, Sopore, had died during severe physical torture when SOG interrogators allegedly attempted to get his confession in the assassination of two or three persons by militants.

Demonstrating his commitment to zero-tolerance of custodial killings by government agencies, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has already ordered a slew of remedial measures. While a murder case has been filed against the SOG personnel, head of the SOG unit, Dy SP Ashiq Hussain Tak, has been attached. Three more personnel have been placed under suspension. In a significant development, SP Sopore, Altaf Khan, has been removed to a battalion of armed Police and one of the most competent SPs, namely Imtiyaz Hussain Mir, has been appointed as the district Police chief in Sopore. Besides, DIG North Kashmir, Munir Khan, is supervising a high level Police investigation and SDM Sopore, Mohammad Ahsan Mir, is separately conducting a magisterial inquiry.

Imtiyaz Mir today joined as SP Sopore over two years after his departure from the apple town. In 2006-09, this 1999-batch KPS officer had restored normality almost fully in Sopore.

Notwithstanding near-total shutdown today, large number of private vehicles operated in Valley as usual. Petrol pumps were also in business at several places. Most of the government offices and educational institutions, banks, offices of the Central government, bakeries and groceries functioned normally. With a modest Police and paramilitary deployment being in place at all “flashpoints”, there were no restrictions on civilian movement. Most of the separatist leaders either chose to remain indoors or were placed under “house arrest”.

Reports said that thin groups of youth gathered at four or five places in the capital city, besides at four places in Sopore and Baramulla towns. They shouted pro-Azadi and anti-India slogans and subsequently clashed with Police and CRPF. Responding to mild stone pelting by these groups, Police resorted to baton charge and firing of tearsmoke canisters to disperse the crowds. Demonstrators relented with little resistance but calm prevailed for whole of the day.

Today’s daily bulleting from Police Headquarters read: “Following a strike call by factions of separatists, situation remained normal and under control throughout Kashmir Valley today. There was no report of any untoward incident from any place. In most of the towns and Srinagar city, shops were partially open, and private traffic plied normally. At many places in Srinagar and other towns, public transport also plied”.
Authoritative sources, meanwhile, revealed that administrative action against the guilty personnel in Sopore was likely next week as all of them could be arrested and detained for questioning, if found involved in custodial killing of the Sopore youth. Police high ups maintained that they were waiting for the post mortem report. According to them, at least three SOG personnel, including a Sub Inspector, were likely to be arrested and prosecuted for violating Standard Operating Procedure of the custodial interrogation.


Tuesday, August 2, 2011

CM shifts SP to pacify Sopore amid attack on PDP MLAs

Imtiyaz brought back as SP Sopore, Shahid Meraj posted in Ganderbal

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Aug 2: Playing a veritable gamble of the year and risking rank demoralization in Police, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah today ordered immediate shifting of SP Sopore, Altaf Khan, for “fair and impartial investigation” into the custodial killing of a civilian on July 31st. Whether this significant administrative action would achieve the objective of pacifying an agitated apple town or would prove counterproductive by emboldening the defeated stone pelters would possibly become clear in the next two days.

Highly placed authoritative sources told Early Times that on the local political advice, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah today decided to shift 1999 batch KPS officer, Altaf Khan, as SP of Sopore with the calculation that transfer of the senior most district police officer would pacify residents of Sopore. Krankshivan and adjoining peripheral localities of Sopore have been outraged with the death of 27-year-old shopkeeper, Nazim Rashid Shala, who died during custodial interrogation on July 31st. Son of a retired Sub Inspector of J&K Police, Nazim Rashid had been picked up by SOG Sopore and subjected to interrogation as his name had reportedly figured among the “accomplices” of some militants who have gunned down three civilians in the last few weeks.

Radical separatist leader, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, who is a resident of Sopore area and has functioned as MLA of Sopore for 11 years before leading a separatist armed struggle in 1990, has called for shutdown against the custodial killing on August 3rd. In a significant development, Chairman of a rival faction of the Hurriyat Conference, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, today extended unconditional support to Geelani’s call and threatened violence if the authorities failed to end home confinement of separatist leaders by tomorrow. He said that he would assert as Mirwaiz (religious head) of the Kashmiris and call upon them to defend their faith.

Sources said that on Chief Minister’s directions, Government ordered immediate shifting of Altaf Khan. According to the order, which had not reached the concerned Police officials till late this evening, SP Sopore, Altaf Khan, has been transferred and appointed as Commandant of JKAP 9th Bn. SP Ganderbal, Imtiyaz Hussain Mir, who had impressively functioned as SP Sopore for nearly two years and restored normality in Geelani’s constituency in 2006-09, has been transferred and yet again appointed as SP Sopore. SP Crime Branch Kashmir, Shahid Meraj Rather, has been transferred and appointed as the new SP of Ganderbal---Assembly constituency of Chief Minister Omar Abdullah. All three KPS 1999-batch officers would be joining new places of posting on Wednesday.

An official press release said that Minister of State for Home, Nasir Aslam Wani, chaired a high-level meeting of Home Department to review the progress of ongoing investigation into the alleged custodial death of Nazim Rashid Shalla, alias Naved Anjum, at Sopore on July 31.The meeting was attended by Director General of Police, Mr. Kuldeep Khoda and Principal Secretary, Home, Mr. B. R. Sharma.
“During the meeting, it was decided that DIG, North Kashmir Range, Mr. Muneer Ahmad Khan, will be the overall in-charge of the ongoing investigation. The meeting also reviewed the progress of the magisterial inquiry being conducted by SDM, Sopore, Mr. Muhammad Ahsan Mir. In order to ensure fair and impartial investigation into the incident, it was decided to transfer SP Sopore with immediate effect”, it added.
Immediately after the 31-month-long Omar Abdullah government’s first custodial killing surfaced on Sunday last, Government had ordered attachment of the head of SOG Sopore, Dy SP Ashiq Hussain Tak, besides suspension of three more Police officials, registration of a murder case against Police, a Police inquiry to be headed by DIG North Kashmir Munir Khan, besides a magisterial inquiry, to be conducted by SDM Sopore, Mohammad Ahsan Mir, and supervised by DC Baramulla, Bashir Ahmed Bhat.
On his Twitter, Chief Minister had announced in unambiguous terms that there would be a no-nonsense investigation and follow up action without any delay and excuse.
Sources said that immediately after IGP Kashmir, S M Sahai, left for New Delhi to participate in the funeral and condolence meetings of his maternal uncle, Chief Minister conveyed his decision to MoS Home, Principal Secretary Home and DGP. Even as DGP did not favour shifting of SPs at this stage and wanted action only after completion of the investigation, Government decided to go for the minor shake-up in Police. According to sources, DGP also expressed his apprehensions that shifting of senior Police officers, who according to him, had impressively functioned and controlled both militancy as well as law and order situation, could demoralize rank and file in Police and paramilitary forces.
Reports from Sopore said that immediately after learning about the SP’s unceremonious ouster, hundreds of youth gathered and began enforcing shutdown in advance of Geelani’s call. They heckled a delegation of PDP legislators and forced it to return without visiting the bereaved family. The delegation was led by senior Vice President of PDP, Maulvi Iftikhar Hussain Ansari. Sixteen MLAs and four MLCs were in the delegation alongwith few other party leaders. Party’s patron, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, President Mehbooba Mufti and senior leader Muzaffar Hussain Baig were conspicuously absent. Sources said that the Muftis earlier today left to New Delhi to see off Mehbooba’s daughter who was leaving for overseas studies.
Reports said that groups of youth shouted pro-Azadi, anti-India, anti-Police and anti-Government slogans and resorted to heavy stone pelting on the PDP cavalcade, forcing it to return to Srinagar. Back home, Ansari alleged that NC’s workers had, in fact, attacked the PDP cavalcade. Reports said that Police had a tough time in rescuing the PDP leaders and dispersing the crowds with baton charge and tearsmoke.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Kulgam, Sopore fail to cause 2010-type eruption

Mehbooba under house arrest, Geelani calls for shutdown over Sopore killing

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Aug 1: Eight-month-long period of peace in the Valley seems to have survived two major tests as neither the alleged gang rape of a woman in Kulgam nor a brazen custodial killing in Sopore has led to a mass uprising like in the summer of 2008 and 2010.

Barring few minor incidents, no significant provocation had come from government agencies to the people in Valley since September 13th 2010---the last episode of street violence and killing. The first major threat to peace surfaced last fortnight when 28-year-old Ruqayya W/o Lateef Bhatti of Gujjardhar (Manzgam), Kulgam, complained that she had been kidnapped, held in wrongful confinement and subjected to “gang rape” by two soldiers of the Indian army.

Unlike in several incidents last year, Government quickly filed an FIR, got the complainant’s as well as other witnesses’ statements recorded and also submitted the vaginal swabs to the FSL. Even as the FSL report is still under wraps, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah told mediapersons at SKICC today that a breakthrough had been achieved. He asserted that it would be shared with the press and the common people in a couple of days.

Second serious threat to the season’s peace came from Sopore where the counter-insurgent Special Operations Group (SOG) of Jammu & Kashmir Police arrested a 27-year-old shopkeeper who died during the course of custodial interrogation. In 31-month-long Omar Abdullah government, one Manzoor Ahmed Baig had died in custody of SOG Srinagar on 19th of May, 2009. It was quickly established a death due to cardiac arrest. Baig had been called to the SOG by an official and asked to return an amount of money he had borrowed from another civilian but had failed to liquidate the debt.

Registration of a murder case and immediate attachment of the head of SOG Sopore, Dy SP Ashiq Hussain Tak, came as an official confirmation of the custodial killing. On Sunday, as well as today, trouble remained restricted to Krankshivan Colony, in the periphery of the apple-rich township in north Kashmir. No major clash between the residents and Police/CRPF has been reported in the last 48 hours, though hundreds of people gathered at the funeral and shouted anti-India and pro-Azadi slogans. Late last night, Minister of State for Home, Nasir Aslam Wani, Director General of Police, Kuldeep Khoda, as also DC Baramulla, Bashir Ahmed Bhat, and DIG North Kashmir, Munir Khan, visited Sopore. They made a failed attempt to meet with members of the bereaved family. Nevertheless, their interaction with a number of influential citizens reduced tension to a great extent.

Today’s reports from Sopore indicated that vehicular traffic operated without any disruption, though most of the shops in the town remained shut. Small number of visitors to the bereaved family served as an indicator of the masses being not much involved.

Politicians are, nevertheless, making the best of their efforts to visit Sopore and create some trouble for the NC-Congress ruling coalition. Almost all of the Valley’s political and social organizations have condemned the custodial killing of the youth and made varied demands.

Chairman of the radical faction of Hurriyat Conference, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, who happens to be a resident of Sopore area, today called for total shutdown on August 3rd. He, significantly, complained that Nazim Rashid alias Naveed Anjum had been eliminated for he, according to Geelani, was an eyewitness to the killing of another civilian, Mohammad Ashraf Dar. Geelani said that the sequence of fresh killings in Sopore, including the death of Ashraf and Nazim Rashid, was the “handiwork of agencies”. Word “Indian” was significantly missing in his statement.

With many eyes on response to Geelani’s call, Omar Abdullah government has, for the first time, placed leader of the principal opposition party (PDP), Mehbooba Mufti, under “house arrest”. She was not allowed to proceed to Sopore yesterday. Mehbooba attended District Development Board meeting of Shopian but was prevented from visiting Sopore in the afternoon today. She was forcibly lifted, alongwith a number of her party colleagues, from a dharna at the old TRC complex and confined to her official accommodation at Gupkar Road. Police put up a heavy lock on the main gate and served on her District Magistrate’s order that asked her to remain confined within the premises.

It was first time that District Magistrate has served such an order on a mainstream political leader in the last over two years.

Much remains to be seen on Wednesday next but, as of now, it appears that a major volcanic eruption is not around the corner in Kashmir.


Sunday, July 31, 2011

First custodial killing of Omar Govt happens in Geelani’s Sopore

·        Omar on Twitter: Inexcusable human rights violation

·        Murder case filed, Dy SP attached, 3 cops placed under suspension

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Jul 31: Thirty-one-month-old Omar Abdullah government’s first custodial killing has occurred in the separatist hawk Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s hometown of Sopore in north Kashmir. Twenty-five-year-old shopkeeper’s death has led to minor street demonstrations in the apple-rich town, besides “house arrest” of a number of separatist and mainstream political leaders in Srinagar even as the government has registered a murder case against Police, a Dy SP has been attached and three more personnel have been placed under suspension.

Informed sources told Early Times that a unit of Special Operations Group (SOG) had picked up a young grocer, Nazim Rashid Shala alias Anjum---lonely son of a retired Police Sub Inspector Abdul Rashid Shala---from his locality of Krankshivan Colony of Sopore in the afternoon on Saturday. Reportedly wanted in the investigation of the killing of one Mohammad Ashraf Dar, who was gunned down by suspected militants near his home at Naseembagh, Sopore, on July 27th evening, Nazim was detained and subjected to custodial interrogation. In the wee hours today, he breathed his last in custody of SOG Sopore.

Apprehending anti-Police and anti-Government demonstrations, included violent clashes at several places, authorities in the morning sounded an alert throughout the Valley. After the pause of calm for nearly eight months, Police and CRPF personnel carrying batons, shields and tearsmoke canisters, were spotted in movement at several places in this capital city and other major towns in the Valley. People at large, however, remained indifferent to the news of first killing by Police after September 13th, 2010.

Even as the wave of unrest remained restricted to just a part of Sopore town and it did not engulf the Valley, authorities forced home confinement of a number of separatist leaders, including heads of both factions of the Hurriyat Conference, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Syed Ali Shah Geelani. Sources said that Police also locked the main entrance of the PDP President Mehbooba Mufti’s official premises at Gupkar Road and thus prevented her from proceeding to Sopore.

Reports from Sopore said that traffic and commercial establishments functioned normally in Sopore. However, shops were seen shut in Krankshivan Colony. Scores of people in Krankshivan Colony and its adjoining peripheries staged anti-Government, anti-Police, anti-India and pro-Azadi demonstration while shouting slogans and demanding immediate arrest and termination of the services of the Police personnel responsible for the youth’s custodial killing. Police resorted to baton charge and tearsmoke to disperse the angry crowds. This led to stone pelting and clashes between demonstrators and Police, though not largescale.

Reports said that at least six demonstrators and Police and paramilitary personnel sustained minor injuries in the clashes. According to reports, trouble did not spread to other areas because of heavy deployment of Police and CRPF. Severe restrictions on movement were not enforced. Reports said that the dead body was handed over to the family in the evening but the family members and other residents declined to conduct the funeral.

It was at around 2130 hours that the family relented and the funeral rites were conducted. Reports said that the youth was buried in a local graveyard. MoS Home Nasir Aslam Wani and DGP, Kuldeep Khoda, drove to Sopore at 2200 hours tonight. Police and civil administration were trying to ferry members of the bereaved family and some senior citizens for a meeting with MoS Home and DGP at a private Education college at Lalad, in Sopore outskirts, when this story was filed at 2300 hours. Sources told Early Times that influential citizens like Inayatullah Hajini, Ghulam Nabi Shala and Farooq Ahmed Hakeem attended the meeting with MoS Home, DGP, IGP, DIG and DC Baramulla but Nazim Rashid’s father refused to meet the government team.

Authoritative sources said that, earlier today, on the instructions from Chief Minister Omar Abdullah and MoS Home, Nasir Aslam Wani, Police Station of Sopore registered a murder case against SOG personnel under section 302 of Ranbir Penal Code. Dy SP of SOG Sopore, Ashiq Hussain Tak, was attached and three more personnel were placed under suspension. They included incharge of the component, incharge of guard and a sentry. Under orders from the government, Deputy Commissioner of Baramulla, Bashir Ahmed Bhat, would personally conduct an investigation into the circumstances that led to the death of Nazim Rashid Shala in SOG custody.

Block Medical Officer of Sopore conducted the post-mortem alongwith three other doctors. He was expected to submit his detailed report, through CMO Baramulla, to the District Magistrate on Monday. Nazim Rashid is widely believed to have been tortured to death and registration of murder case against SOG has come as an official confirmation. Officials associated with the procedure said that marks of physical torture were tell-tale on the dead body.

Even before availability of the post-mortem report, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah posted on Twitter: “The death of Anjum Rashid in police custody is a gross human rights violation and inexcusable. Things like this cannot be allowed to happen”. He added: “I expect the police to do nothing less than make an example of those responsible so that nothing like this ever happens again. Swift & exemplary action. No delays, no cover ups, no excuses. That’s all I can promise & ensure. It’s not enough, of that too I’m aware”.

Scores of his nearly 40,000 followers on Twitter, however, viewed the government action as an eyewash and stressed on immediate, demonstrable action in the matter. Some of them taunted Omar with inability to deliver.

Sources revealed that Police and security forces arrested Nazim Rashid Shala after his name figured “as the person who had called three civilians out before they were separately shot dead by unidentified militants in Sopore town in the last one month”. Sources said that his identification became available with the help of Police sources and technical corroboration in the afternoon on Saturday.

Quoting Nazim’s father, KNS reported that a Major of Army had called Nazim to his camp but he was arrested from his shop when he did not go to the camp. He was later handed over to the local SOG camp wherefrom he called his father, first to bring his cellphone to the camp at 8.00 p.m last evening and then some of his medicines at 9.00 pm. Retired SI, Ab Rashid Shala, according to KNS, was not allowed in and the sentries took custody of the youth’s mobile phone and medicines. Ab Rashid has confirmed that that his son and Mohammad Ashraf Dar were together when the latter was gunned down by unidentified assassins on Wednesday last.