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Friday, August 12, 2011

When GM Sadiq ordered CS to ‘deport’ Home Secretary LP Singh alongwith his dog

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Aug 12: Ghulam Mohammad Sadiq has the dubious distinction of being the author of the 6th amendment to Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir, thereby lowering the nomenclature of the Head of Government from ‘Wazeer-e-Azam’ to Chief Minister in 1965. Helping him sweep the dubiously conducted Assembly elections of 1967, Indira Gandhi reposed in him great deal of trust but veterans in her bureaucracy began treating Sadiq not more than a puppet of the Government of India.

When union Home Secretary, LP Singh, found an occasion to enjoy a holiday with his family in Kashmir, he did not bother to inform Chief Minister. Singh’s intimate friend, PK Dave, who served as Chief Secretary in Sadiq’s government, years before he became union Defence Secretary and Lt Governor of Delhi on his retirement, made all arrangements. As nicely as Omar Abdullah’s Chief Secretary Madhav Lal did for RK Singh on August 10th.

Madhav Lal, a 1977-batch IAS officer, is junior to RK Singh, a 1975-batch IAS office of Bihar Cadre who served as Home Secretary of Bihar before he went on a Central deputation and was elevated as union Home Secretary with effect from 1st of July, 2011. Descendants of Dave and LP Singh are also, by coincidence, from Delhi and Bihar respectively. After LP Singh, RK Singh has the distinction of becoming Bihar’s second IAS officer who rose to the position of union Home Secretary in the last 64 years.

Before leaving Civil Secretariat for his Gagribal residence, Chief Minister Sadiq called private secretary Nazir Ahmad to inform him that he would be putting up the night at the VIP hut at Dachhigam. Nazir, accordingly, asked Director of Hospitality & Protocol, Biswas, to make necessary arrangements for the CM’s weekend stay at Dachhigam.

When Chief Secretary Dave learned from Biswas that CM intended to see dozens of the pending files at Dachhigam, he asked him for change of venue to Cheshma Shahi. Saturday used to be a working day those days. For years previously, Biswas had served as Sadiq’s aide. He was his PA when Sadiq headed Constituent Assembly over a decade back.

Biswas requested CM to change venue and revealed to him that the union Home Secretary LP Singh was staying at Dachhigam---Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s favourite resthouse in the famous Dachhigam National Park.

“Who has ordered his stay there?” asked CM. Biswas explained that LP Singh was Chief Secretary’s close friend. “Is he alone?” CM asked. “Sir, he is there with family and a dog”, a nervous Director of H&P quipped. CM asked Biswas to return and ensure that the resthouse is fully clear by 5.00 p.m. He asked Nazir to convey to CS that LP Singh be evicted and deported to Delhi on the first available flight or else by road.

Thereupon, Dave made his last ditch attempt to save Singh from inconvenience and humiliation. He came rushing to Gagribal and informed CM that the VVIP hut at Dachhigam would be clear by 5.00 pm. “What about the second part of my order?” CM asked CS. As Dave began to plead that Singh was his old time friend and had arrived in alongwith family, Sadiq asserted tersely: “Tell your friend that Kashmir is not a joy spot for the bureaucrats from Delhi and their dogs. Send him back to Delhi before evening”.

Resolute and die-hard, Dave sought Nazir’s advice as to how Singh could be saved from humiliation. Nazir told him that nobody other than sister Zainab Begum could make Sadiq Sahab relent. Then General Secretary of J&K Pradesh Congress Committee, Zainab would brief her brother about political matters and developments almost on daily basis at 4.00 pm. Roped in by Dave, Zainab motivated Sadiq after a great deal of labour. Sadiq then issued his NOC to Singh’s staying at Cheshma Shahi “for a couple of days”.

LP Singh was one of India’s most respected and competent bureaucrats who had closely worked with Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri. Later, he shot into prominence as the author of “Portrait of Lal Bahadur Shastri”. When Sadiq was reading files under a Chinar on the lush green lawns of the VVIP hut next morning, Singh made an unscheduled entry. “Sir, I’m extremely sorry that Dave has not informed you about my private visit”, he apologized to CM. Known for his politeness and kind mannerism, Sadiq offered him a seat and did not let him go back without sipping a cup of coffee.


Thursday, August 11, 2011

Govt seems to have abdicated governance to Centre

Home Secretary takes roll call of J&K bureaucracy; Ministers on vacation, Secretariat empty, meetings canceled

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Aug 11: Governor Narendar Nath Vohra, who has been a career bureaucrat and has served as the Union Home Secretary two decades ago, must be feeling jealous over the extraordinary importance his far junior successor, R K Singh, has got on his maiden visit to Jammu & Kashmir. Singh’s two-day staying in Srinagar bulldozed most of the official meeting and ministerial tours. With their administrative Secretaries being hijacked by Singh, most of the Ministers preferred to enjoy a vacation.

Curfewed corridors of Civil Secretariat on Wednesday and Thursday perhaps served as a testimony to the fact that the state government has abdicated governance to the Centre. When it happens during a coalition regime, whose principal partner has been struggling for ‘Greater Autonomy’ and telling New Delhi that her jurisdiction was constitutionally confined to just four-odd portfolios, it becomes an irony.

Singh demonstrated his bureaucratic courtesy of calling on the head of the state as well as the head of the government but not before sending a loud a clear message to the Police and civil administration at SKICC. Chief Secretary Madhav Lal went dancing to his tunes with the entire flock of his administrative Secretaries. Participants said that it was the bureaucrat from Delhi who presided over the high-level meeting taken with the state bureaucracy.

Madhav Lal ensured that all the senior IAS officers attended the meeting. Divisional Commissioner of Jammu, Pawan Kotwal, was specially ferried from the winter capital. Those, who were in Delhi and home states on leave or official tours, were directed to return at once and form the audience at SKICC. Roll call of the cream of bureaucracy indicates that all Financial Commissioners, Principal Secretaries, Commissioner-Secretaries and Secretary to (state) Government were in attendance.

Agenda items, like return of migrants and security arrangements for Amarnath Yatra, Independence Day and cross-border terrorism, would have justified the meeting to an extent. It, however, ventured deep into the State and the Concurrent lists of portfolios---buttressing a perception that since 2009 New Delhi was treating the state government simply as a puppet. Significantly, Singh’s predecessor, Gopal Krishen Pillai, created ripples when he began announcing where curfew would be enforced and where it would be relaxed, last year. Home Minister, P Chidambaram, took similar meetings with the state officials, though each time he paid a courtesy visit to Chief Minister’s residence.

Singh virtually snubbed the state bureaucracy over J&K’s “poor performance” in plan implementation as compared to other states. “Mr Singh said that Jammu and Kashmir needs to catch up with the rest of the States in progress and development, assuring full support of the Centre to the State government in giving fillip to the developmental programmes. The benefits of the development initiatives should reach to the people, he said”, an official press release from Department of Information read.

With the Minister incharge Panchayati Raj taking care of his own Ramadan prayers and shrines in Srinagar, Singh did the task of reviewing the benefits of the Panchayat elections. Adds the official release: “Appreciating the State government for the successful conduct of the panchayati polls, he said that accounting and auditing system need to be put in place once power and funds are devolved to these institutions of local governance”.

Singh also looked concerned over infusing energy to the health institutions. “On Health sector, the Home Secretary called for infusing energy to the health institutions to make them patient friendly. He said lot of funds available under the NRHM should lead to the marked improvement of patient care in every nook and corner of the State. He called for private- public partnership to improve and augment the medicare facilities further”, press release of the state government reads.

Enjoying the breath-taking looks over Dal Lake, Singh swam to rehabilitation of the displaced population. “The Home Secretary also assured full support in conservation and restoration of Dal Lake together with proper rehabilitation of Dal dwellers. He said funds would never be allowed to come in the way of scientific restoration of this world famous water body”.
After taking an account of the state government’s working at the high-level meeting with bureaucracy, Home Secretary today tutored senior Police and paramilitary officials as to how they should deal with the law and order situation and insurgency in the state.
Without expressing any concern on the custodial deaths in J&K and also without asking the Police top brass why the state had failed to acquire a single Polygraph machine and lie-detector for its dilapidated FSL, Singh directed the forces to crush any rebellion with an iron fist. Government’s press release on the meetings is produced here verbatim.
“The Union Home Secretary expressed his satisfaction over the law and order situation in the State. He said nobody should be allowed to disrupt the peaceful atmosphere. He stressed on investigating the public interest cases with utmost impartiality”.
 “Mr. Singh asked the officers to keep vigil on the activities of the elements indulging in hawala trade. He said the amount received through various agencies by such elements is utilized for creating disruptive activities in the State, which should be checked effectively. He assured liberal funding for modernization of the police organization”.
“Earlier, in his welcome address, the Director General of Police Mr. Kuldeep Khoda said that JKP has achieved significant progress in the orientation of its jawans and officers in the latest techniques of policing. He said training skills in the training institutions throughout the State have been upgraded, adding modern weaponry and security gadgets have been procured to make the organization more effective”.
During the meeting, various senior police officers gave detailed briefing about the working of their respective wings which include ADGP, Armed/Law & Order, Mr. K. Rajendra Kumar, Vigilance Commissioner, Mr. P. L. Gupta, ADGP, Dr. Ram Lubhaya and Mr. Naveen Aggerwal, IGP, Mr. S. M. Sahai, Mr. Dilbag Singh, Raja Aijaz Ali, Mr. Owais Ahmed, Mr. Mohammad Amin Shah, Dr. B. Srinivas, Mr. M. A. Anjum, Mr. Farooq Ahmed, Mr. H. K. Lohia and Mr. Rauf-ul-Hassan.
Among others, the  meeting was attended by Joint Secretary (Kashmir) MHA, Mr. K. Skadan Principal Secretary, Home, Mr. B. R. Sharma, D.G. CRPF, Mr. K. Vijay Kumar and  Add; D.G. (Ops) CRPF, Mr. P. M. Nair”.
As most of the top-ranking bureaucrats and Police officials followed Mr Singh like a shadow, thousands of hapless people visiting Civil Secretariat and Police offices went back disappointed.

[To be continued…..]


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Omar Govt has turned J&K into a Police state: Mehbooba

‘Sopore, Surankot custodial killings humble SC ruling on fake encounters’

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Aug 9: President of the principal opposition party PDP, Mehbooba Mufti, today lamented that Omar Abdullah-led coalition government had ‘outsourced’ governance fully to the Police force and Jammu & Kashmir had been turned into a “Police State”. Apprehending all gunbattles as fake encounters, Ms Mufti exclaimed with surprise that Police had killed two civilians in custody at Sopore and Surankot at a time when Supreme Court of India declared that uniformed participants of all fake encounters should be hanged to death.

Addressing a crowded news conference at her official residence on Gupkar Road, Mehbooba Mufti claimed that 31-month-long Omar Abdullah-led coalition government had given a free hand to its Police and armed forces in eliminating innocent civilians in custody and fake encounters. She said it was all the more surprising that Police and Army personnel had killed two civilians in custody---one in physical torture in Sopore and another in a fake encounter in Surankot---at a time when judges of Supreme Court of India had declared that Police and armed forces personnel involved in fake encounter killings be hanged to death.

Ms Mufti dismissed Chief Minister’s actions in such matters as an “eyewash” and the establishment’s hoodwinking ploy to protect the real criminals. She claimed that registration of a murder case in Sopore, followed by detention of two constables, was a hoodwinking tactics to assuage the hurt feelings. According to her, Police had let loose a reign of terror and there was no accountability in the Police force and security forces with regard to protection of human rights in the state.

Mehbooba said that the National Conference-led coalition regime had been permissive to fake encounters, notably the one at Machhil. “Now, each and every encounter has become suspect. Nobody knows which one is real and which one staged”, Mehbooba asserted. She said it was utterly unfortunate that Government of Jammu and Kashmir as well as Government of India had adopted the policy of breaking all voices of dissent with batons, guns and grenades. “We too ruled for three years. But remember there was no incident of attacking the Opposition leaders or legislators with guns and lathis”, Mehbooba asserted.

PDP chief pointed out that since last few weeks, government forces had been only striking with batons, guns  and tearsmoke on contractual lecturers, traders and other civil society groups. She said that the situation was turning back to 2002 when nobody was feeling secure in Valley.

“Though fake encounter at Surankot does not come as a surprise to any one, details reported in the press are shocking. It raises some disturbing questions. Would it pass as a genuine encounter if the community at Surankot had not refused to bury the dead body? From whom did the arms and ammunition come that were reported as having been seized from the dead ‘terrorist’? Does this not open all encounters to suspicion?” Mehbooba asked.

PDP president said that situation in the state was once again turning grim. “In its bid to create a surface calm and give impression of normalcy the state, Government seems to be waging a war against all sections of society,” she said and alleged that the government had converted J&K into a police state. “Judicial decisions are violated, public opinion is muzzled and governance and development are in holiday mode,” she added.

Mehbooba said that the government’s ‘calm summer campaign’ had become a lucrative business for police and the ruling party. “The government has virtually outsourced governance to police. And in doing so it is continuing to target various classes. Youth are again being arrested and most of them are on the run due to fear of Police,” Mehbooba said.

Mehbooba said that during last year’s unrest, business community, transporters and students were the worst hit. “The society at large responded to this crisis of survival and gave peace a big chance. Not only could we have a good tourist season but an overwhelming turnout in Panchayat polls could help create a better atmosphere of peace and security. Why is the opposite happening? Two reasons in my opinion: First, arrogance and a resolve to survive by police and their unchecked methods alone. Second, inefficiency and misgovernance,” she said.

“The traders have raised genuine issues which the government has dismissed with its characteristic arrogance, not even meeting them for discussion. They too alongwith employees are being dealt with through police alone. Why cant the government wait for a while to let traders shift to computers gradually while its own multi crore e-governance program is nowhere near taking off. Heavens would not fall,” she added.

On the hunger strike of contractual lecturers she said: “Not even an official has visited them. Students are again the sufferers in the process while the fasting young men and women are left actually to die. There can’t be more callous response from government and we condemn this arrogance”.


Monday, August 8, 2011

Stone pelters staging a comeback in Srinagar

Surrender to Geelani: Students won’t attend I-Day ceremonies in Valley

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Aug 8: After nearly nine months of calm in Kashmir valley, street clashes between pro-Azadi groups of youth and Police are back at several ‘flashpoints’ in this capital city, though not with much intensity yet. While the separatist leaders are trying to exploit the custodial killing of a youth in Sopore and tension is palpably building up ahead of the Indian Independence Day, Government is said to be holding the ceremonial parades without participation of schoolchildren on August 15th.

Separatist hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s shutdown, coupled by Friday protests against home confinement of separatist leaders, has cast some dark shadows on the nine-month-long peace in the Valley. Small groups of youngsters surfaced on the road at three or four places in Srinagar on Friday and engaged Police and CRPF in ding-dong battles. While the stone pelting demonstrators are visibly trying to recapture space, Police on the other hand have intensified efforts to pre-empt an uprising with raids and arrests of the “trouble mongers”.

Emphasizing continued protest demonstrations “till the arrest of guilty cops” in Sopore, Geelani is asserting hard to regain the ground he lost after September last year. It was evidently over Geelani’s call that scores of youngsters gathered on streets immediately after concluding the morning prayers today and resorted to 2008 and 2010-like stone pelting on bunkers and camps of Police and paramilitary forces in downtown. They alleged that Police had let loose a reign of terror with sporadic arrests in Srinagar and other major towns.

The violent crowds clashed with Police and CRPF for some time before they vanished into dingy neighbourhoods in the city interior. It was late in the afternoon that dozens of youngsters converged on the peaceful Maisuma locality and engaged Police and CRPF in intermittent clashes. Residents alleged that Police had conducted raids at several places and remanded to custody dozens of youth arrested in Baramulla, Sopore and Srinagar. They held the state government responsible for “creating 2008-like or 2010-like situation” with raids and arrests of peace-loving youngsters.

Authorities described these youngsters as “urchins” and alleged that they were trying to stoke fires of hatred and confrontation in Jammu and Kashmir “without any reason or provocation”. SSP Srinagar, Syed Ashiq Hussain Bukhari, made it clear that Police would continue its operations to arrest anybody trying to sabotage peace. According to him, a number of youngsters were being mobilized by militants and separatists, including some mainstream political activists, to indulge in street turbulence. He declined to comment on reports that over a dozen fresh arrests had been made in the last one week.

Due to the clash at Maisuma and adjoining Budshah Chowk, shops and other business establishments remained shut for several hours in few Civil Lines localities including Maisuma. Traffic too was frozen for less than an hour in the uptown locality.

With the fresh trouble brewing up in Srinagar and Sopore, authoritative sources revealed that, for the first time in the last over 50 years, there would be possibly no schoolchildren at this year’s I-Day ceremonial parades. Sources said that cultural and variety programmes, an integral component of the I-Day ceremonies, would be absent on Aug 15th. This is being interpreted as the state government’s meek surrender before Geelani who has publicly called upon parents to keep away their wards from such “Indian shows”.