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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Crime Branch probe ordered in migrant relief scam

RTI activist files appeal before CIC

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Aug 30: Taking cognizance of a news story carried by Early Times on August 29th, Director General of Police, Kuldeep Khoda, has asked IG Crime to conduct a preliminary inquiry into the monthly payment of relief money and rations to 500 non-migrant Kashmiri families by the Relief Organisation in Jammu.

Authoritative sources disclosed that Police Headquarters yesterday sent a communication, alongwith the Early Times story, to IGP Crime Raja Aijaz Ali, asking him to conduct a preliminary inquiry through Crime Branch into the facts mentioned in the report. Sources at Crime headquarters later confirmed that Crime Branch Kashmir was being directed to hold an investigation to establish whether 500 non-migrant families, including all 168 Muslim families from Budgam district, had been receiving relief in cash and kind from Relief Organisation in Jammu.

Cash relief of Rs 1250 per member but subject to a maximum of Rs 5000 per month is being paid to all migrant families who have no stable source of source. They are also entitled to free ration of 9 kilos of rice and 2 kilos of atta each soul besides 1 kilo of sugar per family. This newspaper had reported that none of the 168 Muslim families of Budgam district, who have been receiving the migrant relief from Relief Organisation in Jammu, has actually migrated from Kashmir valley.

In addition to that, more than 100 Sikh families of Budgam district have also been taking the migrant relief in Jammu without having physically migrated. Reports indicate that even among the 2671 Kashmir Pandit families of the district, at least 50 are such who have returned and settled back in Valley but the relief is being continuously paid to them in Jammu.

In reply to an application under RTI, PIO of Relief Organisation had revealed in the month of February 2011 that a total of 2671 Hindu families, 168 Muslim families and 336 Sikh families from Budgam district stood registered as migrants. And all of them had been continuously taking the relief in Jammu since 1990.
The PIO, however, declined to provide any information with regard to details of the beneficiary families. He argued that no information could be provided as to how many of these families had been living in migrant camps and how many of them had been provided government accommodation.

The PIO took refuge under section 8 of J&K RTI Act of 2009 which actually guarantees protection of the identity of government’s informants, privacy of individuals besides safety and security of the country and its citizens.

Applicant Raman Sharma has, yesterday itself, filed a complaint before Chief Information Commissioner Mr Ghulam Rasool Sufi under section 15 of J&K RTI Act 2009, asserting therein that no matter of privacy, safety or security of state or its citizens was involved in revealing identity of the families who, according to Government, had been receiving the migrant relief in Jammu. He has sought a direction to PIO of Relief Organisation Jammu to the effect that all the 3175 families of Budgam district, registered as migrant in Jammu, be identified.


Monday, August 29, 2011

DDK Srinagar record room gutted in mysterious blaze

17 RTI application, seeking record of programmes and payments, had piled up in 2 months

Early Times Report

SRINAGAR, Aug 29: One official got critically injured when record room of Doordarshan Kendra (DDK) Srinagar gutted in a mysterious fire last evening. Since seventeen private producers had filed applications in the last about one month and sought records of the ‘fraudulently paid’ in-house programmes under RTI, officials are wildly suspected to have destroyed the files that could have landed them in trouble.

Even as DDK Srinagar maintained silence and it did not issue any clarification, informed sources revealed to Early Times that a devastating blaze occurred in mysterious circumstances in the record room at around 1700 hours on Sunday. Sources said that voluminous records, that had been shifted from main complex to the makeshift record room in a barrack, beside the boundary wall between DDK and Radio Kashmir complex, perished in the fire.

Presence of a stenographer of Regional News Unit, Ashiq Hussain, in the record room on Sunday, which was a gazetted holiday, raised speculations of sabotage. The official, who happens to be the relative of DD’s Administrative Officer, Abdul Samad Baig, sustained critical burn injuries on entire anterior of his body. He was evacuated by staff and sentries on duty and rushed to hospital. He is now under treatment at SMHS Hospital.

DD officers spread word that Ashiq had got injured when an HT power line fell upon him. However, when dozens of employees went for an inspection to the spot, they found that there was no power line over the premises. It became clear in the afternoon today that Ashiq had unusually entered Radio Kashmir, parked his scooter there and crossed to DDK premises through an overhead bridge. Security officials at DD entrance maintained that he had not entered the premises through the usual main gate on any point of time on Sunday.

Things became more suspicious when it became known that DD officials had not made any mention of Ashiq getting injured in their report submitted to Police. When some officials objected and insisted that the injured official’s name should be mentioned and his statement must be recorded after his recovery, a secondary report was submitted to Police for filing FIR.

Insiders said that piling up of RTI applications, seeking record of in-house programmes and payments made thereto, could be one reason behind the blaze as these revelations could certainly land many high ups and inside producers in trouble.


Maulana Shaukat murder accused Abdullah Gazali, Bil Papa disowned by TM

After Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, Tehreek-ul-Mujahideen too regards Srinagar Police investigation

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Aug 29: In a significant development, militant outfit Tehreek-ul-Mujahideen (TM) has disowned two of its key functionaries, Abdullah Gazali and Bil Papa, who have been charged by Srinagar District Police with killing of cleric-politician Maulana Shaukat Shah. President of Jamiat-e-Ahl-e-Hadith (JAH) Jammu and Kashmir, Maulana Shaukat had died in an IED blast at a mosque in Maisuma locality here on April 8th this year.

JAH President and head of the separatists’ SIT, Maulana Ghulam Rasool Malik, today released TM’s letter which indirectly corroborated involvement of its key functionaries, Abdul Gani Dar alias Abdullah Gazali of Russu, Budgam, and Javed Munshi alias Bil Papa of Chhanapora, Srinagar, in Maulana Shaukat’s assassination in April. On August 26th, Malik had released a letter from another formidable militant organisation, Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, which also confirmed Srinagar District Police investigation, described Javed Munshi as the key assassin but claimed that LeT’s Kashmir-based Pakistani commander Abdullah Yuni was not involved in the heinous crime.

According to the TM letter, addressed to the separatists’ SIT, Abdul Gani Dar as well as Javed Munshi had served as key functionaries of the organisation in the past but neither of them had remained associated with the guerrilla group since long. It claimed that a four-member investigating team of the organisation, comprising Abdul Shakoor Azad, Owais Sajjad, Mohammad Shahid Salfi and Abu Hamza, had conducted a thorough investigation into Maulana Shaukat’s assassination, though the investigators were not in a position to interact with the men arrested by Police and detained in jail.

TM has sought to make it clear that Dar had been arrested in 2001 after working with the outfit for several years. After his release from jail, he joined a political outfit, titled “Sautul Haq” and became its head. In Sautul Haq, Dar developed differences with a colleague, namely Bashir Ahmad Sofi, and was subsequently dismissed as head of the new organisation. Text of the letter claimed that TM’s Pakistan-based  supremo, Sheikh Jamil-ur-Rehman called Dar only once over telephone when latter’s brother passed away six months before Shaukat’s murder. It claimed that TM supremo Sheikh Jamil-ur-Rehman called Dar twice or thrice (from across LoC) after Maulana’s killing and enquired about the murder and resultant mourning in Kashmir.

While claiming that the organisation had never thought in terms of carrying out the assassination, it suggested SIT to scan call detail records of Dar’s telephone. “If there is even a single word against Maulana Shaukat from Sheikh Jamil-ur-Rehman, we will accept the crime and its punishment”, said the TM letter.

The letter also confirmed that Javed Munshi had for years worked for TM but claimed that, like Dar, he too had ceased his association with the outfit after his arrest in Katmandu, Nepal, in 1998. It claimed that Javed had visited Nepal in 1998 without the permission of his leadership to meet his relatives and friends. He, however, got arrested and was released after 8 years. Thereafter, he made three attempts to cross over to other side of the LoC from Kashmir but was each time arrested and released by forces and Police.

The letter asserted that neither the outfit chief Sheikh Jamil-ur-Rehman nor the organisation had any contact with Javed Munshi since 2009 when he issued threats over telephone to a TM functionary Owais Sajjad. It asserted that TM would own the crime and accept its punishment in case it was proved in any investigation or call detail record of telephones that the orgainsation or its leadership had any contact or association with Javed Munshi in the last over two years.


Sunday, August 28, 2011

500 non-migrant families receive migrant relief in Jammu

Budgam tops with 168 Muslim and 50 non-Muslim families getting Rs 5000 a month plus ration

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Aug 28: Over 500 families, continuously living at their respective homes in Kashmir valley, are believed to be among thousands of migrant families who receive relief of Rs 5,000 and rations every month from Relief Organisation in Jammu. These include all the 168 Muslim families of Budgam district, besides nearly 50 non-Muslim families, who figure in the long list of “migrant families” while their continuously living in Valley.

Informed sources revealed to Early Times that not less than 500 families, living continuously and comfortably at their respective homes in Kashmir valley, are among recipients of migrant relief in Jammu for over a decade. In league with officials of Police and Revenue departments, besides those working in the office of Relief Commissioner, these families are said to have got themselves registered as migrants in Jammu from 1990 to 2004. CID and Security Wing headquarters those days used to issue certificates of threat perception and resultant displacement on fake and engineered threatening statements against cash payment.

Party workers of a Revenue Minister from Budgam district had reportedly collected money from hundreds of residents in Beerwah-Khansahab belt with the assurance that they would be provided government jobs at monthly wages of Rs 3,000. These unscrupulous elements managed to raise monthly relief of migrants from Rs 1800 to Rs 3000. Within days, over 150 non-migrant Muslim families were declared as migrant by Ministry of Revenue and thus made entitled to payment of Rs 3000 a month.

Amount of monthly relief has, over the years, reached Rs 1250 per member but subject to a maximum of Rs 5000. Migrant families are also paid 9 kilos of rice and 2 kilos of atta each soul besides 1 kilo of sugar per family. Even as registrations have taken place from time to time in the last 21 years, all these families are shown to have taken the relief from 1990. Enquiries revealed that only one Muslim family of Budgam district had actually migrated to Jammu. Benefit was also showered on the brother of then News Editor of Doordarshan Kendra Srinagar in lieu of “excessive news coverage” to then Revenue Minister. The beneficiary had not migrated to Jammu even for a single day.

The beneficiaries are understood to have created a mechanism to conveniently receive the monthly relief in Jammu. Officials reportedly retain the ration items, dispose off the aggregate quantities among retail and CAPD dealers and also take a cut from the cash relief. Agents operate on behalf of different clusters and conduct the transactions, apparently without the knowledge of Relief Commissioner.

In reply to a Jammu-based RTI activist Raman Sharma’s RTI application, dated 8-2-2011, Assistant Commissioner Relief Organisation Jammu revealed vide letter No: RCM/AC/CAMPS/2482 Dated 26-2-2011, that a total of 2671 Hindu families, 168 Muslim families and 336 Sikh families from Budgam district stood registered as migrants. All of them, according to PIO, had been receiving the relief from 1990. The PIO, however, declined to provide any information with regard to details of the beneficiary families. He also contended that no information could be provided as to how many of these families had been living in migrant camps and how many of them had been provided government accommodation.

The PIO maintained that the information sought was being suppressed under section 8 sub section (f) and (i) of J&K RTI Act of 2009. This section bars sharing of any information that could endanger life or physical safety of an individual, invade lawful privacy of an individual or identify source of an information given in confidence for law enforcement or security purpose.

RTI activist Dr Muzaffar Bhat disagrees with the PIO’s argument. “It has been observed that a number of officials suppress information under smokescreen of section 8 though the information sought does not even remotely endanger an individual’s life or physical safety”, Dr Bhat argued. He claimed that revealing details about migrant families of Budgam district, as sought by the RTI applicant, would in no way invade privacy of any individual. He asserted that an appeal would be filed soon against suppression of the information by PIO of Relief Organisation.