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Saturday, October 8, 2011

Inquiry by sitting judge or retired judge or CBI?

Khursheed, Omar, Kalifullah, Kapadia weighing options of probe into Yousuf episode

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Oct 8: Even as the final post mortem report is still awaited and a District Magistrate has started inquest proceedings to ascertain nature of the death, all three options are being weighed between Srinagar and Delhi with regard to inquiry into the death of the National Conference (NC) activist Syed Mohammad Yousuf.

Syed Yousuf had died in controversial circumstances on September 30th, hours after he was allegedly found involved in a political pay-off and handed over by Chief Minister Omar Abdullah to IG Crime alongwith two complainants of the ruling party. Post mortem was conducted by a team of doctors of Government Medical College on the same day and an interim report observed that there were no external or internal injuries on the dead body. Tissues and organs are currently under analysis with the team of doctors at GMC Srinagar and with forensic science experts at FSL Srinagar.

Though reports circulated in local media said that an interim report from FSL had been received by the government, authoritative sources at Forensic Medicine Department of GMC Srinagar as well as FSL told Early Times that no such report had been compiled or submitted till late tonight. Sources said that FSL could send its report to Principal GMC Srinagar and the final medico-legal opinion would be ascertained in view of both the observations and thereafter submitted to Additional District Magistrate Srinagar, Mohammad Akbar Ganai, who was holding the inquest proceedings under Section 176 CrPC.

According to these sources, and also confirmed by DGP Kuldeep Khoda to Early Times, FIR could not be filed until the final post mortem report was available for the purpose of learning whether Yousuf’s death was homicidal, suicidal or accidental in nature. It would determine the whole course of investigation, whether by Executive Police, Crime Branch, CBI, executive magistrate or judicial magistrate.

Yousuf’s death has raised a political storm amid allegations and speculations from PDP, some other opposition parties and media circles, that the NC activist had been physically tortured at CM’s residential office after he admitted to have collected Rs 34 Lakh from complainant Abdul Salam Rishi for making him MLC and Rs 84 Lakh from complainant Mohammad Yousuf Bhat of Ganderbal for making him MLC as well as Minister of State for R&B. PDP has been strongly demanding resignation of Chief Minister, MoS Home Nasir Aslam Wani and union Minister Dr Farooq Abdullah besides a judicial or CBI inquiry.

On September 30th itself, Chief Minister announced a judicial inquiry. He declared that his government had requisitioned the services of a sitting judge of J&K High Court for this purpose and the demand was under consideration of the Chief Justice. However, in the wake of technical hitches surfacing one after another, Chief Minister took up the matter with the union government.

Well-placed authoritative sources revealed to this newspaper that Chief Minister sought the intervention of the union Minister of Law and Justice, Salman Khursheed, to clear the decks for the judicial inquiry. It has been pointed out that in November, 2006, a Division Bench of Supreme Court has proscribed deployment of sitting High Court judges as Commissions throughout the country. The order had been pronounced by Justice Arijit Pasayat and Justice S H Kapadia (now Chief Justice) on 27-11-2006 in a petition titled University of Kerala v/s Council of Principals of Colleges Kerala and others.

The operative part of the order reads:

“Mr Gopal Subramaniam, learned additional Solicitor General of India states that in terms of the previous order, dated 20-11-2006, information was sought from various states as to in how many cases sitting judges have been appointed as Commissions. On the face of the judgment of this court in T. Fenn Walter v/s Union of India, it is stated that, unfortunately, none of the states have responded to the queries raised about the number of sitting judges who have been appointed as Commissions; and, whether such appointments were made keeping in view the principles laid down in T. Fenn Walter case.

“The order dated 20-11-2006 was passed before the learned additional Solicitor General had submitted that notwithstanding the judgment of this court, in petty and routine matters, sitting judges are being appointed as Commissions. In view of this, we direct that in no case a sitting judge of any High Court shall continue as the Commission. This order shall not, however, operate in cases where the inquiry is at the fag end i.e. only where the report is to be submitted”.

Sources said that legal experts from Srinagar to New Delhi were exploring as to how CJ of J&K High Court could spare a sitting High Court judge for the inquiry. According to these sources, the matter was under active consideration and discussion between Omar Abdullah, Salman Khursheed, CJ of J&K High Court Mr Justice FM Kalifullah and CJ of Supreme Court of India Mr Justice S H Kapadia.

According to these sources, it would become clear in next two or three days whether a sitting High Court judge could be made available “as a special arrangement” or the inquiry would be assigned to any of the 20-odd retired High Court judges in the state. Sources said that the demand of inquiry by CBI, that had been already advanced by deceased Syed Yousuf’s family and seconded by PDP and BJP, was under consideration of the authorities as the third option.


Govt asks ‘bribe giver’ Bhat to remain tightlipped, reinforces his security; Party action stalled

He is continuing as NC’s District Secretary in Ganderbal: Dar

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Oct 7: In contrast to his dismissal as Chief Minister’s constituency representative in Ganderbal, key character of the ‘bribe-for-berth’ drama, Mohammad Yousuf Bhat, is continuing as the ruling National Conference’s District Secretary. Party leadership as well as government functionaries have asked him to remain confined to his home and tightlipped over the controversial Syed Yousuf death episode even as the party action against him has been stalled and six more Police guards have been provided to protect him from “potential mischief mongers”, including politicians and media.

Amid perennial conflict between dozen-odd NC activists, notably Sheikh Ghulam Rasool, Ghulam Ahmad Saloora and Mohammad Yousuf Bhat, Chief Minister and MLA of Ganderbal, Omar Abdullah, had appointed Bhat as his constituency representative on January 12, 2010. Formal order was issued by CM’s Political Advisor, Devinder Singh Rana, vide No: PS/Pol/Adv/HCM/J/2010/163.

Immediately after Bhat was found to have paid an amount of Rs 84 Lakh to another NC activist, Syed Yousuf, purportedly for buying him a Ministerial berth and a seat in Legislative Council, CM’s Secretariat directed DC Ganderbal, vide No: HCM/PS/2011-292/Sgr Dated 30-09-2011, to withdraw his status and make it clear to officials of all of departments. Mir lost no time to accordingly issue a circular.

Though it was not immediately clear whether he was forced to vacate or it was his own decision, Bhat immediately shifted his residence from a government accommodation in Tulsi Bagh to his village of Repora in Ganderbal. Party leadership avoided to react but insiders maintained that in view of his act of extorting money from different contacts and trying to buy a ministerial berth through unfair means, Bhat would be expelled permanently from NC’s basic membership. Reports said that all of his envious detractors stressed on “exemplary action” against Bhat.

However, the situation changed suddenly. Messengers dropped in with the assurance that the party would not initiate any action against him and would also do its best to get his money back and save him from criminal proceedings if he remained not reachable for media and “mischief mongers” of rival political outfits. He was also assured adequate police protection. Within hours of Bhat’s desired response, six more Police guards were deployed for his security. One selection grade constable, one SPO and four constables were already attached to Bhat as his guards.

“Our party is deeply concerned on his behaviour of bringing slur not only on National Conference and the state government but also on our clean leader and Chief Minister (Omar Abdullah) and our President (Farooq Abdullah). We are initiating the process of his dismissal as District Secretary and expulsion from basic membership of the party”, NC’s Kashmir Province Secretary, Ghulam Ahmad Saloora, said. Himself a resident of Ganderbal, Saloora had operated as then Chief Minister and MLA Dr Farooq Abdullah’s constituency representative a decade ago.

However, the party’s Kashmir Province President, Ali Mohammad Dar, told Early Times that Bhat was continuing not only as a member but also as the party’s District Secretary in Ganderbal. “There is a set procedure for every disciplinary action in our party. We can’t remove and expel him arbitrarily’, Dar asserted. He added that only after orders from the high command, Bhat could be served a notice and asked to explain his conduct. His defence would be assessed by a committee. In case there was consensus over his misconduct, an action could be taken against Bhat.

In the last seven days, scores of mediapersons made sustained efforts to talk to Bhat but almost all of them returned empty-handed. His mobile phone has been permanently switched off. Police guards at his fully shuttered entrance told journalists that Bhat was in no mood to interact with anybody and he had directed them not to allow in any strangers. Dozens of television news crews had to be content with just a pan on Bhat’s iron-gate and house exterior.

Nevertheless, KNS today claimed to have gained access to Bhat and taken his first ever interview after the September 29th episode. According to KNS, Bhat refused to corroborate some of the vital facts that his colleague and another “bribe giver” Abdul Salam Rishi of Kokernag had revealed to media on Thursday. He, however, admitted that he had paid an amount of Rs 84 Lakh to the deceased Syed Yousuf so as to secure a seat in Legislative Council and a berth in the Council of Ministers. He declined to divulge much and insisted that he would depose only before a judicial commission.

Bhat claimed that NC had been completely wiped out in Ganderbal in 2002. He claimed credit for Omar Abdullah’s victory in 2008 Assembly elections and asserted that it was he who had made it possible. He said that there were 50-dd leaders in Ganderbal who were all pulling the strings of the party in opposite directions. According to him, his party colleagues had caused irreparable damage to the party,

His detractors, however, alleged that Bhat was “an infamous extortionist” who collected money from everybody from toll post operators at Ganderbal and Sonmarg to sand excavators in Sindh nullah. They said that Bhat had also got over 50 boys and girls recruited in government and other public undertakings against “cash payment”. He had unbridled excess to the offices and residences of the NC top brass, including Chief Minister and a number of his Cabinet colleagues.


Friday, October 7, 2011

AICC, JKPCC leave Omar Govt in lurch

Governor sends report on ‘political corruption’; CM summoned to Delhi

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Oct 6: Notwithstanding the Irrigation & PHE Minister Taj Mohiuddin’s moral support, principal coalition partner Congress has left Omar Abdullah’s 33-month-long government to fend for itself in the wake of a fast growing onslaught from different opposition parties. While as the minor coalition partners and supporters---Ghulam Hassan Mir, Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami, Hakeem Mohammad Yasin, Engineer Rashid---have either maintained a studied silence or demanded an inquiry into the Syed Yousuf episode, opposition parties---PDP, BJP, National Panthers Party, JSM---have been strongly calling for CBI investigation.

Political analysts have noticed that Sonia Gandhi-led All India Congress Committee as well as Prof Saifuddin Soz-led Jammu & Kashmir Pradesh Congress Committee have opted a discreet silence with regard to hot political developments in the state. Apart from insipid lip services of men like Ghulam Nabi Azad and Munish Tiwari, everybody in AICC and JKPCC has remained mute spectator to the political whirlpool threatening stability of the coalition government. Even in Omar’s own National Conference, only a few like the uncle Sheikh Mustafa Kamal and Ali Mohammad Sagar have issued one-odd statement or defended the ruling family in a newspaper comment or television programme.

Even the Government’s and the ruling party’s propaganda machinery and public relations coterie seems to be completely immobilized. Government’s head of information and public relations as well as so-called media consult have been watching the developments in a way as if trouble has afflicted a distant neighbour. With the NC’s President, Farooq Abdullah, being in the eye of a storm and General Secretary Sheikh Nazir being bed-ridden for over three years now, Dr Kamal was today appointed as an assistant to General Secretary. Sources said that he would also function as the NC’s spokesman.

Apparently to raise his cadres’ morale, Dr Abdullah today arrived in the Ground Zero of Syed Yousuf catastrophe and held a meeting with his party leaders at Nawai-e-Subah. Thereafter, he spoke to the waiting mediapersons, while putting up a brave face but failing to hide his nervousness. He emphatically asserted that all the allegation of Yousuf’s death due to physical torture at CM’s residential office and extortion of graft from aspirants of party tickets and Ministerial berths were “completely baseless and motivated”. He claimed that NC leadership had neither collected nor would in future any monetary contributions from such aspirants. He asserted that Omar would not step down in advance of the findings of a judicial commission he had ordered.

While Dr Abdullah was interaction with media, informed sources revealed to Early Times that Governor NN Vohra sent a detailed report to the Centre on the controversy building up over the controversial death of the NC activist Syed Yousuf. As exclusively reported in today’s issue of this newspaper, Government of India had asked for a detailed report on the sequences from Raj Bhawan. Governor’s Principal Secretary got a communication from Principal Secretary Home, BR Sharma. Later, according to sources, an independent report was compiled and furnished to the Centre.

Sources said that Government of India, as well as AICC, summoned Chief Minister Omar Abdullah to New Delhi for a detailed discussion with him over the turbulent episode and the strategy to be adopted to douse the flames. Centre is expected to make an urgent intervention and clear the decks for appointment of a sitting judge of J&K High Court for holding a judicial inquiry. Sources said that Chief Justice FM Kalifullah, who would be returning from his son’s wedding in Chennai on Friday, was also expected to join the deliberations in the offices of Chief Justice of India and union Ministry of Justice so that decks could be cleared for an early initiation of the inquiry.

Sources in the union capital maintained that Dr Abdullah would be called back to New Delhi tomorrow. He is “very likely” to be asked to resign “voluntarily” as a union Minister in the union cabinet and stay away till he comes clean of the charges of political corruption now being played up on all major television channels and newspapers in the country. However, this would be done only after an understanding between the UPA, AICC and the NC leadership that could crystallize in the next two days.


Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Farooq being asked to quit in 3 days
Delhi takes it as political bribe, not ‘party fund’

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Oct 5: Even as Omar Abdullah government is likely to remove IG Crime and SSP Crime for allegedly advising two National Conference (NC) activists to change their statement so as to protect members of the ruling family, UPA leadership in New Delhi is asking Dr Farooq Abdullah to stay away from the Cabinet till he comes clean in disputed death of Syed Mohammad Yousuf. According to well-placed authoritative sources, New Delhi has refused to digest the “political bribe” of over Rs 1.00 Cr as NC’s “routine party fund”.

Paradoxically, the stand taken by Dr Farooq Abdullah as well as Omar Abdullah in a many political controversies---LK Advani, Kamal Nath, Lalit Modi, Shashi Tharoor and, latest, Ghulam Mohammad Saroori---is now being used against the NC top brass. Informed sources in the union capital disclosed to Early Times that in an attempt to prevent advancement of the Srinagar damage to the already beleaguered UPA government at the Centre, Chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh were now persuading Dr Abdullah to step down as Union Minister for New and Renewable Energy and join back only after he comes clean in the charges of political corruption.

According to sources, Governor NN Vohra, in addition to Intelligence Bureau, has been asked by the Centre to furnish a detailed report on the entire episode, involving Syed Yousuf’s death in disputed circumstances and two other NC activists’ revelations of “contribution” of Rs 1.00 Cr for a ministerial berth and Rs 50 Lakh for a seat in Legislative Council. Even as Vohra’s report was still awaited, ground was being prepared for Dr Abdullah’s resignation in view of the political controversy assuming unforeseen proportions. By the latest indications available, sources said, Dr Abdullah was being asked to step down and produce himself before a judicial commission in the next three days.

Sources revealed that nobody among the men and women of consequence in the UPA was buying Dr Abdullah’s argument that the money collected by Syed Mohammad Yousuf from Mohammad Yousuf Bhat of Ganderbal and Abdul Salam Rishi of Akingam, Kokernag, was a “routine party fund” and not “political bribe” as played up by PDP and a section of media.

Rishi today revealed explicitly in an interview with Times Now Television that he paid money through late Syed Yousuf for getting NC’s ticket and becoming MLC in the elections conducted in March-April 2011. He revealed that “party fund” of Rs 1.00 Cr had been fixed for the “big job” and Rs 50 Lakh for the “small job”. When he was grilled to explain, he said that “big job” meant a seat in Legislative Council plus a ministerial berth while as the “small job” meant only a seat in the Legislative Council. Rishi, nevertheless, said that he had got back his money and he had not approached Chief Minister Omar Abdullah as a complainant on September 29th.

Meanwhile, authoritative sources in the state government said that, in view of the latest disclosures made by Salam Rishi, two senior officials in Crime wing of J&K Police (IG Crime and SSP Crime) were likely to be removed in a couple of days. Significantly, Rishi disclosed that IG Crime as well as SSP Crime advised Yousuf Bhat to change his statement if he was keen to get back the amount of Rs 84 Lakh he had earlier paid to Syed Yousuf for becoming an MLC and Minister of State for R&B. According to him, both the Police officers advised Yousuf Bhat to mention in his written complaint that he had collected and forwarded the money for the purpose of getting some of clients recruited in the state government.

Farooq or actor Aijaz?
According to these sources, Dr Abdullah, with the help of the coalition government in Jammu & Kashmir, was trying to “prove” that he had never talked to either Yousuf Bhat or Salam Rishi on telephone. NC leadership has reliably claimed to the Centre that the deceased Syed Yousuf had actually engaged a famous voice entertainer from Awantipore, popularly known as ‘Actor Aijaz’, to mimic Dr Abdullah over telephone. In the months in question, February and March 2011, Aijaz was reportedly present in Jammu and spotted frequently with late Syed Yousuf at Legislative Complex, Civil Secretariat as well as Hotel Taj in Khatikan Talab, where the NC activist stayed.

Thirty-three-year-old ‘Actor Aijaz’ has been a ubiquitous voice entertainer at many official functions, particularly those organized by Police. His fans insist that his mimicry of top political leaders and bureaucrats, including Dr Abdullah, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, Mehbooba Mufti, Speaker Akbar Lone and Khursheed Ahmad Ganai (IAS), was “amazing”. However, technology alone, like call detail record and tower locations of the phones used by Dr Abdullah, late Syed Yousuf, Yousuf Bhat, Salam Rishi and ‘Actor Aijaz’, would establish whether it was Dr Abdullah or Aijaz who spoke to Bhat and Rishi.


Media, PDP misleading Assembly: Sagar

Session signs off amid anti-Govt slogans over NC activist’s death

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Oct 4: While contesting reports of two Srinagar-based newspapers, Minister of Law and Parliamentary Affairs, Ali Mohammad Sagar, today claimed in Legislative Assembly that Government’s requisition of a sitting judge for holding inquiry into the NC activist Syed Yousuf’s death had been received in J&K High Court on October 1st. Sagar’s assertion came amid continual ruckus that forced Speaker Mohammad Akbar Lone to terminate the proceedings and adjourn the Assembly sine die.

Fighting PDP’s commotion over Yousuf’s death, allegedly due to physical torture at Chief Minister’s residential office, Ali Mohammad Sagar strongly contradicted reports in two Srinagar dailies which, according to him, had misled the House. Sagar referred to two particular reports and alleged that the same had animated PDP and, according him, both were misleading Assembly and the people of the state with regard to proposed judicial inquiry in Yousuf’s death.

Nearly 20 MLAs of PDP had earlier raised voice in support of their fresh adjournment motion while waving local newspapers and claiming that Government’s declaration of a judicial inquiry was “baseless”. While as one newspaper had reported yesterday that Chief Justice had turned down the state government’s requisition, another reported in a front page story today that the request had never gone to J&K High Court. On the basis of these reports, PDP disputed the official claim of a judicial inquiry and sought a full-length discussion on the subject in a fresh adjournment motion.

Like yesterday, Speaker disallowed the motion of 12 MLAs of PDP on his already advanced argument. He maintained that a discussion on the disputed death could hamper the investigation and influence the judicial inquiry. Even as the opposition PDP legislators asserted that, as of now, there was neither an FIR nor a judicial inquiry into this particular case, and, as such, the matter was not sub judice, Speaker retorted that his ruling was irrevocable.

PDP’s uncompromising MLAs protested Speaker’s ruling and the Treasury Bench’s persistent efforts to digress the business. They trooped into the well, played a tug-of-war with the marshals and raised slogans against the 33-month-long Omar Abdullah government. Their slogans: “andha qanoon nahi chalega”, “gunda gardi nahi chalegi”, “qatal ka hisab dau” et al. However, Speaker did not force them out through the marshals.

Significantly, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, PDP Patron Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, Shia cleric and PDP’s high profile MLA Maulvi Iftikhar Hussain Ansari did not attend the proceedings today. PDF Chairman and independent MLA from Khansahab, Hakeem Mohammad Yasin, remained absent with the complaint that Government and NC were “unnecessarily sitting on prestige” over the demand of discussion. Independent MLA from Langet, Engineer Sheikh Abdul Rashid, has already declared himself on boycott to register his protest over the ruling parties’ machination on the Afzal Guru resolution.

Speaking on behalf of the government, Sagar waved documents and receipts to substantiate his claim that Law Secretary had delivered a requisition on High Court and same had been duly acknowledged by the concerned. He asserted that the state government was absolutely clear and sincere in holding inquiry by a sitting High Court judge. He claimed that both the reports, on which PDP relied to file a fresh motion, were “misleading and incorrect”.

Even as Congress remained a mute spectator, NC’s MLAs clashed with the PDP and some other parties’ members, including Hakeem Yasin, Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami and Harsh Dev Singh, joined the demand of discussion, Speaker rejected the adjournment motion.

Speaker conducted rest of the scheduled business amid din as the PDP MLAs kept shouting slogans and some opposition members from Jammu, including BJP’s Jugal Kishore, NPP’s Harsh Dev Singh and JSM’s Ashwani Kumar, complained that entire time had been wasted on one or two issues and most of the important issues had remained intact. Amid today’s din, Speaker got two Bills, related to VAT and Financial management, moved and passed with verbal vote in less than four minutes.

As Speaker declared Assembly sine die at 10.40 a.m. PDP MLAs wlaked out while continuing slogans. Speaking to media outside, PDP President Mehbooba Mufti maintained that discussion on Syed Yousuf’s death was more important than any other issue as it, according to her, involved “murder and political corruption”.

Outside the Legislative Complex and J&K High Court Complex, relatives and followers of the influential Shia cleric and PDP’s MLA Maulvi Iftikhar Hussain Ansari, staged a demonstration against Speaker. They protested Speaker’s humiliation and abusing of Maulvi’s family members while urging Chief Minister to remove Mr Lone as Speaker. Immediately after yesterday’s altercation between the two, Speaker had withdrawn his unparliamentary remarks and apologized to the PDP MLA.


Tuesday, October 4, 2011

NC activist’s death raises political storm

Speaker, Ansari trade filth over PDP’s motion

Justice impossible till accused are CM, MoS Home: Mehbooba

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Oct 3: Speaker Mohammad Lone today dismissed PDP’s adjournment motion over death of a National Conference (NC) activist in Legislative Assembly even as he locked horns with the principal opposition party and the PDP’s MLA and the Speaker exchanged filthy adjectives and invectives. PDP President, Mehbooba Mufti, persisted with her demand of Chief Minister Omar Abdullah’s resignation with the argument that no credible investigation was possible as long as the accused held the highest offices in the state government.

With his arrival in the House, Speaker initiated the proceedings of Question Hour without regard to an adjournment motion moved by a group of over one dozen MLAs of PDP. Leader of the Opposition and PDP President, Mehbooba Mufti, got up to assert that her party’s adjourn motion was of “extremely serious nature” as fingers were being directly raised over Chief Minister Omar Abdullah and union Minister Dr Farooq Abdullah in the alleged custodial killing of one Syed Mohammad Yousuf.

Speaker insisted that he would deal with the adjourn motion but not before completion of Question Hour. He asserted that there were “very important questions” in the list and pointed out that Question Hour had remained fully disrupted since beginning of the autumn session on September 26th. However, Mehbooba, joined by all of her party’s MLAs, remained unrelenting and made it clear that PDP would not allow any business until a full-length discussion was conducted over its motion.

Finding the Speaker not receptive, Mehbooba shouted that a political activist had been “murdered” at the Chief Minister’s house. “It’s a murder on money”, she yelled with full backing of her camp. Suddenly, members from the Treasury Benches also got up and there was a complete ruckus. Speaker, as well as Minister of Law and Parliamentary Affairs, Ali Mohammad Sagar, failed to pacify the PDP members with their arguments.

With that PDP MLAs began shouting slogans like “Yousuf Ke Qatiloon Kau Pesh Karo” (‘take Yousuf’s killers to task’). As soon as PDP’s outspoken MLA, Maulvi Iftikhar Hussain Ansari, began shouting and gesticulating in support of the motion, Speaker unleashed a no-hold-barred volley of filthy adjectives and invectives on him. Arguably unprecedented in over 50 years of J&K Legislature’s history, altercation between Speaker and Ansari went on air live through dozens of cameras of different television news channels. Indecent vocabulary and gesticulation raised eyebrows among people in Speaker’s Gallery, Officer’s Galley and Press Gallery. Even the marshals and officials of Assembly Secretariat were seen hanging their heads in shame. An incensed Ansari even threw a fan-stand towards Speaker but the missile was intercepted by a marshal.

Later, in another sitting, Speaker apologized for his behaviour and treatment meted out to Ansari. He claimed that he was a “clean and straightforward politician with all ordinary human weaknesses and emotions. He said that he held Maulvi Iftikhar in high esteem but his objectionable behaviour and gesticulation had invoked a reaction that was unwarranted by every argument. He ordered expunction of the entire spat between him and the PDP MLA but not to the satisfaction of the opposition.

Former Minister of Law and Deputy Minister, Muzaffar Hussain Baig, got himself recorded on several television news channels with his bitter reaction. “All of us must hang our heads in shame. We can tolerate everything from this Speaker but not publicly abusing of the daughter of our senior colleague who is also a prominent religious leader with tremendous following in the state”, Baig asserted.

Amid three adjournments of 20 minutes to one hour each, Speaker attempted to carry forward the scheduled business but failed to restore order in the face of slogans and counter-slogans between NC and PDP. In the initial round of clash, Congress MLAs joined hands with NC but later it was purely NC versus PDP. NC’s MLAs, including some members of the status of Minister, raised slogans holding the PDP supremo and former Chief Minister responsible for his Ministerial colleague Dr Ghulam Nabi Lone’s “killing” in a militant strike in Tulsi Bagh. “Lone Ke Qatiloon Kau Pesh Karo Pesh Karo”, they kept on shouting.

Speaker declared that some MLAs of PDP had submitted an adjournment motion under Rule 56, seeking adjournment of business and discussion of the death of Syed Yousuf on September 30th. He pointed out to Chief Minister’s assertion and said that Chief Justice was being asked to appoint a sitting judge for the investigation. According to him, discussion on the motion could “hamper and hinder the investigation”. His argument was strongly rejected by PDP. Thereupon, Speaker announced that the motion was being disallowed.

Registering its protest with statements, slogans and walk-outs, PDP maintained that it would not relent until Chief Minister, MoS Home Nasir Aslam Wani and even union Minister and NC’s President Dr Farooq Abdullah would step down. Mehbooba claimed that there was every possibility of their interference, influencing the inquiry and tampering with evidences as long as the accused held high government positions. She also dismissed Speaker’s argument and claimed that till date there was neither any FIR in the “custodial killing” nor any Government order of judicial investigation, let alone appointment of a judge as head of the inquiry.

Mehbooba alleged that Yousuf had been “eliminated” after he resisted beating by Chief Minister’s security guards and threatened to expose members of the Abdullah family, including Farooq Abdullah. She claimed that Yousuf was “very close” to the family, flew in helicopters with Chief Minister, conducted political transactions and also knew “much about the family”.


Govt maintains Yousuf died of ‘cardiac arrest’

Omar claims innocence, initiates defamation suit against PDP chief

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Oct 3: Breaking his silence after four days, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah today asserted that PDP’s accusation of the NC activist Syed Yousuf’s custodial killing was “completely unfounded and unsubstantiated”. He said that on his suo moto action, a sitting judge of Jammu & Kashmir High Court would hold a thorough and credible investigation into the entire episode but, at the same time, he would file a defamation suit against the PDP President, Mehbooba Mufti, for the allegation of “murder” she had leveled against him and his father Dr Farooq Abdullah.

Addressing a crowded news conference after the final adjournment of today’s sitting on the Legislature lawns, Chief Minister said that he had decided to remain tightlipped on the death of his party activist as he feared it could impact the judiciary inquiry he had ordered suo moto. “But when I realized that my silence was being used against me, I decided to make a statement to make things clear”, Chief Minister said. He, however, added that he would not take any questions, either at today’s news conference or thereafter until the judicial inquiry was completed.

Claiming that neither he nor anybody of his family, party or government had even an iota of involvement in Yousuf’s death, Omar Abdullah said that in so-called rape-cum-murder case of Shopian in 2009, politicians and media had used his utterance (regarding prima facie observation) against him but, contrarily, today his silence was being used as a tool against him. He said that he would expect no good from his political detractors but made a passionate appeal to media not to report anything “merely on assumptions and unfounded allegations” or editorialize anything without substance.

According to him, there was no scope for the demand of his and his colleagues’ resignation as he had immediately after Yousuf’s death at Police Hospital asked IG Crime to investigate the allegation of two of his party workers against the third party activist. “As soon as the death occurred, I thought it necessary to order a judicial inquiry and directed my government to requisition a sitting judge of J&K High Court for conducting inquiry into the circumstances that led to our worker’s death”, he added.

Chief Minister said it was unfortunate that instead of appreciating his action, politicians and mediapersons carried stories, creating an impression as if Yousuf had been tortured to death at his home. He said that a judicial commission alone would dig out the reality and he would have no hesitation in producing himself before the inquiry. “If anything indicating death (by torture) is established in post mortem or the investigation, anybody found guilty would have to face punishment”, he said.

“I have full faith in our judicial system and I’m sure that all the serious allegation leveled against me and my colleagues would prove to be baseless”, Omar said. He said it was utterly unfortunate that PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti had leveled serious allegation of “murder” against him which he would not contest in public. He disclosed that he had directed his lawyers to prepare and file a defamation suit in a court of law against Ms Mufti. He said that leveling baseless allegations and later revoking the same with apologies was characteristic of Ms Mufti’s party.

Chief Minister was flanked at the news conference by a number of his Cabinet colleagues, advisors and senior officials, including DGP Kuldeep Khoda.

Within hours, DGP Khoda and Principal Secretary Home, B R Sharma, disclosed at a hurriedly press conference this evening that the death certificate issued by doctors had also established Yousuf’s death as the result of “cardio respiratory arrest”. They said that the final medico-legal opinion was expected to become available from FSL in a few days.

Sharma and Khoda revealed that a case under section 420 RPC (cheating) had been registered and Crime Branch was investigating the allegation of the two NC activists against the third one who later died at hospital. They said that District Magistrate had already ordered inquest proceedings under section 176 CrPC. They made it clear that a murder case could not be filed in absence of indicators in the inquest. According to them, murder (section 302 RPC) could be added to Section 420 RPC in the same FIR if any evidence of Yousuf’s killing was found in the inquest or the judicial inquiry.

They released a statement of facts according to which Yousuf had come out without any marks of injury or complaint of physical torture from CM’s house, cooperated with IG Crime in the preliminary questioning but had later complained uneasiness following which he was treated at Police Hospital. They revealed that all medical investigation, including USG and ECG, were found alright but next morning Yousuf’s condition deteriorated suddenly and he was declared dead at 9.45 a.m.


Sunday, October 2, 2011

Minister, IG may be sacrificed over Syed Yousuf
Guards deployed at truncated NC leader’s house in Ganderbal

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Oct 2: Even as the ruling National Conference (NC) has put up a brave face and images of a smiling Chief Minister Omar Abdullah and Minister of State for Home, Nasir Aslam Wani, were played up on television, Government is understood to be considering some action to blunt PDP’s campaign of seeking resignation of CM, MoS Home and union Minister Dr Farooq Abdullah.

Highly placed authoritative sources revealed to Early Times late tonight that the NC top brass was seriously weighing the suggestion of “voluntary resignation” of MoS Home, Nasir Aslam Wani. According to these sources, transfer and attachment of some senior officials in Crime Branch, between SP and IG, “pending inquiry into Syed Yousuf’s death in mysterious circumstances” was also in consideration as a damage control exercise.

Sources revealed that NC’s District Secretary in Ganderbal, Mohammad Yousuf Bhat, who is now known to have collected and handed over to late Syed Mohammad Yousuf huge amount of Rs 84 Lakh, could be dismissed and terminated permanently from primary membership of the party. After a communication from Chief Minister’s Secretariat, DC Ganderbal Showkat Ahmad Mir has directed all line officers not to entertain any of Bhat’s recommendations and references, written or verbal, from yesterday. It has been notified to all concerned that Bhat was no more representative of MLA Ganderbal (Chief Minister) in the constituency.

Fearing mischief by trouble-makers, Government has, however, deployed four Police guards at Bhat’s residence in Repora village of Ganderbal. Besides, none of his six security guards has been withdrawn. Bhat has shifted back to his house after staying at his officially allotted flat in Tulsi Bagh in the capital city for over two years.

It has now become clear that he had collected sum of Rs 5 Lakh from one of his PSOs and the major part of Rs 50 Lakh from one Manzoor Ahmad Mir of Beehama, Ganderbal. With Bhat’s intervention, Manzoor had succeeded in getting the allotment of three major toll posts at Ganderbal and Sonmarg in 2010 and Tangmarg-Gulmarg in 2011. Known for overcharging from hundreds of tourist buses from different Indian states, Bhat is estimated to have earned profit of more than Rs 2 Crore in the last two years.

A junior Minister, who is known for his intimate relationship with Chief Minister, is known to have helped Manzoor Mir, on Bhat’s persuasion, in getting the toll post annual contract for very low rates at the three major tourist passages. Two Deputy Commissioners of Ganderbal, one SP and two Directors of Local Bodies, Kashmir, are known to have collected Rs 10 Lakh each as their “share” from Manzoor Mir through Bhat. However, incumbent DC, Showkat Mir, and a former SP, Imtiyaz Mir, threatened the contractor to arrest him when he went to them with an amount “fixed for DC and SP”. They also played a key role in getting two of his allotments---Ganderbal and Sonmarg---terminated from April this year. However, his contract in Tangmarg and Gulmarg is still continuing.


CM won’t step down on PDP’s “political drama” over NC activist’s death: Rather

‘Govt has announced judicial probe; PSO’s transfer is a separate issue’

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Oct 2: Minister of Finance, Abdul Rahim Rather, today made it unambiguously clear on behalf of the state government that Chief Minister Omar Abdullah would never step down on the “political drama” PDP, according to him, had enacted over the death of a National Conference (NC) activist, Syed Mohammad Yousuf, here on Friday last. He strongly refuted media reports and some opposition parties’ statements which have created an impression that the NC activist had died due to perpetration of physical torture on him at the Chief Minister’s residence.

In the government’s first frontal response to PDP’s accusation of custodial killing against Chief Minister and Minister of State for Home, Nasir Aslam Wani, Finance Minister and senior NC leader, Abdul Rahim Rather, made it clear at a hurriedly organized news conference that there was no question of Mr Omar Abdullah’s resignation.

“Chief Ministers don’t step down on unsubstantiated allegations. Without getting into the controversy of circumstances that led to (Yousuf’s) death, Chief Minister promptly announced a judicial inquiry as a party worker, called to his camp office, had died. Government immediately requested Chief Justice to spare a sitting judge of J&K High Court for conducting the investigation. What else does PDP want?” Rather asked. He asserted that neither Chief Minister nor MoS Home, Nasir Aslam Wani, had any involvement in the NC activist’s death.

Contrary to Government spokesman’s first statement on the death on Saturday, Mr Rather, however, did not claim that Yousuf had died of “massive cardiac arrest”. He asserted that truth would prevail at the end of the day as an independent judicial inquiry by a senior judge of High Court would make everything crystal clear. He gave a carbon copy of the official spokesman’s narration that Yousuf had been called for the settlement of a dispute with two other NC activists, all the three passed on to CM’s camp office, went through a confrontation, came out without any sign of physical torture and faced questioning at an office of Crime Branch.

According to Mr Rather, Yousuf later complained of nausea, went for a medical check up to Police Hospital and was also treated at SMHS Hospital. His death occurred next morning. He said that the authorities constituted a team of the forensic medicine experts of Government Medical College who conducted post mortem under audio-visual coverage. Cause of the death would become clear only after compilation of the post mortem report. “If the crime of death in custody is established, our government would take necessary action against whoever, howsoever powerful, involved in it”, Rather clarified.

While as after his return from Chennai, Chief Minister attended a tourism-related event at Gulmarg in company of his father, Dr Farooq Abdullah, and MoS Home and Tourism, Nasir Aslam Wani, Rather was flanked at the Banquet Hall news conference by CM’s advisors, Mubarak Gul and Devinder Singh Rana, besides Minister of Law and Parliamentary Affairs, Ali Mohammad Sagar. Immediately after the press conference, NC’s top leadership remained closeted to draw strategy as to how the party in the hot seat of power would respond to PDP’s aggressive campaign on this particular issue. By this evening, it became clear that PDP would be moving an adjournment motion in Legislative Assembly on Monday, seeking a detailed discussion on Yousuf’s “custodial killing” besides Chief Minister’s and MoS Home’s resignation.

Rather at the press conference charged PDP with “playing politics” over the death of the NC activist. “He was dear to us all. He belonged to our party. We are all shocked over his death”, Rather said. Referring to PDP’s legal luminary and former Deputy Chief Minister Muzaffar Hussain Baig’s statements, Rather said: “He is a lawyer by profession and he has every right to raise such issues. But it does not behove a high profile politician of Mr Baig’s stature to make mountain out of a molehill”. He asserted that PDP’s demand of CM’s resignation was in no way acceptable to his party and government.

When it was pointed out to him that even an FIR had not been registered by Police, Crime Branch and any other organisation, Rather argued that the judicial commission would take all necessary action according to its observation. In reply to another question as to why several of CM’s security guards and radio operators had been shifted to other places dramatically on Friday itself, Rather insisted that there was no correlation between Yousuf’s death and transfer of CM’s PSOs. “It’s CM’s discretion as to who should be his PSO and who should not”, Rather asserted and urged media not to read too much in “routine administrative matters”.