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Thursday, February 16, 2012

NC’s ex-MLC, PDP leader’s kin among JK Bank’s defaulters

 JK Bank asks DPS Anantnag owners to pay back debt of Rs 3.43 Cr

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Feb 15: National Conference leader and the party’s former Member of Legislative Council, Altaf Ahmad Wani alias Altaf Kaloo, and brother of PDP leader and former Minister of State for Health, Abdul Gaffar Sofi, are among the owners of Delhi Public School, Anantnag, who have been notified by Jammu & Kashmir Bank as defaulters and asked to pay back debt outstanding of Rs 3.43 Cr in the next two months.

According to officials at JKB’s South Kashmir zonal office, NC leader Altaf Kaloo, PDP leader Abdul Gaffar Sofi’s brother, Abdul Rashid Sofi, and two other businessmen of Anantnag and Sangam towns set up Mars Educational Trust (MET) Sangam in 2004-05. Within a year, they became franchise of Delhi Public School and set up its Anantnag branch at Sangam on the National Highway. They took term loan of Rs 2.00 Cr for construction of the school buildings in 2006, term loan of Rs 63 Lakh in 2007 for expansion of the complex besides procurement of furniture, computers and labs and in the same year another term loan of Rs 56 Lakhs for purchasing school buses.

JKB officials said that promoters of the trust committed serious defaults and irregularities in backing the loan back to the back according to the agreement between the two parties. They said that when the principal amount and the interest thereon accumulated to Rs 3.43 Cr and the party did not honour its commitments and assurances made in response of several notices and meetings with the branch manager, the bank felt constrained to issue the notice through newspapers.

“All these term loans, alongwith the interest, were to be repaid by you through monthly installments of prescribed amounts but you have been willfully neglecting and refusing to pay the same. As a result of your default, the bank has been forced to recall these term loans and after a number of notices and requests, it finally recalled the same in July 2011 whereupon the entire amount outstanding in these three accounts, aggregating to Rs 34325359.57, as on 31-12-2011, has become due and payable to the bank from you”, reads the notice issued through a daily today. Bank has asked the ‘defaulters’ to pay the entire amount in two months to save themselves from further action and made it clear publicly that “said actions of the bank may entail severe hardships to the innocent students of the school but you alone shall be to blame for the same”.

With the things coming to a head between the DPS Anantnag owners and the bank, future of over a thousand students has landed into uncertainty. Classes of LKG to Class 12th have been operational at this school, first and the last CBSE-affiliated school in south Kashmir. “We are conscious of the sensitivity of the issue but equally constrained to recover the debt in full. People can not hide behind such sensitivities and situations”, said a senior JKB official. He described it as bank’s routine activity of recovery and regularization of accounts.

Former MLC and NC’s leader, Altaf Ahmad Wani (Kaloo), who is one of the four founder members and trustees of Mars Educational Trust disputed that the promoters had committed any ‘willful default”. “We have no intention of running away with the bank’s money. We have already paid back Rs 2 Crore and owe Rs 68 Lakhs to them”, Altaf told Early Times. According to him, bank had done the favour of advancing loan of Rs 4 Crore but also been “unfair” in fixation of the “anomalous” rate of interest as well as execution of insurance.

Altaf explained that JKB had advanced voluminous loan to DPS Srinagar at just 7% while as interest rate of 13% was being arbitrarily charged from DPS Anantnag. According to him, the trust had raised this issue with the former Chairman of the bank but he did not settle it for a long time. Later, the promoters raised the same with the current chairman, Mushtaq Ahmad, who was gracious enough to issue written sanction and orders, asking the bank officials to rationalize the rate of interest and make it same as has been sanctioned in favour of DPS Srinagar. “But, the branch manager is repeatedly denying receipt and knowledge of such orders”, Altaf asserted.

Altaf said that it was not the promoters’ but the bank’s fault that it had insured only the building structures and general laboratory for a lower amount with Bajaj Allianz. He insisted that major reason of the irregularity were two massive attacks by unruly mobs on the school in 2008 and 2010. “In the first attack, we suffered damages to the tune of Rs 1.87 Cr. Due to the bank’s lapse and laxity, Bajaj cleared the claim only for Rs 51 Lakhs. That was deposited in the account. Next time, damages were assessed at Rs 1.62 Cr. Again, the insurance company is pleading to pay a small amount. No claim has been realized till date”, Altaf said. He said it was being projected in defence by Bajaj that different labs and equipments had not been specifically and separately covered in the policy made by the bank.

Known for its “softness” towards defaulters in politics and media, J&K Bank has rarely taken harsh measures to enforce recovery of loans from several classes of customers. It is after a long time that notice has been publicly served on so-called protected defaulters. While as Abdul Rashid Sofi’s brother, Abdul Gaffar Sofi, who is believed to be the real partner, was returned as PDP’s MLA from Homeshalibugh in 2002 and 2008 Assembly elections, he served as MoS Health in Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s coalition government. Second partner, Altaf Ahmad Wani alias Kaloo, emerged as NC’s choice and was installed as the party’s MLC in 2009. He held that position for two years.


Kashmiri IAS aspirant’s brutal killing shakes Uri

Lucknow Police files FIR, post mortem confirms murder

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Feb 14: Ruling National Conference’s Lok Sabha member from North Kashmir, Sharief-ud-din Shariq, seems to be programmed to raise hue and cry over the killing of only those of his voters who die at the hands of Police and security forces. Same party’s Rajya Sabha member, Mohammad Shafi Uri, who served several times as MLA of Uri and a Minister in J&K, appears to be more concerned on political news than the crime done to the Kashmiris outside. Sitting MLA from Uri and Congress’ Minister of Irrigation, Taj Mohi-ud-din, is apparently preoccupied with dousing the in-house flames of his party that were fast leaping onto him, Peerzada Sayeed and some other of his Cabinet colleagues. Hurriyat’s tropical plant of Azadi has never taken root in temperate Uri.

So, death of the IAS aspirant, Syed Danish Ali Naqvi of Kamalkote, in extreme brutality in the UP capital city of Lucknow, goes unnoticed, ignored and uncondemned. The story of transportation of the dead body, that took full five days, from Lucknow to Uri, is no less pathetic.

According to his three roommates, one from Poonch and two from Budgam district of J&K, twenty-two-year old Danish walked out of the privately hired accommodation in Sarfarazgunj are of Lucknow at 2200 hours on January 31st, in informal outfits without telling them that he would draw some money from the local ATM. As he did not return for the whole night, they thought he was participating in a religious function in their neighbourhood.

As the boy remained untraced on February 1st, Danish’s roommate, Murtaza of Poonch and two others called his cousin Syed Anwar Shah who is a student of Islamic studies at Jamia Imamiya Tanzeem-ul-Makkatib, Golagung. Danish’s three roommates from J&K, one more from Barabanki UP and cousin Anwar continued their search but failed to get any clue. Why didn’t they inform Police? “We thought it is election time here and Police would arrest and harass all the Kashmiri students”, Anwar revealed to Early Times.

Finally, some labourers working at construction of Era’s Medical College hostel informed Police that there was a dead body hanging against a tree in the nursery. Police reached the spot, took the body into custody and recovered Danish’s belongings. These included cash of Rs 10080, an ATM card of J&K Bank besides the Identity Card of M-Tech Academy’s coaching centre, where the slain youth was enrolled in English Speaking Course. He had planned for go for MBA but not before trying his luck in current year’s IAS examination. After completing his BA from Degree College in Uri, Danish had left for the coaching in Lucknow four months ago.
According to Anwar, some shopkeepers revealed to Police that they had spotted some strangers at around midnight of February ½ who were in a Wagon car with its number plate covered by mud. They asked for tea which was not available that time. Then they returned. Police on the spot found tyre marks of a Wagon R from the plantation backyard of the famous Era’s Lucknow Medical College and Hospital. According to eyewitnesses, the body was hanging against a tree, with both hands tied in the back. Gaping wounds in the area of neck and ears indicated forceful strikes of a sharp sword.

Men from Balagunj Police Division and Thakurgunj Police station took next two days in registration of a “death in mysterious circumstances” and completing medico-legal formalities. The inquest proceedings conducted under section 174 CrPC found it a plain case of murder.

Dead body was returned to the young student Syed Anwar with a preliminary post mortem observation that suggested that Danish had died of “asphyxia caused due to strangulation”. With everybody busy in Assembly elections, none among Police or civil administration came to Anwar’s help till his relatives sent him e-tickets.

After a great deal of hassles, that includes a bitter exchange between the Kashmir Divisional Commissioner’s OSD and Resident Commissioner in New Delhi, Anwar succeeded in carrying the body to Kamalkote, close to LoC in Uri sector, for funeral. From February 2nd to 6th, the embalmed body remained in unattended rooms, airport mortuaries and transshipment.

Danish’s barbaric murder has shaken up not only the father Syed Rehmat Shah Naqvi and his family but also sent shockwaves all across Uri. “We are completely shattered and are left with no strength to call for investigation and justice. We are broken. How can we approach officers and politicians to seek their help?” 50-year-old Rehmat Shah, who works as Assistant Executive Engineer in Rural Engineering Wing of the state Rural Development Department in Sopore, bemoaned. Danish’s mother, Sayyeda Nazir Fatima, lost her mental balance with the first news of her son’s slaying. After a week of treatment at SKIMS Medical College and Government Psychiatric Diseases Hospital in Srinagar, she was carried back to her village today.

Rehmat Ali said that the Investigating Officer contacted him on phone today and informed him that it had been established as a murder case. He told him that the investigation was underway but none of the suspects had been arrested or interrogated in the last over one week. Even the motive of the murder, which was all the more blind after recovery of the entire amount of cash Danish had drawn from the ATM, was found intact. His other belongings, including his cellphone were all in his room, though he made a call to his younger brother Muntazar between 11.00 pm and 1.00 a.m on the fateful night. He wanted to talk to his mother, who was however admitted at SKIMS Medical College Bemina. He put off the call, telling Munatazar that he would call next day.

DIG/SSP of Lucknow, D K Thakur, told Early Times over phone from Lucknow that Police had converted the matter into a murder case but there had been no headway. “We have not been able to do anything substantial so far”, DIG said. He added that the investigation was in progress.


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Peerzada: Minister of gain in the coalition of loss

Sonia, Omar have more at stake than this ‘loyalist since Emergency’

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Feb 13: In his statement of defence, Peerzada Mohammad Sayeed has communicated to Mrs Sonia Gandhi some important things in bullet points: That he has been a Congress loyalist and has never left the party in lurch since Emergency; that he has done much to keep India’s flag high in the strife-torn Kashmir; that he has rehabilitated a ‘militancy-hit family’ in his second marriage.

Those aware of things closely include editor of a vernacular daily in Srinagar. In his complaints to readers through the columns of his daily and Police through applications, he is on record to have observed that much more than the poor Minister it was the ‘militancy-hit family’ that was behind sending JKLF men to his office, getting him kidnapped and thrashed at a hideout in Maisuma. His accusations have gone uncontested in the last 10 years.

When New Delhi needed men to keep its flag aflutter in Srinagar, Peer Hissam-ud-din’s nephew huddled himself into the dungeons of Legislators’ Hostel in Jammu. Those who performed the heroic task in turbulent times and held the fort in Valley without publishing their resignation through paid advertisements in vernacular dailies, are all in oblivion today. Taj Mohiuddin is an exception.

Peerzada read about Ghulam Rasool Kar’s rally of January, 1995, in newspapers. Kar and Taj made the first dent in the Hurriyat’s and the militants’ completely captured Valley with the blessings of Narasimha Rao and Rajesh Pilot. Even as Rao remained just rhetorical with his sky-is-the-limit in Burkina Faso, Pilot kept shuttling between Delhi and Srinagar at a time when men like Peerzada believed that the Valley had been lost for ever.

Pilot left no stone unturned to regain the lost paradise for Delhi. After several visits from 1990 to 1992, he made it a point to drive deep into the interior of Baghwanpora, Lalbazar, to interact with bereaved families when over 50 people died in a house collapse. He met elders to seek their goodwill and doled out things from telephone connections to LPG units among the young, whoever met him and sought favour from the Member of Parliament. Pilot was absent but his portraits were high in the rally Kar and Taj initiated from Uri and concluded three days later at Qazigund.

Those prominently conspicuous in the rally included Ghulam Mohammad Mir Magami, who later became Lok Sabah member in 1996, and died; Former militants Sareer Khan, who was years later ambushed and gunned down in Chandoosa; and, Chaudary Jalal-ud-din, who was later literally pushed back to the wall of ‘Pakistan-occupied Kashmir’. Days after his maiden interaction with Pilot, Jalaluddin appeared on Doordarshan with his famous statement, perhaps first of such against the militants: “Al-Barq, Al-Garq” [Down with Al-Barq] “Eik kutta thaa mere paas, usay bhi naa chhorha [Terrorists didn’t spare even my pet dog].

Jalal’s brother, Salam-ud-din, contested two elections for Congress from Kupwara. He lost both, but not before attracting back into the mainstream politics men like Mushtaq Ahmad Lone, who had led pro-Azadi processions from Kupwara to Lolab in 1990, after serving as NC’s MLA from 1987 to 1990. Then a promising advocate, Mir Saifullah, too was lured into the pro-Indian political activity. In 1996 elections, both became NC’s MLAs from Kupwara and Lolab respectively. Salam-ud-din too vanished into oblivion shortly, alongwith the most imposing Deen Mohammad Cheetah.

While as Ghulam Ahmed Mir remained engaged in distributing petrol pumps with a union Minister in Delhi and Peerzada read Kokernag’s news in the dailies in Jammu, Kar and Taj kept sowing fresh seeds of their party in Valley. The ‘militancy-hit family’ in question remained part and parcel of the bloodshed that commanders like Parvez Billa unleashed in Valley and made thousands of the Kashmiris run for life.

Anyway, that’s not for Congress alone. In NC too, men like Mohammad Sayeed Akhoon, who had the audacity of keeping the red party flag aflutter on their rooftops, perished under the weight of escapists who returned as ‘petty contractors” from Jammu in 1996 and became not only Ministers but also multi-millionaires. In the whole camp, Forest Minister Mian Altaf is the only one who stood back in Valley firmly alongwith his family and survived fatal landmine explosions. In one of such blasts, his foot was nearly amputated.

When Taj grappled with counter-insurgents and declared his own war on the dreaded Ikhwan and Muslim Mujahideen, Peerzada learned about it in Jammu. Later, when “Emergency time loyalists” returned, Kokernag-Dooru had become a safe haven for Congress. Death of NC’s MLA and Parliamentary Secretary (minister without oath) Ghulam Hassan Bhat in an IED blast and poor performance of another MLA, Pir Abdul Rasheed, came as a boon to Congress. Since 2002, Kokernag and Dooru have become bastions of Mrs Gandhi’s party.

Cynics expecting Peerzada’s and Mir’s fall after 2006 sex scandal were pretty wrong in their observation. Both were returned in 2008 and both are continuing as strong contenders in the forthcoming elections too.  Peerzada’s involvement and indictment by J&K State Accountability Commission later in the infamous Panchayat Ghar Electrification Scandal became a certificate of his “good performance” for the voters in Kokernag. Even today, after reams of his involvement have been published in newspapers, his constituency stands intact.

If that alone is the yardstick, Peerzada deserves to be promoted to the rank of Deputy Chief Minister.

But, nobody in Kashmir seems to have swallowed Sonia Gandhi’s act of making the mockery of the party’s affairs as well as that of the NC-Congress coalition. Much more than Peerzada has gained in the support and clean chit from Delhi, Sonia and Omar have lost. Having lost their faith in the coalition leadership, unprecedented in last many years, Kashmiris are now satirically suggesting on streets: “Peerzada Sahab should be now given portfolio of Higher Education so that he could help his son in under-graduation examinations!”. Will the morally sensitive Omar Abdullah allow himself to be sacrificed for tainted partners of Congress, remains the biggest question in every drawing room in Srinagar.


Monday, February 13, 2012

Fayyaz asks Governor: Why does Govt promote unauthorized TV channels in J&K?

In 24 hours, Div Comm orders DCs to take “immediate action” against cable operators

Early Times Report

SRINAGAR, Feb 12: A day after Srinagar Bureau Chief of Early Times, Ahmed Ali Fayyaz, pointed out to Governor N N Vohra at the IRIIS conference how Government was encouraging mushroom growth of completely unauthorized Television channels to discredit genuine media in Jammu & Kashmir, Divisional Commissioner, Dr Asgar Hassan Samoon, has directed respective Deputy Commissioners to initiate immediate action against the defaulting cable operators in Kashmir.

Sunday being a gazetted holiday, Kashmir Divisional Commissioner, Dr Asgar Samoon, issued the orders of immediate action against the defaulting cable operators through a social networking website. “It seems that some local cable networks have once again started broadcasting news n views despite Govt ban n in violation of the Cable Act, in some districts of kashmir valley like Baramulla and south kashmir. I am asking concerned Deputy Commissioners for immediate action against them per law”, Dr Samoon posted on his wall on Facebook. “I would also solicit n appreciate considered views of all organised media and public at large on the subject”, he added, requesting the stakeholders and common people to send him their opinion on the operation of cable TV channels.
Divisional Commissioner’s orders to DCs in the Valley came a day after eminent journalist and Srinagar bureau chief of Early Times pointed out at a conference that in violation of the law of 1995, government functionaries, including DCs and Ministers, were encouraging wild growth of unauthorized cable TV channels and granting them recognition with their own appearance in illegally running “news and current affairs programmes”.

Governor N N Vohra participated as chief guest at the conference organized here yesterday by New Delhi-based Institute of Research on India and International Studies (IRIIS). Country’s eminent political scientist and Professor of Delhi University, Dr Neera Chandhoke, editor of daily ‘Kashmir Images’ Bashir Manzar and BBC’s Srinagar correspondent Riyaz Masroor, were speakers at the panel discussion. Honorary director of IRIIS and author of two books on Kashmir, Prof Navnita Chadha Behera, presented findings of a survey on Kashmiri Youth and Media, at the conference which was attended by a galaxy of academics, mediapersons, government functionaries, businessmen, social activists, researchers and politicians.

Teachers and students of different departments of University of Kashmir, Islamic University of Science and Technology, Vice Chancellor of Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agriculture Sciences and Technology, Kashmir, Peoples Conference chairman Sajjad Gani Lone, former Director of Doordarshan Kendra Srinagar, Shehzadi Simon, editor-in-chief of ‘The Tribune’, Raj Chengappa and Divisional Commissioner Kashmir, Dr Samoon, were among the participants at the second and the last conference on the subject organized by IRIIS.

Previously, the first conference and a panel discussion was organized by the IRIIS at India International Centre in New Delhi on January 27th. While as Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah, presided over that conference and functioned as moderator, senior journalist Dileep Padgaonkar, Srinagar-based journalist Ahmed Ali Fayyaz and NDTV’s Foreign Affairs editor, Nidhi Razdan, were speakers at the three-hour-long panel discussion.

IRIIS is an autonomous, non-profit research institute established in 2008 with an aim to broaden the understanding of India in a globalizing world in an interdisciplinary framework. It researches on development and rights, democracy and pluralism, knowledge and technology, environment and equity, terrorism and political violence and global power shifts with relation to India.

A group of highly acclaimed academics from University of Delhi, Jamia Millia Islamia and Jawahar Lal Nehru University, besides National Bureau Chief of ‘The Hindu’ and an authority on terrorism, security and strategic issues, Praveen Swami, Supreme Court of India advocate, Madhurima Tatia and Ms Jyoti Grover, founder director of Quadrangle Consulting and a specialist in organisation research on personality assessment, psycho-graphing and career coaching, are in the Core Team of IRIIS.

At the panel discussion yesterday, Ahmed Ali Fayyaz referred to the IRIIS survey on Kashmiri Youth and Media and asserted it was highly dangerous if uncontrolled, unregulated, unlicensed, unprofessional and completely illegal cable TV channels were permitted to feed “news and views” to the youth of 15-35 years of age group who form 48% of the total population in J&K. According to findings of the survey, 74% of the Kashmiri youth access news on state-run Doordarshan and Radio Kashmir. The survey conducted on sample of 1320 youth in Srinagar, Budgam, Anantnag, Kulgam, Baramulla and Bandipore districts, indicates that only 41% of the Kashmiri youth watch news on India’s private satellite television news channels like NDTV, Times NOW, CNN-IBN, ETV Urdu etcetera. On the other hand more Kashmiri youth i.e. 49% watch news on local cable television channels.

Referring to findings of the survey, sponsored by union Ministry of Home Affairs, Fayyaz pointed out that only eight of such channels were registered with the local authorities strictly for making and providing entertainment programmes to the subscribers. None of them was authorized by law to run news or current affairs programmes. He pointed out that the investigators found as many as 25 of such channels without any license, registration, infrastructure or professional media resource. None of them had any knowledge of Cable Television Network Operators (regulation) Act of 1995 or regard for programme code, ethics code and advertising code binding by law on all satellite and cable TV channels in India.

Still, all of these channels were found operating so-called “news and current affairs” programmes with the engagement of uneducated, illiterate staff, anchors, editors, programmers and producers. A number of government employees were also operating such channels and producing “news programmes” and even interviewing their own superior officers and DCs. He said it was all the more surprising that after the categorical ban on operation of such unauthorized channels and “ban” on “news and current affairs” programmes of the eight registered cable channels in September 2010, mushroom growth of such uncontrolled channels had been witnessed in J&K, particularly in the Valley. Over 50 of such channels were openly operating in Valley alone in 2011. “Ban” on unauthorized news programmes was in force nowhere other than in Srinagar city.

With DCs and Ministers themselves violating the law and appearing in unauthorized programmes, almost all of these channels---particularly in Baramulla, Anantnag and Kulgam---had been openly blackmailing hapless, law-abiding citizens. Everybody in the state and the central government was turning a blind eye to such uncouth broadcasts and a new menace of “social media” was being promoted by the authorities with flagrant violation of law. He said that DCs and other officials as also politicians, including MLAs and Ministers, were promoting and projecting themselves through this illegal platform and “reporters” and camerapersons of these very channels were fast eclipsing bona fide journalists and accredited correspondents at most of the government functions at district level.

According to some reports, government officials and politicians had fixed their own “hafta” (salaries) to operators of these channels, mostly former militants, and their “citizen journalists” were being hired by officers, including in Police, to trap their rivals in “sting operations”. Such matter was being uploaded on Youtube, Facebook and other social media sites without any fear of law and accountability.

Fayyaz pointed out that when a south Kashmir youth, albeit with no negative reputation, met with Governor previous evening, Department of Information proudly issued a bulletin, saying that CEO of a Pulwama-based “news channel” had a meeting with the Governor. He asked Mr Vohra as to what law in this country had allowed such recognition of quacks as bona fide journalists.

Even as Governor did not respond, Divisional Commissioner today directed DCs in Kashmir to initiate immediate action against the defaulting cable operators.


Sunday, February 12, 2012

Rafiabad tense as soldier ‘guns down’ civilian

MoS Home, DGP, Corps Commander douse the flames; Inquiries ordered

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Feb 11: On the anniversary of the execution of Kashmir’s separatist icon and JKLF founder Maqbool Bhat, troops have allegedly gunned down a youth in Rafiabad area of Baramulla district. Even as senior Police and Army officials and Minister of State for Home, Nasir Aslam Wani, visited the village, apologized to the bereaved family and ordered three separate inquiries, Rafiabad was reportedly tense over the civilian killing that came after a long pause of calm but could generate a fresh demand of revocation of J&K Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA).

Informed sources in North Kashmir told Early Times that last evening troops from D-company of Rashtriya Rifles 32 Bn, alongwith a Police party, moved from their camp at Tragpora and laid cordon around village Lysar. According to Army officials, who approached Police, troops had received ‘specific information’ regarding presence of some militants in the village.

In the very beginning of the cordon-and-search operation, a heated exchange took place between a soldier and retired Assistant Sub Inspector Ghulam Mohammad Rather. During this exchange, ASI’s nephew, 25-year-old Ashiq Hussain Rather S/o Mohammad Akbar Rather, came down from his room at first floor of the house from sidewall staircase. Suddenly a bullet hit him straight at his heart and the youth died on spot. The shootout raised commotion in the village and scores of residents gathered to protest and mourn the youth’s killing. They alleged that troops fired and killed the civilian in cold blood during a minor scuffle between a soldier, two of the youth’s brothers and his uncle.

Troops withdrew the cordon but hundreds of people gathered and began shouting pro-Azadi and anti-India slogans with the demand that the Army camp be shifted from the area and the “guilty” soldiers be disarmed, arrested, prosecuted and punished under law.

As tension began building up, SP Sopore Imtiyaz Hussain Mir, Sub Divisional Magistrate of Sopore, Mohammad Ahsan Mir, SDPO and SHO of Police Station Dangiwacha reached the spot at midnight and made sustained efforts to pacify the crowds. However, the angry mobs persisted with the protest. In the forenoon today, nearly a thousand-strong crowd blocked Baramulla-Langet Road outside Lysar village. They placed the dead body on the road, shouted slogans and conveyed to Police that they would not go for funeral until a murder case was registered and the “guilty” soldiers were taken into custody. Under instructions from top echelons of the state government, Police filed FIR No: 6 of 2012 under section 302 of RPC (murder) against the accused company of Rashtriya Rifles 32 Bn.

Police and the demonstrators clashed for a while as some people pelted stones and Police retaliated with tearsmoke and baton charge. Sources said that four civilians and five Police personnel sustained minor injuries in the clash. Police confirmed that five constables were hurt but maintained that none of the demonstrators was injured.

The demonstrators maintained allegation that troops had killed Ashiq, who worked as a labour at Fruit Mandi in Sopore, in cold blood. However, officers of Rashtriya Rifles insisted that the youth had died in “accidental fire”. They projected their claim with the argument that in case of a scuffle or shootout, bursts or multiple single shots would have been fired. Police confirmed that there was evidence of “just one single shot”. Police further said that FIR had been filed on the statement of the residents and the real picture would emerge only after a thorough investigation and ballistic analysis.

With the tension refusing to die down and independent MLA of Langet, Engineer Rashid shouting slogans “RR Tunnel Paar” and “Hisaab dau hisaab dau, khoon ka hisaab dau”, alongwith the demonstrators, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, flying from Jammu to Srinagar, deployed senior government functionaries for reaching out to the bereaved family and the angry residents. Being in Saudi Arabia on Umra, NC’s Rafiabad MLA and Minister of State for R&B, Javed Ahmad Dar, was not available. Consequently, MOS Home, Nasir Aslam Wani, flew to Watirgam alongwith Director General of Police, Kuldeep Khoda, and IGP Kashmir, Shiv Murari Sahai. At Watirgam, they were also joined by GOC of Srinagar-based 15 Corps, Lt Gen Syed Ata Hasnain.

Sources said that MoS Home Wani, alongwith senior Police and Army officials, interacted with members of the bereaved family and other residents and pacified them with the assurance that Army, Police and an executive magistrate would conduct three inquiries simultaneously. Anybody found guilty, they assured the gathering, would be arrested, prosecuted and punished under law and service conduct rules of Army. Thereafter, the crowds relented and they conducted the funeral of the ill-fated youth at Lysar. Over 500 people of Lysar, Hadipora and Watirgam participated in the funeral prayers.

Today’s incident of firing happened after months of calm in Rafiabad and other areas in Kashmir. Death of the youth in the disputed shootout came ironically on the anniversary of JKLF leader Maqbool Bhat’s execution when Kashmir valley observed near-total shutdown on the call of separatist leaders. Traffic, however, operated in almost all districts. The civilian killing is likely to generate fresh demand of revocation of AFSPA among the Valley’s political parties.

Reacting to allegations of killing by the soldier, Defence spokesman at headquarters 15th Corps issued the following statement:
“General Officer Commanding 15 Corps along with Minister of State (Home), Jammu and Kashmir Mr Nazir Aslam Wani, DG Police, General Officer Commanding Kilo Force and IG Kashmir visited the area of incident which lead to the death of an innocent young man in village Laser, North Kashmir on night of 10 Feb 2012.  Initial investigation of the incident revealed that on the basis of intelligence which indicated presence of terrorists in the village a column of 32 Rashtriya Rifles established a cordon near a group of houses.  The presence of the Army created some panic in a house which led to an accidental discharge of a weapon in the hands of an Rashtriya Rifles soldier.  
The single bullet which was discharged hit one of the occupants of the house, Ashiq Hussian Rathar son of Muhammad Akbar, who expired on the spot.   The General Officer Commanding, Minister of State (Home), Jammu and Kashmir and the DGP met a delegation from the village and confirmed that the unfortunate death was by an accidental discharge of a weapon and consoled the family. They sympathized with the family and while paying their condolences assured them of all compensation, including a job for a male member of the family. 
Attempts at escalation of the situation by some elements were defused by the timely visit of the high ranking Military, State and Police officials, admission of the innocence of the deceased and promise of necessary and timely compensation through ex gratia.  The General Officer Commanding confirmed the institution of a military Court of Inquiry while the Minister of State (Home), Jammu and Kashmir promised a parallel Magisterial Inquiry to confirm the chain of events and measures to prevent recurrence of such incidents”.