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Saturday, June 23, 2012

Ministry of Finance directs RBI to treat J&K Bank as a Govt bank

RTI activists get a shot in the arm to make the bank accountable to public

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Jun 22: In their struggle to make the state-controlled Jammu and Kashmir Bank Ltd accountable to public, RTI activists have discovered that union Ministry of Finance had directed Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to treat J&K Bank as a government bank as long as the state government retained over 50% of shares in it.

Even before some RTI activists and lawyers approached Jammu and Kashmir State Information Commission (SIC) with the plea that J&K Bank be declared as a government bank---and thus bound by law to provide information under RTI Act 2009 to the common citizens---the country’s highest executive authority in the domain, union Ministry of Finance, had directed RBI to treat J&K Bank as a government-controlled financial institution. The clarification came in the wake of confusion whether the Government of India’s Interest Subvention Scheme (ISS) was applicable in respect of J&K Bank.

“I am directed to say that the Government of India is implementing Interest Subvention Scheme since 2006-07 to ensure that the short term crop loans upto Rs 3.00 Lakh is available to farmers at 7% p.a. This Scheme is applicable for Public Sector Banks, Regional Rural Banks and Cooperative Banks”, Mr M S Azad, Under Secretary (AC) in Department of Financial Services, Ministry of Finance, Government of India wrote to Chief General Manager RPCD, RBI, Mumbai in a “MOST IMMEDIATE” communication on 01-11-2011. Copy of the letter was also sent to Chief General Manager, CPD, NABARD, Head Office Mumbai.

Mr Azad added: “Jammu & Kashmir Bank, being majority shares owned by Government of J&K, is also a public sector bank as per section 617 of the Companies Act. It has therefore been decided that the Interest Subvention Scheme on short term crop loans as mentioned above will also be applicable for the lending done by the Jammu & Kashmir Bank as long as Government of J&K retains majority stake in the bank. RBI and NABARD are requested to take necessary action in this regard”. In order to ensure that the loanee farmers got necessary benefit of the Central scheme, Mr Azad sought acknowledgement of the receipt of his communication to RBI and NABARD. A copy of the letter was delivered on Chairman of J&K Bank Ltd for information and necessary action.

RTI activists pursuing the matter with SIC included Jammu-based lawyer Vilakshana Singh, Nasrullah, Dr Varun Suthra, Immamul Ansarullah, Raman Sharma, Sunal Mahajan, Shalini Gupta, Dineshwar Singh Jamwal and Chuni Lal.

Former Chairman of the bank, Haseeb Drabu, had resisted all efforts of the RTI movement with his contention that J&K Bank was neither a state-created or state-controlled bank nor liable by RTI Act of 2009 to share any information with the common citizens. Even as he was removed and forced to resign by Omar Abdullah’s government in August 2010, his successor Mushtaq Ahmad too adopted the same line. Consequently, the bank authorities returned all the RTI application, while asserting that the bank did not fall under the jurisdiction of the law.

In the wake of all the RTI applications being returned to the applicants blank, some Jammu-based lawyers and RTI activists filed an appeal before SIC, seeking declaration that the J&K Bank, by virtue of being creation of the J&K Government and being fully controlled by the state government that had 53.17% share in it, be declared as a government bank and thus under jurisdiction of RTI Act of 2009.

In its Decision No: 120- SIC-J/K/Comp/35/2010 on 24-04-2012, SIC’s full bench, headed by Chairman Mr Ghulam Rasool Sufi, declared that J&K Bank was a government-created and government-controlled and thus liable to provide information to ordinary citizens under RTI Act of 2009.

Paragraph 59 of the SIC’s landmark judgment read:  “Thus having regard to the above discussion, the Commission declares the J&K Bank (Ltd) to be a “Public Authority” as defined in Section 2 of the J&K RTI Act, 2009 fulfilling the conditions therein”. 

The operative portion of the judgment in Paragraph No: 60 read: “Accordingly having declared the J&K Bank Ltd. to be a “Public Authority” as defined in Section 2 of the State RTI Act, the Chairman /Chief Executive Officer of the Bank is directed to designate First Appellate Authority /Authorities, Public Information Officer/Officers and Assistant Public Information Officers as provided under Section 5 of the RTI Act. His attention is specifically invited to Section 5 of the State RTI Act 2009 which 7 of the State Right to Information Act. The Chairman of the Bank shall also kindly take necessary steps to impart training and sensitize the officers so designated about the various provisions of the State RTI Act, 2009 read with State RTI Rules, 2010. In this connection if the Bank desired any assistance and guidance of this Commission, the Commission may be approached and requested for doing the same. The Chairman being the Public Authority of J&K Bank Ltd is also directed to ensure the implementation of provisions of Section 4 of the Act”.

However, within days, J&K Bank challenged the SIC judgment in J&K High Court. On May 22nd, Mr Justice J P Singh stayed operation of the SIC’s impugned judgment and directed that Government of Jammu and Kashmir too be impleaded as a party.


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

IB associated with SIT probe into Police-militant nexus

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Jun 19: Amid strong resistance from a section of J&K Police officers, premier central intelligence agency, Intelligence Bureau (IB), has been associated today with the investigation of a Special Investigation Team (SIT) of the state Police into the lately exposed Police-militant nexus on the orders of Chief Minister Omar Abdullah.

Authoritative sources revealed to Early Times that, contrary to his initial stand, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has finally directed Chief Secretary Madhav Lal, Principal Secretary Home, B R Sharma, and officiating Director General of Police, K Rajendra Kumar, to involve a team of IB officials with the investigation into the Police-militant nexus. Though many of the state Police officials and top ranking bureaucrats were quick to demonstrate obedience, some of the senior officials put up strong resistance to the idea of ‘making the Police organisation suspect’.

Sources revealed that at least one senior officer implored Chief Minister to relieve him of his posting before associating with the investigation “central agencies who have, by law, neither mandate nor infrastructure” to investigate crime. He sought to emphasize that Police and investigation of the crimes like Police-militant nexus was “an exclusive state subject” and any unconstitutional value-addition would not only lower the image of Jammu & Kashmir into the eyes of common people but could also make the entire Police organisation as ‘suspect’.

Some other officials opined that it would be better to formally hand over the entire investigation to Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) than informally associating IB with the process and thus abdicating the authority to a central agency. Believed to be under sustained pressure from union Ministry of Home Affairs in New Delhi, Chief Minister remained adamant and argued that keeping the central agency deliberately away from the crucial investigation “having national security concerns” would not be prudent for the state government. According to sources, Chief Minister later decided to discuss the whole gamut of investigation with the MHA in New Delhi.

In the wake of Chief Minister’s direction, a team of IB officials was today involved with the investigation. Although, the network still seemed to be restricted to Tral and Srinagar city, efforts were underway to know whether any middle ranking or senior officials too were part of the nexus. As of now, sources said, the detained Police officials’ involvement appeared to be limited to arranging a gun and helping the militants of Hizbul Mujahideen in eliminating a released militant of the outfit, namely Ghulam Hassan Mir alias Shabnam of Tral, in Sadarbal area of Srinagar on June 7th.

SSP Srinagar, Syed Ashiq Hussain Bukhari, declined to comment on the progress, if any, in the investigation. He, however, dismissed reports that CRPF had sought its involvement with the investigation. “They have full faith in our investigation. Neither did they seek their association with the investigation nor did we involve them with the process”, he said.


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Constable Abbas---a kin of Navy deserter Jan Maulvi

5 more lifted in Tral for sustained interrogation

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Jun 18: With a Special Investigation Team of District Police Srinagar continuing raids and lifting five more persons for questioning in Tral, detained CID constable, Mohammad Abbas, has surfaced to be a cousin of top wanted militant, Jan Mohammad Ahangar, who had deserted Navy and was subsequently killed in a gunbattle in Pulwama district.

Highly placed sources in J&K Police revealed to Early Times that SIT was smoothly carrying on investigation into the Police-militant nexus that has surfaced last week in wake of the assassination of a former militant of Hizbul Mujahideen, namely Ghulam Hassan Mir alias Shabnam. Arrested in 2006 and released in 2007, Shabnam had shifted his residence and business to Sadarbal area of Srinagar where he was shot dead by unidentified gunmen on June 7th. These sources strongly contradicted New Delhi-based media reports that J&K Police had granted access to “certain Central agencies” in the interrogation of four Police and CID personnel arrested and booked in Shabnam’s killing.

According to these sources, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah had personally taken a meeting with the J&K Police top brass on the exposure of a nexus between Police personnel and militants of Hizbul Mujahideen operating in Tral area. They asserted that even the Principal Secretary Home, B R Sharma, emphasized that J&K Police was “very much capable” of holding the investigation independently and there was no need for it to go for any “agni pariksha” to establish its integrity and competence. Sources said that officiating DGP, K Rajendra Kumar, as well as IGP Kashmir, S M Sahai, too were on the same page.

“There is no scope of a detainee being passed on to intelligence agencies or paramilitary forces for custodial interrogation. We have registered the FIR under law and we only can investigate it. Central agencies or forces, should they so desire, could be associated later after we complete the investigation”, a senior authoritative source maintained. He claimed that CRPF had neither sought any detainees’ custody, for interrogation or otherwise, nor had been anybody from the force associated with the process till date.

Sources said that over the disclosures of four Police and CID personnel, SIT had today taken into custody five civilians who had purportedly remained in association of Shabnam’s assassins or helped them in different capacities in carrying out subversive activities. Sources identified the fresh detainees as Shahbaz (a driver of Rishipora Tral), Bilal (a motor mechanic of Rishipora), Mohammad Amin alias Amin Battery (a mechanic of Haina Tral), Tauseef Ahmad (a carpenter of Haina) and Riyaz Ahmad (resident of Rishipora and brother of a detained Police constable).

Sources said that Awantipore District Police lifted all the five and passed them on to SIT in Srinagar for questioning. Detained Police personnel, Mohammad Abbas of Buchoo Tral, Mohammad Illyas of Kaw Mohalla, Khanyar and Mukhtar Ahmad Sheikh of Rainawari are understood to have made certain disclosures that led to the detention of five civilian in Tral.

Even as these sources maintained that three District Police personnel and three CID personnel had been already detained and subjected to questioning, SSP Srinagar, Syed Ashiq Hussain Bukhari, claimed that only three CID officials and one District Police official were under custodial interrogation. According to him, involvement of the group and its activity was so far limited only to Shabnam’s killing, though SIT was investigating if the detainees were involved in any other subversive incident or area.

Early Times learned from authoritative sources that Constable Mohammad Abbas of Buchoo, Tral, who was the key character in the network, was a cousin of the once top wanted militant, Jan Mohammad Ahangar alias Jan Maulvi alias Hamza S/o Abdul Gani Ahangar R/o Buchoo, Tral. On August 16th, 2009, Jan Maulvi had got killed in a fierce gunbattle with security forces at village Aramulla, Pulwama. One AK-56 rifle, one grenade and four mobile phone sets had been recovered from the site of the encounter.

Two of Jan Maulvi’s associates had managed to escape. Even as Army helicopters were pressed into the search, security forces failed to get their clue. Sources said that Army wanted to question Jan Maulvi and his associates in a subversive incident that had occurred few years back in Navy’s War College in South India. Sources said that before joining militancy, Jan Maulvi had joined Navy and functioned as a navigator for some time. Later, he deserted the Indian Navy and returned to Tral, only to join the local militant outfit Hizbul Mujahideen. He subsequently shifted to Pakistan-based Jihadi militant outfit, Lashkar-e-Tayyiba. Jan is believed to have indoctrinated Abbas and others from Tral area and motivated them to work for militants.


Monday, June 18, 2012

Mob torches 15 GREF sheds in Tulail, 12 labourers injured

Bandipore ‘desecration’ flames engulf Gurez-Tulail area, reinforcements rushed

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Jun 17: Even as Police placed most of the Valley’s separatist leaders under house arrest and succeeded in preventing demonstrations at the major flashpoints of Bandipore, Sopore and Baramulla, residents of different villages of the border area of Gurez today took out a major procession to protest alleged desecration of a holy scripture. Later a mob attacked a camp of Project Beacon’s GREF at village Hussan on Dawar-Tulail Road, torching 15 sheds and causing injuries to 12 Bihari labourers who have all fled the site and taken refuge at a camp of Rashtriya Rifles 51 Bn.

Authoritative sources at Dawar, capital town of the border valley of Gurez in Bandipore district, told Early Times that nearly 2,000 people of different villages of Gurez and Tulail today converged at the Tehsil headquarters and staged a demonstration to protest an incident of desecration of a holy book at Tragbal---a small village on 86-Km Bandipore-Gurez Road. According to reports, labourers working with GREF had found one of three copies of the holy book missing on Friday last at a makeshift place of worship and later found some torn off pages in close vicinity of their camp. On their complaint, Police Station Bandipore registered a criminal case and detained 10 of the Bihari labourers, all belonging to one particular religion.

Apprehending shutdown, demonstrations and clashes with Police, authorities imposed restrictions in certain areas of Bandipore and Baramulla districts in North Kashmir on Saturday as well as today. Even as the infamous flashpoint of Sopore remained by and large calm and composed, people observed shutdown in Bandipore and Baramulla district headquarters. On Saturday, groups of youth in both the major towns shouted anti-government and pro-Azadi slogans and clashed with Police after a long pause of calm for over three months.

Fearing trouble, Police maintained siege around the residences of most of the separatist leaders. While none of them was permitted to move out, nearly two dozen of the lower level separatist activists were reportedly detained at different Police Stations. Hardline faction of the Hurriyat, headed by Syed Ali Shah Geelani, complained that a number of its leaders and activists were taken into custody and detained for the day in their attempts of converging for a remembrance ceremony at the ‘Martyrs Graveyard’ of Iddgah in Srinagar.

With many shops shut in Bandipore continuously on the second day today, trouble erupted in the unexpected border villages of Gurez and Tulail, far across the Razdan Pass. Sources at the garrison township of Dawar said that the 2,000-strong demonstration enforced shutdown in Gurez-Tulail belt and later headed towards a camp of the Project Beacon’s GREF at village Hussan, midway on Dawar-Tulail Road. While shouting slogans, the mob swooped on the camp and torched 15 sheds of the Bihari labourers working with GREF. Twelve labourers sustained injuries in the stampede while fleeing for safety. Sources said that all the labourers took refuge at a camp of Rashtriya Rifles 51 Bn.

According to a complaint filed by incharge of the GREF camp, Hussan, Captain Kuldeep Singh, a mob attacked the camp and set on fire sheds of the non-J&K labourers. Captain Singh reported in the complaint with Police Station Dawar--- which was later shifted to Police Station Tulail for jurisdiction---that 15 sheds of the Bihari labourers were torched by the mob and 12 of the targeted labourers sustained injuries. Police sources confirmed the mob attack on the camp and participation of 1500 people in the procession but claimed that only 80 to 100 people succeeded in reaching the camp.

Authoritative sources in Srinagar said that Police and paramilitary reinforcements today rushed to the disturbed areas of Gurez and Tulail. However, they had not reached their destinations till late this evening. None among Divisional Commissioner, Asgar Hassan Samoon, who is himself a resident of Gurez, DC Bandipore, Manzoor Ahmad Lone, and SP Bandipore, Bashir Ahmad Khan, responded to phonecalls from this newspaper.


Sunday, June 17, 2012


01] 14-10-2011: Constable Sajjad Ahmad shot dead at Hazratbal, Srinagar.
02] 11-12-2011: SgCt Gulzar Ahmad killed in firing at Zaldagar, Srinagar.
03] 24-12-2011: NC worker Bashir Ahmad Dar shot dead in Batmaloo, Srinagar.
04] 18-02-2012: NC worker Gh Hassan Dar shot dead at Hajan, Bandipore.
05] 09-03-2012: Constable Afroz Ahmad injured in firing at Saraibala, Srinagar.
06] 17-03-2012: Peer Jalaluddin injured in firing at Batmaloo, Srinagar.
07] 30-03-2012: NC Hlq President Mohiuddin Bhat shot dead at Pinglish, Tral
08] 20-04-2012: ASI Sukhpal Singh shot dead at Safakadal, Srinagar.
09] 17-05-2012: RDX-laden abandoned car seized at Nowgam, Srinagar.
10] 30-05-2012: 7 CRPF men injured in firing at Victory Crossing Khanyar
11] 15-06-2012: NC Blk President Ab Rehman Ganai shot dead at Nattipora, Sgr.


Police-militant nexus surfaces in Srinagar shootouts

4 cops, 3 civilians arrested in firing on ex-militant Shabnam

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Jun 16: Special Operations Group (SOG) of District Police Srinagar has unearthed a nexus between Police and Hizbul Mujahideen. At least six Police personnel and three civilians have been identified so far in the June 7th attack on Hizbul Mujahideen’s released militant, Ghulam Hassan Mir alias Shabnam, and investigation is underway to see if the dangerously operating network was involved in any other subversive incident.

Authoritative sources disclosed to Early Times that during investigation of some recent incidents of firing and grenade attacks in the summer capital, Srinagar District Police hit upon a network of Police personnel and militants of Hizbul Mujahideen operating in at least three districts of the Valley. Making use of human intelligence as well as technology, including interception of cellphones, Police gathered enough evidence, necessitating detention and sustained interrogation of a number of Police personnel and civilians.

Initially, the investigation was supervised by SSP Srinagar, Syed Ashiq Hussain Bukhari, and SP CI Kashmir, Sheikh Junaid Mehmood. Later, a special investigation team of Special Component of Srinagar District Police (SOG Srinagar) and some other officials from the Executive Police, carried out the process. It was during this process of investigation that the SIT learned how some constables of CID, in coordination with at least three civilians, had helped Hizbul Mujahideen in planning and executing an attack on one Ghulam Hassan Mir alias Shabnam of Tral late in the evening on June 7th.

A former militant of Hizbul Mujahideen, Shabnam sustained gunshot injuries in the firing on him that happened outside his hosiery shop and residence at Sadarbal, Hazratbal. A civilian, identified as Abdul Rashid of Nayidkhai, Sumbal, had also sustained minor injuries in the same shootout. Shabnam has been recuperating at SKIMS after a surgery. He had been arrested by SOG Srinagar in the year 2006 and released in 2007. Few years back, he shifted his residence to Sadarbal, near Hazratbal, and set up a hosiery shop there.

Sources said that during the last four days of the investigation, SIT gathered substantial evidences of the involvement of at least six Police personnel---four from CID and two from District Police---in the attack on Shabnam. Four of them have been detained and they were reportedly under custodial interrogation to identify other members of the network besides their involvement in other incidents of firing and grenade throwing, if any. Sources said that two CID personnel, posted for several years in Special Branch (SB) Srinagar, Kashmir, namely Mohammad Abbas and Mohammad Illyas of Tral area, spilled the beans during question and their disclosures led to the arrest of two more constables.

According to these well-placed sources, four Police and CID personnel had been arrested and raids were being conducted in search of two more CID personnel, who had reportedly gone underground immediately after the detention of two of their colleagues. Among the three civilians, detained for questioning but still not formally booked, one happens to a resident of Tral area, in the south Kashmir district of Pulwama.

Even as almost all the senior and middle ranking Police officials either refused to comment or ignored repeated telephonic calls from this newspaper, IGP Kashmir, S M Sahai, confirmed that two CID personnel and a District Police constable, who too was posted in CID until March this year, had been arrested and their involvement in the firing on Shabnam had been established. IGP CID, Dr B Srinivas, was among the senior Police officials who did not respond to repeated telephonic calls. Mr Sahai said that the breakthrough had been achieved but the militant of Hizbul Mujahideen, who fired upon Shabnam, was still at large. He said that the investigation was in progress and sharing details with media could hamper the process.

A press release from Zonal Police Headquarters, Kashmir, today said that three constables had been taken into custody. “During the course of investigation in case FIR No: 48/2012 under section 10,13,18 unlawful prevention activities Act and section 3 of Police Enhanced penalties ordinance of Police Station Shergari, it surfaced that a Police constable was also involved and was in touch with anti- national elements”, said the release without elaboration.

“Further investigation revealed that two more constables of Jammu and
Kashmir Police are also involved in such activities. These three constables
have been taken into custody and their conduct is being  scrutinized” it concluded.

Srinagar Police has been on tenterhooks in the wake of a number of subversive incidents since October 14th, 2011, when constable Sajjad Ahmad was gunned down at Hazratbal. Suspected militants later fired upon the escort and PSOs of senior National Conference leader and Minister for Law and Rural Development, Ali Mohammad Sagar, killing his PSO Gulzar Ahmad, outside the Minister’s ancestral house at Zaldagar, Nawab Bazar, on December 11th, 2011. NC worker Bashir Ahmad Dar was later shot dead near Rekka Chowk, Batmaloo, on December 24th, 2011.

In two incidents of suspected militant firing on March 9th and 17th respectively, PSO of then Director Information Farooq Reenzu, Constable Afroz Ahmad Khan, and civilian Peer Jalal-ud-din were left injured at Sarai Bala and Batmaloo.

On April 20th, Assistant Sub Inspector of Police Sukhpal Singh was shot dead by suspected militants near Safakadal. On May 30th, seven CRPF men were injured in a militant strike at Victory Crossing in Khanyar locality of Srinagar. NC’s Block President, Abdul Rehman Ganai, was shot dead at Nattipora in broad daylight on June 15th.