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Saturday, June 30, 2012

MHA official’s wife critical as stone pelters smash her head on highway

Crackdown continues as Srinagar reels under curfew, Valley under shutdown; normalcy in Kashmir to resume today

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Jun 29: With the Valley reeling under shutdown on the 5th consecutive day and curfew remaining in force in half of this capital city after devastation of the revered Dastgeer Saheb shrine in a fire on June 25th, wife of a senior official of the union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) sustained critical injuries today when stone pelters smashed her head on the highway near Fruit Mandi of Parimpora. While proceeding with its crackdown on ‘potential stone pelters’, Police have detained over 30 youngsters in the last two days even as today’s fresh incident of desecration of holy Quran in Lawaypora area subsided into reconciliation.

Informed sources told Early Times that a group of unruly youth surfaced on the national highway bypass between SKIMS Medical College, Bemina, and Fruit Mandi, Parimpora, and began pelting stones on the vehicles in movement after the Friday afternoon prayers concluded in local mosques. They intensified their offensive on sighting a white Ambassador car of the Security Wing of Jammu & Kashmir Police and threw a heavy stone on the vehicle. A middle aged woman in the rear seat was hit in her head and became unconscious. Bleeding profusely, she was rushed to SKIMS Medical College where doctors referred her to SMHS Hospital for specialized treatment.

Doctors treating the patient identified her as Mrs R P Sethi and told Early Times that she was the wife of Mr R P Sethi, Registrar General in MHA. Police sources, however, said that Mr Sethi was holding the rank of an Under Secretary or Deputy Secretary in MHA and claimed that details of the incident were not available immediately. However, doctors on duty said that according to the statement of her husband, driver and PSO, who were all in the car returning to Srinagar from Gulmarg, Mrs Sethi had been hit critically in her head. Her head was smashed by the stone that broke the targeted vehicle’s windscreen. They said that X-Ray and CT scans indicated that she did not require specialized neurosurgery, though she had suffered considerable blood loss and was vomiting.

Sources late this evening said that Mrs Sethi received 11 stitches in her wounds in the head but was discharged as her husband insisted that he would fly to New Delhi and arrange her further treatment in the union capital.

Reports of stray incidents of stone pelting and clashes of thin groups of youngsters with Police poured in from six places in downtown Srinagar and a couple of places more in Baramulla and Anantnag districts. One minor incident was also reported from Sopore.

Sources said that in its continued crackdown on the ‘potential stone pelters’, as many as 30 youngsters had been picked up and detained in Srinagar, Baramulla and Anantnag districts in the last 48 hours. Most of these detainees were reportedly residents of the tense downtown Srinagar.

In apprehension of disturbance on the day of ‘Khanyar Chalo’ call from Saddar Mufti, Mohammad Bashiruddin, and Chairman of Peoples Political Party (PPP), Hilal Ahmad War, authorities today enforced curfew in half of the downtown. Police and CRPF deployments did not permit any civilian movement. While the Police-protected Mufti was not allowed to move out of his residence and most of the separatist leaders continued in ‘house arrest’, War began marching alongwith his party activists from his residential area of Maisuma, Lalchowk, towards the site of the devastated shrine of Khanyar. He was soon captured by Police, beaten up severely and whisked away for detention to his home in Maisuma. Reports said that War, two of his brothers and six other PPP activists sustained injuries in their clash and resistance with Police.

On another call from a newly formed umbrella of Muslim clergymen, Muttahida Ullema-e-Ahl-e-Sunnat-wa-al-Jamaat (MUAS), the capital city of Srinagar and rest of the Valley observed a near-total shutdown. As MUAS had urged the Kashmiri Muslims to remain peaceful all through registering their protest over gutting of the police-protected shrine, there was no major disturbance today. Reports said that almost all the shops, business establishments and many of the private and government offices, banks and petrol pumps remained closed. Transport was almost fully off the road, though a small section of private vehicular traffic plied in several areas.

Officials maintained that there was no curfew in Valley. According to them, only section 144 CrPC was enforced by law and order machinery so as to ensure that the public properties were not damaged and the huge rush of tourists was not disturbed by mischief mongers.

Sources in Department of Tourism, nevertheless, claimed that 4 to 5% decrease had been witnessed in booking of hotels and houseboats as some groups had either postponed or cancelled their scheduled programme of arrival in Srinagar since Monday last. However, there was no report of any tourist fleeing back to New Delhi or other places under fear or apprehension of disturbance.

Even as most of the separatist outfits, including both factions of Hurriyat, JKLF and other groups, did not seem to be proactive in sustaining trouble, authorities have remained tense over the initiative of Sadar Mufti and Hilal War.

 Resume business
In a significant development today, Abdul Hamid Punjabi, President of the leading traders’ organisation, Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry, appealed its members and the people in general to resume normal business activity from tomorrow. Mufti Bashiruddin too made it clear separately that there would be no shutdown tomorrow onwards on the Khanyar inferno.

In their separate statements, Mufti Bashiruddin and MUAS have called upon the government to release all of Kashmir’s shrines from control of the state-run Wakf Board and give it fully into the custody of Muslim clergymen. Although, Government has not responded to their demand and seems to be in no mood to pass management of the shrines to a non-official body, by all the indications available, commercial traffic, government offices, businesses and educational institutions would function normally from tomorrow.

As the authorities remained encumbered with apprehension of trouble at Khanyar and other places, early morning reports today said that miscreants had barged into a place of worship of Shia Muslims at Gund Hassibhat, near the highway village of Lawaypora, around midnight last and torched an Alam Sharief. Pages of the holy Quran were found torn off and scattered around the mosque. It led to considerable tension in Lawaypora area, close to Srinagar-Muzaffarbad highway, about 10 Kms from Srinagar.

Hundreds of people from both Shia as well as Sunni sects today gathered to condemn the act of desecration. They staged protest and marched to the highway but returned soon after DC Srinagar, Baseer Khan, and SSP Srinagar, Syed Ashiq Bukahri, assured them on the spot that the mischief mongers would be got identified and punished under law. They asserted that a criminal matter had been immediately registered at Police Station of Parimpora.

Late afternoon reports said that members of the both sects resolved to fight jointly all the elements “who are bent upon generating sectarian and communal divide and hatred in Kashmir”.

After similar incident in Bandipore last fortnight and perishing of Dastgeer Saheb shrine at Khanyar in Srinagar, it was third successive attempt to creating trouble and destabilizing 20-month-long peace in the Valley.

High level meeting
Meanwhile, taking serious notice of the repeated incidents of desecration and devastation of shrines and mosques since last fortnight, Divisional Commissioner of Kashmir, Dr Asgar Hassan Samoon, took a high level meeting this evening with Police and civil administration. Sources said that almost all the DCs, SSPs and SPs participated in the meeting. Participants deliberated in detail over the fresh attempts of damaging the Valley’s shrines, mosques and other centers of faith. Sources said that while a comprehensive security and surveillance programme was being chalked out, heads of Police and civil administration at district level were directed to introduce night patrolling around all sensitive spots by Police and security forces.


Friday, June 29, 2012

  1. Under pressure from Supreme Court of India, which had on May 1st directed that Army should use the option of proseting the five soldiers accused of murder and mayhem at Pathribal, in south Kashmir, either in a military court or a civil court, within two months, Army has now filed an affidavit at court of Chief Judicial Magistrate Srinagar and obtained order of holding a court marshal. CJM Srinagar... Mr Rajiv Gupta, according to well placed authoritative sources, has granted the permission.This has put to end years of legal battle between Army [which argued that the soldiers in J&K had immunity under AFSPA] and CBI [which had concluded in its 6-year-long investigation in 2006 that all the five killed in the fake encounter were innocent civilians and contended that armed forces could not claim AFSPA immunity for plain murders which were not part of their counter-insurgency opearions]. A deatiled story later today in:

On eve of Sadar Mufti’s Khanyar Chalo, MUAS serves ultimatum on Govt

Shutdown, undeclared curfew in downtown Srinagar continues on 4th day running; ‘stone pelters’ detained

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Jun 28: Amid varied reactions to devastation of the revered Dastgeer Saheb shrine, a conglomerate of Muslim clergymen today served an ultimatum on Omar Abdullah’s government insisting that the investigation be completed within ten days. Even as curfew is likely to be enforced in parts of the capital city on the day of Sadar Mufti Mohammad Bashiruddin’s call of a mass march to Khanyar on Friday, shutdown in rest of the Valley and undeclared curfew in downtown Srinagar continued on the fourth consecutive day today.

With the Police failing to explain failure of its security and surveillance system on Monday last--- and also failing to achieve breakthrough in its investigation---a Kashmiri clergymen’s umbrella, Muttahida Ullema-e-Ahl-e-Sunnat-wa-al-Jamaat (MUAS), today asked the state government to complete its probe within the next 10 days. While serving ultimatum on Police, MUAS insisted that representatives of the clerics’ alliance be also associated with the investigation.

In a press release this evening, MUAS spokesman urged the Kashmiri Muslims to continue their mourning and protest against burning of the shrine in a blaze on June 25th for another week. He asked all residents of Valley to install black badges on their arms besides black flags on their houses, offices, vehicles, schools, colleges and universities as a mark of morning and protest for the next seven days. He said that the appeal to the “common Muslim masses in general and those believing in saints and shrines in particular” was being made on behalf of MUAS patron, Maulana Ghulam Mohiuddin Naqeeb, and Chairman, Maulana Ghulam Rasool Haami. He also called for total blackout in Valley from 8.00 pm to 9.00 pm every day during the weeklong protest.

Over 300-year-old shrine, containing relic of the 11th century Iranian-Iraqi Sufi saint Sheikh Sayyid Abdul Qadir Jeelani (Dastgeer Saheb) besides some rare manuscripts of holy Quran, perished in a mysterious fire on Monday last. However, the relic and all other Tabarukaat were claimed to have been saved and kept in safe custody.

The MUAS spokesman implored the people of Kashmir to maintain peace all through the week-long protest. “There should be no violent reaction and the elements of nefarious intention and designs should not be permitted to hijack the initiative”, he added. He expressed disappointment over the Government’s continued silence to the MUAS demand that its representatives be associated with the investigation. He urged the MUAS units to organize peaceful protest sittings at all the district and Tehsil headquarters, as also at all the shrines in Kashmir on Friday. According to him, MUAS would tomorrow organize the largest of its protest gatherings at Dastgeer Saheb’s shrines at Khanyar and Sarai Bala besides at the shrine of Batmaloo.

In a significant development, MUAS advised custodian of all the shrines in Valley to retain the relics in their own safe custody as, according to him, apprehensions of destroying other shrines too were evident.

The call from MUAS today came on the eve of Saddar Mufti Mohammad Bashiruddin’s call of ‘Khanyar Chalo’. The grand Mufti has asked the Kashmiri Muslims to stage a march en masse to the devastated shrine on Friday. However, authorities are understood to have decided to enforce curfew in over half of downtown Srinagar to prevent people from participating in a protest rally at Khanyar.

Even today, on the fourth consecutive day, undeclared curfew remains in force in the densely populated downtown Srinagar from Munnawarabad Nawpora to Zadibal and Nallah Maar. Columns of Police and CRPF did not allow common civilian movement, asking residents to remain indoors. No reports of any major violation or violence came in from any part of the capital city or elsewhere in the Valley. Informed sources said that a modest Police crackdown against the potential troublemakers was underway since Monday last itself as over 30 of the youngsters were believed to have been picked up and detained for questioning.

Sources revealed that with in coordination with two federal Ministries, the state authorities were blocking “certain offending pages and links” on social media--- particularly Facebook, Twitter, Google and Yahoo---in an attempt to prevent rumour mongers and mischief makers to further destabilize the atmosphere of 20-month-long peace

Today’s reports said that the shutdown on Saddar Mufti’s call was total or near-total in the Valley as most of the government offices, banks and petrol banks remained closed on the fourth consecutive day today. Reports said that none of the prominent separatist leaders was permitted to make any movement out of residence. However, a number of the Congress leaders, government officials, besides Governor N N Vohra, today visited Khanyar to take stock of the circumstances that led to devastation of the shrine last week.


Thursday, June 28, 2012

A food for thought for thekedars of Kashmiriyat!

Even after shrines of great spiritual, architectural, historical and heritage value like Chrar-e-Sharief, Khanqah-e-Faiz Panah Tral, Rishi Moul Sahib Anantnag, and now Dastgeer Saheb shrine of Khanyar, have already perished in different incidents of fire in the last 18 years, Government of J&K, Govt of India or Wakf Board have not till date installed any fire-extinguishers, CCTV cameras or other security systems at any of the shrines in Kashmir. Archaeological Survey of India has recently put in place a couple of fire extinguishers at Khanqah-e-Moula but outside the shrine and nobody is deployed to use it in case of emergency.  

 Over 20 shrines and Imambaras are well on the tinderbox. These include the most reverred Hazratbal, Khaqah-e-Moula Fatehkadal, Mkahdoom Saheb shrine at Koh-e-Maraan, Baba Rishi shrine near Gulmarg, Syed Mohammad Aali Balakhi's shrine at Pakharpora Budgam, Madeen Saheb shrine in Hawal area, Aasaar-e-Sharief Kalashpora, Aasar-e-Sharief Soura, Aasar-e-Sharief Pinjora, shrine at Kabamarg, Sheikhul Aalam's shrines at Chrar and Dreygam in Budgam, historical Imambaras at Hassanabad, Budgam, Zadibal and Ahmadpora besides other shrines of saints at Pushkar Beerwah, Aeshmuqam (Pahalgam), Bijbehara and Awantipora. Any of these can perish like Khanyar in 30 minutes.


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Dastgeer Sahib shrine, mosque perish in fire

·        69 injured in clashes at Khanyar; Police, Fire Service under attack; fire tender torched

·        Structures perish fully but all Tabarukaat saved

·        Khanyar disturbed, Valley shocked but maintains calm

·        Govt tightlipped on cause of fire, short-circuit ruled out by residents, Div Comm holding probe

·        Biq questions: Where was Police security? Where was the shrine’s fire tender? Why fire brigade reached late by an hour and without water?

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Jun 25: The Police-protected 207-year-old Dastgeer Sahib shrine gutted today, alongwith its adjoining mosque, in a devastating fire in Khanyar area of this capital city, bringing a pall of gloom on entire Kashmir valley. Amid emotional scenes, groups of devotees clashed with Police and torched a fire tender even as 39 civilians and 30 Policemen sustained injuries. With the authorities being tightlipped over the cause of fire and the residents ruling out short-circuit theory in absence of power supply, Divisional Commissioner was directed by Chief Minister Omar Abdullah from London to hold a detailed inquiry into the circumstances that led to devastation of one of Kashmir’s most venerated shrines inspite of Police protection.

Resident eyewitness Syed Ayatullah told Early Times that within a minute of his purchasing a vernacular newspaper at the entrance of the shrine at 06:25 a.m. he heard people inside the building screaming. “Soon the smoke began billowing out and the leaping flames engulfed the shrine fully. However, the Wakf Board men rushed straight to the balcony over the main hall of the devotees and they evacuated all the Tabarukaat, including the relic and the historic manuscript of the holy Quran in calligraphy of Khat-e-Koofi believed to have been penned by Hazrat Imam Ali in 6th century AD”, Ayatullah said.

According to the eyewitness, the mysterious fire originated from the devotees’ hall and the sanctum sanctorum and it spread quickly to the whole profusely painted wooden building. He said that the shrine gutted fully alongwith its adjoining mosque and Zanana Khana. An under-construction building coming up on the same premises was also damaged due to the blaze and fire fighting.

Ayatullah, as also other residents and devotees, claimed that the fire brigade reached the spot “nearly an hour after the fire started”. “As they came empty, they began asking us about the location the fire hydrants and other sources of water”, said Ayatullah and his neighbours. “Surprisingly, the fire tender, that remains always attached for safety of the shrine, was also nowhere around today”. Some others, claiming to be eyewitnesses, said that the angry youth and the outraged devotees resorted to beating up of some fire and Police personnel. An Inspector’s uniform was torn into shreds. In the ensuing clashes, as many as 30 Policemen and 39 civilians sustained injuries. They included Deputy Commandant of the Shiraz Cinema camp of CRPF and Sub Divisional Police Officer (SDPO) Khanyar.

Officiating Director General of Police, K Rajendra Kumar, was quoted by a local news agency to have confirmed that 69 people---30 Policemen and 39 civilians---sustained injuries in today’s ding dong clashes at Khanyar.

Residents, as well as Sajjadah Nasheen of the shrine, Syed Khalid Masood Geelani, maintained that the cause of the fire was “mysterious” as, according to them, there was no possibly of the most common cause: short-circuit. “There was no electric supply that time around in Khanyar”, they maintained.

However, the authorities chose to remain tightlipped with regard to cause of the fire till late tonight. Addressing a hurriedly arranged news conference, Minister of Law and Rural Development, Ali Mohammad Sagar, who also happens to be the ruling National Conference’s MLA from Khanyar, said that a committee of experts headed by Divisional Commissioner of Kashmir (Dr Asgar Hassan Samoon) would hold an exhaustive inquiry and submit report to the government within a week.

Conspiracy theory
Sagar declined to comment on whether there could be a conspiracy behind the gutting of the historic shrine. “You know it better than me”, he retorted. In response to another question, he claimed that the fire brigade reached the spot “within 8 to 10 minutes”. When asked why there were no fire extinguishers inside the fully wooden heritage building, Sagar said: “This question can be answered after the report of the probe becomes available to us”.

Convener of the Kashmir chapter of INTACH and former Director General of Tourism, Mohammad Saleem Beg, confirmed to Early Times that no fire extinguishers had been installed, either by Wakf Board or by any other organisation, at the Khanyar shrine. He said that Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) had lately installed the fire extinction system at the equally venerated shrine of Amir-e-Kabir Mir Syed Ali Hamadani at Khanqua-e-Mou’la in Fateh Kadal area of downtown Srinagar. These, he said, were installed outside on the premises when some of the devotees resisted to the fitting inside the Shah-e-Hamadaan shrine.

Saleem Beg said that INTACH had fortunately digitalized architectural plans, sections and elevations of the Dastgeer Sahib shrine in 2010. “If we are associated with the reconstruction, I’m sure we can create an identical shrine complex”, Beg said. He was later today called to participate in a high level meeting that was held under Chief Minister Omar Abdullah’s instructions from London.

Sources said that the high level meeting decided to lay foundation stone of the new construction at the same premises “within 48 hours”. J&K Projects Construction Corporation, according to sources, was being assigned the project in coordination with Wakf Board and INTACH. Chief Minister is also the Chairman of the Wakf Board---an autonomous organisation that manages scores of shrines in Srinagar and rest of the Valley.

Vice Chairman of Wakf Board, M Y Qadiri, said that he visited the devastated shrine complex, alongwith Sajjadah Nasheen Syed Khalid Geelani and other members of the board. “Though everybody is shocked and outraged that the shrine has perished fully despite Police protection, we are lucky that all the Tabarukaat have been evacuated and preserved”, Mr Qadiri asserted.

State of slumber
None of the officials responded to questions when Early Times struggled to know how the fire tender, that remains always present, had disappeared from the shrine today. There were also no answers to questions when mediapersons attempted to know why the fire brigade reached late and that too with emptied water storage tanks. As nobody offered any explanation, it remained shrouded in mystery whether the Police guards, deputed for protection of the shrine, were present on duty or they too had gone to home. It was only at the high level meeting in the evening that the state government decided to conduct fire audit of all the shrine buildings of heritage value. 

Historic and equally revered shrines of Chrar-e-Sharief (Sheikh-ul-Aalam Sheikh Nooruddin Noorani), Tral (Khanquah-e-Faiz Panah of Mir Syed Ali Hamadani) and Anantnag (Rishi Moul), as also some other shrines, have perished in Kashmir in other incidents of fire in the last over two decades of militancy. Even at the most revered Hazratbal, an Islamic Library had gutted in 1992.

Eminent litterateur, researcher, historian and Deputy Chairman of Legislative Council, Mohammad Yousuf Taing, said that the shrine complex that gutted today had been constructed during Afghan period by one Buzurg Shah in 1805 AD. In fact the shrine has been in place for the last 350 years when Syed Mohammad Fazal Qadiri, a devotee of the eminent Iranian-Arab Sufi saint and scholar, Sayyid Abdul Qadir Jeelani, constructed it and placed the saint’s relic and other Taburakaat for preservation in it. These included a manuscript of Quran with the calligraphy by Hazrat Imam Ali.

Papier mache master Safdar Alamgir had delicately adorned the shrine interior with a rare colourful embossing of Gul-e-Vellayat and a full treasure of paintings that took him years to complete. The Shia Muslim craftsman has immense faith in Dastgeer Sahab whose parents were direct descendants of Imam Hassan and Imam Hussain.

Sheikh Abdul Qadir Jeelani, reverentially known as Gaus-ul-Azam and Dastgeer Sahib, was born in South of Caspian Sea in Mazandaran Province of Iran on March 18th, 1077, and he passed away in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad at the age of 88 years on January 15th, 1166 AD. For many years of his life, he lived in Baghdad and, on account of his unmatched contribution to propagation of Islam, he attained the sobriquet of Mohiuddin (reviver of the faith). However, he never visited India or Kashmir. His grand mausoleum is situated in Baghdad. He succeeds the spiritual chain of Junaid Baghdadi and has been one of the most revered saints among the Kashmiri Muslims for the last several centuries.

A conglomerate of Muslim clerics today called for a total shutdown in Valley on June 26th in mourning of the shrine and as a mark of protest against the government’s inability to protect the shrine. The call was later supported by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq-led faction of Hurriyat Conference.

Valley calm
A pall of gloom descended on the Valley with devastation of the shrine as television news channels carried images of the devotees in thousands weeping and wailing at Khanyar. Hordes of devout women cried in mourning. Nevertheless, there was no incident of stone pelting, violent reaction or clash with Police anywhere other than few in Khanyar. This correspondent found shops shuttered in several markets in the capital city but open in most of the areas. There were small groups of youngsters at different places but none of them picked up stones, caused disruption to traffic or enforced shutdown. Traffic and business establishments functioned smoothly in most parts of the Valley, though shops were closed in the afternoon in several towns without anybody’s call.

Today’s incident of fire occurred hours after a religious body called, Dawat-e-Islami, organized a congregation at the shrine. Footage of the late night speeches was recorded for a religious television, Madani Channel. For the last several days, Khanyar shrine was in news for the visit of a group of religious scholars from Saudi Arabia and some other Islamic countries. Amid today’s outrage, hundreds of angry youth captured a prominent separatist leader, abused him ferociously for visiting the shrine, tore his shirt into shreds and blackened his face. This kind of a bitter and violent reaction to a separatist leader’s visit was witnessed by Kashmiris for the first time since late Mirwaiz Farooq was attacked with sandals and slippers at Iddgah in 1988.


Monday, June 25, 2012

Appointment of CVC

Queries that Governor did not raise

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Jun 24: Despite his discreet loyalty to all organs of the chair for the last five years as Director General of Police, political majors of Jammu & Kashmir have done a disservice to Mr Kuldeep Khoda. At a moment, when everybody laboured under the impression that Mr Khoda had neutralized PDP’s potential of opposing his nomination as the state’s first Chief Vigilance Commissioner (CVC) through the good offices of benefactors like Makhan Lal Fotedar, Mehbooba Mufti shot out with her sting. The PDP chief, some believe, wanted to teach the coalition government a lesson of ignoring her recommendations in favour of Justice (rtd) Bilal Nazki and Justice (rtd) Bashir Ahmad Khan in appointment of the Chairperson of Accountability Commission last year.

With Congress representative in the selection committee meeting, Deputy Chief Minister Tara Chand, according to Ms Mufti, assuming neutrality, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah as well as Minister of Law and Parliamentary Affairs, Ali Mohammad Sagar, put their foot down to see that the NC’s nominee makes it to the hot seat.

Hurriyat and JKLF have been, in fact, more benevolent to Mr Khoda by not going proactive against an official accused of his involvement in “killings” by a major mainstream party. The outgoing DGP, according to well-placed sources, delivered his personal condolences on the death of a separatist leader’s father who, in turn, was equally courteous all through the telephonic conversation. Even the group of human rights activists and lawyers, that threatened to challenge J&K High Court’s clean chit to Mr Khoda a day after the selection committee meeting, has meaningfully not approached Supreme Court in the last 27 days.

Look, how the ruling coalition has impaired Mr Khoda’s prospects more than the opposition---mainstream and separatist.

Firstly, Mr Khoda was indiscreetly encouraged to persist with his ‘on spot recruitment drive’ in J&K Police around the timing of his retirement from services and nomination as CVC. The drive, according to government sources, had been approved by Minister incharge Home for the poorly represented Revenue Niabats in the state Police. It practically revolved around the Assembly segments of only some influential Ministers and MLAs, making easy for others to view it as the DGP’s ‘operation quid pro quo’. 

Secondly, Mr Khoda’s nomination was inordinately delayed---exactly to the timing of his superannuation---provoking civil society to interpret it as a blue-eyed IPS officer’s post-retirement rehabilitation, rather than Omar Abdullah government’s commitment to eradication of corruption in public offices. Significantly, the State Vigilance Commission (SVC) was constituted vide SRO-59 on February 15th, 2011, and the first meeting of the selection committee was called not before May 28th, 2012, just three days before Mr Khoda’s date of retirement. It could have easily taken place three months before or later. This actually brought the debate out from confines of the state Law Department, General Administration Department and Chief Minister’s Secretariat and automatically out from Raj Bhawan too.

Thirdly, the names of two retired IAS and IPS officers, Samuel Varghese and Ashok Bhan, were incorporated in the panel by unknown sources at the eleventh hour. Both have been public servants of unmatched name and fame for over three decades of their service. In the wake of Ms Mufti’s dissent, Government would have to convince Raj Bhawan how its nominee was superior to Varghese and Bhan in honesty, integrity, competence and initiative. Its task would have been perhaps easier while weighing Mr Khoda against certain dwarfed panelists.

Fourthly, Mr Khoda’s image could have been boosted while making him proceed against some of his subordinate officials known for their brazen indulgence in corruption, extortion and secessionist-friendly activity. For decades, the number of Police officials, booked in corruption-related matter by State Vigilance Organisation, was almost zero. It was, in fact, out of this compulsion that the state government and its people realized the need of creating a high powered Vigilance Commission that would not have monopoly of the state Police.

Fifthly, Mr Khoda’s name was favoured by the Government members of the selection committee in the evening on May 28th when a matter of his alleged involvement in so-called “Bhaderwah triple murder” was under hearing of the High Court. In other words, had the Government submitted its recommendation to Raj Bhawan immediately after the selection committee meeting, had the Governor appointed Mr Khoda as CVC on the basis of same recommendations on forenoon of May 29th, and, had the High Court ordered criminal proceedings or CBI investigation, as prayed by the petitioners, Governor would have been subjected to unimaginable embarrassment, no less than the one suffered by the UPA Government at the Centre in PJ Thomas’s appointment as Central Vigilance Commissioner with Supreme Court’s judgment dated March 3rd, 2011.

It is just a coincidence that within hours of the selection committee meeting and Ms Mufti’s playing up of ‘Bhaderwah killings’, Mr Justice Hasnain Masoodi of J&K High Court got his clean chit to Mr Khoda announced through then acting Chief Justice in Jammu.

The issue being in the peoples’ court would make it immaterial whether or not Department of Law succeeds in convincing Raj Bhawan over the necessity of appointing Mr Khoda as CVC. Restricting Raj Bhawan’s queries merely to legality and technicality does obviously run the risk of the entire exercise getting dubbed as a ‘fixed match’ in Mr Khoda’s favour between Civil Secretariat and Raj Bhawan.

Even as Raj Bhawan has returned the file to the government with only the queries that could be comfortably responded to by the Civil Secretariat, it would be difficult to expect a Governor of Mr N N Vohra’s stature to mutely function as a rubberstamp to safeguard the government’s ego in his last year in office.

From the civil society, there is already enough of criticism that the state government was permissive to corruption, SVO had ceased to exist, SVC had remained fully blank since its inception in February 2011, State Human Rights Commission’s recommendations were not being implemented and both, State Information Commission and State Accountability Commission, had been rendered dysfunctional due to non-availability of staff and other infrastructure by the regime Governor calls “my government” each year in his Budget session speech in the Legislature.


Separatists attend book fairs, inaugurations in Valley

Police organizes first ever cricket tournament in Sopore; 56 teams participating

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Jun 24: Weeks after inaugurating a business establishment set up by a Kashmiri Pandit businessman in the heart of downtown Srinagar, Chairman of the separatist conglomerate Hurriyat Conference, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, yesterday inaugurated a confectionery and fast food joint, Modern Sweets, at Kaksarai in the uptown Karan Nagar in Srinagar.

Mirwaiz drove all the way to Karan Nagar to cut ribbons of the newly established fast food centre at a place that remained ghost ridden for years with memory of the judge Neelkant Ganjoo's assassination by JKLF militants and paramilitary formations. Modern Sweets has come up near the house of Ganjoo who was gunned down by JKLF guerrillas for having sentenced to death the organisation’s founder leader Maqbool Bhat. Scores of grenade attacks on BSF and CRPF encampments also happened in the same locality for 20 years of the Kashmir militancy.

This change in Srinagar skyline is not altogether new. Telecommunication giant Reliance chose the same place for establishing the Valley’s first FM radio station, FM 92.7, five years back. It survived the Valley’s worst ever street turbulence, first in 2008 and later in 2010. When worse to the worst, FM 92.7 suspended Bollywood music DVDs and switched over to broadcasting religious hymns in praise of Allah and Prophet Mohammad (PBUH). All the young female radio jockeys (RJs), all drawn from Srinagar, are firmly perched on their ground, close to late Ganjoo’s house , promoting Hindi movie entertainment---an heretic activity for jihadists. Not only that. None other than Anil Ambani said at a national seminar two years back that Srinagar station was his broadcasting network’s most profitable centre in terms of advertisement revenue, leaving behind all the 46 others, including those of Mumbai and New Delhi.

"Mouth watering delicious fried chicken Kentucky style for the first time in the Valley of Kashmir... Brought to you by chefs trained at multinational fast food outlets all over India... Most modern facility in a state of the art 3500 sft outlet" reads a paid advertisement in today's Greater Kashmir making it public that 'Mirwaiz Dr Umar Farooq' was going to inaugurate the sweets shop. Ironically, Mirwaiz and almost all of his separates colleagues prevented the people of Kashmir from organizing and attending such inaugurations and other events, arguing that these would be projected by India as indicators of peace and normalcy and hence 'anti-movement activity'.

Finding themselves marginalized after the US President Barack Obama's visit to India in November 2010 and massive participation of the Kashmiri voters in Assembly, Parliamentary and Panchayat elections in the last over three years, many of the separatist leaders are now seen at inaugurations and other non-political platforms. Last fortnight, a number of them including Mirwaiz, hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani and JKLF Chairman Yasin Malik attended a book exhibition organized by Government of India and inaugurated by Chief Minister Omar Abdullah at Sri Pratap College in Srinagar.

On the other hand, Government agencies, particularly Police and security forces, are busy in reaping the fruits of peace and normality. As Army today organized a major sports event at Pattan, Police today triggered off Sopore’s first government-sponsored cricket tournament. SP Sopore, Imtiyaz Hussain Mir, told Early Times that as many as 56 of the local teams were participating in the tournament that would continue for several weeks. Interestingly, VIP guests at the inaugural ceremony were the ruling National Conference’s Minister (incharge Home, PHE, Irrigation and Revenue) Nasir Aslam Wani and local MLA, Haji Mohammad Ashraf, who for two years viewed it as a dream to make a passage through the apple town.

Police and security forces have yet again almost completely wiped out militancy in Sopore, though search is continuing for dreaded commanders like the Pakistani Fahadullah and the local militant organizer Muz Maulvi. Earlier this year, Lashkar-e-Tayyiba’s seniormost commander Abdullah Uni had died in an encounter with Police and Army at his hideout, close to Degree College and SP’s office in Sopore town. That gunbattle, according to residents, proved to be a turning point.