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Saturday, June 13, 2015

Another Hurriyat (G) activist shot dead in Sopore

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, June 12: In the second consecutive strike on the separatist hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani's associates in his home constituency of Sopore, unidentified assassins shot dead a young shopkeeper on Friday night.

Official sources, quoting eyewitness accounts, told State Times that two unidentified persons appeared at Bomai, 12 km from Sopore, and shot dead 28-year-old Khursheed Ahmad Bhat son of Ghulam Nabi Bhat, in close vicinity of his home st 8.00 pm. Residents and family members rushed him to hospital where doctors declared him 'brought dead'. According to the doctors, three pistol shots had been pumped into Bhat’s head.

Residents said that Bhat was a known activist of Geelani-led faction of the Hurriyat Conference. Significantly, on Tuesday last, unidentified gunmen had shot dead prominent Hurriyat (Geelani) activist Sheikh Altaf-ur-Rehman close to his residence in Sopore town in broad daylight.

Geelani, as also Hizbul Mujahideen supremo and United Jihad Council chief Syed Salahuddin, had strongly condemned Sheikh's killing and held "Indian secret agencies" responsible for his assassination. Hizb chief even threatened to punish Sheikh’s killers. Geelani called for a protest shutdown in Baramulla district on Wednesday and asked the Kashmiris all over the valley to hold funeral prayers on Friday for the slain separatist activist who had served several terms of detention under Public Safety Act and functioned as a member of the Executive Committee of Geelani's Tehreek-e-Hurriyat. Sheikh’s father, a former militant of Hizbul Mujahideen, is currently Sopore zonal head of Jamaat-e-Islami.

Remarkably, Sheikh’s assassination was the first killing of an anti-India and pro-Pakistan activist in Sopore area in the last several years. All other civilians killed in similar incident of target fire by unidentified gunmen carried the tag of anti - Pakistan and pro-India. Bhat’s killing on Friday comes as the second assassination of its kind. Previously, unidentified gunmen, claiming to be the cadres of a new guerrilla group "Lashkar-e-Islam", carried out several attacks on the civilians who defied the outfit’s diktat of closing down mobile phone networking towers and recharge outlets. Two civilians were killed and five more left injured in these terror attacks.

Meanwhile, during a protest against Sheikh’s killing on Geelani’s call on Friday, masked men waved two Pakistani and one ISIS flag at Jamia Masjid in downtown Srinagar which is the religious seat of Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, the head of another faction of Hurriyat Conference.


Friday, June 12, 2015

DGP, Geelani threaten to ‘expose’ Sopore terrorists

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Jun 11: Notwithstanding the senior separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s claim that none other than the “Indian secret agencies” were behind the burgeoning terrorism, Director General of Police K. Rajendra Kumar is going to claim that all the recent acts of harassment and bloodletting were the handiwork of Hizbul Mujahideen’s Sopore unit.

While touring the North Kashmir townships of Sopore, Baramulla, Handwara and Kupwara, DGP on Thursday told mediapersons that the Police had got “vital leads” on the identity and activities of the armed group that had spread a wave of terror with guerrilla attacks and civilian killings in Sopore area in the last two weeks. “Within the period of two days, Police will make the facts public before press. We have restored the communication system and arrested some saboteurs. If at any place, a mobile tower owner or any other outlet feels any threat, police will immediately provide security cover to that place or a person. We will ensure that there’s no telecommunication breakdown in Kashmir.”

In the last three weeks, unidentified guerrillas operating under the banner of “Lashkar-e-Islam” have asked the vendors---retailers as well as franchises--- in Sopore and other North Kashmir towns to freeze all telecommunication signals and recharge of mobile telephones. They set the deadline of seven days and immediately thereafter unleashed a reign of terror on the defaulters. While as two persons associated with the mobile telephony were shot dead, at least five others sustained injuries in these attacks.

Subsequently, the unidentified gunmen shot dead a senior Jamaat-e-Islami and Tehreek-e-Hurriyat activist in Sopore township.

According to the highly placed sources in J&K Police Headquarters, DGP would hold a press conference on Saturday or Sunday and directly blame the local Hizbul Mujahideen cadres of Sopore for causing harassment to the mobile service vendors. He would claim that all the three civilians in Sopore area had been killed by Hizbul Mujahideen.

Sources revealed that DGP could name the Hizb militants like the dreaded Qayoom Najjar, Imtiyaz Kandoo, Naveed, Muz Maulvi, Meraj Halwai, Tariq of Handwara and two more from Palhalan and hold them responsible for the recent acts of terror. He would claim that the Jamaat activist Sheikh Altaf-ur-Rehman had been shot dead by a Sopore-based militant of Hizbul Mujhaideen Imtiyaz Kandoo.

However, Geelani has held the “Indian secret agencies” responsible for the chain of harassment and fatal attacks. On Wednesday, Geelani said in a statement that the Indian secret agencies were trying to create confusion among the separatists with sinister machinations in social media: “They are not hidden from us and if their poisonous thinking becomes the reason for any other killing, we will be left with no other option to expose them”.

In another statement on Thursday, Geelani said: “Whether it is the figures of the sacrifices or the matter of the election boycott, Sopore has set an example and it has become a role model for the freedom lovers. Sopore area has always been the matter of concern for the policymakers of India so, this time they have hatched a deep conspiracy against this region and they want to terrorise the people with the fake organizations and want to spread anarchy here”.

Geelani asserted that organisations like Taliban and ISIS did not exist in Sopore or any other part of Kashmir and alleged that the government agencies were circulating fake threat posters and harassing the mobile telephone and cable TV operators only to defame the Kashmiris’ “freedom struggle”.


Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Jamaat-Hurriyat functionary gunned down in Sopore

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz
SRINAGAR, Jun 9: A prominent separatist activist, who belonged to a Jamaat-e-Islami family and held a position in Syed Ali Shah Geelani-led Tehreek-e-Hurriyat, was shot dead by unidentified gunmen in Kashmir valley’s hub of the militancy in Sopore on Tuesday.
Informed sources told State Times that in the afternoon, when 45-year-old Sheikh Altaf-ur-Rehman of Iqbal Nagar, Sopore, was returning from Sub District Hospital (SDH) Sopore, he was ambushed by unidentified gunmen on Noorbagh Road. He was critically hit in his head and chest. Residents rushed him to the nearby SDH where doctors declared him “brought dead”. He seemed to have died on the spot.

Deputy Inspector General of Police in North Kashmir, Gareeb Das told State Times that Police Station of Sopore registered a murder case and started the investigation even as Sheikh’s funeral rites were conducted amid pro-Azadi slogans. He said that around 800 people participated in the Namaaz-e-Janazah. DIG said that five 9 mm shots had been fired upon Sheikh but it was not immediately clear whether the assassins used an automatic pistol or a higher calibre gun. He said that 9 mm rounds could be fired from different makes of the weapons.
It is four years after the Jamiat-e-Ahl-e-Hadith chief Maulana Showkat’s assassination in an IED blast in Maisuma area of Srinagar that a prominent separatist activist has been eliminated in a guerrilla action in Kashmir valley. Sheikh’s death in the broad daylight shootout came after a chain of guerrilla strikes which left two civilians dead and five more injured in Sopore.

Working as Medical Assistant, Sheikh was a regular State government employee. Coming from a prominent Jamaat-e-Islami family, Sheikh was a member of the ‘Shoora’ (Executive Committee) of Tehreek-e-Hurriyat which has Geelani as its founder-Chairman. His father Mohammad Yousuf Sheikh is Ameer-e-Halqa of Jamaat-e-Islami in Sopore.

Sheikh Altaf-ur-Rehman’s elder brother Sheikh Abdul Rauf had died in an incident of cross-firing after an IED blast outside Badami Bagh Cantonment in Srinagar in the year 2000. He was a Ph. D. scholar with Aligarh Muslim University. Sheikh Altaf was one of the most prominent separatist activists, owing allegiance to Geelani’s organisation, in Sopore. He had been arrested, detained and released over a dozen times in the last 20 years. He had been also detained under Public Safety Act as many as four times.
Sheikh’s assassination is remarkable in the sense that it is for the first time in the last over 10 years that a prominent anti-Indian and pro-Pakistan separatist functionary has been shot dead by the unidentified gunmen.

While as no militant outfit claimed responsibility, Hizbul Mujahideen “Supreme Commander” and United Jihad Council chief Syed Salah-ud-din and Chairman of the radical faction of Hurriyat Conference and Tehreek-e-Hurriyat, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, condemned Sheikh’s killing in separate statements. Both alleged that it was a handiwork of the “Indian secret agencies”. They paid tributes to Sheikh and asserted that his assassination would not deter the separatist leaders from pursuing the goal of “freedom from India”.
Geelani attributed Sheikh’s assassination directly to the “counter-terrorists” proposed by the Union Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar last month. He reminded that Parrikar had spoken of India’s plan to neutralise terrorism with terrorism. He called for a protest shutdown in Baramulla district on Wednesday.

Security forces and Jammu and Kashmir Police did not issue any statement on Sheikh’s killing or in reaction to Geelani’s allegation. However, DGP K.Rajendra Kumar was quoted by a local news agency to have said that the Police would unravel the truth. DIG Das refused to comment on Geelani’s allegation.

Omar calls PDP-BJP coalition a government of U-turns and surrenders
Ahmed Ali Fayyaz
SRINAGAR, Jun 8: On completion of its first 100 days in office, National Conference President and former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah on Monday dismissed the PDP-BJP coalition as “a government of U-turns and surrenders”, claiming that it had failed on all fronts.
Coming out of its hibernation with the release of an exhaustive report on the performance of Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s government in Jammu and Kashmir, National Conference marked the regime’s first milestone with a Press conference by Omar Abdullah. Omar declined to take questions on Afzal Guru’s execution with the argument that it could “rub salt over the old wounds”, but he asserted cogently that his Kashmir successor, PDP, had made abject surrenders before the Centre.
In reply to a question, Omar alleged that the Mufti government’s ostensible drive against encroachment of the forest land in Jammu was a brazen case of “discrimination” as the campaign was restricted only to the Muslim-dominated areas. He said he would welcome a genuine anti-encroachment campaign if it would have been initiated and carried out without the considerations of the caste, creed and colour.
 Over the reports of ‘saffornisation’ of the bureaucracy, Omar contended: “This issue pertains to the Chief Minister as the chief secretary has to take consent of the chief Minister who heads the GAD”. He claimed that GAD had not issued or withdrawn the order of giving respect to the State flag, alongside the National flag, without the mandatory approval of the State’s Chief Minister.
“Over AFSPA revocation, the PDP used to raise its pitch earlier but now it is completely mute. PDP-BJP’s agenda of alliance talks about the revocation of AFSPA, but no such measures have been taken and rather the state government stands divested of the right to even talk about AFSPA, which is unprecedented. Chief Minister Mufti Muhammad Sayeed continues to evade questions of AFSPA at official events and press interactions,” he said.
As regards the PDP’s claim that the Indian Constitution’s Aricle 370, that gives special status to the State of Jammu and Kashmir, would survive all odds, Omar referred to the BJP national spokesperson Meenakshi Lekhi’s May 26th statement. In her statement, Ms Lekhi had asserted that the BJP was committed to its election-time promise of abrogation of Article 370.
Over the dialogue with Pakistan, Omar said: “Contrary to its previous claims, PDP now has surrendered its position over the issue and that BJP at present has been maintaining that terror and talks can’t go together”.
“Over the return of the power projects from NHPC, the NC Working President said, “In a brazen U-Turn, PDP voted against the resolution pertaining to return of power projects when National Conference introduced it in legislative council”
Over new recruitment policy, Omar maintained that in PDP’s Year of Youth, the first gift to the youth has made the youth wish and pray there are no more gifts. “The government’s draconian, suppressive tendencies have been an open secret from the very first week of its tenure. Besides protesting flood victims and traders, our employees too have been at the receiving end of the government’s batons,” he said.
Over what he termed the inordinate delay in rehabilitation of the flood victims, Omar said, “The sufferers have been let down by the government that foisted elections on them in the midst of devastation. Now the new government has demonstrated a complete lack of political will to start the dignified compensation and rehabilitation of the flood victims. The Finance Ministry has again suddenly run out of ideas and the CM has little to offer on his whirlwind chopper tours.”
“The alliance continued to be viewed with doubt and suspicion in both regions of the state. There is widespread discontent on frequent U-Turns and surrenders on political stands that had been taken earlier. There is mistrust and the ambiguity from the government of various key-issues has led to an increase in incidents of provocation and friction,” Omar added.