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Saturday, June 27, 2015

Separatists unite on shutdown over ‘desecration’ to Kashmir mosque

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Jun 26: Even as Police on Friday took on the violent demonstrators on premises of the summer capital’s largest mosque after the congregational prayers, separatists have yet again joined hands to enforce a protest shutdown in Srinagar on Saturday.
On last Friday---the first of the holy month of Ramazan---most of the Kashmiri separatist leaders had been detained either at their residences or the neighbouring Police Stations as they had, after years of split, issued a joint call for a mass march to Sopore to protest six civilian killings by unidentified gunmen in a row. The bandh had a remarkable impact.

However, a week after, authorities lifted restrictions and permitted Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, the cleric-politician and Chairman of Hurriyat Conference’s moderate faction, to deliver his weekly sermon at the prayers at Jamia Masjid. Thousands of devout Muslims attended the sermon followed by the afternoon (Zuhar) prayers.
While Mirwaiz left back for his Nageen residence in a Police protected cavalcade, some of the withdrawing people shouted high-pitch pro-Azadi, pro-Pakistan and anti-India slogans. A few of them were seen carrying Pakistani flags. No sooner did the Police stop them from marching towards Nowhatta than they resorted to intense stone pelting on the columns and the Police vehicles.

During the ding dong clashes that lasted for around half an hour, Police chased the violent demonstrators and clashed with them on the mosque premises. Anjuman-e-Jamia Auqaf functionaries, as also the association of the Jamia Masjid traders, called for a protest shutdown in Srinagar on Saturday. They alleged that Police committed “desecration” of the mosque while firing tearsmoke canisters and pellets “inside Jamia Masjid”. Over a dozen protestors and Policemen sustained injuries.
Officials said that one protestor sustained grievous injuries and he was quickly evacuated to hospital.

Towards the end of the clashes, some unidentified but well identifiable people attacked some photojournalists with the allegation that they been provoking clashes and demonstrations at Jamia Masjid every Friday. Eyewitnesses said that Police watched the attack as mute spectators helplessly from a distance.
Heads of both factions of Hurriyat---Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Syed Ali Shah Geelani---besides other prominent separatist leaders supported the shutdown call of Anjuman-e-Jamia Auqaf and the local traders. In their separately issued statements, the separatist leaders condemned the Police action on the people inside the mosque and held Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s government responsible for “desecration” of the main mosque. Officials contradicted reports of desecration and asserted that a routine clash had occurred between some urchins and Police outside the mosque.

Till late on Friday night, authorities had not imposed prohibitory orders but officials holding senior positions in Police and civil administration said that “informal curfew” could be enforced if demonstrators seemed to turn violent in downtown Srinagar like on last Friday.


Friday, June 26, 2015

On moral pedestal, Riyaz Jan should speak out

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz
SRINAGAR, Jun 27: Arguing in favour of the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) on June 17th before a Constitutional Bench headed by Justice J.S. Khehar, senior advocate and President of Supreme Court Bar Association Dushyant Dave said: “My Lords should wear a burqa and roam in the court corridors to hear the way lawyers talk about the judges of this court. You will get first-hand account of the rotting justice delivery system. The kind of lawyers who are being appointed as judges is a disgrace”.

Dave added: “Acting chief justice of a high court decides to sit in a single bench, gets the roster for criminal cases, has the case transferred to his bench from another bench and quashes the FIR only because the person involved happens to be a top film star. Which driver gets bail within hours of conviction unless he happens to be a top film star? Which person will get bail by this court on the first day of the bail plea and without a notice to the other side if it is not a big politician? It is a shame”. He was cogently driving home to the Bench that incompetent lawyers in large numbers had been inducted as judges of High Courts and Supreme Court on the recommendation of Collegium and in the process the justice delivery system had turned into a sham.

Exactly five days after Dave’s spine-chilling averments, Jammu and Kashmir’s Advocate General Riyaz Ahmad Jan tendered his resignation to Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s PDP-BJP coalition that had picked him up for the prestigious position as lately as on March 15. It was probably for the first time in the judicial history of the State that an Advocate General stepped down within three months of his appointment which, normally, was supposed to run parallel to the government’s six-year term.

In a conversation with STATE TIMES, Jan revealed that he had developed “serious differences” with the government on “certain crucial issues”. He claimed that the things had come to a head and he was left with just two options: compromise or quit. “I chose to step down”, he asserted.

“Authority, dignity and grace are the three components of the office of Advocate General. And none of these can be compromised”, Jan told another newspaper, Greater Kashmir. He added: “There are many issues on which the AG should be taken into confidence and these cannot be imposed upon every time. There is a limit to patience and when that limit exceeds, you have the only option to quit and not to compromise on your principles.”

J&K’s Bar is genuinely proud to have created conscientious legal practitioners who upheld the dignity and prestige of the high office of Advocate General and did not compromise their self-respect. Jan is indisputably one among them as the Government has not responded to his allegation that it’s ‘interventions’ in the last three months had threatened to undermine the dignity of AG’s office. [Law Secretary Mohammad Ashraf Mir just said that Jan did not come up to the government’s “expectations”]. Neither Jan nor Ashraf elaborated as to what exactly were the government’s “expectations” and what precisely the areas of difference.

Even before democracy came into existence in 1947, J&K’s Bar had celebrated lawyers like Justice Masood Hassan who, after functioning as Vice Chancellor of a University, had been appointed as Advocate General by Maharaja Hari Singh. It didn’t take Hassan a second to resign when he learned that Maharaja had not invited him for a particular official function.

There may be men who did not demit office until reminded by a successor regime that AG’s engagement is essentially a political appointment. There may also be men who tender resignation like Justice (retd.) Ali Mohammad Mir did in 2005 towards the end of his tenure as Chairman of J&K State Human Rights Commission. But Jan’s quitting puts him on a high moral pedestal.

But, contrary to Dave, what makes this eminent lawyer keep things of public interest shrouded in mystery? Is he, like Ministers, legislators and High Court judges, on oath to keep the government’s matters hidden from the public domain? Doesn’t his refusal to speak out keep the government’s “uncalled for interventions” intact for his successor who is picked up from a lesser experienced and younger lot and appointed AG in absence of the Cabinet’s sanction within 20 hours?

Grapevine suggests that Jan declined to act as a “domestic help” of the bureaucracy often develops ego and compatibility issues with the lateral appointments. He had reportedly applied strictness and accountability to his team and would personally appear in a many matters in the court.

Least accustomed to red-tapism, Jan would not shuttle between offices and residences of politicians and bureaucrats for his PR profile. In fact his appointment in March came as a surprise to many as few would expect an anti-establishment lawyer like him to bite the bait from a coalition that had a hardcore right wing group as its key constituent. He accepted the offer when many in his fraternity were expecting another learned lawyer Altaf Haqani’s appointment as AG.

Jan’s half-revelation, in fact, could lead to more confusion as some of the government functionaries have been whispering in certain circles that he attempted to interfere in the government’s matters which did not fall under his constitutional mandate. Under these circumstances, people of the State have every right to know as to what were the issues on which he developed differences with the government and felt his office’s dignity being undermined.

Being tightlipped on the specifics would not serve any purpose. It would only leave his successors vulnerable to more “uncalled for interventions” from the Executive and help his detractors to dismiss his act as brinkmanship. He should speak out like Dave. Even the Advocates Act demands him to be “bold”.


Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Reyaz Jan quits on ‘differences’ with Govt, Jehangir appointed new Adv General

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz
SRINAGAR, Jun 23: Eminent lawyer Riyaz Ahmad Jan has resigned within three months of his appointment as Advocate General over “serious differences” with Mufti Mohammad Sayeed-led PDP-BJP government in Jammu and Kashmir. Jehangir Iqbal Ganai has been consequently appointed as the new Advocate General alongwith 23 new government advocates---13 for Kashmir and 10 for Jammu wing of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court.

“Yes, it’s a fact that yesterday I have resigned as Advocate General”, Mr Jan confirmed his quitting to STATE TIMES. Asked why he had stepped down in just three months of his appointment dated March 15, 2015, Mr Jan said: “I had developed serious differences with the government over certain crucial issues. Between the options of compromising and quitting, I chose to resign”. He, nevertheless, did not specify the issues on which he had developed “serious differences” with the government.

Law Secretary Mohammad Ashraf Mir told STATE TIMES that Mr Jan’s resignation had been accepted by the government and advocate Jehangir Iqbal Ganai had been appointed as the new Advocate General on Tuesday. Asked what led to Mr Jan’s quitting prematurely, Mr Mir said, “Some differences had crept in between him and the government. He didn’t come up to the expectations of the government. Finally, he was asked to resign which he did immediately”.

One of the senior most and widely respected lawyers, Mr Jan had replaced the Omar Abdullah government’s incumbent Mohammad Ishaq Qadiri on March 15 this year. Mr Qadiri had submitted his resignation immediately after the results of the Assembly elections were out and the NC-Congress coalition failed to retain power in December 2014. However, Governor re-engaged him and asked him to continue till formation of the new representative government.

Mr Jan had been designated as Senior Advocate by J&K High Court on March 28, 2012.

Though junior to several Additional Advocates General (AAGs)and Deputy Advocates General (DAGs), Jehangir Iqbal Ganai is rated as a successful lawyer. His pleading in so-called J&K Cricket Association fund scam on behalf of the association’s head and former Chief Minister Dr Farooq Abdullah did not come in the way of his appointment as AG by the Mufti Sayeed government. Hailing from Mattan area of Bijbehara constituency in Anantnag district, Mr Ganai’s father Mohammad Iqbal Ganai has served as Secretary of J&K Legislative Assembly until his retirement few years back. He was known to be a favourite of Minister of Law and Parliamentary Affairs Syed Basharat Bukhari.

With the new appointments, Law Department has ordered nearly four-fold increase in the retainership and perks of the AG, AAGs, DAGs and Government Advocates. In the case of AG, it has been increased from Rs 19,000 to Rs 80,000. Similarly, a considerable hike has been ordered for each appearance in the court. Judicial sources said that the AG, who would currently take home Rs 1.00 to Rs 1,50 Lakh, would now on be entitled to anything between Rs 3.00 lakh and Rs 5.00 Lakh a month.

23 new Govt advocates

Meanwhile, Government on Tuesday appointed 23 advocates---13 for Kashmir and 10 for Jammu wing of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court.

Zainab Shamas Watali, Ehsan Mirza and Purshottam Chander Sharma have been appointed as AAGs while as Faraz Iqbal, Rajeshwar Singh Durswal and Raman Sharma have been appointed as DAGs for Jammu Wing. Sanjeev Padha, Mohammad Nadeem Bhat, Sivangi Kant and Aarif Lateef Choudhary have been appointed as Government Advocates for the same wing of J&K High Court.

For Kashmir Wing, former Assistant Solicitor General of India Shabir Ahmad Naik, Nissar Hussain Shah, Nazir Ahmad Baba and Reyaz Hussain have been appointed as AAGs. Irfan Andleeb, Khalid Hameed, Shah Aamir, Qazi rashid Shamas and Maajid Ganaie have been appointed as DAGs. Danish Mufti, Owais Geelani, Sameer Ahmad Dar and Sajad Mohi-ud-din have been appointed as Government Advocates.


Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Civilian, 2 LeT militants killed in Kulgam gunbattle

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Jun 22: Amid high drama overnight, two local militants of Lashkar-e-Tayyiba and a civilian got killed in Kulgam district of South Kashmir on Monday.

According to Deputy Inspector General of Police for South Kashmir, Nitish Kumar, LeT militant Javed Ahmad Bhat alias Abu Zaffar of Redwani Bala was present in his village at a hideout with the fresh LeT recruit Idrees Ahmad Nengroo of Budroo, when Army and Kulgam District Police swooped down on the locality and laid siege to the whole village late on Sunday night on a specific source information.

As the Police and Army zeroed in on the hideout, large number of the residents gathered and resorted to unprovoked stone pelting on Police and security forces. They attempted to break the cordon and force the Army to call off the operation so as to provide an opportunity of escaping for the holed up militants. Police dealt with the law and order problem effectively.

During the nightlong operation, the holed up militants made several unsuccessful attempts to escape. In the morning, a 30-year-old youth, Asif Tantray of the same village, got hit in his neck at his home, around 300 yards from the site of the encounter. He was rushed to Frisal and subsequently to Sub District Hospital of Bijbehara where doctors declared him “brought dead”. DIG said that Tantray was probably hit by a stray bullet and he died due to excessive loss of blood.

“In the morning, both the militants came out of the hideout and attempted to escape. Troops directed on them heavy fire, killing them both in an orchard. Idrees carried an SLR previously snatched away from a Police constable and Javed had an AK-47 rifle. Their death in a neat and clean operation is a major setback to LeT in South Kashmir”, DIG told STATE TIMES.

According to Police records, Idrees had joined LeT on June 2 and he lived as a militant for only 20 days. One SLR and one AK-47 rifle were seized on the spot alongwith the two militants’ bodies.

“Javed stood booked in the stone pelting cases filed under FIR Nos 32/2013, 39/2013, 186/2013, 250/2013 besides FIR No: 163/2010. He was also wanted in the killing of Follower Mohammad Rafeeq of Hassanpora under FIR 213/2014, killing of the National Conference MLA Abdul Majid Larmi’s PSO Constable Zahoor Ahmad Dar and assassination of a former Anantnag DC’s PSO Constable Fayaz Ahmad under FIR No: 220/2014”,  DIG Nitish Kumar said.

Even Asif Tantray, who according to the officials, was an “overground worker of Hizbul Mujahideen” and a stanch supporter of the separatist hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani. He had been booked in FIR No: 92 of 2009, FIR No:163/2010 under sections 436,  395, 397, 307, 121, 121-A, 120-A, 121-A, 147, 148, 149, 188, 332 RPC and 7/27 Indian Arms Act. Sources said that in February this year, Police had begun to prepare a dossier for Tantray’s detention under PSA. It was not pressed after PDP formed the government with BJP in March.

However, residents as well as politicians across the board described Tantray as a civilian. They condemned his killing and alleged that he had been killed by target firing without justification. Condemnations poured in from various leaders including Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Yasin Malik and some PDP leaders. National Conference acting President Omar Abdullah condemned Tantray’s killings.

While the District Development Board began at Anantnag, NC’s MLA from Homeshalibugh Abdul Majid Larmi staged a strong protest against the casualties in front of Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed. Mufti silenced him with the remark that over 120 civilians had died in clashes with Police and paramilitary forces during NC’s regime 2015.

Hurriyat hardliner Geelani demanded an independent inquiry into Tantray’s killing and called for protest shutdown in Kulgam district on Tuesday.


Monday, June 22, 2015

Two LeT militants trapped in Kulgam encounter

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Jun 21: Two local militants of Lashkar-e-Tayyiba got trapped on Sunday night in an operation launched jointly by Kulgam District Police and Army at Redwani Bala, in Kulgam district, in South Kashmir.

DIG South Kashmir Nitish Kumar told STATE TIMES that the Police and Army launched the joint operation late on Sunday evening on a specific information. According to the tip off, two LeT militants, Javed Ahmad Bhat r/o Reddwani Bala and Idrees Nengroo r/o Badru Yaripora, were present at their hideout. Preliminary reports had identified one of the holed up militants as
Hizbul Mujahideen's top wanted militant, Altaf Ahmad Dar alias Altaf Kachroo alias Turabi S/O Late Ghulam Mohammad Dar Hawoora Mishipora Kulgam.

DIG said that the two LeT militants opened fire from their hideout. It triggered off an encounter, twice from 8.30 pm to 10.30 pm.

Residents gathered and resorted to intense stone pelting on the Police and Army. Forces retaliated with baton charge and tearsmoke. "We are dealing with the situation", DIG said. Even as some reports said that bith the holed up militants managed to escape, DIG asserted that Police and forced were maintaining the cordon and they would not withdraw the operation under any circumstances.


Sunday, June 21, 2015

Under-trial PoK militant, cop killed in Police vehicle blast

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Jun 20: A Hizbul Mujahideen under-trial from Pakistan-controlled Kashmir and a Constable died and four personnel were injured in a blast that occurred dramatically in a vehicle of Jammu and Kashmir Police on Srinagar-Muzaffarabad highway at a time on Saturday when all the legislators of North Kashmir, including three Ministers, were holding a meeting at Baramulla.

Deputy Inspector General of Police, North Kashmir, Gareeb Das told STATE TIMES that a Police party from Sopore carried an under-trial militant, Wahid Noor Khan of Rawlakote PoK, all the way from Srinagar Central Jail to Sopore to cause his attendance in the court of Chief Judicial Magistrate. After the hearing when the under-trial was being carried back to the summer capital, he shouted on the driver of Police’s Tata Sumo and threatened to throw a grenade if he did not stop, near Hygam, at 2.10 p.m.

“Four of our men escorting the handcuffed detainee pounced upon him and tried to overpower and disarm him. A grenade in his hand went off, killing him on spot. All the four Policemen besides a Constable-Driver sustained splinter injuries. One of the critically injured, Constable Abdul Majeed of Mulshulla (Beerwah) Budgam later died at a hospital in Srinagar. All the four injured are out of danger”, DIG Gareeb Das said. He said that later another hand grenade and a black jacket was recovered during search of the vehicle.

DIG asserted that FIR had been filed and a departmental inquiry initiated into how two hand grenades and a black jacket reached into the possession of the detained and the handcuffed under-trial.

Knowledgable sources revealed to STATE TIMES that Wahid Noor Khan alias Hamza of Hizbul Mujahideen had been arrested and prosecuted for a subversive incident in Rajouri but acquitted by a court. Later, he had been shifted to Sopore and booked in FIR No: 393 in the year 2010. He was subsequently lodged in Srinagar Central Jail.

According to these sources, Police were verifying reports that a Sopore-based group of Hizbul Mujahideen militants had planned to secure the release of their colleague during his presence in the court. Some of the inputs available with Police indicated that the under-trial sought to ease himself in a toilet in which one of the militants had a while ago placed two hand grenades and a jacket of the same make and colour which Hamza was wearing. It is believed that the handcuffed Hamza changed his jacket and put both the grenades in its pockets. The careless escort personnel ignored the requirement of the detainee's physical frisking when he came out of the washroom.

A police part reached the spot within minutes, seized the detainee's body with a live grenade and a jacket. The injured personnel were rushed to SMHS hospital in Srinagar where Constable Majeed breathed his last.

Hizbul Mujahideen supremo Syed Salahuddin alleged in a statement that Hamza had been "killed in custody" exactly like another detained militant Shakeel alias Obaidullah had been eliminated in July 2013. He warned that his guerrilla group come up with reprisals on the "conscienceless policemen responsible" for Hamza's killing. Salahuddin said that "Mufti-Modi gameplan" was getting exposed with every passing day.

Chairman of so-called moderate faction of Hurriyat Conference Mirwaiz Omar Farooq too alleged that the under-trial had been killed in custody. Without explaining how one Constable died and four sustained injuries, Mirwaiz lamented that even the prisoners were not safe now in Kashmir.

Meanwhile, according to a Defence spokesperson, one infiltrating militant died in an encounter with Army close to the LoC in Machhil sector early on Saturday morning. Search was underway for others of the group who reportedly escaped from the ambush.