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Saturday, August 1, 2015

SHO, 2 PSOs, driver injured in militant strike on Kashmir highway

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Jul 31: Station House Officer (SHO) Pattan Inspector Mohammad Saleem Mir was injured alongwith his driver and two personal security officers (PSOs) when suspected militants attacked a Police party at Mirgund on Srinagar-Muzaffarabad highway on Friday evening.

Informed sources told STATE TIMES that a unit of Police Station Pattan and Police Division Mirgund had put up a naka at Mirgund in the evening after receiving raw inputs regarding possible passage of some militants from Sopore to Srinagar. At around 8.30 p.m. when the Police signalled a Tavera, bearing registration number JK01Q-8792, two unidentified gunmen in it lobbed a hand grenade and fired indiscriminately.

Inspector Saleem Mir, who was in the front, got injured alongwith his two PSOs, namely Dilshad Khan and Mushtaq Ahmad. The civilian driver of his privately hired vehicle Bilal Ahmad Gujri, also sustained injuries. Others of the police party retaliated the fire but the assailants escaped successfully in the reverse direction. Later, all the three injured Policemen were evacuated and admitted to Army’s 92 Base Hospital in Srinagar. The civilian driver with minor splinter injuries was admitted in SKIMS Medical College Bemina.

Doctors attending to the injured at the military hospital said that only the Inspector had sustained a gunshot injury. His PSOs, they said, had splinter injuries. All of them were declared as stable.

Sources said that the assailants abandoned their vehicle which was seized by the Police after the militants escaped in the neighbourhood.

Even as most of the Police officials maintained that they were still busy to ascertain the identities and the organisational affiliation of the assailants, authoritative sources insisted that the assailants were none other than the cadres of the expelled Hizbul Mujahideen commander Qayyum Najar. Najar, the group’s top commander for over three years, has been expelled from Hizbul Mujahideen by chief commander Syed Salah-ud-din last week in the wake of a chain of attacks on mobile telephone operators in Sopore, Pattan and Srinagar.

Deputy Inspector General of Police in North Kashmir Gareeb Das told STATE TIMES that the Police party seized the Tavera used and abandoned by the unidentified militants. He said the identity of its owner would be ascertained by tomorrow as Police had immediately launched an extensive investigation. "We have launched a cordon-and-search operation in the locality alongwith Army and CRPF. We hope to get some clue about the identity of the two militants and their hideout", Mr Das said.

DIG said that it was a routine naka as some inputs last week suggested passage of militants by vehicles from North to South Kashmir. He said that the Tavera was intercepted when it was on way towards Srinagar from Sopore. According to him, Police had laid seven nakas on the highway from Sopore to Srinagar.


Thursday, July 30, 2015

Governor Vohra wants to be relieved on 'health grounds'
Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Jul 29: On completion of seven years at Raj Bhawan, Narenda Nath Vohra has desired to be relieved as Governor of Jammu and Kashmir on 'health grounds'.
STATE TIMES has learned from highly placed bureaucratic sources that in the middle of the current month, Mr Vohra sent a confidential communication to the Union Ministry of Home Affairs, seeking his retirement as the J&K Governor. According to these sources in Government of India, Mr Vohra has pleaded that he may be relieved around completion of the ongoing Amarnath Yatra as he was feeling it hard to discharge his responsibilities on account of "age and health".
Mr Vohra, according to these sources, has been advised to continue till the appointment of his reliever.
A retired IAS officer, who served as Union Home Secretary during the peak of militancy in Punjab and beginning of the armed insurgency and political strife in Jammu and Kashmir, Mr Vohra had been appointed by Dr Manmohan Singh's UPA government as its interlocutor on Jammu and Kashmir. During his frequent visits to Srinagar, he established liaison with a section of the separatist leaders, trying to rope them in for a political dialogue with New Delhi.
With his communication of condolences to the separatist hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani on the death of latter's daughter Surraya Jan, Mr Vohra attempted to build a bridge with the Hurriyat stalwart. He however failed to evoke a response he expected and also experienced from some of the moderate separatists.
In July 2008, when Governor Lt Gen S.K. Sinha's term ended with the eruption of a regional and communal strife in Jammu and Kashmir, followed by fall of Ghulam Nabi Azad's Congress-PDP coalition, Mr Vohra was appointed as Governor. He functioned as Governor all through the turbulent summers of 2008 and 2010, both times handling the affairs with confidence and aplomb. Assembly elections of 2008 and 2014 besides Lok Sabha elections of 2009 and 2014, as also the Panchayat elections of 2011, were held successfully under Mr Vohra's leadership.
Upon the completion of his first term of 5 years, Mr Vohra was again appointed Governor in 2013. However, after tye change of regime and in the wake of removal and resignation of over a dozen Governors and Lt Governors in 2014, Mr Vohra had offered to quit. According to reports, on more than one occasions, he was advised to continue in office with the assurance that the Narendra Modi government had immediately no intention to appoint a new Governor in the sensitive border State of Jammu and Kashmir.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Gill's appointment as J&K Governor approved by PMO

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, July 28: Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) is understood to have approved former Director General of Punjab Police P.S. Gill's appointment as Governor of Jammu and Kashmir state.

Highly placed bureaucratic and political sources disclosed to STATE TIMES on Tuesday that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has accorded approval to Mr Gill's appointment as J&K Governor and the PMO has sent the file to the Union Home Ministry for processing the warrant of appointment.

Attempts to seek confirmation from Minister of State Dr Jitender Singh and others in PMO were not successful.

If these sources are to be believed, Mr Gill could be appointed even before the Independence Day of August 15. In its edition of July 16, STATE TIMES had exclusively reported that Mr Gill was in the top consideration zone of BJP high command, with strong support of RSS, for J&K Raj Bhavan. His possible appointment can cut short incumbent Governor Narendra Nath Vohra's second term by 3 years.

On completion of his first term of five years in 2013, Dr Manmohan Singh's Congress-led UPA government had appointed Mr Vohra for another term which would have normally lasted till 2018. However, after the change of regime and Mr Modi’s taking over as Prime Minister in 2014, Mr Vohra had offered to quit when the NDA government removed over a dozen of the Governors and Lt Governors appointed by the previous regime.

According to sources, Mr Vohra had been advised to continue with the assurance that Mr Modi’s government had immediately no intention to appoint a new Governor in the sensitive State of Jammu and Kashmir.

After serving J&K for about 30 years on several key positions, Mr Gill functioned as DGP in his home State of Punjab. He has a remarkable contribution to his credit in fighting militancy and organising the counter-insurgent Special Operations Group of J&K Police in close coordination with Army and paramilitary forces.

Of the senior Police officers of J&K experience, Surendra Nath had been appointed as Governor of Punjab in August 1991 when militancy in that state was at its peak during President’s rule. He had previously served as Advisor to Governor Arjun Singh. On July 9, 1994, when Nath was also holding the charge of Administrator of Chandigarh and Governor of Himachal Pradesh---he was originally a Himachal Pradesh cadre IPS officer---he died while flying from Chandigarh to Kulu as his Beachcraft crashed into the hilly terrain. His role in fighting militancy in Punjab had been widely appreciated across the country.

Gurbachan Jagat, a Punjab cadre IPS officer who served as DGP of J&K from February 1997 to December 2000, functioned as Governor of Manipur from 2008 to 2013, after serving a stint as DG BSF and member of Union Public Service Commission. For the last 18 months of his tenure, he worked as Chairman of UPSC.

Gopal Sharma, an IPS officer of J&K cadre, who served as DGP in J&K during Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s and Ghulam Nabi Azad’s PDP-Congress coalition from 2004 to 2007, functioned as Advisor (Security) to Governor Jagat in Manipur.


Monday, July 27, 2015

When I broke Kargil for the world
Ahmed Ali Fayyaz
Had my affectionate editor Mr SD Rohmetra been at his office, I am sure I wouldn't have been able to break the news of Kargil War. Meticulously responsible in such matters like any perfect editor, he would have said: "Fayyaz, I have checked with Army Commander (GOC-in-C Northern Command), Jaitly (Chief Secretary) and Jagat (DGP). It's not correct".
For my good luck, Mr Rohmetra was on a tour, perhaps with PM or President, in Europe. Kamal, his elder son in office, called me to know if I would be filing any story. I asked him for 5 column banner lead on page one even when I was still reverifying my facts. I didn't disclose the subject, nor did Kamal press. I also wanted to send it late so that others at office got no time to put their brains on it. I knew it that nobody will trust me in reporting that more than 300 from Pakistan had intruded into Kargil, captured areas deep into the Indian-held territories and a "war" had begun while as India and rest of the world had no inkling of it.
It was May 11, 1999, same day when GOC 15 Corps (Lt Gen Krishen Pal) sent his first confirmation of the incursion of over 300 Pakistani soldiers and militants to Command headquarters and Army headquarters. The intrusion had been first reported by some shepherds on May 3. It was first confirmed to their high ups by 121 Infantry Brigade and 3rd Infantry Division on May 7. After some startling inputs, I got the first unwitting confirmation of the three battlions' air dropping into Kargil from then SSP of Kupwara Manmohan Singh who, I am sure, didn't have any estimation of this matter's sensitivity. He had learned from local army officers that all units of paratroopers  (special forces) were being airlifted to Ladakh. I am sure, he had not found it important to share with IGP or DGP Gurbachan Jagat. I called some senior officials of State government to know if there was "any major infiltration in Ladakh". As usual, they invariably said "no, not to my knowledge". I am sure, none of them had an inkling of the war having begun secretly in Kargil. I was keen not to leak it to Government and media with my calls and questions.
Those days, we were 6 months old on Internet but there was no threat from the TV channels, now in a great competition. Besides, there was no Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp etc which now outsmart even the best of our competitive reporters. I had an idea that despite warning such a situation as long back as in January 1998, IB, RAW, MI and other Indian intelligence agencies were either ill-informed, or confused or nonplussed or at least secretive and none of them could pass it on to PTI whose Defence correspondents had always broken the news of a war in India.
My only competitions in the entire media world were Vikram Jit Singh, then head of Srinagar bureau of Indian Express and Praveen Swami who then reported only for Frontline. I knew Frontline didn't publish daily but I was almost certain that Vikram could be informed. I wouldn't think about Barkha Dutt and others who later dominated the battlefront in reporting the developments. I was happy to find that on May 12, 1999, it was nowhere in the world other than in Daily Excelsior. The banner lead as I had desired. In Press Enclave that day, most of my colleagues cut me dead. Some of them had no knowledge of my scoop, others wanted to pose as if it was just a gossip but senior colleague Altaf Hussain of then BBC advised me that I should report such sensitive things only when the information is "logged" in official records. He told me there was no truth in it as he had spoken to all the concerned about the Excelsior story and none of them------Chief Secretary, DGP, BGS at 15 Corps-----had confirmed it to him. Without arguing, I assured Altaf Sahab that my story was "100% correct". He just smiled. Later, senior colleague Yusuf Jameel sahab also bumped into me outside his office. With a usual smile, characteristic of him only, Jameel sahab too gave me his words of wisdom. He too advised that one must take extreme care in verification of such sensitive issues.
On the same evening, Rashid Rahi of CNS told me that he had asked almost all the important officers in state government and army but nobody had confirmed it to him. I asked him "Did they contradict it? If they did, please carry a story". He said "They say we neither confirm it nor contradict it". For him it was "contradiction" but for me it was a "confirmation". Rahi immediately called up Vikram Jit and asked him about my story. Not knowing that I was there too, Vikram told Rahi "Yes, it is correct. I have unfortunately missed it". We all knew that Vikram alone had done the most authentic stories on army related matters as, we were told, he was pretty resourceful and one of his close relatives was also a Major General.
It was, however, only on May 14 or 15 that PRO Defence at 15 Corps, Maj Purshottam, who later died in a fidayeen attack at his office, called me to inform that the hell had broken loose with my story. He said that Army has ordered an internal inquiry but was relieved that he had not leaked it as nobody other than Corps Commander and BGS knew about the "war". When Brig Surinder Singh (121) and (Maj Gen of 3rd Infantry Div) landed in trouble while facing a tirade from Delhi and casualties of jawans on the war front, I was told they would "kill" me for sure. Purshottam said that everybody from Delhi was asking for EXCELSIOR report and he had faxed them copies of my published story. Next day it dominated TV and print media. Everybody began reproducing my story without credit claiming that it was being reported "first" by his or her TV or newspaper.
Friend and colleage Muzamil Jaleel stopped his bike at my gate (I had just shifted residence from MLA Hostel to Jawahar Nagar) and introduced me to Indian Express' Dedence Correspondent Gaurav Sawant, now working with TV. They wanted to know if i was interested to accompany them to Kargil for reporting. I told them that we would use PTI as we couldn't leave Valley free. Moths later, Muzamil told me how everybody at a meeting with K Subrahmanyam (head of Kargil Review Committee) had claimed to have broken the Kargil war. It was great of Muzamil, then extremely sincere and straightforward, to confront some colleagues. "I got up and shouted that it had been done by none other than Ahmed Ali Fayyaz in Excelsior of May 12", Muzamil said. Later, he informed me after a foreign tour, that JANES DEFENCE WEEKLY had recorded correctly that the Kargil War news had been first broken by me in Daily Excelsior.
The day Subrahmanyam's team landed in Srinagar, Director of Information K.B. Jandial called me. He said that KRC members want to interact with media at SKICC tomorrow. "Is is going to be a press conference?", I asked Mr Jandia. "No, just an informal interaction with journalists. They want you to attend", he said. I immediately made it clear to Mr Jandial that I would attend only if it is a press conference. "If the KRC members want to learn how I broke the story, they should come to me rather than expecting me to visit them", I clarified and refused to attend.
Barkha Dutt did perhaps the best of the Kargil coverage, inspite of a few goof ups, but even India's arguably the best TV journalist never reported who had broken the news of the war first.