Total Pageviews

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Student killed in Army’s firing, another student critical; Toll 5

Turbulence spreads to more parts of Kupwara; Undeclared curfew continues in Srinagar, Kupwara, Handwara; Crowds attack Army camps, Police; Geelani calls for another shutdown; Exams deferred

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz


JAMMU, April 15: On the fourth consecutive day of turbulence in Kashmir valley on Friday, over half of the summer capital of Srinagar and all major towns of Kupwara district reeled under undeclared curfew over the four civilian deaths in the firing of Police and Army on Tuesday and Wednesday in Handwara even as the death toll rose to five with one more fatal casualty and yet another student was battling for life at a hospital.

Few of the Police officials responded to phone calls from media as Internet services though GPRS on prepaid mobile phones remained frozen in Kupwara and parts of Srinagar. Official sources told STATE TIMES that immediately after the Friday congregational prayers at the mosques, crowds attacked a roadside camp of Rashtriya Rifles 47th battalion at Nutnusa, on Srinagar-Sopore-Kupwara road. Eyewitnesses said that the camp was subjected to intense stone pelting and the crowds shouted pro-Azadi, anti-forces and anti-India slogans.

In retaliation, troops opened fire. A 19-year-old student, Arif Ahmad Dar of Awoora Kupwara, staying for studies with his sister married in Nutnusa, sustained critical injuries. He was rushed to hospital but he succumbed to injuries. With his death, total of five civilians---four students in age group of 19-22 years and a 55-year-old woman---have got killed in the firing of Police and Army in Handwara-Kupwara belt of northern Kashmir in the last four days.

When Arif’s body was being carried to his village for funeral rites, crowds launched another intense attack on the same camp of RR 47 Bn. However, this time troops forced the protesters disperse with only tear smoke and firing in the air. Eyewitnesses said that the crowds caused extensive damage to some barracks.

In the evening, crowds attacked Police and security forces at Kupwara bypass. Two more students, namely Shaukat Ahmad Ganai of Kalaroos and Sajjad Ahmad Bhat of Kunan Poshpora, sustained injuries. Both were rushed to Srinagar and admitted in SMHS Hospital. Doctors treating them maintained that Sajjad was out of danger but Shaukat was “extremely critical”. CMO Kupwara reportedly told local journalists that Shaukat had been” injured in the occipital region of his head, probably due to fall in a stampede”.

Two persons, who had sustained gunshot wounds in the Army firing at Nutnusa, were under treatment at Bone and Joint Hospital, Barzullah. Doctors described them as stable.

Official sources said that demonstrators clashed with Police and security forces at over 20 spots in downtown Srinagar besides over a dozen places in Kupwara district. Though there was no call for shutdown from separatists, life remained paralysed across the valley. Areas falling under seven Police Stations in Srinagar besides the townships of Kupwara, Handwara, Langate, Drugmulla reeled under undeclared curfew. A senior official said that as many as 92 Police personnel and over 50 civilians sustained injuries in the sporadic clashes in the last two days.

In the evening on Friday, a press release issued on the day’s situation from Zonal Police headquarters of Kashmir said: “There were massive violent protests in Handwara and Kupwara areas today. The mobs attacked the police and security force establishments and deployments. More than 40 police men and security force men were injured. Despite severe provocations the deployment on ground exercised maximum restraint. However at one place Natnusa in Kupwara the mob tried to enter the forces camp and the Army had to resort to firing in which one person lost his life.

The incidents of pelting were reported from Mir Mohalla, Hyhama Chowk, Kralpora in Kupwara, Kralgund, Magam in Handwara and Cement Bridge, Baramulla as well”. It appealed the public to “maintain calm and not to resort to violence and attack security force and police establishments”.

While as officials said that similar “restrictions” would remain in force in downtown Srinagar and Kupwara district on Saturday, separatists organisations, including both factions of Hurriyat Conference and JKLF, called for another shutdown across the Valley. Authorities announced cancelations of the examinations scheduled for Saturday by the University of Kashmir and State Board of School Education.


Thursday, April 14, 2016

Handwara residents to DC: “Army observed utmost restraint”

Toll reaches four; Police posts attacked as trouble spills to Kupwara; Separatists call another shutdown; Govt puts Kupwara, Srinagar downtown under curfew
Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

JAMMU, April 13: Even as Deputy Commissioner of Kupwara has ordered a time-bound magisterial enquiry and an Assistant Sub Inspector of Police (ASI) has been placed under suspension for “negligence of duty”, two more civilians died of the bullets fired by Police and security forces in Handwara area of northern Kashmir on Wednesday.

Informed sources said that the critically injured middle-aged woman, Raja (54) of Langet, breathed her lost at SKIMS in the wee hours. Her death remained a mystery as none among the officials did explain how she had been hit in her head while she was working at her vegetable farms at Langet, nearly 4 Km from Handwara, around the time when two 21-22 year old youths, Nayeem Qadir Bhat of Handwara and Mohammad Iqbal of Shalpora Drugmulla, were killed and more than two dozen others left injured in the firing by Police and security forces in Handwara on Tuesday.

After the funeral rites of the three civilians concluded separately in Drugmulla, Handwara and Langet towns, angry groups of the demonstrators attacked Police posts in parts of Kupwara district. Officials said that a Police post was set on fire and destroyed in Langet while as three more Police posts were attacked and damaged in Magam, Drugmulla and Hatmulla. Sources said that Police managed to save the arms and ammunition besides all records at the post set ablaze in Langet.

At Shat Muqam (Drugmulla), the demonstrators returning from Mohammad Iqbal’s funeral attacked Police and security forces. A 23-year-old civilian, Jehangir Ahmad Wani, was reportedly hit by a tearsmoke shell. He succumbed to injuries at a hospital. With his death, total of four civilians have got killed in the politically volatile area in the last 30 hours. Around a hundred civilians and at least 10 Police personnel have sustained injuries in the clashes.

At Drugmulla, a crowd launched an intense attack on the Police Station operating at the retired DIG Ashiq Bukhari’s house. Reports said that Police dispersed the mob with lathi charge and tearsmoke.

Residents of Handwara maintained that the town wore the looks of a battlefield as Police and CRPF fired hundreds of volleys of gunfire while the funeral of Nayeem Qadir was in progress. They said that some youths fought pitched battles with Police and security forces for several hours even as curfew-like restrictions remained in force in Handwara. Even the mediapersons were not permitted to move beyond a point.

Former National Conference Minister Chowdhary Mohammad Ramzan and independent MLA of Langet Engineer Rashid arranged for a meeting of DC Kupwara Kumar Rajeev Ranjan, Additional DC Muzaffar Ahmad and Tehsildar of Handwara with the family members of Nayeem Qadir at Bhat Mohalla in the turbulent town.

Sources present in the meeting told STATE TIMES that members of the bereaved family, besides all other residents, told DC Kupwara that Army had observed “utmost restraint” throughout the clashes on Tuesday. According to them, they stated to DC that inspite of grave provocation by the demonstrators repeatedly, Army did not open fire on the crowds.

“Most of them had already left the bunker. Some soldiers got holed up and they did not open fire when a mob set the building on fire and the soldiers were about to burn alive. For 8 long years, troops remained holed up. They were later rescued by Police”, Nayeem’s maternal uncle told the DC. According to him, Nayeem and Iqbal were “killed in cold blood” by ASI Rafeeq and an SP though they begged for life and beseeched that they were not part of the mob.

Reached on telephone in hometown Handwara, NC leader and former Minister Choudhary Ramzan said: “Yes it’s a fact. Everybody in the meeting gave a clean chit to Army and asserted that they were not involved in the firing. However, they demanded investigation into the allegation of molestation of a girl student levelled against a soldier by two male students. They also demanded removal of Army bunker as it had no utility for the forces after their convoys began passing through the bypass”, Mr Ramzan said.

As agreed upon by the residents and the officers in the meeting, DC Kupwara issued a statement making it clear that ADC Kupwara would hold a time-bound enquiry and that he would write to Army for removal of the controversial bunker in two months. He announced suspension of ASI Rafeeq and assured the residents that the officials found guilty in the enquiry will be booked in the FIR already registered. He also assured them that Police would not harass the youths against whom an open FIR of arson and assault on public servants and properties had been filed.

DC also assured the family that he would try to grant them ex gratia compensation (of Rs 13 lakh) on the pattern of the Kerala temple fire victims though it would not be less than Rs 5 lakh each family with the addition of contributions from CM’s and PM’s relief funds.

Late in the afternoon, Peoples Conference Chairman and Cabinet Minister Sajjad Lone arrived in his hometown along with his MLA colleague Bashir Ahmad Mir and PDP’s Cabinet Minister of Law Abdul Haq Khan. They also interacted with a group of the residents.


[Published in today’s STATE TIMES]

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Two youths killed, woman ‘almost dead’ in Handwara firing

Residents clash with Police, Army on a girl student’s alleged molestation by a soldier; Girl denies molestation bid; Mob burns Tricolour, holds soldiers hostage, sets building on fire; Curfew imposed in downtown Srinagar; Separatists call shutdown

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz


JAMMU, April 12: Parallel to Mehbooba Mufti’s first meeting with the union Home Minister Rajnath Singh in New Delhi after taking over as the Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister on last Monday, two youths got killed and over 25 civilians sustained injuries when residents clashed with Police and Army over an attempt of molestation allegedly committed by a soldier in Handwara township of Kupwara district, in northern Kashmir, on Tuesday.

Informed sources said that the trouble sprang out in the afternoon when two students in school uniform caught a teenage girl student outside a public lavatory block in the middle of Handwara town and began dragging her to Police Station with the allegation that a soldier of the nearby camp committed on her molestation. Some of the residents insisted that the two students caught the girl and a soldier and handed them over to Police. However, any soldier having been captured and given into Police custody, was not confirmed by officials.

Tricolour, Army post set on fire

Within minutes a thick mob of the residents, mostly youngsters, gathered and launched an attack on a building, locally known as the Town Commander’s camp, since 1990. Angry youths pulled down the Indian national flag and set it on fire before dismantling a part of the structure and setting the camp on fire. According to Director General of Police, K Rajendra Kumar, around a dozen soldiers got holed up and they were rescued amid heavy clashes between the demonstrators and the Police.

While it was being ascertained whether Police or Army opened the fire, two young students----Nayeem Qadir Bhat of Banday Mohalla Handwara and Mohammad Iqbal of Bomhama Drugmulla, both around 21-year-old---got killed and 25 others injured. Medical Superintendent of Sub District Hospital Handwara, Dr Abdul Rauf, told STATE TIMES that two civilians of 21 years of age, died of the gunshots while two of the 20 admitted at his hospital had gunshot injuries. Others, he said, had got injured with teargas shells etcetera.

“A 55-60 year old woman Raja w/o Abdul Jabar Mir of Langet has apparently a critical gunshot wound in her head. She was declared dead but she miraculously recovered with artificial resuscitation. We have referred her to SKIMS for specialised treatment. She was almost dead when she was rushed to Srinagar”, Dr Rauf said. He said that all 20 others were stable. Officials said that Raja had got hit while she was working at her vegetable farm on the outskirts of Handwara.

Nayeem Qadir was an ace cricketer who, according to the family members, had played under-19 Ranji Trophy matches.

“Our first priority is to evacuate the holed up soldiers without suffering and causing any loss of life. We will investigate and find who exactly has opened fire and in which circumstances”, DGP said when thousands of people were in the thick of a clash with the Police and Army. They had taken into custody both the youths’ bodies and placed them at Main Chowk as a mark of protest and in preparation of funeral prayers.

Reports said that followers of the three mainstream politicians---NC leader and former Minister Choudhary Ramzan, Peoples Conference Chairman and Cabinet Minister Sajjad Gani Lone (both residents of Handwara) and independent MLA Engineer Rashid---dominated the mob that fought pitched battles with the Police and Army and attempted to burn alive over a dozen of the holed up soldiers.

‘Cold-blooded murder’

Almost all the residents of Handwara, who spoke to this newspaper on telephone, alleged invariably that trouble erupted when a soldier attempted molestation on a 15-year-old girl student. However, all of them invariably held the Police responsible for opening the fire and killing the two youths “in cold blood”.

“The clashes were going on when I, along with my nephew Nayeem, were returning to home while carrying vegetables. One ASI Rafeeq dropped his teargas gun and snatched away a constable’s rifle. I shouted on him, pleading that we were not part of the mob and beseeching him not to open fire. But he pulled the trigger and shot straight in Nayeem’s chest. He died on spot. SP himself fired on another student and shot him dead”, Nayeem Qadir’s maternal uncle Ali Mohammad Dar told STATE TIMES.

“It all happened in front of my eyes. They were both killed in cold blooded murder”, Dar alleged, while claiming that “not a single civilian” was killed or injured in Army’s firing. Army did not issue any official statement on the incident and Defence spokesman at headquarters 15 Corps did not respond to calls from this newspaper. Some local news agencies claimed to have called the Defence PRO who purportedly regretted loss of life and said that an enquiry had been launched. No statement from Army came out by email till late on Tuesday night.

Unofficially some Police officers claimed that Army had opened fire and caused death of the two civilians. However, none of them chose to say it on-record.

Police version

Zonal Police Headquarters issued a statement at 1950 hours which said: “Today afternoon an alleged incident of misbehaviour with / molestation of a girl by an army man took place in Handwara town. Within minutes, public in large numbers gathered there and attacked the army bunker in Handwara chowk. They assaulted the personnel deployed there, ransacked the bunker and attempted to set fire to the bunker etc.

“In retaliation, the security forces deployed used force to disperse the violent rampaging mob. In the process, two individuals namely Mohammad Iqbal R/O Bomhama, Kupwara and Nayeem Qadir Bhat S/O Gh. Qadir Bhat R/O Banday Mohalla, Handwara, sustained fire-arm injuries. They were evacuated to hospital where they, unfortunately, succumbed to their injuries J&K Police deeply regrets the loss of life. A criminal case has been registered in Police Station Handwara and investigation launched to ascertain the facts”.

After two hours of clashes, Police succeeded to take the bodies back into their custody. It was not immediately clear when the funeral rites of the two youths would be performed.

Separatists call shutdown

Prominent separatist leaders, including heads of both factions of Hurriyat Conference, Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, and JKLF Chairman Yasin Malik condemned the first civilian killings during Mehbooba Mufti’s government. They all called for a protest shutdown in Kashmir on Wednesday. Most of the separatist-friendly associations and organisations supported the call for strike.

Undeclared curfew in Srinagar

Authorities in the summer capital decided to enforce curfew without a formal declaration in downtown Srinagar on Wednesday. Official sources said that the movement of the members of Sikh community would be permitted as their major Gurudwara of Chhati Padshahi Bagh falls under jurisdiction of Police Stations of Rainawari and Nowhatta where “restrictions” would remain in force.

Mainstream politicians’ condemnation

From Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti to NC leader Omar Abdullah and JKPCC President Ghulam Ahmad Mir and CPI(M) State Secretary Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami, almost all the prominent mainstream political leaders condemned the shootout in Handwara and called for a time-bound enquiry.



Girl contests molestation charge, says two students created mayhem

State Times News

SRINAGAR, April 12: While speaking to the local mediapersons, the 15-year-old girl student of Ganai Mohalla Handwara contested the charge of molestation against the unidentified soldier and claimed that nobody had stalked or physically accosted her while going to the toilet and coming out of it.

“When our school closed and we were returning to home, I handed over by bag to a female student friend and went into the bathroom. After a while, I came out and received the bag back from my friend. Two male students in uniform accosted me and while shouting began pulling my bag. One of them shouted: Are the Kashmiris benumbed? He began dragging me to the Police Station”, said the girl on camera.

“He slapped on me and beat me up. He hurled abuses. His accomplice Hilal Bhaiya too shouted. I asked him why he too was talking rubbish. I told him Hilal Bhaiya you have visited my home and you are well aware of the culture at my home. Why are you talking rubbish. I resisted their attempt to grab my bag and drag me to Police Station. I sighted a Policeman and told them I will come with this Police uncle. Too many people gathered. They didn’t listen to anybody. These two students provoked the people. It appeared that had hatched up a plan”, added the girl in a video available with STATE TIMES.

She claimed that one “Shafi Uncle” came to her rescue and it was with his help that she retrieved her bag and came back to her home.



Guilty will be punished: CM     
State Times News

NEW DELHI, April 12: Expressing tremendous grief over the killing of two youths at Handwara, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti said the forces personnel involved in the incident would be handed exemplary punishment. 

She said she has already taken up the matter with the Army. 

Chief Minister, who was in the union capital for separate meetings with Home Minister Rajnath Singh, and Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari, talked to the GOC-in-C, Northern Command, Lt Gen D S Hooda, who informed her that the Army had already ordered an enquiry into the incident and tangible action would be taken once the probe was completed.

Regarding the demand of the locals for shifting of the bunker from the area, the Army Commander assured the Chief Minister that the demand would be looked into.

Chief Minister said such tragic incidents have a huge negative impact on the efforts of the State Government and the political leadership aimed at consolidating the peace efforts in the State.

Ms Mufti said the security forces must exercise maximum restraint and adhere to the Standing Operating Procedure (SOP) while dealing with the public protests as incidents of innocent killings cannot be tolerated.

Chief Minister has expressed solidarity with the families of the two y

{Published in today's STATE TIMES]

Monday, April 11, 2016

Who clouded Anupam Kher’s view of Kashmir?

Kerala temple fire spoils high drama at Srinagar airport

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz


JAMMU, April 10: Two Kashmiri Pandit activists, Anupam Kher and Ashok Pandit, who are both associated with the silver screen entertainment, arrived in to enact high drama at Srinagar Airport in solidarity with the NIT Srinagar students on Sunday. However, they left back disappointed as their own dream government did not permit them to venture out and all the country’s television news channels diverted to the Kerala temple tragedy which left over a hundred people dead and over 350 injured.

Contrary to the high spirits the Bollywood personalities---both known for their pro-BJP crusade--- demonstrated in their tweets for the NIT students, neither of them expressed displeasure for the BJP-PDP coalition that sent them back unceremoniously. A many people in Jammu and Kashmir seemed to believe that their visit was “BJP’s stage-managed show” aimed at addressing the outraged right wing constituency in the midst of Assembly elections in Assam and ahead of the polling in some other States.

Kher and Pandit, accompanied by an aide, landed at Srinagar airport around 10.30 am. Waiting for their arrival, senior J&K Police officials led them to the VIP Lounge and made it clear that Mehbooba Mufti’s government had issued directions that they the NIT-bound high profile visitors should not be allowed to proceed to Srinagar.

Eyewitnesses said that neither of the Bollywood personalities showed much of resistance, though Kher insisted he be permitted to pay a visit to Kheerbhawani Temple and Mata Zeshtha Devi Temple (Zethiyar), close to Raj Bhawan, on Zarbarvan foothills. Kher also wished to call on his cousin in Karan Nagar.

DIG Central Kashmir Ghulam Hassan Bhat and SSP Budgam Fayaz Ahmad Lone dealt with the duo for some time even as one SSP from CID also tripped in. IGP Kashmir Syed Javaid Mujtaba Gilani was also spotted at the Terminal Building but he did not walk in to interact with Kher and Pandit.

Interestingly, Pandit had last week tweeted that J&K Police was a “terrorist” and “pro-Pakistan force” when Police carried out lathi charge on the non-local students during a clash and demonstration at NIT on April 5.

Kher and Pandit did not take the tea offered to them. They instead went upstairs and took lunch at a restaurant. Later, they purchased their tickets and returned to New Delhi by Indigo flight at 2.50 pm.

Neither of the two issued a statement or tweet in protest before or after reaching back to New Delhi.

On his arrival in New Delhi, Pandit tweeted: “At #Delhi airport. A calm sunset after a hectic day of struggle to meet #NIT students, but not allowed. #Shame”. However, he did not identify the target of his diatribe. It remained unclear who his shame was for.

Kher, the husband of BJP’s MP Kiron Kher, posted images of the Srinagar-Delhi sector clouds on his Twitter handle and wrote: “My view of Kashmir was clouded today. But i am sure these clouds will clear one day. There'll b sunlight.:)#Optimism”. He too avoided to identify as to who had clouded his view of Kashmir---Mehbooba Mufti or Narendra Modi.

Kher went on tweeting with a gratitude for the airport staff and Police: “Thank you Srinagar airport staff, J&K Police & other authorities for your warmth & hospitality while i was at d airport. I will be back. He added: “As i return from Srinagar airport, my heart is heavy but i have hope that things will change & become better. I remain an #EternalOptimist”. Inside the VIP Lounge, Kher unfolded the Tricolour and displayed it for a picture which he later posted on Twitter.

In the past, India has witnessed BJP leaders’ hard-hitting statements against Omar Abdullah’s NC-Congress Government in J&K whenever it sent back the politicians or other activists in identical circumstances.

[Published in today's Early Times]