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Monday, June 13, 2016

Mehbooba firm on Pandit enclaves but freezes proposal for Sainik colonies

'Sheikh Abdullah and Mufti Sayeed strengthened J&K's accession to India, supported idea of India'

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz
SRINAGAR, May 28: Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti on Saturday vowed to bring displaced Kashmiri Pandits back to their home and hearth in Kashmir valley while putting her foot down on establishment of the protected ghettos for rehabilitation of the minority community.

In her exhaustive reply to the discussion on motion of thanks on the Governor's address, Mehbooba said without any equivocation on the floor of Assembly that she would bring back all the Kashmiri migrants, including Muslims and Sikhs who had been displaced due to militancy since 1989, and settle them where they lived before migration. She asserted that as long as they felt insecure and were not prepared to live in their villages, her Government would accommodate them at protected transit camps---her phrase for the enclaves the opposition calls ghettos.

She made clear that the protected transit accommodations would come up at different places and the migrants settled there would go back to their old residential neighbourhoods only after they would feel safe and secure. This is Chief Minister Mehbooba's first affront to the entire separatist and mainstream opposition that has rejected the plan of Jagti-type ghettos and asserted through sratements, demonstrations and hartals that the migrants would have to live "only at their homes in their pre-1990 residential localities".

"Forcing them to return and live in their old neighbourhood would be inhuman as they don't feel safe and secure for now. They will put up at transit accommodations and subsequently settle at their own homes when they will feel safe and secure. We can't put pigeons before the cat", Mehbooba asserted. She completely ignored independent MLA Engineer Rashid's interruptions. The MLA echoed the separatists' refrain of opposition to the displaced Pandits' settlement in protected ghettos. Even the leader of opposition Omar Abdullah had on Friday strongly rejected the plan of "Jagti-type colonies" in the Valley.

"God willing and subject to my life, I will get them all back", Mehbooba said and her assertion evoked an applause from the treasury benches.

Chief Minister, nevertheless, abandoned the idea of creating Sainik colonies for the soldiers serving in Jammu snd Kashmir. "We have made it clear and communicated (to Governor and Rajya Sainik Board) that we have no land for this purpose", Mehbooba said to the disappointment of her coalition ally that was writ large on the faces of several BJP Ministers and MLAs.

Taking a dig on her predecessor Chief Minister, Mehbooba said that the opposition leader Omar Abdullah was creating confusion and triggering against her mass hatred while asserting that non-State subject soldiers were to be settled in the proposed Sainik colonies.

"Let it be clear that there was no such proposal that would have compromised the State's special status. It was a proposal mooted in previous government and the purpose was to rehabilitate the permanent resident soldiers. Omar Sahab, why are you misleading the people?", Mehbooba asked her predecessor. She added that though the proposal was only for accommodating the State subject soldiers and their families, her Government had communicated (to Governor and Rajya Sainik Board) that there was no land available for this purpose. She said she had deferred it despite NC's clarification that it had no objection to establishment of a Sainik colony if it was restricted for rehabilitation of the State subject soldier families.

Omar got up to clarify that in his speech yesterday, he only demanded to know as to what were the modalities for settlement of the proposed Sainik colony. "Don't please put your words into my mouth", he addressed the CM, suggesting that he or his party had not raised the bogey of the settlement of non-State subject soldiers.

Mehbooba devoted much of her speech to praising her father and former Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed for his "vision" and emphasised that he had supported and strengthened J&K's accession to India in extremely hostile conditions when an air had been created against anyone who looked pro-Indian in Kashmir. She referred to the social boycott Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah's Plebiscite Front had called against the political forces strengthening Kashmir's relationship with India. She however began her speech while showering praise on the NC founder Sheikh Abdullah for ratifying and supporting accession to India earlier done by Maharaja Hari Singh. Mehbooba said that great leaders like Sheikh Abdullah and Mufti Sayeed had a great political vision and both were supporters and promoters of the idea of India.

She said it was a matter of pride for every State subject that Jammu and Kashmir was an example of communal harmony and secular ethos for centuries. "My father was voted for Assembly from Hindu-dominated RS Pura of Jammu. Pandits like Makhan Lal Fotedar and PL Handoo were elected as MLAs from Kashmir's Muslim-dominated segments", Mehbooba said.

Mehbooba justified her party's coalition with BJP with the argument that this "compulsion" was a consequence of the split mandate and a hung House thrown up in 2014. "While as PDP won maximum seats from Valley, BJP was returned from Jammu. Had we ignored that mandate and cobbled up a coalition with NC and Congress, it would have created an unimaginable dangerous situation. People in Kashmir picked up the gun after MUF's victories were bungled in 1987. I don't know how Jammu would have behaved in 2015", Mehbooba said.

Mehbooba asserted that notwithstanding her father's compulsions, PDP had got BJP's commitment in Agenda of Alliance with regard to protection of J&K's special constitutional status. She counted it her party's achievement that most of the recommendations made and endorsed in round table conferences and working groups---of which Congress and NC were a part---had been incorporated in PDP-BJP Agenda of Alliance.

"I will sit on this chair as long as our dignity is protected but I will not waste a second to quit whenever I will feel that it has become a  weakness for me", Mehbooba said to another applause from PDP Ministers and MLAs.


[Published in today's STATE TIMES]
NC, Congress call for Lal Singh's dismissal as Minister

Opposition rejects Governor’s address to Legislature with walkout, calls for security to Jammu Muslims

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz
SRINAGAR, May 25: With National Conference and Congress putting up a joint demonstration, calling for dismissal of the Forest Minister Lal Singh and seeking security to the Muslims of Jammu, the Opposition on Wednesday boycotted Governor’s address and staged a walkout on day one of the Budget session of the Jammu and Kashmir Legislature.

Reminiscent of Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti’s protest demonstrations as the leader of opposition in the past, NC and Congress legislators obstructed Governor Narendra Nath Vohra’s joint address which, for the first time, took place at Sher-e-Kashmir International Convention Centre. The Budget session commenced with Governor’s ceremonial address jointly to all members of Legislative Assembly and Legislative Council at the SKICC.

As Governor began reading out the achievements and vision of development and governance of the PDP-BJP coalition, headed by Mehbooba Mufti since April 4 this year, almost all the MLAs and MLCs of NC and Congress got up and began shouting slogans for revocation of the implementation of National Food Security Act  (NFSA). They also shouted slogans, demanding Lal Singh’s dismissal as Forest Minister. They alleged that Lal Singh had used offensive language against the Gujjar community and threatened to wipe out Muslims of Jammu with his reference to the communal riots of 1947 when a delegation of the community had gone to meet him at his home in Jammu last week.

With NC and Congress legislators, including several former Ministers, in the forefront, the Opposition shouted "Bhashan nahi ration dou", "Lal Singh ko barkhwast karo", "Lal Singh ko hata dou" and "Jammu kè Musalmanoo ko tahfuz dou". After shouting slogans and thumping desks for about 15 minutes, almost all the Opposition legislators walked out in protest. Leader of the Opposition and former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah was conspicuously absent as he was reportedly in France.

Parallel to the NC-Congress show, independent MLA Engineer Rashid waved a banner asking what had happened to the magisterial enquiry into the killing of five civilians in the wake of alleged molestation of a 16-year-old girl by a soldier on April 12. He wanted to know whether Additional DC of Kupwara had submitted his report or not. Neither Chief Minister nor any other member from the Treasury Bench responded to Engineer Rashid.

The opposition members later staged a dharna for half-an-hour at the SKICC entrance even as Governor continued his address and the legislators and Ministers of PDP, BJP and Peoples Conference heard him with full respect. They alleged through slogans and banners that the PDP-BJP Government was taking dictation from the RSS headquarters of Nagpur and implementing the Hindutva agenda in Jammu and Kashmir.

With the mainstream opposition taking a tough stand against Lal Singh’s alleged harassment and insult to the Gujjar delegation which the Minister has denied, the separatist opposition too joined hands to mount pressure on the government. Almost all the separatist outfits and alliances, including Hurriyat Conference and JKLF, have called for total shutdown in Kashmir on Thursday.

Expressing solidarity with the Muslims of Jammu, particularly the minority Gujjar community, the separatists have demanded Lal Singh’s termination as a Minister. They have also said that the shutdown would be against the State Government’s purported plans of setting up fenced colonies for Kashmiri Pandit migrants and soldiers besides the proposal of alloting land to non-J&K industrialists on long term lease.

Apprehensive of trouble, Mehbooba Mufti’s government launched a crackdown while arresting JKLF Chairman Yasin Malik and holding other prominent separatist leaders under house arrest.


Sunday, June 12, 2016

Militants strike in a big way after 3 years in Srinagar

ASI, head constable gunned down in Zadibal; constable on highway; Hizbul Mujahideen claims responsibility

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, May 23: Nearly three years after killing two constables in Amirakadal area, and for the first time in the 14-month old PDP-BJP rule in Jammu and Kashmir, militants struck in a big way in the State’s summer capital on Monday, killing three Police personnel, including an Assistant Sub Inspector (ASI), in broad daylight. Hizbul Mujahideen immediately claimed responsibility for the twin attacks carried out in Zadibal and Tengpora neighbourhoods.

Authoritative sources told STATE TIMES that two unidentified militants on a motorcycle slowed down in front of two unarmed Policemen outside Zadibal Police Station at 10.35 am. From their pistols, they fired on chest and head of the targeted Police officials who are believed to have died on the spot. Killed like sitting ducks under the shadows of a tree, they were later identified as ASI Ghulam Mohammad Bhat of Surigam, Lolab (Kupwara) and Head Constable Nazir Ahmad Mir of Chak Sarmarg, Handwara (Kupwara). Doctors at SKIMS declared them as brought dead.

Eyewitnesses said that the militant duo zipped past two more unarmed men of the Police party of Police Station Zadibal but did not strike on them. After carrying out the attack, the assassins drove in the direction of Soura. According to eyewitness, ASI Bhat was completely unarmed while as Constable Mir was seen holding a baton.

In less than an hour, unidentified militants accosted a parked Tata Sumo at Tengpora, on the national highway bypass. One of the two militants took out his pistol and shot dead constable Mohammad Sadiq Sheikh of Dudhi Machhil (Kupwara) who was in uniform and holding an AK-47 rifle. Sources said that Sadiq, from JKAP 11th battalion  (Security), was attached as personal security officer to one Mohammad Abdullah Chaket of Handwara area who is incorporated as a leader of Pasmanda Tabqajat organisation. He had reportedly entered a nearby house to meet an acquaintance and fortunately had not returned when the militants targeted his PSO.

The assassins escaped after snatching away the AK-47 rifle of the slain constable.

Striking nearly three years after the last Police killing on June 22, 2013, when two Police personnel had been gunned down at Maharaja Bazar Amirakadal, militants spread a wave of terror in Srinagar with the twin incidents. Even as some Police officials have been attacked and killed elsewhere in Kashmir valley, Police have not suffered this kind of fatal strike in Srinagar in the last three years.

Condemning the barbaric killing of three police personnel in Srinagar, the Cabinet which met here under the Chairmanship of Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, expressed profound grief over the death of the three Police officials.
Describing the killings as "cowardly acts aimed at derailing the peace and reconciliation process in the State", Cabinet said that such killings cannot deter the resolve of the Government in moving ahead to bring peace and normalcy to the State.

While expressing solidarity with the bereaved families, Cabinet assured that the Government would stand by the families of the martyred policemen in this hour of grief and will extend all possible help and assistance to the next of kin.

Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti led the ministers, bureaucracy and Civil and Police officials and security forces in paying floral tributes to the slain Police personnel. Dy CM Nirmal Singh, Minister for Law Parliamentary affairs and RDD Abdul Haq Khan, Minister of CAPD Choudhary Zulfikar, Minister for Cooperative Tsering Dorjay, Chief Secretary B.R. Sharma, Home Secretary R.K. Goyal, Director General of Police K. Rajendra Kumar and other civil and Police officers were present on the wreath laying ceremony at Police Control Room in Srinagar.

Chief Minister expressed solidarity with the bereaved families and prayed for peace to the departed souls. Recalling the sacrifices of police personnel in combating militancy in the state, Ms. Mufti said such dastardly acts were against the basic tenets of humanity and they should be condemned by one and all.

"My heart goes out to the families of the slain police personnel and I hope that the perpetrators will be taken to task soon," she said. Ms. Mufti said such attacks were "attempts by vested interests to derail the peace and reconciliation process started by the state government in Jammu and Kashmir which will also impact the economy at a time when the tourism activity had started picking up in the state".

Former Chief Minister and National Conference acting President Omar Abdullah too condemned the killing of the three Police personnel and expressed solidarity with the bereaved families. On twitter, Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi expressed concern over the resurging militancy in Kashmir.

Reports from Kupwara said that large numbers of people gathered at the residences of the three slain Police officials and extended sympathies and condolences to the bereaved families. They also participated in their funeral rites including namaaz-e-janazah. Family members and relatives mourned the deaths, crying and asking why the "innocent policemen", who had "never done anything wrong" had been shot dead.

In a statement, Hizb-ul-Mujahideen spokesman Buhanuddin, on behalf of the organisation, claimed the responsibility for the twin attacks on police in Srinagar that left three cops, including an officer, dead. Burhan-ud-din told news agency CNS that at least three policemen were killed in the twin attacks carried out by a special squad of the outfit.

“Besides killing three policemen of Special Operation Group, the militants managed to decamp with a rifle of a slain policeman,” he said.

He added that Operation Field Commander of the outfit has directed the squad to intensify the attacks on Special Operation Group (SOG). “The attacks on the security establishments will continue,” he warned.


[ Published in today’s STATE TIMES ]