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Saturday, October 8, 2016


Three months after killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani in an encounter in Kokernag on July 8, 2016

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

October 8, 2016


Weeks after the September 7 devastating flood, Assembly elections were announced for Jammu and Kashmir in October 2014. Then Chief Minister Omar Abdullah was the only politician who begged for postponement of the elections for some time which, he contended, would help the government to provide relief to the flood hit population. On Mufti Mohammad Sayeed's sustained emphasis, ECI announced the elections. We remember vividly there was no heroism among militants, nobody knew Burhan Wani or any other iconic militant, though Abu Qasim of LeT was known for being the most wanted militant. Just a couple of minor attempts of disruption of the Army operations were reported from a couple of places. Remember, two young boys were killed by Army’s fire as they didn't halt their motorcycle at Chhatergam.

Suddenly, there was unprecedented election euphoria and enthusiasm. From one end of Kashmir to another, we witnessed massive poll rallies and well-attended campaigns with the colourful banners, buntings, posters, flags and sizable hoardings of different political parties welcoming the visitors and seeking vote from the electorate. We saw dozens of Rahul-Sonia hoardings and perhaps more of Narendra Modi’s "44-Plus" hoardings, particularly across breadth and length of South Kashmir. Not a single of these hoardings or banners was pulled down or burnt down or stoned by any Burhan fans in the three months of October, November and December 2014. Not a single of these symbols of the great Indian democracy was secure because of Police, paramilitary or Army protection.

In November and December 2014, Kashmir witnessed the history's best held elections ever conducted by Election Commission of India. There were no allegations of coercion against Police or security forces as we previously saw from 1996 to 2002 and no allegations of rigging and unfair means as we witnessed in almost all pre-1990 elections with glaring exception of those held in 1977. Enthusiasm, unprecedented post-1987, marked the high voter turnout and everybody accepted the results---victories and defeats. Separatists, militants and Pakistan seemed to have been completely marginalised by the voters in Kashmir. Significantly, a large number of Kashmiri youths did for the first time participate in the Assembly elections. Even in January and February 2015, there was no perceptible change in the mood.

Think for a while what changed everything after Mufti Sahab became Chief Minister of the PDP-BJP-PC coalition government. Every one of us can have a different assessment and analysis and we should agree to disagree. That's the essence of a free society and we need to respect it. I may be a bad reader and processor of the political data but I strongly believed that "separatist language of the mainstream politicians" would soon turn everything topsy turvy. [Let it be clear that loss or achievement of the separatist or the mainstream leadership was not my headache. I was concerned strictly about the creation of a theatre of hypocrisy by politicians, like they did in 2008, in which the common ordinary hapless civilians face the brunt of destruction and the rulers of both the shades enjoy unscrupulously]. I felt such language and symbolism would only accord sanctity and legitimacy to the ideology of the separatists and militants who would feel emboldened and revive whatever they had lost post-2010. Remember, they stood marginalised and decimated to the extent that they could not stage any Ragda even during the most furtile environment of Afzal Guru's execution, killing of 6 protesters in Gool and Kishtwar communal riots in 2013. Nobody died out of any resultant convulsions.

Most of us were not satisfied with Omar Abdullah's way of governance  (I did series after series on corruption and other malpractices of his Ministers). However, there was no stone pelting, no major demonstrations and protests and no firing on civilians in 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014. Today’s Kashmir is a total contrast. It's only Pakistani flags and slogans from one end of Kashmir to another. Even the marginal areas like Gurez, Uri, Bhaderwah, Kishtwar, Rajouri and Poonch are involved in the current turbulence which seeks total separation from India and does not recognise any of our mainstream political parties as representing the masses. Let us ponder on what precisely has changed everything. 90 Kashmiris, mostly in age group of 12-23 years, have been killed in Police and forces action in the last 90 days. Thousands have been injured, rendered maimed and turned blind. Public properties have perished. Curfew and shutdown have denied the penurious an opportunity to earn for the morning bread and the evening meals. Transporters, traders, industrialists, hoteliers have been crushed under the burden of bank loans and cumulative interests. They have given their sacrifices though, nobody has made it clear to them how a prolonged strike would force India or the world at large to solve the Kashmir problem. May be the architects and sponsors of the infinite shutdown have a blue print in their mind, but none of us ordinary humans has been able to comprehend it till date.  

Owing to the unrelenting turmoil, our economy has suffered cumulative losses of Rs 10,000 crore to  Rs 15,000 in last 90 days of continued shutdown (coupled with weeks of curfew). We have already lost a bustling trade and tourist season and a full academic year of our students has been completely ruined. We have observed that even a large section of our civil and Police officers is either sympathetic to or key drivers of the turbulence. With one hand they arrest the youths and detain them under PSA but with another, many of them subscribe to the mayhem and the secessionist mindset. Because of this dimension, many of them just pose to be working against the "miscreants" while continuing to avoid substantive action against them. This is called a system failure in governance.

I had perceived this horrible scenario way back in April 2015. In an article that was published in all editions of The Times of India (editorial page) on April 21, 2015, I wrote that with their pseudo-separatist language, symbolism, gesticulation and actions like the much trumpeted release of Massarat Alam, our PDP rulers could again create a situation which Omar Abdullah created in summer of 2010 when one day he sent his confidante and emissary DS Rana to beseech the detained SAS Geelani at a Cheshma Shahi hut. I cautioned that the ruling people, who were ostensibly pleading for "a little of political space" for the separatists, would create for themselves an extremely hostile situation that one day entire political space would be grabbed back by our separatists and militants and our mainstream politicians would be soon craving and begging for an inch of the political space before Mr Syed Ali Shah Geelani which he would be denying to them, perhaps arrogantly. We saw it come true in just one year. When Mr Naeem Akhtar literally begged before Mr Geelani and requested him to lend an inch of the political space to Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti  by treating her as his own daughter. In turn, entire PDP and Chief Minister was publicly shamed by the separatist leader. Such insult to Chief Minister’s chair and grace stands unparalleled in the political history of Jammu and Kashmir.

Now see the irony. Like any other separatist, Geelani Sahab had been forgotten after the Assembly elections of 2014. In 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014, he had silently returned to his Srinagar residence from New Delhi after spending every winter there and entertaining even the political minnows like NC's Rattanpuri. It was Chief Minister Mufti Sayeed who released the much forgotten Massarat Akam in first week of taking over as head of the government. He permitted Massarat to hold a strong pro-Pakistan show in reception of Geelani Sahab. It was first time that Hafiz Sayeed's high voltage slogans were shouted high pitch by a huge crowd and a barrage of Pakistani flags was waved enthusiastically by Massarat and his followers in front of the office of Director General of Police. I strongly believe it was the turning point and today's unceasing turbulence owes its existence to that show. BJP leaders tried to play it down saying that such things had happened "also in the past". When BJP came under pressure of the Indian national media, particularly Arnab Goswami's News Hour daily on Times Now, Mufti Sahab was forced to rearrest Massarat. But enough of damage had been done. All the youths who had started pursuing their studies, with exception of a handful like the unknown Burhan Wani, and aspired to become IAS and IPS officers like Dr Shah Faesal and Imtiyaz Ismail Parray, began looking the other way. Charged up with the "josh" of Geelani reception, followed by a similar show in Tral on funeral of Burhan's brother Khalid on April 14, 2015, some of our young boys picked up guns, some snatched weapons from Policemen and some started abusing, attacking  and challenging India on Facebook etc.

Our regular media did rest of the job. The 22-year-old boy Burhan Wani was decorated as an icon of Kashmir’s Generation Next. His combat gear photos, video messages seeking azadi and Islamic caliphate in Kashmir and the stories of his playing cricket and a mega tournament being held in Tral in honour of the young militant commander made him a hero in Mufti-Modi rule. For Mufti and PDP itself, being permissive to this whole series turned out to be a Himalayan mistake. Remember just a motley gathering of 4,000 people attended Mufti's funeral, neighbours didn't allow his burial in his ancestral graveyard and not a shop was shut in his honour in Bijbehara or elsewhere. Around 8000 attended his neighbour militant's funeral and 5000-plus another militant's when 3 militants of Bijbehara died in an encounter in Siligam Mattan. Burhan Wani’s funeral broke all records of popularity after Sheikh Abdullah's in 1982. Even the journalists closest to the PDP claim that 200,000 people attended Burhan Wani’s funeral on July 9, 2016. I believe it was 50,000 plus. Rest is the history. Government has been completely crippled in the last 90 days. Pakistan has jumped in to fish in the troubled waters and raised the Kashmir issue aggressively in the UN. Situation of war has been created in the Sub Continent. God forbid, it can even lead to a nuclear confrontation and destroy both India and Pakistan including every part of Jammu and Kashmir.

I have reached the conclusion that nothing other than WAR can change the status of JAMMU AND KASHMIR. However a big demonstration, fidayeen strike or long shutdown, nobody will listen to the Muslim Kashmiris as long as Pakistan, with no other country on their support, is their advocate. In pre-9/11 era, situation would have been perhaps different.

Back home, we the Kashmiris are the worst sufferers and victims of the situation of our own making. I think rather than holding Pakistan and India responsible, we must gracefully accept total responsibility of the situation of chaos, confusion and anarchy---that is completely going unreported in media---we have pushed the valley in. Youths who have no concept or knowledge of slavery and freedom have overnight become street sahabs and leaders and the senior separatist leaders themselves have got stuck in a quagmire where it would be hard for them to grant even a day's relaxation in the shutdown. For now, threre is no exit route. Chief Minister and her Ministers are holding their luxury and status. BJP is least disturbed by the damage snowballing into a catastrophe for Kashmir and its Muslim population. Getting tough and tougher will in fact help them win elections in UP. All the unspent funds will be soon diverted and spent in Jammu. Over 90% of our new KAS/KPS officers will come from Jammu. Few of them will be Muslims in the country's only Muslim majority state. We all need to dispassionately think over it and find how this kind of a situation has developed and left all of us helpless.

Next time, if one day we will be out of this mess, when you will hear a mainstream politician eulogise and appease the separatists or disputing accession to India, calling for plebiscite, adopting green as the colour of his flag and Syed Salah-ud-din's pen and inkpot as his election symbol, speaking about "zulum" and becoming more Pakistani than Jennah, rest assured he is doing emotional blackmailing of the gullible, naive Kashmiri Muslims only to get vote and power. Kashmir and the Kashmiris will remain in eternal trouble and anguish as long as the separatist politicians, apparently seeking azaadi and plebiscite, shall hold VVIP status and India’s Z-plus security and BP cars and escorts and as long as the so-called mainstream politicians, contesting elections and taking oath in the name of Allah to protect India’s sovereignty and integrated in Jammu and Kashmir, do continue to provoke the gullible Kashmiris for separation, azadi and accession to Pakistan. This all is hypocrisy and not politics. 99% of our population is bearing the brunt of its consequences and our politicians are living as viceroys with no fear of accountability. Intelligentsia has a special responsibility and accountability in such crises and it cannot play mute as the posterity will ask tough questions one day.

[This is a passionate personal observation and not intended to be a piece of journalism]

Cop killed, another cop, civilian injured in militant attack on minority guard in Shopian

14-year-old critically injured in pellet gun firing in Srinagar as Police foil separatists’ call for mass march to UNMOGIP; over 50 clashes in Valley

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz


SRINAGAR, Oct 7: One Police constable got killed and another, besides a Kashmiri Pandit civilian, sustained injuries when suspected militants clashed with the guards protecting some families of the minority community in Shopian district of South Kashmir on Friday.

Director General of Police K. Rajendra Kumar told STATE TIMES that some militants attacked the Police guard at Jamnagri (Reshinagri) on periphery of Shopian town, 55 Kms from here, at 8.45 pm. The Police guards resisted the militants’ attempt to loot their weapons. The militants opened fire, causing injuries to two constables and one member of the protected Pandit families. While as the critically injured constable Nazir Ahmad of Amnoo Shopian died on way to the hospital, constable Zahoor Ahmad and Pandit Puran Krishen Kaul were rushed to Srinagar and admitted to Army’s 92 Base Hospital for treatment.

Official sources said that constable Zahoor had a gunshot injury in his leg while as the civilian, Puran Krishen, had been hit in his thigh. Both were reportedly stable and responding to treatment.

Sources said that the group of three militants, two armed with AK-47 rifles and one holding a pistol, appeared at Jamnagri where three guards of District Police Shopian are posted for protection of the three resident Pandit families. It appeared that the militants’ action was limited to looting of the weapons and they had not a plan of attacking the Pandits. Since the guards resisted, the militants opened fire killing a guard and leaving another injured. Pandit Puran Kishore, who was at the same spot, was also injured in the shootout.

Sources said that the third guard opened fire from his service weapon and saved the life of the Pandit family members and one of the guards besides all three weapons including two SLRs and one AK-47 rifle. The militants escaped. It was not immediately clear if any of them had got injured during exchange of fire.

Militants have lately looted and snatched away weapons from the Police guards at several places, including some minority guards, though none of the security personnel or any member of the protected families had been harmed. According to reports, some of the Police guards have handed over their weapons to the militants without attempting any resistance. Over a hundred Police weapons, including SLRs and AK-47s, have been looted from PSOs of protected persons, Police Stations and minority guards in South Kashmir in the last three months of the unceasing turbulence.

Teenager critical     

Meanwhile, Police and paramilitary forces on Friday foiled the separatist leaders’ attempt to organise a mass march from different areas of Kashmir valley to UNMOGIP headquarters at Sonwar with imposition of restrictions and curfew in downtown Srinagar. Friday congregational prayers were not permitted in Jamia Masjid in Srinagar besides some other mosques.

Informed official sources told STATE TIMES that violent clashes took place between unruly crowds and Police/CRPF at more than 60 places all over the Valley. More than 50 demonstrators were reportedly injured in these clashes that ensued after conclusion of the congregational prayers at the community mosques. Sources said that 56 persons were arrested for organising clashes and indulging in stone pelting on Police and security forces on Friday.

Sources said that a 14-year-old boy, namely Junaid, was critically injured when Police and CRPF used pump action guns to disperse a stone pelting crowd in Eidgah area of downtown Srinagar. He was admitted to SKIMS where doctors said that chances of his recovery were bleak.



Friday, October 7, 2016

Srinagar airport put on high alert; Army to freeze movement on Friday

7 militants killed in two gunbattles in Handwara

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz


SRINAGAR, Oct 6: Even as security forces killed seven militants  all of them believed to be Pakistani jihadist cadres of Lashkar-e-Tayyiba troops have been asked to freeze all movement as the country’s most sensitive airport in Srinagar has been put on high alert for Friday.

STATE TIMES learned from highly placed authoritative sources that in apprehension of a possible terror strike, Srinagar airport would remain on “high alert” on Friday. According to these sources, some intelligence inputs suggested possibility of a terror strike at or around Srinagar airport. In addition to a major base of Indian Air Force, there are different camps of Army, CRPF and BSF around the civil airport.

Sources said that Army would hold a ‘dry day’ in the Valley as there would be no ROPs or movement of convoys. “All the administrative movements would remain frozen”, said a senior official.

Sources said that the authorities could impose curfew in hypersensitive zones of the turbulent summer capital on Friday in view of the separatists’ call for a mass march to United Nations Military Observer Group for India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP), situated in the high security zone of Sonwar. This is the fourth of such call in the last three months but officials maintained that the separatists at the instigation of Pakistan were planning veritable trouble this Friday.

The shutdown calendar issued jointly on behalf of Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umer Farooq and Mohammad Yasin Malik on Wednesday asked the people of Kashmir valley to march to the UNMOGIP office with a memorandum. Their notification reads: “From 9 a.m, march one and all from entire Jammu and Kashmir towards the UNMOGIP Office in Srinagar and handover a memorandum to the military observers regarding India’s recent attempts of creating a war hysteria to deflect international attention from ongoing people’s uprising for freedom from forcible Indian control of Jammu and Kashmir and also asking UNO to impress upon India to shun violence and respect and adhere to UN charter and implement the UN resolutions on Kashmir”.

It called upon the Kashmiris to offer Friday afternoon congregational prayers at the spacious Tourist Reception Centre ground and Polo View sports grounds in Civil Lines area.

7 militants killed

Meanwhile, Defence sources said that Army and BSF killed seven militants in two separate gunbattles  one close to LoC in Naugam sector and another at Langate in the same Handwara area of Kupwara district  on Thursday.

“In a major blow to Pakistan sponsored terror, the alert Army and BSF troops along the LC today successfully foiled three infiltration attempts in Naugam and Rampur Sectors”, a press release from headquarters 15 Corps said.

“The Army and BSF which are on a very high state of vigil along the LC, detected two infiltrating columns of terrorists in Naugam and another in Rampur early morning today. Even though under intense fire from Pakistani posts, evidently to facilitate the infiltration, the Army immediately intercepted the terrorists ahead of the LC. While giving a befitting reply to Pak army firing, even the terrorists were engaged in a fierce gunfight and forced to flee back. The army action has resulted in the elimination of four terrorists whose bodies have been recovered from Naugam sector in the search operations that continue even at the time of filing this report”, it added.

Sources said that a group of three heavily armed militants in combat uniform attempted to enter headquarters of Rashtriya Rifles 30th battalion at Langate (Handwara), apparently for a fidayeen strike. However, the alert sentries foiled their attempt. As the militants felt that they had got exposed, they ran away towards an apple orchard. Troops quickly laid a cordon and killed all the three militants in a brief encounter. Three AK-47 rifles, three GPS devices and other arms and ammunition were recovered from their possession.

Sources said that all the seven militants killed in the two gunbattles were unidentified but strongly believed to be the Pakistani cadres of Lashkar-e-Tayyiba. Naugam sector in Kupwara district has been a hot infiltration route in the last three months of the Kashmir turbulence as over 60 militants are believed to have crossed LoC successfully and positioned themselves in different areas of Kupwara district.

On September 19, one soldier had got killed in an encounter with the infiltrating militants on the LoC in Naugam. Significantly most of the surgical strikes India claimed to have carried out across the LoC have been reported along the LoC in the same district. Pakistan's strategic places of Leepa Valley and Athmuqam face the LoC in Kupwara district.

The jihadist militants’ increasing presence in Kupwara district could be gauged from the reports which claim that they carried out checking of vehicles at several places. Armed militants were spotted in the funeral procession of a civilian who had died in the Police firing at Warsun, a village infested by counterinsurgents and girdled by Army camps. Armed militants were also spotted in two protest demonstrations at Lalpora, Lolab.



Wednesday, October 5, 2016

'Shutdown vigilantes' set on fire two autos in Srinagar; militants attack Police Station in Kulgam

Dukhtaraan-e-Millat chairperson Asiya Andrabi held; intense checking of vehicles after Police learns about possible terror strike on Bypass

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz


SRINAGAR, Oct 4: While as suspected militants on Tuesday attacked a Police Station in Kulgam district of southern Kashmir, suspected shutdown vigilantes set ablaze two autorickshaws apparently for defying the separatists’ call on 88th consecutive day of turbulence, triggered by Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani’s killing in an encounter on July 8.

Informed sources said that unidentified persons set on fire two autorickshaws, bearing registration numbers JK01X-4429 and JK01H-7913, one after another, at Babademb and Sayeedakadal, in the capital city. Police have registered two separate criminal cases and started investigation to identify and arrest the culprits.

SSP Srinagar Amit Kumar told STATE TIMES that two persons masquerading as passengers hired a three-wheeler at Tourist Reception Centre (TRC) for a lift to Kralkhud area of Habbakadal. As the driver dropped them at their given destination near Babademb, both the persons sprinkled petrol on the auto and set it on fire. While the owner-driver began crying and screaming, residents gathered and doused the flames. However the auto suffered extensive damage.

SSP Srinagar said that the residents expressed resentment against the unidentified persons’ act of burning down a poor driver’s auto---possibly his only means of livelihood. He said an investigation would make the things clear but as of now it was believed to be the handiwork of the people who wanted to teach a lesson to the commercial vehicle owners defying the separatists’ call for continued shutdown since July 9th. After nearly three months of shutdown without a single day of relaxation, private vehicles in Srinagar and some other districts are swelling on the streets and some load-carriers and taxis, including three-wheelers, are operating in defiance of the call in relatively safer areas of the summer capital.

Significantly, the separatists in their latest calendar have asked the Kashmiri youths to enforce their call for shutdown. While as hundreds of vehicles have been damaged in stone pelting, a number of them, including some autorickshaws and trucks have been torched on roads.   

In another incident on Tuesday, SSP Srinagar said, an unidentified person driving a motorcycle asked an autorickshaw driver at Sayeedakadal to carry a passenger to some destination in downtown Srinagar. The driver refused to oblige him. In a few minutes, another person, driving a motorcycle without number plate, appeared at the same spot, sprinkled petrol on the three-wheeler and set it on fire. SSP said that Police had launched a manhunt for the suspects who could be identified on basis of eyewitness accounts and CCTV footage.

Earlier in the day, Police raised nakas and conducted extensive search of all incoming vehicles in Srinagar after learning through a message from Police Control Room that militants were likely to carry out a major terror strike on Police and security forces on the national highway Bypass. However, none of the suspects could be spotted or arrested.

Reports said that the groups of youngsters clashed with Police and paramilitary forces at around 20 spots in Srinagar and elsewhere in the Valley on Tuesday while as the separatists organised peaceful demonstrations and assemblies at over a dozen places in the rural districts. Around 90 people, including four Police personnel, have got killed and thousands injured in unceasing clashes in Kashmir in the last three months. Most of the senior separatist leaders have been either jailed or placed in house arrest even as around 700 persons have been detained under Public Safety Act on charges of organising anti-India and pro-Pakistan demonstrations, arson and clashes with Police.

Police Station attacked

Official sources said that a group of four to five heavily armed militants attacked Police Station Yaripora in Kulgam district late on Tuesday night from a distance of 25 yards. Police retaliated with automatic guns and the encounter continued for about 15 minutes. Sources said that the militants withdrew. Nobody from either side suffered any damage.

Asiya Andrabi arrested

Meanwhile, Police on Tuesday intercepted a vehicle near Babademb and took into custody Dukhtaraan-e-Millat chairperson and fire-brand pro-Pakistan leader Asiya Andrabi alongwith her organisation’s General Secretary Fehmeeda Sofi. SSP Srinagar Amit Kumar confirmed that both the separatist activists had been arrested in the criminal cases already registered against them. He said that both the detainees had been, for the time being, lodged at Women’s Police Station, Rambagh.



Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Five SLRs looted from minority guards in lawless South Kashmir

Over a hundred Police weapons have been looted or destroyed in fire by militants, separatists in PDP’s one-time stronghold

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz


SRINAGAR, Oct 3: Continuing their spree of looting automatic weapons from protected persons, their security personnel and Police pickets, suspected militants on Monday looted all the five self-loading rifles (SLRs) from a Police column guarding members of the minority community in Kulgam district of South Kashmir.

Official sources revealed to STATE TIMES that a group of three to four militants appeared at a Police picket at Sonam village, near Damhal Hanjipora, in Kulgam area at 7.30 pm. Only three of the five Police guards were present on duty. Without causing any harm to the Police-guarded five Rajput families at the village, in foothills of Pir Panjal mountain, the suspected militants relieved the three Policemen of their SLRs alongwith two more of their absent colleagues. They decamped with the five SLRs without meeting any resistance.

The five Hindu Rajput families of Dogra-Punjabi origin have been living in Kulgam area since long and they are state subjects. Since 1990s, officials said, Government has provided Police protection to the minority without requisition from the families. Sources said that members of the Rajput community have been living here and holding their businesses like all the resident Muslims without any specific threat perception.

Over a hundred SLRs, Insas rifles, AK-47s and other weapons have been looted or destroyed in fire by suspected militants with the help of their local supporters in the last three months of turbulence in the lawless South Kashmir following Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani’s killing in an encounter on July 8 this year. The biggest plunder occurred at Police Station of Damhal Hanjipora, just 3 Kms from Sonam, on the day of Burhan Wani’s funeral prayers, when two demonstrators were killed in the Police firing and 41 Police weapons were either destroyed in fire or looted from the arms store.

Following the mayhem at Damhal Hanjipora, suspected militants destroyed or looted weapons from the PSOs and house guards of PDP’s MP, Nazir Ahmad Laway, besides some protected persons claiming allegiance to different mainstream parties. One of such persons, from whose home suspected militants looted weapons at Begam (Kulgam), has been disowned by both National Conference as well as PDP. Reports claim that dozens of such dubious persons have been enlisted as ‘protected persons’ and provided armed guards and PSOs by senior Police officials for pecuniary considerations, without any assessment of threat perception. They reportedly include a number of timber smugglers.

Meanwhile Kashmir valley observed shutdown on 87th consecutive day on the call of separatist leaders Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Mohammad Yasin Malik on Monday. Some private vehicles were seen plying in certain areas and shops were also open in some neighbourhoods but the commercial traffic is still off the road and most of the shops and business establishments, including all educational institutions, have remained closed in the last three months.

Confusion over Baramulla ‘gunfight’

Confusion prevailed on the overnight firing in Baramulla town which left one BSF official dead and another injured. As already reported, senior officials of the Government of India had claimed that Army and BSF foiled a fidayeen attempt at headquarters of Rashtriya Rifles 46th battalion last night. Officials had also claimed that security forces killed two militants in the two-hour-long gunfight.

Today’s reports from Baramulla made it clear that none of the militants had been killed by the security forces during the gunfight or before or after it occurred in the garrison town. Some reports claimed that the BSF men had been hit when Army and BSF exchanged fire in total chaos and confusion. These reports claimed that there had been no militant strike on the Army camp or BSF.    

SSP Baramulla Imtiyaz Hussain said that army and BSF foiled the attempts of the militants to storm the 46 RR camp in Janbazpora. In the shootout that lasted for over an hour, a BSF man was killed and another injured, he said. Hussain said that the militants took cover of darkness to escape from the site of the attack.

A sentry of 40th battalion of BSF located at Janbazpora in the outskirts of the city located in North Kashmir claimed to have spotted "some suspicious movement" near the open kitchen area and started firing apprehending that fidayeen may have entered the camp, sources said. The firing led to panic in adjacent army camp where troops of 46 Rashtriya Rifles also started firing in the direction in which suspected militants were believed to have entered.

Firing continued from all sides and it was not clear whether some militants had entered the campus or the firing came from outside. After 90 minutes of firing, illuminators were used to light up the sky but no militant was found, sources said. Security officials said the militants melted into darkness.

However, it was found that BSF constables Nitin and Pulwinder were injured in the firing and they were rushed to a military hospita in Srinagar. Nitin later succumbed to injuries. It was not immediately clear whether the BSF man was killed by the militants or he had fallen victim to the firing caused by chaos and confusion. Forces had been put on high alert after the authorities received reports on Saturday last that a group of six militants had been seen in movenent in an ambulance around Baramulla town.

Udhampur-based Northern Command had tweeted a little after midnight: "Baramulla incident situation contained and under control".

Surprisingly, the union Home Ministry spokesman claimed in the morning that two militants had been shot dead but it was not corroborated by army, BSF or the local police. The spokesman later said that the report of the killing of two militants was a "claim" and it was being "verified".

BSF Inspector General (Kashmir) Vikash Chandra told mediapersons that at least two militants were involved in the attack and the security forces recovered a GPS set, a compass and a wire cutter besides some ammunition this morning after a search was launched near the camp on the banks of the Jhelum river.

"My boys from the spot have confirmed that there were at least two militants who were firing at them. There could be few more militants, may be two more, but that is not confirmed as of now," he said.

Chandra said the firing started about 10:30 PM after the BSF men detected some "suspicious movement" in the vicinity of their camp that they shared with the nearby battalion headquarters of Rashtriya Rifles. 

"Our camp is co-located with the RR. The boys on sentry duty detected suspicious movements and when fire came in they came out of the bunker to effectively take on the militants," he said, and claimed that Nitin was grievously injured when a grenade lobbed by militants hit him. According to Chandra, the militants melted into the darkness and a search operation was underway.