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Lt Gen Rawat takes over as Army chief, Air Marshal Dhanoa takes charge as IAF chief

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Lt Gen Bipin Rawat on Saturday took over as the 27th chief of the 1.3 million strong Indian Army succeeding Gen Dalbir Singh Suhag, who retired after 42 years of service.Air Marshal Birender Singh Dhanoa also took charge as the 25th Air Force Chief replacing Anup Raha.Gen Rawat superseded two senior most Lt Generals, Praveen Bakshi and P M Hariz.Lt Gen Bakshi, who heads the Kolkata-headquartered Eastern Command, announced “full support” to the new chief and told theatre officers through video conferencing he will continue to lead with “full professional sincerity as hither-to-fore”.”I convey my best wishes and full support of Eastern Command to Gen Bipin Rawat on having taken over as the Chief of Army Staff,” he said.Earlier, there was speculation that Lt Gen Bakshi may resign or take premature retirement. He had also met Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar recently.He requested that speculation and trolling in media and social media should stop and everyone should focus on contributing their best to the betterment of the army and the nation.The Eastern Commander called the new Army chief to congratulate him on taking over the reins of the army.Speculation is rife that Lt Gen Bakshi may be given the new post of Chief of Defence Staff pertaining which Parrikar will meet Prime Minster Narendra Modi next month.Sources, however, have indicated that no such development will take place.Gen Suhag, who superannuated today, said army is prepared to meet any challenge as he thanked the government for “providing a free hand” and implementing the One Rank One Pension scheme.He said that infiltration bids had increased during the year and the number of terrorists killed was nearly double the previous year.The General said the army focused on operational preparedness during his tenure.Suhag said that when he had taken over he had asserted the response of the army to any action against our interest would be immediate, adequate and intense. “Indian Army has done that in the last two-and-a-half years,” he said.Later at noon, he handed over the charge to Rawat, who was commissioned in the Fifth Battalion of the Eleven Gorkha Rifles in December 1978 from IMA, Dehradun. He was awarded the ‘Sword of Honour’ at the academy.Earlier in the day, Gen Suhag and Air Chief Marshal Raha paid tributes at Amar Jawan Jyoti and inspected the guard of honour.The new IAF chief, Air Marshal Dhanoa, had developed the country’s aerial targeting philosophy against potential adversaries and transformed the concept of air operations of the air force into contemporary war fighting practices.He has mainly flown Kiran and MiG-21 aircraft though he has the experience of flying the entire spectrum of fighter aircraft from Jaguar to state-of-the-art MiG-29 and Su-30 MKI.The Air Marshal has many feathers in his hat. As the commanding officer of a frontline ground attack fighter squadron, he led the IAF punch during the “Limited War” against Pakistan to drive the enemy out of their “dug in” defences in the icy heights of Kargil region.During the conflict, under his leadership and supervision, the squadron devised unique and innovative methods of bombing at night at altitudes never before attempted in the history of air warfare, the IAF said.Prior to the attack, the squadron had been adjudged as the best fighter squadron of western Air Command for its high degree of professionalism and peace-time training. After the conflict, it emerged as the most decorated IAF unit of Kargil War.He also holds the highest flying instructional category in the IAF and was handpicked to establish the “IAF Training Team” abroad.Gen Rawat has vast experience in high altitude warfare and counter-insurgency operations.He commanded an infantry battalion, along the Line of Actual Control in the Eastern Sector, a Rashtriya Rifles Sector and an Infantry Division in the Kashmir Valley, a Corps in the Eastern theatre and the Southern Command.He has tenanted instructional appointments at Indian Military Academy and at Army War College, Mhow.Gen Rawat has held important staff appointments at Directorate General of Military Operations and Military Secretary’s Branch at Army HQ.He has also been Major General General Staff (MGGS) at HQ Eastern Command.The General commanded a Multinational Brigade in a Chapter VII mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUC). While serving with the United Nations, he was twice awarded the Force Commander’s Commendation.An alumni of Defence Services Staff College, Wellington, he has been awarded various medals of high honour for gallantry and distinguished service in a span of over 38 years in uniform.He also attended the Command and General Staff College (CGSC) course at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, USA.Academically inclined, Rawat has authored numerous articles on national security and leadership, which have been published in various journals and publications.He was awarded M.Phil in Defence Studies from Madras University. He has a Diploma in Management and another Diploma in Computer Studies.Gen Rawat has also completed his research on military media strategic studies and was awarded Doctorate of Philosophy (Ph.D) from Chaudhary Charan Singh University, Meerut in 2011.

Lt Gen Praveen Bakshi rules out resignation, offers support to new army chief Bipin Rawat

Kolkata: Putting to rest all speculation about his resignation, Eastern Army Commander lieutenant general Praveen Bakshi assured his full support to General Bipin Rawat, who took charge as the new army chief superseding him.

Lt General Praveen Bakshi. Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.Lt General Praveen Bakshi. Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Lt General Praveen Bakshi. Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

“I convey my best wishes and full support of Eastern Command to Gen. Bipin Rawat on having taken over as the Chief of Army Staff,” Bakshi said on Saturday. He also made it clear that he was not resigning, and even called the new army chief on the phone to congratulate him on taking over the reins of the army, an official said.

Speculation that he may seek premature retirement from service gained ground after he met Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on 21 December and then proceeded on leave after Christmas.

Bakshi was initially the frontrunner for the post of army chief. However, keeping aside the trend of seniority, the government appointed vice-chief of army, lieutenant general Bipin Rawat, a batch junior to Bakshi, as the new chief.

The army commander requested that speculation in media and trolling on social media should stop and everyone should focus on contributing their best to the betterment of the army and the nation.

At a function here on new year’s eve, he greeted all ranks of Army’s Eastern Command and said he would continue to lead the Command with full professional sincerity. He, however, continues to be on leave for the next few days.

First Published On : Dec 31, 2016 16:48 IST

‘Natural to have differences’: China hopes for better ties with India in 2017

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>China hopes for better ties with India in 2017 by resolving differences over India’s admission into elite Nuclear Suppliers Group and listing of JeM chief Masood Azhar as terrorist by the UN as the two nations signed off their most engaging year bogged down by the twin issues.”This year has seen a steady development of China-India relations, with the two countries marching towards the goal of building a more closely-knit partnership for development,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said summing up Beijing’s perception of the outgoing year and its vision of Sino-Indian ties for the next year.”The leadership of the two countries have maintained frequent contacts” despite the differences, she said, referring to a number of meetings between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping at multilateral foras like G-20 and BRICS summit.
ALSO READ Won’t prejudge Chinese action on UN resolution on Masood Azhar: IndiaShe said that the dialogues and consultations have been going on in an orderly fashion at all levels and practical cooperation in various fields has been carried out steadily.”As close neighbours, it is natural for our two big countries to have differences, and we have been exploring ways to resolve them through diplomatic channels. The main theme of China-India relations remains friendship and cooperation,” she said, holding out hope for a more fruitful year for bilateral ties next year with the resolution of the two major issues.
ALSO READ UK reaffirms support to India’s bid for UNSC, NSG membership”For the year 2017, China would like to work with India for better implementation of the important consensus reached between the leadership, greater political mutual trust, wider mutually beneficial cooperation and properly management of differences so as to ensure a sustained and steady development of China-India relations,” she said.The strength of the deep diplomatic engagement between the two sides virtually begins with the New Year as China’s second “technical hold” on India’s application for listing Azhar as terrorist under UN’s 1267 Committee will expire on December 31, opening a new window for both the countries to address the issue which cast a shadow on Beijing s claim to fight terrorism in all forms as the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Muhammad is already listed by the UN as terror group.With the end of the second technical hold by China, India is expected to submit a fresh application backed by a charge sheet filed recently by the National Investigation Agency against Azhar for his involvement in the Pathankot terror attack.The charge sheet was expected to further reinforce India’s case for a UN ban against Azhar. Other members of the Committee including UNSC permanent members, US, Russia, France and UK had backed it earlier.Indian officials hope that the charge sheet provides strong basis for the case for China to take a relook as Beijing in the past argued that sufficient evidence has not been provided.”Listing in the 1267 Committee must be in line with the relevant resolutions of the UNSC and the rules of procedure of the Committee,” Hua had said, replying to question on Azhar’s issue days after NIA filed charge sheet.On India s admission into the Nuclear Suppliers Group too Indian and Chinese officials hope for a way out next year as China, after blocking India’s bid, began an exercise to work out a “non-discriminatory formula” to admit new members.It is unclear yet whether a formula can be worked out where the other members of the NSG will agree for admission of China’s close ally Pakistan, whose record in nuclear proliferation during the time of its disgraced nuclear scientist Dr A Q Khan will be a stumbling block.China is advocating a two step approach for admission of countries who have not signed nuclear-Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in the NSG. As per the new stand announced by Beijing last month, it first wants to find a solution that is applicable to the admission of all non-NPT members followed by discussions to admit specific non-NPT member.Indian officials say it will make it another engaging year in Sino-Indian diplomacy on both Azhar and NSG fronts and hope that it would not be a futile exercise as happened this year.However, even after the resolution of the two issues, the larger issues like the USD 46 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor remain. Modi himself raised this issue with Xi during their meeting at the Chinese city of Hangzhou in September.Significantly, as the year draws to a close, Lt Gen Amir Riaz, Commander of the Pakistan’s Southern Command which is based in Quetta, asked India to “shun enmity” with Pakistan and “join the USD 46-billion CPEC along with Iran, Afghanistan and other Central Asian countries and enjoy its benefits”.Chinese officials say Riaz’s comments are significant as they point to the backing of the Pakistan army.Hua said China is open for such a proposal and wondered “what is India s take on this whether this is a good sign from Pakistan”.While relations appears to have been bogged down over the NSG, Azhar and CEPC which involves Pakistan, officials on both sides say that 2016 was an year of deep engagement between both the countries covering almost all aspects of the relations including the military.

China hopeful of better ties with India in 2017, says committed to dissolve outstanding differences

Beijing: China hopes for better ties with India in 2017 by resolving differences over India’s admission into elite Nuclear Suppliers Group and listing of JeM chief Masood Azhar as terrorist by the UN as the two nations signed off their most engaging year bogged down by the twin issues.

“This year has seen a steady development of China-India relations, with the two countries marching towards the goal of building a more closely-knit partnership for development,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told PTI summing up Beijing’s perception of the outgoing year and its vision of Sino-Indian ties for the next year.

“The leadership of the two countries have maintained frequent contacts” despite the differences, she said, referring to a number of meetings between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping at multilateral foras like G-20 and BRICS summit.

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

She said that the dialogues and consultations have been going on in an orderly fashion at all levels and practical cooperation in various fields has been carried out steadily.

“As close neighbours, it is natural for our two big countries to have differences, and we have been exploring ways to resolve them through diplomatic channels. The main theme of China-India relations remains friendship and cooperation,” she said, holding out hope for a more fruitful year for bilateral ties next year with the resolution of the two major issues.

“For the year 2017, China would like to work with India for better implementation of the important consensus reached between the leadership, greater political mutual trust, wider mutually beneficial cooperation and properly management of differences so as to ensure a sustained and steady development of China-India relations,” she said.

The strength of the deep diplomatic engagement between the two sides virtually begins with the New Year as China’s second “technical hold” on India’s application for listing Azhar as terrorist under UN’s 1267 Committee will expire on 31 December, opening a new window for both the countries to address the issue which cast a shadow on Beijing’s claim to fight terrorism in all forms as the Pakistan-based

Jaish-e-Muhammad is already listed by the UN as terror group. With the end of the second technical hold by China, India is expected to submit a fresh application backed by a charge sheet filed recently by the National Investigation Agency against Azhar for his involvement in the Pathankot terror attack.

The charge sheet was expected to further reinforce India’s case for a UN ban against Azhar. Other members of the Committee including UNSC permanent members, US, Russia, France and UK had backed it earlier.

Indian officials hope that the charge sheet provides strong basis for the case for China to take a relook as Beijing in the past argued that sufficient evidence has not been provided.

“Listing in the 1267 Committee must be in line with the relevant resolutions of the UNSC and the rules of procedure of the Committee,” Hua had said, replying to question on Azhar’s issue days after NIA filed charge sheet.

On India’s admission into the Nuclear Suppliers Group too Indian and Chinese officials hope for a way out next year as China, after blocking India’s bid, began an exercise to work out a “non-discriminatory formula” to admit new members.

It is unclear yet whether a formula can be worked out where the other members of the NSG will agree for admission of China’s close ally Pakistan, whose record in nuclear proliferation during the time of its disgraced nuclear scientist Dr AQ Khan will be a stumbling block.

China is advocating a two step approach for admission of countries who have not signed nuclear-Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in the NSG. As per the new stand announced by Beijing last month, it first wants to find a solution that is applicable to the admission of all non-NPT members followed by discussions to admit specific non-NPT member.

Indian officials say it will make it another engaging year in Sino-Indian diplomacy on both Azhar and NSG fronts and hope that it would not be a futile exercise as happened this year.

However, even after the resolution of the two issues, the larger issues like the USD 46 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor remain. Modi himself raised this issue with Xi during their meeting at the Chinese city of Hangzhou in September.

Significantly, as the year draws to a close, Lt Gen Amir Riaz, Commander of the Pakistan’s Southern Command which is based in Quetta, asked India to “shun enmity” with Pakistan and “join the USD 46-billion CPEC along with Iran, Afghanistan and other Central Asian countries and enjoy its benefits”.

Chinese officials say Riaz’s comments are significant as they point to the backing of the Pakistan army.

Hua said China is open for such a proposal and wondered “what is India’s take on this whether this is a good sign from Pakistan”.

First Published On : Dec 29, 2016 14:50 IST

Making up for lost time? J&K Govt to update database of those affected by violence in last 30 years

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Jammu and Kashmir government will be updating data base of those affected by violence over last three decades to ensure their rehabilitation, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti said today, asserting her dispensation’s “moral responsibility” to reach out to every victim of violence, irrespective of its source.Mehbooba stated this here, days after her government cleared ex-gratia for kin of 17 people, including brother of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani, killed in militancy- related incidents.”We heve asked for updating the data base of people affected by the violence of past almost three decades in the state so that some concrete steps for their complete integration into the social set-up are facilitated,” she said.She pitched for proper rehabilitation, social integration of violence victims in J&K and said special programmes should be thought of for the rehabilitation and integration of these poor victims into the social mainstream of the state.Chairing the 7th Governing Council meeting of J&K Rehabilitation Council here, the Chief Minister said concrete interventions are needed for the proper and complete rehabilitation of women and children, particularly in education, health and psychological spheres. Mehbooba said the government has the moral responsibility of reaching out to every single victim of violence in the state, no matter the source of it.She asked the officers to factor in the needs and requirements of these victims while framing policies and schemes for the general public. The meeting decided to further finetune the number of widows, orphans and parents of killed persons in the state so that an actual and updated number of such victims is available for their rehabilitation.It also decided that the Action plan for the Council would henceforth be finalised in March every year so that the assistance could be disbursed from April onwards.The meeting also decided to enhance the one-time marriage assistance to young widows and grown-up daughters to Rs 40,000 per case. The meeting also asked the Council to pursue the various funding patterns available in the central government for the benefit of victims of violence in the State.

Air safety incidents at Goa and Delhi airport; 2 pilots suspended

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>It was a day of miraculous escape for air passengers as two major accidents were averted on Tuesday. The first incident pertained to a Goa-Mumbai Jet flight which skidded off at the Goa airport on early morning resulting in 12 people getting injured. The flying licence of the two pilots was suspended and a probe by Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB) of the Civil Aviation Ministry was launched soon after the incident. Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju said a thorough time-bound investigation and corrective action shall be ensured.The second incident happened at national capital’s Indira Gandhi International Airport when an IndiGo and a SpiceJet aircraft came dangerously close to each other on the runway, allegedly because of bad weather and due to ‘miscommunication’ with the Air Traffic Control (ATC). Both incidents raised questions on India’s air safety record which is obviously a cause of worry as the country is one of the fastest growing aviation market.A three-member team of AAIB rushed to Goa for inspection of the spot of accident, sources in the Ministry said. “Prima facie the runway accident appears to be the pilot’s fault. The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has withdrawn the flying privileges of the two pilots, including the Commander, pending the initial outcome of the probe,” a source at DGCA said. Officials in AAIB were of the same opinion. They said that in all ‘probability’ the accident took place because of the pilot’s fault, adding that the preliminary findings on the accident are likely to be submitted in a week’s time.The Jet Airways flight 9W 2374 with 161 people onboard veered off the runway at Dabolim airport in Goa while aligning for take-off. The incident took place at 5 am when the Boeing 737 aircraft turned a full 360 degrees and its nose touched the soft land while taxiing for take off early on Tuesday in Goa airport. The Jet Airways flight had arrived from Dubai and was heading to Mumbai. There was panic among the passengers and a few passengers suffered injuries even during the evacuation process. Some passengers had to be rushed to the local hospital and five of the 12 injured passengers were hospitalised till late evening.Sources in Indian Navy, which manages the Dabolim airport, said its prompt response in rescuing passengers prevented a ‘catastrophe’. The airport, which is located in the Navy facility INS Hansa in Vasco town, was closed down for a while, impacting movements of other flights and causing some flight diversions.The incident at Delhi’s IGI airport took place in the afternoon when an IndiGo flight had just arrived from Lucknow with 160 passengers and the Spicejet flight with 187 on board was about to take off for Hyderabad . The two aircraft came face-to-face and almost collided with each other, sources said. Officials from ATC, on condition of anonymity, blamed poor visibility for the situation. They said haze was particularly intense on Tuesday. 72 flights were delayed that day because of fog. However, officials from Delhi International Airport Limited — which manages the Delhi airport — rejected ATC’s charge and said the problem occurred because of miscommunication from ATC. IndiGo as well as SpiceJet confirmed that both planes saw each other coming from opposite directions but both airlines denied that there was any risk to the passengers.

Lt Gen Bakshi’s leave sparks speculation about early retirement

Tue, 27 Dec 2016-11:30pm , Kolkata , PTI
<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Speculation about Eastern Army Commander Lt Gen Praveen Bakshi, who has been superseded by Lt Gen Bipin Rawat as the next Army Chief, taking premature retirement heightened on Tuesday after he proceeded on leave.Army sources, however, said Lt Gen Bakshi is on a pre-scheduled three-day leave and is expected to resume duties on December 30, a day before Lt Gen Rawat takes over as the new Army Chief.There has been speculation that Lt Gen Bakshi may take premature retirement. He had recently met Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, fuelling speculation about his possible resignation.

US finds remains of WW II soldiers in NE

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>After years of concerted efforts, US government officials have found remains of soldiers who fought during the World War II in Arunachal Pradesh. A team of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) visited several locations in Arunachal Pradesh.In a statement, American Ambassador to India Richard Verma lauded the findings. “The United States is committed to making sure all the soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines who served our country come home. DPAA’s mission in India is a vital part of that commitment,” he said.Mission Commander Lt Col Pritz of the American Embassy, too, issued a statement thanking the Indian government.Efforts to locate the remains around Arunachal were going on since 2003. It was only in 2008 that India and the US entered into an understanding to let the American search crew inside the area.Between 2006 and 2010, the crash sites of several US aircraft have been discovered in the area. Some of these are the crash sites of C-87 transport (41-23696), B-24J bomber (42-73308) nicknamed as “Hot as Hell”, C-46A transport (41-24724), B-24D bomber (42-40069) nicknamed as “Pregnant Swan”, C-47DL transport (41-18518), C-87 transport (42-107259), C-46A transport #41-24739, C-87 transport (41-23791), 308th Bomb Group B-24J 42-100184, and, 08th Bomb Group B-24J 42-73242, nicknamed “Haley’s Comet”.In these crashes, the number of suspected casualties is over 50. In April this year, the crew found the remains of soldiers travelling in a C-109 that crashed on July 17, 1945, travelling from Jorhat in Assam to China’s Hsinching province.

Was Gen Bipin Rawat’s appointment as Army Chief pushed by the influential Gorkha coterie?

The appointment of Lieutenant General Bipin Rawat as new Chief of Army Staff has snowballed into a controversy, once it emerged that Rawat was not the senior-most officer in the Indian Army. The officers who were bypassed to let Rawat become the new army chief were not only more senior, but they were also in command positions, placed there because they are capable enough and experienced enough to become chief.

They have been on the frontline as active commanders. You don’t get to become an army commander unless you’re ready and trained, as simple as that. It’s not just a question of seniority; hundreds of very senior people get bypassed, sidelined, passed over, and continue to serve “juniors” for several years if they wish to stay in uniform. In all these cases, the officers are competent field commanders, and have already touched the stars…literally.

Lt Gen Bipin Rawat. File photo. Getty ImagesLt Gen Bipin Rawat. File photo. Getty Images

Lt Gen Bipin Rawat. File photo. Getty Images

But then, it’s no secret that there is a coterie at the army headquarters. The Gorkha Rifles are so strongly represented at the highest levels that it raises eyebrows even within army circles. The incumbent Chief of Army Staff, Dalbir Singh Suhag, is from the Gorkha Rifles, as is Bipin Rawat, the man who will replace him on 31 December. In April this year, five of the 14 major generals promoted to their third star were from the Gorkha Rifles. The director general military intelligence, Lieutenant General SK Patyal, is from the Gorkhas. The director general military training Lieutenant General AL Chauhan is from the Gorkha Rifles.

These, by the way, are the top jobs at army headquarters; they oversee all strategic matters. Another very important position is director general military operations, currently held by Lieutenant General AK Bhatt, again from the Gorkha Rifles. Even the adjutant general Lieutenant General RK Sharma is from the Gorkha Rifles.

What are the odds that in an army of over a million, with dozens of battalions and regiments, all with glorious histories, the top five jobs would be held by officers from the same section of the army.

None of this is rocket science. And it’s all available on the public domain.

Sure, the Gorkhas have a proud history, but so do the Sikh Regiments, the Maratha Light Infantry, the Rajputana Rifles, the Madras Regiment, the Guards, the para regiments, the Punjab Regiment, the Grenadiers, the Bihar Regiment, the Jats, the Dogras, the Assam Regiment, J&K Rifles, the Armoured Corps, the Mechansied regiments, etc.

Handing command to a Gurkha is not a flaw in itself, but it means one regiment will continue to hold sway at South Block. If it is happening at the expense of others is a question worth asking.

Retired Lieutenant General Ike Singha, as head of the Peacekeeping Mission in Golan Heights in Syria and Israel from 2012 to 2015, has seen more action than anyone else in the Indian Army. This is what he has to say about the controversy over Bipin Rawat’s appointment. “The NDA government launched a surgical strike on the Indian Army by superseding very competent generals and selecting Bipin Rawat as the next COAS. In the past, only once has the seniormost army commander been passed over; when Lt Gen. Sinha was overlooked and Gen. AS Vaidya appointed COAS by the Congress government led by Indira Gandhi. History punished the nation for this folly. Gen. Vaidya lacked the moral guts to tell Gandhi that the army, an apolitical organisation should not be dragged into storming a religious place like the Golden Temple. Gen. Sinha, a strong man, would have perhaps resisted and that is why he was overlooked. The BJP resurrected Sinha, and he was appointed a member of the Rajya Sabha. Unfortunately, the NDA government has made the same mistake and overlooked two very capable officers. I have very closely served with all three senior officers and we have grown together. All three are thorough professionals and Praveen Bakshi and PM Hariz lacked nothing.”

“Modi, like Jawaharlal Nehru, feels that the country is not going to fight a war with any of its neighbours. Nehru showed Chou en Lai all our defence establishments, and the shrewd Chinese leader saw the chinks in our armour and annexed Tibet in 1959. India was stunned, but before it could recover from the jolt, China affected an embarrassing defeat in the 1962 war. Modi has a disdain for the Indian Army that I watched closely as General Officer Commanding in Gujarat. It seems he is going the Nehru way and has no inclination to learn from history. (Manohar) Parrikar is a technocrat and has been chief minister of Goa, a state with two districts. A novice in security matters, he thinks he has a magic wand and has a solution for all the complex problems and challenges facing the defence forces.”

He does not.

First Published On : Dec 20, 2016 15:26 IST

Lt Gen Bipin Rawat as army chief: Strategic vision, not tactical achievements may have swung decision

Predictably, the government’s decision of appointing Lt General Bipin Rawat as the next Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) by superseding the “senior-most eligible officers”, the Eastern Army Commander Lt General Praveen Bakshi, and Southern Army Commander Lt General PM Hariz, has now become a political issue, with the Opposition Congress, Janata Dal (U) and the two Communist parties (CPM and CPI) questioning the decision.

In fact, as I had written in this platform last week, it is this unfortunate politicisation of the military appointments that prevents the new and better norms from being encouraged for the much required military reforms in the country.

Lt Gen Bipin Rawat. File photo. Getty Images

Lt Gen Bipin Rawat. File photo. Getty Images

The issue of seniority in top appointments always raises the question: Which should prevail – the quantum of experience or the quality of experience? And, if one goes by the examples of leading military powers of the world, there has been a systematic endeavour to go by the quality, not the quantum, of experience. It is in this context that it is interesting to know the Narendra Modi government’s explanation behind its choice of General Rawat as the next army chief.

Apparently, the government sources have told The Times of India, that “General Rawat is the candidate best suited to deal with emerging challenges, and that his operational experience and ‘general dynamism’ tipped the scales in his favour.” It is said that General Rawat has “more than 10 years of experience in counter-insurgency operations and on the Line of Control, besides serving on the China border. He has the requisite experience considering the current situation.”

Incidentally, it is not the first time in India that a senior-most officer has been denied the topmost position in his or her service, whether it is a civilian, judicial or a military job. Indira Gandhi was the prime minister when Justice AN Ray superseded three senior judges of the Supreme Court to become the Chief Justice in 1973. Again it was Indira Gandhi whose government in 1983 appointed General AS Vaidya as the Army Chief in 1983 superseding General SK Sinha.

In 2004, the Manmohan Singh government appointed Shyam Saran as the foreign secretary by superseding four senior officials in the Indian Foreign Service. But what it did in 2006 was even more eye-raising. It appointed Shivshankar Menon as foreign secretary, although 16 serving officers were senior to him; this was a decision that triggered a virtual rebellion in the Ministry of External Affairs, with many of the superseded diplomats deciding to quit the service. In 2014, the same Manmohan Singh government appointed Admiral Robin Kumar Dhowan as the Navy Chief, bypassing Vice-Admiral Shekhar Sinha, the flag officer commander-in-chief of the Western Naval Command and the senior most Naval officer at that time.

Of course, it is always debatable whether the above choices were based on the factor of merits or otherwise. But the point is that it is not a sacrosanct norm to go by the factor of seniority in the top-level military appointments. In neither the United Kingdom nor the United States, the countries that India will like to be compared with, the chiefs of the armed services are necessarily the senior-most officers; indeed in many a case their appointments have been least anticipated.

The appointment of Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach as the Head of the UK armed forces early this year was announced at a time when the military circles were expecting either Army General Sir Richard Barrons, or First Sea Lord Admiral George Zambellas for the coveted position. One remembers in this context the famous remark of the then Prime Minister David Cameron, “You do the fighting and I’ll do the talking.” Similarly, in the United States in 2011, President Barack Obama nominated a relatively junior General Martin Dempsey as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. But neither in Britain nor in the US, had these appointments become a political issue.

In fact, there is now an emerging school of thought in the military sphere that while efforts must be made to identify “tactical commanders” at battalion and brigade level, for higher posts officers with “strategic leadership” potentials should be rewarded. Strategic leadership includes attributes of being a “combat genius” (fighting beyond the plan, innovating as one fights, staying well ahead of the enemy in imaginative application of combat power); “political genius” ( wielding and melding the elements of military power with allies and politicians, mastering civil-military discourse); “institutional genius” ( managing a very large institution and making it relevant to the needs of the nation); and “anticipatory genius” (having the ability to think in time and imagine conceptually where the nature and character of war is headed).

Here, the “experience” suggests that those officers who had shown great tactical skill did not equal great strategic skill. Tactically talented officers can do a great job in making the convoys run on time, but they may not anticipate a battlefield that has yet to appear. On the other hand, those gifted with strategic foresights have often been found wanting in tactical maneuvers; they have been better at conceptualising warfare rather than practicing it.

As retired US Major General Robert H Scales says, “Tactically talented officers can move hundreds. Strategically talented officers can maneuver hundreds of thousands, if not millions. Tactically talented officers know how to fight enemies they know. Strategically talented officers are prepared to fight enemies yet unforeseen. The tactically talented read the manuals and put existing doctrine into practice. Strategically talented officers continually question doctrine and eventually seek to change it. Tacticians see what is; strategists conjure what might be.”

Viewed thus, let us hope that General Rawat has been rewarded by the Modi government for his “strategic” leadership (or its assessment that the new chief will provide such a leadership) attributes, not necessarily for his “tactical” achievements in Kashmir, the China-borders and dealing with counterinsurgencies.

First Published On : Dec 19, 2016 15:59 IST

Pampore attack: Security plan for Srinagar-Jammu highway reviewed in high-level meeting

Srinagar: In the wake of terror attack on army convoy on Saturday, security of the forces during their movement on Srinagar-Jammu national highway was on Sunday reviewed at a high level meeting chaired by state police chief K Rajendra Kumar who pressed for devising foolproof mechanism.

The Director General of Police later held a meeting with Srinagar-based Corps Commander Lt Gen JS Sandhu and discussed implementation of different decisions with regard to strengthening and augmentation of security setup across Kashmir Valley.

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

At the meeting with officials of police, army and paramilitary forces, Kumar emphasised the need for greater coordination and cooperation among the various forces and agencies.

The meeting was held at District Police office in Awantipora in south Kashmir, some kms away from Pampore where terrorists struck at an army convoy on Saturday, killing three soldiers.

Addressing the meeting, the Director General of Police asked the officers to devise a foolproof plan for the national highway for safe and secure movement of the people and the security forces, a police spokesman said in Srinagar.

Kumar asked the army to strengthen the corridor protection and asked the CRPF to finetune the Road Opening Parties (RoPs) along the highway.

While highlighting the need of tackling the militancy effectively, the DGP said surgical operations with minimum collateral damages should be conducted.

In their respective briefs, the officers gave details of the security arrangements made by their organisations for the highway, the spokesman said.

Earlier, Kashmir Zone Inspector General of Police SJM Gillani briefed the meeting about the security situation of south Kashmir and also highlighted recent operations conducted against the militants, he said.

South Kashmir has recently witnessed a number of terror attacks, including two bank robberies. The DGP told the meeting about the measures taken by the police to investigate and solve the bank robberies.

First Published On : Dec 18, 2016 22:12 IST

Army chief Bipin Rawat appointment: Opposition corners govt, BJP says don’t politicise

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A political slugfest broke out on Sunday over the new army chief’s appointment by superseding two officers with Congress asking the Prime Minister to spell out the “compelling reasons” for it and the Left questioning the move even as BJP hit back saying they should not politicise an issue related to defence forces.Congress leader Manish Tewari slammed the government for “playing with institutions” and doing politics in the army even as he wondered if it was “whimsical cherry picking”. His comments came a day after the government appointed Vice Chief of Army Staff Lt Gen Bipin Rawat as the new army chief superseding his two senior officers — Eastern Army Commander Lt Gen Praveen Bakshi and Southern Army Command chief Lt Gen P M Hariz.CPI leader D Raja also questioned the government’s move and said appointments whether in the army, judiciary or those of CVC, acting CBI director and to Central Information Commission have become controversial.Commenting on the matter, JD(U) MP Pavan Varma said, “Every question that is being raised is not about politicising an issue but about seeking a clarification for an answer.” BJP condemned Congress for its attack on the government over the army chief’s appointment, saying there should be no politics on defence forces and asserted that Lt Gen Rawat has been elevated keeping in mind the current security scenario.BJP National Secretary Shrikant Sharma said the new army chief was picked up from a pool of five senior-most officers, who are all competent, and Lt Gen Rawat’s appointment should not be seen as a negative against others.Lashing out at the opposition party, Sharma said Congress by “politicising” the appointment of the army chief was showing its “frustration” after it has been pushed to the “margins” of national politics following successive electoral defeats. Tewari said, “While Lt Gen Rawat, who is being appointed the COAS, may perhaps have all the requisite credentials but the fact remains that in a hierarchy conscious organisation where the principle of seniority is almost sacrosanct, the supersession of three senior officers, Lt Gen Praveen Bakshi, Lt P M Hariz, and perhaps even Lt Gen B S Negi, raises extremely serious and critical questions of institutional integrity.”However, senior army officials said that Lt Gen Rawat has only superseded Lt Gen Bakshi, the seniormost army commander and Lt Gen Hariz.Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself should spell out the “compelling reasons” behind this supersession, Tewari told reporters at the party office here. “Why the principle of seniority which has held the field for two decades now not respected by the government. Is it that these officers who were superseded unqualified in any manner? Or is it whimsical cherry picking which has been done by the BJP-led NDA government,” he said.”Why does the army have to go through unnecessary bloodletting at the top? If it has been done, then reasons need to be put out in the public domain,” he said.Raja said, “Appointments in the army have become controversial, the appointments in the judiciary are already controversial, the appointments of CVC, CBI director and to Central Information Commission, all these top-level appointments are becoming very controversial.”

Lt Gen Bipin Rawat is next Army chief: Govt has superseded two of the best senior officers

Many senior army officers will not only be surprised but also deeply dismayed at the government’s decision to supersede the Indian Army’s two most senior officers while appointing Lt Gen Bipin Rawat as the next Chief of Army Staff. For, not only has seniority been given the go-by, the two officers who command almost unparalleled professional respect have been humiliated.

Lt Gen Praveen Bakshi, the Commander-in-Chief of the Eastern Command, was widely expected to take over as the next chief. Many in the Army looked forward to that eagerly. Not only was he the senior most, he is respected as an exceptional officer.

The officer next in line, Lt Gen PM Hariz, is equally respected as an outstanding professional of rare calibre. He has also been superseded.

army-chief

Lt Gen Bipin Rawat with be the next Chief of Army Staff. News18

General Bakshi had been the Chief of Staff of the Northern Command at Udhampur before he took over as Army Commander in the East. He has had hands-on experience of the current situations on the major fronts on which India faces threats from both Pakistan and China. He was perfectly trained, prepared and suited for the top job.

Some senior army officers have even compared generals Bakshi and Hariz — and Lt Gen BS Hooda, who retired at the end of last month as Commander-in-Chief of the Northern Command — with the exceptional General BC Joshi, who was chief in 1993-94. Some rate Joshi as the best Chief of Army Staff India has had since Field Marshal Manekshaw retired in January 1973.

“It is very rare to have three such extraordinary officers near the top of the pyramid at the same time,” another very senior officer had remarked earlier this year. Now, the country faces the prospect of losing all three officers. For, it is possible that Generals Bakshi and Hariz may resign rather than serve under their junior.

The worst part of this denouement is that it comes at a time when the country faces a huge security challenge from the Sino-Pak axis. It would be a grave error to think the challenge in Jammu and Kashmir is a thing of the past. Militant attacks keep occurring (three soldiers were killed in one of two attacks reported on Saturday). There has been a lot of infiltration over the past couple of years, and unrest in such disturbed districts as Pulwama continues.

To lose three extraordinarily fine top officers at such a juncture is a compromise on national security. More importantly, this could have an adverse effect on morale down the line — particularly in the higher echelons of a force that has been through a lot of hard knocks in the past few months. Both superseded officers are hero-worshipped by many senior officers.

The fact that Lt Gen Hariz is a Muslim is irrelevant in the Armed Forces, which are more inclusive than perhaps any other major national institution. However, given the doubts that hang over the current government’s commitment to the country’s secular ideal, both domestically and internationally, his supersession gives a negative signal.

The greater irony is that this move has come from a government run by a political formation that strongly criticised Prime Minister Indira Gandhi for years after she superseded Lt Gen SK Sinha in 1983. Until now, that was the only time in the life of the republic that the senior most officer in the army was superseded in the appointment of a new chief of army staff.

This sort of thing is far more common in Pakistan, where the army is much more political than the Indian Army has so far been. If supersessions become the accepted and expected norm, officers would tend to invest in relationships with political parties and build other sorts of political alignments in the course of their careers, hoping for rewards.

That would not be good for the army.

It would be even worse for the country.

First Published On : Dec 18, 2016 08:35 IST

Govt action to be based on probe report on death of Burhan’s brother: Nirmal Singh

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Jammu and Kashmir Deputy Chief Minister Nirmal Singh on Saturday said the government action on the killing of Hizbul commander Burhan Wani’s brother will proceed “as per the outcome” of the probe into his death and an FIR has been registered in this connection.His comments came amid protests by several organisations over the PDP-BJP coalition government’s decision to compensate the family of Khalid Wani, who was killed in an “encounter” with the Army in Pulwama district on April 13 last year. Singh said an FIR has been lodged and “whatever be the outcome of the probe, government will act accordingly”. “There is a law of the land applicable to it. Whatever be the outcome of the investigation, action would be taken as per that,” Singh told reporters at a function here.”If it is proved that he was a terrorist as the FIR has been lodged, action would be taken as per that,” he said replying to a question on giving compensation to Khalid’s family. Khalid’s brother Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani was killed by security forces on July 8, and his death had led to months-long protest in the Valley in which 86 people died. Asked about the impact of Union government’s move to demonetize old high-value currency notes on unrest in Kashmir, Singh said the exercise has “badly-hit” terrorism and ‘hawala’ transactions, which is believed to support the militancy.”That is why the terrorists are engineering cases of looting of money from the banks because they are facing dearth of money,” he said, adding that the government was making “full security” arrangement to ensure such incidents do not recur. “There is a dip in smuggling of weapons from Pakistan. They are frustrated by the demonetization,” he said. He asked Hurriyat leaders and other separatists to think “positively” so that normalcy returns and added that shutdown by separatists is “causing loss to everyone,” he said.

Have cleared names for the next Indian Army chief and IAF chief, says Manohar Parrikar

New Delhi: Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar said on Friday that he will soon name the next Indian Army and Indian Air Force chiefs.

He was speaking after paying tributes at the Amar Jawan Jyoti in New Delhi on Vijay Diwas or Victory Day that is observed on 16 December to mark the military triumph over Pakistan in 1971 which led to the creation of Bangladesh.

The Defence Minister, however, did not give a timeline for naming the new chiefs. Asked whether the line of succession might be broken in the appointment of the next army chief, Parrikar said cryptically: “Line of succession is decided by the people.”

The Indian Army chief, General Dalbir Singh Suhaag, and the Indian Air Force Chief, Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha, are both set to retire on 31 December.

File photo of Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar. PTI

File photo of Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar. PTI

A file with nominations for the new chiefs is with the Prime Minister’s Office, and a formal announcement is expected after parliament’s winter session concludes on Friday, sources said.

The sources also added that the Eastern Army Commander, Lt General Praveen Bakshi; the Southern Army Commander, Lt. General PM Hariz and the army vice chief, Lt Gen Bipin Rawat are in the fray to succeed General Singh .

Air Marshal Birender Singh Dhanoa, a Kargil war veteran, and the IAF vice chief is in the fray for the top job.

Talking about the significance of 16 December, Parrikar said it was a day when India achieved a “decisive victory”.

“I don’t have to stress on the importance of this great day. This is the day when we achieved a decisive victory and created a new country,” he said.

On the next canisterisated test for Agni V missile, the minister said he would not like to comment much on it and said: “Testing goes on, I will not comment much. We have achieved 100 percent success in all the tests this year.”

First Published On : Dec 16, 2016 11:27 IST

Wanted Lashkar coomander gunned down

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Dreaded Lashkar-e-Tioba suffered a major blow on Wednesday when security forces gunned down one of the most wanted militant Pakistani commander and its north Kashmir chief in the apple rich town of Sopore in North Kashmir’s Baramulla district.Elsewhere an engineering student-turned-militant was killed by the security forces in Bewoora village of south Kashmir’s Anantnag district.Abu Bakar, a 27 year old Pakistani divisional commander who was operating in north Kashmir since 2009, was killed in an encounter with security forces in Bomai village of Sopore.Police said the commander , who had broken security forces cordon several times, was the main coordinator for the infiltration from across the LoC into Kashmir.”It is a great success for the security forces. Abu Baker was distributing and transporting the militants to south and other parts of Kashmir after their infiltration from across the LoC”, Harmeet Singh, senior superintendent of police, Sopore, told DNA.Singh said he was involved in attacks of security forces convoys and firing since 2009. “He had also fled from many encounters in the past”, he said.Operating in Lolaab, Kupwara and Sopore, Abu Baker had established Lashkar network across north Kashmir and he was one of the most wanted commanders for the security forces.In another incident, a local militant was killed in a brief encounter with security forces at Bewoora Marhama village of South Kashmir’s Anantnag district.Basit Ahmed Dar alias Sameer, 24 year old B.Tech student had become militant just two month before. Son of a bank manager, he was had a student of Islamic University of Science and Technology Awantipora before he went missing and joined militancy post Burhan Wani’s killing.”Our highly qualified youth who prefer to join the freedom struggle instead of their luxurious and comfortable life, is a slap on those who weigh these unparalleled sacrifices in terms of roads, buildings, bridges and other developmental assets”, said Hurriyat hawk Syed Ali Shah Geelani

Why denying armoured corps its importance would be an error in late announcement of new army chief

Whenever anyone criticises Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar for either his intemperate remarks or his shabby sartorial inelegance and total lack of occasion there is invariably a group of people who rush to his rescue.

This is understandable because we are, as a nation, weaned on the equation that those who are ‘simple’ (read sloppy) or disheveled and scruffy are good people at heart. This is integral to our categorisation of the human race and any effort to be smart or display a level of is indicative of a certain corruption of values. Simplicity becomes a cloak for laziness, sloth, even casual indifference.

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar. PTIDefence Minister Manohar Parrikar. PTI

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar. PTI

The same sort of casual indifference that marks the attitude towards the announcement of the next Chief of the Army Staff. General Dalbir Singh Suhag, who himself, was appointed after much stress, retires at the end of the month and that is scarcely more than two weeks to go.

In a brilliant assessment of the subject of four-star appointments by Prakash Nanda in Firstpost on the inordinate delay, he has traced the frequent rocks strewn in the path of the handing over in all three services. The fact that the successor is announced at least 10 weeks before the date of retirement has been conveniently ignored because, of course, the defence ministry is clearly not cognizant of this fact. The thing is when the announcement is made automatically there is a shuffling at the Army Commander level and the domino principle kicks in. Immediately, the senior ranks know who the next leaders of their armies and Corps are going to be. The deck so to speak is reshuffled.

It is customary in India to give the fourth star to the seniormost army commander. After all, if his Annual Confidential Reports are without any negatives Indian convention follows the British model and it cannot find fault with that aspirant. After all, there is no further gauge to measure his caliber. In the US the president can appoint and leapfrog several Generals to announce a successor.

To keep the obvious choice in suspense is to inject politics into the issue and needlessly bring about speculation that is detrimental to the morale of the force and fuels rumours. At present Lt General Praveen Bakshi, GOC-in-C Eastern Command is the frontrunner and the automatic choice. The indication that since he is an Armoured Corps officer (tanks and missile regiments) there is uncertainty over his being the chief a position held usually by an infantry officer.

This is such balderdash it is unbelievable. We have had Signals officers who were Army Commanders. The Armoured Corps is not only held in the highest esteem it is an elite arm of the Service and has a history of over 250 years with regiments like Deccan Horse, Scinde Horse, Poona Horse, Hodson’s Horse, the 3,7, 8 Cavalries and Central India Horse that can display medals of gallantry in battle way back to the early 18th century. The much-touted battle of Basantar, the biggest since Rommel, was an Armoured Corps affair and if he denied command over the Army on these grounds it will be a huge pity.

If Lt General Bakshi is denied his legitimate claim to the fourth star it will also be a bruising of the huge store held in the capabilities of our men in tanks.

The black berets are the best.

Honestly, this is so indicative of civilian ignorance of how the armed forces operate that they would play tiddlywinks with such a sensitive matter.

Even the infantry would be appalled if that was a reason applied to the Parrikar decision to bypass the Eastern Command chief while appointing the vice-chief.

First Published On : Dec 14, 2016 21:41 IST

We have to differentiate between militants and their families: Mehbooba Mufti to security forces

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti on Wednesday asked security forces to restrain themselves from using pellet guns and differentiate between stone-pelters/militants and their families, while noting that force was used to deal with law and order in the Valley during the recent unrest.”When we have to deal with such situation, we have to use force sometimes and I have no hesitation in saying this. We should all speak truth. We had to use force because we had to protect the lives and properties of all the people of Jammu and Kashmir,” she said. The chief minister was speaking at the passing-out parade of Jammu and Kashmir Police at Commando Training Centre here in south Kashmir’s Pulwama district.Mehbooba said if force was not used, losses would have been more.
ALSO READ J&K govt to pay Rs 4 lakh ex-gratia to Burhan Wani’s kin for his brother’s death”If we had not done so, there could have been more killings, more losses. But now, our endeavour should be to see towards those people who were confined to their homes because of the situation, strikes and curfew and what they have gone through in these six months,” she said. The chief minister said now that the situation has improved and the time has come to “change our ways”. “But now I think that when the situation has improved, the time has come to heal the wounds of the people. Now, we have to change our ways. We have to differentiate between the situation as of today and what was four months back. We will have to give special focus to the youth,” she said.She said security forces have to differentiate between offenders like militants and stone-pelters and their families. “We cannot weigh every youth by the same scale, we cannot see every youth with suspicious eyes, then the situation will not improve. We have to differentiate between militants and their families. We have to differentiate militants from their parents, siblings and children and we cannot weigh them by the same scale.”If any youth is a habitual stone-pelter, we will have to differentiate between him and his family. You have to differentiate between an elder person involved in such activities and a student and see how to tackle them,” she said.Mehbooba asked the security forces to exercise restrain while dealing with law and order situations.”I hope that you will not deject me because I want J-K to prosper again, where guns or pellet guns are not used. I hope that police and security forces try to not use pellet guns. If there is an attack on your camp or police station, then I understand, but if someone throws stones at you, you should try to restrain yourselves till we find an alternative to pellet guns and ban them completely,” she said.As many as 86 people, including two policemen, have been killed and several thousand others injured in the ongoing unrest in the Valley that began on July 9, a day after Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani was killed in an encounter with security forces. Around 5000 security forces personnel have also been injured in the clashes. The chief minister said reconciliation was the only way forward in Jammu and Kashmir. “I am of the belief that there is no way forward in J-K other than reconciliation. PSA and AFSPA are temporary and I want you to help me, our government, in creating such an atmosphere in J-K where a time will come when PSA is used only against criminals, drug addicts and smugglers and not against 40-year-old or 80-year-old or 19-year-old or students. “No one from outside can help us in doing that. We have to help ourselves and in that, the role of police is very important,” she said.”We had army and security forces here before as well, but when militancy erupted here, AFSPA had to be imposed. Now, we all have to try together to create such an atmosphere where such laws like AFSPA, PSA or other hard measures are gradually revoked. I or my ministers cannot do this alone, after the role of people of J-K, your role is very important for that,” she said. Praising Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his decisions like paying a visit to Lahore and demonetization, Mehbooba said no other prime minister would have taken such decisions.”I am hopeful that you will help me in creating such an atmosphere in J-K where there is reconciliation and dialogue. I want to make it clear that the current PM has guts to visit Lahore and he did it despite criticism but unfortunately Pathankot (attack) happened. “It is this PM who took such a huge decision of demonetization, knowing that people will face hardships and will be angry for some time. I do not think any other PM would have taken such decisions,” she said.The chief minister said once peace is established in the state, it can act as a bridge of peace between India and Pakistan. “If you all help us in creating peace in J-K, then I assure you – the people of J-K – that the way our PM went to Lahore by keeping everything else on the side and offered a hand of friendship, and when there was unrest, he sent a (all-party) delegation from Delhi to listen to people, understand and talk, so if we can create a better situation, then we can create conditions for dialogue with everyone not only in J-K, but we can act as a bridge of peace between India and Pakistan (as well),” she said.

Kashmir: Mehbooba Mufti asks security forces to refrain from using pellet guns

Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti on Wednesday asked security forces to restrain themselves from using pellet guns and differentiate between stone-pelters/militants and their families, while noting that force was used to deal with law and order in the Valley during the recent unrest.

“When we have to deal with such situation, we have to use force sometimes and I have no hesitation in saying this. We should all speak truth. We had to use force because we had to protect the lives and properties of all the people of Jammu and Kashmir,” she said.

The chief minister was speaking at the passing-out parade of Jammu and Kashmir Police at Commando Training Centre in Lethpora in south Kashmir’s Pulwama district.

Mehbooba said if force was not used, losses would have been more.

“If we had not done so, there could have been more killings, more losses. But now, our endeavour should be to see towards those people who were confined to their homes because of the situation, strikes and curfew and what they have gone through in these six months,” she said.

The chief minister said now that the situation has improved and the time has come to “change our ways”.

“But now I think that when the situation has improved, the time has come to heal the wounds of the people. Now, we have to change our ways. We have to differentiate between the situation as of on Wednesday and what was four months back. We will have to give special focus to the youth,” she said.

She said security forces have to differentiate between offenders like militants and stone-pelters and their families.

File photo of Mehbooba Mufti. PTI

File photo of Mehbooba Mufti. PTI

“We cannot weigh every youth by the same scale, we cannot see every youth with suspicious eyes, then the situation will not improve. We have to differentiate between militants and their families. We have to differentiate militants from their parents, siblings and children and we cannot weigh them by the same scale.

“If any youth is a habitual stone-pelter, we will have to differentiate between him and his family. You have to differentiate between an elder person involved in such activities and a student and see how to tackle them,” she said.

Mehbooba asked the security forces to exercise restrain while dealing with law and order situations.

“I hope that you will not deject me because I want J-K to prosper again, where guns or pellet guns are not used. I hope that police and security forces try to not use pellet guns. If there is an attack on your camp or police station, then I understand, but if someone throws stones at you, you should try to restrain yourselves till we find an alternative to pellet guns and ban them completely,” she said.

As many as 86 people, including two policemen, have been killed and several thousand others injured in the ongoing unrest in the Valley that began on 9 July, a day after Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani was killed in an encounter with security forces.

Around 5000 security forces personnel have also been injured in the clashes.

The chief minister said reconciliation was the only way forward in Jammu and Kashmir.

“I am of the belief that there is no way forward in J-K other than reconciliation. PSA and Afspa are temporary and I want you to help me, our government, in creating such an atmosphere in J-K where a time will come when PSA is used only against criminals, drug addicts and smugglers and not against 40-year-old or 80-year-old or 19-year-old or students.

“No one from outside can help us in doing that. We have to help ourselves and in that, the role of police is very important,” she said.

“We had army and security forces here before as well, but when militancy erupted here, Afspa had to be imposed. Now, we all have to try together to create such an atmosphere where such laws like Afspa, PSA or other hard measures are gradually revoked. I or my ministers cannot do this alone, after the role of people of J-K, your role is very important for that,” she said.

Praising Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his decisions like paying a visit to Lahore and demonetisation, Mehbooba said no other prime minister would have taken such decisions.

“I am hopeful that you will help me in creating such an atmosphere in J-K where there is reconciliation and dialogue. I want to make it clear that the current PM has guts to visit Lahore and he did it despite criticism but unfortunately Pathankot (attack) happened.

“It is this PM who took such a huge decision of demonetisation, knowing that people will face hardships and will be angry for some time. I do not think any other PM would have taken such decisions,” she said.

The chief minister said once peace is established in the state, it can act as a bridge of peace between India and Pakistan.

“If you all help us in creating peace in J-K, then I assure you, the people of J-K, that the way our PM went to Lahore by keeping everything else on the side and offered a hand of friendship, and when there was unrest, he sent a (all-party) delegation from Delhi to listen to people, understand and talk, so if we can create a better situation, then we can create conditions for dialogue with everyone not
only in J-K, but we can act as a bridge of peace between India and Pakistan (as well),” she said.

First Published On : Dec 14, 2016 17:08 IST

Jammu and Kashmir: Top LeT commander Abu Bakr killed in encounter by security forces

Srinagar: A militant was killed on Wednesday in an encounter with security forces in Anantnag district while another ultra was trapped in a cordon in Sopore area of north Kashmir, police said here.

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

Militants opened fire on a patrol party of army at Beewra in Srigufwara area of Anantnag district this morning, a police official said. He said the army personnel retaliated, triggering a gunbattle.

ANI reported that top Lashkar-e-Taiba commander Abu Bakr has been killed in Sopore district in Jammu and Kashmir by security forces.

One militant, identified as Basit Ahmad Dar, was killed in the encounter. Dar had recently joined Hizbul Mujahideen militant outfit.

In another counter-insurgency operation, a militant –believed to be a foreigner — was trapped in a house in Bomai area of Sopore in north Kashmir’s Baramulla district, the official said.

He said further details of the incident were awaited.

First Published On : Dec 14, 2016 15:17 IST

Burhan Wani ex-gratia: Ashoke Pandit slams J-K govt, seeks PM Modi’s intervention

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Upping the ante on the Mehbooba Mufti government for announcing an ex-gratia payment to Burhan Wani’s brother Khalid Wani, social activist Ashoke Pandit on Wednesday sought Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s intervention into the matter.”I as a citizen of this country make an appeal to our Prime Minister that he should intervene in this matter and see to it that this mistake is rectified, because the signal which we are giving to the neighbouring country is to send your terrorist and we will take care of them?,” he said here adding that the decision is dangerous step.The Mehbooba Mufti government had earlier on Tuesday sanctioned ex-gratia compensation to slain terrorist Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani’s father in the case of killing of his other son, Khalid Wani.”Compensation to a family of a terrorist, who has killed people and raped women and who has been busy with anti-national activities, nothing can be sad and dark than this. I am amazed and shocked that what the family of a security forces must be feeling. Probably we have made a mistake by not picking up the guns. If terrorist is being given compensation then I think things are going on very wrong track,” he said.Questioning the motive behind state government’s decision, he further said, “We should not be shocked the way things are going. Tomorrow the next compensation will be given to Hafiz Saeed, Yakub Memon family. This hypocrisy and entire mindset of state government is absolutely questionable.”According to a notification issued on Monday by the deputy commissioner of Pulwama, ex-gratia relief under rules were cleared by the district-level screening-cum-consultative committee (DLSCC) in favour of next of kin of those persons who died in militancy-related incidents.As per report, the ex-gratia relief entitles a victim’s family to a payment of Rs four lakh or employment for a member of the family.Burhan had left home at the age of 15 in October 2010 to join the Hizbul Mujahideen, while his brother Khalid lived in Tral in Pulwama with his family.Twenty five-year-old Khalid was pursuing a Masters in political science from IGNOU, reportedly told his mother on the afternoon of April 13, 2015 that he was going for a picnic. However, his body was found in the nearby jungle hours later.

Former Pak army man arrested on the International Border in Jammu

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Pakistan has been exposed again after Border Security Force (BSF) arrested 65-year-old former Pakistan army man when he was trying to infiltrate into Jammu and Kashmir from the International Border (IB) in Ramgarh sector of Samba district in Jammu division.Mohammad Baksh hailing from Village Gandiya of Sialkot was arrested on Monday night when he was attempted to sneak in under the cover of dense fog and thick sarkanda (elephant grass) growth.Two Pakistani 500 rupee currency notes, two identity cards, one small knife and one paper with “CMA Lahore Cantt” written on it with pen was recovered from his possession.”It would be relevant to mention here that the Pakistani agencies are making desperate and regular attempts to infiltrate militants/intruders with ill intentions inside Indian territory in order to execute their nefarious designs,” said a BSF spokesman.Giving further details, the spokesman said suspected movement of four to five persons was noticed inside Pakistan territory close to the International Boundary on Monday night.”The vigilant BSF troops kept their movement under close observation despite poor visibility in the area. In order to have a better observation of the area, BSF troops fired Para Illuminating Bombs; the suspected persons retreated back towards Pakistan territory”, he said.However after some time, movement of another suspected person was again spotted by the alert sentries close to the International Boundary at about 50 meters ahead of fence.”The alert BSF jawan challenged the intruder but he kept on moving without any heed. A few precautionary rounds were fired in his direction. However, the intruder escaped unhurt due to the undulating ground in the area. After that, the entire area was kept under strict vigil. Subsequently, the intruder again showed up at some distance and was apprehended by BSF party ahead of fence,” he said.On preliminary questioning, Baksh revealed his name and mentioned that he has served in Pakistan Army and is now a pensioner.Inspector General of BSF, Jammu Frontier, DK Upadhyay told DNA that generally old people work as guides for infiltrators and when they are caught they pretend to be insane.”He could have been guide or he might have to be sent to see whether BSF is vigilant or not or to do recci of some route where from people could be infiltrated. His interrogation is still on,” he saidLast time on September 23, Border Security Force (BSF) arrested a top Lashkar-e-Taiba commander when he was trying to infiltrate into the Indian side of IB at Pragwal sector of Akhnoor area in Jammu division. Abdul Qayum, 32, of Pul Bajuan village in Sialkot, Pakistan, was arrested when he was trying to negotiate border fence to infiltrate into Indian territory.

Cops to send car involved in Navy Nagar accident for RTO inspection for expert opinion

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In a bid to build a water-tight case against the wife of a Lance Naik who was arrested on Sunday for mowing down two children while learning driving in the Navy Nagar area, the Cuffe Parade police will rely on a report from the Regional Transport Office (RTO) to rule out any glitch in the vehicle being cited as a defence at a later stage. The couple had bought the vehicle very recently, the police said.“Normally people do tend to claim in court that some fault had occurred in the vehicle, and hence the mishap took place. We would be sending the vehicle for RTO inspection. Their expert opinion would clarify whether the vehicle had some technical glitch or not,” said Deputy Commissioner of Police, Zone I, Manoj Kumar Sharma.The RTO inspection report would later be part of the charge-sheet that would be filed against the couple in the court, police said. “We would also be recording more statement of witnesses to bolster our case,” Sharma added.According to the police, Sangeeta Rai, wife of Lance Naik Santoshkumar was practicing driving, without a drivers license,with her husband seated beside her on Sunday afternoon.“Sangeeta could not spot two brothers, Akshansh, 13, and Abhay Dhyani, 7, and instead of applying brakes, she pressed the accelerator and went on to hit the cycle on which they were riding, killing them on the spot,” said another police officer.As per the police, after the mishap, the children were rushed to INS Ashwini Hospital in Navy Nagar. “The couple first informed the defence staff about the mishap and did not make any attempts to flee. They wanted to report the matter to the police themselves,” said the officer.Meanwhile, the bodies of the two children were handed over to their family for last rites. Their father Raviprasad Dhyani was inconsolable and had fainted after he saw the bodies of his children, and had to be admitted in a hospital.Chief Defence spokesperson, Commander Rahul Sinha, said, “It is very unfortunate that such an incident took place in the restricted area of the army. A court of inquiry has been ordered for the same. The incident could have been avoided. There are driving schools within the army, if they (couple) would have used it, the environment would have been much safer for all of them. It isn’t the first incident where a learner hits the accelerator instead of the brake. ”When asked if the army would take any action on the Lance Naik who was present in the car at the time of the accident, he added, “It depends on the authorities, whether they would take any action on it.”

Suspense over new Chiefs of Army, Air Force

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> Suspense is on over who will be the next Chiefs of the Army and the Air Force as the incumbent officials will be superannuating just about three weeks later.Both the Army Chief Gen Dalbir Singh Suhag and the Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha are retiring on December 31 and the guessing game is on as to who will succeed them. Traditionally, the name of the new Chiefs are announced weeks in advance but it has not been the case this time. Even the current Navy Chief’s name was announced just 23 days before Admiral Robin Dhowan retired.Sources said one of the reasons for the delay in the announcement of the new chiefs could be that Parliament is in session which would end on December 16. The Defence Ministry has already sent the file to Prime Minister’s Office recommending three names each for the two Services. They are Eastern Army Commander Lt Gen Praveen Bakshi, Southern Army Commander Lt Gen P M Hariz and Vice Chief of the Army Lt Gen Bipin Rawat, sources said.Lt Gen Bakshi, under whose tenure the Myanmar anti- insurgency operation was carried out, is the senior most of the Commanders. Speculation is that the government may appoint someone based not on seniority alone but also experience in handling Kashmir and Pakistan, two issues which will continue to be the focus in the next two years. While Lt Gen Bakshi is from the Armoured Corps, Lt Gen Hariz is from Mechanised Infantry and Lt Gen Rawat is an outright infantry soldier.

J&K govt to pay Rs 4 lakh ex-gratia to Burhan Wani’s kin for his brother’s death

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Jammu and Kashmir government has cleared ex-gratia to next of kin of 17 persons, including Hizbul Mujahideen militant Burhan Wani’s brother, killed in militancy-related incidents in the Valley, while giving one week’s time for filing of any objection before formal orders are issued. Burhan Wani’s killing by security forces in an encounter in south Kashmir’s Kokernag area on July 8 this year triggered unrest in the Valley which has left as many as 86 people dead.According to a notification issued by Deputy Commissioner Pulwama, ex-gratia relief under rules has been cleared by the District Level Screening-cum-Consultative Committee (DLSCC) in favour of next of kin of those persons who died in militancy-related incidents.Among the 17 names in the list of persons killed in militancy-related incidents is Wani’s brother, Khalid Muzaffar Wani, who died in firing by security forces in Buchoo forest area of Tral on April 13 last year.The DLSCC meeting took place under the chairmanship of the Deputy Commissioner, Pulwama, Muneer-ul-Islam, on November 24. The deputy commissioner has sought objections, if any, to the notice within seven days before the formal orders are issued.Under the rules, an ex-gratia of Rs four lakh is sanctioned in such cases. Army had said that Khalid was an over-ground worker of Hizbul Mujahideen and was killed in an encounter. However, locals claimed that he had no links with militancy. Khalid (25) was pursuing Masters Degree in Political Science from the Indira Gandhi National Open University.Also on the list is Shabir Ahmad Mangoo, a contractual lecturer who died when he was allegedly beaten up by the army personnel at Khrew in Pulwama on August 17 this year.Locals had claimed that army conducted house to house searches for the youths, who were leading violent protests in the area, which was resisted by the residents of Khrew.In the ensuing clash, 30-year-old Mangoo died. Army had ordered an inquiry into the incident, saying such incidents would not be tolerated. “These raids were not sanctioned in the first place. It is unjustified. Nobody can support it and it will not be tolerated,” the then Northern Army Commander Lt Gen DS Hooda had said.

ISI’s new chief has an agenda: scuttle India-Afghanistan ties

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In a dramatic reshuffle, Pakistan has replaced the Director-General of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Lt Gen Rizwan Akhtar with Lt Gen Naveed Mukhtar.The implications of the new appointment remain to be seen, but one can get a glimpse of Mukhtar’s strategy and his views on the relationship between India and Afghanistan and the troubled neighbourhood, in general, from his thesis ‘Afghanistan — Alternative futures and their implications’, written at the US Army War College.In his thesis, he speaks of taking ‘aggressive measures’ to undermine India and prevent Afghanistan from becoming its proxy, and allowing the US to employ diplomatic measures between India and Pakistan to ease tensions, especially on Kashmir.Intelligence sources here say that his role in the ISI had been drafted as early as in September by the then army chief General Raheel Sharif for his expertise in counter-terrorism and also for the role he played in Karachi, where he succeeded in manoeuvring the Mohajer political outfit Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM).A fierce critic of the Pakistan army so far, the MQM was controlled from London by its exiled leader Altaf Hussain. During his former stint at the ISI and as then head of the Karachi Corps, Lt Gen Mukhtar is believed to have led secret missions against the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA).In his thesis, he speaks of taking ‘aggressive measures’ to undermine India and prevent Afghanistan from becoming its proxy, and allowing the US to employ diplomatic measures between India and Pakistan to ease tensions, especially on Kashmir.In sync with the trajectory upheld by the Pakistan military on handling the conflict-ridden Afghanistan, Mukhtar, in the thesis for his Masters in Strategic Studies, envisages the accommodation of the ‘moderate Taliban’ in the governance of the country.Mukhtar, who was elevated from his position as a corps commander in Karachi, had earlier served as the DG of the ISI’s counter-terrorism wing. His strategic mindset vis-a-vis Pakistan’s foreign policy on Afghanistan is reflected in his analyses on the future of the neighbouring country.Analysing Afghanistan’s transition when the US started withdrawing coalition forces in 2011, Mukhtar said that Pakistan needed to prevent the opening of another hostile front, should Afghanistan emerge as a proxy for India, and, to this effect, it “will closely follow India’s efforts to influence Afghanistan and may take aggressive measures to undermine India’s efforts in this regard.”India has huge stakes in the development of Afghanistan and has made major strides in the reconstruction of public infrastructure in the war-ravaged country through visible symbols like the new parliament building, Salma friendship dam, Afghan National Agriculture Science & Technology University, Kandahar, and many other projects in the health, power and education sectors.Its close alliance with Afghanistan in the civil-military sphere has made India a target of Taliban. Pakistan, too, views India as working against its interest in Afghanistan. Mukhtar presents four plausible future scenarios for Afghanistan, all of which include a positive outcome: accommodation of moderate Taliban factions as part of the governance structure.”Although India’s uncompromising anti-Taliban position has recently softened, India could still move to be a major destabilising force if it perceives that a return of a radicalised Taliban government is likely,” he writes.While acknowledging the indisputable power and role of the US in bringing long-term stability in Afghanistan, along with regional stakeholders, Mukhtar emphasises: “The US must employ major diplomatic measures to ease regional tensions, especially between India and Pakistan, with a focus on Kashmir.”

Demonetisation in Kashmir: Why the state experienced no mayhem at banks, ATMs

If there is one place in the country where demonetisation had little to no effect, it is in Kashmir. Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes ceased to be legal tender in the wake of the announcement by Prime Minister Narendra Modi — as part of an effort ‘to weed out black money from the economy’. And while the rest of country is grappling with the cash crunch with serpentine queues outside ATMs, such mayhem has not been witnessed in Kashmir.

Experts say that although the ongoing unrest is partially responsible for this phenomenon, there are other factors that have contributed to demonetisation having a limited effect in the state. When the armed insurgency erupted in the Valley in the early 1990s, there were widespread allegations of money being looted by forces as well as militants from the homes of people, said noted businessman and economist, Shakeel Qalender.

“Rather then keeping money in their homes during the turmoil, it became a habit for people to deposit it in banks,” Qalender said.

Although in the three initial days of demonetisation, a mild rush was witnessed in banks across the Valley and in Jammu, the Jammu and Kashmir Bank was quick to issue a notification, asking officials to deal in available cash for the time being, something to which they happily agreed.

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

“All employees are being credited salaries online and new schemes like NREGA and others also credit money into people’s accounts. Contractors get their money deposited into their accounts through online mechanisms. Most people in Jammu and Kashmir have banks accounts,” Qalender said.

Jammu and Kashmir has a working force of an estimated 42.5 lakh (out of the total population of 1.34 crore); a third of this is associated with agrarian activities while the rest is in the public and private sector. The state has around 2,000 bank branches which means one bank branch for every 6,500 people. In the first few days after the demonetisation announcement, one branch was dealing with at least 2,000 customers, besides having post offices and other financial institutions. Nearly 1,200 branches are operated by the Jammu and Kashmir Bank and the rest by other public and private sector banks. A majority of the state’s banking business — at least 65 percent — is conducted by the Jammu and Kashmir Bank while another 10 to 20 percent is with other public sector banks.

Outside the state, many people, including Union Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, had said that because of demonetisation, stone-throwing incidents in Kashmir had reduced. Government figures and the measures taken to control the protests suggest otherwise. “But,” said Irshad Ahmad, a PhD student of economics at Kashmir University, “The number of stone-pelting incidents came down drastically in September, not due to demonetisation, but following a general pattern of weariness and the crackdown on protesters.”

In fact, the data released by the government shows that there was a general declining trend in the incidents of stone-pelting in Kashmir following the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani. In July, when Burhan was killed, the Valley witnessed 820 incidents of stone-pelting incidents which came down to 747 in August.

In September, the incidents further reduced to 535. From September to October, the number of stone pelting incidents decreased from 535 to 157, witnessing a 41.53 percent fall. Today, there has been an overall decrease of 87 percent in such incidents since July.

Former member of the board of directors, Jammu and Kashmir Bank, and noted economist, Professor Nisar Ali said the state’s economic activity in terms of routine transactions had been put on hold for several months due to the ongoing unrest. He said consumers had deferred their expenditure because shops were not open and choices were not available.

“Black money has already been converted into assets here. First, it is the land that is why land prices in Kashmir are higher than in Mumbai. Most of the black money got into the hands of the land mafia. The second is the real estate and the third is gold. So the liquidity with a black money-holder wasn’t enough to generate panic,” Ali said.

The ongoing conflict in the Valley is the reason that people with black money were able to evade the law for decades. Although in recent years, tax collection has significantly increased in the state, during earlier years, a majority avoided paying taxes.

During the 2015-16 Financial Year, the Commercial Taxes Department’s collections alone stood at Rs 5,515.96 crore. Ali, however, is not impressed. “How may times have I-T people carried out raids here? Not a single instance in the past two decades. The function of such organisations is literally zero here”.

“Now the money, which you keep at your home as a safety cushion, has been spent because of the five months of unrest. The money ended and it circulated from retailers to wholesalers and distributors. It went into the banks much before demonetisation forcibly brought it there,” Ali said.

First Published On : Dec 8, 2016 08:54 IST

Two Navy men killed, 14 hurt as INS Betwa tips over during undocking

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Two Navy personnel were killed and 14 others injured when INS Betwa, a guided missile frigate, tipped over during undocking at Naval Dockyard in Mumbai on Monday.”At about 1.50 pm, INS Betwa was in the process of undocking in Naval Dockyard, Mumbai, when she slipped from her dock blocks and tilted,” said Navy spokesperson Commander Rahul Sinha.”The incident occurred during undocking evolution wherein it is suspected that dock blocks mechanism failed,” said Navy spokesperson Captain DK Sharma.According to sources, the Brahmaputra-class warship has suffered massive damage as it has fallen on the port (left) side thereby not only damaging the warship’s body but also the radar systems installed on top of the bridge. But, the exact extent of damage is yet to be ascertained.Immediately after the incident, search operation had to be launched to locate two missing sailors who were on the vessel at the time of the incident. While one of them fell into the waters, the other was inside the ship. Both—mechanical engineers Neeraj K Rai and Ashutosh Pandey—succumbed to injuries. A board of inquiry was ordered immediately and technical evaluation was being made to bring back the ship in upright position.Only after ascertaining the extent of damage, a decision on whether the ship can be repaired or will have to be decommissioned can be taken.Later on Monday evening, Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Lanba left from Delhi for Mumbai to take a stock of the situation.Those in the know-how of the ship maintenance are of the opinion that naval ships are narrower as compared to merchant vessels. Warships are designed to be top heavy by design due to the structure and installations on it as compared to merchant vessels that have wider hull or base and lesser tools above. Therefore, it makes it all the more challenging process to undock or refloat the ship and is considered as most risky affair.Incidentally, this isn’t the first accident pertaining to INS Betwa. In January 2014, it had ran aground after colliding with an unidentifiable object while approaching Mumbai naval base. Due to the impact, the sonar system got cracked, leading to faulty readings and ingress of saltwater into sensitive equipment.Named after the river Betwa, the frigate has been in service for over 12 years. This 3,850-tonne ship was indigenously designed and built with the capability to operate at extended ranges, with speeds up to 30 knots. Its system includes anti-ship missiles, surface-to-air missiles and torpedoes. As it was under refit and repairs, the vessel wasn’t loaded with weapons and missiles.Monday’s accident is the fifth for the Indian Navy this year, the earlier four—involving INS Viraat (in March), INS Nireekshak (April), INS Vikramaditya (June) and INS Dega (August)—had killed three Navy personnel and left eight injured.In the past, incidents that have been either more serious or of similar magnitude include that of fire, explosion and submergence of submarine INS Sindhurakshak (August 2010), sinking of INS Vindhyagiri (January 2011), fire on board INS Sindhuratna (February 2014), among others.

J&K: Separatists placed under house arrest, life partially affected

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Normal life was partially affected in Kashmir on Monday due to a strike called by separatists even as authorities placed Hurriyat Conference leaders Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq under house arrest to foil their plans of holding a march to Lal Chowk city centre.”Geelani and the Mirwaiz have been placed under house arrest as a precautionary measure to maintain law and order,” a police official said.The separatist groups had called for a march to Lal Chowk today to protest civilian deaths during the unrest in the Valley that began on July 9, a day after Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani was killed in an encounter with security forces.The authorities have sealed off Clock Tower and surrounding areas in Lal Chowk to prevent the separatists from assembling there.Shops and other business establishments remained closed due to the strike call but transport — both public and private — was plying in many parts of the city.Schools and government offices are closed today due to public holiday to mark the 111th birth anniversary of former chief minister and founder of opposition National Conference Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah.Reports of shutdown were received from other districts and towns of the Valley but the situation so far is peaceful, the official said.The unrest in the Valley has left 86 people dead and thousands others, including 5,000 security personnel, injured.

Kashmir unrest: In novel move, cops carry out counselling session with young stone-pelters

On a cold Friday morning last week, a group of around 200 young boys and their parents huddled in a large hall with wooden interiors in north Kashmir’s Baramulla district. As anxious fathers spoke in whispers with their sons, their sense of dread was unmistakable.

Over the last five months of civilian unrest, the Jammu and Kashmir Police has filed more than 2,400 cases against stone-pelters, some of whom were sitting in Baramulla’s Dak Banglow. It was not a usual affair, though.

Along one side of the hall, a group of police officers sat on large sofas, facing the gathering. Imtiaz Hussain, a broad shouldered man in his early forties wearing a khaki jacket and pointed shoes, took centre-stage, laying out the reason behind the ‘counselling session’ to the boys who have been arrested and let off by the police recently.

The counselling session held by the Baramulla Police. Firstpost/Sameer Yasir

The counselling session held by the Baramulla Police. Firstpost/Sameer Yasir

“We want to understand you and let you understand us,” Hussain, the senior superintendent of the Baramulla Police, told the gathering, without mincing words. The meeting that was attended by presidents of mohalla committees, also had in attendance some minors caught pelting stones.

“Apart from the rhetorical underpinnings, at the end of this, you have to understand that these five months have brought nothing but misery and destruction,” Hussain continued.

This is the first time during the ongoing phase of turmoil that the Jammu and Kashmir Police has organised a counselling session for the youth who, according to police, have been involved in “violent activities” as the streets of Kashmir were filled with rage following the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani.

However, the occurrence of the meeting is not a mere coincidence. In the Kashmir Valley these days, a meeting between police and stone-pelters starts and ends in chaos on the streets. But inside the hall, an eerie clam prevailed as Hussain addressed the young boys who allegedly participated in stone-pelting during these months of unrest.

“You are our own children. Your future is in your hands. You have to differentiate between good and bad. We can only show you the path. But you have to chose for yourself,” he said.

The atmosphere inside the hall was emotive but, in reality, the five months of unrest on the streets and an abject failure to address the rage on the streets politically has pushed the younger generation of Kashmir towards the extreme end which is fraught with dangerous consequences.

“But everyone does not understand this anxiety and psychological conundrum,” Dr Arshad Hussain, a psychiatrist based in Srinagar, told Firstpost. “There is a sense of defeat. The counselling is a must.”

Inside the hall, a young boy stood up, telling the police officers that there should be some kind of relaxation in the cases filed against them. “If someone has eight cases, why don’t you show some
kind of relaxation so that they can get bail and lead a normal life?” the boy asked.

Then the interaction turned towards the heavy-handedness of the government forces. Some residents alleged that when the police, accompanied by CRPF and the army, come to arrest stone-pelters, they go on a prowl in the particular locality by breaking windowpanes of houses and assaulting those who protest such actions.

During the ongoing unrest which started on 8 July, the police in Kashmir has arrested more than 7,800 people of whom around 350 have been booked under the draconian Public Safety Act. But reports say 5,500 of them have been let off on the promise of good behaviour.

Apart from human intelligence, police has been using videos and CCTV footage which strengthens the cases against protesters. But the cops are aware that very few youths who have come for counselling will leave the path of stone-pelting and whenever tensions rise and protests break out, they will again throw stones.

“We have tried to explain to the students to concentrate on their studies and their careers rather than indulging in stone-pelting. We are doing our best to wean them away from violence. But they have to understand that they will get nothing out of the violence and there are people who try to push them into chaos for their own benefit,” Hussain told Firstpost.

In the absence of any political outreach from the leadership in New Delhi, it is highly unlikely that the counselling sessions will have their desired results, although they may succeed in breaking the communication barrier between the two warring sides.

“This (counselling sessions) also signifies a change in the situation. The police and other security forces have worked together to get Kashmir to this level. We have to understand that we are getting nothing out of this violence. Our education is suffering and those who are pushing the children of poor to adopt violence should be told: For God’s sake, let us live peacefully,” Hussain added.

First Published On : Dec 5, 2016 10:02 IST

Kashmir unrest: Private schools remain open on weekends after shutdown

Srinagar: With educational activities in Kashmir picking up after remaining suspended for over four months due to the unrest, private schools in the valley are following separatist-issued ‘protest calendar’ by remaining open only during the relaxation period over the weekend.

Students are happy to resume their class-work, which was affected by the continuous shutdown following the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani in an encounter with security forces on 8 July. The schools went on a two-week summer holiday on 1 July but could not resume functioning due to the unrest.

The separatists, spearheading the agitation since Wani’s killing, have been issuing weekly protest programmes against the civilian killings in the unrest and in support of their demand for right to self-determination. They have also announced periodic 15-hour relaxation in the strike on few days of the week, with two full days of relaxation on Saturdays and Sundays.

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

Since the 16 November announcement of weekend relaxation by the separatists, private schools in the valley decided to resume class-work on these two days, as education in Kashmir was hit hard by the unrest, with schools and colleges, including government-run institutions, remaining closed for over four months with no or minimal activity.

“It feels good to be back at school. I was getting tired sitting idle at home without any class-work or studies. It has affected us but we should remain focused now,” Zia-ul-Islam, a student at a private school, said.

Kashmir remains abuzz with activity on the weekends as shops, business establishments and fuel stations open in the early hours while public transport plies on all roads from the morning on these two days. Most of the private educational institutions have also been functioning over the weekend since the announcement of relaxation in the strike, though government-run schools have not followed the separatists’ announcements.

Private Schools Association of Kashmir (PSAK) has asked the schools to ensure 100 percent attendance of students and teachers during the relaxation period.

“Students are going through a hard phase. We have decided to help them in every possible way. Our entire staff will work overtime during the relaxation period to help the students,” PSAK chairman GN Var said. He said the association would ensure that schools remain open on Saturdays as well as Sundays.

There is no hesitation among the parents as well to send their children to schools on the weekend. “As the schools remain open only on weekends, I do not see any reason not to send my children to their schools.
Saturday and Sunday are full relaxation days. Public transport remains available, private cars can ply without any fear of stone-pelting, so students can reach their school without any hassles,” Javaid Ahmad, a resident of old city, said.

“There are still some problems in sending children to schools on weekdays. There is no transport, less activity in markets, chances of tension on the roads, so as a parent, I hesitate in sending my children to school on non-relaxation days,” he added.

However, government-run schools do not follow the separatist announcements. While teachers remain present in their respective schools on the weekdays, students do not attend the institutions.

The government-run schools are closed on Sundays.

The educational activity in the valley is limping back to normal after the government started conducting the annual board examinations.

The examinations for Std 12 began on 14 November, while those of Std 10 started a day later. Till then, since 1 July, there was no education-related activity in the valley schools.

As many as 86 people, including two cops, have been killed and several thousand others injured in the clashes between protesters and security forces in the valley in the unrest triggered by Wani’s killing. Around 5,000 security forces personnel have also been injured in those clashes.

First Published On : Dec 4, 2016 15:58 IST

Kashmir police turn counsellors, advice youth against stone pelting

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In an effort to curb incidents of stone pelting, police in Jammu and Kashmir’s Baramulla district are conducting counselling sessions with the pelters to guide them on ways to lead better lives.More than 200 stone pelters participated in these counselling sessions recently and were asked to refrain from indulging in protests and to stay away from pelting.”We have tried to explain to the students to concentrate on their studies and their careers rather than indulging in stone pelting incidents,” Mir Imtiaz, Senior Superintendent of Police, told ANI.The pelters were asked to get into constructive work that would be beneficial to society.Stone pelting, known locally as ‘Kanie Jung’, has become a tool of resistance in the hands of young boys who take to the streets to express their anger at the Indian state.The need to rehabilitate stone pelters can be attributed to the spate of stone pelting incident that took place post the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen Commander Burhan Wani, who was gunned down in southern Kashmir on July 8 by the security forces.Reportedly, Kashmir has so far witnessed more than 2,347 incidents of stones pelting at security forces, across all ten districts.

Cops bust Hizbul leader’s video-production facility

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The war on terror notched a major win on Friday when security forces busted a studio-cum-communication centre of Hizbul Mujahideen commander and Burhan Wani’s successor Zakir Rashid Bhat in Tral area of south Kashmir’s Pulwama district.The studio was busted a day after Zakir released a video threatening to target the families of the cops in case the family members of militants are harassed by the security forces in the valley.Sporting a short trimmed beard, Zakir, an engineering drop out, is seen in the video wearing a t-shirt with olive green camouflage waste-coat and trouser in a room covered with curtains. Holding a rifle in his lap, Zakir is seen armed to the teeth with four automatic rifles resting on both sides and a machine gun in front of him.Police said a joint team of cops and 42 Rashtriya Rifles raided the house of Mudasir Ahmed Gunoo at Batipora Dadsara village. They found material and articles used by Zakir for shooting videos.“During preliminary investigation it was also established that Zakir used to record videos in one of the room of the house. Some clothes and other material used by Zakir in different videos and photographs were also recovered,” said a police spokesman.Police sources said the house was converted into a hideout-cum-studio by Zakir. They also said Zakir used different settings for different videos, that he published on social media platforms, to create an impression that they are operating at will.Sources said he had also created a wardrobe of fancy battle fatigues and camouflages which were donned by him for shooting videos.Since the death of Hizbul Mujahideen Commander Burhan Wani, Zakir has released three videos in the valley akin to his former boss Burhan Wani who was known for using social media to reach out to the people.

After video surfaces, forces launch hunt to nab Hizbul Mujahideen commander

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Soon after two new videos of Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) commander Zakir Rashid went viral, security forces launched a manhunt to nab him and tracked one of his hideouts in South Kashmir’s Pulwama district where the clip was believed to have been shot.Security forces are “inching closer to him through our informer network,” police officials said about Zakir, who has purportedly claimed in the two-minute video that his outfit had got hold of the database of all “informers” working with the agencies.Launching a manhunt, security forces conducted an “intelligence-based operation” in Batipora Dadsara village of Tral in the district and “busted” the “studio hideout” where the video was believed to have been filmed, they said. Some clothes and other material used by Zakir alias Moosa and other militants in different videos and photographs were recovered from the house which was raided by the security forces, the officials said. “We identified the room and other things that appear in HM commander’s videos and photos. He may have been using one of the rooms of the said house as a studio, where he used to record his videos,” the officials said.The house owner is absconding and a case has been registered, they said, adding investigation has been taken up and “strict action will be taken against all over-ground workers and harbourers of militants in the future as well.” In the video which is in circulation on social media in Kashmir, a man, who cannot be seen but has a voice-over, claims to be Zakir and is heard saying that the militant outfit has gained access to ‘database’ of “informers” of security forces. However, the claim was disputed by the police.Another video was also doing the rounds on social media, showing Zakir holding a rifle and donning army fatigue. In the video, he is seen issuing threats to policemen while speaking in Urdu. Zakir had taken over the militant outfit in the Valley after his predecessor Burhan Wani was killed in an encounter with security forces in July this year.

Army rebuts Mamata Banerjee charges, says exercise done with Bengal police

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Army strongly rebutted Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s allegations that its personnel were deployed at toll plazas without informing the state government and were collecting money, saying the exercise was being carried out in coordination with Kolkata Police.”This is being done in coordination with local police authorities. The exercise was earlier planned for November 27 and 28. The dates were changed to November 30 to December 2 on a specific request by Kolkata Police due to Bharat Bandh called on November 28,” said GOC Bengal area (officiating) Major Gen Sunil Yadav.However, the TMC in the Rajya Sabha accused that it was being misled by MoS Defence Subhash Bhamre and says that no conclusive answer was being given by the Centre on army deployment.Reacting to the Chief Minister’s allegations he said, “We deny all charges with all contempt. Allegations of collection of money by Army personnel are also totally baseless,” the officiating GOC Bengal Area said. Mamata had yesterday alleged that the army had been deployed without informing the state government. “This is unprecedented and a very serious matter”, she had said.She had also claimed that the army personnel were collecting money from vehicles, which they were not supposed to. Maj Gen Yadav said a similar exercise in Eastern Command was carried out in November 2015 at the same places. The Major Gen said that a recce was conducted with two inspectors of the Kolkata Police at toll plaza on November 27 last. “The issues raised by the police were addressed and were telephonically informed to the police,” he said.The exercise will continue as planned earlier and will end tonight, he said.The Army also released letters written to the state government on the exercise. “It is happening in nine states now across 80 locations,” he said. “We have our specific targets for data collection. After doing the work for 36 hours our work was done and we had left the toll plaza near Nabanna,” he said.Yesterday a defence spokesperson had said that the Army conducts biennial exercise throughout the country with the aim of getting statistical data about the load carriers that could be made available to the army in case of a contingency. “There is nothing alarming about this and it is carried out as per government orders”, Wing Commander SS Birdi had said.The exercise gives an estimate about the number of vehicles passing through a certain area that could be tapped during operations, he had said.

Mamata vs army: CM stays at secretariat overnight, TMC to raise issue in Parliament

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee continued to stay put at the state secretariat on Friday protesting against army presence at toll plazas in several parts of the state and asked whether it was an “army coup”. Army personnel, however, had left the toll plaza near the secretariat on Thursday night.Speaking to reporters late Thursday night at ‘Nabanna’, the state secretariat, she said, “I will stay at the secretariat to guard our democracy”. “Is this a military coup,” she asked.She said that army personnel were there in different districts like Murshidabad, Jalpaiguri, Darjeeling, North 24 Paragans, Burdwan, Howrah, Hooghly etc. “The army is deployed without informing the state government. This is unprecedented and a very serious matter”, she had said.The TMC leadership has decided to raise the issue in both the houses of Parliament and also inform President Pranab Mukherjee about the incident. “We are talking to all political parties. We are planning to raise the issue in Parliament today. Lets see,” TMC national spokesperson Derek O’ Brien told PTI.A senior TMC leader on condition of anonymity said, “We are planning to meet President Pranab Mukherjee and inform him about the incident. The entire country should know, how BJP is engaged in vindictive politics,”.The senior TMC leader said they have spoken to Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad and discussed how to counter this issue jointly. Senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel had called up Banerjee in the morning and inquired about the incident.BJP’s Siddharth Nath Singh responded to Mamata’s allegations saying, “Jo paisa unhone (WB CM) gavaaya hai, usse sadma unhe hua hai, uske baad wo apne maansik santulan mein nahin hain (She’s in mental distress about losing money). First WB CM had apprehensions about flight being low on fuel, then she related a regular army exercise to a coup.”A defence spokesperson had said that the army conducts bi-annual exercise throughout the country with an aim of getting statistical data about the load carriers that could be made available to the army in case of a contingency. “There is nothing alarming about this and it is carried out as per government orders”, Wing Commander SS Birdi had said. The Army had said they were conducting routine exercise with full knowledge and coordination with West Bengal Police.Derek O’Brien, however, said the army claim that the exercises were conducted in coordination with police was “incorrect”. “All respect for army, but must set record straight 1) Data is already available 2. Cannot do vehicle check, not authorized to do so. Saying exercise by @easterncomd was coordinated with police is absolutely incorrect. Also, troops were moved into districts even after midnight. Bengal CM kept watch from Secretariat overnight. She is still there,” Brien said on twitter.

‘This is a military coup’: Mamata protests army deployment in state

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>After a high drama over “deployment of army” at certain toll plazas in West Bengal, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee decided to stay put at the state secretariat ‘Nabanna’ on Thursday night, even after the force was removed from a toll plaza near it as per her demand. “I am the custodian of common people. So I can’t leave them insecured. I will stay put here for the whole night and observe the situation,” Banerjee told reporters at around 1.30 AM.About her demand that she would leave the office only when Armymen were removed from the second Hooghly bridge toll plaza near Nabanna, she said, “These people may have gone. But they are there in 18 other districts.” TMC will raise the issue in both the houses of the Parliament on Friday.BJP’s Siddharth Nath Singh responded to Mamata’s allegations saying, “Jo paisa unhone (WB CM) gavaaya hai, usse sadma unhe hua hai, uske baad wo apne maansik santulan mein nahin hain (She’s in mental distress about losing money). First WB CM had apprehensions about flight being low on fuel, then she related a regular army exercise to a coup.”Accusing the Centre of deploying the Army at toll plazas in West Bengal without informing the state government, Banerjee had refused to leave the office till the Armymen were withdrawn from the toll plaza at second Hooghly bridge. On Friday night, Mamata said, “This is a military coup. My officials checked with Odisha, Bihar, Kerala, Chattisgarh nowhere such a thing happened. This happened only in Bengal.”The army refuted allegations of conducting exercises without the permission, while the West Bengal police said, “In almost all areas of West Bengal army has been deployed without consent of the state government.” The Army said they were conducting routine exercise with full knowledge and coordination with West Bengal police. “Army conducting routine exercise with full knowledge & coord with WB Police. Speculation of army taking over toll plaza incorrect,” the Eastern command said on Twitter. “Routine exercise in all NE states. In [email protected] places, [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], Tripura & [email protected]″, it said.”The requisite data gathered and Army has been asked to withdraw from specific point, would be deployed elsewhere tomorrow,” Defence CPRO said.The Kolkata police, however, said they have raised objection to this Army exercise due to security reasons and traffic problem. “Army exercise at toll plaza was objected to in writing by Kolkata Police, citing security reasons & traffic inconvenience,” the city police said on Twitter. The drama unfolded on Thursday evening when Banerjee alleged that Army deployment was done in toll plazas without informing the state government and described it as “unprecedented” and “a very serious situation worse than Emergency”. She claimed that people got panicky due to deployment of Army at toll plazas.A Defence spokesperson said the Army conducts bi-annual exercise throughout the country with the aim to get statistical data about the load carriers that could be made available to the army in case of a contingency. “There is nothing alarming about this and it is carried out as per government orders”, Wing Commander SS Birdi said. The exercise gives an estimate about the number of vehicles passing through a certain area that could be tapped during operations, he said.The Chief Minister, however, said “The Secretariat is a sensitive zone and toll plaza is a sensitive place. Why is the Army here? Whatever reason they are giving is not correct. They are lying. They are changing their reasons from time to time. The MHA has the complete data of the vehicles moving in different states.” Banerjee said she has checked with other states but nothing such has happened in Maharashtra, Kerala, Odisha and Chattisgarh. “Why is that happening here? I fear that they can shoot. Either I will live or die but I will speak for the common people,” Banerjee said. “I do not have any problem if the Centre behaves like the central government. But they are repeatedly doing mistakes and now they are doing a blunder. It is an attack on the federal structure. We want to know the details,” she said.

Mending Asia’s heart: Tackling terror together

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Taliban are returning to Afghanistan along with refugee families which are being pushed out from the border areas of Pakistan under operation Zarb-e-Azb purportedly to fight terrorism.In 2015, Dr Abdullah Abdullah, Chief Executive of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, confirmed this to DNA.In 2016, the Afghan Analyst Network reported that these Taliban spent time in Spin Ghar range on AfPak border and formed Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP). ISIS has claimed responsibility for some of the recent lethal attacks on Afghan soil but it is unclear if ISKP is connected structurally to ISIS or is just using ISIS’s brand name. Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani told DNA last year that ISIS is already in Afghanistan and that is because the group believes a prophecy which says “the mahdi will emerge with black flags from the Khorasan”. Some Afghan watchers have a different take, like the director of the Afghan journalist centre in London Zabihullah Noori. He says “ISKP isn’t linked to ISIS but to the ISI”.In short, the arteries of the heart of Asia are facing new blockages at a faster pace than the clogged ones heal. The background is driving the current situation as it is the failure of Saarc to take off because of Pakistan’s reluctance on a collective developmental agenda.Regional visionAs India hosts the 6th ministerial conference of the ‘Heart of Asia’ summit, the question many Afghans are asking is a rather basic one — What is India’s vision for the region? Davood Moradian, the director-general of the Afghan Institute for Strategic Studies says “China’s vision is one belt one road, Russia’s is Eurasia, Pakistan’s idea is to promote terrorism. But what is India’s vision?”.Afghanistan was one of the first nations to support India when Delhi decided to opt out of the Saarcsummit that was to be held in Islamabad. India managed to diplomatically isolate Pakistan in the South Asia group but didn’t offer an impressive alternative. Sub regional groups such as BBIN and BIMSTEC were already in existence and have been facing several obstacles.Will India utilise the Heart of Asia summit to define its regional goals? Countries like Afghanistan have found India helpful but reluctant. The timing for India to come out of its shell, Moradian says, has never been better, “Pakistan is a common problem that we should deal with together”.Modi and Ghani’s peace overtures towards Pakistan have proved futile, the two are now changing their strategy and synchronising it. Moeen Marastial, a former Afghan Parliamentarian says, “Pakistan should be confronted, the region must declare it a terror state. Talking with Pakistan is not an option, Afghanistan has been talking to them for a decade and a half and gained nothing”. Delhi and Kabul though would have to make a tough decision on how much to corner Islamabad, that thankfully still enjoys an elected government. At Habib hair salon in Delhi’s posh Khan market, everyday a bunch of Afghan girls learn hair styling. Afghan restaurants are a hit and from scholarships to Afghan students or training to Afghan soldiers, India is determined to support Afghanistan. But, in the Afghan mind this makes India a well-wisher not a loyal friend. Unless India backs Kabul against its enemy Pakistan in matters like defence, Afghanistan finds it difficult to depend on Delhi. India’s former PM Dr Manmohan Singh was excessively shy as the United States feared Washington might upset “ally” Islamabad. That has now changed. The Modi government decided to give four lethal choppers to Ghani after US’s nod and recently Commander of the resolute support mission John W Nicholson has asked Delhi to help arm Afghan forces. Afghan journalist Qais Mowafaq says, “We welcome Trump’s statement on increasing cooperation with India to deal with Pakistan”. Perhaps, it’s time for an “India-Afghan Defence Treaty” which moves the cooperation from the currently ad hoc basis to a more institutionalised form. The author is a senior journalist

Nagrota terrorists were in India for a week

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Post the Nagrota attack in Jammu, where seven Army men were killed on Tuesday, an assessment carried out by intelligence agencies reveals alarming findings. Intelligence officials believe that the terrorists had not only been in Indian territory for over a week, but also had the support of freshly recruited local militants.Officials say that this was made clear by the perfectly fitting police uniforms worn by the terrorists. Also, the truck used by them and the reconnaissance mission carried out before the terror strike indicates that the three terrorists were not part of a fresh infiltration, according to a preliminary report by the Army.Intelligence sleuths are also probing if the weapons used by the terrorists were handed over to them by local aides. There has been a sharp increase in arms snatching during the local unrest in the Valley in the last four months following the killing of Hizb-ul-Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani on July 8. According to estimates, over 100 weapons have been snatched during the recent turmoil.Three terrorists were gunned down after the day-long encounter on Tuesday, in which sixteen hostages—including 12 soldiers, two women and two children were safely rescued—but seven army personnel, including two majors, lost their lives.”It appears that the terrorists have spent considerable time in Indian territory and were provided logistics and help by locals,” said an Army official.”They seemed to be well-prepared and had an idea of their target,” he added.With intelligence reports constantly indicating an increase in local recruitment following the unrest in J&K, local assistance to Pakistani terrorists has alarmed security forces. Sources said there was prior intelligence about a week back that Pakistan-based terrorists would target military establishments, especially in Jammu.According to a recent review by the Intelligence Bureau (IB), the number of locals joining the outfits could go over 150 this year. “Last year, around 80 young men joined the terror ranks but we expect this to double by the end of the year,” said a top intelligence official.The three terrorists were carrying AK-47 rifles, four under barrel grenade launchers, Japanese-made Icom radio sets, 15-16 loaded magazines, and a huge cache of medicines with Pakistani markings.While the Army has gunned down over 140 terrorists this year, there has also been a sharp increase in casualties. There have been 67 Army casualties in J&K till date this year. Out of this, 24 Army men have died in the last two months after the Army launched surgical strikes destroying terror camps across the Line of Control. In 2015, there were just 33 army casualties in J&K.On September 18, Indian Army personnel were killed in Uri after which the surgical strikes were planned. Since then there has been frequent skirmishes in the border areas with heavy shelling and firing from both sides.Following a series of attacks on defence installations, the Governor of Jammu and Kashmir, N N Vohra, on Wednesday, asked all security forces, commanders, and the government to enhance surveillance and immediately review security operations in all important installations.After being briefed about the attacks by Pakistani terrorists at Ramgarh and Nagrota on Tuesday, the Governor spoke with the Northern Army Commander Lt Gen D S Hooda, J&K DGP K Rajendra, GOC XVI Corps Lt Gen A K Sharma, GOC 26 Div Maj Gen S Sharma and IG BSF (Jammu Frontier) DK Upadhyaya.

India inks Rs 5,000 crore deal with US for 145 M777 howitzers

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> Breaking the Bofors jinx, India and the US on Wednesday inked a nearly Rs 5,000 crore deal for 145 M777 ultra-light howitzers, which will be mostly deployed near the borders with China.This is the first deal for artillery guns since the Bofors scandal in 1980s. “India has today signed the Letter of Acceptance which formalises the contract between India and US for these guns,” sources said.The deal for 145 American ultra-light howitzers, costing about Rs 5,000 crore was recently cleared by the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS). The deal was inked as a two-day meeting of the 15th India-US Military Cooperation Group (MCG) began here.India-US MCG is a forum established to progress Defence Cooperation between HQ Integrated Defence Staff and US Pacific Command at the strategic and operational levels. The meeting commenced with the US Co-Chair Lt Gen David H Berger, Commander US Marine Corps Forces, Pacific calling on Lt Gen Satish Dua, CISC, HQ IDS. The MCG meeting is co-chaired by Air Marshal AS Bhonsle DCIDS (Operations), HQ IDS.A 260-member delegation from the US Defence Forces and several officers from the three Services HQ and HQ IDS representing the Indian side are attending the bilateral event.On the issue of M777, the sources said India had sent a Letter of Request to the US government showing interest in buying the guns which will be deployed in high-altitude areas in Arunachal Pradesh and Ladakh, bordering China. The US had responded with a Letter of Acceptance (LOA) and the Defence Ministry had in June looked into the terms and conditions and approved it.The offsets, under which BAE Systems, manufacturer of the gun, will invest about USD 200 million, will be pursued independently.While 25 guns will come to India in a fly-away condition, the rest will be assembled at the proposed Assembly Integration and Test facility for the weapon system in India in partnership with Mahindra. The first two howitzers will be delivered within six months of the contract being inked, while rest will be delivered at the rate of two per month. The howitzers that can be heli-lifted were first proposed to be bought from BAE about 10 years back.

Kashmir conflict: Let’s wean back local militants, says Northern Army commander-in-chief

The outgoing commander-in-chief of the Jammu and Kashmir-based Northern Command, Lieutenant-General DS Hooda, has emphasised the need to improve processes for drawing back into society Kashmiris who had taken to arms.

“Can we do something to get the boys back? That is the concern,” he says, highlighting an aspect of counterinsurgency that most tough-talking militaristic minds tend to neglect, while focussing instead on ‘kills’ and ‘catches’. Hooda, who retires at the end of the month, is keenly aware of the importance of this concern. He and the officers and men under his command have had their hands full as a new militancy has rapidly gained ground over the past year-and-a-half, and large-scale protests and unrest have kept the Kashmir Valley on the boil through the summer and autumn.

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

Those with a less nuanced perspective might have expected him to talk of the need for battle preparations, fortifications and reinforcements. But it is a measure of how much the army brass has evolved since the ‘proxy-war’-oriented phase of the second half of the 1990s that Hooda emphasises the need to win back those Kashmiris who have at some point taken up arms.

To be sure, he has quietly gone about the core tasks of the army too; extraordinary steps have been taken since mid-September in terms of war preparedness. But Hooda has not lost sight of other priorities in what must be a multi-pronged strategy.

Local sentiment is one of the most important priorities. Each death of a local boy can have a multiplying effect. “The more (a) local is killed, (the more) you will have a reaction,” as Hooda says. For more than a year now, the funerals of young militants killed in action have been highly emotional events, drawing large crowds — and inspiring fresh teenagers to become militants.

These young recruits are sometimes jolted by the less-romantic reality they confront when they leave their homes. So surrender must be made easier — and the rehabilitation of former militants into society made smooth.

The rules only allow militants to surrender at four specified points — two trade and crossing points on the Line of Control, the Wagah border, and Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport. Hooda points out that each of those points is hazardous for those who might want to surrender. For, Pakistani officials keep a hawk-eye on those who want to cross at Wagah and the specified trade and transit points. In fact, it takes several weeks to get through the red tape of permissions that are required to use those crossing points.

The result is that many of those who actually want to surrender try and get to Nepal and then cross the border into India — or find their way surreptitiously across the Line of Control or border. But using either of those methods puts them on the wrong side of the rules. Since they cannot technically surrender thus, they can be treated as terrorists, and of course the laws for that category are daunting.

The trouble for an army commander such as Hooda is that this causes many of those who may changed their minds after getting to Pakistan to remain in the ranks of militants. And, any smart strategist knows that, even if a local militant is often less lethal than a foreigner, a local draws in the wider support of the community — and that can be a far greater challenge in a situation like Kashmir.

The general also refers critically to the post-surrender dimension of policy. “There is no rehabilitation dimension, as far as the surrender policy is concerned.”

Indeed, the message that goes out from those who have surrendered in the past is that it leads to a life of social, economic and political marginalisation, shame and harassment. In many cases, special cells of the local police demand that a surrendered militant report to them regularly, and then force them to do what those cells require.

If militants felt assured that they would be protected by law-enforcers, and be able to fruitfully resume their places as respectable members of society, it might attract more militants to surrender.

For, there are many who realie that the life of a militant is not actually as wonderfully as it is romanticised to be.

First Published On : Nov 28, 2016 07:45 IST

New Pak Army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa considers extremism a ‘bigger threat to Pakistan’ than India

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> Lt Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, who has extensive experience of handling affairs in PoK and the northern areas, was today appointed as Pakistan’s new army chief to succeed Gen Raheel Sharif. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif appointed Bajwa as Chief of Army Staff (COAS) by elevating him to the rank of four-star general, officials said. Bajwa will take charge of the world’s sixth-largest army by troop numbers in a formal handover on Tuesday, when General Raheel formally retires. Raheel in January had declared he would not seek extension. “I will retire on the due date,” he had said.There was speculation that the PML-N government would give him extension at the eleventh hour citing reasons that he was needed by the country to lead war on terror. The post of Army chief is the most powerful in Pakistan. Pakistan’s defence minister Khawaja Asif has confirmed that Bajwa was appointed as COAS and Zubair Hayat as Chairman Joint Chief of Staff Committee (CJCSC).”May God help us in these decisions and new appointments,” he said. Bajwa was serving as Inspector General of the Training and Evaluation and has been elevated to position of four star general and appointed as Chief of Army Staff, the officials said. He has also commanded the famed 10 Corps, the army`s largest, which is responsible for the area along the Line of Control (LoC).As a major general, he led the Force Command Northern Areas. He also served in the 10 Corps as lieutenant colonel. Even though Bajwa has been extensively involved with Kashmir and other northern areas, he is said to consider extremism to a bigger threat to Pakistan than India, reported Dawn.com. He has also served with a UN mission in Congo as a brigade commander alongside former Indian army chief Gen Bikram Singh, who was also there as a division commander.Previously, he also remained the commandant of the Infantry School in Quetta. The new army chief has wide experience of LoC affairs due to his extensive involvement with PoK and northern areas, reports said here.His military colleagues say he is not attention-seeking and remains well-connected with his troops. The new army chief is from the infantry`s Baloch Regiment, which has given three officers to the post of army chief Gen Yahya Khan, Gen Aslam Beg and Gen Ashfaq Perviaz Kayani. Sharif appointed Chief of General Staff Lt Gen ZubairHayat as CJCSC by elevating him to the position of four-star general. He is the senior most serving army officer. Hayat is from the artillery. As a three-star general, he was previously posted as director general of the Strategic Plans Division (SPD) and corps commander Bahawalpur. The most obvious man dropped while making the two key appointments by Prime Minister Sharif is Lt Gen Ishfaq Nadeem Ahmed who was serving Multan Corps Commander.Another officer left out is Bahawalpur Corps Commander Lt Gen Javed Iqbal Ramday. There were two other senior officers overlooked, including Heavy Industrial Complex Taxila Chairman Lt Gen Syed Wajid Hussain and Director General Joint Staff Lt Gen Najibullah Khan.Another Lt Gen Maqsood Ahmed serving as military adviser with the United Nations is already on an extension and WAS not eligible for promotion. It is the record fifth time Sharif appointed an army chief as Prime Minister. If his botched attempt to replace Gen Pervez Musharraf with Ziauddin Butt in 1999 is also counted, this will be the sixth time Sharif appointed head of army.His earlier picks were Gen Asif Nawaz Janjua (1991), Gen Waheed Kakar (1993), Gen Musharraf (1998) and Gen Raheel Sharif (2013). Of the seven army chiefs after Gen Zia, five were handpicked by Sharif.After Gen Musharraf, all four-star generals in the army Gen Tariq Majid, Gen Khalid Shamim Wynne, Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, Gen Rashad Mehmood and Gen Raheel Sharif were from the infantry.Gen Musharraf was the last four-star general from the artillery.

Kashmir unrest may be down, but it’s far from over: We could see a reemergence in 2017

The recent provocation at the Line of Control (LoC), in which a soldier’s body was mutilated, was one more indication that the troubles in Kashmir are not over. There are other indications too, which together paint a sombre picture of what might happen next summer.

Many in positions of authority hope that things would settle down since school examinations have been held, markets are bustling, and traffic is back on the roads. But their expectations ought to be tempered with caution.

The respite is tenuous and it might turn out to be temporary.

A file picture of protesters pelting stones at police in Kashmir. PTI

The first thing that one needs to recognise about the 2016 unrest in Kashmir is that it was not a repeat of 2010. There is no doubt that the internal and external dimensions of the challenge faced in Kashmir have been more intricately linked this year.

So, the return of traffic and exams can’t take away the heavy shelling — including high-calibre artillery — which has killed many people near the LoC and forced even more to relocate.

Besides, militant attacks have taken place sporadically, and there is no doubt that there are plenty of foreign and local militants in the Valley.

Stone-pelting too is not a thing of the past. There have been recent instances of it, including a major one in the Pulwama area on Wednesday.

Another big spurt?

A large-scale unrest such as that witnessed over four months this year could well be repeated next summer. All it would take is a trigger like the killing of militant commander Burhan Wani, which started the unrest on 8 July.

As more evidence continues to emerge, it is pushing analysts to the view that the unrest was planned for the period following Eid this summer. In fact, Lieutenant-General DS Hooda, the commander-in-chief of the Northern Command, is among the many who believe that this year’s eruption had been planned.

From the very next day after Burhan Wani was killed on 8 July, mobs across the Valley, showed a sort of uniformity in their tactics — as if they were following a pattern. The most significant of these tactics were mob attacks on police stations and paramilitary camps.

However, he says that if Burhan Wani had not been killed some other trigger would have been used. Further, those who had planned this year’s unrest are likely to look for an opportunity next summer too, adds Hooda, who is set to retire from the army at the end of this month.
Such a prognosis makes sense. And, the agents provocateurs who have taken control of coordinating the agitations in various parts of the Valley appear to be controlled from across the border.

Leading activists of several organisations including the Jamaat-e-Islami, have played key roles at the ground level. At times, they have benefited from a benevolent attitude from very high functionaries of the state.

In tandem, large numbers of foreign militants have infiltrated Kashmir in 2015 and 2016 —  a hundred during the first ten months of this year, according to Hooda.

A nuanced view

Unlike many of the military men who held control of state power during the 1990s, the erudite Hooda is keenly aware of the distinctions between different sorts of militants, and variations in the ideologies of those active on the ground.

He points out astutely that “the more (a) local is killed, (the more) you will have a reaction”. However, asked if this summer’s unrest might have been avoided if the widely popular Burhan had not been killed, Hooda replied: “We were not aware that Burhan specifically was there. But even if we had known, would we have done it differently?”

He alludes to the fact that the Indian Army cannot by itself make a distinction between one militant and another. He is, however, acutely aware of the need for political initiatives. “Everything cannot be fought kinetically,” he says.

Clearly, much needs to be done — on various levels, and through several channels. Such initiatives are very urgently required in light of the various prognoses that another summer of unrest is in the offing.

First Published On : Nov 24, 2016 12:21 IST

Army chief Dalbir Singh Suhag in China for talks with top PLA officials

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Army chief General Dalbir Singh Suhag began his four-day China visit during which he will hold talks with the top PLA leadership and visit key military installations to deepen bilateral cooperation and mutual trust.Gen Singh, who is accompanied by a high-level military delegation, is scheduled to meet a number of high-ranking dignitaries of Peoples Liberation Army (PLA) and Central Military Commission (CMC) during his visit from November 21-24.CMC is the overall high command of the Chinese military and is headed by President Xi Jinping.”This visit is an opportunity to re-engage PLA in field of defence cooperation and build upon existing mutual cooperation and trust between the two nations,” a statement by the Indian Army said.The delegation will also be visiting military installations including Infantry Division and Army Air Defence Brigades, it said.The visit aims at engaging China on subjects of mutual concern and shared interest, which include terrorism, humanitarian assistance and peace keeping training, the Indian Army said.The visit comes amidst growing stronger economic and military ties between the Asian giants and follows high-level diplomatic and military exchanges between the two neighbours.The visit also coincides with a joint military exercise (Exercise Hand in Hand), between two armies which is underway in Pune and will be followed by the visit of General Zhao Zongqi, Commander, Western Theatre Command of PLA in the second week of next month.While issues relating to the Line of Actual Control continue to exist, the northern borders have remained calm.However, India is in the process of beefing up its borders with China through raising of a mountain brigade, deployment of modern artillery and tanks besides creating greater airfield infrastructure among others.

Indore-Patna express derailment: Survivors recount horror, say they ‘saw death whisk past us’

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”We saw death whisk past us,” was the common refrain among the survivors of the ill- fated Indore-Patna Express, with the scenario inside the bogies reflecting the horror they experienced. The interiors of the less-affected coaches also bore hallmarks of the tragedy, with bed sheets, blankets, pillows, half-eaten food, suitcases and bags lying scattered after passengers rushed out in panic when they were jolted out of sleep as the disaster struck just a little after 0300 hrs.Outside, a 17-year-old girl was seen desperately trying to locate her brother, both of whom were returning to Patna after a swimming competition in Bhopal, accompanied by their mother. In the midst of the devastation, there were stories of individual heroics too, with one rescue worker narrating how he managed to pull out five persons alive, one of them oblivious that her limb had got severed. “I pulled out one old day, who was yet to realise that she had lost one of her legs. One person had blood oozing out of his mouth. And the coach had bodies and blood splattered all across it,” Shakti Singh, a rapid reaction force member, said.The survivors thanked the locals who were the first to reach the accident spot in pitch dark to find people in daze, still reeling under the sheer impact of the tragedy. Rescue workers had no time to spare as they said that the mangled coaches contained a large number of bodies. “Those alive have been already rescued. All that is left are bodies. We have just managed to clear half of the worst- affected coaches,” a volunteer said, pointing towards a bogie which looked like a metallic coil after the accident.
ALSO READ Indore-Patna express derailment: 4 trains cancelled, 14 divertedThe army joined the rescue operations, deploying 90 personnel besides a 50-member medical team which included five doctors. Kanpur Station Commander of the army Brig. BM Sharma said: “We have plans to work through the night. We have put up lights. Our teams are already here. Though the railway cranes are working, we have got our armoured recovery vehicle here to speed up the operation.”He said that the army is in touch with the civil administration and all other agencies, including the NDRF. “All are functioning together,” he said.
ALSO READ Major train accidents in India since 1988Over 115 passengers were killed and more than 200 injured, nearly half of them grievously, in the worst train accident in recent years when 14 coaches of the Indore-Patna Express derailed here in Kanpur rural area. Brig Anurag Chibber said the force personnel were using metal cutters to open up the mangled bogies of the train.Over 600 kms away, scenes of tragedy also played out at Patna railway station, with relatives of the passengers making frantic attempts to contact their near and dear ones and pleading officials for information. “I have been calling my father, who was returning from Ujjain, since morning. Calls are going through, but he is not picking up,” said Ranjan.
ALSO READ Indore-Patna express derailment will be probed, let’s work to achieve zero accidents: PM ModiIn another corner of the station, the brother of one of the passengers, Ranjan Kumar Singh, begged officials to share some information. “We have not seen a tragedy of this scale ever in our lives. We are still trying to trace five members of our family,” Deepika Tripathi, a passenger, told reporters.Another passenger said: “We had minor injuries, there was no chance of coming out of the mangled bogie. We somehow managed to escape through the toilet door. All members of my family are safe.”

Kakarala Madhavi is CPM secretary for Andhra-Odisha border: Women at forefront of Maoist ops

The AOB (Andhra-Odisha Border) Committee, a crucial military zone of the CPI (Maoist), which remained headless after the bloody encounter killings of its top leaders including Bakuri Venkataramana alias Ganesh on 24 October in Malkangiri, now has a woman as its chief.

Kakarala Madhavi, the new Secretary of the AOB Committee of the armed rebels will now call the shots at what is considered the last post of the Maoists. This post is a prestigious one amongst the group — it was earlier held by Maoist legends like Devanna and Azad.

Kakarala Madhavi, 34, is a native of Rajamahendravaram of East Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh, the same area where popular film star and MP Jayaprada hails from. Madhavi was the choice for commander in view of her experience in the region and also her rapport with the local tribals in the border district of Malkangiri.

Representational image. AFPRepresentational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

Madhavi is the daughter of Kakarala Subba Rao, a veteran character theatre actor and a member of the Virasam (Viplava Rachayitala Sangham or Revolutionary Writers’ Association). There is confusion as to whether she is Padmakka or Radhakka, two daughters of Rao, who had both joined the People’s War Group (PWG) before it became the CPI (Maoist). “My daughters were addicted more to Left philosophy and Communist literature than me,” Subba Rao had said in an interview with a TV channel recently.

A college drop-out, Madhavi had joined the movement 10 years ago under the influence of her father’s active involvement in the Communist movement. In fact, she had also played a role in a drama on Lenin, staged by her father, who was a theatre artiste, writer and also a director. She had worked as a deputy commander, commander and also a member of zone committees, finally making it to the central committee now. She had worked not only in the Nallamala and Dandakaranya forests but also in Telangana, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and also in some front organisations — cultural, farmers and youth wings of the CPI (Maoist).

Madhavi is perhaps the six or seventh woman top leader in the hierarchy as of now. Sources told Firstpost that an emergency meeting of the central committee of the Maoists held in the jungles of Dantewada in Chhattisgarh a few days ago had placed on record the contribution of the 31 slain rebels to Left wing extremism. Of the slain Maoists, 11 were women, including two deputy commanders.

The central committee also appointed another senior Maoist woman field operative Pothula Kalpana, 34, as the person in charge of military operations in the area. The Committee had justified the appointment of young women to key posts by saying that this move was to win the confidence of locals and tribals in the AOB region. The highest body of the CPI (Maoist) had said that internal lapses in guerrilla strategy had cost too many lives in the 24 October encounter. “Treachery, gross negligence and overconfidence” had led to the massacre at Janthi village in AOB, said a document of the central committee.

Women in revolutionary groups

Lack of recruitment of educated activists as well as desertion of the movement by aged sick seniors had forced Maoists to recognise the value addition made by women cadres and elevate them in several key positions. “Maoists took the calculated risk as women cadres were more committed, duty conscious and loyal to party hierarchy than men cadres,” said former DGP of Andhra Pradesh Dinesh Reddy, during whose period the AP police struck terror in the Dandakaranya forests in Telangana.

After a series of police-driven media exposures on the plight of women cadres in Maoist groups in the 1990s, the central committee of the PWG had framed guidelines and mandatory approval by the committee for inducting cadres in armed dalam (group), front organisations, the People’s Guerrilla Land Army (PGLA) and also the special military commissions. At a time there were nearly 175-250 women members in the field and also in front organisations, but the number has now dwindled to less than 100, according to police. “Very few women — except those linked to top guns in Central Committee or those married to dalam commanders or dalam members — are continuing. There are no single women,” said a senior police official.

A major reason for teenage girls to join the dalams was to escape from the traditions of early marriage when they were in school or junior college. “I joined the dalam to escape from family pressure to marry and stop my education. Now everything is lost as I don’t have any studies either,” said 19-year-old girl Renuka, a Maoist rebel who met this writer in the 1990s in Karimnagar, Telangana. Two years later, she surrendered and returned home; went back again and was killed in a shootout.

A college drop-out, Madhavi had joined the movement 10 years ago under the influence of her father’s active involvement in the Communist movement

But things have now changed for women activists who are chosen to head crucial committees including intelligence, suicide strike teams and are also key contributors to policy decisions in dealing with the tribals and landless poor. The central committee had acknowledged the role of women cadres in a document released two years ago on how the Salwa Judum domination in Chhattisgarh was throttled and tribals — Khoyas and Kondadoras — were won back to their side.

Women have been an active part of war machinery of the CPI (Maoist) and its earlier avatar, the PWG. The number of women cadre has been on the rise since the late 1990s. Replying to a question in Parliament on 13 July, 2013, then Minister of State for Home Affairs, RPN Singh had said that 40 percent of Maoist cadre were women.

“I was motivated by the fiery, inspiring songs of a visiting Maoist squad sung in my village,” said V Sujata, a 20-year-old Dalit armed activist in the Sircilla belt of Karimnagar, in 2005. Local police had painted her as a “loose girl” and that jeopardised her family efforts to get her married off. She had taken to Maoism to escape from community penalty to the family.

In 2008, Sujata went back to her village as a deputy commander of a dalam and took revenge on the police and also other villagers who had maligned and harassed her. Her dalam had cut the hands and ears of her detractors. Sujata was however killed in an encounter in 2009 near AOB. “But that explains the real reason why teenagers wants to join the Maoist movement — they want to escape from age-old customs and ridiculous social ostracisation,” said Professor Hargopal, a civil rights activist of Telangana.

Changing roles of women in Maoism

Representational image. AFPRepresentational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

Unlike Sujata, there were many others like Anupuram Anasuya, wife of Anupuram Komarayya, of the North Telangana Special Zone Committee (NTSZC) who went to jungles out of commitment, leaving her infant behind, and who died in a later encounter defending her husband and the movement. Similarly, Polam Bharathi, wife of Polam Sudharshan Reddy, joined the dalam, but quit after her husband was killed in an encounter. Many others like Nelakonda Rajitha alias Padmakka, an undergraduate, had married Sande Rajamouli (a Politburo member and chief of Central Military Commission) and was killed in an encounter in 2002. “Women joined the rebel fold and even went underground, living in exile, to escape from the exploitation of powerful people in the village,” says popular civil rights activist Kancha Ilaiah.

Most women activists like Nirmala (wife of Chandra Pulla Reddy) and Anuradha Ghandy (wife of Kobad Ghandy) were highly educated, urban ideologues and leaders. For instance, Anuradha Ghandy, a Sociology lecturer, had led the all-India women’s movement but died of cerebral malaria in the Dandakaranya jungles.

Police said girl cadets who wanted to become like Madhya Pradesh’s notorious ‘Bandit Queen’ Phoolan Devi, were used as decoys during raids and ambushes. They were also used as errand girls to collect funds, medicines, food from villages and also as personal couriers of the top leaders. While most men cadre ran away fearing the heavy firepower of security forces, women cadres remained on ground and returned fire and often helped the top cadres to escape even at the cost of their own lives. “In order to give women cadres a safe and secure career, the CC had always encouraged them to get married to the men of their choice in the armed units,” says another document of the CPI (Maoist).

The committee also invited women cadets with a minimum 3 years experience to visit Abuj Marh in Chhattisgarh once in two years to undergo special indoctrination and military training to prepare them for higher responsibilities, as many male cadres were deserting the movement due to sickness or family issues. “But the disturbances since the Green Hunt operation had put this exercise on hold,” said another police official.

Women activists have thus become the vanguard of the Maoist operations during the toughest situations. Nirmala Chatterjee, a leader of the Maoist Communist Centre and widow of Sagar Chatterjee, had led the Maoist attack on Chandrapura Railway Police station in West Bengal in 2005. In a recent document, Ganapathi alias Muppala Lakshman Rao, numero uno of the CPI (Maoist) had written — “Women activists, particularly from Dalit and tribal backgrounds, have been a main source of strength for the Maoist movement, and only the functional and organisational deficits of the movement had shortened their utility,” the document quotes.

First Published On : Nov 20, 2016 14:36 IST

3 soldiers killed, 4 injured after IED blast hits army convoy in Assam

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Three soldiers were killed and four seriously wounded on Saturday in an attack in Assam, officials said. Heavily armed militants of the outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) ambushed an army convoy near the Pengeri reserve forest in the eastern Assam district of Tinsukia, about 550 km (340 miles) from the state’s main city of Guwahati. The vehicle they were travelling in was damaged after an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) planted by suspected ULFA terrorists went off.”Militants belonging to the ULFA militants attacked the army convoy with rocket propelled grenades, hitting a truck and a jeep. Three soldiers were killed and four critically injured in the attack,” Mukesh Agarwal, Assam’s additional police chief, told Reuters. Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal told ANI, “I strongly condemn this attack, the perpetrators will be punished. I have directed officials to go to Tinsukia.”Home Minister Rajnath Singh also expressed anguish over the incident. “Deeply anguished to learn of the death of army soldiers in a blast in Tinsukia. I pray for the speedy recovery of our injured soldiers.”The Home Minister also said he spoke to Sonowal.The injured were airlifted to a nearby army base hospital with multiple wounds, according to the officials. “The area is thickly forested and that gave the militants an edge to attack and escape immediately after the strike,” an army commander said, requesting not to be identified. Army, police, and paramilitary troopers have since launched a massive hunt for the rebels and to seal escape routes, an army official said. The ULFA has been fighting for an independent homeland in Assam since 1979. It now operates out of bases in Myanmar, bordering Assam. With inputs from ANI/Reuters.

Brain behind ‘azadi’ protests arrested after four months

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Jammu and Kashmir Police achieved a major success on Friday when they arrested the most-wanted separatist leader who was the brain behind massive ‘pro-azadi (freedom) and anti-India’ protests in south Kashmir in the last four months.Mir Hafizullah, the district president of Tehreek-e-Hurriyat led by 87-year-old hawk Syed Ali Shah Geelani, had gone underground to lead the protests after the unrest began following the killing of Hizbul Mujahedeen commander Burhan Wani on July 8.Police said Mir had organised scores of pro-freedom and anti-India rallies in Anantnag which had allegedly triggered stone pelting in South Kashmir. Mir was evading arrest for the last four months and organising and leading protests from underground.”Mir was one of the main instigators operating in Kokarnag and Achabal. He was leading the protests. Further investigation is on,” said Nitish Kumar, deputy inspector general, South Kashmir Range.

Internet on postpaid mobiles restored in Kashmir after 4 months

Fri, 18 Nov 2016-11:59pm , Srinagar , PTI
<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Mobile Internet services on postpaid connections were restored tonight in Kashmir four months after these services were snapped due to the unrest in the Valley.Mobile Internet services, which were snapped on July 15, have been restored on postpaid connections, an official said here. The official said the decision to restore mobile Internet services was taken following considerable improvement in security situation in the Valley. Mobile Internet services were snapped following violent protests across Kashmir following the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani in an encounter on July 8.

Demonetisation: After curfew, cash crisis and internet blockade brings Kashmir Valley to grinding halt

Ghulam Ali, a resident of Anantnag, is running from pillar to post to get his money exchanged even as banks in the area are running out of cash. He impatiently waits outside a bank in a nearby village. “I need money to book a ticket for my daughter who studies outside Kashmir,” he said. Ghulam used to book her tickets from home when internet services were functional in the valley.

Amid the ongoing cash crisis, Ghulam is also reluctant to send his daughter outside, as he doesn’t have enough cash to cover her expenses. “Her exams are approaching and I am worried whether she would be able to attend those,” he told Firstpost.

Ghulam said that his problem will be solved if he gets internet access as he would be able to make online payments. People like him are the worst affected by the internet ban and now the demonetisation crisis.

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

The central government’s move last week to demonetise Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes has caused chaos in Kashmir, adding to people’s woes.

Almost everyone in the valley was affected in one way or the other due to the prolonged agitation, particularly people associated with transport, business and labourers. They have been living a miserable life for the last four months due to the absence of livelihood. And now the currency ban has added to their woes.

Businesses, which were looking to make some money after the four-month long agitation, are now distraught. Markets in cities and towns were shut on 9 July while public transport vehicles have remained absent from roads till date.

People, who have been going outside the state for business during winter, are reluctant to leave the valley this time due to the demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes. Many have decided to wait till the cash crisis settles down. “I had planned to leave the valley by 11 November, but due to this cash crisis, I have been forced to wait till the chaos is over,” said Manzoor Ahmad, a businessman, told Firstpost.

The government has undertaken steps to address the situation and has urged people to adopt online payment platforms to reduce reliance on cash-only transactions. However, for Kashmiris, it is a double whammy as internet services were blocked after the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen militant commander Burhan Wani on 8 July and they continue to remain suspended. As a result, people in Kashmir Valley have been unable to make online transactions.

Not only businesses, but students who are preparing for their exams are very upset due to the internet blockade. “I completely rely on the internet for my exam preparations, but due to the internet ban, I fear I will fail in the exams,” said Azhaq Ibrahim. Not only Ibrahim, but many other students have similar faced hardships due to the internet ban.

Aijaz Ahmad is another such example. He lives in the rural area of south Kashmir and has been preparing for the Kashmir Administrative Services (KAS) for the last four years. But this time, when the vacancies were announced for the KAS, Ahmad couldn’t submit his form online due to the internet blockade. He is visibly frustrated. While talking to Firstpost, he said, “They should at least understand students’ problems. I have a dream of becoming a civil servant, but it seems with each passing day my dream is shattering. During these modern times, the internet is the major source of information, if that is blocked how can anyone prepare for any examination?” he asked.

Not only Ahmad, but many other job aspirants, are also facing similar difficulties in preparing and submitting their job applications due to the internet blockade and now due to the chaos at the banks.

Since there is no solution in sight, all those who can, are now curtailing their expenses, bracing for difficult times and preparing for a long harsh winter ahead.

(The author is a freelance journalist based in Srinagar. He focuses on the socio-political issues of the Kashmir Valley.)

First Published On : Nov 18, 2016 08:27 IST

Kashmir unrest: Normal life remains unaffacted in the valley; banks see heavy rush of customers

Srinagar: Some shops opened, while passenger vehicles plied in some areas of the city and other towns of the Kashmir Valley on Thursday, where banks witnessed heavy rush of customers.

Meanwhile, the death toll in the ongoing unrest in Kashmir on Thursday rose to 86 as an elderly man injured in security forces action against protesters two weeks ago succumbed at a hospital here.

Ghulam Mohammad Khan, 70, who was hit by a tear smoke shell fired by security forces on protesters at Anchar locality of Soura on 2 November, succumbed to injuries at a hospital this morning, a police official said.

Representational image. PTIRepresentational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

Elsewhere in the Valley, normal life remained affected for the 132nd consecutive day due to the unrest triggered by the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani in an encounter with security forces in July.

Shops, fuel stations and other business establishments were shut in Srinagar, as well as in other district headquarters of the Valley due to the strike called by the separatists, officials said.

They said while the annual board examinations were currently on, the class-work in schools, colleges and universities remained affected due to the unrest.

Most of the public transport in the Valley was also off the roads.

However, in some areas in the civil lines and the outskirts of the city here as well as in some other towns of the Valley, few passenger vehicles were seen plying, the officials said, adding few shops were also open in these areas. Some inter-district cabs, connecting the summer capital with other districts of the Valley, were also plying.

Many vendors have put up their stalls along TRC Chowk-Batamaloo axis through Lal Chowk city centre, while banks were also open across the Valley and witnessed rush of customers.

The separatists, who are spearheading the ongoing agitation since Wani’s killing in an encounter with security forces on 8 July, have announced two full days of relaxation on Saturday and Sunday in the agitation programme — the first full day relaxation since 8 July.

First Published On : Nov 17, 2016 13:24 IST

Kashmir: Class XII board exams begin peacefully after months of schools being shut

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Class XII board examinations began peacefully in Kashmir on Monday with nearly 95 per cent of the 32,000 students writing their papers, marking the resumption of educational activity in the Valley after schools remained shut for over four months due to the unrest.Barring a few minor law and order incidents in some places, the test on the first day was conducted smoothly at more than 450 centres across Kashmir, including 73 in the summer capital here, officials said.About 94.88 per cent of the total 31,964 students appeared in the examination, an official of Jammu and Kashmir Board of School Education (BOSE), which conducts the examinations, said.The official said the overall attendance of the students was up by 2.56 per cent from last year.Over 480 centres have been set up for about 48,000 candidates for Class XII board examinations across Kashmir division, the official said, adding that the students who opted for the sixth paper appeared for the test today.The government had decided to hold the exams as scheduled despite demands by parents that they be put off as the unrest had disrupted educational activities in the Valley.Massive security arrangements were put in place across the Valley for the smooth conduct of the examination.However, minor stone-pelting incidents were reported at a few places in Pulwama, Shopian, Budgam, and Baramulla, which did not affect the conduct of the examinations.The miscreants were chased away by the security forces without affecting the test, a police official said.The BOSE official said the highest appearance percentage of the students was recorded in central Kashmir’s Budgam district where about 96.10 per cent of the students wrote their papers.Budgam was followed by Anantnag in south Kashmir where 96.01 per cent students appeared in the examination, he said.The official said North Kashmir’s Bandipora witnessed the lowest attendance at 92.80 per cent.Two other south Kashmir districts Pulwama and Shopian recorded 94.65 and 93.66 per cent, respectively.South Kashmir has been the worst hit in the ongoing unrest in the valley following the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani in an encounter in July.North Kashmir’s Bandipora, Baramulla and Kupwara districts recorded attendance at 92.80, 93.70 and 93.10 per cent, respectively, the official said, adding Srinagar and Ganderbal in central Kashmir recorded 95.83 and 92.93 per cent attendance.

Would have been better if Burhan Wani wasn’t killed: Vice Chancellor Jammu University

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> Vice Chancellor Jammu University Prof R D Sharma has courted controversy by saying it would have been “better” if Hizbul Mujahideen Commander Burhan Wani was kept in jail instead of being killed.”If we would have kept him (Burhan) in jail for entire life, it would have better than killing him. I feel so.Killing a militant is ok and those who have done deaths and destruction should be killed. The problem in Kashmir is that people are still with militancy…We need to understand this,” Sharma told media at a function yesterday. He said an “issued was created” by killing the militant.”What a big issue was created by killing a militant. I don’t know whether I am saying right or wrong? If we would have arrested him, the career of school children would not have been spoiled. I am saying this not as politician but as an educationist,” he said.Sharma said students in Kashmir are “dedicated, well organised and career conscious but would fight if they feel they are being harassed”. “They (Kashmiri students) are very enlightened. It was a surprise and shock for me as to why they don’t go to schools and colleges. It is sensitive issue. I am not a politician, I am a educationist,” he added. His statement today sparked protests by Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha following which he issued a statement saying his views be interpreted in the light of academic pursuits only.”It is clarified and impressed upon that the statement given by the vice chancellor, which is already available on the social media as well, be interpreted in the light of academic pursuits only, as it in no way was aimed to promote or protect the interests or hurt the sentiments of any individual. Communication gap caused, if any, is regretted,” a statement quoted Sharma as saying.He said, “It is unfortunate that some vested interests have started twisting the statement to satiate their own objectives”.”We should take lessons from it. If one militant’s killing can create this situation for four-long months, where families, parents and children become adamant and want Kashmir issue to be resolved…This is an eye opener for all of us. We need to change our strategy,” he said.BJYM today held protests over Sharma’s remarks, saying as an academician he should stick to his work only. State General Secretary, BJYM, Vikas Choudhary said he (Sharma) has given his statement at a time when there was unrest in the state and “our jawans were giving sacrifices for the nation”. President, Chamber of Commerce and Industry Jammu, Rakesh Gupta said the chamber was concerned about the statement by the vice chancellor.

Kashmir unrest: Separatists in huddle over ‘future strategy’

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>With the unrest in the Valley entering its 123rd day on Tuesday, the separatists held a meeting here with traders and other organisations to chalk out the future course of action. Hurriyat faction chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front chief Yasin Malik and Hurriyat faction head Syed Ali Geelani were present in the meeting in which all the forums including educationists, transporters, civil society members, religious, social and political organizations, bar association were called.According to reports, various issues regarding the ongoing uprising and other issues like education and conduct of examination came up during talks.The meeting comes after the government allowed the trio to meet on Sunday for the first time in the past four months since the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani on July 8th, which threw the entire Valley into turmoil. On November 2nd, authorities did not allow a similar meeting of separatists, by barring their entry into the residence of Geelani.

J&K situation extremely fragile; around 300 militants still active: DGP

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Describing the situation in Jammu and Kashmir as “extremely fragile”, state DGP K Rajendra has said around 300 militants are active in the state and that continuing infiltration along the Line of Control (LoC) is a cause of worry.. “The continuing infiltration along the border is a cause of worry which can change the whole game,” the Director General of Police (DGP) told a meeting of top civil and police officials of the state, chaired by Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, here yesterday.Referring to the situation in Kashmir where the unrest triggered by the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani in July completed four months, Rajendra said even though the intensity and spread of the situation has come down, it continued to be “extremely fragile”. “While the intensity and spread of situation has come down, the situation is extremely fragile. At present, 250-300 militants are active. Given the present situation, we need to have a road map for next two-three months,” he said.The DGP said at least 70 buildings have been set ablaze by miscreants during the ongoing unrest in the Valley. “53 of these 70 buildings have been damaged totally,” the police chief said. He said the restoration of normalcy will remain the top priority for the forces in coming days. “While a semblance of normalcy has been restored, there is no scope for complacency. Police will continue its drive against miscreants,” he said.At the meeting, Deputy Commissioners and SSPs of Kashmir division made detailed presentations on the ongoing development works, some of which have been affected due to the situation. They also provided figures on the number of cases filed over the last four months and the arrests made in those cases.

Jammu & Kashmir unrest: ‘PM Modi ready to talk to anyone to pacify situation’

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Shafiq Mir, the chairman of Jammu and Kashmir Panchayat Conference, on Sunday expressed satisfaction with the assurance given by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to normalise the situation in the state where more than 90 people have been killed and thousands wounded in clashes between the protestors and security forces post the encounter of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani on July 8.Mir, who was part of the 30-member delegation of an apex body representing 4,000 village panchayats of the state, said the Prime Minister promised them to take all steps to pacify the situation in Jammu and Kashmir.”We discussed a lot of issues related to Jammu and Kashmir in particular we focused on the present situation of the state. So far as the four month-long unrest is concerned, we discussed the issue of schools being targeted in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. We also discussed the anger amongst the young generation in the state. We are very much satisfied that the Prime Minister heard us patiently and assured us to take apt steps on the issues discussed with him,” he said.”Speaking about the schools being torched and the students suffering in the area, the Prime Minister assured that doors of schools of the entire nation are open for them. The Prime Minister also said that he is ready to talk with anybody and that he is open to criticism as well,” he added.Prime Minister Modi on Saturday said that development and trust would be cornerstones of his government initiatives to pull Jammu and Kashmir out of the prolonged unrest.The Prime Minister assured the delegation that growth and development of the state was high on agenda.According to reports, another school building yesterday was gutted on the 120th day of unrest in a fire in Bandipora district of Kashmir, taking the number of schools damaged during the ongoing unrest in the Valley to 32.The Jammu and Kashmir High Court last week took suo moto cognisance of the incidents and directed the state government to ensure that the schools are protected.Expressing concern over the burning down of schools in the Kashmir Valley, the National Panthers Party (NPP) has called for the imposition of Governor’s rule in the state, claiming that an atmosphere of complete chaos exists and needs to be quelled.

J&K: Another school set on fire in Bandipora district, flames doused

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Another school was set on fire in Bandipora district of Jammu and Kashmir on Saturday. The flames have been doused, reports ANI.As many as 31 schools and 110 government buildings have been damaged in Kashmir Valley since the current unrest began four months ago.Among the schools, which were set ablaze by unknown persons, 25 were government-run, two private and four were run by trusts or other social organisations, official sources told PTI.Out of the 110 government buildings, 65 were either completely gutted or partially burnt down and 55 were damaged through “other means”.Over the past few months, miscreants burnt down schools across the Valley which is in the grip of unrest following the killing of militant commander Burhan Wani in an encounter on July 8.Amid outrage over the issue, the Jammu and Kashmir High Court took suo motu cognisance of this development and asked the state government to take steps to prevent such incidents and “unmask” to culprits.The Centre had also earlier this week asked the Mehbooba Mufti government to check such attempts and make efforts for reopening the schools which have been closed since July 9.With ANI/PTI inputs.

OROP row: Basic pension of ex-servicemen increased 2.57 times, says President Mukherjee

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The basic pension of ex-servicemen of the Indian Army has increased by 2.57 times as compared to pension of December 31, 2015, President Pranab Mukherjee on Friday said here while addressing ex-servicemen of the Gurkha regiments in the Indian Army.Mukherjee, who is also the supreme commander of the armed forces, lauded the valour and discipline of the Gurkha soldiers in guarding the borders of India.Mukherjee, who is on a three-day state visit to Nepal, visited the Pension Office for Gurkha ex-servicemen here in the last segment as large number of these soldiers live here after retirement.The scenic Pokhara Valley, nestled in the shadow of towering snowcapped peaks of Dhaulgiri, Machapuchare, and Annapurna is home to a large number of soldiers of the famed Gurkha regiments in the Indian Army.The President received a warm welcome here with people dressed in traditional clothes carrying flags of India and Nepal had lined up the roads from airport to hotel where he stayed briefly and then from hotel to pension office of the Gurkha regiments ex-servicemen.People stood there throughout the stay of the President who was in the city for nearly an hour playing drums, dancing and waving as his convoy passed through the streets of Pokhara city.”According to the seventh Pay Commission the basic pension has increased 2.57 times under the One Rank One Pension scheme as compared to basic pension on December 31, 2015,” Mukherjee said.He said being the supreme commander of the Indian defence forces, it was a matter of great satisfaction and pride that all the welfare schemes of ex-servicemen are being implemented in Nepal on time.The President said there are 32,000 Gurkha soldiers in Indian Army besides 1.26 lakh ex-servicemen from the community. Mukherjee said India will never hesitate to take all possible steps for the welfare of ex-servicemen.”Every year about Nepalese Rs (NPR) 3,100 crore of pensions is being distributed in Nepal. In the current financial year, the target is to distribute about NPR 4,000 crore of pension as per One Rank One Pension and Seventh Pay Commission,” he said.

Kashmir unrest: 26 schools torched in the Valley; 21 arrested, 35 suspects identified

Prime Minister Narendra Modi chaired a high-level meeting on Wednesday in New Delhi to review the border situation in Kashmir, the repeated incidents of ceasefire violation by Pakistan and the security arrangements in the Valley. The Prime Minister’s meet comes at a time when the situation in the Valley is crumbling each day. Cross-border shelling, civilian lives lost, and the air of general unrest and fear has crippled normal life in the Valley.

However, amid the disturbing developments reported day and night from the restive state, there is another lesser-known facet that reeks of well-coordinated attempts to jeopardise peace and well-being in Kashmir in the long-term. Twenty six schools have been torched down in Kashmir — at least one school damaged in all 10 districts of the region — in separate cases of arson in the Valley. The incidents took place over the span of the past three months of unrest, however there was a gradual increase in the frequency of such incidents, so much that in October end, one school was burnt each day in the Valley, as reported by Sameer Yasir for Firstpost.

One of the oldest educational institutes in south Kashmir Anantnag district, Hanfia Model Institute, was also gutted in fire. Image courtesy: Hilal ShahOne of the oldest educational institutes in south Kashmir Anantnag district, Hanfia Model Institute, was also gutted in fire. Image courtesy: Hilal Shah

One of the oldest educational institutes in south Kashmir Anantnag district, Hanfia Model Institute, was also gutted in fire. Image courtesy: Hilal Shah

Political mudslinging between separatist leaders and state government over the crimes were officially attributed to “unknown miscreants”. While the Hurriyat leaders blamed the state government and Indian state for hatching a conspiracy to discredit the “freedom movement” as “violence and anarchy”, the state government pointed fingers at the Hurriyat alleging it was an “escape route” for them to “keep the fire burning” in Kashmir.

The Jammu and Kashmir police has identified 35 arsonists behind the incidents and arrested 21 for the same, reported CNN News-18.

According to a report in the Deccan Herald, the DIG, J&K police said that some people involved in arson have fled to Jammu and Chandigarh, adding that the police is strengthening the security of schools across Kashmir. However, the repercussion of delay in action will be paid up by over 6,000 students whose studies are hampered in the Valley.

“This is a black spot on our face, no matter who does it,” former secretary with the Board of School Education and a noted academician, Bashir Ahmad Dar, said in Srinagar. “We will have to bear its implications for years to come. Although buildings will be reconstructed once again but the idea of educational institutes as non-political and ‘Sanctum Santorum’ of our identity, will face challenges,” reported Sameer Yasir.

The central government termed these as acts driven by the “combination of madness and perversion” and asked people of the Valley to realise that those responsible are acting at the behest of the enemy “across the border”.

It is noteworthy here that most of the schools targeted were government-run and usually the only option for those who could not afford private education. The Jammu and Kashmir High Court took suo motu notice of the incident and rapped the government over its failure to prevent such incidents, directing police and civil administration to ensure their protection besides unmasking the “mysterious enemies of education” and deal with them with an “iron hand”.

However, torched schools are not the only problem plaguing education in the valley. The Centre has requested the state government to close 174 schools in the border areas, in the view of cross-border firing from Pakistan’s side targeting civilian locations. Schools have remained shut for almost four months now, bringing education to a standstill. A few institutions that tried to take temporary classes or tuitions, were singled out and burned to ground. Founder of Iqra Public School in Batgund, Anantnag decided to reopen school despite separatists call for strikes and  decided to open a ‘tuition centre’ despite the raging protests over the death  of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani. The school was set ablaze and burnt to ground.

Meanwhile, the state government has announced that annual board examinations will be held next month, even though the schools have remained closed since July. According to Kashmir Monitor, students have protested against the decision and are insisting that the exams are postponed. The students say that more than 50 percent of their syllabus remains uncovered as their studies suffered due to the situation in the Valley. Although the government has promised to reduce the syllabus in exams and offer more choices in the paper, the students remain distressed as some of the schools were yet to formally begin classes for some of the subjects when the unrest broke out.

“Our children have got used to sitting at home. They don’t like the idea of going back to schools because there is no luxury superior for than free time. Then there are these radical thoughts that inhabit their mind, that if you don’t agree with them, you are their enemy,” a school teacher told Sameer Yasir , reflecting on the situation.

With inputs from PTI

Pakistan following ‘suicidal method’ by promoting terrorism: Venkaiah Naidu

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Condemning the brutal act of schools being burnt in Jammu and Kashmir, Union Information and Broadcasting Minister M Venkaiah Naidu on Wednesday said Pakistan is following a suicidal method by promoting terrorism, adding this will eventually harm the hostile Asian neighbour. “It is unfortunate that the terrorists, separatists and their supportive have taken to this heinous act of torching the schools in Jammu and Kashmir. Pakistan should realise that they are following a suicidal method and terrorism will eat the one who encourages it,” said Naidu.Naidu further said Kashmir is an integral part of India, adding Pakistan should focus on its welfare and development rather than indulging in unwarranted acts. “There are so many problems in the internal front in Pakistan, they are trying to divert the attention to borders and are intentionally raking up the Kashmir issue,” he said.In past two months, around 25 schools have been set on fire in the Kashmir Valley.Earlier on Sunday, a Higher Secondary Kabamarg School in South Kashmir’s Anantnag was set on fire by unidentified people.A Jawahar Navodya Vidyalaya school in Aishmuqam was also set on fire the night before.Schools in Kashmir valley have been closed due to a shutdown call by the separatists. Dozens of schools are also still occupied by security forces deployed to contain the unrest, which began after the July 8 killing of 22-year-old Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani.So far, the efforts to reopen schools have failed as both government and separatist groups are levelling accusations against each other of playing politics over education.

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