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CPI(M), Congress hail arrest of scam-tainted TMC MP Tapas Pal

Fri, 30 Dec 2016-10:15pm , Kolkata , PTI
<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Hailing the arrest of TMC MP Tapas Pal by CBI, opposition CPI(M) and Congress on Friday hoped that the law would take its own course and “political match fixing” between TMC and BJP would not affect the progress of investigation.”We have been demanding this for a long time that CBI and ED should properly inquire into ponzi companies. But the investigation came to a complete halt after political match fixing between TMC and BJP. We hope such thing will not be repeated and the case will progress on its own merit and more such arrests will happen,” Leader of Opposition Abdul Mannan told reporters.Pal was on Friday arrested by CBI for his alleged involvement in the Rose Valley Chit Fund Scam.
ALSO READ Mamata defends scam-tainted Tapas Pal, claims Modi ‘insulted’ backward classes by naming app BHIM”This is not vendetta politics as TMC is claiming. The arrest is the result of the loot that TMC has done in ponzi scam. We feel that CBI should properly investigate the case and recover the money that has been looted,” CPI(M) leader Sujan Chakraborty said.

Kashmir: Separatists call for strike against ID cards for West Pakistan Refugees

Srinagar: Normal life was affected in Kashmir Valley on Friday due to a strike called by separatists against the issuance of identity certificates to West Pakistan Refugees (WPRs).

Representational image. AP

Representational image. AP

Most of the shops, fuel stations and other business establishments in Srinagar — the summer capital of the state — were shut, while public transport was minimal, officials said.

They said there were very few street vendors visible in the city today due to the strike.

Reports of shutdown were also received from most of the other district headquarters of the Valley, the officials said.

Security forces were deployed in strength at sensitive places where barricades were also erected.

The separatists have also been calling for shutdown on Friday and Saturday every week after scaling down their agitation which followed the killing of Hizbul Mujahdeen militant Burhan Wani.

The more than five-month unrest in the Valley had left 86 people dead and thousands others, including 5,000 security personnel, injured.

The separatist groups — both factions of Hurriyat Conference and JKLF — on Thursday appealed the people to observe a complete shutdown on Friday and Saturday over WPR issue.

They alleged that the decision on issuance of identity certificates to WPR was aimed at changing the demography of Jammu and Kashmir.

First Published On : Dec 30, 2016 12:56 IST

As Kashmir violence threatens to start anew, new state DGP SP Vaid has his task cut out

Jammu: With local miltancy gaining ground in the Kashmir Valley, SP Vaid, a highly decorated police officer who helped tackle the recent unrest in the region, was appointed the new director general of police of Jammu and Kashmir.

He will take over from K Rajendra Kumar, whose extended tenure comes to an end on 31 December.

Stone pelting in Kashmir Valley. ReutersStone pelting in Kashmir Valley. Reuters

The Kashmir Valley witnessed violent clashes . Reuters

The task for 57-year-old Vaid, who is the current special director general (law and order), is cut out as the local youths are again taking up arms, especially after the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen terrorist Burhan Wani, whose killing by the security forces triggered the latest round of turmoil in Kashmir.

A 1986 batch IPS officer, Vaid will hold office till October 2019. “My focus will be to keep the flag of the police force flying high in the state,” he told PTI after his appointment.

He said that while the police will be tough against the perpetrators of violence and terrorists, “I will ensure that no common man is harassed. My idea is to make the police more and more people friendly,” he said.

Vaid is the second officer from Jammu to have risen to the post of director general of police, after MM Khajuria, who held the postion in 1985. However, he is the first regular IPS recruit to become the DGP from Jammu, as Khajuria had been absorbed in the IPS from the state cadre.

The state, according to intelligence reports, has more than 200 local and foreign militants with infiltration and local recruitment crossing all pervious records. The prolonged unrest following Wani’s killing also had a bearing on anti-militancy operations.

In the aftermath of Wani’s killing, law and order situation had spiralled out of control and the state government, while taking a serious note of it, shifted him from the position of DG (prisons) and made him Special DG (law and order). After taking over the charge, he camped in Kashmir and initiated various measures to make optimum use of the force so as to check rising casualties of both civilians and security forces through police-public interaction programmes in almost all districts of the Valley.

Vaid was seriously injured when militants ambushed his vehicle in March 1999 near Sopore crossing on the Srinagar-Baramulla highway. He was the then range DIG of Baramulla-Kupwara in North Kashmir.

During his career, Vaid has received several medals including President’s Police Medal for distinguished service, Indian Police Medal for gallantry, Police Medal for meritorious service, Indian Army Chief’s citation and Antrik Suraksha Seva Padak by the Home Ministry.

Rajendra, a 1984 batch IPS officer, was granted an extension for three months in September this year.

First Published On : Dec 28, 2016 21:53 IST

CBI summoning TMC MPs is ‘political revenge’: Mamata Banerjee

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday said the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) summoning the Trinamool Congress MPs is nothing but political revenge of the Centre.”This is nothing but political revenge. This can’t stop the Trinamool Congress (TMC). We will stand by our people,” Mamata told the media.The CBI has issued summons to two TMC MPs- Sudip Bandyopadhyay and Tapas Paul, in connection with the alleged Rose Valley scam, one of the cases being probed by the investigating agency as part of the umbrella chit fund scams.Both the TMC MPs have been asked to appear at the CBI office on December 30.The CBI had filed its charge sheet in the Rose Valley Group chit fund scam naming Kundu and three others in a special court in Bhubaneswar on January 7.The firm was charged with defrauding depositors of Rs. 17,000 crore from across the country of which Rs. 450 crore was received by the ponzi firm from Odisha alone.In its charge sheet, CBI had claimed that it was still probing the role of ‘influential people’ in the scam.

After three month ban, Kashmir newspaper back on the stands

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Local English daily Kashmir Reader hit the stands on Wednesday after it was banned by the Jammu and Kashmir government for nearly three months on the charges that its publication was a threat to peace in the valley.The newspaper started its publication and distribution for the first time after it was banned through an order passed by District Magistrate, Srinagar on October 2.The District Magistrate’s order had alleged that the publication of Kashmir Reader posed a threat to peace in the valley which had been going through a period of turmoil since July following the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani.The revocation of the ban on the newspaper is seen as the first success for the newly-formed Kashmir Editors’ Guild, a body of all major dailies and weeklies published from the Valley.

When PDP came to power last year, development process had to be started afresh: Mehbooba Mufti

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister and ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chief Mehbooba Mufti said on Tuesday the political process and governance in the state have to be carried out simultaneously and asked her party workers to play their role in creating a congenial atmosphere for that. “It has been the biggest success of our party to convince the stakeholders that the political process and governance in Jammu and Kashmir have to be carried out together.”When the party was voted to power in 2002, it not only carried forward its development agenda, but the political process in the state took off, resulting in initiation of dialogue and many major state-specific confidence building measures,” she told a gathering of PDP workers in Srinagar. The chief minister expressed regret that the state had to undergo a “political drought” after the PDP demitted office in 2005 and the whole process had to be “restarted from zero” in 2015 when her father and former chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed took over the reins again.”This was the biggest reason for the party to form the government in the state (with the BJP) so as to get the people out of the uncertainty which loomed large over them due to the political drought. “In fact, much of the reason for the recent turmoil in the Valley lies in the fact that political engagement was discontinued after 2005 and no more state-specific confidence building measures took place afterwards,” said Mehbooba.The PDP president said when the party took over last year, “everything had to be started afresh”. “Development and dialogue were made prominent components of the Agenda of Alliance (PDP’s common minimum programme with the BJP) and the government had just started to roll out its agenda.”However, certain elements inimical to peace and development in the state worked to derail the process. The whole process got stuck due to the turmoil of the last five months during which not only the government, but every section of the society in Kashmir got affected and bruised,” she said.Mehbooba said though the delay in carrying forward the development process would be compensated, the lives lost and the setback the state’s political process received were “irreparable”. She asked the party workers to make people aware of the “nefarious designs” of these “vested elements” who were only interested in “death and destruction in the state”.The chief minister asked the people to help her maintain peace in the state so that besides development, dialogue with all the stakeholders, opening of routes, more relief to the people and other state-specific measures could be undertaken.

Pampore attack despite strong intelligence warning

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>About 24 hours before a convoy of Rashtriya Rifles was ambushed near the Kadlibal area in Pampore town on Saturday afternoon, intelligence agencies had dispatched information of a “possible terror attack” on the Srinagar-Jammu Highway.While intelligence agencies based in the Valley have, on multiple occasions, dispatched similar inputs, it is the brazenness of this particular ambush that has security forces, especially in areas close to National Highways, concerned.Officials told DNA on Sunday that not only has the highway crossing through Pampore area become increasingly vulnerable to such ambush, but the elaborate planning that takes place before such attacks is a growing concern.For instance, the intelligence input before the Pampore attack on Saturday, in which three Rashtriya Rifles personnel lost their lives, had stated that proscribed outfits were planning a major stand-off with the Indian armed forces on the highway. It even had specifics that there was a strong possibility that convoys would be targeted using Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs).According to a senior security official in Kashmir, at 12.30 pm on Friday, a message based on human intelligence was dispatched. It warned security forces of the possible attack.”Credible input suggests that militants have planned IED blasts followed by firing on NHW or a major town today (Friday). Take all necessary precautions,” read the portion of the input.According to some senior officials of the Jammu and Kashmir police, all precautions were being taken but the race against time was lost when around 2 pm, three motorcycle-borne gunmen ambushed the convoy. The exchange of fire lasted around 10 minutes, following which the militants escaped.What has the security establishment now thinking is the elaborate ambush plans, starting from planting IEDs, surprise attacks on convoys and a well thought-out escape route.Sources say areas in city outskirts like Pampore in south Kashmir is considered more vulnerable to such attacks, especially since the Entrepreneur Development Institute (EDI) is located near Sempore. The EDI, too, has come under attack on more than one occasion and the area is one of the link roads that connects south Kashmir with Srinagar city.The area is strategic for militant activities as it is located between Tral, Pulwama areas like Kakapora, Ratnipora and Khrew. On the other side of the river are open vast fields, which provides a good escape route.”The presence of militants in Pulwama and in areas close to the banks of Jhelum river is the reason that the highway has witnessed so many attacks,”said a senior J&K police official.This year alone, seven major attacks on the Srinagar-Jammu highway, mainly in south Kashmir, have taken place, with Pampore being the fourth such attack in the Valley since August.What is more troublesome is the indication that emanates from ambush. They suggest the capability and network of groups like the Laskhar-e-Toiba (LeT) and Hizb-ul-Mujahideen (HuM), which are suspected to behind the Saturday attack.IEDs are an added worry. Sources say the use if IEDs had decreased since the armed insurgency erupted in Kashmir in late 80s.One of the first IED blasts that announced the arrival of insurgency was in July 1988 in the Lal Chowk area of Srinagar. Over the years, convoys have witnessed the same tactics. However, the counter-insurgency witnessed in the Valley in the past three decades had rendered the usage of IEDs to a minimal, with militants resorting to attacks using grenades.A senior intelligence official told DNA that local youth who who joined HuM or LeT in the past few years did not get training in making IEDs, but now some of them are trained by “foreign militants, “referring to Pakistani nationals fighting under LeT. It is likely that local militants, who mostly make the Hizb ranks, might have received training in making IEDs as well.Last month, a bullet-proof ‘Rakshak’ jeep of the police came under attack in Awantipora of Pulwama district, which injured three police officials.

Rahul Gandhi would have exposed PM in Parliament: Ghulam Nabi Azad

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad on Saturday said that if Rahul Gandhi would have been allowed to speak in Parliament, the Prime Minister would have been “exposed”.”Well he (Rahul Gandhi) was not given the opportunity as he wanted to say something on the floor of the House. Had he been given the opportunity to speak in the Parliament, he (Prime Minister) would have been exposed,” the Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha told reporters here.Azad said that if there was nothing to hide, then why the government and the MPs of the ruling party did not allow Rahul Gandhi to speak.”(It was) because they did not want him (Prime Minister) to be exposed (by Rahul Gandhi),” Azad said.Azad, who is also the former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, blamed the BJP for the five-month long unrest in the Valley, stating that BJP being part of the government did not go well with the people of the state.”As far as Jammu and Kashmir is concerned we had warned the Prime Minister earlier that BJP government will not go well with the people of Jammu and Kashmir. The situation which prevailed in Kashmir in the past five to six months, the main reason was the BJP forming the government in the state,” Azad said.On the issue of Robert Vadra’s Bikaner land row, Azad said that the BJP government in order to hide its own failures was “befooling” the people of the country by raking up “non issues”.”Let me tell you whenever there has been an attack on the BJP or its corruption or misdoing (is exposed) they will try to divert the attention by saying this has happened and that has happened,” he said.On the Augusta Westland issue, Azad said, “Sometimes they raise Augusta. Same Augusta thing which was discussed for six hours in the Parliament and we had said about Augusta there was nothing and whatever deal was struck it was not concluded the government came to the conclusion that there was something fishy and it was the UPA government which initiated the CBI enquiry.”

J&K: After two days of normalcy, separatists call strike again

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>After two days of normalcy, life was again affected in Kashmir Valley on Friday due to a strike called by separatists as part of their agitation programme to protest the killing of civilians during the unrest and in support of their other demands. Most of the shops, fuel stations and other business establishments in Srinagar, the summer capital of the state, were shut, while public transport was minimal, officials said.The effect of the strike was accentuated by a public holiday in Kashmir on Friday, they said. Reports of shutdown were also received from most of the other district headquarters of the Valley, the officials said.On Wednesday, the separatist groups — both factions of Hurriyat Conference and JKLF — had scaled down their strike call from five days a week to two days. They have extended the protest programme till the end of this month and have asked people to observe shutdown on Fridays and Saturdays.The separatists have been spearheading the agitation since the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani in an encounter with security forces in south Kashmir on July 8. The more than five-month unrest in the Valley has left 86 people dead and thousands others, including 5,000 security personnel, injured.

Trump meets Silicon Valley elite after mutual mistrust in campaign | Reuters

By Gina Cherelus
| NEW YORK

NEW YORK U.S. President-elect Donald Trump and Silicon Valley executives met at his Manhattan tower on Wednesday to smooth over frictions after both sides made no secret of their disdain for each other during the presidential campaign.The meeting may skirt the numerous disagreements the tech industry has with Trump — including on immigration, the trade relationship with China and digital privacy — in favour of a focus on shared priorities, sources said. “There’s nobody like the people in this room, and anything we can do to help this go along we’re going to do that for you,” Trump told the executives gathered in a conference room on the 25th floor of Trump Tower. “You call my people, you call me, it doesn’t make any difference. We have no formal chain of command,” he said. Three of Trump’s adult children — Donald Jr., Eric and Ivanka — sat at the head of a large rectangular table as the meeting began. Their attendance may fuel further concern about potential conflicts of interests for the president-elect, who has said he would hand over control of his business empire to his children while he occupies the White House.Vice President-elect Mike Pence was also in attendance. The tech luminaries, including Apple Inc’s (AAPL.O) Tim Cook, Facebook Inc’s (FB.O) Sheryl Sandberg and Tesla Motors Inc’s (TSLA.O) Elon Musk, met with Trump as U.S. corporations worry about his challenges to long-established policy toward China, a key market for Silicon Valley.A senior Chinese state planning officials told the China Daily newspaper Wednesday that Beijing could slap a penalty on an unnamed U.S. automaker for monopolistic behaviour, a warning that came days after Trump questioned acknowledging Taiwan as part of “one China.” The tech summit is being billed as an introductory session, said sources briefed on the talks.Other expected participants include Alphabet Inc’s (GOOGL.O) Larry Page and Eric Schmidt, Amazon.com’s (AMZN.O) Jeff Bezos, Microsoft Corp’s (MSFT.O) Satya Nadella, and Ginni Rometty from IBM (IBM.N), sources said. Cook and Musk will join Trump for a smaller meeting after the other technology executives leave, a spokesman for Trump’s transition team said.

The CEOs of Airbnb and Uber were invited but are not attending. Uber’s Travis Kalanick will instead be traveling in India all week, according to a person familiar with his plans. ‘SOME HESITATION’
Trump clashed with Silicon Valley on several issues during the campaign, including immigration, government surveillance and encryption, and his surprise victory last month alarmed many companies that feared he might follow through on his pledges. He has said that many tech companies are overvalued by investors.

“You look at some of these tech stocks that are so, so weak as a concept and a company and they’re selling for so much money,” he told Reuters in an interview in May.Those concerns have not been assuaged in recent weeks as Trump has threatened to upset trade relationships with China and appoint officials who favour expanded surveillance programs. “For some of the companies, there was some hesitation about whether to attend” because of sharp political and personal differences with Trump, one tech industry source said.More than 600 employees of technology companies pledged in an open letter on Tuesday to refuse to help Trump’s administration build a data registry to track people based on their religion or assist in mass deportations.Silicon Valley enjoyed a warm rapport with President Barack Obama and heavily supported Democrat Hillary Clinton during the presidential campaign.

Schmidt was photographed on election night at Clinton headquarters wearing a staff badge, and Musk said in interviews before the election that Trump’s character reflected poorly on the United States.Despite those tensions, Trump named Musk to a business advisory council that will give private-sector input to Trump after he takes office on Jan. 20. Uber’s Kalanick was also appointed to the council.From the employees of the 10 largest Fortune 500 tech companies, Trump raised just $179,400 from 982 campaign donors who contributed more than $200. Clinton raised $4.4 million from the employees of the same companies, with more than 20,400 donations, a Reuters review of contribution data found. Trump publicly bashed the industry during the campaign. He urged his supporters to boycott Apple products over the company’s refusal to help the FBI unlock an iPhone associated with last year’s San Bernardino, California, shootings, threatened antitrust action against Amazon and demanded that tech companies build their products in the United States.Trump has also been an opponent of the Obama administration’s net neutrality rules barring internet service providers from obstructing or slowing consumer access to web content. Two advisers to his Federal Communications Commission transition team are opponents of the rules, as are the two Republicans on the FCC. Last week, the two Republicans on the panel urged a quick reversal of many Obama policies and one, Commissioner Ajit Pai, said he believed that net neutrality’s “days are numbered.” (Additional reporting by Dustin Volz, Andy Sullivan, Grant Smith, Heather Somerville, Steve Holland and Jim Finkle; Editing by Alistair Bell)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

First Published On : Dec 14, 2016 23:31 IST

Exgratia for Burhan Wani’s kin announced, authorities seek objections within seven days

Srinagar: The Jammu and Kashmir government has cleared an 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 8 July this year triggered unrest in the Valley, which has left as many as 86 people dead.

According to a notification issued yesterday 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.

Funeral of Burhan Wani. ReutersFuneral of Burhan Wani. Reuters

Funeral of Burhan Wani. Reuters

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 13 April last year.

The DLSCC meeting took place under the chairmanship of the Deputy Commissioner, Pulwama, Muneer-ul-Islam, on 24 November. 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.

First Published On : Dec 13, 2016 15:19 IST

Mehbooba Mufti says J&K safest for tourists, invites people to visit state

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Days after separatist groups invited tourists to the Valley, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti on Saturday called upon the people of the country to visit the state and enjoy its hospitality, saying that it was the safest place in the world for tourists.”Jammu and Kashmir is the safest place not only in the country but the whole world for tourists and especially for women. You can move around here without any fear even during nights and nothing untoward will happen to you,” Mehbooba said while speaking at a function in Srinagar.She said that women face many hardships in other places in the country but her government would not let them face any hardships in the state. “We get to know what happens to women in broad daylight in other places, compared to that women can come here either by themselves or in groups. We will take good care of them and would not let them face any hardship,” she said.The chief minister said that her government would offer exciting packages to the tourists and invited them to visit the state along with their families. “The atmosphere here is also very good, the place is picturesque and then snowfall is in the offing and I would like to invite all the people of the country to visit Kashmir and enjoy our hospitality. Kashmir is calling you all. We will offer exciting packages. We will organise a snow festival at Gulmarg in January, so I request the people of the country to visit Kashmir along with their children,” she said.Mehbooba’s invite comes days after separatists made an appeal to tourists to visit the Valley, saying tourists and pilgrims from the world, including India, who intend to visit Kashmir were most welcome. “From centuries, Kashmiris have been safeguarding and providing exemplary hospitality and safety to tourists and Yatris from the world, including India, as we have been taught hospitality, humanity and safeguarding the rights of guests by our great religion.”Tourists and Yartris from the world, including India, who intend to visit Kashmir are most welcome,” the separatists said in a statement on December 6.Since the agitation broke out in July, tourism-related activities have come to a standstill in Kashmir.

Ram Madhav, Omar Abdullah spar over UN Military Observers Group office in Srinagar

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>BJP leader Ram Madhav and former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah on Thursday sparred on the social media over the presence of UN Military Observers Group (UNMOG) office in Srinagar, with Madhav calling it an “unnecessary provocation” for the separatists in the Valley.Omar responded by asking the BJP General Secretary to have the UMNMOG office relocated as his party was in power both in the state and at the Centre.Madav took to twitter to question the presence of UNMOG office. “UN office at Srinagar is an unnecessary provocation 4 (for) separatists 2 (to) organize marches.””Pak has it in Rawalpindi. Why do we have it in Srinagar,” Madhav, who is BJP’s pointsman in Jammu and Kashmir, tweeted apparently referring to the call given by separatist groups asking people to march to the local UN office on December 10.To this, the NC leader replied, “Jenab, not to put too fine a point on it but please correct what we failed to do in that case as you are in power in Centre and in the state.” Hinting at National Conference being part of the NDA government led by the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Madhav then quipped “We didn’t do it when ‘WE’ were in power some 15 years ago either.”However, Omar told Madhav that no one had called for such a thing when NC and BJP were alliance partners at the Centre.”Touche’ but in ‘our’ defence, I don’t recall anyone in a position of authority calling for UNMOGIP removal from Srinagar,” he said.

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

Farooq Abdullah’s statement on Hurriyat shows NC was involved in Kashmir unrest: Mehbooba Mufti

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti on Tuesday slammed National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah for his remarks that his party is not against separatist Hurriyat, saying it showed that the Opposition party was behind the violence in the Valley over last few months.She alleged that NC wants to keep the atmosphere charged in the Valley as it “can go to any extent for power”. “He (Abdullah) used to say that Hurriyat leaders should be thrown into river Jhelum. Today he is talking about something else. It again makes it clear that NC will play with the lives of anyone, including children and women, for power,” Mehbooba told reporters here. “The statement of Farooq telling his party workers to lend full support to Hurriyat makes clear one thing which we did not mention till now that NC can go to any extent for power,” she said.The chief minister said NC can play with the lives of anyone including children and women, for power. “In the last four-five months, the criminal element which entered into the situation here, who pelted stones on vehicles, burnt schools and attacked camps… this statement makes it clear that NC was involved in such activities in these months,” she charged. The Chief Minister said NC leadership has asked its party workers to not let the situation improve.
ALSO READ We are with Hurriyat till they are on right track: Farooq Abdullah”Now when the situation is improving, children are going to school and tourism is also picking up slowly, Farooq has once again asked his workers, giving them an order, to create that situation once again in which the atmosphere in J&K will remain charged,” she said. Abdullah, while addressing his party workers at a function to commemorate the 111th birth anniversary of his father and party founder Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah at Hazratbal yesterday, had said his party was not against the Hurriyat and supported the Kashmiri’s demand for their rights but it would not tread the “wrong path” for achieving these goals.He had also asked his party workers not to be away from “this struggle” because “We are a part of this struggle. We have fought regularly for the interests of this Valley.” Mehbooba said Abdullah is not concerned about the struggle because since 1947 till now, NC has only struggled for power. “Even today I feel that, by the statement yesterday, he has hinted at his workers to not let the situation improve because they want power at any cost,” she alleged.She noted that Abdullah’s son Omar has been a Minister (of state) for External Affairs in the BJP-led government and had said that Pakistan should be labelled as a terror state. Farooq Abdullah also regularly used to say that Pakistan should be bombed, Mehbooba said.

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.

Chhattisgarh: Naxal hotbed Kanker turning into custard apple production hub

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Chhattisgarh’s Kanker district, which has been infamous for Naxal violence, is turning out to be a custard apple production hub thereby transforming lives of villagers, particularly tribals, of the region.Located in northern part of Bastar division, Kanker, around 150 kms away from here, has recorded a huge production of roughly 6,000 tonnes of custard apple (popularly known in Hindi as ‘sitaphal’) this year, as per local officials. “Although, thousands of farmers in the district have been traditionally involved in the collection and sale of Sitafal, but it was in an unorganised manner and therefore they failed to reap profit from the fruit,” says Kanker Collector Shammi Abidi. In a unique initiative by the district administration that could well serve as a model for villages across the country, the village womenfolk, traditionally involved in collection and selling of Sitaphal fruit, were brought together in an organised manner and trained in efficient collection and effective marketing so that they could get the best possible returns on the produce without being exploited at the hands of middlemen.More than 900 members of Forest Protection Committees (​FPC) and Self Help Groups​ (SHGs) are intensely involved in the project and about 4,000 farmers are directly benefited through this initiative. As on October 30, 2016, 20,278 boxes (each containing 1.5 kg) of custard apple were sold at the average selling rate of Rs 60 per box, earning a profit of Rs 30 per box, the collector said.Besides, pulp extraction and its preservation through anti-browning technology is also being done by setting up 10 pulping centres in the district. So far, 3,165 kilograms of pulp has been extracted by producer groups which is priced at Rs 200 per kg, leading to a profit of Rs 140 per kg, she said.At least 155 farmers are involved in direct marketing of fruits in Raipur and Durg/Bhilai, she pointed out.Giving details on how the project was conceived, Abidi said earlier, the tribals who collect custard apples – a highly perishable fruit with low shelf life – sold it at a throwaway price of Rs 4 per kg to the ‘kochias’ (middle men) or at the local markets.Subsequently, the district administration took up the project last year on experimental basis to mobilise the farmers and assist them in scientific upkeep of trees bearing this fruit and better marketing. They were made aware of different avenues of the fruit marketing and, over and above, establishing a brand in the name of ‘Kanker Valley Fresh’ custard apple, she said.

Jammu and Kashmir: A university funded by religious faith is a centre of inclusive liberality

Inside the large hall, two young men in jeans and a young woman in leotards take turns at the drum set. One of them is trying it for the first time. Another student toys with the synthesizer, while another two jam on electric guitars, one of them a bass. A large mixer stands on a table in the middle of the room, wired for sound.

Another student squats in a cozy corner just outside the music hall, to practice the tabla. He is obviously talented, and the pleasure on his face as he practises a fast rhythm is sublime.
This is the music society of the Sri Mata Vaishno Devi University (SMVDU), on the second floor of one of the academic buildings, on a normal late-semester evening. The University sprawls on what used to be rocky bushland between the highway and the little town of Katra. It is a 40-minute drive from Jammu on the national highway to the Kashmir Valley.

SMVDU campus. Image courtesy: http://www.smvdu.ac.in/

SMVDU campus. Image courtesy: http://www.smvdu.ac.in/

In the cool dark of the campus, a brilliantly lit basketball court looks like a scene from a Hollywood movie, as students practise in shorts and vests.

In just over a decade since it was established, this university has matured into a metaphor for the rounded development of young people. It is the only place in north India with a state-of-the-art biotechnology lab. And it has an outstanding architecture college, the only one in Jammu and Kashmir. Plus, of course, it buzzes with extracurricular activities.

At the University guest house, one bumps into extraordinary academics. Kisor Chakrabarti, for instance, was professor of philosophy at Princeton, Duke and Berkeley before he retired as the vice-president for academics of a college in the US — though he insists on being introduced as a former Calcutta University lecturer.

Chakrabarti enjoys being at the SMVDU enough to have returned to the University a third time — to deliver a series of lectures to the philosophy faculty and PhD candidates. “I am most impressed by the high quality of courses offered at this University, the attention and care which the faculty continually provides to their students, and the stunningly beautiful campus,” he says, measuring his words carefully.

Hub of inclusivity

But perhaps far more important than all these is a less obviously noticeable aspect of this institution: It is a harmonious island of not only high achievement, but also of inclusiveness, in a generally troubled and divided state.

The state’s education minister Naeem Akhtar pointed out at a function at the University’s Matrika Auditorium on Wednesday evening that the institution, entirely funded by contributions by devout Hindus (at the Vaishno Devi shrine nearby), has opened its doors wide to students of every kind.

Indeed, one noticed during a visit to the University during Ramzan a few years ago that special arrangements had quietly been made in a hostel kitchen to provide Sehri and Iftar (pre-dawn and post-sunset) meals to Muslim students who wanted to keep the annual month-long fast. There was no propaganda projection of these arrangements; it was simply what the University did for students it considered its own. The University’s dynamic Vice-chancellor, Sanjeev Jain, says matter-of-factly: “We never differentiate on caste, creed and all that.”

Tabligh preaching was the fashion in those days. So some students from the Kashmir Valley kept long beards, short pyjamas and skull caps. One of them noticeably averted his face when he passed a woman. Another sat with their girl friends of different backgrounds in the coffee shops and canteens. Neither seemed to attract a reaction.

Not only do students from various backgrounds seem to be readily included in the University’s life, several students and teachers go out of their way to make them feel at home. “Students tend to avoid loose talk (everyday abusive punctuation) among themselves when Kashmiris are around. They are aware that these come from a more refined culture,” says Dr Varun Kumar Tripathi, who supervises cultural programmes as chair of the University’s cultural council.

“Teachers are also careful,” he adds. “They make an effort to ensure that a Kashmiri student has no problems.”

This University has worked hard from the time it was established to nurture an inclusive culture. One reason it may have succeeded better than others is that it has remained select: It only has about 1,600 students. On the other hand, its infrastructure was liberally funded by the Sri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board, which draws more pilgrims than any other shrine in north India and so has vast funds.

So efficiently did the second vice-chancellor (Prof NK Bansal, formerly of IIT Delhi) build it up that it draws students from across north India and a few from south India too. Indeed, the inclusivity of the place can also be seen in the hostel menus — idlis for breakfast on certain days, for instance.

Naeem Akhtar pointed out in his speech that the University has a central locational advantage to play an inclusive role in a state that is more diverse in culture, languages and ethnicities than any other.

Akhtar drew applause when he said that people of different backgrounds have to live together in this country. We must therefore remove the thorn of distrust deep in our hearts regarding persons from identity groups different to our own.

If a University is meant to draw universal knowledge to open a world of opportunities to its students and the society it serves, this beleaguered state surely needs top-drawer universities. SMVDU seems to be climbing fast and sure on the steep path to the ‘highest international levels of excellence’ which its mission statement charted.

First Published On : Dec 2, 2016 10:27 IST

Kashmir: As India-Pakistan tensions grow, Mehbooba Mufti’s political appeal shrinks

As tensions between India and Pakistan refuse to die down and terrorism recaptures centre-stage with a sudden uptick in militant attacks in Jammu and Kashmir, the state’s beleaguered chief minister, Mehbooba Mufti, is finding her political appeal losing relevance with every passing day.

The criticism was already mounting in the Valley on Mehbooba’s PDP-BJP coalition government for launching one of the worst crackdowns on protesters with more than 8,000 — including minors — behind bars, and many of them slapped with the draconian Public Safety Act.

File image of Mehbooba Mufti. AFP

File image of Mehbooba Mufti. AFP

While the crackdown brought some semblance of normalcy on the streets and the situation seemed to be limping back to normalcy, the worst crises in years started unfolding on the de facto border between India and Pakistan in Jammu and Kashmir. Following the Uri attack and the ‘surgical strikes’, the intensity of clashes between armies of the two countries has grown ferociously. Mehbooba’s Peoples Democratic Party is a strong votary of a sustainable and meaningful dialogue between the two countries but there are few takers for peace on the subcontinent today.

The party which wants to be seen as a “bridge of peace” between the two nuclear armed countries, has, despite being in power in an alliance with the BJP, failed to convince the Central government to initiate a meaningful dialogue with the separatists, who are spearheading the ongoing agitation in the Valley.

On Thursday, Mehbooba once again reiterated that the people in Kashmir have been the biggest beneficiaries of the peace process between India and Pakistan and also worst victims of hostility between the two countries. “I hope the national leadership, especially the prime minister, will continue to spearhead the movement for peace and reconciliation started by him in spite of the unfortunate disruptions in the follow up and attempts to derail it”, she said.

Mehbooba recently met senior cabinet ministers of the BJP in New Delhi, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and she spoke of the need to initiate ‘confidence building measures’ for the bruised Valley and a dialogue with Pakistan. But the attack on Nagrota army base leaves New Delhi with little choice but to further freeze any engagement with Pakistan. That, Mehbooba knows, is a problem which will reflect poorly on her political beliefs.

When Mehbooba’s late father, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, became the chief minister of the state for the first time in 2002, he galvanised support for some historic measures, like the opening of cross-LoC travel and trade, which significantly eased tensions between Delhi and Islamabad. He launched a policy of ‘healing touch’ in the state which in turn benefited his core political constituency.

However, since she took over the reins of the state after Sayeed’s sudden demise, Mehbooba has been battling crisis after crisis in Kashmir that threatened to rip the social fabric of the state and also polarised the communal divisions between Muslim majority Kashmir and Hindu-dominated Jammu.

With the Kashmir Valley on boil following the killing of Burhan Wani and the hostilities between India and Pakistan likely to increase in the coming days, it is the PDP that will have to pay the cost in the long run. A party which promised self-rule for the divided Kashmir is today lost in translation; its political agenda lying in tatters. An unyielding partner, the BJP, is only making matters worse.

First Published On : Dec 2, 2016 10:15 IST

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.

32 ceasefire violations on LoC, 23 militant attacks foiled: BSF

Srinagar: The Border Security Force (BSF) said on Wednesday that it has foiled 23 attacks, including two BAT actions by Pakistan, along the Line of Control (LoC) in the Kashmir Valley this year and is alert to deal with any untoward incident.

Representational image. PTIRepresentational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

“BSF has foiled and faced 23 attacks of militants and Pakistan regulars on its posts and personnel along LoC in Kashmir this year. The guys (BSF jawans) have done well, they have been doing their jobs with utmost dedication. They have foiled many infiltration bids on the LoC and also foiled two BAT (Border Action Team) attempts and in one of the actions, three of our guys have been killed, but they foiled the action and killed one militant and recovered weapons,” Vikas Chandra, inspector general, BSF Kashmir Frontier, told reporters here.

The frontier chief of the border guarding force said security at various installations of BSF has beefed up in the wake of the Nagrota terror attack. “Security arrangements have been made. We are alert 24×7 to deal with any incident during these difficult times,” he said.

Chandra said the paramilitary force, along with the army, was “appropriately” responding to the ceasefire violations. “Ceasefire violations have been taking place and we have responded appropriately to them. There were 32 ceasefire violations in 2016 along the LoC on this side. We have lost some men and some others have been injured as well, but that is part of the life, part of duty,” he said.

Responding to a question on whether the ceasefire violations were just that or a cover for infiltration, the BSF officer said, “We can say it is combined. They are infiltration bids as well and we have foiled many such incidents.”

Asked whether the attack on the LoC by Pakistan and mutilation of bodies of soldiers was a BAT action, Chandra said, “Generally, BAT actions take place. It would have happened, that is why there has been such action.”

He said 14 BSF battalions were deployed in the Valley. “Over 14,000 personnel are deployed in the Valley, both on the LoC and in the hinterland. We are working with the army guarding the LoC. In the last one year, nine BSF officers have sacrificed their lives and 18 others have been injured while guarding the LoC and also while working in the hinterland,” he said.

On a question whether there was an increase in the militant attacks after India conducted surgical strikes, the BSF officer said, “I will not say it is an increase. It is a tactic they have been using earlier as well. On the LoC, we have to be careful and we are being careful. It is not that they have not been trying, they have been, but we have averted those on this side of the LoC.”

First Published On : Nov 30, 2016 22:52 IST

Kashmir activist Khurram Parvez, detained under draconian Public Safety Act, finally set free

Prominent human right activist and coordinator of the Jammu and Kashmir coalition for civil society, Khurram Parvez, walked out of jail on Tuesday morning, after the Jammu and Kashmir High Court quashed his arrest, made under the draconian Public Safety Act (PSA).

Parvez, who was accused of being a “threat to peace in the Kashmir Valley”, was arrested in September. The state government had faced criticism, both locally and internationally, for booking the activist under PSA.

Khurram Parvez. Image courtesy: Twitter/@KhurramParvezKhurram Parvez. Image courtesy: Twitter/@KhurramParvez

Khurram Parvez. Image courtesy: Twitter/@KhurramParvez

Often called “lawless laws”, the PSA was introduced by popular Kashmir leader Sheikh Abdullah in 1978, to keep timber smuggling in check. However, its use has been often been criticised by people across the political spectrum; rights activists have called for its abrogation. But despite criticism, the J&K government not only continues to use it, but it also just set a new record during the ongoing agitation, booking more than 500 persons, including minors, under the Act.

Successive governments in the state have used the law to crush dissent and political opponents. Khurram, too, was arrested under the same Act, which allows police to detain any person without charge or trail, and hold him/her up to six months or even two years.

Finally, after 76 days of incarceration, Khurram’s name was finally cleared by the court on Friday. However, due to a clerical error — the date of issue of the PSA warrant — jail authorities refused to release him. He was only set free on Tuesday, and is currently in Jammu, and is likely to reach Srinagar on Friday, said Khurram’s colleague, Pervaiz Imroz. “The judgment is the vindication of the fact that his (Khurram’s) detention was illegal and unlawful,” Imroz, himself a well-known human right lawyer, told Firstpost.

Despite release orders from the court, however, jail authorities had refused to release the activist; instead, he was taken by the counter-intelligence wing of the Kashmir police, who interrogated him at Meeran Sahib, Jammu.

The state government under chief minister Mehbooba Mufti has come under harsh criticism from the court, which termed Parvez’s arrest “illegal” and an “abuse of power”, and ordered the government to release him from prison immediately. Upon release, Khurram reportedly expressed gratitude to the local and international solidarity campaigning for his release.

Justice Muzaffar Hussain Attar, J&K High Court judge, while referring to the PSA during is pronouncement of the detention order, had said, “A society which catapulted itself to the highest position of democratic values and principles, may not accept the law like the Act of 1978.”

He added that Parvez’s detention order is not only illegal but the detaining authority has also abused its powers in ordering it. “The detaining authority has stated that activities of the detainee were highly prejudicial to the security of the Valley and maintenance of public order. However, they have not elucidated as to which activities were prejudicial to the security of the territory and which were against maintenance of public order,” the order said.

The court held that nothing was brought to its notice, either on grounds of detention or in the reply affidavit that in the investigation of the FIRs involvement of detainee surfaced as accused. “In absence of any such material having been brought to the notice of the court, at this stage, it has to be presumed that the detainee is not involved in any of these FIRs,” the court said.

It also raised serious questions about the police case against Parvez that led to his arrest initially, saying that police witnesses made “parrot-like statements” and failed to provide the content of the slogans the police had accused Pervez of raising and instigating people.

Before his arrest, Khurram was barred from travelling to Geneva to participate in a UN Human Rights Council session. As many as 52 activists, scholars, writers and lawyers had written an open letter demanding his immediate release.

Parvez, programme coordinator of the Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society, he had often accused the government of gross human rights violation and failing the people of the Kashmir Valley. At the time of his arrest, he wasn’t given any reason, and was only slapped with a charge under PSA later.

Srinagar SSP described him as an “anti-social element known for his anti-national activities” and said he’d has “achieved a prominent position in separatist camps under the hidden cover of being a human rights activist”.

But the reasons for his detention, Kashmir observers say, was not connected with the ongoing unrest at all, but rather to a case of alleged molestation of a teenaged girl by an Army soldier in north Kashmir’s Handwara town earlier this year. Khurram has campaigned against the state government for its inability to protect the identity of the teenaged victim, and harassing her instead. His campaigning had caused a huge public outcry in the state.

First Published On : Nov 30, 2016 19:15 IST

Holding of exams was ‘deceptive attempt’ to reap political gains: Hurriyat Conference

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Holding of Board exams in Kashmir was a “deceptive attempt” by the state government to reap political gains, hardline Hurriyat Conference headed by Syed Ali Shah Geelani said on Monday, a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi praised high attendance in the annual tests. “Conducting examinations was purely a mean and deceptive attempt (by the state government) to achieve political gains and get the applause from the masters in Delhi..,” Hurriyat spokesman said in a statement.In his monthly radio address ‘Mann ki Baat’, Modi had said on Sunday high participation of students in the recent Board exams in Kashmir reflected their resolve to strive for a better future through studies. Over 95% of students appeared in the Board exams which marked the resumption of educational activity in Kashmir Valley after schools remained shut for over four months due to the unrest and separatists-sponsored strike.Nearly 40 schools were also burnt down during the unrest which began following the killing of militant leader Burhan Wani in early July. The spokesman of Hurriyat, which has been spearhearding five-month shutdown in the valley that has also crippled studies, said education has been the prime concern of the society and every parent wants to give his wards the best possible education even at the cost of their own comfort. “No one can afford to keep his children away from the glory of education, which not only should help them to earn their livelihood but enlighten their mind and soul,” he said.The spokesman said there is a vast network of educational institutions in Kashmir, testifying that the local youth are hardworking, passionate and focused to get to the top on their own without the crutches. “They have touched new heights in every field and are determined to keep the pace in latest advancements but that does not mean that they have lost or fogged their vision of basic rights,” the Hurriyat said.

Mehbooba Mufti meets PM, wants CBMs for Kashmir

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Facing five-month-old unrest in the valley, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti on Monday impressed upon Prime Minister Narendra Modi to reach out to the people there by initiating confidence-building measures (CBMs) as she met him in New Delhi.During the meeting in Parliament House complex, she briefed Modi on the latest situation in Kashmir Valley which has been witnessing trouble since July, sources said. Mehbooba, who is heading a PDP-BJP coalition government, underlined the need for reaching out to the people of the state and in this regard urged the Prime Minister to initiate state-specific CBMs, they said. The Prime Minister was supportive of her views, they added.Later speaking to reporters, the Chief Minister said the situation in Kashmir is improving. “I discussed (with PM) how we can apply balm to the wounds of the people of Kashmir and talked about keeping a peaceful environment in the valley,” she said.”The situation (in Kashmir) is improving gradually. I am happy that the students sat for the exams despite all this hardship. I congratulate the parents for this,” she added. She said people of the country should visit Kashmir and allow the people to Kashmir to welcome them and provide them their services. Kashmir has been witnessing unrest since the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen militant Burhan Wani in an encounter on July 8.Though stone-pelting incidents and other such forms of violence have stopped, normal life continues to be disrupted in the valley because of the continuous shutdown sponsored by the separatists. The strike, which has been going on for last five months, has been further extended till December 1.To questions on demonetization, Mehbooba hailed the decision, saying it will benefit the country. “I congratulated the Prime Minister for the decision of demonetization. This is not an ordinary decision,” she said, adding “All those who have illegal money, fake currency have been hit by this move.”The Chief Minister said the people will face difficulties for some time. “Whenever there is any drastic decision, some kinds of inconvenience are caused for some time but I believe it will prove historic for the nation,” she added. Contending that demonetization move will lead to the improvement in development for the country, she said, “There was no development for the last 70 years. No proper infrastructure, hospital, roads, water etc. In the coming days the improvement of the country will be speedy because of Prime Minister’s decision.”

J&K CM Mehbooba Mufti meets PM Modi, seeks Confidence Building Measures

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti on Monday met Prime Minister Narendra Modi here and pressed for initiation of confidence-building measures (CBMs) to reach out to the people of the state.During the meeting in Parliament House complex, she briefed the Prime Minister on the latest situation in Kashmir Valley which has been witnessing unrest since July, sources said.Mehbooba, who is heading a PDP-BJP coalition government, underlined the need for reaching out to the people of the state and in this regard pressed for initiation of state-specific CBMs, they said.The Prime Minister was supportive of her views, they added.Later speaking to reporters, the Chief Minister said the situation in Kashmir is improving.Kashmir has been witnessing unrest since the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen militant Burhan Wani in an encounter on July 8. Separatists are continuing with their strike, which has been further extended till December 1.While replying to questions of reporters, Mehbooba said she supports demonetization decision as it will benefit the country.

PM Modi’s Mann Ki Baat: Top 13 quotes from today’s address

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday thanked citizens and banks across the nation for accepting demonetization and braving the following inconveniences, while accusing the opposition in a veiled attack, of misleading the nation over the scheme. The Prime Minister, in the 26th edition of his Mann Ki Baat address, also spoke on the burning issues of Kashmir unrest and hailed the valour of the Indian Armed Forces.Here are his top quotes from his address:1. Every jawan was touched by the unique and novel way the entire nation dedicated this Diwali to the Indian Armed Forces.
ALSO READ PM Modi’s Mann Ki Baat: Build a bright future for Kashmir’s children 2. Village heads from Kashmir visited me earlier to discuss the issue of development in their respective villages, but I conveyed them to turn their focus on the schools being burnt in the Valley and save the bright future of our children.3. I received overwhelming requests from across the nation to explain my decision behind scrapping Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes.4. The moment I had announced demonetization, I had warned that this was not an easy step and people will be inconvenienced.5. The corrupt are incorrigible and are still looking for unfair means to stock black money. But what is saddening is that they are doing so by exploiting the poor.6. Despite demonetization, the sowing of crops have soared and I want to thank our hardworking farmers for this.7. I want to hail our Banking system for their tireless service of the people in the present situation.8. It is a matter of great happiness and pride for me that the nation has welcomed demonetization.9. This major decision of mine is especially for the betterment of the poor, farmers, and the labourers.10. The youth are the agents of change and I appeal to them to carry forward this scheme with zeal and spread the message of embracing digital banking.11. Common man will be trouble free if they are made aware of the digital financial transaction options, the youth can do this quickly.12. The poor have started using Rupay Card, which was not used that frequently after November 8 decision and since then, nearly 300% development has happened.13. Amitabh Bachchan wrote to me – “Swachh tan, swachh mann, Swachh Bharat, mera parichay”.

PM Modi condoles death of journalist Dileep Padgaonkar

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Prime Minister Narendra Modi condoled the death of noted journalist Dileep Padgaonkar on Friday, saying he was a leading public thinker whose contribution to journalism will always be remembered.”Mr Dileep Padgaonkar was a leading public thinker whose contribution to journalism will always be remembered. Pained by his demise. RIP,” Modi tweeted.Seventy-two-year-old Padgaonkar, a former editor of The Times of India, was unwell for past several weeks and died at a hospital in Pune, family sources said. Padgaonkar began his career in journalism at an early age and joined the Times of India as its Paris correspondent after receiving a doctorate in humanities in 1968. He served the paper in various capacities before he was appointed its editor in 1988, a post he held for six years. Padgaonkar had also served as one of the three members of the interlocutors’ group on Jammu and Kashmir, set up by the previous government after continuous unrest in the Valley in 2008.

Pakistan establishes new committee to iron out ‘doable and sustainable’ India-Kashmir policy

Pakistan has completely failed in its ambition of drawing international attention to the situation in Jammu and Kashmir, following the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani in July. This has led many civilians in the neighbouring country, including members of the political class, to question the wisdom and viability of its India policy. Is a serious review of the policy now underway?

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s foreign policy advisor, Sartaj Aziz, informed the Pakistan Senate on Tuesday that a high-powered official committee would be set up – presided by Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhry – to work out a “doable and sustainable India-Kashmir policy”. The committee will comprise senior officials of the Ministries of Defence, Interior and Information, as well as from representatives from the army and intelligence agencies, including the ISI.

Pakistan has completely failed in its ambition of drawing international attention to the situation in Jammu and Kashmir. AFPPakistan has completely failed in its ambition of drawing international attention to the situation in Jammu and Kashmir. AFP

Pakistan has completely failed in its ambition of drawing international attention to the situation in Jammu and Kashmir. AFP

The establishment of such a committee would be a routine affair in most countries, where reviews of important policy areas are periodically undertaken by officials at the political level, however, Pakistan is different. Its army has never given up control of the country’s important foreign and security policies. Certainly, Pakistan’s India policy has always been within its domain. Thus, many pertinent questions arise about the timing and the leadership of the Chaudhry committee.

Nawaz has always tried to wrest control of Pakistan’s India policy from the army. These attempts were witnessed in his two previous terms, as in the current. The army has never let him off the leash, though. The immediate trigger for the committee’s appointment may be a response to the Senate’s interest in going into reasons why Pakistan’s diplomatic efforts to highlight the so-called human rights situation in the Kashmir Valley have failed. But the fact that the Chaudhry committee has been announced on the eve of General Raheel Sharif’s retirement suggests that it is one more endeavour of the prime minister to gain control of the country’s India policy.

It is unlikely that the new army chief, whoever he is, will allow the country’s India policy to go outside of the army’s remit. This is despite the combative and unprecedented words, “doable and sustainable”. Their clear implication is that the Generals have not succeeded in establishing a coherent India policy – one which serves Pakistan’s national interest.

Nawaz’s basic charge against the Generals is correct. However, he cannot escape his share in Pakistan’s failure at getting India condemned for the way it handled the Kashmir Valley agitation. He also does not seem to have made any real attempt to restrain the Generals from raising the temperatures along the LOC, or in reining in the anti-India jihadi tanzeems.

Nawaz has been under great political pressure lately because of his family’s alleged corruption, as revealed in the Panama Papers recently. Although obliquely, Gen Sharif too joined Imran Khan and other political parties in demanding that Nawaz should subject his family and himself to a probe. This weakened Nawaz’s ability to exert himself in policy matters but he could have still taken a stand, especially after the Uri attack. Instead, he chose to launch a blistering attack on India at the United Nations General Assembly, only to be met with complete international rebuff.

The truth is that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s steps towards Pakistan, after it raised the ante following Wani’s killing, took Pakistan by surprise. Earlier, Pakistan was pro-active and India reactive; now the roles have reversed. Pakistan has been compelled to maintain, as best as it can, the basic postulates of its approaches toward India; especially its core policy that any use of conventional forces by India may lead to nuclear war. That threat was challenged by Indian army’s surgical strikes following the Uri attack.

India needs to maintain its present pro-active posture, which sends the clear message that India is no longer willing to accept Pakistani calibrated terrorism and hostility. Thus, the decision to respond aggressively along the LoC to Pakistani provocative firing is appropriate as per the pro-active approach. This is painful for many Indian civilians and soldiers are making the supreme sacrifice. India has to preserve with the present approach so that Pakistan and the international community gets the message that Indian policy has changed.

There are voices being raised in India about where this “tit for tat” approach is going. Is it leading to a dangerous “abyss” that may result in unforeseen consequences? It is this thinking that led India in the past to exercise restraint and allowed Pakistan to strike India through terrorism.

The international community lauded India’s restraint while putting Pakistan under pressure, but eventually let it off the hook. A changed Indian approach will lead the international community to ask Pakistan to stop its provocative actions. The onus has to be on Pakistan to change course.

The Chaudhry committee has to be shown that it will have to take note of a new Indian resolve to end Pakistani terror and negativity. That if nothing else, India may put a few scratches on the Pakistani army’s mind though its obdurateness will no doubt continue.

India is in for the long haul and Modi has to prove his mettle.

First Published On : Nov 24, 2016 19:38 IST

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

Pakistan ‘apprises’ China of ‘grave’ situation in Kashmir: Foreign Office

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Pakistan on Monday “apprised” China about the “grave” humanitarian situation in Kashmir and hoped the global community will play its role in calling on India to put an end to the “blatant” rights violations in the Valley.The issue was discussed between Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry and Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Kong Xuanyou, who is on a two-day visit to Pakistan.During the bilateral meeting, the USD 46-billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and regional and global issues of mutual concern were discussed, the Foreign Office said.Chaudhry apprised Kong of “the grave humanitarian situation” in Kashmir. “He expressed the hope that the international community would play its role in calling on India to put an end to blatant human rights violations in the Valley,” it said.The two sides agreed to remain engaged and strengthen cooperation for the mutual benefit of the two countries.Chaudhry also briefed Kong on the latest situation in Afghanistan. He underscored the imperatives of reaching a sustainable and lasting peace in Afghanistan through reconciliation and dialogue, it said.The two sides agreed that the international community should remain engaged with Afghanistan, especially through the Quadrilateral Consultative Group (QCG) in support of an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned political reconciliation.Kong briefed Chaudhry “noted” that timely completion of CPEC’s early-harvest projects would significantly uplift of the region and improve regional connectivity.The Chinese official also called on Pakistan Prime Minister’s Adviser on Foreign Affairs, Sartaj Aziz.Aziz underscored the importance that Pakistan attaches to its ties with China and called for regular high-level exchanges.Kong thanked Pakistan for its consistent and strong support on issues of vital interest to China. He also reaffirmed China’s continued support to Pakistan’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity.Acknowledging the sacrifices rendered by Pakistan in fighting terrorism and extremism, he assured China’s full support against these menaces.

Class 10 board exams in Kashmir Valley begins from today

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The annual Class 10 and 12 board examinations in the Kashmir Valley will kick-off from Monday.As per reports, all arrangements have been put in place for the smooth conduct of the examinations for Classes 10 and 12, which are scheduled to start on November 14 and 15, respectively.Officials allayed fears of any trouble or inconvenience to the students appearing for the annual examinations.As per reports, around 480 examination centers have been set up for about 48,000 Class 12 candidates, whereas nearly 550 examination centers have been established for Class 10 candidates.State Education Minister Naeem Akhtar said he is hopeful that the examinations would be conducted in a peaceful atmosphere.A restive situation in the Kashmir Valley prevails since the killing of Jaish-e-Mohammed militant Burhan Wani on July 8.

Signs of normalcy return to Kashmir Valley

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Increased movement of people and traffic in Srinagar and other main towns of Kashmir hinted at return of normalcy in the Valley where separatists have called for a meeting of all stakeholders today to chalk out the future course of action with regard to the current unrest. Srinagar, the summer capital of the state, and some other main towns of the Valley witnessed increased movement of people and public transport, except buses, as more people defied the separatist diktats by coming out to carry out their day-to-day activities, officials said. They said a large number of taxis, auto-rickshaws and private cars were seen plying in the city especially in the areas in civil lines and the outskirts, including in the commercial hub of Lal Chowk here.Inter-district cabs also plied on the routes connecting many district headquarters with the city, the officials said, adding reports of increased movement of traffic were received from other main towns of the Valley as well. Some shops were also open in these areas, while there was huge rush of customers at banks, the officials said.They said there were no curbs on the movement of people anywhere in Kashmir, but adequate deployment of security forces has been made on some vulnerable points to maintain law and order as well as to instill a sense of security among the people to carry out their day-to-day activities. However, most of the shops, fuel stations and other business establishments were shut elsewhere in the Valley due to the separatist-sponsored strike. They are expected to open in the evening as the separatists have announced a 15-hour relaxation in the strike from 4.00 pm onwards.The ongoing unrest in Kashmir, triggered by killing of Hizbul Mujahideen militant Burhan Wani in an encounter with security forces on July 8, has completed four months.The separatists, who are spearheading the ongoing agitation in the Valley, have called for a meeting of all stakeholders at hardline Hurriyat Conference chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s residence today to chalk out the future course of action. There is an urge to take all the stakeholders into confidence for taking the ongoing movement forward.All the forums among whom traders, educationists, transporters, civil society members, religious, social and political organizations, bar association and people from other walks of life have been called at Hyderpora to jointly deliberate and discuss future course of action, the separatists said in a joint statement on Sunday. The decision to invite the stakeholders came after a meeting of chairmen of both Hurriyat factions Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and JKLF chief Yasin Malik at Geelani’s residence earlier on the same day.As many as 85 people, including two cops, have been killed and several thousand others injured in the ongoing unrest in the Valley.

Kashmir separatists call for joint meeting to discuss ‘future course of action’ in the valley

Srinagar: On Sunday, the separatists in Kashmir called for a joint meeting of all stakeholders on Tuesday to chalk out the “future course of action” with regard to the ongoing unrest in the Valley, while rejecting Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s statement that development was the key to a solution.

“There is an urge to take all the stakeholders into confidence for taking the ongoing movement forward. All the forums among whom traders, educationists, transporters, civil society members, religious, social and political organisations, bar association and people from other walks of life have been called on Tuesday, 8 November … to jointly deliberate and discuss future course of action,” the separatists said in a joint statement.

The decision to invite the stakeholders for consultations came after a meeting of the chairmen of both Hurriyat factions – Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq – and JKLF chief Yasin Malik at Geelani’s residence at Hyderpora here.

Representational image. PTIRepresentational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

The statement said the separatist leaders “unanimously rejected” the statement of the Prime Minister “wherein he has said that development is the corner stone of Kashmir solution.”

“It was asserted that the struggle … is not meant for any economic gains or packages but for the determination of future of millions of humans living in Jammu Kashmir,” it said, adding “such manoeuvering has failed” earlier and would fail now as well.

The separatists also condemned the burning of educational institutions in the Valley, saying “this phenomenon is very grave” and alleged that these were intended “to defame the ongoing struggle.”

Condemning the recent relaxation of the syllabus by Jammu and Kashmir Board of School Education, the separatists termed it as “ridiculous” and said the move “will tell upon the educational standards and individual potential of the students.”

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.

Burning of schools in Kashmir a clear plan to ensure students at protests, says BJP

Sun, 6 Nov 2016-11:35am , New Delhi , ANI
<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Urging the Jammu and Kashmir government to stop the burning of schools in the state, the Bharatiya Janata party (BJP) on Sunday said these acts of arson were a clear attempt to ensure the presence of students at anti-government protests. BJP leader and spokesman GVL Narsimha Rao told ANI, “This is clearly an attempt to scare away children and youth and to ensure that they are available to protest. The state government and local authorities are dealing with this issue on a high priority and we hope this problem of law and order will be put to rest quickly.”The Centre had last week asked the Mehbooba Mufti-led state government to check such attempts and make efforts for the reopening of schools which have been closed since July 9. As many as 31 schools and 110 government buildings have been damaged in the Kashmir Valley since the current unrest began nearly four months ago.The Jammu and Kashmir High Court has taken suo motu cognisance of this development and asked the state government to take steps to prevent such incidents and “unmask” the culprits.

Kashmir unrest: 12 injured in clashes in Srinagar

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>At least 12 people were injured on Saturday in fresh clashes between protestors and security forces, following death of a 16-year-old boy due to alleged poisoning in Eidgah area of the city. Qaiser Sofi from Eidgah area of the city died at a hospital here in the morning.After his burial, some youth indulged in stone pelting on security forces, prompting use of force by the law enforcing agencies, a police official said. He said 12 people were injured out of which six have sustained pellet injuries.Sofi was reported missing on October 25 and found in an unconscious state in Shalimar area of the city six days later and hospitalised, the official said. However, local residents of the area alleged that the teen was force fed some poisonous substance by security forces.Normal life elsewhere in the valley remained affected for the 120th consecutive day due to the separatist-sponsored strike. While most of the shops, business establishments and fuel stations across Kashmir were shut, some were open in few areas in Civil Lines and outskirts of the summer capital Srinagar, the official said. He said most of the public transport continued to remain off the roads but auto-rickshaws and cabs were seen plying at some places in the Valley, including in few areas of the city here.The separatists, who are spearheading the ongoing agitation in Kashmir, have been issuing weekly protest calendars since Hizbul militant Burhan Wani’s killing in an encounter with security forces on July 8. The separatists have extended the strike till November 10.While there were no curbs on the movement of people anywhere in Kashmir, restrictions on the assembly of people under Section 144 CrPC were in place throughout the Valley, the official said. He said security forces have been deployed in strength at vulnerable spots and along the main roads as a precautionary measure to maintain law and order as well as to instill a sense of security among the people to carry out their day-to-day activities without fear.As many as 85 people, including two cops, have been killed and several thousand others injured in the ongoing unrest in the Valley. Around 5000 security forces personnel have also been injured in the clashes.

Kashmir unrest: 31 schools, 110 govt buildings damaged in last four months

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>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 said.Out of the 110 government buildings, 65 were either completely gutted or partially burnt down and 55 were damaged through “other means”.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” the 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.

Baramulla jail clashes leave 4 cops, 2 inmates injured

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Inmates in the high-security Baramulla District Jail on Tuesday went on a rampage attacking the prison officials, setting the gates on fire, destroying surveillance cameras and pelting stones at the police inside the facility. Four policemen were injured, and two jail inmates sustained minor injuries in the incident.Assistant Superintendent of the Baramulla District Jail said that some inmates had created serious problems inside the jail premises due to administrative issues, and had attacked the jail staff.“He said that jail property including surveillance cameras were damaged. A police party was deputed to the jail premises which was also attacked by the inmates, with stones, bricks and lathis. Some of the jail inmates also damaged the wall of the district jail by removing the bricks to pelt the police party,” said a police spokesman.Police said the inmates also set the main gate of the Jail on fire, which was extinguished with the help of fire services. “A case under different penal sections of Indian Penal Code has been registered in this regard at Baramulla police station, and matter is being investigated,” he said. Meanwhile, police said the overall situation across the valley remained peaceful and under control on Tuesday.“During the day, no untoward incident was reported from any part of the Valley. Heavy vehicular traffic was seen on the roads in cities and towns of the Valley. Business went about as usual as vendors were seen on the roads, lanes and bylanes, police said.SITUATION IN VALLEY REMAINS PEACEFULMeanwhile, police said the overall situation in the Valley remained peaceful and under control on Tuesday.Heavy vehicular traffic was observed on the roads in the cities and towns of the Valley. A large number of vendors were seen on the roads, lanes and bylanes, a police spokesman said.

J&K: Fire at residential quarter of educational institute in Shopian

Tue, 1 Nov 2016-11:45pm , Srinagar , PTI
<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In a suspected case of sabotage, a fire broke out at a residential quarter of an educational institute in Shopian district of Kashmir on Tuesday night, police said. The fire broke out in the residence of the principal of District Institute of Education and Training at Shopian around 10 PM, a police official said.Local residents and fire brigade personnel rushed to the spot and put out the fire, he said. Officials said the cause of the fire was not immediately known, but did not rule out the possibility of sabotage. Over the past few months, around 25 schools have been burnt down mysteriously across the Kashmir Valley which is under the grip of unrest following the killing of militant commander Burhan Wani in an encounter in early July.

Jammu: Amid continuous Pak shelling, govt orders closure of 174 schools

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Following the continuous shelling from Pakistan which has resulted in the loss of lives, the Government has ordered the shutting down of 174 schools along the International Border and Line of Control in Jammu region.84 schools have been closed in Balakot zone in Poonch and 45 schools in Samba district. Over 25 schools have been gutted in the Valley in the last three months since the unrest broke out after Hizbul Mujahideen Commander Burhan Wani’s killing by Indian security forces.Earlier today, the state’s High Court stepped in and asked the government to protect the schools in the Valley which are under attack. The High Court took “suo moto cognizance” or acted of its own accord to order the state government to take preventive measures. The court also directed the police and administration to ensure protection of schools besides unmasking those responsible.Meanwhile in the wake of the continuous ceasefire violations and firing from Pakistan, Home Minister Rajnath Singh called a high level meeting, in which Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval and other senior MHA officials were present. The Border Security Force (BSF) today targeted around 14 Pakistan posts along the International Border (IB) in response to the unprovoked firing and shelling of Pakistan Rangers in Jammu and Kashmir’s Ramgarh and Arnia Sector since morning.

Kashmir fire: J&K HC asks civic officials to protect school buildings from being burnt

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Jammu and Kashmir High Court on Monday directed police and civil administration officials to devise modes and methods for protecting schools which have become target of miscreants in the ongoing unrest in the Valley. “All the three responsible officers present in the court are directed to sit together along with higher authorities and lower officials and to devise modes and methods which will be effective in protecting school institutions,” a division bench of the court said.The directions were issued to the Inspector General of Police, the Divisional Commissioner and the Director of School Education of Kashmir.The high court took suo motu cognizance of the reports about 26 schools being burnt in Kashmir Valley over the past 115 days of the unrest which started following the killing of terrorist organisation Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani in early July. The case was heard by Justices Mohammad Yaqoob Mir and Ali Mohammad Magrey.The court also directed the Chief Secretary and the Director General of Police to issue necessary instructions to their district level officers including Deputy Commissioners and SPs to take all preventive measures as shall be necessary for saving the school buildings from being burnt and to ensure that no other school building is harmed or destroyed.”Further the mysterious enemies of education shall be unmasked and dealt with iron hand,” the court said.The bench lashed out at the state government, saying the “administrative authorities are required to have resort to protective measures but they are still in deep slumber, appear not to have devised any protective policy for protecting school buildings”. The bench observed that the mysterious burning of centres of learning has sent shock waves awakening all to ponder.”Education is the main factor for intellectual excellence and prosperity. Imparting education in the centres of learning has no other viable substitute,” it added.The court also expressed hope that the “mysterious persons” will stop burning school buildings and “also hope that the citizens will also help in protecting school buildings”. The court listed the case for next hearing on November 7 and directed the three officials to remain present.

Setting schools in Kashmir on fire a combination of madness, perversion: Venkaiah Naidu

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Expressing concern over the repeated incidents of burning of schools in Jammu and Kashmir, Minister of State in Prime Minister’s Office Jitendra Singh on Monday asserted the people, especially the youth in the Valley, are fed up with the repeated incidents of violence and hatred.”This is a combination of madness and perversion. Otherwise, how can anyone think of setting fire to educational institutions?” asked Information and Broadcasting Minister M Venkaiah Naidu.Speaking to ANI, Jitendra Singh insisted that the youth of the state, which wishes to be a beneficiary of the enormous beneficiary schemes led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, cannot afford such incidents of violence to continue. “All of us will have to understand and those who refuse to understand would sooner than later also be made to realise that this kind of mayhem cannot carry on for long. The common man in Kashmir, the common man in the streets of Srinagar, particularly common youth does not wish for this disturbance to continue,” Singh said.”It is more of a frustration where some of the disgruntled elements, who are not able to carry on with their political agenda, are involving politics in such issues. A country like India in 2016 has more than 65% of population below the age of 35-40 years and the youth which has come of age, cannot afford this to continue,” he added.So far, over 26 schools have been burnt down in the last two months with the unrest in the Valley having prolonged for more than three months now, majority of them government-run, suffering irreparable damage. The attacks have soared after the state government decision to go ahead with the Class 10 and Class 12 Board exams, scheduled next month, despite calls by students, parents for delaying them due to the ongoing agitation.Most educational institutes in the Valley have been non-functional since July 9, keeping in mind the unrest in Kashmir that entered 115th day on Monday.

Normal life affected in Kashmir for 115th consecutive day

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Normal life remained affected in Kashmir for the 115th consecutive day on Monday due to the separatist-sponsored strike over the recent civilian killings and in support of their demand for right to ‘self determination’.Although some shops were open in few areas in the civil lines and in the outskirts of summer capital in Srinagar, most of them were shut in the rest of the city as well in other parts of Kashmir.There was some movement of private cars and auto-rickshaws in the city and other district headquarters of the Valley, but it was comparatively less as the separatists have not announced any relaxation in the strike later in the day on Monday.
ALSO READ Normal life affected in Kashmir valley for 114th dayMany street vendors, though, had set up their stalls along the TRC Chowk-Batamaloo axis through the Lal Chowk city centre.Even as there were no curbs on the movement of people anywhere in Kashmir, the officials said restrictions on the assembly of people under Section 144 CrPC were in place throughout the Valley.Security forces have been deployed in strength at vulnerable spots and along the main roads as a precautionary measure to maintain law and order as well as to instil a sense of security among the people to carry out their day to day activities without fear.The unrest, which began in the aftermath of killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani in an encounter with security forces on July 8 and is about to complete four months, has badly affected, business, tourism and education in Kashmir. While shops, petrol pumps and business establishments remain shut during the day and open only in the evening during the relaxation period announced by the separatists on few days of the week, educational institutions have been completely closed since the unrest began.The separatists, who are spearheading the ongoing agitation in support of their demand for right to self determination, have been issuing weekly protest calendars since Wani’s killing. They announce a 14-hour relaxation from 5 pm on some days of the week for people to buy essentials.As many as 85 people, including two cops, have been killed and several thousand others injured in the ongoing unrest in the Valley. Around 5000 security forces personnel have also been injured in the clashes.Thousands of youth, including some top separatist leaders, have been arrested by police over the past three months in an attempt to break the impasse. Over 300 people have been booked under Public Safety Act (PSA).

Normal life affected in Kashmir valley for 114th day

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Normal life remained affected in Kashmir for the 114th consecutive day on Sunday due to the separatist-sponsored strike over the recent civilian killings and in support of their demand for right to ”self determination”. Although there were no curbs imposed by the authorities, normal activities remained badly affected due to the strike called by the separatists.A large number of street vendors had set up their stalls at the weekly flea market, known locally as Sunday Market here, while fair number of of private cars and auto-rickshaws were seen plying in the city. However, normal life continued to remain affected in the rest of the Valley due to separatist-sponsored strike. Shops, petrol pumps and business establishments were shut, but are expected to open this evening as the separatists have announced relaxation in the strike from 5 pm onwards.Security forces have been deployed in strength at vulnerable spots and along the main roads as a precautionary measure to maintain law and order as well as to instill a sense of security among the people to carry out their day to day activities without fear. The separatists, who are spearheading the ongoing agitation in support of their demand for right to self determination, have been issuing weekly protest calendars since Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani was killed in an encounter with security forces on July 8.As many as 85 people, including two cops, have been killed and several thousand others injured in the ongoing unrest in the Valley. Around 5000 security forces personnel have also been injured in the clashes.Thousands of youth, including some top separatist leaders, have been arrested by police over the past three months in an attempt to break the impasse.Over 300 people have been booked under Public Safety Act (PSA).

Mann Ki Baat | PM takes sly jab at Congress, says on Sardar Patel’s birth anniversary, history remembers anti-Sikh riots

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Amid tension on the border with Pakistan, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday saluted the valour of the armed forces and lauded their sacrifice while dedicating the festival of Diwali to them. He hailed the people including celebrities for sending overwhelming messages to his “Sandesh2Soldiers” campaign.In his monthly “Mann ki Baat” programme on All India Radio, Modi also urged all citizens and state governments to find ways of forging unity across the country and working to defeat separatist tendencies and mentalities.In the wake of ongoing troubles in the Kashmir Valley, he said, “Unity in diversity is our strength. It is the responsibility of every citizen and all governments to forge unity and curb separatist tendencies to save the country.”In an apparent reference to tension on the Indo-Pak border, Modi credited the soldiers for maintenance of peace and security in the country and called upon everyone to remember their gallantry while celebrating Diwali.”In the wake of recent events, our soldiers have been sacrificing their everything for the safety and security of the country. Their dedication and labour has overwhelmed me completely. Let us dedicate this Diwali to our armed forces.”I had invited everyone to participate in the Sandesh2Soldiers campaign and I have been humbled by the response. From students, villagers and traders to political leaders and sports persons , everyone has sent a Diwali message for our soldiers,” he said while referring to the jawans who are stationed in deserts and on the icy heights of the Himalayas and security personnel who are guarding our industries and airports. “Our forces endure grave hardships for our security.Someone is stationed in a desert, someone on the Himalayas, someone is guarding our industrial installations and someone is protecting our airports. Everyone is fulfilling a mighty responsibility. If we remember them while being in a festive mood, our remembrance will give them strength and renewed energy. I thank everyone for responding to Sandesh2Soldiers,” Modi said in over half-an-hour address on the occasion of Diwali.In a veiled reference to the unrest in Kashmir Valley, the PM also called for forces of unity to be strengthened and those of separatism to be defeated. “Unity in diversity is the strength of our country. Every citizen and every government must work to find ways of forging unity and defeating separatist mindset and tendencies,” he said as he remembered Sardar Patel who strived hard to forge unity in the country and bind it together.As Modi paid tributes to Sardar Patel whose birth anniversary falls tomorrow, he also remembered Indira Gandhi whose death anniversary also falls on the same day. He, however, lamented that on a day we celebrate the birth anniversary of Patel, thousands of sikhs were killed in 1984 in the wake of the assassination of Gandhi.Reiterating his message of cleanliness on the occasion of Diwali, Modi said the festival is a marker of “swachhta” with every family taking it upon themselves to clean their house. The PM, however said, “The call of time is to extend this campaign of cleanliness out of one’ s house to one’s surroundings.” The PM also took the occasion to note how the Indian festivals are environment friendly and urged parents to stand with their children as the latter burn crackers today. The Prime Minister also remembered Guru Nanak, the first Sikh Guru, who fought against social evils and discrimination and called for making the society free from any kind of discrimination.

Curfew imposed in parts of Srinagar ahead of Friday prayers

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Authorities imposed curfew in parts of Srinagar in view of the separatists’ call for a march to the historic Jamia Masjid here ahead of Friday prayers. Curfew has been imposed in Nowhatta, Khanyar, Safakadal, Rainawari and Maharaj Gunj in the old city and Batamaloo in uptown, a police official said.The curbs were imposed in the wake of the separatists’ call for a march to Jamia Masjid in Nowhatta area of the city, he said. There were no restrictions on movement of people elsewhere in Kashmir, the official said. However, curbs on assembly of people under Section 144 CrPc were in place in the Valley.The separatists have been agitating since the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen militant Burhan Wani in an encounter with security forces on July 8.The restrictions in parts of the city considerably brought down the movement of people and vehicles today as much less traffic was seen on the roads in the civil lines and the outskirts of the city. Meanwhile, normal life continued to remain affected in the rest of the Valley for the 112th day due to the separatist-sponsored strike. Shops, petrol pumps and business establishments were shut while educational institutions continued to remain closed. Security forces have been deployed in strength at vulnerable spots and along the main roads as a precautionary measure to maintain law and order.As many as 85 people, including two policemen, have been killed and thousands of others injured in the ongoing unrest in the Valley. Around 5,000 security forces personnel have also been injured in the clashes. Over 300 persons have been booked under Public Safety Act (PSA).

PM Modi asks MHA to get schools reopened in Kashmir

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Prime Minister Narendra Modi is believed to be concerned over prolonged closure of educational institutions in Kashmir due to separatist-sponsored strike and wants their early reopening for which the Centre is understood to have asked the state police to prepare an action plan for providing security to schools.Modi is worried that the closure of educational institutions for such a long period is affecting thousands of students and feels that if schools reopen, then it would be a great step towards restoring normalcy in Kashmir, official sources said. He is believed to have asked the Home Ministry to explore ways to get the schools and colleges in Kashmir reopened at the earliest, they said.Accordingly, the Home Ministry is believed to have asked the Jammu and Kashmir Police to prepare an action plan to provide security to schools, especially those vulnerable, the sources said. The Home Ministry is said to have persuaded the Jammu and Kashmir government to direct the state Board of School Education to notify over 500 schools to conduct regular examinations.Examinations for Class X will commence from November 15 and will culminate on November 28 while examinations for Class XII will commence from November 14 and will culminate on December 3. Educational institutions in the valley are closed since July 9, mainly because of strike call given by separatists after the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen militant commander Burhan Wani.The Centre is also worried over the incidents of burning down of over 20 schools in various parts of the Valley. Sources said assessment of security forces is that radical forces are trying to force children in rural areas to join Jamaat schools or madrasas and not opt for modern education so that youngsters could be radicalised easily.

Kashmir unrest: Nearly 20 schools burnt down as education becomes biggest casualty of protests

The 110-day-long Kashmir unrest, following the death of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani, has crippled Kashmir and normal life in the valley. As many as 85 people, including two cops, have been killed and several thousand others injured in the ongoing unrest; around 5,000 security forces personnel have also been injured in the clashes with protesters. However, the biggest casualty thus far has been education and academia and it has suffered sabotage in ways more than one.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

According to a report in Hindustan Timesduring the past three-and-half months of raging protests, at least one school has been torched in each of ten districts in Kashmir. In the last five days alone, five schools have been torched, taking the total to 19. Out of these, 17 were government-run schools while two were privately owned properties. The report further states that of the 19 school buildings, at least seven were completely burnt to the ground. The most recent incident took place over Monday and Tuesday when three schools were gutted to fire in 24 hours across Kashmir: the Government Middle School in Sadrukote Bala of Bandipora district, the government school in the Noorbagh area of Srinagar and the Government Higher Secondary School at Aishmuqam in Anantnag district.

However, surprisingly, no arrests have been made in connection with these incidents so far. The crime, according to a report in Kashmir Lifeare attributed to “unknown miscreants,” a label that Hurriyat Conference has decried. According to the Kashmiri news website, the separatist leaders have asked the people to stay vigilant about such incidents and alleged that the incidents were carried out to discredit the “freedom movement” as “violence and anarchy”. The Hurriyat Conference in its statement also alleged that the incidents were carried out under the watch of police and were a part of a conspiracy.

The security forces, on the other hand, have said that the incident is suspected to be the handiwork of miscreants, adding that the security patrol around school buildings has been increased to ensure that such incidents are not repeated.

Meanwhile, the education of over 5000 students in the Valley has been seriously jeopardised as schools remain shut for close to four months now. Whether it is the raging violence, following Wani’s death, or the curfew imposed by Indian forces, or the separatist-sponsored strike, children are forced to suspend their studies and stay indoors. Education in the valley is at an absolute standstill. According to a report in Patrikathe Director of Eductaion in Jammu and Kashmir said that the security around schools has been beefed up and the Directorate of Education has already sought a report. Some Education inspectors also told Patrika that mostly students from the underprivileged section of the society studied in the government schools, which are targeted in a surprisingly high ratio. The reconstruction and renovation may take many years, the Education department officials added.

This shows that unrest and violence in the Valley has affected young minds the most, as thousand of young protesters took part in the protests while hundreds of them have either been arrested or have sustained injuries in clashes with security forces.

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% 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.

With inputs from PTI

Protesting Kashmiri Pandit employees begin chain hunger strike

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The protesting Kashmiri Pandit government employees, who have refused to join their duties in Kashmir after their transit camps were allegedly attacked by stone pelting mobs there, on Thursday began an indefinite chain hunger strike demanding foolproof security for them in the Valley.”We have completed 102 days of protest, but the government seems to be least bothered about our concerns. So from today onwards we have started indefinite chain hunger strike to press for our demands,” chairman of the All Parties Migrants Coordination Committee (APMCC) Vinod Pandit said.”We will sit on a fast unto death if our demands like providing the Kashmiri pandit employees with foolproof security and release of the withheld salaries are not met,” he saidSpeaking on the occasion, National Spokesperson, APMCC, King Bharati warned the BJP-PDP government of “dire consequences” if it continues its “discriminatory attitude” towards Kashmiri pandit community.

‘Prove sincerity’ before formalising ceasefire accord: Congress to Abdul Basit

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Congress party on Wednesday said Pakistan should first prove its sincerity in wanting a dialogue with India and stop repeated border violations or the promotion of terrorism before demanding formalization of the November 2003 ceasefire agreement.Rejecting Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit’s suggestion categorically, Congress leader PC Chacko told ANI, “We have a clear stand that terror and talks cannot go together. We are always for discussion. Even after the Bangladesh war, we had the Shimla Agreement, every time a violation took place, it came from their side only. Pakistan should know that the solution lies only in discussion.”In the backdrop of sharp increase in ceasefire violations along the International Border by the Pakistan Rangers, High Commissioner Basit had on Monday called upon India to formalise the 2003 ceasefire agreement before the situation ‘deteriorates’ further. Basit said it was important to enforce confidence building measures and called the firing at the Line of Control and the International Border an ‘unnecessary escalation’.”We need to move from symbolism to substance and from conflict management to conflict resolution. If would serve better purpose if we tone down the rhetoric and build new bridges of trust,” Basit said at an event in New Delhi. Pakistan forces have been violating the ceasefire repeatedly in the Jammu region and the Kashmir Valley. There have been a number of casualties and injuries to people as a result. More than 40 ceasefire violations have been reported in Jammu and Kashmir since India carried out surgical attacks in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) on September 29-30.

J&K deadlock: BJP leader Yashwant Sinha led delegation meets separatist Geelani

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A five-member civil society delegation led by senior BJP leader Yashwant Sinha on Tuesday met hardline Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani here in an attempt to break the three month impasse in Kashmir triggered by the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen militant Burhan Wani in July.The delegation led by Sinha called on Geelani at his residence in Hyderpora area of the summer capital here.Before meeting Geelani, Sinha told reporters that they had not come as a delegation.”We are few people of goodwill who have come here on the basis of humanity. The aim is to share the pain and sufferings of the people. If we can do that, we will consider ourselves as fortunate,” he said.Asked if the team will be meeting other separatist leaders like Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Mohammad Yasin Malik, Sinha said they are trying to meet everyone.In response to a question about timing of the visit, the former Finance Minister said, “That is an eternal question why did you not do it before. We are doing it at a time which is quite appropriate.”Asked if they had been invited by the separatists, Sinha said, “We do not have an invitation (from Geelani). We had requested (for a meeting) and we are going to see him.” The other members of the delegation are Wajahat Habibullah, the former chairman of National Commission for Minorities, Kapil Kak, former Air Vice-Marshal, journalist Bharat Bhushan and Sushoba Barve of Centre for Dialogue and Reconciliation.The delegation is also scheduled to call upon moderate Hurriyat Conference leader Mirwaiz Umer Farooq.Mirwaiz was released from Chesma-Shahi sub-jail late last night where he was lodged on August 27.Geelani, Mirwaiz and JKLF chief Yasin Malik have been jointly issuing weekly protest programmes ever since the unrest started in the Valley.

Kashmir unrest: Increase in weapon-snatching incidents raises insurgency worries

One recent evening, two unsuspecting cops were sitting inside a police post guarding a minority community settlement in south Kashmir, when a group of suspected militants threw chilli powder on their faces and attempted to snatch their weapons. The irritation almost blinded them, but they fought back. The suspects, however, fled the spot.

“They wanted to take advantage of our situation and snatch our weapons. But we called our colleagues and fought back till they escaped,” one of the guards told Firstpost on Sunday. He spoke on condition of anonymity, as he is not authorised to speak with media.

This is one of the many incidents that have taken place in Kashmir, most of them being a success, with at least 100 youngsters recently going missing or are believed to have joined militant ranks after the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Muzafar Wani on 8 July.

Representational image. AP

Representational image. AP

On Monday, the Awantpora police arrested a group of youths who were allegedly motivated by a militant commander to snatch weapons from minority security pickets or policemen and join militant ranks. When questioned, Shakir Ahmad Khan, one among the arrested youth, revealed his plan to snatch weapons and join militancy.

After years of relative calm, the Kashmir Valley saw the first attempt of weapon-snatching on 3 March, 2014, when a young man surprised a police constable on the Srinagar-Jammu national highway in Pampore town, 16 kilometres south of Srinagar. The suspect tried to slit the cop’s throat in broad daylight before trying to snatch his weapon.

The attacker was, however, overpowered by other policemen and taken into custody. No one in the security establishment had an inkling at that time that weapon-snatching incident in Pampore will soon become a trend among the militants and those wanting to join their ranks.

Following the killing of Wani, at least 60 weapons have been snatched either from Kashmir policemen guarding minority colonies or on-duty security personnel. Kashmir’s Inspector General of Police, Syed Javed Mujtaba Gilani, said it is a “matter of concern” that more weapons are falling in the hands of people who “may use them for militancy” purposes.

“There has been an increase in the number of weapon-snatching incidents in the last few months. We have taken adequate precautionary measures by sensitising all the personnel and strengthening all the posts guarding minority communities,” Gilani told Firstpost.

“Also, a security feature has been installed in the weapons so that the snatched weapons can be tracked and the culprits are held and dealt with as per law,” he added.

Recently, the purported successor of Wani and Hizb-ul-Mujahideen militant, Zakir Rashid Bhat, alias Zakir Musa, in a video massage circulated on social media, asked youths to snatch weapons from government forces and become part of his militant outfit.

“Many youths have taken to jihad, have snatched weapons and joined our ranks; those who want to join us should do the same; we will always welcome them,” Zakir said in the video shot at an undisclosed location.

On 17 October, militants had stormed a TV transmission tower in Dooru of Anantnag district and snatched five rifles from policemen guarding the station.

According to officials, over two dozen such incidents have taken place since Wani’s death. Last month, unknown suspects decamped with a service rifle of a policeman posted outside district court complex in Kulgam of south Kashmir. The attackers, armed with pistols, sprayed chilli powder into the policeman’s eyes before snatching his rifle.

Last year, when the incidents of weapon-snatching went up, the Kashmir police had asked its personnel not to retain their weapons while going on leave and instead ordered them to deposit them in the post or the nearest police station.

“These days, militants don’t trust people wanting to join them. They want you to snatch a weapon so that all your option of leading a normal life are exhausted,” said a senior police officer based in south Kashmir.

According to official records, at least 28 service weapons have been snatched at eight places in south Kashmir. These attacks took place in “vulnerable” areas or on policemen guarding politicians in the valley. These include rifles such as carbines, AK-47s, INSAS, SLRs and 303. “Most of these weapons have ended up in the hands of Hizbul Mujahideen militants,” the police officer added.

Security agencies believe that of the 140 youths missing from the valley, at least 35 of them have joined militancy in south Kashmir since the unrest began.

“Our local boys, who are missing or have taken up guns or want to join militancy, I request the police to try and bring them back home. What is their future?” Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti said on Friday, reflecting the growing anxiety in the state about the danger of heightened insurgency.

While the frequency with which the incidents of gun-snatching are being reported now has jolted the security establishment, the state is possibly gearing up for hard times ahead. The group of militants, led by Wani, managed to give a new impetus to the fading insurgency in Kashmir. If the trend of gun-snatching is not controlled immediately, the state may be pushed to the brink of another major crisis which may exceed, in both magnitude as well as scale, the outbursts previously reported in the state.

Kashmir Valley remains peaceful

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir, continued to witness increased movement of traffic as more people on Tuesday defied the strike call given by separatists. Many areas of the city here witnessed serpentine queues of private vehicles as people slowly began to pick up the threads of their lives affected by the nearly four-month-long strike, officials said. As the traffic in the city has significantly increased, additional traffic police personnel have been deployed at some intersections to ensure smooth flow of traffic.Many shops were also open in the civil lines and the outskirts of the city, while an increased number of street vendors set up stalls at many places around the commercial hub of Lal Chowk. The official said there is improvement in movement of people and transport with each passing day. However, normal life continued to remain affected in the rest of the Valley due to separatist-sponsored strike. While there were no curbs on the movement of people anywhere in Kashmir, the official said restrictions on assembly of four or more people were in place throughout the Valley for maintaining law and order. He said security forces have been deployed in strength at vulnerable spots and along the main roads as a precautionary measure. Deployment has been made at market places to instill a sense of security among the public to carry out their day to day activities, the official said. Shops, business establishments and fuel stations remained shut, but are expected to open this evening as separatists have given a 14-hour relaxation in the shutdown from 5 PM. Today is the last relaxation period for this week.The ongoing unrest in Kashmir, apart from business and tourism, has also affected the education as schools, colleges and other educational institutions continue to remain shut in the Valley. As many as 85 people, including two cops, have been killed and several thousand others injured in the ongoing unrest in the Valley. Around 5000 security forces personnel have also been injured in the clashes.PTI

Kashmir unrest: Sacking defiant officials was fine, but government must be consistent

The government has finally acted strongly against the crux of the problem in Kashmir. Nine government employees were sacked summarily on Thursday. That was followed up by the suspension of several policemen in the Valley, for not resisting the loot of their weapons by militants.

Recalcitrant government employees are in fact a much bigger problem than Hurriyat Conference and other separatist leaders who have little choice but to follow orders from Rawalpindi. Government employees take salaries to uphold the constitutional system — openly so, not covertly — but, by and large, they not only abuse their authority, they actively undermine the system.

Generally, their greed, nepotism and systematic corruption, all in the name of ‘India’, alienates the rest of the people. They seem to face no moral crisis in taking Indian salaries to run a government in an Indian state. In fact, arguments in defence of duplicity from those who promote secession in word or deed can be amazing.

Srinagar: A Security jawan stands guard atop a vehicle during the 105th day of curfew and restrictions imposed to prevent post-Friday prayer protests in Srinagar on Friday. PTI Photo (PTI10_21_2016_000137B)Srinagar: A Security jawan stands guard atop a vehicle during the 105th day of curfew and restrictions imposed to prevent post-Friday prayer protests in Srinagar on Friday. PTI Photo (PTI10_21_2016_000137B)

Representational image. PTI

At times of rebellion, as over the past 15 weeks (indeed, the past three decades), Kashmiri government employees promote shutdowns. Its a win-win for them: they get their salaries (and the promise of pensions) to stay at home. Meanwhile, they and their children create an environment to ensure that daily-wagers and others dependent on working in order to eat, cannot.

On 11 July, the Monday after Burhan Wani was killed, large numbers of migrant labourers were standing at such central points of Srinagar as Rambagh bridge, waiting for contractors to give them work. But government employees from the top down did not go to work.

Their plea was insecurity, although the Indian taxpayer spends billions on their security, and several shopkeepers, who have no security at all, opened their shops that Monday. In the light of this, the threat of government employees to strike work following the sack orders is bizarre — not to say shameless.

Pendulum swings

Although it was right to act, the government deserves censure for inconsistency. Its stands — and lack of stands — have left many in the Valley confused, and many of them fuming.

Most people had a wait-and-watch attitude during those first few days after Burhan was killed, while bands of teenagers took charge of ensuring a shutdown, and a polarised media projected a two-dimensional reality that was at best partially true. Wait-and-watch means people were waiting for the government to take action, and watching out for which side would emerge with the upper hand.

For too long, the clueless government did nothing: they hoped during those crucial early weeks that things would ‘settle down’ without their having to show their hand. That gave the wrong signal to the vast number who were watchfully waiting.

At the end of August, the chief secretary even made a statement that the chief minister had been kind enough to release salaries to even those who had not worked, since she was aware that they had to celebrate Eid! That kind of statement is not only objectionable for presuming that government salaries are like a sultan’s beneficence. It also signals that playing truant from work is fine as long as the sultan is in a forgiving mood.

Swinging to the other extreme with orders to sack was a sudden jolt — not the way governance should be done. But then, it was similar to what happened with policing. After abandoning the streets and byways to stone-pelting mobs of boys in a place like Tral for too long, the police suddenly turned up with overwhelming numbers of paramilitary and army soldiers after Eid-ul Adha and rounded up hundreds of boys.

This sort of pendulum-like behaviour does not suit governments. As with all things, moderation is best.

Now that sack orders have been issued to a dozen employees, and several policemen have been suspended over the weekend, the government should stick to its stand, rather than use this order as a bargaining chip.

India’s ‘surgical strikes’ in Kashmir: Truth or illusion?

India’s “surgical strikes” on suspected Kashmir militants were rejected as an “illusion” by Pakistan. So what actually happened? M Ilyas Khan reports.

Hurriyat leader Aga Syed Hassan detained after meeting Pak High Comm Abdul Basit

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Hardline Hurriyat Conference leader and prominent Shia cleric Aga Syed Hassan was put under house arrest on Friday, shortly after his return from New Delhi, where he met the Pakistan High Commissioner and discussed the situation in Jammu and Kashmir.”Syed Hassan was detained at his Budgam residence (in central Kashmir) soon after his return from Delhi,” a spokesman of his Anjuman-e-Sharie Shian, a constituent of hardline Hurriyat Conference, said in a statement. He said the Hurriyat leader had gone to the national capital for a medical checkup on the advise of his doctors as his continuous detention had badly affected his health.”The state administration had allowed Aga (Syed Hassan) to go to Delhi where he also met Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit on Tuesday,” the spokesman said.”Hassan discussed the ongoing resistance (unrest) movement in the Valley and the aggressive revenge adventure for breaking the determination and courage of Kashmiri people,” he added.

Apples cheaper for city, sour for Kashmir growers

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Sweet apples have turned sour for the growers as prices of the fruit have crashed by 50 per cent in different markets of the country. Fruit growers say fear of war and unrest in Jammu and Kashmir have severely affected the trade of apples. Since the supply of apples started from Kashmir in the last week of September, the price has come down and traders fear that the trade will suffer the most in case a war breaks out.”We will not be able to sell even a single apple if war breaks out,” said Tausik Ahmad Abasi of Abasi Traders from Baramula in Jammu and Kashmir.Last week marked 100th day of the unrest in Kashmir, which has severely affected apple trade. “This is the peak season of apple supply from Kashmir. Traders fear that the fruits will sell at an all-time low price,” said Sanjay Pansare, former director of Agriculture Produce Market Committee (APMC), Vashi.The violence in Kashmir started after the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Muzaffar Wani on July 8.”Ever since Wani was killed, trade in the state has been severely affected and buyers are not coming to the state as there is huge problem of entry and exit of trucks,” said Abasi adding they have brought down the price of the apple by over 50% to sell maximum quantity to at least make recovery of investment.Horticulture is the mainstay of Kashmir’s economy with 23 lakh people associated with this sector. More than 3.37 lakh hectares are under the fruit cultivation in Jammu and Kashmir. Of which 2.18 lakh hectares of land is under the fruit cultivation in the valley. Of this 65 per cent comprise the apple orchards.Fruit production in Jammu and Kashmir was recorded at 24.93 lakh metric tonnes in 2015-16. Of this the valley alone produced 22.12 lakh metric tonnes.Kashmir valley is one of the largest producers of apple in the country with production touching 19.21 lakh metric tonnes in 2015-16. The apple production in 2014-15 was recorded at 11.70 lakh metric tonnes given the devastating floods of September 2014.Due to price fall, in the last one fortnight, the APMC Vashi has been receiving around 40 trucks laden with apple from Kashmir. “We are receiving around 80 trucks apple of which 40 trucks are alone form Kashmir. The quantity is enough for Mumbai and its adjoining areas daily requirement,” said Pansare.Pansare said that premium quality apple from Kashmir is available at around Rs 550 to Rs 600 per carton while last year, in the same period, the price of the same quality apple was around Rs 1200 to Rs 1400 per carton.According to Bashir Ahmad Basheer, chairman of Kashmir Valley Fruit Growers Cum Dealers Union, fruit growers have suffered Rs 2,000 crore loss so far this year. “The losses are only going to mount,” he said.

Jammu & Kashmir: Govt sacks at least 12 employees for alleged ‘anti-national activities’

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Amid ongoing spiral of violence, agony and pain that the Valley has been witnessing, Jammu and Kashmir government on Wednesday night dismissed over a dozen of its employees for alleged anti-national activities.The Jammu and Kashmir government has issued orders to dismiss over a dozen of its employees for their alleged involvement in the ongoing unrest, IANS reported quoting a top official.The report says that the dismissed employees include an assistant registrar of Kashmir University, and officials from education, revenue, public health, engineering and food supplies.Stating that the state government invoked Article 126 of the state constitution to carry out the action, the official said, “Reports on their anti-national activities prepared by the state police were forwarded to the Chief Secretary, who then directed respective heads of departments to issue orders terminating their services.”With over 90 people killed so far in the clashes, the death toll continues to mounts and the number of injured also continuing to soar. As per reports, over 7,000 people have been detained along with the arrest of a human rights activist Khurram Parvez.The unrest began soon after the killing of poster boy Burhan Wani, a commander of militant organisation Hizbul Mujahideen along with two other militants in an encounter in Anantnag district of Jammu and Kashmir on July 8.Wani was popular among Kashmiris, due to his activity on social media and many photos and videos posted by him on social media against Indian rule in Kashmir and soon after his killing, it sparked demonstrations across the valley as protesters clashed with the police and paramilitary forces, and even attacked government installations.The crackdown also witnessed a ban on the newspapers, mobile internet has been snapped along with partial communication blockade and the approximate business losses have been estimated at more than Rs 10,000 crore.(With agency inputs)

New Hizbul commander asks Kashmiri Pandits to return to Valley

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> Militant outfit Hizbul Mujahideen has asked migrant Kashmiri Pandits, who were forced to flee the Valley in early 1990 after the eruption of militancy, to return to their homes, assuring protection to them, and also said it was planning to raise a group of Sikh youths.”We request Kashmiri Pandits to return to their homes. We take responsibility of their safety,” Zakir Rashid Bhat alias ‘Musa’, the self-styled commander of the militant outfit, said in a brief video message released yesterday.Thousands of Kashmiri Pandits were forced to flee the Valley after they were targeted by militant groups during the outbreak of militancy and have been living in Jammu and other parts of the country. “They should look at those Pandits who never left Kashmir. Who has harassed or killed them?” asked slain militant Burhan Wani’s ‘successor’.Dressed in military camouflage and fiddling with a grenade in the video, Bhat, who dropped out of engineering course from a Punjab college and joined Hizbul Mujahideen some years back, also gave a bizzare argument that Pandits were forced out of the Valley under a planned strategy to target Muslims. He claimed that the government was planning to take action in the Valley in an operation similar to ‘Operation Blue Star’ in Punjab.Bhat revealed in the 1.38 minute video that the militant was planning to raise an exclusive group of Sikh youths in the outfit.”Our Sikh brothers are requesting us to join Hizbul Mujahideen…We are with them on every front and God willing, we will try and make an exclusive group for Sikhs in the outfit,” he said. About the latest trend of weapon snatching in the Valley, especially in south Kashmir districts, he said, “Many youths have taken to Jihad, snatched the weapons and joined our ranks.”Two green banners with religious slogans and as many weapons on both sides behind him could also been seen in the video which was shot at an unknown location. South Kashmir witnessed a spurt in weapon snatching incidents over the past three months of unrest which was triggered by the killing of Wani in an encounter with security forces on July 8. The unrest has so far claimed 84 lives and injured thousands of others.

Hizbul Mujahideen asks exiled Kashmiri Pandits to return home, guarantees ‘protection’

Srinagar: Militant outfit Hizbul Mujahideen has asked migrant Kashmiri Pandits, who were forced to flee the Valley in early 1990 after the eruption of militancy, to return to their homes, assuring protection to them, and also said it was planning to raise a group of Sikh youths.

Security challenge in Kashmir. ReutersSecurity challenge in Kashmir. Reuters

Security challenge in Kashmir. Reuters

“We request Kashmiri Pandits to return to their homes. We take responsibility of their safety,” Zakir Rashid Bhat alias ‘Musa’, the self-styled commander of the militant outfit, said in a brief video message released on Tuesday.

Thousands of Kashmiri Pandits were forced to flee the Valley after they were targeted by militant groups during the outbreak of militancy and have been living in Jammu and other parts of the country.

“They should look at those Pandits who never left Kashmir. Who has harassed or killed them?” asked slain
militant Burhan Wani’s ‘successor’.

Dressed in military camouflage and fiddling with a grenade in the video, Bhat, who dropped out of engineering
course from a Punjab college and joined Hizbul Mujahideen some years back, also gave a bizarre argument that Pandits were forced out of the Valley under a planned strategy to target Muslims.

He claimed that the government was planning to take action in the Valley in an operation similar to ‘Operation
Blue Star’ in Punjab.

Bhat revealed in the 1.38-long minute video that the militant was planning to raise an exclusive group of Sikh youths in the outfit.

“Our Sikh brothers are requesting us to join Hizbul Mujahideen…We are with them on every front and God willing,
we will try and make an exclusive group for Sikhs in the outfit,” he said.

About the latest trend of weapon snatching in the Valley, especially in south Kashmir districts, he said, “Many youths have taken to Jihad, snatched the weapons and joined our ranks.”

Two green banners with religious slogans and as many weapons on both sides behind him could also be seen in the
video which was shot at an unknown location.

South Kashmir witnessed a spurt in weapon snatching incidents over the past three months of unrest which was
triggered by the killing of Wani in an encounter with security forces on 8 July.

The unrest has so far claimed 84 lives and injured thousands of others.

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