News Notes

“Illegal” RETURNEES

All those Kashmir militants who have returned homes did not do so through legal channel. That is what a written replay by the Chief Minister Omar Abdullah given in the assembly seems to suggest.

Presently, 3974 Kashmiri militants are living across the Line of Control in Pakistan and Pakistan administered Kashmir while as other 241 have returned illegally via Nepal and other routes along with their family members during the past three years and the current year up to February 15, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah who also holds the portfolio of the Home Minister said in a written reply to the question of member, Prof Chaman Lal Gupta.

“Reportedly around 3,974 ultras are still living in PaK and Pakistan (across the border),” the reply reads. It further reads that none of the returnees has returned through the routes identified by the state government. “No ex-militant has returned from PaK to the state through the identified routes under the policy and procedure for return of ex militants to J&K state notified by the state government vide No: Home/1376-(ISA) of 2010 dated 23-11-2010”, it adds.

According to the written reply from the Chief Minister, 29 militants have returned to state in year 2010 out of whom five have brought their wives and children along with them while as out of 54 returnees in 2011, 16 have brought their wives and children along with them to their homes in the state. Similarly, in 2012, 150 ex-militants have returned home among who brought their wives and children along while as in 2013 (up to Feb 15), eight ex-militants have returned of whom two have brought their wives and children along with them.

About the total applications received by the state government who desired to return, the government reply reads that 1089 applications have been received on behalf of the ex militants/prospective returnees who are willing to return under the aforementioned policy, “Out of these 191 cases have been recommended for return. The rest of the applications are being scrutinized and verified.”

The reply also said that no money has been spent on the rehabilitation of these ex-militants as they have not returned through the identified routes in the aforesaid policy.

Police CRACKDOWN

In order to maintain law and order in the Kashmir, police has arrested many people involved in stone pelting and those who are associated with Mutahida Majlise Mashavrat (MMM) for issuing protest calendars. In the month of February, police claimed that it has arrested 338 persons out of whom 242 have been released on bail and 96 are in police or judicial custody.

As per police officials in the South Kashmir Districts of Pulwama, Kulgam, Shopian, Awantipora and Islamabad, 73 persons were detained out of which 52 have been bailed out while 21 are in custody.

While as in the North Kashmir Districts of Baramulla, Sopore, Kupwara, Handwara and Bandipora, 158 persons were detained out of which 130 persons have been released and 28 are in custody. In the Central Kashmir Districts of Srinagar, Ganderbal, and Budgam, 107 persons were arrested out of which 60 have been released and 47 are under custody.

Police is continuously cracking down on MMM members, besides other separatist and religious organizations. Last week, police arrested many leaders  including Dukhtaran e Millat’s Fehmeeda Sofi apart from other leaders including Muhammad Yousuf Naqash, Gh Nabi Zaki and GM Nagoo.

Chairmen of both factions of Hurriyat Conference – Syed Ali Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and the leader of JKLF Mohammad Yasin Malik – continue to remain under detention. Senior Hurriyat leaders like Shabir Ahmad Shah and Nayeem Khan are languishing in Central jail Srinagar.

Mystery of Licenses

For Kashmiris, it is next to impossible. But if a non-resident applies for a gun licenses, he would get it in a day. According to reports, 40,587 gun licenses have been issued in 2011 and 2012 in entire Jammu and Kashmir, but to whom? Recently, it was revealed in the state assembly that Srinagar has been leading with 7769 gun licenses followed by Doda with 7605, Shopian with 7048, Udhampur with 5461, Ramban with 4963 Kulgam with 2148, Rajouri with 1302, Pulwama with 1026, Kishtwar with 994, Kargil with 799, Samba with 556, Kupwara with 351, Baramulla with 193 and Jammu with 159.

A lawmaker from PDP, Javed Mustafa Mir, alleged that troops and paramilitary forces get the licenses from the districts in Jammu and Kashmir and then move application to the Home Department for the all-India license and finally get approval from the Home department as well.

Mir said the government has taken the issue lightly and has been deliberately hiding facts which will have dangerous consequences in the state. He said if the government cannot provide security to the elected Panchayat members in the state, then it should issue them gun licenses for self-defence.

The Home Department has said that the gun licenses were being issued in accordance with the procedure and provisions laid down in the Arms Act, 1959 and the Arms Rules, 1962, to the civilians and troops for self-defence.

On the other side, the office of District Magistrate (DM) Jammu served notices to the two arms dealers M/S SK Armory Barnai Road, Jammu and M/S Bakshi Gun House, Nai Basti in Jammu and directed them to furnish the sale and purchase statements of the last five years following alleged laxity of norms by the duo. However, these two arms dealers have failed to respond to the notice and are continuing with their trade till date.

The department of Additional District Magistrate, Jammu vide order no DMJ/Arms Section/280-81 dated 28/2/13 has directed two arms and ammunition dealers to furnish the requisite statements to this office through special messenger directing them strictly to comply with the order within 2 days positively. And later, the time was extended to 14 more days. But so far no details were provided by the two dealers and they continue to work illegally and their licenses get renewed as well.

The arms dealers in Jammu and Kashmir have been in the limelight in the past. In 2002 CBI started a probe in the sale of arms following alleged irregularities in the arms licenses, while one Mukhtiar Ahmad Choudhary, while serving as a sub-divisional magistrate in Mendhar of Poonch district, issued more than 4,000 licenses and he was arrested from Dalpattian Mohalla in Jammu on April 13, 2011.

Justice In UNIFORM

The family members of the Pathribal fake encounter victims appeared before an Army court of inquiry at Awantipora as witnesses and recorded their statements. A total of 10 witnesses including four women from the six victim families appeared before the Army court and recorded their statements.

Abdul Rashid Khan, son of one of the victim, Jumma Khan, appeared before the Army court said, “During the court proceedings, they were asked to identify the Army men involved. In the court, five Army personals were present and we were asked to identify them. However, all of us told them in clear terms that we cannot identify any of the Army men involved in the killings.”

Rashid said during the cross examination, the Army repeatedly asked that him how could he say that the people who picked up his father were Army men. Rashid has reportedly told the Army court that the families of the victims have been waiting for justice for 13 years.

On the other hand, the General Security Force Court (GSFC) last week recorded statements of two witnesses including father of the victim Zahid Farooq, who was allegedly killed by a BSF party at Brein-Nishat on the outskirts of Srinagar in February 2010.

Interestingly, on February 27, 2012, the Supreme Court had allowed the BSF court to go on with its trial in the matter, but had barred it from passing any final orders till the outcome of a Special Leave Petition (SLP) filed by the state government seeking trial of Birdi and Kumar through a civil court.

Advocate Vrinda Grover, who appears as counsel for Zahid’s family and Advocate Gaurav Pachnanda who is standing counsel for J&K in the Supreme Court, pleaded that since the two accused BSF men were not on any active duty and no immunity should be available to them under BSF Act.

Meanwhile, five Army men face sacking orders recommended by a Court of Inquiry (CoI) in a case of indiscipline in Samba in Jammu and Kashmir last year.

The other 55 accused including the Commanding Officer of a unit will face some action recommended by the CoI.

Award and UNCERTAINITY

An entourage of ministers from J&K government recently visited Berlin, Germany to receive an award accorded to Gulmarg for being the best All Season Destination of the world by Pacific Asia Travel Writers Association (PATWA).

Considered as the world’s leading travel trade show, the award was conferred by a reputed jury, including Professor Geoffrey Lipman, President International Hotel and Restaurant Owners Association Dr Ghassan Aidi and representative of World Tourism organisation (WTO) Frederic Pierret.

The award was presented by the Executive Director, WTO, and Secretary General, PATWA, to the Minister for Tourism, Ghulam Ahmed Mir and Minister of state for Tourism, Sajjad Ahmed Kichloo. During the presentation, both officials of J&K Tourism department and Tour and Travel players of the state were present.

While the state tourism department is rejoicing over the distinct feat achieved by Gulmarg, the situation on ground presents an entirely contrasting picture.

Since February 9, after the hanging and burial of 2001 Parliament Attack convict Afzal Guru at New Delhi’s Tihar Jail, curfews and shutdowns have crippled the normal life in Kashmir. The number of tourists visiting valley since have seen a considerable drop. In the last one month, only 1000 tourists a day visited Kashmir against an average of 10,000 per day during this time of the year.

The inability of the state government to ensure protection of its citizens and using curfew as only means to address the genuine grievances of people has made Kashmir an unstable place.

The last two relatively calm tourism seasons have made people associated with this sector optimistic about a successful year ahead. However the hanging of Guru and the simmering anger against civilian killing by security forces has changed the equation in Kashmir for the time being.

Uproar In ASSEMBLY

Sushil Kumar Shinde’s statement that the mortal remains of Afzal Guru will not be returned to his family created ruckus in the legislative assembly on Thursday. Afzal, a convict in 2001 Parliament attack was clandestinely hanged and buried inside Tihar Jail.

Shinde’s statement caused adjournment of assembly thrice in a single day. Besides, the main opposition party, PDP, announced boycott of the remaining sittings of the state Legislative Assembly until the assembly passes a resolution for getting the mortal remains back. While trying to convince PDP members not to leave the house, the Speaker said the issue will be taken with the unionists but they (PDP legislators) should not disturb the smoothly running house.

But the PDP members disagreeing with him said: “The Home Minister has shown disrespect to the Parliament and the state assembly by issuing such a statement.” Even the members of ruling coalition from National Conference criticized the move and said: “When the government of India can offer Pakistan to take possession of Ajmal Kasab’s body, why can’t they hand over the body of Afzal to his family,” said Saifullah Mir, the state’s law minister.

Terming the Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde’s statement as ‘adding fuel to the fire’, National Conference Member Parliament, Dr Mehboob Beg said “this type of insensitive approach can only create further law and order problems in the state”.

He further added that the PM has already accepted that Afzal’s case was mishandled and Sharad PAwar has agreed that his body should be returned to his family, they why was GoI hesitant in returning Afzal’s mortal remains.

Mustafa Kamal, NC’s additional General Secretary said, “GoI is making mistake after mistake and then talk about the integrity and democracy of the country”. The only party that remained silent in the house this issue was Congress. It was caught in a Catch 22 situation, as reported by a local daily.

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