Briefing August 2 – August 8, 2020



Prof Soz, Omar Abdullah and Rahul Gandhi in Srinagar in June 2012

Kashmir is emerging as a theatre. On any day there is a newsbreak and then different shades of the same story are on display. The latest in the line was Prof Saifuddin Soz, a politician who has spent most of his life in the Parliament and had been a cabinet minister once. Soz says he has been “incarcerated” since August 5, the administration denies. When the matter was taken to the Supreme Court by his wife, the UT administration submitted “he is free and not under detention.” The Apex court accepted the administration’s statement and closed the case. However, the next day, Soz was seen over his compound wall talking to media for a minute. But the cops on duty held his hand and brought him down. As shot in the video, the policemen also rebuked the media men to leave the place. Behind the wall, Soz was heard saying “How can the government say in the Supreme Court that Soz is free when I continue to be under detention.” Later in the day, senior IAS officer Rohit Kansal too got into the issue saying, “Mr Soz is not under arrest or detention. Free to go wherever he likes with usual security drill.” The question persists, where the lies the fact?


Hilal A Rather and India’s ambassador in France in a Rafale for a selfie

As India received the first batch of five Rafale jets from France, a Kashmir native played a significant role in the quick delivery. Currently serving as India’s Air Attache to France, Hilal Ahmad Rather, is believed to have weaponized the jets as per conditions suitable for India. Born in South Kashmir, he did his schooling from Montessori School and later joined the Sainik School in Nagrota. He graduated from Defence Services Staff College and Air War College in the USA with academic distinction. A decorated officer of Indian Air Force, Hilal has won Sword of Honour in NDA. As Wing Commander, he received Vayu Sena Medal in 2010, and Vishisht Seva Medal when he was a Group Captain in 2016.  A fighter combat leader and a qualified flying instructor, he has completed more than 3,000 hours of accident-free flying on MiG 21s, Mirage-2000, and Kiran aircraft.

Commissioned on December 17, 1988, in the IAF fighter stream, he rose from being a flight lieutenant an Air Commodore., two ranks short of the Air Chief. He became flight lieutenant in 1993, wing commander in 2004, group captain in 2016, and air commodore in 2019. Received after four years of the inter-governmental agreement, the 36 supersonic omnirole combat aircraft is expected to significantly boost the IAF’s combat capabilities.


Engineer Zaffar Wani

Deputed to oversee the National Saffron Mission, mechanical engineer, Zaffar Wani, 38 on way to his office died in a road accident. A resident of Hiller in Kokernag, his vehicle turned turtle at Bijbehara. Survived by his 18-months old daughter and a young wife, this is not the first tragedy in the family. In the last few years, Wani is the fourth family member that was consumed by a road accident. Earlier his brother, Shabir Ahmad, a KAS officer also died in a tragic road accident along with his father in 2009. The next year, his sister met an accident in UAE and passed away.


Early 2020, Ravees Ahmad of Karnah went missing. As the family lost hope, he returned home after the Pakistani army repatriated him last week in July 2020. He had lost his track and crossed the line and landed in jail.

Went out to invite his sister for a function at home, the terrain of the area misled him and he lost the way. For seven months, there was no news of Ravees Ahmad. A missing report was filed with the police. The dejected family had lost all hope about his homecoming. But last week, Ravees returned home, finally. A teenager, he had inadvertently crossed into the other side of Kashmir and was reportedly detained for around six months. A recent communication happened about his detention and he was handed over by Pakistan officials during a flag meeting at Teetwal Crossing Point. A resident of Sadhpora Karnah, according to reports he had crossed to PaK on January 29. Now under police custody, officials said he would be sent home after “proper investigation.”


Aaqib Malik

A University of Kashmir student was summoned by police station Nigeen. As he reached, a day later he was arrested formally. A resident of Shopian, Aqib Ahmad Malik, 26, pursuing masters in bio-chemistry, police said was arrested in connection with a 2018 case filed under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), 1967. He was booked under Section 13 (a person who advocates, abets, advises or incites the commission of, any unlawful activity) of the UAPA, 1967. However, the family of Maik has a different version. They suspected the case was related to a protest he had held in a hostel of KU against the poor quality of food and corrupt practices. But University authorities rejected any case being lodged against Malik by them.


CEC releases special publications of election department

Sensing the authority being undermined, the Election Commission (EC) took a strong exception to comments made over the elections in Kashmir. Asking the Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor G C Murmu to refrain from commenting, the commission said anything regarding the polls falls within its remit. The poll watchdog said any statement “virtually tantamount to interfering with the Constitutional mandate of Election Commission. LG Murmu in his statement had said: “polls would be held after the ongoing delimitation exercise.” Regarding the timing the Commission said different factors like topography, weather, sensitivities, and local festivities are taken into consideration before deciding the election timing.


Haj 2020 was a hugely restrictive exercise in ages. Authorities permitted only a handful of few thousand people for the Haj with strict implementation of the social distancing. Pic: Saudi Government

As the Virus took control, things changed entirely, everywhere. This year, otherwise a huge affair, Hajj-the annual Muslim pilgrimage to Makkah begun, under dramatically different circumstances. Joined by a tiny fraction of people roughly said to be anywhere between 1,000 and10,000, the routine was to have around 2.5 million Muslims from different countries performing one of the five pillars of Islam. In a series of activities involved, the pilgrims were masked and maintaining the social distancing of 1.5 meters. Further, those selected to take part in the Hajj were subject to temperature checks and placed in a short quarantine ahead of the beginning of the rites. This time around, it was also prohibited to touch or kiss the Kaaba, the holiest site in Islam. Barring outsiders, all of this year’s pilgrimage are either residents or citizens of Saudi Arabia.


Collective Harvest: Kashmiri saffron is seen as the legend of the saffron species where it has been grown in the fields of Pampore near Srinagar for close to 2500 years.

Grown at an altitude of 1600 meters, with its long strands, deep colour, slightly bitter flavour, and strong aroma, Saffron in Kashmir has finally received the long-awaited Geographical Indication (GI) tag. A confidence booster, this would help the spice to come up on the world map with authentication.  Hit by the concerns about adulteration, the customers shifted their loyalty from Pampore to Tehran. Presently the Persian saffron has huge demand in the Indian market. However, to put halt to a steep decline in its production, this certification is believed to help in its sustenance and revival. Bedsides the tags, a cutting-edge Spice Park is under construction at Pampore in Kashmir, a town known for being the hub of saffron cultivation in India. It is expected to be thrown open later this month.


Fourteen years after a murder, a court in Jammu sentenced eight people to life imprisonment. As details were divulged, the court held them guilty of attacking and killing a man, identified as Bodh Raj over a property dispute in Kanachak border belt in Jammu district in 2006. A decision pronounced by the court of Additional Sessions Judge, Jammu, convicted 10 accused in the case and slapped a fine of Rs 10,000 on each. The accused as revealed in the court followed Bodh Raj to his house. As he tried to get into the room to save himself, he was dragged and attacked ruthlessly. The accused fled the spot after the alarm was raised. Later the case was registered at Kanachak.


A VICE film Indian Burning was nominated for resected Emmy Awards. Kashmiri multimedia journalist, Ahmer Khan, was part of the 7-member team that produced the film. “I’m pleased and overwhelmed to announce that our film ‘India Burning’ – part of the #ViceonSHO series – has been nominated for an Emmy! Thank you for everyone who helped us in this journey and helped me reach this moment,” Khan wrote on Twitter. The series was nominated in ‘Outstanding Hosted Nonfiction Series or Special’ category. The winners will be revealed on 20 September. A winner of AFP Kate Webb Prize 2019 for his coverage on Kashmir post-August 2019, Khan recently was awarded the 24th Human Rights Press Awards (2020) in the short video category for a short-film shot during post-August 5 lockdown.


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