Briefing September 12-18, 2021

SRINAGAR

Kashmir Press Club, Srinagar.

It has been a few months that the law enforcement agencies are collecting details about the media persons operating in Kashmir. Kupwara, in the meanwhile, became the first district where people associated with the media were asked to register, following which they will be permitted to operate.

However, it was Srinagar where the media persons became the major news when the police raided the residence of four journalists – Showkat Ahmad Motta (former editor of Kashmir Narrator); Hilal Ahmad Mir, a former editor at Greater Kashmir, Kashmir Reader and Hindustan Times, who was, off late, working for a Turkish news agency; Azhar Qadri, formerly with Tribune who was freelancing for The Guardian and Shah Abbas, an editor with Kashmir Uzma, also freelancing with a European news agency. After all of their electronic gadgets were seized at their home and the documents scanned, they were asked to present themselves before various agencies that recorded their profiles for two days.

After their questioning, various journalistic bodies vehemently condemned the raids and questioning, insisting that it was “a stark reflection of how authorities in Jammu and Kashmir are targeting journalists”. It was quickly followed by the statement of IGP Kashmir who said the journos are being investigated for the mysterious blog that has been issuing threats to a whole lot of people including journalists. The police had registered a case against the blog much earlier (FIR No. 82/2020 of Police Station Kothibagh). Only last month, the police said they have unearthed the gang that was behind the blog when they arrested a senior officer at the Srinagar Municipal Corporation Srinagar along with his daughter and son in law.

IGP’s statement talked about “credible evidence” being found linking the four journalists with “the mastermind who is behind the blog”. Insisting that the investigations are still in progress, the statement said “So far various numbers of Pakistan, Turkey, Saudi have been found, besides they are also found have been in contact of various virtual numbers.” Denying that it was an “issue of harassing journalists but due process of law”, the IGP said the media should not spread “false news or narrative which may amount to unnecessary interference in the investigation of cases”. He said the “involved persons would be arrested in this case as and when the evidence are collected.”

Jammu and Kashmir government’s shareholding in JK Bank has gone up from 51% to 68.18% and now to 74.24%.

DELHI

Union Home Minister Amit Shah chairing meeting on Jammu and Kashmir.

Two days after a new regime was formally installed, Union Home Minister Amit Shah presided over a review meeting of Jammu and Kashmir that was attended by the top honchos of the security set-up apart from the LG Manoj Sinha. Much of what happened in the meeting is not known but reports appearing in a Jammu newspaper suggested that apart from the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, issues on agenda included an anti-drone strategy, use of some prisons by the under-trial militants to hatch conspiracies and misuse of social media from across the border. The impact of the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan and the increasing “nexus of China-Pakistan-Taliban” were the major issues. There were, however, various other developmental issues that were also to be discussed. Those attending the meeting included NSA Ajit Doval, Army Chief General M M Naravane, Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla, Director Intelligence Bureau Arvinda Kumar, R&AW chief Samant Goel, BSF DG Pankaj Singh and CRPF chief Kuldip Singh. The demise of Syed Ali Geelani and the appointment of Masarat Aalam Bhat as his successor were reportedly also discussed.

The government had parked Rs 1.54 crore with the SKIMS for treatment of people who will be attacked and rendered injured by the wildlife in the surging man-animal conflict. Even though 29 such cases were referred by the wildlife department, the funds remain unutilized.

JAMMU

Trilochan Singh Wazir

The lawmaker of the erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir legislature, and National Conference leader Tarlochan Singh Wazir, 67, was found dead in a West Delhi flat’s bathroom.  His death coincided with the birth of a grandchild in Jammu. The decomposed body was recovered from the third floor of the flat in the Basai Darapur area after neighbours complained about a stench coming from the house. Wazir’s head, according to media reports, was wrapped in a black plastic bag and had a deep head injury. Another report said Delhi Police was acting on the lead from Jammu Kashmir Police that had sought help in tracing him at Moti Nagar where he was putting up in a friend’s flat.

Singh had arrived in Delhi from Jammu on September 1 and was supposed to board a flight to Canada on September 3. But he did not board the flight, and his family members were looking for him. Initially, the police said, Wazir was shot dead and a murder case was registered. What makes the story enigmatic is that Harpreet Singh, in whose flat the body was found, had told Wazir’s family that Singh was under quarantine in Frankfurt while on his way to Canada. Police said Singh is absconding.

The latest reports, now suggest that the examination of the CCTV footage suggested that the killers remained in the house after killing NC leader Tarlochan Singh a few days earlier. These included Harpreet Singh and two other individuals including Harmeet. Harpreet and Harmeet are also residents of Jammu and in fact, the latter had accompanied Trilochan from Jammu to Delhi on September 1.

The family members of Tarlochan Singh claimed it was a political rivalry murder as he was having considerable clout in the Gurudwara committees of Jammu. However, the police have not ruled out any other angle as well and investigations are on keeping an open mind.

Singh was a politician who had sizable influence in the carriage sector involving trucks. He headed the transporters association for more than three decades. The FCI carriage has always remained a crisis in Jammu and Kashmir with various parties interested. The transporters observed a strike against the murder. However, the family members have alleged that Singh’s killing was the outcome of political rivalry involving the Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee elections. Now the Delhi Police, crime branch is investigating the case.

PDD is purchasing electricity worth Rs 6500 and is able to collect a power tariff of Rs 2600 crore owing to pilferages because of the run-down transmission and distribution system. With the losses reaching Rs 4000 crore, LG Manoj Sinha has asked PDD to reduce the deficit by 10% in 90 days.

SRINAGAR

A group of deer grazing on a hillock at the Dachigam National Park in Srinagar. Deer is considered to be an endangered animal. KL Image by Bilal Bahadur

Finally, the Hangul, the Kashmiri stage, has managed its survival as Jammu and Kashmir’s ‘state animal’. While the endangered stag is fighting a survival battle in Kashmir forests, it was not a small fight for surviving the status it had for years as the state animal. Now the real issue is about the new ‘state bird’, especially after Ladakh choose the black-necked crane as its bird and snow leopard as its animal.

KOSOVO

Kosovo President Vjosa Osmani has urged Delhi to recognise it as a sovereign republic. “It’s just a matter of time when countries like India will join other democratic countries around the world in recognising the sovereign independent Republic of Kosovo,” Osmani was quoted saying by WION TV. “We once again call upon the Indian government to, first of all, recognise the suffering of the people of Kosovo from the [Slobodan] Milošević genocide regime, and secondly, recognise the reality on the ground that is not going to change.”

The report added: “She drew attention to what the International Court of Justice had said: that the independence of Kosovo is within international law and does not compare to any other place around the world.  She said how Kosovo became independent makes it different from other regions, including Kashmir.” Kosovo had “unilaterally declared independence” from Serbia in 2008 and is recognised as a sovereign republic by 97 members of the United Nations.  However, Delhi is yet to recognise Kosovo fearing, that a parallel would be drawn between Kosovo and Kashmir.

A fresh survey involving 3586 individuals across Kashmir shows 84.3% of people have developed antibodies against Covid19. This perhaps is what herd immunity is all about but doctors insist the vaccination must remain the top priority.

KABUL

A few Taliban leaders in Qatar where they run a proper office for a few years now.

Afghanistan may be a faraway land but Kashmir’s two main politicians are embroiled in a controversy that broke out after the Taliban took over Kabul. Insisting that her statement on the Taliban was “deliberately distorted and used as clickbait”, Mehbooba Mufti had said the Taliban must follow the true Sharia law that guarantees rights to women, children and the elderly if they want to govern Afghanistan. This triggered an adverse commentary. “Can’t point fingers since most countries that claim to uphold Sharia have failed to imbibe its true values. They are only fixated with restricting women through do’s & don’t’s, dress codes etc,” Mehbooba wrote a day later. She said the real Medina Charter stipulates equal rights for men, women and minorities. “In fact, women have been granted property, social, legal & marriage rights. Non-Muslims have the same rights inc religious freedom & equality of law which is the essence of secularism.” Insisting that Islamic history was full emancipated and empowered women, she referred to Hazrat Khadija, the first wife of the prophet, who was an independent and successful businesswoman. Besides, Hazrat Ayesha Siddiqa led the Battle of Camel & headed a force of 13000 soldiers.

Dr Farooq Abdullah, however, came in Taliban news for a different event. After praying at his father’s grave, Dr Farooq told reporters that he hoped the Taliban would deliver good governance in Afghanistan and factor human rights and Islamic principles while governing Afghanistan. This led BJP to react saying Dr Abdullah should avoid making comments on subjects that are the sole prerogative of the MEA.

LEH

Leaders from Kargil and Leh had a joint press conference recently. They are demanding a full-fledged state

Apparently winning the first part of the battle, post-August 5, 2019, the administration in Leh has decided to issue “Resident Certificate” only to the Permanent Resident Certificate holders of the region, unlike Jammu and Kashmir where new domicile laws allowed outsiders too to apply for jobs, land and other facilities. According to the Ladakh Resident Certificate Order 2021 passed on last weekend, “any person who possesses a Permanent Resident Certificate (PRC) issued by the competent authority in the districts of Leh and Kargil or belongs to a category of persons who would have been eligible to be issued PRC shall be eligible to receive the ‘Resident Certificate’.” The order is “to temporarily define ‘Resident of Union Territory of Ladakh’ for the purpose of appointment to all the non-gazetted posts borne on the establishment of any department or service of administration of Ladakh”.

TANGMARG

In eight days, two Tangmarg youth cycled to Pangong Lake in August-September 2021. Pic: Kashmir Images

In the first, two Tangmarg youths from Mahion Tangmarg completed a record cycling expedition from Gulmarg to Pangong Lake on traditional bicycles. Suhail Rehman Lone and Fayaz Ahmad Lone completed the expedition on Hero Jet Gold traditional bicycles in eight days and covered 676 km. They cycled for 14-hours for eight consecutive days. “We cycled around 75-80 km per day passing through toughest terrains and high altitude motorable passes that include Zoji la, Namikala, Fotu la, the toughest off-road pass Chang la (world’s second-highest motorable pass – 1768 ft above sea level) after Khardung la,” Suhail told reporters. The biggest challenge was the temperature – 38-degree Celsius during the day and 8-9 degrees during the nights. Another major challenge was to cool down the tires of their bicycles as they would heat up making rim brakes useless.

LAHORE

Sheikh Tajamul Islam

Sheikh Tajamul Islam, 67, the top leader of erstwhile Jamiat-e-Talaba Kashmir has passed away. He had migrated to Pakistan via Delhi Nepal along with his wife and settled there. A fiery orator, he headed the then Jamaat-backed student wing between 1979 and 1984. The Jamaat, now banned, snapped its ties from this group after Tajamul publicly said his group likes an Iran-type revolution. The group was immediately banned by the government and that marked the undoing of this once powerful student movement.

Survived by his wife and a medico daughter, Tajamul, had worked in PTV before being appointed as head of Kashmir Media Service by Pakistan.

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