Briefing September 4-10, 2022

SRINAGAR

Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industries (KCCI) inked an MoU with Bahrain Small and Medium Enterprises Society. ACS Vivek Bhardwaj was present at the MoU signing event in Srinagar when the 7-member delegation met with their counterparts in Srinagar for the deal. They had visited Sonamarg and Gulmarg before the deal was signed. Led by its Chairman, Dr Abdullah al-Dairi, and his counterpart, Sheikh Ashiq Ahmad, the deal is aimed at cooperation in the areas of health, tourism, education and IT. Bhardwaj told the delegation that Kashmir has the best doctors and the healthcare is very cheap and there is a possibility of creating packages involving healthcare and tourism. He said Jammu and Kashmir is participating in an exhibition that has medical tourism as its focus. The delegation comprised Dr Wafa Ajoor, who heads the Wafa Ajoor Medical Centre.

Registered cybercrime cases jumped from 73 in 2019 to 120 in 2020 and 154 in 2021 – a 28 per cent increase.

DELHI

A group of Kashmiri Pandits staged a protest in Srinagar on Saturday, May 21, 2022. KL Image by Bilal Bahadur

There were two major developments regarding the killing of Kashmiri Pandits in Kashmir during militancy. The High Court ordered the reopening of the Nadimarg (Pulwama) massacre case in which 24 Kashmiri Pandits were killed on March 23, 2003. In yet another application, filed before the Supreme Court, an NGO had sought the constitution of an SIT for a high-level probe into the KP killings between 1989 and 2003. The Division Bench comprising Justices BR Gavai and CT Ravikumar suggested the petitioner approach the Central government and raise its grievances before the government. Earlier, another NGO had also filed a petition in the Supreme Court seeking a probe into 215 incidents of killing of Kashmir Pandits during 1989-90. However, the Apex Court in October 2017 rejected the petition on the ground that an investigation cannot be ordered into the incidents which took place 27 years ago.

Against 311 last year, the Army is sponsoring 600 students from Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir in 2022 for studies in better institutions. Students selected for scholarships will be required to make a one-time payment of Rs 30,000 as a security deposit and admission fee. The remaining tuition fees, accommodation, and catering fees will be covered by the scholarship.

JAMMU

At least two Jammu Kashmir Police officers were in the news for all the wrong reasons, last week. A lady JKAS officer approached the High Court against an SP rank officer of the ACB accusing him of sexual harassment. The Deputy Director rank officer filed a petition in the High Court alleging the SP of Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) Baramulla during the course of verification has harassed her in order to obtain sexual favours from her to close the verification No 09 dated 2022. Justice Sanjay Dhar directed the ACB not to undertake any further verification in respect of the complaint which is the subject matter of this petition and also furnishes the status report before the court relating to the verification conducted so far. ACB said it has registered a corruption case against the officer for amassing assets beyond known sources of income.

In another case, the government has ordered a fresh inquiry against DySP Zubair Mirza, who is facing allegations of ‘wrongful confinement and ‘bribery’ during his posting as SDPO Arnas (Reasi). This is a follow-up to the recommendations made by the ACB seeking Regular Departmental Action against Mirza.

In 2022, 140 local militants including 36 foreigners were killed across Kashmir.

LADAKH

General MM Naravane COAS posing for a team group photo with army officers and personnel at forward areas in Eastern Ladakh on Friday, October 1, 2021. Pic: Army Twitter

Chinese troops have again prevented Ladakh herdsmen from moving ahead near the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the Demchok region of eastern Ladakh. However, unlike the past, it did not end up in any face-off between the two armies which are in an eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation. In the August 21, incident, the herdsmen were objected to by PLA even when they were on this side of LoAC. The two armies are deployed in huge numbers since May 5, 2020, and the two sides have had 16 rounds of talks. The last interaction took place last week in which both sides decided that they will maintain peace and tranquility.

In comparison to 2019, the overall crime graph in Jammu and Kashmir increased by 24.6 per cent in 2021. Against 25408 cognisable crimes (22404 IPC and 3004 SLL) in 2019, the figure jumped to 31675 in 2021.

UDHAMPUR

Train service resumes In Kashmir valley after 11 months on Monday, February 22, 2021. KL Image by Bilal Bahadur

Kashmir is getting closer to the days when rail will chug into the valley. Last week, the track builders completed the 9.8km tunnel connecting Dugga and Basidadar (Sawlakote) stations on the 111km Banihal-Katra railway link. This is the third tunnel following the 12.6km tunnel T-49B, the longest tunnel of Indian Railways, which was completed in January 2022. Work on this tunnel started in 2018 and it was implemented by HCC and VCCL. The total length of the T-13 main tunnel is 9.26 km (combined length), having a single section length of 8 km and a wider section length of 1.2 km. The total length of the tunnel made through at present is 9.1 km with a balanced length of 150 metres in the wider section targeted for completion shortly.

SRINAGAR

History of almost winded up as the government issued formal for closure of Toshkhana Organization and transfer of its assets and staff to the Culture Department. The Toshkhana houses the royal gifts and antique items of the erstwhile Dogra Rulers of Jammu and Kashmir. In Jammu, the articles of the Toshkhana have been stored at Mubarak Mandi Heritage Complex, whereas, the articles in Srinagar have been kept in a locker at Saddar Treasury, Srinagar.

PUNE

Kashmiri Pandits Stage Protest at Ganesh Mandir, Ganpatyaar, Habba Kadal, Srinagar on Sunday, September 20, 2020.

In Pune, seven leading Ganesh Mandals came together with the idea to organise Ganeshotsav 2023 in Kashmir. It triggered a fierce reaction by the local Marathi community of around 150 families – mostly gold refiners and artisans from Sangli, Solapur and Satara districts of Maharashtra – living in Kashmir who said they are already doing it. Kashmir’s Maharashtrian community leaked the idea by saying that ‘some outsiders’ seeking to enter their domain with potential bleak ramifications. “We have been celebrating the Ganpati festival in households for over three decades and a grand public Ganeshotsav at Lal Chowk for 23 years,” Kashmir’s Shree Ganesh Seva Mandal trustee Dattatray Surwayanshi was quoted saying. “The local Muslim community fully supports us and more than 5000 people from other states like Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Assam and Bihar join us enthusiastically.”

KULGAM

Sameer Ahmad Thokar, a student of MSc in a Gujarat University, was found hanging in his hostel room

Sameer Ahmad Thoker, 22, a resident of Nanibugh, was hanging from a ceiling fan inside his university hostel room in Anand (Gujarat). He was a post-graduate student of Zoology at Sardar Patel University. A worried family started seeking help after their ward did not pick up their calls. They finally called his front who found the door closed and that led to the police to brag in and get him out dead. The family is not ready to accept the suicide story. “He was a tall boy and often told me that his head struck the ceiling fan of his hostel room. How can he commit suicide hanging from that fan?” Mohammad Shafi, his father asked, insisting his friend was brilliant, hardworking and not a coward. His son, he said, was captain of the University volleyball team, and class head and “maybe that did not go down well with some of the people there and they murdered him.” His book was being published within a few days. SP Anand, Makarandbhai Chauhan, has claimed that the death looked like suicide and he had a strained relationship with his family.

JAMMU

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The administration in Jammu and Kashmir has binned the selection list of FAA and Junior Engineers. Earlier they had cancelled the selection list of police sub-inspectors. A CBI probe is expected in the three selections in which the paper leak is said to have taken place in Jammu and some political people are also involved. “The JKSSB’s recruitment for FAAs and JEs has been cancelled and a CBI probe recommended into the selection process. The government assures all aspirants that the culprits will not be spared and there won’t be any compromise on merit. The fresh recruitment process will start soon,” the government announced the cancellation on Twitter. A few days later, Lt Governor Manoj Sinha said all vacancies in the government will be filled up in the next six to eight months. Referring to the cancellation of three examinations including that of Sub Inspectors in Jammu and Kashmir Police, Financial Accounts Assistants (FAAs) and JE (Civil), he declared that those behind irregularities wanted to spread dishonesty but they will face strong action under law as the Government has handed over the case to the CBI.

DELHI

Chief Justice of India, Justice NV Ramana being welcomed in traditional Kashmir style in Srinagar on May 14, 2022.

As NV Ramana retired paving for Justice Uday Umesh Lalit as the new Chief Justice of India, Omar Abdullah regretted his failure in keeping the word.

“And then he retired without ever constituting the bench. He very conveniently kicked it into the long grass,” Omar Abdullah, former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister, said in a tweet. “Some people wonder why faith in these institutions gets eroded. Perhaps it has something to do with the way serious issues are handled.”

On April 25, 2022, when senior advocate Shekhar Naphade, appearing for one of the petitioners in a number of cases related to the abrogation of Article 370 had pleaded before the bench seeking the case’s listing for hearing in wake of the delimitation exercise, Justice Ramana had said a special bench will be constituted after the vacations. “This is a five-judge matter. I will have to reconstitute the bench,” Justice Ramana was quoted as having said to the senior advocate. “Let me see…after vacation.”

In 2019, when Article 370 was read down, there were around two dozen petitions challenging it. All these petitions were referred to a constitution bench headed by NV Ramana, who later became the Chief Justice. The bench headed by Justice Ramana had Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul, R Subhash Reddy, BR Gavai and Surya Kant as members. Justice Subhash Reddy retired in January 2022. After the petitions were filed, the earrings began in December 2019, “almost 4 months after the notifications issued by the Centre in August 2019.” The petitions were not listed since March 2, 2020.

It is interesting to mention that since August 2019, Justice Uday Umesh Lalit is the fourth Chief Justice. Justice Ranjan Gogoi retired on November 17, 2019. Justice Sharad Arvind Bobde retire on April 23, 2021, and Justice N V Ramana completed his term on August 26, 2022, paving way for incumbent Justice Uday Umesh Lalit’s takeover.

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