Doctors In Waiting

The best season for resignations usually is when elections are round the corner. So when Dr Farooq Abdullah was campaigning in anticipation of 2008 polls, he negotiated two resignations. Incidentally both of them were doctors – Dr Bashir Ahmed Shah Veeri from Bejbehara and Dr Shehnaz Ganai from Poonch. Both the doctors resigned in 2008 on the promise that they will be NC’s candidates from their respective constituencies.

Tragically, neither of the two doctors could get nominated on NC ticket. While the party fielded lawyer Mohammad Ashraf Tak from Bejbehara, it choose to go to elections with Aijaz Jan, son of late Ghulam Mohammad Jan from Poonch. Interestingly, both of them lost the elections. The doctors regretted but could not regain their jobs.

Now the two doctors are in the queue to get a berth in state’s house of elders – the Legislative Council where six seats fell vacant recently after four lawmakers from NC and two from Congress completed their six year terms. Of the vacant six, three belong to Kashmir, one to the reserved Poonch constituency and two to Jammu. For all the berths the 89-member legislative council is the electoral college. Elections are slated for April13.

Though NC permitted both the doctors to file nomination papers, the rush of nominations to the six seats has already created the news about discord within the coalition and the two parties. By now, 16 candidates – four each from NC and Congress, two from PDP and Panthers Party, three from BJP and an independent – have submitted their nominations. Interestingly, two factions of Congress have filed separate nominations – Abdul Gani Vakil from the Azad faction, and Ghulam Nabi Monga of the Soz camp.

This has surprised the analysts. They say winners are going to be from three parties – one seat will go to PDP, five will go to ruling coalition after they decide who takes three and who will be content with two berths. However, if the entire opposition (read PDP, PP, BJP and CPI) forges an alliance they can wrest a seat of Jammu from the ruling coalition. That is unlikely to happen. Insiders tell Kashmir Life that while Dr Shah has a chance, Dr Shahnaz Ganai may not make it to the Council because Congress is keen to return its man. So till April 13 is over, Ms Ganai should not close the clinic where she sees patients!.

Yes, We Do
The major allegation that ruling NC had against its arch rival PDP was that the latter ignored Srinagar and it was Ali Mohammad Sagar who is the main crusader on this front. But last week Sagar was in an uncomfortable position in a news conference justifying his government diverting Rs 30,28,03,000 from the account of R&B Srinagar to R&B Jammu. It was daily Greater Kashmir that broke the news. The amount was meant for construction, improvement and up-gradation of various roads of Kashmir.

The amount was part of the Central Road Fund (CRF) and allocated for specific works within and outside the city. After withdrawing the amount, the government added another eight crore rupees and deposited it in the account of chief engineer R&B Jammu. The funds will go into the improvement of 21 roads in the temple city.

Transfer of funds from Kashmir to Jammu is not new. It has been happening for over two decades now. But it was for the first time that the diversion of resources was done crudely in blatant violation of CRF norms. After the news broke, entire opposition including the PDP, PDF, CPI (M) and other political parties staged a walkout in the state assembly.

“It is a fact that Rs 30 crores CRF was withdrawn and diverted from road projects in Srinagar city,” Sagar said. “But we have given additionalities that will be spent during the current fiscal.” He termed the ‘diversion of funds’ as ‘cash adjustment’ that was done in good faith. Diversion, he said, had become a necessity to protect flow of the central funds to J&K.

The threatening calls to the Brazilian coach Marcos, who had come to Kashmir four years ago to train valley based footballers, turned out to be a hoax, with the police stating that their investigation revealed that the threats were handiwork of a disgruntled former student.

The police stated that they were able to trace the number from which the football coach had received the call to a former trainee of Marcos, who had some on field problems with the coach.

The trouble Marcos has been facing started in January when one of his dogs was mysteriously killed a couple of days before Republic Day. Then another of his dogs was also poisoned. Soon after his vehicle was vandalized and his car brakes failed, he states this was a deliberate attempt.

Marcos upon his arrival in Kashmir had setup a football academy and sent three Kashmiri players to Brazil for training with some leading clubs under an exchange programme. This programme also saw some upcoming players from Brazil visiting Kashmir. He is said to have inspired a bollywood movie- Insha-Allah Football which follows the life of a young Kashmiri footballer.

Trouble is not new to Marcos. He has been accused of spreading Christianity in guise of football training, which the football association of Kashmir has termed as lies and propaganda. Then again, last year, he was asked to leave the region, when Union Home Ministry refused to extend his visa.

He was finally grated the permission only after the chief mister of the state intervened. Before this, in 2008, he was beaten up by the security forces during the Amarnath land row period when they thought of him to be a local. Marcos who after threat calls had decided to leave the valley and return to Brazil, has now after assurances from the police, decided to stay back.

The Cricket Fever
When the cricket world cup offered the menu of politics, diplomacy and sports – Kashmir chose a cocktail – the politics of sport. They ignored ‘match-on-meeting’ at Mohali between prime ministers Dr Manmohan Singh and Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani. Instead, they choose the sport. To be precise, the politics of sport that traditionally takes over when it is India versus Pakistan especially in cricket.

Srinagar roads were deserted hours ahead of the match. Schools remained closed and the workers skipped their duties. A leave application by a fifth primary student of a private school explained the situation. He moved his leave application on Monday seeking a leave for Wednesday saying “he will be down with fever that day.”

As the media blitzkrieg generated interest resulting in panic, initially on streets and later in the police control room. While the armed forces set up huge screens in the periphery – some of these were abandoned later; the police ensured there is no public match watching in Srinagar.

Police cars were roaming around in lanes and by-lanes of the city to ensure no LCDs are showing the match. Authorities had also imposed prohibitory restrictions under section 144.

State legislature closed early for the match and for the first inning even chief minister Omar Abdullah became almost a commentator. “Kashmir valley is sucking more than 780 MW power at the moment & grids R tripping,” he tweeted offering the scale of interest in Kashmir. “Please switch off some heaters & lights so more TVs work.”

Youth started bursting crackers for every wicket that Pakistanis took. As India ended up at 260 in 50 hours, in certain localities there were symbolic pro-Pakistan demonstrations. But when Pakistanis started their inning, it proved an anticlimax. There were certain cracking sounds over a couple of 4s. For many it was a painfully calm night. Many people skipped their dinners. Most of the dinner that was prepared in the hostels of the University of Kashmir was thrown away. The mood on the streets a day after was somber.

Kashmir, cutting across party ideologies and politics, has cheered Pakistani cricket team. It supported West Indies over India in Srinagar that eventually led to the damage of the pitch.

But this time even Islamabad’s hardened supporters were in a fix because they knew the Indian team was in a better form than Pakistan. They never wanted Pakistan defeating West Indies but it happened. Then they were desperate to see Australia wining against India in quarterfinals so that Pakistan skips being defeated by India. That also did not happen. Nobody knows what happens in the final.

The N-Company Grows
For last two years, Jammu police is investigating a murder case. It involves the brutal killing of Amnadeep, the son of a Jammu politician by son of a moneyed person know as Choudhary Nagar Singh. It is a crime thriller. Police worked meticulously and arrested the killer. They later did their best and recovered the weapon used in the murder.

Finally the family intervened. They pumped in cash and managed to change the weapon. Had it happened, it would have been very difficult to get the killer punished. Once the story leaked, there was a hue and cry. Police started investigating this part of the case, which led to the arrest of senior police officer SSP Manohar Singh. He had helped the family to change the murder weapon. He is still in jail.

Chasing the money trail, the police started hunting for Nago brothers. Finally they surrendered. They were arrested. While the brothers were in the jail, police would speed up investigations. This induced threat perception to Nagos. So from jail, they hatched another conspiracy. They hired a gang of hit-men from Mumbai and UP allegedly at a cost of one crore rupees. The gang reached Jammu and were attempting to kill one of the witnesses in the case. They were caught in the traffic jam and the witnesses were saved.

As the police started investigating this story, they stumbled on yet another sensation. Nago Sr was using the cell phone of the Kot Balwal jail superintendent Mirza Salim Beigh. So Beigh is in for helping the N-company to kill the witnesses. They have also arrested another jail staffer who would work as a bridge. Police is now investigating how much of cash has Beig received for doing his part of the conspiracy. They have tracked the Vijaya Bank account and it is frozen and claims they have tracked Rs 22 lakh transaction. Government has suspended two officials.

Stay Back, Enjoy
It was lost somewhere in the cricket fever and failed to create the news it deserved. New Delhi unilaterally increased the stay period for people visiting J&K from Pakistan-administered-Kashmir (PaK) to six months with multiple entries to encourage people-to-people contact.

Right now, the validity of the entry permit is for four weeks and the designated authorities for cross-LoC travel can extend the stay period by another two weeks in certain cases of health and family emergencies.

As per the existing practice in vogue, based on the recommendation of the Government of Jammu and Kashmir, the Ministry of External Affairs extends the stay for a further two weeks in certain cases such as health or family emergencies.

The weekly bus service that started as a path breaking initiative on April 7, 2005 continues to be the single most important CBM that India and Pakistan have ever started. This has helped a few thousand residents to cross LoC and meet their relations. Scores of the people visiting J&K mostly in Poonch went into litigations seeking extension of their stay.

Some even said they be permitted to die in peace in J&K where they were born and brought up.Regardless of the extension in stay, the initiative would continue to suffer as long as the trans-LoC travel does not open for the commoners, especially tourists. Pilgrim tourism is an ideal first that must start. Then the three-month stay permit would help.

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