In crosshairs

Change of guard

No police chief has finished his innings in J&K in such a controversy as Kuldeep Khuda, one of the longest serving DGPs of the state, did. For the first time, politics, executive and the judiciary acted, reacted and directed on a single issue, though for varied reasons, a KASHMIR LIFE report.

By all accounts, these were dramatic developments. After weeks of leaks that the government is seriously considering Kuldeep Khuda as the maiden boss of the autonomous corruption watchdog State Vigilance Commission (SVO) having a constitutional status, the issue cropped up the same day when Khuda had a luncheon meeting with media, on the eve of his retirement.

Newsmen were busy with the routine one evening last week when the cell phones rang up. There were two news conferences almost at the same time in the same belt. While PDP president Ms Mehbooba Mufti was waiting at her Fair View (the papa-II) for the media, it was law minister Ali Mohammad Sagar in the Hari Niwas Palace (the erstwhile Papa-I) with his team to brief the media. Reporters finally requested Ms Mufti to wait till Sagar makes a statement.

“For finalizing the panel for SVC, there was a meeting that chief minister, deputy chief minister, leader of the opposition and I attended,” Sagar, flanked by the advocate general, said. “Idea was to have a consensus but the leader of the opposition had certain reservations on one nomination. The government is sending the panel to the governor for his accent.” He said he would not be able to identify the panel because it would devour the secrecy from the entire process.

Twenty minutes later, Ms Mufti gave the details of the meeting. As the meeting started, she said, the government put forward the name of the chief vigilance commissioner. “I was shocked as I saw the name of Khuda,” she said. “I opposed because I believe he is not adequate choice for this position.”

For half an hour, the opposition leader gave her reasons for opposing the idea. She claimed she told it to the meeting. Firstly, she said Khuda is involved in the Bhaderwah triple murder case which is pending before the court. Secondly, she said Khuda presided over the massacre of 150 youth in 2010 unrest following which he did not take any action against even a single cop.

Hand Shake: Khuda with Omar Abdullah

Thirdly, she said, she feels the officer is being rewarded for protecting the interests of the Abdullah family because he looked the other way in two cases involving the family. First it was the death in police custody of Haji Yousuf who was formally handed over to police by chief minister Omar Abdullah. Second, Khuda skipped acting in the cricket scam that involves Dr Farooq Abdullah. “How can Khuda fight corruption when he accommodated and protected the same as police chief?” Ms Mufti asked.

The Bhaderwah triple murder case has remained a favorite table talk within the police and the civil society after Indian Express (August 13, 2011) exposed it last year. Four civilians Fazal Hussain, his son Fareed, Muhammad Hussain Lone and Talib Hussain, were allegedly kidnapped from their homes in Bhaderwah on January 3, 1996 by Mohammad Ashraf, an SPO in 1996.

Ashraf took his hostages in a police vehicle allegedly issued by the DIG Udhampur Kuldeep Khuda and killed them. Somehow, Talib Hussain managed to escape and reported the matter to police. Subsequently, a case was filed and investigations started but eventually the families were dissatisfied with the verdict of the trial court. They approached National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) that directed the police’s Crime Branch to investigate the case.

The initial investigations carried out by ASP Bachan Singh Choudhary (January 16, 1998) indicted Khuda. But the police organization discarded that investigation and got a new IPS officer Ms Shikha Goel who submitted her report almost on the similar lines on November 12, 1998. Finally a third report was produced that was submitted to the NHRC but never made public, according to the petitioners.

The issue remained under wraps and finally after the story reached the front pages, the Srinagar based civil liberty lawyers helped the family to approach the court seeking CBI investigation in the case (petition: OWP No: 1258 of September 21, 2011). Prahant Bhushan, an apex court lawyer who is member of the Anna Hazare team flew to Srinagar to plead the case before the High Court. Ashraf, accused in the case, moved an application before the court and the case was shifted to Jammu in April 2012.

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