The mysterious death of an influential worker of the ruling National Conference (NC) from Bijbehara in south Kashmir, Syed Mohammad Yousuf, has created ripples in Kashmir’s political arena.
The family of the deceased alleged that he was summoned by MoS Home Nasir Aslam Sogami to Srinagar and didn’t return alive. Although Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah, has announced a probe into the killing, the opposition People’s Democratic Party has said that the investigations would be of no use unless the CM and his confidant minister step down.
Yousuf’s relatives held a protest in Srinagar alleging that it was a murder. They shouted slogans against the Chief minister and Sogami and demanded action against them. “The evidence is in the two cell phones that police are not giving us,” Yosuf’s son Syed Talib Hamid alleged. He said that his father rang up one of his relatives and he heard what appeared to be an argument before the call ended. When he called the number again, the phone had been turned off. Friday morning Talib was informed that his father had died.
The opposition leader and former deputy Chief Minister, Muzaffar Hussain Beig, terming the death “very serious” and of “critical nature said that it is a custodial killing but “the mystery is that whether it took place at the residence of the chief minister or Sogami.” The death, he said, speaks volumes about the state of human rights. Beig said the overnight transfer of three police officers including two Dy. SP rank officers – his personal security officer of over a decade Shabir Ahmad and wireless officer Nasir Khan and S P Singh – is an indicator of “seriousness” of the case which needs to be probed.
The government, however, has formally requested the Chief Justice of High Court to appoint a sitting Judge to conduct an enquiry into the circumstance leading to death of Mohammad Yosuf. But PDP says for the sake of probe’s impartiality Omar and Sogami will have to step down.
What was different in Rahul Gandhi’s second visit to Kashmir in recent years was that there was no Omar Abdullah accompanying him publicly. Unlike the last visit, Rahul this time, though embarrassed, did listen against his friend. A Jammu newspaper had a headline: ‘Omar in Singapore, Rahul in Srinagar.’
But that does not mean the friends did not meet. They had a 90-minute breakfast meeting. Rahul publicly said that as far as rotation of the chief ministership is concerned, it is high command that will have to take the final decision. This goes contrary to what his last time intervention when he publicly supported Omar at the peak of crisis forcing Congress to a back foot. But that essentially does not mean Rahul will help Prof Saif ud Din Soz, Ghulam Nabi Azad or Taj Mohiuddin to replace Omar.
There was another aspect to Rahul’s tour. He did talk to people but part of the response he got was managed and tutored. In the SKICC, for instance, where the Congress panches and sarpanchs had been driven from various places, their demand was actually the demand of the senior party leaders who want “our three years” of leading the coalition. “We are being humiliated by our coalition partner and they are used to looking down at us,” cried a middle aged panch in SKICC. Inayatullah Rather, a punch from south Kashmir Kulgam even accused the government of “trying to sabotage the meeting (with Rahul) by announcing a block level meeting of the panchs and sarpanchs.”
Even in the University of Kashmir where he had an interaction with the students, most of the questions he was posed, were doctored. Teachers from a private engineering college scanned every single question that they asked. And most of the questions were positively developmental in nature. Neither of them asked anything related to the situation.
But there were questions and observations that came naturally from students and even panchs. One elected member from Uri told the visiting Congress leader: “I live in Uri and we are living a terrible life. We are used to getting killed from both sides, if a Pakistani bullet hits the elbow; it is Indian bullet that is aimed at the limbs.”
In the University of Kashmir, a student whose father was killed when he was just a kid did ask him about the state of humiliation that the Kashmiri students face while they moved out towards the plains for education or employment. It was in response to this question that created news for Rahul. “The pain and suffering of Kashmir is my suffering as well,” Rahul responded, adding, “I am a Kashmiri myself and I have not come to talk politics.” The visit, he said, was aimed at learning and understanding about how best the people could be helped.
There were many questions. A student asked him where he was when Kashmir was on fire in 2010. Another student asked him why he saved Omar as chief minister when Kashmir was burning and was against his continuation in 2010. Rahul ducked both the questions. But what he promised was that he will not forget anything what he gathered during the visit.
Noted broadcaster and author David Barsamian, who is the founder and director of the Alternative Radio, was deported on arrival from the Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi in the early hours of Sept 23.The government officials said he was deported for allegedly violating the terms of his visa during his last visit, saying he was on a “tourist visa,” for his journalistic work. Barsamian planned to be in Srinagar to report on unmarked graves. He had earlier visited Kashmir in December 2008, and visited again in February earlier this year.“It’s all about Kashmir,” Barsamian said after his deportation. “I’ve done work on Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal, Narmada dams, farmer suicides, the Gujarat pogrom, and the Binayak Sen case. But it’s Kashmir that is at the heart of the Indian state’s concerns. The official narrative must not be contested.”In an article in Guardian noted writer Arundhati Roy criticized his deportation. “This dangerous man, who produces independent, free-to-air programmes for public radio, has been visiting India for 40 years, doing such dangerous things as learning Urdu and playing the sitar,” she wrote, taking a swipe at the government.
“So why does the world’s largest democracy feel so threatened by this lone, sitar-playing, Urdu-speaking, left-leaning, radio producer?” Foreign academics and writers, who have spoken out fearlessly about the human rights situation in Kashmir, have been similarly deported in the past.
Earlier American academician Richard Shapiro was deported upon arrival from the Indira Gandhi International airport, apparently for an article on the human rights situation in Kashmir. In May this year, Delhi-based journalist and human rights activist Gautam Navlakha was sent back to Delhi from Srinagar airport. Academic and activist Angana Chatterji has been threatened not to visit Kashmir.
Barsamian is the founder and director of Alternative Radio, an independent weekly audio series based in Boulder, Colorado.
United for PEACE
The closing ceremony of two day Intra-LoC women’s dialogue on ‘Women’s role in society: Issues of Mutual Concern’ that took place in Gulmarg from the 27th to 29th of September, began with participants stressing upon the inclusion of women in peace-building and dialogue process:
The speakers across the border demanded that women should not only be seen as the victims of conflict but stakeholders in arriving at the logical solution for a sustainable peace and not just absence of war. Drawing parallels, they said that it will be better for both the countries to develop a model for peace than to prepare for war.
The effort to connect women across the LoC witnessed both tears and smiles. They say that being guests at a place where they actually belong is really a painful feeling for them. The women who had come from Pakistan-Adminstered Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan were all in tears while narrating their experience here in the valley.
“Our eyes are moist and heart bleeds for the people of this part of Kashmir,” says Amina Bibi of Gilgit Baltistan. Terming it an initiative to save the oriental legacy, the members resolved to continue the process of dialogue and not debate at their individual and collective levels. Sharing photographs and other gifts with their relatives in the valley terming these things as their most-prized possession. The team was optimistic that next time they would love to come by Srinagar-Muzaffarabad road and not through Wagah border.
“My image of beautiful Kashmir was shattered when I first came here in 2007,” says Nayyar Malik. Let the sufferings end today and not tomorrow is what they all said in unison, hoping to meet again on the other side, “Hijr aur Firaaq hogaya ab sirf wisaal hi wisaal hai.”one of the visiting women said.
BJP’s Gazette Is OUT
For two days, congress resorted to hooliganism in assembly not seen in the recent past. They paralyzed the house and were gunning for the BJP’s all those seven lawmakers who had voted for J&K’s ruling coalition in April’s legislative elections. Finally, Speaker Mohammad Akbar Lone obliged them.
“The member whose expulsion the BJP wants is Prof Chaman Lal Gupta and six lawmakers who have supported him are J R Sapolia, Gharu Ram, Bharat Bhushan, Baldev Raj, Durga Dass and Lal Chand,” Speaker said. “The party (BJP) wants them to be placed under suspension.” Former minister of state for defence Prof Chaman Lal Gupta, according to Speaker’s revelation, was terminated by the BJP for seven years from the basic membership of the party.
Lone, however, ruled out that he would not take any action against any of seven lawmakers unless the high court decides the petition. “Till then, we have no option but to maintain a status quo,” he said. “I do not want the court decision getting influenced.” In April, BJP lawmakers ended up voting for the ruling coalition while electing the members of the state legislative council. Of the 11 votes in its kitty, BJPs official candidate got only four votes as the party’s four votes were bagged by NC and three by Congress. It created a hue and cry forcing BJP to hold a probe and finally suggest action against seven lawmakers in a letter to the J&K assembly Speaker.
After the names were out, the Congress members created a ruckus saying that if the members have lost the confidence of the party that had given them the mandate to represent the people, they cannot be members of the house. “They should seek a fresh mandate,” a lawmaker said. After Speaker Lone insisted that he would not change his mind, they flocked out in protest. There were some suggestions from other parties. PDP, for instance, sought appointment of a commission. Panthers Party members sought suspension of the two members of the upper house – one each from NC and Congress, who were elected with the BJP support. In the din, however, the voices saying that coalition that engineered the move is also equally culpable in the cross voting case.
Congress is playing intelligently. If it manages the seven BJP men expelled from assembly, a re-election will fetch them all these seats. That will make Congress the largest political party of the state.
But the interesting aspect is that the naming of BJP lawmakers coincided with the passage of a bill that intends to amend the J&K Representation of the peoples act that would do away with the secrecy in voting for electing the legislative council members by the lawmakers. “Recently a trend has been observed that party whip is not adhered to by the members of political parties,” the statement of objects and reasons of the amendment said. “Such a practice brings disrepute to the whole system of electoral process and the parliamentary institutions of governance.”