The Panch CRISIS
Nightmare for Panchs and Sarpanchs in Kashmir is far from over. They are again on the path of resignation spree through paid advertisement after Hizbul Mujahideen Chief Syed Salahuddin issued a fresh warning to them, though some of them remain adamant not to succumb to militant threat.
Around 100 Panches and Sarpanches have made their resignations public through paid advertisements in various local dailies here citing threat to their life as the reason for the resignations. These fresh resignations have taken their toll to nearly 800.
However, authorities maintain that they have received only 50 resignations since the landmark elections were held last year after a gap of nearly three decades.
Hizb supremo, Salahuddin, in an interview to weekly news magazine Tehelka had said Panchayat members will be targeted in future as the government was projecting Kashmiris as pro-India.
“Panches and Sarpanches are exploited by India to project Kashmir as pro-India, and as such they will continue to be targeted. No matter how much government tries to secure them, they will still be attacked,” Salahuddin said in the interview.
Hundreds of Panchayat members announced their resignations through advertisements following killing of a deputy Sarpanch in Pattan area of Baramulla district in the second week of September this year. Dozens more quit after militants issued a fresh threat in the third week of September.
Of late, the provincial secretary of All Jammu and Kashmir Panchayat Conference, Bashir Ahmad Malik, while questioning the diktats of Salah-ud-Din, said that the Panchayat members have no political agenda and are not working for any political party. “Our concern is to serve the people at grass root level”, he added.
The spokesman of the AJKPC Ghulam Hassan Panzoo told the news conference that security is the prime concern for them after the supremo of Hizbul Mujahideen, Syed Salah-ud-Din, issued the life threat. “For the last 2 years issue of empowerment was our concern now it has shifted to the security”, he added.
“We don’t want individual security to 33, 000 Panchayat members but for only those who feel threatened”, Panzoo said. When asked how many of the Panchayat members need security at this juncture, he put the figure at 1000.
The AJKPC spokesman said that militants will gain nothing by targeting them. “We are soft targets as we are without any protection and they should instead target those living under security cover in security zones”, he added.
The Bedi Commission probing the death of National Conference worker Haji Syed Muhammad Yousuf is finally concluding its findings, after it heard the final arguments of counsels representing the Chief Minister, others and family of the deceased early this week. The Commission would submit its report to the J&K Government.
Counsel for the family of the deceased, Mushtaq Ahmad Dar argued that police had not followed the mandate of B K Basu judgment in the case.
“The deceased was never admitted in the Police hospital as claimed by the police and entire record produced by the police and medical authorities is fudged and fabricated,” he argued.
However, Crime Branch Counsel Farooq Ahmad Kathwari told the Commission that Police had followed D K Basu judgment in the case, arguing if there was any deviation or lapse, that was not willful or intentional as deceased was to be shifted to hospital.
The contents of the CCTV footage of the events, which occurred at the camp office, have been proved through the affidavit of Bashir Ahmad Ganie, Deputy Superintendent of Police and Investigation Officer investigating this case. “This has also been proved through his examination before the Commission, said the Counsel adding, “it is submitted that the evidence of the relative of the deceased fails to controvert the evidence of the CCTV footage of the events, which occurred at the camp office, during the examination of Ganie”.
Earlier, Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah in his counter-affidavit before the Commission submitted, “I deny any wrongdoing alleged to have happened in my presence to the deceased at my camp office during the meeting on 29th November. I hadn’t instructed anyone including those present during the scene to beat anyone and no crime of such nature took place in my presence”.
The State Government had on November 18 appointed the retired Supreme Court judge H S Bedi as the head of a one-man Commission to probe the death of 61-year-old Haji Yousuf in custody.
Yousuf was handed over to the them IG, Crime Branch, by the Chief Minister on September 29 last year after he allegedly admitted that he had taken money from two National Conference workers for getting them berths in the Legislative Council and the State Council of Ministers.
He died a day later. While Yusuf’s family alleged he was tortured to death, an autopsy showed that Haji Yousuf died of cardiac arrest.
The Commission was asked to complete its probe within six weeks but due to ‘unavoidable circumstances’, including pendency of a petition relating to the matter before the Supreme Court and adverse weather conditions, the State Government granted a three-month extension to the Commission on January 7.
Third Eye, WATCHING
It seems that an electronic eye is the new surveillance tool of the security forces in the state for keeping vigil on activities on the ground. In fact, closed circuit television cameras (CCTV) have now been installed in colleges across Kashmir to check students’ activities in college campuses from now onwards.
The Valley colleges have been asked to install CCTV cameras with fish-eye lenses that cover an area at 180 degrees. “Such lenses ensure identification of persons under 180 degree ambit. This type of CCTV camera has been tried in almost all the educational institutions in India and outside. Even the recordings of happenings are also stored for viewing, as and when required,” said an official at KU’s Directorate of Information Technology.
Sources say “this initiative has been taken on recommendations of a government-constituted expert panel.”
Though few college principals have stated that initiative was taken to streamline education system, but step has already drawn flak from students and academics alike who say “there is more to it than meets the eye.”
Keeping the CCTV installation spree on, police authorities have decided to add militancy-infested towns in the list of CCTVs in view of Delhi high court blast, which originated from Kishtwar town. Police believed that CCTVs would have captured movement of the militants in Kishtwar town had they been installed there earlier.
Doda, Kishtwar, Ramban, Reasi, Rajouri and Poonch towns are being covered with CCTVs in the first phase. However, in the next phase, all important towns of Jammu region would be covered with CCTVs.
In Kashmir valley, majority of towns are already covered with CCTVs while rest would be covered shortly. The CCTVs would be installed simultaneously at the highways and the towns expeditiously.
The process of installing the CCTVs in uptown Srinagar is in progress. The CCTVs have been erected in Lal Chowk and Dalgate area of city. These will be installed at some other key Civil Line areas. The official said the process of installing hi-tech CCTVs has already been completed in old city areas. A senior police official said that the cameras are installed under Police Modernization scheme approved by Government of India (GoI) to increase the surveillance. He said they have got the approval to install 150 CCTVs in second phase of the scheme.
He said after completing the process in city, the CCTVs will be installed in sensitive Sopore town of North Kashmir’s Baramulla district.
In 2004, 16 CCTV cameras were installed in Srinagar for the first time to increase surveillance of militant activities like grenade throwing and hit-and-run cases.
For the elections to four seats of MLCs in Legislative Council from the Panchayat quota the Election Commission (EC) appointed the Divisional Commissioners of Jammu and Kashmir as Returning Officers (ROs). Divisional Commissioner, Jammu, Pradeep Gupta would be Returning Officer for two seats of Jammu division. While as Divisional Commissioner Kashmir, Asgar Samoon would be returning officer for two seats of Kashmir division. The Deputy Commissioners of all 22 districts of the State have been designated as Assistant Returning Officers (AROs) for the election. 33,540 Sarpanchs and Panchs across the State would cast two votes. The Sarpanchs and Panchs elected from Jammu division would be entitled to cast two votes each only for the candidates of their division. The similar would be the process for Kashmir division. The Panchayat members of Ladakh region would be part of Kashmir division. A total of 145 polling stations with 290 Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) would be set up across the State i.e. one polling station for each Panchayat block. The voters would cast one vote for a candidate in first EVM and another votes in second EVM in both the divisions. Two candidates from each division securing highest number of votes would be declared elected as MLCs.
The process for elections would be set into motion with issuance of notification on November 9.The candidates can file their nomination papers till November 16 while scrutiny of documents would take place on November 17. Last date for withdrawal of documents has been fixed as November 19. Voting will be held on December 3 and counting of votes will take place on December 6. Entire election process would be completed before December 8. The Election Department has already published revised electoral rolls for the elections. Total number of voters stood at 33,540 in the State. Voters in Jammu division included 15,628 (13,678 Panches and 1950 Sarpanches) while electorates in Kashmir division were 17,912 (15,767 Panches and 2145 Sarpanches).
On the other hand the polls come under cloud as Panchayat members and Congress has opposed the move. President of Jammu and Kashmir Panchayat Conference (JKPC), Shafiq Mir said they will boycott the elections “as the motive of holding the elections is to divert attention from the need of security for Panchayat members and their empowerment”.“We have nothing to do with this nonsense. They are doing it only to divert attention,” said Mir.
The election would be held under Representation of People’s Act (RPA), which means that any person eligible for contesting the election of MLA can jump into the fray for four seats of MLCs. However, the candidates of Jammu and Kashmir divisions would contest in their respective division as two seats each have been reserved for each division.
Taking strong note of the government’s noncompliance in a case about rehabilitation of poor girls who were exploited in the grab of jobs, the high court has directed the Chief Secretary to appear in person or file report before the court on December 3, 2012. “Prima facie, it appears that by not filing the compliance report, the State has failed to perform its Constitutional and statutory obligations towards its own people. Like other democratic institutions, the institution of judiciary also survives on the faith of the people. It, thus, becomes duty of the Court to ensure that its orders and judgment are implemented in letter and spirit,” observed single bench of Justice Muzaffer Hussain Attar. The court has requested senior advocate Bashir Ahmed Bashir to assist the court in Muhammad Amin Beigh v/s State and others. Earlier the district magistrate Srinagar had slapped detention order under Public Safety Act (PSA) on Beigh for allegedly exploiting the vulnerable girls under the garb of providing them with jobs. Beigh had challenged the order in the High Court. However, the Court dismissed his plea and subsequently passed series of directions to the government asking it to take steps to ensure rehabilitation of poor girls in the State. The court has directed the chief secretary of the state to take necessary steps to give proper publicity to all central and state government sponsored schemes meant for the betterment of the poor girls of the state. The Court had directed the Chief Secretary to file a compliance report within three months time. However, Chief Secretary failed to file the compliance report. Then Justice Muzaffar Hussain Attar granted one more opportunity to the Chief Secretary to file compliance report after passing a series of observations. But once again the chief secretary has failed to send his report making court to observe, “Unfortunately some people with soulless bodies and ray-less eyes are showing cruel insensitive to the sufferings and plight of the people who catapult them to the positions of importance.” “The cruel insensitiveness exhibited by few people may result in ultimate breakdown of the democratic institutions and convert a society governed by law into one governed by rule of jungle,” the court observed.