News Notes

 The Election Season

News-Notes---Elections-2014In the view of upcoming 2014 Assembly Elections, it seems everyone from unionist leaders to separatists are chalking out their strategies, albeit differently.

Senior PDP leader Muzaffar Hussein Baig urged the Jamaat-i-Islami and Hurriyat sympathizers to rethink on their election boycott policy and join the hands of PDP to get people rid of the oppressive NC rule. “Our party does not thrive on the politics of vendetta and believes in providing space to every political party, irrespective of its ideology,” Baig said while addressing a rally in Srigufwara village. “PDP would welcome everyone irrespective of his ideological background into their party fold to bring about a change. We will welcome even NC or Congress workers if they want to join us. Also we have no issues if Jamat-I-Islami or Hurriyat sympathizers also join our hands,” he said.

Earlier in the week, senior Hurriyat leader Shabir Shah while reiterating his election boycott call dared Chief Minister Omar Abdullah to fight election against him once the ‘black laws’ like AFSPA are done away with. Talking to reporters, Shah asserted that the prolonged status quo on Kashmir issue could again push the youth of Jammu and Kashmir to arms.

“It is meaningless to contest the elections under the Indian constitution. Only once the separatists are allowed to convey their points to people free and the black laws like the AFSPA are repealed would we think to contest elections,” he said. He also stressed on the need for unity among the separatist leadership claiming that disunity among the separatist leadership was working in India’s favour. “In 2008 I was able to foster unit between the Mirwaiz Umar Farooq Group and the Syed Ali Geelani Group. However, after my arrest various vested interests tried to scuttle the process of unity between the two separatist groups,” Shah said.

But the best part of the debate has been the consistency maintained by former separatist and now unionist Sajad Lone in taking digs at both Omar Abdullah and Syed Ali Geelani, the two extremes of political spectrum. Lone blamed Omar for failing to meet the aspirations of the people while taking digs at Geelani, “The Kashmiri nation deserves to know what his policy of back-breaking hartals and election boycotts has achieved till now. He should desist from his post-winter-vacation sermonising and realize that his delusional and errant politics has economically enervated the Kashmiri people,” he said. Even his deputy has joined the debate by writing a column exhorting people to debate the policy of election boycott. Wonder who the final beneficiaries would be!

Tit fot TAT

kot bhalwal jail jammuFor the moment, the attack on the Pakistani prisoner in Jammu jail appears to be an ‘eye for an eye’ sort of revenge. The attack took place a day after Indian prisoner Sarabjit Singh in Pakistani jail succumbed to his injuries. Sanaullah, a prisoner from Pakistan who was in jail in Jammu is in a coma after he was hit on the head, reportedly with a hammer, by a former soldier convicted of murder.

Sanaullah, the 54 years old Pakistani who was critically injured, was photographed with a swollen black eye and a bloodied beard as he was rushed into hospital in Jammu.

The Pakistani High Commission has asked for its diplomats to be allowed to meet him. “This obvious retaliation to the death of Indian prisoner Sarabjit Singh is condemnable,” said a statement from the Pakistan foreign ministry which asked for a police probe and the best treatment to be made available for Sanaullah.

It is not clear yet if the violence was in retaliation for the death of Sarabjit Singh, the Indian prisoner who died in Lahore on Thursday after he was fatally assaulted by a group of men in the jail where he had spent more than 20 years.

Sanaullah had been imprisoned after being convicted for “terrorist” activities. Soon after the incident, Superintendent of Kotbalwal jail, Jammu, Rajni Sehgal has been put under suspension and an inquiry has been ordered in the incident of an attack on a Pakistani prisoner by his inmate, Vinod, the former Army personnel, sources said.

Pertinently, worried about retaliatory attacks in India, the Home Ministry had asked all the states to increase the security for nearly 200 Pakistani prisoners who are in jail across the country. The critically injured Pakistani national has been operated upon at Jammu Medical College.

Musical Beginnings

News-Notes---Chuna-Hai-AasmanSome months ago when the girls-only band of Kashmir was under scathing attack from some sections of society, it appeared that Kashmiri girls won’t even give a thought to music, until Thursday when as many as 10 girls out of 25 singers made it to the finale of ‘Choona Hai Aasmaan’ Season Three, a music event organized by Jammu and Kashmir Police.

A girl participant in the event while brushing aside ‘threats’ said, “We are not worried about the threats (issued by religious and other groups). Singing is my passion and I will sing whenever I get a chance,” Sabiya Shah, one of the contestants who made it to the finale, said.

Pragaash (Light), the first all-girls rock band of Kashmir, was forced to disband three months ago. The band comprised of 10th-class students which included vocalist-guitarist Noma Nazir, drummer Farah Deeba and guitarist Aneeka Khalid. They shot to prominence in December last year with a scintillating performance at the annual ‘Battle of the Bands’ competition here and won the best performance award in their first public appearance.

However, the band started receiving “online threats” which was followed by a ‘fatwa’ (religious decree) issued by Grand Mufti Bashiruddin Ahmad which compelled the girl band to shun their ties with music.

“Music and singing is a way of expressing someone’s talent. I do not think anyone should have problems with it,” Sabreeka, another girl participant of Thursday’s music event, said.

Choona hai Aasman is a talent hunt programme run by Jammu and Kashmir Police as part of its civic action plan.”We want to provide them opportunities to express themselves, not only in the field of music, but in arts and sports as well,” Abdul Gani Mir, Inspector General of Police (IGP) Kashmir, said.

 Blame GAME

News-Notes--Mufti-SyedUpping her attacks against ruling party NC in wake of coming state assembly elections, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) president Mehbooba Mufti, said that the Sufi shrine of Dastgeer Sahib was set on fire under a plan to help a contractor involved in the construction business.

Speaking at a public gathering in North Kashmir’s Sumbal area, Mehbooba alleged that one of the ministers in NC government has close connections with ‘construction mafia’ and one of his relatives is a contractor. “The revered Sufi shirne was set on fire to provide benefits to the contractor,” she said. Mehbooba claimed that the workers of the said minister ‘might be responsible for setting the shrine on fire’.

On the other hand, addressing a rally at Srigufwara village in South Kashmir, Mehbooba’s father and Peoples Democratic Party patron Mufti Muhammad Sayeed, accused the ruling National Conference of “tactfully rigging” the 2008 Assembly elections in Srinagar.

Mufti claimed that because of this “tactical rigging” in Srinagar, National Conference managed to win all eight seats in the city.

“The NC workers pelted stones on polling booths to ensure that nobody turns to vote. They however themselves voted during the morning hours,” Mufti alleged.

Mufti claimed that the notion among people that government in J&K cannot be formed without the blessing of New Delhi was negated during the 2002 Assembly polls.

Setting the pitch for next elections Mufti accused NC of bartering water resources of the State. “Farooq Abdullah handed over many power projects to New Delhi and the few left-ones were sold by Omar Abdullah to stay in power,” he accused.

He assured the gathering, if elected to power his party would fight for getting the power projects back and also convince New Delhi to “amicably sort out the water related issues with Pakistan.”

 Tremor TERROR

News-Notes---Earthquake-in-DodaTremors are ceaselessly being felt across the northern plains of India including Jammu and Kashmir since Wednesday. A low intensity tremor was again felt on Friday that shook Kishtwar, Bhaderwah Valley and adjoining areas of Doda district triggering panic among the people.

The quake measuring 3.7 on the Richter Scale shook Kishtwar, Baderwah valley and adjoining areas of Doda district at 7:08 am on Friday, a MeT department official said. The epicentre of the earthquake was Kishtwar area of the state.

Friday’s earthquake was 16th tremor in Bhaderwah-Doda-Kishtwar belt during the past four days. On Wednesday, a maximum 11 tremors were recorded in the area.

Two persons, including a shepherd, were killed and 69 others injured when scores of buildings were damaged due to repeated tremors that shook Doda and Kishtwar districts of Jammu and Kashmir since Wednesday.

A tremor measuring 5.8 on the Richter Scale was recorded at 12:27 pm and subsequent 10 other aftershocks continued till 3.02pm on Wednesday in Jammu and Kashmir, particularly in twin district of Kishtwar and Doda.

As per the initial reports, over 150 buildings, including schools, hospital, government buildings and private houses suffered partial damages in Bhaderwah belt, while 220 houses were cracked and suffered minor damages in Thanala village on Bhaderwah-Chamba border belt due to the tremors.

The important buildings which suffered major damages included All India Radio building, Bhaderwah Development Authority (BDA) building, Hospital, Higher Secondary School, they said.

In Kashmir’s summer capital Srinagar and other parts of the Valley, people rushed out of their homes and workplaces in panic when the tremor occurred. Significantly, Kashmir is situated in an earthquake-prone region where huge devastation has been caused by earthquakes in the past.

On October 8, 2005, more than 40,000 people were killed in a massive quake that struck both parts of divided Kashmir. The quake measured 7.8 on the Richter Scale.

Despite being located in the most vulnerable seismic zone –V, Jammu and Kashmir is almost unprepared to deal with the post earthquake situation. According to experts dealing with natural disasters, the state lacks trained manpower and equipment as far as disaster management is concerned.

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