News Notes

Keran CALLED-OFF

keran-(2)General Officer Commanding-in-Chief of Army’s Northern Command Lt General Sanjiv Chachra Tuesday said Keran operation has been called off after two weeks of battles in the Himalayan region of Kashmir.

Gen Chachra said, “We had very specific intelligence of their operation. We knew where they were and we were prepared for it. Some of these infiltration attempts have been eliminated and some of them have been foiled.”

We are now going to launch operations which are intelligence based, which are surveillance based so that we can meet the challenges,” General Sanjiv Chachra told reporters here.

The Army has been maintaining that it has been on a concerted search operation in Keran sector for the last 15 days after it foiled a major infiltration attempt by militants backed by suspected Pakistani special forces last month.

The 30-40 infiltrating militants were well equipped carrying supplies that would have lasted them 20 to 30 days, Gen. Chachra said.

“We have recovered signal, communication equipments, night vision devices, rations that would have sustained them for almost 20 to 30 days,” he said.

“There were 30 to 40 militants in the infiltrating column at Shaalbhato village in Keran sector. We carried out a number of searches in and adjacent areas. We have found eight bodies,” he said.

Replying to a question on rest of the militants, he said, “(Bodies of) some of them might have been dragged back. Some of them were used in other subsequent operations in the neighboring areas.”

He said the desperation among the militants to infiltrate into Kashmir was due to the dwindling number of ultras in the Valley. “This is the time when they can reinforce their numbers,” he said.

Gen Chachra said, “Sanctity of the LoC is well maintained (by the Indian side). This is our charter, this is the mandate given to us. The sanctity of the LoC can never be trampled.”

Earlier in the day, Army chief Gen. Bikram Singh said the infiltration bid by militants in Keran sector has been foiled. “It was a desperate infiltration bid, which has been foiled,” Gen Singh reportedly said.

He said eight militants have been killed and 59 weapons including 18 AK rifles and war-like stores captured.

Pertinently, GoC of Srinagar based 15 core had last week said that there were 12-15 bodies of militants lying in the area.

Passport PASSAGE

Expediting disposal of pending passport applications, the Passport Office Kashmir has issued 38000 passports in nine months since January this year.  Moreover, to ease up the cumbersome process of collecting Line of Control Permit forms from the office, the Passport authorities have now made these forms available online.

Firdous Iqbal, the Passport Officer Kashmir said, “Keeping in view the urgency of applicants, we have expedited the process by easing up many procedural formalities.” Iqbal said that since January upto October 8, his office had received 49000 passport applications out of which 38000 cases have been disposed of by issuing passports in favour of the applicants.

“Rest of the applications are under process and I hope by the end of this year we will be able to dispose of the pending applications provided these applications fulfill all the prerequisites,” the Passport Officer Kashmir added. Pertinently, in year 2012 the Passport Office Kashmir had issued 61500 passports which was a record number of passport issued in the history of Passport Office Kashmir, sources said. “That year the number of passports issued reflected 48 per cent increase in passports issued in 2011,” sources added.

In order to reduce the number of days involved in police verification, the Passport Officer Kashmir said the physical movement of personal particular forms from Passport Office to concerned agencies has been done away with. “Now these forms can be downloaded by the concerned verification agencies on the same day of granting of application at the Passport Office,” Iqbal said.

He disclosed that now the LoC permit forms can also be downloaded by the intending applicants through a website (www.passportindia.gov.in) under permit/print application form link. “This process has already been started by us some few days ago,” Iqbal said.

Stating that Jammu and Kashmir has the privilege to be among the top five states as far as state wise number of applications received for Haj 2013 is concerned, the Passport Officer Kashmir said 21697 applications were received by the Haj authorities for the year 2013 in Jammu and Kashmir.

It is pertinent to mention here that the Passport authorities have received two prestigious awards for its marvelous services including CSI NIHILENT e-governance award for the year 2011-12 and e-governance certificate of excellence Government to Citizens (G2C) initiative.

The online appointment process started by the Passport authorities has been hailed by people and now keeping in view the overwhelming response from the people, the Passport Office has eased up this process further. “The online appointment process has also been eased and even the facility of depositing money online has also been provided to the people,” Iqbal informed.

Calling DISPUTE

The Indian arm of an Indo-Pak lobby group has questioned the accession of Jammu & Kashmir to India by calling it a “disputed region”.

It has called for the removal of the Army from the state and described Pakistan as a “serious victim of terrorism”. The Mumbai wing of the Pakistan India Peoples’ Forum for Peace and Democracy (PIPFPD) issued a statement on its 20th anniversary meet held in New Delhi.

It described itself as an organization that brings cultural exchange “between India, Pakistan and the disputed region of Jammu & Kashmir”.

PIPFPD is known for seeking freedom for Indian and Pakistani prisoners held in each other’s jails. It also facilitates exchanges and meetings between journalists, artistes and intellectuals of both countries. Mumbai activists Jatin Desai and Pushpa Bhave are members of PIPFPD.

“The Kashmir issue is the core issue between India and Pakistan. We believe Kashmir is a trilateral matter to be resolved by India, Pakistan and the Kashmiris themselves. The zone must be demilitarized and AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Powers Act) revoked,” Desai is reported to have said.

The statement says that “it is only the soldiers’ sacrifices for the nation that are taken into consideration, the others are taken as nothing but collateral damage”. PIPFPD said India should not have raised the issue of Pakistani terrorism with US President Barack Obama along the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) meeting in New York.

Ocean Of Tears In Un

Bilal-JanDenied permission to screen ‘Ocean of tears’ in Kashmir, Independent filmmaker Bilal A Jan has approached United Nations General Secretary to investigate the case and pressurize Indian government to lift the unofficial ban from screening the film in conflict torn Kashmir.

Interestingly, Ocean of Tears, which talks about women and their sufferings in Kashmir during 25 years of conflict, was issued a censor certificate and was granted permission by PSBT, regarding the Non-commercial screening.

The screening was scheduled for screening on 15th December 2012, at Kashmir University. However the screening was blocked at the eleventh hour by the authorities inviting on spot protests by students at varsity and wide spread condemnation.

Despite screening of the film at Aljazeera international documentary film festival – 2013, documentary film festival (FFSI, Nandan Kolkata) – 2013, Special screening at Oklahoma University USA – 2013, the Indian Documentary Producers’ Association in association with Dada Saheb Phalke Film City and P.L. Deshpande Maharashtra Kala Academy FIC Puebla Guatemala, MEXCIO 2013, 3rd  Nepal international human rights film festival-2013, the film was denied permission to screen in Kashmir.

Now, the science graduate filmmaker has approached United Nations for help. But the United Nations Human Rights Council has shown its inability in the case and has suggested Bilal to contact UN Women cell in India instead. “Please be advised that while UNHCR fully supports the human rights of women, which we understand is the focus of your film, the mandate of the IGO is limited to persons who are contractually linked to UNHCR. This particular matter you are referring to does not fall under the mandate of the IGO. Thus the Investigation Service cannot take action on it.

You may wish to refer your complaint to UN Women in India, who would be better placed to advise you,” reads an electronic mail reply from UNHRC Inspector General’s office to Bilal Jan. Following the instructions, the filmmaker sent two requests to UN Women in India but, he claims, they did not reply which prompted him to approach UN Gen Secretary Ban Ki Moon.

“I wrote to Ban Ki Moon as UNHRC failed to intervene in the case and I hope that screening of my film will be possible soon,” Bilal said.

Dissecting TSD

Expert on Kashmiri affairs and former head of India’s premium Intelligence agency, Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), AS Dulat Wednesday said that government of India should engage Mirwaiz Umar Faooq in dialogue over Kashmir issue so that deadlock between separatist groups and New Delhi would be over.

“Mirwaiz is an important leader and a complete politician. He has started behaving as a mature politician now and time has come that Government of India engage him over Kashmir issue,” Dulat said, adding that talks between Centre and Separatist groups must continue.

He advised Mirwaiz to take some bold initiatives and come forward for talks with New Delhi. “We cannot blame Mirwaiz only, but New Delhi too is at fault. New Delhi has failed to address immaterial issues like the clearances of passports and other matters related to common people. I think New Delhi should too take some initiatives and give a positive signal to the separatist groups,” Dulat said.

While replying to a question, Dulat said that there is a need to take separatist leaders especially Mirwaiz into confidence and start a meaningful dialogue.

Reacting over the recent revelations made by former Indian Army Chief, General VK Singh, he said that nothing positive would come out even if the Legislative Assembly of Jammu and Kashmir would summon him.

“Why Singh made such revelations and what was his intention is a matter that needs to be probed. But, I think, this controversy is over now and it would lead us nowhere if we continue to raise this issue,” Dulat said.

He said that if Jammu and Kashmir Government had a feeling that Agriculture Minister Ghulam Hassan Mir has done something wrong then Mir should have been ousted from the Cabinet. “Inaction against Mir clearly indicates that he is innocent before the government. I fail to understand what Government of Jammu and Kashmir would get by summoning VK Singh,” he said.

 Reacting over the recent statement made by Chief Minister Omar Abdullah that accession with India is conditional, Dulat said that his father has been maintaining day in and day out that accession is final. “New Delhi doesn’t take all comments made on Kashmir seriously. If you analyze his (Omar Abdullah’s) speeches minutely, you would find that he considers accession with India unconditional,” he said.

Retirement SUBJECT

Employees-protesting-in-KashmirAs state government last week rejected employees’ demand of enhancing the retirement age and put the ball in Legislature’s court to decide upon the issue, the educated unemployed youth of Valley have expressed satisfaction over government decision and hope the legislature will uphold the government decision.

The educated unemployed youth across Valley opine that government employees by demanding increase in retirement age is adding to their already woes which according to them should not be entertained.

“We are already unemployed; they (state government employees) don’t care for us. They are demanding lion’s share for themselves and nothing for educated unemployed ones,” Jibran Ali, who recently did post graduation from Kashmir University told a local news gathering agency.

“These employees demand pay hike, increase in retirement age and service inclusion to ReTs. I guess these people wish to continue to remain on chair which they hold, for the whole life,” Jibran added.

Another educated unemployed youth Aquib Mushtaq said the employees should only demand what they deserve and should not grab hold of everything they want. “Politics apart, do they (employees) really deserve what they are demanding in this employment starved state? Youth need to ponder upon and judge if these unions and associations of employees create hurdles for new generation who are already frustrated,” he said.

The unemployed degree holders also perceive service inclusion to Rehbar-e-Taleem (ReT) teachers another hindrance to their future. “This is another headache which, if acknowledged, is threat to jobless degree holders like PhDs and M Phil students. These ReTs who have just 12th pass fake certificates serve the “builder of nation” and am sure it would soon turn “bulldozer” of our future generation,” Mudasir Lone, a PhD scholar said.

“What is going on here in Kashmir? Does anyone care about the unemployed educated youth? I’m going to file a PIL in High Court against the employees’ unjust demands. Whoever wants to come can accompany me as I need 100 partners and not 1000 students for the struggle,” Mudasir added. Pertinently, the retirement age row evoked strong debate in legislative assembly last week with Minister for Finance, Abdul Rahim Rather informing the House that except increasing the retirement age, government has implemented all the demands of employees.

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