News Notes

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Bloody Start

Pakharpora-Militant-BodySix militants including a foreigner were killed in different places across Kashmir since Wednesday.

Five militants, four locals and one foreigner, were killed in an encounter with Indian Army and Police in Gader forests of Keller area in south Kashmir’s Shopian district on Thursday.

According to Police, “on a tip off, Shopian police along with 44RR and CRPF launched a search operation in forest area of Gader Kellar, Shopian Thursday morning. During the searches, militants present in the forest fired upon the joint search team, triggering an encounter in which five militants were killed.”

The slain militants were identified as: Shakeel Ahmad from Pakherpora Budgam; Tahir from Aglar Pulwama; Parvaiz from Batamuran Shopian and Ishfaq Dagga from Arwani Kulgam and fifth, a foreigner.

The statement further added that one AK rifle, 3 magazines, 89 rounds of AK ammunition, a UBGL, 03 UBGL grenades and a hand grenade was recovered from the possession of militants.

Massive anti-India protests broke out soon after the gunfight ended, with people from neighbouring villages of Pakharpora, Keller and Dhrabgam areas converging in Keller. Following protests, a complete shutdown was observed in Keller against the killing of militants.

In the first encounter of 2015, an unidentified militant was killed in Chankan area of North Kashmir’s Sopore on Wednesday after contingents of Rashtriya Rifles and CRPF acting on “specific information” launched massive search operation in the area.

“On specific information, Sopore police along with 52 RR and CRPF launched a cordon and search operation at Sofi Hamam, Chankhan,” a Police statement said. “During the searches, militant fired upon the joint search party triggering an encounter,” the statement added.

Killer Rides

accident-in-kashmirPost 90’s most of the people who died in the state were the victims of conflict. Hospitals and PCR’s were filled with bullet hit bodies only but now as the conflict related situations have decreased the reason of deaths has changed. First it were bullets and now it is road accidents.

In the year 2014, more than 280 persons in valley were killed while as around 2500 persons were severely injured in different road accidents across the valley.

According to official figures, 53 persons were killed in Srinagar in 2014 and 13 among them were killed in July only.

In 2013, according to data, 2236 road accidents were witnessed in Kashmir in which 288 lives were lost.

However, figures reveal there has been a decline in the percentage of road accidents in Kashmir valley as compared to 2013. In 2014, the decline was 16.5 per cent while as the accidents that claimed lives had a decline of 8.3 per cent.

Police reports informed that there has been the decline of 19.94 per cent in which precious lives were lost and for road accident injuries, a decline of 15.74 per cent has been witnessed.

Pertinently, this week eight persons died while five others were injured in two separate road accidents in the valley.

Change in Pahalgam

Pahalgam-Illegal-Construction-DemolitionWith elections results sending sitting PDP MLA Rafi Mir from Pahalgam packing and NC’s new face taking over, the change is quite visible in this tourist hot-spot.

Local’s blame Mir’s alleged involvement in illegal construction in Pahalgam as main reason for his defeat, his exit from the power corridors has already made things easier for those who are out to save the tourist hot-spot.

Within no time Pahalgam Development Authority (PDA) intensified its demolition driver against illegal structures constructed on state land. More than 13 structures were demolished in the first go.

On the occasions the Chief Executive Officer of PDA clearly said, it is an end to the construction of illegal structures in or around Pahalgam besides on the banks of river Lidder.

He further said that other illegal structures and violations are being identified and will be razed to ground in coming days. “In no way and no circumstances any kind of violation of court orders will be tolerated.”

Earlier, the court had ordered the demolition drive against the illegal structure but nothing really happened on ground despite the orders.

HC Stays Investigation

Giving a new tilt to the infamous Kunan-Poshpora mass rape in 1991, the Jammu and Kashmir High Court Thursday stayed investigation into the Kunan-Poshpora mass rape Thursday. The stay order has drawn strong reactions from human rights groups working in the valley.

“Till next date, subject to objections of the other side, the impugned order dated 18-6-2013 and 8-8-2014 shall stay (Sic),” a bench of Justice Tashi Rabstan ordered, while issuing a notice to the state government on a petition by Army, against the reinvestigation, within two weeks, reported a leading English daily.

“Today, Justice Tashi Rabstan, vacation judge in the Jammu and Kashmir High Court, Srinagar, in a petition filed by the Indian army, stayed the ongoing investigations in the Kunan Poshpora mass rape and torture case of 23/24 February 1991 without hearing the survivors who were party to the orders in the lower courts for further investigations,” a statement of Support Group for Justice for Kunan Poshpora said.

The Thursday court order stayed the directions of Judicial Magistrate Kupwara of June 2013 in which the court had asked for re-investigation of the case. Representing Indian Army, Assistant Solicitor General of India challenged the Kupwara court directions in High Court after which the court directed Superintendent of Police and Station House Officer Kupwara to respond to the petition filed by the Army. The court ordered the case be listed after two weeks.

Earlier, Police had informed High court that army is not cooperating with Police during investigations which had also sought the presence of 125 soldiers of 4-Rajputana Rifles – who had carried out search operation of the twin villages on the fateful night of infamous mass rape on February 23, 1991.

However, in a separate PIL filed in September 2013, the High Court is already hearing the case of Kunan-Poshpora seeking speedy re-investigation and seeking court monitoring investigations after petitioners alleged the investigation was not carried out. The Thursday stay order by the high court has been issued in a separate petition.

The support group’s statement further added that the “Indian army by filing its petition before the vacation judge, five months after the Sessions Court order of 8 August 2014 has clearly sought to use the judiciary to shield itself.”

Questioning Films

In a first, the Supreme Court of India has asked a filmmaker who shot a documentary on Kashmir whether it had become “fashionable” to depict only one side of the story in movies, The Indian Express reported.

Hearing a petition filed by filmmaker Pankaj Butalia who complained about the Censor Board’s refusal to clear his documentary, Textures of Loss, the bench of Justices Vikramjit Sen and C Nagappan asked, “Why is it one-sided? Where is the alternate picture? We don’t know why it has become fashionable and a question of human rights to talk about one side of a story. Rights are always conferred on two parties and not only on one of them… this is what is happening with activists.”

However, according to Butalia’s counsel, he never got a personal hearing before the Censor Board and that the movie was only trying to show the grief suffered by some families.

“If you have not taken the view of the other side, then it becomes the views of the producer or director. It is not the people’s view as you want to project it. Which people are you talking about when you haven’t spoken to others? When a filmmaker goes on to show only his point of view, it remains his view,” said the bench.

“Criticising one view and exalting others… or if not exalting, understanding one view and not even trying to understand others may not be right. You cannot have a one-sided view of a story,” it added.

Pertinently, the documentary includes interviews of victims of Kashmir conflict, its aftermath and their views about India and Indian army.

After the Censor Board had sought some cuts in the documentary, Butalia had challenged the board’s decision before the appellate body which did not work. He finally moved to Supreme Court of India.

Hung House

Rajya-SabhaWith Election Commission of India announcing Rajya Sabha elections on February 7, the announcement triggered a row between government officials and legal experts in Kashmir where the fractured mandate has deferred the formation of government. While the leading constitutional expert of Jammu & Kashmir holding the view that Election Commission of India (ECI) has a constitutional compulsion to defer the election for four Rajya Sabha seats that have fallen vacant this month, the top government official while referring to a supreme court ruling say that there is no bar on the newly elected MLAs yet to take oath in the assembly from participating in the Rajya Sabha elections.

When contacted leading constitutional expert and senior Advocate J&K High Court Zaffar Ahmad Shah said “After the imposition of governor’s rule the suspension of the assembly and inability of newly elected MLAs’ of legislative assembly has left no other option for the Election Commission of India except to defer the Rajya Sabha elections for four Rajya Sabha seats which have fallen vacant this month (January). No newly elected MLA can cast vote in the elections for four Rajya Sabha seats till the time the governor’s rule is revoked, new government is formed and new MLAs take oath.”

Contradicting Shah’s argument on right to vote of the newly elected MLAs in the elections for four Rajya Sabha seat a top state government official wishing anonymity told a local news agency: “It is a fact that without taking oath the newly elected MLAs can’t take part in any legislative business of the assembly but there is a supreme court judgment which clearly specifies that MLAs can cast their votes in the elections for Rajya Sabha seats. Since the Election Commission of India (ECI) has made special reference to the said Supreme Court verdict in the notification, so there is no constitutional compulsion for the Election Commission of India ((ECI) to defer the elections till the revocation of governor’s rule and takeover of a new popular government in the state.”

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