SUSPENDED: The Election Commission has placed under suspension the services of Shahnawaz Bukhari, the returning officer of Hazrtabal by- election. The officer had upheld the candidature of senior NC leader Dr Mustafa Kamal even though his nomination papers lacked many requisite documents. After a lot of fist-fighting and petitioning, the Election Commission withdrew the notification. This triggered another battle with rival candidates who sought explanation as to why Kamal’s wrong is punishing them. Finally the Election Commission decided to punish the officer by placing his services under suspension without altering its earlier decision. The constituency will go to polls on May 30.

DIES: A prisoner from Shopian Shakeel Ahmad Salroo died in central jail Srinagar. He was there since February 22. Amid allegations of the lack of healthcare facilities, jail authorities said Salroo started vomiting profusely and fell unconscious before his death. Inmates attributed his death to sub-standard food. Jail superintendent said that the cause was cardiac arrest.

PROTEST: A Kulgam trader, owning Shiraz & Co, became the first Kashmir trader who sent his goods to the other side using the Poonch road. He sent onions and got ginger, garlic and some pulses in the ongoing barter. Interestingly, Salamabad-Chakkooti Traders Union protested the “hijack of cross-LoC trade by the non-state subject traders of India and Pakistan”. They believe local (read J&K on either side) get least importance and benefits as compared to those from India and Pakistan.

CAMPAIGNS: Omar, Farooq and Soz are not the only politicians who are campaigning for their allies and friends in mainland India. Ali Muhammad Bhat alias Jamal Budgami is also canvassing for V P Singh’s son Ajaya Pratap. Jamal shot into fame by offering his kidney to ailing VP in 1994 and since then he is a family friend. With VP no more, Jamal is campaigning for his friend’s son in Fatehpur (UP) – that has around 250 thousand Muslim voters among its 1.6 million electorate.  

VISITED: Rahul Gandhi, a scion projected as future Prime Minister of India, visited Kashmir. This was his first visit as congress general secretary where he campaigned for his friend Omar Abdullah’s candidate in south Kashmir. He offered his hand of friendship to the youth of Kashmir while insisting that he will work for the prosperity and development in close association of Omar.

REVIEWED: Defence Minister A K Antony, Defence Secretary Vijay Singh and Army chief Gen Deepak Kapoor visited LoC to assess the situation amidst reports of infiltration. Apart from joining soldiers in lunch, Antony asked them to maintain a high degree of operational preparedness to meet any eventuality in future.

REVEALED: A NWFP militant Moinullah Shah captured in north Kashmir revealed in an army arranged news conference that only few militants have infiltrated into J&K. He said of the 120 people who infiltrated, only 31 were militants and rest were guides, porters and snow beaters who later returned home. He ruled out Taliban entry into J&K, an issue that had sent alarm bells ringing from Delhi to Washington. Shah wanted to go back home after assessing that there was no requirement of any Jehad in Kashmir. BGS Gurmeet Singh said of the 56 militants who infiltrated, army has already neutralized 32.

BOYCOTTED: By not casting his vote on Thursday when South Kashmir went to polls, PDP patron Mufti Sayeed apparently boycotted the exercise. The polling kept all the sides happy. Separatist said the boycott was a success as only 26 percent people polled as compared to 2008 assembly elections when these 16 segments recorded a cumulative 57.95 percent participation.  Government termed it a success saying the tally improved the earlier parliamentary poll tallies which were 14.32 and 15.04 percent for 1999 and 2004 respectively.

SUMMONED: TADA court at Jammu issued non-bailable warrants against accused in Dr Rubiya Sayeed kidnapping case that among others includes Yasin Malik of JKLF. The court wants their personal appearance on the next date of hearing. Besides Malik, the accused include (also in Air Force killing case) Javid A Mir, Showkat Bakshi, Ali Mohd Mir, Manzoor Ahmed Sofi, Mehraj-ud-Din, Wajahat Bashir, Zaman Mir, Iqbal Gandroo and Yaqoob Pandit. Another accused Rafiq alias Nanaji is already in custody.

AWARDED: Young musician Shabir Saznawaz (son of Ustad Ghulam Mohammad Saznawaz) and theatre artist Sumit Sharma – both from Kashmir – were conferred this year’s Sangeet Natak Akademi Yova Ustad Bismilah Khan Award.  According to cultural academy officials, the two are the first from J&K to receive this award. The award carries a cash prize of one lakh rupees besides a “tamrapatra” and “angavastram”.

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