Paris CONNECTION

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A Writ petition filed in the Jammu and Kashmir High Court by a leading business house against a middle rung government officer has blown holes in Chief Minster Omer Abdullah’s much published “year against corruption”.

The case came to light when the Jammu and Kashmir High court stayed all acquisition proceedings by the Additional Deputy Commissioner (ADC) against whom the business house had initiated legal proceedings alleging that the ADC had demanded eight crore rupees in bribe from them.

Interestingly, the owners of the land in Achan area near Soura, had first approached Secretary Revenue on 11th March, 2011 and subsequently they had also lodged a complaint before the Revenue Minster Raman Bhalla. Despite the case going to high court the government has not initiated any action against the erring officer.

It is alleged that the officer who acted as collector at the time of acquisition proceedings demanded Rs 2 lac per Kanal in consideration of granting Rs 8 lac per Kanal as compensation to the owners. The officer, according to the petitioners had show them two orders, one of Rs 2 lakh per Kanal and the other of 8 lakh rupees per kanal payable only if a bribe of Rs 2 lakh rupees per kanal would be paid to the said officer.

It is also alleged that in one of the meetings the officer suggested that part of the bribe amount be paid to him in France.

Interestingly the officer had travelled to France in the first week of April 2011, sometime after the meeting.

After the officer had come to know of the complaints lodged against him, the petitioners allege, he quickly passed the order for compensation of Rs 2 lakh to be paid for the land per kanal. This, the petitioners allege, is only half of the price notified by the divisional commissioner.

Revenue Minister Raman Bhalla has promised to deal sternly with the said officer.  “I can assure you that proper action will be taken. No one if guilty would be spared,” he said when contacted by a local newspaper.

The case where a senior officer demands part of bribe money to be paid in France says a lot of things about our government officials.

Japanese ETIQUETTES
To understand the “ground realty” in Kashmir valley a two member visiting delegation of Japanese embassy in New Delhi arrived in Kashmir on Wednesday.
They met Hurriyat “hardliner” Syed Ali Shah Geelani at his Hyderpora residence.

Geelani told the visiting delegation, comprising of Minister of Political Affairs Naoki Ito and Political Advisor R C Jaychandran, “Kashmir issue is dangerous not only for south Asia but also for world peace. Japan and the international community has to play its role for its resolution.”

He also told the Japanese emissaries at his Hyderpora residence that India’s “expansionist” policy was the biggest hurdle in resolving the Kashmir dispute and no dialogue process can succeed until New Delhi gives up its intransigent approach on the 63-year-old issue.

Geelani told the visiting diplomats that that the state government was just “exhibitory” and “in reality it’s India which is running the affairs of Jammu and Kashmir through its Home ministry, police and Army.”

Geelani told the delegates that Kashmiris are not war mongers, but want a peaceful settlement to the issue. “It’s India, which is intoxicated by power, and is adamant on resolving the issue through the barrel of gun,” he said. “India has placed nearly one-million armed forces in Kashmir to subjugate and suppress Kashmiris,” he said.

Terming “joint control”, “self governance” or any other solution imposed on Kashmiris as unacceptable, Geelani said that people should be allowed to decide their future through a “referendum”. For permanent peace in South Asia, “We are involved in a just and democratic struggle for right to self-determination, which has been promised to us by the international community and United Nations,” Geelani told the visiting delegates.

Militant COUNT
The Jammu and Kashmir Police’s latest census shows that 325 militants are present across the Valley. About 119 of them are active. The data is compiled by the J&K Police and Criminal Investigation Department (CID) and as per them most of the militant outfits are operating in North Kashmir.

Among these 325 militants, 168 are locals, 134 are foreign nationals and the identity of the rest is not certain yet. It is believed that a hand full of these foreign militants belong to Lashkar.

Hizbul Mujahideen is by far the largest militant outfit operating in the Valley. It has 143 active cadres including 15 with foreign nationality. Hizb is followed by Lashkar with 92 militants.

Hizb and Lashkar together form about 72% of the total militant base in the Valley and it is believed that Jaish-e-Mohammed is revived to an extent.

Kupwara, Baramulla and Bandipora have the highest number of militants in the Valley. Kupwara tops the list and its reason is believed to be the physical closeness of the area with the LOC.  

Kupwara is followed by Baramulla and Bandipora.

Kupwara is said to have 87 militants including 56 foreign nationals, Baramulla has 73 and Bandipora has 40.

Central Kashmir is said to have the least presence of the militant groups.

Mystery of a MURDER
It was a gruesome murder last week when an aged man was shot dead on Srinagar’s busiest business street, the Residency Road in broad day light. It looked like a militant action with a possibility of the slain being a Panch or a Sarpanch.

 But eventually it turned out to be a routine crime in which, according to Kashmir Police Chief Shiv Murari Sahai, the conspirators used “released militants” along with the weapons they still have.

Slain villager was Afzal Khan who was running a property dispute with Farooq Dar and Parvaiz Tantray. They actually owed him a substantial amount.
They had no money to pay and never wanted to. They finally decided to kill him. So they invited him to Srinagar for opening a bank account in which they could transfer Rs 32 lakh. They accompanied him to the bank and later served him lunch in hotel.

While parting ways, they sent two mercenaries after him who killed him on a pavement near Partap Park. Police says the killers were Shabir Parray and Latif, residents of Rafiabad. The latter, according to police is a released militant.

 It was the bank cheque that was found on his body that helped police to crack the case. “They could have easily done it in Sopore or any other neighbouring town but they were running the risk of getting identified immediately,” Sahai said, “So they brought him to Srinagar so that it looks like a militant activity.”

What is worrisome, according to Sahai, is that “released militants” are getting recycled, this time for criminal activities. Earlier, as well, he said police have cracked many such cases in which the “released” militants were involved.

A Pilgrimage SEASON
For the entire belt located between Lal Chowk and Zoji La, the tourist season has finally started. Last week, two major events took place in the belt.
 
Tens of thousands of Gujjars converged in Babanagri for their annual festival for three days, and the neighbouring Tulmulla was swarming with activity as Kashmiri Pandits, mostly migrants, came from across India for the Khir Bhawani festival.

Though a trickle of tourists to Sonamarg would keep the road busy for the last few months, suddenly the lines of the vehicles have gone longer and traffic jams more frequent.

Apart from tens of thousands of pilgrims, some of whom had reached the shrine on the eve of the festival, hundreds of cops managing traffic and security, civil administration workers overseeing arrangements, there were politicians from both the sides of the Kashmir’s ideological divide. As usual, the Muslim hosts were there to greet the Pandits, some of whom were neighbours prior to migration in 1990.Many people may not know that the Khir Bhawani festival is being celebrated at three places simultaneously – Tulmula in Ganderbal, Manzgam in Kulgam and Tikker in Kupwara.

Pilgrimage aside, the event is a huge photo opportunity for Kashmir’s political beings. Be it governor, chief minister, his cabinet colleagues or the separatists, the news hungry cameras got the best of shots from Tulmulla last week.

Over the years, this festival is offering KPs a chance to visit their roots, move around and interact with their erstwhile neighbours. Their yatra – that continues to be a security-intensive affair – at many places, offers emotive scenes of reunion of KPs’ and Muslims. Authorities are facilitating their visits to their ancestral villages in select areas so that it triggers a reconciliation process.

A few kilometres ahead of Tulmulla is Baba Nagri hamlet, on top of a picturesque hillock which remained crowded last week. An estimated 100 thousands Gujjars from across J&K had reached this dusky village to commemorate 119th Urs of Baba Nizamundin Kiyani, one of the revered saints of the Gujjars who lays buried there.

These include a number of pilgrims who have come from across LoC. However, what made 2011 celebrations different was that convoys comprising around 2000 vehicles from Poonch and Rajouri came to the village taking the Mughal Road.

The twin celebrations are just an appetizer. The Amarnath yatra will bring almost half a million pilgrims and most of them would take the Baltal route.

Hey RAM
In short term it was aimed at conveying that they can do better if compared to interlocutors by talking to all those who are unwilling to talk to officials. But in the long term they had the idea of getting the projection that they are “solving Kashmir issue.” At the end visit of Kashmir Committee led by jurist Ram Jethmalani was nearer to disaster.

Drawing parallels between the situation in Kashmir and Nazi era Germany, Ram sounded partial when he put the entire blame on Omar led government and absolved New Delhi.

Blame for some of the problems that are creation of the local players is unnecessarily directed towards Delhi, he said, adding Delhi might be slightly indifferent but I do not think the Prime Minister will be asking the state to do what it is doing.

He mentioned Hizb’s erstwhile commander Abdul Aziz Dar alias General Musa who is behind bars for last 18 years without trial.Omar and JKLF leader Yasin Malik had refused to talk to him. JKLF termed him a school boy in politics. NC also reacted fiercely. It termed Madhu Kishwar a “political mercenary”. People like Jethmalani, Roy and Navlakha, party spokesman said, should not be allowed to enter the state during the summers because they misguide the people, hoodwink them and derail the process of peace in J&K.

This has got opposition PDP yet another rare chance to react. It said the demand by the party that the activists should be barred from entering the state “amounted to fascism”. The government, party spokesman Naeem Akhter said has already brought itself the shame of banishing Navlakha from the state and the “noise” only confirms what everybody knew about party’s “intolerance and undemocratic demeanour.”

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A journalist with seven years of working experience in Kashmir.

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