INDICTED: Baseer A Khan, former Deputy Commissioner Baramulla has reportedly indicted soldiers of 22 Rashtriya Rifles for the twin murders in Bomai village of Sopore on February 21. The murders triggered a chain of protests that many feared was the beginning of another spate of maasive protests. The exact details of the report that Khan submitted are still unknown but the government believes that army acted on inputs provided by an unidentified informer who is now in police custody. The schools in the village did not open after winter vacations as students stopped going to school in protest for continued presence of army camp. Now the district administration says the army will leave the dusky village on March 13, a claim almost refuted by the army. Interestingly, State Vigilance Organization registered a case against Khan and many other officers in a shady land deal under controversial Roshni scheme.
THREATENED: Houseboats face a threat of sealing by a sealing threat by Lakes and Waterways Development Authority (LAWDA) that is actually implementing a High Court order (February 26). Though the court has granted them an interim relief for a week but they are restrained from conducting any commercial activity. The court was acting on a Pollution Control Board report submitted on January 31 last suggesting the open houseboat lavatories are a major source of pollution.
EMBARRASSED: Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), state’s main opposition was embarrassed after the claims made by its lawmaker Nizam-u-din Bhat proved false. Bhat had claimed that as many as 36 households were living under open sky after their houses were destroyed in an encounter in January last. Infuriated over why the administration misinformed him, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah flew state police chief and a senior minister along with Bhat to Ayuatmulla village only to find that the claims were exaggerated. The claims dented Bhat’s reputation and earned him a tag of being misinformed about the belt he represents. However, it gave Omar Abdullah a chance to assert himself and keep all the loud-mouth opposition members at bay.
APPOINTED: PDP lawmaker from Devsar Mohammad Sartaj Madni, who is the party patron Mufti Sayeed’s brother-in-law, was appointed Deputy Speaker of the assembly. His name was suggested by NC veteran Abdul Rahim Rather and seconded by Abdul Rehman Veeri. Soft spoken Madni is representing the south Kashmir segment for the second consecutive term.
ATTENDED: PDP president Ms Mehbooba Mufti attended a Pugwash Conference in Islamabad that has dithering peace process between India and Pakistan on its agenda. A large delegation from India in attending the conference with many faces from J&K including Professors Amitabh Matoo, Sidiq Wahid.
ANNOUNCED: Within four months after the assembly polls, J&K is heading for another election – this time for the Lok Sabha. For six seats, it will be a five-phase exercise involving around 6.5 million electorate. Srinagar seat, which fell vacant after former NC leader Omar Abdullah became the Chief Minister will go to polls on May 7. Udhampur will go for polls on April 23, Islamabad on April 30 and Ladakh and Baramula on May 13. In the last Lok Sabha NC had won two berths– Baramulla and Srinagar – while Congress won Udhampur and Jammu. Islamabad was with PDP and Ladakh with an Independent.
STALLED: Talks between India and 27-nation EU over Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) were stalled for “operational reasons” by the EU. The reasons, however, are India’s unwillingness to go ahead on the agreement for duty-free trade of goods, services and investments because a new conditionality was injected by a draft report of the Members of the European Parliament (MEP) in December that included human rights and democracy issues in the CEPA talks and an international investigation into the alleged “extra judicial killings” in J&K.
It also calls for the Indian government to grant access for the UN Special Rapporteurs to investigate mass graves in J&K. New Delhi sees the draft as a ploy to pressurize India through non-trade issues. Interestingly, three EU ambassadors visited J&K last week Dr. Hynek Kmonicek, the Ambassador of Czech Republic to India, said the Kashmir problem remained complex and complicated.