To strengthen the governance at grass root levels, Panchayat elections were held last year. It was after a gap of three decades that panchs were elected to facilitate governance.
Enthusiastic about the step taken and lust for power, candidates without apparent party brand jumped into the election fray. Publicity by the government about their supposed role motivated them to stand against the boycott call given by militants. People participated in huge number and about 80 per cent turnout was reported. But their enthusiasm could not last longer.
Elections were held peacefully but after that the elected representatives are longing for it. They first were disappointed by the way government delayed delegating power to them. This was followed by threat posters, allegedly written by militants. They are coming up with apologies.
Panchs blamed government for failing to protect them, as they have started to resign. Police records suggest over four hundred elected panchayat representatives have put in their papers but authorities refuse to confirm even a single “proper” resignation. The most affected district is Pulwama where 258 resignations have been reported so far. In Shopian and Budgam there are reports of 77 and 40 resignations respectively. Budgam and Ganderbal follow with 20 and 10. Few cases also have been reported from Kupwara, Baramulla and Islamabad.
Sighted threat posters with Hizbul Mujahideen signatures, locals reported that the posters carried warning to activists of National Conference and PDP to “be ready for the hellfire if they don’t desist from anti-movement activities and resign in week’s time”. They have also asked them to publish their resignation in newspapers and carry those newspapers with them. At the same time a statement was released by Hizb spokesman that “We could differ with leaders but we don’t believe in murders in the name of political disagreement.”
When government on one side is not buying argument of resignation, SM Sahai, IGP Kashmir says there is a need to go to the bottom of the matter. Is it only going to bottom which will help to solve the matter or else reassurance of being really part of government is what they want. Surely a mix of power and politics is what they aim at.
Flames reached from the other side of the fence when the fire erupted from Dara Sheirkhan village of Pakistan Administered Kashmir and spread to the Indian side of LoC in Deri Dabsi belt of Mendhar sector.
Several landmines exploded while some fence suffered damage as fire engulfed a forest near Line of Control (LOC). The fire caused extensive damage to border fencing and to the thick vegetation in the area.
Wildfires have destroyed several kilometers of forest area along the India-Pakistan border in Kashmir where crews failed to extinguish the flames due to a lack of appropriate tools and insufficient number of personnel.
People believe that the fire was sparked by cigarette butts thrown down by a passer-by from the nearby community.
India and Pakistan have also mapped mine fields along the Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir where a heavy military presence and operations are causing greater ecological loss besides human causalities. Since the beginning of the tropical summer, sporadic wildfires have erupted on both sides of the disputed state of Kashmir. A series of similar wildfire incidents, some described as arson, have destroyed a large forest area in the southern region. Police have registered cases against 40 persons for inflicting purposeful smoldering, arson and other crimes related to forests in the southern Kotli district, however, there have been no arrests as of yet.
Officials accuse nearby communities for the abuse of forests for their livelihood.
Jammu Kashmir, a forestry state divided between India and Pakistan, is inhabited by Coniferous Forests, especially Deodar (Cedrus deodar) trees, which are acclaimed globally for their herbal and architectural characteristics. Sadly, habitat of such valuable eco-resources is in peril due to fires, timber smuggling, soil erosion and other reasons of deforestation. As a result, there is a plethora of excuses from government managers when they are questioned about the prevention of forest fires. There has been no loss of life or injury to anyone in the fire, a senior army officer at 16 Corps told. However, there have been mine field explosions and some damage to communication cables along the LoC and these are being repaired.
This time it was not curbing movement of any separatist leader, but the victims were people who are intrinsic part of system, what they call mainstream leaders, lawmakers. Directions coming from power corridors of Delhi, the External Affairs Ministry has advised four J&K lawmakers not to participate in the seminar organized by Federal Numan Foundation (FNF). FNF is considered close to the German Free Liberal Party. The decision is historic. This is for the first time Lawmakers from Kashmir were stopped from participating in a Kashmir based Seminar in Belgium.
Lawmakers invited for the seminar and then not allowed to go included ruling National Conference MP Dr Mehboob Beg, and members of state legislative assembly Nizam ud Din Bhat (PDP) and Congressmen Ravinder Kumar Sharma and Narbu Gialchan. However, the MEA communication has gone only to the PDP lawmaker and not his three colleagues.
Bhat who was vocal at one point of time and then apologized for the same is on fire again. He has threatened that he will take it as an aspersion on his character, integrity and the party and will go public, if singled out. He has already got visa from the Belgium embassy and has booked his tickets as well. Apart from writing to the MEA, Bhat has sought advice from his party as well. Some strong delegation across LOC was also expected in this seminar.
Bhat is in controversy again. His party has to be extra cautious as last time he embarrassed them. Who knows whether this time he could withstand with his conviction of fighting against it. Or else he will back out to be in safe haven.
Pushed Across By ARMY
The army in the state is again finding itself on human right watchdogs’ radar. This time around the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) has sought a report from the J&K police on allegations that the army had forcibly sent 4 Kupwara boys across the LoC in 2000 for spying.
The case is based on the testimony of the two boys who have survived, but say they have been living in fear ever since. One out of four boys is said to have been killed in a fake encounter on returning and another is missing.
Asserting that they had been called to the army camp under the pretext of recruitment, the two surviving youth said that they had been pushed across the frontier instead under threats that they would be shot dead in a fake encounter otherwise.
The four schoolboys: Nazir Ahmad Dar, Nazir Ahmad Ganaie, Mushtaq Ahmad Hajjam and Liaqat Ali Shah of the Aawura, Ladduwan area of Kupwara, had been arrested by one Major Gill of the army’s 16 Guards through his local informers, on October 1, 2000 and brought to his camp.
The boys’ families had learnt that they had been taken to the camp by the major’s informers, identified as Ali Muhammad Khan and Abdul Rashid Khan. Rashid Khan had taken the boys to Guldar Jumgund sector and handed them over to the army.
The families had found their sons’ school-bags at the home of one of the informers, but he had informed them that the boys would return home safe and sound soon.
The families had lodged an FIR (134/2000) at the Trehgam police station about the boys being sent across the LoC.
Dar, Shah and Ganaie returned home from across after some time, but the army allegedly shot Ganaie dead in a fake encounter near Zirhama in 2001.The fate of the fourth boy, Hajjam, was not known.
But no case has been lodged against the army major named as the main accused by the families. They have alleged that Ganaie was killed by the army out of fear that he would go to the authorities with the truth.
SHRC has shot notice to the state police chief in which the state protection for the duo has been sought.
It appears to be messy. To unveil what lies behind, a five member team of CBI arrived in Srinagar after a fresh case has been registered. The team is on a weeklong visit to investigate into the defense land scam. It is alleged to be worth Rs 200 crores.
Interestingly investigating agency itself is part of the scam, as they had purchased some 20 Kanals of land in 1992 for the construction of its office under Survey number 98 falling in Indira Nagar which is entirely a defense land. The idea could not materialize due to situation emerged in Kashmir.
The preliminary enquiry in 2011 against a Defense Estates Officer (DEO) of 1997 batch, Ajay Chowdhary and others allegedly for issuing NOCs to some private parties that had raised concrete structures on defense land in Budgam laid base for the fresh case. FIR has been registered under the IPC and Prevention of Corruption Act. During preliminary probe, it was found that more than 70 NOCs were issued by the defense estates department in Srinagar during the last four years. These NOCs were issued to private parties to buy more than 200 acres of land near high-security military installations in Srinagar.
According to sources, the team headed by Dy SP Sandeep Choudhry, immediately after their arrival in Srinagar visited different areas in Budgam district. On their visit some land brokers were called for interrogation. Earlier on May 11, the CBI had carried out raids in Jammu, Srinagar, Patna and Delhi. So far they have seized 20 No Objection Certificates (NOCs) from defense estate office and more records are to be seized in coming days
The scam surfaced in August 2011 when the BJP alleged grabbing of defense land worth crores near the sensitive Srinagar airport by two land mafias. CBI has to dig where they themselves have supposed base in Kashmir. It is to be seen how they will manage with conflict of interest. They have to come out with clean image of not being subservient to the policies of government.