Media ridiculed the government for getting buried under two inches of snowfall. Even it killed people. In separate incidents linked to winter, five persons died. The cruel winter showed up by massive fall in mercury – the lowest in last 16 years.

Taps are frozen and roads are slippery. B&J hospital reported more than 30% increase in fracture cases. Tragically, deaths started with snow clearance. Abdul Gani of Shamipora Khudwani was killed while driving the snow clearing machine. Two of his helpers were injured when the snow cutter fell into a 100 feet deep gorge.

Two soldiers died of asphyxia in Udhampur. Two women – Kahti Begum and Jana Begum – from Tral were reported dead because of labour pain as they could not be transported to hospital because of roads blocked by snow. In Bandipora two men, a beggar and a CRPF soldier died due to the freezing cold.

11 Years LATER
Alleged staged encounter of March 1, 2001 is threatening the chances of Lt Gen Bikram Singh becoming next chief of the 1.3 million strong army for a writ petition in this regard is still pending before High Court. The term of the Army Chief General V K Singh is likely to end in May this year following controversy surrounding his date of birth.

In the said encounter, whose veracity is under challenge before the court, according to FIR 72/2001, a foreign militant called Mateen Chacha was killed along with two civilians and two army personnel. The slain included  Colonel J P Jam, the then CO of a local RR Unit, Sepoy Ganesh Kumar, Mohammad Shafi son of Abdul Rasheed of Hazratbal Islamabad and Abdul Ahad  Sheikh son of Ghulam Mohammad Sheikh of Janglat Mandi. Two others, including Lt Gen Bikram Singh, then a Brigadier heading the 5-sector RR headquartered at Janglat Mandi (Islamabad), and a civilian, Ajaz Ahmad Bhat, were injured.

Zaituna, the lady who has gone to the court says that Mateen was her son Abdullah Bhat. “Mateen- dubbed as mercenary of Pakistan’s North Western Frontier Province was none other than 70 year old civilian Abdullah Bhat son of Qadir Bhat of Machil Kupwara,” her petition pending disposal before the high court says. The petition has sought re-investigation in the case. The petitioners demanded that the grave of the victim should be identified and photographs of the victim taken by the police should be shown to family and DNA test carried out.

The J&K High Court had on October 13, 2011 issued notices to State government and Defence Ministry asking them to file their objections. The court had summoned all the records pertaining to case (FIR 72/2001) from District Sessions Court Islamabad for perusal.

Meanwhile, police have absolved Eastern Command chief of all the charges. “We have nothing against him as far investigation of the case is concerned”, DGP Kuldeep Khoda said. The petition was listed for hearing before Justice Muzaffar Hussain Attar on December 28, 2011. It was deferred and is now expected to be listed for further hearing in February. The “fake” encounter was first highlighted by a youth organization namely Youth Empowerment Services of Kashmir (YES-Kashmir).

The Army chief refused to comment saying the matter was subjudice. Pending disposal before J&K High Court the case is crucial and may ultimately decide the aspiring general’s fate. The army and the defense ministry are pulling strings from New Delhi and Srinagar to avoid embarrassment to the probable future chief. Who will win the tug of war, a desolate mother or would-be chief of 1.3 million army?

A recent incident is speaking volumes about the conflict within State Forest Corporation (SFC). The alleged nexus between timber smugglers and some officials within the SFC has became strong enough that some SFC officials instead of checking the alleged smuggling roughed up their own colleagues for granting safe passage to carriers smuggling timber at Lakhnapur.

The incident occurred on National Highway at Narwal Bala area when forest guards posted in the area intercepted a truck on way to Jullandhar from Sangam, Kashmir. The truck bearing registration number JK02AA/3979, was intercepted by forest guards of Gama unit at Narwal on specific information and on being searched around 4000 illegal willow clefts were recovered. While the guards were questioning the driver of the truck Mulk Raj and seizing the truck, two forest officials posted in Lakhanpur forest post appeared on the scene.

Like a Bollywood movie, both the officials parked their vehicle in front of the seized truck and one of them sprang upon his companion and snatched the key of the vehicle with the intention to flee with the truck. However, their attempt was foiled by other forest officials present. The other posed himself as DFO of Lakhanpur and then tried to lure the inspecting team to lay their hands off the matter and reportedly offered a bid to keep the matter under carpet. However, the identity of this official was later confirmed as a guard.

DFO Lakhanpur Sameer Bharat shifted the responsibility of the inquiry to higher officials when he was asked by reporters. Higher ups found this too small for their stature, Vinod Ranjan, Director State Forest Corporation (SFC) said his subordinate officials posted at Lakhanpur should settle such small cases.
However, the seized truck with illegal willow clefts is presently under the custody of Gama unit 2, Jammu. This episode begs an answer from SFC as to what they are for?

Omar Abdullah, who just started second inning of his six-year term, wants to have a full fledged department or a commission to take care of the implementation of the ‘landmark’ Pubic Service Guarantee Act (PSGA). Though a number of states are in the race for implementing the law that envisages punishment to the public servants if they fail on service delivery within a stipulated time frame, J&K was the first to implement it in August 2011.

“Anna Hazare sat on hunger strike for a similar legislation”, Omar told a gathering of recently elected Panchs and Sarpanchs. “We are examining two proposals of creating a separate department for implementation of PSGA under the overall control of the Chief Minister or a Commission like that of State Right to Information Commission to be headed by an independent authority to enforce it.”

Six services involving issuance of documents related to rationing, land, power and water supply by respective departments were brought under PSGA. Any laxity in delivery in the service will make the concerned official pay for it. At the rate of Rs 250 per day, the officials can be punished to the tune Rs 5000 and part of the money can go as compensation to the aggrieved.

“From August to December 2011 as many as 360576 applications have been disposed off,” Commissioner, General Administrative Department (GAD), Mohammad Syeed Khan said. “However, 7474 applications are at present in the disposal mode within the specified time limit.” A collector has acted against one of his subordinate officers who had delayed issuing a reserved category certificate to an applicant.  Currently Housing & Urban Development, Revenue, Power Development, Transport, Consumer Affairs & Public Distribution and PHE, Irrigation & Flood Control departments are covered under the law. All the departments have prepared and notified the checklists of documents that are mandatory for availing benefits under the law.

But Omar told a high-level review meeting that additional services would be brought under the law. He directed for inclusion of issuance of character certificate by CID department, issuance of copy of the FIR by Police and issuance of MGNREGA card by Rural Development department to be brought within the ambit of PSGA. “You should also examine other services in the departments of health, industries, social welfare, sports, PWD, home, etc for bringing under the Act”, he told the GAD officials on Tuesday.

Chief Minister Omar Abdullah’s effort to delink the possible visit of Salman Rushdie with the Indian Muslims has triggered a controversy. Back home, the Muslim clergy has asked him to avoid getting involved in such issues. “Omar’s statement depicts his ignorance of the history of Muslims, who have sacrificed everything for safeguarding the honour of the most beloved Prophet of Allah,” Jamat-e-Islami spokesman advocate Zahid Ali said. “Rushdie is an enemy of Islam and will remain so forever.”

The angry reactions were in response to Omar’s statement in Jammu suggesting that visa to the controversial Kashmiri origin author is not a poll issue for the Indian Muslims. “Is it for the first time that Rushdie is coming to India? Why suddenly is Rushdie becoming an issue?” Omar asked while talking to reporters after speaking to the elected village leaders in Jammu on Wednesday. “Clearly there are those who are seeking to exploit this for political purposes given the elections in five states.” He said people are underestimating the intelligence of Indian Muslims who have other day-to-day issues other than Rushdie.  

Author of Midnight’s Children,  whose ‘Shalimar the Clown’ was the first major novel on contemporary Kashmir, has been invited to attend the Jaipur Lit Fest later this month. Certain groups in India including the seminary Dar-ul-Aloom Deaoband are suggesting the government to deny him a visa, a possibility that is being ruled out now. Rushdie is a person of Indian origin and cannot be denied a visa unless directed by the court of law for very valid reasons.

But Omar’s apparently innocuous statement has the potential of triggering a crisis back home for him that had the only working summer in 2011 after three consecutive tumultuous years. When the contents of Rushdie’s blasphemous novel The Satanic Verses, which led to a death threat to him by Iranian spiritual leader Ayatullah Kohomenei, became public massive protests broke out in Kashmir. At least one person was killed and 50 others were injured in the protests in 1988 summer. In June 2007 when the British government honoured the author with knighthood, there were protests for three days with youth burning Rushdie’s effigies and asking London to roll back the honour.

Even the clergy jumped into the controversy by suggesting that Western powers were creating “heros out of villains” to hurt the Muslim psyche and continue the “clash of civilizations”. Mirwaiz Umer Farooq termed the honour “a conspiracy”. More recently, the rumour of Rushdie’s attendance in the proposed Harud Lit Fest in Srinagar last year became one of the factors that triggered a Facebook campaign against the event. It was finally cancelled. Reactions were on expected lines after Omar commented on the issue. “I would suggest him (Omar) to avoid from these issues,” Mufti Bashir ud Din, who runs a shariah court in the city as part of his family heritage. “Omar either does not know the issue or is simply pretending to be ignorant.” Even the opposition PDP got an axe to grind. “Omar and his father Dr Abdullah lack regard to the sensitivities of the Muslims of the state,” its president Ms Mehbooba Mufti was quoted saying.

Justice Moti Lal Bhat
(October 1, 1931 – January 9, 2011)

Former Judge of the J&K High Court, Moti Lal Bhat died in AIIMS where he was admitted for a fortnight. He was 80. Bhat shot to prominence for contributing in the release of Dr Rubiya Sayeed, the daughter of Mufti Sayeed who was kidnapped by JKLF in 1989. Bhat served as the judge of the High Court from May 25, 1981 to October 23, 1989. He was posted in Allahabad High Court also. Born in Hall village of Pulwama district of South Kashmir on Oct 1, 1931, Bhat started his career as a lawyer in the state High Court. He was elevated to the post of High Court Judge in 1981. After his retirement as Chief Justice of Allahabad High Court, Justice Bhat started practicing in the Supreme Court. His wife, son and three daughters survive Bhat whose death was widely mourned.

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