The ‘Alien’ SURVIVES

Appearing calm outside but was raffling beneath. It erupted again after the nearly nine months of calm in Kashmir valley – stone pelting. The street clashes between pro-Azadi group of youth and police are back at several flashpoints in valley. Small groups of youth surfaced on the road and engaged police and CRPF in ding-dong battles.

While the stone pelting demonstrators are visibly trying to recapture space, police on the other hand have intensified efforts to pre-empt an uprising with raids and arrests of the youth during the nocturnal raids. Police have detained more than 45 youth in Srinagar and south Kashmir during nocturnal raids during the past few days. The arrested include an MBA student. The youth who were charged in last three years are regularly called by the concerned police station.

Police says they made arrests based on the footage available with them. Under the system in vogue, all the police and paramilitary units on ground are getting cameras that record the happenings. It is later used to identify the characters required by the police and subsequent arrests.

The situation turned frightening as a boy reportedly was hit by a tear smoke shell on Friday. He was rushed to hospital as hundreds of people closed their shops and were seen on the roads waiting for the news about the boy, Sahil Ahmad Khan, a 17 year old who received a head injury in the clashes after the Friday congregation was over.

While police is fighting the new battle, the rioting in British capital London was an interesting development. Youths there use some of the mob practices that prevailed in Kashmir and were, at one stage, termed to be the outcome of some intelligence operations.

There is one thing in common betweeen separatist Geelani, interlocutor Dilip Padgaonkar and opposition PDP – all oppose the hanging of Afzal Guru. Padgaonkar has opposed hanging saying it is bound to destabilize the delicate clam in Kashmir. While PDP seeks clemency for him, Geelani says it will trigger the mass revolution.

Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has given the opinion that Afzal Guru be hanged according to senior Congress leader Rashid Alvi. Guru was convicted of conspiracy in the December 2001 attack on the Parliament and was sentenced to death by the Supreme Court in 2004. The sentence was scheduled to be carried out on October 20, 2006. However, Guru’s execution was stayed following a mercy petition filed by his wife.

The Home Ministry is believed to have sent the file rejecting his mercy petition to the president Pratibha Patil. MHA has cited the Delhi government’s recommendation which also favoured execution of Guru, an issue which has been hanging fire for seven years and has been a subject matter of intense political controversy.

Congress is keen to use Guru to their advantage by hanging them which would deprive BJP of one of its major electoral issues. The efforts suggest the MHA is working on that front. But the fallout of sending Guru to the gallows has started frightening people. Even leaders within the Congress are having second thoughts over it. PDP urged the President to take a decision keeping in view the ‘sensitive’ situation in Jammu and Kashmir. But Geelani sees the possible execution of Guru as mother of a mass revolution. He has warned Delhi of serious consequence in case Guru was executed.

The stalemate is over. The central university Jammu got its first vice chancellor – Dr Sudhir S Bloeria, the former chief secretary of the J&K, who has started his three year inning. An IAS Officer, Bloeria has been an soldier as he has served J&K Rifles from 1966 to 1972 and has taken part in the 1971 war with Pakistan.

An alumnus of the Scindia School Gwalior, he is a Science Graduate. He holds a Masters Degree in History and acquired the PhD degree from his thesis on “The Battles of Zojila- 1948”. Graduate of the National Defence College, New Delhi, he takes keen interest in military history and national security matters. He has authored three books. In July 2008, when governor’s rule was imposed in J&K Bloeria was appointed as Advisor to the Governor.

Bloeria has served J&K in many positions. At the peak of militancy, he was posted as Special Commissioner, Rajouri and Poonch districts to keep check on the growth of militancy. His last assignment was Chief Secretary from November 2002 till his superannuation in September 2005. Bloeria’s wife is Congress activist and his son in law Devender Singh Rana is advisor to chief minister Omar Abdullah.

His appointment to the coveted position came after a long crisis. Human Resources Development ministry had appointed Dr Amitabh Matoo but he refused to take over in wake of massive campaign launched by the people in Jammu against him. Jammu wanted a local academician to head the initiative and finally it led Dr Bloeria to come out of the closet after six years of his retirement.  

Ever since they were appointed, there was monotony in the operations of the Kashmir interlocutors. They were flying in, talking too much to people and media, conferencing around, and announcing new dates of visits. The only change was their dress. Like then, the situation they were supposed to address remained unchanged.

But it took a long time for the policy makers to understand the group was crowded and heterogeneity does not work, more often.

For the past few months, M A Ansari was not doing very well. He had started developing problems with his two other interlocutors – Radha Kumar and Dileep Padgoankar. They had verbal duels in a Jammu conference that created a situation that audience had to intervene. And then came Dr Ghulam Nabi Fai’s date with the FBI.

BJP went public with the demand of Padgoanker’s resignation because he had attended one of his perennial Capitol Hill conferences. Soon after, Radha’s attendance in another event in Brussels in 2006 was revealed that was organized by Abdul Majid Tramboo. This was too much for Ansari who asked his colleagues to explain their attendance in events funded by external agencies.

While the editor Padgoanker refused saying he did not know Fai’s ISI connections, Radha sent a detailed letter to the Home Minister explaining everything. She said she was encouraged by the government to attend the conference so that Delhi does not go unrepresented.

Accompanied by diplomat G Parthasarathy, she said she took a group of people from J&K that included Taj Mohiuddin, Arun Joshi, Pinto Norbu and Nusrat Andrabi to the European Parliament so that “diverse and genuine voices” could be heard. On these grounds she built up her case for resignation. Later the Home Minister intervened and she decided staying on the penal with a condition that she would not attend any meeting that with Ansari.

But everybody in Srinagar is asking a question – how will Delhi’s trio solve Kashmir when it is in conflict within? At the most, said a member of seminar circuit in Srinagar, they will do a doctorate on Kashmir.

The government was caught in a catch 22 position by the two murders in August – the death of a young Nazim Rashid in the custody of SOG in Sopore and the killing of an unidentified person in a fake encounter by SOG-Army in Poonch. In both the cases, there were magisterial investigations. Soon police registered cases and the investigations started. Right now, there are three cops in custody in Sopore case and at least two arrests in Poonch case.

The fake encounter came at a time when Supreme Court had called the fake encounter killings as “cold blooded brutal murder”, and said that the police personnel involved in such incidents should be awarded death sentence and hanged.

While the government is following up the two cases by reiterating that the investigations are on and the culprits would not be speared, questions are being raised – could the two cases be handled by cops at their own or were there officers supervising the operations? Even the visiting Home Secretary said the personnel accused in the custody death and the fake encounter would be brought to justice.

In Poonch cases, especially, senior officers came on record saying the gun battle was there for around 12 hours following which the Lashkar commander abu Usman was killed. It was initially termed to be a mentally challenged person who was a Hindu and later an unidentified Muslim. Any answers, anywhere?

Four BSF personnel identified a victim during their deployment in South Kashmir Chatergul-Sheikhpora belt. On December 23, 1996 they went to her house and sought her help in locating a shop that sells bidi and cigarettes. There was nobody in her house excepting her six children. As she started giving them the details, they caught her and raped her.

A hue and cry forced BSF to act. The case was immediately shifted to General Security Force Court where all the four accused constables Narender Kumar, Kaptan Singh, Raj Bahadur Singh and Om Prakash were tried. Their officer testified that he had warned them not to visit the particular house but his subordinates disobeyed him.

After hearing all the sides of the story, the BSF court dismissed them from the services and sentenced them to 10 years of jail.

No more with BSF, the gang of four started fighting back. They challenged the verdict of the BSF court. Finally, division bench of the Delhi high court dismissed their petition last week. The court accepted the testimony of the victim’s daughter and upheld the trial court decision.

Strike Against TAX
For a change, Kashmir observed a strike last week, for economic reasons. It was a show of Kashmir Traders & Manufacturers Association (KTMA) that was cashed in by Kashmir Economic Alliance (KEA), a new entity that was set up mysteriously last year. Trade, off late, is facing a lot of problems. The accumulation of all these issues created a situation that KEA came out in protest against massive taxing of the economy in the state. The strike was success though at a few places KTMA members were seen actually enforcing it. The sponsors took out a march that was foiled by the police. But nobody knows if any of the tax levied earlier was withdrawn. May be it requires another protest strike.


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