The YES Men

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The TSD exposé suggested two NGOs were the beneficiaries of the massive funds till General V K Singh’s super-intelligence structure was disbanded. Suhail Ansari and Azhad Hussain  make an effort to meet the men behind the twin initiatives that Kashmir would have never known.

YES KASHMIR’s office in Islamabad, Kashmir

YES KASHMIR’s office in Islamabad, Kashmir

A bumpy ride through a maze of apple orchards leads to a small Hillock at the dead end of the narrow dirt track in Chak Saidapora village, on the outskirts of Shopian town, 53 kms southeast of Srinagar. A newly constructed solitary single story concrete house, guarded with high concrete walls, sits atop the mound.

It is the ancestral residence of Hakikat Singh, the man accused of receiving Rs 2.38 crore from the Army’s Technical Services Division (TSD), a controversial Military Intelligence (MI) unit set up by former Army Chief General V K Singh in May 2010. A formal enquiry in TSD suggested the orders for funding Hakikat’s J&K Humanitarian Service Organization (JKHSO) came from the Army headquarters. Operating from Rajbagh in Srinagar, this NGO is accused of funding another NGO, the YES (Youth Empowerment Service) Kashmir.

YES Kashmir came into limelight after it filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) against then Army Commander Bikram Singh, now the Chief of Indian Army, in the alleged fake encounter of March 1, 2001 in Jangalat Mandi (Islamabad) when Bikram Singh was a Brigadier. Though dismissed by the High Court, the PIL was widely believed to have been an attempt to foil Bikram Singh’s run to the top slot of the Indian Army.

Inside the high walls guarding the house a plainclothes, seemingly unarmed, cop sat beneath an apple tree on the far off corner of the lawn cum apple orchard. After enquiring about identities and the nature of work, the team was told that Hakikat Singh resides in Shivpora Srinagar and rarely visits the village.

The a prolonged wait, Singh’s father Lachman Singh appeared from inside the house. He was very guarded in giving out information about his son.

“He is associated with the Jammu and Kashmir National Panther’s Party, led by Bhim Singh,” Singh Sr said, “He lives in Srinagar and hardly gets the time to visit us.”

Second among five siblings, 52 year old Hakikat Singh, was born and brought up in this remote village. According to his father Singh completed his graduation from Government Degree College Islamabad before getting appointed as a Physical Education Teacher in the State government.

“Shortly after his appointment, we were forced to migrate from Kashmir in 1990,” Lachman Singh said, “However he still holds a migrant post in the department and is drawing his salary.”

“I don’t know what an NGO means and to the best of my knowledge the Panthers Party has been my son’s only association,” Singh said.

Singhs’ returned to Kashmir in 1996, after spending more than four years in Jammu, to look after their ancestral property which includes vast stretches of apple and walnut orchards. The family was the main landlord in the belt to whom the entire land belonged till the land to tiller was affected post-partition.

Efforts to reach Hakikat Singh failed as his cell number was on the switch off mode. After unsuccessfully trying to get in touch with the Panthers Party office in Srinagar (with their phones defunct) Kashmir Life called the central office of the party in Jammu.

A general query, with the telephone operator, revealed that Hakikat Singh visits the party office regularly.  “He changes his numbers quite often,” the operator said, “He visited the office some 15 days back.”

The operator then passed the line on to General Secretary of the party, Anita Thakur, who refused to talk about Singh. “If you want to ask about something other than Hakikat Singh, you are most welcome,” Thakur said, before she disconnected the phone.

Chairman of the Party, Professor Bhim Singh, told KL that his party has 2 Lac members and there are quite a few Hakikat Singh’s in the cadre. “How am I supposed to remember every one of them,” Bhim Singh said.

Unlike Singh, the YES Kashmir men are accessible and willing to talk. The NGO was formed in 2009 by Tanveer Ahmad Mir (Dooru)

s a “venture in wake of unemployment”. Officials said YES Kashmir had rented an office in a shopping complex in Janglat Mandi area of Islamabad town. Others members of the NGO include Fayaz Ahmad Mir (Dooru), Ashraf Hussain Najar (Islamabad), Sheikh Manzoor Ahmad (Hakhura).

It came into limelight in 2011 after they filed a PIL, against Bikram Singh alleging his involvement in a fake encounter in Janglat Mandi, in 2001. It was filed on behalf of Zaitoona and her sister-in-law Jani, from Kalaroos village in North Kashmir.

The women alleged that the man killed in Janglat Mandi encounter was Zaitoona’s husband, a beggar, and his name was Abdullah Bhat.

Then, the Army had identified the slain as Ghulam Mohiuddin alias Abdul Mateen Chacha, a member of the militant outfit Hizb-ul-Mujahideen and a Pakistani national. Two solders and two civilians, were also killed in the shootout while Bikram Singh and another officer received injuries.

The petition was dismissed by the High Court of Jammu and Kashmir. The official records say the PIL was the only work the NGO has managed to do since its formation till now. It shut down its office, soon after.

While the Army investigations accuses this NGO received money to file the PIL and scuttle Bikram Singh’s promotion, Tanveer out rightly dismisses the claims.

“I formed the NGO as a club for development of youth to begin with,” Tanveer told Kashmir Life. “Within the passage of time I got introduced to one Khurshid Ahmad Mir of Dialgam area of Islamabad.” It was Mir, Tanveer maintains, who introduced him to Zaitoona and asked him to help them.

“The petition was filed by the ladies, we just accompanied them to some places,” said Tanveer, who now works at a private school in Islamabad, “If I had received money from anybody, I wouldn’t have been in this condition, working for a couple of thousand rupees.”

The two Generals before the exposé.

The two Generals before the exposé.

Tanveer denies any links with Hakikat Singh, “I don’t even know this person; I have only seen his name in the newspapers.”

Mir, a post-graduate in Kashmiri from the University of Kashmir and a former JKLF recruit, headed the YES Kashmir. After his stint with JKLF and before getting arrested, Mir had floated a militant outfit, Dialgam Liberation Front. He was arrested in 1991 and served a two year term under the Public Safety Act (PSA). Rearrested in 1994 for being an Over Ground Worker (OGW) he again served a two year term in jail. Official records suggest Mir was involved in snatching money from a Jammu and Kashmir Bank Manager along Islamabad-Kokernag road, in 2003. Briefly in 2005, Mir had joined People’s Conference. He runs a Trout Fish Farm in Dalipora (Kokernag).

Both Tanveer and Mir deny the two main allegations. They say they were not asked to file PIL to block Bikram Singh’s appointment to the coveted position and they got no money from anywhere.

“We were just trying to help the ladies on humanitarian grounds,” Mir said. “We did not receive any money from anybody. Not even a single penny.”

Interestingly General V K Singh has maintained in his recent interviews that the slain person was not a militant. “It involves the killing of a man, a 70-year-old, who is labelled as a foreign terrorist. There is no terrorist in J and K who is more than 30 to 40-years-old. And therefore, there was a hue and cry raised by humanitarian groups in J and K because there was a family, a poor Gujjar family, who identified this man to be there’s,” General Singh was quoted saying in his interview.

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