Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Election 2008

What has poll participation to do with the demand of freedom and Kashmir issue. Voting, people affirm, is for development not for politics, comments Naseer A Ganai.

In June this year one million people were on the roads demanding freedom from India. A million people marched throughout the length and breadth of Kashmir and Muslim dominated districts of Jammu despite heavy military presence. New Delhi had presumed that the freedom sentiment has died in Kashmir, and if people would be allowed to protest, no one would come out. The State Government thought on the same lines. It allowed people to protest, presuming it would be the last nail in the coffin of separatism in Kashmir.
But when people flooded the streets of Kashmir, government found itself caught off guard. And in New Delhi mainstream intellectuals supported freedom of Kashmir. Sawaminathan Aiyar broke the path, and the rest followed. Twenty years after the Government had allowed people to come on the streets, people vent their frustration, anger and desperation on the roads of Kashmir with Ragdha, Ragdha and pro-freedom and pro-Pakistan slogans. 
For the last five months government took stern measures and didn't allow people to move out or open their mouth. Those who did were booked under preventive detention. It succeeded in containing the people and even conducted, what it says, "successful elections." Now when the State has conducted successful elections, will it ever provide slight room to Kashmiris, and allow them to come out to express themselves on the streets of Kashmir again. The day state does it and allows the people shout whatever they want to, that day would make the difference.

Development and voting:
Every person, who was in the polling queue, told the media persons that he was voting for the development and employment. Even on Doordarshan Srinagar, that telecasts the long queues of the people outside the polling stations, everyday people are talking about bad roads, lack of infrastructure and above all, unemployment.
If the argument of people who cast their votes in recently concluded "70-phase" elections be taken at their face value, then it speaks volumes about 60 year rule of the Government of India in Kashmir. Sixty years after, India has not only failed to resolve the Kashmir issue but it has even utterly failed to raise the basic infrastructure in Kashmir. In his first election campaign in Budgam, the National Conference president Omar Abdullah echoed the same views when he said if Hurriyat Conference assures him that they would provide roads, electricity, unemployment, drinking water to people, he would not participate in the elections. Omar talked about de-linking of Kashmir issue from the elections. The statement of Omar speaks volumes about claims of huge investment in Kashmir. If the Government of India has invested in Kashmir, it should disclose the area where it has invested. Find out a road that has been completed. There is no drainage that is properly working. Srinagar city is sinking. The drinking water facility is not available in thousands of areas in rural areas.
The voter has given the democratic verdict on the claims of the Government of India that it has done nothing in Kashmir. It has exposed the massive development-funds myth forever.
But the question arises: does that mean Kashmiris would get any benefit following the massive participation in the electoral exercise, as the Government of India would repeat the past assertion that the voting of Kashmiris is the negation of the UN resolution on Kashmir which calls for right to self-determination in Jammu and Kashmir. In past it has been seen the areas where people have not voted, they have been denied the benefits like roads, electricity and employment opportunities. People in many areas argued that they didn't vote in 2002 and had to pay heavy price for it as the local MLA or Minister denied them an audience when they approached them. It could be argued that for last six years subtle administrative coercion was on display and the pro-India leaders reaped its benefits this time. Besides, the pro-India leaders were successful to put the point across that the development and resolution to Kashmir issue were two different issues and should not be related. It seems people bought the argument.
Besides, the State knew how to play the game, and it played it aptly. The government allowed a number of candidates to contest. It is not intriguing why so many candidates were in the fray. The number of the candidates allowed the Government enough room to play its game. It divided the people in rural areas. There were family loyalties as well. Initially, in Bandipora and Sonawari in the first phase relatives and friends and neighbors and beneficiaries came out to the vote. Others followed them. The villagers had apprehension that if "other candidate" of neighboring candidate wins, what would happen to them, and so they came out to vote for "their candidate" for the obvious reasons. It set the trend and the rest is history. Some analysts in Kashmir believe that huge number of people came out to vote hoping the new government would provide them government jobs. And if the next government, they argue, fail to provide the jobs, it could pave way for another revolution. Will it? It has to be seen.
Besides, rightly presuming that there would be less participation in the elections, New Delhi tried hard to make the election process inclusive. It succeeded, except in Srinagar. In August and September Kashmir was on the roads demanding freedom from India. The state government subdued people by launching massive crackdown. There were arrests, preventive detentions, press gag and undeclared curfews. New Delhi had a goal in Kashmir—to bring what it calls democratic process "back in Kashmir." To achieve the same, it used all undemocratic and unfair means including so far unheard "undeclared curfew" in Kashmir. In Sikh rule Jamia Mosque remained closed for some period. Now in democratic India in 2008, Jamia Mosque remained closed consecutively for eight Fridays, prompting Mirwaiz Umar to say that he would issue a Fatwa against the Government. But New Delhi remained unconcerned.

India and UN:
In Kashmir it was not the first time that the voting has taken place. It has taken place in the past and it has not changed the status of Kashmir dispute. Sir B N Rao, who represented India in Security Council in 50s, had assured Council that Kashmir Assembly's decision in regard to Accession issue would in no way hamper the policy pursued by India. "You (assembly) may express an opinion but you can take no decision on Accession." Now when New Delhi has reposed the faith on the UN and the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said he expects that Pakistan should follow UN resolution passed after Mumbai terror attacks. So how could New Delhi ignore the UN resolutions or promises it has made to the UN regarding Kashmir?  The UN resolutions are binding on the nations, whether passed in 50s or in 2008.
There were decisions taken by the State assembly. The autonomy resolution passed by the National Conference government was the biggest ever decision taken by the State assembly after in 1953. The Government of India didn't respond to the political decision of "elected government.' It disdainfully rejected it. Thus conveying in clear terms what the Assembly stands for. So those who argue that the people have cast vote for the development have some weight in their argument. New Delhi would be committing another blunder if it starts parroting elections process as end of Kashmir issue as advocated by Praveen Swami. Swami in his article in the Hindu (December 23) first justified the coercion of Army in 1996 elections and 2002 elections, saying it was in response to call of militants, and then describes the elections as biggest triumph and asks New Delhi to engage "multiple voices it will contain, rather than reach out once more to secessionist leadership that has been humiliated by the people it claims to represent."
But he forgets that in Kashmir neither the PDP nor the National Conference, not even the Congress had sought vote on pro-India agenda. PDP sought the vote for development, and on Muslim agenda. It is the first party in Kashmir which has accused of being minority (read Hindu) communalism in Kashmir and talked about rights of majority (read Muslims). The Congress despite being a National Party didn't dare to seek vote for India. It sought vote for development.  So no one sought vote here for India, or accession with India. No one shouted slogans in favour of India. So drawing conclusion it was pro-India vote and that New Delhi should not talk to pro-freedom leadership amounts to ignoring the ground reality.
In Pulwama district there was fair voting and people did vote despite the killing of Kashmir University student in Koil in anti-election protest. But some days later, when security forces killed a Hizb militant Rais Kachroo, thousands of people came out to participate in his Nemazi Jenza (last rites). They didn't care they had voted the other day. The distinction between the voting and resolution of Kashmir dispute has to be made to find the solution of Kashmir issue. The Jammu and Kashmir Assembly should in no way come in between.


Saturday, December 27, 2008

Sajjad accepts setback, not defeat


Naseer A Ganai 

Srinagar, Dec 26: Peoples Conference chairman Sajjad Gani Lone today described the recent polling held “under Indian gun” as “setback to pro-freedom leaders” but warned that it should not be construed as defeat of freedom struggle and people of Kashmir shouldn’t be targeted for participating in the poll process. 

 “We are not preaching defeatism here; we are speaking from a place of confidence. We are a capable nation and we certainly rise above our present shortfalls. If there is a setback we will have to reverse the setback and do what it takes to reverse the setback,” Sajjad said addressing media persons at his residence here. 
 Sajjad launched scathing attack on the leaders and the intellectuals who argue that people in Kashmir are unpredictable and said people of Kashmir have rendered exemplary sacrifices and have followed the programs of the resistance leadership for last 20 years. “They (people) have gone above and beyond in every respect. If a significant number of people have dissented in this case-it highlights the need for introspection. Rather than accusing people we need to sit together and examine what are the causes of dissent,” he said.
 Citing massive militarization, crackdowns, and arrests Sajjad said election turnout figures need to be evaluated in the context of an uneven playfield. Democracy, he said, was a holistic concept and not a partial concept. He said the government has shown a selective acceptance of democracy. 
 “The political leaders pursuing the boycott call were jailed or put under house arrest, undeclared curfew, thwarting peaceful marches and the armed siege of Kashmir has eroded the credibility of the voting percentage,” he said.
 He said the poll process achieved through these means should not be construed as defeat of freedom struggle in Kashmir. “The separatists and separatism are two different concepts. And the separatism from India as an ideology runs deep in every Kashmir and no poll process could defeat it,” he said. He said in this poll process the militant gun stayed way but the “Indian gun” remained predominant in the process that is being portrayed as “political battle.” 
 He said leaders and intellectuals who try to divide the indivisible identity of the Kashmiri nation were playing Indian game-plan. “Some people through their writings and speeches are trying to strike at the cohesive and indivisible identity of the Kashmiri nation by insinuating that villagers or people of a particular community voted.” He said those who voted or boycotted were Kashmiri. He said no one should fall into trap as nothing would please the Indian state more than identifying a Kashmiri as a “rural” Kashmiri or an “urban’ Kashmiri or a “pahari” Kashmiri or a ‘Gujjar” Kashmiri or Shia or Sunni. He called for an immediate end to such “divisive designs” and said no leader or writer or an intellectual is above people.
 He cautioned New Delhi for marketing the poll process here as “vote for India.” “The fair turnout of people can by no means be twisted into such a claim. If people have voted, they have voted for their day today problems. In our opinion, a large section of people have expressed a desire to de-link resolution from the day to day problems that they face,” he said. 
 However, he called for new strategy and said the conflict has dragged for a longer time than was initially thought. “We will have to admit that in running a marathon we scripted a strategy for repeated sprints and the unique requirements of a longer struggle were not factored in. This was a major lapse,” he added. 
 For 20 years, he said, the separatist leadership has been coasting, drifting or just reacting. “A time comes in our personal, professional lives when we look into the mirror and introspect and analyze,” he added. 
 He asked separatists leaders to introspect and said they should lead, follow or get out. The PC, he said, would come up with concept paper for fellow leaders and try to build consensus around it. He said time has come when the leadership has to decide to accept the realities as they exist. Sajjad said if separatists re-strategize they could turn tables around even after six months. 
 The PC chairman reiterated that he stands by the principle of dissent embodied in the boycott call. “We do not see the turn out as defeat. It can be best described as a setback,” he said adding that all great victories are born in learning the lessons from the set-backs. He however said it would be fatal if “we pretend as if nothing has happened.” He said the people have voted and they voted at the time when the world was looking at Kashmir. 
 “To put it plainly people have voted at a wrong time,” he said. He urged for getting rid of strategic contradictions and illogical paths and said they only create fatigue rather than build strength within the nation. “People power is all we have and all we need.” It advocated rethinking over frequent strike calls and said they hit more at Kashmiris than anyone else. He said the boycott calls help Indian state more and cripple Kashmir economy. He called for end to stigmatizing people and individuals in Kashmir. He said the resistance shouldn’t be confined to stone pelting. He called for building resistance institutions for continuing non-violent and peaceful struggle.

Sunday, December 14, 2008



Koil (Pulwama), Dec 13: Today when people in two districts of Pulwama and Shopian were voting, police and CRPF men reportedly avenged anti-election protests by people in this small hamlet, killing a B.A Ist year student. Two other youth received bullet injuries.

 Muzaffar Mushtaq son of Mushtaq Ahmad Ganai, Muhammad Ayub Kumar son of Ghulam Muhammad Kumar and Zeeshan Ali son of Ali Muhammad received bullets when troopers and police opened fire to disperse the villagers who had assembled near Jamia Masjid here. 
 The injured youth were rushed to the district hospital where from they were shifted to the SMHS hospital in Srinagar, some 60 kms from Pulwama. Doctors in SMHS declared Muzaffar, 21, brought dead. Zeeshan was operated upon and a part of his ruptured intestine was removed. However doctors termed his and Kumar’s conditions as stable. Residents termed the firing as unprovoked and targeted.

 Panic had gripped the Koil village since early morning after SOG personnel and CRPF troopers entered the houses, allegedly threatening people to vote. The villagers including women had assembled on the roads.
 Rashid Ahmad, a local said they heard four to five gunshots at 8 am and soon after the SOG personnel and CRPF troopers barged into some houses asking people to come out to vote. “It was peaceful till they entered into our houses,” Rashid said. 
 He said the extreme provocation prompted them to assemble on road near the Masjid. 
 “Soon after a group of SOG personnel, policemen and CRPF troopers reached on the spot and resorted to baton charging,” Rashid, 60, said.
 They fired hundreds of bullets and several tear gas canisters in air to disperse the villagers, another local Muzaffar Hussain said. “But we stayed united fearing if we will return to our houses, the troopers will thrash us,” Muzaffar said.
 He said the troopers and SOG personnel provoked them to pelt stones. “From a group of CRPF personnel, an aged trooper first started pelting stones forcing our youth to retaliate,” Muzaffar said.
 The stone pelting had continued for 20 minutes. “As more people joined the protests another contingent of troopers joined by the SOG personnel reached the spot at around 11 am. They started thrashing everybody including women. Failing to disperse us, they entered our houses and damaged the window panes and doors and scattered house-hold items,” Ghulam Qadir said. The troopers had broken the window panes and a door of his house. “They even beat my two daughters,” said Qadir’s wife, Haja Begum amid sobs.
 He said the firing continued till 11:30 am. “The troopers and the SOG fired thousands of bullets in air. Failing to disperse us and after running short of ammunition, they left the spot and protestors were pacified,” Qadir said.
 Shakeel Ahmad said at around 12 pm another contingent of CRPF and police rushed to the spot. He said the villagers were peacefully sitting on the roadsides and shop vends. “But the CRPF and SOG personnel party opened fire on a group of people without any provocation injuring three youth,” he said.
 Shakeel added the ‘unprovoked’ angered the villagers who engaged the troopers and SOG personnel in stone pelting. “They fired more bullets in air and resorted to baton charg injuring at least 20 more persons.” 
 At 1 pm the whole village had came out on the roads and anger was visible on every face. Men and youth were waiting for the body of Muzaffar to bury it. Inside the house of slain Muzaffar, hundreds of wailing women had gathered. They were trying to console the family members. But tears were trickling down from every face. 
 Barely 50 meters away from the house a grave was being prepared for Muzaffar in the martyrs graveyard. “Muzaffar is the 13th martyr of the village,” said Shabir Ahmad. His friend added that Muzaffar had secured distinction in the 10th and 12th class.

 The photojournalists were again at the receiving end of the police and CRPF troopers today. When the news about the Koil incident spread in Pulwama, the photojournalists and reporters of various international, national and local media organizations rushed towards the spot. The security agencies stopped them and didn’t allow them to carry on with their professional work. They even tried to thrash them. But this didn’t stop the journalists and without caring for consequences covered the incident. Many photo journalists were later thrashed by the troopers.  
 The government on Friday evening had warned photojournalists not to rush to cover elections in towns before afternoon. The photojournalists refused to buckle down under pressure and rushed to various spots to do their professional duties.

 The divisional commissioner Kashmir, Masood Samoon, in the evening said the government has ordered a magisterial inquiry into the killing of a person in Koil Pulwama. “The deputy commissioner Pulwama has been appointed as the inquiry officer. He has been asked to give a factual report within 15 days,” he told reporters in a press conference in Srinagar

Friday, December 5, 2008

Of Budget and Batamaloo bus-stand

Naseer A Ganai
I am not an economist. I would never try to explain others nuances of the Budget, its flaws and benefits. But sheer figures surprise me. Everywhere in Budget there are crores and crores of rupees only. Lakhs of jobs for unemployed, growth in every sector, and development everywhere. In budget every man has a house, every child is in school and every doctor attends his patient. In five years the coalition government (of course on papers) established 40 colleges.  If establishing of colleges continues with this pace, after 10 years every colony and every village will have its own college. There will be an end school system.  Because our education system would really go top down. It would start from college.
In budget every Mohalla has a bus and all buses have proper terminals, which are neat and clean unlike filthy Batamaloo bus-stand. Budget is really a wonderful world of statistics and figures.
For last five years whenever ‘zero deficit’ budget was presented, I thought it would change the destiny of Batamaloo bus-terminal. But five years down the line, the terminal changed from bad to worse. Figures in the budget went up and up and trenches in the Batamaloo bus-terminal went down and down. Upward growth in the budget proved to be downward slump for the Batamaloo bus-stand. And Sensex of the Batmaloo bus-stand always crushed.
Who is responsible for the crash of Batamaloo Sensex exchange. Let us examine it. The FORMER Finance Minister Tariq Hamid Qarra in his last budget speech (he is only two budget old) said the Coalition Government has changed not only the political discourse in the state but also its economic destiny.”
Coalition government, he said, has been able to add about Rs 1,000 every year for the last five years to the pocket of an average person in J&K. And then added emotionally that it means a lot more to him than his cutting debt intensity or running a high overdraft. Indeed a smart political statement. For last five years the successive Finance Minister’s have failed to respond to an argument of the leader of the opposition Abdul Rahim Rather who says if the Budget is zero-deficit then why overdraft from Jammu and Kashmir Bank is increasing every year. Rather Sahib here is political answer of your purely economic question.
In 2007  FM also gave a wonderful budget speech commencing it with name of God. I thought now there would be change and Batamaloo bus-stand would represent that changing and Khushal Kashmir.
But nothing Changed. Peoples Democratic Party’s slogan of peace with dignity neither brought peace in the bus-stand nor dignity to thousands of passengers and commuters whowalk into the Bus stand. On Salfia College road there is huge bunker and it has made the two-way road a one way. But it was there before the peace with dignity slogan. PDP replaced slogan and coined demilitarization and Azad came up with Khushal Kashmir but bunker remained on the road.
The road approaching the Adda (bus-stand) was never repaired, and it continues to be hell for vehicles and commuters. In winter and rainy seasons it is worst place with mud and muddy water everywhere. Those who pass through it in day (rough estimate is some 50000 people) have now developed a sort of love with this mud of Batamaloo bus-stand. I have seen number of commuters who pass through this Ada cleaning their heads with handkerchief. I was always wondering what kind of ritual it is. Then one day a fellow handed me his handkerchief and asked me to clean his head. It had accumulated some mud.

In summer it is so dusty that at times nothing is visible. Even not one’s own nostrils.
If Qarra says coalition government has changed political discourse, it has changed. He is absolutely right on this account. Like thousands of other commuters who pass thorough Batamloo bustand, I everyday in the morning and evening wonder for fate of those who pass through this Ada and wonder what is the fate the vehicles. Their drivers and their owners, and their conductors. It goes on. I also think of health of shopkeepers and health of motels located inside the Ada. And then at my workplace I discuss it with my colleagues. And now I see that instead of politics they discuss Batamaloo Ada. Really coalition has changed the political discourse. Five years back we were discussing politics, freedom, India, Pakistan, Middle East crises, China and its influence and five years down the line we are consumed by discourse of Batamaloo Busstand and what led its decline and fall. 24*7 it goes on. The credit should go to the coalition government.
Any one who has see picture of Guantanamo Bay on TV, and wants to see how it really looks like should once in his lifetime visit Batamaloo bus-stand. Here at every entry point are security personnel with long sticks and rifles. Barbed wire at every entry and exit points. Inside the Ada there are marked spaces, which are controlled by force personnel only. The drivers when enter the Ada are petrified where to stop and where not to. He has to follow unwritten instruction of sentry.
I have sort of love-hate relationship with Ada. Just like I have for budget. I don’t understand it but I have to read it. The Batamaloo Ada I don’t want to visit but I have to. The bus I board lands in the Ada. And its’ landing is backbreaking. Soon the bus reaches near the bus-stand; it develops ‘convulsions.’ The road has holes, trenches, ditches and they don’t only ‘break’ the vehicle but it also breaks the back of all those who are on board. And when the vehicle reaches near the bustand, its driver has dilemma, whether to stop outside or inside. He has many questions and angry passengers to face. Just like Finance Minister has to face opposition who describes his budget as anti-people. In the same manner passengers accuse driver of being cunning, anti people if he stops outside and those who intend to board down outside level him same accusation if he stops the vehicle inside bus terminal. The passengers do not know about the unwritten instruction to the driver by force personnel.
In this budget I remember the Finance Minister saying that seeds of our electoral success have been sown in our six budgets and those are now flowering across the state in the form of developmental work done on ground. Of course, needless to add, that this would not have been possible without the vision of Jenab Mufti Muhammed Sayeed and the dynamism of Jenab Ghulam Nabi Azad, he had added.
His predecessor too had stated many times about dynamism of the Azad Sahib and vision of Mufti Sahib. I was presuming that this would lead to joint statement. That would be called a visionary and dynamic statement and the statement would have some impact on ground zero at Batamaloo bus stand. The development is flowering across the State, says Qarra. But one wonders why it has not reached to Batamaloo bus-stand.

The former Finance Minister once talked about Kashmir having its own currency. Great idea. Let us have Reserve Bank of Kashmir. But where it should be constructed? At Batamaloo Ada, says my colleague.

Monday, December 1, 2008

From martyrs graveyards to polling booths

Contradictions in Kashmir

Naseer A Ganai

Handwara, Nov 30: Doodhipora has seen death closely. Everyone knows who has been killed here, by whom and when. Even a school boy who sought a lift in our vehicle told us about four cricket playing boys killed by Army in 2006.

The boy continued his talk. His name was Bilal and he was from neighboring village. He had cast his vote though under age. But he was unconcerned about it. In Handwara district Doodhipora has worst roads, he said. It seems Bilal had contempt for the village, some 80 kms from winter capital of Jammu and Kashmir, Srinagar. Handwara was once hotbed of anti-India insurgency which erupted in 1987 in Kashmir. 

Near a closed village shop was sitting an aged man. Bilal pointed towards him and said, “His son was brave young man. He tried to save two boys when he was fired at by troops but got killed along with the two boys,” Bilal said. So we decided to board down and talk to the aged person. 

Ghulam Rasool Wani, he identified himself after responding to our greetings. He said he has decided to cast his vote this time. “I am just looking for another person who would accompany me to the polling booth,” Rasool said.

In 2002 Wani stayed away from the voting. He was not alone. Whole village had decided not to vote. “We were angry. The memories of our children were afresh in our minds and there was no let up in atrocities,” Rasool said.

Rasool said he has lost his two sons, elder one in 2002 and younger in 2006.  Meanwhile, villagers including women gathered around us and joined the talk. On seeing Rasool talking about his two sons they too started talking about killings in the village. They said nearly 28 persons were killed in the village.

“Our Ghulam Hassan had just passed the TDC in 2006. He was playing cricket when troops fired at them. He had two boys in his lap whom he was trying to save from the firing of soldiers. They killed them all,” said Farida, daughter in law of Rasool.

Farida said Amir, 9 and Shakir, 5 and Abdul Samad, and “our Ghulam Hassan” were killed in the firing.

Farida said Hassan’s brother Manzoor Ahmad Bhat too had passed the TDC examination when he was killed. “He was militant and he died in encounter in 2002,” said Jana, an aged woman.

Jana had cast her vote. “I too have lost my son Shafia,” she said. Others corrected her and said Shafia was Muhammad Shafi Malik who died in an encounter with troops in Kralpora. “It was in 1997,” the mother says. She was particular about the date.

Mala, 70 year old joined the conversation. “My son Muhammad Maqbool was killed by militants,” she said.

“Her husband was killed by army,” a village boy added. An aged person who was walking on road joined us. Farida introduced her to us as father of Shakir who died in Army firing on children.

Ghulam Rasool Wani said he cast his vote. Looking at the grim audience, he felt apologetic and explained. “Everyone from the village went to cast the vote so did I,” he said, and others laughed. “They are writing about people who were killed in the village,” Farida told Rasool innocently. And in seconds the villagers started naming the parents of the children killed. Nazir Ahmad Mir son of Qadir, Rehman Kaka of Gulun, Ghulam Hassan Mir, Abdul Rashid, Zareefa’s son Rehman Bhat and it went on.

The death-talk was too overburdening.

Perhaps Ghulam Rasool Wani realized it. “Come to our village some day we will talk in detail. You city people will not realize our agony. Who listens to us when tragedies befall on us,” he said, adding, he would vote. For what, we asked. “For this road, see its condition,” he said.

Rasool moved towards the polling booth and we towards another village Chottipora. 

Chottipora is two kms from Handwara town.

On August 25 this year, a young woman of this village was brutally killed by troopers here. The villagers chose this day to pay tributes to their daughter, by staying away from voting. Instead of the polling booth, locals streamed to Fahmida’s house. Her house was no less than a shrine. Her nine months-old kid nothing short of a relic.

 The villagers had assembled in the house of the village headman, Abdul Rehman Sheikh, Fahmida’s father. The memories of the gory incident are still fresh in their minds and they remember how the brave daughter of the village had rushed to save a youth from the troopers. And they remember troops firing bullets on Fahmida, killing her on the spot.

 The polling booth, 20 to 25 meters away from Fahmida’s house, was surrounded by a group of paramilitary troops of CRPF and policemen who had laid concertina wires around the booth.

“She was a brave daughter of the village. After hearing that army is beating a village boy outside her house, she rushed out to save him and a trooper shot her in the head. She died on the spot,” said a villager. The incident happened when the army had cordoned off the village to prevent Lal Chowk march called by the pro-freedom Coordination Committee. Fahmida had heard the cries of Firdous Ahmad Sheikh who was beaten by troops near the village mosque where he had gone to offer Azan.

 “She couldn’t bear Firdous’s cries and rushed towards the spot. But the trooper shot her in the head,” aged Abdul Rehman Sheikh told reporters.

 Sheikh, who along with his wife Taja Begum was sitting on a ragged mat in the corridor of his house, said he had married off Fahmida in 2006. “I never knew this colossal tragedy would befall me,” he said.

 Pointing towards Musa Sheikh, nine-month old son of Fahmida, Sheikh said his cries in the evening torture them. “Since her death mourning has never stopped in our house,” Sheikh said and with it Taja Begum started weeping. Musa was in her lap.

 Since Sunday morning the villagers had started assembling in the house to express solidarity with the family. In the polling booth, at 12:30 p.m only 6 votes had been cast out of 577. The polling agents said even their family members wouldn’t turn up to vote. “Her killing has changed everything in the village. I think the villagers wouldn’t turn up,” said Mushtaq Ahmad, the polling agent of Congress. 

Near the village tube-well, women said that they have not cast the vote and they will not. “There have been so many killings in this village. But her death was most terrible and it has shocked us,” women said.

 The village graveyard is testimony of what the women said. There are five graves. Two of militants, two of children who died in Wullar tragedy, and Fahmida’s grave. In the Wullar boat tragedy. 24 kids of a Handwara school who were on picnic in Bandipora died when their boat capsized in the lake in the summer of 2006. The inquiry officer Tariq Ahmad Naqashbandi had indicted Navy in the tragedy and the Government had accepted the inquiry report.

 The youth here said they have rejected the pro-India politicians and would continue to reject them. An aged woman, who was on her way to Sheikh’s house, said, “My grandson Hilal Ahmad Wani died in Wullar. Another died in Tangdhar. And you are asking me why I am not casting the vote?”

On Monday, a journalist friend informed me that at 4 p.m in Chottipora village there was long queue outside the booth and 

at 3 p.m 60 people had cast their votes. 

Friday, November 28, 2008

Mohsin Shah’s deportation

Naseer A Ganai

Mohsin Shah was born at Daulatabad, Khanyar, Srinagar on May 25, 1925. He was educated in the Government High School and later he joined SP College.

His father S. Muhammad Shah was doing business in Skardu (Ladakh). In 1945, the Mohsin left for Skardu and in 1947 he accepted a post in Government hospital there. In 1967, his father died and soon after father’s demise, he received several letters from his relation, Qazim Shah, inviting him to visit Srinagar to participate in marriage ceremony of his sister.

Consequently, on July 5m 1968 he applied to the Secretary to the Government Home Department for no objection certificate. The application was forwarded to the Deputy Secretary Union Ministry of Home Affairs and after completing few formalities, no objections certificate was issued to him by the State government.

Mohsin in the first instance only wanted no objection certificate but he was instructed by the High Commissioner of India in Pakistan to apply for visa. He then applied for Pakistani passport. He obtained visa from High Commissioner of India in Islamabad from April 9, 1969 for a one month. Armed with the passport and visa, the he crossed Hussainiwala border and reached Srinagar on May 21, 1969. He stayed in Srinagar and then decided to stay here permanently because he had property here, which was not listed by the government as evacuee.

However some officers who, according to him, were out to grab his property were against his stay in Srinagar and were hell bent to deport him. He applied to stay here permanently and ostensibly the State government was inclined to accept his application. It recommended to New Delhi that he may accorded permission for permanent settlement at Srinagar. The center government however insisted on his deportation on May 13, 1971 and May 31, 1971 passed orders of his deportation forcing him to approach the Court.

The petitioner S. Mohsin Shah filed a writ petition 31 of 1971, in the Court seeking quashing of orders passed by the then Deputy Secretary, Home Department, Government of Jammu and Kashmir directing deportation of the petitioner to Pakistan in accordance with the orders of the Union Ministry of Home.

The case came up for hearing before the full bench comprising Chief Justice, Justice S.M.F Ali, Justice Jaswant Singh, Justice Mian Jalal-ud-Din, Justice Mufti Baha-ud-Din and Justice S. Wasiuddin.

The State and the Center government held that the petitioner after acquiring Pakistani passport cease to citizen of India and has no justification to stay here after expiry of his visa. The counter affidavit filed by the Central government suggested the petitioner was indulging in subversive activities and was security risk.When the case came up for hearing and the Court heard it at some length, the Central Government made an application seeking permission to hold an inquiry under the provisions of section 9 (2) of Citizenship Act of 1955. The Court allowed the Centre government to hold inquiry with directions that the inquiry will be subject to decision of the petition on merits.  The Court however added that its order will not amount to a decision on the applicability or otherwise of section 9 of Indian Citizenship Act.

The Centre government after this shot notice to the petitioner, asking him to file representations. The government after perusal of the representations, on April 26, 1973 forwarded its report to the Court. The report said that petitioner has voluntarily acquired the citizenship of Pakistan after January 26, 1950 and before October 4, 1968 and called for his deportation. The petitioner however filed objections to the report attacking its findings. 

The counsel for the petitioner M.A Beg submitted that the petitioner was compelled by force of circumstances to apply for Pakistani passport, as he had no other way to come to Srinagar. He also submitted that the centre government violated rules of natural justice by not giving personal hearing to the petitioner.

The advocate general of the State, however vehemently contested the arguments and submitted that the petition is not maintainable. He argued the acquisition of the passport by the petitioner and his subsequent conduct clearly shows that he secured Pakistani passport on his sweet will. It said the question as to whether the petitioner was Pakistani citizen or not has to be decided by New Delhi and under section 9(2) of the Citizenship Act there are no rules, which directs centre government to give personal hearing to the petitioner. Moreover, the petitioner never asked for such hearings.

The Court after hearing the arguments explained section 9 (1) of the Act which says, “Any citizen of India who by naturalization, registration or otherwise voluntarily acquires or has at any time between January 19950 and commencement of the Act voluntarily acquired, the citizenship of another country shall, upon such acquisition or as the case may be, such commencement cease to be citizen of India.”

The Chief Justice, Justice S.M.F Ali in his judgment quoted Rajasthan High Court decision in Inder Lal vs Lal Singh case which says, “In our opinion as held in Muhammad Khan versus Government of Andhra Pradesh AIR 1957, the mere fact the a passport is given to a person who is an Indian national, whether the passport is legal evidence or not cannot lead to any irresistible inference that the said person had voluntarily acquired the citizenship of a foreign State, for such a passport could also be issued to a citizen by birth or descent.”

“Therefore,” the Chief Justice, Justice S.M.F Ali said, “a person can lose his citizenship under section 9 but it must be shown that he had acquired the passport voluntarily. This is rather important because the sheet anchor of the case of the petitioner has been that although he did acquire a Pakistani passport, he did not do so out of his own free will but was compelled to apply for it in the circumstances in which he was placed. Thus the petitioner’s contention was that the acquisition of the passport was under duress and also without free consent.”

The Chief Justice held “Inquiry under S. 9(2) of the Act is of a quasi-judicial nature and it must be based on a proper appreciation of the evidence and must comply with the cardinal rules of natural justice. The government however went a step further and prescribed rules in order to determine the procedure to be adopted by the Central government in making an inquiry under section 9 (2).”

The Chief Justice contended that the central government while making the inquiry appears to have overlooked certain fundamental aspects of the grave issues involved in this case. “So far there has not been a single case in any court in India where a person while travelling from one part of India to another has had to obtain a passport from foreign country for travelling to that part,” the Chief Justice held, adding that the petitioner never migrated to Pakistan but traveled from one part of the country Srinagar to another part Skardu. “It was incumbent on the central government to consider these broad aspects carefully because they have got far reaching consequences,” the chief justice held, describing inquiry held by the centre government as vitiated. “In these circumstances the order of deportation of the petitioner on the basis of the report of the central government based on an invalid inquiry must also fall to the ground,” he held and directed the government not to deport the petitioner.




Friday Guest Column


Re-surging from the ashes of the peace process and "enforced normalcy", the resistance sentiment of Kashmir today is more vibrant than ever. 1931, 1947, 1953, the holy relic movement of 1964, 1975
accord, 1989, and election dramas of 1996 and 2002, a series of events that marked the ebb and flow of this movement has finally and irreversibly brought people of Kashmir to the present confrontation where they see only one option acceptable and i.e. AZADI. Bleeding and starving too, the wounded paradise screams to be heard but unfortunately all its pleas have felt flat on deaf ears and so far failed to draw the attention of global fora. A nation that has been sold and re-sold has always defied the bargain that was carried against its will by those donning the mask of a messiah. From huge economic packages to unethical economic blockade, every effort has met waterloo to quell the thirst of freedom in Kashmir. Nothing beguiles
them; nothing scares them, people of Kashmir are adamant to have a tryst with their AZADI. Severing the supplies is a way to force people into submission and will work in Kashmir as well, they presume so. One wonders as to see that despite 62 years of yoke, India has so far failed to understand the people of Kashmir. Or, one may pose a simple
question; has India ever seriously ventured to ascertain what people of Kashmir want and what can be done to win them over? A simple fact will serve as a good answer; out of five working groups that were constituted as a result of the so called round table conferences on Kashmir to make recommendations to the central government on various issues pertaining to Kashmir, four submitted their reports long ago here as nobody knows what happened to the fifth one that had been assigned with the job to make recommendations on " centre-state
relationship." it is already lost in oblivion. People have forgotten it (if they were bothered about it at all).
The present situation reminds us of the late eighties of the previous century. Pushed to the wall, the people of Kashmir were compelled to go for the extreme. Once in an interview with the GREATER KASHMIR, veteran resistance leader, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, rightly pointed out that "militancy (in Kashmir) is the creation of India. [G.K: July 25 2004]" While the above statement needs no analysis and is as vivid as the shining sun, there is a need
to understand the dynamics of the present upsurge of resistance movement and the havoc it can wreak in the whole region.
Than the series of goofs by India catalyzed it and resistance movement re-surfaced. But, by and large, it remained passive until the late eighties, particularly until the faux pas of 1989 poll rigging.
The years that followed witnessed the metamorphosis of the peaceful Kashmir into a violent battle ground. Even then, no serious effort was
made to understand and address the basic alienation. Instead, India responded by invoking Disturbed Areas Act and Armed Forces Special
Powers Act. Death and destruction became an order of the day. Young men sacrificed their lives and young women lost their chastity-more precious than the life. While the people of Kashmir, seeking their fundamental right of self determination, bore the brunt of Indian military might, the iron glove policy failed to achieve the purpose.
Guns felt silent but it failed to annihilate the sentiment that runs through the veins of every Kashmiri. A charade of development was sold
as the triumph of the "secular loyalist forces" and a defeat of the "hardliner religious secessionists." But today the movement has assumed
the position where even those who used to take up cudgels of India and lead the opposite bandwagon, feel it safe to join the chorus of separatism. They find it tantamount to the political suicide to side
with their masters by marching against the popular tide. Despite every effort, Kashmir is slipping out of Indian jaws. India's long serving minions in Kashmir too have miserably failed to turn the tide in Indian favor in India. An excerpt from Sanjay Kak's Jashn-e-Azadi unravels the puzzle for India;"from the most highly militarized zone
in the world: a lesson; that domination does not mean victory."
Years of oppression and tyranny, accompanied with cultural onslaught and manipulation of history, had bred an unprecedented exasperation and dismay against India in the people of Kashmir. Out of context interpretations of Kashmiriyat by non-Kashmir and sinister attempts of cultural assimilation had annoyed even those who sought peaceful status-quo earlier. Waiting to give vent to their mounting anger, valleyites were in search of a proper occasion. Land transfer row and the
subsequent economic blockade provided a good opportunity to them. Defying every barrier and removing every barricade, people dared the
batons and the bullets. A strange situation but not unpredictable: heavy contingents of the combat ready police and CRPF felt insufficient to crush the demonstrations as the protesters were taking
on bullets with their chests naked. 30 unarmed and peaceful protesters were killed but it only reinforced the will of people it will be a mega blunder by the Indian state to continue its imperial policies in Kashmir by ignoring the reality where the whole imbroglio is rooted. A sense of deep injustice and denial is indelibly etched to the Kashmiri psyche, particularly the young blood. If the days of 1989 are made to re-visit the valley of Kashmir, it will prove fatal for the whole region. The Crowds of protestors and their resentment speaks a lot and heralds
nothing good. Sea of angry masses and their restrain is a sign of maturity and should not be underestimated. A mere thought of the
consequences if India failed to answer the legitimate demands of Kashmir this time should send tremors down the spine of those having
even a little regard for the peace and worth of a Human life and demands their immediate and sincere attention to the solution of Kashmir issue. Kashmir problem has the potential to spill violence
through out the region if not addressed in proper context. Those talking to keep Kashmir issue on the back burner are making serious mistakes with long term consequences by undermining this very reality.
Presently peaceful and non-violent movement can take ugly turn if India replicated its conventional policy. It can mushroom extremism across the region whose aftershocks might be felt in India as well. So it is wise to accept realities.
(author is correspondent with the Kashmir Times)

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Was he insane?

Today outside the press enclave at the Residency road we were engrossed in discussion. It was roadside talk. We were talking about voting, elections and its repercussions. We were laughing, laughing. We had blocked the pedestrian path.
Suddenly a man appeared. He was young. His head shaved, he had long stick. He was shouting. He was in front of us. I got frightened. But my friends were calm.
Kashmiris are great, the stranger shouted. Meanwhile other journalists in press enclave rushed to the spot. I presumed he is some leader. But his getup was not that of any intending leader.
Pedestrians too gathered around. But the man continued his shouts. He repeatedly said “I will give you Azadi.” Some people started laughing. I was frightened. I was worried that he should not hit me on the head. Some of my friends started nodding their head in agreement. He continued his monologue. He was shouting that Kashmiris should respect Kashmiris. Kashmiris should respect sentiment of Kashmiris, they should respect their feelings, he shouted. “If you do this I will give you Azadi,” he shouted and left.
Someone among us said he is insane. Was he?

This news report was forwarded to me by my friend yesterday. And I liked it

Road to peaceful Afghanistan passes through Kashmir: France
Paris, Nov 26: A peaceful settlement of the India-Pakistan dispute on Kashmir could pave way for a better security situation in Afghanistan, feels the official spokesperson of the French government.
The logic behind it is that if Pakistan is free of the tensions on its eastern border it shares with India, then Islamabad could concentrate more on security issues that dog its western border which straddles with Afghanistan.
Talking to a group of visiting journalists, Eric Chevallier, special advisor to the Minister of Foreign and European Affairs, who is also the spokesperson for the French foreign office, said the renewed interest and the new international push to solving the long standing Kashmir dispute 'makes sense'.
He explained that if there is decreased tension on the Pakistan-India border with Kashmir, the Pakistani security apparatus could put enhanced efforts in securing the porous border Pakistan shares with Afghanistan.
"Solving the Kashmir dispute will help everybody in the region," said Chevallier.
He further said that resolving the Kashmir issue might also help avoid the cross border bombing of the tribal areas of Pakistan.
Towards finding a negotiated settlement of the Afghan problem, France is hosting in Paris a special regional meeting of all the countries that are neighbors to Afghanistan, with the hope that a quick solution can be found to the Afghan crisis. Chevallier emphasized that 'there is no military solution to the issue of Afghanistan'.
On the Kashmir issue, similar opinions have also been voiced by the incumbent Democratic administration in Washington DC.
For India's part, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee has gone on record saying that the Kashmir dispute is a bilateral issue between the two neighbors.
Further on being questioned as to whether France supports the UN plebiscite in Kashmir, Chevallier said, "The Kashmiri people should find a way to develop peace in the region."(Agencies)

Sajjad dares Geelani

Swears on Quran, says if Geelani proves allegations against him he will quit politics or Geelani has to


Srinagar, Nov 26: Deeply hurt by Tehreek-e-Hurriyat chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s comments accusing Peoples Conference of supporting three contesting candidates from Kupwara, Chairman PC Sajjad Gani Lone lashed out at Geelani describing him “a liar, a curse on nation” and challenged him to prove the allegations.

Sajjad said if Geelani’s proves the allegations he would quit the politics.
There is more. He described Geelani as biggest hurdle in Kashmir’s freedom, who in Kupwara is seen as “murderer of Abdul Gani Lone” and said “what Indian agencies cannot do, he (Geelani) can.”
In his press briefing, angry Sajjad said “Geelani, Media in Delhi and India agencies work in tandem.”
He even put his hand on the Holy Quran before full media glare and said “if Geelani proves one allegation, he will quit politics or Geelani has to.”
Sajjad reacted to a press briefing of Geelani which latter had addressed at his residence early in the morning.
Geelani had said: “On the one hand, Shabnam Lone is fighting election as an independent candidate in Kupwara and, on the other; both the brothers (Sajjad and Bilal Gani Lone) are in the separatist camp opposing holding of elections here.”
Geelani said she had an eye on the People’s Conference support in Kupwara and was trying to exploit it.
Three hours after Geelani addressed the press conference; Sajjad hit back at Geelani and hit him hard for his utterances.
Throughout his press briefing he referred Geelani as “ex-MLA Geelani.” “Ex-MLA Geelani, who still draws pension from the State, after coming back from New Delhi has been allowed to address the press conference wherein he has accused the PC of supporting three candidates. It is not matter of politics for me. It is question of my honour and dignity,” Sajjad said.
He said for last one month no separatist leader has been allowed to address the media. “But when Geelani came back from Delhi, he is being allowed to address the media and before he addresses the media, we get a call that you too would be allowed to respond,” he said. “See how these things are being facilitated and see the person who facilitates it,” angry Sajjad told reporters at his residence.
Responding to the allegations he said he has nothing to do with his sister and other two candidates Mohideen Sofi and Engineer Rashid who have decided to contest from Kupwara district. “Geelani is the person who knows my relations with my sister. In fact he several times tried to mend our relations. But I never supported her and Geelani knows it,” Sajjad said, adding if he proves that he ever supported Shabnam, he would quit politics for ever.
He said he has talked to Shabnam twice in ten years. “Once when I had operation and second time when my father Abdul Gani Lone passed away,” he said.
He said if anyone proves he has even seen Engineer Rashid after he decided to contest elections, he would quit politics. He used the same words for Sofi and said he has even refused to enter a house where he had gone to express his condolence when he heard Sofi was there.
He said Shabnam accuses him of sabotaging her election campaign and his workers have been arrested for carrying the boycott campaign. But Geelani has always other opinion.

Sajjad said if brother has to answer for sins committed by his sister then Geelani should also respond why his daughter met George Fernandes or Dr Farooq Abdullah.
He accused Geelani of calling off strike calls during the mass uprising for the sake of his son–in-law Altaf Fantosh. “I don’t say Fantosh should be arrested but then you should also learn to respect sacrifices of others. Your house arrest is really the house arrest but ours is not. This won’t go on and on,” he said. Sajjad said after coming back from Delhi he was expecting Geelani should say something against Dr Farooq Abdullah or Mufti Muhammad Sayeed but he has done nothing of that sort. “Geelani comes back and targets Abdul Gani Lone’s son Sajjad,” he added.
He said after coming back from Delhi, he thought Geelani would call him and show concern about present situation and continuous house arrest of pro-freedom leadership but see “what he has in store and what he has been asked to do.”
He said for years together Indian agencies were targeting Peoples Conference and trying to make it Awami National Conference. “They never succeeded in it. But what Indian agencies cannot do, this man can,” he said.
Geelani, he said objected to his presence in the Coordination Committee even though he was invitee in the CC meeting. “But I kept silence and supported the boycott call,” Sajjad said. He named several candidates including Yasir Reshi, PDP candidate from Sonawari constituency and said Shafi Reshi has accompanied him to polling booths where re-polling took place.
“Shafi Reshi is close associate of Geelani,” Sajjad said.
He said he has convened the press conference for his people not for the “ex-MLA Geelani.”
He said it was not the first time that Geelani has embarrassed Kashmiri nation. “It was none other than Geelani who in the TRC rally divided the nation at the crucial juncture by proclaiming himself as the sole leader,” he said.
“Now, either I will remain in politics or Geelani will remain,” he said. He swore on the Holy Quran by putting his hand and said he has no relations with any of the candidates named by Geelani and has not supported them by any means.
He said if the Geelani swears on the Quran and the candidates as well stating Sajjad has in any manner supported them, he would quit politics or else Geelani should quit.
He said when Geelani has been allowed to address the press conference, then he should also visit Kupwara on Thursday and call for election boycott. “If we have not succeeded, let him show his skills,” he said. He said his sister’s candidature was not made an issue by any one in Kashmir except Delhi based media and now Geelani, back from Delhi has made it an issue.
“Indian agencies, Delhi press and Geelani work in tandem,” he said. He described Geelani as the biggest hurdle in freedom. “As long as he is around dawn of freedom is distant dream,” he said.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

40 Hajj aspirants’ dream grounded

As last flight to Jeddah takes off today
Srinagar, Nov 25: Abdul Gani Sofi was anxiously waiting outside court room for the decision on Tuesday. The government has denied travel documents for Hajj pilgrimage to him and 39 other Kashmiris. They had filed a suit in court, terming government restriction as infringement of religious rights.

Their lawyer Mian Abdul Qayoom pleaded their case Tuesday in the court that reserved the judgment. As Qayoom came out of the room they rushed to him to know the verdict.
The last flight to Jeddah would take off Wednesday and with this their dream of Hajj may not materialize this time.
Mian Abdul Qayoom terms the charges against them as “fabricated and baseless.” He said the State has no right to deny the permission to person to form his religious obligation. “The Government move is interference in the religion and against the Article 25 of the constitution,” he said.
He said performing Hajj was fundamental right and it couldn’t be taken away. “There is difference between acquiring the passport and Hajj pilgrimage pass and the passport Act doesn’t apply on the pilgrims,” he said.
In the Court he argued on the same lines. “Today is the last day and tomorrow is the last flight and the Court should direct the State government to allow the intending pilgrims to perform their religious right,” he pleaded. The Court however reserved the judgment.
For the past thirty days, Sofi has been making rounds of the court. A resident of Sepdan Budgam he had dreamt all his life to perform Hajj once in his life time.
“The government has shattered my and my wife’s dream,” he says.
This year when the state Hajj Committee invited application for Hajj 2008, Sofi was prompt to apply. “I retired in 2006 as supervisor from the Jammu Kashmir Industries. But I was planning for Hajj for years together,” he said.

Subsequently, he applied form for himself and his wife with the State Hajj Committee and after the draw of lots they were selected. He deposited the money with the State Hajj Committee, attended vaccination programs and elaborately chose the luggage.
But things were not so smooth. A month ago he was informed by the State Hajj Committee that “he has got an adverse police report” and would not be allowed to perform the Hajj unless cleared by the CID.
The phone call was like a death bell for the family. “I wept many a time on that day. I was not summing up courage to convey this news to my wife,” he said.
One of allegations against Sofi in the “adverse report” is that he has been retired prematurely from the service “on charges of having anti-national links.” But he retired in 2006 from Jammu Kashmir Industries after completing his service.
Bilal Ahmad Mir was consoling Sofi. So were other persons. The common tragedy has bound these aspiring pilgrims together. Bilal Ahmad Mir, 37, was going with his mother to Hajj. “I was arrested and I was released. Does that mean with the arrest I have lost my right to live and perform Hajj as well,” the young man argues. He has visited the Court even on the day when there was curfew. “Every day I tell my mother tomorrow something would happen. Today I have nothing to say,” he said.
Hamidullah Yatoo, an aged man who retired as Assistant Stock Officer from Animal Husbandry was informing his family on phone about today’s happening. “I had received everything even the flight number. I was scheduled to leave for Jeddah on November 4. But then I was informed I had adverse report,” he said. The allegations against Yatoo are that he is from Jamaat-e-Islami and has been booked under PSA. But he says he has been never detained by the police, and the police had told the court of Chief Judicial Magistrate Kulgam that he had no active links with Jamaat.
“Before death I wanted to perform Hajj. But I think I won’t be allowed,” he said and wept. He was repeatedly pulling his long beard. His worry was how to convey his wife that tomorrow is the last flight and they have bleak chances.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Saffron terror

Kashmir debates saffron terror
Naseer A Ganai
Srinagar, Nov 24: Kashmir didn’t remain immune to Saffron terror. Soon the Daynand Pandey’s name surfaced in Malegaon blasts and his meeting with former Governor Lt General (retd) S.K Sinha came to fore, pro-India scene in Kashmir changed with political parties saying that its masterminds might have served in Kashmir.
First to raise the issue was PDP patron and former Home Minister Mufti Muhammad Sayeed.


On Wednesday last, former chief minister Mufti Muhammad Sayeed disclosed that he had informed the Government of India about the ‘suspicious’ activities of former governor SK Sinha and said that investigation should be ordered both by the state Government and the Government of India to probe Sinha’s links with Pandey.
Pandey, who frequently visited the state, was a guest of the former governor and stayed at the Raj Bhawan in Srinagar in 2007, the PDP had earlier alleged.
Pandey was arrested on November 12 and sent to judicial custody by a Nashik court. “Frequent visits by Pandey to the state and his being entertained by the former governor raise suspicion,” the PDP patron said.
Sayeed described the issue as serious one and said if it would not be properly investigated, it would have dangerous ramification.
Peoples Democratic Party didn’t stop there. It accused the NC president Omer Abdullah of meeting Pandey at latter’s Ashram. The PDP senior leader Tariq Hamid Qarra said sarcastically that
Omar should explain whether he had gone to Haridwar to seek blessing of Pandey or he had some other purpose.
Qarra said the NC president met Pandey at the latter’s Ashram in Haridwar. He said the NC president should make the purpose public for which he had gone to Haridwar to meet the accused Swami.
Qarra described the issue as serious and said explosive material was taken from Kashmir and used in Samjauta Express blasts that killed 65 Pakistani nationals. Qarra displayed photos of Omer being in the function organized by Pandey.
National Conference was quick to respond. Three hours after Qarra press conference Omer said he would quit politics if the PDP proves his association with Malegaon blast accused Swami Daynand Pandey.
“I am ready to face any inquiry by Central Bureau Investigation or a joint parliamentary probe by the government. It should be a transparent, time-bound probe. And if it is proved that I have any link (with Pandey) I will quit politics and never show up in public again. However I am putting it on record that I have no links with the accused (Pandey),” Omar said addressing a hurriedly called press conference.
Responding to the photograph brought out by Qarra in a press conference showing Omar with Pandey, the NC president said the photograph was being used as an “outlandish allegation” against him.
“The picture dates back to 2002-03 when coalition government led by PDP patron Mufti Muhammad Sayeed came to power. My father (NC patron Dr Farooq Abdullah) had helped the Durga Nath Temple Trust and they had invited him, not me, at the function where the picture was shot. Since my father was busy, I attended the function,” Omar explained. Omar said the picture showed him sitting besides the then deputy chief minister and senior Congress leader Mangat Ram Sharma.
“This is sum total of my association with the accused. Yes, I am in the picture but that is the beginning and the end of my association with the accused,” Omar said.
The photographs were revealed before the media by PDP just three days before the Ganderbal is scheduled to go for polls during the second phase of elections in the Jammu and Kashmir with Omar contesting from the constituency against the arch rival of PDP, Qazi Muhammad Afzal.

ATS in Jammu for investigations

The Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS), which is probing the September 29 Malegaon Blasts, had sent a team to Jammu and Kashmir to interrogate the detained persons there, a senior ATS official said on Thursday.
The ATS, along with the Uttar Pradesh police, had arrested Dayanand Pandey alias Sudhakar Dwivedi believed to be a ’seer’, who allegedly played a major role in the blast conspiracy.

Pandey’s Chartered Accountant (CA) V K Kapoor and his son Pawan were also detained in Jammu for questioning. The duo was however let off as “nothing adverse” was found against them, reports said.
Pandey heads the Sharda Sarvagya Peeth in Jammu, the finance of which was managed by Kapoor and his son.
The ATS chief Hemant Karkare on Wednesday said that Pandey had attended several meetings prior to the blast alongwith Lieutenant Colonel Shrikant Prasad Purohit and other accused in Nashik and Madhya Pradesh.
Till now, the ATS has arrested nine persons and have been booked them in cases for conspiracy, murder, attempt to murder and under the Indian Explosives Act.

Election perspective

Town Obliges Freedom Camp
Goes for boycott

Ganderbal, Nov 24: If Sonawari and Bandipora had obliged the vote-seekers and let the freedom camp down, Ganderbal on Sunday did a more balancing act. While the main town and some villages remained away from polling booths in response to the call by separatists, the peripheries mostly witnessed brisk polling. Many villages stood starkly divided on the issue as voting and anti-election protests could be seen going on simultaneously.
The division was clear in Kurhama. Hundreds of youth, children and women greeted the press with pro-freedom and anti-election slogans. Barely 50 meters away, the mood was different. About 200 people had cast their vote and many were in the queue. The locals said the polling booth was attacked by anti-election protesters after police and CRPF troops barged into houses and beat up the inmates, including women. An election agent said the disruption in polling was caused by fasadis (hooligans). An angry youth outside the poling booth said only the gaddars (traitors) were voting ‘bringing the whole village a bad name.’ On our return from the village, a kid, barely eight, was re-arranging election-boycott posters torn down by the police earlier.
In Baroosa village, dozens of people were waiting in a queue to vote. At another end of the village, policemen severely thrashed anti-election protesters, including women. The protesters were angered by the police action and resorted to massive stone-pelting.
In Lar, voters in hundreds were waiting outside the polling booths. Till 3 pm, 546 votes were polled out of 1011 at 67-A Lar. Outside, enthusiastic voters had apprehensions that they would not get the chance to cast their vote by 4 pm.
Ganderbal town was fortified. Heavy contingent of paramilitary troops were guarding the polling booths and the streets. Outside the polling booths, people were keenly watching those who would enter the polling booths to cast their votes. They too were being watched by paramilitary troops.
The presiding officer at Behama 4-A polling booth said only 16 votes had been polled out of 658 at 10:30 am. In the neighbouring polling booth the situation was not different. Only 13 votes had been polled out of 663. The polling agents were very perturbed over the low turnout. Peer Manoosh, the NC polling agent was angry. He said police on Friday used force against people in the town and that has caused resentment among people. At 2 pm in Behama 4-A the number had reached to 30 including the votes of 12 agents.
Bamloora village recorded more than 50 per cent voting till 2 pm. The village wore a festive look and all, including youth, were debating the outcome of elections.
In the outskirts of Ganderbal town at Behama, people came out shouting pro-freedom and anti-PDP and anti-NC slogans. They accused police of using force against them and dragging them out from their houses. “Even women have been dragged out by police,” accused the slogan-shouting crowd.
In Dudharma, large number of people were discussing politics and the boycott call.

They were accused the press of being biased and said some parties were using money to buy voters. “But you won’t write,” said an aged person. A young man said that people in the town were for boycott. Till 1 pm, 117 votes had been polled out of 1174.
At Gangerhom, people alleged that an Army officer of 5 RR camp asked them to vote. They said the officer told them that voting would bring development in the area.
In Kachan, a Sumo driver, Muhammad Younis Dar, was bringing voters to the polling station. “I have been provided Rs 1000 and fuel charges,” Younis said. Omar Abdullah and Qazi Muhammad Afzal visited the polling booth. People waved to greet the contesting leaders. Till 11:30 am, 201 votes had been polled out of 758 at the booth. There were long queues outside the booth. “I would cast my vote for the candidate who would bring employment to our children,” said an aged women.
In Baderkund, 330 votes had been polled out of 638 till 3 pm. At B-48 polling booth in Dab, 327 persons had voted out of 1141 electors till 1:30.
The PDP candidate and the former minister, Qazi Muhammad Afzal, was candid in his reaction to the boycott in Ganderbal town. “They have not voted in Sheikh Abdullah’s time too,” he said, adding that he was expecting boycott in the town.
Qazi accused the NC of using money to purchase votes. “I have conveyed to the Election Commission that it should inquire what NC leaders Ali Muhammad Sagar and Nasir Sogami were doing in the town,” he said. He accused the former chief secretary, Sheikh Ghulam Rasool, of buying the voters for NC.
The NC president, Omar Abdullah, denied the charges. He said on Saturday Sheikh Ghulam Rasool had invited some people for dinner including Ali Muhammad Sagar. “But when we heard that it is against the Election Commission guidelines, we called them back,” he said.
Omer acknowledged that there was less voting in the town. He said it was unfortunate but expected.

Friday, November 21, 2008

'Hum Kya Chahtay Azadi is people's slogan'

Srinagar, Nov 21: A petition has been filed in the High Court to challenge the authority of the State to detain Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) chairman Muhammad Yasin Malik for his political beliefs, saying the political belief of the detainee that final disposition of the state of Jammu and Kashmir is yet to be determined is widely accepted.
The petition filed by Amina Malik, sister of Muhammad Yasin Malik, has stated that she would demonstrate to the court that the detention of her brother is violation of natural justice, rule of law, Constitution and all norms.
The petition has been filed through senior counsel Z A Shah.
“The detention is violative of United Nation’s Charter and Resolutions besides International Covenants and Declaration of Human Rights,” the petition said.
Muhammad Yaseen Malik was detained on the orders of District Magistrate Srinagar on October 30 on the grounds that the detainee needs to be prevented “from acting in any manner prejudicial to the maintenance of security of the State.”
Malik was arrested in the evening of October 23 and kept in police station Sumbal under police remand and FIR 260/2008 was registered against them. However, before the expiry of 15 days, the District Magistrate passed detention order against him.
The petitioner describes the detention as illegal, unconstitutional and unwarranted. The petitioner states that the detaining authority has ordered the detention in sheer abuse of the powers vested in him under Public Safety Act, 1972.
The petitioner states that the grounds of detention do not justify detention orders. “The satisfaction assumed by the detaining authority as reflected in the grounds of detention is sham, illusory, unreasonable and based on alleged facts which are stale, irrelevant, unconstitutional, outside the purview of the Act, malafide and extraneous,” the petition said. 
Interestingly the petitioner has not been apologetic about the political beliefs of the detainee and said holding political belief different from that of the State is the birth right of every human being.
“The political belief of the detainee that final disposition of the state of Jammu and Kashmir is yet to be determined is a widely accepted belief but since the political belief of other political parties is closer to the state interests, law is used to prevent the detainee from propagating his political belief,” the petitioner said.
The petition states that the political belief of the detainee has roots in the very evolution of, what now constitutes, state of Jammu and Kashmir.
“There are powerful historical reasons supporting and recognizing the position that the final disposition of the state, in accordance with the aspirations of its people, is yet to take place. This historical position is recognized by the resolutions of the United Nations, Constitution of India, Constitution of Azad Kashmir and other agreements, covenants, discussions and representations made by the leaders of the sub-continent spread over last 61 years,” the petition said.
To the ‘allegation’ that Malik has become a “full time dedicated member of All Party Hurriyat Conference” the petitioner said that APHC have adopted a constitution which does not seem to have been even seen by the detaining authority. “The constitution makes it very clear that the ultimate choice of the final disposition of the state will vest in the people of the state. It is entirely for the people of the state to decide as to what they want, in the matter of accession of the state with any other country and or they don’t want any accession but would maintain their independence as it was prior to 27th October, 1947.”
The detainee is accused of trying to ‘liberate state of J&K from the Union of India by waging war through its armed organizations.’ To this, the petitioner submitted that firstly it is entirely for the people of the state to liberate itself and secondly JKLF as from 1994 has resorted to non-violent modes for propagating its political beliefs.
The detainee is accused of having visited Shopian on September 16, 2008. The petitioner said that slogans are raised by the people themselves and voluntarily. The slogan of “Hum Kya Chahtay Azadi” is the slogan of the people. “How can the detainee be detained on the basis of said slogan.”
The detainee is accused of having been jailed previously and travelling abroad and seeking cooperation of other sovereign governments in support of his political views.
“The detaining authority has gone off the track in taking note of the discussions and the response of other sovereign countries which discussions and response took place on the soil of those countries. It appears to the petitioner that the other countries which support the cause propagated by the detainee also find merit in his political views and demerit in the state policies and its political beliefs and the political beliefs supporting such policies,” the petitioner said, adding such an act on the part of sovereign countries cannot be questioned by the detaining authority.
The petition says it is a part of the belief of the detainee that a handful of politicians, whose job is to practice politics irrespective of the aspirations of the people, but purely on the strength of the state forces, cannot determine for the people or on behalf of the people their ought to be aspirations as against their actual aspirations closer to their heart. “The hartal and bandhs which the people observe are intended to convey to the whole world that the people are not with political belief of the state controlled by handful of politicians and that they show their obedience more to the people like the detainee than those who hold political power on the strength of the state forces,” the petitioner said. 
“The detaining authority in the grounds of detention leaves no space for the people who hold different political beliefs than the one followed by the state. In doing so, the detaining authority has based his satisfaction clearly on unconstitutional and misconceived grounds,” the petition reads