Monday, September 29, 2008
I was fond of her since my childhood. Hardly I missed a day when I didn’t embrace her. Early in the morning I would rush to see her. She was always quiet, beautiful, and I was unlike her. I was impatient, impulsive and above all fond of her. Her calmness and cleanliness was adding to her beauty and within minutes I would see myself putting off my clothes and embracing her and losing myself in her calmness. It would give me joy. The joy, I cannot express in words. After remaining with her for half an hour, I would be back to home. Feeling fresh and energetic, I would do my schoolwork within minutes, polishing my shoe and rush to Islamia Model High School. The School was in our village in Old Barzulla hardly 2 kms from Lal Chowk, city centre of Srinagar.
The recess time was lunchtime for every body in the school. After having my lunch, I used to give slip to my friends to have a look at her. She was my obsession and after school hours, I would again found myself at Doodganga Bund looking at her. And within seconds I would be immersed in her. For hours together this romance of ours would continue.
But I should say, that too sadly I was not only person who was in love with her. There were many others who were fond of her. She had even consumed so many youth. Some were handsome guys. And in their prime, the bewitching beauty had them in full.
She didn’t spare even three-year-old children. She consumed so many of them. Still, she was the favorite of all. Her body, her curves, her cleanliness were enough to turn men irrespective of their age, insane. I have seen aged people taking dip in her. The aged, were more fond of her. They had long association with her. They were narrating anecdotes of so many people who had been in love with her. Besides, someone has said, “past to old people is like a meadow, which never faces autumn.” So they would sit near her and discussing affairs of Barzulla.
But things took ugly turn and parents would not allow their children to have rendezvous with her. But still children would rush to have a feel of her waters. It was always refreshing to see children taking dip in her waters.
I had notion, she would never turn old. She will always remain young, she will always attract lovers. I had a notion that unlike others she is different. She will always inspire people to have a long look at her. Seeing her was seeing beautiful model on the ramp.
From school I went to higher secondary. But I didn’t find any change in her. She was all there to welcome me. But I found discernable change in my friends, who were showing reluctance in meeting her. I was ridiculing them. Hiding from my parents I was rushing to have a dip in her, to swim on her waters.
Soon I joined the college, but I didn’t forget her. I didn’t even change my routine. But now meeting her was becoming sort of anathema. Now it would be my friends who were ridiculing me. ‘She is so dirty, she stinks and still you go and take dip in her waters,” admonished my friends. Such comments about my beloved, who always opened her arms for me, hurt me but I couldn’t do anything. Now I entered the University and I would see her complexion changed little bit. But for my friends, who were already calling her ugly, had now new names for her. “sewerage and drainage.” And some were so brazen that they were calling her garbage dump.
Still I would make myself believe that she was still fresh and juicy.
I had loved her body and the soul. I didn’t desert her in worst times. It was not blind love. She had taught me best things in my life. She taught me how to be patient. How to tolerate people who don’t deserve to be tolerated. I cherish those moments when I was with my friends spending hours together with her. Those days, when life was friends and friends were life.
So I continued my meetings with her. But now they become secret meetings. Secret, because no one had liking for her anymore. If anyone would see me taking dip in her waters, he would reprimand me. And elders would give long sermons. That its’ water is dirty, you might catch diseases and so on and so forth. Soon we changed residence and with it, it became impossible for me to meet her.
But few days ago when I went to Old Barzulla and stared at her from a bridge, which was recently construed by residents themselves, I was shocked to see her.
The bridge too had long history. In past ten years I might have been hundred times on this bridge discussing frivolous things. Discussing with my friends, their girl-friends, their habits, our life, our past and our future.
But from this bridge when I looked at my beloved Doodganga river, she was really looking ugly. She was just stinking. It was hard for me to see her for long. She had really lost her prime. She was old haggard. She had no attraction for anyone. She was really a garbage dump.
My heart sunk seeing her condition. Like in past when I was in school, her mere sight was so forceful that within seconds I was putting off my clothes and I was immersed in her. But now her sight so ugly, I wish I could not have seen it. Instead of beautiful faces of children, dogs where doings rounds around her. Carcasses were flowing on her water. And on its bunds cow-dung was omnipresent.
I thought in ten years what happened to her. Then I reached to conclusion her lovers were not her lovers. They were just after her when she was fresh and clean but when she was polluted by people they did nothing. They just watched like mute spectators. She was robbed of her beauty, her curves were occupied, her beautiful bunds were encroached, and she was filled with drainage, garbage and sewerage.
I was so frustrated that I wanted to runaway. But before I could do so, she told me why are you so indifferent. Her melancholic voice surprised me. “They not only robbed me of my beauty but people assaulted me. You are indifferent because I am not even a shadow of my past. I am not responsible for it. But you and others never cared about me. You had your fill and then left me.” I had no answer and didn’t put off my clothes to have dip in river Doodganga.
Srinagar, September 29: Masooda Parveen of Chandhara Pampore had no interest in legal matters. She would hear about cases and courts only when her husband Advocate Ghulam Mohi-ud-Din Rigoo used to talk with his clients. But husband’s killing changed Masooda. Now for the past 10 years she has been fighting for justice in the Supreme Court of India.
Unlike other people who preferred silence and compromise when their dear ones were killed in Kashmir, Masooda Parveen decided to fight back.
“I fear none. My husband was everything to me and I will not spare those who played part in his brutal murder,” she says.
On February 1, 1998, her husband, a member of High Court Bar Association, was taken away from his house by an Army Major accompanied by two government gunmen. That time Regoo’s two sisters were also present in the house.
“Three days later on February 3 police handed over his body to us. It was mutilated,” she says.
Horrified by the killing of her husband, she along with thousands of people marched towards Pampore, some three kms from Chandhara, carrying the body of Rigoo. In Pampore, she says, the then National Conference leader Mushtaq Ahmad Kochay, the then DC Masood Samoon and the then SP Mushtaq Sadiq assured her that those involved would be brought to book. Then some two weeks later when she visited Kochay, the NC leader was in no mood to listen. “He rebuffed me,” she says.
“I am a simple Kashmiri woman whose husband has been killed and then blown up,” says Masooda. “I thought I should visit Farooq Abdullah but then I realized I won’t be helped here by anyone,” she adds.
Rightly judging that New Delhi is the power centre, she decided to approach ministers and the Supreme Court of India. “I had never ventured out in this manner. But then I was a victim and Almighty God was there to help me,” she says.
She wrote a number of applications to the ministers and the Supreme Court of India. And the Apex Court entertained one.
In her petition she said, “On February 1, 1998 some surrendered militants along with a unit of the Army (17 Jat) reached my home in Chandhara at about 8.30 p.m. and searched the house but found nothing incriminating therein. But the army and government gunmen took my husband to the Lethapora Army Camp, the Headquarters of 17 Jat, and tortured him mercilessly leading to his death. Then explosives were tied to his body and detonated to camouflage the murder.”
She pleaded in her petition that on the morning after the incident, body of her husband was handed over to the police and was thereafter subjected to a very casual and cursory post mortem examination.
For nine years she pursued her case vigorously. “I have been helped in Delhi by lawyers, by strangers who were moved by my story. I tell them I hate India but not its people,” she says.
In the Supreme Court the accused Major D.S. Punia filed his reply. “On the basis of intelligence provided to the Battalion, a patrol party from the Lethapora Army Camp had searched Regoo’s house at about 8.30 p.m. on 2nd February, 1998. Thereafter he been taken to the camp and interrogated on which he revealed that he was a Pakistani trained militant… he had offered to lead a patrol to a hideout. A patrol was deputed to move to the hideout accompanied by Regoo. He stopped the patrol 50 meters short of the hideout. After ensuring that he was not in a position to escape, Regoo was released with a direction to go forward. When he tried to create an opening, an explosion resulted leading to his death at about 2.30 a.m. on 3rd February, 1998,” the Major’s affidavit said.
On May 2, 2007 the Division Bench of the Supreme Court dismissed Masooda’s petition saying, “We have the army and police record pertaining to the incident which clearly shows that Regoo was indeed a militant and that the circumstances leading to his death were as put on record by the respondents. We thus find no merit in the petition. It is accordingly dismissed with no order as to costs.”
She filed a review petition but that too was dismissed.
Peoples Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR), a civil liberties organization based in Delhi, published a report analyzing the judgment, its implications for the struggle for justice and self-determination of the people of J&K.
In one of its observations it says, “In a recent judgment the Supreme Court of India, in the case of Masooda Parveen versus Union of India, rejected a writ petition under Articles 32 (Right to Constitutional Remedies) and 21 (Protection of life and personal liberty) filed by the wife of one Ghulam Mohi-ud-Din Rigoo who died in Army custody, on the ground that the deceased was a militant. In the teeth of an admission that the death took place in Army custody, numerous contradictions and inconsistencies in the state version of events that led up to the death, compounded by the loss of the original file containing the inquest report and documents, the Supreme Court chose to believe the assertion of the State that the deceased was a militant and his death was accidental.”
The Supreme Court’s judgment shocked Masooda. “It hurts,” she says.
But she has not lost hope. She says she would continue her battle till justice is given to her. Living in a rented house in Pampore, Masooda says every evening when she looks back the past horrifies her. “The brutal killing of my husband and how I have fought. But at the same time I want to continue my fight for larger interest of my people. Like me there are hundreds of people who have faced what I have gone through. But we have to fight back and resist. If we don’t raise our voice then this will go on,” she says.
Sunday, September 28, 2008
Srinagar, September 27: The Election Commission of India’s revision of the electoral rolls in Jammu and Kashmir has put the sex ratio in the state as 938 which is improvement to 2001 census number of 892.
But the state government had no faith in the figures. In 2006 it carried out a survey to see veracity of the figures involving the Medical and Health Education Department and Planning and Development Department.
The state government instead of saying that it has no faith in census figures had said: “It is an open secret that the Census 2001 was conducted under trying conditions with various limitations as the field conditions were not favorable to the desired level. It was therefore, felt that the precision of Census 2001 on sex ratio be further improved so that it could be used with more confidence and increased scope.”
In 2006 the survey on the sex ratio was conducted in all 14 districts of the state and door to door survey was conducted in 550 samples villages spread over 40 CD blocks and 31 urban wards of the state.
Sources said that the sex-ratio figure was later worked out as 925 which was described by the state government as “more realistic and definitely shows improvement as compared to Census 2001.” The highest sex ratio was found in Ladakh region at 944, followed by Kashmir division at 939 and Jammu division at 901.
Now the revision of the electoral rolls has shown further improvement in the sex ratio. The senior officials of Electoral Office here say that this time they have gone for extensive survey and the ratio is accurate to a large extent.
In Kupwara, sex ratio as per latest revision of the electoral rolls is 917.16. The Census 2001 had put the sex ratio as 906 in the district.
In contrast to Kupwara, erstwhile Varmul district has sex ratio 928.51. The number is an improvement to the Census 2001 ratio of 903. In the erstwhile Srinagar district the sex ratio is 928.17 which is far better than 851 of 2001 Census.
The Budgam district has sex ratio 931 as compare to 930 of Census 2001.
The over all sex-ration in erstwhile Pulwama is 931 as compare to 945 of Census 2001. In Islamabad district the revision has put the ratio as 931.10 as compared to 922 of Census 2001. The Leh district of Kashmir division has sex ratio 977 as compared to 823 of Census 2001. The Kargil district has highest sex ratio in the state with females numbering more than males. The district has 1014.88 sex ratio as compared to 837 of 2001 Census.
The erstwhile Jammu district too has shown marked improvement in the sex ratio from 868 of Census 2001 to 976.58 in the revision of the electoral rolls. The erstwhile Kathua district has sex ratio in electoral rolls as 915 as compared to 901 of 2001 Census. The erstwhile Udhampur district has 908 over all sex ratio which is great improvement to 860 figure put forth by 2001 Census. In erstwhile Doda the ratio is 932 as compared to 903 of 2001 Census.
Moo! Moo! Oh ye white men in blue camouflage uniforms and caps, hearken to my bootless cries once. Unlike Kashmiris I am not a habitué of this place and never before have I come knocking at your door, seeking, what is that damned word, yes, the intervention. Kashmiris often seek the intercession of Saints in earthly and divine affairs. A boy with a single digit IQ would often pray for 100 percent score in algebra. And to ensure the wish is granted he would tie a votive thread on the grille of a Shrine’s window. It doesn’t therefore come to me as a surprise when they come to you, raise heavens with ancient slogans, and wait for you to come out of that blue and white Tudor Mansion wearing that deadpan, “neutral” expression on your fresh faces. In the mundane affairs, too, they seek intercession of politicians and officials thrust upon them. And funnily, or tragically, they complain against the treacheries of the same politicians and officials in the reams of memorandums you have received so far. Poor Kashmiris! Caught in a situation where even the most glaring contradictions fit perfectly like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. What else can they do? Oppression can alter human personalities so radically that astute Freudians would go nuts fathoming them. Ask David Devadas the journalist who has written a book about the puzzling ambiguities in the nature of Kashmiri personality, and still figuring out what a Kashmiri is.
In this part of the world, however, the line between the humans and beasts has melted away. Two years back Indian troops set ablaze twenty houses in a village called Behrampura, Pattan, during an encounter with two supposed militants. Instead of militants, the bullet riddled body of a stout, smart, but a loony local man was found in the fields. Not far from him, half a dozen of my specie died of either bullet wounds, or were burnt alive in their sheds, for in the instinctive flight for safety the freedom-seeking people often lock us inside sheds, unmindful of the fact that we too might need to escape when bullets start raining. The carcasses of my fellows were lifted and given a burial. Ironically the troops who worship us, and whose co-religionists sell our Urine as medicine, and burn humans if we are slaughtered, became the cause of our death. While lamenting the state of the affairs of Kashmiris and my specie, I shouldn’t become blind to the fact that dozens of chickens and a couple of sheep also died in Behrampora encounter. And who knows how many of our creepy-crawly brethren. Hundreds of us have died in such encounters and our cowsheds razed along with the houses of our human masters. The local news agencies, thankfully, don’t leave the casualties of our species and our razed cowsheds out of their bulletins. In fact our deaths get special mention: the death of humans is boringly routine. So you see Kashmir dispute affects everyone. I am not seeking parity with humans, who, according to one Shakespeare are the crown of all creation. What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason! How infinite in faculty, and so on. Puh! Words, words. Ask any Kashmiri what a piece of work a man can be if he is the man in a uniform, an automatic rifle or a bamboo stick in hand, and with Roman powers to rule.
I am content with being a cow. My specie doesn’t form a league of nations where you can have two sets of values for two nations and where fate of an oppressed six million people can’t be even discussed, though a plebiscite was promised them sixty years back.
Rummaging through a heap of garbage, looking for something to eat, I stumbled upon a newspaper report concerning your stay here, in Sonwar Mansion, with a Sufi Saint’s Shrine just across the road, and the entire power structure within earshot, on the slopes of Gupkar. The report says the Indians contend that UN mission in Kashmir is no longer necessary after the UN backed Line of Control was set up in 1972. The report further says many people question if the $ 17 million dollar budget for the mission is not out of this world particularly when the job is restricted to receiving memos once in a blue moon, and even rarer, a trip to the LoC to monitor violations of the ceasefire. I don’t think the two armies care two pence about the violations. They need to fire at each other regularly if the cricket matches are not being played. What is going to sustain the hostility so essential to the existence of the two nations? They also need to fire at each other to announce their claim over the piece of land in between. The question, however, remains. Why doesn’t Indians pack you off? Omar Abdullah, who lives not far from your Mansion, has the answer.
He says that when it comes to the U.N. mission in Kashmir, India is in a bind. It does not want the peacekeepers there, but it will not petition the U.N. Security Council to end to their mandate.
At least on this count Indians are truly on the horns of a dilemma. “I think the government of India has taken the view that it would probably be more troublesome to get rid of them than to just have them here sitting, doing nothing. Getting rid of them would require another discussion in the United Nations and the government of India does not want that. Because then it opens up the whole question of Kashmir and a discussion of Kashmir in the United Nations again,” said the junior Abdullah whose legendary grandfather once fought for 23 years for that elusive plebiscite whose keys are supposed to be lying with you. The movement was named Mahaz-e-Rai Shumari, the Front for Plebiscite. The world plebiscite is so ingrained in the political consciousness of Kashmiris that linguists might be in the process of including it in Kashmiri dictionary. They already have patented their own pronunciation of the world. It is Pel-bi-sit, with an emphasis on the last syllable, probably because they have sat in crackdown search operations, torture rooms, prisons, roadside roundups, sit-down protests, public rallies, and army camps.
In the Indian dilemma there is, however, a silver lining: you are going to stay. Now Kashmiris can conveniently pass on the ritual of handing in memos to the future generations. In the digitised world the new generations might come up with innovative ways of reminding you about the promised plebiscite, like, for example, ride on our backs carrying huge LCD monitors flashing WE WANT FREEDOM, our lowing providing the requisite percussion. Or worse, they would slaughter a couple of us in front of your gate, let the carcasses rot, and the stench waft over the blue Iron Gate, drifting along the corridors of the Mansion into your bedrooms, and irritate your sensitive nostrils. You never know where despair can lead. Boo boo. Sorry. Moo Moo. Moo.
Friday, September 26, 2008
‘FIRST STEP TOWARDS KASHMIR’S ECONOMIC INDEPENDENCE’
Naseer A Ganai
Srinagar, September 26: Hurriyat Conference chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq today welcomed the initiative of New Delhi and Islamabad to allow LoC trade from October 21, describing it as first step towards economic freedom of Kashmir.However, Mirwaiz said trade with AJK had to be like any other province of the state of Jammu and Kashmir and assured people that the day was not far away when Kashmiris would trample this bloody line (Line of Control between AJK and Jammu and Kashmir).
Addressing thousands of people at the Jamia Masjid here, Mirwaiz said Kashmiris had given countless sacrifices since 1947 for their right to self-determination, and Kashmir Day was being observed today in Doda, Kishtiwar, Rajouri, Poonch, Kargil and other parts of Kashmir to pay homage to those who have sacrificed their lives for the cause. He said this day ‘we pledge to continue the struggle.’
Mirwaiz said that India had realized that it cannot subdue Kashmiris through “brute violence” and there is a section in India which has started advocating Kashmir cause in its right perspective. Mirwaiz however described the present situation as crucial one and said far great responsibilities lie on everyone not to let this movement go away this time. “One mistake at this juncture would push us thousands of years away from our goal,” Mirwaiz said asking people to remain on guard against elements trying hard to break the Hurriyat, break the unity and divide the movement on sectarian lines.
Spelling out the vision of economic liberation, Mirwaiz said Kashmir was being discussed in international forums these days and the accord between Islamabad and New Delhi to allow trade from October 21 was announcement of first win of indefatigable struggle of Kashmiris. Mirwaiz described the opening of the road for trade as great leap forward and said the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad road would serve as permanent route not an alternative route.
He said, “In present era of globalization, concept of borderless world has emerged in different parts of the world. In Europe and other regions people move across freely and trade with each other without any hassle. Why can’t this happen here,” Mirwaiz said. Let the vehicles and trucks move across, he added.
He said the recent economic blockade of Kashmir by communalists should serve as eye opener to all Kashmiris. He said before the partition Kashmir was self-reliant but today the situation was totally different. He said under design Kashmiris were made dependent for even small things. “So time has come when we should move forward towards the economic as well as political freedom,” he said.
DIALOGUE PROCESS AND ELECTIONS
Referring to meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the president Asif Ali Zardari in New York, Mirwaiz said India and Pakistan have taken steps but they have to take more steps and should approach the problem with sincerity and speed. He said India and Pakistan have to speed up the dialogue process. Both the countries, he said, have to initiate dialogue with Kashmiris as well. The peace process, Mirwaiz said should be taken to its logical end by holding talks with pro-freedom leadership for resolution of Kashmir dispute. Mirwaiz said Hurriyat Conference would give all support to the process for resolution of Kashmir dispute. He said India should not resort to short-term policies of economic packages presuming they would solve the issue. He said economic packages were not solution to Kashmir dispute.
He said Kashmiris were not against India, saying Kashmiris welcome India’s economic growth. “We have no problems with the growth and development of India,” he said. Pakistan, he said, was also signing the agreement with China. But he said both countries should understand they have responsibilities as well. He however said peace was only pre-condition for the development and growth in the region and the peace would not come in the region unless Kashmir dispute was resolved. He said no peace would come in Jammu and Kashmir either, unless you resolve the Kashmir issue. Mirwaiz said ‘we have rejected elections in past as we believe that elections would not resolve Kashmir dispute. That is why we want solution of Kashmir dispute, not elections.’
Mirwaiz said Kashmiris were not terrorists and fundamentalists. He said during movement against the diversion of land to the Amarnath Shrine Board not a single yatri (pilgrim) was touched. Still the BJP and the Bajrang Dal tried to communalize issue, Mirwaiz said adding Kashmiris believe in co-existence but it should not be viewed our weakness. “Present struggle was not against any sect or any group as being portrayed by some communalists of India.”
He said Kashmiris were bombed, killed and targeted through teargas shells but they didn’t make the situation communal. He condemned the invoking of Public Safety Act against pro-freedom people of Poonch, Rajouri, Doda and Kishtwar.
He said arrests and other tactics couldn’t browbeat people of Jammu and Kashmir and condemned the arrests of leaders in past one month and booked under PSA. He demanded immediate and unconditional release of Shabir Ahmad Shah, Muhammad Ashraf Sehrai, Aasiya Andrabi and others.
KASHMIR DAY, PALESTINE DAY
Later Mirwaiz Umar participated in Kashmir Day and Palestine day programme. The programme was organised after Friday prayers. The day is being observed to make international community aware about its responsibility towards resolving Kashmir and Palestine issues.
Speaking on the occasion, Nayeem Ahmad Khan paid rich tributes to martyrs. He said the people’s movement would not be cowed down by arrests and repression. In his fiery speech he said some elements were trying to break the unity of Hurriyat and the Coordination Committee. He asked people to remain on guard against such elements. He said people should follow the programmes of the Coordination Committee. He said the movement was in crucial juncture and the leadership was fully aware about its responsibilities. Nayeem said that no one would be allowed to create differences in the Hurriyat or the Coordination.
Thursday, September 25, 2008
Sex ratio in State’s 2006 survey: 925
Naseer A Ganai
Srinagar, Oct 10, 2007: The State government’s survey on sex-ratio is negating Census figures of 2001 which had presented a grim scenario of sex ratio in the State forcing some National NGOs to raise the issue at different forums.
The 2001 Census had recorded the population of Jammu and Kashmir 101.43 lakhs with over all sex ratio 892 while as the figure was 933 at all India level. The sex-ratio figures of census department were used by the various NGOs to castigate the State government and it was asked to take concrete steps to improve the ratio by stopping female feticide. But the state government had no faith in the figures. So last year it carried out a survey to see veracity of the figures involving the Medical and Health Education Department and Planning and Development Department.
The State government instead of saying that it has no faith in census figures, said: “It is an open secret that the Census 2001 was conducted under trying conditions with various limitations as the field conditions were not favorable to the desired level. It was therefore, felt that the precision of census 2001 on sex ratio be further improved so that it could be used with more confidence and increased scope.”
In 2006 the survey on the sex ratio was conducted in all 14 districts of the State covering 6.72 lakh and door to door survey was conducted in 550 samples villages spread over 40 CD blocks and 31 urban wards of the State.
Sources said that the sex-ratio figure was later worked out as 925 which was described by the State government as “more realistic and definitely shows improvement as compared to Census 2001.” The highest sex ratio was found in Ladakh region as 944, followed by Kashmir division as 939 and Jammu division as 901.
Region Rural Urban Combined
Ladakh 940 974 944
Kashmir 938 945 939
Jammu 901 896 901
Rural-Urban Sex Ratio region-wise in 2006 survey
The survey shows that the highest sex ratio 961 is in district Pulwama and lowest is in district Jammu i.e 878. Jammu, Udampur and Rajouri have lowest sex ratio with 878, 894, 894 respectively. In highest number of villages were covered in district Kathua, 67 followed by it in Pulwama 62 and 25 in Leh.
Sources said that during the survey it was found that the population of some villages, which the census department had shown higher, was interestingly found far less. And in some villages where the population was shown less was found higher. “The difference in the survey and the census figures of 2001 was shocking,” sources said.
Monday, September 22, 2008
Revised Electoral Rolls Say It All
NASEER A GANAI
Srinagar, September 21: The recent revision of electoral rolls in Jammu and Kashmir have revealed that Kashmir valley had more voter population than the other regions of the state giving a set back to the crusaders of delimitation in Jammu, particularly the BJP and the Panthers Party. They have been asking for fresh delimitation on the misconceived notion that Jammu division had more voter population than Kashmir Valley.
Kashmir Valley has more voter population than any other region in the state despite a large number of people in Srinagar and other towns and villages not coming forward to register themselves with the Election Commission.
As per the recent revision carried out by the Election Commission of India in January-February this year, voter population of the Valley is 32,60,663. It shows total electors in Kupwara as 3,41,004, in Varmul (Varmul+Bandipore) 7,04,284, Srinagar (Srinagar+Ganderbal) 6,94,760, Budgam 3,83,914, Pulwama (Pulwama+Shopian) 4,32,434 and in Islamabad (Islamabad+Kulgam) 7,04,264.
Sources said for past some years people in the Valley are showing interest in getting themselves registered with the Election Commission primarily for getting voter identity cards. The card is considered to be most genuine identity document after passport.
However, some officers while pleading anonymity told Greater Kashmir that Srinagar district is not showing any interest in the exercise. “In Srinagar district particularly in downtown city people are not showing any interest to fill forms necessary for getting themselves registered in the electoral rolls,” said an officer. He said people at times rebuke them.
Sources said Tawheedabad and Shamsabad sector-5 in Bemina area of the city are among many localities which do not figure in the electoral rolls of 2008 in their entirety.
The booth officers say towns like Sopur, Varmul, Shopian are also showing reluctance in the exercise.
The Kashmir Valley had more electors as well according to 2006 revision. The revision shows total electors in Kupwara as 3,35,196, erstwhile Varmul 6,79,673, erstwhile Srinagar 6,77,690, Budgam 3,63,315, erstwhile Pulwama 4,21,843, erstwhile Islamabad 6,78,173. The total electoral population of the Valley as per 2006 revision was 31,55,890. Sources said if the Valley shows interest in completing the formalities its voter population would be far higher than what it is presently.
In Leh and Kargil districts of Ladakh the number of electors as per 2008 revision is 1,52,513 with Leh having 74,396 electors and Kargil 78,117. As per 2006 revision total electors in Ladakh were 1,45,085 with Leh having 69,654 and Kargil 75,440 electors.
In Jammu division, electors as per 2008 revision are 30,84,417. In erstwhile district Doda the number is 4,58,621, Rajouri 3,53,457, Poonch 2,59,580, erstwhile Udhampur 4,93,694, Kathua 4,02,747, erstwhile Jammu 11,16,318. According to 2006 revision the total electors in Jammu division were 29,88,876.
The officials in the chief electoral office, while pleading anonymity, say the revision of electoral rolls is a continuous process. They said if some localities or some people have failed to register themselves despite being eligible they should come forward.
Sources said the special revision conducted by the ECI has deleted 2,40,825 voters, added 4.48 lakh voters across the state. This revision has reportedly deleted about 94,000 voters in Jammu district who had registered themselves twice or thrice, sources said. Sources said there was growing realization among people, particularly in Jammu, that false voters could be detrimental to their interests.
The Chief Electoral Officer, B.R Sharma, when contacted, said lack of awareness among people creates problem. “People migrate from rural areas to city or one part of the city to another and construct houses there. But they don’t inform authorities about it and consequently their names figure at different places,” he said, adding this year intensive revision was done and those whose name was figuring at two or more places or those who have died have been deleted both in Jammu and Kashmir divisions. He described revision as a continuous process and said names figuring twice can be deleted any time.
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Srinagar, Sep 15: Kashmiris are anti-nationals if they directly trade with Indian companies, their nationalist credentials are proved only if they do the same through Jammu! At least the Jammu traders believe so.
Frustrated by the efforts of Kashmir based pharmaceutical distributors to get medicines directly from other Indian states in the wake of recent economic blockade, the pharma associates of Jammu have warned Indian and Multi-national pharma companies of stern action in case they directly supply medicines to the Valley.
In a memo to all pharma companies, under the heading “Follow the ethics or face action,” the honorary secretary of Jammu and Kashmir Pharma Associates, Rakesh Gupta writes, “Any organization attempting to disturb the existing distribution system in the state of Jammu and Kashmir after requests/threats from some anti-national Kashmir based associations, shall face non-cooperation from Jammu as also from rest of India.”
“It may be not out of place to mention that if any complaint is received by our association, every possible and impossible action shall be initiated against the defaulting companies not only through the different associations throughout our country but also the political parties. We warn the companies that our action against such defaulting anti-national company shall be so intense that will lead them to extinction,” the memo states.
Gupta has the cheek to contradict the letter of the divisional commissioner Kashmir to All India Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association regarding shortage of medicine in Kashmir valley following the economic blockade. The divisional commissioner, Kashmir, (vide his letter DivCom/PRO/Misc dated August 5, 2008) had given information to the Pharma companies about the shortage of medicine in the Valley.
Gupta says in threatening tone that “the divisional commissioner (Kashmir) should have understood the basic fact that the route to the Valley from any part of the country is through Jammu province only.” Gupta, in a letter to principal secretary to JK Governor, B.B Vyas, wants him to communicate to the divisional commissioner (Kashmir) to desist from issuing such letters in future “without ascertaining the facts to avoid chaos.”
Pertinently, the Valley faced acute shortage of medicine, baby food during past two months following the economic blockade imposed by Sangarsh Samiti and supported by Jammu traders. Even anti-rabies vaccine was not reportedly available leading to death of at least three patients.
The pharmacists of the Valley have termed the memo as “blackmail.” “First the pharmaceutical distributors of Jammu openly supported the extremist organizations which enforced economic blockade, including supply of medicines to the Valley. The Jammu pharmaceutical distributors seem to be frustrated as we have finalized the modalities with outside pharma companies to supply medicines directly to the Valley,” said general secretary of the Srinagar Chemists and Distributors Association, Arshad Hussain.
“We have seen patients dying for want of life-saving medicines. If Jammu pharma distributors think that they can force us to start trade with them, they are mistaken. We will sacrifice our business for respect and sanctity,” he added.
Hussain said the Indian and multi-national pharma companies are ready to supply medicines to the Valley without any formalities or conditions. He said Kashmir has the largest market for medicines equal to 70 per cent of the total state trade.
“If we do trade directly with Delhi, we are dubbed as anti-nationals. But if we do trade with Delhi pharma companies via Jammu dealers we are not anti-nationals. This is sheer hypocrisy,” Hussain added.
The president of Kashmir Medical Representatives Association, Abdul Qayoom said, “The management of our pharma companies at the behest of Jammu medical distributors and some extremist political parties, are threatening to transfer us outside the state if we extend support to the Valley pharmacists.”
Meanwhile, the Jammu-based JK Pharma Association (JKPA) has informed its dealers in Jammu to go for non-cooperation with Lupin Laboratories in Jammu from September 15. Lupin Laboratories was first to directly go for trade with Kashmir distributors without involving the Jammu middlemen.
Gupta has asked the Lupin Laboratories to give written apology within three days “or else non-cooperation would be extended to the company throughout India for its anti-national character by various associations and political parties.”
The JKPA has asked all the companies “to make it crystal clear to their Valley based field staff, stockists, super stockists that the distribution set-up shall never be changed by anti-national threats.” It has asked the companies to intimate this to the JK Pharma Association within three days. In case of failure all companies have been threatened of non-cooperation in Jammu.
Monday, September 15, 2008
In 5 yrs 2700 detained under PSA, no law reviewed
Naseer A Ganai
Srinagar, April 23, 2008: Contrary to common minimum programme claims of reviewing all cases of detainees and operation of “draconian” laws, the coalition government has detained over 2700 people under public safety act and has not reviewed any law.
The coalition government after coming to power in 2002 had claimed that Government would review all cases of detainees being held without trial for long periods. The CMP had said that it would release all detainees held on non specific charges, those not charged with serious crimes and those who have been held on charges that are such that the period they have spent in jail exceeds their possible sentence.”
The Government had also assured that it would “review the operation of all such laws that have been used in the past decade to deprive people of their basic rights to life and liberty for long periods of time, without due legal process. Where the Government dreams that some special powers need to be retained, it will ensure, by instituting careful and transparent pre-screening and monitoring procedures, that such powers are used sparingly and those entrusted with them are held accountable for any misuse.”
But the figures suggest otherwise. Sources said alone under the Public Safety Act the government has detained nearly 2700 persons from 2002 to 2006. Sources said till April 23, 2008, 361 cases of public safety act have been instituted in the High Court’s Srinagar wing since January 1, 2008. In 2006, 607 cases of habeas corpus have been instituted in the High Court at Srinagar.
“The government has not released any person. In fact it has detained far higher number of the people under PSA and other laws than what it claims and it has not reviewed any act in past six years,” says former High Court Bar Association president and senior counsel Mian Abdul Qayoom.
He said the detainees were languishing in jails and the government did nothing to release them.” “Instead its agencies rearrested detainees just outside the jails released by the Courts,” he said. He said the people who were booked under TADA were still suffering.” They claim they have not implemented POTA. But what about TADA and what about those charged under it,” he said.
The HCBA president Nazir Ahmad Ronga said whosoever has been released during these years they have been released by the Courts not by the State government. “The government claim that it shall review the cases of detainees being held without trial, is in fact an open admission by the State that it is doing it,” Ronga said. He said in detention matters all the orders passed by the authorities have been quashed by the High Court on merits after hearing advocates appearing on both sides.
Ronga says the government has not reviewed any law. “There is enemy agents ordinance, prevention of sabotages act, pubic safety act and above all armed forces (Jammu and Kashmir) special powers act and none of these draconian laws have been reviewed,” Ronga said. He said even though the operation of AFSPA was illegal in according to Apex Court ruling, 300 cases were pending for prosecution against troops for want of sanction from the government of India.
Noted human rights activist Pervez Imroz has different take on the issue. “There are laws and unwritten laws and what are prevalent in Jammu and Kashmir are unwritten laws,” he said. Elaborating, he said, there was no doubt that AFSPA was draconian law but even under it a arrested person has to be handed over to police. “This practice was never followed here,” he said. He cited detention and release and re-arrest under PSA as classic example of punishment of executive and unwritten law. He says when a Court releases a PSA detainee he is being re-arrested outside the jail or in Court premises by the agencies. Imroz however said it was not question PDP and Congress only. “The National Conference too came up with similar promises and did nothing,” he said. He said even NC rule the detainees booked under PSA were far higher. “Public memory is not so short as perceived by politicians here whether they are from NC or PDP,” he said.
Sunday, September 14, 2008
BJP, Congress, PP party to 2002 constitutional amendment
Naseer A Ganai
Srinagar, September 13: The BJP and the Panthers Party, which are demanding delimitation in Jammu and Kashmir, had supported the constitutional amendments brought by the National Conference government in 2002 halting the exercise till 2006.
Presently, Jammu has 37, Ladakh four and Kashmir 46 seats in the 87-member assembly. Two more seats are reserved for nominated members. Incidentally, the total strength of the lower house has been fixed at 111 which include 24 seats for Pakistan-administered Kashmir. The BJP had only one seat compared to Panthers Party’s four seats in the assembly before its dissolution on July 7 this year.
Constitutionally, the delimitation can’t be taken up in the state without an amendment in the state constitution and the Peoples Representation Act. In April 2002, the National Conference government had brought a bill to halt the delimitation process till 2026. The amendment says that the delimitation can be undertaken only after 2026 census.
Interestingly, the bill was passed unanimously and the governor gave his assent on April 23, 2002. The BJP had five members in the assembly and Panthers Party one at that time. “They didn’t raise any voice against the bill and allowed it to pass unanimously. That means they were supporting the bill,” said senior NC leader and former minister, Abdul Rahim Rather. The amendment was brought in section 47, sub section 3 with its proviso saying explicitly it shall not be necessary to readjust the seats till 2026. The amendment has been brought into the Peoples Representation Act as well which governs the election process in the state.
Rather said if any government wanted delimitation, it had to bring in a constitution amendment bill and in case it was not passed, the government had to resign. He said the governor had no powers under section 92 to bring in the amendment.
Last year, the former chief minister, Ghulam Nabi Azad, had convened a meeting of all parties to seek consensus for delimitation. He had reportedly said that his government could go for delimitation by an executive order. However, he was reminded that he had to bring in a constitution amendment bill for the purpose.
However, some other politicians argued these demands were coming from areas and districts already enjoying the “administrative empowerment” and giving them more seats in the assembly would “dis-empower Kashmiris in particular, and Muslims in general, from a little political empowerment they have in the Muslim majority state of Jammu and Kashmir.”
The veracity of the population figures reflected in the censuses in the past has also been questioned. “Even as the population of Kashmir valley is decidedly higher, the figures reflected in various censuses are far less than what these actually are,” the PDP general secretary, Nizamudin Bhat, said, adding “we totally dismiss Jammu’s claims that it has outnumbered the valley. By claiming they have higher population, an attempt is being made to change the character of state subjects.”
Senior politicians of both Peoples Democratic Party and National Conference said Kashmir had more population than Jammu and, in case of geographical areas, Pir Panchal region has three times more area than Jammu, Kathua and Samba districts put together. “If area and backwardness is the criterion for more seats, then why don’t politicians of these two and a half districts (erstwhile) support the Chenab Valley Hill Development Council for Pir Panchal region,” said a senior NC leader adding, “the communalists of Jammu have raised such unconstitutional demands in the past as a blackmailing tactics to suppress the genuine demands of the people of the state.”
Analysts argue that delimitation is not done on the basis of voter population but on various factors, including the overall population of the area. Section 47 (1) of the state constitution says, “the legislative assembly shall consist of (one hundred and eleven) members chosen by direct election from territorial constituencies in the state. And its section (2) says “for the purpose of sub-section (i) the state shall be divided into single member territorial constituencies by such authority and in such manner as the legislature may by law determine.”
They also argue that if the criterion of larger area were taken into consideration, then the erstwhile Doda district has larger area than that of the rest of Jammu region. On that plea, the erstwhile Doda district should get more seats. Moreover, the delimitation has taken place in the state in accordance with the delimitation commission report constituted during president’s rule. It has not taken place in several other state of India since 1950 when the constitution of India came into force
Monday, September 1, 2008
However, to present just one instance, the attacks continued the next day, confirming our suspicion that the attacks are carried out by design. Journalists have faced irrational demands from CRPF personnel manning the streets like "you are not carrying a curfew pass for your camera." Such instances could tell volumes.
For reference, a list of journalists attacked by security forces personnel is attached. It is demanded that the process of intimidation of journalists is stopped to enable press to carry out its professional duties.
July 05 - Raashid Wani of Sahara Samay was severely beaten by CRPF at near Jinab Sahib Shrine in Soura. The cameraman spent three days in the hospital.
August, 12 - Bashir Ahmad lone -CNN-IBN cameraman's car was fired at near Lasjan. Raashid Wani was also beaten up in the incident. PRO CRPF later exclaimed that he wonders why the guy is beaten up every time.
August, 13 - Javaid Ahmad Mir- Killed by a bullet from security forces near Bagh-e-Mehtab. He worked as a cameraman with a local cable TV channel.
August 19 - Photojournalist, Amman Farooq, of Greater Kashmir was beaten up and his arm broken by CRPF at Bypass near Qamarwari. His arm was broken.
August, 22 - Muzamil Rashid of IBN 7 was shooting at Habba Kadal when CRPF opened fire on protestors and then tried to snatch his camera. He ran away but was severely thrashed. Sheikh Umar of News 24 was also injured in the same incident.
August 24 - Bilal Bhat, Sahara Samay correspondent along with his team members stopped by CRPF at Rambagh. Even though he had a curfew pass, he was thrashed. Sustained a fracture in his rib. Team members- Jan Mohammad, Rashid Mir, Muzzaffar.
August, 24 - S. Fayaz of UNI was stopped near SMHS hospital. ``When I showed my curfew pass, the CRPF men said it is not valid anymore,'' he said. ``I turned my bike to go back but they started hitting him''.
August 24 - AFP photographer Touseef Mustafa was sent back from Lal Chowk even though he had a curfew pass. The CRPF asked him for Curfew pass of his camera and lens.
August, 24 - Jehangir Aziz of ETV and Khalid Hussain of IBN7 were beaten by CRPF near Rambagh.
August, 24 - Manoj Koul of ETV was also thrashed near Zero Bridge. He had called DIG operations, CRPF M P Nathanael, who told him that the previous curfew passes would be valid. But as he reached near old zero bridge, CRPF men thrashed him.
August 24 - Amin War of Tribune, Firdous Ahmad of News-X and Amin Bhat of NDTV were stopped near Bakshi stadium by the CRPF. The CRPF asked them to stuff their curfew passes back in their pockets and beat them up. ``The CRPF men told us that today, we will do whatever we want. No one can stop us,'' Amin War told The Indian Express.
August 25 - CRPF men patrolling the Tehsil Road in Baramulla smashed the front and back lights of the car of Mir Ehsan, correspondent Indian Express. "They had already smashed my car when they asked for the curfew pass. I had to run away to save myself."
August 24 – Umar Ganaie, a photojournalist of daily Kashmir Monitor, was thrashed by a Superintendent of Kashmir Police in SMHS hospital. The photojournalist tried to show his curfew pass but the SP tore it apart. He was also beaten up by CRPF outside when a police officer asked them to beat him.
August, 24 - The local news papers were not allowed to distribute their copies. Greater Kashmir staff came under assault when Zahoor Ahmad, Mohd. Iqbal, Ghulam Mohammad were stopped early morning at Rambagh and beaten up by CRPF men while they were carrying copies for distribution.
Later in the afternoon, CRPF men thrashed three other employees of Greater Kashmir, Bashir Ahmad Dar, Mohammad Rafiq Margay and Farooq Ahmad Mir were going to their editor's place with curfew passes.
In the evening, Majid Hyderi of Greater Kashmir was intimidated at Hyderpora after CRPF men checked his I-Card and curfew pass. "They abused me and did not allow me go to office," Majid said.
Rising Kashmir staff also came under assault at several places on the same day. Farooq Ahmad of distribution section of Rising Kashmir and the newspaper's system administrator, Rahil, were beaten at Batamaloo while the two were carrying newspapers for distribution.
August 25 - Asif Qureshi of Star News was stopped at Hyderpora by CRPF and beaten up. His car was also smashed while he was coming back from Airport.
August 28 - The Correspondent of Hindu in Kashmir, Shujaat Bukhari's home at Rawalpora, Srinagar was raided by security forces as they were looking for separatist leaders.
August 29 - Hakeem Irfan, Rising Kashmir correspondent, was beaten at Rainawari. "Press wale ho, isi liye maar padi (You were beaten only because you are a journalist," Irfan was told.
August 29 - The news editor of Daily Etalaat, Ishfaq Tantray was stopped near Radio Kashmir in Srinagar and beaten up. He was beaten up. "aap log hungama karte ho (you people are responsible for the problems)".
Others thrashed by CRPF
Syed Muzzaffar - Srinagar Times.
Mukhtar Ahmad - Srinagar Mail.
The mob attacks:
On August 13, the Srinagar Bureau Chief of Aaj Tak, Ashraf Wani was injured and his camera broken this morning when angry crowd attacked him inside the SMHS hospital, Srinagar.
An NDTV cameraman, Amir Bhat was also injured when people attacked his vehicle at SKIMS on August 13.
The correspondent of Daily News Analysis (DNA) Ishfaq-ul-Hassan was thrashed by people near Karan Nagar. He had earlier been stopped by police and was asked to give lift to one of their men. When people saw him carrying a policeman with him, they stopped him and started beating him.
(Issued jointly by Srinagar based journalists)
Srinagar (Kashmir) August 31: There is no media in Kashmir for past seven days. The local newspapers are closed. The local news channels are showing directions of the deputy commissioner Srinagar running across the black screen. It says: “The Deputy Commissioner Srinagar has ordered the local news channels to close down current affairs and news bulletins.” The New Delhi based news channels too are off the air. The cable news network owners have decided to hit back at the government refusing to telecast any news channel through their networks. Journalists are scared to come out, particularly, the journalists working with local news organizations. The government imposed the curfew on night of August 23, 2008 in all ten districts of Kashmir valley and since then journalists are accusing the government of “clamp down” newspapers and local TV channels by not allowing journalists to move around. Several journalists including Srinagar based bureau chief of respectable Delhi based news channel has been beaten up by security personnel.
“In past 20 years we have seen worst times but the newspapers and the media was not so brazenly gagged up,” said an editorial of largest circulating local Urdu newspaper Kashmir Uzma when it resumed the publication after seven days on August 31. “This is emergency. Even in emergency there are some rights. We don’t have any,” said Rashid Shahid Executive Editor of largest circulating English daily Greater Kashmir.
The government move came days after three huge successful rallies organized by separatists seeking freedom from India. The government didn’t allow the fourth rally scheduled to be held on August 25, 2008. It imposed curfew in Kashmir ordering troops to shoot anyone who defies the curfew. Since August 25, eight persons have been reportedly killed in various parts of the valley for what government says defying the curfew orders. But there is no authentic information about these killings due to closing down of the media.
The trouble started in June this year when the Congress led coalition government transferred some 39 hectares of land to Hindu Shrine in Sonamarg area, some 70 kms from Srinagar. A Muslim family discovers the shrine and it was considered to be an example of communal harmony. However the government in 2000 enacted Shrine Board act giving authority to the Board to look after the shrine and pilgrimage. Since 2004, the Board has remained constantly in news for allegedly violating established norms, seeking more and more land for the Board and increasing the duration of pilgrimage from 15 days to 2 months. The State government objected to increasing pilgrimage period. But the Shrine Board rejected the government objections. In 2004 an official of the State government had transferred huge chunk of land to the Board without the government approval.
The demand for the 39 hectares of land was pending before the government which finally government diverted on May 20, 2006. However the State government fearing reaction kept the decision under carpet till it was leaked to press by the then Governor S.K Sinha who by virtue his position was also chairman of the Shrine Board.
Kashmiris objected to the transfer arguing it would pave a way for settlements in the area and has potential to alter the demographic character of the only Muslim majority State of India. In 2006 Kashmiris had agitated leasing out of land to outside State industrialists in Gulmarg area on the same grounds. The Board had in 2004 taken huge chunk of land in South Kashmir.
Moreover under the State subject laws the Government cannot transfer land to non-State subjects or organization or body manned by non-State subjects. The nine members of the Shrine Board were all non-State subjects.
Following massive agitation in which seven Kashmiris lost their lives and the Peoples Democratic Party withdrew support from the government, the Congress government revoked the order on July 4 2008. However government fell on July 9, when it failed to secure number in the State legislative assembly following the withdrawal of the support by the Peoples Democratic Party. The Governor’s rule was imposed in the State.
Subsequently things calm down in Jammu and Kashmir. However after July 25, people in Jammu launched massive agitation asking government to restore the earlier order. Jammu, Kathua district, which are 300 kms from valley, have majority Hindu population.
The People Democratic Party president Mehooba Mufti accused BJP, the largest opposition party in India, of bringing the activists of hardliner Hindu groups to Jammu and attacking Muslims in general and Kashmiris truck drivers who were taking produce outside the State in particular.
The Jammu agitators blocked Srinagar-Jammu highway, only link between Kashmir valley and rest of India and imposed what they termed “economic blockade” on Kashmir.
Kashmiri separatist leaders describe Jammu agitation as motivated. “The Jammu agitation has no logic. The pilgrimage to shrine is going on smoothly. Jammu people, who don’t sent two persons to pilgrimage has no right to agitate the matter,” says separatist leader Sajjad Gani Lone. The pro-India National Conference president Omer Abdullah defended the agitation of Kashmiris in Indian Parliament and said Kashmiris wouldn’t give land to anyone. He described the agitation as assertion of Kashmiri nationalism and said, “Kashmiris didn’t attack any Hindu, and neither attack any temple. It was agitation against the government decision,” he said.
Mehbooba Mufti, another pro-India leader accused Jammu agitators of throwing petrol bombs on truck drivers. Many truck drivers were attacked by mobs in Jammu. One truck driver who was seriously injured died in All India Institute of Medical Sciences.
The economic blockade and attacks on truck drivers’ shocked traders in Kashmir. Moreover, shortage medicine, baby food, other essentials created atmosphere of siege in the valley. The Action Aid asked Government that it would provide the medicine. The government reportedly refused the offer saying it has enough stocks ostensibly to avoid embarrassment. However the government claims had no takers in Kashmir. Instead of clearing Srinagar –Jammu-Punjab highway the government launched massive campaign to contradict the economic blockade. But the campaign boomeranged as attacks on truck drivers by Jammu mobs continued.
Forced by economic blockade, on August 11, Kashmiris in lakhs marched towards Muzafferabad, demanding opening of Srinagar-Muzafferabad road for trade and movement of the people. The road is closed since 1947. The Hurriyat had supported the march. The Hurriyat leader Sheikh Aziz was leading the march to Muzafferabad. Security forces fired upon the rally at Chahal in Uri sector some 30 kms away from the Line of Actual Control dividing Pakistan Administered Kashmir and Indian Administered Kashmir. Sheikh Aziz along with five others was killed. In next two days security forces killed 30 Kashmiris and injured 500 others when people launched agitation against the killing and demanding freedom. But massive use of force didn’t yield desired result.
Undeterred by the killings, the Hurriyat gave call asking people to march Pampore to pay tributes to Sheikh. Near about 5 lakh people participated in the Pampore march but Hurriyat described the number far higher than that. In Pampore rally the Hurriyat called upon people to march to United Nations Militarily Observers Group in Sonwar.
The people responded and on August 18, hundreds of memorandums were handed over to UNMOG officers asking the world body to settle the Kashmir dispute in accordance with the wishes of people of Kashmir. One million people participated in the UN march.
On Friday August 22, 2008 streets of Srinagar were again filled with people who were shouting pro-freedom slogans and marching towards Eidgah ground. Police sources said five lakh people participated in the Eidgah march while as independent observers put the number over a million. Buoyed by the response of people to their calls, the pro-freedom leadership in Kashmir had called for another March to Lal Chowk on August 25.
The government announced curfew on the night of August 24, 2004. And next day no one was allowed to move on the road not even the media persons. The government picked up several separatist leaders including Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Syed Ali Shah Geelani.
Some of the separatist leaders have been booked under Public Safety Act. A person booked under the act is kept in preventive custody for two years without trial. The Government sources say that near about 18000 people have been booked under the act in past 20 years. However the High Court Bar Association puts the number to 50,000. “I think 50,000 people have been booked under the act since 1989 when armed insurgency broke out in Kashmir,” says Mian Abdul Qayoom, former president High Court Bar Association. Human rights activists in Kashmir describe the PSA as most abused act.
The media persons who came out on August 24 morning to do their professional duties were thrashed and beaten by the Indian security forces. Bilal Bhat, Sahara, Bureau Chief of Shahra news was beaten severely when he was on way to his office. Later he was admitted in the hospital. He said though he showed his identity card to the security forces, he was dragged and beaten up.
The drivers who early in the morning were carrying newspapers in their vehicles for distribution were beaten up and forced not to distribute the papers. And as the day passed by news about the newsmen started pouring in from different places of valley. The curfew passes were not honored; the movement of media persons was restricted. The correspondents, reporters, staff members of local newspapers realized what government is upto. “The government has passed unwritten instructions to security forces not allow correspondents and local staff to reach their office,” said an Internet edition of a paper quoting top sources. First time in 20 years the government made conditions for the newspapers such that it become impossible for media persons to reach their respective office. For past one week valley papers remained closed. “The operation to muzzle the voice of press was smooth and successful. The government without announcing the ban on the press banned it,” said a senior editor.
In the meantime, the Government reportedly passed an order banning local cable news channels from airing news and current affairs programme. They were accused of “fuelling the tension.” The government didn’t explain what it meant of “fuelling the tension.” As the days passed there were reports of killings from different areas and the official media was given its only officials version of the civilian killings.
Some doctors at the Government Medical College started blogs disseminating information about the injured persons brought to the hospital from different quarters. That was only authentic news from the ground zero.
Interestingly, the government, which had clamped down on Kashmir media, had no problem with Pakistani news channels including Geo TV, PTV, Waqat TV. The PTV is official news channel of Pakistan and is often being accused by Indian government of distorting facts while reporting incidents in Kashmir. Ironically the Pakistani news channels were not telecasting any news about Kashmir. Moreover the South Asian Free Media Association and other such groups didn’t issue any statement about the media situation in Kashmir. “It was criminal silence of the organization that claims working for objective and free media in South Asia,” wrote the Rising Kashmir in one of its reports when the paper published on August 31, after six days of forced break.
Many observers in Kashmir believe that the Government of India and the State Government were perturbed by huge pro-freedom rallies and ,marchs in Kashmir. They say this prompted the government to sabotage another rally on August 25 in the Lal Chowk, which is in the heart of Srinagar city. The separatists had selected the venue deliberately. Six decades ago India’ first Prime Minister J.L Nehru had promised plebiscite to Kashmiris while addressing to them from Lal Chowk along with Jammu and Kashmir’s first prime minister Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah. It seems government was not sure that curfew, which PDP president described as worst than any Martial Law, could be successful in containing the people. It erected barricades around the Lal Chowk and imposed unprecedented curfew in which even a pregnant woman, who was expecting baby was beaten up and thrashed by paramilitary forces when she was on her way to hospital.
(AUTHOR IS senior CORRESPONDENT WITH GREATER KASHMIR)