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

Monday, November 17, 2008

Elections in Kashmir

Different strokes 

Naseer A Ganai/ Mudasir Ali

Hajan (Sonawari), Nov 17: ‘God save our house,” was written atop a house in Sadderkote Bala here and the person who had written the words is dead. Shahid-ul-Islam, a 2nd year student was killed in pro-freedom protest in Hajan during pro-freedom uprising of August-September, 2008.
His brother and friends said they wouldn’t cast their votes. “I lost my brother, my relatives have been booked. Why should I vote and for whom should I vote,” said Shahid’s brother.
Barely 50 meters away from the house people were waiting in queues outside polling booth to cast their votes. Shahid was in their memory but they had other concerns, too. “I feel for Shahid but then voting has nothing to do with the cause for which Shahid sacrificed his life,” said a polling agent of the National Conference. He hoped good voter turnout.
The presiding officer said 198 votes have been polled out of 787 votes. It was at 12:30 p.m. “We are here to vote for a capable candidate who would work for the people,” said an elderly person. Even a handicapped person and elderly woman had come to cast the vote. “I have voted,” said Zona, 50 without disclosing for which candidate had she cast the vote. “The candidate who would win is my leader,” Zona added.
Large number of youth had assembled almost outside every polling booth in Hajan and Sonawari. And outside the 74 Anderkote polling booth at 9:15 am, a group of youth said they were against holding of elections in the Jammu and Kashmir. The presiding officer said 50 votes have been polled out of 1001. There were some pro-freedom slogans outside the booth, too, but it had no impact on the voting.“Any person who has to cast vote would exercise his right,” said Ghulam Muhammad Khanday, 56. A young man countered him. “Youth are for boycott and old people don’t know anything about the whole exercise.”

The argument of youth prevailed, at least for some time. At Kusambagh Hakbara 65 votes had been polled out of 710 at 10:30 am and at booth number 22 F Safapora Sonawari at 10:50 a.m, 109 votes had been polled at 11:45 a.m.

As he day proceeded division between youth and the age had ended. Ironically the youth had joined the poll process. At Pushwari at 1:15 p.m, there was fight between the NC workers and the PDP activists. The youth were carrying long sticks to beat each other. The NC candidate Muhammad Akbar Lone and PDP candidate Yasir Reshi were at the booth where EVM machine was damaged by the workers.

Lone sought re-polling in the area as he alleged that Reshi led his workers to destroy the machine after seeing brisk polling in favour of NC. But PDP workers alleged that NC had polled 342 votes out of 763 at 1:15 p.m after “capturing” the booth. And when the media persons tried to see the damage, the DSP concerned, Harmeet Singh told them “Go to some other booth till we clear the mess.” Bilal Ahmad Lone, Akbar Lone’s son said that police resorted to lathi-charge and injured many NC workers.

Raki Asham polling booth was tense at 3 p.m. Police resorted to lathicharge against women who were accusing that they are being denied their right to cast vote. Police led by DSP Sanjay refused to allow media to shot the police lathicharge. “You people sensationalize everything,” he argued.
At Naidkai, people were casting votes. “Voting is for roads and development,” they said. In Nesbal the situation was not different. At 3:20 p.m 509 votes had been polled out of 626.
At 11 a.m in Baharabad, Muhammad Ramzan had reached outside the pooling booth early morning, wearing worn out traditional cloak, Pheran and shoes. Ramzan sat under a tree some 20 meters outside polling booth. And every eye stopped at him.
The aged Ramzan was the father of Bashir Ahmad, who fell to bullets fired by police and CRPF on a pro-freedom procession only a month ago. “He (Ramzan) has come to see if people would vote,” Bashir Ahmad (name changed) told a nearby youth. “People are aware of everything. They are witness to everything what happened,” responded Ramzan in a broken voice after a brief silence.
A large number of youth and some elderly persons had assembled at the place and where discussing the problems faced by Ramzan after his son was killed. “Ramzan lost his breadwinner in the uprising. He is yet to reap his crop. And now he has to earn for the widow of his sons and orphaned grandchild, only two and a half years ago,” said Ashraf.
Inside the pooling both at 11 am, the presiding officer said only 22 votes have been polled out of 743 votes. But as the day proceeded, atmosphere had also changed. At 1 p.m
Ramzan has left the place and the presiding officer said 121 votes have been polled. The number had gone up to 192 at 3:40 p.m.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Guest Column

A long, long drive to hospital, in curfew

By Majid Maqbool 

My phone rings, around 3pm, on August 26th. “Your uncle had a heart attack. Come to SKIMS, Soura. He is in the emergency intensive cardiac care unit”, a voice hurriedly informs in a worrying tone. My first thought: I have to reach SKIMS, Soura as early as possible, somehow. And I have to tell this news to my parents in a calm, matured manner—and tell them that he is out of danger now although I know he isn’t. It’s a lie, I know that. But sometimes a lie is needed to convey a painful truth, especially when it is about your loved ones.
There is a problem: We can’t move out of our home. It is the third consecutive day of curfew. A strict curfew has been imposed in the entire valley to prevent people from coming out of their homes. Following many successful freedom marches wherein lakhs of people participated, the pro-freedom leaders had given a Lal Chwok chalo call. On 24th August people from all across the valley were expected to march to Lal Chowk. But the government came up with an antidote: A strict, indefinite curfew was imposed in the entire valley on 24th August to prevent people from marching towards Lal Chowk. From the morning, shoot at sight orders were in place in Srinagar. We come to know about it from Delhi based Indian news channels (the anchor said it so briefly, in a cold, casual manner). All local channels had been banned in the valley. And the local papers couldn’t be published. 
A curfew is different from a hartal. Moving out this time means: the soldier on the street will shout at first, then threaten with his bamboo stick, and finally—if you still keep moving, unheeded to his repeated shouts—bullets will come your way. But then, we had to move out anyhow, and try to reach the hospital. When a loved one is struggling for his life in the hospital, you can’t stay at home. Even when there is curfew outside. 

I leaf out a white page from an old, abandoned drawing book. EMERGENCY, I write in capital letters with a black sketch pen, and paste it on the front window of the car. This should help us with the soldiers outside, I tell myself. Outside, as we slowly, hesitantly drive our vehicle out on the road, an unmistakable curfew-silence rules the air. It’s palpable. One can hear the faintest of the noises in the air. A curfew silences the noise of everyday life on the streets, and instead, amplifies the silence, manifold. Except occasional army vehicles swiftly driving past us, the noise of our vehicle is the only thing breaking the enforced-silence of the curfew outside. My parents, accompanying me, are worried—about things ahead, and for the uncle in the hospital. And there is another cause of worry playing on our minds. We don’t have a curfew pass. And we know that can be fatal when you are moving out in a curfew. We know we will be asked for it by the gun wielding, bamboo stick holding soldiers patrolling everywhere on the streets. And that means, on our way to hospital, we will invite trouble in many forms: angry soldiers, shouts, threatening whistles, pointed guns, and, finally, bullets. A curfew-pass, my father tells me while we slowly drive on the deserted road, functions like an identity card during curfew. In fact a curfew pass is the identity card in curfew. If you don’t have it, you simply can’t move out; you better stay at home. But then we knew this, too: we had to move out this time even without a curfew pass- for my uncle who is in the hospital.
After driving a kilometer, near Sanat Nagar, some tense soldiers suddenly come in the middle of the road from the pavement where they were sitting till now. They come up to stop us, raising their bamboo sticks in the air, tightly holding on to their guns.
“Hay….kahan jana hai… curfew pass dikhav” (where are you going. Show us the curfew pass), shouts one of the soldier. 
Hospital, I say, thinking on hearing this word they will let us go. 
“Koan hai hospital main, patient kahan hai..”(Who’s in the hospital, where is the patient). The soldier searches for the patient in the car. But the patient is in the hospital.
“Patient hospital main hai.” The patient is in the hospital, I say
“Curfew pass kahan hai”. Where is your curfew pass, he again asks the question we dread the most.
Nahi hai..,(we don’t have it) I say the truth, emergency hai. 
“Police station say lain gay. Wahan tak janay deejyay”. We will get it form the police station down the road. Allow us to reach there, I say.
Despite all my explanations, and despite answering all of their questions, the soldiers are unrelenting, unmoved.
Yeh kis nay izazat diya (who allowed you to paste this), says one of the soldier, pointing to the EMERGENCY paper pasted on the front window of the car.
“Emergency hai, I explained, wahe likha hai (that’s what is written on it) 
Kud kaisay lagaya, kis nay ijazaat diya…han …(why did you write it yourself. Who gave you the permission…) His tone is increasingly becoming threatening. Seeing his anger rise, I keep quiet. Though, at that moment—for not allowing us to moving ahead despite all our explanations—I also felt anger rise inside me. But then, my anger was pointless: I couldn’t afford to show it. And unlike me, the soldier, besides his anger, had the gun. And I didn’t even have the curfew pass!
Without saying anything, the soldier turns his back towards our vehicle—the barricade intact, the soldiers unmoved to our repeated pleas.
“Wapas jav--go back, he orders from a distance. And then he looks the other way as if we are not there. But we stay there. We are silent. We can’t go back. We have to reach the hospital.
My mother pleads now, then my father—in front of the soldiers who are refusing to listen. I don’t want them to plead before these soldiers. Raham karo, hospital mae beemaar hai…( have mercy, our patient is serious in the hospital), my mother pleads. After repeated pleas of my parents, one of the soldiers, finally, tells his colleagues to let us go.
Janay do…let then go, he tells his fellow soldiers. lakin yahan say wapas nahi ana. But don’t come back from this side, he tells us.
We move on, thankful to this momentary sympathy of an occasionally sympathetic soldier on a curfewed day.
After covering some two kilometers, again, we are stopped. The same questions from the soldiers; the same answers from our side. And the same unconcerned, unmoved soldiers. And then, in the middle of all this uncertainty, a bearded Kashmir policeman appears from nowhere on the scene, and listens to us. 
He lets us move ahead, somehow prevailing on the soldiers around. The soldiers don’t like his intervention. We like it very much. 
The policeman tells us in Kashmiri that he is not sure if they will allow us to go beyond Rambagh. But you can try, he says. We drive on; we have no other choice. 
We stop near Barzullah, to see if we can get a curfew pass from the police station. Inside, three police officers, sitting in a dimly lit room of the police station, are attending tense calls from the policemen out on the streets. They also answer frequent calls of their higher officers. We wait for them to take notice of us. They are not authorized to give us a curfew pass, a police officer informs us on asking. Only DC’s office can issue it, he says. That is a long distance away from here, we think, and on the way there are far too many soldiers, far too many barricades to stop us from reaching the hospital. To be on the safer side, we request them to give us some authority slip with a police station stamp. They write something on a piece of paper, put a police station stamp, and hand it over to us. But they are not sure if it will help us with the soldiers outside; neither are we. 
You can take it but it doesn’t work with the soldiers down the road, a policeman frankly says. One police officer rues the fact that CRPF on the roads outside is not even listening to them, although they should, he says. They are supposed to follow and work under our rules but you see in Kashmir things are different, he says in helplessness. “I had an argument with the CRPF officer on the use of force by his men yesterday in Rambagh,” he further informs. “The area comes under our jurisdiction but they are terrorizing and beating up people at will,” he adds as we come out of the police station on the deserted road.
‘Don’t worry, we have something now, this should help us’, my father tells me while we drive away from the police station, towards Rambagh. And as we near the Rambagh bridge, again—as one policeman had earlier said—we are stopped. The same questions follow by a different set of soldiers. And as we feared, they dismiss the police station slip we were carrying. Nearby, an CRPF officer looks on disdainfully. One of the soldiers takes away the police station slip from us, and walks up to this CRPF officer to show him the slip. To our surprise, without moving from his position and after closely scrutinizing it, the CRPF officer tells his men to let us go. And then the same expected warning follows: don’t come back from this side, the officer shouts from a distance. Yes sir, I say and we drive on, relieved.
Finally, we reach the DC’s office to get that life saving piece of paper: a curfew pass. After waiting anxiously for a while in a long queue, we get it—a white paper; an official curfew pass. VALID FOR CURFEW PERIOD” is printed on it in black capital letters. The possession of curfew pass felt as if a life saving drug was handled over to us. 
We drive on from the DCs office, towards SKIMS, Soura. We are stopped at many places, asked for the curfew pass, and we confidently show it to them from the window of the car. They would let us move ahead after closely scrutinizing it for a while.

Near Eidgah, we had to stop our vehicle. Something has happened down the road. There is tension in the air. Some noises come out from the houses nearby. The soldiers, carrying bamboo sticks in their hands, are all angry, all worked up, shouting. Some distance away, we can see a load carrier driver and a boy surrounded by the soldiers. They are shouting at him; he is showing them some paper. With a paper in one hand, the man is pleading before them to let him go. The soldiers ask him to come out of the load carrier. And then, without listening to any of his explanations, they start beating him with their long bamboo sticks. We are watching this from a distance, from inside our car. Alternately, every soldier hits one blow, on his legs, without respite. And every time a blow comes down on his legs, he bends a little, and tries to receive the blows on his hands. But the blows still come down on his legs. He winces in pain. He pleads. I could hear the sound of every blow—that sound when the wood strikes the human flesh and bone—as it came down on the legs of this middle aged man. He kept pleading before the soldiers, and showing them that piece of paper. But the blows kept coming.
The young boy accompanying him—probably his son—stood still and kept watching this spectacle from near the load carrier. He was silent, shocked, terrified. But he did not cry. Tears formed in his eyes but did not fall. He kept staring at the soldiers who were beating his father. How does it feel like seeing your father getting beaten in front of you? And how does it feel like when you can’t do anything about it, I asked myself. Safe, and from a distance, perhaps I could only imagine how it feels like. But the boy knows it. He saw it. It happened before his eyes. The boy kept looking at his humiliated, bruised father with disbelief. Suddenly a woman raised her voice a bit; she was watching this beating from the window of her house nearby. The soldiers got angry on this, and hurled some unmentionable abuses in the direction of that house. I will come to your home and break your bones if you don’t keep quiet, threatened one of the soldier, raising his bamboo stick towards that window. 
After the beating, and after some abuses when the load carrier driver was finally let off by the soldiers, he ran to his vehicle, limping. He was struggling to start his load carrier. The terrified boy came out of the driver’s seat to enable his father to kick start it. The soldiers got angry on this and shouted at the boy, pushing him around, asking him to run away. The boy shouted back this time, “don’t you see he can’t start the vehicle”. And when his father was finally able to start the load carrier, I could see the boy, shocked out of his innocence, kept looking at his father. His father was silent though. He did not look at his son. They just drove away. 
Now it was our turn. 
The same soldiers came up to our vehicle and asked for the curfew pass. I had kept it ready in my hand, unfolded. I hand it over to them all the while fearing that they will ask us to come out of the vehicle now. But they closely looked at the curfew pass, one by one, searched our vehicle suspiciously, and then we were allowed to move ahead. I thought the load carrier driver who was beaten up, instead of a compulsory curfew pass, was showing the soldiers some other paper or a police slip. But that doesn’t work in curfew. But does that explain the beating?
Finally, after a long drive—It seemed a long, long drive—we reached SKIMS. Ahead of my parents, I rushed to the intensive cardiac care unit where my uncle—amidst a mesh of wires and life saving machines attached to his body—lay pale and weak on the bed, breathing with an oxygen mask. Some young doctors were constantly monitoring his condition. My mother placed a hand on his forehead; my father stood nearby. I took a young doctor aside, and asked him: how is his condition now? Is he out of danger? He smiled, and said: “you should thank god, your uncle is lucky to have reached hospital in time. Many such patients died on the way to hospital. Because of curfew, they couldn’t reach the hospital on time.”

I thanked the doctors, sat near my uncle, and looking at the even crests and troughs signifying normal heartbeat on the ECG monitor, I said a silent prayer.

(To read more pieces from the writer, log on to

Solve Kashmir, Save Afghanistan


The West has more takers in Kashmir than in any other part of the Muslim world. Naseer A Ganai comments on the real challenges ahead for the pro-freedom leadership.

The US President-elect Barak Obama statement that the United States should probably try to facilitate a better understanding between Pakistan and India and try to resolve the Kashmir crisis so that they (Pakistan) can stay focused not on India, but on the situation with those militants in Afghanistan, has surprised both Indian diplomats and politicians. They were not the only surprised lot though. In Kashmir also no one expected that such a statement could come from the presidential candidate days ahead of elections. But it evoked a positive response, and the pro-freedom leadership described it as a welcome development. 
The very idea of American intervention in any other Muslim conflict in the world evokes nothing except contempt. But Kashmir presents a total contrast. People here would shout pro-freedom slogans, pro-Islam slogans, and carry green flags, and then call for the US or the Western intervention to resolve the dispute. The West and the US has more takers in Kashmir than any other part of the Muslim world. It seems people in Kashmir genuinely believe that it is only the Western countries or the United States that could resolve Kashmir dispute and resolve it for the betterment of the people. That is why the statement from the US presidential candidate caused a sort of euphoria in Kashmir and separatist pro-freedom leadership welcomed the statement and hoped for the US intervention on Kashmir dispute. In fact, on the day Obama won the elections, the hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani said that the US should keep Kashmir on priority.
But why should the United States give priority to Kashmir? Even if you may dismiss this off hand, Kashmir continues to be a major dispute between India and Pakistan. The separatists it seems are right when they argue talks, dialogue, backdoor parlays between the two countries have failed so far to resolve Kashmir issue. And Kashmir itself is on the boil again. So far 70 unarmed protesters demanding freedom have been killed since June this year. There is anger on the streets and anger among the young and the old of Kashmir. The State brush aside million marches of unarmed protesters in Kashmir in July and August this year. The State can’t take refuge in the elections and describe them as referendum. The argument is not even supported by the pro-India parties. In his first meeting with his workers, the mainstream National Conference party president Omer Abdullah said the elections for the State Assembly has nothing to do with the resolution of Kashmir dispute. He said the elections for the State Assembly in Jammu and Kashmir were for governance. He even said if the pro-freedom leaders promise him that they can construct schools and roads, he would not participate in the elections. It indicates that there is an urge for the solution of Kashmir dispute among all sections of Kashmir, and the world has to respond to this non-violent urge now. The solution to Kashmir dispute would secure peace for strategically vital area of Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan Administered Kashmir. But if left unattended, any development in Afghanistan could affect Kashmir. Kashmir dispute has the potential to escalate into a bigger conflict. 1999 Kargil war between Indian and Pakistan could be cited as an example of what Kashmir dispute can do. 
Present times are most appropriate for the resolution of Kashmir dispute. These are times when everyone in Kashmir has hope. Hope that something, some solution, is in the offing. This hope should not fade away once again. If this happens, it could be most dangerous—for Kashmir, and for the world. Today, despite anger, there is hope. And if this hope fades away and Taliban takes over Afghanistan, then no one can save Kashmir. 

Tussle for future Kashmir: 
Last month two important developments took place. First: the pro-freedom Peoples Conference Chairman Sajjad Gani Lone announced his election boycott, saying his party would take out long marches across the Valley to urge people to boycott the polls. Besides this, the Peoples Democratic Party accused the National Conference of hurting the interests of majority Muslims in Jammu and Kashmir. It said it would fight for the rights of Muslims of Jammu and Kashmir.
Sajjad’s boycott call is significant in many respects. It seems there is realization among young separatist leaders that there is space for them in Kashmir. But then realization only would not do anything good for them in these times when people know everything about the leaders. 
Moreover, the day Syed Ali Shah Geelani would not be in the scene, the scenario in Kashmir would be far different from today. It remains to be seen whether any of the young separatist leader could be able to fill the void, which would be created after Geelani.
Like Sheikh Abdullah, Geelani would continue to influence Kashmir polity for generations together. But unlike Sheikh, Geelani’s influence would be far different and far wide. Sheikh succumbed. But Geelani symbolizes resistance. Geelani rose to the present position by dint of his conviction. He practiced whatever he believed in. And above all, people believe him, and trust him. They trust him even though he recently committed a faux pass of describing himself as the only leader of Kashmir. 
In this respect, Sajjad Gani Lone’s call for poll boycott and march on the Election Day, subsequently endorsed by Mirwaiz and Coordination committee as well, is a serious attempt by young separatist leaders to come to fore and make people believe that they could deliver even after Geelani. 
The Peoples Democratic Party, it seems, has also an eye on the situation. The State Government’s active support to the Sangrash Samithi in Jammu agitation has polarized the State completely. The PDP understands it better than anyone. PDP raised the slogan of majority victim-hood at the hands of minority and called for an end to the minority appeasement. And one should know that there is over 75 percent Muslim population in the State. PDP president Mehbooba Mufti, while releasing the party manifesto in Kashmir, said that the PDP has nothing to do with the secularism as practiced by the National Conference. And shortly after releasing the manifesto, the PDP president went to Muslim dominated areas of Jammu including Rajouri and Poonch. Imagine the affect of the PDP’s polity in the State where Muslim representation in the Government services is decreasing with every passing day. Imagine its effects in the State, where despite having 75 percent population, Muslim don’t figure anywhere at the top decision making level in police and civil services. 
But whatever the reason, the battle has begun. The Peoples Conference of Sajjad Lone and the PDP are fighting to fill the vacuum.
But can the young separatist leaders do it. That remains to be seen. PDP continues to be the real challenge to the separatists. Unlike the National Conference, PDP deftly plays both games of being in mainstream and at the same time close to the separatists. The PDP slogan of Muslim Kashmir, first uttered by Sajjad Lone in recent years, has many takers in the State. Muslims, who after recent agitation by Sangarsh Samithi, feel besieged and would not ignore the slogans of the PDP: That the majority is facing discrimination, their genuine interests are not being respected. That the local officers have no place in the administration. And that the Muslim character is missing in the administration. 
Unlike NC, which apparently seems more concerned about power, PDP is responsive to the situations on the ground. And here is the real challenge for the separatists or pro-freedom leadership.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

America in Kosovo and Kashmir

Should we confine a historical issue like Kashmir to elections alone, comments Naseer A Ganai.

Asif Zardari is a politician by chance. Had Benazir’s tragic assassination not taken place, he would have been a non-entity in Pakistan politics. But changing situation brought him before “devil’s advocate” where Zardari agreed to sacrifice Kashmir for Indo-Pak friendship. The statement was not liked by cross section of people in Jammu and Kashmir except Abdul Gani Vakil, Minister for Social Welfare. 
 Vakil Sahib these days speaks a lot about South Asian affairs though he was the chief minister had assigned him job to speak on social welfare and related affairs. But he is adamant. He few days ago claimed that Musharaff ruled out independence in Pugwash conference. Three years ago Vakil, while addressing people at Congress headquarters in Srinagar, had claimed that Kashmir has entered into accession with Nehru-Gandhi family not with the Government of India. The welcome by Vakil has not in anyway lowered the importance of Zardari’s statement. Recently an analyst described it as move by the Pakistan not to negotiate with India presently when it is facing problems on so many fronts.
 Ostensibly the argument has some weight but let it be presumed that Pakistan really wants to keep Kashmir on backburner for time being and improve its relations with India, what are options left with the Kashmiris who for the last sixty years have been seeking resolution of Kashmir. 
Is there a need for strategy? 
 There is. Even if India and Pakistan agree on keeping Kashmir in cold storage, the very nature of the dispute would not allow them and Kashmiri leadership should not allow them. The geo-political changes, Afghan war, increase influence of China in Pakistan Administered Kashmir and above all international dimension of the issue would always make Kashmir as one of the major conflicts of the world. It is this nature of the dispute, which the pro-freedom leadership or those who have sympathy with Kashmir or Kashmir cause have to exploit. 
 Historically Kashmir could be cursed placed but geographically it is blessed. It is close to China, Afghanistan and both China and United States of America ostensibly should have substantial interest in it. That is why the China is investing in Pakistan Administered Kashmir and Americans are showing interest in investment in this Kashmir. Here is the role of Kashmiri leadership and its intellectuals if there are any.
 They have to make the world community understand the consequences of Kashmir issue being unresolved. They must be made to understand that Kashmir is not only an issue between India and Pakistan alone. It is a Muslim political issue and it should be viewed as such. In this backdrop the political leadership should also give serious thought to recent support of the United States to the Kosovo and the report of the American State Department ‘Country Reports on Human Rights Practices -2007’ released in March, which has highlighted in detail how the “troops indulge in fake encounter killings, custodial disappearances, rapes and other rights abuses across the conflict-ridden state of Jammu and Kashmir.” The report carried by some newspapers here has perhaps first time pointed out several issues faced by the people of Jammu and Kashmir. It has mentioned “extra -judicial killings, disappearances, and torture and rape by police and other security forces” as major problem. In addition, the report says under the (Jammu and Kashmir) Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) of 1990, no “prosecution, suit, or other legal proceeding shall be instituted against any person in respect of anything done or purported to be done in exercise of the powers of the act,” without the approval of the central government. 
 The detailed mention of Kashmir and human rights issue in the report has to be viewed and debated in Kashmir. It is to be seen whether US sees Kashmir as place where it could act as it did in Kosovo to achieve its strategic objectives and to gain confidence in the Muslim world. No doubt there is consensus among the parties including those fighting for the right to self-determination of the people that Kashmir is a Muslim political issue, it has to broadly explained. 
 If the leadership views that they see United States has rule they should see where United States fit in the scheme of things especially after the declaration of independence by Kosovo. 

 Elections in the State of Jammu and Kashmir of late have been turned into an issue of popularity among people by those who in 90s when the mass revolt broke out in Kashmir deemed it wise to be outside the State. No doubt it is an issue but not a crucial one. With Jama’at-e-Islami deciding once and for all that they won’t go for election boycott but at the same time making it clear that the elections or the state assembly won’t change the nature of Kashmir dispute, other parties too should make their position clear. Or they would be challenged by non-entities like Saif-Din-Soz. 
 This debate should end and the pro-freedom parties have prominent role to play in ending the debate forever. They have to be categorical in their response and have to tell all those who consider assembly and the elections as litmus test for popularity among the people what is the state assembly for and what has been its relevance. What about those who been in assembly and what are their views about the assembly and the special status of Jammu and Kashmir?
 The National Conference senior leaders including Abdul Rahim Rather is on record saying how New Delhi eroded special status of the Jammu and Kashmir over the years. With or without assembly New Delhi would not give an inch to any leader who prefer to take a route of assembly and history is witness to it. From Sheikh Abdullah to Farooq Abdullah, to Mufti Sayeed what New Delhi has given to them though they have given every inch to New Delhi.
 Sheikh-Indira Gandhi accord didn’t give Sheikh back an autonomy. Farooq Abdullah’s autonomy resolution was not even considered by New Delhi. This assembly and its “elected” representatives have no courage to pass a simple resolution seeking revocation of the armed forces special powers act. In fact legal experts here argue that state government could have easily revoked the AFSPA but they have failed to do it because they fear NewDelhi would not like it. The assembly has failed to pass the permanent (residents) disqualification bill after New Delhi objected to it. Interestingly in one of the debates Muzaffer Hussain Baig, Deputy Chief Minister ridiculed the argument that Kashmiris have ever ruled Kashmir. “We have been always at the beck and call of New Delhi,” he said. And it is this assembly where pro-freedom leadership is being invited to dance on the tones of New Delhi by those who are at the beck and call of New Delhi.
 The silence is no answer to offer. The silence breeds confusion. In the broader strategy the leadership has to clear that they are not, if they believe in it, with the elections and then they could cite hundreds of example of irrelevance of the assembly and the elections in context of Kashmir issue. Kashmir issue should not be confined to unnecessary debates of elections or assembly.