New Delhi, Jun 4: Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Tuesday held a high-level meeting on the current security situation in Jammu and Kashmir valley and on the Amarnath Yatra. The meeting comes just three days after he took charge as the union minister.
It was Shah’s second meeting surrounding Kashmir in consecutive days pointing towards the heightened interest the new Home Minister is showing towards the valley.
With a catalogue of review meetings, Shah has many crucial things on his agenda including redrawing the long pending delimitation of constituencies in Jammu and Kashmir, news agency IANS reported.
With Presidents Rule operational in the state, Shah has already had a closed door meeting with Governor Satya Pal Malik. He also met Director Intelligence Bureau Rajiv Jain and Home Secretary Rajiv Gauba. Almost in parallel, it is believed that the Jammu and Kashmir Division in the vast swathe of Ministry of Home Affairs may be restructured.
The State has been under President’s Rule since December 18, 2018. This is likely to be extended beyond July 3. The security forces have been flushing out local militants and have already notched up 100 kills in the year to date.
Among the many plans on the drawing board is believed to be the boilerplate for fresh delimitation of constituencies and appointment of a Delimitation Commission. At the very kernel of delimitation is redrawing the scope and size of Assembly constituencies and determine the number of seats to be reserved for Scheduled Castes.
Jammu has been long complaining of regional disparity when it comes to representation to all reserved categories in the State Assembly. The main grouse of Jammu being that growing imbalance emerging out of composition of various constituencies would continue.
Another section of thought is that the Kashmir Valley claims that it has no Scheduled Castes or Scheduled Tribes while Gujjars, Bakerwals, Gaddis and Sippis were given Scheduled Tribe status in 1991 and form 11 per cent of the population but have no political reservation.
One needs to be mindful that the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir, enacted in 1957, was based on the Maharaja’s Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir of 1939, which was still in force. After accession to India, the State Constituent Assembly was constituted under the 1939 Constitution, but Sheikh Abdullah’s administration carved out 30 seats for Jammu region and 43 seats for Kashmir region and two seats for Ladakh region. This regional disparity became entrenched thereafter: Kashmir (46), Jammu (37) and Ladakh (four).
Sometime in December, 2016, a Cabinet Sub Committee on implementation of Agenda of Alliance of PDP-BJP government had referred the said issue of working out the modalities to a high level bureaucratic panel. But this did not fructify.
During Ghulam Nabi Azad’s term as Chief Minister, he had recommended a proposal of 25 per cent all round increase in the number of Assembly seats of all three geographical regions in the state which would have resulted in an additional 22 constituencies in the Assembly. But PDP-Congress did not have the two-thirds heft in the Assembly and in any case the National Conference had opposed it.
According to the 2011 census, the total population of Jammu Division was 5,378,538 of which Dogras were the dominant group comprising 62.55 per cent of the population. Jammu has 25.93 per cent of the area and 42.89 per cent of the population.
Against this valley population in 2011 was 6,888,475 with 96.40 per cent Muslims. Though it has 15.73 per cent of the state’s area, it holds 54.93 per cent of the population.
Ladakh has 58.33 per cent of the area accounting for 2.18 per cent of the population, a mere 2,74,289 people reside there of which 46.40 per cent are Muslims, 12.11 per cent Hindus and 39.67 per cent Buddhist.
The last time a delimitation exercise took place in the state was also under President’s Rule, as far back as 1995 in extremely difficult circumstances by the Justice (retired) K.K. Gupta Commission.
Incidentally the Constitution provides for delimitation every 10 years, the next delimitation of Assembly constituencies should have logically taken place in 2005.
However, in 2002, the Farooq Abdullah Government chose to freeze delimitation until 2026 by amending the Jammu and Kashmir Representation of the People Act 1957 and Section 47(3) of the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir. The amended Section 47(3) provided “that until the relevant figures for the first census taken after the year 2026 have been published, it shall not be necessary to readjust the total number of seats in the Legislative Assembly of the State and the division of the State into territorial constituencies under this sub-section”. This put the contentious matter in abeyance.
This is where the Governor comes in. On his intervention, this can be changed. For during President’s Rule, the legislative authority is vested in the Governor. The last delimitation on provisional basis was done in 1993 by Governor Jagmohan when Jammu and Kashmir was divided into 87 Assembly constituencies.
The Governor is competent to amend Section 47 of the Constitution to delete the objectionable proviso which barred the setting up of a Delimitation Commission. Furthermore, Section 3 of the Representation of People Act gives the Governor the mandate to constitute a DC.
Jammu and Kashmir has the powers to revoke the law through a Constitutional Amendment with a two-third majority and ramp up the number of seats. If the Governor sets up a Delimitation Commission, then the ball will start rolling. By fast tracking it before the elections, some sort of common ground could be found. At the moment there are seven seats reserved for SC in the Assembly, all in the Jammu Division which haven’t been rotated since 1996 – Chamb, Domana, Ranbir Singh Pura, Samba, Hiranagar, Chenani and Ramban (separate) in Jammu, Kathua and Udhampur district, respectively.
Convention says that the next delimitation can only take place after Census 2031, unless the Governor intervenes and rectifies this irregularity. In another peculiarity, the State Constitution, under Section 48, reserves 24 seats in the 111-member Assembly for the area under Pakistani occupation (since 1947-48).
MHA zeroes in on top 10 militants
Monitor News Desk
New Delhi, Jun 4: The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), under its new minister Amit Shah, has prepared a hit list of top 10 militants in the Valley, which includes names of wanted militants such as Hizbul Mujahideen chief Riyaz Naikoo, Lashkar-e-Taiba district commander Wasim Ahmed alias Osama and Hizbul’s Ashraf Maulvi.
The list, which has been prepared with inputs from forces, features militants working in different districts of Kashmir and includes the names of several wanted members of the Hizbul Mujahideen, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed and Al Badar.
Other names on the list include Mehrajuddin, District Commander of Hizbul Mujahideen in Baramulla; Dr Saifullah alias Saifullah Mir alias Dr Saif who is actively trying to increase the cadre of Hizbul Mujahideen in Srinagar; Arshad ul Haq, district commander of Hizbul Mujahideen in Pulwama; Hafiz Omar, operational commander of JeM; Zaheed Sheikh alias Omar Afghani, belongs to Jaish-e-Mohammed; Javed Matoo alias Faisal alias Shakib alias Musab, who belongs to Al-Badar and Ejaz Ahmad Malik, who was recently appointed as district commander of Hizbul Mujahideen in Kupwara.
The ministry also said 102 militants have been killed this year in the Valley and around 286 are still believed to be active.
Soon after assuming charge, Shah had met Jammu and Kashmir Governor Satya Pal Malik who briefed him about the security situation in the state, which is currently under the President’s rule.
During the 15-minute meeting, the Governor apprised the home minister about the preparation for the Amarnath Yatra. The 46-day-long yatra will begin on July 1, the day of Masik Shivratri, and would conclude on August 15, the day of Shravan Purnima.
Discussions were also held between the two on the ‘law and order’ situation in the Kashmir Valley and the border areas besides various development issues. “I have discussed security matters and development issues with the Home Minister,” Malik told reporters after the meeting.
The Governor, however, said that the issue related to holding assembly elections in the state was not discussed as the matter was under the purview of the Election Commission of India. Jammu and Kashmir is under the central rule since June 2018 and the assembly election is expected to be held later this year.
Militant, Army officer killed in Anantnag gunfight
Srinagar, Jun 17: An Army officer and a militant were killed and three other soldiers including a Major injured in a gunfight in south Kashmir Anantnag district on Monday, police said.
Police sources said the officer was shot at during the firing exchange between the holed-up militants and security forces in Bidoora village in Achabal area of the district.
The slain militant was believed to be a foreigner.
SSP Anantnag, Altaf Khan said that the operation was launched following specific inputs about the presence of some militants in the area.
He said that as the joint team intensified the searches, the militants, hiding in the area, opened fire which was retaliated, triggering off a gunfight.
Initially, sources said, the joint team of forces and militants exchanged gunfire for some time during which the house, in which the militants were hiding, was damaged. Later there was a lull for about an hour even as Army rushed more reinforcements and the joint team started searches to find out the militants.
Soon the militants rose from the debris and opened indiscriminate fire on the forces, resulting in the on-spot death of Major Keetan Sharma and injuries to three others including another Army Major Rahul Verma, sources said.
They added the joint team of forces retailed the fire, leading to the fresh gunfight in an open field. While one militant was killed and the search operation is underway to find if there is any more militant hiding in the area.
The identity and group affiliation of the slain militant is being ascertained, sources said.
Meanwhile, youth took to streets and pelted stones at the security forces. The police and paramilitary CRPF deployed in the area used tear smoke shells and pellets to disperse them.
In wake of the operation, the authorities snapped internet service in the southern district.
IED blast in Pulwama, 6 soldiers, 2 civilians injured
Srinagar, Jun 17: Militants on Monday attempted to blow off an Army vehicle in a village in South Kashmir’s Pulwama district.
A police official said that an armoured vehicle of Army came under an IED attack in Hargam Arihal village of Pulwama. He added that after the blast militants also fired some gunshots towards the vehicle.
Local residents informed that they heard huge blast followed by gunshots.
Reports said that six soldiers and two civilians were injured in the blast. The soldiers were shifted to Army’s 92 base hospital at Badamibagh, Srinagar for treatment.
The area was soon cordoned off, officials said.
Earlier, reports said that militants exploded an IED under a Casper vehicle, extensively damaging it, as an army convoy passed through Arihal. However, the army clarified that the damaged vehicle was not a Casper, but an Ashok Leyland Stallion truck.
Three of them who were travelling in the cabin of the vehicle are stated to be serious, the news agency reported.
The blast was triggered by militants using a car laden with explosives, GNS reported attributing the same to “initial investigations by police.”
“A police officer that the explosives were fitted inside a car and investigators are probing the owner of the vehicle. Asked, which type of vehicle was used, the officer said that it is a matter of investigation,” the news agency reported.
“Samples have been collected and further probe is underway,” the officer was quoted saying.
In a statement, the Army called the attack a “failed attempt” by militants. The troops are safe, barring a few minor injuries, it said, adding, “The area has been cordoned and search operations are in progress”.
The blast comes days after Pakistan had reportedly shared information with India and America regarding the possibility of major militant attack in the south Kashmir district. (With inputs from GNS)
Emotional scenes at slain SHO’s wreath-laying ceremony
Srinagar, Jun 17: Emotional scenes were Monday witnessed at District Police Lines (DPL) Srinagar as top cops and bureaucrats attended the wreath-laying ceremony of the slain police officer Arshad Khan, who had sustained critical injuries in a militant attack in Anantnag last week and later succumbed to his injuries at AIIMS, Delhi on Sunday.
J&K Police chief Dilbagh Singh, Advisors to Governor K Vijay Kumar and KK Sharma, Home Secretary Shaleen Kabra, Divisional Commissioner Baseer Ahmed Khan, ADGP Muneer Khan, and SSP Srinagar Dr Haseeb Mughal, among other civil and police officers were present on the occasion.
J&K Police shared two heart wrenching photos of Dr Mughal carrying the deceased’s son in his arms during the wreath-laying ceremony.
In the photos, a teary-eyed Haseeb is seen carrying slain Arshad Khan’s son while paying tributes to his colleague.
On the occasion, Advisor Kumar said that more than 1600 J&K Police personnel have lost their lives in the line of duty.
On June 12, around 4:50 pm, five paramilitary troopers and a militant were killed and four other security forces personnel including Arshad sustained injuries after militants attacked a joint party of CRPF and police at bus stand Anantnag.
Arshad was immediately evacuated to a nearby hospital and then to Srinagar’ SK Institute of Medical Sciences, Soura. After being treated there for a few days, he was flown to Delhi’s AIIMS hospital where he succumbed to his injuries on Sunday.
According to police, Arshad was inducted into police services in the year 2002 and was presently posted as SHO Anantnag. Khan is survived by father and mother, wife Neelofar, 5-year-old son Abuhan Khan, Danim 2, and a brother.