Srinagar, July 3: There is a new twist to Kashmir’s political tale indicating that perhaps, once again, rumours could be travelling ahead of the real news in Jammu and Kashmir.
The political grapevine is once again agog that a “democratic government” would soon be formed in the state by expedient politicians resorting to the most undemocratic means of horse trading.
What has fuelled the rumour mill this time is the growing dissatisfaction within the Peoples Democratic Party (DPP) headed by former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti.
At least three of PDP’s 28 MLAs in the 87-member state assembly have revolted against Mehbooba Mufti.
Influential Shia leader and former minister Imran Ansari, his uncle Abid Ansari, and Abbas Wani have accused Mehbooba Mufti of running the PDP as a fiefdom.
Imran accused Mehbooba of creating dynastic rule by bringing her brother, Tasaduq Mufti, as a minister and handing over all the affairs of governance to her relatives and cronies.
Ironically, Imran and his uncle stayed put in the PDP till it lost power in the state.
Former Deputy Chief Minister Kavinder Gupta’s remarks gave credibility to reports that some deep churning was taking place in the state’s political cauldron.
“We are working on something and you will come to know of this soon,” Gupta’s words to media within days of the BJP withdrawing from the PDP-BJP ruling alliance were initially not taken seriously.
The recent visit of BJP General Secretary Ram Madhav and his meeting with senior party leaders, in addition to Sajad Gani Lone of the Peoples Conference, finally stirred the hornet’s nest.
Sajad’s party has two MLAs and he has been supporting the BJP. This had earned him a ministerial berth in the previous government — out of the BJP’s quota in the coalition.
Madhav’s visit was followed by reports that the PDP had approached the Congress for cobbling up a new ruling alliance in the state.
Senior Congress leader and former Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad denied these reports, saying that the Congress has an all-weather friend in the regional National Conference (NC) headed by Farooq Abdullah and there was no question of aligning with the PDP.
Mehbooba Mufti also denied any knowledge about her probable meeting with Sonia Gandhi as reported by a section of the media.
While news reports and rumours about possible permutations and combinations between the PDP, the Congress and the NC are still doing the rounds, another political bombshell has hit the state.
Reports of disgruntled MLAs from the PDP, the Congress and the NC breaking loose from their parties to support a BJP-led government are the latest addition to the media fever here.
Horse trading is nothing new in the state.
In 1984, a democratically-elected government headed by Farooq Abdullah was brought down by his brother-in-law, G.M. Shah.
Shah became Chief Minister by engineering defections in the NC and with outside support of the Congress.
The political upheaval was widely believed to have the blessings of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, who had been insulted by some NC supporters during her public rally in Srinagar city.
It is common knowledge in Kashmir that Jagmohan was brought in as the state governor by Gandhi so that Abdullah was ousted through defections within the NC.
After exactly 34 years, the political rumour mill suggests that the same experiment is being tried once again with the blessings of the Centre.
The 1984 coup was staged by engineering defections within just the NC. If rumours are to be believed, the reported horse trading would this time spare no major political party in the state.
Rumours suggest defections to create a BJP-headed government would affect the Congress, the PDP and the NC as a minimum of 44 MLAs are needed to stake claim to power.
At present, the PDP has 28, BJP 25, NC 15, Congress 12 and others seven seats in the 87-member assembly that was put into suspended animation by Governor N.N. Vohra after he imposed governor’s rule.
It is precisely because of the danger of horse trading that NC Vice President and former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has been demanding the dissolution of the state assembly, a chorus now joined by Mehbooba Mufti as well.
Rumours may be dismissed as a mere figment of someone’s imagination under normal circumstances. But not in Kashmir’s topsy-turvy politics.
It was initially just a rumour that his government was being toppled, which Farooq Abdullah brushed aside in 1984 till he got a letter from Governor Jagmohan that he was no longer the Chief Minister.
Pulwama fallout: Mine-protected vehicles, 30-seater buses for CRPF
Srinagar, Mar 25: The CRPF will procure a new fleet of mine protected vehicles (MPVs) and small 30-seater buses to ensure safety of its troop convoys in the Kashmir Valley, the chief of the force has said.
The paramilitary has also decided to enhance the number of its bomb detection and disposal squads (BDDS) for its about 65 battalions based in the Kashmir Valley for anti-terror and law and order duties.
These new measures have been chalked out by the force in the aftermath of the February 14 Pulwama militant attack in which over 40 personnel travelling in a bus, part of a convoy from Jammu to Srinagar, were killed by a suicide bomber as he exploded a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (IED).
“We are enhancing our counter-IED capabilities in Kashmir. We are procuring and sending more MPVs and are bullet-proofing force buses. As it is difficult to armour large buses, we are looking at procuring small 30-seater buses that can be better armour plated,” CRPF Director General (DG) R R Bhatnagar told PTI.
The force uses MPVs for limited troop movements in the anti-Naxal operations theatre and some of them are being used in Jammu and Kashmir too. About six personnel can travel in these four-wheeled vehicles.
Bhatnagar said small buses can be better fabricated and provided bullet-resistant armour as compared to the standard large buses that seat 54-57 people.
A similar large bus was blown up during the Pulwama attack.
Officials said once a large bus is fabricated with bullet-proof sheets, its engine takes a toll and its speed and endurance is restricted due to the weight of the additional metal used for the armour.
The CRPF chief said it has been decided to provide bomb detection and disposal squads to each battalion of the force deployed in the Kashmir Valley and those units which had them, will see an increase in the number of personnel and equipment to detect and counter explosives and IEDs.
Seats have been increased in the Pune-based IED education school of the force so that more personnel are trained in the trade of detection and disarming such bombs in Kashmir, Bhatnagar said.
The bullet-proof armour to the buses will only save force personnel from firing attacks by militants and will not provide fool-proof protection from explosions like the one that was carried out in Pulwama, a senior officer said.
To counter Pulwama-like attacks, new procedures for convoy movement and protection have been notified, he added.
The new convoy movement procedure involves restricting the movement of civilian vehicles, regularly changing halting points and dynamic movement of convoys to and from the Kashmir Valley, he said.
Facing criticism for allowing large convoys to ply on roads in an operationally sensitive area like Jammu and Kashmir, the home ministry had announced last month that all troops and officers of Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) deployed in the Kashmir Valley can now take a commercial flight while going in to join duty or for tour and while proceeding on leave.
The CRPF cavalcade that came under attack on February 14 had seventy-eight vehicles and the ill-fated bus was fifth in line.
‘Pak gives green signal to Sharda Peeth corridor’
Srinagar, Mar 25: After the Kartarpur Corridor – which connects Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Pakistan’s Narowal district with Dera Baba Nanak in India’s Gurdaspur District – Pakistan on Monday reportedly gave a green single to open Sharda Temple Corridor for Hindu pilgrims. The ancient shrine is located across the Line of Control (LoC) in Pakistan Administered Kashmir (PaK).
Express Tribune, a leading Pakistani daily quoting its sister organisation Express News reported that “sources in the ministry of foreign affairs said India’s foreign ministry already sent a proposal to open the corridor in this regard.”
The opening of the corridor to historic temple town has been a long-standing demand of Kashmiri Pandits and people who got displaced from the region in 1947.
“Pakistan has decided to open the Sharda temple. I am going to visit the place in a couple of days. I will also send a report in this regard to Prime Minister Imran Khan. Work on the project will start from the current year after which Hindus in Pakistan will also be able to visit the site,” Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) member of the National Assembly (MNA) Dr Ramesh Kumar told the Express News.
“The Indian government has written several letters to Pakistani authorities on this proposal,” the report said.
The shrine is a 5,000 years old highly reverent place of worship for Hindus. It is also considered the oldest education centre for some Hindus which was established in 237 BC during the reign of Maharaja Ashoka. The temple was also once regarded as the foremost centres of higher learning in the Indian subcontinent. It is also one of the 18 Maha Shakti Peethas, or a “Grand Shakti Peethas” and is considered to be the abode of Hindu Goddess Saraswati.
The ancient temple of Sharada and the adjacent ruins of Sharada University lie in Neelam Valley, 160 km from Muzaffarabad, and right across the LoC in a small village, Shardi or Sardi, where the river Neelam (Kishanganga) converges with the Madhumati and Sargun streams.
‘Is JeI unlawful?’ GoI tribunal to decide
New Delhi, Mar 25: The Government of India has constituted a tribunal headed by a Delhi High Court judge to decide whether there is sufficient cause for declaring Jamaat-e-Islami Jammu and Kashmir as an unlawful association.
The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on March 23 issued a notification which states that Justice Mukta Gupta would head the tribunal set up under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).
Justice Gupta is presently heading another tribunal set up under UAPA to ascertain whether there was sufficient cause to extend the ban on the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) as an unlawful association.
The tribunal’s proceedings with regard to the ban on SIMI commenced on February 28 and is ongoing.
As the proceedings against SIMI commenced, the same day, the central government banned Jamat-e-Islami (JeI) Jammu and Kashmir for five years under the “anti-terror” law on grounds that it was “in close touch” with militant outfits and is expected to “escalate secessionist movement” in the state.
The government in its February 28 notification banning JeI said it was of the opinion that the Jamaat is “in close touch with militant outfits” and is supporting “extremism and militancy” in Jammu and Kashmir and elsewhere.
It said the outfit claims “secession of a part of the Indian territory from the union” and supports militant and separatist groups fighting for this purpose.
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