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Monday Review

Challenge to Article 35-A: ILLEGAL, IMMORAL, UNETHICAL

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For the first time ever it has begun to feel real and tangible. The all-out attempt of the Hindu right-wing parties led by the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) to strip the state of what is left of its special status is nothing short of a diabolical plan to convert the Instrument of (conditional) Accession into a virtual annexation of Jammu and Kashmir. The state has gone from one crisis to another in the last seventy years, but the threat besieging it political status now has perhaps no precedent at all.

The call for rescinding the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and its constitutional and legal validity grew shriller and louder with the BJP-PDP alliance coming to power in the state. The Bhartiya Janata Party has played a treacherous role by systematically backing the adversaries of the special status of the state. Even though the party, by virtue of being an alliance partner of the PDP, stands committed not to do anything that would in any way harm or weaken the special status of Jammu and Kashmir, it has not lost any chance to voice its strong opposition to it and reiterate that it believed in complete merger of Jammu and Kashmir with the Indian union and the abrogation of all constitutional and other provisions that guarantee its special status.
Before the PDP-BJP alliance took power in the state it arrived at a consensus on many political issues of which the inviolability of the present status of the state was paramount. The Agenda of Alliance expressly states “…… considering the political and legislative realities, the present position will be maintained on all the constitutional provisions pertaining to J&K, including the special status in the Constitution of India.”

As the law requires, the ministers from the BJP took oath of allegiance to the constitution of Jammu and Kashmir and not that of India, in presence of all its party stalwarts including the Prime Minister, with Jammu and Kashmir‘s flag flying high along the Indian tricolour at the oath ceremony. The BJP leaders began murmuring against its provisions while the function was barely over. The BJP doesn’t appear to be honest in seeing the implementation of the AOA, especially the highly important political part of the document that speaks about the constitutional guarantees given to Jammu and Kashmir at the time of accession or for that matter safeguarding the special status that the state is supposed to enjoy within the Union.
In fact, the BJP leaders whenever the occasion arose spoke about these constitutional guarantees with utter disrespect and made no bones in saying that they wanted to get rid of the special status of the state and believe in complete merger of the state with India. At times, some second rung party functionaries were fielded to reiterate party’s commitment to “Eik Nishan, Eik Vidhan”, saying that Article 35A was never a part of the AOA. The BJP also exploited the disgruntled Kashmiri Pandits to pour venom over the special status and Article 370 which is evident from the slanderous comments that are made in TV studios by these so called Pandit leaders and intellectuals. In a bid to giver further push to its anti-Kashmir agenda, Charu Wali Khan has now been brought to make a backdoor attempt to challenge the validity of the special status and seek its abrogation.
The PIL, filed by a Delhi-based NGO, closely linked with the RSS has sought Article 35A to be declared unconstitutional, contending the President could not have amended the Constitution by the 1954-order and it was supposed to be a temporary provision. It said the J&K government, under the guise of Article 35A and Article 370 which grants special autonomous status to the state, has been discriminating against non-residents who are debarred from buying properties, getting a government job or voting in the local elections.
Another contention made on the basis of gender discrimination says that by virtue of the said article, Kashmiri women marrying outside the state lose all their rights on the property, which however is not a factual statement. Way back 2002, a full bench of Jammu and Kashmir High Court comprising of Justice V Jhanji, Justice T Doabia and Justice M Jan in J&K Vs Dr Sushila Sawhney has already held that a daughter of a permanent resident marrying a non-permanent resident will not lose the status of permanent resident of J&K. So the question of gender discrimination does not arise at all and this frivolous argument is being raised only to mislead the public opinion as also the honourable judges of the Supreme Court.
The grounds on which the validity of 35A is being challenged is that the President had no powers to insert this article on the basis of the authority he enjoys under Article 370 and that t it could have been introduced in the Constitution only through a constitutional amendment under Article 368, and not through a Presidential Order under Article 370. However, the fact remains that the Supreme Court has in three different cases held threadbare discussions on this issue and all the earlier pleas against were rejected by the court in the past. .
In one such case, Puranlal Lakhanpal vs The President of India and Others, a five judge bench of the Supreme Court, way back in 1961, held that “when through an order under Article 370, the President applies any provision of the Indian Constitution to J&K, the term “modification” must be considered in its “widest possible amplitude”. It will not be limited to making only partial changes to the provision, but will include the power to “extend” and “enlarge” the constitutional provision, including making a “radical transformation”.
Again in 1969, in another landmark judgement, another five-judge Bench put its seal of affirmation on this view in Sampat Prakash vs State of Jammu & Kashmir. In December 16, 2016, in another case, a two-judge Bench of the court followed the two earlier Constitution Bench decisions to reiterate that the Presidential Order can “extend” or “enlarge” the provisions of Indian Constitution in its application to J&K. Therefore there is no reason whatsoever to go for a further review of the constitutional validity of Article 35A that safeguards the Act of the state legislature relating to benefits given to Permanent.
And if the court now accepts the argument challenging Article 35A, the extension of the Fundamental Rights and every other provision of the Indian Constitution to J&K through consecutive Presidential Orders (all amendments to the 1954 mother order) will cease to apply. Only Article 1 and Article 370 of the Indian Constitution will then apply to J&K, leading to a grave constitutional crisis. In such a scenario, the court will have to undo the constitutional law on the subject over the last six decades, as well as the application of almost all the Presidential Orders issued in last 60 years for extending several provisions of the Indian Constitution to Jammu and Kashmir.
It is interesting to note that instead of fighting openly against the Article 370 of the constitution of India, that has been the target of the right wing lobby from day one, the validity of Article 35A is being challenged because the advocates of Kashmir’s merger with the rest of India know it well that the abrogation of Article 370 is not that easy to be accomplished. Even though termed as a temporary provision of the Indian constitution, the sub provision of the article clearly states that it could be abrogated by the President of India only after a formal resolution to this effect is adopted by the Constituent Assembly of Jammu and Kashmir. With the said Assembly having expired in 1956, for the abrogation of 370 one needs a fresh constituent assembly and the new assembly would be within its rights to discuss the instrument of accession and state’s position within the Indian union again. This is bound to open a Pandora’s Box which RSS and its functionaries know well. Therefore they have planned a new strategy, i.e. to strike against 35A that guarantees the distinct and special identity of Jammu and Kashmir and without which state would automatically be brought at par with other states, depriving the original citizens of Jammu and Kashmir all their basic rights, privileges and other reservations.
Article 35A empowers the Jammu and Kashmir legislature to define permanent residents of the state. It was added through the Constitution (Application to Jammu and Kashmir) Order, 1954, issued under Article 370, by the President of India. Later on, when the Jammu and Kashmir Constitution was adopted on November 17, 1956, it defined a Permanent Resident as a person who was a state subject on May 14, 1954, or who has been a resident of the state for 10 years, and has lawfully acquired immovable property in the state.
The Article provides that a person will be treated as a “Permanent Resident of J&K” only in accordance with the law which was already in force in the State before May 14, 1954. In other words, a person who does not qualify as a Permanent Resident of the State under law as was applicable before May 14, 1954 cannot now become Permanent Resident of the State. The said law is also protected by the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir.
It further provides that the Permanent Residents will continue to enjoy Special Rights and Privileges in the matter of (1) Employment under the State (2) Acquisition of immovable property in the State (3) Settlement in the State (4) Scholarship and aid as the State Government may provide. Any law which gives these Special Rights and Privileges to the Permanent Residents of the State cannot be declared null and void by any Court on any ground.
New Delhi’s claim, all along has been that Jammu and Kashmir became its integral part, on the basis of the Instrument of Accession entered by the then ruler Maharaja Hari Singh on 26th October 1947 and subsequent ratification of that Instrument by the J&K Constituent Assembly on 5th November 1951. With the instrument of accession laying down certain conditions which were duly accepted by the Indian government, there rose a need for a tunnel from where the provisions of the Indian Constitution could land in Jammu and Kashmir and for this purpose Article 370 was inserted in the constitution of India giving the President of India extraordinary powers to make certain laws made by the Indian parliament applicable to Jammu and Kashmir. The insertion of Article 35A in the Indian Constitution by The Presidential Order 1954 also flows from the powers given to the President under Article 370. Thus challenging Article 35A would mean challenging the only constitutional link between the state and the union.
A close reading of the historical facts leads one to the fact that when the letter of conditional acceptance from Maharaja Harisingh came from Mountbatten, he reiterated India’s earlier stand of giving the people of J&K an opportunity to determine their future. In 1947 when the constitution of India was being formulated it was made applicable to all the states which had agreed to be the part of the Union and merge with it. The state of J&K did not agree that the Constitution of India should be made applicable to it in the same manner as it was to the other states thus acknowledging the limited nature of accession. A special Article 370 was incorporated and therein, empowering President to extend the provisions of Constitution to the state with such modifications and exceptions as he may notify.
In 1952, the Delhi Agreement between Nehru and Sheikh contained 10 points one of which was that the state legislature would have the powers to regulate the rights and privileges of permanent residents or state subjects as defined in the 1927 State Order. It was agreed that in accordance with Article 5 of the Indian constitution persons who have their domicile in J&K shall be the citizens of J&K. It was further agreed that the state legislature shall have power to define and regulate the rights and privileges of the permanent residents of the state more especially in regards to the acquisition of immovable property. It was because of historical reasons that in late 1920s people agitated for the protection of their bonafide right against superior competing interest of the non-residents of the state. It was in fact on the demand made by the Dogras of Jammu and Pandits from Kashmir, who felt threatened by the heavy influx of outsiders mostly from the undivided Punjab. These people, better educated than Dogras and Pandits and having enough material resources, were seen to be keen to get settled in Jammu and Kashmir and if not stopped they would have taken the lion’s share of the property and government jobs besides other benefits in the state. The then Maharaja understood the situation that would arise of the influx of these outsiders leading to the virtual annihilation of the local population and therefore he promulgated notification of 1927, for safeguarding the rights of the local populace and coined the term of :State Subjects”.
In his statement to the Lok Sabha on the Delhi agreement, Nehru had said: The question of citizenship arose obviously. Full citizenship applies there. But our friends from Kashmir were very apprehensive about one or two matters. For a long time past, in the Maharaja’s time, there had been laws there preventing any outsider, that is, any person from outside Kashmir, from acquiring or holding land in Kashmir. If I mention it, in the old days the Maharaja was very much afraid of a large number of Englishmen coming and settling down there, because the climate is delectable, and acquiring property. So although most of their rights were taken away from the Maharaja under the British rule, the Maharaja stuck to this that nobody from outside should acquire land there. And that continues. So the present Government of Kashmir is very anxious to preserve that right because they are afraid, and I think rightly afraid, that Kashmir would be overrun by people whose sole qualification might be the possession of too much money and nothing else, who might buy up, and get the delectable places. Now they want to vary the old Maharaja’s laws to liberalise it, but nevertheless to have checks on the acquisition of lands by persons from outside. However, we agree that this should be cleared up. The old state’s subjects definition gave certain privileges regarding this acquisition of land, the services, and other minor things, I think, State scholarships and the rest.
‘The State legislature shall have power to define and regulate the rights and privileges of the permanent residents of the State, more especially in regard to the acquisition of immovable property, appointments to services and like matters. Till then the existing State law should apply.’
In the Instrument of Accession Harisingh accepted only three subjects on which the Indian union could make laws for the state, including Defence, External Affairs and Communication. Clause 7 of the Instrument reads: “Nothing in the instrument shall be deemed to commit me in any way to the acceptance of any future constitution of India or fetter my discretion to enter into arrangement with the government under any such future constitution.” Since the Delhi agreement was followed by the Constitution (Application to J&K) Order 1954 on May 14 1954, its preamble says that it was made “with the concurrence of the government of J&K”.
After the expiry of the Constituent Assembly, for all legal and other purposes, it is not only 35A but all the Presidential Orders which cannot be scrapped because of non-existence of the ratifying authority and hence for any such step the requirement will be that of the formation of new constitution which for sure will be something called extra constitutional measure and would in turn mean the death of the existing constitution that will ultimately take the state back to the position it had been in pre 1947.
There is no constitutional way to remove Article 370, especially because Article 1 of the Indian Constitution (name and territory of the Union) is applicable to J&K only through Article 370. But if the challenge to the constitutionality of the 1954 Order is successful, all subsequent Presidential Orders will stand automatically invalidated. The residents of J&K were deemed as Indian citizens through these Orders; they were used to extend 94 out of 97 entries in the Union List, and 260 out of 395 Articles of the Indian Constitution, to J&K; and to impose central rule in J&K.
Dr Karan Singh, former Sadr-e-Riyasat of Jammu and Kashmir and one of few eyewitnesses to whole drama that unfolded between New Delhi and Jammu and Kashmir in early 50’s has rightly said that “India needs to bite the bullet at some point in time and resolve it”, asserting that state’s relation with India was “governed by Article 370.”
In what can be called as historical speech in Rajya Sabha, Karan Singh narrated the events of state’s accession with Indian union saying that: The day my father signed the IOA, it became integral part of India. …..However please remember something more. My father acceded for three subjects only which included defence, communication and foreign affairs. …….all others states subsequently merged but J&K did not merge with India……. J&K’s relation with rest of India is guided by Article 370 and the State Constitution “which I signed into a law.”
“There was a political agreement in 1952 between Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah and Jawaharlal Nehru; there was adoption of State Constitution in 1957 which I signed; subsequently there have been plethora of presidential orders which gradually applied increasing number of entries into it,” he said, adding “It is an integral part, but what exactly the relation will be…in many federal countries it varies…even China has one state, two systems…Hong Kong has a different system. So integral part doesn’t necessarily mean it will be exactly same as everything else”.
Similarly the argument that provisions of Article 35A were discriminatory as it denied the same rights to Indian citizens that are enjoyed by the state subjects is false, politically motivated and far from being true. Similar laws are found in the statute books of several other states where the right to property and other similar rights of the natives of a particular state have been safeguarded.
Eminent jurist and one of the most distinguished experts of Kashmir’s political and constitutional history, A G Noorani has discussed in detail the validity of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir. In one such write up he has demolished the case of the right wing thinkers that Art 370 or for that matter Article 35A were discriminatory.
According to Noorani, all the legal arguments against the article are groundless, and are raised with “communal-minded majoritarian” intentions. He refers to the various Articles in the Constitution that similarly provide special status and rights to other Indian states.
Citing Article 371A, Noorani argues that this proviso clearly says:
“Notwithstanding anything in this Constitution, – (a) no Act of Parliament in respect of – (i) religion or social practices of the Nagas, (ii) Naga customary law and procedure, (iii) administration of civil and criminal justice involving decisions according to Naga customary law, (iv) ownership and transfer of land and its resources, shall apply to the State of Nagaland unless the legislative Assembly of Nagaland by a resolution so decides.” This provision inserted in 1962 explicitly bars the Parliament of India from making any law in respect of “ownership and transfer of land” in Nagaland and also “its resources”. If some people single out Kashmir for hostile attention because of Article 370 and 35A of the Constitution of India, it is for reasons not hard to seek.
Similarly Article 371G on Mizoram says the same thing. It reads: “Notwithstanding anything in this Constitution, – (a) no Act of Parliament in respect of – (i) religious or social practices of the Mizos, (ii) Mizo customary law and procedure, (iii) administration of civil and criminal justice involving decisions according to Mizo Customary law, (iv) ownership and transfer of land, shall apply to the State of Mizoram unless the Legislative Assembly of Mizoram by a resolution so decides.” The Constitution of India is studded with special provisions which thus confer “special status” on certain States; of course in very in degrees for historical reasons. For example Assam, (Art. 371B), Manipur (Art. 371C), Andhra Pradesh (Art. 371D), Sikkim (Art. 371F), Arunachal Pradesh (Art. 371H), and Goa (Art. 371I).
According to Noorani, “Article 370 is part of the Constitution of India as it was enacted on 26 November 1949. And Article 35A flows inexorably from it. It is now 51 years old and only sanctifies the Maharaja’s Notification of 20 April 1927 which defines State Subjects and their right to hold property. Article 6 of the Constitution of Jammu & Kashmir, enacted on 17 November 1956, puts its seal on that Notification explicitly (vide Clause [3]). So, did the Delhi Agreement of July 1952 between the Prime Minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru and the Prime Minister of J&K, Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah. Kashmir would never have acceded to Indian, even in its hour of peril, if it knew that decades later communal minded persons would want to wipe out that Notification which Art. 35A sanctifies.
Legal experts believe that the petition before the Supreme Court deserves to be dismissed on the basis of the decision of the apex Court in at least two cases of the same nature. Those who advocate abrogation of Article 370 and 35A of the Indian constitution and those who demand that Jammu and Kashmir should be completely merged with the rest of India bringing it at par with other states, should be aware of the consequences that are bound to arise in case the present constitutional relationship of the state with the Union is changed. If the presidential order with regard to Article 35A is questioned or held unconstitutional, then all the Constitutional Application Order issued by the President, from 1950 till date stand null and void and thus the bringing an end to the constitutional relationship between Jammu and Kashmir and Indian union. Consequently legal and constitutional status of Jammu and Kashmir will revert to the position that stood in 1950, leading to a grave constitutional crisis, posing serious questions on the validity and legal standing of the instrument of accession.
In this background, New Delhi owes it to its constitutional, legal and above all moral and ethical responsibilities to ensure that the special status of Jammu and Kashmir guaranteed under the constitution is not weakened in any respect and it should therefore defend the same before the Supreme Court. There is no need to revisit this issue in view of the earlier judgements passed by the Supreme Court and the only thing that is needed is to ensure that the status quo is not disturbed as it would result in the fall of the edifice that the fathers of the constitution had put up to realise the dream of a secular and democratic India.
On Independence Day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi talked about Kashmir from the ramparts of Red Fort. He overruled the use of “Galee’ (Abuse) and “Goli” (Bullet) in dealing with the Kashmir problem. In Prime Minister’s words: Na gaali se samasya sulajhne waali hai, na goli se samasya sulajhne waali hai; samasya suljhegee har Kashmiri ko gale lagaa kar ke (The Kashmir problem cannot be solved either with abuse or bullets, but by embracing every Kashmiri). It it is now the time to put these words into action and ensure that the rights of the people of Kashmir guaranteed by the constitution be respected. And the first step in this direction will definitely be the stand that New Delhi will take before the Supreme Court to defend the lasts attack on these constitutional guarantees.

 


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Monday Review

The Cuckoo’s nest

Mudassir Kuloo

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SRINAGAR: We all must have seen the Bollywood flick ‘Bajrangi Bhaijaan’. For those who haven’t, the story is about a small Pakistan girl who suffers from speech impediment. To find a miraculous cure, her mother takes her to a Dargah in India. Unfortunately, the girl is left behind on her way back to Pakistan. Enter our hero who makes a point to reunite her with the family and travels across boundaries in his bid, fighting soldiers and doing comedy… All in all, the movie seems too good to happen in real world.

But while you are pondering on it, here in Kashmir something similar has been happening from many years now with hardly any talk about it.

At Srinagar’s Psychiatric Hospital, a few local and non-local patients who are long cured have been waiting for years now to reunite with their families, whose whereabouts are unknown. Nobody at the hospital knows their real names or the exact place they belong to. As such, the hospital authorities have given the patients new names to identify them and keep their records.

One among them has been mentioned as Jozy in the hospital records and appears like the natives of West Bengal. She would be around 18 years. She according to hospital staff was brought there in January, 2014 by the police. “Police had found her somewhere on the street. After noticing her unusual behavior, she was brought to the hospital. She has shown a huge improvement over the years. We don’t know her real name but everyone calls her Jozy and she too understands that,” a hospital staff member while looking after her in ward No 5 of the hospital said. “She gave some clues about her native village but we are yet to trace her family. We hope one day she will be reunited with her family.”

Similarly, another one has been named Fareeda and is almost the age of Jozy. She too was brought to the hospital by the police in 2013. She speaks a mixed Kashmiri and Pahari dialect. “In her broken words, she is telling something like Drugmul. We guessed that it could be Drugmul Kupwara and contacted some people there but have not been successful in tracing her family so far,” the official said. As per him, both were brought to the hospital in a bad condition. “There has been a huge improvement in their health over the years.”

They may be communicating through words or facial expression, eat on their own and play to each other and assist the other patients but prefer to remain silent to strangers. “For outsiders it may sometimes become difficult to understand them but those who treat, nurse them, understand what they want to say,” the official said.

Dr Arshid Hussain, a psychiaritist, who treats these patients, said these girls are fit to live with the family and can live a normal life. “They responded to the medication very fast but still they need love and affection of their families. We are making all efforts to reunite them with their families,” he said.

In the same ward is a Kashmiri Pandit woman. In her early 40, she hardly speaks to anyone. She was brought to the hospital by Kashmiri Muslims in 1990 after Pandits left the Valley. She too has no connection with her family although they know their daughter is being nursed at the hospital. “Family members occasionally call us to enquire about her but had never come to see her in these 25-years. Her parents told us on the phone that they have full faith on Kashmiris that they will be looking very well after their daughter,” Dr Arshid said.

There is also one male patient whose family is also yet to be traced. He has been named as Rahim Bakerwal, who was brought five years ago to the hospital. He was arrested from Humhama after forces noticed some suspicion about him. After found him mentally ill, he was brought to the hospital. The hospital officials believe that he may be from Rajouri or Poonch area.

The hospital administration has a full faith that they will be able to trace their families one day. Infact, the doctors see it a mission to find their families. Their hopes lie on the fact that earlier too in a similar bid, they have successfully traced out the families of three other patients since 2013, who too had lost connection with their families. “We are making continuous efforts to trace their families so that they get reunited like hospital administration did in the past,” Dr Arshid said.

It was in 2013 when Krader Tripathi, 55, regained his memory and told the name of his native village.

The miracle of reuniting him with his family after 23-years happened following the doctors surfed his village on Google Earth. They finally got in contact with the police station, who then checked the police records and finally conveyed his family. Then Tripathi’s brother and nephew came to Srinagar and took him along to their home. His brother told the hospital staff that the family had thought that Tripathi was dead. “After found him alive, he is second face of Baghwan for us,” he told the doctors. “Had Tripathi been in other state, we would not have traced him. You people have really set up an example that religions have no bonds,” he told a group of hospital staff who had gathered to bid adieu to him.

Even there has been some incidents when some patients by the families after regaining their mental stability. This is what happened with Mathur Bhai Padhiyar of Gujarat when his family was not ready to own him for three years despite knowing he was being nursed at the hospital. He had come along with a group of Gujarati pilgrims to Amarnath cave shrine. After noticing his unusual behaviour, police had brought him to the hospital in 2006.

It was in 2013, Mathur regained his memory and told the name of his village which was then traced through Google Earth. After informing the family, there was no response from their side.

“My papa (Nayim) wife (Madhu) three sisters and a brother will be waiting for my return. Please send me back,” Mathur had said when this reporter met him in 2014. After media highlighted that a Gujarati man regained his memory after seven years, Ghulam Nabi Azad who was then union health minister visited Mathur at the hospital. Azad promised to bear all the expenses needed to shift him to Gujarat. Despite that his family was reluctant to take him home. It was then two years of judicial intervention of District Legal Services Authority that Mathur reunited with his family in April 2016.

Similarly, this year another man from West Bengal was also sent back home who had lost connection with him family and was nursed at the hospital for many years. The doctors too traced his village on the internet and finally he reunited with the family.

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Monday Review

The curious case of Mehran

Mudassir Kuloo

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SRINAGAR: It is over eight years since Mehran, a three-and-a-half-year-old boy, disappeared from outside his home in the old city Srinagar. It is still a mystery how a child like Mehran could just vanish without trace from a place, which is a densely populated area of the city.

His disappearance has not just caused suffering and anguish to his parents and his extended family alone, but it has forced other parents of young children like Mehran to exercise caution to let other children out of their sight.

Mehran’s, went missing on May 13, 2008, the year he was admit to Canny Mission School Court Road Srinagar, where he was studying in pre-nursery.

“His disappearance has shattered our dreams. He was witty among all children in our family,” Mohammad Yusuf Mir, Mehran’s uncle told The Kashmir Monitor.

It was Yusuf, who had brought him to home from school along with his two children, on that fateful day. “I dropped them at home at 2:30 pm then left for my work. At 3:30, we came to know that Mehran was missing,” he said.

According to his uncle, Mehran had insisted to go maternal uncle’s home. His mother accompanied him. “His mother left him there. Later, when Mehran didn’t reach home, they started looking for him but got no clue.”

He was then the sole child of his parents, who are yet to come out of the shock and have been moving from pillar to the post to search for their beloved son. “Prior his missing, we all used to live together. But after Mehran’s missing, his father and mother refused to live here and have shifted to Gojwara. They are yet to come out of the shock. His missing continuously haunting us and has scattered our family,” Yusuf said.

It remains an unsolved mystery even though many investigating agencies including India’s premier investigating agency, the CBI have been probing the case.

In December last year, the family got a call from a CBI officer that Mehran was located in Rajasthan. “My brother, (Mehran’s father) and his maternal uncle went to New Delhi for the identification. After identification, they said that the boy was not Mehran. Mehran was circumcised while the child who the CBI showed was not circumcised,” he said.

The family had filed a missing report on May 13, 2008 with Kral Khud police station police, which investigated the cast for two years. But Yusuf said the police didn’t not take immediate measures to locate him on that fateful day. “We were even denied to search him in Auto rickshaws by making announcement on loudspeakers on the pretext that we may resort to stone pelting. But we continuously searched for him and did not work for 45-days.”

The investigating agencies have failed come up with anything substantial, but some of his family members were “interrogated” by the Crime Branch. “My husband and his brother was interrogated for a month. The police failed to trace our child but the Crime Branch interrogated Mehran’s uncles. We lost everything and our financial condition has also deteriorated,” Mehran’s aunt Masrat said. “Whenever we get to know that any child has been found, we rush there. We once went to Kangan at 10:30 pm when police told that a child was found there.”

The family says that they don’t suspect any one behind his abduction and won’t stop pleading the case. They had protested several times seeking attention of the government to locate him. “We also went to New Delhi, Mumbia to search him,” Yusuf said.

In Kashmir, according to police records, two cases of kidnapping get reported on an average daily in the Valley. According to the official details of police department, 638 kidnapping incidents were reported in 2013 while as police had registered 694 cases of kidnapping in 2012 and almost same number of cases were registered in 2014. Police had registered 471 and 579 cases of abduction in the Valley in year 2008 and 2009 respectively. However, scores of such cases go unreported either due to remoteness of the location or their families failing to follow such cases due to the poverty and also not having photographs to show the police for investigating the matter.

“Many kidnapping cases are still unsolved,” a senior official of Crime Branch said, “Mehran’s case is one of such cases which is still a mystery.” However, he said the CBI was investigating the case after the Crime Branch handed over case to it on directions of the High Court.

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Monday Review

‘VecMania’: Baramulla’s automobile enthusiasts

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Located on the Baramulla-Handwara highway is a glittering Auto Engineering startup which catches eyes of every passerby. “Vecmania Auto Engineering” first of its kind in Kashmir.

Tell us about Vecmania

Vecmania (Vec- vehicles, and Mania-obsession) Auto Engineering is a building brand in Kashmir for petrol heads offering custom modification of bikes and cars. Vecmania was started by three automobile enthusiasts ErfaanKirmani, Aamir Kirmani, and Omar Ayub. We offer individual solutions to individual cases as per customer’s request. Our promise is to deliver top-notch products in valley. Our valley is quite hard to do business in, we all know what is conditions we live in and during those conditions startups suffer alot, we kept that in mind, which led us to a strategy to overcome it. They say people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do it and Vecmania is one among those.

Tell us about the working of Vecmania. How do you assemble the parts?

Gone are the days when automobile were just a mode of transport. Today automobile is a lifestyle statement. It is an extension of oneself. Same as what you wear, how you look, how you talk, and an automobile you ride also tells a lot about your personality. We have dedicated national and international partners who supply most of parts, some of them are assembled from factory itself and we have to work on fitting it into module but major parts are assembled at our garage.

How did you raise your capital?

This kind of business needed a heavy Capital: Investment for showroom, investment for garage, investment for products, marketing and payment for employees. Total of 20 lakh capital had to be invested in Vecmania, so we had to approach EDI. Out of overall capital, EDI provided the half, we arranged rest of it from our savings and with help of our families.

How did your family react to your idea?

Ours is not a conservative family. From the beginning we were allowed to take our own decisions and peruse fields of our choice. Throughout the journey they have been our spine. They believed in our idea and even invested in Vecmania. AllhumdulilahVecmania is a new concept in Kashmir and Kashmiries usually take time to absorb something new.

What kind of response you usually get from people?

We had expected maximum Rs 1 lakh sales in the first month but we crossed Rs 2.5 lakh, which was more than double. We literally don’t get time to sit during the working hours as customers keep pouring in. As the customer sets foot into the showroom his face illuminates with a bright smile and that is our satisfaction. Beyond that we are getting number of orders for the kind of safety gear we have been providing. The helmet for example are designed in such a way, the biker loves to wear it all day long. That is the kind of response and it’s satisfying.(Courtesy: Gyawun.com)

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