Srinagar, Apr 02: “I missed a heartbeat. A chill ran down my spine,” said a police officer narrating the final moments of the standoff that resulted in the death of a young militant.
It was a six-hour denouement that ended in a hail of bullets — and a young man, barely out of his teens, dead inside a house surrounded by security personnel while his parents who had tried to talk him into surrendering waited nearby for news of the inevitable. Leading the effort to save his life was senior superintendent of police, Anantnag, Altaf Ahmed Khan.
Twelve militants, 3 soldiers and 4 civilians were killedin three simultaneous gun battles in south Kashmir on Sunday as the Valley saw its deadliest day so far this year.
Rauf Khanday, believed to be a Hizbul Mujahideen militant, was killed in the pre-dawn darkness of Sunday at Dialgam village in south Kashmir’s Anantnag district. But he was not just another statistic, said officials present at the spot as the hours dragged on and he showed no signs of surrendering.
Khanday, who had just passed his first year of graduation, was one of the two men holed up in a house in the village.
It started with the buzz of a wireless
The beginning of his end started around 11pm on Saturday when the police wireless buzzed. It was an intercept about the presence of two militants inside a house. After ascertaining the identity of the militants, the house was cordoned off by security personnel and they were asked to surrender, said an official.
One of the militants, whose identity has not been disclosed, did so immediately leaving young Khanday inside, cut off from the rest of the world.
Piecing together Khanday’s last hours, officials recounted that a phone was passed on to Khanday so that a conversation could begin.
Then followed the hours of trying to talk to him, reason with him and even bringing in his parents so they could convince him to surrender.
“It is always a tough call. I was pretty sure that the parents will be able to convince Khanday and he will come out and surrender. But destiny willed otherwise,” said Altaf Ahmed Khan.
“I tried everything that is possible to make him surrender. But every effort of mine was stonewalled by the young boy, who had been brainwashed,” he said.
Asked what had transpired, Khan, who has earlier headed districts like Shopian and Sopore, said he spoke to Khanday to understand his mental frame of mind and found he had interpreted various religious books wrongly.
“I narrated verses from Holy Quran and advised him that whatever he was doing was against the teachings of Islam. The conversation continued for over 30 minutes during which Khanday got agitated and abusive. But I ignored all this because my intention was to save him from getting killed,” Khan recalled.
Listening to the entire conversation were the commanders outside, their eyes fixed on the house where Khanday was hiding, said an official.
Around 1 am on Sunday, Khanday said he wanted to speak to his mother for which permission was granted.
“I sent a police team to his native place seven kilometres away. Security personnel escorted his father Bashid Ahmed Khandey and mother to the site so that they could persuade him to come out and surrender,” said Khan.
“We were so desperate to save his life that we all agreed to his mother’s request to take him home if he surrenders,” he added.
Both parents went inside to speak to their son, raising hopes that there might not be any bloodshed.
They came out after half-an-hour, despair writ large on their face.
“I missed a heartbeat. A chill ran down my spine as we had to perform our final job now and fight him out,” Khan said.
A commander present at the encounter site apologised to the parents, who knew the fate awaiting their son.
“I sent the parents to my place as they were quite nervous, especially the mother… I refused to give up,” said Khan.
It was past 3 am now and Khan made yet another bid to engage with Khanday. He asked a small team to see if there could be a back door entry into the house so security personnel could overpower him.
Khan said Khanday fired at him when told that he was entering the house unarmed and would only engage in talks with him. Following this, security personnel began the final onslaught, killing Khanday.
“I tried my best but all efforts failed,” Khan said in a choked voice.
Director General of Police S P Vaid made a special mention about Khan’s efforts to save Khanday during a press conference on the three counter-insurgency operations in the valley that left 13 militants, three Army jawans and four civilans dead yesterday.
New party in the offing: Faesal wants public money for ‘clean politics’
Srinagar, Jan 23: Former IAS officer Shah Faesal Wednesday launched a crowd-funding campaign for “clean politics and corruption-free administration” in Jammu and Kashmir hinting towards his plans to float his own political party.
The 2010-batch topper of the UPSC civil services exam said it was a “people’s movement for change”.
“Be a part of this journey for clean politics and corruption-free administration in J&K. Support Shah Faesal with your small donations,” he tweeted.
Faesal, who resigned from government service earlier this month, gave a bank account number for contributions and said payments could also be made through e-wallet.
Taking to a social networking site Facebook, Faesal wrote: “I had never imagined that my small act of defiance to highlight political deadlock in Jammu and Kashmir would evoke such a response across the world.”
He added that he had never thought that his “dream of clean politics and corruption-free administration” in J&K would take the shape of a “public movement”. “Respecting the public sentiment, I have decided to chart my independent political journey. And now in this new phase of public service, my mission is to support the true cause of humanity, stand up for the poor, marginalized and dispossessed and speak up for injustices, wherever in this world, irrespective of caste, colour, region, and religion,” he wrote.
Faesal said he imagined a politics where youth can “lead the change and take charge of their future”.“I wish to partner with a new generation of young leaders who can stand up for human rights, environment, free speech and rule of law. My idea is to seek help from the people of India, build alliances with the Indian civil society and intellectual class to humanize the narrative around Kashmir conflict so that lasting peace can be achieved in J&K State.”
He added that his “mission” was to “truthfully represent aspirations, culture, fears, and dreams” of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, across the world.“I wish to facilitate dialogue between people of various regions of the State – Jammu, Kashmir, Ladakh, Pir Panchal, and Chenab Valley so that an environment of amity and brotherhood can be built. I believe that development and dignity must go together, and we have to work together for giving a sense of security, better education, healthcare, livelihoods, electricity and other civic amenities to people of J&K State.”
“This is a people’s movement and it will be funded by the people. People are the only agencies who will help this succeed. Believe in me, be patient with me in this long and difficult journey and donate for this cause,” he wrote.
Earlier Faesal had resigned dubbing it as protest against “unabated killings in Kashmir, and lack of any sincere reach-out from the Union government; the marginalisation and invisiblisation of around 200 million Indian Muslims at the hands of Hindutva forces reducing them to second-class citizens; insidious attacks on the special identity of J&K and growing culture of intolerance and hate in mainland India in the name of hypernationalism”.
While he has made it clear that he would like to contest the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, Faesal has not joined any political party so far. Speculation is rife that he might float a new political outfit.
Priyanka Gandhi debuts in active politics: Mehbooba dubs her ‘X factor of 2019 polls’
New Delhi, Jan 23: Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, the sister of Congress president Rahul Gandhi, has finally taken the plunge into politics, just months ahead of the national election due by May.
Often dubbed the “Brahmastra” or the mythical ultimate weapon of the Congress, Priyanka will debut as the party’s general secretary in charge of the eastern part of Uttar Pradesh, which pitches her against the ruling BJP’s top two mascots, Prime Minister Narendra Modi–whose constituency Varanasi will be in her share–and Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath.
“I have not sent Priyanka and Jyotiraditya for just two months. I have sent them to take the Congress’ ideology forward in Uttar Pradesh,” Rahul Gandhi told reporters.
Among many noted personalities congratulating Priyanka was former J&K Chief Minister, Mehbooba Mufti, who tweeted: “Welcome Priyanka Gandhi to the rough and tumble of politics. She brings with her the grace of Gandhi Nehru lineage and her immense personal charm. Wish her the best. Could she become the Xfactor of 2019 poll battle?”
47-year-old Priyanka, who reminds many of her grandmother and former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, for both her charisma and the stunning likeness, is seen as a natural in politics but she has confined herself to the constituencies of her brother Rahul and mother Sonia Gandhi–Amethi and Raebareli–till now.
In national and state elections since 2004, the mother-of-two has campaigned exhaustively in the family seats where the Gandhis enjoy almost royal status.
Reports say her appointment to a key position reflects the Congress’s realisation that in a politically vital state like Uttar Pradesh, which has 80 parliamentary seats and is considered the route to power at the centre, the party needs to up its game and cannot afford just one in-charge. It is a huge gamble for the Congress, a sign that the party is all for aggressively taking on PM Modi and the BJP in the coming election.
The Congress dropped the Priyanka bombshell in the third para of a press statement that also announced that Jyotiraditya Scindia will be in charge of western UP. The giant announcement came as Rahul Gandhi began a two-day visit to Amethi. Priyanka Gandhi is in New York and is expected to return on February 1.
Congress leaders say Priyanka Gandhi’s arrival in party politics will galvanise the ranks that have been demoralised by the Mayawati-Akhilesh Yadav move to form an alliance in UP for the national election without the Congress, which has been pitching for a grand opposition alliance to take on the BJP.
Rahul Gandhi commented that the BJP was “panicking”.
The ruling party has been repeatedly targeting Priyanka Gandhi’s husband Robert Vadra, a businessman being investigated for allegedly corrupt land deals in Haryana and Rajasthan. Robert Vadra congratulated his wife in a Facebook post: “Congratulations P… always by your side in every phase of your life.”
In national and state elections since 2004, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra has campaigned in the family seats where the Gandhis enjoy almost royal status.
Priyanka Gandhi was always active in decision-making and played a key role in the alliance with Akhilesh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party in the 2017 Uttar Pradesh election. She also reportedly oversaw the party meeting in which her older brother was crowned Congress president.
The BJP shrugged off the Congress announcement. “Rahul Gandhi failed so they need Priyanka as a crutch. Can’t they find anyone beyond that family?” sneered BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra.
Srinagar-Jammu Highway still closed
Jammu, Jan 23: A massive snow-clearance operation was underway to restore the 270-km Jammu-Srinagar Highway which remained closed for vehicular traffic for the third consecutive day Wednesday, officials said.
The snow clearance operation on both sides of the Jawahar Tunnel–the gateway to Kashmir–was started and the snow-clearance operation is going on in full swing, said Deputy Superintendent of Police, Traffic Highway, Pardeep Singh Sen.
An avalanche had also struck the Jawahar Tunnel area on Tuesday, blocking both tubes on Qazigund side.
The Border Roads Organisation (BRO), which maintains the Jawahar tunnel stretch of the highway, pressed its men and machines to clear the road of the accumulated snow on Tuesday, Sen said.
“We are expecting the highway to be open for traffic by late afternoon. However, only the stranded vehicles will be allowed to move on the highway once we get the green signal,” he said.
Hundreds of vehicles, mostly trucks, are stranded at various places along the highway, the only all-weather road linking Kashmir with rest of the country, officials said.
They said the road from Banihal, which recorded over two and a half feet of snow, to Jawahar tunnel was also being cleared, while the Banihal-Ramban stretch is almost clear after agencies concerned removed minor landslides and stones which came down at different places due to incessant rains.
After three-day long wet spell across Kashmir, the weather showed improvement with local meteorological department forecasting dry weather till January 29.
The three-day-long wet spell ended across the Valley today. The MeT department had predicted improvement in the weather conditions from Tuesday evening.
The local Meteorological department said that there is no forecast of rain or snowfall across the Valley till January 29 here, saying that the weather would remain cloudy on Jan 25.