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Farooq, Omar meet party delegation; ‘Abdullahs in high spirits but pained’

Monitor News Bureau

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Srinagar, Oct 6: The National Conference demanded release of mainstream leaders under preventive detention to start a political dialogue on Sunday—two months into a continuing clampdown imposed on the state.

A 15-member delegation that held Farooq and Omar Abdullah—the first time that National Conference leaders met the two since their detention in August—discussed developments in the state and upcoming local body polls during the separate meetings with the two leaders.

The delegation led by Jammu’s provincial chief of the party Devender Singh Rana met former chief Minister Omar Abdullah at Hari Niwas for little over 30 minutes.

 

Omar, who was sporting a beard, was seen clicking a selfie with party leaders.

The delegation then drove to Farooq Abdullah’s residence.

Emerging after the meeting, Rana told reporters that for any political process to begin, the leaders of the party need to be released.

There is “anguish about developments particularly about lockdown of the people and we, as a party, appeal that the political process to start and democracy to revive in Jammu and Kashmir political detenues anywhere and everywhere, whether from mainstream political parties or otherwise who have no criminal record, may be released to initiate the process and the hearts and minds of the people of Jammu and Kashmir are won,” he said.

Rana said that Farooq and Omar “were in high spirits, but pained and anguished over the prevailing situation.”

While talking to the waiting media persons, Rana pitched for immediate release of political leaders of all mainstream parties to restore the democratic process in theState.

When asked about the future political strategy of the party, Rana said that as and when the detained party leaders are released the Working Committee, which is the apex body of the party, will sit and have a detailed review of the situation and developments taking place and decide political roadmap for the party.

To a question by a reporter on the proposed elections to Block Development Councils, Rana quipped: “How can we even think on these lines at this juncture as the party leadership is under detention. Elections are contested by adopting a process, which entails selection, consideration and nomination of candidates. This is not possible in the prevailing situation when the party leaders from the State President down below to Block Presidents are under detention in the Kashmir valley.”

He said the BDC polls are being fought in 316 blocks and if any political party has to contest these elections it is required that 316 Blocks are politically functional.

The NC leader said the party’s working committee would decide on the future course of action whenever the party leaders including the NC president and vice-president would be released.

“Let them be released, then the working committee of the party will meet and discuss and then we will formulate a strategy for the future,” Rana said when questioned about the party’s future strategy.

Farooq has been detained at his residence, while his son Omar has been kept at a state guest house, Hari Niwas.  

Jammu’s NC leaders were recently given permission to meet the Abdullahs. While National Conference leaders from Jammu were released from house arrest last week, several in Srinagar are still in detention, which came as part of a clampdown that followed the central government’s reading down of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution on August 5.

Several mainstream political leaders, besides the Abdullahs, are still under preventive detention after the clampdown, which is now two months old. 

The central government not only read down two controversial provisions that gave special status to the state—Article 370 and 35-A—on August 5, but also split the state into two union territories, Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh.  The state went into lockdown mode just before the development—restrictions were imposed, communication lines were cut off and several mainstream leaders were put under preventive detention.

The state also invoked the draconian Public Safety Act against Farooq last month—a development that drew condemnation from several critics of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.


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Phones to buzz again tomorrow

Govt announces restoration of postpaid services; internet shutdown to continue

Mudassir Kuloo

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Srinagar, Oct 12: Two days after lifting security advisory for tourists, Jammu and Kashmir government Saturday announced to restore postpaid mobile telephony in all the 10 districts of the valley from Monday noon.

However, internet services will continue to remain suspended though government has decided to restore the service at tourist places to facilitate the visitors.

 “After reviewing the situation in Jammu and Kashmir, a decision was taken to restore mobile phone facilities in all the remaining areas of the state. More specifically, all post-paid mobile phones, irrespective of the telecom service provider, will stand restored and be functional from 12 noon on October 14. This will cover all 10 districts of Kashmir province,” Rohit Kansal, Principal Secretary and J&K government spokesperson, told reporters here on Saturday.

 

Jammu and Kashmir government had imposed a communication blockade on August 5 when Centre abrogated Article 370 and divided the state into two union territories.

“A number of restrictions were imposed on August 5 to prevent externally aided militants from disturbing peace and inflicting causalities on innocent citizens. It is a well-established fact that there have been sustained attempts from across the border, both in the past and more in the last two months to promote militancy in J&K in order to create a sense of fear among the people and keep the place in a disturbed condition,” said Kansal.

There are more than 70 lakh mobile phone subscribers in the valley of which 40 lakh alone are postpaid users. Kashmir is the only place in the country where postpaid phone subscribers outnumber prepaid subscribers.

The decision to restore postpaid mobile phone service in Kashmir comes two days after the government lifted August 2 travel advisory for tourists.   

“With this step, tourists will be able to visit the state without being handicapped by the lack of phone connectivity. Students can be in touch with parents while attending schools, businessmen can be in touch with customers, transporters can contact clients and contractors can be in touch with staff,” he said.

Kansal said travel advisory for tourists has been lifted and visitors are welcome to visit the state. “They will be facilitated for their visit. Internet facilities are being opened at tourist places to assist tourists wanting to access internet,” he said.

Government also urged businessmen, industrialists, traders, transporters, shopkeepers, hoteliers and contractors “not to be frightened by militant threats and separatists and go about their normal activities”.

“Credible inputs continue to be received of the likelihood of large scale damage of life and property but also create an atmosphere of fear and among the people.  Banned organizations such as Lashkar-e-Toiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, and Hizbul Mujahideen continue to make attempts to instill fear of J&K,” he said.

Kansal said there was no “unnecessary” loss of life because of measures of security forces and the people. “This is remarkable, given the history of events in 2008, 2010 and 2016. Some killings and injuries have been inflicted by militants including on a baby to prevent traders, businessmen and transporters from doing their normal business,” he said.

Principal Secretary noted since August 16, there has been a gradual removal of the restrictions that were imposed and by the first week of September most of the restrictions were removed.

“Barring 8-10 police stations, movement restrictions have been completely removed. Over 99% of the area of Jammu and Kashmir has no restrictions on movement. Landlines have been fully restored and are functioning for over six weeks. Besides, mobile phone facilities were restored in Jammu and Ladakh, and subsequently in Kupwara district”, he said.

Kansal emphasized that the media was facilitated through the Media Facilitation Centre equipped with all facilities. “Schools were gradually reopened since August and universities, colleges and secondary schools were reopened in the last 10 days. Examination schedules have been announced. Air services are operating normally and air booking has been facilitated in Srinagar with new counters in the city,” he said.

Principal Secretary said 25 Internet kiosks are operating in each district in the district development commissioner offices to help students, contractors, and government departments to carry out their functions. Students have been using this facility to apply for exams, download admission cards, he said.

To help apple growers, he stated that an ambitious Market Intervention Scheme has been launched by the Central Government through NAFED and the Horticulture department. “Prices for apples have been revised last week”, he said.

‘Detentions being reviewed’

Srinagar, Oct 12:  Breaking silence, Jammu and Kashmir government on Saturday said some people were detained as a preventive measures post August 5.

 “There has been a lot of development post August 5 and that was required a certain kind of action including detentions. Decisions were taken at the local level by law enforcing agencies after taking all facts into consideration. All these detentions are being reviewed. Security situation is continuously being accessed. People continue to be released and this process will go on,” said Rohit Kansal, J&K government spokesperson.

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Grenade blast in Srinagar market, 9 injured

Monitor News Bureau

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Srinagar, Oct 12: At least nine people were injured in a grenade attack by suspected militants in a busy market area in summer capital Srinagar on Saturday, the 69th day of the ongoing situation in Kashmir.

Militants hurled a grenade in Hari Singh High Street market area, a police official said.

The grenade exploded on the roadside in the market, injuring nine people, he said, adding that the wounded were rushed to SMHS hospital here.

 

According to the official, the explosion also damaged windows of a vehicle parked nearby.

He said the shops in the market were shut but a few vendors had set up stalls in the area.

The grenade exploded with a bang when a large number of people were busy in buying items from road side vendors.

The area was immediately put under cordon and a search operation was underway at Hari Singh High Street in Srinagar following the grenade attack, the official added.

Police rushed to spot after the incident and shifted the injured to hospital. The injured have been identified as Farooq Ahmed Kadla of Lal Bazar, Basit Sheikh from Batamaloo, Muhammad Younis of Bemina, Shahid Ahmed of Padshahi Bagh, Sabah Malik of Zoonimar, Suhail Mir from Pampore, Bilal Ahmed of Uri, Saifullah of Zaldagar and Abdul Rahim Wani of Central Kashmir’s Budgam district.

The injured are in a stable condition, the police said in the tweet.

Meanwhile, the situation across Kashmir remained unchanged on the 69th day as well. Business, educational activities remained suspended while public transport continued to remain off the roads.

A lot of private vehicles were seen plying on the roads while scores of roadside vendors too were seen doing business at key city areas.

The ongoing turmoil was triggered on August 5 when the government of India abrogated Article 370 and divided the state into two union territories – J&K, and Ladakh (With inputs from KNT)

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Govt kicks off process to vacate forces from schools, colleges

Hirra Azmat

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Srinagar, Oct 12: Jammu and Kashmir government has kicked off the process to vacate the security forces from educational institutes in the valley.

Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel have been stationed in different schools and colleges of the valley since August 5 when the government of India revoked Article 370 and divided the state into two union territories.

Talking to reporters on the sidelines of a press conference by government spokesman, Inspector General of Police, Kashmir, SP Pani said the process of evacuating forces from educational institutes has begun. 

 

Secretary Higher Education Department, Talat Parvez Rohella said: “The forces will be removed from all the educational institutes by the time classwork begins.”

Presently, paramilitary troops are deployed in SP Higher Secondary School, National Institute of Technology (NIT) and Government Polytechnic College, Gogjibagh. Besides, forces are deployed in educational institutions at Khan Sahab, Handwara and other areas.

 “Schools have been gradually reopened since August. Also universities, colleges and higher secondary schools were reopened in the last ten days,” said Rohit Kansal, J&K government spokesman.

Earlier on August 19, authorities had ordered reopening of primary schools followed by middle schools from August 21. Later on October 3, the directives regarding the opening of high and higher secondary schools were announced, yet the students continued to stay away from educational institutes.

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