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Is NIA probe a major hurdle in Delhi-Hurriyat talks?

Monitor News Bureau

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New Delhi, Jun 09: The future of the delicately poised dialogue between the government at the Centre and separatists in Kashmir is closely linked to the National Investigation Agency’s (NIA) probe into ‘terror’ funding, a media report on Saturday claimed.
Quoting from multiple government officials involved with the backchannel parley, Hindustan Times reported.
“Leaders of the Hurriyat Conference have pointed to the charge sheets filed in court by the NIA, asking how the case and talks can go side by side,” the HT report said quoting one official on condition of anonymity.
It said the ground was being prepared for a dialogue with the separatists.
“In response to an offer of talks by home minister Rajnath Singh, the Joint Resistance Leadership indicated it would be ready for a dialogue provided the government of India spoke in one voice and with clarity. The NIA’s probe, however, is a hurdle,” the report added.
A charge sheet filed by the NIA in January, the report further said, points to the link between the leaders of the Joint Hurriyat and Lashkar-e-Taiba chief Hafiz Saeed and Hizbul Mujahideen chief Syed Salahuddin.
“No direct charges have been made against leaders Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq or Yasin Malik, but the NIA charge sheet says they espouse the cause of secession of Jammu and Kashmir from India. The blame for the protests by stone-pelting youth has also been laid at the door of the separatists,” it added.
When asked about the Hurriyat’s concerns over the NIA’s multiple investigations, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, in a telephone interview from Srinagar said: “The government should decide whether they want to arrest us or talk to us.”
Reiterating the Joint Hurriyat’s commitment to a dialogue, Mirwaiz said, “The (Atal Bihari) Vajpayee government spoke to us under the ambit of humanity. Let (home minister) Rajnath Singh tell us whether his government has had a change of heart or is it just a change of strategy. If we are the kingpins of the demonstrations and the protests, who is now paying the youth to go to encounter sites?”
Key aides and relatives of the separatists have been in jail for over a year due to the NIA probe. Altaf Ahmad Shah alias Altaf Fantoosh, son-in-law of Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Shahid-ul-Islam, spokesperson of the Mirwaiz, are still in prison.
The Mirwaiz also indicated that the JRL would prefer a dialogue at the ‘political level’ and not at the level of the interlocutor, Dineshwar Sharma, who retired as the chief of the Intelligence Bureau.
Rajnath reiterated the need for a dialogue while on a two-day visit to the state. “You don’t have to be like-minded, but right-minded,” he said in Srinagar on Thursday.
The Mirwaiz held out hope of a dialogue, saying, “We will respond soon to the home minister’s request.”
A second official, familiar with the backchannel efforts also held out hope, hinting that it’s possible to simply keep the NIA case going without doing anything about it. “The case against Yasin Malik, accused of killing air force officers, is still dragging on for more than 25 years,” this person added on condition of anonymity.
“We are hopeful of talks.”


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Lok Sabha passes bill to empower NIA in fight against ‘terrorism’

UPA repealed POTA for vote bank politics: Amit Shah

Agencies

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New Delhi, Jul 15: The Lok Sabha on Monday passed the National Investigation Agency (Amendment) Bill 2019 after uproar by the opposition parties on the floor of the House.
The bill empowers the central anti-terror agency to investigation offences committed outside India as well as mandates the setting up of special courts for such cases.
Batting for the Bill in Lok Sabha, Union Home Minister Amit Shah urged members of opposition parties to remain united in passing the same.
Addressing the Lok Sabha, the Home Minister said that rationale behind the bill was to ensure speedy trial in terror-related cases. He further called for voting on the bill, saying it would classify as to who stood against terrorism and who stood for it.
“Terrorism is neither right wing nor left wing, terrorism is terrorism. This is a BJP government and it works as per the provisions of law,” said the Home Minister.
Later, Minister of State for Home Affairs G Kishan Reddy said that “it is the duty of the government to fight terrorism” and hence passing the bill was imperative for the country.
“Hamari ‘chowkidar’ ki sarkar hai. Yeh sarkar desh ki raksha karne ke liye aage rahegi (We have a government of ‘chowkidar’. This government is committed to ensure safety and security of the country). It is the duty of the government to fight terrorism.”
Parliament also witnessed verbal dual between Shah and AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi when Satya Pal Singh of the BJP alleged that TADA and POTA were used unfairly by the previous governments.
Earlier, several opposition members, including N K Premachandran and Saugata Roy, questioned the government’s decision to push for a discussion amid the ongoing budget- related debates but Speaker Om Birla ruled that a debate can start.
Reddy said the NIA has been doing a good work and secured conviction in over 90 per cent of cases. It has so far registered 272 cases out of which judgement has been delivered in 52, he added.
Appropriate punishment to the accused at times is not meted out to criminals involved in human trafficking, he said, pitching for the NIA to probe these cases.
With terrorism having international dimensions, he said it is imperative that the NIA is empowered to probe incidents of terrorism targeting Indians, the Indian embassy and other assets abroad.
Tewari said India’s founding fathers have given primacy to civil liberties as they had seen that many criminal laws were brought in by the British to keep Indians suppressed.
When investigation agencies are seen as being misused for political vendetta, then there is a fundamental problem with a bill that seeks to empower a probe body, he said. Tewari though added that his allegation is not aimed at any particular government and is generic.
He also demanded a separation between investigation and prosecution wings for a fair probe.
He accused the government of seeking to turn the country into a police state, and said its ramifications will last beyond its tenure.

UPA repealed POTA for vote bank politics: Amit Shah

New Delhi, Jul 15: Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Monday said that the decision of UPA government to repeal POTA in 2004 was a mistake and was taken for the sake of “vote bank politics”, which led to rise in the incidents of “terrorism” between 2004 and 2008.
Intervening in the debate on the National Investigation Agency (Amendment) Bill, 2019, Shah said that BJP government had no intention to misuse the amendments being proposed to strengthen the NIA.
“It (POTA) was repealed to save the vote bank politics. It was helpful in protecting the borders of the country,” he said.
He said that the decision to repeal the POTA, taken by the first UPA government in its first Cabinet meeting, was a “political decision”.
Shah said the opposition members can do their politics but should not use the parliament for this.
Home Minister Shah, who faced some interruptions from opposition members, said the decision to repeal POTA was wrong and the view was also shared by security agencies.
“There was such rise in terrorism between 2004 and 2008 that the UPA had to bring the NIA Bill,” he said, adding that if there were POTA, Mumbai blasts could have been prevented.

Congress calls it attempt to turn India into ‘police state’
Agencies
New Delhi, Jul 15: The government asserted on Monday that a Bill to broaden the National Investigation Agency’s powers is part of its policy of zero tolerance against terrorism and is in national interest, as Lok Sabha took up a discussion on the proposed legislation.
While Minister of State for Home G. Kishan Reddy sought support of all parties for the passage of the National Investigation Agency (Amendment) Bill, 2019, Manish Tewari of the Congress accused the government of trying to turn India into a “police state.”
Tewari opposed the Bill, saying probe agencies are misused for “political vendetta” and “inspired media leaks” from them have turned the maxim of “innocent until proven guilty” on its head.
He also claimed that the constitutional validity of the NIA Act, which led to the investigation agency’s formation, is still not settled as pleas challenging its validity are pending in different courts.
Earlier, several opposition members, including N.K. Premachandran and Saugata Roy, questioned the government’s decision to push for a discussion amid the ongoing budget- related debates but Speaker Om Birla ruled that a debate can start.
Tewari said India’s founding fathers have given primacy to civil liberties as they had seen that many criminal laws were brought in by the British to keep Indians suppressed.
When investigation agencies are seen as being misused for political vendetta, then there is a fundamental problem with a bill that seeks to empower a probe body, he said. Mr. Tewari though added that his allegation is not aimed at any particular government and is generic.
He also demanded a separation between investigation and prosecution wings for a fair probe. He accused the government of seeking to turn the country into a police state, and said its ramifications will last beyond its tenure.

 
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KEG led alliance sweeps Kashmir Press Club polls

Shuja elected first Prez, Moazum VP, Tantray GS, Farooq treasurer

Monitor News Bureau

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Srinagar, Jul 15: Shuja ul Haq of India Today was elected first president of Kashmir Press Club for which the elections were held on Monday.

Shuja won by one vote in the closely fought polls. He polled 92 votes while his nearest rival Haroon Rashid of Nida-e-Mashriq got 91 votes. Zulfikar Majid, who was also contesting for the post of president, got 46 votes.

Except President, Kashmir Editors Guild led alliance swept the Kashmir Press Club polls.
Moazum Mohammad of The Kashmir Reader was elected vice president. Wasim Khalid and Syed Tajamul, who were contesting for the post of Vice President, got 24 and 74 votes respectively. Three votes were rejected.

 

Riyaz Ahmad Malik, Ishfaq Ahmad Tantray and Hakeem Irfan were fighting for the post of General Secretary. Ishfaq Tantray of The Tribune emerged winner by bagging 102 votes followed by Reyaz Malik 95 and Hakeem Irfan 28 votes.

There were two contestants for the post of treasurer. Farooq Javeed Khan polled 178 votes while Arshid Rasool got 44 votes.

Seven executive members, who emerged winners, include Habib Naqash with 150 votes, Arshid Hussain with 122 votes, Shafat Kira with 105 votes, Nisar Bhat with 122 votes Gowhar Geelani with 106 votes, Auqib Javeed with 99 votes and Altaf Baba with 86 votes.

252 journalists were eligible to cast their votes for four posts and seven-member executive committee. . However only 231 turned out to vote.

Much excitement was witnessed since morning as scores of journalists assembled to cast their ballots.

In a run up to the polls, candidates tried hard to woo voters through a fierce poster, social media and video campaigns.

Social security, exigency funds, free legal support and other issues were some of the poll promises made by the candidates during canvassing.

An eight member team led by Manzoor Anjum was part of election commission that conducted polls. The elections were conducted under the observation of two lawyers from High Court Bar Association– Bashir Sidiq and Mohammad Ashraf Bhat.

Press club of Kashmir was established last year. Later the erstwhile information directorate building at Polo View was handed over to the journalists. Since then ad hoc body of journalists was running the affairs of Press Club.

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Assembly Elections: Political parties get into campaign mode in Kashmir

Firdous Hassan

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Srinagar, Jul 15: Political parties have kicked off the process to woo the voters even as the Election Commission is yet to decide on the schedule for the Assembly polls in Jammu and Kashmir.

Jammu and Kashmir is without an elected government since June 19 last year when the then Mehbooba Mufti government collapsed after BJP pulled out of the PDP led alliance.

Though the EC successfully conducted the parliamentary polls in May this year, it did not announce any schedule for the assembly polls.

 

Hopes however rekindled last month when Union Home Minister Amit Shah told the parliament that the assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir will be held “in a democratic, free and fair manner as soon as the Election Commission announces the dates”.

Sensing the possibility of early assembly polls, political parties have now switched into a campaign mode to woo the electorate in the state.“We are busy holding district level conventions. Our main focus is on unity. We urge people to unite for the sake of Jammu and Kashmir,” Ali Muhammad Sagar, General Secretary, National Conference, told The Kashmir Monitor.

Sagar said the party has been holding at least three conventions daily in south Kashmir region to put across their agenda. “We are now concentrating on Baramulla, Bandipora and Kupwara districts. We are holding corner meetings with people. We have given instructions to our workers to ensure that our message reaches to the people at grassroots,” he said.

People’s Democratic Party (PDP), which lost all the three parliamentary seats in Kashmir, has also reached out to their workers and core supporters for assembly polls.“We have held meetings in South and Central Kashmir. So far people have been busy with agriculture and tourism. Now our president Mehbooba Mufti will visit every constituency to garner support for upcoming election,” said Rafi Ahmed Mir, chief spokesman of PDP.

Mir said there are challenges of vote division before the party, but the party is working out a strategy to woo the voters. “We are activating our workers,” he added.

Similarly BJP, which claims to have over 3.35 lakh members in the valley, has asked its Panchs and Sarpanchs to accelerate the membership drive.“Every Panch or Sarpanch has been asked to enlist at least 500 new members in order to benefit party in the elections,” a party leader said.

Congress too has gone into a campaign mode to woo the voters before polls.

State Congress president G A Mir has held several meetings with former ministers and ex-Legislators to work out a strategy for polls. On Sunday senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad too chaired a meeting of Congress leaders to review the party functioning.

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