Srinagar, July 25: Pakistan elections on Wednesday evoked keen interest in Jammu and Kashmir as people here remained glued to television and radio sets to know the latest developments as voting progressed during the day.
Many were disappointed after last week the district magistrates in the valley ordered suspension of 30 television channels being aired from Pakistan and other places outside India.
“There is no denying the fact that developments in Pakistan have a direct bearing on Kashmir. “A stable political government there can engage meaningfully with India to work for peace in Kashmir,” said Manzoor Ahmad, 62, a retired bank officer.
As people from different places of the valley showed keen interest in Pakistan polls, the one place that remained abuzz with speculations and prophesies was the old city area of Srinagar.
Traditionally known as the hotbed of separatist sentiment in the Kashmir Valley, people in Srinagar downtown were seen engaged in discussion on the future of democracy in Pakistan.
“Even if all of us believe that the army of Pakistan is the strongest institution there, yet the strongest dictatorship is no alternative to even the weakest of democracies,” said Abdul Salaam, 57, a shopkeeper in the old city area.
Even the youth who otherwise show no particular interest in politics seemed to be concerned about the future of democracy in Pakistan.
“Given the level of violence we have seen ahead of the Pakistan polls, holding the elections is a great effort. Those who want us to believe that it is a fixed match are actually trying to undermine democracy in that country. “ have no doubt once a democratic government takes over, a window would open for talks between India and Pakistan,” said Suhail, 25, a varsity student.
While the common man on the street spoke frankly about what he expects from these elections, politicians of both mainstream and separatist groups remained tight-lipped.
Man-animal conflict: Mob beats three-month-old bear cub to death in South Kashmir
Srinagar, May 22: A heart-wrenching incident of a three-month-old black bear cub mercilessly beaten to death by a jeering mob in south Kashmir has sparked a massive outrage across the valley.
The incident occurred on Tuesday when a wild black bear cub strayed into the habitation in the Zungalpora village of Kulgam district in South Kashmir.
A 2.20 minute video showing a huge mob armed with sticks jeering and encircling the bear cub before thrashing and choking it to death. Mob used ropes and jute-bags to capture the cub even as some people beat the animal ruthlessly before it was captured only to die later. The bear cub was seen limping and trying to escape, but the mob was ruthlessly pounding on the animal.
Wild Life Warden of Anantnag Zone Intisar Suhail said they have lodged an FIR and police has also taken a cognizance of the matter. “This cub was born in February this year. They (mob) had caught hold of bear somehow. Before our team could reached there, they had killed the animal. They insisted them to return but it was already dead”, he said.
Wildlife department has conducted the postmortem of the cub and they are waiting for the report. “It was strangulated to death. It had strayed into human habitation. We have identified one person who was the main instigator. We will submit the report to police”, said Intisar.
This is the second such incident in Jammu and Kashmir in the last 12 days. On May 10, a hapless brown bear slipped into deep stream after being chased and stoned by a mob on a steep mountain ridge in Drass area of Kargil district in Ladakh division.
“We are very sad and unhappy to see what is happening around. The animals are not entering into our habitat but we are encroaching their territory. Our wasteland have been encroached and sold. Wasteland used to be a barrier between these animals and forests, and villages. But we have encroached and sold them”, said Aaliya Mir, Head of Wildlife SOS, J&K Chapter
Mir pitched for creating awareness among the people to avoid the man animal conflict in Kashmir. “There is a need for awareness. We have to live with animals and we need to learn to coexist with these species. We need to understand the reasons for this conflict. Habitation degradation, fragmentation, change of land use pattern, climatic factors and even political reasons are leading to his conflict”, she said.
Lok Sabha elections: EVM ‘tampering’ reports abuzz
Fomer Prez ‘concerned’; ECI says all claims ‘false, factually incorrect’
New Delhi, May 21: Two days before the results of Lok Sabha Election, several videos of EVMs being stored and moved from one unauthorised storage house to another surfaced on Twitter.
A number of videos have made rounds on social media since Monday night, allegedly showing EVMs being transported without any security.
While some machines are seen stored at local shops, others are seen stacked in the boot of private vehicles.
The most widely circulated video is said to be from Chandauli, in UP where a group of men can be seen unloading EVMs from a vehicle and stacking them up inside a shop.
Similar videos have surfaced from Ghazipur, Domariaganj, and Jhansi. Videos for suspicions transport of EVMs have also emerged from parts of Punjab and Bihar too.
In Jhansi, for instance, the officials claimed that the EVMS being transported were reserve machines. But they had no answer why the movement of EVM was not informed to candidates. And why reserve EVMs were transported in private vehicles a day after election?
Another video was shared by an Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) worker, who alleged that the video was shot in Punjab and two EVMs and a VVPAT machine were found lying in a car. She even levelled allegations against BJP.
The situation took an interesting turn when former President Pranab Mukherjee expressed his concern at these allegations – described by him as tampering of voters’ verdict – and said the “onus of ensuring institutional integrity” lies with the Election Commission.
“The safety and security of EVMs which are in the custody of the EC is the responsibility of the Commission,” Pranab Mukherjee said in a statement.
“There can be no room for speculation that challenge the very basis of our democracy. People’s mandate is sacrosanct and has to be above any iota of reasonable doubt,” said the former president. “A firm believer in our institutions, it is my considered opinion that it is the ‘workmen’ who decide how the institutional ‘tools’ perform,” he added.
Former Chief Election Commissioner Dr S.Y Qureshi too questioned the ECI’s delay in responding to the allegations.
“Why is EC not clarifying what the facts are? Speed is extremely important,” Qureshi tweeted.
Later, the Election Commission clarified that EVMs are “safe in sealed strong rooms under security, CCTV coverage, and surveillance of candidates.”
It however failed to address how stand-by EVMs were transported in violation of the rules, which say that all polled and reserve EVMs should be guarded by armed police at all times and even reserve EVMs should be returned at the same time when the polled EVMs are returned at the receipt centre.
“Certain complaints of alleged movement of EVMs, purportedly to replace the polled EVMs in the strongrooms, have been doing the rounds in sections of media. Election Commission of India would like to emphatically and unambiguously clarify that all such reports and allegations are absolutely false, and factually incorrect. The visuals seen viral on media do not pertain to any EVMs used during the polls,” the ECI said in a statement.
The allegations come at a time when a number of political parties including TMC, AAP, and others have raised concerns over EVM tampering.
Oppn demands verification of VVPAT slips
Press Trust of India
New Delhi, May 21: Leaders of as many as 22 opposition parties met the Election Commission (EC) on Tuesday and demanded verification of VVPAT slips of randomly-selected polling stations before the counting of the votes polled in the just-concluded Lok Sabha election begins on May 23.
They also demanded that if any discrepancy is found during VVPAT verification, 100 per cent counting of the paper slips of VVPATs of all polling stations of that particular Assembly segment should be done and compared with the electronic voting machine (EVM) results.
“We told the EC that the VVPAT machines should be counted first and if there is any discrepancy, then all of them in that segment should be counted,” Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad told reporters here after meeting EC officials.
Azad’s party colleague Abhishek Singhvi said despite requests to the EC since months, the poll body has now said it will meet on Wednesday to discuss the issue.
“We are asking the EC to respect the mandate of people. It cannot be manipulated,” Telugu Desam Party’s (TDP) N Chandrababu Naidu told reporters.
Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) leader Satish Chandra Mishra alleged that “there is large-scale bungling relating to EVMs in Uttar Pradesh. We demand deployment of central forces”.
The opposition parties also raised concerns over the transportation of EVMs ahead of counting of votes and urged the EC to probe the issue.
The opposition parties are seeking transparency and fairness in the counting of votes and respecting the mandate of the people of the country.
Chopper crash probe confirms ‘friendly fire’
4 IAF personnel to be booked for ‘crime’
New Delhi, May 21: A senior Indian Air Force (IAF) officer and three other personnel of the Srinagar Air Base could be booked for “culpable homicide not amounting to murder” in the 27 February crash of a Mi-17 helicopter that killed six IAF personnel and a civilian, media reports suggested on Tuesday.
The crash, which took place while the Indian forces were on hair-trigger alert in light of an incursion by Pakistan Air Force planes, has almost been confirmed as a result of friendly fire, the reports added.
The report about possible action against IAF personnel comes even as the Court of Inquiry (CoI) into the incident is still underway. The inquiry will shortly move to the next step, ‘summary of evidence’, which is akin to a charge sheet.
The inquiry is said to be looking into the role of the Terminal Weapons Director (TWD) of the airbase, who cleared the launch of the missile. The sources said the Chief Operations Officer (COO) was in charge at that point of time.
The probe seeks to find out whether the order was issued by the officer concerned on phone or if he was present in the control room.
“The IAF is very clear that whoever is guilty will face the music,” a senior officer was quoted as saying. “They could be charged with culpable homicide not amounting to murder but this has not been established yet,” the officer said.
Meanwhile, according to the sources, the Air Officer Commanding (AOC) of the Srinagar Air Base, the most senior officer of the base, has been moved out as part of the probe into the crash.
The AOC, the sources added, was moved out immediately after the incident to ensure an impartial probe.
Reports said that at the time the chopper was hit by a missile fired by the Israeli-made Spyder air defence system, it had been in contact with air traffic control (ATC) as it was approaching the air base.
“The ATC was in touch with the helicopter and knew it was coming back. However, the weapon operators fired because they felt it was an unmanned aircraft coming their way,” one of the sources said. “There was lack of coordination. These are some of the issues that the CoI is looking into.”
It has been learnt that the IAF’s Barnala-based Integrated Air Command & Control System (IACCS), which is tasked with monitoring incoming aircraft from Pakistan, had not designated the helicopter a ‘Red’, the classification for enemy aircraft.
The helicopter’s Identification of Friend or Foe (IFF) — a transponder-based identification system — was switched off. However, sources said the system was switched off because it interferes with civilian aircraft transmissions, and because the aircraft could be identified by the enemy during battle.
Six IAF personnel, one civilian were killed as an Mi-17 chopper was shot down in Kashmir on 27 February while Indian and Pakistan air forces were locked in a dogfight 100 km away