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Political parties on LS polls: Security major concern for campaigning in Kashmir

Syed Nashir Ali Gillani

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Srinagar, Mar 13: Expressing dismay over the Election Commission of India’s (ECI) decision of not conducting assembly elections with the Lok Sabha elections in Jammu and Kashmir, the political parties on Wednesday admitted that security would be a concern for them during their campaigning.
The ECI on Sunday announced the schedule for the Lok Sabha elections 2019.The voting would be held in seven phases between April 11 and May 19.
The counting of votes would take place on May 23.
In the first phase on April 11, voting will be held in Baramulla and Jammu constituencies. Srinagar and Udhampur constituencies will vote in the second phase on April 18. Polling in Anantnag will be held on April 23, April 29 and May 6, while Ladakh will go to polls on May 6.
Even though the political parties had asked the visiting ECI team to conduct the assembly and parliamentary elections simultaneously in J&K, the commission decided to only conduct the parliamentary elections for now.
President, Jammu and Kashmir Pradesh Congress Committee (JKPCC), Ghulam Ahmad Mir said that “security will be challenge, as of now we have not received any guidelines from the Police for the campaigning.”
“The by-election for Anantnag parliamentary seat was deferred. What does it signify? It is for the first time in the history of Kashmir that the election for Anantnag parliamentary seat would be held in three phases,” he said.
“The security forces have themselves categorized the areas under vulnerable and other categories,” Mir added.
He said that policies adopted by the central government for the last four and half months with regard to Kashmir have “alienated the people, especially youth.”
“The people should feel that the candidate in whose favour they are casting the vote is sincere. They should also feel that will he be able to represent them in the parliament. There are many, who after winning could not live upto the expectations of the people,” he said.
Senior leader, People’s Democratic Party (PDP) Nizam-ud- Din Bhat admitted that the situation is “not good”.
“There is a threat to the lives of voters as well as to the candidates. Time will tell, how many would cast their votes, there are many who don’t cast votes,” he said.
“To hold elections is an obligation for ECI. We are ready for elections. In our meeting, we had asked the ECI to conduct the assembly and parliamentary elections simultaneously. We were not aware of their intentions,” he added.
Provincial president, National Conference (NC), Nasir Aslam Wani said that administration should make fool-proof security arrangements for the parliamentary elections.
“ECI has deferred the assembly elections just because of the security reasons, now one can hope that adequate security measures would be put in place for Lok Sabha,” he said.
Wani said that party’s parliamentary board would be meeting within next couple of days to decide the candidature.
“The preparations are on, our senior leaders will be holding rallies in all the constituencies of the valley and inform people about the wrongdoings of the previous government,” he said.

CEO seeks cooperation from parties

Jammu, Mar 13: Chief Electoral Officer (CEO), J&K, Shailendra Kumar Wednesday interacted with the representatives of recognized political parties in the State on various issues related to the conduct of Parliamentary Elections-2019 which have recently been announced by the Election Commission of India.
The CEO held wide ranging discussions with the political leaders for the smooth, peaceful and transparent conduct of Parliament Elections and sought their views and suggestions to further improve things on ground to ensure larger participation of voters and to augment facilities at the Polling stations across the State.
While seeking cooperation from the Political parties to ensure complete transparency in the electoral process, the CEO urged them to abide by the guidelines of the Election Commission of India with regard to the implementation of Model Code of Conduct (MCC) which has been enforced with the announcement of Parliamentary Elections. He advised them to sensitize their workers, polling agents about the scope and extent of MCC and cooperate fully in strict adherence of the same.
He urged them to make use of Election Commission’s App “C-Vigil” which relates to deal with the complaints with regard to the violation of MCC by any department/political party or any individual and complaints can be filed on-line which are being dealt by the Commission quickly. He also urged them to make optimal use of Suvidha App to avail on-line facilities with regard to seek any kind of permission/registration related to the election process from the election authorities. He said these facilities have been created by the Election Commission to facilitate the political parties to extend instant assistance whatever is required.
The CEO urged the political leaders to appoint their BLAs on priority who can help the BLOs in facilitating election related matters of the parties. He said the District Election authorities have organized training programmes for the political workers, BLAs on use of EVMs/VVPATs and other election related activities enabling them to educate the voters about the same. He also informed that new Electoral Rolls have been made available to all the parties for their information and further use. He also assured to make available the manuals of other important guidelines related to the electoral process issued by the ECI from time to time for their information and knowledge.
The leaders sought some clarifications with regard to the MCC violations, election related expenditure, publicity etc from the CEO. They also suggested several measures to further improve the electoral process.
Prominent among those present on the occasion included, Harshdev Singh from JKNPP, R.K.Bali from JKPDP, Rajinder Sharma from BJP, Pradeep Kumar Bali from National Conference, R.K. Thapa from BSP, Om Parkash from CPI-M and Dr. Rama Kant Khajuria from Indian National Congress.

 
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4 militants killed in Shopian gunfight

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Srinagar, Jun 23: Four militants were Sunday killed in a gunfight with security forces at Daramdora village in Panzar area of south Kashmir’s Shopian district.

Providing details of the gunfight, a police spokesman said that on credible input, a cordon and search operation was launched by police and counter-insurgency forces at Panzar area in Shopian.

“During searches, militants fired upon the search party. The fire was retaliated leading to an encounter,” said the spokesperson.

 

“In the ensuing encounter, four militants were killed and the bodies were retrieved from the site of encounter,” he said.

A police official identified the slain militants as Rafi Hassan Mir of Kralchak Shopian, Suhail Ahmad Bhat of Batmuran Shopian, Showkat Ahmad Mir of Rajpora Pulwama and Azad Ahmad Khanday of Bamnoo Pulwama.

He said among the four slain militants, Showkat had a “long history of crime records since 2015”.

He, the spokesperson said, was initially part of militant outfit Hizbul Mujahideen.

“Showkat, as per police records, was wanted by law for his complicity in a series of crimes including attack on security establishments and civilian atrocities. Several crime cases were registered against him including Case FIR No. 113/2016 of P/S Rajpora pertaining to firing on a guard post at Sheikhard, Case FIR No. 02/2017 of P/S Rajpora pertaining to the lobbing of grenade on security forces, Case FIR No. 20/2017 of P/S Rajpora pertaining to firing on civilians Bashir Ahmad Dar and Altaf Ahmad at Qasabyar in which Bashir Dar succumbed and Altaf was seriously injured, Case FIR No. 21/2017 of P/S Rajpora pertaining to civilian atrocities and Case FIR No. 01/2019 of P/S Rajpora pertaining to killing of a policeman Sameer Ahmad,” said the spokesperson.

Showkat Mir, he said, was “instrumental in the recruitment of Azad Ahmad, Rafi Hassan and Suhail Ahmad who had recently joined the militant fold.”

“Pertinently with the efforts of police and security forces, it was a clean operation. No collateral damage happened during the encounter,” he added.

“Incriminating materials including arms and ammunition was recovered from the site of encounter. All these materials have been taken in the case records for further investigation and to probe their complicity in other terror crime cases,” he said.

Meanwhile, thousands of people participated in the funeral processions of the slain militants at their respective villages.

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The curious case of SMC’s ward no. 30

SMC Comm attaches, officer says ‘some confusion’

Nisar Dharma

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Srinagar, Jun 23: An acting Srinagar Municipality ward officer with a tainted past, who was recently attached for allowing at least a dozen illegal constructions in his area, is back in his ward because of his connections up in the official hierarchy.

Mehraj-ud-Din Buja, the incharge ward officer of ward 30, was attached after the SMC Commissioner Khurshid Ahmad Sanai visited the former’s area on June 19 and found at least a dozen illegal constructions going on.

A source in SMC said the Commissioner immediately ordered demolishing of the constructions and attached Buja along with the concerned building inspector.  

 

A few days later, Buja, however, managed to get back to the ward even as the corporation’s higher-ups have no explanation of his wrongdoings, the source said.

“On records, he may be a small-rung official but he has connections all the way up. How else can one who was caught ran-handed accepting bribe be able to become a ward officer of the most money generating areas in Srinagar,” the source said.

The ward which Buja is overseeing generates the highest revenue for SMC and includes Raj Bagh, Wazir Bagh, and Jawahar Nagar areas, the residential colonies that have lately been in news for mushroom growth of commercial constructions.

Buja is no ordinary guy outside his office as well. He is the chairman of Adhara Auqaf Gousia, the board that manages the shrine of Dastgeer Sahab here in Srinagar.

Buja, interestingly, has managed to stay in the ward for over a year-and-a-half, during which at least 30 other ward officers were transferred, the source added.

His rendezvous with higher-ups in the corporation, the source said, has made him sideline his tainted past with utmost ease.

In October 2014, when GN Qasba was Commissioner SMC, Buja was caught red-handed by Vigilance Organisaton Kashmir (VOK) accepting a bribe of Rs 65,000 for allotting a shop to one Srinagar resident.

VOK, on receiving a complaint from the shopkeeper Abdul Rehman Reshi, had placed a trap to catch Buja.

He, as per the official documents of the case, had demanded a bribe of Rs 2 lakh from the complainant and was caught by the VOK team receiving the first installment of Rs 65,000 in a restaurant right outside the SMC head-office in Karan Nagar here.

Interestingly, Buja, whose designation then was Junior Building Inspector, was working as a Head Assistant in the Revenue Section of the head office.

Two years later, in 2016, the Housing and Urban Development Department had ordered Buja’s prosecution for “commission of offences punishable under section 5(1) (d) r/w 5 (2) J&K P.C.Act Svt.2006 and Sections 109 & 161 RPC in case FIR No. 39/2014 P/S VOK.”

While the case was on, why and how was Buja promoted from a junior building inspector to an acting ward officer of vital ward 30 remains a question that no one in SMC has an answer for.

Meanwhile, a second source said that for allowing any deviation or illegal construction, the concerned SMC officials have designated rates.  

“For a plinth 15,000, for one storey residential construction anything between Rs 30,000 to 50,000 is charged. If it is a commercial construction, the prices go up according to the size of it,” the second source said.

Asked about him getting attached on June 19, Buja told The Kashmir Monitor “that the matter was sorted.”

“There was some confusion regarding the permission which has been cleared now,” he said, adding “I was about to be suspended but God saved me and the (suspension) order was not passed.”

SMC Commissioner, Khurshid Ahmad Sanai, referred this reporter to his private secretary Manzoor Ahmad.

Manzoor confirmed that Buja was attached, however, refused to comment when asked how he had resumed his work as the ward officer.

Asked how a tainted official was given the position, Manzoor said he “will speak with the Commissioner about the matter.”

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Three brothers addicted to Heroin narrate how emboldened peddlers have become

Hirra Azmat

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Srinagar, Jun 23: In the male ward of drug de-addiction centre at department of psychiatry at SMHS hospital here, the 15 beds have had full occupancy in the last fortnight.

Out of the 15 patients admitted, three are from the Rajouri district.

Belonging to the same family, the three stare out while their terrified kin shuffle from one bed to another attending to their needs.

 

It’s for the first time that the centre has seen a family with three drug-dependents.

As the official data fails to recognise the severity of the issue, the three males Umar (35), Sahil (20), and Riyaz (30), who are addicted to heroin, confessed that Rajouri is witnessing a sharp uptick in drug-addiction.

What’s more shocking is that the number of drug-peddlers exceeds the number of addicts, who deliver the drugs to the latter’s home.

A recent death in their village due to heroin overdose created panic among the family. Fearing peer criticism and social backlash, they confided in a boy in their neighborhood who recently received treatment from SMHS. 

At the hospital, while Umar was being taken to the bathroom by his wife, Riyaz calls out to his mother in a slurred speech. Yasir, who is writhing in body pain, is surrounded by his brother and sister.

Umar, clad in white Khan-dress is a vegetable vendor by profession. His chronic addiction to heroin led him to a financial crunch.

“Every evening, I gathered with my friends at a deserted spot near my home. We got packets of various types of powder, vials of liquid mixtures, some water, and some needles and syringes. We prepared the fix, took a shot and then lied down, letting the drug take effect,” he said.

On the adjacent bed, Sahil, a college dropout, has chiseled features and has grown a stubble. Two years into addiction, he sold his two cars and bikes.

“It cost me around five to six lakh till now. For the last four months, I had switched to heroin for an instant kick. In our village, procuring my daily fix of heroin is as easy as buying a pack of cigarettes,” he said.

Riyaz, while agreeing with him, added, “Those who find it difficult to fund their drug habit become putty in the hands of peddlers and end up moonlighting as their conduits.”

He said: “A small quantity of heroin costs around 1000-2000 rupees. When someone in our circle didn’t have the money, we shelled out 500 rupees each and bought the stuff.”

Riyaz recalls how the sudden death of a 35-year-old Hameed, a shopkeeper he knew, rocked him to the core.

“Hameed shared meals with me on the day he passed away. Heroine took his life. We spent our childhood together,” he said in an incoherent manner.

A counsellor wishing anonymity said: “So entrenched is the drug-supply network that the patients need to be surrounded by a set of family members in the hospital all the time. This is to avoid the trap waiting to snare them once they are out of the protected environment home.”

Seconding him, Dr Yasir Rather, neuro-psychiatrist and de-addiction specialist at the hospital, said: “There is no fear in drug peddlers. Patients report that they can order drugs like heroin on just a phone call and drug peddler will drop it at their home. It appears as if ordering a packet of heroin is easier than ordering pizza.”

“Deaths are happening frequently, due to overdose, we see so many young people nowadays on ventilators of SMHS hospital,” the doctor said.

Asked what needs to be done, he added: “Laws are there but need to be implemented in letter and spirit. Also, the parents as well as school and college administrations need to be vigilant.

“We also need to mobilize Islamic scholars and all religious leaders to talk about it.”

(Note: The names of the patients and the person who died due to drug overdose have been changed to conceal their identity.)

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