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Politico-military approach must for peaceful Kashmir: Army Chief

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Srinagar, Jan 14: Political initiative must go “hand-in-hand” with military operations in Jammu and Kashmir to bring peace, Army chief General Bipin Rawat said on January 14, and favoured ramping up military offensive to pile up heat on Pakistan to stop cross-border terrorism in the State.
Gen. Rawat said the armed forces operating in the State cannot be “status quoist” and must evolve new strategies and tactics to deal with the situation, which he feels is “marginally” better since he took over a year ago.
In an interview to PTI, the Army chief asserted that there was room for ramping up heat on Pakistan to cut flow of cross border militant activities, clearly indicating that the Army will continue its policy of hot pursuit in dealing with militancy.
“The political initiative and all the other initiatives must go simultaneously hand-in-hand and only if all of us function in synergy, we can bring lasting peace in Kashmir. It has to be a politico-military approach that we have to adopt,” the Army chief said. In October, the government had appointed former Intelligence Bureau chief Dineshwar Sharma as its special representative for a “sustained dialogue” with all stakeholders in J&K.
“When the government appointed an interlocutor, it is with that purpose. He is the government’s representative to reach out to the people of Kashmir and see what their grievances are so that those can then be addressed at a political level,” the Army chief said.
Asked whether there is room for ramping up pressure on Pakistan to force it to stop sending militants to the State, he said, “Yes, you cannot be status quoist. You have to continuously think and keep moving forward. You have to keep changing your doctrines and concept and the manner in which you operate in such areas.”
Gen. Rawat said the Army will have to evolve new strategies and new tactics to deal with the situation. At the same time, he said an overall approach was required to deal with the Kashmir issue.
Since beginning of 2017, the Army pursued an aggressive anti-militancy policy in Jammu and Kashmir and, at the same time, forcefully responded to all ceasefire violations by Pakistani troops along the Line of Control with a tit-for-tat approach.
“Military is only part of the mechanism to resolve the Kashmir issue. Our charter is to ensure that the terrorists who are creating violence in the state are taken to task and those who have been radicalised and are increasingly moving towards militancy are prevented from doing so,” he said.
Gen. Rawat said some youths “continue to be radicalised” and are joining militancy. The Army has been trying to maintain pressure on militant groups, he said.
The Army’s aim is to ensure that it continues to maintain the pressure on the militants and those fomenting trouble there, Gen. Rawat said. “But at the same time, we have to also reach out to the people,” he said. Asked whether the situation in Kashmir has improved since he has taken over as the Army chief a year ago, Gen. Rawat said, “I am only seeing a marginal change in situation for the better.
“I do not think it is time to become over confident and start assuming that the situation has been brought under control because infiltration from across the borders will continue.”
The LoC has remained volatile in 2017. According to official figures, 860 incidents of skirmishes were reported in 2017 as against 221 the year before.


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Phase III Lok Sabha polls: Anantnag to go to polls today

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Srinagar, Apr 22: The Anantnag Lok Sabha constituency in Jammu and Kashmir goes to the polls in the third phase on Tuesday even as the security forces face a serious challenge to ensure that the democratic process passes off peacefully.

Due to the overwhelming security concerns, the Anantnag parliamentary constituency comprising four districts — Anantnag, Kulgam, Shopian and Pulwama — will vote in three phases. Polling in Anantnag will be held on Tuesday, followed by Kulgam (April 29) and Pulwama and Shopian (May 6).Over 100 additional companies of Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) have been deployed to augment an already existing large contingent of state police and CAPF personnel deployed on poll duty in this constituency.

Because of the serious security challenges in the constituency, by-poll could not be held in Anantnag after Mehbooba Mufti, President of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), resigned the seat in 2016 to become the state’s Chief Minister following the death of her father, Mufti Muhammad Sayeed.

 

In addition to the presence of foreign militants, homegrown militancy is a big challenge here for the agencies maintaining ‘law and order’.

In the last four years, a large number of local youth, majority of them well-educated and belonging to upper middle class families, have joined militant ranks in the four districts of Anantnag, Shopian, Kulgam and Pulwama.

The problems for the security personnel have been compounded by stone pelting at armed forces during security operations against holed up militants, thousands of mourners turning out to attend funerals of slain militants and the failure of the mainstream politicians to move out even in areas from where they were voted to the state Assembly in 2014.

Due to security issues, the voting process here would be held between 7 a.m. and 4 p.m., instead of the 6 p.m. deadline observed in the other constituencies of the state.

While there are five main candidates in the fray from Anantnag — PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti, Congress’ Ghulam Ahmad Mir, Hasnain Masoodi of the National Conference (NC), Sofi Yusuf of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Chowdhary Zafar Ali of the Peoples Conference (PC) — the key contest here is between Mufti and state Congress President Mir.

Out of the 16 Assembly segments under the Anantnag Lok Sabha constituency, the PDP had won 11, Congress 2, NC 2 and CPI-M 1 in the 2014 Assembly elections.

Given these statistics, Mufti’s victory may look like a cakewalk, but the ground situation has undergone a sea change since 2014.

The failed ruling alliance between the PDP and the BJP in the state has hit the former’s prospects in Anantnag as it has done in the rest of the Muslim majority Valley.

Mufti has taken a huge gamble by deciding to fight the Lok Sabha polls from here. Her victory or defeat would seriously impact the prospects of her party in the state Assembly elections likely to be held later this year.

Her problems have been compounded by Mir throwing his hat in the electoral arena. Mir has committed vote banks in Dooru, Shangus, Kokernag and Devsar segments.

While it is expected that the voter turnout would be good in these segments, there is a possibility of thin voter turnout in the segments where the PDP believes its vote banks exist.

Given this reality, the final result could see a photo finish between Mir and Mufti.

Poll campaign by different parties here has been generally muted because of security constraints.

How many voters come out to vote on Tuesday would be keenly watched. But no matter what, the security forces will have their tasks cut out to ensure that polling is conducted smoothly in this volatile constituency.

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SRI LANKA BOMBINGS: Death toll rises to 290

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Colombo, Apr 22: The toll in the eight coordinated bomb blasts that rocked Sri Lanka during Easter celebrations rose to 290, police said on Monday.

Police spokesperson Ruwan Gunasekara told The New York Times that 24 people have been arrested in connection with the deadly explosions in which nearly 500 people were injured on Sunday.

Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe told the reporters that the authorities had prior “information regarding a possible attack” before the bomb blasts ripped through churches and hotels in Colombo and two other towns in the island nation.

 

“While this goes on we must also look into why adequate precautions were not taken,” Wickremesinghe was quoted as saying by Al Jazeera.

The police said that the investigation will examine reports why the intelligence community failed to detect or warn of possible suicide attacks ahead of the blasts, the worst violence in Sri Lanka since the end of the civil war 10 years ago.

They also said that an improvised pipe bomb found close to Colombo’s main airport late on Sunday, was successfully detonated. No group has claimed responsibility for the attacks.

The Prime Minister said, “So far the names that have come up are local,” adding that the investigators are looking into whether the attackers had any “overseas links”.

According to Sri Lanka’s Foreign Ministry, at least 17 people from eight countries, including three from India, were among those who were killed in the serial blasts. The dead included five citizens of Britain, three Danes, two each from China and Turkey and one each from the Netherlands and Portugal, reported CNN.

The ministry said that 19 foreign nationals injured in the attacks are receiving treatment at Colombo National Hospital.

Following the bomb attacks, the Sri Lankan government had imposed a 12-hour island-wide curfew from 6:00 pm on Sunday.

After a discussion with heads of security forces and all other departments regarding the current security situation in the country, President Maithripala Sirisena had announced that the government and private schools would remain closed till Tuesday.

In addition, steps have been taken to temporarily block all social media accounts until the investigations are concluded.

‘National Tawheed Jamath’ suspected plotters: Sri Lanka

Press Trust of India

Colombo, Apr 22: A local outfit identified as the ‘National Tawheed Jamath’ is suspected of plotting the deadly Easter blasts that killed 290 people and wounded 500 others in the worst terror attack in the country’s history, a top Sri Lankan minister said on Monday.

Health Minister and the government spokesman, Rajitha Senaratne, also said that all suicide bombers involved in the blasts are believed to be Sri Lankan nationals.

Speaking at a press conference here, the minister said that the Chief of National Intelligence had warned the Inspector General of Police (IGP) regarding the probable attacks before April 11.

“On April 4, international intelligence agencies had warned of these attacks. The IGP was informed on April 9,” Senaratne said.

He said that the local outfit identified as the National Tawheed Jamath – a radical Muslim group – is suspected of plotting the deadly explosions.

“There may be international links to them,” he added.

Senaratne sought resignation of police chief Pujith Jayasundera in view of the major security lapse.

Rauff Hakeem, a government minister and the leader of the main Muslim party – Sri Lanka Muslim Congress, said that it was lamentable that no preventive action had been taken despite the inputs.

“They have known this…, the names have been given, identified, but (they) took no action,” he added.

Two Sri Lankan Muslim groups – the All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulama and the National Shoora Council – have condemned the blasts and offered condolences to the Christian community.

They have urged that all culprits be brought to book.

Seven suicide bombers were involved in eight blasts that targeted St Anthony’s Church in Colombo, St Sebastian’s Church in Negombo and Zeon Church in Batticaloa when the Easter Sunday mass were in progress. The explosions also struck three five-star hotels in Colombo – the Shangri-La, the Cinnamon Grand and the Kingsbury.

No group has claimed responsibility for Sunday’s attacks, but police have so far arrested 24 people.

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If well, Malik to appear in Delhi Court tomorrow

Nisar Dharma

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Srinagar, Apr 27: Detained Joint Hurriyat leader Yasin Malik, who was shifted to a hospital in Delhi after his health deteriorated due to a hunger strike in Tihar jail against his “illegal detention”, will now appear in Patiala House Court on April 24 as a magistrate has ordered his judicial remand after meeting him in the hospital, sources said.

Malik, who was shifted to Ram Manohar Lohia hospital in Delhi after his health worsened in the jail last week, was likely to be shifted back to Tihar Central Jail on Monday, sources added.

“Malik had told the visiting magistrate on Saturday that he will break the hunger strike only if he was sent to judicial custody, which the magistrate eventually ordered,” sources told The Kashmir Monitor over the phone from Delhi.

 

Chairman of JKLF (banned by Government of India last month), Malik was detained under PSA and shifted to Jammu’s Kot Balwal jail in March.

Earlier this month, he was arrested from the Jammu jail by National Investigation Agency (NIA) in the alleged funding case and brought to Delhi.

Last Saturday, Malik’s family in Srinagar said Malik was “very ill” after he went on a hunger strike to protest against his “illegal” detention by the NIA. A Delhi court had on April 10 sent Malik to NIA custody till April 22 in connection with the alleged funding case.

PDP demands shifting him to Srinagar

Srinagar, Apr 22: Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Monday demanded shifting JKLF Chairman Yasin Malik to Srinagar, terming his failing health a major cause of concern.

In a statement issued here, PDP leader Mohammad Sartaj Madni said that government of India cannot ignore the mounting concerns of the people of the state about the deteriorating health of incarcerated JKLF Chief.

“Malik’s family has already expressed its concern over the way in which the health of their son is sadistically being ignored in an outright manner and that there are apprehensions that if adequate medical facilities aren’t put in place for Malik, his life could be in danger,” Madni, as per the statement, said.

He added that even if ideologically there is a deep chasm between separatists and New Delhi and their views do not square with each other, “vindictive approach against them is unconstitutional, illegitimate and inhuman.”

Madni demanded that Malik should be immediately shifted to Srinagar and treated here only. According to the PDP leader, shifting Malik to Kashmir will facilitate his family to take care of him and will also pacify people who are concerned over his failing health.

Pak criticises Malik’s confinement

Press Trust of India

Islamabad, Apr 22: Pakistan on Monday criticised India for arresting and confining separatist leader Yasin Malik in connection with a case related to the alleged funding in Jammu and Kashmir.

“Pakistan strongly condemns the continuing incarceration and deteriorating health of Yasin Malik since February 22 on trumped up charges,” Pakistan’s foreign office said in a press release.

“We expect the Government of India to ensure the wellbeing of Malik, including provision of adequate health care,” it said.

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) arrested JKLF chief Malik on April 10 after a special NIA court in Jammu gave the go ahead for his custodial interrogation by the probe agency.

Malik, who was shifted to Tihar jail under police protection, was taken into preventive custody in February by the Jammu and Kashmir police and shifted to Jammu’s Kot Balwal jail.

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