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SC declining CBI probe plea a severe jolt to BJP

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By Nisar Dharma

Srinagar, May 07: The Supreme Court declining to entertain the demand for a CBI probe in the rape and murder of an eight-year-old Bakerwal girl in Kathua has come as a big jolt to BJP whose ministers and members have been openly demanding a CBI probe and criticising the state Crime Branch’s investigation.
On Monday, the Apex Court transferred the case from Kathua to Pathankot district and sessions court and rejected any need for a CBI probe in it.
The decision must have been a shocker for BJP, a party who all through the Crime Branch’s investigation had made it a prestige point to nullify it while ranting for a CBI probe.
Among the major BJP leaders who openly called for CBI investigation was Dr Jitendra Singh, the MoS in PMO office.
In April, two senior BJP leaders and former cabinet ministers, Lal Singh and Chander Prakash Ganga, too were seen openly castigating the state probe and supporting the demand for a CBI inquiry in a rally organised by Hindu Ekta Manch, a right-wing group formed to shield the accused in the rape and murder case.
The speaker-turned-Deputy Minister of State Kavinder Gupta, a staunch RSS man since his teens, too had openly supported the CBI inquiry.
Bar Council of India, whose Chairman Manan Kumar Mishra is a declared BJP man, had told Supreme Court that lawyers in Kathua did not obstruct justice in the case and their demand for a CBI investigation into the matter was “justified”.
The top court had earlier pulled up the Jammu lawyers for obstructing the legal process.
On April 13, the Supreme Court took suo motu notice of the lawyers of Jammu and Kathua bar associations preventing the police from entering the court and preventing the family’s lawyer from appearing in the case.
Apart from employing persistent pressure-building tactics, a group of lawyers and so-called activists, who had complete BJP backing, were sent to Kathua to come up with a report that questioned the Crime Branch investigation and chargesheet.
In fact, the BJP’s J&K unit Friday uploaded a video on its official website of the advocate who was part of that group, questioning the Crime Branch’s investigation and arrests.
After uploading the video labelled “A big expose on Kathua facts” and featuring advocate Monika Arora in the evening, the party’s IT cell also issued appeals on WhatsApp groups to share the clip on social networking sites.
Arora was part of an “independent” five-member team that recently visited Jammu on “a fact-finding mission” into the rape and murder in Rasana village. Its other members included Meera Khadkkar, retired district judge, Nagpur; Sarjana Sharma, Kashmir journalist; Sonali Chitalkar, assistant professor, Department of Political Science, Miranda House, Delhi University; and, Monicca Agarwaal, a social activist.
The team based the report on the testimonies of families of the accused, their lawyer Ankur Sharma and the Jammu Bar Association whose associates, the Kathua Bar Association, had last month allegedly tried to prevent J&K police from filing its charge sheet in court.
The group didn’t meet the family of the victim or the Muslim Bakarwal community and haven’t mentioned them in their report. The group has included photos of their meeting with Mufti and J&K Minister Zulfikar Choudhary but didn’t include their views in the report.
BJP’s J&K spokesperson Sunil Sethi said the fact-finding committee has submitted its report to Minister of State in the PMO Dr Jitendra Singh Thursday. “Because the report has been given to the government, we uploaded it on our website. However, it does not mean that we are accepting the report,’’ Sethi said.

 
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Not holding simultaneous elections will impact voter turnout in LS polls: Experts

Firdous Hassan

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Srinagar, Mar 19: Not holding Assembly and Parliamentary polls together is likely to impact the overall voter turnout in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections in the valley, claim valley based experts in politics.
This year many new parties have come to the fore and the Centre is likely to enhance its deployment of forces in Kashmir to ensure “violence free elections.”
However with spontaneous disturbance across the valley coupled with delaying of the Assembly elections by the Centre, the experts claim a major proportion of the people are likely to keep away from casting their votes.
“Parliamentary election in Kashmir usually invite low voter turnout. Had it been both Lok Sabha and General Assembly elections held together in the state the voter turnout could be expected higher. As of now, we don’t see chances of any major turn out in voting ahead especially in Kashmir,” said Prof Gul Muhammad Wani who teaches Political Science at Kashmir University.
Wani expressed doubt over the participation of newly formed parties in the upcoming Lok Sabha polls.
“I am not sure if these smaller parties will field their candidates. Even if their leaders file nomination, people won’t vote for them in huge proportion compared to the two main political parties of Kashmir (NC and PDP),” Wani said.
“Many parties will use this election to mobilise people for the upcoming assembly elections,” he said.
In 2014 LS polls, 49.7 per cent voter turnout was recorded in Jammu and Kashmir. Barring Jammu, people mostly in Kashmir prefer to choose boycott over ballot as only 11.46% voter turnout was recorded in summer capital.
In 2017 by-polls, the turnout in Srinagar dipped further to only seven percent as violence and killing gripped the valley on poll day.
Prof Noor Ahmad Baba, another expert in politics, claims the parliamentary elections in Kashmir won’t be a “bigger affair” as he believes that there are less “reaction” votes from the valley.
“In other states people vote to express their dissent, which is not in case of Kashmir. Some people will vote here positively. The turnout is expected to be higher in Assembly polls ahead,” he said.
Prof Baba said the emergence of new parties too won’t woo many people to cast their vote for them.
“These new parties won’t have much impact immediately. Sajad Lone has no appeal outside Baramulla and Shah Faesal too can’t make a bigger difference. However, if NC and Congress form an alliance then some may come out to vote,” he said.

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Slow repair work halts cross-LoC trade in Uri

Traders fear losses in crores

Bisma Bhat

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Srinagar, Mar 19: The Cross-LoC trade in Uri has hugely suffered due to snail-paced repair work on the Kamaan Post Bridge, traders rued on Tuesday.
As per them, around 116 trucks are stuck at Uri road in north Kashmir while 24 others are stranded at Traders Federation Center Salamabad. The stranded trucks are carrying delicate items including fruits and vegetables which cannot be preserved for long course of time.
Aggrieved over the losses, the Cross-LoC Traders Association claimed that the delicate goods in stranded trucks have been damaged due to the delay.
Speaking to The Kashmir Monitor, Hilal Turki, chairman, Cross-LoC Traders’ Association, said the items in the trucks have almost “perished” as around two weeks have passed since the repairing work started.
“The losses might be in crores as there are 140 trucks stranded. We have written to the Director General of Police to seek the intervention for speedy repairing of the bridge,” he said.
In a letter to government authorities, the association stated: “Our traders mostly deal with fresh items and the value of those items is in millions of rupees, here we would like to bring in your kind notice that most of the products come from all over the country and as such our loaded fresh trucks remain in transit for a week or more due to this uncomfortable situation our traders are desperately waiting for speedy repairing of Kamaan Pull so that heavy losses can be saved.”
Earlier on March 9, police communicated to the concern authorities that due to the sustained use of Kaman Aman Setu for cross-LoC trade for a long period, the bridge has suffered some damages which requires immediate repair to prevent further deportation.
“Inspection of the bridge was carried out on March 8, 2019, which indicated that the bridge needs urgent repairs and maintenance to ensure its longevity. The repair would require minimum 10-15 days,” he said.
However, around two weeks after, the repair work is still on at a very slow pace.
Riyaz Malik, SDM, Uri told The Kashmir Monitor that the resurfacing work in Kamaan Post bridge is going on. “Trade is suspended since then as work is going on and it will take 10-15 more days to allow traffic on the bridge. We have advised the traders to get the items down some where in Srinagar,” Riyaz said.
Cross-LoC trade and the bus service between India and Pakistan were suspended last month too, in backdrop of the Pulwama suicide attack in which 49 CRPF personnel were killed.

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Centre misusing NIA to target Kashmiris: Soz

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Srinagar, Mar 19: Alleging that Narendra Modi-led government at the Centre was misusing National Investigation Agency (NIA) to target Kashmiris, senior Congress leader Prof Saifuddin Soz on Tuesday said this will be useless and counter-productive.
The former union minister supported chairman of Hurriyat (M) Mirwaiz Umar Farooq who has asked NIA to question him in Srinagar as he cannot travel Delhi for security reasons.
In a statement here this afternoon, Prof Soz said, “I give credence to Mirwaiz Umar Farooq’s stand that he should be questioned anywhere in Srinagar and not asked to travel to NIA headquarters in Delhi”.

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