Indo-Pak secy level talks in Islamabad

Indo-Pak secy level talks in Islamabad
Bhavna Vij-Aurora
New Delhi, November 24, 2008

Armed with a detailed report on investigations into Samjhauta Express blast last year in which 68 people – mostly Pakistani nationals – were killed, Home Secretary Madhukar Gupta has left for Islamabad on Monday.

He will be holding talks with his Pakistani counterpart, Federal Secretary Interior, Syed Kamal Shah on Tuesday. Sources said that though there is not a very rigid agenda for the fifth round of home secretary level talks between the two countries, India is expecting Pakistan to raise the issue.

“Pakistan has raised this issue several times with India during talks at various levels. So far, we did not have anything concrete to tell them. Even now, though things are not very concrete, at least some headway has been made,” disclosed a senior home ministry official.

However, it is also somewhat embarrassing for the Indian side since the needle of suspicion is now on Hindu terrorists, and not the Muslim ones as the investigating agencies had suspected. “We have told them each time that it is probably Bangladesh-based HuJI and Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Toiba. Now it will be a complete U-turn,” the official added.

The talks are part of the on-going composite dialogue process between the two countries. The last home secretary level talks between India and Pakistan were held in July 2007 in New Delhi.

Home Ministry’s Additional Director General (Media & Communications) Onkar Kedia said that these talks will be held in the backdrop of recently initiated cross-LoC trade, which is a big step towards bringing people closer. “The talks seek to intensify efforts on the part of both the countries to discuss issues relating to terrorism, counterfeit currency, drug trafficking, exchange of prisoners and visa regime,” he said.


Sopur tense; Police, CRPF use force to quell protesters

Sopur tense; Police, CRPF use force to quell protesters

Updated at 1430 hours IST

Srinagar, Nov 24: Police and paramilitary CRPF troopers used force to quell the protesters in north Kashmir’s Sopur town on Monday.

Reports said the trouble started when hundreds of people took to the streets, protesting against the killing of two youths in Varmul and other alleged atrocities by troopers from Friday evening.

As the demonstrators were moving towards the main Sopur town, troopers and policemen resorted to baton charge and fired numerous tear smoke shells to disperse them. The protesters were demanding immediate action against those involved in the killing of two youths and release of all the arrested during the anti-poll demonstrations in north Kashmir areas.

Shops and business establishments in Sopur town and adjoining areas remained closed and traffic was off the road. Work in government offices was also affected.

Round Table to focus on Encounter Deaths

. Round Table to focus on Encounter Deaths
New Delhi, November 24:
General Invitation to attend a Round Table On the ‘Alternative Guidelines towards Encounter Deaths’ & Strategies of Resistance

The panel of initiators for the discussion are:

Prashant Bhushan �(Human Rights Lawyer) � Defence Counsel for
the PUL petition in Supreme Court regarding alternative guidelines on
encounter deaths; Sufian Siddiqui � (Supreme Court Lawyer), Bimol
Akoijam � (School of Social Sciences, JNU)

The discussants for the Round Table are – Gautam Navlakha �
(Democratic Rights activist), Nirmalangshu Mukherji � (Dept. of
Philosophy, DU), Tripta Wahi � (Dept. of History, DU), Vijay Singh
� (Dept. of History, DU)

Date: 28 November 2008

Time: 3.00. p.m.

Venue: Dayar-e Mir Taqui Mir, Jamia Millia Islamia (near the Vice
Chancellor’s office).

Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity Group invites you to a Round Table on the
‘Alternative Guidelines Towards Encounter Deaths’ with special focus on the extra-constitutional powers given to Special Forces and Strategies of Resistance keeping in mind the present context where the naked brutality of the police and armed forces have unleashed a reign of terror not only on the Muslim population residing in the country in the states of Kashmir, Delhi, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Kerala but also in the north-eastern states of India particularly Manipur. The logic of countering terrorism/armed resistance might have different contextual specificities but the laws used for ‘encounter’ and the manner in which the same is executed flouting all human rights guidelines is a major cause of concern today. The petition filed by Peoples’ Union of Liberties, Maharashtra and the alternative draft submitted to the Supreme Court and the favourable hearing it has received has strengthened the voices of alternatives across the country. While the Batla House encounter on 19th September has been the centre of our activities, it is necessary to link it to wider political struggles going on in the country as the incident is hardly an isolated one. In Delhi itself we have witnessed several encounters along with bomb blasts that keep happening like a ceremonial ritual giving the much needed masala for the media houses to run, elsewhere we read reports or view open terrorist activities of minorities being lynched and tortured to death by the self-proclaimed votaries of the Hindu majority and feel ‘protected’ by the distance that separates us from the event that might be a prime time show. The question is no longer confined to minority communities alone since it is not only religious or racial/ethnic scape-goating that is happening, but also in a calculated manner all voices that question the State and its institutions get throttled one way or the other. Civil rights movements therefore necessarily assume a kind of ‘defensive’ role � challenging the powers that be after an incident of violation has taken place. With the recent revelations of the CBI regarding the role of the Special Cell and the booking of criminals in saffron perhaps the tide is turning where an offensive campaign may be mobilized to instill policy changes in law that might be yet twisted to protect the rights of the people vis-�-vis the interests of the State.

J&K set for elections amid tight security

J&K set for elections amid tight security

Srinagar/Jammu (IANS): Jammu and Kashmir goes to the polls Monday to elect a new assembly amid boycott calls by separatists, with the 10 constituencies in the first of seven-phase elections spread over the Kashmir Valley, the Hindu-majority Jammu region and the mainly Buddhist Ladakh.

With a world keenly watching the outcome of the electoral battle, the authorities have deployed tens of thousands of security personnel to ensure peaceful polling following boycott calls by separatists.

But defiance of the militant groups is already in some evidence. In the fray are a record 102 candidates, including 22 in Sonawari and 19 in Bandipora constituencies in the Kashmir Valley, the hub of the separatist movement that has claimed thousands of lives since 1989.

But officials and political pundits have warned that the boycott call could hit turnout in the valley although polling is expected to be high in Ladakh and Jammu’s Poonch district.

Vying for power are the Congress, People’s Democratic Party (PDP), National Conference and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Also in the fray are the Panthers Party as well as a slew of independents.

The Congress and PDP had together ruled the state since 2002 but the government of Congress chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad collapsed after the PDP withdrew its legislative support this year.

The 10 of 87 constituencies going to the polls Monday are Gurez, Bandipora and Sonawari (Kashmir Valley), Leh, Nobra, Zanskar and Kargil (Ladakh) and Surankote, Mendhar and Poonch-Haveli (Jammu region).

There are six candidates in Gurez, Poonch-Haveli has 13, Mendhar 12, Surankote 11, and there are five each in Kargil, Leh and Zanskar and four in Nobra.

“We are expecting a fairly good voter turnout in the four assembly constituencies of Ladakh region and the three in Jammu region,” said one official.

The authorities have warned separatists and their supporters not to disrupt the electoral process.

But political leaders admitted that the boycott call would affect voter turnout in Bandipora and Sonawari but not Gurez, located in northern Kashmir close to the Line of Control (LoC) that divides Kashmir between India and Pakistan.

Campaigning by political parties and others has been low key in Bandipora and Sonawari, which have strong separatist pockets of influence.

The separatist leaders have called for a march to Bandipora and Sonawari Monday.

But Inspector General of Police B. Srinivas said: “We have a strategy to isolate the separatist leaders so that they do not succeed in preventing voters from exercising their democratic right to vote. But we shall also not force an unwilling voter to vote.”

The main battle in the Muslim-majority valley is expected to be between the National Conference, PDP and influential independents. The Congress seems to have lost ground in the valley following violent protests there against the allotment of land to the Amarnath shrine board.

In Ladakh’a Kargil and Zanskar areas, which have sizeable Muslim voters, could be a safe bet for the National Conference. Nobra and Leh could throw up Buddhist candidates as likely winners. Leh, Nobra and Kargil were won by independents in 2002 while the National Conference won in Zanskar.

In Bandipora, National Conference’s Ghulam Rasool Mir is pitted against Nizamuddin Bhat of PDP and Usman Majid of Awami League. Going by the undercurrent in Bandipora, Majid, who won in 2002, has the upper hand.

In Sonawari, National Conference’s sitting legislator Muhammad Akbar Lone faces a serious challenge from Yasir Reshi of PDP and an independent Shia candidate, Abid Ansari, younger brother of Molvi Iftikhar Hussain Ansari, a Shia leader of the valley.

In Gurez, Nazir Ahmed Gurezi of the National Conference is seeking re-election. He is pitted against Fakir Muhammad of the Congress.

In Mendhar, Surankote and Poonch-Haveli, the Congress, National Conference and BJP take on one another. Mendhar and Poonch-Haveli were won by the National Conference in the last elections.

B.R. Sharma, the state chief electoral officer, said all preparations were in place for the polls.

The 10 constituencies will have 1,064 polling stations. There are 58,073 voters in Kargil, 62,533 in Leh, 20,044 in Zanskar, 11,863 in Nobra, 84,726 in Sonawari, 86,306 in Bandipora, 15,330 in Gurez, 84,969 in Surankote, 77,853 in Mendhar and 96,758 voters in Poonch-Haveli.

In Nobra, a polling station has been set up for just 14 voters (seven men and women each). Twentyfour polling staff and security men will be deployed in this centre.

Polling in Jammu and Kashmir will be held in seven phases: Nov 17, Nov 23, Nov 30 and Dec 7, Dec 13, Dec 17 and Dec 24. The counting of votes will take place Dec 28.

Bandipore turned into ‘garrison’

Bandipore turned into ‘garrison’ARIF SHAFI WANI

Updated at 1625 hours IST
Bandipore, Nov 16: Hundreds of paramilitary CRPF troopers, policemen and army soldiers, have been deployed in this north Kashmir town to hold polling ‘smoothly’ on Monday.
On Sunday troopers were noting down the numbers of the vehicles and were checking the identity of all the visitors entering the town. The entire town has been turned into a ‘garrison’ with scores of troops vehicles parked at different places.
The residents said that they have been directed to stay indoors till further orders.
Bandipore goes to polls in the first phase of elections on November 17. The Coordination Committee, spearheading the present movement in the Valley has given the call for Bandipora chalo on the polling day.

Mirwaiz under house arrestGK NEWS NETWORK

 Mirwaiz under house arrestGK NEWS NETWORK

Updated at 1710 hours IST
Srinagar, Nov 16: The chairman of Hurriyat (M) Mirwaiz Umar Farooq continued to be under house arrest for sixth consecutive day Sunday.
A Hurriyat spokesman said the Mirwaiz has been under house arrest since Tuesday. Scores of policemen and paramilitary CRPF troopers have been deployed outside his Nageen residence and he is not being allowed to come out.

Zaffar Akbar arrestedGK NEWS NETWORK

Zaffar Akbar arrestedGK NEWS NETWORK

Updated at 1800 hours IST
Srinagar, Nov 16: Police on Sunday arrested the chairman of Jammu and Kashmir Salvation Movement and senior Hurriyat (M) leader Zaffar Akbar Bhat from Chanapora in city outskirts here, sources said.
They said the police raided the JKSM office this evening and arrested Bhat from there.
“He had called the meeting of the JKSM activists to chalk out the strategy for tomorrow’s Bandipore march,” sources said.
They said the JKSM activists tried to resist Bhat’s arrest but police resorted to baton charge to disperse them. In the police action at least six persons sustained injuries.