Wednesday, May 10, 2000,
Chandigarh, India





THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
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J A M M U   &   K A S H M I R


Home Minister L.K. Advani with Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Dr Farooq Abdullah and BJP MP Narender Modi on a boat at Dal Lake in Srinagar on Sunday
Home Minister L.K. Advani with Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Dr Farooq Abdullah and BJP MP Narender Modi on a boat at Dal Lake in Srinagar on Sunday — PTI photo

Tight security around J&K offices
SRINAGAR, May 9 — Offices of the Jammu and Kashmir Government opened here yesterday, marking their annual transfer from Jammu to Srinagar, amid heavy security. Troops in battle gear searched vehicles and frisked pedestrians, witnesses said. Vehicular traffic was diverted from the main road leading to the government secretariat, causing traffic snarls in several office areas.

APHC leaders meeting today
SRINAGAR, May 9 — The executive committee of the All Parties Hurriyat (Freedom) Conference (APHC) is expected to meet here tomorrow to discuss much-talked about dialogue with the Central Government “for the restoration of peace” in Jammu and Kashmir.


YOUR TOWN
Jammu
Srinagar
Udhampur


EARLIER STORIES


  Who to believe — govt or minister?
JAMMU, May 9 — Who is correct? The Minister of State for Power or the state government. The state government has stated that because of shortage of electricity and cash crunch, which does not allow it to draw more power from the northern grid, power curtailment period can not be further reduced.

Finance panel visiting Kashmir
SRINAGAR, May 9 — Finance Commission is visiting Srinagar soon to have discussions with the Jammu and Kashmir Government on the fiscal situation of the insurgency-hit state, Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah has said.

Militants gun down 4 of family
SRINAGAR, May 9 — Four members of a family, including three women, were among 10 persons killed in separate incidents in Jammu and Kashmir since yesterday, the security forces foiled two attempts by militants to create trouble during the re-opening of the durbar move yesterday when a scooter and a matador loaded with high explosives were impounded.

21 Cong, NC men join NCP
JAMMU, May 9 — As many as 21 prominent workers and leaders belonging to the Congress and the National Conference today joined the Nationalist Congress Party, headed by Mr Sharad Pawar.

Peaceful bandh observed in Katra
UDHAMPUR, May 9 — Katra, the base camp of the hill shrine of Mata Vaishno Devi, observed a peaceful bandh for another day today.

J&K High Court bans shahtoosh trade
SRINAGAR, May 9 — In a landmark victory for wildlife conservation in India, the Jammu and Kashmir High Court has issued a judgement prohibiting trade in shahtoosh in the state.


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Tight security around J&K offices

SRINAGAR, May 9 — Offices of the Jammu and Kashmir Government opened here yesterday, marking their annual transfer from Jammu to Srinagar, amid heavy security.

Troops in battle gear searched vehicles and frisked pedestrians, witnesses said. Vehicular traffic was diverted from the main road leading to the government secretariat, causing traffic snarls in several office areas.

Troops were seen patrolling the residential areas around the secretariat and barring residents from taking out their cars. A resident said, “I had to go to my office on foot. The security on the roads is unprecedented.”

Government officials were taken from their fortified residential hostels to their offices in state-owned transport buses on the first day of the shift of capitals. Government offices shift twice every year, with six months of winter spent in Jammu and the summer in Srinagar.

“Elaborate security arrangements have been made, which included frisking of visitors and employees. Dog squads and electronic gadgets were pressed into service at the main entrance of the secretariat building,” an official said.

Witnesses said Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah, accompanied by Chief Secretary Ashok Jaitley, reached the secretariat in a bullet-proof and landmine-proof car along with a number of commandos and inspected offices in the seven-storey building.

A police band played the National Anthem as Dr Abdullah and other ministers inspected a guard of honour before entering their offices.

Camouflaged security bunkers and barriers have come up around the government offices as well as military installations in Srinagar amid fears of suicide attacks by terrorists. Guerrilla groups such as the Lashkar-e-Toiba have threatened to carry out such attacks.

A man drove a bomb-laden car last month that exploded before he could penetrate the outer perimeter of the army headquarters in Srinagar. The man died in what was billed as the first suicide bomb attack since the launch of the insurgency in Kashmir, fuelling fears that separatist guerrillas were adopting the same devastating tactics used by the LTTE in Sri Lanka.

“Double-decker pill boxes, sandbag bunkers, brick fencing and multi-tier check points are the main features of the new security arrangements,” said a police officer on duty at the secretariat.

“Every entry point has more than two teams keeping vigil from different angles to foil any attempt by suicide squads or bombers who may try to penetrate the area,” he said.

Armed troops with bullet-proof jackets have also been stationed inside all main government buildings.

Intelligence sources say the security forces are taking the threat of more suicide attacks seriously. While last month’s attempt to target the army headquarters was unprecedented in the 10-year history of the Kashmir insurgency, special terrorist squads have mounted a number of near-suicidal attacks on military installations in the past six months. — IANS


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APHC leaders meeting today
Dialogue with Centre core issue
Tribune News Service

SRINAGAR, May 9 — The executive committee of the All Parties Hurriyat (Freedom) Conference (APHC) is expected to meet here tomorrow to discuss much-talked about dialogue with the Central Government “for the restoration of peace” in Jammu and Kashmir. So far the Centre has not made any formal offer to the separatist conglomerate for a dialogue.

Mohammad Yasin Malik, chairman of the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), a constituent of the Hurriyat Conference, who was in Delhi after his release last Thursday, arrived here today to a tumultuous reception from the airport. All other five top leaders of the APHC have already arrived here. These leaders were released following the “Centre’s readiness to have a dialogue” with separatists in Kashmir for the restoration of peace in the region. These leaders included APHC chairman, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Abdul Ghani Bhat and Moulvi Abbas Ansari. The Peoples Conference leader, Abdul Ghani Lone, who had been in the USA for the treatment has also arrived in the valley.

The former APHC chairman, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, who was not jailed along with other leaders, told TNS that the meeting would discuss the issue of talks with the government, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, however, pointed out that “talks can be held on the core issue of Kashmir” adding that there should not be any pre-conditions for talks which the “government has already set forth”. He reiterated the Hurriyat stand that Kashmir be treated as a “disputed territory” and only tripartite talks would lead to a final solution of the issue for the restoration of peace in South Asia.

Mohammad Yasin Malik was the only top executive member to have been set free in Delhi on Thursday. With his arrival here today, the APHC executive meeting will discuss threadbare the issue of dialogue with the Central Government. With the release of Malik, the Centre had indicated that the Hurriyat would be able to clarify its position on the issue of holding the dialogue with the government for the restoration of peace in Kashmir.

“The issue (Kashmir) can be resolved permanently only through tripartite talks. We have not made any offer on the dialogue. We can only consider when the Centre makes clear its stand on the nature and level of talks”, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, APHC chairman stated here. He regretted that the issue of talks had been highlighted during their (APHC leaders) detention and questioned as to whether any talks could be held in jail. Mr Geelani held that a “proper atmosphere” had to be created for any kind of talks. He expressed concern over what he described as “developments with regard to talks as conveyed to the outside world”. He clarified that the Hurriyat leaders came to know of the “talks issue” when they addressed their first press conference at the New Delhi’s APHC Office after their release, early last month.

In his address at a mourning congregation here, Syed Ali Shah Geelani reacted to the comments made by the Union Home Minister, Mr L.K. Advani on the Hurriyat’s approach to the talks issue. He held that Mr Advani had been “himself confused” for his changing statements on the talks issue with the Hurriyat. The APHC leaders have been visiting different areas and attending mourning congregations of those killed allegedly in custody by the security forces. The APHC leaders have been vociferous on the “custodial killings” of several youth during the recent weeks.

The Union Home Minister, Mr L.K. Advani, during his visit on Sunday had said that a “climate is being created in which if any section of the Kashmiri population wishes to discuss issues with the Government of India, those discussions can take place”. The Hurriyat Conference is also making efforts to be clear on the issue before any offer of dialogue is formally made by the Centre.

In the wake of this effort of the Centre to create an atmosphere the separatist leaders in jails were released. This changed approach of the BJP-led government had come much to the satisfaction of the Congress and other similar parties, who had been since long been demanding a soft approach towards the separatist leadership for creating a congenial atmosphere in the militancy-inflicted state.


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Who to believe — govt or minister?
From M.L. Kak
Tribune News Service

JAMMU, May 9 — Who is correct? The Minister of State for Power or the state government. The state government has stated that because of shortage of electricity and cash crunch, which does not allow it to draw more power from the northern grid, power curtailment period can not be further reduced.

The Minister of State for Power, Mr Ghulam Hassan Bhat, said in Jammu recently that there was no shortage of power. “We need big transformers for transmitting power from the grid stations to the inhabited localities”, he said adding that the project needed Rs 9 crore. He said since the Power Development Department (PDD) had no money it had submitted a request to the state government for releasing the amount for purchasing transformers. The existing transformers could not carry the required load he added.

However, during the past one month the state government has not released funds for purchasing transformers with the result people in the Jammu region fume and fret due to prolonged load-shedding and frequent power breakdowns.

During winter the government ordered a curtailment period of nine hours and it was reduced to over four and a half hours. In between, half an hour to over one hour breakdowns add to the woes of the people when the day temperature ranges between 38C and 42C and humidity becomes 87 per cent.

The PDD had prepared a plan for further reduction in power curtailment period and this had to be approved by the Cabinet. As a result of the Durbar move the Cabinet did not meet and at yesterday’s meeting in Srinagar power situation in the Jammu region did not figure.

The state has been experiencing power shortage for the past several years. But the duration of power curtailment in the Jammu region would be reduced to one hour to one and-a-half hours middle of April.

Since legislators, ministers and senior bureaucrats get uninterrupted supply of power they, according to the senior Congress leader, Mr Raman Bhalla, have not bothered to examine the power supply position.

Two things seem to have contributed to the mess the PDD is in last year the state government did not earmark any funds for the maintenance of the transmission lines and transformers leading to the disruption of power supply to the rural areas for several months.

In Jammu city the power distribution system has become so fragile that power supply gets disrupted whenever strong winds blow. Second, the PDD staff has become insensitive. Their job seems to be to recover power tariff at any cost from the consumers. Most of their time is spent in moving from one locality to another with threats that power supply would be snapped if the consumers failed to pay power tariff. These threats have worked and the government has recovered more tariff than targeted. But the PDD has not taken in hand any scheme to ensure uninterrupted power supply.

A market survey revealed that in the past one year dealers sold more than 5,000 diesel generators, over 3,000 inverters and other gadgets. The demand for generators has been higher than the inverters as prolonged load-shedding hits the charging of the batteries.

Mr Bhalla alleged that there was a nexus between ruling politicians, the PDD authorities and the dealers of generators and inverters. He urged the state government to look into the power distribution and generation system and avoid diverting all available funds to the Bhagliar power project which would not be completed in another 10 years. He suggested the setting up mini power projects in the state.


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Finance panel visiting Kashmir

SRINAGAR, May 9 (PTI) — Finance Commission is visiting Srinagar soon to have discussions with the Jammu and Kashmir Government on the fiscal situation of the insurgency-hit state, Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah has said.

Without giving the exact date of the visit of the commission Dr Abdullah said the Centre was aware of the problems of the state and hoped necessary measures would be taken to minimise these.

Dr Abdullah who was talking to reporters on the opening of civil secretariat and other moving offices in Srinagar yesterday said he stood by his commitment of paying 15 per cent dearness allowance in cash to the employees but it could be possible only after discussions with the Planning Commission.

Asked about the security arrangements made at the civil secretariat in the backdrop of last year’s attacks, Abdullah said necessary steps have been taken to ward off such a possibility and hoped nothing of the sort will happen.

However, he quickly added “we must be prepared for any challenge”.

The Chief Minister also expressed his concern over traffic jams and inconvenience to common man due to arrangements for secretariat and other offices but said: “We have to beat it”. A day may come when we take secretariat out of the crowded city and things will become smooth for people, he added.

Later, talking to employees he said appropriate steps would be taken for the upkeep of residential quarters.

He urged the employees to work with zeal and devotion in mitigating the problems of the people during their six months stay in the summer capital.
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Militants gun down 4 of family
Tribune News Service

SRINAGAR, May 9 — Four members of a family, including three women, were among 10 persons killed in separate incidents in Jammu and Kashmir since yesterday, the security forces foiled two attempts by militants to create trouble during the re-opening of the durbar move yesterday when a scooter and a matador loaded with high explosives were impounded.

Meanwhile according to a UNI report 20 militants were among 26 persons killed during the past 24 hours.

A police spokesman said here today that militants shot dead four members of a family at Meelyal, Kralpora in Kupwara district of north Kashmir last night. The militants intruded into the house of Abdul Majeed Peer at Kralpora and opened indiscriminate firing on the inmates killing three members of his family on the spot, while four others were injured in the shootout. Those killed were identified as Mehbooba Begum of Dardpora, Raja Begum and Mohammad Syed Peer of Meelyal, Kralpora, Hafiza Begum, who was among the injured later died in the hospital. Others injured included, Ms Zahida, Junaid and Mohammad Yusuf Peer.

A scooter bearing No JK-01 5821 was found parked near the RTO in the vicinity of the Civil Secretariat here yesterday afternoon. A police spokesman said an explosive device was found planted in it. The bomb disposal squad neutralised and defused the device, the police said.

The security forces impounded a Matador coming from Ganderbal to Srinagar around noon yesterday. During search of the vehicle, the security forces recovered one IED fitted in an LPG cylinder, 5 kg of RDX, seven metres of fuses, four detonators, five rifle grenades, one AK silencer and two mines. Two persons, including the driver and conductor of the vehicle, were arrested and they were being questioned.

Unidentified militants hurled a grenade on a picket of the security forces at Akhara Building in the Badshah Chowk area here today. It did not cause any damage.

A foreign militant and a civilian were killed in an encounter between the militants and the security forces at Shamthan in the Bandipore area of Baramula district yesterday. The militant was identified as Abu Kalas. Three civilians, identified as Habib Khan, Sher Khan and Ms Zaitooni were among those injured, of whom Habib Khan later succumbed to his injuries, the police said. The security forces recovered an AK rifle, four magazines, five rounds of ammunition, one had grenade and a wireless set from the site of the encounter.

One militant was killed in an encounter with the security forces at Janbazpora in Baramula district. The police said the search party was fired at the hiding militants and in the ensuing encounter one militant was killed. An AK rifle, a magazine and 12 rounds were found from the site of the encounter.

An unidentified militant was killed in an encounter with the security forces at the Chapatta Ghai (Dudasan Bala) area of Rajouri district. One AK rifle, three magazines, one revolver and a hand grenade were recovered from the site of the encounter.

Two persons were shot dead by unidentified militants in their house at Tantraypora in the Banihal area of Doda district. Those killed were identified as Abdul Hammed and Mohammad Saleem.


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21 Cong, NC men join NCP
Tribune News Service

JAMMU, May 9 — As many as 21 prominent workers and leaders belonging to the Congress and the National Conference today joined the Nationalist Congress Party, headed by Mr Sharad Pawar.

Stating this the president of the state unit of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), Mr Randhir Singh, Said these workers belonged to various communities and ethnic sub groups.

He said leaders from the Muslim and Christian communities besides those belonging to Harijans joined the NCP because they had realised the ongoing turmoil in the state was the result of corruption, misrule and growing problems of poverty and unemployment.

Mr Randhir Singh demanded the setting up of a commission which would probe into the amassing of wealth and other assets through “unfair” means by politicians, including legislators and MPs in the past several years. He announced that the NCP would launch an agitation for exposing the corrupt elements in the state. He said the party was preparing a list of most corrupt politicians and bureaucrats which would be released shortly. The list would also carry names of the most honest serving or retired bureaucrats and political leaders.
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Peaceful bandh observed in Katra

UDHAMPUR, May 9 (UNI) — Katra, the base camp of the hill shrine of Mata Vaishno Devi, observed a peaceful bandh for another day today.

The bandh call was given by the local All-Party Peace Committee against the deteriorating law and order situation in the town. The committee attributed the situation to a “nexus” between the police and anti-social elements.

All shops and business establishments remained closed today. However, hotels have been exempted. Traffic also has not been affected due to the bandh.

Official sources said the bandh call was given to protest against the murder of Shakti Singh while he was coming out of a cinema hall in the town.

The bandh has prompted the Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board to set up two free kitchens to pilgrims on the premises of Niharika Sarai at Katra.

Vehicular traffic has been opened through Ban-Ganga road to avoid inconvenience to pilgrims because of dharna on the road.


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J&K High Court bans shahtoosh trade

SRINAGAR, May 9 (UNI) — In a landmark victory for wildlife conservation in India, the Jammu and Kashmir High Court has issued a judgement prohibiting trade in shahtoosh in the state.

A public interest petition was filed by the Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI) in May 1998 calling for a ban on the manufacture and sale of shahtoosh in Jammu and Kashmir. The fact that the trade was still permitted in J and K has been the single largest hurdle in the fight to save the endangered Tibetan antelope (or chiru), it said.

The antelopes are slaughtered in thousands on the Tibetan plateau for collection of the precious wool, which is then smuggled to Srinagar, where its use is legal.

Shahtoosh manufactures have recently received widespread attention in an effort to stamp out the trade WPSI said in a release today.

Though the Tibetan antelope is include in Schedule I of the Central Government’s Wildlife (Protection) Act, the law does not apply to the state of J and K. Apart from flouting national and international laws and conventions the court found that the shahtoosh trade was being carried out in contravention of the state’s own Wildlife Act.
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