|Tuesday, June 27, 2000,
3 Pak troops, two jawans killed
Strike hits life in
Al-Faran kidnappings: search
Dhumal flays autonomy move
PM urged to set up emergency fund
3 Pak troops, two jawans killed
JAMMU, June 26 (PTI, UNI) Three Pakistani soldiers and two Indian jawans have been killed and three were injured in fierce firing along the Line of Control (LoS) Sunderbani in the Rajouri sector, a top defence official said today.
Heavily armed Pakistani soldiers resorted to unprovoked firing on a forward Army post along the LoC last evening forcing the Indian troops to retaliate, Brig Randhir Singh of the 16 Corps HQ told PTI.
In the exchange of fire that lasted for over one hour, three Pak soldiers and two Indian armymen were killed and three including a Junior Commissioned Officer (JCO) were injured, Brig Randhir Singh said.
Pak troops also resorted to firing along LoC in the Mendhar, Kamara, Sawjian, Bhawani, Lam, Nowshera, Bhimber Gali, Kerni and Balakotei area of the Poonch and the Rajouri sectors of the Jammu region, defence sources said.
However, there was no loss of life or damage to the property on Indian side, the sources added.
Meanwhile, a village defence committee (VDC) member and three ultras were killed in militancy-related incidents in Rajouri, Udhampur and Doda districts of the Jammu region since last evening, official sources said here today.
On a tip off, security forces conducted an operation in the Kandi area of Rajouri district this morning and gunned down a top militant belonging to Hizbul Mujahideen Pir Panjal Regiment (HMPR), the sources said.
One AK rifle, two pistols, one IED, 130 rounds, a radio set and four hand grenades were recovered, they said, adding operation to track down other militants is on.
In another encounter between troops and ultras at the Mahore area of Udhampur district this afternoon, two ultras of Lashker-e-Toiba (LET) were killed, the sources said.
A large quantity of explosives were seized from them.
A VDC Randhir Singh was killed in exchange of firing between the VDC and ultras at Beer Dhar (DEESA) area of Doda district last night, the sources said.
Three persons were injured in unprovoked shelling by Pakistani troops in the Uri sector this morning, while three persons, two of them security personnel, were killed overnight in terrorist violence.
Pakistani troops fired
mortar and artillery shells in the Uri sector around 11
a.m. today, targeting civilian areas and security force
installations. Three people were injured when some shells
fired by Pak troops from across the border landed at
Selikote in Uri. They were hospitalised, a report from
JAMMU, June 26 The special session of the state Assembly was adjourned today after it adopted the motion seeking restoration of pre-1953 constitutional status to the state. But with the adoption of the motion, the controversy linked with it has not been "adjourned". There are indications that the adoption of the resolution may set in motion a fresh state-Centre conflict unless the BJP-led alliance has had some secret understanding with the Chief Minister, Dr Farooq Abdullah, on the issue.
The Chief Minister, Dr Abdullah, had, during the last one week, sensed the mood of his ministerial colleagues and party legislators. He had earlier given a hint that the motion would not be put to vote and instead encourage a national debate on the issue.
And when last evening the issue was raised at a meeting of ministers and party legislators convened by the Chief Minister, there was hardly any voice that opposed the move to put the motion to vote. The Law Minister, Mr P.L. Handoo, had already prepared a brief motion which the Chief Minister approved.
Inside reports said the Chief Minister did not dare to move against the unanimous decision of his party legislators. He feared that the dissidents may get a chance to inflate their strength and strike against him as had been done in 1984 when his duly elected government was dislodged through defections.
Dr Abdullah was not disinterested in adopting the motion but he wanted some time. But when he saw that his party colleagues were impatient he gave his assent for the adoption of the motion.
Two major factors are said to have hastened the adoption of the motion seeking restoration of greater autonomy to the state. First, the National Conference leadership plans to advance the Assembly elections by at least a year. Since the ruling party has suffered serious erosion it is in need of a juicy slogan which could help it to win the polls.
At least the National Conference could sell to people that what the tallest political figure. Sheikh Abdullah, could not do, his son had done by getting the motion on restoration of autonomy adopted by the state legislature.
Secondly, Dr Farooq Abdullah and his partymen had become apprehensive over the Central Governments plan of holding talks with the leaders of All-Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC). Political pundits are of the opinion that the Government of India had nothing to sell to the Hurriyat leaders except the plan of repealing some Central laws which could give a semblance of restoration of pre-1953 Constitutional status.
As an astute politician Dr Abdullah has almost sealed the prospects of the Centre-Hurriyat talks. Even if the talks get going the Centre may have nothing concrete to offer to the Hurriyat leaders.
Thirdly, the adoption of
the motion has the potential of having better vibes with
the US Government. Informed sources said that the US
Government had, several months ago, suggested to the
Government of India that restoration of greater autonomy
could be used as a political weapon against Pakistan.
Strike hits life in Kashmir
SRINAGAR, June 26 (PTI) Normal life came to a standstill here and other major parts of the Kashmir valley on the opening day of the three-day general strike called by a womens organisation.
The strike called by Dukhtaran-e-Millat is in protest against what it called "growing incidents of custodial killings and other human rights violations.
Shops and business establishments remained closed and transport went off the roads in response to the strike, which coincided with day-long strike given by the Kashmir Bar Association and private transport operators for similar reasons.
Educational institutions, banks, courts, government-run ration depots and other establishments also remained closed, while work in government and semi-government offices was badly affected in view of the strike, official sources said.
Youths pelted stones at private vehicles on road, including auto-rickshaws which were plying on some routes at several places in Srinagar, damaging several small vehicles.
However, police and security forces, that were deployed in full strength in sensitive areas of the city, intensified patrolling and chased away the stone-pelting mobs at the Batmaloo bus stand, Karan Nagar, Maisuma and Gawkadal.
Al-Faran kidnappings: search continues
SRINAGAR, June 26 (UNI) A traumatic wait continues for the hapless relatives of four European hostages abducted in July, 1995, from the Pahalgam woods in South Kashmir by an unknown extremist outfit Al-Faran.
Five years after registering a case on this, the state police is yet to close the files. "We have not yet wound up the probe. Our investigation is still going on, says Senior Superintendent of Police (Crime) Mohammad Amin Shah.
It was on July 4, 1995, that the Al-Faran group abducted nine European tourists from the Pahalgam woods, about 100 km from here.
Three women and an old man were released the same evening, while two Britons Paul Well and Keith Manigam, two Americans Donald Fred Hutchings and Jhon Childs and Dirk Hasert, a German were held captives, besides Hans Christian Astro, a Norwegian whose body was recovered nine days later.
Those released earlier included Mrs Donald and Mrs Manigam.
Later, Jhon Childs gave slip to his captors and managed to escape from their clutches on July 9. Christian Ostro was not so lucky as his beheaded body was found from a village in South Kashmir on August 13.
The Al-Faran demanded the release of 20 jailed militants including Maulana Azhar Masood and Musthaq Ahmad Zargar in exchange of the captives. (Masood and Zargar were released early this year in exchange of Indian Airlines plane passengers after it was hijacked to Afghanistan).
The abductors, apparently irked over the authorities refusing to release any militant in exchange of the hostages, abruptly snapped ties.
There was thus no word from the Al-Faran until December, 1995, when its "commander-in-chief was killed along with three other ultras in a South Kashmir village during an encounter with the security forces.
The outfit then claimed that three European hostages were "rescued by the Indian forces while the fourth was "missing after the encounter.
This statement was rejected by the officials. A Defence spokesman said the militants were lying. "All four foreign hostages are with them, the spokesman had said.
There started a never-ending traumatic wait after which no first-hand information about the whereabouts of the hostages was received. Nonetheless, there were some news reports quoting undisclosed sources that the hostages and their captors were found in the Pir Panchal Range. Some others claimed that they were spotted in the Kishtwar woods.
It was in 1996 that the BSF broke the ice and arrested in the downtown a militant, Nazir Ahmad, who during interrogation claimed that all four hostages were killed and later buried in the woods of Manigam in South Kashmir.
Later, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Scotland Yard police experts, along with their trained dogs, searched the woods of Manigam for about a week but failed to make any breakthrough.
On July 26, 1997, a militant arrested by the special operation group of the Jammu and Kashmir police revealed that the body of one of the four hostages was buried at Akingam graveyard in South Kashmir.
The body was exhumed and the initial tests conducted by experts in Calcutta and Hyderabad observed that the remains belongs to Mr Paul Wells.
But the hopes of the Wells family that the episode was finally resolved turned out to be short-lived as tests carried out by the British police later contradicted the result of the Indian forensic investigation. The British police said the body did not belong to Wells as claimed by forensic experts in India.
The US State Department, meanwhile, announced a reward of $ 2 million for anyone who gave any information about Mr Hutchings.
A committee set up by the state government inquiring into the episode has admitted to have not made any headway so far, but said it would continue its efforts to locate the hostages dead or alive.
SSP Shah, who heads the committee, said the case was still open. "We have announced a reward of Rs 10 lakh for anyone who could help us to make any breakthrough in the case. During all these years we used all our big and small contacts across the valley, but could not achieve anything concrete, he regrets.
Dhumal flays autonomy move
JAMMU, June 26 The Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh, Mr P.K. Dhumal, has criticised the National Conferences demand for the restoration of pre-1953 constitutional status to Jammu and Kashmir. He said the demand smacked of secessionism.
Addressing BJP workers here today, Mr Dhumal said all states were for devolution of greater powers to the states but the NCs demand was the first step towards de-accession of the state. He said no Central Government could accept such a demand.
He said the state had three principal regions and the people of two regions Jammu and Ladakh were totally against the restoration of greater autonomy and as such the NCs demand was nothing but a "political gimmick".
Reacting sharply to the adoption of the motion seeking restoration of pre-1953 constitutional status, the Panun Kashmir, a premier organisation of displaced Kashmiri families, has urged the Centre to dismiss Farooq-led ministry in the state. In a statement Dr Ajay Chrungoo, a senior leader of Panun Kashmir, said if the Farooq government was not dismissed then "our (Panun Kashmirs) stand would be confirmed that the BJP-NC combine was implementing a hidden agenda".
Dr Chrungoo said the adoption of the motion was an insult to the BJP-led NDA government which had, in the past been campaigning for repealing Article 370. He said the demand for greater autonomy was far more dangerous than the continuance of Article 370. He said the grant of greater autonomy would ultimately pave way for the liberation of Kashmir.
Panun Kashmir leader said it would be a sad commentary on the performance of the NDA government if it allowed Jammu and Kashmir to fall within the territorial jurisdiction of India and outside the federal structure of its Constitution.
Senior Congress leader, Mr Dharampal Sharma, and Mr Raman Bhalla berated the National Conference for having raked up the issue of autonomy at a time when the states security was endangered. They said by adopting the motion on autonomy the ruling party had strengthened the separatists.
Mr Raman Bhalla said such a demand would encourage demands of similar nature from North-East region and other states. He demanded immediate dismissal of the state government. He blamed the BJP-led government in the Centre for having encouraged the Chief Minister, Dr Abdullah, to such an extent that he allowed his ministers to preach sedition on the floor of the Assembly.
The Janata Dal leader, Mr Dharjan Bhargotra, the vice-president of the state unit of the BJP, Mr Chander Mohan Sharma, said the Centre should adopt tough stand and frustrate the gameplan of the NC of going back to pre-1953 status which could prove disastrous for the states security.
Prof Chaman Lal Gupta, Union Minister of State for Civil Aviation, said despite the adoption of the motion by the Assembly there was no question of granting greater autonomy to Jammu and Kashmir. He said the adoption of the motion would remain under the carpet as the move was nothing more than a vote-getting gimmick. He said this could not help the NC to win the elections because the party had lost credibility.
The Ladakh Buddhist Association chief, Tsering Samphel, said the way the NC rushed through the motion would be a last nail in its coffin. He said the people of Ladakh would oppose autonomy tooth and nail.
PM urged to set up
JAMMU, June 26 The president of the National Mazdoor Conference, Mr Subhash Shastri, has urged the Prime Minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee, to immediately create a Rs 50,000-crore national emergency fund to provide special assistance to the states which are facing financial crunch at present.
In a memorandum sent to Mr Vajpayee today, Mr Shastri said it was important to create this fund as states, including Jammu and Kashmir, had not been able to pay the salaries to employees and daily wagers in time due to financial strains. He said due to financial crisis, the state had impounded even the 15 per cent DA which was earlier paid in cash till March last.
The memorandum has
appealed to Mr Vajpayee to convene a meeting of Chief
Ministers of all states before submitting the
recommendations of 11th Finance Commission to the Centre
in order to evolve a consensus on assistance to states
facing financial crisis.
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