Wednesday, February 14, 2001,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Harbans Singh joins Farooq Cabinet
Tribune News Service

JAMMU, FEB 13 — After a gap of over four years the Sikh community has found representation in the Cabinet headed by Dr Farooq Abdullah when a senior National Conference leader and Deputy Chairman of the Legislative Council, Mr Harbans Singh, was today sworn in as a minister.

The Governor, Mr G.C. Saxena, administered the oath at a simple function, organised hurriedly, in Raj Bhavan. The Chief Minister, Dr Farooq Abdullah, several ministers and senior bureaucrats were present when Mr Harbans Singh was sworn in as a Cabinet Minister.

Several Sikh organisations had been clamouring over the denial of representation to the community in the state Cabinet for the past several years. Dr Abdullah had tried to pacify the community leaders when last year he elevated Mr Harbans Singh to the post of Deputy Chairman of the Legislative Council. However, the Sikh organisations were not satisfied.

A number of Sikh leaders, close to the Chief Minister, had suggested the name of Mr Rangil Singh, a former minister who had left the Congress and joined the National Conference about two years ago. The National Conference leadership had problems in inducting Mr Rangil Singh into the Cabinet as he was neither a member of the Lower House nor of the Upper House.

Though the Chief Minister had plans to reshuffle his Council of Ministers to induct a Sikh legislator in the Cabinet, the plan had to be executed hurriedly following pressure mounted by the central leaders, including the Prime Minister. The central leaders had received complaints from various Sikh leaders that the community was being given a step-motherly treatment in the absence of any representation in the Cabinet.

The recent massacre of eight Sikhs at Mahjoor Nagar in Srinagar is said to have come handy to those Sikh leaders who had met the Prime Minister and other central leaders to discuss the future of the community after the second massacre in the past one year.

Mr Harbans Singh submitted his resignation as Deputy Chairman of the Legislative Council this morning and within an hour he was escorted to Raj Bhavan to be sworn in as Cabinet Minister.

Jammu and Kashmir today sought more forces from the Centre to strengthen the security grid in the state.

The Centre should sanction additional 2000 special police officers (SPOs) for Jammu and Kashmir and redeploy the central forces that had been withdrawn, state Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah said.

He told mediapersons after the swearing in of Harbans Singh in the Council of Ministers that the Centre had only agreed to sanction 3000 SPOs instead of 5000 which were asked.

“The Centre has also been asked to redeploy BSF personnel who were withdrawn for jobs elsewhere,” Dr Abdullah said.

He said the induction of Harbans Singh in the state Cabinet was a part of the confidence-building measures which the state government had planned for the Sikhs in the state.

The Chief Minister contradicted the remark of a reporter that the morale of the security forces was dwindling in the wake of Fidayeen attacks.

“Their morale is very high. This is evident from the fact that the security forces have killed 30 militants in Mendhar alone and only today they killed two militants. The security forces are in full vigour and ready to act even maintaining the ceasefire, he added.



5 Lashkar militants shot dead
Tribune News Service And Agencies

JAMMU, FEB 13 — At least five militants suspected to belong to the dreaded Lashkar-e-Toiba outfit were killed in two encounters with the security forces in Surankot sector in Poonch district today.

A Defence Ministry spokesman said a joint patrol party of the Army and the police was on routine duty when its members came under heavy fire. The security forces retaliated and two militants, one of them identified as Babu Khan, were killed in Pathana Tir village in Surankot. Weapons and ammunition were recovered from the slain rebels.

A civilian was also killed in the crossfire.

Inspector-General of Police Ashok Bhan said the two members of “fidayeen” were killed close to the main gate of the security force camp. His accomplices escaped.

In another incident in the same area, a jawan was shot dead by militants who had taken shelter in the forest belt. In the retaliatory fire, three militants were killed.

The spokesman said a fierce gunbattle between the two sides was still on. He said a large group of militants had fortified positions and tried to ambush and eliminate the entire patrol party.

He said search operation in the entire belt would be carried out after the guns of the rebels fell silent so that the area was fully sanitised. A jawan Mahavir Prasad was killed and nine securitymen injured in a militant attack on a joint patrol of the CRPF and the Jammu and Kashmir Police Special Operations Group at Tarzoo, about 10 km from Sopore.

A jawan was killed and eight, including a Sub-Inspector, were injured when militants attacked an election office set up in the middle school at Tarzoo this afternoon.

Suspected militants shot dead ruling NC leader Ghulam Ahmad Ganai at Sonapal village in Badgam district last night, Mohammad Akbar Khan was gunned down at Sayedpora Kanihama.


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