Tuesday, September 24, 2002, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

Ultras kill cop, take 3 hostage on poll eve
Ehsan Fazili
Tribune News Service

Unmindful of sanitising of the interior Dal lake by the security forces
Unmindful of the sanitising of the interior Dal lake by the security forces, a day ahead of the crucial second phase of polling in Kashmir, people are busy with their daily chores. — PTI

Srinagar, September 23
With just a few hours left for the second phase of polling in 28 Assembly constituencies, militants struck at Gogji Bagh, killed a police constable and took three others hostage this evening.

The three held hostage are the SP (South) Srinagar, Mr Mohammad Yusuf Bandh, the SHO of Raj Bagh, Mr Bhagwan Singh, and an operator, Communication.

The deceased, Jagdev Singh, was PSO to SP Bandh. Following the incident there is high tension in the city. The police, led by the IG, Srinagar, has laid a siege.

Official sources said a group of militants moving towards the polling booth set up in a nearby college were challenged by the police party.

After a fierce exchange of fire, during which constable Jagdev Singh was killed, the militants made three other policemen hostage.

The security forces in the nearby bunkers returned the fire but the militants took all the three police personnel into a vacant migrant house.

The Jamait-ul-Mujahideen has claimed that it was an attack on the security forces in the polling station. However, this could not be confirmed as no senior police or civil official was available for comments.

The city today woke up to a series of grenade attacks launched by militants to hamper the poll process in Srinagar. By about 3 pm, the terrorists had targeted four places in the valley. Apart from hurling grenades at two polling booths in Srinagar and one near Soura Medical Institute, militants also targeted Sangam in Anantnag.

The terrorists attacked Sangam at 12.15 pm, injuring eight civilians. At 1.45 pm, they threw a grenade on a CRPF convoy at Vecharnag near Soura Medical Institute, injuring one jawan. The third grenade attack at the Nawakadal High School polling booth injured five jawans in downtown Srinagar. The fourth attack took place at another polling booth in the crowded Lal Bazaar area.

The IG, Kashmir Range, Mr K. Rajendra Kumar, informed militant organisations had threatened to disrupt the poll, but complete security arrangements had been made to prevent untoward incidents.

Earlier, during the day, stone-pelting incidents in various parts of the city had terrorised the residents. Being carried out at the behest of anti-poll agencies, these incidents have left about 20 persons injured. The idea was to block traffic and force closure of shops as a mark of protest against elections. From 8 am today, a series of stone-pelting incidents took place in Nowhatta, Kadikadal, Safakadal, Gojwari and some other areas of downtown. These localities are largely influenced by the Hurriyat Conference because of the cult of Mirwaiz Maulwi Omar Farooq, a Hurriyat leader associated with the Jamia Masjid in Nowhatta.

A visit to downtown confirmed that 90 per cent of shops had been closed down due to fear of attacks. Residents said they did not want to vote because voting spelt death. Significantly, a total bandh was observed even before the APHC’s poll boycott

The Hurriyat has called for a bandh in Srinagar from 3 pm today to 9 pm tomorrow. However, markets, especially in Gawkadal, Maisuma, Habbakadal, Khanyar, Fatehkadal, Nowhatta and Idgah, were closed at 11 am today.

While the voters are busy weighing options, the security is being tightened. All 702 booths have been occupied and the movement of people is being monitored. About 200 women constables have been deputed to frisk women passengers and passersby. Further, 150 women constables and 45 women police officers have been posted on poll duty.

The work of distribution of poll duty was in full swing all day. Confusion prevailed in SP College, where poll duty for the Khanyar and Habbakadal Assembly constituencies was being assigned this morning. A large number of employees from other states alleged that they had been pressurised to offer duty.

Meanwhile, local employees said they were apprehensive about tomorrow’s poll. Many of them complained that whereas the state government had provided the employees from other states with bulletproof jackets and headgear, they had not cared to provide them with protective equipment.




BJP fears hung Assembly
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, September 23
Even though three phases of polling are yet to take place in Jammu and Kashmir, there is already a strong feeling in the Bhartiya Janata Party leadership that a hung Assembly is in the offing in the state.

The basis of such a feeling lies in the fact that the pre-dominant political status of the ruling National Conference has come under threat for the first time in the backdrop of popular participation in the ongoing electoral exercise.

Although leaders of the BJP do not wish to come on record on the possible fortunes of the National Conference, which is an ally in the Vajpayee-led NDA government at the Centre, they admit privately that the National Conference’s loss in the Assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir could well benefit the Congress.

The BJP has not been able to cash in on the NC’s anti-incumbency factor in the state because the Congress has been exploiting the latter’s participation in the NDA government at the Centre.

While the lower percentage has always favoured the NC, this time the voter turnout has unnerved the BJP. Under normal circumstances, the BJP would have been a gainer but the failure to reach a smooth electoral understanding with the RSS-sponsored Jammu State Morcha has further spoiled the chances, a leader said.

With Congress President Sonia Gandhi addressing an election rally last week in Jammu and Kashmir, despite security concerns, there is immense pressure on the BJP to hold a rally of one of its two top leaders, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani, to boost the prospects of the party.

Today’s statement of BJP chief Venkaiah Naidu that the party will not have an alliance with the National Conference in Jammu and Kashmir should be read in the backdrop of the general opinion that is building up about the likely poor show by the National Conference, according to political analysts.

Talking to mediapersons here, party General Secretary and spokesman Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said the NC was part of the National Democratic Alliance at the Centre but there was no possibility of the BJP having any post-poll understanding with the National Conference in Jammu and Kashmir. There was no such proposal, he said.


NC MLA’s house, poll booth attacked

NC hires mobile voters?

Even as security arrangements are being tightened to ensure a free and fair poll in the 15 Assembly constituencies of Srinagar and Budgam tomorrow, the ruling NC is facing charges of hiring mobile voters. There are reports that many people from Baramula and Kupwara have been allegedly brought to Srinagar and lodged at the houses of some NC workers. Also, at many places in Srinagar, Special Operation Group (SOG) has been seen indirectly involved in campaigning for the NC. In fact, occasionally, the SOG personnel are even seen asking people to vote for the plough (NC’s symbol).

Srinagar, September 23
The residence of National Conference MLA Sheikh Rafiq was attacked again by militants within 24 hours with a grenade followed by indiscriminate firing, the police said here today.

The house of the MLA, contesting from Shopian, in Kachdoora in south Kashmir, Pulwama district, was attacked last night. The grenade attack was followed by indiscriminate firing, which was retaliated by the guards posted at Rafiq’s residence, they said, adding that there were no casualties.

Rafiq’s residence was attacked on September 21 also but no loss of life was reported in the incident.

Militants attacked Congress candidate Mohammad Shafi Banday in Shopian town, twice over the past three days, but he escaped unhurt, the sources added.

Loud explosions followed by a fierce gun battle between security forces and militants rocked Gogjibagh area in the uptown city today.

The Jamait-ul-Mujahideen (JuM) militant outfit claimed responsibility for the attack on a polling station. However, this could not be confirmed officially as no senior police or civil official was available. PTI, UNI



Hizbul chief’s village ignores boycott call
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

Soibugh (Budgam), September 23
Calls to boycott election given by the Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) seems to have fallen flat on electorate of Soibugh, sleepy village in Budgam district, which had been in the news for its militant connection. For the 15,000 voters of Soibugh, home to the Supreme Commander of the HM, Syed Salahuddin, election is a means of self-assertion.

Residents of Salahuddin’s native village are willing to exercise their franchise despite call for boycott given by the man who was the mastermind behind the HM’s separatist missions, is considered terror across the valley and beyond. Strangely, villagers remember the supreme commander of the HM’s God-fearing Syed Mohammad Yusuf, an intellectually inclined man with humble motives. He had, however, taken to militancy a year after the 1987 Assembly election in the state. As a candidate of the Muslim United Front (MUF), Salahuddin gave tough fight to the then Works Minister of the National Conference Ghulam Mohiuddin Shah. First declared winner from Amira Kadal segment of Srinagar, Salahuddin later was arrested under the Public Safety Act and kept in jail for a year. He came out of the jail only to take over the reins of the HM from Ahsan Dar in 1992. A year later, he, as chairman of the Supreme Jehad Council, was heading all terrorist outfits operating in Kashmir.

As The Tribune team toured the “highly-sensitive” Soibugh belt of Budgam segment today, it was led towards the ravaged house of Salahuddin. Ransacked by counter insurgents in 1994, the house still has reminders of the past when Salahuddin, an MA in Political Science from Kashmir University, used to live here. Adjacent to it is yet another house where Salahuddin’s brothers Syed Mohiuddin and Syed Nabi live with their families. Salahuddin’s nephew Bashir Ahmad told the Tribune, “We never wanted chacha to join militancy. But he was bent upon joining it to avenge this humiliation. He last visited Soibugh five years back. His family is in Srinagar.” Bashir added that Soibugh voters favoured polling and that the HM had not yet done anything to derail the poll process in Soibugh. A survey revealed there was strong anti-NC wave in Budgam, where the People’s Democratic Party candidate Mohd Kamal Malik appeared strong. Kamal lives just 20 feet away from Salahuddin’s house.

In Budgam Mohd Kamal is pitted against NC’s Syed Roohullah, who was in news on account of being shown overage for contesting elections. Other candidates are BJP’s Mohd Ashraf, JD (U)’s Aziz Wani, INC’s Ms Amreen Badr and two independents Aga Syed Mehmood and Zahoor Ahmad. The NC has reportedly fielded Aga (alleged to be 18 years old) to win sympathy votes. His father Syed Mehdi was blown up in an IED blast on Tanmarg route last year. By fielding Aga from Budgam, the NC has lost Aga Syed Mehmood, the sitting MLA from Budgam, now contesting as an independent. Mehmood is Roohullah’s maternal uncle.Back

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