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Kashmir witnessed a relatively calm year but there were many issues,

*2017, a relatively calm year for J&K*
Srinagar, Dec 29: After a tumultuous 2016, Kashmir witnessed a relatively calm year but there were many issues, including the legal challenge in the Supreme Court to Article 35-A of the Constitution pertaining to special residency laws of Jammu and Kashmir, that hogged national headlines.
However, one of the biggest stories emanating from Kashmir in 2017 was the cancellation of by-poll to the Anantnag Lok Sabha seat — vacated by Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti in April last year — in view of widespread violence during polling for Srinagar Lok Sabha seat by-election which left nine persons dead and scores others injured.
As the street protests of 2016 had not fully died down even in the spring of 2017, the PDP-BJP coalition government was not keen on holding the by-elections so soon. However, Election Commission went ahead with the process of polls.
The results were disastrous on almost all fronts.
Such were the apprehensions of trouble around elections that authorities snapped Internet facilities a day before the polling on 9 April for the Srinagar Lok Sabha seat.
By the time polling ended, eight persons were dead — with another succumbing few days later. Only seven per cent voters turned up to exercise their franchise.
National Conference patriarch Farooq Abdullah, who lost in 2014,
made a comeback to the Lok Sabha, defeating PDP candidate Nazir Ahmad Khan by over 10,000 votes — a huge margin considering that only 88,951 votes were cast.
A day after the polling for Srinagar, Tassaduq Hussain Mufti, brother of Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, asked the Election Commission to postpone the elections for Anantnag Lok Sabha seat till the situation in the valley improved.
Initially, the Election Commission pushed back the date for polling by a month but later cancelled the election altogether.
It was for the first time since 1991 that an election could not be conducted in Kashmir due to violence and apprehension of it spreading to entire valley.
While the 1991 Lok Sabha polls were not held in entire Jammu and Kashmir due to eruption of militancy, the Anantnag bypoll had to be cancelled due to threat to law and order by stone-pelting people.
The National Investigating Agency (NIA) stepped in to investigate the phenomenon of stone-pelting, especially as the youth were hampering the anti-militancy operations, after senior separatist leader Nayeem Khan admitted on camera that they were receiving funds to keep the Kashmir pot boiling.
Khan, several other separatist leaders and few businessmen were arrested by the NIA which found them allegedly involved in hawala trade, the proceeds of which were used for funding stone-pelting.
Several businessmen, especially those involved in cross-Line of Control trade between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir were investigated by the NIA.
It was an aborted political take off for Tassaduq, the cinematographer turned politician, who was fielded by the PDP from the Anantnag seat. However, his involvement with government and politics continued as in May he was appointed the coordinator in the Chief Minister’s Grievance Cell, a post he gave up in early December.
Tassaduq was nominated as an MLC by his party, which was approved by the state Governor. Yesterday, he was inducted into the Mehbooba cabinet.
With the election dust settling down, few videos emerged on social networking sites depicting the security forces in poor light, which led to intense debate at national level on the tactics used by law enforcing agencies to deal with street protestors in Kashmir.
One of the videos showed a youth — who was going for a condolence gathering after casting his vote on 9 April — tied to the bonnet of a jeep by an army officer and paraded through over 20 villages as a human shield.
The incident prompted a former army general to say “Image of a ‘stone pelter’ tied in front of a jeep as a ‘human shield’, will for ever haunt the Indian Army & the nation!”.
The other major issue that remained in the limelight was the legal challenge to Article 35-A of the Constitution, which allows Jammu and Kashmir to retain a 1920s law passed by the then Maharaja of the state.
The residency law bars people from outside Jammu and Kashmir acquiring any immovable property in the state.
As the Supreme Court is set to deliver a verdict on the validity of the law, the separatists threatened to launch a mass agitation in case the act was struck down by the apex court.
The separatists allege that repealing the law would lead to the Centre changing the demography of the Muslim-majority state by creating settlements on the pattern done by Israel in Palestine.
One of the biggest moves by the Centre with regard to Jammu and Kashmir was appointment of former IB chief Dineshwar Sharma in October as its special representative for initiating a sustained dialogue with all stakeholders in the state.
While Sharma visited the state twice since his appointment, he has not been able to make any headway as far as bringing the separatists to the dialogue table is concerned.
On the social crime front, incidents of braid chopping created a fear psychosis in the valley as dozens of cases were reported from across the length and breadth of Kashmir.
Although similar incidents were reported from elsewhere in the country as early as first week of August, the first such incident was reported in Kashmir towards later September.
While police could not nab anyone involved in braid chopping incidents, it arrested several youth on the charges of inciting mobs on the pretext of protests against braid chopping.
However, these incidents came to an abrupt halt towards the end of October and seems to have quickly disappeared from public memory.(Muzaffar Khan)
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*#Tral opens after three days of shutdown
Srinagar: Normalcy returned in Tral town Friday after three days of shutdown in the aftermath of killing of Noor Mohammad Tantray @ Noora in an encounter with government forces at Samboora area of Pampore on Tuesday.
All Shops, business establishments opened today morning, while public transport started operations, local sources told Kashmir Reader.
Huge rush is being witnessed in the markets of Tral from early morning, they said.
Meanwhile, people continue to visit the house of slain Jaish-e-Mohammad commander Noora to offer condolences to the bereaved family. (Muzaffar Khan)
*Budget session to be stormy, social media use order likely to be raised*
The upcoming budget session of the Jammu and Kashmir legislature is set to be stormy as the opposition Congress is planning to take up the recent government order to its employees restricting airing of political views on social media among other issues.
Congress legislators from both the houses were briefed recently and will meet again on the eve of budget session, scheduled to start on January 2 next year, to discuss issues concerning the people and making the government accountable, state Congress chief G A Mir told reporters at the sidelines of a party function here.
Mir and senior Congress leaders had assembled at the party headquarters to celebrate the 133rd foundation day of the party. They also unfurled the party flag.
Criticisng the government for its order to employees not to use social media for airing political views, Mir said those in government service are employees from 10 am to 4 pmand later a common man who has every right to live his life.
“The order shows how scared the government is. It is a totally undemocratic decision and if not withdrawn, it will be the biggest issue during the budget session,” he said.
On December 26, the government barred its employees from using their social media accounts for any political activity by amending the conduct rules governing them.
The state government added a sub-rule in the Jammu and Kashmir Government Employees Conduct rules which states that no government employee shall engage in any criminal, dishonest, immoral or notoriously disgraceful conduct on social media which may be prejudicial to the government.
“They shall also not use their personal social media accounts for any political activity or endorse the posts or tweets or blogs of any political figure,” the rule states.
Social media has become an important platform and if anyone is coming out with points or propogates the stand of his union or association, why are you silencing him, asked Mir.
He said the party legislators would seek answers from the government over its failure to implement its Agenda of Alliance, development inertia, tussle over political issues between the coalition partners and back door appointments.
“We will take up every issue concerning the people of all the three regions, whether political or developmental, to make the government accountable and answerable,” he said adding the Congress would seek an answer from the government for “backdoor political adjustments” of party leaders who were made vice chairmen of various corporations.
Referring to the regularization of 60,000 casual and daily wagers by the government, he claimed it was a big joke with the youth who served the department for over two decades as the government were given different pay scales depending on the period of their service.
The Congress leader alleged that over 60,000 other workers were ignored because of “political considerations”.(Muzaffar Khan)
*Gulmarg shivers at minus 5.4, dry weather to continue valley*
Srinagar, December 29:’The cold wave continued unabated in Jammu and Kashmir on Friday. It is likely to remain dry during the weekend.
“Minimum temperatures remained several notches below the freezing point in the Kashmir Valley and the Ladakh region,” an official of the Met Department said.
Leh was coldest at minus 11.4, followed by Kargil at minus 9.2 degrees Celsius.
Both Pahalgam and Gulmarg recorded minus 5.4 as the night’s lowest temperatures.
Jammu city recorded 7.6, Katra 8.2, Batote 3.2, Banihal 0.6, Bhaderwah 1.9 and Udhampur was at three degrees Celsius.(IANS)(Muzaffar Khan)
*Social media gag challenged in SHRC*
Srinagar:::A fresh petition was filed Thursday at the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) challenging the government order SRO-525 that forbids government employees from engaging in“criminal, dishonest, immoral or disgraceful conduct on social media which may be prejudicial to government”.
The petition was filed by Ahsan Untoo, Chairman IFJ&HR. It argued that SRO-525 is an unconstitutional order andthe J&K government has no right to regulate social media accounts of government employees.“When Constitution is not barring any individual from his right to freedom of expression, why is the government gagging this freedom guaranteed under Articles 19, 20 and 21 of the Indian Constitution,” said Ahsan Untoo.
The petition has named as respondent Commissioner Secretary, General Affairs Department (GAD).The petition will be heard on Friday at theSHRC wing in Jammu.Various political parties and civil society have already condemned the government order.(Muzaffar Khan)
*Remove Article 370 to solve Kashmir problem, says Anupam Kher*
Actor Anupam Kher said on Saturday that the Kashmir problem will be solved once Article 370 of the Constitution is gone.
Speaking at an event in Jammu, Kher said: “The day a Bengali, a Gujarati, a Marathi, a Keralaite or a Punjabi is able to purchase land and start his own venture there, I feel the Kashmir problem will get solved. When all the people will live together, then who will kill whom…but it does not suit anybody’’. Supporting the idea of developing composite colonies for rehabilitating Kashmiri Pandits, Kher said it is not possible for them to return to the same houses as “some have been torched, while others were sold in distress”. “The remaining few were abandoned by people while migrating from the Valley,” he said. Kher also expressed concern over the condition of Pandits living at Jagti camp, which he recently visited with filmmaker Ashok Pandit. “There condition is pathetic and they live in tenements which appear to be made of cardboard and are like matchboxes,’’ he said, adding that there were people suffering from cancer and TB in the camp. Hitting out at those who returned awards over “rising intolerance”, Kher asked: “Why didn’t award wapsi happen for the 60,000 Kashmiri Pandits?” The actor further said the “season of award wapsi ended after the Bihar polls”.(Muzaffar Khan)
*Tassaduq’s inclusion in Cabinet a cruel joke with Jammu Kashmir people: NC*
Bandipora, Dec 28:
 National Conference on Thursday said the PDP was guided by a singular goal of empowering a single family while lording over the complete ruination of the State and its resources. Addressing a Party Workers’ Convention at Bandipora in North Kashmir, National Conference Provincial President Nasir Aslam Wani said the inclusion of the CM’s brother into the State Cabinet was a cruel joke with the people of the State who continue to suffer with each passing day due to the political and administrative failures of the PDP-BJP Government led by Mehbooba Mufti.
Senior National Conference Leader and North Zone President, Muhammad Akbar Lone besides Party Leaders including Provincial Secretary Advocate Showkat Ahmed Mir, Former MLA Bandipora Ghulam Rasool Naz, Muhammad Abdullah Wani, Advocate Nazir Ahmed Malik, District President YNC Dr. Abdul Hameed, Youth Leader Sameer Iqbal in addition to Party Block Presidents and Block Secretaries were also present on the occasion and addressed the convention.
“Ever since its inception, PDP has been guided by the singular goal of seeking political power while being bereft of any ideological convictions. This party bartered its mandate and sold its conscience to the BJP in 2015 only to secure the Chief Minister’s chair for Late Mufti Sahab, followed by Mehbooba Mufti. Today PDP has carried on this trend of deceit for self-seeking ambitions by elevating a practically unknown entity to the State Cabinet after the gentleman, facing imminent defeat, literally ran away from the Anantnag Parliamentary Elections and then went on to seek a place of extra-constitutional power in the Civil Secretariat as the appointed head of the CM’s Grievance Cell”, the NC Provincial President said in his address.
The NC Provincial President while questioning the qualifications and political experience of Tassaduq Mufti said his history of jumping from one opportunity to another spoke about his priorities and mindset. “He ran away from the Anantnag Election and now he has run away from the CM’s Grievance Cell after his stentorian rhetoric and theatrics. He has spent the last year or more developing a coterie of young businessmen and together with them interfered in the transfer processes of the Government at the highest levels. In his elevation, the same coterie of young businessmen are being empowered with unbridled powers to wreak havoc with administrative neutrality while being granted a backdoor access to the resources of the State”, the NC Provincial President added.
“The divisions in PDP have never been more acute and irreconcilable. People who sacrificed for decades to make the PDP and have won multiple elections have been ignored to promote through the backdoor a person who hardly anyone knew even existed before his Late father became the Chief Minister in 2015. These PDP leaders have been humiliated by their own party. One can only sympathise with them and hope against hope that they aren’t humiliated any further”, Nasir Aslam Wani said while speaking at Bandipora.
Lashing out at the State Government for rampant corruption and misgovernance in the State, Senior NC Leader and Former Minister Muhammad Akbar Lone said the PDP-BJP Government had pushed the State into a new era of instability and turmoil due to its abject surrender to those forces that have always been inimical to the interests of the State and its people. “While the State Government has absolutely no control over the deteriorating Law and Order situation in the State, the announcement to hold Panchayat Elections in the biting cold of February exposes the scope and depth of their disconnect with ground realities. How does the Government propose to conduct Panchayat Elections in far-flung areas and upper-reaches of the State in February while most of these areas will be snowbound with severe, hostile weather? It seems the Government is either completely disconnected and running on auto-pilot or is deliberately planning to suppress the turnout in the Panchayat Elections. Whatever their ulterior motive, it is amply clear that this Government remains as clueless today as it was in its first year in power”, Muhammad Akbar Lone said while addressing the workers’ convention
Addressing the party workers, the NC Provincial President congratulated the party workers for the continued success of the Party’s outreach initiatives across the length and breadth of the State and said National Conference was the only vanguard of the State’s political honour and dignity and would continue to fight against those forces that are working hard to fragment and weaken the State.(Muzaffar khan)
*Authorities disallow executive council meeting called by Geelani at hyderpora:spokesman*
Authorities on Thursday disallowed the executive council meeting called by Syed Ali Geelani at Hyderpora, said a spokesman.
He said several leaders, including Gh Ahmad Gulzar (spokesman), Mohd Ashraf Laya, Bilal Sidiqee, Molvi Bashir Irfani, Omer Adil Dar were arrested during police raids while Mohd Ashraf Sehrai and Gh Nabi Sumji were put under house arrest.
A posse of police personnel was posted outside Geelani’s residence at Hyderpora where the resistance leaders from various constituent parties were to hold a meeting, he said.
Syed Ali Geelani while lashing at the authorities, according to the spokesman, said that the authorities were “playing with fire”.
“Their despotic attitude is the root cause of uncertainty and horrendous situations in the state,” he said.
The spokesman said the meeting was convened to discuss several important issues.
“Police in large contingents was deployed and no one was allowed to enter Geelani’s residence,” he said.
Terming the curbs as “unjustified and unconstitutional”, Geelani, according to the spokesman said: “The anti-Kashmiri state resorted to its usual tactic of curbing the leadership and gaging voices, once again showing that Kashmir is ruled by the forces’ might.”
He termed the restrictions as “open demonstration of state terrorism”.
Geelani ridiculed the coalition regime for their “rhetoric about ‘battle of Ideas’, saying “all their slogans and tall claims proved fraud and hoax.”(Muzaffar Khan)
*Bill criminalising triple talaq intriduced in Lok Sabha*
New Delhi, December 28: A bill to make instant triple talaq illegal and void and awarding a jail term of three years for the husband, was introduced in the Lok Sabha on Thursday
Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad introduced the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, calling it a “historic day” amid opposition to its introduction by members of different parties, including RJD, AIMIM, BJD and All India Muslim League
The law is about justice and respect for women and is not about any religion or community, he said, adding that the practice of instant triple has continued despite the Supreme Court order terming it void
Parliament has to decide whether the victims of triple talaq have fundamental rights or not, he said after some oppositionmembers claimed it violated the fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution
“It is a historic day. We are making history today,” Prasad said
The proposed law would only be applicable on instant triple talaq or ‘talaq-e-biddat’ and give power to the victim to approach a magistrate seeking “subsistence allowance” for herself and minor children
The woman can also seek the custody of her minor children from the magistrate who will take a final call on the issue
Under the law, instant triple talaq in any form — spoken, in writing or by electronic means such as email, SMS and WhatsApp — would be bad or illegal and void
According to the proposed law which would be applicable to the entire country except Jammu and Kashmir, giving instant talaq would attract a jail term of three years and a fine. It would be a non-bailable offence.(muzaffar khan)
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*JRL calls for boycott of Panchayat elections in Jammu and Kashmir*
Srinagar, Dec. 28 : Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL) on Thursday called for a boycott of upcoming panchayat elections in Jammu and Kashmir, saying these elections were “meant to harm the national interests of Kashmiri people”.
“Any sort of election under Indian occupational system, be it for so-called assembly, parliament, municipal committee or Panchayat is meant only to harm the national interests of Kashmiris. We cannot vote and hence strengthen the hands of those tyrants who separated innocent kids Maryam and Azra from their mothers and are forcing us to bury mutilated bodies of our kith and kin,” said a  statement, issued by the JRL.
JRL comprising Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umer Farooq and Yasin appealed to the people of Kashmir to boycott “Panchayat election drama announced by so-called rulers.”
Last week, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti told Governor N N Vohra that her government has decided to hold Panchayat elections in the state on February 15, 2018.(Muzaffar Khan)
*ISI trying to revive Khalistan movement: Govt*
>>> Operatives of Pakistan’s espionage agency ISI are making efforts through moral and financial support to revive pro-Khalistan elements for anti- India activities, the government informed the Rajya Sabha Wednesday.
*“Certain elements in Pakistan are providing funds to separatists for secessionist and terrorist activities in Jammu and Kashmir as well,”* Minister of State for Home Affairs Hansraj Gangaram Ahir said in response to a question.
_“Inputs indicate that ISI operatives are making efforts towards moral/financial support to pro-Khalistan elements for anti-India activities as well as to revive militancy in Punjab,” he said._
He said the government has adopted an integrated approach to counter the attempts to revive militancy. This includes sustained vigilance along the borders, strengthening of mechanisms for intelligence gathering and sharing.
*“A close watch is maintained on the activities of various groups known to have been engaged in trying to foment terrorist activities. Necessary action is taken so as to maintain peace and harmony in the State,”* he said. (Muzaffar Khan)

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