Saturday, September 22, 2007

Chandigarh Screening: All Roads lead to RIK Event...

Picture from Times of India
(Please scroll down for more pictures)-

Some months back when a supposedly well known documentary maker had gone to Punjab University , Chandigarh to screen his “magnum opus” he had less than a dozen people to see his documentary. So embarrassed was the “genius” with the dismal turnout he decided not to even mention this on his blog.
With this fear in our hearts and minds when we reached Chandigarh on Friday morning we saw posters of our screening at almost all departments of the Punjab University.-
Cut to 4.30 Friday 21st of Sept,07. It seemed all roads lead to the English Auditorium, Punjab University. An unrelenting stream of students, doctors, faculty and members of the civil society kept pouring in. By 5 PM the auditorium was overfull. Just to give the reader a measure, the auditorium with a capacity of 325 people had more than 500 people waiting for the movie to begin and more than 200 waiting outside the hall to get in. The auditorium didn’t have air conditioning and yet people stuck to the places, whether standing or sitting refused to move out. There were many who had to be seated near the backstage so that they could see the movie.
We finally started at 15 minutes past 5, the press was there in full attendance which can be easily seen by the coverage of the event (links and pics posted on the blog).Mr.Atre,IAS and Director of PR for UT of Chandigarh also graced the occasion.The screening was followed by a panel discussion in which Mr.Vikram Chaudhary of NDTV, Professor Brar of Poltical Science Department and Sqn.Ldr(Retd) Sadhu took part. Yet again there was a vibrant Q&A session. In the Q&A session most questions directed at Vikram. The audience wanted to know why the English Electronic Media was in a way silent about the forced exodus of Pandits and their plight.
As always the discussion did not stick itself to Kashmir with issues like terrorism and role of the State coming into focus. While all this was happening more than 400 people were queuing outside the auditorium for a second screening which we had to announce seeing the turnout of people.
Once again we were overwhelmed by the response. More than 400 people participated in the second screening of the movie and later in the Q&A session. Many wanted to join the movement called RIK. Many more from Media wanted to know what they can do help Kashmiri Pandits get what they rightfully deserve. But that’s not to say there weren’t people who did not question our motives for screening what they thought was a one sided view of the Kashmir issues. A friend from the media wanted to know why we called terrorist of Kashmir as Islamic terrorists. As always our answer was the so called movement in Kashmir is Pan-Islamic expansion in the garb of so called freedom. Ironically when Rashneek (the moderator for the program) asked this gentleman as to why none but Indonesia was the only Muslim Majority nation being secular in character the friend sat quietly without an answer. Probably he and us will both search for them in days to come……
We are thankful to all our friends in Punjab University, Career Launcher ,all our friends and sponsors for such an excellent event.-
PS: Many had to be given CD’s of the documentary, as we failed to accommodate them in the auditorium.

RIK Cavalcade on way to Chandigarh.

A part of the audience at the first screening.

People watching the RIK Photo Exhibition outside the auditorium.

Humidity doesn't make any difference.

Another view of the audience.

Panel Discussion: Rashneek Kher (Moderator), Vikram Chowdhry (NDTV), Sq. Ldr. B.L. Sadhu.

A notice board outside the venue.

An eager student with a query.

RIK Chandigarh Team Volunteers outside the venue.

RIK Chandigarh Volunters

For any other query mail us at:

Media Stories - :

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

"Sleeping at Home" by Pramod Kumar and Rahul Pandita(in THE SUNDAY INDIAN)

The civil society and the media is doing its best to raise the decibel level on how a dreaded killer is roaming free.The voice somehow still doesnt seem to have reached the eternally "deaf and dumb" Indian State.One more Special report in THE SUNDAY INDIAN focussing on how criminals,terrorists have a free hand while the Home Minister finds India "too big".Here is a report by Pramod Kumar and Rahul Pandita.

Bitta Karate? The Home Ministry is clueless about this dreaded militant. But does it have a clue about anything else? Pramod Kumar and Rahul Pandita find out…
The phone rang late in the night. In two rings, Fatima picked it up. “Your son is free,” said a police officer on the other side. Next morning it was celebration time in Srinagar’s Guru Bazaar area. By afternoon, Farooq Ahmad Dar alias Bitta Karate was at home. He was garlanded, and kisses were planted on his forehead. He had been set free after sixteen years in prison.
876 kilometres away, a distraught man watched these images beamed on his television set. For years, Ramesh Tikku had waited for justice. Sixteen years ago, his brother Satish was waylaid by Dar outside his home in Srinagar and shot dead in cold blood. Satish was Dar’s first victim. In the next few months, he would kill many innocent people – most of them Kashmiri Pandits. Some of them were gruesomely murdered in front of children and women. In a television interview soon after his arrest, Dar – a martial arts expert, hence the name Karate – had confessed killing 20 people, though many believe that the number is almost twice.
While ordering him to be released on bail, the TADA judge had remarked: “The court is aware of the fact that the allegations levelled against the accused are of serious nature and carry a punishment of death sentence or life imprisonment but the fact is that the prosecution has shown total disinterest in arguing the case, which is in complete violation of Article 21 of the Constitution.”
Meanwhile, Satish Tikku’s father died remembering his son.
Cut to 2007. It was on July 6, 2007 that a young Kashmiri activist filed an application under the Right to Information Act (RTI) with the Ministry of Home Affairs, seeking information about Bitta Karate. Among other queries, the application sought answers to following questions:
What is the total number of cases registered against Dar?
Is the bail granted to Dar of any specified time frame or is it indefinite?
What action has been taken against the State Police for what the designated judge ND Wani called “total disinterest in arguing the case?”
Is it true that the designated officer/s (both public prosecutor and police officer) on behalf of the State was/were absent on the day of final hearing of arguments in the case? If so, please explain the reasons for absence of the designated officer/s in the court on the day of final hearing of arguments in the case?
In a letter, dated July 20, 2007, the Kashmir Division of the Home Ministry replied back. The six-line reply, a copy of which is available with TSI, said: “The information you have asked for is not available in the Kashmir Division of Ministry of Home Affairs.”
How is it possible that the Ministry of Home Affairs, which is responsible for the internal security of the country, has no information about the whereabouts of a dreaded militant? Did the ministry have no wherewithal to keep a tab on a former area commander of the JKLF? Or it just didn’t care? Looking at the recent series of events, it looks like a bit of both.
After the Hyderabad blasts, when the Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil was asked about whether his ministry had any prior information about the blasts, he replied, “We had some intelligence inputs, but then, you see, India is a big country.” While Patil struggles with the bigness of India, his junior minister, Sri Prakash Jaiswal parrots a readymade answer in front of media persons, after every terrorist act. In the security meeting after the Hyderabad blasts, as Jaiswal sat briefing the Prime Minister, his national security adviser, MK Narayanan expressed unhappiness about the lax attitude of the Home ministry. In response to that, Patil replied, “We have sent a strong-worded letter to the state governments.”
The Home Minister may have taken refuge in a few ‘strong-worded’ letters but it is a fact that India is bogged down by insurgency while the Home ministry has no clue about how to tackle it. In the security meeting, the issue of terrorists using the Samjahuta Express to smuggle explosives and fake currency also came up. Narayanan was also angry that the issue of terrorists using the Myanmar route to sneak into India – it was revealed by a suspect arrested after the Hyderabad blasts – has not been taken up with the Myanmar’s government. In Uttar Pradesh alone, an alert has been sounded for around 250 missing Pakistani citizens. To identify such people, living illegally in India, the ministry has released 47 crores to make I-cards for Indian citizens in 12 states and Union territories. The pilot project was supposed to be completed by July 2007 but the fact is that it is yet to take off.
For years now, security experts have been stressing upon the need for coordination between various intelligence agencies like the Intelligence Bureau and the Military Intelligence. But nothing concrete has been done so far. A senior army officer posted in Kashmir says that often various agencies don’t share information due to ego issues.
The Home Ministry claims that as compared to last year, civilian casualties in Assam have reduced by six percent while casualties among security personnel have come down by 37 percent. But, perhaps, the ministry has chosen to ignore the fact that in the last month alone, extremist group ULFA has conducted fifteen major operations in Assam, killing scores of Hindi-speaking people. It is a known fact that ULFA’s top leaders like Paresh Barua are based in Bangladesh where they run many businesses. But even after providing more than enough proofs to successive governments in Bangladesh, India has not been able to lay its hands on these leaders.
The number of naxalite-affected police stations in the country is increasing. Out of 12,476 police stations, 400 have come under the red shadow. This year till June, 209 people have died in 395 naxalite attacks. Prominent among them is the murder of JMM MP Sunil Mahato and a bid to blow up the vehicle carrying former Andhra CM, N Janardhan Reddy. MOS Home, Sri Prakash Jaiswal admits that till 2007, 1605 crores have been released for tackling naxalites in eight affected states. Says Mohammaed Salim of the CPI (M): “The naxal problem is a socio-economic problem but it is also true that the government has not done enough. Naxalites are now touching Haryana and Uttar Pradesh.”
Even an extradition treaty with Pakistan hangs in balance. The Home Ministry says it is Foreign ministry’s job. As a result, people like Dawood Ibrahim, Maulana Masood Azhar, and Abdul Karim Tunda are roaming free. And the Home Minister says that India is a big country.

Monday, September 17, 2007

THE PANDITS's OPEN WOUND-by Iftikhar Geelani(in PIONEER)

Bitta Karate, who murdered dozens of Kashmiri Pandits, walked out of court laughing this month when another attempt to convict him failed.It wasn't his victory, but the failure of the Indian state
One winter evening, late in 1989, a zooming Ambassador slowed down in the Chanakhan locality of Sopore town. A person wearing a Kashmiri gown (phern), apparently a Pandit, was thrown out and gun shots rentthe air. The bleeding person had not lost his senses. Holding hisbullet wounds he crawled to take shelter under a closed shop. Lawlessness had taken over the Kashmir Valley. Nobody would listen to anything but Azadi, to achieve which it was necessary to clear theValley of "informers" and leaders having the potential to "sell-out". The man who lay dying slowly of bullet wounds was crying for water inhis feeble voice. But the people of the neighbourhood, who were used to being hauled off by the security forces for harbouring anybody deemed a "militant" were in no mood to help. Instead of rushing to his rescue, they carried him by his arms and legs and tossed him into the Jhelum river which flowed nearby. That ended his misery.Till date, nobody has any answers for this strange behaviour -- a summary execution of sorts. The only explanation given was that thedead man used to live in a nearby village. He was a Kashmiri Pandit who had been kidnapped for providing information about militants tothe security agencies.
A contrast came a few months after this incident in a nearby SofiHamam locality, when militants raided the homes of Pandits in broad daylight. Almost all Pandit families had left for Jammu by then,barring a young boy. Ashok, who had stayed back for some unknown reasons. Militants believed he was helping the security forces bypinpointing targets. People literally gheraoed the whole locality and shoed the militants away. But, in the dead of night, they returned.This time, they cut off the roof of the house to drag out Ashok. After few days his dead body was found on the banks of river Jhelum.
The neighbours of the Pandits for centuries, the Muslims of KashmirValley were not particularly happy about the killings of Pandits. Onoccasions they remonstrated the militants. Even today, the full separatist spectrum consisting of hardliner Syed Ali Geelani tomoderate Yasin Malik recognise the Pandits as part of Kashmiri society. Their migration out of the Valley has disturbed Kashmiri society, they admit.
At the start of armed movement in 1989, strategists in both India and Pakistan disallowed any Kashmiri leader to take the centre-stage,which could have at least controlled the events. While India detainedleaders, militant groups at the behest of Pakistani agencies launcheda venomous campaign against them. They even resisted staunch pro-Pakistan Kashmiri leaders to ensure that the levers of control were with Islamabad and to avoid the re-emergence of a Sheikh Abdullah. Baring some honourable exceptions, this vacuum got to be filled by ruffians and street stalkers who had procured guns. They began to regard themselves as leaders and mujahids. They killed more civilians than they confronted the security forces.
Among such characters, Farooq Ahmed Dar, alias Bitta Karate, emergedas one of top leaders of the Jammu & Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF).The then Governor, Mr Jagmohan, later wrote in justification of the detention of traditional leaders and providing ascendancy to theelements in the JKLF: "I wanted to weaken the hold of the fanatics and fundamentalists, and also the pro-Pakistani groups by facilitating the ascendancy of those elements in the J&K Liberation Front who had thelatent disposition to be moderate and whom I could subsequently tackle to accept my idea of security real freedom for the Kashmiri masses, within the larger framework of the Indian Constitution.
"But, on Bitta Karate's emergence, Mr Jagmohan's policy went all wrong.Blamed by the Pandit community for a string of killings of itsmembers, Bitta Karate walked free on October 27, 2006, after 16 years of incarceration. An anti-terror court while granted him bail, arguedthat there was "no justification in continuation of his incarcerationwhen other co-accused facing the same allegations are enjoying fruitsof liberty".
Earlier, in 2001, Justice GD Sharma of the State HighCourt had ordered the transfer the cases against this notorious killerof the Pandits to Jammu.Farooq Ahmed Dar, against whom 23 FIRs -- mostly related to murder --had been lodged, was a martial arts practitioner. That gained him fameas "Bitta Karate". What earned him the wrath of Pandits was the "confessional statement" run by the official media soon after hisarrest, in which he accepted his role in the killings.
Even the separatists and the dominant JKLF faction-led Mohammad Yasin Maliknever espoused his cause, or even asked for his release for several years because of the negative image he had earned.Since then, there has been stiff opposition to his release, promptingthe Government to repeatedly slap the Public Safety Act (PSA) -- apreventive detention law that provides for detention without trial for a maximum of two years -- on him. Each time the term expired, it wasrenewed.Despite filing various cases against Karate for the killing of 30Pandits in 1990 and creating a fear psychosis, the State Government failed to file a chargesheet against him. His release may be treatedas a failure of our criminal justice system. The Pandit community,which is now thronging the streets seeking his re-arrest, failed toprovide a single witness against Karate in the court of law. There can be no excuse of lack of security, because the trial was going on in aspecial court in Jammu, where witnesses could have felt much safer.
The State Government, too, totally relied on the invocation of the Public Safety Act (PSA) rather than resorting to investigations andprocuring witnesses for convictions. For over two decades the rampant use of the PSA with ease quite dampened the investigation capabilitiesof the Jammu & Kashmir Police. It is used on all and sundry, from timber smugglers to terrorists, because the PSA is such a short-cut to the end of the troubles of the police force.
The policemen have become lazy, for no longer are demands of securing prosecution placed on them. It has not only completely shattered the investigating machinery of the State police, but the law also falls short of the fundamental requirements of justice. There is no such concept as equality before Law. The police could rest assured thatthere was no need to present an accused person before a magistrate, what to talk of looking for witnesses to examine.Bitta Karate eluded justice because the criminal justice system inJammu & Kashmir is quite dead. The State's failure to bring to justicea mass murderer and ethnic cleanser like him should not be viewed in narrow terms. It is high time the security agencies are reminded ofthe fundamental duty of their craft - to secure convictions.--
The writer is a noted expert on Kashmir issues