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Briefing March 7-13, 2021

SRINAGAR

(L-R) Dr Mubin Shah, Riffat Wani and Asif Maqbool Dar

Unlike the past when the focus of the security grid was Pakistan, the Jammu and Kashmir Police (JKP) have registered cases against various Kashmir residents living overseas. This has already led to the deportation and arrest of Muneeb Ahmad Sofi, 21, a resident of Bijbehara who was working at a Qatar juice factory. Police have accused him of being an OGW of Jaish-e-Mohammed, a charge his family denies. Police, according to reports appearing in the media have already registered cases against three non-resident Kashmiris including Dr Mubeen Ahmad Shah, a businessman and scion of Alson Motors and a former President of Kashmir Chamber of Commerce; video blogger of Kashmiri origin Riffat Wani, a German citizen, and a Kashmiri doctor Asif Maqbool Dar, serving Saudi Arabia since 2014. Unlike Sofi, none of the three stands accused of any militancy related issue. They, however, have cases registered against them for their statements. Of the three, reports said Dar’s case has already been sent to the centre. Booked under Section 13 of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, if proved, he can be jailed for seven years.

Police have registered a case against Shah in June 2020 for his Facebook post asking residents not to rent their spaces to non-locals. He was one of the hundreds rounded up a day before August 5, 2019, but was the first to be set free after he became a subject matter of US Congress Hearing on Kashmir. A frequent visitor to Kashmir, his immediate family lives abroad since 1990. One of his cousins is in the White House as part of team Joe Biden.

Blogger Riffat Wani has also a case registered against her under UPA. Daughter of a JKLF activist, this Kupwara born blogger has lived in Muzaffarabad and is now settled in Germany with her Pakistani engineer husband. Her immediate relatives in Kupwara have been asked to give information about Wani.

SOPORE

Top army officer at the launch of the community radio, Radio Chinar, station in Sopore in March 2021

Apparently, to have a direct connection with the people, the army launched its community radio station in Sopore town. Named Radio Chinar 90.4: Har Dil Ki Dhadkan, the station was inaugurated by GoC, 15 Corps Lt Gen BS Rana. The station range waves control Sopore, Bandipora and Baramulla. Media reports quoted an official saying the radio will provide “a good platform for a community dialogue, sharing of information, art and culture”. The radio will show-casing local entrepreneurs, musicians, sportsmen and artists. This is the second such station. In January, General Raju launched Radio Raabta 90.8 FM Dil se Dil Tak in Anantnag as part of its “outreach programme to youth”. This station covers an aerial distance of 20 km radius in Anantnag, Pulwama and Kulgam.

After EPFO took over the Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh, the social security coverage of establishments under EPFO increased by 38 per cent: from 3458 on October 31, 2019, to 4754 on January 31, 2021. The benefits stand extended to 2.11 lakh subscribers by January 2021 as compared to 1.29 lakh in October 2019, a growth of 63 per cent. Under EPFO, the EDLI benefit has been enhanced up to Rs 6 lakh for family members of the deceased employees, which was earlier restricted to Rs 70,000.

NOWHATTA

a photograph lifted from the official facebook page of the Kashmir Tourism Department shows the historic Jamia Masjid.

It was supposed to be his first post-August 2019 speech but at the last moment, Mirwaiz Umer Farooq was prevented from moving out of his Nigheen mansion. The cleric’s aides told reporters that the police have conveyed them that Mirwaiz is no more under house-detention. Consequently, his team started preparations for his first speech from the ramparts of the Jamia Masjid on March 5. His “release” was celebrated by the political class who issued statements on setting him free. Hours before the Friday gathering, however, his grouping issued a statement saying that the police have conveyed to him late Thursday night that he is still under house arrest and will not be going to the Jamia Masjid. Had he been permitted to move out, it would have been for the first time in 19 months.

 DELHI

Family of slain Baghat youth mourning. Their ward was found hanging in Delhi but the family alleges that he was murdered.

On March 2, 2021, Aqib Rashid Bhat, 21, was found hanging under at his apartment in New Delhi. Son of Abdul Rashid, a resident of Baghat, the family is alleging that it is not a suicide but a murder. They have protested and sought fair investigations by Delhi Police. Bhat was living in the falt with a Mumbai resident but the latter had gone home. “Aqif was found hanging inside his apartment by one of his acquaintances at around 8 pm on Tuesday,” his father was quoted saying.  “Later he contacted our relatives who are currently putting up in New Delhi. A conspiracy has been hatched to murder my son at New Delhi by some people.” Bhat said.

 “He bore injury marks on his face and arm making the family suspect a murder,” Aqif’s cousin, Irshad, who flew Aqif’s body home, said. “At least two persons familiar with the circumstances around Aqif’s death are still absconding with the police yet to trace them.”

 SRINAGAR

Ariel view of Srinagar city during the lockdown in view of coronavirus on Saturday 4 April 2020. KL Image by Bilal Bahadur

It is now official. Srinagar is one city where life is harsh. In the listing of 49 Indian cities for Ease of Living Index 2020, Srinagar was at bottom of the list. The index, released by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs is an assessment tool that evaluates the quality of life and the impact of various initiatives for urban development and provides a comprehensive understanding of the quality of life, economic-ability, and city’s sustainability and resilience. The list celebrates Bangalore as the best followed by Pune and Ahmedabad. Bareilly, Dhanbad and Srinagar are ranked as the bottom three. The 15 evaluation criteria included in the ranking are governance, identity and culture, education, health, safety and security, economy, affordable housing, land use planning, public open spaces, transportation and mobility, assured water supply, waste-water management, solid waste management, power, and quality of the environment.

MUMBAI

Actress politician Urmila shared her Mangalsutra moment on the wedding anniversary

Actress turned politician, Urmila Matondkar has gone to social media to celebrate her ‘mangalsutra moment’ when her Kashmir husband Mohsin Akhtar Mir married her in 2016. The marriage was solemnised as per Hindu rituals at Urmila’s residence. “My precious “mangalsutra” moment. And a beautiful five-year journey that continues to enrich both our lives. Happy Anniversary dearest Mohsin,” she wrote on one of her pictures she shared on social media. “From here to Eternity.. All the stars in the world..the moon.. and You. To make my life more beautiful n meaningful. Happy Anniversary my love. Ps. Don’t miss the moon. n my mad Romeo.” Mir responded: “Having you by my side makes me the happiest, most grateful and luckiest person in the world. Five years, 60 months, 260 weeks, 1,825 days – Forever and Always In love with you…Happy Anniversary to my Soul Mate.”

AHMADABAD

Shehla Rashid Shora

The High Court has finally granted anticipatory bail to Gujarat resident, Mihir Thakor Patel whom Shehla Rashid had accused of sending obscene messages via social media. The accused has ensure his participating in the investigation (March 9-11). The bail expires on March 18. Earlier, a Srinagar Court had cancelled the bail granted to Patel after taking note of submissions that he had been evading appearance before the investigating officer and not cooperating with the probe. “This court deems it proper to grant another chance to the petitioner so as to participate in the investigation,” the order issued by Justice Rajnesh Oswal said. “It is made clear in the event, that if the petitioner does not appear before the Investigating Officer in the physical mode, this court shall be constrained to dismiss the present application.”The FIR against Patel is registered for offences including Sections 67, 67-A (Punishment for publishing or transmitting obscene material, sexually explicit material in electronic form) of the Information Technology Act; Section 153-A (promoting enmity between different groups based on religion, race etc.); Section 298 (acts to wound religious feelings); Section 354-A (physical contact with explicit sexual overtures and demand of sexual favours); Section 354-D (stalking); Section 505 (2) (statements creating or promoting enmity, hatred or ill-will) and Section 509 (outraging a woman’s modesty).

The petitioner was granted anticipatory bail by an Additional Sessions Court on January 13, which was cancelled on January 27 after the Sessions Court was told that he had not been cooperating with the investigation.

SRINAGAR

Mehbooba Mufti

Outside Kashmir, it could be a major embarrassment when a former home minister of a state approaches court for getting her passport renewed. However, the case of Mehbooba Mufti can wait, despite being interesting. The former Chief Minister, who also heads a political party, has informed the court that her passport was valid till May 31, 2019. After protracted detention, she applied for issuance of the passport on December 11, 2020. Though the passport should have normally landed at her home within a month it has not happened as the police have not forwarded the mandatory verification to the Regional Passport Office (RPO). She has invoked her fundamental right to get a passport. Now the issue is if she gets a passport, will she be able to fly abroad?

HANDWARA

A file picture of stranded Pakistani truck drivers playing football at Slamabad.
Photo Courtesy: AFP

Federal investigator, the NIA has arrested four drug traffickers from Srinagar in connection with the case pertaining to the seizure of 21 kg of heroin and a cash amount of Rs 1,35,89,850 from the members of the syndicate. The case stands registered at Handwara police station on June 11, 2020. The detained include Altaf Ahmed (Ganderbal), Showkat Ahmad Parray (Bandipora), Mudasir Ahmad Darm (Shopian), and Amin Allaie (Anantnag). 

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