Sanjha Morcha

Telephonic encounter with Hizb chief, via Chandigarh

RAMESH VINAYAK I WORKED THE PHONE LINES FOR TWO DAYS IN VAIN. ON THE THIRD DAY, THE CALL GOT THROUGH. MY PRODDING FOR AN INTERVIEW WITH SALAHUDDIN WAS MET WITH A SLEW OF QUESTIONS ABOUT MY ANTECEDENTS. I WAS TOLD TO CALL AGAIN NEXT DAY.

One of the thrills of journalism is to experience twists and turns of history and being up, close and personal with the makers or breakers of such events.

The Trump administration’s surprise but hugely symbolic tagging of Syed Salahuddin as a global terrorist unlocked memories of a telephonic encounter I had with this longest-surviving top gun of the Hizbul Mujahideen.

For reporters on the Kashmir beat – as I was with India Today in the 1990s – there was, and still is, never a dearth of adrenaline rush.

But the August of 2000 was packed with more than its share of suspense, hope and despair. Post-Kargil, terror had acquired a new and deadlier edge of “fidayeen” (suicide) attacks. Gloom was the dominant mood across the Kashmir Valley.

On July 24 came the dramatic announcement of a ceasefire by a local Hizb commander, Majid Dar, who also offered talks. For New Delhi, it was an unexpected window of opportunity to end the Kashmir logjam.

A series of behind-the-scenes fast-paced parleys set the stage for the first – and the last since – direct contact between the dominant and deadly indigenous militant outfit and the Centre. The violence-weary Kashmiris sensed a tantalising augury of a new autumn.

But the optimism was shortlived. Hours after the icebreaker, Salahuddin called off the ceasefire, demanding Pakistan be included in the talks. The high-stake initiative lay in ruins, while militant depredations were back, with a vengeance.

THE TURNING POINT

For once, Salahuddin was the man of the moment. The shadowy figure with a flat cap and a cascading jet-black dyed beard seemed like the lynchpin of the Kashmir gambit. Indeed, he was a strategic asset for his permanent but ever-in-denial host across the border.

During my numerous reporting forays in Kashmir – it was like a second home since the first outing in 1993 – I heard fascinating stories, some apocryphal but most real, of how the cataclysmic circumstances had morphed ordinary mortals into fearsome figures. In the pantheons of home-grown militants, Salahuddin stood out for his sheer longevity and larger-than-life image.

The tale of his tryst with the gun was no less intriguing. A small-time preacher from a village near Srinagar airport, he was born Yusuf Shah. He was a polling agent for the Muslim United Front, a conglomerate of Kashmiri outfits known for disputing Jammu and Kashmir’s accession to India, in the 1987 assembly election that was marred by rigging by the pro-India National Conference (NC).

When Shah protested, a senior NC candidate slapped him publicly. The slap, as the story goes, was the turning point. He crossed over to Pakistan, floated Hizb and cast himself as its commander in a new avatar as Syed Salahuddin.

THE CONVERSATION

The collapse of peace talks only whetted my curiosity about the Hizb commander. But how does one reach a man safely ensconced with his masters in Pakistan? He had remained elusive for the Indian media. A glimmer of hope came during a chance meeting in Srinagar with a French woman journalist, who had a brief stint in Islamabad. She shared the satellite phone number of a Hizb spokesman, Hashmi.

Back in Chandigarh, I worked the phone lines for two days in vain. On the third day, the call got through. My prodding for an interview with Salahuddin was met with a slew of questions about my antecedents. I was told to call again the next day.

At the appointed hour, the call linked up with Hashmi, who handed over the phone to the man I desperately wanted to speak to on his next move on Kashmir. “As salam ale kum, Ramesh bhai. Main Salahuddin bol raha hoon (Greetings, I’m Salahuddin speaking),” said the gruff voice.

For the next 20 minutes, he answered a string of questions. “Our gun struggle is a quest for peace,” he said.

I had got what a journalist always craves for – an exclusive. But, before it appeared in the weekly magazine I worked for, there was an unintended consequence of cross-border phone calls. Now, it was the turn of intelligence sleuths to knock on my door to cross-check my antecedents.

THE FACES OF TERROR


Have better options than surgical strikes: Rawat

I’ll hold talks with a person who assures me that my convoy will not be hit (in Kashmir). The day that happens, I will personally hold a dialogue. BIPIN RAWAT, Army chief

NEW DELHI: India has more effective options than surgical strikes to deal with Pakistan, chief of army staff General Bipin Rawat told HT in an exclusive interview on Tuesday.

“Pakistan thinks it is fighting an easy war that’s paying them dividends, but we have options (other than surgical strikes) that are far more impactful and effective. Our army is not barbaric. I don’t want to (collect) heads because we are a disciplined force,” he said, referring to the decapitation and mutilation of two Indian soldiers on May 1.

The army chief was circumspect about the United States designating Hizbul Mujahideen chief Syed Salahuddin as a global terrorist. “I will wait and watch to see if Pakistan truly reins him in, because he was issuing a calendar of protests on the very day he was designated,” he said.

Rawat also alluded to the fact that while there was an official bounty on the head of Lashkar-eTaiba founder Hafiz Saeed, it did not lead to any crackdown on the militant leader or his outfit.

On holding peace talks with Kashmiri leaders, Rawat was categorical that “dialogue can happen only when there is peace”. “The army has a job to do. We have to ensure that peace returns. I’ll hold talks with a person who assures me that my convoy will not be hit. The day that happens, I will personally hold a dialogue,” he told HT, sitting at the army headquarters in Delhi.


China accuses India of ‘crossing boundary’ in Sikkim section

China accuses India of ‘crossing boundary’ in Sikkim section

Beijing, June 27

China on Tuesday lodged a protest with India over alleged “crossing of boundary” by its troops in Sikkim and demanded their immediate withdrawal, warning that future visits of Indian pilgrims to Kailash Mansarovar will depend on resolution of the standoff.”Our position to uphold our territorial sovereignty is unwavering. We hope the Indian side can work with China in the same direction and immediately withdraw the personnel who have overstepped and trespassed into Chinese border,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang told a media briefing here. “We have lodged solemn representations in Beijing and New Delhi to elaborate on our solemn position,” he said.(Follow The Tribune on Facebook; and Twitter @thetribunechdAbout the fate of the pilgrims headed to Kailash and Mansarovar, who had returned to Gangtok after denial of permission by China to enter Tibet, Lu said their visit was called off because of security reasons.He also linked future visits of pilgrims to India “withdrawing the troops” from the area.”As to Indian pilgrims’ journey through Nathu La pass at Sikkim section, I think the Indian side is very clear about this. For a long time Chinese government has made enormous efforts to provide the necessary convenience to those Indian pilgrims,” Lu said.”But recently the Indian border personnel trespassed Chinese border to obstruct our construction, we have taken necessary actions. Out of security consideration we have to put off the pilgrimage by the Indian pilgrims through the Chinese pass,” he said. “On the upcoming actions, we have to depend on what the Indian side will do. They have to take action to improve the security situation.”Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang last night said: “China urges India to immediately withdraw its border guards that have crossed the boundary and have a thorough investigation of this matter”.”The Indian border guards crossed the boundary in the Sikkim section of the China-India border and entered the territory of China, and obstructed normal activities of Chinese frontier forces in the Donglang area recently, and the Chinese side has taken counter-measures,” he said in a statement.His statement came after the Chinese Defence Ministry accused the Indian troops of objecting to building a road in what it claimed to be Chinese territory.The dispute over construction of a road was apparently the reason why China stopped a batch of 47 Indian pilgrims from crossing through Nathu La border in Sikkim into Tibet to visit Kailash Mansarovar.Chinese defence ministry spokesman Ren Guoqiang said on Monday that recently China has begun the construction of a road in Donglang region, but was stopped by Indian troops crossing the Line of Actual Control (LAC).In his statement, Geng said that the Sikkim section of the China-India boundary has been defined by treaties, noting that the Indian government has repeatedly confirmed in writing that there is no objection to it.China urges India to respect boundary treaties and China’s territorial sovereignty to maintain peace and stability at the China-India boundary, Geng said.In view of the above event, for safety reasons, China has to put off arranging for the Indian pilgrims to enter China through the Nathu La pass, Geng said, adding that China has informed India of its decision through diplomatic channels.The Nathu La Pass sits 4,545 metres above the sea level and is wedged between Yadong County in Xigaze Prefecture, Tibet Autonomous Region, and Sikkim.On Monday, Geng had also said that the foreign ministries of both the countries were in talks over this issue.The Nathu La route, which is the second route for the Kailash yatra, was launched with fanfare by the two countries in 2015.Until 2015, the yatra (journey) was being organised by External Affairs Ministry only through the Lipu Pass in Himalayas connecting the Kumaon region of Uttarakhand with the old trading town of Taklakot in Tibet.The Nathu La route enabled pilgrims to travel 1500 km long route from Nathu La to Kailash by buses.The route through Nathu La reduced the hardship and journey time enabling many more pilgrims, in particular the elderly, to undertake the yatra.Geng’s statement comes after tension mounted in a remote area of Sikkim following a scuffle between the personnel of the Indian Army and the PLA, leading to Chinese troops damaging bunkers on the Indian side of the border.The incident happened in the first week of June near the Lalten post in the Doka La general area in Sikkim after a face-off between the two forces, which triggered tension along the Sino-Indian frontier.After the scuffle, the PLA entered Indian territory and damaged two make-shift bunkers of the Army.Following, the India-China war of 1962, the area has been under the Indian Army and the ITBP, which is the border guarding force and has a camp 15 km from the international border. PTI


India-US alliance to check China will be ‘catastrophic’

India-US alliance to check China will be ‘catastrophic’
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi looks toward President Donald Trump as he speaks in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington on Monday. AP/PTI photo

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 27

As Prime Minister Narendra Modi wrapped up a successful US visit, an unhappy China warned about the potential disastrous results of such India-US alliance. The message was delivered in an article in the state-controlled Global Times (GT) which said Washington and New Delhi seem to be getting closer to one another in their shared “anxieties” about the rise of China.In another article in GT, China again pointed fingers at India and said New Delhi’s objections have affected the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in the short run but also added if China and Pakistan stay firm in their cooperation, they can dispel India’s doubts and objections. India’s main objection to the CPEC is that it passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).(Follow The Tribune on Facebook; and Twitter @thetribunechd)The GT article, apparently referring to the bonhomie that was on display when Modi and Trump met and also with reference to the fact that both leaders called for freedom of navigation and resolving of territorial and maritime disputes peacefully in accordance with international law said, “To assume a role as an outpost country in the US’ strategy to contain China is not in line with India’s interests. It could even lead to catastrophic results.”The second article on CPEC also reaffirmed that despite the recent security concerns, CPEC is going ahead when one considers the fact that the “return rate of the CPEC for China is generally higher than that in other countries.”

Delhi’s oppn will ‘hit CPEC’ in short run

  • An article in Chinese media says India’s objections have affected the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in the short run
  • It added if China and Pakistan stay firm in their cooperation, they can dispel India’s doubts and objections
  • India’s key objection to the CPEC is that it passes throughPakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK)

Gen: Valley back to normal soon

Gen: Valley back to normal soon
“Since infiltration is sustaining militancy, this supply line needs to be cut Gen Bipin Rawat, Army chief

Arun Joshi

Tribune News Service

Srinagar, June 27

The worsening spectre of violence in Kashmir notwithstanding, the Army Chief is optimistic that things would soon fall in place in the Valley.“I have no doubt whatsoever that things would improve soon and people would get to experience normal life again. They are our people, we know what is hurting them and how to swab their wounds inflicted by violence,” Chief of Army Staff Gen Bipin Rawat said.(Follow The Tribune on Facebook; and Twitter @thetribunechd)Along with its bullet-for-bullet approach, the Army is also actively engaging itself in the “pro-people” process of healing wounds and reaching out, especially to the youths. “There would be relentless operations against terrorists. Their lifespan would be cut short so others do not follow them, and parents too are conscious of the dangers ahead for their children if they join militancy. The idea also is to eliminate the fear of terror among the masses,” he said.Gen Rawat is clear that the Army’s primary task in Kashmir is to bring down infiltration to the zero, or near close, level. Since “infiltration is sustaining militancy, this supply line needs to be cut”.More than the sneaking in of militants through the Line of Control, infiltration is seen as a multi-purpose psychological tool with Pakistan. It sends a message that Islamabad is behind Kashmiris and would not mind sacrificing its own nationals. This also encourages and reassures the militancy-inclined youth in Kashmir that they are not alone in this “fight”


Punjab & Haryana HC Upholds Minimum Age Limit of 17 Years for NEET [Read Judgment)

The Punjab and Haryana High Court on Saturday upheld the minimum age criterion of 17 years prescribed for taking the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) for admission to MBBS/BDS courses. Justice Rakesh Kumar Jain ruled that taking the test…without fulfilling the age criteria would only amount to exhausting of a chance….

The Court was hearing a Petition filed by a minor, Kuldeep Singh Malik, through his father Ranbir Singh Malik. The Petitioner was supposed to complete 17 years of age in February, 2018, and had challenged an eligibility criterion which prescribed tha…
The Court, however, noted that the Petitioner’s contentions were “fallacious” as a minimum age limit of 17 years is prescribed under Regulation 4(1) of the Medical Council of India Regulation on Graduate Medical Education, 1997, as framed in  accordance with Section 33 of the Act. It further noted that the vires of Regulation 4(1) has already been tested and upheld in the case of Ankit Chaturvedi v. Union of India and others, 2016 AIR (Allahabad) 126….

Moreover, the Petitioner had, during the proceedings, been allowed to fill the online/manual application for NEET-2017 (held on May 7), subject to the outcome of the Petition. He had now pleaded to withdraw the Petition, and avail three chances to o appear in NEET. The chance availed by the Petitioner, under the court order, may not be counted, he had demanded. The Court, however, refused to allow this, and observed, “The contention of the petitioner is totally fallacious… there is no merit  in the present petition and the same is hereby dismissed. It is also ordered that since one chance, under the order of this court, by misrepresenting the facts has already been availed by the petitioner, he can avail two chances more…of the first attempt need not be declared because he was underage.”…

Read more at: http://www.livelaw.in/punjab-haryana-hc-upholds-minimum-age-limit-17-years-neet/#.WVGqFNx4LXg.whatsappi…


LeT men behind CRPF convoy attack killed

SRINAGAR: Two Lashkar-eTaiba terrorists holed-up in Delhi Public School in the outskirts of the city were killed after a 17-hour firefight with security forces that ended on Sunday, police said.The terrorists were escaping after an attack on a convoy of 29th Battalion of the Central Reserve Police Force at Pantha Chowk-a high security zone less than one km from the headquarters of Army‘s Chinar Corps. A sub-inspector was killed and two CRPF personnel and a civilian were injured in the attack.Reinforcements were called once the police was informed about the terrorists sneaking in, and a combing operation took place inside the school which was nearly empty at the time -the students had left, but nearly 20 staff member had to be evacuated Saturday evening.
The holed-up terrorists fired at the combing security forces which triggered the encounter resulting in the killing of both the terrorists, the police said. Three Army personnel including a captain were injured in the encounter. Their condition was said to be stable.

Lashkar claimed responsibility for the attack. DGP S P Vaid said bodies of two militants were lying inside the DPS building. Vaid said the operation took long as the security forces wanted to ensure minimum collateral damage. “We wanted to ensure that the (school) building remained safe, because the enemy has a nefarious design that school buildings are destroyed and children forced to abandon their studies.We will ensure that no such thing happens,” Vaid said.


Woman techie quits job at MNC, takes off with Air Force dream

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Surendra Sial (centre) with her parents
PUNE: Twenty-three year-old Rucha Surendra Sial has always dreamt of a career with the Indian Air Force. When she heard of the induction of three women pilots into the fighter squadron last year, she decided the time had come to make a move.

Within 12 months, Rucha cleared the Air Force Common Admission Test (AFCAT), the Engineering Knowledge Test (EKT) and is now set to join the Air Force Academyat Dundigal in Hyderabad next month. After 78 weeks of training, she will join the technical branch of one of the world’s largest air force.

Rucha was previously employed as a software engineer at a multi-national firm in Baner. Her career in IT looked promising but the young recruit never let go of her dream. “When I was in my last semester in college, a Bengaluru-based software company offered me a job with a good salary package. I did not take it up because I wanted to stay in Pune and prepare for the IAF. Today, I’m really happy with my decision,” she told TOI.

The job in Baner allowed her to be in the city and she didn’t waste any time. “I studied two hours every morning and three hours during the evenings. I could have a morning slot because of flexible working hours set by my company. So, some credits goes to them too.” she said.


After decades of wait, Indian Army finally gets modern Bullet-Proof Ballistic Helmets

For a soldier today, a bullet-proof helmet is an essential part of his kit that can prove to be the difference between life and death during combat operations.

But Indian Army soldiers, who fight in adverse conditions to save lives of fellow countrymen, were deprived of even this basic need.

Indian armed forces have relied on patkas that are worn over outdated infantry helmets to save themselves from enemy fire. But they have severe limitations as they are bulky and heavy, weighing over 2.5 kgs, and can protect only the forehead and back of the head.

Now, there is a good news for our soldiers. After decades of life-threatening wait, Indian Army has finally received modern bullet-proof helmets this month which can bear the impact even from short range.

Earlier this year, a Kanpur-based company, MKU limited, which supplies military equipment to the UN and NATO, was awarded a contract worth Rs 180 crore to supply nearly 1.6 lakh helmets. The company has recently delivered the first tranche.

ET got an opportunity to visit the manufacturing facilities of MKU in Kanpur and Fatehpur districts of Uttar Pradesh to watch the production of helmets.

The bullet-proof helmet has the main protective layer of Kevlar, the material used by Batman for his Batsuit and cape. Although the helmet won’t let our army men do things batman does, it will surely save them by bearing the impact of an enemy bullet.

The helmets are designed to bear the impact of 9 mm ammunition fired from a short range. This meets the global standard for protection among leading armed forces. They are also designed to be comfortable and can be integrated with communication and night-vision devices.

Indian Army has ordered the bolted version of bolt-free ballistic helmets. Not currently on the Indian Army order list, bolt-free is a higher and expensive version of bullet-proof helmets, which gives all-round protection from head injuries as helmet bolts increase the risk of injuries due to vibrations produced by direct impact of bullet on helmet.

MKU claims that these helmets go through rigorous quality tests and ballistic lab test conducted in company’s testing facilities in India and Germany.

Although the ordered helmets don’t carry the communication device and other equipment such as night-vision device and camera, the company says the helmets could be improvised to include all these devices in future. MKU also manufactures integrated mounting system consisting communication and night-vision devices, camera and torch that make the helmet a unique protective-cum-communication machine.

Riding high on the success of its biggest helmet order of nearly Rs 180 crore from Indian Army, the Kanpur-based company is also hopeful of grabbing orders for currently under-process 44,000 night-vision devices and bullet-proof jackets.

Talking to ET, MKU Managing Director Neeraj Gupta said, “Head is the most venerable part of the body to get injured in a combat operation. According to studies, 26 per cent to 28 per cent of soldiers die because of head injuries.”

“In addition to the current 1.6 lakh order, we hope to deliver over 7 lakh helmets to Indian Army and overall one million helmets to different Indian armed forces,” Gupta said.

MKU manufactures a wide range of military products including bullet-proof helmets, body armours, bullet-proof jackets and night-vision devices. The 30-year old company calls itself one of the biggest arms exporters in India. It claims to supply military equipment to more than 100 countries. It has a manufacturing and testing facility in Germany, in addition to three units in Kanpur and Fatehpur districts of Uttar Pradesh.


Scared of Indo-US bonhomie, Chinese Media now accuses US of using India as a Pawn

A leading Chinese daily has cautioned India that it is being used by the United States as a tool to counterbalance China.

“Washington’s pursuit of closer ties with New Delhi is mainly driven by its strategic need to utilize India as a tool to counterbalance China,” said Global Times in an editorial.

“How many practical interests can India gain from it? During Barack Obama’s tenure, in order to woo India, he promised to support India’s bid for a UN Security Council seat, but did not put it to any practical action. Will Trump take substantial steps to facilitate India’s UNSC bid? It’s hard to tell. Will Trump put more pressure on Pakistan for its alleged support of terrorist groups? The answer is very likely to be negative,” it further asked.

The Chinese daily also mocked Indians for feeling proud on the fact that it is being used by the US.

“Being a “key piece in the jigsaw for the US” is nothing to be proud of. Instead, it is more likely a trap that deserves India’s vigilance,” it cautioned.
The editorial was published yesterday just before Modi-Trump meet. Also, the editorial came amid border tension.

As reported yesterday, along the Sikkim border, some Indian and Chinese soldiers had a face to face, a video of which has been all over the news since yesterday and has generated heated media debates in both the countries. Officially though both countries blaming each other’s forces of violating the Line of Actual Control that acts as the default border between the two countries. The two countries fought a war back in 1962.

Concluding, the Chinese daily had a veiled threat for India as well. “New Delhi should avoid being roped into a geopolitical trap. Despite its anxieties over China’s rise, maintaining a stable relationship with China is of more importance to its security and development,” it said.