BBC News – Viewpoint: Why the Kashmir government fall is a tragedy

Srinagar – Jammu & Kashmir – India, 22 June 2018. The break-up of the three-year-old coalition government in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir is a setback for peace hopes in the region. The so-called “unnatural” alliance between the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and India’s governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was the only way forward, writes Sumantra Bose.

How, it was asked, could the PDP, a pro-autonomy party formed in 1999, and the BJP, a Hindu nationalist party which has advocated a disciplinarian approach to Kashmir since the early 1950s, cohabit and co-operate?

Their arrangement prompted puzzlement and derision but this missed a vital point. The constructive potential of the coalition lay precisely in its “unnatural” quality, because it signalled engagement between very different perspectives on the Kashmir conflict.

There is international precedence for this kind of path based on engagement and negotiation between sworn adversaries professing incompatible objectives.

It ended three decades of violence in Northern Ireland after 1998, and eventually induced Sinn Fein and the Democratic Unionists, both hardline parties, to jointly lead a power-sharing government for almost a decade from 2007, a once unthinkable scenario.

The great Nelson Mandela justified his engagement with the apartheid regime in order to craft a transition pact in South Africa thus: “You negotiate with your enemies, not your friends.

Their arrangement prompted puzzlement and derision but this missed a vital point. The constructive potential of the coalition lay precisely in its “unnatural” quality, because it signalled engagement between very different perspectives on the Kashmir conflict.

There is international precedence for this kind of path based on engagement and negotiation between sworn adversaries professing incompatible objectives.

It ended three decades of violence in Northern Ireland after 1998, and eventually induced Sinn Fein and the Democratic Unionists, both hardline parties, to jointly lead a power-sharing government for almost a decade from 2007 – a once unthinkable scenario.

The great Nelson Mandela justified his engagement with the apartheid regime in order to craft a transition pact in South Africa thus: “You negotiate with your enemies, not your friends.”

Five things to know about Kashmir:

  • India and Pakistan have disputed the territory for nearly 70 years – since independence from Britain
  • Both countries claim the whole territory but control only parts of it
  • Two out of three wars fought between India and Pakistan centred on Kashmir
  • Since 1989 there has been an armed revolt in the Muslim-majority region against rule by India
  • High unemployment and complaints of heavy-handed tactics by security forces have aggravated the problem

The coalition in Jammu and Kashmir was formed in March 2015 after elections produced a hung legislature. The two largest parties were the PDP, which won most of the seats from the Muslim-majority Kashmir valley, and the BJP, which won most of the seats from the Hindu-majority Jammu region.

The fractured result – the PDP won 28 seats in the 87-member legislature, while the BJP took 25, threw up the intriguing possibility of partnership. Narendra Modi had led to his party to a parliamentary majority in India’s general elections just seven months earlier.

Mr Modi flew over from Delhi to attend the swearing-in ceremony in Jammu in person, after two months of behind-the-scenes negotiations.

The defining image was of him clasping PDP leader Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, the new head of the state government, in a bear-hug. Behind them was a table adorned with equal-sized versions of India’s national tricolour and the state flag of Jammu and Kashmir.

Hindu nationalists object to the state flag, as Indian states do not usually have their own flags.

In an article on this website just after the PDP-BJP government took office, I noted that the coalition offered the prospect of ameliorating two of the three major dimensions of the Kashmir conflict:

The other dimension – the India-Pakistan antagonism which has its focal point in the common fixation on Kashmir was another matter. India and Pakistan both claim Kashmir in its entirety but control only parts of it.

The coalition was based on a detailed written agreement called the “Agenda of Alliance”.

This was a joint statement which undertook to preserve the article of India’s constitution that nominally grants special autonomous status and to review the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (Afspa), under which the Indian army has carte blanche power.

The document’s ambition went much further. “The purpose of this alliance”, it stated, “is to catalyse reconciliation and confidence-building within and across the Line of Control [with Pakistani-administered Kashmir]” and “to [help] normalise the relationship with Pakistan”.

In order “to widen the ambit of democracy through inclusive politics”, the agenda stated, “the coalition government will facilitate and help initiate a sustained and meaningful dialogue with all internal stakeholders irrespective of their ideological views”, a reference to the significant pro-independence and pro-Pakistan groups and their leaders in Indian-administered Kashmir.

Moreover, the agreement promised to work towards “enhancing people-to-people contact across the Line of Control (LoC) that divides the disputed territory, by encouraging civil society exchanges and taking travel, commerce, trade and business across the line of control to the next level”.

On paper, the charter of the PDP-BJP coalition government represented both a vision and a roadmap for resolving the Kashmir conflict.

But it remained just that, on paper. When I referred to the document as the political equivalent of toilet paper during interactions with students and youth in the Kashmir valley in mid-2017, no one laughed at the black humour.

In hindsight, any prospect of advancing the vision-cum-roadmap ended with the death of Mufti Mohammad Sayeed at the start of 2016.

Sayeed, a wily veteran of both Kashmiri and Indian politics over six decades, may have tried in due course to hold the BJP to the letter and spirit of the alliance charter, and pulled the plug if it did not.

His daughter Mehbooba Mufti, who succeeded him, proved to be an unmitigated disaster as chief minister.

She passively continued with the paralysed, dysfunctional coalition government after renewed turmoil gripped the valley from July 2016, until the BJP pulled the plug in June 2018.

The timing of the BJP’s move may be explained by a decision to project an untrammelled mailed-fist in the restive and recalcitrant valley in the countdown to India’s general election in April-May 2019.

But that still leaves the question of why, three years ago, Mr Modi’s party made a pact with an “unnatural partner”.

The explanation that the BJP simply wanted to get into government in yet another state, and India’s only Muslim-majority state, at that, has merit, but is not fully convincing.

What is clear is that Mr Modi decided not to emulate the diplomacy-based and healing-touch strategy that Atal Behari Vajpayee, India’s first Hindu nationalist prime minister, doggedly pursued vis-à-vis Kashmir (and Pakistan) in the very difficult period between 1999 and 2004.

In August 2016, a month after mass protests gripped the valley for the first time since the summer of 2010, Mr Modi framed the problem, in an address to an all-party meeting in Delhi convened by his government, as simply one of “cross-border terrorism”.

In April 2017, in a speech to a large political rally in the Jammu region, he called on the valley’s angry youth to abjure “terrorism” and instead seek “progress through tourism”, citing “every Indian’s dream of visiting Kashmir [at least] once”.

The PDP-BJP coalition government of 2015-2018 is the newest addition to the overflowing dustbin of the Kashmir conflict’s 70-year history. But, and this is the irony, the vision and the roadmap articulated in the 2015 Agenda of Alliance represents the only feasible path to a better future.

Such a future will need to bring together many unnatural partners in a pragmatic compromise.

Sumantra Bose is Professor of International and Comparative Politics at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). His latest book, Secular States, Religious Politics: India, Turkey, and the Future of Secularism has just been published by Cambridge University Press.


Dawn – Pakistan wants UN team to visit both AJK, held Kashmir

The Newspaper’s Staff Reporter

Islamabad Capital Territory – Pakistan, 22 June 2018. Pakistan on Thursday expressed its willingness to receive the United Nations’ Commission of Inquiry (COI) on Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK), but impliedly again conditioned it with New Delhi also agreeing to the commission’s visit to India-held Kashmir.

Pakistan was ready for a commission of inquiry to visit both AJK and held Kashmir, Foreign Office spokesman Dr Muhammad Faisal said at the weekly media briefing apparently linking the acceptance of the commission to its visits to both parts of Kashmir.

Mr Faisal exhorted India to accept the commission.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein had called for setting up of a Commission of Inquiry, the UN’s highest-level probe, to investigate human rights violations in Kashmir.

The call followed the first report on Kashmir by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

The report that pointed to impunity for rights abuses and lack of access to justice in India-held Kashmir; and certain administrative, constitutional and legislative issues related to Azad Kashmir, was welcomed by Pakistan, but rejected by India.

The report had mentioned that neither India nor Pakistan allowed unconditional access to territories under their control for investigations for preparation of the document.

The findings were then based on “remote monitoring of the situation” in the two parts of Kashmir. India had refused to allow the UN visit, while Pakistan linked its permission to India allowing the UN team to tour held Kashmir.

The spokesman challenged India to allow the UN team to access the occupied valley. “India can address its claims of the (OHCHR) report being based on unverified information by allowing the COI and OIC Independent Permanent Hum­an Rights Commission access to held Kashmir.”

Mr Faisal further said: “The isolation of India in the international community is complete. The skeletons in Indian closet are growing in numbers and size.” The spokesman further asked the Indian government to hold an independent, transparent and credible probe into the assassination of Kashmiri journalist Shujaat Bokhari.

Mr Bokhari was assassinated by unidentified gunmen while leaving his office on June 14.

He said that Mr Bokhari’s murder was manifestation of Indian state terrorism and reflection of intolerance of Indian state apparatus which wants to stifle freedom of speech and expression.

“The Indian government remains fearful of international exposition of the brutalisation of occupied Jammu & Kashmir. India can run, but can it hide? This remains to be seen,” he added.

The spokesman praised slain Bokhari as a vocal voice, who consistently spoke out against human rights abuses in held Kashmir and strongly advocated the need for the peaceful resolution of the Kashmir dispute.

Mr Faisal also expressed concern over imposition of the governor rule in India-held Kashmir.

The valley was put under the governor rule on Wednesday after PDP-BJP coalition government collapsed as the two allies decided to part ways.

The spokesman said that the ongoing bloodshed in held Kashmir along with Indian statements about the crackdown in the valley shows an alarming Indian imperviousness to international opinion.

The Times of India – Jammu & Kashmir governor calls all-party meeting tomorrow

Srinagar – Jammu & Kashmir – India, 21 June 2018. Jammu and Kashmir Governor N N Vohra has called an all-party meeting here on Friday to discuss the situation in the wake of the implementation of governor’s rule in the state, officials said today.

Jammu and Kashmir was placed under governor’s rule on Wednesday, a day after the PDP-BJP government collapsed as the BJP snapped its three-year-old alliance with the regional party citing “larger national interest” and “deteriorating security situation”.

The governor also placed the legislative assembly in suspended animation till the proclamation of governor’s rule is revoked or varied by a subsequent proclamation, according to a gazette notification. The six-year term of the current assembly ends in March, 2021.

According to the officials, the governor has called a meeting of all party heads, including the heads of the state units of the national parties, tomorrow to discuss the situation in the state.

They said the meeting will take place on Friday evening.

The Asian Age – Jammu & Kashmir government collapses as BJP pulls out of ruling alliance with PDP

New Delhi – India, 19 June 2018. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) pulled out of its alliance with Mehbooba Mufti’s People’s Democratic Party (PDP) on Tuesday, ending a three-year rocky relationship that came to a flashpoint this week with the Centre’s decision to discontinue the Ramzan ceasefire in Jammu and Kashmir.

Untenable, the BJP called the alliance, blaming the government for the rise in violence in the Valley.

BJP general secretary Ram Madhav told the media: “We have taken a decision. It is untenable for the BJP to continue in alliance with the PDP in Jammu and Kashmir. Hence, we are withdrawing support”.

He added: “Terrorism, violence and radicalisation have risen and fundamental rights of citizens are in danger in the Valley. Shujaat Bukhari’s killing is an example”.

Madhav also cited the lack of development in Jammu and Ladakh.

Party president Amit Shah had called all BJP lawmakers in the state to Delhi for a meeting in the morning. Madhav said the brainstorming was to review the alliance’s goals and targets achieved in the last three years.

Soon after the announcement Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti handed in her resignation, prompting the way for Governor’s Rule, which the BJP favours.

Jammu and Kashmir BJP lawmakers welcomed the Centre’s decision to pull out from the PDP alliance. They also tendered their resignation to Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti.

Jammu Kashmir Deputy CM Kavinder Gupta said, “We have submitted our resignations to CM Mufti. We have now come out of the government”.

The BJP had 25 lawmakers and the PDP 28 in the state Assembly, where the majority mark is 45. The National Confrence has 15, the Congress 12 and others 7 MLAs in the state Assembly.

BJP and the PDP, unlikely partners from the onset of their alliance, have had uneasy relations from time to time in the last three years. Things came to a head on Sunday when Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh lifted the ceasefire that the government had put in force during the month of Ramzan.

Anti-terror operations would resume in full force, Singh said on Sunday.

Data shows terrorist activity had more than doubled in this month.

The killing of Rising Kashmir editor and a moderate voice Shujaat Bukhari was the last nail in PDP’s hopes that the ceasefire would continue to promote harmony in the Valley.

The ceasefire was Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti’s brainchild, though it had met stiff opposition from the state BJP.

Sources in Mufti’s Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) said that after deciding not to extend the conditional ceasefire announced by the Centre for the Islamic fasting month of Ramzan, the Modi government has decided to launch a tough military campaign against separatist militants in the restive state and give a ‘free hand’ to security forces to deal with the situation.

The PDP did not agree to it which established the point of no return.

The Chief Minister and the PDP had also pleaded for extending the Ramzan truce beyond Eid-ul-Fitr to pave the way for holding talks with the separatists which was ignored by the Centre, the sources said.

However, sections of security forces and also senior Army commanders were against extending Ramzan ceasefire and even eager not only to resume but also bump up anti-militant and anti-terror operations across the Kashmir Valley at earliest.

They were planning to launch ‘Operation All Out II’ against the militants. In its first phase, more than three hundred militants, including several top commanders, were killed in 2017 and during the first four and half months of 2018.

Local watchers see in the BJP’s decision also an attempt to charm its constituency as the party was being openly accused of surrendering for power the interests of Jammu from where it won almost all seats in the 2014 Assembly election.

On the other hand, the PDP’s support base in Kashmir Valley has eroded because it chose the saffron party as its ally, and because of the unending killings in the Valley over the last three years.

Ever since the two parties cobbled up an alliance to form the government in 2015, they have publicly differed on issues including Article 370 which guarantees special status to J&K within the Indian Union.

While the PDP would repeatedly say it will never allow dilution of this provision, the BJP would vow that abrogation of Article 370 and its upshot including Article 35A are ‘core agendas’ of the party and that it could never abandon it.

“Only for the purposes of running a coalition government in the state, the party had decided not to press for abrogation of Article 370 while in government. The agenda is not abandoned,” the party would say.

Tension had also simmered over the PDP’s promise to talk to separatists, the proposal to remove the Armed Forces’ Special Powers Act (AFSPA) which gives the Army more power in insurgent areas and even in the rollout of the Goods and Services tax in the state.

This March, the PDP sacked its minister Haseeb Drabu who was a popular interlocutor between the allies.

The Hindu – Muscular security policy will not work in J&K, says Mehbooba Mufti after resignation

Ms Mufti maintained that Jammu and Kashmir was not an enemy territory as being perceived by some

Srinagar – Jammu & Kashmir – India, 19 June 2018. People’s Democratic Party chief and Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti on Tuesday raised the bogey of Article 370 and unilateral ceasefire, saying a ‘muscular security policy’ will not work in the State and reconciliation is the key.

“I am not shocked as this alliance was never for power. The PDP never believes in power politics and we worked for the people,” she told reporters after an hour-long meeting with her ministers and party workers at her residence.

“I have told the Governor we will not go into any other alliance,” she said.

Ms. Mufti maintained that Jammu and Kashmir was not an enemy territory as being perceived by few. “We had always said muscular security policy will not work; reconciliation is the key,” she said.

She began her press conference by raising Article 370, under which the State enjoys a special status. ”…we have safeguarded Article 370 and 35-A (of the Constitution) and we will continue to do that,“ she said.

The party had achieved many goals, including the offer of talks, the Ramzan ceasefire and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Lahore in 2015. “Unfortunately, there was no positive response from other side,” she said, adding, “We worked on reconciliation and peace and will continue to do so.”

“We have been able to withdraw 11,000 cases against the pelters of stones,” she said.

The PDP would continue to strive for dialogue and reconciliation in the State, she added.

Dawn – India not yet ready to confront truth on Kashmir

Jawed Naqvi

New Delhi – India, 16 June 2018. India’s summary rejection of the UN human rights report on Kashmir has predictably found allies in the opposition parties, chiefly the Congress.

This is partly because the Congress party is crammed with nationalists who are difficult to differentiate from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.

Also the subject of discussing military in a critical light is treated like a hot potato. With the general elections looming less than a year away any acceptance of criticism of state institutions is deemed risky.

According to the UN report, the Indian government steadfastly refused to allow UN rights observers into Jammu and Kashmir. When they approached Pakistan to visit Azad Kashmir to monitor their side of rights abuses, they were told it was fine provided they first got permission from the Indians to visit the part of Kashmir held by them.

There was one occasion people remember when the late Asma Jahangir was permitted to visit the strife-torn region to monitor the situation there.

As a general rule foreign observers are barred from visiting the area to monitor abuses.

I asked the spokesperson of the Concerned Citizens Group, a motley group of former ministers, officers and officials who have been reporting from Kashmir what their reaction to the UN report was. They said they were still studying it. There’s very little to study. There are facts one can question or feel embarrassed or angry about.

The rejection of the report in order to pander to some lingering or robust nationalist sentiments underscores the need for politicians like Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn to emerge from the ranks of Indian and Pakistani leadership so as to cast a self-critical look at the state of affairs in their respective regions.

The Congress and the left offer that possibility in India but they seem to be too wrapped in real or imagined history to divine the difference between truth and charade.

Simply put, the UN report starts with an overview of the effect of the killing of 22-year-old Burhan Wani in July 2016. The report described him as a leader of Hizbul Mujahideen, an armed group. What is there to contest in it?

The report speaks of how the incident set off “protests against his killing on a very large and unprecedented scale throughout the Kashmir Valley and in districts of Jammu”. Is that factually incorrect?

It says Indian security forces responded to protests with force, which led to casualties and a wide range of alleged human rights violations throughout the summer of 2016 and into 2018.

Right or wrong?

“While Indian-administered Kashmir has experienced waves of protests in the past, in the late 1980s to early 1990s, 2008 and 2010, this current round of protests appears to involve more people than the past, and the profile of protesters has also shifted to include more young, middle-class Kashmiris, including females who do not appear to have been participating in the past”.

Some of the root causes of the discontent fuelling protesters are addressed in the disputed report.

“Shortly after the outbreak of violence, the High Commissioner for Human Rights met the representatives of the Governments of Pakistan and India who had differing narratives about the ongoing events and the general situation in Kashmir.

“From July 2016, the High Commissioner for Human Rights has, on numerous occasions, requested the Governments of India and Pakistan that his Office be given unconditional access to Kashmir to assess the human rights situation. India rejected this request while Pakistan offered access should the Office obtain access to India-administered Kashmir.

“Without unconditional access to Kashmir on either side of the Line of Control, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has undertaken remote monitoring of the human rights situation”.

This is the first report on the situation of human rights in both IHK and Azad Jammu and Kashmir.

On the Indian side, the report covers Jammu and Kashmir, consisting of the Kashmir Valley, the Jammu and Ladakh regions.

On Pakistan’s side, it covers Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan. India has used this to point to Pakistan’s occupation of the region without acknowledging its own occupation.

The focus of the report is on the situation of human rights in India-held Kashmir from July 2016 to April 2018 “over which period allegations of widespread and serious human rights violations were received, notably excessive use of force by Indian security forces that led to numerous civilian casualties”.

Should the Congress party dispute that in responding to demonstrations that started in July 2016, as the report says, “Indian security forces used excessive force that led to unlawful killings and a very high number of injuries”.

It quoted civil society estimates as saying that 130 to 145 civilians were killed by security forces between mid-July 2016 and end of March 2018, and 16 to 20 civilians were killed by armed groups in the same period.

“One of most dangerous weapons used against protesters during the unrest in 2016 was the pellet-firing shotgun, which is a 12-gauge pump-action shotgun that fires metal pellets.” What is the dispute here? If the numbers seem exaggerated discuss it, refute it.

That’s what happens in parliaments where leaders like Corbyn and Sanders keep the vigil.

In the same context, the report says, since the late 1980s, a variety of armed groups have been actively operating in the IHK, and there has been documented evidence of these groups committing a wide range of human rights abuses, including kidnappings and killings of civilians and sexual violence.

Should the government of India be refuting this?

BBC News – Shujaat Bukhari: Killing of Kashmir journalist shakes India

The murder of prominent journalist and editor Shujaat Bukhari, who was shot outside his office by unknown gunmen in Indian-administered Kashmir has devastated both journalists and ordinary people. Sameer Yasir writes about the impact of his death.

Jammu & Kashmir – India, 15 June 2018. A tall man with a husky voice, Shujaat Bukhari, 50, was admired, but also loathed by many for his moderate voice in an increasingly polarised region.

His was an extremely difficult job.

Muslim-majority Kashmir is at the centre of a decades-old territorial dispute between India and Pakistan. Both countries claim Kashmir in its entirety and control different parts of it.

India has also been battling armed militant groups who are fighting against Delhi’s rule in the region. The conflict has killed tens of thousands of people over the years.

This has meant that journalists in the region have often worked under tremendous pressure from all sides.

Apart from running three daily newspapers, including the English language daily Rising Kashmir, Mr Bukhari lobbied aggressively for peace by organising conferences and summits in the US, UK and other parts of the world.

He was also a regular presence at secondary diplomatic initiatives envisioning better relations between India and Pakistan. He frequently wrote for international publications including the BBC, being the voice that explained the complexities of the region to the rest of the world.

Mr Bukhari’s friendly nature and fierce commitment to peace and moderation had won him fanlike adulation in recent years, not just in Kashmir, but across India, and his death has been widely condemned.

Tairah Firdous, a former Kashmiri journalist, described his killing as “a strong and saner voice silenced, a powerful story cut short too soon.”

Well-known journalist and former television anchor Barkha Dutt told an Indian television channel that she felt the journalist was assassinated precisely because he was a voice of moderation.

“Moderation does need courage,” Ms Dutt said. “But, in a place like Jammu and Kashmir to be reasonable needs more courage than to be an extremist on either side of the ideological trenches.”

The Chief Minister of Indian-administered Kashmir, Mehbooba Mufti, who had known Mr Bhukari for decades, broke down as she entered his house in an uptown locality in Srinagar.

“What can I say. Only a few days ago he had come to meet me,” she said, while struggling to hold back her tears.

Her political rival and former chief minister Omar Abdullah was equally devastated, putting out a series of tweets expressing his anguish.

India’s home minister Rajnath Singh also tweeted, saying he was “shocked and pained” at his death, while the leader of India’s main opposition Congress party Rahul Gandhi called him a “brave heart who fought fearlessly for justice and peace in Jammu & Kashmir”.

The Tribune – Plea to admit accused to Jammu hospital declined

Court to resume proceedings from 02 July

Ravi Dhaliwal, Tribune News Service

Pathankot – Panjab – India, 15 June 2018. District and Sessions Judge Dr Tejwinder Singh, who is presiding over the hearings in the Kathua rape and murder case, on Friday declined the request of the prosecution to admit accused Parvesh Kumar to the Government Medical College and Hospital, Jammu.

A few days ago, the defence counsel of Parvesh had moved an application asking the court to declare his client a juvenile following which the judge ordered his medical examination from the Jammu hospital.

Special public prosecutors Santokh Singh Basra and J K Chopra, who is also the Pathankot District Attorney, had contended that instead of letting Parvesh travel 150 km to and fro everyday to Jammu from the Kathua jail, where he is lodged, he should be shifted there for four days to get his medical examination completed.

The prosecutors had claimed that they apprehended a security threat to the accused and hence had moved an application to shift Parvesh to Jammu for the duration of his medical examination.

“Parvesh will have to travel 150 km to and fro every day. We are worried about his security keeping in view the sensitivity of the case. That is why we wanted him to be lodged in the Jammu hospital. However, the judge has declined our request,” said Chopra.

The court adjourned for vacation on Friday and will now open on July 2.

The judge refused to pass directions on the defence counsel’s plea of staying the proceedings till the status of Parvesh was made clear.

The judge instead postponed his decision to July 2.

The cross-examination of prosecution witness Rajinder Kumar was completed. Rajinder is a head constable with the Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) of the J&K crime branch.

The examination-in-chief and cross-examination of two witnesses — Rajinder Kumar and head constable Sham Lal — have now been completed.

Meanwhile, IG (Border) Surinder Pal Singh Parmar confirmed that he held a meeting on Friday with senior officers following a verbal request made by the judge through Pathankot SSP Vivek Sheel Soni to enhance his security.

“We held a security review meeting on Friday and will be forwarding our recommendations to the ADGP (Security) in due course of time,” said Parmar. The IG, however, refused to disclose the recommendations.

The Tribune – None of 17 prosecution witnesses turn up in court

Crime Branch SSP told to appear on June 11

Ravi Dhaliwal, Tribune News Service

Pathankot – Panjab – India, 08 June 2018. None of the 17 witnesses, who were scheduled to give evidence before District and Sessions Judge Dr Tejwinder Singh in the Kathua rape and murder case, appeared in the court on Friday.

Taking cognisance, the judge informed the J&K DGP about the day’s developments. He simultaneously asked the SSP (Crime Branch) to be present in the court on June 11, the next date of hearing. Saturday is a holiday in the court.

The court proceedings commence at 11 am and conclude at 4 pm every day. This is to facilitate the return of the accused to the Kathua sub-jail before 5 pm.

Jammu and Kashmir Government’s Special Public Prosecutors (SPP) Santokh Singh Basra and Jagdeshwar Kumar Chopra, who is also the Pathankot district attorney, confirmed that all 17 witnesses who were scheduled to be examined on Friday were prosecution witnesses.

Chopra added that summons could not be served upon the witnesses because it was holiday in J&K due to Ramzan. There are a total of 221 witnesses in the case.

SPP Basra added that the same witnesses, after deposing in the court of the District and Sessions Judge, would again have to give evidence when the trial of the juvenile commences in the court.

Confusion still remains on the status of the juvenile, who is accused Sanjhi Ram’s nephew. The Crime Branch of the J&K Police has petitioned the Jammu and Kashmir High Court claiming that he was not a juvenile.

On June 11, the judge will also pass orders on an application filed by the defence counsel of accused Parvesh Kumar, claiming that his client was a juvenile. The evidence to be produced by the defence counsel will be taken into cognisance by the judge before deciding his application. Basra had contended that Parvesh was a major.

The Supreme Court has directed that the trial be held on a day-to-day basis. An eight-year-old girl, who was kidnapped on January 10, was allegedly raped in captivity in a village temple in Kathua district. She was sedated for several days before being bludgeoned to death. The body was recovered from a forest area on January 17.

The Hindu – Kathua rape trial begins in Pathankot

Srinagar – Jammu & Kashmir – India, 01 June 2018. Trial in the Kathua rape-and-murder case began before the district and session judge, Pathankot, as per the Supreme Court’s previous order on Thursday.

There was tight security at the court. The counsels of the eight accused sought directions from the court to the Jammu and Kashmir government for the translated copies of the charge-sheets.

“The court has directed us to provide the translated copies of the charge sheets by Monday. We will provide them the copies,” said J&K’s Advocate General Jehangir Iqbal Ganaie.

The Supreme Court had ordered a day-to-day hearing in the case for its fast trial.

Around 15-20 lawyers had been engaged by the accused for defending their cases.

The alleged rape and murder of an eight year old Bakerwal girl between January 9 and 17 sparked major protests in J&K and across the country. It also saw ruling BJP leaders favouring the Hindu Ekta Manch, an organisation favouring the accused and seeking a CBI probe into the case.

Eight persons, including two policemen, were facing charges in the case.