Friday, June 22, 2018

With Snipers, Radars, NSG Commandos Reach Kashmir For Anti-Terror Ops

About two dozen snipers from the NSG are stationed near Srinagar. NSG commandos will assist security forces in anti-terror ops in Kashmir. Presence of NSG would help reduce casualties during ops: Officials

At the Border Security Force camp at Humhaha near Srinagar, now seen training are commandos of the elite National Security Guard, a special forces unit under the Home Ministry. Wearing their trademark black uniform, these special commandos perform drills along with other security forces to build synergy.

About two dozen snipers from the NSG's house intervention teams (HIT commandos) have been training here since the last two weeks. In some time, the Home Ministry hopes to have 100 NSG men positioned at the BSF station. "Since they specialise in anti-hijack drills, they have been placed near the airport," a senior officer disclosed.

The NSG commandos, whose presence in Kashmir was cleared last month by the Home Ministry, will soon be deployed in anti-terror operations in the Valley.

Officials say the presence of NSG commandos would help reduce casualties among security forces, particularly against the backdrop of the centre's plans to intensify operations.

Jammu and Kashmir was this week placed under Governor's rule after the BJP pulled out of their coalition with Mehbooba Mufti's People's Democratic Party. SP Vaid, the state's top police officer has told NDTV that anti-terror operations, which had been put on hold during the Ramzan ceasefire, were being scaled up.

The National Security Guards or NSG are India's elite counter-terrorism forces. They will now be deployed in Kashmir.

The NSG snipers, with their pin-point accuracy and the use of sophisticated equipment like through-the-wall radars, sniper rifles and corner shot assault weapons will help reduce casualty figures during the ops, say Home Ministry officials.

Officials say there are high casualties when the security forces take on terrorists who are holed up inside buildings. The army avoids these high-risk operations due to the human costs involved and tries to neutralize the terrorists by bringing down the building itself.

The NSG, along with their house intervention team commandos, will also have demolition experts for handling such situations.

The Home Ministry officials say in 2017, 80 security force personnel and 70 civilians lost their lives. This year, till May, 30 security personnel and 35 civilians have died. 

The ministry had earlier said as part of the anti-terror operations in Kashmir, it would help the elite commandos to prepare for insurgencies in other parts of the country.

"They have latest equipment but they need practice on real-time basis and face real-life situations," a senior home ministry official had told NDTV in April.

GROWING FRIENDSHIP: Indian, Chinese Soldiers Do Yoga Together In Ladakh

The joint yoga session is meant to indicate that the situation along the 4,057 km long Line of Actual Control is normal

NEW DELHI: In a move that marks the growing trust between Indian and Chinese forces along the Line of Actual Control, soldiers from both sides did yoga together at over 16,000 feet in Eastern Ladakh.

The first such event in Ladakh comes almost a year after Indian and Chinese troops were locked in a 74-day long standoff in the Doklam plateau. Even the region where the joint yoga session was held has witnessed tensions between the two sides.

The Indian Army during a Border Personnel Meeting (BPM) with their Chinese counterparts held last month had proposed to do yoga together. “The PLA appreciated the offer, calling it a genuine peaceful gesture. They confirmed in writing last night,” said the army.

On Thursday, Indian Army personnel deployed in Eastern Ladakh celebrated the Fourth International Yoga Day at Daulat Beg Oldie (DBO)- Tien Wein Dien meeting point with People’s Liberation Army (PLA) troops.

About 21 PLA troops participated at the the DBO BPM hut. “We also had a similar representation. Some gifts were exchanged and PLA soldiers made a martial arts demonstration. A PLA soldier even played a guitar,” said an army officer.

“The joint yoga session was organised between the soldiers of both nations on the longest day of the year, in the sub zero temperatures, thereby displaying the undeterred courage and motivation of the soldiers,” said the army.

A talk on the importance of yoga for health at high altitude areas was also given. The event also aimed at further “cementing the bonds of friendship and mutual trust between both the nations”.

The joint yoga session is meant to indicate that the situation along the 4,057 km long Line of Actual Control is normal. This comes after the Doklam standoff.

In mid June last year, Indian personnel based at Doka La in Sikkim had stopped a Chinese construction party from building a road in the Doklam area. The Chinese were trying to disrupt the status quo by constructing a road towards the Jampheri Ridge, which overlooks the strategic Siliguri Corridor. This marked the beginning of the standoff.

Even DBO had witnessed a long standoff between troops of both sides in April 2013. Later, in August last year, there was stone pelting between troops of both sides after Indian soldiers had stopped Chinese soldiers from entering Indian territory along the banks of the Pangong Lake in Ladakh. Indian, Chinese soldiers do yoga together in Ladakh.

Government Bans Al-Qaeda Affiliate AQIS & Afghanistan-Based Islamic State of Iraq, Sham-Khorasan

The Home Ministry today banned AQIS (al-Qaeda in Indian subcontinent) and all its manifestation under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA)

AQIS is reportedly headed by Sanaul Haq aka Maulana Asim Umar, who hails from Sambhal in Uttar Pradesh.

The government has also banned the Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham-Khorasan (ISIS-K), an Afghanistan-based affiliate of ISIS.

The ministry said these groups were "radicalising Indian youths for 'global jihad' and encouraging terror acts on Indian interests".

The AQIS, an affiliate of al-Qaeda, is a terrorist organisation, which has committed acts of terrorism in the neighbouring countries and has been promoting and encouraging terror acts on Indian interests in the Indian sub-continent, the ministry said, adding that it has been attempting to radicalise and recruit Indian youths.

The ISKP/ISIS Wilayat Khorasan is also promoting and encouraging terrorism in the Indian sub-continent, according to the government.

The outfit, which has now been banned, considers India and Indian interests as its targets and is engaged in activities of radicalising and recruiting Indian youth for terror activities, the home ministry order said.

"The recruitment of youth by the said organization from India and their radicalisation are a matter of serious concern for the national security and international peace," the government maintained.

AQIS is reportedly headed by Sanaul Haq aka Maulana Asim Umar, who hails from Sambhal in Uttar Pradesh.

Army Operations Kill More Civilians Than Terrorists: Ghulam Nabi Azad 

NEW DELHI: Congress leader and former J&K chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad sparked a controversy when he said Army operations in the state killed more civilians than terrorists, eliciting a strong response from BJP, which accused Congress of trying to demoralise the armed forces.

In a TV interview, Azad also said BJP's language of "all out operations" in J&K indicated that a "massacre" was being planned. BJP said the comments were unfair to Army personnel who put their lives on the line to protect civilians.

"They (forces) take action against four terrorists and kill 20 civilians. Their action is more against civilians than terrorists. For instance, they killed 13 civilians in Pulwama and just one terrorist," Azad said in the interview.

"Rahul Gandhi should take action against leaders like Azad, who are making baseless allegations against the Army without any facts. They (Congress) leaders should target BJP but refrain from making adverse comments against the armed forces," Rajya Sabha MP and BJP national media chief Anil Baluni said.

"Congress leaders made light comments about the Army chief and are repeatedly raising questions about the armed forces. It is sad that a senior leader like Azad has made such a comment on which Congress party should clarify its stand," Baluni said.

Since BJP pulled out of its alliance with PDP on Tuesday, bringing down the coalition government in J&K, there is increased talk that under governor's rule, stress would be on security operations.

Hafiz Saeed's Son, Son-In-Law Among 265 JuD Candidates In Pakistan Elections

Saeed, who also carries a $10 million American bounty on his head for his role in terror activities, is not contesting the election

Mumbai-terror attack mastermind Hafiz Saeed's son and his son-in-law are among 265 candidates fielded by the Jamaat-ud -Dawah for national and provincial assembly seats across Pakistan in the July 25 general election, with the banned group's political wing vowing to make the country a "citadel of Islam."

Saeed, who also carries a $10 million American bounty on his head for his role in terror activities, is not contesting the election.

The JuD, a front for the Lashkar-e-Taiba terror group that carried out the deadly 2008 Mumbai attack, launched its political front Milli Muslim League (MML).

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) denied registration of the MML as a political party following objections from the Interior Ministry which argued that the entity was an offshoot of the JuD, led by Saeed, banned by a UN resolution.

With general elections approaching, the group decided to contest on the platform of a little known "dormant" political entity, Allah-u-Akbar Tehreek (AAT), registered with the ECP.

The nomination papers of all the MML backed candidates have been accepted by the Returning Officers during the scrutiny process, the MML said.

"The nomination papers of 265 candidates - 80 on National Assembly (NA) and 185 on provincial assembly seats - including that of Hafiz Saeed's son Hafiz Talha Saeed and son-in-law Hafiz Khalid Waleed have been accepted by the Returning Officers," a MML official told PTI on.

Talha is contesting from NA-91 seat from Sargodha (about 200-km from Lahore) while Khalid Waleed from NA-133 in Lahore on AAT's election symbol 'Chair', he said.

Sargodha is the hometown of Hafiz Saeed.

Also, our candidates are contesting on Lahore's four NA seats and 15 Punjab Assembly seats, apart from these, the MML-backed candidates would be contesting on Islamabad and Rawalpindi NA seats, he said.

"Similarly, the MML-backed candidates have been fielded in Karachi, interior Sindh and Kyber-Pakhtunkhawa and other parts of the country," he added.

MML President Saifullah Khalid said that his party would not leave vacuum in July 25 elections for the secular forces as the country was "created in the name of Islam."

"We have entered the political arena not to get power, but to fight corruption, eliminate politics of opportunism, strengthening ideology of Pakistan and making the country citadel of Islam," he said.

Another senior JuD leader, Qari Muhammad Sheikh Yaqoob, who is on the US-designate terror list, has also been given AAT ticket for NA-125 Lahore. In September last year, he had contested a bypoll as an independent candidate on NA-120

Lahore seat, from where wife of ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif, Begum Kulsoom Sharif had won. 

Countries Across Continents Support India On Kashmir At UN, Pakistan Isolated

Pakistan found no support at United Nations on Kashmir

India found support as it rejected a UN report on Kashmir. No country supported Pakistan which demanded "commission of Inquiry". The timing and purpose of the report is being questioned as well

Even as India rejected the report prepared by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), it was not alone in doing so.

During the 'General debate on the overall update of the High Commissioner on the situation of Human Rights worldwide and on the activities of his office' at the Human Rights Council, the Kashmir report was discussed, and six nations rejected the report authored by Zeid Raad Al Hussein.

There were two from Asia (Bhutan, Afghanistan), one from Africa (Mauritius), one from Eurasia (Belarus), and two from Latin America (Cuba, Venezuela).

While Pakistan's permanent representative to UN in Geneva, Farukh Amil, made an ardent appeal on behalf of his own country to establish a commission of inquiry in Jammu and Kashmir, he did not have much to add when he spoke on behalf of the OIC (Organisation of Islamic Cooperation).

"The OHCHR report on Jammu & Kashmir also points to a grave situation in Indian Administered Kashmir and needs appropriate follow up by this council," said the Pakistan envoy on behalf of OIC.

Not a single country came out in support of either Pakistan or the OHCHR report on Kashmir, while many questioned the timing and the veracity of the report itself.

In its first-ever human rights report on Kashmir, the UNHRC has called for international inquiry into multiple violations in the undivided Jammu and Kashmir.

The 49-page report details human rights violations and abuses on both sides of the Line of Control, and highlights a situation of "chronic" impunity for violations committed by security forces.

The situation is not a comfortable one for India since Pakistan is a member of the Human Rights Council and can affect change whereas India is not.

As former Ambassador to the UN Asoke Mukherjee says,"We have to see that Pakistan is in the Council and in the Working Group on Situations of the Council. India is not in the Council from this year till 2020. Therefore, we cannot vote or influence any proposal to take action on the HCHR report in the Council or its working group."

Many have called the methodology of collecting data for this report a "fallacious" one.

First, the report was drafted on using remote monitoring, without any rigorous cross-verification on the ground, amounting to biases of individuals and media reports creeping into the report.

Bhutan's representative Kinga Singye made a very strong statement against the OHCHR report raising the issue of terrorism which the High Commissioner seemed to have missed out in his report on the ground situation. Bhutan also requested the HRC to not take action on the report.

"My delegation would like to refer to the report issued by the High Commissioner on the situation of human rights in Kashmir. Given the complex historical background, political issues involved which the report has acknowledged; the report is not going to be helpful to the situation that is fuelled by terrorism among others," he said.

The Mauritian representative, Israhyananda Dhalladoo, questioned the assessment on Kashmir and stood with India rejecting any third party intervention.

This report of OHCHR in respect of the human rights situation in Kashmir does not provide a balanced assessment of the situation on the ground," said the Mauritian envoy.

The timing of the report and the purpose is being questioned. Zeid Raad al-Hussein, a Jordanian diplomat, was recently seen in pictures with the Pakistani Hurriyat faction leader Syed Faiz Naqshbandi and some other leaders from Pakistan which leads to the question of where his facts were coming from.

The report is clearly a violation of the High Commissioner's mandate which says that he should conduct his work respecting "sovereignty, territorial integrity and domestic jurisdiction of member states".

Sushma Swaraj, Nirmala Sitharaman To Visit U.S. For 1st 2+2 Dialogue

The dialogue is seen as a vehicle to elevate the strategic relationship between the two countries

The first India-US '2+2 dialogue' will be held on July 6 and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman will travel to the US to take part in the meeting that is likely to focus on strengthening strategic and defence ties.

The two sides are expected to share perspectives on strengthening their strategic and security ties and exchange views on a range of bilateral, regional and global issues of mutual interest, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said in a statement.

Swaraj and Sitharaman will take part in the first meeting of the '2+2 Dialogue' with US Secretary of State Michael R Pompeo and Secretary of Defence James N Mattis on July 6, it said.

This new dialogue format was agreed upon between the two sides during the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Washington in June 2017.

The meeting will focus on strengthening strategic, security, and defence cooperation as the US and India jointly confront global challenges, according to the US State Department.

Earlier this year, the '2+2 dialogue' had been postponed due to uncertainty over the confirmation of Mike Pompeo as President Donald Trump's new Secretary of State. Pompeo was later confirmed as Secretary of State in April.

The dialogue is seen as a vehicle to elevate the strategic relationship between the two countries.

India, Indonesia Finds Common Cause Against Un Human Rights Commissioner

On Tuesday, India’s representative to the UN termed Al Hussein’s report on Kashmir an attempt to legitimise terrorism in the Valley

India and Indonesia have separately slammed but found a common cause against the office of the United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein. This development that comes close on the heels of Al Hussein’s report on alleged human rights violations in Kashmir and ahead of a potentially similar report on Indonesia’s Papua province.

Indonesia, the country with the world’s largest Muslim population and a supporter of India’s position on Kashmir in the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC), has expressed its displeasure with Al Hussein’s office for scheduling visits to Papua province for monitoring human rights situation without coordinating with the local government. It said that this was tantamount to violation of sovereignty of a UN member state.

Indonesia has consistently opposed strong statements by the OIC against India on Kashmir. During Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the country last month, India and Indonesia had decided to launch deradicalisation initiatives.

On Monday, Indonesia’s permanent representative to the UN, Hasan Kleib, denounced the office of Al Hussein for failing to coordinate Al Hussein’s trip to Papua province with the Indonesian government and then declaring that he was not provided access. On Tuesday, India’s representative to the UN termed Al Hussein’s report on Kashmir an attempt to legitimise terrorism in the Valley.

Kleib’s statement came in response to Al Hussein’s references to Indonesia in his statement in Geneva. In his statement, Al Hussein said that Indonesia’s invitation to him to visit Papua, which was delivered when he had visited Indonesia in February, had yet to be fulfilled.

In response, the Indonesian representative said that Indonesia had invited Al Hussein as high commissioner to visit Papua and West Papua provinces. The invitation was intended to provide him first-hand information on sustainable human rights improvement as well as challenges in the regions, he said.

However, Kleib said that Al Hussein’s office did not coordinate his planned visit with the authorities in Indonesia and unilaterally arranged dates and places to visit in Papua and West Papua while demanding immediate access and later alleged that he was denied access by the Indonesian government.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi In Indonesia: Key Developments

Prime Minister Modi and Indonesian President Joko Widodo China warns of ‘Military Race’

PM Narendra Modi, who reached Jakarta on May 29, 2018, on his first-ever official visit to Indonesia, was accorded a red carpet welcome on Wednesday morning at the Merdeka Palace, one of the presidential palaces in Indonesia. The two leaders discussed areas of strategic cooperation and ways to ensure better economic ties and closer cultural relations, besides regional and global issues of mutual interest.

Likely To Renew Economic Cooperation With India, Says Bangladesh

The two countries 'could renew economic engagements in the light of Bangladesh's graduation from Least Developed Country (LDC) and India's emergence as a global power with strong economic growth'

India and Bangladesh could renew economic engagements, Bangladesh High Commissioner to India Syed Muazzem Ali said on Wednesday.

The two countries "could renew economic engagements in the light of Bangladesh's graduation from Least Developed Country (LDC) and India's emergence as a global power with strong economic growth."

It is pertinent to mention that Bangladesh has recently graduated from "Least Development Category" to a developing country.

"We seek substantial investment from Indian investors in three special economic zones of Mongla, Bheramara and Mirsarai in Bangladesh to broaden our exportable base. We could engage in a series of 'buy-back' projects similar to those between USA and Canada," the High Commissioner said.

He was speaking at a seminar jointly organised by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) and the Bangladesh High Commission in the national capital.

He also said that the two countries are working on dismantling the non-tariff and para-tariff barriers

The High Commissioner stressed that "Bangladesh-India bilateral ties could also act as a catalyst for strengthening regional and sub-regional cooperation and integration, adding "both the countries are working on strengthening the sub-regional cooperation under the BBIN initiative as well as inter-regional cooperation under the aegis of BIMSTEC and ASEAN."

Furthermore, Principal Coordinator (SDG Affairs), Prime Minister's Office, Bangladesh Abul Kalam Azad, in his presentation said that way forward for Bangladesh following its graduation from LDC would be to increase investment in human development, overcome infrastructure gap, invest in quality education and research, adopt innovation and digitalization, enhance north-south, south-south, triangular cooperation and diversify export.

Senior Vice President of the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry Sheikh Fazle Fahim said, "To make successful transition Bangladesh needs to explore strategic joint venture investments in high-value sectors, focus on innovation and research, blue economy and multimodal connectivity."

India, Maldives Talks To End Logjam

Maldives govt is not willing to reconsider the leases of the two Dhruv Advanced Light Helicopters

NEW DELHI: A high-level meeting of defence officials later this month will seek to end the logjam in the India-Maldives relations over strategic issues, sources have confirmed.

According to the sources, one possible solution to the problem caused by the Yameen government’s insistence on returning two helicopters India had stationed in the Maldives for the past few years, would be if the Maldives accepts a long-pending Indian offer of a Dornier patrol aircraft instead.

“Male is likely to revive an old Letter of Exchange (LoE) that India had sent offering a Dornier aircraft for maritime surveillance,” an official source familiar with the matter told The Hindu.

Maldives itself had requested the Dornier some time ago but has not approved the LoE for the last two years.

According to the source, the LoE would be slightly modified and will include terms for about 30 Indian personnel, including pilots and engineers, as well as the construction team required to build a hangar for the plane at the Kadhdhoo National Defence facility. Expenses for the effort would be shared by both the Governments, according to the terms being discussed presently.

As in the case of the helicopters, the LoE is expected to be valid for two years with the standard provision that it can be terminated at any point. Maldives hopes to replace the Indian pilots over time with their pilots. One Maldivian pilot has already been trained in India for the Dornier and one more is to be trained soon.

According to sources, Maldives government is not willing to reconsider the leases of the two Dhruv Advanced Light Helicopters (ALH) stationed in Addu and Laamu atolls and won’t extend the visas for Indian military personnel stationed there to operate them. There are about 26 Navy personnel, including pilots, currently posted there.

Governor’s Rule: Army And Police To Join Forces Now

Army chief Bipin Rawat meets Rifleman Aurangzeb's family

Army is expected to increase target-specific operations, with better coordination with the police and a likely increased inflow of intelligence inputs

Kashmir is likely to witness a new wave of violence as target-specific military operations will go up in the coming days with the State coming under Governor’s rule, said officials within the security establishment on Tuesday.

“Whenever we have stepped up security operations, we have seen a backlash,” one seasoned Kashmir hand in the establishment said. There would be a new wave of local militant recruitments, he added.

Several officials said the withdrawal of the BJP from the Jammu and Kashmir government and the resultant Governor’s rule would result in closer coordination among security forces, especially the State police and the Army, more intelligence flow and, consequently, more security operations.

Governor’s rule: Army and police to join forces now
“It is a political decision, and the Army will not have any direct impact. But the police will now be more open in giving intelligence inputs as they normally come under the State government,” a Defence source said on Tuesday.

This will give greater impetus to target-specific operations by the Army as the force relies on the police for local intelligence and movement of terrorists.

The current trend shows that 2018 is on its way to become the bloodiest year in a decade. However, the situation will only get worse in the coming weeks, officials say. As many as 95 terrorists have been killed so far this year, and 40 security personnel and 38 civilians have already died this year in violence. Last year, 57 civilians, 83 security force personnel and 218 terrorists lost their lives. Violence in the Valley has been climbing since 2014, after it began to recede starting 2008.

Not Much Consolidation

A day after the Suspension of Operations was called off by the Home Ministry, the Army has resumed full-fledged anti-terror operations in the hinterland. However, sources said the scope for consolidation by terror groups was limited as the ceasefire was only for a short period. “In one month, grouping or regrouping does not happen much. You need longer periods. The decision [to enforce a ceasefire] was sudden and everyone was taken by surprise. Ramzan was also going on,” an Army source said.

Nepal PM Oli Signs Road & Energy Deals With China

Nepal Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli reviews a military honour guard with Chinese premier Li Keqiang during a welcome ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing

Nepal PM KP Sharma Oli today signed 14 memorandum of understanding(MoU) with China including the reconstruction of the "friendship bridge" and Rasuwa bridge, including the utilisation of highways in Tibet by Nepal.

China and Nepal agreed to intensify co-operation on cross-border railway connectivity and called for early finalization of the protocol to the agreement on transit transport.

PM Oli held delegation-level talks with Chinese premier H.E. Li Keqiang to enhance bilateral co-operation in connectivity, trade, tourism and investment, including through the implementation of the MoU on co-operation under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

Prior to the talks, the Prime Minister was accorded a ceremonial welcome amid a special ceremony held at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.

The two sides also concluded agreements on cargo transportation and human resource development co-operation including MoU on energy co-operation.

Dineshwar Sharma Stays As Centre’s Special Representative For J&K

The Centre’s Special Representative for Kashmir, Dineshwar Sharma with Finance Minister

‘Current political crisis will not a have a bearing on him’

Dineshwar Sharma, the Centre’s Special Representative for Jammu & Kashmir cut short his week-long visit to the State on Wednesday, a day after the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) pulled out of its alliance with the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), leading to imposition of Governor’s rule in the State.

A top government official told The Hindu that the current political crisis in the State will not have a bearing on Mr. Sharma’s functioning and he will continue in office.

Mr. Sharma, a former Intelligence Bureau Director was appointed on October 23, 2017 to “initiate and carry forward a dialogue with the elected representatives, various organisations and concerned individuals in the State of Jammu and Kashmir.” He holds the rank of Cabinet Secretary.

‘As Before’

“The Governor’s rule doesn’t change anything — all other functions of the government will continue as before. It’s the same with the Special Representative, he will continue to do the job for which he was appointed,” a senior government official said.

In the past two days, Mr. Sharma met only a few people, including Waheed Parra, a PDP leader. This visit was considered to be significant in wake of the Centre’s decision on Sunday to not extend the “suspension of operations” or “cease-ops” in the State.

Hours after she resigned as the State Chief Minister, Ms. Mehbooba Mufti, while addressing a press conference in Srinagar, had said that a “muscular policy” will not work in J&K.

The official said that the J&K Governor N.N. Vohra would choose his advisers and the announcement would be made by his office. “The Governor will decide who and how many advisers he requires,” the official said.

On Wednesday, the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet, headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, approved placing the services of B.V.R. Subrahmanyam, a senior IAS officer of the Chhattisgarh cadre, at the disposal of the J&K government.

Mr. Subrahmanyam, a 1987-batch IAS officer, is at present the Additional Chief Secretary (Home) in Chhattisgarh. He is likely to replace the present incumbent B.B. Vyas as the Chief Secretary of J&K.

Mr. Subrahmanyam has served as Private Secretary to former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh from 2004-2008.

He served in the PMO after NDA government came to power, and stayed there till March 2015 before moving to Chhattisgarh.

Stop Press? Not At Rising Kashmir

How a team of dedicated and defiant journalists worked to bring out a newspaper, hours after their editor was assassinated

“We thought it was a burst of crackers,” says Faisul Yaseen, Rising Kashmir’s Associate Editor as staccato fire shook the window panes of the newsroom. It was around 7.25 pm, just 15 minutes to iftar, and the journalists of Rising Kashmir, located in a concrete office block in the busy Press Enclave area of Lal Chowk, mistook the noise as crackers announcing the sighting of the crescent moon as Ramzan drew to a close.

Looking two storeys down, Yaseen immediately sensed trouble. He could see that the window panes of his editor Shujaat Bukhari’s car were smashed on all four sides. He rushed down the stairs, reaching the stop just after his colleague Irshad Ahmad. By then, the police had started firing in the air to disperse the crowd that had collected around the car.

“From the corner of the road, I saw the editor fallen to the bullets, still and unmoving. He was facing downwards in a pool of blood,” recalls Yaseen.

Upstairs, staff in the 20-member newsroom dissolved in tears as the truth about what had transpired slowly became apparent as they watched through the windows. In a group, they first rushed to the nearby police station and then to Shri Maharaja Hari Singh (SMHS) Hospital. Bukhari had survived three attempts on his life since and so some of them nursed a flicker of hope even though as many as 16 bullets were pumped into his body from close range. But this time Bukhari was unlucky and the doctors declared him brought dead.

“It benumbed the staff. We could not process what has happened,” says young Danish Nabi, who doubles up as a reporter and desk hand. Shocked and confused, about ten Rising Kashmir employees – a mix of reporters, sub-editors, and marketing staff – started chasing the police van that carried Bukhari’s body to the Police Control Room (PCR) for the legal formalities.

After his family decided to take the body to his native town Kreeri in Baramulla, 41 km away from Srinagar, a small team of distraught second rung editors returned to the office. As they gathered in a pall of despondent gloom, the last thing they had on their minds was putting that day’s edition of Rising Kashmir to bed.

But as they talked among themselves to console each other, the mood changed from one of despondency to purpose. “We recalled what Shujaat said after he survived a major stroke that left him paralysed in 2015 for a couple of months,” says Yaseen, the paper’s second-in-command. “He said he wanted to see this institution run even when he was down.”

The staff asked themselves two questions. What would Shujaat have done in such a crisis? And what is the best possible response to his killers? “The answers to them were clear as crystal,” says Yaseen. “It was to get down to work and get the paper to the press.”

Earlier on that fateful, Bukhari had finalised the United Nations report on Kashmir as the lead story and the Eid crescent as the possible second lead. It was already 9 p.m. and the staff knew it would be impossible to meet the usual 10.30 pm deadline. That night, they would put the paper to bed at 1. a.m.

A former employee, one of a few that had come to the Rising Kashmir office in solidarity, offered to design the front page. It had a black-and-white picture of Bukhari and the text read: “You left all too sudden but you will always be our leading light with your professional conviction and exemplary courage. We won’t be cowed down by the cowards who snatched you from us. We will uphold your principle of telling the truth howsoever unpleasant it may be...RIP”.

The banner headline on the main page read: Shujaat silenced.

All hands were requisitioned on the deck with sub-editors doubling up as reporters and as many as nine news stories the editor’s assassination prepared for the main page. This was a team that had turned down the dates offered at the Police Control Room by policemen as an offering to break the fast. They would not eat anything until they had finished with their reports, the team decided.

Eight pages were readied, instead of sixteen pages the paper publishes normally. And it was rushed to the printer to be available on the stands next day. At least four pages were dedicated to Bukhari’s assassination. One page reproduced the editor’s published columns on dialogue, peace and talks.

Impressed by the staff’s courage, former chief minister and National Conference vice president Omar Abdullah said, “The show must go on. As Shujaat would have wanted it to. That Shujaat’s colleagues were able to bring out the paper in the face of insurmountable grief is a testament to their professionalism and the most fitting tribute to their late boss.”