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Indian army chief calls for political solution in Kashmir

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NEW DELHI: The head of the Indian army has called for a political solution to unrest in Indian-administered Kashmir, saying the military should step back from its security role in the region.


India and Pakistan have fought two wars over Kashmir since 1947, but the last major troop build-up was in 2002 after gunmen attacked the parliament in New Delhi, with the alleged backing of Pakistan.

Street violence in the Muslim-majority Kashmir valley has increased in recent weeks after the deaths of several unarmed civilians who were killed as troops sought to contain protests against rule from New Delhi.

“I feel there is a great requirement for political initiatives that take all people together,” General V.K. Singh told the Times of India in an interview published Wednesday.

“Militarily, we have brought the overall internal security situation in Jammu and Kashmir under control. Now, the need is to handle things politically.”

Singh added that local police “need to be more active” to allow the army, currently numbering about 500,000, to reduce its presence in the region.

Three Indian soldiers and five suspected militants were killed in the latest gunbattle that started late Monday along the Line of Control (LoC) border that splits Kashmir between India and Pakistan.

The army said the militants were involved in one of many attempts to “infiltrate” the Indian-controlled sector from the Pakistani side.

Despite the street protests and border clashes, the insurgency has lessened in recent years amid peace talks between the two nations.

India and Pakistan have fought two wars over Kashmir since 1947, but the last major troop build-up was in 2002 after gunmen attacked the parliament in New Delhi, with the alleged backing of Pakistan.

“The armed forces are required to undertake operations in very difficult circumstances,” Singh said. “If the Jammu and Kashmir situation has come under control, it’s the forces which have sacrificed with their blood.”

A murder riddled with holes

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The irony is that slain lawyer Shahid Azmi came to fame exposing police lapses, says Rana Ayyub

The basic rule of a criminal investigation is that if there is a witness to a crime, in this case murder, he is the first person police should contact to identify the culprits. But during the investigations into the murder of Shahid Azmi, the human rights and criminal lawyer who was shot dead in his Mumbai office on February 11, police seem to have forgotten that most basic, mandatory practice. The key witness to Azmi’s murder – his peon Inder, who saw three assailants fire at the lawyer – was not even called for identification after police arrested the accused. In a news conference four days after the murder, police produced three men who they said were Azmi’s killers and said they planned to invoke the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (mcoca) against them. But the manner in which police have handled the case and the glaring loopholes in investigation have raised a number of questions, with Azmi’s family, human rights organisations and fellow lawyers calling for a judicial or cbi probe.

Ironically, Azmi first came to note as a lawyer by bringing justice to those falsely accused of terrorism by pointing out investigative and other lapses in prosecution cases. He was particularly active in probing the abuse of mcoca and other draconian laws.

Police claim to have all but solved the murder by arresting three of the hitmen – Devendra Jagtap alias JD, Pintu Dagale and Vinod Vichare – just three days after the attack. One assailant is absconding.

Azmi’s elder brother Arif is extremely critical of the investigations. “The office peon Inder… witnessed the entire incident while one of the hitmen kept him at gunpoint. Why was he not called in to identify the four men who have been arrested? They have not even bothered to communicate with us?” he says. It was on the basis of Inder’s confession that police were able to understand the sequence of events and make sketches of the suspects. Police may eventually call on Inder for questioning but they have blundered from the outset.

The three hitmen arrested had been chargesheeted earlier and were wanted for other crimes. Police had been looking out for them for some years. Jagtap, the alleged kingpin who earlier worked for Chhota Rajan, was wanted in many cases. Not only does their arrest within three days of the crime, after being on the run for so long, appear unusual, most of the killers were arrested close to the same area where Azmi was killed.

Even more unusual is the police claim that the killers have confessed to the crime but have not revealed the murder motive. The Mumbai Crime Branch displayed the murder weapons at a news conference, but there was no mention of a forensic test on them. Police are not coming up with any answers, claiming, as they do, that the case has already been “solved”. In the meantime, public pressure for a judicial or cbi probe into the murder is gathering steam.

Written by rohitkumarsviews

March 31, 2010 at 8:21 am