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NC will think over participating in working groups constituted by PM

National Conference will re-think over its participation following surfacing of "fake encounters" in the Kashmir Valley, reports Arun Joshi.

india Updated: Jan 31, 2007 17:55 IST
Arun Joshi

National Conference will have a re-think over its participation in the working groups constituted by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Kashmir following surfacing of "fake encounters" in the Kashmir Valley.
"As of now it is a very open question," National Conference president Omar Abdullah told Hindustan Times. "We were definitely inching toward participating in the working groups, but the surfacing of the fake encounters has put a big question mark over the whole issue," he said.

Omar Abdullah said that the party will take a decision in this regard in a day or two. "All our leaders are in Jammu, if we decide to participate, we will participate, if we don't, it doesn't matter."

According to him, "much has changed" since the announcement of the party returning to the working groups.

He was referring to the surfacing of the reports of killing of "innocents in fake encounters" that have appeared after his father and party patron and former  Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah on Sunday made an announcement that the party would return to the deliberations of the working groups.

Incidentally the same evening, reports of fake encounter and involvement of security personnel in crime surfaced.

Omar Abdullah told Hindustan Times  that his father's statement was "before these custodial disappearance killings had surfaced. Now the things have changed."

He said that the party will have a fresh look at the whole issue, whether it should take part in the working groups or stay away.

"These killings run contrary to the doctrine of zero tolerance outlined by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and also to the proclaimed policy of the coalition government of disbanding the special operations group. Now it turns out that SOG was behind these killings."

He does not feel that the method of investigation or inquiry is transparent. 

More needed to be done to make the process transparent and at a much wider scale. It is a human issue. We cannot sweep this under carpet.

Omar Abdullah was also not satisfied with the statement of Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad in the Legislative Assembly on Tuesday saying that security forces found guilty of killing innocents would be punished.

"I have heard it before quite too often. There is a wide disconnection between what is said and what is happening. I am waiting for something to happen on the ground."

He alleged that SSP HR Parihar, who has been attached in the case of a fake encounter, was a "blue-eyed boy of (PDP patron and former chief minister) Mufti Mohammad Sayeed. He was handpicked by Mufti Sayeed for his posting in Ganderbal from Kulgam, because Ganderbal is my constituency. There was politics in it."

On his part, he said that National Conference was raising a human issue, "not playing politics." "Had National Conference been playing politics, I would have been in Larnoo (the village, near Kokkernag in south Kashmir, to which one of the victims of the fake encounters, Abdul Rehman Padder belonged) with  Mehbooba Mufti and crying. I am not doing that, because I am interested in bringing the human rights violations to an end."

When pointed out that during the National Conference regime ( 1996-2002), the cases of human rights violations, custodial disappearances and killings were at the highest level, Omar said: "I am in no way suggesting that our record in such cases was perfect. But let me tell you that there would have been no judicial probe but for the personal intervention of (then) Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah.

Pathribal case is a reference to the killing of five villagers on March 24, 2000. They were killed by security forces and it was claimed that the five were terrorists of Lashkar-e-Toiba and Hizb-ul-Mujahadeen responsible for the killing of 35 Sikhs in Chittisinghpora in South Kashmir on the intervening night of March 19 and 20, 2000 — the day then US president Bill Clinton had arrived in India. 

"Those were the times of war, today, we all are talking of peace."

Omar Abdullah was unhappy that the coalition government, particularly Mufti Sayeed, who had promised a healing touch, is now watching the killing of innocents from sidelines.

He said that he was not against the incentives for security personnel doing a good job in fighting terrorism. "Let them arrest the terrorist and prove a case against him. Killing innocents is not bravery. It is the easiest thing to do."
"This incentive of cash rewards is at the root of such criminal acts."

When told that NC had raised the issue of the killing of four boys in Handwara in north-west Kashmir in February last year seeking a judicial probe, but when it was promised and nothing happened for seven months, it did not raise any follow up voice on the issue, Omar said: "We hold the government accountable on all such issues."
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