April 2002 News

J&K books 426 under POTA in 150 days

7 April 2002
The Hindustan Times

New Delhi/Jammu: You never know when the Farooq Abdullah regime in Jammu and Kashmir gets into the act. When the Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance (POTO), that has since become an Act, was promulgated on October 24, it was rejected outright by the National Conference government. All that has changed over the past five months. POTO is now POTA. With the state likely to go to polls in September-October this year, Abdullah seems to be in a hurry. In a little over 150 days, the state police has registered 426 cases under the new anti-terror law. This, of course, includes the controversial arrest of JKLF chief Yaseen Malik. On the face of it, this is no mean achievement. The Home Ministry is pleased that the new law, opposed to the hilt by mainline Opposition parties, has captured the National Conference''s imagination. In contrast, only over 20 cases have been registered under POTA in Jharkhand and Delhi. It''s altogether a different matter that most of the J&K cases are based on recovery of arms, ammunition and explosives. The accused would have to be identified and booked under the new law upon establishment of the origin of the seized arms. The total number of persons in custody under POTA in J&K is 92, excluding 11 who have been released on bail. In fact, the bail cases are specifically mentioned by the state government and the Home Ministry to promote the Centre''s argument that POTA was a more humane legislation than TADA, its much maligned earlier avatar. A taxi driver, Zahoor Ahmed Shah, was let off on Wednesday when the trial court found that he was in no way linked to a Rs 40 lakh hawala transaction for funding militant activities. Police records show that 50 per cent of those arrested were charged with sheltering or harbouring terrorists. Barring a few major terrorist strikes, including the October 1 terrorist attack on J&K Assembly, the December 13 attack on Parliament and the shoot-out at Jammu''s Raghunath temple, there are hardly any cases which can shed light on the accused persons'' affiliation with terror organisations. ''It is difficult to determine group affiliations when terrorists escape, leaving behind the bodies of their comrades,'' said a police officer.


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