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J&K: Fire engulfs six houses in Srinagar

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A massive fire engulfed half-a-dozen houses in the residential area of Buchwara Dalgate in Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir. Fire tenders were quick to douse the flames. The fire started from one of the houses and spread to others. A gas cylinder blast is said to have caused the massive fire.”The government should do something for the victims of this tragedy,” a local resident, Mushtaq Ahmad said. “Only 50 percent of the fire has been controlled,” fire officer, Ali Mohammad said.Firefighters faced difficulty reaching the house as no proper roads were there in the locality.After two days relaxation called by Hurriyat Conference leaders, the Kashmir valley was again shut down on Monday. Schools, colleges and other business establishments were also closed. In the visible effects of the recent demonetization move by the Centre, the 133 day-long shutdown was called-off by the separatist leaders two days ago. The valley had been caught in a series of protests and shutdown since security forces killed Hizbul Mujahideen terrorist Burhan Wani on July 8.

Demonetisation in Kashmir: Scrapping Rs 500, Rs 1,000 does little to check militant funding, hits daily life

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision to demonetise Rs 500 and 1,000 currency notes has not done much to check the funding of the militants, but has lead to worst business losses across Jammu and Kashmir. People are struggling to pay for medicines because they cannot exchange the old notes as the banks are shut.

Separatists have called for a shutdown and majority of banks are closed due to that. The decision of the government to scrap Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes has hit the traders who had already been facing losses due to the ongoing unrest. Unlike the rush which was witnessed during the relaxation time earlier, the buzz is now missing in the markets in Srinagar. Patients have complained that the pharmaceutical companies and chemists are not taking the old currency notes due to which their treatment has been severely affected.

Fayaz Ahmad Bakshi, owner of the Shangrilla, an A-category hotel, said that the decision of the Government of India (GoI) to scrap the old Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes put him through an ordeal. “I couldn’t even go and visit the dentist and buy medicines. It is a terrible time. Even my friend couldn’t fill the tank in his vehicle as the pumps remain closed and are not accepting the old notes. He had to travel some 20 kilometres from Soura to Bemina to locate a petrol pump, but there was no petrol at the pump. He was livid,” he said.

A top police official said that the demonetisation has not served the purpose of cutting any support to the militants here. “We have not come across any of the cases of seizure of hawala money after the decision to scrap the currency notes was announced. We have not found any discarded notes,” he added. In a recent meeting however the Director General of Police, K Rajendra, has asked the police officials to keep a close watch on the “people who are masking hawala money by converting large cash hoards into formal books of accounts.”

Separatists have called for a shutdown in Kashmir while demonetisation drive has thrown daily life out of gear. PTI

Separatists have called for a shutdown in Kashmir while demonetisation drive has thrown daily life out of gear. PTI

Director General of police (DGP), Law and Order, Dr S P Vaid, however, said that the police is keeping a close tab on transactions. “We are keeping a close watch on the separatists here after the the government scrapped the notes,” he said. The demonetisation, however, has affected the business. President of the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI), Mushtaq Ahmad Wani, said that the impact of the demonetisation was widespread. “There is no business during the shutdown here. The shops remain shut during the day due to the strike call given by the Hurriyat conference and would open during the relaxation time in the evening, But after the demonetisation decision there is no business in the market even in relaxation time. The day to day spending has taken a worst hit. There is no business for the relaxation period as the currency is not available now,” he said.

Assistant professor of medicine at the Shri Maharaja Hari Singh Hospital (SMHS), Dr Nisarul Hassan, said that the patients are “compromising on medication due to the non-availability of currency notes.”

“The patients have complained that the chemists are not accepting the old currency notes. The situation is grave here. Patients are not able to buy the medicines and equipments from the market and as all the medicines are’nt available in the government hospitals their medication is getting compromised.”

The situation in Kashmir remains particularly bad as not many banks have remained open due to the ongoing shutdown. The skeletal number of branches have, however, seen long queues of people exchanging the currency notes and non availability of cash at ATMs have compounded to the miseries of people. Head Corporate Communications, Jammu and Kashmir bank, Sajad Bazaz, however, said that the bank has made “all infrastructure and manpower available at its branches to ensure that the people don’t face any problems.” The Jammu and Kashmir bank is a market leader in terms of the number of branches that exist in state. It runs over 800 branches in the state which is 65 percent of the market share here.

A top bank official however said that the situation could become much worse in the days as the demand for cash increases. “With demonetisation, 86 percent of the currency notes have become invalid, the demand for the new notes will only increase,” he said.

By suspending mobile internet services in the states, citizens are not able to make online transactions and pay utility bills. However, Bazaz said that the bank has designated many branches where the people can pay their electricity bills. He said that the footfall in many of the bank branches has increased after the government decision to take out the old currency notes from the market.

First Published On : Nov 14, 2016 19:52 IST

Kashmir: Normal life remains affected even as shops begin to open in rural areas

Srinagar: Normal life across Kashmir remained affected on Thursday due to the separatist sponsored strike, though summer capital Srinagar witnessed some semblance of normalcy with brisk movement of vehicles in some areas.

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

Some shops were also open in the areas in the civil lines and outskirts of the city as well in some rural areas in other districts of the Valley. Srinagar saw movement of private and public transport, except buses, in some areas of the city, officials said.

Schools and business establishments elsewhere remained closed due to the strike called by the separatist groups including both factions of Hurriyat Conference and JKLF.

The ongoing unrest in Kashmir, triggered by killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani in an encounter with security forces in south Kashmir on 8 July, has completed four months.

The officials said there were no curbs on movement of people anywhere in Kashmir, but adequate deployment of security forces has been made at some vulnerable points to maintain law and order as well as to instill a sense of security among the people to carry out their day to day activities.

The separatists, who are spearheading the ongoing agitation in the Valley, have been issuing weekly protest programmes. The separatists late last night extended the strike till 17 November, with a 15-hour periodic relaxation four days.

As many as 85 people, including two police men, have been killed and several thousand others injured in the ongoing unrest in the Valley. Around 5000 security forces personnel have also been injured in the clashes.

Kashmir unrest: Nearly 20 schools burnt down as education becomes biggest casualty of protests

The 110-day-long Kashmir unrest, following the death of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani, has crippled Kashmir and normal life in the valley. As many as 85 people, including two cops, have been killed and several thousand others injured in the ongoing unrest; around 5,000 security forces personnel have also been injured in the clashes with protesters. However, the biggest casualty thus far has been education and academia and it has suffered sabotage in ways more than one.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

According to a report in Hindustan Timesduring the past three-and-half months of raging protests, at least one school has been torched in each of ten districts in Kashmir. In the last five days alone, five schools have been torched, taking the total to 19. Out of these, 17 were government-run schools while two were privately owned properties. The report further states that of the 19 school buildings, at least seven were completely burnt to the ground. The most recent incident took place over Monday and Tuesday when three schools were gutted to fire in 24 hours across Kashmir: the Government Middle School in Sadrukote Bala of Bandipora district, the government school in the Noorbagh area of Srinagar and the Government Higher Secondary School at Aishmuqam in Anantnag district.

However, surprisingly, no arrests have been made in connection with these incidents so far. The crime, according to a report in Kashmir Lifeare attributed to “unknown miscreants,” a label that Hurriyat Conference has decried. According to the Kashmiri news website, the separatist leaders have asked the people to stay vigilant about such incidents and alleged that the incidents were carried out to discredit the “freedom movement” as “violence and anarchy”. The Hurriyat Conference in its statement also alleged that the incidents were carried out under the watch of police and were a part of a conspiracy.

The security forces, on the other hand, have said that the incident is suspected to be the handiwork of miscreants, adding that the security patrol around school buildings has been increased to ensure that such incidents are not repeated.

Meanwhile, the education of over 5000 students in the Valley has been seriously jeopardised as schools remain shut for close to four months now. Whether it is the raging violence, following Wani’s death, or the curfew imposed by Indian forces, or the separatist-sponsored strike, children are forced to suspend their studies and stay indoors. Education in the valley is at an absolute standstill. According to a report in Patrikathe Director of Eductaion in Jammu and Kashmir said that the security around schools has been beefed up and the Directorate of Education has already sought a report. Some Education inspectors also told Patrika that mostly students from the underprivileged section of the society studied in the government schools, which are targeted in a surprisingly high ratio. The reconstruction and renovation may take many years, the Education department officials added.

This shows that unrest and violence in the Valley has affected young minds the most, as thousand of young protesters took part in the protests while hundreds of them have either been arrested or have sustained injuries in clashes with security forces.

Meanwhile, the state government has announced that annual board examinations will be held next month, even though the schools have remained closed since July. According to Kashmir Monitor, students have protested against the decision and are insisting that the exams are postponed. The students say that more than 50% of their syllabus remains uncovered as their studies suffered due to the situation in the Valley. Although the government has promised to reduce the syllabus in exams and offer more choices in the paper, the students remain distressed as some of the schools were yet to formally begin classes for some of the subjects when the unrest broke out.

With inputs from PTI

Pakistan High Commission invites separatist leaders from Jammu and Kashmir for Iftar

Separatist leaders from Jammu and Kashmir, including Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, have been invited by the Pakistan High Commission for the annual Iftar party in New Delhi on June 25.Most of the top and middle-rung separatist leaders from both factions of Hurriyat Conference as well as the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front have been invited to the event. “Yes, we have received an invitation from Pakistan High Commission for an Iftar party on June 25,” Ayaz Akbar, spokesperson for the hardline Hurriyat faction led by Geelani told PTI. Akbar said around 30 members belonging to various constituents of the Geelani’s faction have been invited by the Pakistan High Commission.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>They include Geelani, Ashraf Sehrai, Shabir Shah and Nayeem Khan, Akbar said. Though it was not yet decided whether Geelani would attend, the Hurriyat will be represented at the Iftar party, he said.The moderate faction of Hurriyat Conference led by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and its other executive members have also been invited, Mirwaiz’s media advisor Shahid-ul-Islam said. Apart from Mirwaiz, former Hurriyat chairmen Moulana Abbas Ansari and Abdul Gani Bhat have also been invited, he said.Islam said no decision has been taken yet by the Mirwaiz-led Hurriyat faction on attending the party. “We have some days till Saturday to decide on it,” he said. JKLF chief Mohammad Yasin Malik has also been invited, a party spokesperson said. However, as Malik is under police custody, a decision on attending the Iftar party has been not taken, the spokesperson said.Meanwhile, Union Minister of State in PMO, Jitendra Singh reacted with caution to the issue, saying the Ministry of External Affairs will take a call on it. “I think the Ministry of External Affairs will take a call on it,” Singh told reporters. He was replying to a question on whether the invitation extended to the separatists for Iftar by the Pakistan High Commissioner was a provocation by the neighbouring country with regard to normalisation of Indo-Pak relations.

Hurriyat Conference to make ‘serious attempt’ to bring back Kashmiri Pandits

Srinagar: In a significant move, separatists have decided to hold talks with Kashmiri Pandit migrants to discuss their return to the Valley, marking their first “serious attempt” to bring back the community which was forced to leave over 26 years back due to militancy.

Making the announcement during his sermons after the Friday prayers at the Jamia Masjid, moderate Hurriyat Conference chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said there is no precondition for the return of Pandits who are “part and parcel” of Kashmiri culture and ethos and they can support any political ideology while being in the Valley.

“We have decided to form a joint committee from the resistance (separatist) camp—both groups of Hurriyat Conference and JKLF led by Mohammad Yasin Malik—which will interact with members of the Kashmiri Pandit community in the state and elsewhere as part of efforts to pave way for their return to Kashmir,” he said.

Mirwaiz said the joint committee would hear out the Kashmiri Pandits to understand their reservations about returning to their homes in the Valley.

File photo of Mirwaiz Umar Farooq. ReutersFile photo of Mirwaiz Umar Farooq. Reuters

File photo of Mirwaiz Umar Farooq. Reuters

“This is not just a lip service but a serious effort for bringing the Kashmiri Pandits back to the Valley as they are part and parcel of our culture and ethos,” he said.

The Hurriyat chairman said the separatist camp wanted the Pandits to return to their native places instead of being nestled in isolated townships.

“They are free to support whichever political ideology they want…They may support India. That does not deprive them of their rights as Kashmiris,” he said.

This will mark the first serious effort by the separatists to bring back the Pandits who were forced to leave the Valley starting from late 1989 after the onset of militancy.

At present, there are about 62,000 registered Kashmiri migrant families, who have moved from the Valley to Jammu, Delhi and other parts of the country.

Various governments have from time to time devised policies for return of Kashmiri Pandits but those attempts have been unsuccessful. Even the present PDP-BJP government is working on such a policy.

Later, Mirwaiz led a protest rally against the new industrial policy of the state government, alleging it was part of the RSS’ design to change the demography and occupy the resources of the state.

“There is no clarity on whether land in industrial estates will be given to outsiders. Four statements have come from the government within a short span of time. The government will do well to make its stand clear or face the consequences,” he said.

Hours after his release, Yasin Malik detained ahead of seminar by separatists

Srinagar: JKLF chairman Mohammad Yasin Malik was detained hours after his release on court orders even as Jammu and Kashmir government allowed the separatist Hurriyat Conference to hold a seminar for opposing construction of Sainik colony for Kashmiri Pandits and soldiers in the Valley.

Malik, who was yesterday released on bail after a week-long detention in a case related to 1987 elections, was picked up by police late last night from his Maisuma residence and lodged at Kothibagh police station, police said on Sunday.

File photo of Yasin Malik. News 18

File photo of Yasin Malik. News 18

The detention of Malik, who has been at the forefront of fresh efforts at unity among separatists, came hours ahead of a joint seminar by separatist outfits at the residence of hardline Hurriyat Conference chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani.

The separatist groups had last week decided to launch an awareness campaign against the setting up of separate townships for Kashmiri Pandits and constructing Sainik colonies in the valley.

The seminar at Geelani’s residence is part of the joint strategy adopted by the separatist groups. They are planning to hold a silent sit-in on June 15 against any government move to set up the township for Kashmiri Pandits or retired military personnel of the state.

The separatist groups have alleged that these townships and colonies are being constructed to settle people from other parts of India in Kashmir to change the demography of the Valley.

The PDP-BJP government in the state has made it clear that there would be no separate townships for Kashmiri Pandits but transit accommodation will be provided to them till the security situation improves allowing them to return to their native places.

It has also ruled out setting up any Sainik colony in Kashmir in view of “scarcity of land”.

Govt U-turn on Hurriyat is not a bad thing, if it sets us on the right path

The government’s recent statement about the Hurriyat Conference has been criticised as yet another U-turn.

By explicitly conceding that there was “no bar” on Hurriyat leaders meeting Pakistani officials in India, New Delhi has erased the “red line” that it had drawn in August 2014. But a U-turn is not necessarily a bad thing — especially if it gets you moving in the right direction. The real question is whether the government knows where it wants to go from here.

The decision to make the India-Pakistan dialogue contingent on the latter avoiding contact with the Hurriyat was taken in the exuberant aftermath of the 2014 electoral victory. Not only was Prime Minister Narendra Modi the object of international adulation, but his decision to invite regional leaders for his swearing-in had seemingly pole-vaulted him to a position of unassailable strength. The “my way or the highway” stance adopted on Pakistan’s dealings with the Hurriyat was a product of this over-confident milieu.

It took well over a year for the government to realise that calling off talks did not help isolate Pakistan. On the contrary, New Delhi found that all its significant international interlocutors — big and small — were pressing for a resumption of engagement with Islamabad. Even after the government decided to move in this direction, the “red line” drawn under the Hurriyat tripped it up. With the subsequent resumption of full-fledged dialogue with Pakistan, however, it was clear that the precondition about contact with the Hurriyat was no longer operative.

Representational image of Hurriyat leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Pakistani High Commissioner to India Abdul Basit. AFP

Representational image of Hurriyat leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Pakistani High Commissioner to India Abdul Basit. AFP

There are at least a couple lessons to be learnt from this episode.

First, the terms of engagement with Pakistan cannot be reset easily or whimsically. There was good reason why the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government had allowed these contacts in the first place. Understanding the history of this relationship is crucial to navigating its contours. This is equally true of another trap into which the government has fallen: Assuming that calling off diplomatic engagement will somehow help tackle terrorism emanating from Pakistan. Wisdom lies in learning from the mistakes made by others.

Second, reputation and credibility do matter in foreign policy — especially in longstanding adversarial relationships like those between India and Pakistan. But contrary to what some critics have said, this does not mean persisting with patently futile and self-defeating policies like the “red line” about the Hurriyat. Rather, because credibility does count, New Delhi should be careful about the kinds of issues on which it stakes its reputation. Otherwise, it risks creating and discerning interests where none really lie. Drawing and erasing arbitrary red lines is problematic from this perspective rather just amounting to a U-turn.

The formal retraction of this policy comes in the specific context of both external and internal developments.

Events in the past month have confirmed — if ever there was a doubt — that the Pakistan Army is not happy with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s embrace of Modi. Against this backdrop, the old conundrum of how, if at all, to link talks with terror continues to confound New Delhi. Given that all other alternatives have been exhausted, it is perhaps time the government decided to press ahead with continuous diplomatic engagement irrespective of the where things stand with terrorism. This will, of course, require Modi to use his bully pulpit to make the case for such an engagement. The fundamental point is that terrorism can only be tackled by other means and engagement has certain advantages in itself. The recent statement by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) on Kashmir should remind the government that disengaging with Pakistan only gives the latter the room to mobilise support in its favour — even from those countries that might be better disposed towards India.

The internal context is equally important.

The latest round of popular mobilisation in the Kashmir Valley highlighted the rampant dissatisfaction not just with the coalition government, but the political status quo. The summer ahead is likely to pose further challenges for the PDP-BJP coalition. Unless Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti is given the latitude to kickstart political engagement within the state, it is unlikely that the coalition will hold together for very long. Bottling up the Hurriyat would only have exacerbated the swirling anger in the Valley. By contrast, adopting a stance of benign neglect may well bring to the fore the cleavages that separate the “separatists” from one another. The responses of Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq to the government statements are a good indicator of this.

Still, New Delhi will have to do more.

It is worth recalling that significant improvements in political climate of Jammu and Kashmir have only occurred when New Delhi has simultaneously sought to improve ties with Srinagar and Islamabad. Perhaps the most striking example of this came during Indira Gandhi’s tenure. A strong critic of her father’s policy of imprisoning Sheikh Abdullah, Indira Gandhi began reaching out to him soon after she took over as prime minister in 1966.

Against the backdrop of Pakistan’s aggression in 1965, she shrewdly understood that the demand for plebiscite was dead as a dodo. Her main interlocutor during this period was the then foreign secretary TN Kaul. It took Kaul almost five years to get to the point where the Sheikh was willing to trust Indira Gandhi. The Shimla Accord of 1972 ensured that India-Pakistan relations were formally insulated from external interference, but it also created a conducive environment in which Abdullah could return to power. This happened in the wake of the 1975 accord between the representatives of Indira Gandhi and Abdullah. His subsequent installation as chief minister was the mother of all U-turns in our Kashmir policy.

Whatever the flaws of the accord and the subsequent failures, this episode underlines the point that New Delhi must move simultaneously on the internal and external tracks.

This calls for coherence and consistency in policy-making, political judgment, and nimbleness in exploiting opportunities. Whatever the missteps of the past two years, it’s time to get moving in the right direction.

The author is Senior Fellow at Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi. He is the author of India’s War: The Making of Modern South Asia, 1939-1945.

Centre has realised red lines do not work in politics: Hurriyat Conference

Union minister V K Singh’s statement that separatist leaders can talk to Pakistan High Commissioner was welcomed by the moderate Hurriyat Conference on Monday while the hardline faction said peace will not be restored until promises made by the Centre to Kashmiri people were fulfilled.While welcoming Singh’s statement, Chairman of moderate Hurriyat Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said the Centre has realised that red lines do not work in politics or diplomacy, the chief of hardline faction, Syed Ali Shah Geelani said peace cannot be achieved till promises made by India to the people of Kashmir at the national and global level are fulfilled.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”It (Singh’s statement) is better late than never. Perhaps the government of India has realised the red lines which they had drawn do not work either in politics or diplomacy,” Chairman of moderate Hurriyat Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said.Terming it as a “welcome change” and an “acceptance of the reality”, he said there is no other option for India and Pakistan but to engage with each other and take along the people of Kashmir. He suggested that the Centre need to revisit the policies of “shedding the beaten track and take new initiatives” of former Prime Minister A B Vajpayee to address Kashmir issue.In a written reply in Parliament on April 28, Singh had said that since the entire state of Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of the Union of India and these so-called Kashmiri ‘leaders’ are Indian citizens, there is no bar on their meetings with representatives of any country in India.The Mirwaiz said the Kashmir is among India, Pakistan and the people of Jammu and Kashmir, and Hurriyat has always maintained that it is the primary party to the dispute. He also accused the state government of using “oppressive methods” to silence the separatists. The Mirwaiz threatened mass agitation if the curbs on the movement of separatists are not withdrawn immediately.Meanwhile, dismissing Singh’s statement, Geelani said “It is not an issue for us whether we are invited or not. Our only concern is that the promises made by India to the people of Kashmir at the national and global level are fulfilled.” “UN resolutions be implemented to give an opportunity to the people of J-K the right to self-determination. Till then peace cannot be achieved,” he told reporters.He said Kashmir was not a border dispute between India and Pakistan, but an “internationally accepted dispute and the solution of which lies in implementation of UN resolutions.” Geelani alleged that plans were being made by BJP and RSS to change the demography of Jammu and Kashmir by holding an all-India level medical entrance test.”They will then be selected at all-India level and if students from here are selected, they will be sent to different states and doctors from other states will be forced upon us. This is the plan of RSS and BJP, to turn Valley of Muslim saints into a Hindu Rashtra. They want to force Hindutva upon us,” Geelani said.About his successor in his party Tehreek-e-Hurriyat and the Hurriyat Conference amalgam, Geelani said the leader would be chosen after consultations following his death.

Kashmir: Security officials concerned about cricket teams being named after militants

Srinagar: Militant sympathisers in Kashmir Valley have named cricket teams participating in certain tournaments after militants, a trend security officials say should be nipped in the bud to avoid “huge problems”.

A cricket tournament was recently played in Tral area of south Kashmir’s Pulwama district which had few participating teams named after militants like Aabid Khan Qalandars, Khalid Aryans and Burhan Lions.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

While Burhan has emerged as one of the most wanted commander of Hizbul Mujahideen over the past one year, Khalid was his brother who was killed in a security forces’ operation.

Burhan had shot into prominence late last year after he uploaded pictures of his and his comrades on a social networking site.

Several of 11 militants featuring in those pictures have been eliminated but Burhan remains elusive for the security forces.

Many sports events, named after slain militants and separatist leaders, have been held over the past 20 years in different parts of Kashmir.

Shaheed-e-Millat cricket tournament, organised in memory of Mirwaiz Mohammad Farooq — slain father of Hurriyat Conference chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, has not become a regular feature of the cricketing calendar in Srinagar.

However, this time the security forces seem to be concerned over the latest move.

“If this practice is not nipped in the bud, it can create a huge problem in coming months and years. The psyche of the impressionable minds is sought to be influenced,” a security official said.

He said before the onset of militancy in the state, a football club was formed in the memory of JKLF founder Mohammad Maqbool Bhat following his hanging in Tihar Jail in 1984.

“This club would take part in tournaments within and outside Kashmir and seemingly there was nothing wrong with it. However, when militancy erupted several players joined the ranks,” the official said.

National Conference working president Omar Abdullah saw a link between the trend of naming cricket teams after militants and Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti representing south Kashmir in Lok Sabha.

“Lest we forget this South Kashmir being mentioned is Mehbooba Mufti’s Lok Sabha constituency,” Omar said.

Ruling PDP leaders chose not to comment on the issue.

One killed and 47 injured in volatile situation in Kashmir valley

Srinagar: Volatile situation prevailed in Kashmir on Friday with one more youth getting killed and 47 others, including over 40 security personnel, being injured in clashes which rocked many parts of the valley, spreading beyond Kupwara, the epicentre of the four-day unrest.

18-year-old Arif Hussain Dar was killed while three others sustained bullet injuries when army opened fire to disperse stone-pelting mobs outside a camp in Nathnusa area of Kupwara, 100 kms from Srinagar, a police official said.

Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti expressed deep anguish over the death and appealed to the general public to remain vigilant against nefarious designs of elements who want to disturb peace in the state.

The local residents were protesting against the killing of four persons — three in Handwara on Tuesday and one in Drugmulla on Wednesday — in action by security forces against protestors who were demonstrating against alleged molestation of a girl.

The three injured persons were referred to SMHS hospital for specialised treatment, the official said.

An army official said the forces opened fire only after the mobs tried to storm the camp.

“A group of protesters were pelting stones at the (army) camp but the soldiers exercised restraint. However, the situation started going out of hand as a large number of them tried to storm the camp from all directions,” he said.

With Friday’s casualty, the death toll has risen to five in the unrest that began on Tuesday following allegations of molestation of a girl in Handwara.

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

While Kupwara district has been witnessing trouble since Tuesday, protests spread on Friday to other parts of the Valley including Sopore town in Baramulla district, Tral in Pulwama district, Bijbehara in Anantnag district, Srinagar city and Kangan area in Ganderbal district.

Zachaldara, Kralgund, Kralpora, Mir Mohalla, Drugmulla and Magam were the other areas in Kupwara district where violent protests were witnessed.

Two civilians were injured in action by security forces in Heeri area of Trehgam and Kupwara town during the protests.

Showkat Ahmad Ganai was hit by a teargas shell in the head at Heeri and has been referred to a hospital here while Sajad Ahmad Bhat of Poshpora sustained bullet injury in the leg in Kupwara town during protests, the official said.

A police spokesman said over 40 of its personnel had been injured in the clashes.

Among the cops, one sustained injuries after being hit by a stone at Magam while a Head Constable of Jammu and Kashmir police was injured in clashes in Kangan town.

In Sopore, a small group of 40 people indulged in stone-pelting after Friday prayers, a police official said.

In Tral town, the protestors pelted stones on a CRPF camp but they were chased away, the official said.

Incidents of stone-pelting were reported from Goriwan in Bijbehara area of Anantnag district as well, he added.

An official spokesman said the Chief Minister has expressed deep anguish over the “unfortunate death” of a youth at Natnusa in Kupwara district on Friday.

Sharing the grief of the victim s family over the inconsolable loss, Mehbooba said, “she is extremely distressed as the circle of violence has consumed yet-another life of a young boy. My heart goes out to the bereaved family of the boy who died in the prime of his youth.”

The Chief Minister appealed to general public to remain vigilant and maintain calm to defeat the nefarious designs of those who want to disturb peace in the state.

Separatist groups including JKLF and Hurriyat Conference led by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq tried to stage separate protest demonstrations against the killings in Srinagar but their attempts were scuttled by the police and several of their activists were detained.

Mirwaiz and chairman of hardline Hurriyat Conference Syed Ali Shah Geelani are under house detention while and JKLF chief Mohammad Yasin Malik is in preventive custody.

Separatist groups including hardline Hurriyat Conference have called for a shutdown tomorrow to protest against the fresh deaths.

Kashmir University has announced postponing of all examinations scheduled for Saturday.

A spokesman of the varsity said fresh dates for these examinations would be notified later.

Non-local students safe in NIT, ask them to concentrate on their studies now: Hurriyat chief

Srinagar: Chairman of moderate Hurriyat Conference Mirwaiz Umar Farooq on Friday  said the outstation students at NIT here are safe and asked them to concentrate on their studies rather than playing in the hands of “opportunists” and “divisive forces”.

“Whatever is happening in the NIT for the past few days is unfortunate. Some political parties and majority of Indian electronic media are exaggerating the situation and trying to portray it as an issue between Hindu and Muslims and state versus non-state subjects with an objective to seek shifting of the institute,” he said, adding they would not succeed in their nefarious designs.

Addressing a Friday congregation at Jamia Masjid in downtown Srinagar, the Mirwaiz said the outstation students are safe in the valley and asked them to concentrate on their studies rather than playing in the hands of “opportunists” and “divisive forces”.


Senior Kashmiri seperatist leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq. Getty Images

“The traditional brotherhood of Kashmiris, their humanity and moral values are a glaring example for the entire world. Despite facing bloodshed and oppression over the past 25 years, the people of Kashmir have never compromised with their tradition. “During 2008 and 2010 agitations and again in 2014 when the devastating floods hit the region, the local populace risked their lives to ensure safety of thousands of tourists and saved their lives, making it amply clear that their fight is against the injustice and Indian oppression and not against the people of India,” the separatist leader said.

“Where were those people who are now playing petty politics when Kashmiri students were subjected to torture and forced out of their colleges in various parts of India,” he questioned.

Praising the local students for demonstrating patience and maintaining brotherhood during the recent events at NIT, Kashmir university and other institutes despite provocation, Mirwaiz appealed local business community to invest in education sector in the valley so that majority of the students are relieved from seeking education outside the valley.

“It is the need of the hour as the emerging situation is not conducive for the local students to pursue education outside the valley. There always remains a concern for their safety,” he said.

India, Pakistan need to engage in result-oriented talks: Hurriyat Conference

Moderate Hurriyat Conference on Thursday said that both India and Pakistan need to engage in “serious” and “result-oriented talks” to settle all issues pending for decades, including Kashmir, and hoped that the composite dialogue announced during Foreign Secretary-level talks will be a “milestone” in realising this dream.After his meeting with Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit here , Hurriyat Conference Chairman Mirwaiz Umer Farooq told reporters, “We have time and again demonstrated that we are not against talks between the two countries and in fact we sincerely believe that dialogue is the only mechanism with which the two countries can solve all issues.”<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Mirwaiz, who was accompanied by several separatist leaders, including Abdul Gani Bhat and Maulana Abbas Ansari, made it clear that Kashmir-specific Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) need to be taken by India and Pakistan.”Any tough posturing by either side will do no good to ensure peace and stablity in South Asia. And while talking about Kashmir, both the sides need to keep in mind that aspirations of the people of Jammu and Kashmir need to be taken into account,” he said.To a question on their claims to be representative of Kashmiri people, he said, “First of all its not a claim and secondly, if we have no support base, then why is Kashmir an issue between India and Pakistan.”He said the special investigation team (SIT) coming from Pakistan in connection with Pathankot airbase attack was an important step.”I hope that both the countries work together seriously and nail the culprits behind the attack on Pathankot airbase. Such forces were detrimental to the ongoing peace process between the two countries,” he said.The Mirwaiz regretted that the meeting of Hurriyat Conference leaders with Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit was seen by some quarters in the country with suspicion.”Come on, I wonder where has the all the wisdom vanished. We are trying to bring India and Pakistan closer and these people label us as traitors and what not. Finding storm in a cup of tea is unwarranted,” he said.On government formation in the state, the Mirwaiz said, “The issue is not about building roads and bridges in Kashmir. Its about finding a permanent settlement and I am only hoping that the two countries understand the need of hour and get engaged in a serious and result-oriented dialogue to settle all issues.”

Jammu and Kashmir: Several top separatist leaders placed under house arrest

Several top separatist leaders including chairman of moderate Hurriyat Conference Mirwaiz Umar Farooq were on Wednesday placed under house arrest or detained here, officials said.General Secretary of hardline Hurriyat and chairman of Democratic Freedom Party (DFP) Shabir Ahmad Shah was taken into custody by police from his Sanat Nagar residence and was lodged at Rajbagh police station, they said. The police action comes days after hardline Hurriyat asked people to offer funeral prayers in absentia today for the three militants who were killed in a 48-hour long gunbattle at Pampore early this week.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Hurriyat had also called for a sit-in protest at every district headquarters after the Friday prayers and a general strike on February 27 to protest registration of sedition charges against the Kashmiri Scholar Prof S A R Geelani, alleged harassment of Kashmiri students in Delhi and the detention of JNU students. Besides Shah, the Hurriyat said dozens of amalgam leaders and activists including provincial president Nayeem Ahmad Khan, spokesman Ayaaz Akbar, Principal secretary Peer Saifullah were either placed under house arrest or detained by police at different police stations to prevent them from visiting Pampore today to offer special prayers in absentia for the three slain militants.However, the Hurriyat said some leaders managed to reach the Khankah at Pampore despite police crackdown and led the funeral prayers for the militants. Chairman of moderate Hurriyat Conference Mirwaiz Umar Farooq was also put under house arrest at his Nigeen residence in the outskirts of the city. Mirwaiz was scheduled to lead a march from Hurriyat headquarters at Rajbagh after a joint meeting of heads of various constituents of the amalgam, a hurriyat spokesman said.He said former Chairman of Hurriyat Prof Abdul Gani Bhat chaired the meeting and later tried to take out a march which was scuttled by police. The Hurriyat leaders were carrying placards which read “revoke AFSPA and stop harassing Kashmiris”.Earlier, the spokesman said the hurriyat passed a resolution which condemned the arrest of Geelani and JNU students under sedition charges, “growing intolerance, frequent restrictions on the activities of separatist leaders.”

Syed Ali Shah Geelani terms Pakistan Parliamentary panel report as ‘unfair and unjustified’

Terming as “unfair and unjustified” the recommendations of a Pakistani Parliamentary panel that ‘Pakistan should avoid supporting militant groups in Kashmir’, hardline Hurriyat Conference chairman Syed Ali Geelani said the “freedom struggle in Kashmir has nothing to do with terrorism.””The recommendation is unfair and unjustified. The groups busy in the freedom struggle of Kashmir have nothing to do with the terrorism but they are struggling for the just and genuine demand of right to self determination for their nation and this factor was present in every freedom movement of the world including the freedom struggle of India,” Geelani said in a statement.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>He said the Kashmiri youths have not opted for the armed struggle just out of any amusement or fun but “it is the rigid and stubborn policy of India with regards to the Kashmir issue which has given birth to this situation.””The recommendations of the Parliamentary Panel headed by member parliament Awais Ahmad Leghari depicts an apologetic policy and it cannot be named more than this that it is an attempt to appease India,” Geelani said.He said “if the government of Pakistan acts on the recommendations and takes any action against the Kashmiri youth, it will be the follow-up of American policies which they experienced in Afghanistan.”The Hurriyat chairman expressed hope that Pakistan will not turn its eyes away from the Kashmiris and will continue to support them on political, diplomatic and moral levels.