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Demonetisation impact: Are militants now looting banks in Kashmir to tackle cash crunch?

It is slowly becoming a trend that may prove costly. Post the killing of Burhan Wani, militants are resorting to robbing banks in the Kashmir Valley, allegedly to deal with the cash crunch that has hit their ranks following demonetisation.

Within a month, at least two such incidents were reported, in which more than Rs 50 lakhs were robbed from different branches of the Jammu and Kashmir Bank. Cops are clueless, so are the bank officials.

The latest incident happened on Thursday when unidentified suspects targeted a J&K bank branch in Ratnipora of south Kashmir’s Pulwama district.

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

According to sources, the suspects rouged up the bank employees, including a physically challenged man, before escaping with Rs 11 lakhs cash.

“I tried to reason with a gunman that I was disabled and would do them no harm. But he twisted my arm and thrashed me, while the others rounded us up in a corner,” said Masoor Ahmad, a bank employee.

Although the J&K police was quick to cordon off the area in Ratnipora village, but the suspects managed to flee undetected and unharmed.

The incident took place exactly a week after unidentified suspects, again believed to be militants, decamped with more than Rs 8 lakhs from another branch of J&K Bank in south Kashmir’s Arihal on 8 December.

The suspects fired aerial shots to create panic before leaving the spot. No arrests have been made in the case. Police and other security agencies have linked the robbery to demonetisation.

This is the fourth such incident of bank robbery after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the scrapping of old Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes.

In the 8 November surprise announcement, Modi had said that one of the key targets of the move was to stop militants from using counterfeit Indian currency. But it had little bearing on terror networks. In two instances, J&K police recovered new currency notes from militants killed in encounters after 8 November.

A senior officer of the J&K Bank, speaking on condition of anonymity, said they have posted guards from private security agencies outside banks and ATMs, cops are posted outside bank branches in sensitive areas.

“The private security guards are armed with an outdated gun which makes the bank even more vulnerable to attacks. These attacks are of course unfortunate but we are helpless. How can one security guard deal with four men armed with AK-47 rifles,” he said.

On 21 November, a group of suspected Lashkar-e-Taiba workers, robbed a central Kashmir branch of the J&K Bank in Malpora village from where they took at least Rs 14 lakh. They have been arrested by the police.

A senior police officer said that faces of the bank robbers of Ratnipora branch have been captured in CCTV footage. “This is the same group of people who have also carried out other bank robberies recently,” Superintendent of Police, Pulwama, Rayees Mohammad Bhat told Firstpost.

“There is no doubt in our minds about who are behind these robberies, we will arrest them soon,” he added.

First Published On : Dec 15, 2016 18:35 IST

Anantnag encounter: Kashmir civilians’ efforts to assist militants are severely hampering security ops

A few hundred metres from the site of an encounter with suspected militants in south Kashmir, a mob of at least 1,000 — including children — gathered in Arwani village and tried to break the cordon laid by security forces. The encounter took place in the Hassanpora locality of Bijbehara in Anantnag district.

Security forces during the encounter in Anantnag. Firstpost/Sameer Yasir

Like dozens of previous attempts made by local residents to provide safe passage to the militants caught in encounters with government forces, the mob pelted stones and tried to come to the rescue of “our heroes”. It is the new normal in Kashmir, which has the security establishment worried.

In the retaliatory action, Arif Ahmad Shah was killed while at least three dozen protesters suffered injuries; one of them was referred to Srinagar’s SKIMS Hospital in a critical state. According to police and witnesses, at least two dozen protesters suffered pellet injuries.

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Security forces during the encounter in Anantnag. Firstpost/Sameer Yasir

It won’t be wrong to suggest that Shah, a resident of Sangam area in Anantnag, at least 10 kilometres from the encounter site, was part of the group that was trying to divert the attention of forces to facilitate the escape of the militants — a trend that has picked up recently in Kashmir.

On Thursday evening, after Shah was killed, according to officials by a stray bullet, the Jammu and Kashmir Police, once again, appealed to people not to assemble or come close to the encounter sites “as there is every chance that stray bullets may hit them and they make get injured (sic)”.

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Security forces during the encounter in Anantnag. Firstpost/Sameer Yasir

According to witnesses, the protesters, who tried to break the cordon around Hassanpora locality, danced with joy, apparently to celebrate the escape of militants from the area, before they were intercepted by the police in Arwani. At the time of writing, no bodies had been recovered from the encounter site.

Although many news outlets reported that three militants have been killed, there was no conformation on that from the police till midnight on Thursday. The Hassanpora village was cordoned off late on Wednesday evening following inputs of militants in the area. After getting no response to few warning shots, the forces suspended the operation for the night “owing to darkness”.

A member of the security force conducts a search during the encounter. Firstpost/Sameer Yasir

A member of the security force conducts a search during the encounter. Firstpost/Sameer Yasir

On Thursday morning, the operation was resumed but soon fresh clashes broke out. Witnesses and police said there was intermittent firing going on at the site. Sources said the forces, a joint team of the police and Indian Army, tried to start a mopping-up operation in the evening, but they came under fresh fire due to which the operation was put off till Friday.

As if the happenings in Arwani were not enough, protests broke out in different parts of south Kashmir as rumours of two militants getting killed in the encounter started gaining currency, a harsh reminder that all is not well in the Valley. According to police sources, people from villages adjoining Hassanpora tried to march to the encounter site, sparking clashes.

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A police convoy seen during the encounter. Firstpost/Sameer Yasir

In February this year, the Jammu and Kashmir Police was forced to issue an advisory, asking people to stay away from encounter sites to ensure “smooth anti-militancy operations and no civilian casualties”. “We have issued the advisory in the interest of people. We request people to follow it. It’s for their safety,” Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Kashmir Syed Javid Mujtaba Gilani said.

Given the fragile peace prevailing in the Valley, the violence in Arwani is just a tip of the churning taking place in south Kashmir which has been the epicentre of anti-India and pro-freedom clashes following the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani.

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Army patrols operate during the encounter in Anantnag. Firstpost/Sameer Yasir

The massive outpouring of residents is a small window into what is going to be happen in coming days in the Valley, especially since many youths, who have joined the militancy in south Kashmir, are often seen roaming in and around their localities. When they get trapped, locals come to engage security forces and provide them a safe passage, which was what happened on Thursday evening.

“We will do it till the time we are alive. We will continue to save militants from forces. We will end this tyranny,” Shabir, who only gave his first name in Arwani where protesters were trying to break the cordon around the encounter site, said.

A soldier on patrol during the operation in Anantnag. Firstpost/Sameer Yasir

A soldier on patrol during the operation in Anantnag. Firstpost/Sameer Yasir

Earlier this year, after the rise in incidents of people thronging encounter sites, the then commander of the Army’s Northern Command, Lieutenant-General DS Hooda, had told AP that it was a major concern and a challenge to conduct anti-militant operations.

“Frankly speaking, I’m not comfortable anymore conducting operations if large crowds are around,” Hooda told AP.

“Even if I get killed, I don’t care. We are fighting for freedom. If we have to spill more blood, so be it,” Shabir, the protester in Arwani, said.

First Published On : Dec 9, 2016 13:26 IST

Kashmir encounter: Security forces engage in gunfight in Anantnag

Continue reading: Kashmir encounter: Security forces engage in gunfight in Anantnag

Kashmir unrest: In novel move, cops carry out counselling session with young stone-pelters

On a cold Friday morning last week, a group of around 200 young boys and their parents huddled in a large hall with wooden interiors in north Kashmir’s Baramulla district. As anxious fathers spoke in whispers with their sons, their sense of dread was unmistakable.

Over the last five months of civilian unrest, the Jammu and Kashmir Police has filed more than 2,400 cases against stone-pelters, some of whom were sitting in Baramulla’s Dak Banglow. It was not a usual affair, though.

Along one side of the hall, a group of police officers sat on large sofas, facing the gathering. Imtiaz Hussain, a broad shouldered man in his early forties wearing a khaki jacket and pointed shoes, took centre-stage, laying out the reason behind the ‘counselling session’ to the boys who have been arrested and let off by the police recently.

The counselling session held by the Baramulla Police. Firstpost/Sameer Yasir

The counselling session held by the Baramulla Police. Firstpost/Sameer Yasir

“We want to understand you and let you understand us,” Hussain, the senior superintendent of the Baramulla Police, told the gathering, without mincing words. The meeting that was attended by presidents of mohalla committees, also had in attendance some minors caught pelting stones.

“Apart from the rhetorical underpinnings, at the end of this, you have to understand that these five months have brought nothing but misery and destruction,” Hussain continued.

This is the first time during the ongoing phase of turmoil that the Jammu and Kashmir Police has organised a counselling session for the youth who, according to police, have been involved in “violent activities” as the streets of Kashmir were filled with rage following the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani.

However, the occurrence of the meeting is not a mere coincidence. In the Kashmir Valley these days, a meeting between police and stone-pelters starts and ends in chaos on the streets. But inside the hall, an eerie clam prevailed as Hussain addressed the young boys who allegedly participated in stone-pelting during these months of unrest.

“You are our own children. Your future is in your hands. You have to differentiate between good and bad. We can only show you the path. But you have to chose for yourself,” he said.

The atmosphere inside the hall was emotive but, in reality, the five months of unrest on the streets and an abject failure to address the rage on the streets politically has pushed the younger generation of Kashmir towards the extreme end which is fraught with dangerous consequences.

“But everyone does not understand this anxiety and psychological conundrum,” Dr Arshad Hussain, a psychiatrist based in Srinagar, told Firstpost. “There is a sense of defeat. The counselling is a must.”

Inside the hall, a young boy stood up, telling the police officers that there should be some kind of relaxation in the cases filed against them. “If someone has eight cases, why don’t you show some
kind of relaxation so that they can get bail and lead a normal life?” the boy asked.

Then the interaction turned towards the heavy-handedness of the government forces. Some residents alleged that when the police, accompanied by CRPF and the army, come to arrest stone-pelters, they go on a prowl in the particular locality by breaking windowpanes of houses and assaulting those who protest such actions.

During the ongoing unrest which started on 8 July, the police in Kashmir has arrested more than 7,800 people of whom around 350 have been booked under the draconian Public Safety Act. But reports say 5,500 of them have been let off on the promise of good behaviour.

Apart from human intelligence, police has been using videos and CCTV footage which strengthens the cases against protesters. But the cops are aware that very few youths who have come for counselling will leave the path of stone-pelting and whenever tensions rise and protests break out, they will again throw stones.

“We have tried to explain to the students to concentrate on their studies and their careers rather than indulging in stone-pelting. We are doing our best to wean them away from violence. But they have to understand that they will get nothing out of the violence and there are people who try to push them into chaos for their own benefit,” Hussain told Firstpost.

In the absence of any political outreach from the leadership in New Delhi, it is highly unlikely that the counselling sessions will have their desired results, although they may succeed in breaking the communication barrier between the two warring sides.

“This (counselling sessions) also signifies a change in the situation. The police and other security forces have worked together to get Kashmir to this level. We have to understand that we are getting nothing out of this violence. Our education is suffering and those who are pushing the children of poor to adopt violence should be told: For God’s sake, let us live peacefully,” Hussain added.

First Published On : Dec 5, 2016 10:02 IST

Amid Kashmir unrest, two kids from the Valley clinch gold at international championships

With over four months of shutdown, curfew and civilian killings, the tormented Kashmiris have something to cheer about as two players from the Valley have clinched top titles at two separate international championships recently.

On Tuesday, a seven-year-old boy from north Kashmir’s Bandipora district, who represented India in the Asian Youth Karate Championship, has clinched the gold medal after beating his Sri Lankan rival.

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Hashim Mansoor receiving gold medal at Asian Youth Karate Championship.

Hashim Mansoor, a resident of Nadihal village in Bandipora district, represented India in Sub-Junior category in the championship, which saw the participation of 19 countries, at Talkatora Stadium in New Delhi.

Hashim had defeated his Bhutanese and Malaysian opponents before reaching the finals.

Mansoor Ahmad Shah, Hashim’s father, said that he has been encouraging his child to pursue Karate since he was five. “It is a wonderful feeling. I hope he gets the necessary support in future to continue his journey and I am sure he would excel.”

Ghulam Nabi Tantray, president of J&K Youth Karate Federation, said: “Mansoor had been performing extremely well in recent matches and his win was only possible because of the hard work put by his coach Fasil Ali Dar.

“He is a gifted child and I hope we would produce more champions from all the three regions of the state,” Tantray said.

Tajamul Islam with J&K Cheif Minister Mehbooba Mufti.

Tajamul with J&K Cheif Minister Mehbooba Mufti.

Earlier, an eight-year-old girl from the same district, Tajamul Islam, daughter of a driver, battled all odds and went on to clinch a gold medal at the World Kickboxing Championship in the sub-junior category.

Tajamul, who made the history by winning the gold in the sub-junior category at the World Kickboxing Championship in Italy, is likely to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 10 December in New Delhi.

The political turmoil of last 27 years has dealt a blow to the plans of the state’s hugely talented players who often fail to make a mark at national and international level due to the lack of infrastructure back home. The peace prevailing in the last decade brought out some known faces from the state, like Pervaiz Rasool, who went on to play for team India in international cricket matches.

First Published On : Nov 29, 2016 19:22 IST

Kashmir conflict: Let’s wean back local militants, says Northern Army commander-in-chief

The outgoing commander-in-chief of the Jammu and Kashmir-based Northern Command, Lieutenant-General DS Hooda, has emphasised the need to improve processes for drawing back into society Kashmiris who had taken to arms.

“Can we do something to get the boys back? That is the concern,” he says, highlighting an aspect of counterinsurgency that most tough-talking militaristic minds tend to neglect, while focussing instead on ‘kills’ and ‘catches’. Hooda, who retires at the end of the month, is keenly aware of the importance of this concern. He and the officers and men under his command have had their hands full as a new militancy has rapidly gained ground over the past year-and-a-half, and large-scale protests and unrest have kept the Kashmir Valley on the boil through the summer and autumn.

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

Those with a less nuanced perspective might have expected him to talk of the need for battle preparations, fortifications and reinforcements. But it is a measure of how much the army brass has evolved since the ‘proxy-war’-oriented phase of the second half of the 1990s that Hooda emphasises the need to win back those Kashmiris who have at some point taken up arms.

To be sure, he has quietly gone about the core tasks of the army too; extraordinary steps have been taken since mid-September in terms of war preparedness. But Hooda has not lost sight of other priorities in what must be a multi-pronged strategy.

Local sentiment is one of the most important priorities. Each death of a local boy can have a multiplying effect. “The more (a) local is killed, (the more) you will have a reaction,” as Hooda says. For more than a year now, the funerals of young militants killed in action have been highly emotional events, drawing large crowds — and inspiring fresh teenagers to become militants.

These young recruits are sometimes jolted by the less-romantic reality they confront when they leave their homes. So surrender must be made easier — and the rehabilitation of former militants into society made smooth.

The rules only allow militants to surrender at four specified points — two trade and crossing points on the Line of Control, the Wagah border, and Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport. Hooda points out that each of those points is hazardous for those who might want to surrender. For, Pakistani officials keep a hawk-eye on those who want to cross at Wagah and the specified trade and transit points. In fact, it takes several weeks to get through the red tape of permissions that are required to use those crossing points.

The result is that many of those who actually want to surrender try and get to Nepal and then cross the border into India — or find their way surreptitiously across the Line of Control or border. But using either of those methods puts them on the wrong side of the rules. Since they cannot technically surrender thus, they can be treated as terrorists, and of course the laws for that category are daunting.

The trouble for an army commander such as Hooda is that this causes many of those who may changed their minds after getting to Pakistan to remain in the ranks of militants. And, any smart strategist knows that, even if a local militant is often less lethal than a foreigner, a local draws in the wider support of the community — and that can be a far greater challenge in a situation like Kashmir.

The general also refers critically to the post-surrender dimension of policy. “There is no rehabilitation dimension, as far as the surrender policy is concerned.”

Indeed, the message that goes out from those who have surrendered in the past is that it leads to a life of social, economic and political marginalisation, shame and harassment. In many cases, special cells of the local police demand that a surrendered militant report to them regularly, and then force them to do what those cells require.

If militants felt assured that they would be protected by law-enforcers, and be able to fruitfully resume their places as respectable members of society, it might attract more militants to surrender.

For, there are many who realie that the life of a militant is not actually as wonderfully as it is romanticised to be.

First Published On : Nov 28, 2016 07:45 IST

Kashmir: Separatists-led strike extended till 10 December, continues to disrupt normal life

Srinagar: There was less movement of people and transport across Kashmir on Friday as normal life remained affected due to the strike called by separatists.

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

The movement of people and transport is less on Friday compared to the other days due to apprehensions of law and order problems after Friday congregational prayers, a police official said.

He said most of the shops, fuel stations and business establishments in Srinagar – the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir – were shut due to the strike, while public transport was comparatively less.

However, few of them were open in some areas in the civil lines as well as in the outskirts of the city in Srinagar, the official said.

Few vendors had put up their stalls along TRC Chowk-Batamaloo axis through Lal Chowk city centre, he said.

Reports of less traffic and most of the shops being closed were received from other district headquarters of the Valley, he said.

Except for the past weekend, Kashmir has witnessed shutdown for the last 140 days.

The separatists, who are spearheading the agitation since killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani in an encounter with security forces on 8 July, have been issuing weekly protest programmes.

They have extended the strike till 1 December, announcing two full days of relaxation on the weekend like the past week.

As many as 86 people, including two cops, 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.

First Published On : Nov 25, 2016 13:55 IST

Kashmir unrest: With growing insurgency, militant sympathy, security agencies stare at tough times

The killing of two suspected militants in an encounter with the police and Army in north Kashmir’s Bandipora district on Tuesday marks the beginning of counter-insurgency operations that had taken a backseat in the valley in the aftermath of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani’s killing.

According to police, the two suspects, believed to be residents of Pakistan and affiliated with Lashkar-e-Taiba, which carried out the 2008 Mumbai attacks, were trapped following “specific inputs” about the presence of militants near Hajin village of Bandipora.

“A cordon was laid around the area in the wee hours of Tuesday by personnel of Army’s 13 Rashtriya Rifles and J&K Police’s SOG. When the militants were asked to surrender, they opened fire at our men. In retaliation, both the militants were killed,” a senior police officer told Firstpost.

Representational image. PTIRepresentational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

According to the officer, a cache of arms and ammunition, along with two Rs 2,000 notes and Rs 1,00 notes were recovered from the suspected militants, who were buried at an undisclosed location after massive pro-freedom and anti-India protests broke out in the area.

The killing is the first such intelligence-based operation after a prolonged pause during which counter-insurgency missions were put on a hold as the authorities diverted the forces to deal with an unprecedented “law and order” situation in the Valley.

North Kashmir’s five police districts — Bandipora, Baramulla, Sopore, Kupwara and Handwara — have recorded a sharp jump in number of active militants, most of the foreigners, operating in these place as infiltration increased along the de facto Kashmir border.

“As of now, there are around 100-150 militants, mostly foreigners, who are active in these districts. The numbers have almost doubled since the last year due to increase in infiltration along the LoC and International Border,” an officer with the J&K Police’s Criminal Investigation Department, told Firstpost.

The officer, who wished to remain anonymous as he is not authorised to speak with media, said there are 250-300 militants active in the Valley at present with at least 45-50 local youths, mostly from south Kashmir areas, joining militancy following Burhan Wani’s killing.

With insurgency at its peak after years of relative calm, and public sympathy for militants growing in the Valley following the Burhan episode, the security agencies are staring at tough times where the war on insurgency will open fronts on two sides.

In the two months following the 8 July encounter of Wani, many villages and towns across the valley remained inaccessible to the state administration as well as the security agencies due to the massive scale of the civilian unrest.

To curb the pro-freedom and anti-India protests during the ongoing uprising, at least 94 civilians were killed in retaliatory action by government forces while hundreds lost vision due to use of pellets.

“While we will have to deal with insurgency, we will also have to work out a strategy to reach out to the people. To bring some semblance of normalcy, we have a three-pronged strategy: first, we will go after militants with same strategy that was in place earlier,” the officer said.

He said the security agencies are also going to make more arrests of separatist leaders and their sympathisers, and stone-pelters in coming days to ensure that the peace prevails on the streets of the Valley.

“Finally, we will have to reach out to people through different welfare programs and adopting a more humane approach of policing. Our image has suffered badly in the last five months and we will have to work hard and do some course correction,” the officer said.

The killing of two militants in Bandipora may be a step in that direction. But, with the borders recording a dangerously high level of violence since the surgical strikes were carried out, and relations between India and Pakistan at an all time low, the winter freeze in Kashmir may be too much to bear.

First Published On : Nov 23, 2016 11:11 IST

Kashmir conflict: New sturdier fence might be the answer to mounting infiltration problems

A fence of ‘an absolutely new design’ is being built along the Line of Control (LoC) at the edge of the Kashmir Valley. Fifty kilometres of this new fence has been built this year. The Army is confident that it will be more effective than the fences that have been built since 2003-04 according to Lt Gen DS Hooda, the Commander-in-Chief of the Northern Command. It has been redesigned to withstand the pressures of weather as well as the wiles of infiltrators and other enemy tactics.

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

So far, the fence has been a white elephant with barbs. One, it collapses under the weight of tons of snow every year. Two, it costs the earth to build, rebuild and maintain. Three, it doesn’t seem to have made very much difference to stemming infiltration. Since it came down every winter and was rebuilt every summer, the construction of the fence has been something of a continuing process — a very costly one. That should have been predictable when the idea was conceived. For most parts of the LoC get up to ten metres (30 feet) of snow every winter — more than enough to push those fences into the ground. Since they could only be rebuilt when the snow melted after April, reconstruction generally continued until September every year.

Multi-layered fence

The current fences consist of barbed wire strands and coils. The strands are strung along high iron girders. A few of those strands are electrified. The coils are lower but far more forbidding, since there are barbs all over their bunched strands. At most places along the LoC, the fence is actually a series of two or three fences, placed some distance apart. The calculation is that invaders who get past one fence might get caught or held up at the next one. Even the first fence is well within the Indian side of the LoC. Construction and repair right at the LoC would be fraught with danger, since Pakistani bunkers and machans could open fire at any point. Work on the new fence has gone well this year in both Baramulla and Kupwara districts, despite the army’s preoccupation with external and internal strife. The army brass are confident that the entire length of about 300 kilometres would be covered over the next two summers.

The new fence has stronger supports and includes cement grouting to help hold firm. The engineering challenge is huge, in light of heavy snowfall every winter. The sheer weight of the snow brings down the wire strands and girders. To be sure, even the old fences do look forbidding. But it has become obvious over the past couple of years that their effectiveness is limited. Large numbers of militants are reported to have crossed over during the past couple of years. The army estimates that a hundred militants got through during the first ten months of this year, three times more than the entire year 2015.

First real test

This is the first time the fences have faced a real test since they were built — from 2003-04. The mobilization of troops right along the international borders in Punjab and Rajasthan, by India and then by Pakistan too, throughout 2002 had forced Pakistan to severely curtail infiltration. The two armies had been in eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation following the attack on Parliament House in December 2001. After the armies were pulled back, Prime Minister AB Vajpayee reached out to make peace with Pakistan in April 2003. Pakistan responded at the end of that year and a potentially historic breakthrough was agreed at Saarc’s Islamabad summit in January 2004. As peace talks made tremendous headway over the next couple of years, the militancy which had begun in 1988 petered out around 2006. Already, fighting in those last years had been limited largely to those who had already been in the field by the end of the 1990s; not much infiltration was attempted after the end of 2001.

Ineffective, and too late

When there was massive infiltration, throughout the 1990s, there was no fence. Thousands of Kashmiris crossed both ways in peak months such as April 1990. The proportion of Pakistani and other foreign militants expanded from December 1992 on, until it was more or less a proxy war during the decade from 1996 to 2006, with Kashmiri militants playing largely supportive roles. The current militancy began around 2009, when police atrocities, administrative unresponsiveness, religious radicalization, and a well-orchestrated `narrative’ caused a few Kashmiri boys of the generation born during the earlier round of militancy to go underground.

These generally ‘snatched’ a weapon from a police or paramilitary soldier, but did not cross the LoC for training. For example, the internet-based star, Hizb-ul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani, never apparently crossed the LoC. Nor did he or his young Kashmiri comrades do much as militants, compared with those who have infiltrated from Pakistan to join them. Even three years ago, the army brass and New Delhi’s high profile ‘strategic thinkers’ were oblivious to new infiltration. They insisted there was none. Meanwhile, the ineffective fence kept coming down annually, and getting rebuilt; large amounts were happily spent. Now that infiltration has become far too obvious to miss, let’s hope the new design is effective — and thus worth the huge cost and effort.

First Published On : Nov 20, 2016 17:12 IST

Demonetisation: After curfew, cash crisis and internet blockade brings Kashmir Valley to grinding halt

Ghulam Ali, a resident of Anantnag, is running from pillar to post to get his money exchanged even as banks in the area are running out of cash. He impatiently waits outside a bank in a nearby village. “I need money to book a ticket for my daughter who studies outside Kashmir,” he said. Ghulam used to book her tickets from home when internet services were functional in the valley.

Amid the ongoing cash crisis, Ghulam is also reluctant to send his daughter outside, as he doesn’t have enough cash to cover her expenses. “Her exams are approaching and I am worried whether she would be able to attend those,” he told Firstpost.

Ghulam said that his problem will be solved if he gets internet access as he would be able to make online payments. People like him are the worst affected by the internet ban and now the demonetisation crisis.

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

The central government’s move last week to demonetise Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes has caused chaos in Kashmir, adding to people’s woes.

Almost everyone in the valley was affected in one way or the other due to the prolonged agitation, particularly people associated with transport, business and labourers. They have been living a miserable life for the last four months due to the absence of livelihood. And now the currency ban has added to their woes.

Businesses, which were looking to make some money after the four-month long agitation, are now distraught. Markets in cities and towns were shut on 9 July while public transport vehicles have remained absent from roads till date.

People, who have been going outside the state for business during winter, are reluctant to leave the valley this time due to the demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes. Many have decided to wait till the cash crisis settles down. “I had planned to leave the valley by 11 November, but due to this cash crisis, I have been forced to wait till the chaos is over,” said Manzoor Ahmad, a businessman, told Firstpost.

The government has undertaken steps to address the situation and has urged people to adopt online payment platforms to reduce reliance on cash-only transactions. However, for Kashmiris, it is a double whammy as internet services were blocked after the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen militant commander Burhan Wani on 8 July and they continue to remain suspended. As a result, people in Kashmir Valley have been unable to make online transactions.

Not only businesses, but students who are preparing for their exams are very upset due to the internet blockade. “I completely rely on the internet for my exam preparations, but due to the internet ban, I fear I will fail in the exams,” said Azhaq Ibrahim. Not only Ibrahim, but many other students have similar faced hardships due to the internet ban.

Aijaz Ahmad is another such example. He lives in the rural area of south Kashmir and has been preparing for the Kashmir Administrative Services (KAS) for the last four years. But this time, when the vacancies were announced for the KAS, Ahmad couldn’t submit his form online due to the internet blockade. He is visibly frustrated. While talking to Firstpost, he said, “They should at least understand students’ problems. I have a dream of becoming a civil servant, but it seems with each passing day my dream is shattering. During these modern times, the internet is the major source of information, if that is blocked how can anyone prepare for any examination?” he asked.

Not only Ahmad, but many other job aspirants, are also facing similar difficulties in preparing and submitting their job applications due to the internet blockade and now due to the chaos at the banks.

Since there is no solution in sight, all those who can, are now curtailing their expenses, bracing for difficult times and preparing for a long harsh winter ahead.

(The author is a freelance journalist based in Srinagar. He focuses on the socio-political issues of the Kashmir Valley.)

First Published On : Nov 18, 2016 08:27 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: Easing exam norms doesn’t help students, only encourages stone-pelters

At 16, Qasim (name changed) is quiet but very talented. He has a mind of his own. During the first few weeks of the agitations following militant commander Burhan Wani’s killing on 8 July, Qasim sometimes walked down to the main road, curious about the stone-pelting, tear-gas and other sorts of commotion.

It’s possible he threw a stone or two, to join the fun. Make no mistake, it was fun for many of the boys who paralysed Kashmir with their demonstrations of youth power. But his stern mother kept him indoors most of the time, with loud warnings against him getting hurt or getting into trouble.

Qasim has been studying in his room through most of the past four months of unrest. Daily, he says. He was often joined by one or two friends. They would study together before working out in the attic with weights, or play music or watch TV or the few films they had downloaded before internet was suspended.

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

Today, Qasim is studying harder than ever as the Jammu and Kashmir board exams are round the corner, and Qasim is in Class 10 — a ‘board year’. But he is frustrated and upset. Exams are basically a competition, he points out, and the advantage that he and others like him who studied hard had, is now lost.

The state government has announced that students will only have to attempt 50 percent of the questions in the exams. They can choose any half of the questions, not necessarily from each of the sections — pertaining to different portions of the syllabus.

The government’s argument apparently is that schools had only covered half the syllabus before they were closed.

For Qasim, the point is that, “even those who didn’t study, wasted their time and threw stones, will score 450. What’s the point?”

Wrong signals

This decision is indeed flawed. On the one hand, with this sort of thing Kashmir could end up with another generation that has degrees and certificates obtained by mass copying and promotions, a ‘zero year’ and days, months and years of not being able to attend regular classes, like in the 1990s.

On the other hand, this decision gives a message to young men like Qasim that throwing stones would not only have been more fun (not to speak of the joys of macho preening in the neighbourhood) than studying, his months of hard work was pretty much pointless in terms of competing for marks, future admissions or the job market.

The more insidious flaw is that this decision signals to stone-pelters and others who have held the population at large to ransom that the government can be depended upon to bail them out. Remember, most of those manning barricades with stones have been school students.

Given the coercive efficiency that those intent on disruption have shown this year, I expect that what passes for ‘normalcy’ in Kashmir will be elusive again next year. I fervently hope I am wrong but, in case that happens (next year or even in the more distant future), those who urge students to take to the streets will be able to credibly assure them that they will not risk much damage to their academic records. The government will make sure they are at no great competitive disadvantage.

More immediately, this has given an oblique stamp of governmental approval to those who instigated and participated in this year’s disruptions. After the first few days following Burhan’s death, most common people either sat on the fence or actually wanted to get back to what they call ‘normalcy’.

They could not, partly because the state government waited for more than two months to assert its authority in many parts of the valley. Agents provocateurs were well entrenched by then. If the government initially hoped that the agitations would lose steam on their own, that hope was obviously misplaced.

Governments can’t thrive on hope. This government owes Qasim an explanation.

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

Situation in Kashmir returning to normalcy after four-month-long strike

Srinagar: Summer capital Srinagar witnessed significant improvement in public transport on Thursday even as normal life elsewhere in the Valley remained affected due to the strike called by separatists.

Representational image. AP

Representational image. AP

Many people have started defying the separatist-sponsored strike over the past week, as they are slowly picking up the threads of their lives affected by the nearly four-month-long strike, officials said.

While there is increased movement of private traffic in the summer capital, the city has also witnessed a significant improvement in the public transport, except buses, they said.

The officials said the inter-district transport has also improved as many cabs were plying on the routes connecting Srinagar with other districts like Anantnag and Baramulla.

They said as the traffic in the city has significantly increased, additional traffic police personnel have been deployed at some intersections to ensure smooth flow of traffic.

Many shops were also open in the civil lines and the outskirts of the city, while many street vendors set up stalls at many places around the commercial hub of Lal Chowk.

However, normal life continued to remain affected in the rest of the Valley due to separatist-sponsored strike.

While there were no curbs on the movement of people anywhere in Kashmir, the officials said restrictions on assembly of four or more people were in place throughout the Valley for maintaining law and order.

They said security forces have been deployed in strength at vulnerable spots and along the main roads as a precautionary measure.

Security forces have also been deployed at many market places to instil a sense of security among the public to carry out their day-to-day activities, the officials said.

Shops, business establishments and fuel stations remained shut and are not expected to open this evening as separatists have not given any relaxation.

The separatists, who are spearheading the agitation have been issuing weekly protest calendars since Hizbul Mujahideen Burhan Wani was killed in an encounter with security forces on 8 July. They have extended the strike till 3 November.

The ongoing unrest in Kashmir, apart from business and tourism, has also affected education as schools, colleges and other educational institutions continue to remain shut in the Valley.

As many as 85 people, including two cops, 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: Sacking defiant officials was fine, but government must be consistent

The government has finally acted strongly against the crux of the problem in Kashmir. Nine government employees were sacked summarily on Thursday. That was followed up by the suspension of several policemen in the Valley, for not resisting the loot of their weapons by militants.

Recalcitrant government employees are in fact a much bigger problem than Hurriyat Conference and other separatist leaders who have little choice but to follow orders from Rawalpindi. Government employees take salaries to uphold the constitutional system — openly so, not covertly — but, by and large, they not only abuse their authority, they actively undermine the system.

Generally, their greed, nepotism and systematic corruption, all in the name of ‘India’, alienates the rest of the people. They seem to face no moral crisis in taking Indian salaries to run a government in an Indian state. In fact, arguments in defence of duplicity from those who promote secession in word or deed can be amazing.

Srinagar: A Security jawan stands guard atop a vehicle during the 105th day of curfew and restrictions imposed to prevent post-Friday prayer protests in Srinagar on Friday. PTI Photo (PTI10_21_2016_000137B)Srinagar: A Security jawan stands guard atop a vehicle during the 105th day of curfew and restrictions imposed to prevent post-Friday prayer protests in Srinagar on Friday. PTI Photo (PTI10_21_2016_000137B)

Representational image. PTI

At times of rebellion, as over the past 15 weeks (indeed, the past three decades), Kashmiri government employees promote shutdowns. Its a win-win for them: they get their salaries (and the promise of pensions) to stay at home. Meanwhile, they and their children create an environment to ensure that daily-wagers and others dependent on working in order to eat, cannot.

On 11 July, the Monday after Burhan Wani was killed, large numbers of migrant labourers were standing at such central points of Srinagar as Rambagh bridge, waiting for contractors to give them work. But government employees from the top down did not go to work.

Their plea was insecurity, although the Indian taxpayer spends billions on their security, and several shopkeepers, who have no security at all, opened their shops that Monday. In the light of this, the threat of government employees to strike work following the sack orders is bizarre — not to say shameless.

Pendulum swings

Although it was right to act, the government deserves censure for inconsistency. Its stands — and lack of stands — have left many in the Valley confused, and many of them fuming.

Most people had a wait-and-watch attitude during those first few days after Burhan was killed, while bands of teenagers took charge of ensuring a shutdown, and a polarised media projected a two-dimensional reality that was at best partially true. Wait-and-watch means people were waiting for the government to take action, and watching out for which side would emerge with the upper hand.

For too long, the clueless government did nothing: they hoped during those crucial early weeks that things would ‘settle down’ without their having to show their hand. That gave the wrong signal to the vast number who were watchfully waiting.

At the end of August, the chief secretary even made a statement that the chief minister had been kind enough to release salaries to even those who had not worked, since she was aware that they had to celebrate Eid! That kind of statement is not only objectionable for presuming that government salaries are like a sultan’s beneficence. It also signals that playing truant from work is fine as long as the sultan is in a forgiving mood.

Swinging to the other extreme with orders to sack was a sudden jolt — not the way governance should be done. But then, it was similar to what happened with policing. After abandoning the streets and byways to stone-pelting mobs of boys in a place like Tral for too long, the police suddenly turned up with overwhelming numbers of paramilitary and army soldiers after Eid-ul Adha and rounded up hundreds of boys.

This sort of pendulum-like behaviour does not suit governments. As with all things, moderation is best.

Now that sack orders have been issued to a dozen employees, and several policemen have been suspended over the weekend, the government should stick to its stand, rather than use this order as a bargaining chip.

Jammu Kashmir govt sacks over dozen employees on charges of inciting unrest

Srinagar: The Jammu and Kashmir government has issued orders to dismiss over a dozen of its employees for their alleged involvement in the ongoing unrest, a top official said on Thursday.

A massive bout of protests broke out in Kashmiri following the death of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani. PTIA massive bout of protests broke out in Kashmiri following the death of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani. PTI

A massive bout of protests broke out in Kashmiri following the death of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani. PTI

“Reports on their anti-national activities prepared by the state police were forwarded to the Chief Secretary, who then directed respective heads of departments to issue orders terminating their services,” the officer said.

The dismissed employees include an assistant registrar of Kashmir University, besides others from education, revenue, public health, engineering and food supplies.

“The state government invoked Article 126 of the state constitution to carry out the action,” he added.

Authorities said some of the dismissed employees were already booked under the Public Safety Act (PSA), while others have evaded arrest.

At least 91 people have been killed and over 12,000 injured in the last 104 days of the ongoing unrest since 9 July, a day after the killing of top militant Burhan Wani.

Kashmir unrest: Police finds govt employees organise anti-India marches, indulge in stone pelting

On 19 September, Lateef Ahmad Malik, a junior laboratory assistant in sheep husbandry department, woke up during the night to the rumble of vehicles outside his house at Andresh colony, Bemina, in Srinagar city. Consistent pounding on his door left him terrified and soon he heard the yells of police personnel. But when his family opened the door they told a police party that the house didn’t belong to Lateef. Police took away his older brother before beating up his family members. Lateef couldn’t sleep and when dawn broke he walked up to the police station to inquire the reason for the raid. He was detained by police for five days and taken to an interrogation Centre and asked whether he knew any of the Hurriyat leaders.

“The police started questioning and told me why I evaded them during the night. I told the personnel that I was terrified; I asked them why was I required for questioning. I am a government employee and had not done anything. I was detained for five days and there was no FIR registered against me. I was mentally tortured,’’ he said. Following the police raid the health condition of Lateef’s mother, who has undergone a stroke, deteriorated. She remains hospitalised since then and his sister-in-law was injured in the shelling that police resorted to during the raid. “It was harassment, police fired shells which landed in our house. We cried asking for help but the neighbours were also terrified due to the shelling. When police had left our neighbours came and asked us that we would make an announcement in the mosque, but I told them there was no need. There were around 20-30 vehicles which stopped outside our house and I still don’t know what was my crime,’’ he said.

Representational image. AFPRepresentational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

Lateef is not the only one who has faced detention by police. There are over 300 government employees including the senior rank gazetted officials who are facing police cases for either taking part in the stone pelting incidents or lading the anti-India protests and having incited a mob. A top police official said that “predominately the employees are from education department.” “In many cases the employees were found to be organising the protests and leading anti-India processions. Many of the employees are facing departmental inquires, many others
have been suspended,’’ he said.

The police have booked the employees for being a “threat to the peace of the state”, but employees said that the charges have been fabricated against them.

According to officials police have registered cases charging employees of disturbing the peace. Legal expert and general secretary of the High Court Bar Association, Basheer Sidique, said that the police was misusing the provisions of the law to arrest the government employees and the local people. “Under 107 CrPC a person is being detained for an apprehension of breach of peace. A person can furnish a bond to the Teshildar that he willn’t indulge in any unlawful activity for 6 months. The police have to issue a notice to an accused and seek an undertaking, but the procedure is not followed,” he said.

Vice President of the Employees Joint Action Committee (EJAC), Wajahat Durrani, said that a number of employees have been booked even as they had no role in the current unrest. “ Many people have been arrested in false cases. There are over 300 employees who are facing cases including the gazetted cadre employees. Of them nearly 100 have been suspended by the government. The government has implicated the employees on frivolous charges,’’ he said. The employees have been largely booked in Southern part of Kashmir and in frontier district of Kupwara.

Deputy Inspector General of Police, North Kashmir range, Uttam Chand, said that the police have valid evidence against the people including the employees for their involvement in the “incidents of stone pelting’’ due to which the cases have been registered against them. “They have been found involved in serious anti-national activities,” he said.

Divisional Commissioner Kashmir, Baseer Ahmad Khan, said that “we are examining the cases of the employees involved in the incidents of stone pelting.’’ He however said that only an appropriate legal action is taken against them as warranted under the law.

Kashmir unrest: Anti-exam protests erupt across state; students demand cancellation of board exams

The civilian unrest in Kashmir valley has raised a question mark on the forthcoming board exams with a newly floated students’ body and scattered student groups demanding deferment of the annual exams which are set to start next month.

Anti-exam protests have erupted across Kashmir with hundreds of students hitting the streets to demand cancellation of the government order which set the ball rolling by announcing dates for Class 10 and Class 12 exams.

The announcement comes in the middle of a siege in the valley which has left at least 91 civilians dead, more than 14000 injured while around 7000 protesters have been detained to bring normalcy on the simmering streets.

“Many students were confined to their homes due to the situation of the last three months. They need time to cover the whole syllabus. If they don’t, they may fall behind in percentages which will impact their eligibility for appearing in various competitive exams. This way, the careers of students will take a hit in the long run,” Danish, a Class 12 student at a prominent school in Srinagar said.

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

“Our sessions began in March 2016. We have covered just forty percent of the syllabus. Our internal practicals are pending. We are not in a position to qualify for the examinations,” Najeeb, the classmate of Danish, said.

Every day hundreds of students take out protests rallies against Jammu and Kashmir government decision to conduct 10th and 12th class examinations slated for next month across Kashmir valley.

Syed Tajamul, president of All Jammu and Kashmir Students Union (AJKSU), says the state government has politicised the issue and in asking students to prepare for exams, they will also ruin their future.

“There is a political uncertainty. Schools and colleges remain closed. Students were not able to attend even their tuition due to curfew and hartal. In such situation, how can students prepare for the exam in a short span of time” Tajamul says.

He termed the decision to go-ahead with the exam as “unfortunate”. Citing an example, he said one the students was asked by his teacher to download the material at a time when the mobile internet service has been suspended.

“Students are not only unprepared academically, dozens of them across the nook and corner of the Valley are reportedly injured during the present turmoil in Kashmir”, he said

Anti-exam protests have been reported from Baramulla in north Kashmir, Shopian, Pulwama and Anantnag in south and Ganderbal in central Kashmir. Recently a group of students, majority of them girls, staged a protest in the capital Srinagar and chanted anti-government slogans over the issue.

With one eye blindfolded, the students said they were protesting to express solidarity with those who were maimed and blinded in the last 100 days of unrest. Holding placards reading ‘boycott exams’, ‘no exams until Kashmir issue is resolve’ and ‘blood and ink can’t flow together’, they said their future has become uncertain.

“Hundreds of students have been maimed and blinded. How is it possible for them to appear in the exams? They will never see the world again, then how can they sit in the exam. What is the government’s stand on that? Will they return their eyesight?,” Syed Asma, a student said.

“All the students and parents who called me insisted that exams must go on in accordance with the published date sheet. That is the decision of the government as well,” he added.

Protests were held in the city centre Lal Chowk where dozens of students marched on Residency Road up to the Clock Tower before the Kashmir police shoed them away.

“There are various competitive examinations. Most of the students wish to qualify them to be a doctor or engineer or to be in other professions. If we fail to obtain required percentage and subsequently are ineligible to appear in these competitive tests, our careers would be at stake,” said Asjad Nisar, a student.

Students says they need time to complete the syllabus and also prepare for examination. “Government shouldn’t force examinations on us. Its our humble appeal. Please don’t make your political careers at the cost our careers,” Asjad said.

However, the state’s education Minister Naeem Akhter is unwilling to budge. Yesterday, he took to the Facebook to ruled out any postponement for now. “There is no plan to postpone exams beyond 14th and 15th November,” Akhter said.

The announcement has now sparked a political row with Ghulam Hassan Mir, a minister in the previous Omar Abdullah-led government, saying that the decision to go ahead with the exam “lacks logic and conviction”.

He suggests that “instead of holding students at ransom”, the government can extend the academic session by providing logistic support at its schools across the region. He also demands deferment of exams till March as the first best step so that the students get enough time to prepare for exams.

Chinese flags in Baramulla should stir India’s ‘intelligence’ ostriches

As spring turned to summer this year, I spent an afternoon interacting with the residents of a village near Safapora in north-central Kashmir. Some of them spoke of the possibility of Chinese involvement in what might happen in the Kashmir Valley. They said their part of the valley had historical trade and other connections with China, through the valley of the Sindh-nallah, which leads from the main Kashmir Valley to the Zoji-La pass and then Ladakh.

That they brought up China interested me tremendously, but it was the sort of talk India’s intelligence establishment routinely ignore. One hopes the various intelligence honchos in Srinagar and New Delhi are doing a little introspection now that Chinese flags were waved at the old Idgah (next to an army camp) in
Baramulla after Friday’s prayers on 14 October.

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

Baramulla, the valley’s third biggest city, has been in ferment over the past few days, although traffic and a general sense of relaxation has led many to describe Srinagar as ‘normal’. Residents describe horrifying blasts of tear gas shells in Baramulla over the past couple of days.

Those Chinese flags appeared in a stronghold of the ‘hardline’ section of the Jamaat-e-Islami that is loyal to ranking separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani. It is ironical that a dyed-in-the-wool religious outfit should ally with a Communist State — but that only makes the flags more significant. The irony was that it was on the eve of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s arrival in India for the Brics Summit.

Kashmiri discourse

That village interaction a few months ago was not the first time I had heard Kashmiris speak of Chinese involvement, and of its claims, since the 1990s. Former Hurriyat Conference chairman Abdul Ghani Bhat had observed several years ago: “Don’t forget the China factor.”

But intelligence walas have remained determinedly deaf to such talk. An insightful Kashmiri says he told a top intelligence officer in the Kashmir police that he would not be surprised if Chinese flags turned up along with Pakistani and Islamic State flags in Downtown Srinagar. He says that intelligence officer was incredulous. Not impressed.

The intelligence honchos have been doing a great job of mimicking ostriches regarding China. They are too busy buying over and selling out ‘leaders’ and organisations, and patting each other on the back, to bother with such things as a mass uprising or dangerous big powers getting involved with such an uprising.
They ought to be looking for chullu bhar paani (a handful of water in which to drown) at this point. It is not as if China’s anti-India moves regarding Jammu and Kashmir are new. They have just been studiously ignored.

Series of Chinese moves

For eight years now, starting a few weeks after the Beijing Olympics ended, China began to send troops into areas of Ladakh that are meant to be controlled by India. That has happened often over these eight years.

Soon after the trend of incursions began, China announced that the status of Jammu and Kashmir has not been finally decided and that China has a stake in the area.

One wonders what more than that statement India’s highly-paid, high-payout intelligence walas were waiting for to allow themselves to believe that China wants a much bigger presence in the state? After all, the statement was not limited to areas through which China’s ‘Karakoram highway’ passes. It was about the entire state.

Around that time, China refused to issue visas to residents of the state on Indian passports, but rather on stapled pieces of paper. It did so even with Lt Gen BS Jaswal, who was then Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Army’s Northern Command. One wonders how much more of a pointer the intelligence walas were waiting for, to believe that China wants India’s position in the state reduced?

In fact, one wonders what India’s intelligence officers, ‘experts’ and strategists are up to? I had suggested the day after Burhan Wani was killed on 8 July that Kashmir-based intelligence honchos should either be prosecuted for treason or sacked for incompetence. Perhaps those who occupy power in New Delhi also deserve the same. The country will pay a terrible price for employing such ostriches.

Kashmiri youth rescue soldier trapped inside mangled vehicle

Kashmiri youth rescue soldier trapped inside mangled vehicle

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Srinagar: Kashmiri youth on Sunday rescued a soldier who was trapped inside a mangled vehicle which had met with an accident on Srinagar Bypass road near Lasjan area of the city, police said.

Kashmiri youth trying to save the soldier. YouTube screengrab

Kashmiri youth trying to save the soldier. YouTube screengrab

An army vehicle veered off the road after the driver lost control at Lasjan and hit a tree, a police official said. He said one soldier was trapped inside the badly damaged vehicle and efforts of other army men to evacuate him did not fructify.

“Local Kashmiri youth rushed to the spot and managed to bring the injured army jawan out by placing a truck next to the damaged army vehicle,” the official said. Some passersby shot the entire incident on their mobile phones.

The video of the incident has been widely shared on ‘YouTube’ and other social networking sites. The incident comes amidst the ongoing unrest which has claimed 84 lives and thousands others injured in clashes between protestors and security forces.

In July, local residents of Bijbehara in south Kashmir Anantnag district defied curfew to rescue over 20 Amarnath pilgrims whose vehicle had met an accident during the beginning of the current unrest.

J&K CM Mehbooba Mufti calls on PM Modi, discusses situation in the Valley

New Delhi: Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti on Wednesday called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and discussed the situation in the state in wake of mounting tensions between India and Pakistan and repeated ceasefire violations by the latter along the LoC and International Border.

The meeting lasted for nearly an hour during which the Chief Minister apprised the Prime Minister of the law and order situation gripped by unrest after the killing of Burhan Wani, a Hizbul Mujahideen commander, on 8 July, official sources said.

The Chief Minister also discussed with the Prime Minister the ongoing developmental projects in the state and thanked him for continued support for the uplift of the people of the troubled state, the sources said.

Mehbooba met the Prime Minister for the first time after Indian army carried out surgical strikes across the LoC and destroyed seven terrorist launch pads in PoK.

Mehbooba, who is in the national capital since Tuesday, also informed him about the steps taken by her government for evacuating people from the border villages to safer places in view of the escalation of tension between the two countries.

Pakistan has been repeatedly violating the ceasefire, using mortars and small arms, resulting in injuries to five civilians and some defence personnel.

Strengthen nationalist forces in Jammu and Kashmir: Ram Madhav tells BJP cadre

Jammu: BJP on Wednesday asked its cadres in Jammu and Kashmir to work for strengthening the nationalist forces in the state so that the elements working against the integrity of the country are defeated.

Ram Madhav. CNN-News 18

Ram Madhav. CNN-News 18

“Party leaders should work for strengthening the nationalist forces in the state so that the elements working against the integrity of the country are defeated,” BJP general secretary Ram Madhav said.

BJP national vice-president and Jammu and Kashmir in-charge Avinash Rai Khanna chaired a day-long meeting of state office-bearers, morcha presidents and district in-charges in Jammu.

Madhav, in his address, said that the coalition government in the state was formed to honour the mandate of the people despite ideological differences and it is indeed a matter of satisfaction that both the parties are working in unison to fulfil the promises made to the people.

He said that it is a development-centric government and its priorities are good governance and corruption-free administration.

The meeting discussed the present situation in the state, besides taking stock of the ongoing programmes of the party at different levels, as also the working of BJP coalition government in the state.

Khanna appreciated the efforts of BJP activists in Jammu and Kashmir for actively undertaking party programmes at different levels and serve as bridge between the party and the people.

He said that the party activists have to devote more time in reaching out to the masses and educate them about the projects like Swachch Bharat Abhiyan, Beti Bacho-Beti Padao, Namami Ganga and make it a public movement.

State BJP President Sat Sharma, while addressing the meeting, said that the BJP is in power in 13 states either on its own or in coalition and also at the Centre with two-third majority and the party has achieved these milestones due to the hard work put by its cadre.

Indus Waters Treaty not in the interest of Jammu and Kashmir: CM Mehbooba Mufti

Reacting to the reports that the Centre is in the process of reviewing the Indus Waters Treaty (IWT), Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti on Wednesday said that the treaty, while being beneficial to India and Pakistan, is not in the interest of Jammu and Kashmir.

“India and Pakistan can work together to revise the treaty and allow us to harness the rich water resources in the state. We can tell our country people that we should revise the IWT, but we can’t tell that to Pakistan. The two countries should work together for peace. If the two countries can share water, why not their other resources?” an emotional Mufti told a gathering in Srinagar.

File image of Jammu and Kashmir CM Mehbooba Mufti. PTI

File image of Jammu and Kashmir CM Mehbooba Mufti. PTI

Mufti said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi went to Pakistan with the message of peace on behalf of people of Jammu and Kashmir, but the Pathankot attack shattered that process.

“Our party became the harbinger of peace when my father, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, spoke of nursing the wounds of people, when the memory of Kargil war was still afresh,” she said.

“In times of war, Mufti saheb urged India and Pakistan to get involved in talks and start a process of reconciliation. In 2002, we formed the government with Congress when NDA was ruling at the Centre. Atalji (Atal Bihari Vajpayee) understood Mufti saheb’s point of view which had ushered in a new era of peace and prosperity in the state,” she added.

After the PDP-BJP government’s failure to contain the violence in the state, Mufti appealed to the gathering to give her government a chance to run and pitched for a stronger relation between India and Pakistan to fight the economic stagnation plaguing the region. She also underlined the need of a bilateral dialogue to resolve the political issue of Jammu and Kashmir.

“Give us a chance, there are four and half years (left for her government). You did not give us time (to run a smooth government). Tell your kids (stone-pelters) to go home. Give opportunity to me and my government, PDP and BJP,” Mufti said.

“I have 80 holes in my heart (referring to deaths of over 80 youths in security force firing). Those kids, who should be playing, were instigated to attack police stations, Army camps. What do you think the reaction from the forces will be?” she asked.

Kashmir had been witnessing violence and unrest since 8 July — the day Hizbul commander Burhan Wani was killed. The violence that followed has left around 90 people dead and thousands injured. The government has employed strong-arm measures to restore order, but has so far failed to enforce its writ.

Mufti said the People’s Democratic Party, of which she is the president, entered into an alliance with the BJP to take forward the mission of restoration of peace in Jammu and Kashmir.  “The Assembly was in session. There was an encounter in which three militants were killed. What wrong have I done? What is my fault?”, she asked.

Hitting out at the Opposition for targeting the coalition government, the chief minister said the same parties, who want to keep the pot boiling in Kashmir, sold their mandate in the past to remain in power.

“Those speaking against us used to talk in the language of war when they were in power. Mufti saheb knew that Modi has the mandate of the entire country, which was why we shook hands with the BJP. We have lost widows and orphans. How long are we going to fight with each other?” she said.

“We endured your hatred (for stitching alliance with BJP) and Modi came to power by winning a majority. If anybody can find a solution to the Kashmir issue, it is this government,” she said.

“If Muslims are safe anywhere in the world, it is in our country,” Mufti said.

Kashmir unrest: Grenade hurled at SSB camp in Srinagar, no casualty

Kashmir unrest: Grenade hurled at SSB camp in Srinagar, no casualty

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Srinagar: A grenade was lobbed by suspected militants at a camp of paramilitary SSB in Bilal colony area here this evening but no one was injured.

Officials said the incident was reported around 7:30 PM =when a grenade was hurled at the Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) company location in the said area and it landed about 15 metres from the first sentry post.

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

“The grenade blast did not hit any personnel present in the post which is surrounded by a residential area. Police and SSB reinforcements have rushed to the spot from Soura,” they said.

The camp lodges to the 47th battalion of the force deployed in the area for security duties, they said.

Sushma Swaraj slams Pakistan at UNGA: ‘Kashmir was, is and will be part of India’

In a powerful speech at the 71st United Nations General Assembly in New York, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj slammed Pakistan for being a terrorist haven. Hitting out at the Nawaz Sharif-led Pakistani government, Swaraj said that in exchange of friendship with the neighbouring country, India always got terrorism in return — in the form of Pathankot, Uri and Bahadur Ali.

In response to Pakistan’s constant provocation that Kashmir is an international issue, Swaraj said, “Jammu and Kashmir is a part of India and will always remain a part of India.”

In her rebuttal to Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s speech at the UNGA, she used the idiom, “People living in glass houses should not throw stone at others” and said that brutalities against the people of Balochistan represent the worst form of oppression.

Referring to Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorist, she said, “Bahadur Ali is a living example of Pakistan’s cross border terrorism.”

Swaraj appealed to the international community to join the fight against terrorism and said, “Terrorism is the biggest violation of human rights.”

Sushma Swaraj, Minister of External Affairs for India, speaks during the 71st session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York. PTI

Sushma Swaraj, Minister of External Affairs for India, speaks during the 71st session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York. PTI

“In our midst, there are nations that still speak the language of terrorism, that nurture it, peddle it, and export it. To shelter terrorists has become their calling card. We must identify these nations and hold them to account,” she said.

In response to Sharif’s allegation that “India posed unacceptable pre-conditions to engage in dialogue,” Swaraj said, “We took the initiative to resolve issues not on the basis of conditions, but on the basis of friendship! We have in fact attempted a paradigm of friendship in the last two years which is without precedent.” She said despite showing evidence of cross-border terrorism, Pakistan has remained in denial.

Swaraj called for the implementation of Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism and said, “We are unable to develop a norm under which terrorists shall be prosecuted or extradited. Therefore it is my appeal that this General Assembly acts with fresh resolve and urgency to adopt this critical Convention.”

External Affairs Minister arrived in New York on 25 September for the UNGA.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated Swaraj “for a firm, effective & fine articulation of a wide range of global issues.”

You can watch her entire speech here:

After Sharif’s vitriolic speech, all eyes were on Swaraj and her rebuttal. “The whole world and the entire nation” is waiting to hear from Swaraj, who will deliver India’s “vision document” External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup had said ahead of her speech, reported PTI.

Earlier, India’s envoy to the UN Syed Akbaruddin had said that terrorism is the “primary concern” for India as well as for nations across the world.

Earlier this week, while Sharif’s tirade against India under right to reply, the Indian diplomatic mission at the UN was also point-blank and called the neighbouring country “Ivy League of terror”.

Moreover, in a three-minute rebuttal, Indian diplomat Eenam Gambhir raised the possibility of Pakistan being guilty of war crimes for sponsoring terrorism as an instrument of state policy and ridiculed the country as the centre for terrorism education.

In his speech at the UN last week, Sharif conveyed to the world community that Pakistan accords martyr status to killed Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani and said, “The men, women and children come out to demand freedom everyday and Pakistan stands with the people of Kashmir.”

The Pakistan prime minister also termed Wani as a symbol of the latest Kashmiri “Intifada.” Playing the victim card, Sharif claimed Pakistan has gone the extra mile to ensure peace with India. However, “India posed unacceptable pre-conditions to engage in dialogue,” he had said.

He also drew attention to the human rights violation in Kashmir and said that Pakistan will share dossier with the UN Secretary General on Indian brutalities in Kashmir and demanded demilitarisation of Kashmir.

Modi on Saturday had said India will totally isolate Pakistan in the international arena for “exporting terror”. He further said that every nation holds one country responsible for terrorism that is providing a safe haven for terrorists.

“Terrorists should hear out clearly that India will never forget the Uri attack…. I want to tell the leadership of Pakistan that the sacrifice of our 18 jawans will not go in vain,” Modi had said while addressing a public meeting in Kozhikode on Saturday.

With inputs from agencies

As Kashmir’s uprising rages, its toll on the psyche of the Valley’s children’s is difficult to state

In the ongoing uprising in Kashmir it is the children who are turning into the next defiant generation that will prolong the current political crisis for coming years. Go to any part of Kashmir, children as young as three are raising slogans and are well aware why the region has been on lockdown for the past 10 weeks.

During a reporting trip last month, in South Kashmir’s Yaaripora, a group of children paraded with handmade wooden rifles, raising anti-India and pro-freedom slogans. Pictures of such groups of children also appeared from many other areas. While traveling to the interior villages of the South, one could find children putting up barricades, distributing drinking water and making Pakistani and Independent Kashmir flags for rallies.

Since 8 July, when popular militant commander Burhan Wani was shot dead, Kashmir has been under siege with daily demonstrations against the state. At least 90 civilians have been killed and around 13,000 injured by the government forces’ bullets, pellets and tear-gas shells. It has been continuous curfew imposed by the government to crush the dissenting population and a few times of revoking curfew has only led to intense protests and clashes between the forces and youth.

A child makes words from the alphabet, at a curfew schoolA child makes words from the alphabet, at a curfew school

A child makes words from the alphabet, at a curfew school

The psychological impact of the on going uprising has been mainly on the children, who are witnessing the extreme force used by the state against civilians, for the first time at this large scale level. At the curfew schools, opened by volunteers in many parts of Kashmir in the wake of schools being shut, children only discuss Burhan Wani and the uprising.  At one such school in South Kashmir, when children between ages 5-12 were told to play a game of building words out of alphabets they made words like “Burhan Bhai,” “Freedom,” Azaadi” and “Free Kashmir”.

In a study titled Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in Children of Conflict Region of Kashmir (India) conducted by Raheel Mushtaq et al. early this year, it was found that the major risk factors of PTSD in children of Kashmir include “violent traumatic events, due to continuous turmoil over the last two decades”. It said, “Every child had experienced one traumatic event. Majority (49 percent) witnessing killing of a close relative, followed by witnessing arrest, torture of a close relative, caught up in cross firing, beaten up, and hearing about killing of a close relative.”

In this uprising, all these factors have taken place and its impact will be on the children. “At this age (5-12) children are on threshold of development,” said Saika Jan, a trained psychologist who has been teaching children in Anantnag. “Whatever they see and learn builds their personality. The uprising has direct and serious impact on their minds and that’s why we see them getting closer to conflict and understanding Kashmir’s politics.”

In Kashmir, memory has played a major role in passing on the pro-freedom sentiment from one generation to another. Memories of torture, crackdowns, killings and incidents of major clashes have always been in the minds of children. It is this memory that rejuvenates their anger against the government structure and leads to rise in an angry population. The sentiment of freedom for Kashmir remains at the core of this anger.

Kashmir_825_listicleKashmir_825_listicle

In this uprising, all these factors have taken place and its impact will be on the children.

A psychiatrist, who focuses on children in Kashmir, said that usually the psychological impact on them is evident after some time. “The uprising will definitely have an effect as the environment affects the psychiatric health of normal persons also,” he said. “These children have commonly seen these episodes and it impacts their psychological development. When a child grows up, he/she will have episodes in their memory, that are repeated, rehearsed and these memories last for a longer time. They won’t forget. But how much it will manifest in practical terms will have to be seen.”

At one of the curfew schools, a group of children was asked to draw something. They covered their sheets of paper with drawings of men in uniform, masked men, stone throwers and protesters. Clearly, the growing political unrest in Kashmir has penetrated the minds of the children in Kashmir, the Valley’s next generation.

One civilian killed in fresh clashes in Kashmir

One civilian killed in fresh clashes in Kashmir

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Srinagar: Police say one person was killed and dozens of others wounded when government forces fired live ammunition and shotgun pellets to stop protests against Indian government in the Kashmir.

Police said the man died in the northwestern Sopore area on Friday after soldiers fired at protesters who attacked an army convoy with stones.

Clashes were also reported in at least three other places, and at least 30 people were reported injured.

Kashmir is witnessing the largest protests against Indian rule in recent years, sparked by the killing of a popular rebel commander by Indian soldiers on 8 July. The protests, and a sweeping military crackdown, have all but paralyzed life in the Valley.

Kashmir unrest: Handful of ‘vested interests’ inciting trouble in Valley, says Mehbooba Mufti

Jammu: Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti on Monday said a handful of people opposed to peace were inciting youth to violence in the Kashmir Valley.

She said she was unable to understand why such madness has gripped the Valley, this time around though there have been deaths in shootouts before.

“There have been encounters before, people have been killed before but why so much madness this time around,” she wondered while addressing a gathering here, referring to the cycle of violence in the Kashmir valley following the 8 July killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani.

Speaking at an official function in the Bhagwati Nagar area of the city, Mehbooba, who visited Jammu for the first time since the violence began in the valley last month, said some elements “who do not want peace in Kashmir” are inciting youths to violence “for their vested interests”.

Jammu and Kashmir CM Mehbooba Mufti. AFP

Jammu and Kashmir CM Mehbooba Mufti. AFP

Coming down heavily on such elements Mehbooba said that 95 per cent of Kashmiris should not be held to ransom for the misdeeds of just five per cent of bad elements.

“Why should 95 per cent people of Kashmir suffer for the misdeeds of five per cent,” she said.

“Whenever they see that some constructive work is being done, some progress is being made, they try to hinder it,” Mehbooba said as she urged the central government to look at the plight of the “majority of peace-loving people”.

She asserted that the predominant majority of Kashmiris were peace loving and want “dignity and development”.

Mehbooba said the security forces have been exercising restraint and it was people “who use children and women as shields while attacking police stations and security forces’ camps” who are responsible for the large number of casualties.

“A large number of security personnel have been injured ever since the unrest began. This shows the level of restraint they have been exercising.”

The real culprits are those who use children and women as shields while attacking police stations, and when tempers rise they just disappear from the scene, Mehbooba said.

“These people started trouble in 2008. They started trouble again in 2010 following a fake encounter in Machil. After I took over, they tried to start trouble on the pretext of Handwara (alleged rape) incident which they failed to do.”

She said these elements also tried to raise the issues of separate colonies for retired soldiers and Kashmiri Pandits but “failed”.

At least 68 people have been killed and thousands injured in the recent unrest in the valley.

Mehbooba said violence was no means to achieve anything.

The fact that students from Kashmir studying outside the state did not face any problems because of the unrest proves the fact that people in other parts of the county love Kashmiris, said the chief minister.

She welcomed Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s statement that dialogue is important for a lasting solution.

“We welcome Prime Minister’s statement. We also want a lasting solution. Wherever needed, we will cooperate,” she said.

Mehbooba thanked the people of Jammu for maintaining peace and harmony at a time the valley was scarred by violence.

Kashmir unrest: PM Modi indicates political approach could help resolve situation

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday indicated that there might be some political initiative for finding a lasting solution to the current unrest in valley. The Prime Minister also expressed grief over the loss of every life in valley weather that be of a protester or a security force personally. The Prime Minister told a delegation led by Omar Abdullah that development alone can’t resolve the issue.

The valley of Kashmir has been reeling under a curfew for the past 45 days, since the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani. Close to seventy 70 people have died and almost 8000 people have been injured in clashes with government forces trying to quell the unrest.

“There has to be dialogue and we need to find a permanent and lasting solution to the problem within the framework of the Constitution,” a government statement said after the meeting.

National Conference working president, Omar, who along with other opposition parties has been camping in Delhi from last few days, appealed that a political approach needs to be adopted for resolving the present crisis in the Valley.

Narendra Modi. APNarendra Modi. AP

Narendra Modi. AP

“We talked about the same thing that we have been talking with other leaders ever since we arrived in Delhi that the issue of Jammu and Kashmir, especially in light of the present crisis, needs to be understood correctly after which a solution is required.” Omar told reporters in New Delhi. “We emphasised that the issue of Jammu and Kashmir is more of political (sic) in nature. Time and again such situations do arise but if we are unable to find a political solution to it, we will be repeating our mistakes again and again,” Omar told reporters after the meeting.

“The Prime Minister told us in categorical terms that development alone will not resolve this problem,” he said and refused to draw any conclusion from that.

In Srinagar, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) welcomed the statement of the government of India and said that if Opposition parties in Jammu and Kashmir are able to take the state out of the current morass, it is welcomed.

“We appreciate the move and welcome the prime ministers statement on Kashmir. We have been saying it from day one that we all need to understand that to bring peace back to the streets of Kashmir, we need to hold dialogue with everyone,” Peoples Democratic Party leader, Waheed ur Rehman Para said.

But National Conference leaders said that it should have been the state government, instead of Opposition, that should have initiated the process of finding a peaceful solution to the ongoing crises in Kashmir.

“It should be the primary objective of the state government to impress upon its alliance partner to hold dialogue with stakeholders to ensure peace in the state,” National Conference leader, Tanvir Sadiq, said. “I wish this was done before 45 days of curfew, more than 60 killing and eight thousand people injured the state government should have taken every initiative to bring peace to the valley. At least we are happy that he (PM) understood that there is a need to have dialogue,” Sadiq added.

In Jammu, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti told reporters that if the Opposition parties have gone to Delhi to help contribute in the situation, “it is (a) good thing.”

Jammu and Kashmir Congress chief Ghulam Ahamd Mir said that to bring a lasting peace in the region, it was important for the New Delhi to institutionalise the dialogue process with all the stake holders of the valley and there was nothing new in it as both NDA and UPA have held dialogue with leaders from valley previously.

“We just hope that the current situation in valley changes. And some kind of road map evolves to bring peace back,” he said.

A senior Hurriyat leader said that they will wait for the Prime Minister’s invitation than respond to what he has told Omar Abdullah.

45 days and counting: Kashmir tense as another teenager dies after teargas shelling

Srinagar remained under curfew on Monday after a teenager was killed by a teargas shell here on Sunday, even as normal life in Kashmir was paralysed for the 45th day due to restrictions and strike in the wake of violence following killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani.

Curfew continues to be in force in entire Srinagar district as well as in Anantnag town. Curfew has also been clamped in Khansahib town of Budgam district of central Kashmir as a precautionary measure, a police official said.

He said curfew was lifted from Pampore town on Monday in view of the improving situation. However, the official said, restrictions on the assembly of four or more people under Section 144 Crpc have been imposed in the town and elsewhere in the Valley where there is no curfew.

This is to maintain law and order, he said. A youth, Irfan Wani, was killed in downtown area of the city yesterday after he was hit by a tear gar shell. The official said restrictions around Lal Chowk city centre in the summer capital here, which were imposed on August 14, were also eased out on Monday.

Security jawans stand guard as tension prevails in Srinagar on Sunday. PTI

Security jawans stand guard as tension prevails in Srinagar on Sunday. PTI

People with curfew passes are being allowed to move around Lal Chowk, he said. The separatist camp, which is spearheading the agitation in the Valley over the civilian killings during the protests against Wani’s killing, has asked people to march towards Tehsil headquarters Monday.

As many as 65 persons, including two cops, have been killed and several thousand others injured in the clashes that began on July 9.

Meanwhile, normal life remained paralysed for the 45th consecutive day due to curfew, restrictions and separatist sponsored strike following Wani’s killing in an encounter with security forces.

Shops, private offices, educational institutions and petrol pumps remained closed while public transport continued to be off roads.The attendance in government offices and banks was also affected.

Mobile Internet also continued to remain suspended in the entire Valley, where the outgoing facility on prepaid mobiles remained barred. The separatist camp, headed by Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Mohammad Yasin Malik, has extended the agitation till 25 August.

Meanwhile, a joint delegation of opposition parties led by former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah on Monday called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and apprised him of the ground situation with an appeal to adopt a political approach in dealing with the unrest in the Valley.

Besides Omar, the delegation — comprising a seven-member team of state Congress led by its PCC chief G A Mir, CPM MLA M Y Tarigami, eight-member team of main opposition National Conference including its provincial chiefs Nasir Wani and Davinder Rana — has been camping in the national capital and meeting political leaders from the government and opposition.

The delegation apprised the Prime Minister that the tried and tested formulations of dealing with the political issue in Kashmir administratively rather than politically has further exasperated the situation and “created an unprecedented sense of disaffection and disenchantment”, especially among the youth.

Flagging the issue of continued protests in which many youths have fallen victim to the ongoing protest including a young teenager named Irfan who was killed last night when a teargas shell burst on his chest in downtown, the memorandum requested the Prime Minister to announce “an immediate ban on pellet guns that have caused grievous injuries in the current unrest and maimed and blinded many young boys and girls”.

“We also request you to advise relevant quarters against the policy of mass harassment, raids and arrests as this has worsened an already volatile situation in the state and goes against the values and principles of our democratic fabric and ethos,” the memorandum said.

Meanwhile, ANI tweeted Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti as saying: “It’s a really good thing if there is solution found by opposition meeting President and PM for restoring peace.”

With inputs from PTI

Kashmir unrest: Omar Abdullah-led delegation meets PM Modi, says adopt political approach in the Valley

New Delhi: A joint delegation of opposition parties led by former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah on Monday called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and apprised him of the ground situation with an appeal to adopt a political approach in dealing with the unrest in the Valley.

The situation in the Valley, which continues to remain under curfew for last 45 days, prompted all the opposition parties in the state, cutting across party lines, to join hands and request the Centre for initiating a political dialogue with all stake holders in the state.

Besides Omar, the delegation – comprising a seven-member team of state Congress led by its PCC chief G A Mir, CPM MLA M Y Tarigami, eight-member team of main opposition National Conference including its provincial chiefs Nasir Wani and Davinder Rana — has been camping in the national capital and meeting political leaders from the government and opposition.

Former Jammu and Kashmir CM Omar Abdullah. PTIFormer Jammu and Kashmir CM Omar Abdullah. PTI

Former Jammu and Kashmir CM Omar Abdullah. PTI

The delegation submitted a memorandum to the Prime Minister, expressing its anguish, grief and sorrow over the painful loss of lives in the Valley and to express “dismay at the lack of a political approach to deal with the situation.”

The delegation apprised the Prime Minister that the tried and tested formulations of dealing with the political issue in Kashmir administratively rather than politically has further exasperated the situation and “created an unprecedented sense of disaffection and disenchantment”, especially among the youth.

“We are of the firm opinion that the Central Government should waste no further time in initiating a credible and meaningful political dialogue with all stakeholders to address the unrest in the state,” the memorandum said.

The delegation said, “continued failure to address the unrest in Kashmir will further deepen the sense of alienation” and hoped that the Prime Minister “will take immediate measures to address this grave situation.”

Flagging the issue of continued protests in which many youths have fallen victim to the ongoing protest including a young teenager named Irfan who was killed last night when a teargas shell burst on his chest in downtown, the memorandum requested the Prime Minister to announce “an immediate ban on pellet guns that have caused grievous injuries in the current unrest and maimed and blinded many young boys and girls”.

“We also request you to advise relevant quarters against the policy of mass harassment, raids and arrests as this has worsened an already volatile situation in the state and goes against the values and principles of our democratic fabric and ethos,” the memorandum said.

The delegation started the political initiative on Saturday when it met President Pranab Mukherjee and submitted a memorandum, requesting him to use his office to influence the Centre for initiating a political dialogue with all stakeholders in the state.

On Sunday, the delegation from the state had met Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi and apprised him about the situation in the state. Congress is part of the opposition in the Jammu and Kashmir.

“Discussed the current political crisis in J and K with a delegation of opp(osition) leaders from the state led by @abdullah_omar (Omar Abdullah),” the Congress leader had tweeted after the meeting.

On Saturday, the delegation had met President Pranab Mukherjee requesting him to urge upon the central government to find a solution to the present Kashmir crisis politically rather than administratively.

Kashmiri Pandits demand probe against Amnesty International over Bengaluru event

Jammu: Hitting out at Amnesty International for hosting an event where anti-national slogans were allegedly raised in Bengaluru, displaced Kashmiri Pandits on Sunday demanded a probe by central investigating agency into its activities in India.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

They also dared the NGO to publish a report on the human rights violations and atrocities perpetrated by Lashkar-e-Taiba, Hijbul Mujahideen and its followers like Hizb terrorist commander Burhan Wani.

“A central investigating agency should probe into all the activities of Amnesty International for being selective in its protest against human rights violation.

“The NGO should come out and openly condemn slogans raised during the event organised by them,” said RK Mattoo, Chairman of the Kashmiri Hindu Cultural Welfare Trust (KHCWT) said.

Earlier this week, the Trust had filed a complaint against the NGO for “allowing” anti-national slogans to be raised during an event organised by it on 13 August.

“Amnesty International’s report titled ‘Denied: Failures in accountability for human rights violations by security force personnel in Jammu and Kashmir’ provides a biased perspective and negatively contributes to protection of human rights in the Valley.

“So, Amnesty should immediately introspect and inquire into their report making process,” Mattoo said in a statement released on Sunday.

The Trust had demanded the NGO also focus on the plight of five lakh Hindus who fled Kashmir decades ago and pursue rehabilitation of Pandits with the Indian government.

“Their reports should focus on the three lakh Sikhs under threat by separatists in the Valley and the victims in Shopian incident, where more than 2,000 Kashmiri Pandits employees were tortured and forced to flee and their reports should reflect on the bloodbath and terror unleashed by separatists in the Valley,” he said.

Questioning the neutrality of Amnesty, Mattoo narrated the sequence of events that lead to sloganeering.

“The programme was initially not designed to include the voices of the Kashmiri Pandits. But after I questioned them through my Facebook post, they invited me to speak.

“I spoke on the exodus of five lakh Kashmiri pundits after brutal killing of around 800 of them by Islamic militants in 1989-90,” he claimed.

“My positive remarks about the Indian Army was shouted down by some people in the audience. And chaos followed,” alleged Mattoo.

Oil tanker owners allege mobs attack, suspend supplies to Kashmir, Ladakh

Jammu: Oil tanker operators supplying petroleum products to Kashmir and Ladakh went on an indefinite strike on Sunday, alleging that they were being targeted by mobs in the Valley.

“In view of repeated attacks on the oil tankers and merciless beating of drivers and cleaners by miscreants in the Valley, all Jammu and Kashmir oil tanker operators have decided to suspend petrol, diesel and kerosene oil supplies,” Anand Sharma, president of Jammu and Kashmir Petrol Tanker Owners Association told the media here on Saturday evening.

Representational image. PTIRepresentational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

Sharma alleged that the failure of security agencies to protect drivers, cleaners and tankers had forced the association to take this decision.

“Oil tanker drivers have been targeted for the last several days in the Valley. Two tanker drivers were mercilessly beaten by a mob near Khannabal in Anantnag district on Saturday. Both arms of the drivers were fractured. The vehicles were also badly damaged,” he said, adding, “At least a dozen tankers have been damaged so far.”

“The government has totally failed to ensure security to the drivers and vehicles operating there,” Sharma alleged.

On Friday, panic had gripped people in the Valley when rumours spread saying the authorities had decided to suspend fuel supplies to the Valley.

Baseer Khan, Kashmir Divisional Commissioner had denied the rumours saying adequate security would be provided to oil tanker operators to ensure uninterrupted supply to the Valley.

The decision of the oil tanker owners association to go on a strike is likely to plunge the Valley into a fuel crisis at a time when the authorities are battling an unrest that has so far left 67 people dead and nearly 5,000 injured.

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