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Kashmir’s Christian community keeps X’mas a low-key affair

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Standing in solidarity with the victims of unrest, Kashmir’s Christian community on Sunday won the hearts of the majority Muslim community by keeping Christmas celebrations a low-key affair Unlike past, the churches were not decorated and Carol singing was missing too. Churches had deliberately done away with the decorative exterior lighting.Even the customary Santa Claus was missing in the churches as a mark of respect for the people who suffered during the five months of unrest in Kashmir. “So many people have suffered. So many people have died. Kashmiris did not celebrate Eid this year. So therefore we decided to celebrate Christmas with simplicity,” Shami Joseph, an official at the Holy Family Catholic Church, told DNA.More than 90 people have been killed and over 13,000 people injured in the unrest which began after the killing of Hizbul Mujhadeen poster boy Burhan Wani on July 8.Over 1,100 people mostly teenagers have suffered injuries in their eyes when security forces fired pellets to quell the violent mobs across Kashmir. Over 5000 persons have been arrested of whom 500 detained under Public Safety Act, under which a person can be jailed without trial and bail up to two years.“So many of our brothers and sisters suffered due to the unrest. We focused on the spiritual aspect of the celebration rather than the external aspects,” said Father Roy Mathews of Holy Family Catholic Church.

Kashmir unrest: Private schools remain open on weekends after shutdown

Srinagar: With educational activities in Kashmir picking up after remaining suspended for over four months due to the unrest, private schools in the valley are following separatist-issued ‘protest calendar’ by remaining open only during the relaxation period over the weekend.

Students are happy to resume their class-work, which was affected by the continuous shutdown following the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani in an encounter with security forces on 8 July. The schools went on a two-week summer holiday on 1 July but could not resume functioning due to the unrest.

The separatists, spearheading the agitation since Wani’s killing, have been issuing weekly protest programmes against the civilian killings in the unrest and in support of their demand for right to self-determination. They have also announced periodic 15-hour relaxation in the strike on few days of the week, with two full days of relaxation on Saturdays and Sundays.

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

Since the 16 November announcement of weekend relaxation by the separatists, private schools in the valley decided to resume class-work on these two days, as education in Kashmir was hit hard by the unrest, with schools and colleges, including government-run institutions, remaining closed for over four months with no or minimal activity.

“It feels good to be back at school. I was getting tired sitting idle at home without any class-work or studies. It has affected us but we should remain focused now,” Zia-ul-Islam, a student at a private school, said.

Kashmir remains abuzz with activity on the weekends as shops, business establishments and fuel stations open in the early hours while public transport plies on all roads from the morning on these two days. Most of the private educational institutions have also been functioning over the weekend since the announcement of relaxation in the strike, though government-run schools have not followed the separatists’ announcements.

Private Schools Association of Kashmir (PSAK) has asked the schools to ensure 100 percent attendance of students and teachers during the relaxation period.

“Students are going through a hard phase. We have decided to help them in every possible way. Our entire staff will work overtime during the relaxation period to help the students,” PSAK chairman GN Var said. He said the association would ensure that schools remain open on Saturdays as well as Sundays.

There is no hesitation among the parents as well to send their children to schools on the weekend. “As the schools remain open only on weekends, I do not see any reason not to send my children to their schools.
Saturday and Sunday are full relaxation days. Public transport remains available, private cars can ply without any fear of stone-pelting, so students can reach their school without any hassles,” Javaid Ahmad, a resident of old city, said.

“There are still some problems in sending children to schools on weekdays. There is no transport, less activity in markets, chances of tension on the roads, so as a parent, I hesitate in sending my children to school on non-relaxation days,” he added.

However, government-run schools do not follow the separatist announcements. While teachers remain present in their respective schools on the weekdays, students do not attend the institutions.

The government-run schools are closed on Sundays.

The educational activity in the valley is limping back to normal after the government started conducting the annual board examinations.

The examinations for Std 12 began on 14 November, while those of Std 10 started a day later. Till then, since 1 July, there was no education-related activity in the valley schools.

As many as 86 people, including two cops, have been killed and several thousand others injured in the clashes between protesters and security forces in the valley in the unrest triggered by Wani’s killing. Around 5,000 security forces personnel have also been injured in those clashes.

First Published On : Dec 4, 2016 15:58 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

Jammu and Kashmir: Indian Army to go full throttle against militants

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>After 100 days of unrest, security forces have decided to go full throttle against the militants in Jammu and Kashmir.The decision to resume the counter terrorist operations in the hinterland comes in the backdrop of growing number of militant attacks and intelligence inputs that the ultras are regrouping to take advantage of the current unrest in the valley.A high level security meeting was held on Friday under the chairmanship of J&K Governor NN Vohra to review the security situation consequent to the terror attack at Pampore. Top army officers including Northern Army Commander Lt Gen DS Hooda, Director General of Police J&K K Rajendra Kumar, General officer Commanding 15 Corps Lt Gen SK Dua besides Intelligence Bureau head in J&K and senior paramilitary officers attended the meeting.”It was agreed that surveillance should be enhanced not only along the International Border and Line of Control (LoC) but also in the entire hinterland. Counter-terrorist operations should be resumed and steps should be taken to safeguard all civil and military vital establishments in J&K,” said an official spokesperson.For the last 100 days, the counter-terrorism operations have been severely hit with security forces concentrating on maintaining law and order and controlling the street violence.Figures reveal that 39 militants have been killed since the unrest began on July 8 after the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen leader Burhan Wani in an encounter at Bamdoora village in South Kashmir’s Anantnag district. Among the 39, only eight ultras were killed in the hinterland. Thirty one militants were killed near the LoC, mostly during anti-infiltration operations.Security forces suffered huge casualties in the militant attacks during the unrest. More than 37 security men were killed by the militants since the unrest began. Of the 15 gun fights that broke out, 11 took place near the LoC and only four in the hinterland. Most of the encounters ensued after militants attacked the forces.Besides fidayeen attacks, the militants have launched shoot and scoot attacks to inflict casualties on the forces. Militants have been targeting the security forces deployed on the law and order duties in a bid to up the ante.On Friday evening a Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) jawan was killed and eight others were injured when their convoy was attacked by ultras near Zakoora in the outskirts of Srinagar.”Three companies were coming back in six vehicles. There were 130 to 138 people travelling in a convoy. Had they not fired back there could have been more casualties,” said Archana Ramasundaram, Director General of SSB.

Rajnath Singh reviews security situation with Manohar Parrikar, Ajit Doval

New Delhi: Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Wednesday reviewed the security situation in the country, particularly in Jammu and Kashmir, with Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, NSA Ajit Doval and other top officials.

File image of union minister Rajnath Singh. CNN-News18

File image of union minister Rajnath Singh. CNN-News18

During the hour-long meeting, top officials briefed the Home Minister and Defence Minister on the situation in Jammu and Kashmir in the wake of the 56-hour gunbattle between militants and security forces in Pampore which ended on Wednesday with the killing of two ultras.

The two ministers also took stock of the situation along the Indo-Pak border and the Line of Control and steps taken to check attempts of infiltration from across the border, official sources said. Unrest in Jammu and Kashmir has been continuing ever
since the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen militant Burhan Wani on 8 July that led to violent protests and clashes with security
forces and death of 84 people.

Terrorists also killed 19 soldiers at an army station in Uri on 18 September which led to the surgical strikes by Indian Army on terror launch pads in PoK 10 days later. The top security officials also gave briefings on the overall situation in the country and steps taken to maintain peace in view of the ongoing festival season.

The Home Ministry has already sent an advisory to all states to deploy additional forces in sensitive places to foil any attempt by terrorists to disturb peace and attempts by miscreants to try to create communal disturbance.

How to single out terrorists from people, a major cause of worry for security forces

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Security agencies and forces are facing a tough time in the valley to track down terrorists and militants who crossed over the line of control (LoC) during the last six months and mingled among the protestors during the period of unrest.According to sources in the agencies, the counter insurgency operations that came almost to a halt during the two months of unrest impacted the security grid severely allowing terrorists to find safe havens among the protestors across the valley.Collated analysis of different agencies put the number of terrorists and militants at around 200 to 220 who managed to cross over from Pak-Occupied Kashmir during the last six months. Most of these terrorists sneaked in during the period of unrest and Amarnath Yatra when troops had to be deployed on vantage points to maintain the law and order. The presence of terrorists was not more than 120-150 before the current influx, said sources.Moreover, the frequent clamp down on telecom services by the government to stop protestors from making use of social media and SMSes to spread their agitation also added to a massive drop in intelligence gathering through eavesdropping.A senior officer said due to this practice, inputs have dropped significantly. The security and anti-militancy grid relies on inputs by people but that is hampering due to telecommunication blockade. In the past many top militants have been tracked and eliminated by monitoring their mobile network. Indian agencies can today listen in on VHF conversations, mobile phones and satellite phones.With accurate interception and monitoring of these devices, intelligence agencies, the Army and the BSF have been very effective in neutralising several militants, especially when they infiltrate into India.A senior official deployed in Jammu and Kashmir conceded that the massive scale of the unrest has made their human assets either to break free or go underground that has slowed down crucial information that they used to gather though human intelligence.”The unrest has given a big blow to our well established intelligence network and will take several months of effort to get back the normal flow of intelligence. Until then it will give an edge to the terrorists and militants over security forces for which they need to be extra vigilant,” said the official.

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