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20 killed on bloody Sunday in three south Kashmir encounters

Firdous Hassan

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Umar Ganie

Srinagar, Apr 01: The first Sunday of April 2018 turned out the bloodiest, witnessing killing of at least 20 people including 12 militants, four civilians and three forces personnel in three separate encounters and post-gunfight clashes in south Kashmir’s Shopian and Anantnag districts.
The identity of the 20th slain person was yet to be ascertained when the report was being filed.
At least, 150 protestors were also injured, many of them critically, during clashes with forces.
Seven militants and a civilian were killed in the one of the three gunfights of the day that erupted early Sunday morning in Dragad village of Shopian district.
Six of the slain militants belonged to Hizb outfit while the seventh one was associated with LeT.
Police identified the militants as Yawar Itoo from Safnagri Zainpora, Nazim Ahmad Dar of Urpora Nagbal, Adil Thokar of Humhona, Ubaid Ahmad Malla, a resident of Trenz, Reyaz Thoker of Paderpora, Ishfaq Malik of Pinjoora Shopian and Zubair Turay of Bongam Shopian.
As per police, the group had joined Hizb in 2017 and was involved in series of cases of attacks on forces.
“Killing of Lt. Umer Fayaz is one among them,” a police spokesman said.
A civilian, Mushtaq Ahmad Thoker, reportedly the house owner, too was killed by forces during the encounter.
In another encounter of the day at Dialgam Anantnag, a local militant identified as Rauf Khanday was killed while another surrendered, police said.
“One militant killed in Dialgam Anantnag after efforts of his family and J&K Police failed to surrender, one caught alive. In Dragad Shopian 7 bodies of militants recovered including top commanders,” a top police officer wrote on Twitter.
The house where the militants were holed up was completely damaged during the encounter.
In the third encounter of the day, at least four militants and three forces personnel were killed in Kachdoora area of Shopian.
“Total militants killed in Kachdoora encounter have found to be four whereas about the fifth one police is ascertaining facts,” a police spokesman said.
“Three army men were also killed and a civilian namely Zubair Ahmad Bhat resident of Gopalpora received fire arm injury in cross fire and subsequently succumbed,” a police official said.
One civilian Mehraj-ud-Din Mir, a resident of Okey village in Kulgam was killed during clashes with forces.
One more civilian Iqbal Bhat son of Manzoor Ahmad of Khasipora Shopian who had received bullet injuries was brought dead to SKIMS Soura.
Meanwhile, in a joint press conference by police, army and paramilitary CRPF, the top officials of the forces’ said on Saturday night they launched anti-militancy operations at the south Kashmir three places, following information about the presence of large number of militants.
Giving details about the operation, Director General of Police S P Vaid said that all the slain militants were a combination of different outfits.
Terming it a “special day” for forces, GoC Core 15, Lt Gen AK Bhatt said that two of the militants were involved in the killing of Army officer Umar Fayaz.
“With their killing, the death of Umar Fayaz has been avenged. So my appeal to young people of Kashmir who have picked up the gun is that they should not get carried away by Pak and their proxies,” he said.
On civilian injuries, IG (Operations) of CRPF, Zulfikar Hassan said that they witnessed heavy stone pelting and protests near the encounter sites.
“It could be a design to help trapped militants as lot of people rushed to the encounter sites. But our operations won’t stop with antinational activities by some people. We won’t even shy away from taking strict action also,” he said.
He appealed the people to stay away from encounter sites. “Anybody can get hurt when there is firing from different directions.”
People, eyewitnesses said, swarmed towards the encounter sites and pelted stones at the forces.
Reports said that intense clashes erupted at Draggad and Kachidura after militant killings during which over 200 civilians were injured.
“The forces fired pellets and bullets indiscriminately at people, who were protesting in the village. Many have been injured grievously,” an eye witness told The Kashmir Monitor.
Reports said that clashes erupted in Srinagar parts and north following killing of 11 militants.
In Srinagar, young took to the streets in Nowhatta, Shalteng, Tengpora and Batmaloo.
Traders downed their shutters while traffic movement also decreased after noon.
Following protest at various areas, authorities snapped in south Kashmir and Srinagar district.
“We have snapped internet in three districts initially and later the service was snapped in two more districts,” IGP SP Pani said.
Authorities also blocked train service from south to Srinagar district.

 


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Almost two months into the year: No action plan for districts submitted yet

Mudassir Kuloo

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Srinagar, May 20: The delay in finalizing the district action plans for the current year may hit the developmental works in Jammu and Kashmir.

Though the financial year began on April 1, the district development plans in the state are yet to be finalized for 2019-2020.

Principal Secretary, Finance Department, Arun Kumar Mehta, recently wrote a letter to district development commissioners to furnish the yearly district action plans.

 

“All district development commissioners shall initiate tendering process immediately after model code of conduct is over and ensure that process is completed before March 31 for commencement of works. The annual maintenance contract should be based on the rate of contract as per laid down rules and regulation,” the order reads.

It says that delay in furnishing of this information will entail “further” delay in the tendering process and have “cascading” effect on the executing of ongoing works.  It will subsequently lead to delay in execution of new works.

An official of the Planning and Development Department said that delay in finalising the district development plans would affect developmental works in Kashmir.

“The district development commissioners should have finalised the district development plans even though they were busy with elections. The Valley would be adversely affected due to delay in finalizing the district development plans as Kashmir has a limited working season,” the official said.

The Kashmir has a limited working season from May to October and the region’s developmental activities are worst affected when there is delay in the approval of annual plan or there is some disturbance in the Valley.

“The non-finalization of the plan would lead to delay in execution of works as funds remain unspent. Once the funds meant for Kashmir get lapsed, they are diverted to Jammu region,” the official added.

During 2018-2019, Rs 4,000 crore had lapsed in the state due to non-utilisation of funds.

District development commissioner formulates the plans with the assistance of district level officers as per guide lines and parameters set by Planning and Development Department.  The district development commissioner has to monitor all the developmental programmes in the district.

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Decline in number of local youth joining militancy: Army

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Jammu, May 20: Top Army commander, Lieutenant General Ranbir Singh, General Officer Commanding-in-Chief of Northern Command Monday said even though the local militant recruitment has shown a significant decline, “the issue of local boys joining militancy remains a matter of concern.”

“Local recruitment remains a matter of concern for all of us. Last year, we had 217 local youth who had picked up militancy. This year, the number has significantly reduced and as on date there are only 40 youth who have picked up arms,” Lieutenant General Singh said while addressing the media in Udhampur.

Out of 40, six were killed in various encounters in South and North Kashmir while as three had returned. The Army had claimed that its appeal to Kashmiri mothers was proving a success as youth who had picked up arms were returning back to the mainstream.

 

According to the figures available with the KNO, in 2017, the number of youth who had picked up arms in J&K was around 240 that reduced to 2017 in 2018.  In 2016, the number was around 200, as per the official figures.

The Army commander said that one of the key reasons for locals picking up gun was the “radicalization and exploitation of social media by Pakistani agencies.” The army commander said that Pakistan was feeling “starved” due to a very effective counter infiltration grid of the Indian Army.

It is pertinent to mention that only 40 youth joining militancy this summer so far in Jammu and Kashmir is lowest ever since 2016. However, officials assert that they won’t take a chance and will ensure local militant recruitment remains plugged in remaining months of the year especially the summer months when infiltration is expected to pick up due to melting of snow. According to officials, no foreign militant was killed on the LoC this year so far.

‘VDCs useful, need to energise them’

Press Trust of India

Udhampur, May 20: The Army Monday batted strongly for “energising” village defence committees (VDCs) in Jammu and Kashmir calling them a “useful instrument” for the state.

The VDCs were setup in the mid-1990s with an aim to strengthen the security of those living in remote and mountainous areas of Doda, Kishtwar, Ramba, Rajouri, Reasi, Kathua and Poonch districts of the region.
A total of 4,125 VDCs exist in the state. “VDCs are most useful instrument available with the state”, General Officer Commanding in Chief (GoC-In-C), Northern Command, Lt Gen Ranbir Singh told reporters here.

“They (VDCs) are always to be energised and they shall be able to take on responsibility (of securing the villages in remote and hilly areas) tasked to them,” he added. The Army commander said that it must be ensured that the volunteers are provided weapons so that they can “defend their villages and pass information to the security forces regarding movement and presence of militants.”

“All have to play a role to ensure peace and normalcy in Jammu and Kashmir,” he said. Notably, the Army has reached out to VDCs in various districts to strengthen the security apparatus of the population of rural and remote areas in Jammu region.

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Suffering in silence: Sexual abuse takes heavy toll on children in Kashmir

Hirra Azmat

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Srinagar, May 20: Ahmad’s room is a witness to his feats. His glass almirah is decorated with trophies and certificates that he won for his excellent grades and extra circular activities. A brilliant student, he was looking forward to top the upcoming matriculation exams when world suddenly came crashing down. His grades started falling and he turned aggressive by the day. What complicated the problem was his addiction to cannabis and psychotropic drugs.

“He shed a sea of tears while narrating his ordeal. It wasn’t the drug abuse; it was the sexual abuse that had worsened his mental health. His classmate had sexually assaulted him in front of group of boys and mocked him”, said the counselor at a private school in the valley.

Ahmad is not the isolated case. Rizwan (name changed), 16, fainted in class when the teacher was delivering a lecture. His sister and her husband rushed to the school and took him to the physician. The doctor gave some medicines for dehydration and didn’t take it seriously. The problem didn’t end here. The boy refused to eat or drink and locked himself in the room throughout the day.

 

“He looked like corpse when he was brought here. The reason for his high level of anxiety was the sexual abuse he faced. He was sodomised by his elder brother. We made the brother apologize before him. That has alleviated his pain to some extent,” said the counselor at Department of psychiatry, SMHS.

Mental health counselors’ note that the sexual abuse of young boys and girls mostly go unreported because of the family taboos. “They think it will bring humiliation to the family and the only thing they can do for the victim other than counseling is to make the perpetrator apologize”, said a counselor

Even children are often scared to report the abuse. “Many cases of abuse are not reported.  Most of the time it remains a secret crime, unless the victim is bold enough to tell someone about it. Mostly such crimes remain under wraps. This abuse can take place at home school or in places where child labour is common”, said Ezabir Ali, a noted Social Activist.

Experts dealing with such cases say most sexual abuse offenders are acquainted with their victims and they can be relatives of the child, most often brothers, fathers, uncles, or cousins; neighbors and even strangers.

“What can be done? We need to encourage children to speak. The communication channel between parents (especially mother) and children should be open so that the child feels confident to shares when something is not going right. We need to make children aware of good touch and bad touch”, said Ali.

Psychiatrists say that childhood sexual abuse is less talked about and least researched in spite of being associated with a broad array of adverse long term consequences for survivors.

“It creates powerlessness, betrayal, stigmatization, and sexualization; each having a profound effect on further development of child. Using Victims of childhood sexual abuse report more symptoms of anxiety and depression”, said Dr Arshad Hussain, a leading psychiatrist who works as associate professor, psychiatry at Government Medical College, Srinagar.

What has complicated the problem is that there is a dearth of counselors in schools who can tackle such issues. “A handful of counselors at some noted private schools and colleges remain confined to being just academic counselors. We have to increase the domain of counselling”, said Dr Saima Farhad, Professor at MSW Department in University of Kashmir.

According to Dr Saima, there are three levels by which we can curb such incidents, “The first step begins from the family. Parents have to make their children understand the difference between good touch and bad touch. The second level begins at the school. We have a lot of Co-ed schools. The teachers have to make the students aware about the difference between a boy and a girl and at the same ensure that no difference is being done based on their gender”, she said

Experts suggest a separate wing in the police department to deal with the sex abuse cases for speedy justice.

“We have dearth of investigating officers in police stations. There is one IO in every police station and he is single-handedly dealing with 10-15 cases. The delay happens because we have to multi-task. There should be a separate wing for law and order, a wing for dealing with cases for CSA and qualitatively segregating the options”, said an investigating officer, who requested anonymity.

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