Srinagar, February 3: Kashmir’s winter this season has been something children had heard from their grandparents, but never experienced before.
Over metre-long icicles hanging from rooftops, water bodies frozen rock solid prompting youth to slip and skate over them, roads so slippery that even the best drivers were careful, frozen water taps and the migratory birds unable to fend for themselves as wildlife authorities struggled to arrange food for them.
These have been the grandpa stories till this winter brought them to life for the children, who had little feel of how tough one needs to be to brave an extremely harsh winter in the Valley.
Statistics from the weather office confirm that the Valley has witnessed such snowfall after over a decade and the perennial water reservoirs in the mountains that sustain rivers, streams, lakes and springs during the summer months are already overflowing with enough snow reserves.
Given the frequent electric power failures during the winter months, Kashmiris have realised that their best bet against biting cold remains the earthen firepot woven in willow wicker called the ‘Kangri’ and the over-garment called the ‘pheran’.
Thanks to the biting cold in the Valley this year there have been celebrations over the wearing of the pheran on the social media by politicians, bureaucrats and the common man.
“We have been adding innovations to the pheran to make it more trendy over the years. From its traditional loose and long tailored appearance we have made changes to make them more comfortable and fashionable so that they can be worn in offices and other work places,” said Ghulam Nabi, 53, a tailor in old city area of summer capital Srinagar.
For all its supplies of foodgrain, vegetables, mutton, poultry products, medicine and petroleum products the Valley is dependent on the Jammu-Srinagar national highway.
This nearly 300-km-long road has this winter been in news more for the number of days it remained closed than for any traffic smoothly plying on it.
Snowfall in the Banihal sector, landslides and shooting stones along the treacherous Ramsoo-Ramban stretch are this year’s nightmares experienced by travelers on this highway.
The travel on the highway normally takes seven to eight hours, but for hundreds of commuters who used the highway this year, the travel trauma has been between 12 to 18 hours and that too if one is lucky not to be stranded on the way during bone chilling nights.
“You cannot fight nature,” said a senior officer of the traffic department as he pleaded with the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) to move out bulldozers to clear landslide debris along the road in the Anokhi Fall, Panthal, Gagroo and Battery Chashma areas.
“Road widening operations in Ramsoo-Ramban area have been causing more slips of the loose soil triggering landslides and shooting stones each time it rains in the area”, the officer rued.
In the absence of fresh vegetables, mutton and poultry products, people in the Valley have realized the wisdom of their elders who stored dried vegetables like brinjals, tomatoes and pumpkin scalings for the harsh winter months.
“Pulses and dried vegetables come in handy when the markets run dry because of the closure of Jammu-Srinagar highway,” said Noor Muhammad Wani, 65, a retired bank officer.
Thanks to the stockpiling of petroleum products by the authorities during the summer months, there have so far been no shortages of diesel, petrol and kerosene oil in the Valley this winter.
Apart from the hardships one must bear during a harsh winter like this, there have been immense opportunities for adventure lovers.
The ski slopes of Gulmarg have attracted a large number of adventure lovers and even those who want to see tonness of snow on the ground and laze around in the warmth of firewood lit stoves called ‘bukharis’ inside the wooden huts on the ski resort as fresh snowfall blankets the area.
“It was because of plentiful snowfall that Gulmarg had hundreds of New Year revelers this year. All hotels and huts at the ski resort were completely sold out on new year eve this time”, said an official of the tourism department.
As the adage goes, “winter without snow is summer without the rose”. For Kashmiris, despite its hardships and vagaries, this year’s winter has been a blessing they would remember for a long time to come.
Azad on Jharkhand lynching: Keep new India with you, give us old India
New Delhi, Jun 24: Coming down heavily on the government over recent incidents of lynching and crime in Jharkhand, leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad on Monday said the state has become a factory of lynching and violence, “requesting” Prime Minister Narendra Modi to “give us our Old India where there was love, culture.”
“Dalits and Muslims are killed there every week. The PM, we are with you in the fight of ‘Sabka saath sabka vikas’, but it should be there for people to see it. We can’t see it anywhere,” Azad said in Rajya Sabha.
“I request you to keep the New India to yourself and give us our Old India where there was love, culture. Hindus used to feel the pain when Muslims and Dalits used to get hurt. When something used to get into the eyes of Hindus, Muslims and Dalits used to shed tears for them,” he added.
“In Old India, there was no hatred, anger or lynching. New India is one where humans are enemies of each other. You won’t be scared of animals in a jungle, but you’ll be scared of humans in a colony. Give us India where Hindus, Muslims,Sikhs and Christians live for each other,” he said.
In yet another lynching incident, a Muslim man was beaten up mercilessly for over 18 hours on the suspicion of theft in Jharkhand’s Kharsawan district on Saturday. The 24-year-old victim, identified as Tabrez Ansari, was attacked by a mob on June 18 and was later handed over to the police. He had been in the judicial custody since June 18 and was taken to a hospital on June 22 after his condition deteriorated. On the same day, Ansari succumbed to his injuries at the hospital.
Several videos of the incident emerged on social media show a man hitting Tabrez brutally with a wooden stick while forcing him to chant “Jai Shri Ram” and “Jai Hanuman”. The videos of the Jharkhand mob lynching case have gone viral on social networking sites ever since the incident came to the light.
GoI approves amendments to give more teeth to NIA
New Delhi, Jun 24: The Union Cabinet is learnt to have approved a proposal to amend two laws to give more teeth to the NIA in probing ‘terror’ cases in India and abroad, sources said Monday.
Separate bills will be introduced in Parliament in the coming days to amend the National Investigation Agency (NIA) Act and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, they said.
The amendments will also allow the NIA probe cybercrimes and cases of human trafficking, sources aware of the proposal said.
Amendment to Schedule 4 of the UAPA will allow the NIA to designate an individual suspected to have ‘terror links as a terrorist’. As of now, only organisations are designated as ‘terrorist organisations’.
The NIA was set up in 2009 in the wake of the Mumbai attack that had claimed 166 lives.
Since 2017, the Union Home Ministry has been considering the two laws to give more power to the NIA to meet fresh challenges, the sources pointed out.
Another proposal to introduce a bill to extend the facility of proxy voting to overseas Indians could not be taken up Monday.
A similar bill had lapsed following the dissolution of the 16th Lok Sabha last month.
“The agenda of the Law Ministry stands postponed,” a functionary said.
As of now, overseas Indians are free to cast their votes in constituencies they are registered.
The Bill seeks to give them the option of proxy voting, which is as of now available to service personnel only.
Another proposal to amend the Representation of the People Act related to the spouses of service voters could not be taken up on Monday.
As of now, an armyman’s wife is entitled to be enrolled as a service voter, but a woman army officer’s husband is not, according to the provisions in the electoral law.
The bill proposes to replace the term ‘wife’ with ‘spouse’, thus making the provision gender-neutral. Members of the armed forces, central armed police forces, personnel of state police forces posted outside their state and employees of the Centre posted outside India are eligible to be enrolled as service voters.
Youths click selfies, walk alongside Leopard in Kishtwar
Srinagar, Jun 24: Pointing towards the increasing man-animal conflict is J&K, a video that went viral on Monday shows a few youth carelessly walking right alongside a leopard on a tarred road while clicking photos and videos in some mountainous region.
The incident reportedly took place in Chingam area of Kishtwar district. The video shows at least three youth audaciously ambling near the leopard that, surprisingly, isn’t aggressive.
The incident comes to the fore days after days after two leopards were spotted in residential areas of Budgam and Srinagar.
Deputy conservator of forests, wild life division, Kashmir, Rouf Zargar had told The Kashmir Monitor that one female leopard and an adult cub were spotted at Ompora, Budgam.
“They were spotted in the adjacent villages of Budgam and Airport. We are doing our best to trace them. Till the time we catch those, people should refrain from moving out during nights and in the wee hours,” he said.
There has been a spike in man-animal conflict in the last few years with several incidents of attacks by bears and leopards taking place in multiple areas of the valley.