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.
In times of hatred, Sikh brethren’s efforts spread positive vibes
Srinagar, Feb 20: With Kashmiris facing the heat following the suicide attack in Pulwama, Sikh groups have come to the rescue of Valleyites putting up in various parts of India.
In the aftermath of Lethpora incident in which 49 CRPF troopers were killed last week, there has been a spate of attacks against Kashmiris in Jammu and other parts of India.
Facing threats and harassment, Kashmiris have been forced to leave their education and businesses midway and make efforts to return home.
In these times of worry, Khalsa Aid International, an NGO, has reached out to the distressed students and offered them all possible help.
At least 30 Sikh youth associated with the NGO, have been helping Kashmiris in various parts.
“We evacuated scores of Kashmiris from Dehradun to Mohali and then to Jammu in the past three days. We transported first batch of 100 students and another of 150 from Dehradun to Jammu with proper security. At least 70 more students are on the way to Jammu,” Jeevanjyot Singh, who is associated with Khalsa International told The Kashmir Monitor.
“Eight Kashmiri girls were also sent to Srinagar by air after rescued from Dehradun,” he said.
Jeevanjyot said that Kashmiri students were feeling safe in Punjab.
“They are also provided accommodation at a Gurduwara in 3D1 sector Mohali arranged by the Gurudwara committee,” he said.
The group has provided several helpline numbers for Ambala, Chandigarh and Dehradun.
The role of Sikh youth has been well appreciated on social media in Kashmir and elsewhere.
“The Sikh sangat has gone above & beyond the call of duty in reaching out & helping Kashmiris in distress, whether in Jammu or outside the state,” former J&K CM, Omar Abdullah tweeted on Wednesday.
Mehbooba Makhdoomi, a prominent columnist and researcher, wrote: Kashmir pays gratitude to Sikh community in general & @Khalsa_Aid International in specific for coming to our rescue, at a time when it mattered. “He who does not thank people, does not thank Allah”. Will protect you with our blood, if, God Forbid, the need arises.”
Shinjini, a Twitter user wrote: “These @khalsa guys restore my faith in humanity. At a time when most of the country is going cuckoo, these guys are quietly doing what’s necessary.”
Kabir, a former JNU student, tweeted: “Salutes to @khalsa-Aid, when the streets across India are resonating with hate and malice, the gallant Sikhs came to the rescue of Kashmiris.”
A group of Sikhs from Tral Pulwama have also started free Langer and accommodation for Kashmiris near Jammu bus stand.
“We also have a group of volunteers from Jammu and have been providing all possible help to Kashmiris and many were rescued from mobs,” a Sikh volunteer from Tral told The Kashmir Monitor.
Similarly, the Sikh groups have arranged accommodation at various places in Chandigarh and Jammu for Kashmiris.
One of the students, who returned from Dehradun, said, “Our college authorities told us to leave saying when things get normal they will call us back. There was no safety for us and the crowd outside the campus threatened to beat us up.”
“The state government should make concrete efforts to ensure the safety of Kashmiris, he said adding: “Sikhs really played an important role in rescuing Kashmiri youth from the goons”.
Two Kashmiri shawl vendors attacked on train
New Delhi, Feb 20: Two Kashmiri shawl vendors have claimed they were beaten up and called “stone pelters” by unidentified men on a train, forcing them to cut short their business trip to Rohtak, officials said Wednesday.
The incident comes amid reports of attacks on Kashmiri people in many parts of the country in the aftermath of the February 14 attack on a CRPF convoy in Pulwama that left 49 personnel dead.
“Three Kashmiri shawl vendors boarded the general compartment of a local train from Sarai Rohilla station at around 10.40 am for a business trip to Sampla in Haryana. They claimed they were pushed into a corner and called ‘stone pelters’,” said Dinesh Gupta, Deputy Commissioner of Police (Railways).
“When they objected, the accused allegedly abused and slapped two Kashmiri vendors. The attackers said ‘you hurl stones there (in Kashmir) and come to earning a livelihood here’. Other passengers also joined in and created a ruckus,” the DCP (Railways) said.
Thereafter, the three Kashmiri men de-boarded at Nangloi station, leaving their bags containing shawls and suits worth around Rs 2 lakh in the train, Gupta added.
A case has been registered and the matter is being probed, he said.
The three men said they came to Delhi in December last year and were staying in Sarai Rohilla. They have been coming here for business purposes for the last 10 years.
The three Kashmiri men approached Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Brinda Karat through their local MLA. Karat helped them file a complaint with police.
“The men claimed the attackers told them they were from the armed forces. They said ‘you are the ones who killed our men’.
“Around 15-20 other men also joined in and beat the Kashmiri men with belts. The incident took place when they were crossing Mangolpuri. One of the three Kashmiris suffered severe head injuries and another sustained wounds on face,” she said.
Police said the attackers were yet to be identified, and it was not clear if they were from the armed forces since they were in plain clothes.
Non-locals protest against attacks on Kashmiris
Srinagar, Feb 20: Dozens of non-locals workers and businessmen putting up in Kashmir Wednesday carried out a peaceful protest against the harassment and attacks meted out to Kashmiris in different parts of India.
A large number of non-locals assembled at Hari Singh High Street here and raised slogans against miscreants attacking the students and businessmen of the valley operating in other states in wake of the Lethpora bombing last week.
They demanded the safety of Kashmiri traders and students outside the valley.
A Kolkata resident, Sushant Shanti, who is running a shop at Hari Singh High Street, told The Kashmir Monitor that they have been living in Kashmir for 25 years and have never faced any threat.
“I strongly condemn the atrocities that our Kashmiri youth and traders are facing outside Kashmir,” said Shanti, adding: “I request my Hindu brothers to ensure the safety of Kashmiris there.”
Another non local shopkeeper at Hari Singh High Street, Rajinder Kumar said: “Our Kashmiri brothers and students who are pursuing education in other states are facing extreme brutality and we strongly condemn this act of cowardice.”
Kumar said that some elements are politicizing the Lethpora incident.
“Whatever happens here, we have always been treated with brotherhood and humanity,” he said.
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