By Mudassir Kuloo
Srinagar, May 07: A day after government forces killed a Kashmir University’s Assistant Professor along with four other militants and five civilians, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti Monday claimed that ‘poor youth’ were picking up the guns and stones.
Talking to reporters after according guard of honour on the opening of Civil Secretariat in Srinagar, she said: “In most cases, both stones and guns are in the hands of children belonging to poor families. We have to find a middle path to ensure that these boys do not get killed and our army men and policemen also do not get killed.”
The Chief Minister made the claims that poor youth were indulging in stone pelting and picking up guns a day after Kashmir University Assistant Professor, Dr Rafi Bhat, reportedly from a well-off family of Ganderbal district, was killed in an encounter in south Kashmir’s Shopian district.
“The tragedy in which five civilians were killed yesterday is very painful. I appeal to government of the country to find a way for ending this bloodshed. A way out needs to be found so that our children, army soldiers and policemen are not killed,” the Chief Minister said, reacting to Sunday’s militant and civilian killings.
She also appealed to the people of Kashmir, especially the parents, to value life. “Allah has sent us to Earth to live a good life. Islam doesn’t permit us to embrace death at this [young] age,” she said.
On Sunday, the Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister had expressed anguish and grief over the death of the civilians after the Shopian encounter, urging Narendra Modi-led NDA government at the Centre to show “element of compassion and empathy as required by the present day situation”.
“It sounds very depressing to note that our state is losing young lives, to the unending cycle of violence, who could otherwise be utilised for a positive contribution to the state. Today’s deaths have brought a stark fact to fore that gun, either way of a militant or that of security forces, is no solution for resolving issues,” Mehbooba said.
She said political issues need political intervention. “The three decades’ long violence in the state is a testimony to the fact that guns from either side cannot ensure peace, but a compassion driven reconciliation process based on mutual respect surely can.
“In this regard, I appeal the national leadership of the country to show the element of compassion and empathy as required by the present day situation here and display the statesmanship to get J-K out of the quagmire of killings by engaging in a meaningful dialogue in the state. The sooner it happens, the more we can get our state out of the vicious cycle of killings and destruction,” she said.
Major clashes broke out between civilians and security forces in Shopian after the latter gunned down five militants, including Hizbul Mujahideen top commander Saddam Padder and a fresh recruit, an assistant professor from the Kashmir University, in an encounter that went on for over six hours.
The five slain militants were identified as Saddam Hussain Padder, Bilal Ahmad Mohand, Adil Ahmed Malik, Tauseef Ahmad Sheikh and Mohammed Rafi Bhat, a PhD scholar and an assistant professor in the Kashmir University.
3 militants killed in Budgam encounter
Srinagar, Jan 21: Three militant of Hizbul Mujahideen outfit were killed in an encounter at Hapatnar woods in Charar-e-Shareef area of central Kashmir’s Budgam district on Monday.
News agency Global News Service quoted a senior police officer saying that a joint team of Army’s 53 RR, SOG and CRPF launched a cordon-and-search operation in forest area of Hapatnar early Monday morning following “credible inputs” about the presence of some militants.
As the joint team of forces intensified the combing operation, the militants hiding in the area opened fire triggering off a gunfight which continued intermittently till late in the evening.
During the course of gunfight, three militants belonged to Hizbul Mujahideen outfit were killed, the officer said.
The operation was prolonged due to the tough terrain amid inclement weather conditions, he added.”So far one body has been recovered along with arms and ammunition. The other two bodies which are lying inside the hideout are yet to be retrieved,” the officer said.
“The identity of the slain is being ascertained,” the officer said.
The officer said that the government forces have also blasted the hideout of the militants in the mountainous area, covered under plenty of snow.
Meanwhile, sources identified one among the slain Shahid Baba of Drabgam, Pulwama. (With inputs from GNS)
Snow, rains persist: Land, air traffic disrupted
Srinagar, Jan 21: Although not as severe as predicted, fresh snowfall and rains were Monday lashed Kashmir bringing some respite to the people from the cold wave.
The plains of Kashmir witnessed moderate rainfall from early hours of Monday, while there were reports of snowfall in higher reaches of the valley, officials said here.
The MeT Office has forecast widespread rain and snow over the state with heavy falls at isolated places till Tuesday.
Meanwhile, traffic on the 300-km long Srinagar-Jammu highway was halted because of heavy snowfall on the stretch.
“Today no movement of vehicular traffic on Jammu Srinagar NHW from Jammu towards Srinagar and vice versa as road blocked due to snow accumulation at Nowgam-Jawahar Tunnel-Qazigund Sector and still snowing,” J&K Traffic Police tweeted Monday morning.
Bad weather conditions also disrupted operations at the Srinagar International Airport here, leading to the cancellation of four flights, officials said.
“Due to the inclement weather, four of the 27 flights to and fro Srinagar were cancelled on Monday,” an official of the Airport Authority of India.
Another 11 flights got delayed due to poor visibility and intermittent rainfall since Monday morning, he said.
The minimum temperature in Srinagar on Sunday settled at minus 0.3 degree Celsius, same as previous night, a MET official said.
He said Qazigund, the gateway town to the valley, in south Kashmir recorded a low of 0.6 degree Celsius, while the nearby Kokernag town registered a low of minus 0.3 degrees Celsius Sunday night.
The mercury in Kupwara town in north Kashmir settled at a low of minus 0.6 degree Celsius. Gulmarg ski-resort in north Kashmir recorded a low of minus 4 degrees Celsius Sunday night, while Pahalgam tourist resort, in south Kashmir, recorded a low of 0.2 degrees Celsius, the official said.
He said Leh, in the frontier Ladakh region, recorded a low of minus 5.6 degrees Celsius, while the mercury in Kargil registered a low of minus 14.0 degrees Celsius. Kargil was the coldest recorded place in Jammu and Kashmir, colder than even Drass town which recorded a low of minus 6.8 degrees Celsius.
Kashmir is currently under the grip of ‘Chillai Kalan’, the 40-day harshest period of winter when the chances of snowfall are maximum and the temperature drops considerably.
‘Chillai Kalan’ ends on January 31, but the cold wave continues even after that in Kashmir. The 40-day period is followed by a 20-day long ‘Chillai Khurd’ (small cold) and a 10-day long ‘Chillai Bachha’ (baby cold).
Lack of funds halts vital JK tourism projects
Srinagar, Jan 21: The Governor-led administration is mulling to start new projects to boost tourism in Kashmir even as several old ones have been left midway due to want of funds.
In December last year, the administration ordered the constitution of an official panel for identification of new projects in tourism sector to be implemented under Prime Minister’s Development Package (PMDP).
Back in 2014, the Government of India, under Project/Infrastructure Development for Destination and Circuits (PIDDC), had sanctioned Rs 7593.88 lakh for development of basic tourism infrastructure in Jammu and Kashmir through private investment, opening of new potential destinations and development of heritage, adventure, and pilgrim and eco-tourism.
However, the projects have been left incomplete as the Centre has, as per the latest official data, released only Rs 3504.80 lakh of the sanctioned amount against which the department shows 100 percent expenditure.
Now, due to the unavailability of funds, the PIDDC project is on standstill.
The project included development of Eidgah, face-lifting of Khankahi Moula, Development of Jamia Masjid Heritage Corridor, Renovation of Aali Masjid, Upgrading of Ziyarat Abdul Razaq Sahib at Hawal, Ziyarat Hazrat Balaad Rumi at Rajouri Kadal, Ziyarat Akhoon Sahib and TajBibi at Fateh Kadal, Ziyarat Hazrat Noor Shaha Sahib at Narwara, and Conservation of areas from Naagar Nagar to Watlab.
The tourist circuit from Naagar Nagar to Watlab, which was a key component of the project, still requires Rs 2312.90 lakh to be completed, official data shows.
Another main component of PIDDC project, construction of Trans Himalayan Culture Centre in Leh, too requires further Rs 1094.48 lakh for completion.
Similarly, development of Khiram Shrine in South Kashmir’s Bijbehara town also remains incomplete for want of funds.
Section Officer of Planning, Tourism Department, Sajad Ahmad, told The Kashmir Monitor that “65 per cent” of the work has been completed on Naagar Nagar to Watlab component of the project.
“We had to stop the work because the Centre did not release the funds,” he added.
Executive Engineer, JK Tourism, Abdul Qayoom Kirmani said they have asked the Government of India for the pending funds and also sent to them the proposal of the new projects.
“We have identified new Rs 100 crore new projects under PMDP-II, which comprises of nine circuits,” he said.