As the Kashmir Stag popularly known as Hangul is on the verge of extinction, largely because of human intrusions and domestic livestock grazing, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) is all set to declare it a ‘critically endangered’ species to protect this beautiful animal from disappearing from earth.
Once found in the high altitudes of northern India and Pakistan, Hangul now only lives in the dense riverine forests of Dachigam. Known for its giant antlers bearing 11 to 16 points, Hangul has been hunted over centuries and its habitat destroyed, leading to its population in the wild plunging to a mere 150.
According to official figures, Hangul population has been declining steeply since the last century when there were some 5,000 deer in the Kashmir valley.
The 1947 Hangul census recorded its number at 2000. The massive decline was mainly attributed to poaching then. The last census was done in 2011 when its population was found just over 200, according to the wildlife department figures.
However, due to the efforts of the wildlife researchers, including Dr Mukesh Thakur of Amity Institute of Wildlife Sciences, the Kashmiri Hangul will now be reclassified.
A scientific journal brought by the IUCN, ‘DSG (Deer Specialist Group) Newsletter,’ has recently emphasised on the urgent requirement to save the rare species.
The May 2016 edition of the IUCN journal quotes Sarah Brook, IUCN Deer Red List Authority, as saying: “The subspecies assessment of red deer, which has however not been performed up to now, would surely promote Hangul conservation in India.”
In his research Mukesh Thakur had indicated that in Kashmir just about 150 hanguls are left and elevating it to a species level, probably by merging with two other subspecies, Bactrianus and Yarkandensis red deers, from China’s Tarim Mountains will bring international focus on Hangul and more efforts will be made to preserve it.
“Species rank is crucial in conservation decisions. At the local scale, this would certainly attract the immediate attention of biologists, park managers and policy makers to invest more efforts, time and funds to safeguard the dwindling population of Hangul in India which has regional and international value,” Thakur had said in his research.
Rashid Ahmad, Regional wildlife warden Dachigam National Park told The Kashmir Monitor that though they have not received any official confirmation from IUCN of declaring Hangul as ‘critically endangered’ specie but if done it will help in protecting the rear specie which is on the verge of extinction.
“Earlier, Kashmir Stag was counted among Red Deer species that is why it was in least concerned category. But if they are counting it separately and declaring Hangul as endangered species it will be brought back to international focus and more efforts will be taken to save it,” said Rashid.
Historically, the Hanguls were distributed in the mountains of Himalaya, Kashmir, Chenab Valley and Chamba district in Himachal Pradesh.
However, there is only one viable population left today in the wild, which is largely confined to the Greater Dachigam Landscape (1,000 sq.km.), encompassing the Dachigam National Park (NP) and adjoining protected areas.
It is listed under Schedule-I of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 and J&K Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1978 and has also been listed among the top 15 species of high conservation priority by the Government of India.
As per the Bombay Natural History Society, Kashmir’s Hangul population was anywhere between 3,000 to 5,000 around the year 1900.
However, 2015 census carried out by Kashmir’s forest department estimated it could be at its lowest ever, 110-130, in Dachigam.
The phenomenon is blamed on fragmentation of forested habitat, land encroachment for grazing.
UN chief could discuss Kashmir issue at UNGA: UN spokesman
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres is likely to use the opportunity of discussions during the high-level UN General Assembly session that begins here next week to raise the Kashmir issue, the UN chief’s spokesperson has said.
Spokesman for the Secretary-General Stephane Dujarric during the daily press briefing here on Thursday said that the UN chief has underscored the need for dialogue as the only way to resolve the issue and, “as part of the solution for the current crisis in Kashmir, to make sure that human rights aspects are very much dealt with, as well.”
“…On Kashmir, the Secretary General… has said previously, he remains engaged. I think he will also use the opportunity of discussions during the General Assembly to raise it,” Dujarric said, responding to a question on the situation in Kashmir.
On Wednesday, Guterres emphasised that “dialogue” between India and Pakistan is an “absolute essential element” for reaching a solution on the Kashmir issue, and said his good offices are available should both sides ask for it and called for full respect of human rights.
“Well, our capacity is related to good offices, and good offices can only be implemented when the parties accept it. And, on the other hand, it relates to advocacy, and the advocacy was expressed and will be maintained,” Guterres said during his press conference ahead of the UN General Assembly session.
Guterres was asked by a Pakistani journalist about the situation in Jammu and Kashmir and what will he do to bring a solution to the Kashmir issue.
“I go on with a clear opinion that human rights must be fully respected in the territory, and I go on with the clear opinion that dialogue between India and Pakistan is an absolutely essential element for the solution of the problem,” he said.
India has always maintained that Jammu and Kashmir is its integral part and ruled out any third party mediation, including either from the UN or the US, saying it is a bilateral issue with Pakistan.
The UN Secretary General has also repeatedly asserted that his good offices are available only if both sides ask for it.
Tension between India and Pakistan escalated after New Delhi revoked Jammu and Kashmir’s special status on August 5. Pakistan has downgraded diplomatic ties with New Delhi and expelled the Indian High Commissioner.
Pakistan has been trying to internationalise the Kashmir issue but India has asserted that the abrogation of Article 370 was its “internal matter”.
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has vowed to raise the Kashmir issue at the UN General Assembly (UNGA) session in New York on September 27. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is also scheduled to speak on the same day.
Amid Kashmir tensions, India will participate at SAARC meeting in New York
NEW DELHI: Amid heightened Indo-Pak tensions, India will participate at the SAARC foreign ministers meeting scheduled to be held on September 26 on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session, officials said on Thursday.
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedharan will be present in the US next week and will hold bilateral and multilateral meetings.
Officials said India will participate in the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation foreign ministers meeting that is scheduled for September 26.
The meeting on the sidelines of the UNGA could bring Jaishankar and his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi face to face for the first time after the abrogation of Article 370 provisions.
Asked about a possible meeting with his Pakistani counterpart as well as the future of the SAARC regional grouping, Jaishankar, at a press conference earlier this week, had said, “if and when I meet Pakistani Foreign Minister, we will see at that time what happens”.
The SAARC is about regional cooperation and that refers to trade, MFN, connectivity etc.
, he had said, adding that now every member knows which country is promoting SAARC and which one is impeding it.
Last year, then External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had attended the SAARC Foreign Ministers meeting, usually held on the sidelines of the UNGA.
Plea alleges detention of children in Kashmir, SC seeks report
The Supreme Court on Friday sought a report from Jammu and Kashmir High Court on the alleged detention of children in Kashmir during curbs following the scrapping of Article 370 in the state on August 5.
Senior advocate Huzefa Ahmadi, representing child right activists Inakshi Ganguly and Shanta Sinha who have alleged detention of children in Kashmir, had on September 16 told the apex court that people in the Valley are not able to approach the high court there.
A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said it would entertain the petition regarding alleged detention of children in Kashmir as the plea has raised “substantial issues” regarding minors. The top court directed the Juvenile Justice Committee of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court to file a report before it within a week on the issue.
The Supreme Court also said it had received a report from the Chief Justice of Jammu and Kashmir High Court and claims that people are unable to access the court there are not supported.
“We have received the report from the chief justice (of Jammu and Kashmir High Court) which does not support your statement,” the bench also comprising justices S A Bobde and S A Nazeer told the counsel appearing for the petitioners.
The Supreme Court also sought response from the Jammu and Kashmir administration on a plea challenging detention of five persons in Kashmir following the abrogation of Article 370.
The bench asked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who was appearing for the Jammu and Kashmir administration, to file his response.