Srinagar, Jun 30: The roaring Jhelum with its increasing water levels began to retreat Saturday evening but not before unsettling almost the entire Kashmir with apprehension of a 2014-like deluge knocking back on the residents’ doors.
A few days rainfall was enough to bring the people living in low-lying areas in Kashmir to their knees as flood threat loomed large in the region exposing the authorities’ flood-mitigation plans, whose impact was nowhere visible.
On Friday evening, the authorities had set up a round-the-clock monitoring system in various parts of the state to check the rising water level at Sangam in South Kashmir as well as Ram Munshi Bagh in Srinagar.
Jhelum crossed the critical 21-feet mark at Sangam in south Kashmir’s Anantnag district owing to the heavy rainfall that began on Thursday.
“Due to continuous rains over the past two days, the gauge at Sangam has crossed the flood declaration of 21 feet and was flowing above it on Saturday,” an official at the irrigation and flood control department said.
The threat remained until the afternoon when the weather improved. Soon after reports of water level receding allayed the fears of the people.
Residents of many areas in valley especially in south Kashmir, however, said that they have been regularly complaining to the authorities to take measures that could safeguard the valley from the destruction that is brought by floods, but they never pay any heed.
“In Just two days of rain, see our condition. What if it rains harder in the days to come”? Abid a resident of Anantnag questioned.
After the devastation of the 2014 floods, the government belatedly woke to the need to dredge the river and the flood channel. These had filled with silt over many years.
Dredging contracts were negotiated through the summer of 2015, and finally awarded to a private company in autumn that year. For some reason, only some stretches were designated for dredging. Even on those, work has been painfully slow.
Governor NN Vohra had realized the urgency of the matter when the state was under Governor’s Rule two year ago. After inspecting the dredging operations, he ordered officials to keep regular tabs on the progress of the work. However, Governor’s Rule soon ended, the previous coalition government lost thought and did nothing in this regard.
Sources said that merely few inches of dredging has been done after 2014, when the floods had brought huge additional silt.
Officials said that the least the present government can do now is make arrangements for efficient evacuation and rescue, just in case a flood does recur.
The Jhelum River on September 5, in full wrath burst through embankments submerging everything that came in its way roads, streets, buildings. The Tawi River in Jammu region showed no mercy either. The floods spared no one and resulted in massive casualties in the state besides a colossal loss to property.
People said that more than four year has passed since the floods that claimed loss of huge lives but no lessons seem to have been learnt. “What emerges is a familiar story of agencies failing to communicate, a lack of planning and awareness and the incompetence to tackle such disasters,” said Mohammad Aslam a resident of Padshabagh.
He said now it is high time for the government, both state and central, to work on proper counter mechanisms for such disasters.
“One work the government needs to undertake and that would greatly reduce the flood threat, especially to the capital, is massive systematic dredging of the Jhelum downstream from Srinagar,” he suggested.
Scientific dredging of the Jhelum downstream from Srinagar as well as the Wular and river basin wetlands will significantly reduce Kashmir’s vulnerability to moderate floods discharging up to 60,000 cusecs.
Experts believe that the much-talked about “alternate option” of a flood channel from Dogripora in South Kashmir to the Wular in the north needs to be evaluated as well, keeping in view the flat topography of the terrain, holding capacity of the Wular and feasibility of draining some 50,000 cusecs into an alternate channel.
The floodwater in 2014 submerged over 600 square km of land, rising up to 25 feet at some places. In Srinagar, vast areas remained, on an average, under eight feet of water for over a week. The Jhelum overflowed by 3-5 feet, breaching its embankments. As a result, great loss was caused to life and property.
People said that ideally, in the aftermath of the disaster, introspection should have been done at every level government, public, individual about what went wrong in 2014 so as to develop a mitigation plan for future, but nothing of the sort happened.
“Such a process has not even been initiated at the level of the state in the past three and a half years. And save for a few measures aimed at increasing the drainage capacity of the Jhelum, no concerted effort has been made to devise a strategy for minimizing flood risk to people and infrastructure, especially in the Jhelum basin,” Shabir Ahmad a resident of Bemina said.
Soon after the 2014 flood, a distinguished group of 40 experts and professionals drawn from various state and central agencies, academia and civil society met and deliberated the “flood problem” in Kashmir over two days. The fruit of the group’s labour was a comprehensive strategy for flood risk reduction.
One of the key recommendations was dredging of the Jhelum and its flood spill channel. Indeed, various major flood alerts have been sounded since 2014. Fortunately, none turned into a deluge.
However one of the senior leaders of the PDP said that since 2014, the government had taken some engineering measures including patch dredging of the Jhelum and its flood channel, restoration of the breached embankments, repair of damaged irrigation infrastructure in the basin.
Awantipora teacher killed in police custody
Torture marks on body; city DM orders inquiry; police says deceased was ‘suspect in militancy case’
Srinagar, Mar 19: A youth from Awantipora town in south Kashmir’s Pulwama district was killed in police custody in Srinagar during the intervening night of March 18 and 19.
The deceased was identified as 28-year-old Rizwan Assad Pandith, M.Sc in Chemistry, who worked as Principal at Sabir Abdullah, a local private school, and also ran a tuition institute.
He was arrested from his home on Sunday, March 17 by a Police party led by a DSP rank officer, his brother Zulkarnain said.
“Yesterday (Monday), we went to the police station where we were told that my brother was in the custody of Cargo guys,” Zulkarnain said.
‘Cargo’ is a counter-insurgency police camp located in Srinagar.
He added that on Tuesday morning the family came to know that Rizwan was “killed in cargo.”
“It is a cold-blooded custodial murder,” Zulkarnain alleged.
“My brother was innocent. He was running a tuition center and was working as a Principal of a local private school. We fail to understand what his crime was and why was he killed?” he said.
Zulkarnain added that his brother was not affiliated with any militant organisation.
“He was associated with Jamaat-e-Islami. Is that a crime? My father too is a member of Jamaat,” he said.
The family, later in the day, refused to take back the body from Police Control Room Srinagar amid protests and clashes in Awantipora.
Mubashir, Rizwan’s elder sibling, told The Kashmir Monitor over the phone that the family was asked to receive the body from Police Control Room, Srinagar, however, they refused telling the police that they should themselves bring the body back.
“Finally the Awantipora police handed over the body along with other documentation. We will perform the jinazah by 9 pm (Tuesday),” Mubashir said.
He added that Rizwan was arrested on “frivolous” charges, slapped with Public Safety Act (PSA) on 26 August 2018, and shifted to Kot Bhalwal jail in Jammu, where he was kept for five months.
The PSA, he added, was eventually quashed by a local court in Pulwama but the police kept detaining Rizwan and released him on January 6, around 20 days after the court order.
“Since then, he was busy with his routine work and was living a normal life,” he said.
Mubashir said that Rizwan’s body carried clear torture marks.
“His left eye had completely blackened, his nose was still bleeding and there were several torture marks on his body. His stomach had swollen a lot. It clearly shows he died of torture,” he said.
A police spokesperson said that Rizwan was a “suspect” in a militancy case investigation.
“He died in police custody. In this matter, while following the procedure laid down in section 176 of CRPC, a magisterial inquiry is underway. Separately police investigation has also been initiated in the jurisdictional area of the incident,” police said.
Unconfirmed reports had linked Rizwan’s detention with recent NIA raids, however, a spokesperson of NIA denied their link with the case.
“Emphatically deny reports linking NIA with Rizwan Ahmad of Awantipora. He was neither called for questioning nor was he examined at any other location in connection with cases being investigated by NIA,” the NIA spokesperson said in a statement.
In the evening, District Magistrate Srinagar, Shahid Iqbal Choudhary, told a local news agency that they have started proceedings into the case under the magisterial probe.
“The inquiry will be conducted by the Additional Commissioner Srinagar. We will complete the probe soon and submit the report to the government,” news agency Kashmir News Service quoted Choudhary saying.
Soon after the news about the killing was shared, youth came out protesting in parts of south Kashmir and Srinagar.
The authorities at Islamic University of Science and Technology (IUST) in Awantipora had already closed the varsity as a precautionary measure.
In Srinagar, shopkeepers at Maisuma and downtown areas including Nowhatta and Rajouri Kadal downed the shutters in protest.
NIA denies involvement
Srinagar, Mar 19: Amid outrage over the death of an Awantipora resident in police custody, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Tuesday said the deceased was not examined by the probe agency.
“NIA emphatically denies reports linking NIA with Rizwan Ahmed resident of Awantipora,” the probe agency said, in a statement, issued on Tuesday.
“He was neither called for questioning nor was he examined at any other location in connection with cases being investigated by NIA.”
Rizwan Assad Pandith (28) died in the custody at CARGO camp in Srinagar last night, triggering widespread condemnations and protests in Kashmir.
Separatists have called shutdown in Kashmir tomorrow to protests his custodial death.
Earlier, reports had said that Pandith was detained by the NIA few days ago.
Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister and PDP president Mehbooba Mufti said on Twitter that Rizwan was, as per sources, picked up by NIA few days ago and was lodged in CARGO camp.
Spontaneous shutdown, clashes in several areas
Srinagar, Mar 19: The custodial killing of a private school teacher from South Kashmir’s Pulwama district Tuesday triggered a spontaneous shutdown at many places in Awantipora and old-city areas here.
28-year-old Rizwan Assad Pandith, a post-graduate in Chemistry, who worked as teacher at a local private school and also ran a tuition institute, was killed in police custody during the intervening night of March 18 and 19.
As soon as the news of his death went public on Tuesday, all the shops and business establishments were closed in Awantipora soon and the local youth engaged in clashes with government forces.
Police said that a probe is underway while as the separate police investigation has also been launched.
The students of Kashmir University also staged a protest against the custodial death of the youth and against summoning of Hurriyat (M) Mirwaiz Umar Farooq.
The students assembled in the premises of Kashmir University and raised slogans.
The students demanded investigation into the death of a youth. They also termed the summoning of Mirwaiz to National Investigation Agency (NIA) as ‘interference in religious affairs’, saying such acts must be stopped forthwith.
His death exposes helplessness of Kashmiris: Mirwaiz
Srinagar, Mar 19: Hurriyat (M) chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq on Tuesday said that the custodial killing of a school teacher has once again exposed the “helplessness” of the people of Kashmir.
“Distraught at the brutal custodial killing of young Rizwan Ahmed of Awantipora. The brutal killing once again exposes the, helplessness, vulnerability and insecurity of the lives of Kashmiri’s as impunity to the authorities keeps rising. (sic),” Mirwaiz wrote on Twitter.
Earlier, both the former chief ministers of the state, National Conference’s Omar Abdullah and Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP) Mehbooba Mufti lashed out at the government of India over the custodial killing of a school teacher.
On Tuesday, a school teacher, identified as Rizwan Pandith, died in police custody at CARGO camp in Srinagar.
A resident of a resident of Awantipora in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama district, Rizwan was arrested by the police few days back from his home.
A police official said that Rizwan died during the intervening night of Monday and Tuesday.
The Jammu Kashmir Police department has asked for a magisterial inquiry.
Joint Hurriyat calls for shutdown today
Srinagar, Mar 19: Joint Hurriyat Leadership Tuesday called for a complete shutdown on Wednesday against the custodial killing of 28-year-old school teacher Rizwan Asad Pandith of Awantipora.
Joint Hurriyat, as per a statement, strongly condemned the killing of Rizwan, who was picked up by police a few days ago and was killed in custody at SOG camp Cargo.
Paying tributes to Rizwan and expressing deep grief and sorrow at his ‘killing’, Joint Hurriyat expressed sympathy with his bereaved family.
Terming this killing as ‘gruesome’, the leadership said that “this custodial killing is not only one of its kind but prior to this, hundreds and thousands of young and old Kashmiris have been killed in this manner.”
“This killing has actually increased the vulnerability of Kashmiri inmates languishing in different jails of India and jails of Jammu Kashmir, and jeopardized their lives,” they said.
Announcing a comprehensive protest program against this ‘state terrorism’, the leadership said “people will observe a complete and comprehensive protest strike on Wednesday, March 20, against the gruesome custodial killing of Rizwan Asad, policies of intimidation and harassment by police, SOG and other Indian investigative agencies, arbitrary arrests, slapping of draconian PSA, summoning political activists to SOG camps and thus creating atmosphere of fear in Jammu Kashmir.”
Joint Hurriyat appealed all segments of society including traders, lawyers, bar association, civil society, and others from different walks of life to peacefully protest against the custodial killing and assaults on Kashmiris.
On Friday, March 22, after Friday prayers, people at all Masajid, Khanqahs and Imam Baras will raise their voices peacefully against this custodial death and continuing policy of ‘oppression, Joint Hurriyat said.
Joint Hurriyat said that those who raise their voice against the killing of youth, their arrests and slapping with PSA are branded as “anti-national “and threatened with dire consequences and intimidation. “While crackdown and arrest spree against political and religious activists and youth continues unabated on the other hand SOG has been calling political activists and youth to SOG cargo camp to intimidate them and create an atmosphere of fear among people in general,” they said.
Joint Hurriyat said through their investigative agencies NIA and ED, the authorities have let loose a reign of terror to instill fear among people and harass them.
“People of Kashmir have borne tremendous hardships and suffering for the last three decades especially, all because they are asking for an end to the conflict through peaceful resolution of the Kashmir dispute as per the people’s wishes but instead people are being crushed,” Joint Hurriyat said.
Thing of our dark past: Omar, Mehbooba, ors condemn killing
Srinagar, Mar 19: The mainstream political parties in Jammu and Kashmir on Tuesday condemned the custodial killing of a youth from South Kashmir’s Pulwama district, who was arrested in connection with a ‘militancy case’ on Sunday.
Soon after the news about the death of youth in custody spread, the political parties and leaders took to the micro-blogging social networking site and condemned the custodial killing.
Former chief minister and National Conference Vice President, Omar Abdullah said the custodial death was unacceptable and must be investigated in transparent and time bound manner.
“I had hoped custodial deaths were a thing of our dark past. This is an unacceptable development & must be investigated in a transparent, time bound manner. Exemplary punishment must be handed out to the killers of this young man,” Omar tweeted.
The former chief minister and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chief, Mehbooba Mufti said GoI’s repressive approach leaves young educated men vulnerable who are forced to take up arms, saying ‘we have suffered enough’.
“Innocent men hauled up from their homes for interrogation return home only in coffins now. GoI’s repressive approach leaves young educated men vulnerable who are forced to take up arms. Stop using Kashmir to exhibit your sick chauvinistic nationalism. We have suffered enough,” Mehbooba tweeted.
Peoples Conference (PC) chairman and former minister Sajad Gani Lone in a tweet condemned the custodial death of a youth, saying ‘this is what the sanctity of human life has been reduced to in Kashmir.’
“Condemn in strongest terms the death in police custody in Pulwama. This is what the sanctity of human life has been reduced to in Kashmir. My thoughts r with the family of the deceased,” Sajad tweeted.
Peoples Conference (PC) General Secretary and former minister, Imran Raza Ansari condemned the custodial death of a youth from south Kashmir’s Pulwama district today.
Ansari demanded time bound inquiry into the custodial death of a youth. He expressed solidarity with the bereaved family and also for their courage to bear this loss.
Former finance minister Syed Mohammad Altaf Bukhari also demanded a time bound probe into the ‘extra judicial killing’ of the youth.
Expressing serious concern over the incident, Bukhari expressed his heartfelt sympathies with the bereaved family and prayed for eternal peace to the departed soul.
“It is highly unfortunate that a young man, teacher by profession, has lost his life in police custody and it needs to be thoroughly investigated to know what went wrong and who are responsible for his death in custody,” Bukhari demanded.
Demanding judicial enquiry into the alleged custodial killing of a 28-year-old Awantipora school teacher, CPI (M) leader Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami said no civilized society can tolerate such acts.
“The custodial death of Rizwan Pandith must be investigated in a transparent and time bound manner and government must order a judicial enquiry into the incident immediately. Custodial killing isn’t acceptable to any human being and whosoever is involved Pandith’s killing must be given exemplary punishment. Custodial killing is a brutality and brutalities are unacceptable in whatever form they are,” Tarigami said.
Peoples Democratic Front (PDF) chairman and former MLA Khansahib, Hakeem Muhammad Yaseen also condemned the death of a youth in custody, demanding time bound inquiry into the incident.
In a statement issued, Hakeem said, “Such killings are unfortunate and are highly condemnable. We have been raising voice that repressive measures will yield no results. We demand a time bound judicial inquiry to be ordered and the persons involved in it be punished so that such incidents are not repeated,” he said.