Jammu, Jan 4: A group of four enthusiastic bikers from Kashmir has set out on a rally from Srinagar to Kanyakumari to campaign for “drugs free society” – a first of its kind initiative from the Valley since abrogation of Article 370 provisions on August 5.
The bikers left Srinagar on Friday but had to spend the chilly night under a tent on the Jammu-Srinagar national highway due to blocking of the only all-weather road, linking Kashmir with the rest of the country, by a landslide at Digdole in Ramban district, before getting green signal around 5 am the next day.
“Nobody is sponsoring our trip…We have pooled our resources after getting a cool response from the government to complete the dream ride,” 24-year-old engineering student Muzamil Fayaz Bhat, the leader of the team hailing from Tral township of south Kashmir’s Pulwama district, told PTI.
Bhat, along with Adil Ahmad Mir, Mohammad Zubair and Ubaid Javid Malik – all residents of Srinagar, stayed overnight in Jammu to have some rest after going through a nightmare on the highway and left for their second stop at Delhi en route to Kanyakumari on Saturday morning.
The group hopes to cover the 3806-km distance in a week.
“We are professional bikers and nature lovers, and have visited different parts of the valley and Ladakh during the past over three years. We had decided to undertake the long journey last year with a message against substance abuse, which is growing with each passing day and claiming precious lives, but the sudden developments caused the delay,” Bhat said.
The Centre abrogated Article 370 provisions, which guaranteed special status to Jammu and Kashmir, on August 5 last year and bifurcated the erstwhile state into Union territories, Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh, which came into effect on October 31.
“We lost contact with each other due to restrictions and communication blockade. When the restrictions were eased and mobile phones got restored, we came together under the banner of team logo ”Battle on Roads” and approached the authorities for necessary assistance for the first of its kind trip but got a cold shoulder despite a senior officer immediately approving our proposal,” Bhat said, blaming corruption for “misplacing of the file”.
Zubair said they were expecting more bikers to join them in the trip after getting the sponsorship as everyone cannot afford the required expenditure.
“We have seen the riders from different parts of India exploring Kashmir and Ladakh under the full cooperation of their governments. We wish our government too pays attention to encourage the local youth to take part in short and long distance bike rallies, which will help them to overcome negativity and think positively,” he said.
The biker said they have made the “small beginning” and “we are hopeful that more and more youth will join us in future”.
“Our motto for this trip is to attract the attention of the youth to our banners and placards which we are carrying to convey our message (no drugs). Even if one person gets motivated and stays away from the drugs, it will be our success,” he said.
Mir said it is painful to see an increasing number of youth falling prey to the drugs.
“After our successful trip, we will launch a massive campaign in Kashmir and visit all higher secondary schools, colleges and universities to share our experience with the students…If we can stay away from drugs, why cannot everyone else,” he said.
Zubair said the depression among the youth due to various reasons like growing unemployment, the three-decade-long violence and hopeless future is driving them to drugs.
Malik was thankful to the road clearance agencies who worked round-the-clock to clear the highway of the landslide debris.
“When we reached Digdole (on the highway), the road was completely blocked and we had no other option but to stay in the open to wait for the clearance of the road. The icy winds coupled with falling night temperature kept us awake throughout the night even as we had put up a tent,” he said.
He said they were given a passage around 5.30 am after hectic efforts by the men who were on the job.
“It was nothing short of a nightmare and was also a signal for the challenges ahead. We braved this challenge and are hopeful to overcome whatever the situation to fulfill our long cherished dream to work as an inspiration for others,” he said.
Centre’s `massive outreach’ programme to begin from Jan 18
Srinagar, Jan 16: Five months after the abrogation of Article 370, Narendra Modi-led government has embarked on an outreach programme to make people aware about the “positive” impacts of the revocation of special status of Jammu and Kashmir.
Source said at least 36 ministers are scheduled to visit Jammu and Kashmir for a week from January 18. They are schedule to address people at 59 places including 51 in Jammu and eight in Kashmir.
Among the five central ministers who will be addressing people in Kashmir are Ravi Shankar Prasad, G Kishan Reddy, Shripad Naik, Niranjan Jyoti and Ramesh Pokhriyal.
“G Kishan Reddy will address people in Ganderbal town on January 22 and Manigam on January 23. Ravi Shankar Prasad will address people in Baramulla on January 24. Niranjan Jyoti, Ramesh Pokhriyal and Shripad Naik will address gatherings at SKICC Srinagar,” sources said.
Sources said Prakash Javadekar may also address rallies in Kashmir. Smriti Irani, Piyush Goyal, V K Singh, Anurag Thakur, R K Singh and Giriraj Singh are among union ministers who would address rallies in Jammu.
However, the schedule for the visit will be finalised at a meeting of the Union Council of Ministers on Friday.
Ministry of Home Affairs has also sent background material about developmental activities to the ministers.
A top official said all the preparations are being made for the visit. “Police and central forces have been directed to ensure adequate security arrangements,” he said.
The official said ministers however won’t visit restive south Kashmir. “They will address at those places which are relatively peaceful,” the official said.
A BJP leader said the visit is part of Centre’s “massive outreach programme” to interact directly with the people of J&K. “BJP workers and leaders would also attend these rallies. Ministers will try to make people aware about positive impact of Article 370 abrogation,” he said.
On January 14, Minister for Home Affairs wrote a letter to J&K Chief Secretary B V R Subrahmanyam informing him about the contours of the visit. “Union Minister Amit Shah has desired that all members of the union council of ministers shall pay a visit to the Union Territory with the objective of disseminating information about the importance of the government policies with regard to overall development of J&K and its people along with the steps taken by the Government of India in this direction particularly in the last five month,” reads the letter.
The delegation will interact with the people during the visit to different districts and educate the people under various themes including rapid development after President’s Rule from June 2018 and now after re-organization in August, 100 percent coverage of 55 beneficiary oriented schemes to all residents of J&K, rapid infrastructure development including implementation of PMDP, flagship schemes and iconic projects, Good governance and rule of law with equality of opportunity to all, rapid industrial growth with employment and rapid economic growth in all sectors with focus on incomes.
Under the public outreach programme, the Union Ministers will visit different districts in both the divisions of the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir, with the objective of disseminating information about the importance of the Centre’s policies for the overall development of the Union Territory and its people along with the steps taken by the government particularly in the past five months after the abrogation of Article 370 provisions and bifurcation of erstwhile state.
If everything is normal, why send 36 ‘propagandists’ to Kashmir: Sibal
Press Trust of India
New Delhi, Jan 16: The Congress on Thursday slammed the government over its decision to send 36 Union ministers to Jammu and Kashmir and said if everything was “normal” there, what was the need to send “propagandists”.
A group of Union ministers will visit Jammu and Kashmir later this month to spread awareness about the positive impact of abrogation of Article 370 provisions and the development measures taken by th government for the region.
The schedule for the visit of the ministers to the union territories of Jammu and Kashmir is likely to be finalised at a meeting of the Union Council of Ministers on Friday.
“Amit Shah says all is normal in Kashmir. If so, why send 36 propagandists to Kashmir? Why not allow non-propagandists to go and understand the situation prevailing there?” tweeted senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal.
Thirty-six Union ministers will visit different districts in both the divisions of the Union Territory starting from January 18 to January 24 and the Home Ministry is coordinating it.
“36 Ministers running around J&K in 6 days is a sign of Panic not normalcy. Abrogating Article 370 was a blunder & no quick fixes will work Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall, Humpty Dumpty had a great fall; All the king’s horses and all the king’s men Couldn’t put Humpty together again,” tweeted Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari.
This will be the second round of visit by the Union ministers to Jammu and Kashmir after the abrogation of the special status of the erstwhile state on August 5.
Earlier this month, in one of the meetings of the council of ministers, a presentation was also been made on the development initiatives taken by the Centre following the imposition of the governor rule in the region.
Release detained leaders if Kashmir situation normal: Cong
New Delhi, Jan 16:The Congress on Thursday slammed the Modi government’s plan to take 36 Union ministers to Jammu & Kashmir, saying if it believes that everything is normal in Kashmir then itshould release the detained Kashmiri leaders first.
Speaking to IANS, Congress spokesperson Jaiveer Shergill said, “Either Modi government trusts the European MPs, who believe in going on tours and that was the reason why they were brought to Kashmir.”
He said that the government was taking its 36 ministers to Kashmir to mislead the people about the situation in the newly-created Union Territory. Slamming the government for putting the opposition leaders under house arrest, Shergill said, “They have made Kashmir as a zoo, where the opposition leaders have been put under house arrest. And now they are taking their leaders to visit the zoo.”
The Modi government on August 5 abrogated Article 370 of the Constitution from Jammu & Kashmir that gave special status to the erstwhile state and bifurcated the state into two Union territories — Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh.
Following the abrogation of Article 370, the government suspended internet and mobile services in Kashmir and also put several opposition leaders including three former Chief Ministers — Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti under house arrest.
Taunting the BJP government, the Congress leader said, “If the government wants to bring the situation in Kashmir to normal then they need to release the opposition leaders and pay damages to the people of Kashmir whose businesses have suffered in last five months.”
He also said that the government also needs to rework the image of the country after putting Kashmir under a communication blackout.
Slamming the BJP-led NDA government, Shergill said that the government is only “champion in headline management” and they are zero on the economic front and they have no focus on national security and Kashmir.
Airfares go through roof: SXR –DEL @ Rs 26k, DEL-DXP @ Rs 11k
Srinagar, Jan 16: Believe it or not, but it is true. Flying to Dubai is cheaper than traveling to Srinagar from -New Delhi.
Thanks to the National Highway closure, air fare has skyrocketed in Kashmir. For the next three days, one way air fare from Srinagar to New Delhi ranges from Rs 11500 to 25300. It is over 200 per cent higher than the normal airfare of Rs 4000-5000. One way air fare from New Delhi to Dubai on Friday is Rs 10841.
An inter-state trip is equally costlier. The air fare between Jammu and Srinagar has increased by 500 per cent this week. An airfare from Srinagar to Jammu ranges between Rs 11500 to 15000.
Even after hike in air fare, the flights operations from Srinagar airport has been hit due to slippery conditions. Around 14 flights got cancelled on Thursday due to the slippery condition of the runway.
“12 out of 26 flights operated today. The visibility was clear today but the runway was not cleared. After Air Force cleared the runway, the flight operations resumed,” said Santosh Dhoke, Director Airport Authority of India, Srinagar.
The hike in airfare and repeated cancellation of flights is causing huge inconveniences to the people. “My mother who suffers from Asthama needs to travel to New Delhi for monthly follow-ups. We have been reaching airport every morning and the flights are getting constantly cancelled,” said Sajad Ahmad, a resident of Soura.
On the other side, vehicular traffic remained disrupted on Srinagar- Jammu National Highway on Thursday. Only stranded vehicles were allowed at evening hours to cross the landslide prone areas.
“The highway was cleared today. Only few of the stranded vehicles were allowed to pass through the Digdol, Monkey Stand and Panthal towards Jammu. Subject to the weather and road conditions, only stranded vehicles will be allowed to move,” said an official at Traffic Control Room Ramban.
As many as 5000 vehicles have remained stranded on the highway for the last four days.
Meteorological Department has forecasted scattered light rains and snow for next 24 hours in Kashmir regions. A MeT official said that 1.0mm rains were recorded in Qazigund on Thursday while Srinagar received rains which weren’t measurable. He said Batote and Badarwah in Jammu division recorded 2.8mm and 11.9mm rains respectively.
Police `solves’ two grenade attack cases;Five JeM cadres arrested
Srinagar, Jan 16: Police on Thursday claimed to have busted a Jaish-e- Mohammad (JeM) module by arresting five persons who were allegedly involved in two grenade attacks in Srinagar.
Deputy Inspector General of Police, Central Kashmir Range, and VK Birdi said investigation launched by the police revealed that these five persons carried out grenade attacks to “enforce shutdown in Srinagar.”
“Recently some grenade attacks were reported in Srinagar, particularly on January 8 at Habbak crossing which resulted injuries to few civilians. An FIR number 02/2020 under sections 307, IPC and ¾ Explosives Act was registered at Police Station Nigeen,” he said.
Birdi said during investigation Aijaz Ahmad Sheikh, a driver from Hazratbal, Umar Hameed Sheikh, vendor from Hazratbal were arrested. “Both these admitted their role in grenade attack. They also provided leads for similar attack at Sir Syed Gate of Kashmir University on November 26,” he said.
The DIG said three more people were arrested during raids at various spots in the area. “Imtiyaz Ahmad Chikla and Naseer Ahmad Mir, both from Hazratbal and Sahil Farooq Gojri from Soura admitted their roles in November grenade attack at Sir Syed gate of Kashmir University,” he said
Birdi said police recovered incriminating material including gelatin sticks, explosives, detonators, arms, explosive body vests, batteries and nitric acids during investigation. “They were active cadres of JeM,” he said
Birdi said the main motive of the arrested persons was “to enforce shutdown and cause IED type blasts in the city.”
“Shops in the market had opened but they wanted to shut them down. Recovery also suggested that they were also planning some IED attack. Further investigation is underway to unearth conspiracy,” he said.