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Kathua child’s death: Bakarwal community claims incident part of larger conspiracy

Monitor News Bureau

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Srinagar, Jan 21: When a shepherd found eight-year-old Asifa’s body in the bushes of Rassana, a village in Kathua’s Hiranagar, on January 17, it had been eight days since she had gone missing.

Asifa’s family along with neighbours and police had passed over the same spot multiple times during their search for the child but had not found any clue of her until that day.

For the family, the last memory of the child, on the afternoon of January 10, was her clad in a colourful shalwar kameez and a grin on her innocent face.

 

She, as per her uncle, Ali Jan, had taken the family’s horses to the nearby pond.

That memory, however, was replaced by a gruesome image of her body so beaten up that waist down – as per those who bathed the child – many of her bones were crushed.

“It seemed that they had used some heavy log or a stone to crush her legs. There were bite marks on her face and shoulders,” Jan told The Kashmir Monitor over the phone.

On Sunday, four days after little Asifa was buried, the family and the rest of the local Bakarwal community gathered in the village to ask a few questions.

“How can a 15-year old keep an 8-year old captive for a more than a week and then kill her so gruesomely? Why did police look out for Asifa in the nearby jungle and not the village when we told them that we had thoroughly searched for her in the woods,” the people asked.

Following the issue being highlighted in the ongoing Assembly in Jammu, the government, on Friday, had hurriedly called for a magisterial probe into the incident.

On the same day, the government claimed that a Special Investigation Team had arrested a 15-year-old boy who, they said, had confessed to murdering Asifa.

Giving details of the investigation, Parliamentary Affairs minister Abdul Rehman Veeri then informed the Assembly that the accused had “kidnapped the minor girl and put her in nearby cowshed at village Rassana, where he attempted to rape her and when she resisted, he killed her by way of strangulation”.

The family as well as the entire Bakarwal community in the area, however, refuses to accept this version.

Jan, Asifa’s uncle, claims that police did not do their job even as they lodged First Information Report in the case on January 11.

“On 11th, the local Police told us that it is sarkari kaam and would happen at its own pace. On January 12, they sent a party along with some shepherds to the nearby jungle. We told them that we had already looked for her there and that they should rather look in the village,” said Jan.

For the next five more days, police could not find the child until the Bakarwals themselves found her body dumped in the woods.

“The doctor who came along with the police on seeing the body said the death had taken place only 24-48 hours ago,” Jan said.

“Accusing the 15-year old is only a way to shield others, who are essentially anti-Bakarwal and have shown their resentment before this incident as well,” he claimed.

He said the incident was not just an isolated one but a part of a “conspiracy” to drive out the minority Bakarwal community, which comprises around 1 percent of the entire population of Tehsil Hiranagar.

The family related to the 15-year old boy accused of the crime, as per Jan, used to “hurl abuses on seeing any Bakarwal passing their way”.

Jan said the majority community in the area did not even allow them to bury Asifa’s body in the piece of land the Bakarwals had bought back in 2002.

“They came with weapons and sticks forcing us to take the body to our relatives’ place, who live at least 5 kilometers away and bury it there,” Jan said.

“They told us ‘we did not sell you the land to bury the dead’. They want to drive us out …Marna to sab ko hai magar yeh hamme marne ke baad bhi jagah nahi dete (everyone has to die but they don’t even allow us to be buried in our place).”

Jan said his family has been living on the outskirts of the village for at least five decades now.

Chowdhary Anwar Phamra, in-charge All Tribal Coordination Committee J&K, corroborated whatever Jan claimed.

Anwar too claimed that one family, whose head is a former Patwari, had ever been anti-Bakarwal.

“He along with his son and the 15-year-old nephew knew about all this. How can a teenager do all this alone? Asifa was kept abducted for six days in a shed; she had only died around 24 hours before when her body was found. She was raped. I cannot even say what else they had done to her,” Anwar said.

He too alleged that the case was not an isolated one but part of the “larger conspiracy that has begun after BJP and RSS came into power in Kashmir.”

“We have been living here for decades but since the new government came into power, the majority community has been provoked by BJP and RSS men to act against us and force us to leave our birthplaces. This little child’s murder is part of that plan,” he said.

Anwar said the Bakarwal community demands that an FIR should be lodged against the concerned SHO, Police Station Hiranagar, and rather than SIT, the investigation should be conducted judicially.

“Who should we ask justice from? Everyone is against us, be it Tehsildar, Patwari, policemen…everyone,” he said.


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Zakir Musa’s successor killed, Ansar Gazwatul Hind wiped out: DGP

Firdous Hassan

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Srinagar, Oct 23: Director General of Police Dilbag Singh Wednesday claimed that they have wiped out militant outfit Ansar Gazwatul Hind (AGH) from Jammu and Kashmir after security forces killed its last three surviving militants including the successor of slain Zakir Musa, in an encounter at Rajpora in Pulwama district on Tuesday evening.

“Three militants were killed in Rajpora. They were later identified as Hamid Lone alias Hamid Lelhari of Lelhari village Kakpora, Naveed Ahmad Tak of Batpora and Junaid Rashid of Nowdal Tral. All the three were associated with Ansar Gazwatul Hind, which now has been wiped out from the valley,” Singh told reporters.

The DGP said the trio was “involved in many attacks on forces and killing of civilians in Pulwama district.”

 

“After killing of Zakir Musa, Lelhari took command of the AGH. He had joined the militant group in 2016 and since then he was involved in many militant activities.  Lelhari had motivated these two slain militants to join his group. He was a part of the group, which attacked forces in Kakapora. Lelhari along with another militant Yasir had killed two Gujjars recently in the area,” he said.

DGP noted that Junaid Rashid was the second militant of his family to have been killed by the forces. “We feel very sad for that. These work at the behest of Pakistan based agencies,” he said.

Singh said the slain militants were working in coordination with Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) and Laskhar-e-Toiba (LeT). “Jaish is currently trying to coordinate with every militant group operating in the valley.  Both JeM and LeT decide the targets and work in coordination with other groups,” he said.

DGP used the occasion to appeal the youth to shun militancy saying “taking to weapons is like inviting death.”

“Weapon creates an environment of death. We wish such activities are stopped. Youth should shun militancy to restore peace in the valley,” Singh said.

The DGP claimed the situation in the valley has improved after August 5 and youth joining militancy has shown a downward trend during the period.

“People were of the notion that militancy will increase after August 5. But the momentum of youth joining militant ranks has come down drastically during the period. People have now set up their stall and kiosks on roads everywhere to do their routine business,” he said.

Singh said that only five to six youth have gone missing from their homes after August 5. “We can’t be sure that they have joined any militant group. There can be other reasons behind their decision to leave home,” he said.

Asked whether there was any possibility of Pulwama like attack, he said: “Forces are alert on ground to respond to these threats.”

“It is difficult to anticipate anything since there have been many threats by Pakistan including their Prime Minister.  Pulwama like incidents can happen anywhere. But if we face such situation, we are alert on ground to take care of these threats,” Singh said.

Asked about reports of detentions in south Kashmir, Singh said: “Propaganda is created by certain media houses without verifying the news”

“This is clearly a misinformation and propaganda.  We always verify about the possible OGW network or either associates of militants before picking any person. Later verification follows and then they are being freed after proper counselling,” he said.

 DGP said out of five people arrested, four are later released. “We are not fond of keeping people in custody unnecessarily. 17000 cases are being registered ever year by the police and it doesn’t mean we pick and torture them.  In case of juveniles, the age is being verified and then legal action follows. We follow Juvenile Justice Act,” he said

On the reports of withdrawing post-paid phone services again in the valley, Singh said they take every decision after considering the ground situation.

“Phones were blocked after assessing of situation. Same procedure was followed when the service was resumed,” he said.

The DGP said that proper security arrangements will be put in place for conducting exams in the valley. “Exams are in the interest of children and their parents.  Whenever need arises we are ready to help them by ensuring proper security. We appeal children not to spoil their career,” he said.

Singh said police has put in place security arrangement for Block Development Council election on Thursday.  “We have directed SPs to make every security arrangement in their respective zones,” he said.

DGP noted that they have reviewed the security “to ensure protection of the people particularly those associated with apple trade.”

“There were some unfortunate incidents when militants targeted two truckers, a labourer and apple trader. People took it serious and condemned the act. They (militants) can interfere to the extent of killing people who do their routine work, but we have now reviewed the security. We have now intensified our operation against militants,” he said.

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Sizable infiltration post Aug 5:DGP

Firdous Hassan

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Srinagar, Oct 23: Director General of Police Dilbag Singh Wednesday admitted that sizable infiltration has taken place after August 5 when Centre abrogated Article 370 and divided state into two union territories.

“Some infiltration by militants has taken place. However many of their attempts to sneak in have been foiled. Now we see ceasefire violation in Rajouri, Poonch, Samba, Hiranagar, Karnah, Uri, Machil, Gurez and Keran every day. Ceasefire violation is aimed at pushing militants into Kashmir,” Singh said.

The DGP said the exact number of militants who have sneaked in can’t be known, but the infiltration has been a sizable one.

 

“We feel the number is sizable. But I don’t see the number that big to worry us. Process is on to bring their number down,” he said.

Singh said lesser number of militants was worrying Pakistan and that is why “they are trying to push in more infiltrators”.

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Dumping of construction waste: Kashmir stares at environmental disaster

Hirra Azmat

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Srinagar, Oct 23: An environmental disaster is unfolding in Kashmir as more than 6650 metric tonnes of construction and demolition (C&D) waste is brazenly dumped along the river banks and vacant lands annually.

Official document accessed by The Kashmir Monitor reveal that total C&D waste generated in Kashmir for 2018-2019 was 6650.28 metric tonnes. 

The construction and demolition waste management rules 2016 apply to every waste resulting from construction, re-modeling, repair and demolition of any civil structure of individual or organization or authority which generates construction and demolition waste such as building materials, debris and rubble.

 

However, in absence of any collection and disposal of C&D waste, the waste is being dumped on unused vacant lands, along river banks.  “The waste is disposed of by owners themselves on completion of construction work as per municipal authorities and only unclaimed waste is transported by local bodies. “There is no progress as far as identification of sites is concerned for processing of C&D waste,” the document reads.

The urban local bodies (ULBs) are responsible for the management of construction and demolition waste.

“As per the rules, the ULBs should chalk out stages, methodology and equipment, material involved in the overall activity and final clean up after completion of the C&D waste,”  said an official at the State Pollution Control Board (SPCB).

Environmentalist Dr Arshid said dumping the waste along the river banks can prove detrimental to fragile environment. “The waste carries increased amount of dust load which can deteriorate the water quality. It erodes over a period of time and can increase turbidity,” he said

Director State Pollution Control Board, Rafi Ahmed: “As per rules, the municipal corporations are bound to identify a separate landfill site for the proper disposing off of C&D waste. They are currently in process of identifying some sites for the waste.”

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