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More rain prediction keeps flood fright alive

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Srinagar, July 1: Even though the levels of river Jhelum have receded since Saturday evening, the prediction of more rains from today (Monday) evening is keeping the flood threat alive in Kashmir.

As per Irrigation and Flood Control Department, the river flowed at 16.9 feet in south Kashmir’s Sangam at 4 pm on Sunday after it had crossed flood declaration level of 21 feet on Friday evening and reached a high of 23.8 feet on Saturday.

In Srinagar’s Ram Munshi Bagh observatory, however, the water level mostly remained static at 20.9 feet on Saturday over and above the flood declaration level of 18 feet, and receded marginally to 18.9 feet by Sunday 4 pm.

 

Incessant rains since Wednesday had caused flooding in several parts of the Valley even as rising levels of the Jhelum sparked fears of a rerun of the September 2014 floods in the region.

The local MeT has predicted there could be light rains from Monday evening for a couple of days.

Jammu and Kashmir governor N N Vohra made an unscheduled visit in the morning to the State Flood Control Room at Hari Niwas Srinagar and attended a meeting convened by Baseer Khan, divisional commissioner Kashmir, to review the preparedness of the administration to evacuate affected residents if the Jhelum crossed the high flood level.

“Governor is keeping a constant touch with the key functionaries and has directed that Situation Reports should be sent to him thrice a day till the present situation eases,” a spokesman of the Raj Bhawan said.

Meanwhile, the Amarnath Yatra has been resumed as pilgrims were allowed to move towards the cave shrine from both Baltal and Pahalgam base stations.

Officials attending control rooms said 10,000 pilgrims were allowed to trek from Pahalgam while another 7,032 yatris moved up from Baltal. Some 874 pilgrims also took chopper services from Baltal.

Keeping in view the safety of the pilgrims, the Yatra had been suspended on Saturday because of landslides, slippery tracks and shooting stones caused by incessant rainfall.

The pilgrimage, which was scheduled to start early on Thursday from Baltal and Pahalgam, remained suspended due to rains since Wednesday after it made the treacherous mountain tracks slippery.

The cave shrine, which is 3,893 metres above sea level, houses an ice stalagmite that waxes and wanes with the phases of the moon, and devotees believe the structure symbolises Lord Shiva, the Hindu god of destruction. It was discovered by a Muslim shepherd in the 15th century.

The two-month annual pilgrimage for which 2.11 lakh people have registered so far this year comes amid a governor’s rule in the state after the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ended its coalition with the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) on June 20.

There has been heightened militant activity even before the pilgrimage started, although a top Hizbul Mujahideen commander assured pilgrims that “you don’t need any security as you are our guests”.

The state police, Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and the Indian Army have put up a coordinated security arrangement in place for the pilgrimage.


Srinagar schools to remain closed today: Admn

Srinagar, July 1: Divisional Commissioner Kashmir has ordered the closure of all Government and private schools in district Srinagar today (Monday).

An order issued from the office of Divisional Commissioner Kashmir said all schools both government and private shall remain closed in view of the flood alert in different parts of Kashmir valley.


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Phase III Lok Sabha polls: Anantnag to go to polls today

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Srinagar, Apr 22: The Anantnag Lok Sabha constituency in Jammu and Kashmir goes to the polls in the third phase on Tuesday even as the security forces face a serious challenge to ensure that the democratic process passes off peacefully.

Due to the overwhelming security concerns, the Anantnag parliamentary constituency comprising four districts — Anantnag, Kulgam, Shopian and Pulwama — will vote in three phases. Polling in Anantnag will be held on Tuesday, followed by Kulgam (April 29) and Pulwama and Shopian (May 6).Over 100 additional companies of Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) have been deployed to augment an already existing large contingent of state police and CAPF personnel deployed on poll duty in this constituency.

Because of the serious security challenges in the constituency, by-poll could not be held in Anantnag after Mehbooba Mufti, President of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), resigned the seat in 2016 to become the state’s Chief Minister following the death of her father, Mufti Muhammad Sayeed.

 

In addition to the presence of foreign militants, homegrown militancy is a big challenge here for the agencies maintaining ‘law and order’.

In the last four years, a large number of local youth, majority of them well-educated and belonging to upper middle class families, have joined militant ranks in the four districts of Anantnag, Shopian, Kulgam and Pulwama.

The problems for the security personnel have been compounded by stone pelting at armed forces during security operations against holed up militants, thousands of mourners turning out to attend funerals of slain militants and the failure of the mainstream politicians to move out even in areas from where they were voted to the state Assembly in 2014.

Due to security issues, the voting process here would be held between 7 a.m. and 4 p.m., instead of the 6 p.m. deadline observed in the other constituencies of the state.

While there are five main candidates in the fray from Anantnag — PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti, Congress’ Ghulam Ahmad Mir, Hasnain Masoodi of the National Conference (NC), Sofi Yusuf of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Chowdhary Zafar Ali of the Peoples Conference (PC) — the key contest here is between Mufti and state Congress President Mir.

Out of the 16 Assembly segments under the Anantnag Lok Sabha constituency, the PDP had won 11, Congress 2, NC 2 and CPI-M 1 in the 2014 Assembly elections.

Given these statistics, Mufti’s victory may look like a cakewalk, but the ground situation has undergone a sea change since 2014.

The failed ruling alliance between the PDP and the BJP in the state has hit the former’s prospects in Anantnag as it has done in the rest of the Muslim majority Valley.

Mufti has taken a huge gamble by deciding to fight the Lok Sabha polls from here. Her victory or defeat would seriously impact the prospects of her party in the state Assembly elections likely to be held later this year.

Her problems have been compounded by Mir throwing his hat in the electoral arena. Mir has committed vote banks in Dooru, Shangus, Kokernag and Devsar segments.

While it is expected that the voter turnout would be good in these segments, there is a possibility of thin voter turnout in the segments where the PDP believes its vote banks exist.

Given this reality, the final result could see a photo finish between Mir and Mufti.

Poll campaign by different parties here has been generally muted because of security constraints.

How many voters come out to vote on Tuesday would be keenly watched. But no matter what, the security forces will have their tasks cut out to ensure that polling is conducted smoothly in this volatile constituency.

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SRI LANKA BOMBINGS: Death toll rises to 290

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Colombo, Apr 22: The toll in the eight coordinated bomb blasts that rocked Sri Lanka during Easter celebrations rose to 290, police said on Monday.

Police spokesperson Ruwan Gunasekara told The New York Times that 24 people have been arrested in connection with the deadly explosions in which nearly 500 people were injured on Sunday.

Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe told the reporters that the authorities had prior “information regarding a possible attack” before the bomb blasts ripped through churches and hotels in Colombo and two other towns in the island nation.

 

“While this goes on we must also look into why adequate precautions were not taken,” Wickremesinghe was quoted as saying by Al Jazeera.

The police said that the investigation will examine reports why the intelligence community failed to detect or warn of possible suicide attacks ahead of the blasts, the worst violence in Sri Lanka since the end of the civil war 10 years ago.

They also said that an improvised pipe bomb found close to Colombo’s main airport late on Sunday, was successfully detonated. No group has claimed responsibility for the attacks.

The Prime Minister said, “So far the names that have come up are local,” adding that the investigators are looking into whether the attackers had any “overseas links”.

According to Sri Lanka’s Foreign Ministry, at least 17 people from eight countries, including three from India, were among those who were killed in the serial blasts. The dead included five citizens of Britain, three Danes, two each from China and Turkey and one each from the Netherlands and Portugal, reported CNN.

The ministry said that 19 foreign nationals injured in the attacks are receiving treatment at Colombo National Hospital.

Following the bomb attacks, the Sri Lankan government had imposed a 12-hour island-wide curfew from 6:00 pm on Sunday.

After a discussion with heads of security forces and all other departments regarding the current security situation in the country, President Maithripala Sirisena had announced that the government and private schools would remain closed till Tuesday.

In addition, steps have been taken to temporarily block all social media accounts until the investigations are concluded.

‘National Tawheed Jamath’ suspected plotters: Sri Lanka

Press Trust of India

Colombo, Apr 22: A local outfit identified as the ‘National Tawheed Jamath’ is suspected of plotting the deadly Easter blasts that killed 290 people and wounded 500 others in the worst terror attack in the country’s history, a top Sri Lankan minister said on Monday.

Health Minister and the government spokesman, Rajitha Senaratne, also said that all suicide bombers involved in the blasts are believed to be Sri Lankan nationals.

Speaking at a press conference here, the minister said that the Chief of National Intelligence had warned the Inspector General of Police (IGP) regarding the probable attacks before April 11.

“On April 4, international intelligence agencies had warned of these attacks. The IGP was informed on April 9,” Senaratne said.

He said that the local outfit identified as the National Tawheed Jamath – a radical Muslim group – is suspected of plotting the deadly explosions.

“There may be international links to them,” he added.

Senaratne sought resignation of police chief Pujith Jayasundera in view of the major security lapse.

Rauff Hakeem, a government minister and the leader of the main Muslim party – Sri Lanka Muslim Congress, said that it was lamentable that no preventive action had been taken despite the inputs.

“They have known this…, the names have been given, identified, but (they) took no action,” he added.

Two Sri Lankan Muslim groups – the All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulama and the National Shoora Council – have condemned the blasts and offered condolences to the Christian community.

They have urged that all culprits be brought to book.

Seven suicide bombers were involved in eight blasts that targeted St Anthony’s Church in Colombo, St Sebastian’s Church in Negombo and Zeon Church in Batticaloa when the Easter Sunday mass were in progress. The explosions also struck three five-star hotels in Colombo – the Shangri-La, the Cinnamon Grand and the Kingsbury.

No group has claimed responsibility for Sunday’s attacks, but police have so far arrested 24 people.

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If well, Malik to appear in Delhi Court tomorrow

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Srinagar, Apr 27: Detained Joint Hurriyat leader Yasin Malik, who was shifted to a hospital in Delhi after his health deteriorated due to a hunger strike in Tihar jail against his “illegal detention”, will now appear in Patiala House Court on April 24 as a magistrate has ordered his judicial remand after meeting him in the hospital, sources said.

Malik, who was shifted to Ram Manohar Lohia hospital in Delhi after his health worsened in the jail last week, was likely to be shifted back to Tihar Central Jail on Monday, sources added.

“Malik had told the visiting magistrate on Saturday that he will break the hunger strike only if he was sent to judicial custody, which the magistrate eventually ordered,” sources told The Kashmir Monitor over the phone from Delhi.

 

Chairman of JKLF (banned by Government of India last month), Malik was detained under PSA and shifted to Jammu’s Kot Balwal jail in March.

Earlier this month, he was arrested from the Jammu jail by National Investigation Agency (NIA) in the alleged funding case and brought to Delhi.

Last Saturday, Malik’s family in Srinagar said Malik was “very ill” after he went on a hunger strike to protest against his “illegal” detention by the NIA. A Delhi court had on April 10 sent Malik to NIA custody till April 22 in connection with the alleged funding case.

PDP demands shifting him to Srinagar

Srinagar, Apr 22: Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Monday demanded shifting JKLF Chairman Yasin Malik to Srinagar, terming his failing health a major cause of concern.

In a statement issued here, PDP leader Mohammad Sartaj Madni said that government of India cannot ignore the mounting concerns of the people of the state about the deteriorating health of incarcerated JKLF Chief.

“Malik’s family has already expressed its concern over the way in which the health of their son is sadistically being ignored in an outright manner and that there are apprehensions that if adequate medical facilities aren’t put in place for Malik, his life could be in danger,” Madni, as per the statement, said.

He added that even if ideologically there is a deep chasm between separatists and New Delhi and their views do not square with each other, “vindictive approach against them is unconstitutional, illegitimate and inhuman.”

Madni demanded that Malik should be immediately shifted to Srinagar and treated here only. According to the PDP leader, shifting Malik to Kashmir will facilitate his family to take care of him and will also pacify people who are concerned over his failing health.

Pak criticises Malik’s confinement

Press Trust of India

Islamabad, Apr 22: Pakistan on Monday criticised India for arresting and confining separatist leader Yasin Malik in connection with a case related to the alleged funding in Jammu and Kashmir.

“Pakistan strongly condemns the continuing incarceration and deteriorating health of Yasin Malik since February 22 on trumped up charges,” Pakistan’s foreign office said in a press release.

“We expect the Government of India to ensure the wellbeing of Malik, including provision of adequate health care,” it said.

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) arrested JKLF chief Malik on April 10 after a special NIA court in Jammu gave the go ahead for his custodial interrogation by the probe agency.

Malik, who was shifted to Tihar jail under police protection, was taken into preventive custody in February by the Jammu and Kashmir police and shifted to Jammu’s Kot Balwal jail.

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