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No letup: 5 more civilians, soldier killed in Indo-Pak firing

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Srinagar, Jan 20: At least five civilians – three on the Indian side and two on Pakistan’s – and an Indian army soldier were the fresh casualties in the ongoing India-Pakistan border skirmishes that have devoured at least 12 lives since Thursday.
Those killed on the Indian side on Saturday included a 15-year-old boy, and one soldier while several others were injured in cross-border firing that has been going on for the three consecutive days in three districts of Jammu and Kashmir along the international border, officials said.
Ten persons (on the Indian side) have been killed so far, police officials said.
Additional Deputy Commissioner Jammu confirmed the killing of three civilians at Jammu border.
The Army soldier was killed during cross-border firing in Krishna Ghati sector of Poonch district, an officer said.
A defence spokesman identified the slain soldier as sepoy Mandeep Singh (23), a resident of Alampur village of Sangroor in Punjab.
He claimed that Pakistani Army initiated “unprovoked and indiscriminate” firing in Krishna Ghati sector and the Indian Army retaliated strongly and effectively.
The officer said two civilians, Gaura Ram (15) of Kapur R S Pura and Gour Singh (45) of Abdullian, were killed and five others injured in firing by Pakistani rangers along the IB in Jammu district.
Meanwhile, civilians continued to die on the other side as well. A media report from Pakistan said that two civilians were killed and five others wounded on Saturday in firing by Indian troops in Pakistan-administered-Kashmir (PaK).
Dawn News reported that the casualties occurred in different villages of Nakyal sector in Kotli district of PaK, which were targeted by Indian troops from across the restive Line of Control (LoC) throughout the preceding night and during the day.
“The area received shelling for most part of the night, but it was most “intense and indiscriminate” from 11:30am to 1:30pm,” the report quoted Waleed Anwar, assistant commissioner of Nakyalas as saying.
Anwar said one man was wounded past midnight, while a man and a woman were killed and four others were injured during the day.
“The shelling is continuing at the moment, though intermittently. Due to the diminution in severity of shelling people had started evacuating the victims to the nearest health facilities,” he said.
On the Indian side, Pakistan rangers targeted villages along the border from Chenab river (Akhnoor) to RS Pura throughout the night, news agency PTI quoting a Border Security Force (BSF) officer said.
The officer said: “Pakistan was targeting civilian villages to cause death and destruction and added that the Indian side was giving them a befitting reply”.
The continued skirmished has forced 8,000 to 9,000 people living along the IB migrated to safer places and most of them were living with their relatives, the official said.
Over 1,000 people are housed in camps in R S Pura, Samba and Kathua areas, he said.
Educational institutes have been closed for next three days along the IB and the LoC in Jammu region by authorities in wake of increased tension along the Indo-Pak border, officials said.


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Phase II LS Polls: Srinagar PC records 14% turnout

District-wise: Srinagar 7%, Budgam 21%, Ganderbal 16% ;
Boycott, shutdown, clashes witnessed; 70% turnout in Udhampur PC

Mubashir Bukhari

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Srinagar, Apr 18: Srinagar Parliamentary Constituency Thursday sided with poll boycott as merely 14.1% voters exercised their franchise in the constituency where elections were held in tight security.

In the 2014 general election, Srinagar had witnessed a turnout of 25.86 per cent which fell to 7.2 per cent in the 2017 Lok Sabha bypoll.

Udhampur Constituency, on the other hand, witnessed 70.1% turnout during the day.

 

The polling for the second phase of Lok Sabha elections in Jammu and Kashmir “remained peaceful and incident-free”, Chief Electoral Officer Shailendra Kumar told reporters here.

Kumar said Srinagar district recorded the lowest turnout of 7.69 per cent while Reasi district in Udhampur constituency recorded the highest of 73 per cent among the nine districts where polling was conducted Thursday in the state.

Ganderbal district recorded 16.7 per cent while in Budgam district, the turnout was 21.5 per cent, the CEO said.

According to sources, as many as 90 polling booths, mostly in downtown Srinagar, saw no voting. Srinagar constituency had 1,716 polling stations.

As per reports, at least 25 youth and government forces’ personnel were injured in clashes in several parts of central Kashmir.

A constable of Armed Police Vipon Kumar of 5th battalion was injured after being hit by a stone during clashes at Charar-i-sharief in Budgam, Head Constable Hafizullah was injured at Kakaring Charisharief, Head Constable Ghulam Mohammad of IR 4th, constable Sajad, constable Rahul Malik and three CRPF men were injured in Beerwah Town.

Similar reports of clashes were reported from Machowa, Kralpora, Hafroo, Chadoora in Budgam, Srinagar’s Safakadal, Nowabazar, Gojwara, Hawal, Batamaloo and some parts of Ganderbal including Mammar Kangan and Barsoo.

The government forces deployed in these areas used tear smoke shells, pellets and few aerial shots to disperse the protesting youth during which eighteen persons including a woman were injured.

Among the injured, one youth namely Mohammad Asif Bhat sustained a bullet wound in his thigh at Hafroo Chadoora and was immediately taken to nearby hospital from where he was referred to Bone and Joints Hospital in Srinagar for specialised treatment.

Meanwhile, the internet services were suspended in poll-bound districts of Valley since Tuesday night while as the speed was throttled elsewhere in Kashmir.

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MHA suspends cross LoC trade

‘Route illegal inflow of weapons, narcotics currency’

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Srinagar, Apr 18: The Government of India Thursday suspended trade along the Line of Control at Salamabad and Chakan-da-bagh in J&K stating that the routes were used for “inflow of weapons, narcotics and currency”.

According to the order issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), the action was taken after the Ministry “received that cross LoC trade routes in J&K are being misused by Pakistan based elements. The misuse involves illegal inflows of weapons, narcotics, and currency”

It said the cross-LoC trade mechanism is therefore suspended till a stricter regulatory regime is put in place. “This is to ensure that only bonafide trade takes place, for the benefit of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, through this mechanism,” it said.

 

The trade was part of the confidence-building measures (CBMs) between India and Pakistan and was started in October 2008.

The Cross LoC routes — Srinagar-Muzaffarabad route in Kashmir valley and Poonch-Rawalakote route in Jammu division — which are being used to ferry goods between J&K and Pakistan administered Kashmir (PaK). More than 600 traders are registered for the cross LoC trade and 21 items are on the approved export and import list from both the routes.

Mehbooba, Omar flay decision

Former state chief ministers, Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah, on Thursday criticised the Ministry of Home Affairs’ decision to suspend cross-LoC trade in Jammu and Kashmir.

“Using Kashmir as a scapegoat to claw its way back to power won’t help BJP. It’s an excuse to worsen ties with Pak despite their peace overtures. By doing this, PM Modi has dismantled a CBM initiated by Vajpayee ji. Won’t be surprised if an attack on Pak is in the offing,” PDP president Mehbooba Mufti tweeted soon after the MHA ordered the suspension.

Omar Abdullah too reacted: “The Modi Govt buries another of the Vajpayee era CBM. Cross-LoC trade was a legacy of the Vajpayee Govt to facilitate greater people-to-people contact across the Line of Control in J&K”.

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‘I voted to get a passport and see my son in Pak’

Hirra Azmat

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Srinagar, Apr 18: As the elderly seemed enthused by the idea of electing a representative in Srinagar parliamentary elections, many of them had their own distinctly apolitical (and probably unachievable) expectations from the voting process.

This reporter Thursday visited various polling booths of the uptown areas here. A posse of gun totting CRPF personnel guarded all of them.

In one such booth in government girls’ higher secondary school Rajbagh, a frail woman walked in. A young man held her arm as she slowly walked towards the booth where the voting machine was set up.

 

Clad in a light pink salwar kameez and a ruffle shawl, the woman was limping her way (probably due to tender ankles or knees) to the actual booth.

She had her own motherly reason to take this painful walk. 

Misra Begum, 70, a resident of Ikhrajpora said her primary reason to vote was to get a passport and travel documents to see her son in Pakistan.

“My son crossed the border for arms training twelve years ago but he never came back and is now settled in Pakistan. More than a decade has passed and I am yet to see his face,” she said.

“I am dying to meet him. At least once before I close these eyes forever, I want to see my son again. My only purpose of casting a vote is to get me a passport and the travel documents,” Misra said.

Misra’s eyes twinkled as she stared at this reporter. It seemed she even expected this reporter could do something to end her wait and help her meet her son.

Like Misra, 70-year-old Abdul Majeed Shah too voted to bring his sons back. 

“I am casting a vote to bring my sons home,” said Majeed, heaving a sigh as he sat on his haunches in the lawn of Chanapora higher secondary school.

 “Both of my sons have finished their degrees and were jobless and in great distress. With no option left, they left Kashmir and are now working in other states,” he said.

“My wife suffers from paralysis and I also suffer from multiple ailments. We want our sons to be around us in this age but what to do? We are helpless. I am hopeful that a new CM and party will bring happiness in our lives,” Majeed said, apparently not knowing the difference between Parliamentary and Assembly elections.

Shameema Begum, 60, who seemed to have respiratory problems as she talked, had a more text-bookish answer when asked why she voted.

“Why should I waste my fundamental right to vote? We need good roads, and uninterrupted electricity supply. There are so many problems that can only be addressed by good leadership,” she said in a panting voice. 

Shameema, however, gave a puzzled look when asked about the threats hovering on Article 35-A and Kashmir’s special status.

 “I don’t know what that is. I only believe we can get our basic facilities when we cast a vote,” she said.

At the polling booth in Burn Hall school of Sonwar Constituency, Ghulam Nabi, 56, sat on the wooden bench while talking animatedly with a local police man.

“For the last four and half years, PDP-BJP has done absolutely nothing for the state. Look at the condition of the roads and how the youth of the valley are suffering in absence of any employment,” said Ghulam, who is associated with Tourism sector.

“Dr Farooq Abdullah is the only leader who can truly represent the aspirations of the people and resolve the Kashmir issue,” he said revealing that he, like many, was a staunch NC supporter.

Another man in his early seventies overheard the conversation and was desperate to chip in. He spoke in a hoarse voice, “Ghulam Nabi Sahab is absolutely right. Only NC can bring the people of Kashmir out of misery.”

 “I have come here at the break of the dawn when everyone was asleep. I have always voted for NC and will continue to do so. The love for the party runs in my blood,” the man said.

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