By Hirra Azmat
Srinagar, May 23: A neatly dressed couple, speaking in chaste Urdu, seems to be loitering on the Jhelum Bund near Polo View here.
They stop every passerby and talk with them animatedly for a few minutes, apparently asking for some address. Only stepping closer to them reveals the truth: they are beggars, and not from Kashmir.
“We have travelled all the way from Ajmer. Don’t disappoint us in this holy month. Give us some money, and we promise to do for you a special dua at the shrine,” they make an emotional appeal.
They appear to be the members of a racket thriving on the alms paid in plenty by the Muslims in holy Ramadan.
At the same spot, this reporter was approached by another well-dressed, bearded man after a short while.
Smelling of freshly applied Attar (non-alcoholic perfume), he pulls out a booklet from his black canvas bag.
“Here is a small gift for you. Make sure you memorize this book of duas this month. They will surely benefit you in the future,” he said, and asked confidently for Rs 100 in exchange.
At a nearby traffic signal, a group of youngsters besieges this reporter, holding yellow receipt books. They claim to work for an orphanage.
On being enquired about the organisation, they return vague and evasive answers.
During Ramadan, begging reaches its in Muslim-majority Kashmir Valley, where the believers indulge in charity during the holy month. However, there are organisations and individuals who seek to profit from it.
Islamic jurists asked people to verify credentials before doing charity.
Mufti Ishaaq Nazki, of Bandipora, conceded that there were a number of people and faked institutions that take advantage of this month to exploit the religious and charitable sentiments.
“The charitable work increases considerably in this month and such begging syndicates know how to make money out of it,” Nazki said.
Nazki said the people displaying documents for seeking money from the people, should be excluded.
“It’s okay to give money to them. However, there are many who, despite having illnesses, are capable of working and yet they choose to beg,” he said.
Nazki said Muslims are encouraged to be more charitable in this month.
“However, charity should begin from home,” he said.
“People should check if anyone among their relatives or neighbours is in a difficult position, and they shall try to reach out to them first.”
Expressing concern, Nazki said there were many “organised groups” sending their members in the guise of beggars or fund raisers to exploit the “philanthropic initiative” and “generosity” of the people in Kashmir.
“They mostly include fraudsters claiming to be a part of some Darul uloom or orphanage. They can even be non-local beggars,” he claimed.
He urged people to refrain from giving money to such people, as there was no way to find out the truth about them.
Mufti Zia Ul Haq, of Bijbehara, has similar views.
“We have to first look for needy within own family and then in the neighbourhood. If we don’t find one, we shall look for others for Sadqa Fitrana and Zakaat,” he said.
“Begging has become a business for many people for the holy month of Ramadan. People should be cautious while doing charity.”
Expressing helplessness over this issue, Divisional Commissioner Kashmir, Baseer Ahmad Khan said it was up to the people to decide.
“There is no way for us to find out the authenticity of a particular person (beggar),” Khan said.
He, however, said the people should complaint to the authorities concerned if they find anything objectionable.
5 dead, as many missing as avalanche hits Khardung La pass
Srinagar, Jan 18: Five persons were killed and five others missing after their truck came under an avalanche in the Khardung La area of the Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir on Friday, officials said.
The avalanche hit the truck carrying 10 persons at the Khardung La pass in the Ladakh region at 7 am, an official of the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) said.
The BRO pressed into service its men and machinery to rescue the passengers of the truck, who were believed to be trapped under the debris, he added.
The police, Army and State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) personnel had also reached the spot, the BRO official said.
“So far, the bodies of five persons have been recovered from the avalanche site, while a search is on for the other missing persons,” he added.
A bulldozer driver posted at the Khardung La Pass said two tippers and a Scorpio vehicle carrying about 12 persons left towards K-top area early morning to load snow to Leh.
“One tipper was already loaded with snow. However, the mishap occurred when they were loading another vehicle. Suddenly, an avalanche hit them and 10 people in a tipper were buried under the snow,” he said.
A senior police official said, “At least 10-12 people were trapped under the snow and a body of a local resident from Leh has been recovered from the area. Fresh snowfall took place in the area on Thursday and they had gone to collect snow in a vehicle.”
Rescue teams of police, Border Roads Organisation and Jammu and Kashmir Disaster Management Force reached the spot.
A high alert for avalanche was sounded on Thursday by the administration following adverse weather advisory by the Met department.
Guv expresses grief, announces Rs 5 lakh compensation
Jammu, Jan 18: Governor Satya Pal Malik has expressed grief over loss of precious lives due to snow avalanche at Khardung La in Leh district, Friday morning.
In his message, a Raj Bhavan spokesperson said, the Governor prayed for eternal peace to the departed souls and strength to the bereaved families in their hour of grief.
Governor has announced an ex-gratia relief of Rs 5 lakh for the next of the kin of those killed in the avalanche.
Meanwhile, Jammu and Kashmir National Conference president Farooq Abdullah and vice president Omar Abdullah too expressed deep sorrow over the loss of lives in the avalanche.
The party spokesman in a statement said that the duo has urged the administration to expedite the rescue operation and ensure all support to the families of the deceased.
Both Farooq and Omar urged the governor administration to gear up its men and machinery to meet any eventuality in wake of heavy snowfall as predicted by the local MeT officials.
Impressing upon the administration to ensure that people don’t have to suffer due to the vagaries of weather, the duo urged the administration to ensure all arterial and other routes are kept open to avoid any suffering to people.
Kashmir braces for heavy snow spell from today
Srinagar, Jan 18: As the meteorological department has predicted another spell of moderate to heavy snowfall in the Kashmir region from Saturday onwards, people in Kashmir are readying themselves by keeping ample stock of food and ensuring proper heating arrangements are put in place.
With the western disturbances likely to affect the region, the officials have also warned of disruption of road, rail and air traffic from Saturday afternoon.
“The western disturbances are most likely to affect the state and its adjoining areas from January 19 to 25, with the main activity between January 20 and 23 and gradual decrease thereafter,” Sonam Lotus, director Meteorological department said.
He said moderate to heavy snowfall and rain was expected at widespread places of the Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh regions.
“Some places may receive very heavy rain and snow during this period,” he said, adding that light snowfall would begin at a few places in Kashmir on Saturday morning and increase in intensity and distribution thereafter.
On Friday, Kargil recorded the night’s lowest temperature at minus 19.2 degrees Celsius while neighbouring Leh recorded a minimum temperature of minus 15.6, Met office said.
Drass town was the coldest in the Jammu and Kashmir at minus 27.1.
Srinagar, the summer capital of the state recorded a low of minus 0.7 while the mercury in Qazigund in south Kashmir settled at a low of minus 0.7 degrees Celsius.
Gulmarg, the famous skiing resort in north Kashmir, recorded a low of minus 10.0 degrees Celsius while night temperature in Pahalgam – the famous health resort settled at a low of minus 10.3 degrees.
Kokernag town recorded a low of minus 2.0 degrees Celsius while Kupwara town in north Kashmir registered a low of minus 2.8 degrees Celsius last night.
Jammu city recorded 5.3 degrees Celsius, Katra 6.3, Batote 2.5, Bannihal 0.7 and Bhaderwah minus 0.8 degree Celsius.
Twin grenade attacks in city-centre, Shopian
Srinagar, Jan 18: Less than 24 hours after the Rajbagh grenade attack, militants on Friday carried out two more grenade attacks on government forces in Kashmir, including one in the city-centre Lal Chowk here.
Militants lobbed a grenade at a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) bunker at Ghanta Ghar (Clock Tower) in Lal Chowk in the afternoon, a police official said.
The grenade exploded on the roadside, he said, adding that no one was hurt in the attack.
A private car parked on the roadside was partly damaged due to the explosion, the official said.
Window panes of a few shops on either side of the road were also damaged because of the blast.
This was the second such attack on government forces in Srinagar within 24 hours.
Earlier on Thursday, militants had hurled a grenade on police personnel at Zero Bridge here, resulting in injuries to three policemen.
In another incident on Friday, militants lobbed a grenade at a police camp in Gagran village of Shopian district of south Kashmir. However there was no report of loss of life or damage to property.
A police spokesperson came out with the following statement later in the day: Police had to attend two “terror” crime spots today following the reports of grenade attack by militants at Srinagar and Shopian. Officers from the local police units immediately reached to both the crime spot this (Friday) afternoon to initiate the investigation in the matter.
“While attending the crime spot, officers did not receive any report pertaining to the loss of life or property. Police has registered cases for both the incidents. Officers from the local police units are at work to establish the full circumstances which led to these incidents. If you have any information that can assist police in its investigation, you may kindly contact Police,” the spokesperson said.
The three attacks come days ahead of the Republic day and is likely to push government forces for taking even more stringent ‘security’ arrangements, especially in and around the city.
Later in the day, militant outfit Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) claimed the responsibility of the grenade attacks in Srinagar and Shopian.
A spokesperson of JeM Mohammad Hassan in a statement to news agency GNS claimed that three forces personnel were injured in the attack at City Centre Lal Chowk.
He also claimed that several forces personnel were critically injured in the attack at Gagran in south Kashmir’s Shopian district.
The Kashmir Monitor also received a phone call from one Hamza Rashid, who said he was the spokesperson of Jammu and Kashmir Islamic Front, and claimed the responsibility of the Lal Chowk grenade attack.