Jaipur/Srinagar, July 19: Several senior Jammu and Kashmir government officials are under the scanner of the Rajasthan Police’s Anti-Terror Squad, which is probing 4.29 lakh arms licences being issued in the last one decade from various districts of the militancy-hit state, officials said.
A majority of these licences were given to non-residents on the basis of forged documents, they alleged.
Taking cognisance of the ATS’ requests, pending since last year, the Jammu and Kashmir government issued a notification on July 12 asking divisional commissioners and deputy commissioners to submit a detailed report of those issued arms licences in the last year.
The order instructs the deputy commissioners of Kishtwar, Kupwara, Ganderbal in Kashmir region, Leh in Ladakh division and Rajouri, Ramban, Reasi and Udhampur in Jammu province to furnish all records within a month.
The deputy commissioners of all districts have been barred from issuing any further arms licences till further orders, it said.
It was decided during a meeting with Jammu and Kashmir Governor N N Vohra — the state is under Governor’s Rule — to direct all district magistrates to take urgent steps to revoke all individual arms licences issued to various persons, other than those to the army, paramilitary and police personnel, officials said.
The district magistrates were asked to ensure that all weapons are deposited in neighbouring police stations within 15 days — the period ends on July 27.
According to a senior Rajasthan Police official, the Jammu and Kashmir government was informed about the racket last year and several letters addressed to then chief secretary B B Vyas were sent.
“However, no information was shared with us,” he said.
Then superintendent of police Vikas Kumar, who is now deputy inspector general of the Rajasthan ATS, camped in Srinagar last year and in Jammu this year, but officials in the state refused to share any information, including the postings of previous deputy commissioners, it is learnt.
The Jammu and Kashmir government did not give lists of former special secretaries, deputy secretaries and undersecretaries, saying all records were washed away in the 2014 floods.
“As regards to the incumbency chart of the officials posted in the arms section of the home department since 2001, it is informed that as per the concerned sections, all records were washed away during 2014 floods,” stated the communication from the state home department to Rajasthan Police.
According to ATS officials, 1,32,321 of the 1,43,013 licences in Jammu region’s Doda, Ramban and Udhampur districts were issued to those residing outside the state.
The figure for the entire state is 4,29,301, of which just 10 per cent were issued to residents in the state.
Senior officials in the governor’s office in Jammu and Kashmir said action will be taken against all those guilty of issuing fake licences.
As the probe into the alleged racket started gathering pace, the brother of a senior Jammu and Kashmir IAS officer was arrested by Rajasthan Police in Gurgaon recently. Police alleged that Rs 40 lakh was transferred into his account by a gun dealer.
“We have been desperately looking for a person who worked in the Jammu and Kashmir Home department but cooperation from the state is nil as they refuse to comply with our notice on the pretext that the notice has been sent under Indian Penal Code and the state follows Ranbir Penal Code,” an ATS official said.
A letter written by an under secretary in Jammu and Kashmir’s Home department, a copy of which was sent to the department’s principal secretary (Home), asked Rajasthan Police not to send notices to officials of the state.
“Serving notices to government officials has been examined in consultation with the state legal department….It is manifested that the notices served on the officer/officials of the state home department are without any authority of law,” it said.
Rajasthan ATS officials said they were not aware of the magnitude of the case and its serious ramifications when they began the operation, code named ‘Jubaida’.
A sample survey of licences issued from Kupwara, a frontier district in north Kashmir, showed that no files or registers were maintained by the district authorities and many of the arms licences may have been issued to outsiders on the basis of forged documents.
3 militants killed in Budgam encounter
Srinagar, Jan 21: Three militant of Hizbul Mujahideen outfit were killed in an encounter at Hapatnar woods in Charar-e-Shareef area of central Kashmir’s Budgam district on Monday.
News agency Global News Service quoted a senior police officer saying that a joint team of Army’s 53 RR, SOG and CRPF launched a cordon-and-search operation in forest area of Hapatnar early Monday morning following “credible inputs” about the presence of some militants.
As the joint team of forces intensified the combing operation, the militants hiding in the area opened fire triggering off a gunfight which continued intermittently till late in the evening.
During the course of gunfight, three militants belonged to Hizbul Mujahideen outfit were killed, the officer said.
The operation was prolonged due to the tough terrain amid inclement weather conditions, he added.”So far one body has been recovered along with arms and ammunition. The other two bodies which are lying inside the hideout are yet to be retrieved,” the officer said.
“The identity of the slain is being ascertained,” the officer said.
The officer said that the government forces have also blasted the hideout of the militants in the mountainous area, covered under plenty of snow.
Meanwhile, sources identified one among the slain Shahid Baba of Drabgam, Pulwama. (With inputs from GNS)
Snow, rains persist: Land, air traffic disrupted
Srinagar, Jan 21: Although not as severe as predicted, fresh snowfall and rains were Monday lashed Kashmir bringing some respite to the people from the cold wave.
The plains of Kashmir witnessed moderate rainfall from early hours of Monday, while there were reports of snowfall in higher reaches of the valley, officials said here.
The MeT Office has forecast widespread rain and snow over the state with heavy falls at isolated places till Tuesday.
Meanwhile, traffic on the 300-km long Srinagar-Jammu highway was halted because of heavy snowfall on the stretch.
“Today no movement of vehicular traffic on Jammu Srinagar NHW from Jammu towards Srinagar and vice versa as road blocked due to snow accumulation at Nowgam-Jawahar Tunnel-Qazigund Sector and still snowing,” J&K Traffic Police tweeted Monday morning.
Bad weather conditions also disrupted operations at the Srinagar International Airport here, leading to the cancellation of four flights, officials said.
“Due to the inclement weather, four of the 27 flights to and fro Srinagar were cancelled on Monday,” an official of the Airport Authority of India.
Another 11 flights got delayed due to poor visibility and intermittent rainfall since Monday morning, he said.
The minimum temperature in Srinagar on Sunday settled at minus 0.3 degree Celsius, same as previous night, a MET official said.
He said Qazigund, the gateway town to the valley, in south Kashmir recorded a low of 0.6 degree Celsius, while the nearby Kokernag town registered a low of minus 0.3 degrees Celsius Sunday night.
The mercury in Kupwara town in north Kashmir settled at a low of minus 0.6 degree Celsius. Gulmarg ski-resort in north Kashmir recorded a low of minus 4 degrees Celsius Sunday night, while Pahalgam tourist resort, in south Kashmir, recorded a low of 0.2 degrees Celsius, the official said.
He said Leh, in the frontier Ladakh region, recorded a low of minus 5.6 degrees Celsius, while the mercury in Kargil registered a low of minus 14.0 degrees Celsius. Kargil was the coldest recorded place in Jammu and Kashmir, colder than even Drass town which recorded a low of minus 6.8 degrees Celsius.
Kashmir is currently under the grip of ‘Chillai Kalan’, the 40-day harshest period of winter when the chances of snowfall are maximum and the temperature drops considerably.
‘Chillai Kalan’ ends on January 31, but the cold wave continues even after that in Kashmir. The 40-day period is followed by a 20-day long ‘Chillai Khurd’ (small cold) and a 10-day long ‘Chillai Bachha’ (baby cold).
Lack of funds halts vital JK tourism projects
Srinagar, Jan 21: The Governor-led administration is mulling to start new projects to boost tourism in Kashmir even as several old ones have been left midway due to want of funds.
In December last year, the administration ordered the constitution of an official panel for identification of new projects in tourism sector to be implemented under Prime Minister’s Development Package (PMDP).
Back in 2014, the Government of India, under Project/Infrastructure Development for Destination and Circuits (PIDDC), had sanctioned Rs 7593.88 lakh for development of basic tourism infrastructure in Jammu and Kashmir through private investment, opening of new potential destinations and development of heritage, adventure, and pilgrim and eco-tourism.
However, the projects have been left incomplete as the Centre has, as per the latest official data, released only Rs 3504.80 lakh of the sanctioned amount against which the department shows 100 percent expenditure.
Now, due to the unavailability of funds, the PIDDC project is on standstill.
The project included development of Eidgah, face-lifting of Khankahi Moula, Development of Jamia Masjid Heritage Corridor, Renovation of Aali Masjid, Upgrading of Ziyarat Abdul Razaq Sahib at Hawal, Ziyarat Hazrat Balaad Rumi at Rajouri Kadal, Ziyarat Akhoon Sahib and TajBibi at Fateh Kadal, Ziyarat Hazrat Noor Shaha Sahib at Narwara, and Conservation of areas from Naagar Nagar to Watlab.
The tourist circuit from Naagar Nagar to Watlab, which was a key component of the project, still requires Rs 2312.90 lakh to be completed, official data shows.
Another main component of PIDDC project, construction of Trans Himalayan Culture Centre in Leh, too requires further Rs 1094.48 lakh for completion.
Similarly, development of Khiram Shrine in South Kashmir’s Bijbehara town also remains incomplete for want of funds.
Section Officer of Planning, Tourism Department, Sajad Ahmad, told The Kashmir Monitor that “65 per cent” of the work has been completed on Naagar Nagar to Watlab component of the project.
“We had to stop the work because the Centre did not release the funds,” he added.
Executive Engineer, JK Tourism, Abdul Qayoom Kirmani said they have asked the Government of India for the pending funds and also sent to them the proposal of the new projects.
“We have identified new Rs 100 crore new projects under PMDP-II, which comprises of nine circuits,” he said.