By Mudassir Kuloo
SRINAGAR: Hitting out at Pakistan and separatists for trying to “destabilise” Jammu and Kashmir, Home Minister, Rajnath Singh, on Thursday said New Delhi won’t allow any obstacle” to come in the way of its mission to ensure lasting peace in the state.
Addressing a press conference at SKICC here after arrived on his two-day visit to the state, Singh said “Government has a lot of love for the state and the Centre has decided to withdraw cases against those misled into stone pelting.”
He said that youth picking up the guns and stones was a “cause of concern” for the government.
“I would like to repeat that no matter how many obstacles come in our way, we will not be deterred in our aim to bring lasting peace to Kashmir,” he said.
He appealed to the youth not to tread the path of “destruction” and said the Centre and the state government had initiated several schemes to help them secure their future.
Speaking on the Centre’s decision to withdraw cases against the youth of the state who had indulged in stone pelting, the Union Home Minister said this decision was taken keeping in mind the welfare of “innocent youth who were misguided into indulging in acts of stone pelting”.
The Union home ministry late last year had ordered to withdraw cases against youths involved in stone pelting.
He was flanked by Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, Deputy Chief Minister Kavindar Gupta, MoS in PMO Jitendra Singh and Union Home Secretary.
“There is extreme love in the heart of Prime Minister Narendra Modi for Jammu and Kashmir. It is our responsibility to provide a secure future to the youth of the state and it can be done with the power of education and miracle of sports,” he said in his address at Indoor Stadium Srinagar.
Referring to separatists, he said that peace in Kashmir Valley is being disrupted by elements misleading and provoking the youth. “They (separatists) can play any kind of politics, but they should not play with the future of children. These children are not only the children of Kashmir, but also of India, they are an asset,” he said.
“Giving your children the best of education and handing out stones to the children of others? What is this? I always felt there is a lot of talent in the youth here, IAS, IIM etc results are a proof. Youth are being misguided by certain forces,” he said.
He said the central government intended to open a dialogue in Kashmir and therefore appointed its Special Representative Dineshwar Sharma who visited the state 11 times since he was given the assignment in October last year.
“He doesn’t come here on tourist trips. He meets the people of the state to find solutions to their problems. I am sticking to what I said on my first visit to Kashmir (as Home Minister) that we want talks with every section of the society to resolve their problems.”
Saying that the government is open for talks, he said, “We are open to dialogue with all, you don’t need to be like-minded to talk, but you do need to be right-minded.”
He claimed that in spite of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ceasefire announcement, Pakistan “continues to violate the ceasefire”.
Praising the armed forces and Jammu and Kashmir Police, he said, “I have no hesitation in saying that our security forces, including the army and police, have worked with utmost restraint.”
He claimed that some forces wanted to destabilize the Indian, which has world’s fastest economy.
He said that all important religions exist in India. “In no Islamic country you will found all 72 sects unlike in India.”
He recalled former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s approach of insaniyat (humanity), jumhooriyat (democracy) and Kashmiriyat (eclectic culture) said, “Those who pick up guns cannot be said to be believers of democracy.”
“Kashmiriyat includes both Hazratbal (the Srinagar Muslim shrine that houses the relic of Prophet) and Amarnath (the Hindu hill shrine in south Kashmir). (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi said from the Red Fort that the problem of Kashmir can be solved by embracing Kashmiris and not by abusing them.”
The Home Minister said the issue of extending or calling off the ceasefire would be discussed with the Chief Minister before taking a final call. “Nothing can be ruled out,” he said.
He also said that government was strengthening the police force in JK.
Lauding the state government for carrying out works for improving the sports infrastructure, the Home Minister said funds will not be a problem for promoting sports in Jammu and Kashmir. “Funds will be provided for promotion of water sports at Mansar and Pahalgam. Funds will be arranged for development of sports infrastructure,” he said. “With the help of the Jammu and Kashmir government, we will change the face and destiny of the state,” Singh added.
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.