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Kashmir turns violent as protest erupted after Eid prayers

Srinagar: Protests erupted at some places in the Kashmir Valley on Saturday after the Eid-ul-Fitr prayers ended. Stone-pelting youths took to the streets in the Safa Kadal area of old city Srinagar as police and Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel used batons and tear smoke canisters to disperse the protesters.

The youth also engaged the security forces in pitched battles in Barzalla area of Srinagar. The protesters kept regrouping each time the security forces dispersed them.

Around 150 angry protesters started pelting stones at police in Lal Chowk area of south Kashmir's Anantnag town.

In Sogam town of north Kashmir Kupwara district, the protesters pelted stones at the security forces and raised anti-India and pro-freedom slogans.

At some places in Srinagar city, masked youths displayed Pakistan flags, but they were quickly dispersed by the police.

Senior separatist leaders Syed Ali Geelani and Muhammad Yasin Malik continued to remain under house arrest on Saturday as authorities did not allow them to join the congregational Eid prayers.
  • Published in National

3 terrorists killed as army foils infiltration bid in Keran sector

Srinagar: Security forces foiled a major infiltration bid along the Line of Control in Kashmir, killing three militants in Keran sector of Kupwara district, army officials said on Sunday.

"Suspicious movement was noticed by troops near the fencing along the Line of Control (LoC) in Keran sector around midnight. The intruders were challenged leading to a gunfight," a senior army official said.

He said the gunbattle lasted couple of hours and three bodies were recovered during the searches in the morning.

"We have also recovered three AK rifles, 12 magazines, 300 rounds, two UBGL grenades and other war-like stores from the spot," the official said.

He said the militants were cutting the fencing erected along the LoC when the troops detected their activity using night vision devices.

The infiltration of militants along the LoC in Kashmir has increased over the past few weeks as the snow along the high mountain passes started melting.

Three infiltration bids were foiled in Tangdhar sector along the LoC in Kupwara district on May 25, May 31 and June 6 this year.

  • Published in National

Kashmiri youths joining militancy; funds flow from Gulf

SRINAGAR: Large inflow of hawala funds from gulf countries and more Kashmiri youths getting sucked into militancy are dangerously stoking terrorism in the Valley in a fresh test for security forces in their anti-militancy operations.

This assessment has been made by security analysts with former Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) chief AS Dulat summing up the situation to say, "there are dark clouds on the horizon and some things seem to be not right." He has been associated with the Kashmir desk in Home Ministry in various capacities since 1990.

While Jammu and Kashmir authorities appear to adopt a reticent policy on the emerging situation and the state police is stumped by the new challenges, security sources said that militants are concentrating on two axes in South and North Kashmir.

An axis from Tral, Batapora, Panjgaon and Yaripora in South Kashmir is witnessing a dominance of terror group Hizbul Mujahideen, while in the other axis from Palhalan to Sopore this group and few militants of Jaish-e-Mohammed are calling the shots, say police officials, who have been on the forefront of fighting militancy.

The worrisome aspect, the officials say, is that in both the axes the leadership is in the hands of Kashmiri boys, who have joined the ranks of militancy recently, the sources said.

Security analysts said that local recruitment, which had come down to a trickle, has picked up suddenly from January this year.

The killing of two militants Javaid Ahmad of Redwini Bala village and Idrees Ahmad Nengroo of Budroo village of Kulgam in their home district a week ago has come as an eye-opener for security agencies as Ahmad had joined Lashker-e-Taiba (LeT) a year back while Negroo only a month back, the sources said. Both of them were killed in a chance encounter with security forces in Kulgam areas of South Kashmir last week.

Since March this year, nearly 50 boys have reportedly vanished from the Valley with Awantipora in South Kashmir accounting for nearly 15 of them followed by Kulgam (nine), Shopian (seven), Anantnag (eight) and 11 from North Kashmir.

The missing boys belonging to average middle class are being described as the new faces of terrorism in Kashmir and they are believed to be waiting for delivery of arms for all of them. "So far eight AK rifles have been smuggled into the area and we are sure that more may come in," a senior police official said.

Another official said that the difference between today's militancy and that during early 1990's is that the ideological conviction of the present lot of militants is far more superior than that of the terror groups during the early days.

Kashmir is witnessing a trend of "Pan-Islamisation" where the young boys are opting for the path of terrorism knowing fully well that they are at the risk of being killed, the official said.

Ruling PDP which as an opposition party had been blaming the policies of the previous National Conference and Congress combine for the militancy during their rule appears to be struggling to come out with a clear-cut strategy for the anti-militancy operations, the official and analysts said.

Simultaneously, the hawala funds, which had been curbed to a large extent, has now started flowing into the Valley especially from Gulf in abundance, they said.

The over invoicing of goods by some Kashmiri businessmen doing trade in Gulf has also come to the notice of authorities in this regard, the sources said.
  • Published in National

Kashmiri teen loses vision as police pellets pierce his face

Srinagar: Hamid Nazir Bhat, 16, has lost vision in his right eye pierced by pellets, and nearly a hundred of these tiny iron balls have pierced his skull, jaws, lips, nose and brain. The police fired them during a protest in his village, Palhalan, in north Kashmir on Thursday.

As he lies unconscious on a hospital bed in Srinagar with swollen, purple eyelids and a bloodied face, his family has just one question: will he ever be able to see again?

The high-velocity pellets caused a vitreous haemorrhage in the right eye, and now his left eye holds out the only hope, Waseem Rashid, an ophthalmologist at Sher-i-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences, Bemina, told The Hindu. “He had a corneal-limbal tear in the right eye, and we operated on it on Saturday. But he has no vision in it, and it seems he will not able to see with that eye again,” the doctor said.

The State police have been firing the “non-lethal” pellets at protesters across the Kashmir Valley. While the police allege that Hamid was taking part in a protest on the 25th death anniversary of Mirwaiz Molvi Farooq, his family said he was only going for tuitions.

The doctors say several patients have over a hundred pellets lodged in their skulls because they were hit from a distance of less than two feet with guns aimed at their faces.

Dr. Rashid said that over the five years since the mass protests in 2010, he had seen scores of such cases. But no definite record is available on the number of people disabled by pellet guns; doctors at the Bemina hospital and Shri Maharaja Hari Singh Hospital put the figure at more than 700.

“And unfortunately, around 70 per cent of them lose their sight in one eye, and at times in both,” Sheikh Sajad, a senior ophthalmologist in Srinagar, told The Hindu. “While they haven’t been killed, their lives are ruined forever.”

Sources said that despite a government order that pellet guns be used sparingly in Srinagar, they are used regularly in the downtown areas of the city and across villages in the Valley. Police officers say one cartridge contains 400-500 pellets, resembling ball bearings. They come in grades of five to 12, five being the largest, fastest and with the widest range. “Though written instructions have been given to use the number 9 pellet for crowd control, as it does not cause lasting damage, the directive isn’t followed. In villages, we see number 6 and 7 pellets being used regularly,” a senior police officer said. Most sensitive police stations in Kashmir receive regular supplies of number 5, 6, and 7 pellets, sources said.

“Many of our patients run away from the hospital with pellets and pus in their eyes because police spies note down their details, arrest them and often extort money,” an administrator said.

Minister says police told to curb use of pellet guns

Most cases of injuries caused by the indiscriminate firing of pellet guns by the Kashmir Police are reported from Palhalan, Pattan, Old Town Baramulla and Sopore in north Kashmir. In south Kashmir, Tral, Pulwama, Qoimooh and several other places have been affected.

In Srinagar, hospitals regularly have patients from the Old City, especially Nowhatta and Hawal.

Cause of concern

While the Mufti Mohammad Sayeed government has remained silent on the use of pellet guns, Education Minister Naeem Akhtar told The Hindu that the use of pellet guns was a cause for concern for the government.

“It does not show us in a good light. We have told the police again that they should curb the use of pellet guns,” Mr. Akhtar said. “But they have their own concerns, and we cannot really force them to stop using the pellets. We hope it will be curbed soon.”

“A large number of patients go to Delhi and Chandigarh for treatment. Many of these families are poor and often have to sell something for treating their children.” The family of Hamid Nazir Bhat, 16, who lost his vision in the right eye, says he was caught in the middle of a protest at Palhalan, in north Kashmir on Thursday.

“He was in school all day and then in the evening, he left for tuitions. At 6.30 p.m., we heard that he had been injured by pellets,” Hamid’s elder brother, Junaid Nazir, said. “When we saw his face, we couldn’t recognise him at all. It was a mass of flesh and blood.”

“When you fire a pellet gun, the cartridge bursts and immediately hundreds of pellets fly from a single point (in a funnel-like shape) hitting several people in the crowd simultaneously,” a police officer said.

  • Published in National

Kashmir floods: Army launches rescue operations, Naqvi takes stock of flood situation

Shrinagar: Armed forces have launched a rescue operation in flood-hit Jammu and Kashmir by deploying 20 columns and kept helicopters on standby.

"The Army has placed 20 flood relief columns ready to react and deploy at short notice", Public Relation Officer (PRO), Defence (Northern Command), Col SD Goswami told PTI.

One Army column consists of 75 to 100 troops.

"Due to incessant rains and rising levels of water above danger levels at Sangam and Ram Munshi Bagh, Indian Army was formally requisitioned for aid to civil authorities for floods for Srinagar District from Civil Administration on the evening of 30th March", Col Goswami said.

The Indian Air Force has placed its resources on standby and is also keeping a close watch on the flood situation in the state, Col Goswami said.
"Two Mi-17 helicopters each at Jammu, Udhampur and Srinagar. And one each Cheetah helicopter of IAF are on standby at Srinagar and Jammu to be part of rescue and relief operations", the PRO said.

"A house had collapsed at Laten in South Kashmir on 29th March. Army's rescue column was immediately dispatched for rescue operation and operations are in progress", Col Goswami said.

Meanwhile, Union Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi on Monday visited Pattan area in north Kashmir's Baramulla district to take stock of the situation arisen due to heavy rainfall.

"Naqvi, accompanied by state Minister for PHE, Irrigation and Flood Control Sukhnandan and Minister for Technical Education Imran Reza Ansari visited several villages of Pattan and other adjacent areas to take stock of the situation which has arisen due to incessant rains," an official spokesman said.

While interacting with people, the ministers assured them that necessary mechanism have been put in place by the government for dealing with the flood situation.

They said that control rooms have been established in North, South and Central Kashmir to monitor the water levels.

The ministers also appealed to the people not to panic as every possible step was being taken to deal with the flood threat and around four lakh sand bags have been made available to strengthen the river banks and to deal with any eventuality.

Earlier in the day, Naqvi was briefed by the state ministers about various steps taken by state machinery in dealing with the situation.

Naqvi was on Monday tasked by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to make assessment about the flood situation and coordinate with the state government besides officials of the army involved in rescue efforts.

  • Published in National

Protest by youth congress condemning release of Kashmir separatist

Mangaluru: Kashmir separatist, Masrat Aalam was released because of centers BJP governments behest accused Districts youth congress members in a protest on Friday.

On this occasion president, Mithun Rai said that central government is playing manipulative politics. It has helped to release the traitor he accused.

Tumbe Z.P.member Chandra Prakash Shetty, ex president of congress seva dal Suresh Shetty, vice president Kiran Budeguttu, Nemiraj Shetty, Meril Rego and  others were present.
  • Published in Mangaluru

Kashmir receives season's heaviest snowfall

Srinagar: The arterial Jammu-Srinagar National Highway remained closed for the second consecutive day on Monday as Kashmir witnessed season's heaviest snowfall.

Srinagar city, the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir, recorded snowfall of 18 cm, equivalent to 53.8 mm rainfall since Sunday, reported PTI quoting a MeT department spokesman.

Gulmarg skiing resort in north Kashmir Baramulla district recorded one feet of snow while Kokernag in south Kashmir received 1.6 feet of snowfall during the corresponding period, the spokesman said.

He said Pahalgam, which serves as the base camp for annual Amarnath Yatra, in Anantnag district recorded nearly eight inches of snow.

The snowfall has resulted in fresh cold wave as the night temperature dipped by two degrees in Srinagar to settle at minus 0.3 degree Celsius.

Gulmarg was the coldest place in Kashmir division as the Mercury settled at minus 7 degrees Celsius while Kargil in Ladakh region recorded a low of minus 6.4 degrees Celsius.

The downpour has resulted in fresh landslides at several places along the 300-km Jammu-Srinagar national Highway, the only all weather road link between Kashmir and rest of the country, a traffic department spokesman said.

"Vehicular traffic on the Highway remains suspended for the second day now. As soon as the landslides are cleared, the road will be thrown open for traffic," he said.

  • Published in National

Voting begins in final phase of Kashmir assembly polls

Srinagar: Voting began on Saturday in 20 assembly constituencies in the fifth and final phase of elections in Jammu and Kashmir, officials said. The constituencies are spread over Jammu, Kathua and Rajouri districts. Over 18 lakh voters are eligible to decide the political fate of 213 candidates.

Prominent candidates include Sham Lal Sharma (Akhnoor), Raman Bhalla (Gandhinagar), Deputy Chief Minister Tara Chand (Chhamb) and Manohar Lal Sharma (Billawar). A total of 2,366 polling stations have been set up.

The constituencies going to polls are Bani, Basohli, Billawar, Kathua and Hiranagar in Kathua district, Nagrota, Gandhinagar, Jammu East, Jammu West, Bishnah, R.S. Pura, Suchetgarh, Akhnoor, Chhamb, Marh and Raipur Domana in Jammu district, and Rajouri, Darhal, Kalakote and Nowshera in Rajouri district.

The BJP had won 11 of the 20 seats, the Congress five and the National Conference three. The Peoples Democratic Party had one member. Polling started at 8 a.m. and will end at 4 p.m. Votes will be counted Dec 23. In the outgoing 87-member assembly, the National Conference had 28 members, the PDP 21, the Congress 17 and the BJP 11 legislators.

  • Published in National
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