Most parts of the twin districts of Doda and Kishtwar today received season’s first snowfall, ending a long dry spell in the region.
The snowfall was witnessed in the Kailash mountain ranges, Asha-Patti, Seoj Dhar, Chattargala, Dheraja, Mothala, Thanala, Dessa, Bhatta, Mangalthatha and many upper reaches of Kishtwar since last night.
Mohammed Abbas, a local resident, said, “It is a great respite for the people who had been facing a dry spell for more than two months. The dry grass caught fire in many areas, resulting into massive damage to forest this year. Now with the end of the dry spell, such incidents will also come down.”
“Higher reaches of Doda and Kishtwar have witnessed good snowfall and rain today leading to sudden drop in temperature. People have been protecting themselves from chilly winds using all available means, but they are cheerful over the snowfall,” said Arpan Kumar, a resident of Bhaderwah.
NC lashes out at Govt for ‘promoting communal divide’
A war of words has broken out between opposition National Conference and the ruling BJP over the recent RSS rally in Doda which is being seen by locals as a “move to incite passions” in the Chenab Valley district.
RSS activists donning khaki trousers and carrying sticks, marched through streets of main town of Doda on October 2, raising “provocative slogans.”
“What has led to fear among people is that both local administration and police are seen tacitly supporting them (RSS) at a time when the state is already gripped in tension,” President Bar Association Doda, Asim Hashmi, told Kashmir Post.
“Since the present (PDP-BJP) regime came to power, the RSS has become assertive with the support of the administration,” Hashmi said.
Last Wednesday, Provincial President National Conference, Devender Singh Rana, referring to the rally, hit out at the Government for “promoting” RSS in the Chenab Valley by “permitting lathi-wielding Swayamsevaks to march on the streets of Doda, raising provocative slogans” even as he accused the administration of “becoming a tool in the hands of the BJP which is furthering the agenda of RSS openly and brazenly.”
Senior BJP leader Ashok Koul asserted that it wasn’t for the first time that the RSS took out “route march” in Doda.
“This has been going on for 10 years since the RSS set up its Shakahs in the district,” said Koul. “In the coming days the RSS will be taking out route marches at other places including Kishtwar, Jammu, Ramban and other places.”
A senior citizen from Doda, Ghulam Mustafa, while talking to Kashmir Post, however said that people of majority community were outraged over the civilian killings in Kashmir in the ongoing uprising.
“In this regard people carried out peaceful protest marches against the government and not against any community,” said Mustafa. “The sudden parade by the RSS activists is seen as a threat message to people and an attempt at incitement of passions. In such an atmosphere of fear if anything happens it will have spillover effect beyond the Chenab Valley.”
Deputy Commissioner Doda, Bhupinder Kumar, said there were no directions from the Government for not allowing the rally by the RSS activists.
“They had the permission,” Kumar said.
Govt in slumber as threat of mountain collapse looms large over area along the banks
The Jammu and Kashmir Government seems to be in deep slumber in addressing the woes of people living on the bank of the Baglihar hydroelectric project reservoir as the threat of mountain collapse looms large over the area.
Stagnant water of the reservoir, after entering the loose soil, is bringing down rocks and soil slowly, which has created a situation which can lead to sinking of a huge portion of the mountains.
Geological experts have warned the state government of a possible disaster, but successive governments have ignored all recommendations and not taken any measure to treat the area and end sinking and sliding of land.
But now, the situation has reached a level wherein the effect of the reservoir is reaching the top of mountains and sliding occurring on a regular basis.
The authorities are not ready to accept their failure in treating the area and a huge amount of money has been spent on paper to show that the requisite treatment has been done.
Baglihar catchment area signboards have been installed on the Batote-Kishtwar national highway to give an impression that treatment has been done.
A hamlet on the northern bank is on the verge of sinking as a huge portion of the mountain has developed cracks, visible from the Batote-Kishtwar national highway.
A major landslide has already occurred in the area and its effect is increasing. The Baglihar project authorities are not willing to accept their fault and are putting the onus on others.
“The reservoir was opened in 2008. Its effect on the environment has come down to a negligible level now. The damage may be taking place due to road construction and rain,” claimed Abdul Wahid, Chief Engineer of the project.
Work on the 900-MW project had been started in 1999 with the aim of making the state self-reliant in power generation. It was the first big hydroelectric project of the state government.
The 450-MW first phase was commissioned by then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in 2008. Prime Minister Narendra Modi commissioned the second phase on November 7 last year and power generation reached the maximum.
On both occasions, no one talked about the economic hazards of this project and did not speak a word about the people who suffered and continued to face the brunt.
Sources said when the project was envisioned and work started, no geological report was sought and recommendations of geological experts who had raised an alarm not considered.
Attempts had then been made to stifle the voice of many experts and environmentalists and work started with the lives of lakhs of people living in the erstwhile Doda district at risk, said a source.
A magistrate, an SSP and three other police officers were among 47 people injured on Friday as stone-pelting incidents spilled over from Kashmir to Jammu region where violence took place in Doda district.
Meanwhile, the authorities extended curfew to many areas of Kashmir and snapped mobile telephony as part of a bid to foil a march called by separatists.
In the valley, more than three dozen incidents of stone pelting were reported from different districts including Anantnag, Pulwama, Kulgam, Shopian, Baramulla, Sopore, Kupwara and Bandipora, a police spokesman said.
35 people were injured in these incidents and the ensuing clashes after Friday prayers.
The violence spread from Kashmir to Jammu region with a mob turning violent after Friday prayers in Doda where some Muslim groups had called for a bandh and a protest march in “solidarity” with the people of Kashmir.
“After Friday prayers, a mob turned violent and attacked the police party that was deployed in the town to maintain law and order and started pelting stones on them,” Deputy Inspector General of Police (Doda Range) Nisar Ahmed said, adding 12 people were injured in these.
“A duty magistrate who was there on the duty with the police was hit on head with the stones,” he added.
In the stone-pelting, Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Doda Zahid Naeem, SHO Uday Wazir, Sub-Inspector Kulbushan and two other police personnel were also injured.
To disperse the mobs, police used cane charge and lobbed teargas shells, leaving six protesters injured.
In Kashmir, one protester was hit by tear gas shell in the head during clashes in Tangmarg area of Baramulla district. He was admitted to a hospital in Srinagar and his condition is stated to be critical, a police official said.
At least 12 people were taken to Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences Soura for treatment after they were allegedly thrashed by security forces during clashes in Ganderbal area of central Kashmir, the official said, adding all the injured were discharged after first aid.
The majority community in the twin districts of Doda and Kishtwar today observed partial bandh over the killings of civilians during the Kashmir unrest following the gunning down of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani.
In Doda, protests were held at two separate places, Ghat and Doda town, this morning in which pro-Pakistan and pro-azadi slogans were allegedly raised by protesters.
Around hundred youth took out the protest march in the town by raising slogans against the killings. Shops and other business establishments of the majority community remained closed in the town.
On the call of the Anjuman Islamia Bhaderwah, shops and other business establishments of the majority community remained closed and there was no report of any untoward incident.
Ajuman Islamia Bhaderwah president Parvez Sheikh said, “We today observed a complete bandh peacefully over the civilian killings in Kashmir and against the media trial of Dr Zakir Naik. We want that the government should take some steps to stop the killings as there are many more ways to control the mob and protesters.”
Deputy Commissioner, Doda, Bhupinder Kumar said, “We had a meeting with residents yesterday in which everyone supported us to maintain peace, harmony and brotherhood in the district.” However, he said, “If anyone is found raising anti-national slogans during the protest, a stringent action will be taken against him.”
“So far, I don’t have any information about the pro-Pakistan slogan raised by protesters. If any such thing has happened, action will definitely be taken,” DIG Nassir Ahmed said.
The J&K Government on Thursday evening revoked the Public Safety Act of a “lunatic” Muslim youth who was arrested for allegedly desecrating a temple in Jammu last week. The prompt action from the Government after the issue echoed in the Legislative Assembly this morning.
“The detention order Mo 08/PSA of 2016 dated June 20, 2016 is not justified…and hence has not been approved,” said an order issued by Home Department, disapproving PSA detention of the youth.
As per the Home Department order, accessed by Kashmir POST, Yasir Alfaz doesn’t have any criminal background and only one FIR (No 51/2016 P/S) related to the temple incident stands registered against him.
“For the act in question, the investigation is already on, the subject (Alfaz) is in custody and needed to be dealt with under the relevant provision of law,” the order reads.
Referring to the incident that had taken place on June 16, the order mentions that Alfaz was suffering from “psychiatric disorder” and the preliminary investigations conducted into the case had suggested that Alfaz was a “lunatic person”.
“Verification of this aspect has neither been indicated in the dossier of SSP, Jammu nor in the grounds of detention,” reads the order. “In the grounds of detention, it has neither been mentioned that the subject (Alfaz) was already under police custody nor the compelling reasons have been indicated for passing a detention order.”
“In view of this the detention order (No 08/PSA of 2016 dated Jun 20, 2016, is not justified on the grounds and hence has not been approved,” reads the order.
Earlier, the issue of slapping of Public Safety Act (PSA) on a mentally deranged Muslim youth echoed in the Assembly.
The issue was raised by ruling Peoples Democratic Party member Muhammad Yusuf Bhat who criticized the Government for slapping PSA on the mentally deranged YasirAlfaz.
“How can you slap PSA on a person who has been declared lunatic? Which law allows it,” Bhat criticized the Government.
Bhat’s query created ruckus in the House as another MLA from PDP, Abdur Rahim Rather demanded that the Government should immediately revoke the PSA.
Alfaz, who was declared lunatic by the Government in the House after the alleged sacrilegious act on the temple in Janipur locality last week, was arrested by police and subsequently booked under PSA on Wednesday.
“District Administration, Jammu has ordered detention of YasirAlfaz son of Kher Din Rio Village Shiva, Tehsil Bhaderwah, District Doda under Public Safety Act (PSA), 1978, in connection with his involvement in the sacrilegious act at AapShamboo Temple in Janipur,” an official spokesperson said last evening.
“How can a lunatic person be booked under PSA. This can’t be even imagined,” Rather questioned the Government.
At this moment, members from opposition joined the protests against slapping of the PSA on the mentally deranged Muslim youth, attacking the Government for letting free those people who resorted to violence in Jammu and damaging public property, following the incident.
The temple incident had taken place on June 16 following which the activists of RSS resorted to violence in Jammu, damaging public property. A group of 22 persons were detained by police for their involvement in the violence including torching of more than a dozen vehicles including police vehicles.
The 22 persons arrested by police were released soon after VHP leader LeelaKarn Sharma threatened a “repeat of 2008-type Amarnath agitation”, which had sparked communal violence in the State.
“Those who damage public property and carry out attacks on police in broad daylight are set free but a mentally deranged person is booked under PSA,” said Independent MLA from LangateErAbdur Rashid, demanding release of Alfaz.
His views were echoed by other opposition members including CPI-M’s MY Targami.
Amid the din, Minister for Revenue and Relief Syed BasharatBukhari said Government would look into the slapping of PSA on Alfaz.
“It is wrong to slap PSA on a lunatic person. We will revoke it and inquire what has led to it,” said the Minister.
However, the BJP, which is the coalition partner of PDP in the State Government, took objection to the Minister’s announcement.
“How can this be done? Being lunatic is no ground for revocation of the PSA. The youth has vitiated the atmosphere in Jammu, he should be given tough punishment,” said BJP legislator RS Pathani.
Pathania’s remarks angered Rashid, who said “it will have to happen.”
At this moment, BJP’s ally Peoples Conference (PC) supported the demand for revocation of PSA on the youth.
“If any person is declared lunatic, as per law he can be exempted even for 302 (murder). So why PSA can’t be revoked,” said PC member Dar, quoting rules.
“Grounds of detention are to be explained to a detenuee. So how can you explain to him when he is lunatic,” Dar explained. “Such persons cannot be detained.”
A rally was held amid complete shutdown in Doda to protest over the use of force by the police on the demonstrations against Power Development Department last night.
Call for the shutdown was issued by Seerat Committee Doda which said that the District Administration and police used brutal force against the protesters without any provocation.
Thousands of people participated in the rally which passed through the main market of Doda town raising slogans against police and district administration.
Meanwhile, the authorities have suspended mobile Internet services in Poonch district. “Mobile Internet services were snapped in Poonch district early morning after a decision taken by authorities over an issue,” said an official.
DIG Rajouri Poonch range, Johnny William, confirmed the Internet gag, saying that the action has been taken on security concerns.
Hundreds of people these days are flocking to Gandho area of Doda district from different corners of the country to take a dip in a spring which is believed to possess healing powers.
Situated about 70 km away from district headquarters, the natural spring in Gandho subdivision is considered to be best for skin disorders, joint pains, blood pressure and headache. Even patients of paralyses are also reaching there.
Mansa Mohammed, who came from Kathua, said, “I had a paralysis attack a few years back, but when we came to know about the healing powers of this spring we came here. I have started recovering and it’s my second visit.”
Punjab’s Ghulam Nabi said, “We reached here from Gurdaspur when we came to know about this spring. There are hundreds of people who have come here from different places of the country. We are hopeful it will treat our ailments.”
Hadle sarpanch Choudhary Hashim Din said, “the area where spring is situated is quite far-flung from the populated area. It never came to the notice of the people, but a few months ago when two local girls fell seriously ill, they took spring’s water and they recovered. After that people started coming here.”
“Each day 4,000-5,000 people from Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Delhi, Chandigarh, Kashmir, Kathua, Basoli, Jammu, Bhaderwah and many other places come to the spring,” he added.
“In fact, we have been facing problems in crowd management. So we have requested the police and district administration regarding it. They have provided some policemen to guard the spring. It’s our treasure, we want to preserve and use it properly,” he said.
A team of two doctors from a Doda hospital visited the spot on Tuesday and took water samples for testing.
“We have been ordered by Doda Deputy Commissioner Bhupinder Kumar to take samples of the water from the spot and send it to Government Medical College, Jammu, laboratory for testing. If results come positive, it would be a great relief for the people of this area.” Dr Umar said.
The spring is not only curing people of their diseases, but also helping locals generate income as small shops and dhabas have sprouted on the roadsides. Taxi owners are also earning well from the visitors who come in a huge numbers these days.
The mighty Chenab flows through erstwhile Doda district, but the district is facing acute shortage of drinking water. The natural water resources in the district are diminishing due to climate change and the casual approach of the government.
About 10 lakh people of Doda, Ramban and Kishtwar district have been witnessing shortage of drinking water during the summer for the past few years.
The loot of the green gold by the forest mafia has led to drying up of natural reservoirs and streams which used to be the main source of drinking water for people.
In the Koti, Dessa and Jodhpur areas of Doda district, people have to walk miles to fetch drinking water.
The total area of the erstwhile district is 11,691 sqkm and the terrain is mostly hilly.
Experts said that till 1975, forests of the district were at number one in Asia in terms of density but now it stands nowhere.
People of the area were never dependent on the Chenab river for drinking and irrigation purposes, but now people want the river water to be supplied to them.
Successive governments gave licences to forest contractors to cut down trees but no step was taken to plant more trees and bring back the green cover.
The loss of forest cover has also led to soil erosion. As a result, the rainwater flows quickly without seeping into the earth, drying up the natural water resources.
“We have seen the forest cover diminishing. Not only the government, but people are also responsible for the destruction of forests as timber is used for construction of houses. Nothing has been done to increase the forest cover,” said Muhammad Yaqoob, a resident of Kishtwar town.
Officials in the Public Health Engineering (PHE) Department said corruption in the department was also responsible for the water woes of the area. They said many water supply schemes had become defunct due to the unprofessional attitude of officials of the department.
They said water schemes for Doda and Kishtwar towns, two district headquarters of Doda and Kishtwar districts, were marred by corruption in the PHE Department.
They said the Dessa-Doda water supply scheme was somehow completed in 2014 but the water supply gets affected due to the poor quality pipelines used by the department.
The water supply scheme to Kishtwar from the Naigarh stream is yet to see the light of the day, they added.
Earlier, the water supply scheme was under the PHE Department, but later it was handed over to a Hyderabad-based company in 2013.
“The work on the scheme got delayed as the company had to finalise some formalities. The work on it has finally started and it may take two more years for completion,” said Ashok Kumar Pradhan, Superintending Engineer, Hydraulic Circle, Doda. “Earlier, the completion date was June 2017 but now it may be completed in 2018,” he added.
Doda residents are facing impending threat of waterborne diseases as the crucial water treatment plant in the city has been defunct for the last six months and people are forced to drink untreated water.
Situated about 5 km away from Doda town, Public Health Engineering (PHE) Department’s water filtration plant in Moochan village is not working smoothly as its clarifier and circular are defunct and unable to blend chemicals such as alum and chlorine in the water properly.
Locals complained that unfiltered and muddy water was being supplied to them without any filtration. Since December 1, 2015, to January 15, 2016, 361 jaundice cases have been reported in the town. “We are consuming the contaminated water that is being supplied to us. I drank tap water after boiling it and fell ill last month. I was diagnosed with hepatitis A,” a local said.
A six-member special squad was constituted by the Deputy Commissioner, Doda, in 2015 to check the quality of water. “Out of the 18 water samples collected by the team from various sites in Doda, 13 of them were found unsafe for consumption,” said a member. Later, a report submitted to the DC clearly mentioned that water in the distribution system at the consumer end was not safe for drinking.
Mohammed Iqbal, a doctor, said, “Water-borne diseases are always on the higher side in Doda town owing to impure water supply and there are sporadic reports of jaundice and hepatitis.”
Executive Engineer, PHE, Doda, Wahid Zarger said, “I have been facing a huge staff crunch as there is no Assistant Executive Engineer posted here since October and none of the lower staff member is technically trained. They have no knowledge how to use chlorine. Now I am training them.”
“Owing to shortage of manpower, we cannot do daily sampling,” he said.