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.
Authorities today gave a six-hour relaxation in curfew that was imposed on Sunday in Kishtwar district of Jammu and Kashmir following a stone pelting incident triggered by arrest of three separatists.
“We relaxed the curfew from 12 noon to 6 PM and everything remained normal during the hours of relaxation,” deputy commissioner (DC) Kishtwar GN Balwan told PTI.
He said the authorities have decided to again impose the curfew during the night though they might completely lift the restrictions tomorrow.
“Situation has remained normal after the curfew was imposed on Sunday and it has also remained peaceful during relaxation hours. We might review the situation and can decide to completely lift the curfew tomorrow morning so that schools and colleges and other offices start functioning normally,” Balwan said.
Three separatist leaders in the town were arrested on Saturday night and booked under the Public Safety Act (PSA) for disrupting peace in the district following which some persons resorted to stone pelting prompting the authorities to impose curfew in the district.
One more person, Asif,?was detained by police during a raid last night for disrupting peace in the mountainous district. Three persons were detained on Saturday night for trying to disrupt peace, he said.
More arrests are likely as police have prepared a list of people who have been seen shouting “objectionable and provocative” slogans in some video clips, he said.
“So far five people have been detained and booked under various sections and action as per law has been initiated against them for disrupting peace in the district,” he said.
Yesterday the authorities had relaxed the curfew for two hours.
The state government imposed curfew in communally sensitive Kishtwar town following the arrest of three persons —two of them under the Public Safety Act — in the wee hours today for their alleged involvement in anti-national and criminal activities.
The accused were wanted by the police on charges of sedition for the past few weeks.
According to reports, the police raided the houses of Abdul Qayoom Mattoo, a local Hurriyat leader and ‘imam’ of a mosque in Omar Mohalla of the town, Saifuddin Bhagwan, local Hurriyat leader, and Firdous Bhagwan around 1:30 am today and arrested all three of them.
As the news about their arrest spread, people came out of their homes to protest.
Protesting locals threw stones on the police party. They also made announcements from mosque loudspeakers that resulted in alleged pro-freedom protests in the town, forcing the police to use mild lathi-charge to disperse the protesters.
Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP), Kishtwar, Sandeep Gupta said: “Curfew has been imposed in the town as people were trying to create problem following the arrest of some persons. As a precautionary measure, the administration imposed curfew in the town from 4 am.” He said the situation was normal.
“Abdul Qayoom Mattoo and Saifuddin Bhagwan have been detained under the Public Safety Act. A number of cases were registered against them for creating trouble in Kishtwar. We have sent both of them to Kot Bhalwal Jail in Jammu, however, Firdous Bhagwan is in our custody,” the SSP added.
The police had filed charges against 18 persons who were wanted in cases of sedition and were found involved in anti-national activities. According to reports, more arrests are likely.
There was a huge deployment of police and paramilitary forces in the town today. No untoward incident was reported from any part of the district till the filing of this report.
Meanwhile, a peaceful shutdown has been called by religious leaders in Doda town tomorrow against the tension in Kishtwar.
Reports said that people raised anti-India slogans during the rally. “Enthusiastic protesters raised Azadi slogans as well,” sources said.
Meanwhile, a complete shutdown was being observed in Kishtwar against the civilian killings in Kashmir valley at the hands of government forces.
Hundreds of people offered congregational Zuhr prayers on road in Kaloosa area of north Kashmir’s Bandipora on Thursday.
Soon after the afternoon prayers ended, they staged sit-in while chanting pro-freedom and anti-India slogans.
Five persons have been booked for their alleged involvement in anti-India activities and indulging in “provocation” to disturb peace in Kishtwar district of Jammu and Kashmir.
“(They) have been booked for provocation to disturb peace and anti-India activities in Kishtwar district during a protest,” a senior police officer said.
The situation is peaceful in the district, he added.
Several protests had broken out in the Valley following the killing of Hizbul commander Burhan Wani on July 8.
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.
Distribution of weapons on a large scale to Hindu zealots in Kishtwar district, notorious for being the center of Indian army-backed killer gang Village Defence Committees, betrays terrible designs of RSS-backed Indian government and its local collaborators against Muslims in Jammu region.
The disclosure was made none other than the Chief Minister, Mehbooba Mufti, during her written reply to a question in the so-called Kashmir Assembly.
Mehbooba Mufti who also holds the portfolio of the so-called Home Minister of the territory informed the house that 30,872 gun licenses amounting to 41 per cent of the total licenses issued in the entire territory were issued in the district during the past two years.
Kishtwar district has witnessed many incidents of violence perpetrated by Hindu fanatics against Muslims. In one such attack they burnt a Muslim alive on the day of Eid, August 9 in 2013.
The Chief Minister said that 20,610 gun licenses were issued in 2014 and 10,256 in 2015 in the district.
Saying that Chenab Valley is a goldmine of natural resources, Deputy Chief Minister, Dr Nirmal Singh today called upon the stakeholders to synergize their activities so that the region and other unexplored areas of the state are brought on the tourist map.
The Deputy Chief Minister was speaking at a convention, which was part of 3-Day FAM tour organized by Department of Tourism. The tour was flagged off for Bhaderwah by Secretary Tourism, Farooq Ahmed Shah earlier from Jammu Tawi Golf Course Sidhra on 14th November.
Dr Singh appreciated the commitment of the Buyers and Sellers of Tourism and Travel & Trade operators to explore and write on these untouched destinations. “Chenab Valley and erstwhile Doda is an unexplored goldmine of natural resources”, he said and maintained that the entire region is known for wild herbs like Gucchi, Nagchatri and Kalla Zeera. “Rajmash of Bhaderwah and sapphire of Kishtwar is world renowned,” he said.
“Connectivity is the lifeline of the area and more focus has been laid in this sector as Rs 42,000 crore out of total 80,000 crore package announced by Prime Minister for the state will be utilized for the strengthening road infrastructure”, he stated.
The present Government, he said, is also keen to develop an alternate route to Doda via Chennani – Shudhmahadev and “we will be also working out the feasibility of starting Helicopter facility to the area.”
He said there is wonderful scope of adventure tourism, ecotourism and pilgrimage tourism in the region and appealed all the travel operators to showcase Bhaderwah as an attractive tourist circuit, an official statement said.
Recalling the experience of trekking to the Seoj Meadow, he enjoined upon all the participants that it a huge meadow with 22km area and could be developed as a world class skiing spot and Government has already mooted a proposal to provide road connectivity to this spot.
The Deputy Chief Minister called on the District administration to strictly implement the ban on polythene and ensure that all the tourist spots both recreational and devotional are immediately cleaned up and further issued directions to launch a cleanliness drive under the Swacch Bharat Abhiyan. Director Tourism was asked to organize road shows and other publicity activities to bring the unexplored destinations on the world tourism map.
Referring to the provision of providing professional training to the people related to tourism sector, Dr. Singh announced that a technical training institute for all the courses will be established at Baglihar for which MoU has already been signed with Hyderabad based institute. “We are also in process of providing a separate power line to all the tourist destinations so that visiting tourists do not face inconvenience. Tourism industry has a major role to play and Rs 2241 crore in the recent announced package will be utilized for developing and strengthening tourism sector”, he informed.
Director Tourism was also asked to identify spots for the construction of wayside amenities including toilet facilities en-route Jammu-Bhaderwah.
MLC Naresh Gupta in his address said the skilled man power in tourism sector is available but there is need to augment it. Earlier, in his welcome address, Director Tourism said that apart from Kashmir valley, Jammu region has a vast tourism potential and government is keen to develop the major tourist destinations to increase tourist footfall in these areas.
Though there is no rain in the entire Chenab region for the past one week, the 115-km stretch of the Batote-Doda-Kishtwar national highway has been in a pathetic condition. It has turned a death trap for thousands of people who regularly commute through the road.
The authorities are not bothered about the loss of lives in road accidents as the region is being neglected by the government.
On May 14 this year, Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed in his maiden visit to Doda announced the release of Rs 12 crore for the repair and renovation of the Batote-Doda-Kishtwar road, but nothing much has been done since then.
After a few hours of rain, the highway becomes a death trap and commuters remain under a constant threat of landslides and landslips on the road.
Amir Khan, a medical employee, said: “The road has been reduced to half due to accumulation of debris all along the stretch. The sinking road at several places halts the traffic for hours daily.”
“Sunken patches, recurring landslides with shooting stones have turned the road into a death trap and travelling on it has become a nightmare,” said a taxi driver.
Executive Engineer, Public Works Department, Doda, Bhushan Thasoo, said: “About 15 km of the 55-km stretch had been swept away. We have made its plan and are submitting the data of damaged portions to the agency concerned for approval.”
“We have received Rs 1.5 crore for repairing major damaged portions of the road in Doda and the work would be completed soon,” he said.
According to reports, about 100 persons have lost their lives and 500 received injuries in various roads accidents across the districts of Doda and Kishtwar in the past two years.
A group of mountaineers have successfully completed the first-of-its-kind ‘Himalayan Traverse’ from the higher reaches of Ladakh to upper Kishtwar in the Jammu region.
The trekkers and officials believe that the expedition will open new vistas for serious adventurers and give a boost to adventure tourism in the state, especially in the untapped upper Kishtwar area.
“This Himalayan Traverse was completed in seven days. The route taken was unconventional, not the one taken by adventurers in the past. This route lacked proper documentation in travel guide books. It is for the first time in recent history that an expedition on this route was conducted, which can now be used by serious adventurers,” said Wiqar Bashir, member of the J&K Mountaineering and Hiking Club (JKMHC), which organised the expedition along with the Tourism Department.
Wiqar, who led the expedition with Sheikh Jameel, also a member of the JKHMC, said an eight-member team started its journey from Gulmatango in the Suru valley and finally reached Madhwa in Kishtwar after traversing a difficult track laden with glaciers, steep cliffs and river crossings.
“After ascending the Shafat Nullah and traversing the Shafat glacier, we crossed the great Himalayas at Z ridge (16,500 feet) that stretches between the famous Nun Kun peak (23,000 feet ) and the Z1 peak (20,000 feet). The team crossed the Fariabad glacier and the Z1 glacier, steep cliffs and threatening loose rocks while descending in to the Krish Nai valley on the other side of the Himalayas,” said Wiqar, who was also the expedition doctor.
“The team then travelled through meadows and dense forests crossing Fariabad Nai, Krish Nai, Mandik Sar and Rin Nai to reach Tatawoin and further Astangam in the Madhwa area of upper Kishtwar”.
Tourism Officer, Kargil, Gulam Rasool Lal, who was part of the group, said the expedition was a ‘milestone’ for adventure tourism lovers.
“It adds another milestone to adventure tourism of J&K. This is a wonderful adventurous trekking route for mountaineers and professional trekkers from the base and advance base camps of famous Nun Kun, White Needle and Pinnacle peaks of the Suru valley (Kargil) by passing 16,500 feet to beautiful and virgin Krish nullah and Marwah valley,” Lal said. He said the route was also home to wild animals such as the Himalayan fox, deer, brown bear, marmot, snow leopard, jackal and eagle.