In a shocking development, as many as 40 graves were turned up after the local administration ran bulldozers over a 200-year-old graveyard in Samba district to develop a playfield at the site.
“They uprooted trees and then one by one human skeletons came out from the graves. They knew it is a graveyard, but the work was not stopped till local Gujjars rushed there and raised objection,” said a resident of Keso Manhasan in Ramgarh tehsil of Samba district.
The locals alleged that Block Development Officer (BDO) Ramgarh, Anshuman Sharma ordered construction of a playground on the graveyard without identifying the nature of land from the revenue records or Aquaf Islamia which had notified the land in 1985. They also alleged that the BDO worked on the directions of a BJP cabinet minister.
“The ruling BJP leader excavated the graveyard for recreational facilities even as entire area knows that the land belongs to Muslim community and it’s a 200-years-old graveyard which was still being used. It is a deliberate ploy. Earlier also such attempts have been made to convert Aquaf Islamia land at many places,” claimed an elderly nomad who lives in Rakh Brotian.
As many as 40 graves were displaced and the skeletons were lying scattered on ground. The issue was brought into the notice of the district administration, police and Aquaf Islamia following which they rushed to the spot and stopped the work. On directions from the administration, police also registered an open FIR but no one has been named in the case.
“Total graveyard land is 60 kanals. However, out of 60 kanals, 40 kanals has been encroached by locals and the existing graveyard is confined to only 40 kanals where the BDO Ramgarh was constructing playground,” said the officials in Aquaf Islamia.
They told Kashmir Post that Gujjars of Rakh Brotian use this graveyard to bury their deceased family members and the land was still being used by local Muslims.
Surprisingly, Aquaf Islamia has not constructed boundary wall around the graveyard.
Meanwhile, talking to Kashmir Post, SDM Ravinder Sharma said, “Deputy Commissioner, Samba has sought explanation from BDO Ramgarh over the issue. The BDO should have identified nature of land from the revenue department which was not done. FIR has been lodged and investigation has been taken up.”
When contacted, BDO Ramgarh, Anshuman Sharma told Kashmir Post that the local Gram Sabha had moved resolution for construction of playground and then the estimates of the work under MG NREGA were taken up.
“The plan was approved by Assistant Commissioner Development (ACD) Samba and it was technically checked following which the work was started by the local people namely Narinder Sharma alias Gogi, a senior BJP leader,” said BDO Ramgarh.
He said two locals were assigned work on the resolution of Gram Sabha on December 24, 2016. When asked why he did not check status of the land, the BDO said he trusted locals who wanted a playground at the site.
According to sources, on April 20, 1985, 80 kanals of graveyard land was notified by Aquaf Islamia.
A BSF constable today allegedly stabbed a fellow jawan and fled with a Light Machine Gun (LMG) and over 10 magazines from Akhnoor sector in Jammu and Kashmir following which security has been beefed up in key areas here.
The accused, identified as Rajeev Ranjan, entered into a scuffle with his colleague Rajbir Singh over a petty issue, following which he stabbed the latter with a knife, a BSF officer said.
Before the senior officers could intervene,?he fled the camp with one LMG and over 10 magazines, the officer said.
Meanwhile, the police have issued an alert and intensified checking at all the checkpoints across the city. A manhunt has also been launched to nab the constable.
“We have sounded a general alert and checking has been intensified at all the check posts across the city,” Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP), Jammu, Sunil Gupta said.
As the Jammu Development Authority (JDA) and the Samba district administration are trying to shift blame onto each other, affected Gujjars today said brutal force was unleashed on them on February 22 to evict them from the land where they had been putting up for over three decades.
They blamed a local politician for the eviction drive.
The KP team today talked to the JDA, Samba district administration, police, local BJP MLA Chander Prakash Ganga and also met affected Gujjars to have a close look into the sequence of events that unfolded on the day when Yaqoob Muhammad, 24, father of two minor children, was killed in alleged police firing in Sarore.
During the clashes, Yaqoob was shot in the head. Another Gujjar member Farman Ali, 17, received a bullet in his shoulder.
Sarore in Samba district is around 17 km from Jammu city and is situated on the Jammu-Pathankot highway.
Amid claims and counterclaims, Gujjar families said they were living on 24.4 kanals for the past over three decades. They also produced ration cards, voter cards and Aaadhar cards issued to them by the successive regimes to substantiate their claims.
Concrete houses razed to the ground by three bulldozers, burnt hutments, which once had thatched roofs, heaps of burnt and smoldering fodder and Gujjar men with serious injuries bear testimony to what might have happened on the day of the clashes last week.
Today, the only concrete structure that still stands intact in Sarore Adda is a mosque.
On February 22, a police team from Himachal Pradesh accompanied by the Bari-Brahmana police had gone to Sarore Adda to arrest Gulzar Hussain, wanted in a theft case.
Simultaneously, an eviction drive was also launched with the assistance of a strong posse of policemen.
While the JDA and the Samba district administration try to shift responsibility onto each other, Gujjars dubbed the Himachal Police team’s raid and simultaneous eviction drive a deep-rooted conspiracy.
A police officer, who refused to come on record as an official inquiry was in progress, however, said the Himachal Pradesh Police team and local policemen were held hostage by the Gujjars and were released only after the intervention of senior police officers.
Governor NN Vohra has ordered an inquiry into the incident.
“Gulzar Hussain could not be arrested. An eviction drive was going on normally till 3 pm before the situation turned ugly and Gujjars attacked policemen and snatched two rifles — an SLR and a carbine — from two policemen,” the police officer said.
“We have recovered the guns but not their magazines,” he added.
“We had to use tear-smoke shells and fire in the air to prevent the mob from attacking policemen and resist the eviction drive,” he said.
He, however, evaded a direct reply on Yaqoob’s death, saying, “The investigations are on. The recovered guns have been sent to a forensic laboratory and the truth will come out. A policeman fires straight as a last resort in self-defence.”
Recalling the incident, Yaqoob’s father Reham Ali (60) said, “After we got a call that houses had been set afire and were being dismantled while women and children were being beaten up, I along with my son Yaqoob rushed to Sarore Adda from Rakh Bharotian on a motorcycle.”
He alleged that a police officer fired three rounds at the protesting mob. “One hit Yaqoob, second hit Farman and third hit a buffalo,” he claimed.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) today demanded a judicial probe into the alleged killing of a member of a Gujjar community during an anti encroachment drive in the Samba district of Jammu and Kashmir yesterday.
“The killing of a civilian is unfortunate and the PDP demands that a judicial probe be immediately ordered into the killing”, senior PDP leader and former Education minister Naeem Akhtar told reporters here today.
A member of the Gujjar community was killed during the clashes between an anti encroachment team of the Jammu Development Authority (JDA) and the encroachers in the Sarore area of Samba district yesterday.
“Encroachments were also removed in our time but nobody lost his life at that time.
A fair probe should be held into the killing of the civilian so that a message of justice should go to the people of the state and at a time when there is no political government”, he said.
Akhtar said the Governor is in a position to do it and send a message that there is an even handed policy and there is no such thing that a particular community was being targeted.
“If such a message (that members of one community were being targeted) goes then it would not be in the good interest of the state”, he said.
Akhtar said that while his party favours the removal of encroachments from the government land but that should not be at the cost of human life.
“We have told it to the government that encroachment must be removed but for that you should not adopt ways by which it would serve more losses than the benefits.
“We are not polarising it as you are inferring it to be, there is no communal politics involved in it”, he said.
The PDP leader said that a human life has been lost and “we say that if encroachments have to be lifted do it but not selectively”, Akhtar said.
While demanding compensation and a government job for the next of the kin of the man killed, the PDP leader said that government should also take measures to rehabilitate the peoples whose houses were demolished during the anti encroachment drive.
On the attack on Independent MLA Engineer Rashid who was allegedly attacked in Rajouri a few days he ago, he said that any type of attack was condemnable.
Despite an increase in the number of road accidents caused due to rash driving and overloading becoming a serious cause of concern for the authorities, no strict action has been taken yet.
“To earn more, local bus and minibus operators are violating traffic norms and accommodating more passengers than capacity in the vehicles,“” said Rahul Kumar, a local resident.
“Recently a bus packed with passengers rammed into a bridge near the Nanak Chak area of Samba. Three persons were killed and many injured, but violations are still continuing,” he said.
The directions of the authorities concerned had the least impact on vehicle operators and more strict action was required against them, he added.
“Buses on the Jammu-Kathua route can be seen racing with the each other with the idea of getting more passengers,” said Davinder Singh, another local resident.
“Overloaded minibuses can be seen, especially on the Samba-Sumb, Samba-Bainglar, Samba-Mansar and Vijaypur-Ramgarh routes and other routes on the national highway,” he said.
“Not only overloading, but rash driving is also major trouble for people. The Motor Vehicle Department and traffic police seem to be casual and have turned a blind eye to the menace,” he said.
“With a view to curb the menace of traffic violations, we conduct an extensive check once a week,” said Kuldeep Singh, Assistant Regional Transport Officer, Samba.
“A numbers of vehicle operators have been booked under provisions of the Motor Vehicle Act. We have collected Rs 30 lakh as fine for various traffic violations from offenders till November,” he said.
They were trying to educate people about various safety measures required to be taken to avoid road mishap, he said.
In less than a month after a sector commander-level meeting between the border guarding forces of Pakistan and India, Pakistan violated ceasefire in the Samba sector last night. The BSF retaliated in equal measure.
“Four rounds of AK-47 assault rifle were fired from a jungle on the Pakistan’s side towards our side. There was no targeted firing and it could not be attributed to Pakistan Rangers. They could have been ultras because there are a number of them on their (Pakistan) side,” said RK Sharma, Inspector General of the BSF, Jammu Frontier.
We didn’t see any suspicious movement but following four rounds of fire from Pakistan’s side, we also retaliated in equal measure and also fired a para bomb to light up the area to ensure that no intrusion bid was made by subversive elements from across the border, added Sharma.
The IG said the BSF would shortly lodge a strong protest with the Rangers against the unwarranted firing from the Pakistan’s side.
Official sources said around 2.20 am on Monday night, four rounds of small arms were fired from across the border in the Chalyari area of Samba sector.
“Fire didn’t come from any of the Pakistani posts in the area. Consequently, we also fired three or four rounds and a para bomb,” they added. There were no reports of damage on the Indian side.
It may be stated here that following intense firing and shelling by Pakistan for three consecutive nights from October 23 to October 25 in the Samba and Hiranagar subsectors, the BSF and Rangers had a sector commander-level meeting on October 27 to de-escalate tension and restore sanity on the border.
From July 15 to October 25, at least 13 persons, including two BSF jawans and two BSF officers were killed and 53 others injured in rampant ceasefire violations by the Pakistan army and Pakistan Rangers on the LoC and the international border in the Jammu region. More than 2,000 border residents had also fled their homes to escape Pakistani shelling.
Eventually, sweets diplomacy was back on the international border on November 11 when the BSF and Pakistan Rangers exchanged sweets and pleasantries at seven border outposts on the Zero Line in seven subsectors along the border in the Jammu region to mark Diwali.
Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in a recent letter to Asiya Andrabi, chief of Dukhtaran-e-Millat, avowed unwavering support of his country to separatists.
Meanwhile, the BSF and the Pakistan Rangers held a flag meeting at the local level in the Samba sector today.
“The meeting was held at the local level between the post commandants of BSF and Pakistan Rangers where the former lodged a strong protest against the unwarranted act from their side,” said an Intelligence official.
Bearing the maximum brunt of shelling by Pakistani troops, this border village in Samba district with around 1,700 voters today vented their pent-up anger and decided not to allow any politician to enter the village.
“They be ministers, MLAs or other leaders, we will not allow them enter our village. The politicians have turned a blind eye to our sufferings… We will boycott the next elections,” said a group of angry villagers. The elderly residents claimed that never before had Mawa witnessed such destruction. “Such damage was not seen here even during the 1971 India-Pakistan war,” a resident said.
Pawan Sharma (45) said last night the village was rattled by mortar shells from across the border. “It is the first time that our village is being targeted so fiercely. It appears as if someone on this side is passing on information to our enemies that we were safe so far,” he said.
Septuagenarian Ratno Devi, too, was acerbic in her reaction: “We can’t harvest paddy because of the fear of getting killed in enemy firing. We lack ambulances to shift the injured to hospitals and there are no bunkers to take refuge in during shelling… Everyone here is at the God’s mercy.” Ratno Devi regretted that politicians simply used them as vote bank during elections, only to be forgotten once the electoral process was over.
Asha Rani, a housewife, quoted an instance of “brazen administrative inertia”: “The Samba Deputy Commissioner had assured us of providing a vehicle, which was to be kept on stand-by and used during emergency…. The wait for the vehicle continues. After Kailasho Devi (a resident) was critically injured in a mortar blast last night, we had to call up the police who arranged a vehicle within two hours.”
Another resident, Gulzar Singh, said the village had around 400 families with over 1,700 registered voters, which could be a cause for concern for politicians.
“A whirlwind tour by a minister and MLAs handing over a few thousand rupees as relief for a photo-session doesn’t mean their duty is over. Ours is a serious problem, which needs to be dealt with on a priority… There should be no space for administrative inertia,” he said.
Pakistan Rangers violated the ceasefire by resorting to overnight firing on nine Border Out Posts (BoPs) along the International Border in Samba sector of Jammu district. The BSF strongly retaliated to the Pakistani firing, sources said.
Pakistani troops had resorted to unprovoked firing yesterday in Samba sector, killing one civilian and injuring two others.
“At about 1705 hours, Pakistan Rangers started unprovoked firing, targeting BSF Naka mound and civil Labourer in the Samba sector, who were carrying out construction work of culvert well inside the Indian territory,” a BSF spokesman had said. The injured were taken to a hospital in Jammu.
The Border Security Force had given a strong reply to the Pakistani firing, he said, adding the exchange of fire had stopped at around 5.30 pm on Friday.
Friday’s ceasefire violation from the Pakistani side came after a lull of more than a month.
Deputy Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Nirmal Singh, yesterday said that Pakistan Rangers opened fire at the BSF posts when the fencing was being repaired.
“Pakistan is time and again trying to push in terrorists and ultimately they cut the fencing to get-in. That fencing was being repaired when the Pakistani rangers opened fire and one person has died in the firing,” Mr Singh said in Jammu city.
The ceasefire violations, which had become a routine, had stopped after the Director General (DG)-level talks between Border Security Force and Pakistan Rangers on September 12.
Students of the government polytechnic in Samba district are facing shortage of permanent staff, basic infrastructure and other facilities.
The polytechnic was set up in 2012 and was being run from a private building till last year. Later, it was shifted to the new campus at Painthi in Samba, offering courses in civil and automobile engineering.
Official sources said there were over 270 students at the polytechnic at present from various districts, including Samba, Kathua, Udhampur, Doda, Reasi, Poonch, Rajouri, Kishtwar, Ramban, Leh and Kargil.
“The building that was supposed to be completed two years ago is still incomplete. There are only two permanent teachers. The others are guest or contractual teachers,” said Assif, an engineering student.
“The posts of principal and a head of department have been lying vacant for the last two years. The college is being run by an in charge head of department,” he said.
“The institute does not have basic amenities such as toilets, drinking water facility, playground and hostel for girls or boys,” he further said.
“The main approach road is in a dilapidated condition. We are staying in rented rooms or paying guest accommodation. There is no proper bus service to the college,” he said.“There is no proper laboratory. Students are unable to gain enough practical knowledge as computers and other laboratory equipment are lying idle due to non-availability of trained faculty,” said another student.
“We are facing innumerable problems which are affecting our education. The higher authorities should look into the matter and take immediate measures in this regard,” he said.
Subhash Kumar, head of the department at the polytechnic, said the Technical Education Department had sanctioned 22 teaching staff posts.
The college had two permanent teachers and the rest of the staff required has been appointed on contractual basis, he said.
Construction was in the last leg and some amenities were yet to be provided, he said. The remaining work was going on on a war footing so that students would not face any problem, he said.
Two persons have been arrested for allegedly smuggling bovines and 39 cattle were rescued from their possession in two separate incidents in Samba district and here, police said today.
In another incident, Mohammad Benia was nabbed and six bovine animals were rescued from his possession in Domana area of the Jammu district yesterday, they said.
The accused failed to give a satisfactory answer when questioned and was arrested by the police on the spot, they said.
A case has been registered against both the accused relevant sections and further investigations are underway, police said.