In a significant move, Jammu and Kashmir Bank Friday decided to adopt two villages including Kunan Posh in border district of Kupwara.
While speaking at a function after inauguration of J&K Bank’s Currency Chest Complex in Kupwara, J&K Bank Chairman and CEO Parvez Ahmed listed bank’s plan for the Kupwara district for next three years.
He announced bank’s plan to adopt far flung villages to transform the lives through sustained economic development by exploring the respective local economies through skill development programmes and other relevant interventions.
“We want to bring the backward and marginalized sections of society within the formal banking system and develop certain avenues whereby we see them earning their livelihood” he said.
Parvez announced adoption of twin villages of Kunan-Poshpora and Nagsari-Kalaroos in border district of Kupwara.
“Unfortunately, these villages are known for their downtrodden economic status. We shall be focusing on youth in these villages and help them to develop skills as per the local economic needs. This youth force shall be channelized by us through financial empowerment and handholding to bring prosperity to their families and ultimately to their villages,” he said.
About 100 women were gang raped allegedly by troops of 4th Rajputana Rifles on night of February 23, 1991 after troops cordoned the twin villages of Kunan and Poshpora in north Kashmir’s Kupwara district, according to human rights groups.
At the time of the incident, the age of the victims of the mass rape ranged between 13 and 80 with some of them having passed away now.
The memories of the mass rape are traumatic experiences for the women with which they have to live ever. The women not only have to battle physical injuries, psychiatric ailments and mental agony but also social stigma.
On April 7, 1991, the New York Times had reported about the Kunan Poshpora mass rape incident and after much furor in the press, Army initiated an investigation of Press Council of India (PCI) committee led by B G Vergese and Vikram Rao who had visited the Valley after the incident and given a clean chit to the “rapist troopers”.
SHRC recommended the formation of a Special Investigation Team (SIT), monetary compensation of Rs 2 lakh to victims and prosecution of the head prosecutor who had ordered the case closed.
However, to this day, no one has been prosecuted in the case while the victims face sociological problems like getting their girls married off, sending their boys to schools, social stigma and psychological stress.
Despite a ban on sand mining, contractors in Kupwara district are using heavy machinery like earth cutters to extract huge quantities of sand and boulders from major streams in the district which is badly affecting the production of trout in these streams.
Known for producing large quantities of fish, Nullah Warnow has become a major casualty of the sand-mining mafia. Local residents said truckloads of sand and boulders were being extracted from Nullah Warnow near Khumriyal and Gher Hatti.
“The unabated extraction of sand and boulders is not only affecting the production of trout in the nullah but also disturbing ecology in the district. It has also affected water level in the nullah leading to shortage of irrigation and drinking water,” said Irshad Ahmad Shiekh, a Kupwara resident.
Nullah Warnow flows through the outskirts of Kupwara township. It is a major source of irrigation to thousands kanals besides being familiar for production of rare trout.
Mawar and Vijh nullahs in Handwara are also in a bad shape, local residents said. “In the absence of a proper vigil by the authorities, the contractors are extracting sand and boulders in large quantities from these nullahs. This is not only affecting the ecology of the area but also production of fish in these streams,” said Abdul Majid Shah, a Handwara resident.
Kupwara Deputy Commissioner Ghulam Mohammad Dar said, “Extraction of sand through use of earth cutters is illegal. We will ensure action under law against those who are found guilty of this illegal act.”
While J&K Government boasts of taking governance to the doorsteps of common man, Kupwara district in north Kashmir is without administrative head for almost a month, which has taken a toll on day-to-day affairs of governance in one of the sensitive districts in Kashmir. The “deep political interference” in the administrative matters in the district is seen as a reason for reluctance of officials to their posting in the district.
The position of District Development Commissioner Kupwara is lying vacant for past 25 days after government removed former Deputy Commissioner Kumar Rajeev Ranjan on November 17. Though the same day the government issued order posting senior KAS officer Bashir Ahmad Dar as the new DC Kupwara, he hasn’t joined the office yet citing “health condition” as a reason.
A senior government official however said “the political interference in the administration” was the reason for officials being reluctant to their positing as administrative head of one of the sensitive districts in Kashmir.
Kupwara is spread over five constituencies including Kupwara, Handwara, Lolab, Langate and Karnah. While two constituencies, Lolab and Karnah are represented by the ruling PDP, SajadLone’s Peoples Conference represents Kupwara and Handwara constituencies. Langate is represented by Independent MLA Er. Rashid.
While PDP minister Abdul Haq Khan and PC’s Sajad Lone, an ally of BJP, represents the district in the government, the PDP has its MP in RajyaSabha, Fayaz Mir, from Kupwara as well. The opposition National Conference which lost three constituencies, Kupwara, Handwara and Karnah in 2014 elections also wields influence in the district.
“It is one of the sensitive districts where politicians from almost all parties wield influence often resulting in clash of ideologies that in turn impacts smooth functioning of the administration,” said an official.
“From lower level to the highest ranks in the district administration, the employees/officials of different departments often find themselves caught in a fix as Ministers and MLAs compete for implementation of the developmental and other schemes meant for up lift of poor like IAY as per their choice,” an official from the district alleged.
“As each party and MLA want maximum benefits for their workers it becomes difficult for officials to adjust themselves in competing political ideologies where the rules and guidelines for smooth function of the administration get shelved,” said the official.
Secretary, General Administration Department, Khursheed Ahmad Shah said the government would take call on positing of the District Commissioner Kupwara in next cabinet meeting. Asked whether the previous order posting Bashir Ahmad Dar as the DC has been rescinded, the Secretary said: “The order may be modified.”
Meanwhile, Independent legislator Engineer Sheikh Rashid today locked the main gate of the office of the Deputy Commissioner (DC) of Kupwara. He was protesting against the government for not filling the post of the DC which has been lying vacant for the past one month.
“It is shameful that despite making huge claims of transparency and good governance, the present government transferred the previous Deputy Commissioner for not following the diktats of the ruling class and rendered the district administration headless. It has resulted in huge inconvenience to people,” Rashid said.
Fear is writ large on the faces of residents of Panzgam area of Kralpora in Kupwara district. After two days when army men allegedly wreaked havoc in the village, residents have not come to terms and are in a state of shock.
Haffeza Begum (name changed) while narrating the incident said, “There was firing and tear gas shelling outside. Army men broke the gate of our home and entered inside. They broke household goods and everything. We hid ourselves in the upper storey.”
Residents alleged that computer shop of one Nazir Ahmad who is physically challenged was completely damaged by army men.
Gulam Hassan Mir said that some cash and gold was stolen by forces from their house. He said that army men broke the LCD TV, refrigerator and scooty.
Manzoor Ahmad Sheikh while showing the broken glass said that army broke the windows, all the furniture and household belongings of the area causing them loss of crores of Rupees.
“Two vehicles of Ghulam Nabi Mir were also damaged,” locals said while showing the damaged vehicles.
Situation took ugly turn in Punzgam on Sunday around 3:30 PM when forces brought down a green flag which was hoisted on a mobile tower in Mundor Mohalla some four weeks ago.
Residents protested against this and forces called additional contingents. They allegedly started thrashing the locals and damaging the property. It was like a doomsday in the area, locals said.
Forces later resorted to firing and tear gas shelling to disperse the protestors in which two youth were injured.
Locals demand that the matter may be investigated and an FIR against the forces may be lodged.
Hundreds of angry protesters Wednesday demanded deportation of a local (informer) allegedly involved in the killing of a foreign militant at Warnow village in Lolab region of Kupwara district.
The protesters including women carried green flags amid ‘pro-freedom and anti-establishment’ slogans marched towards house of the accused.
However, to avoid any eventuality police reached the spot and are tried to control the situation. The situation remained tense as the protesters were adamant to burn down the house of the accused informer.
Reports said after Zuhr prayers hundreds of protesters from Warnow Lolab, a hamlet of Kupwara district, 123 km north of summer capital Srinagar and its adjoining areas took to the roads, cursing the informer who allegedly helped the troopers to kill the militant.
“The situation is tense. We are trying our best to restore order,” a police official said.
He said the an unidentified foreign militant was killed in a gun battle at Warnow Lolab on Tuesday evening after 18 RR and local SOG forces laid a cordon on while working on a tip-off.
Earlier, hundreds of locals ascending from adjoining areas, defied forces’ restrictions resorted to overnight protests and participated in the funeral of the slain militant, who was buried in dead of the night in a local graveyard.
SDPO Lolab Hilal Ahmad without confirming the reports said he was heading towards the spot to assess the situation.
Police said Sameer Wani was killed after security forces surrounded a house in Nagri village in Kupwara district, some 100 km from here, following information that some militants were hiding there.
A police officer told IANS that security forces came under heavy fire from the hideout, leading to fighting that left Wani, the Hizb divisional commander for north Kashmir, dead.
As soon as reports of Wani’s killing reached his Dooru village in Sopore, hundreds of residents came out to protest shouting anti-government and pro-freedom slogans, witnesses and officials said.
The protesters set ablaze a police vehicle in Shiva area after his body reached the village but its occupants were not harmed.
Dozens of motorcycle borne young men took out a rally as the militant commander’s body was taken in a procession for funeral prayers.
Markets were closed and public transport went off the roads spontaneously following Wani’s death.
The protesters also clashed with police and threw stones at them. Police fired tear gas to disperse them as tension ran high in and around the area.
A Pandit family on Tuesday visited their ancestral house at Lolab in north-Kashmir’s Kupwara district and condemned “agencies for conspiracies to create communal disharmony” in the state.
Jaggar Nath Raina (80) putting up at Jagti Migrant Camp in Nagrota area of Jammu region since the breakout of turmoil in 90’s has finally taken a stride forward to return his homeland after a gap of almost twenty-six years. The family has been one among the many who aspire to “revisit and revive their bond with the Muslim brethren in Kashmir”.
Raina while taking a dig at government alleged that, “some agencies are hatching conspiracies to create communal disharmony between the two communities”.
“These agencies harp on the threat of ‘Mujahids,” he said, questioning as to “why would they attack us when we have nothing to do with them. Had they bearing any such intention they would strike us in any part of the India.” The family has demarcated the land for their resettlement at Darpora of Lolab.
A team of local administration including Naib Tehsildar, Halqa Patwari, Local Auqaf Committee and other officials from the area accompanied the family to their ancestral house.
Buoyed by the response from the people, Raina said that his family has been “getting more love and affection from the people of our home.”
Appealing the compatriots to take a cue from his return, Raina while talking to news agency GNS said, “let this be the beginning of a new era.”
“Kashmir is incomplete without us and I appeal my Pandit brethren to return the homeland and revive our age-old bonds with our Muslim brethren,” he said, adding, “We in no way support the government on such an initiative that aims to harm the communal harmony.”
Reiterating his stance, Raina said that, “Our choice is to live here as common Kashmiris.
” Raina’s son moved by mutual respect and love between his father and other people when they reached the Darpora village said, “I saw a man probably of the age of my father breaking into tears after reviving the memories with my father. The scene was something I can’t describe in words”, he added.
The funeral prayers of Nayeem Qadir Bhat were offered at Higher Secondary School Grounds in Handwara town before being buried at the local martyr’s graveyard on Wednesday afternoon. Personnel of police and paramilitary forces were deployed in strength at both the places. Despite curfew-like restrictions, a large number of people attended the funeral.
A group of wailing women could be heard eulogizing Nayeem’s cricketing skills while cursing the government and Army.
Iqbal Ahmad Pir and Raja Bagum were laid to rest in their native graveyards, a day after troopers of 21 RR opened fire on protesters at Handwara square.
At Shalpora Bramrie village of Drugmulla Kupwara, the crowd swelled in numbers by the time the body of 23-year-old Iqbal reached the village in an ambulance. His body was taken in a procession to the local graveyard where he was buried amid anti-army, anti-India and pro-freedom slogans.
Iqbal, the eldest son of a mason, was declared brought dead by doctors at District Hospital Handwara. He had received bullet in his head. Iqbal was working as a runner at a DTP shop at Handwara. He dropped out of school to help his father in earning bread for the family. Iqbal is survived by his parents, a sister and three younger brothers.
Raja Bagum, who was also hit in the head, was referred to SKIMS Soura where she breathed her last. Hundreds of people had assembled at Langate to receive her body since morning.
“Two civilians, who were working as Beacon (Border Roads Organisation) labourers, came under an avalanche during snow clearance operation at Khooni Nallah near Sadhna Pass,” the officer who did not want to be named because he was not authorised talk to the press said.
The official said they two were rescued but they died at a hospital.
The divisional administration issued a medium danger avalanche warning on Saturday for areas above 3,000m in Kupwara, Bandipora, Baramulla, Ganderbal and Kargil districts of the state.