Normal policing a casualty
Ravi Krishnan Khajuria
Tribune News Service

Jammu, December 23
Even though the Jammu and Kashmir Police (JKP) in recent times has been modernised and has fortified its arsenal with sophisticated weaponry to tackle militancy, normal policing to curb the crime by and large remains a casualty.

Always on its toes to tackle militancy,the police has not been able to focus entirely on the basic concept of policing and to some extent the prime motto has taken a beating, official sources told The Tribune.

Not going too far down the memory lane the winter capital in recent years had been rocked by the Anara Gupta porn CD scam followed by brutal killings of cement tycoon Rajinder Bhushan Chopra and his family at his posh Trikuta Nagar and murder of gangster Sanjay Gupta, alias Bakra.

Though the police claimed to have solved these cases that created ripples in the state, yet many still see police claims as “cosmetic” exercises to save its skin.

A retired police officer candidly admitted that militancy had taken its toll on normal policing.

The police has to detect and check crimes but being overburdened because of militancy, these basic jobs to some extent have suffered, he said, adding that to ensure safety and security of common people those at the helm of affairs should re-think and re-plan their strategies.

“We have to deal with militancy, maintain law and order and at the same time detect and prevent routine crimes. To perform all these jobs, the police today needs manpower, sophisticated weaponry, communication gadgetry and training to live up to the expectations of common people”,he said.

The previous coalition government had taken up with Centre the idea to set up some IRP battalions and a package for modernising the police force. The state police today needed urgent and immediate attention of the state government, he added.

Deputing policemen to protect politicians had also been taking its toll on normal policing, he said while trying to convey shortage of manpower to maintain law and order in a state with a population over 11 million.

Sources in the police department said that though the force had witnessed modernisation in recent years, there had been acute dearth of manpower, weapons and communication equipments.

Under such circumstances normal policing was bound to suffer and to reverse the trend several duties being performed by the JKP should be outsourced to other agencies by the government, they added. They said that the police needed a major revamp in terms of men and weaponry.



Rehabilitation package
Big response surprises administration
Seema Sharma
Tribune News Service

Mood upbeat

Extremism or terror no longer matter for young applicants as said Monu Kumar. He said, “I want to set up my own grocery shop. It is the government’s responsibility to give us protection when we return home”. The euphoria of money and job offer has indeed quelled the sense of fear among the Kashmiri Pandits.

Though a large chunk of applicants are skeptical about the sincerity of the government, they did not want to loose this opportunity to try their luck. “We have been cheated earlier by the Farooq government and this government, too, has thrown this bait during election time, which can prove to be a mere election stunt. But then my children are still idle at home, and we have no choice but to apply and go back to the valley,” said Avtar Krishan Bhatt, a retired employee who has also submitted the form. Hope this time around they do not get cheated again, and get what they deserve to live a dignified life.

Jammu, December 23
Seeing the historic number of displaced Kashmiri Pundit applicants, crossing 9,000, filing the consent forms under the Prime Minister’s package for their return and rehabilitation, the administration is wonderstruck, if not panicky.

Vinod Kaul, relief and rehabilitation commissioner and in charge of this project, admits that the administration has made arrangement for the rehabilitation of merely hundred people. “It will certainly be a meaty task to meet the enormous challenge to provide employment and accommodation for the swelling number of people”.

Concedes Kaul, “We never expected the response to go up to such a high level. The shortage of time to meet deadline of providing employment and accommodation to displaced Kashmiris by Febrauray next year will be an uphill task for both the government as well as the administration”.

The administration has begun preparing a blueprint in this regard. Informs Kaul, “We have earmarked land in Baramulla and Anantnag where 16,800 transit camps will be built. If people opt for own houses, as they will be given Rs 7.5 lakh for the construction of new house or renovation of their old house. Lastly, if the construction takes long, then people can also rent accommodation for the meantime. The limit of cash assistance for rent will also be fixed shortly”.

Another important information, he shared, “People themselves can identify and acquire land by making their group cooperative societies. The government will extend help of all kind at every step in the process besides the monetary help”.

Employment needs, too, would be taken care of, as he informed that the administration had already identified jobs in various government departments, besides opportunities for small business or agriculture cultivation.

Matching to the jubilation of Kashmiri Pandits, the administration is equally eager to move ahead. As said Kaul, “Once we make the clear assessment of individual applicants at different levels, we can even make amendments in the project, if needed, to suit the requirement of each one of them”.



Mushrooming brick-kilns have locals worried
Tejinder Singh Sodhi
Tribune News Service

Samba, December 23
Residents, especially the farming community of the various villages on the outskirts of Jammu, are worried over the mushrooming number of brick-kilns that is wreaking havoc on the environment and converting the cultivable fields into barren patches.

To meet the ever-growing demand of bricks, hundreds of such kilns have come up on the outskirts of Jammu. The land, which was once fertile, with farmers cultivating paddy, maize, peas, etc. has now turned barren.

According to local farmers, these kilns work round the clock to produce more bricks, thus they not only go on adding pollutants to the environment but also scoop out soil from cultivable land.

Not only this, brick-kilns use electric motors to suck water from ground, cut trees for firewood and use plastic bakelite wastes to fire the clay bricks.

"To make bricks, kiln owners scoop the upper layer of the soil, which is the most fertile part of the land. When it gets removed the land becomes barren,” says environmentalist Preetam Singh.

"In the absence of strict guidelines, these brick-kilns are continuously exploiting groundwater and are adding dangerous pollutants to the atmosphere," he adds.

Thousands of acres of cultivable fields in the areas like Bari Brahmana, Samba, Akhnoor and other areas have turned barren due to the continuous excretion of clay.

"Fertile, cultivable lands are plundered by the brick-kiln owners, many farmers find no other option other than to sell their land at a throw away price and leave the village,” rues Madan Lal Sharma, a farmer of Saroal village in Bari Brahmna on the outskirts of Jammu.

Those living in the vicinity of these kilns lament that due to being battered all the time by the smoke belching out of the area, a majority of them have developed breathing problems and lung diseases.

"Many villagers have developed breathing complications and lung diseases, as they inhale toxic smoke coming out of the chimneys of these kilns," says a doctor at a local hospital in Bari Brahmna.

The villagers here are also angry at the fact that the brick-kilns have failed to provide employment to locals as majority of the labourers working there have been brought from other states.

The kilns have not only failed to provide employment to the locals, but have also dealt a deathblow to the traditional brick-making industry, which used to function only during summer whereas modern brick-kilns operate throughout the year.

However, the brick kiln owners have failed to adopt safety standards to check the harmful emission from the chimneys of these kilns that cause serious health implications for the residents.



PoK woman all praise for poll process
Shariq Majeed
Tribune News Service

Poonch, December 23
Sixty five-year-old Kali Bi's rendezvous with Indian democratic process while she was on 45 days travel document from Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) made her strongly envious of it.

Kali Bi, wife of Haji Sakhi Muhammad of Islamgarh in the Baag area of PoK, had come to India on a 45-day visit to meet her brothers in the Kallar and Sawani areas of Rajouri. Bi got separated from her eight brothers and mother Makhani during the 1965 war and moved to PoK along with her father.

She had come on travel permit and was to leave on the election day on November 17, but since the bus service was postponed by one day on that day she had firsthand experience of the election process in India.

“It is so nice to see all parties and candidates campaigning during elections, which here are more of festival. Candidates use different ways of campaigning. On the election day, the enthusiasm among the voters is phenomenal,” says Kali Bi, hours before she boarded the trans-LoC bus a day after the election. “It was a treat having seen the whole democratic process and I would never forget these moments in life”.

Asked how elections in PoK are different from those in India, Bi averred that there is “unseen fear” among the voters during the elections there. “The electioneering there is not so open. The enthusiasm among the voters is missing and instead there is fear of violence. In nutshell, elections there are held in such a way as if held under marshal law,” says Bi.

She sums up the difference in the election process in PoK and India with a one-liner, “It is more of festival here but there when the elections are held after five years, it is a compulsive ritual”.

“The process is a good experience for the candidates as well as the voters in India. It feels great that people from different religions participate in the whole process,” Bi says.

It was not only Kali Bi who cherished the election days here, but more than 50 persons from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir who were on travel document and left a day after the elections on November 18, after witnessing elections in this part of the country and were highly appreciative of the democratic process in India and its fairness.



Militant-turned-SPO sings peace songs for misguided youths
Shariq Majeed
Tribune News Service

Surankote, December 23
Twenty five-year-old Javed Iqbal always wanted to be a singer and spread the message of peace and love in the state hard hit by militancy.

However, he somehow went astray and became a militant in the Lashkar-e-Taiba outfit. One thing Javed always knew that he had not taken birth to spread terror and kill people among whom he had lived since his childhood.

Javed was forced by a Surankote-based area commander of dreaded Lashkar-e-Taiba, Abu Walid, in September 2001 to join the outfit. He underwent arms training in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) for five months.

However, immediately after crossing over to this side in February 2002, he surrendered before the police. He even handed over the Pika gun, which was to be used for killing people.

Now Javed Iqbal, a special police officer, with the local police here, not only helps his country by wielding gun against the militants but also urges the misguided youths to give up the path of violence through his singing.

“I always experienced the pain right from the day I was forced by Abu Walid to leave my home and join militancy. Sweet memories of my native place haunted me even when I was undergoing arms training in PoK. I have resolved that I will never use weapons to kill my own people and will instead surrender after returning from across the Line of Control (LoC)”, says Javed, a resident of Dodi, a hamlet in militancy-infested Surankote.

“I always missed my people in PoK and would sing local songs and cry in isolation”.

“When I returned, I decided to give up the gun and instead defend my country. I thought I could really make a difference for peace in my area through singing. I, through my songs, am not only making efforts to bring the misguided youth back to mainstream but also trying to prevent others from falling prey to their (militants) nefarious designs,” he adds.

This former militant-turned-SPO and singer who sings in Gojri and Pahari languages has four music albums to his kitty.

In one of the albums, which is under production, Udh Ja Kabutra-Javed highlights the pain and agony of separation from his native land and also brings to fore the exploitation that a misguided youth has to suffer at the hands of “terror spreading masters” on the other side of LoC.

Preebet Singh Parihar, sub-divisional police officer, Surankote, said Javed was doing good service to the police department and even greater to the nation by inviting the misguided youth to give up their gun and join the mainstream.



Ancestral house of freedom fighter in bad shape
Sunaina Kaul
Tribune News Service

Jammu, December 23
The ancestral house of the first freedom fighter of J&K , Comrade Dhanvantri, lies in a pathetic condition.

Comrade Dhanvantri was born on March 7, 1902 in Kali Janni Mohalla in old Jammu city. He joined the freedom struggle and was a close associate of Shaheed Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Chandra Shekhar Azad. He was a founder member of the Hindustan Socialist Association. He died on July 12, 1953.

His family members have settled abroad after selling off his ancestral house which lies locked and dilapidated. The government has left it to decay instead of preserving it, lamented Kamlesh Tak, a resident of Kali Janni.

To give recognition to his contribution in the freedom struggle, a library named after him was set up in the new campus of Jammu University in 1980.

Dr Hari Om from University of Jammu said:” Comrade Dhanvantri was a great freedom fighter and his name should have been promoted by the government to give due recognition to his contribution in India’s freedom struggle.”

Mohammad Shafi Zahid, subject expert, archeology, said:”All those objects, monuments and ancient buildings which are 100-year-old are considered as heritage. Roots of history are lying in his residence, which is a precious heritage of our state and it should have been preserved as a heritage by the government”.

Ramesh Rahi, a tailor of the area, said:”It is our invaluable heritage and it should have been preserved by either setting up a museum or a school.”

Sudha Sharma, a relative of one of Dhanvantari’s close associates, said:”Every year on July 13, we observe the death anniversary of Comrade Dhanvantri.

We are also running Dhanvantri Bal Kalyan Yojna to provide financial assistance to poor children of the state.” However, she rued that the government did not even install a single statue of Dhanvantari in the city.



From social work to politics
Candidate promises relief for terror-hit families
Afsana Rashid

Srinagar, December 23
Working for the rehabilitation of militany-hit families and highlighting problems faced by the police, Rabia Bajee, alias Nirupama Kaul, an independent candidate from the Zaidibal constituency in Srinagar is all set to fight elections scheduled for December 24.

“For the past three years, I have been working for the rehabilitation of militant families and that prompted me to join electoral process," says 41-year-old Rabia.

With 18 years of work-experience in New Delhi, Rabia believes that she would be able to work for the upliftment of these families.

Her election manifesto revolves around the rehabilitation of the militancy-hit families and includes 5 per cent reservation for students of this section of society in professional and non-professional institutions, 5 per cent reservation in jobs as being done in other naxal-hit areas, rehabilitation of women through employment generation schemes, free education or stipend to orphans and senior citizen cards so that aged parents can get free ration and medicines.

"Youth in Kashmir have been used and left on their fate by most parties. Nobody has taken care of their basic needs like employment. Government jobs can't be offered to every one but as a special case to Kashmir certain self-employment schemes can be launched. Mohallah or block committee under such conditions would act as guarantors once a youth applies for loan to set up his unit," says Rabia. This, in her opinion, would help to solve unemployment in the valley.

Rabia wants to give voice to problems faced by state police personnel. "Demotions are done instead of promotions. I would like to become voice of this section of society that is mostly left unheard," she says.

Rabia believes that women are the worst affected particularly over the past 18 years. “Being a woman I can understand their pain. I want to become a homemaker for my constituency," says Rabia.

"Affected families and people of my constituency after appreciating my work as a social worker motivated me to contest elections as an independent candidate,” she says.

With the help of a lighting torch, her election symbol, Rabia wants to set a path for prosperous Kashmir by putting an end to the “darkness of sufferings”.

Postgraduate in psychology from Delhi University, she joined the Congress in 1985, as general secretary of the National Students Union of India. In 1988, she tabled 30 per cent reservation Bill for women in the All-India National Students Union Convention. In 1994, she joined the Youth Congress as joint secretary and in 1998, she served the All-India Congress Committee as media coordinator.

In 1999 parliamentary elections, she was appointed as observer for Faizabad elections. In 2004, she came to Kashmir and represented the All-India Centre for Urban and Rural Development (AICURD), an NGO, at the state level.

Her great grandfather Pandit Parmanand was last accountant general of the state and her grandfather Pandit Radha Krishnan Koul, alias Razi, served as UNESCO expert in UNO in 1964. Her father Pandit K.K. Koul served as vice-president for Offset Machines. She reverted to Islam in 1989.



UGC-NET exam
Counting in college may pose problems
Ashutosh Sharma
Tribune News Service

Jammu, December 23
As the scheduled date for counting of votes for the state Assembly elections in MAM College coincides with the UGC-NET examination at Jammu University (JU) on December 28, the appearing candidates may have to face hardships in reaching the examination centre, as there are apprehensions that the area in and around the college might be sealed on the day.

Various students and teachers have apprehended that like previous times, in the wake of counting of votes, the road from JU gate leading to residential quarters up to Panama Chowk would remain closed for the commuters due to security reasons. They said in the wake of counting of votes at MAM College the movement from Vikram Chowk to Panama Chowk is restricted, making students to suffer.

“The administration should make sure that candidates appearing in the examination and JU students in general don’t suffer on account of security affairs unlike previous times,” said Vikas Sharma, president, Jammu University Research Scholars Executive Association.




Varsity should consider students’ demand

Jammu University should take note of the students' demand for open choice in the forthcoming exams in view of the academic loss caused due to the two-month-long agitation. Their demand seems genuine in the light of the fact that the colleges have not conducted any extra classes to cope up with the loss suffered on account of the stir that derailed the normal life for over two months. The varsity authorities should open a channel for dialogue instead of allowing the students to boycott classes and continue with their protests. If the stalemate continues, the student community would suffer further losses. It is a high time that the authorities act and decide on the issue at the earliest.

Amit Prasad

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