A New tourist spot OPENS

The towering mountain peaks that surround Nagin to its south are the last patches of land before the Line of Control, located merely five kms away.

Located at an altitude of 9000 ft between Ferozpora and Nighli Nallahs, Botpathri is an erstwhile camping destination for trekkers and shepherds towards Boniyar, Sultan Pathri and Choor Khud. Its opening is seen as an achievement and a boosting for tourism in Gulmarg.

The army had taken over the control of Nagin meadow in the early years of militancy to discourage infiltration, and ever since area remained out of bounds for public.

 “Now that the situation has improved and with this realization that the tourists rush on Gulmarg is increasing, Nagin has been opened for tourism,” General Officer Commanding 19 infantry division, Maj Gen Bipin Rawat, announced at the opening ceremony.

However, a police post is being set up at Gulmarg and the tourists will have to seek permission from them before going to the meadow.

Journey to Nagin, located on the Gulmarg-Botapathri road, is an awesome experience as the mountainous road is completely shrouded in a cloud cover and visibility decreases to a few feet. The serenity of the place is evident as mountains change their colour with the intensity of sunlight.

 “The valley will offer new and untouched terrain to the tourist and best camping site for trekkers,” Minister for Tourism and Culture Nawang Rigzan Jora said addressing the opening ceremony at Nagin valley. This year, the government expects the tourist arrivals in Kashmir to cross twenty lakh.

Amnesty’s New REPORT

Global rights watchdog the Amnesty International (AI) wants the Public Safety Act (PSA) in Jammu and Kashmir to be scrapped altogether. In its latest report on Jammu and Kashmir, the AI says that making mere amendments to the controversial act will not be enough.

Hundreds of persons suspected of involvement in protests, including separatist leaders and activists, continue to remain in detention without charge for trial, and youth below 18-years of age are unlawfully detained in police stations and other detention centers run by state authorities, the report observed.

The report accused the authorities of circumventing the rule of law by resorting to the PSA instead of charging and trying persons suspected of committing offences in a fair trial in a court of law. The report was prepared by AI’s two-member team, Saptarshi Mandal and Sahana Basavapatna, which visited Kashmir valley last month. During their 12-day stay they visited various districts to assess the human rights situation on the ground.  The report called for an end to the “persistent practice” of administrative detentions in the state, and repealing the Public Safety Act, 1978.

Last year, Amnesty International, for the first time in 20 years, released a report, ‘Lawless Law, Detentions under the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act’  on detentions in J&K under the PSA.  As the pressure mounted the state government amended the PSA last March, first time since its implementation in 1978. The detention period under the law has been reduced from one year to three months in case of public disorder and from two years to six months in cases involving security of the state. However, in both the cases detention period can be extended to one year and two years respectively.

AI has “found no evidence” that an amendment to the PSA will bring J&K detention practices fully in line with India’s human rights obligations under international law.

From Devsar To DELHI
The coalition partners are squabbling again. And in public. Nobody missed a thing when union health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad asked the chief minister not to discriminate with the ministers and workers on the basis of their affiliation or region.

The former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir was addressing a public gathering at Devsar Kulgam. He also claimed that the state witnessed more development during PDP-Congress coalition than the present NC-led coalition. Well, making such noises in the PDP bastion of south Kashmir can’t be termed a friendly gesture towards their coalition partner National Conference.

Claiming to have never favoured the rotational chief minister in the state and every time “supporting” Omar Abdullah as a full time chief minister, Azad asked the state government to complete all the projects started during the previous regime.

Azad said that no single party can form government on its own in future and parties like NC and PDP need Congress’ support for formation of government in J&K. Azad seems to be keeping his options open.

However, the sparring was loud when Congress MP Lal Singh attacked alliance partner National Conference in Lok Sabha for demanding autonomy for Kashmir saying any attempts to “divide the State” should be taken serious note of.

Lal Singh’s attack on NC for its demand to have a separate Prime Minister got instant support from BJP members.

“How dare someone demand a separate Prime Minister…We are part and parcel of India and no one can change it. This is a conspiracy,” Singh said during Zero Hour amid thumping of desks by BJP members.

He said there should be “no autonomy” or “self rule” for the State as demanded by some sections. While NC has been sort of demanding autonomy and a return to Pre-1953 position.

Sajad’s Urban DREAMS
Sajad understands politics well. Born in political family, his father being a senior politician, Sajad inherited the tricks of the trade.

Sajad’s forays into 2002 electoral politics allegedly started with the assembly elections when he was accused of putting up proxies. Later, he himself went into the fray unsuccessfully fighting parliamentary elections. He has come a long way since. After the panchayat elections, where village councilors and heads are elected, he is foraying into urban areas.

He announced the launch of the students’ wing of his people’s conference in Srinagar.

Don’t keep students away from politics—“that will be a recipe for disaster,” Sajjad Gani Lone said. The Peoples Conference chairman has come up with a recipe of his own, and has announced the launch of a student’s wing for his party. He says the move will empower youth and arrest the trend of ‘dynastic politics in Kashmir.’ According to Lone, the Peoples Students Union (PSU) would work “off campus” as the University of Kashmir has banned politics on campus.

The Peoples Conference chairman said PC is considering approaching the High Court against the ban on student politics. Kashmir is the only place in the world where student politics is banned, he says. Lone criticized the state government and Kashmir University authorities for banning student politics and having dual standards. He said that KU was closed for three days for “apparent youth icon of India,” ensured that the National Students Union of India would set up a branch there. “Why cannot we set up our branch there? If Rahul Gandhi can visit KU, why I or other Kashmiri leader cannot go there?” the PC chairman, flanked by students of Kashmir University, asked. Shafat Siddiqui will head the student’s wing of Peoples Conference.

On The ROAD
The much taked about touted Sarpanchs and Panchs took to a day’s hunger strike to press for empowerment of Panchayati Raj institutions in Jammu and Kashmir. Scores of village heads from various districts of the Valley cutting across the party lines assembled at Press Enclave in Srinagar and staged a sit in. They were demanding pay and powers.

Convener of J&K Panchayati Raj Movement Shahnawaz Sultan criticized the government for what he termed as playing politics with regard to strengthening of Panchayati Raj in the state.  The village heads were demanding that the government clear its stand on the issues related to 73rd amendment and monthly honorarium for Sarpanchs and Panchs.

“Our leaders are telling people that 73rd amendment is not possible to be introduced in J&K in view of article 370 but I want to ask them why was NREGA extended to J&K? There is lot of money in NREGA that is why it was extended,” he added. Bashir Ahmad Mir Sarpanch of Kralpora Chadoora demanded that Sarpanchs and Panchs be provided monthly honorarium. If our demands are not fulfilled then we may be forced to go for indefinite strike.

A large number of women Panchayat members also attended the programme which was organized by J&K Panchayati Raj Movement. The Village heads claimed that they have been forced to hit the streets as they are “unable to serve the people who came out against all odds casted votes” to elect them.  Law and Parliamentary affairs Minister, Ali Muhammad Sagar had termed Sarpanchas of Jammu and Kashmir as the “chief ministers” of their areas and their panchas as the cabinet ministers. He had assured them that the necessary steps were being taken to empower this tier of government. Nothing happened.

Over To PADDER
Kashmir’s blue sapphire mines have come on spy agencies’ radar. The spy agency monitoring communications reportedly intercepted a conversation between unknown persons in Pakistan administered Kashmir and Jammu and Kashmir about mining operations at Padder sapphire mines in Doda district. Sketchy conversations are related to the volume of the sapphire mining business and details of domestic and foreign players in the race to win the “golden opportunity” to mine the expensive gemstones.  

The spy agencies are said to be making “discreet inquiries about the antecedents of Indian and foreign firms that have expressed an interest in mining” through a joint venture with the state-owned Jammu and Kashmir Mining Limited (JKML). Information is being gathered to ascertain whether militants are trying to tie-up with someone to take a cut in the mega business by promising not to disturb mining activity.

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