Briefing August 8 -14, 2021

DELHI

Meenakshi Lekhi

It was a typical explanation of the Urdu idiom – Sar Mandvatay Hi Oulay Paday. One of the top BJP leaders, Meenakshi Lekhi had been in the new office for barely a month when as culture minister (she is also MoS foreign affairs), she spoke to the Kashmiri Pandits, it triggered a crisis. It was in the virtual interaction that somebody asked her the migrant Pandits would be rehabilitated back home to “save their culture”. The response was blunt. “I am really surprised at the question because as a person who is part of this country, you are free to move wherever you want to move. Nobody is stopping people from going back to their homes, and whatever else is needed will be provided,” Ms Lekhi said. “When Corona happened in Delhi, a lot of migrant workers had come from Bihar, Jharkhand and wherever. They were here and whatever was the treatment meted out to them by the Delhi government, they all went back and they have all come back. Where is the problem? I think people also take a call where they wish to be.” She added: “That is why I am surprised at the question because so far as the government is concerned, it continues to be with the people of India whether in Kashmir, Bihar or Delhi or wherever. Some initiative needs to come from people themselves also.”

Ms Lekhi added yet another factor asserting that “many Pandits were not interested at all in returning to the Valley.” She explained: “I know there are lots of people who are settled across (the country) and they are settled well. So on one hand, their heart may be pining for their original place of habitation but they are very happy with wherever they are living also. They do not want to be disturbed… People need to take some private initiative as well.”

How the participant Pandits might have reacted is not mere imagination. Social media bears testimony to the fact that tweets can be used as missiles as well.

Since 2019, the Jammu and Kashmir administration has booked over 2,300 people in more than 1,200 cases under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and 954 people under the Public Safety Act (PSA). Of UAPA detainees 46% and 30% of PSA are still in jail within and outside Jammu and Kashmir.

JAMMU

Army imparting training to Village Defence Committee (VDC) members on weapon handling, cleaning, musketry, firing and weapon maintenance drills at Mendhar (Poonch). Pic: PRO defence Jammu

All of a sudden and after a very long time, Jammu and Kashmir Police have felt the requirement of reviving the informal militia, the Village Defence Committees (VDC) network in Jammu. These are voluntary groups like Salwa Judum, trained and armed by the government to fight rebels. Though their contributions to counter-insurgency have been questionable in comparison to the crimes they committed during their existence, the sudden need seemingly is to keep the intelligence-gathering set-up well oiled. A VDC is managed by a special Police Official (SPO), a cop like worker who is not a permanent member of the police. Police said there are 732 SPO vacancies in Kathua, Samba, Udhampur, Doda, Kishtwar, Reasi and Ramban and these will be filled so that equal number of VDC started operating. However, VDC is now seeking some compensation for the voluntary work they will undertake. Meanwhile, the army in Jammu tweeted that they are improving the self-defence capabilities of the VDCs and helping them get trained in weapon handling, cleaning, musketry, firing and weapon maintenance drills at Mendhar in Poonch.

Jammu and Kashmir issued 41.05 lakh domicile certificates including over 15 lakh in Kashmir, 55,931 to West Pakistan refugees, 2,754 to Valmikis, and 789 to Gorkhas.

Obituary

Padma Sachdev (1940-2021)

Padma Sachdev
(1940-2021)

Noted author, poet and broadcaster, Padma Shri Padma Sachdev, considered as Dogri language’s first modern poet passed away at Mumbai, her second home. Sachdev, 81, was born in Purmandal Jammu in 1940 to Sanskrit Scholar, Prof Jai Dev Badu, who was killed in the 1947 riots.  She was the eldest of Badu’s three daughters.

Sachdev first married famous Dogri poet Vedpal Deep and later married singer Surinder Singh of the musical duo Singh Bandhu in 1966, whom she met in the All India Radio, Jammu, where she was an announcer, since 1961. She later served All India Radio, Mumbai.

The Dogri poet was writing in Hindi too. Padma has written lyrics for various films. She wrote the song Mera chhota sa ghar baar for the 1973 Hindi film Prem Parbat. In 1978, she penned two songs for Aankhin Dekhi. She authored nine books, mostly her poetic collections in Dogri and Hindi, besides Meri kavita mere geet that fetched her Sahitya Akademi Award in 1971. She received the Padma Shri in 2001 and was awarded the Kabir Samman for poetry for 2007-08 by the Madhya Pradesh government. One of her poems was translated into English by Dr Karan Singh and that continues to be part of English textbooks in Jammu and Kashmir.

BASHOLI

Army’s Dhruv helicopter with two pilots on board had taken off from Mamun Cantonment (Pathankot) for security recce and crashed into Ranjit Sagar dam at Purthu village. For many days the rescue teams from SDRF, NDRF and para-divers searched for the two but are yet to be traced. However, some debris of Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) and belongings of the two were seen floating over the dam waters. The place of the dam where the chopper crashed is 200 ft deep.

Jammu and Kashmir collected Rs 432 crore GST in July 2021, which is 45% more than Rs 298 crore that was collected in July 2020.

SRINAGAR

Kashmir health workers in a unique drive conduct tests and vaccinate shopkeepers in Srinagar business hub Lal Chowk to control the surge of Covid-19 infection, on June 15, 2021. KL Image: Bilal Bahadur

In a new twist to the Covid19 scare, the virus’s R-value (number of people a Covid19 positive can infect) is more than 1 in Jammu and Kashmir. “Presently, the R number in eight states and UTs — Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Lakshadweep, Tamil Nadu, Mizoram, Karnataka, Puducherry and Kerala — is showing an increasing trend and is more than one which is a cause of concern,” Joint Secretary in Health Ministry, Lav Agarwal said.  “There is an increase in R number the world over and for India, it is 1.2.”

The Coronavirus has killed 4385 people in Jammu and Kashmir including 2238 in Kashmir. Jammu continues to top the list of districts with the highest casualty figure of 1139. AS many as 322014 people were infected by the virus of whom not more than 1400 are active cases right now.

KULGAM

It has been a quantum jump for the cart pullers son, Tanveer Ahmad Khan, a resident of Nigeenpora Kund (Kulgam). He secured the second rank in UPSC’s Indian Economic Services (IES) examination. Khan faced financial constraints during his studies but the family supported him. After completing his graduation from Government Degree College Boys, Anantnag, Khan did his Masters in Economics from the University of Kashmir in 2018 and later went to Kolkata to pursue MPhil while preparing for IES. Entire Kashmir celebrated his success.

SRINAGAR

Davinder Singh, DSP, who was arrested with top Hizb militants on Jan 11.

Devender Singh, the DySP who was caught ferrying militants was dismissed by the Lt Governor Manoj Sinha administration in May. As his dismissal order appeared on social media, it created a controversy with the former Chief Minister, Mehbooba Mufti alleging that he was let off the hook by the Government of India while innocent Kashmiris rot in jails for years under anti-terror laws. Accusing the government of having double standards, Mehbooba Mufti said Kashmiris are “considered guilty until proven innocent”. Mehbooba tweeted: “Innocent Kashmiris arrested under anti-terror laws rot in jails for years. For them, the trial becomes the punishment. But GOI (Government of India) doesn’t want an enquiry against a cop caught red-handed with militants. Is it because he colluded with the system to orchestrate certain dodgy incidents?” Singh was accused of planning the Parliament attack by none other than Afzal Guru, who was eventually hanged. Lt Governor Manoj Sinha dismissed Singh under Article 311 of the Constitution.

TRAL

In a swift operation that lasted for not even an hour, the counter-insurgency grid killed two Jaish recruits, Mohammad Ismail Alvi alias Lamboo alias Adnan and his accomplice, Sameer Dar. The army and the police had cracked down on a vast forest stretch of Namibian and Marsar on the other side of Dachigam which are part of Hangalmarg woods. Police believe Lamboo was the key planner of the Lethpora car bomb attack that killed more than 40 CRPF personnel. The recoveries from the spot include three iPhones besides one US M-4 assault rifle, one AK-47, a Glock pistol and one pistol. Now the issue is to crack the phones and extract the information. Albi, the security grid believes, is the blood relation of Masood Azhar.

Health Ministry figures suggest Jammu and Kashmir reported 39041 cancer cases – 12675 in 2019, 13012 in 2020 and 13354 in 2021.

MUZZAFARABAD

The Narol Cricket Stadium in Muzaffarabad will play host to the controversial T20 KPL that starts on August 6, 2021. BCCI has warned international cricketers from participating in the tournament. Pic: Internet

Kashmir, on the other side of the LoC, did not get a new government alone. It got a new controversy that seemingly Islamabad might have cherished – getting ball and bat into the Kashmir mess. People using the hashtag KPL know it better. You click on it, you would land into a terabyte of data about the Kashmir Premier League, a cricketing tourney that exists literally on both sides of the divide. The only difference is that Islamabad, unlike Srinagar’s Chinar Corps, decided to make it a subsidiary of the Pakistan Cricket Board. The KPL being played at Muzaffarabad has emerged as a major disruption as some of the international players who had signed to participate had to withdraw as the Board of Control of Cricket in India (BCCI) told them in unambiguous terms that they will never be welcome in India. BCCI is one of the world’s richest cricket boards so nobody wanted to jeopardise their careers so one after another, they all withdrew from KPL. The alleged threats and the subsequent withdrawals became international news and took Kashmir to a section of elite players who rarely bother about territory and dispute. Those who withdrew include Herschelle Gibbs, former South Africa cricketer, and four former England international players — Monty Panesar, Matt Prior, Phil Mustard, and Owais Shah. This introduced KPL globally at no cost and now the KPL is going on.

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