Perhaps emerging as the first militancy-related murder in which killers were slain within less than 24 hours, the family of Ambreen Bhat, a TV artist and social media star, will never be the same again. After her mother died almost 12 years ago, she dropped out of secondary school and became a TV actor. In 2012, she fell in love with a south Kashmir boy but the marriage could not last long and in 2014, she was back home as a divorcee. As the work at Doordarshan Kendra Srinagar, dried up, off late, she started using social media to stay relevant and gradually her followers increased. She would make small videos on TikTok and YouTube and was active on Instagram since April 2020. She had 27,000 followers on Instagram and another 15,000 on YouTube.
On May 25, evening two men barged into her residence at Hushroo (Chadoora) and got her out and asked her to join their shooting session in Budgam. She refused, saying she does not work with strangers. One of the duo pulled out a pistol and fired thrice. Two bullets hit her and another her 11-year-old nephew, Farhan Zubair. She somehow managed to get into her room where she collapsed, was driven to the hospital and breathed her last on the way, her nephew survived.
Jammu and Kashmir Police said they identified her killer and engaged them in an encounter in an Awantipora village where they were killed. But the family of a 35-year old entertainer, a cushion and the bread-earner is lost. Ambreen was living with her asthmatic father, Khazir Mohammad, her elder sister and her labourer husband and their two kids. Amreen was earning for the family that was somehow managing to live with dignity within the limitations of the resources.
Her father told reporters that he would have happily pulled out her daughter from acting, had somebody warned them.
Ambreen’s killing, however, has panicked the professionals in the entertainment sector. Over the years, scores of boys and girls have taken to social media for exhibiting their creativity and offering entertaining content in music, comedy and other art forms. Many think the killing has pushed them to a sort of 1990s when these art forms were the key taboos. “She was the lone bread-winner of the family, having had to take care of her ailing father. For her, acting was all about feeding her family. Besides, in every shoot, you would see her properly dressed. We are part of our society and we all know our limits,” one artist was quoted by a newspaper saying. The murder of Ambreen has spread fear and grief among the 450-odd TV artists in Kashmir. Many of them are jobless these days, prompting some to switch to the tricky terrain of social media platforms that has earned them both accolades and brickbats. “I think she (Ambreen) is the second artist to die this way. In the early 90s, an artiste named Shamina Akhtar was shot dead. But all these years in between, we faced no issues. God knows why it has happened now.”
LG Manoj Sinha also visited the family. “Met the family members of Ambreen Bhat at their residence at Budgam. She was a strong-willed woman and a pillar of support to her family. The administration will provide every possible assistance and support to the family. We shall forever remember Ambreen’s indomitable spirit”, Sinha tweeted after the meeting.
Amid continued protest by Kashmiri Pandit employees serving the valley, the government has shifted 56 of them to safer places.
It was a tragedy in twists. A baby girl born to Shameema Begum, wife of Basharat Ahmed Gujjar a resident of Gujjar Basti Bankoot in sub-district hospital Banihal was declared the baby born-dead by the medical staff. She was kept in the morgue for an hour. After the formalities were over, the ‘body’ was handed over to the family. Instead of walking to their village, almost 56 km away, they decided to lay the baby to eternal rest in the local graveyard at Hollan. Post-burial, the graveyard managers raised objections over the unauthorised burial. This angered the family and they exhumed the infant with the objective of reburying her in their ancestral graveyard. It was during the exhumation that the baby cried shocking everybody.
It triggered a crisis. While the baby was immediately shifted to GB Panth Hospital in Srinagar, the hospital put two of its staffers under suspension for grave negligence. Deputy Commissioner ordered a probe. A four-member committee was constituted by the Director of Health Service Jammu to investigate the matter. While the probe was underway, the baby breathed her last more than 24 hours after being exhumed alive. She was buried again – this time, dead.
In the financial year 2021-22, 11434 recruitments were made by the Jammu and Kashmir government. These included 9390 by JK Service Selection Board, 561 by JK Public Service Commission and 1483 by JK Bank.
They had taken their daughter to the faith healer to save her from evil spirits. They did not know that the faith healer was an evil spirit instead. A resident of Damhal Hanjipora, Souby Jan’s family believed she is possessed. Married to Muzaffar Ahmad, she was unwell and the mother accompanied her to a ‘faith healer’ in Hanjipora Shopian so that she is exorcised from the evil spirits. Her mother said the so-called faith healer, Zakir Naik, beat her brutally and when the mother attempt to interrupt she was also injured. An unconscious lady was driven to a hospital in Kulgam where she died. Police have arrested Naik along with the deceased lady’s husband and brother.
1500 girl students enrolled in colleges are being awarded scholarships to help them undertake high-quality and tech-driven online skilling programmes in cutting edge technologies like Digital Marketing and Data Science with Artificial Intelligence. The government has partnered with upGrad Foundation which will ensure a 100 per cent fee waiver to help deserving and shortlisted female learners through its social impact initiative – Vidya Shakti Scholarships.
After spending 17 months in jail, PDP leader Waheed-ur-Rehman Para is home as the High Court granted him bail. NIA arrested him under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act in November 2020, three days after he filed his nomination for the District Development Council (DDC) elections in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). Though on January 10, 2021, a special court granted him bail saying that the “offences, particularly falling under UAPA, are not prima facie made out”, he was picked up by Counter Intelligence Kashmir (CIK) and placed in judicial custody. In June 2021, a special court framed charges against him. A Division Bench comprising Justices Vinod Chatterji Koul and Sanjeev Kumar finally bailed him out. He has to make himself available to investigators and surrender his passport. Various political parties including his PDP welcome the bail. “Viewed from any angle, the evidence assembled by the investigating agency and relied upon by the prosecution to prosecute the appellant even if accepted as it is without any denial or rebuttal by the appellant, is not such on the basis of which the Court can formulate an opinion that the allegations proved during the investigation are prima facie true,” the order reads. “The evidence as is gathered by the prosecution is too sketchy to be believed prima facie true, that too, with a view to deny bail to the appellant.”
Interestingly, he was elected to DDC while in jail but could not take the oath because he was in jail.
Two years after renaming Jammu and Kashmir’s police medal for gallantry and meritorious service, Lt Governor Manoj Sinha administration removed the embossed image of the National Conference (NC) Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah from the medal. It was replaced by the national emblem. The other side of the medal inscribed with the Jammu and Kashmir state emblem will now be inscribed as “Jammu and Kashmir Police Medal for Gallantry” and “Jammu and Kashmir Police Medal for Meritorious Service” in case of gallantry or meritorious medal, as the case may be.
The decision has triggered serious reactions. Mehbooba Mufti said that Sheikh took the bold decision of bringing J&K with the country when the two-nation theory was prevalent. “They should have thought that Sheikh sab took the bold decision of joining India being a secular country rather than Pakistan when the two-nation theory was prevalent,” she said. “And now after 70 years if someone wants to remove his identity what can be said of those persons. It is their mental bankruptcy, nothing else. Sheikh sab won’t be affected.”
“Sher-e-Kashmir is not just a prefix that you can erase,” an NC spokesman said. “Sher-e-Kashmir was, is and will always be the only Sher-e-Kashmir.” Various NC leaders posted with the hashtag “ShereKashmirliveson” on Twitter to protest against the move. Former minister, Naeem Akhtar said: “Sheikh Abdullah is another Aurangzeb [for the BJP]. The man without whom Kashmir may not have acceded to India ‘demonetised’, as the Sher-i-Kashmir is replaced with the national emblem.”
J&K Film Development Council (JKFDC) has received more than 350 applications from producers to shoot in Kashmir of which 116 applications have been approved. As many as 104 film companies have booked locations in Kashmir.
The first Suicide Prevention Helpline Zindagi has started functioning in Kashmir. The Helpline No (18002701008), a partnership initiative of the Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences – Kashmir, GMC Srinagar and NGO SRO Kashmir, will operate between 6-11 pm as these hours are seen as the most vulnerable period for self-harm thoughts among those facing extreme mental stress as they feel lonely during the time. The helpline will offer suicide prevention counselling, first aid, psychological support, distress management, mental well-being, promotes positive behaviour, and psychological crisis management. Currently, the Helpline is backed by a team of 14 psychiatrists and clinical psychologists. There is no language barrier; the helpline entertains calls in English, Urdu and Kashmiri. They are receiving almost 10-15 calls per day. In near future, they are planning to make it 24×7 and will be creating a provision to evacuate the person having severe suicidal thoughts to the hospital.
Not expecting that it will trigger a crisis, the government had decided to terminate the services of people engaged as Rehbar-e-Khel, Rehbar-e-Janglat, Rehbar-e-Zirat, and National Youth Corps (NYC) and refer all these positions to Service Selection Board. The idea was to make fresh recruitments by offering extra weightage and age relaxation to those already serving. After the news leak, thousands of these workers were seen on the roads. Understanding the magnitude of the crisis, the move could trigger, the administration got into salvaging the situation by terming the news as a rumour. The protests continued for a few days with the youth seeking withdrawal of the order, if any, that might have been sent to SSB.
Detained human rights activist, Khurram Parvez is one of the three persons from India who is listed among Time magazine’s “world’s 100 most influential people of 2022”. Two others are Gautum Adani and Supreme Court lawyer, Kauna Nundy. Khurram’s brief sketch has been written by journalist, Rana Ayyub. “He had to be silenced, for his was a voice that resounded around the globe for his fierce fight against human rights violations and injustices in the Kashmir region,” the newspaper quoted Rana writing. “The soft-spoken Khurram is almost a modern-day David who gave a voice to families that lost their children to enforced disappearances, allegedly by the Indian state.” Khurram was arrested on November 25, 2021, from his Srinagar residence by federal investigator NIA in a terror funding case.
Waseem Raja, a resident of Shalgam area of Bijbehara has won Rs 2 crore on the online platform, Dream11. “I was sleeping and didn’t know about it at all; my friends called and told me that I had figured at number one slot, paving a way for me to win Rs 2 crore,” Raja said. An Indian fantasy sports platform, Dream11 allows users to play fantasy cricket, hockey, football, kabaddi and basketball and earn rewards. The platform is a skill-based application that lets users win cash prizes as they play. “I cannot express my happiness, I am overwhelmed because we were in hardships and this money should ease it all for me; my mother is ill, and I will now be finally able to ensure she gets the necessary treatment; I thank God for whatever has come my way.”
In the University of Kashmir’s 74-year history, it got the first woman Vice-Chancellor, last week. Professor Nilofar Khan, who has been teaching home science for over 30 years, has been Dean, College Development Council, Registrar, Dean Faculty of Applied Science and Technology and Director Institute of Home Sciences. She was also the first woman Dean of Students Welfare of the University and the founding Director, of the Centre for Women’s Studies and Research.
Meanwhile, KU scientist Dr Altaf Bhat was elected as a member of the National Academy of Sciences. Coordinator at the Centre for Interdisciplinary Research and Innovations (CIRI), Bhat has made significant contributions to the understanding of how genes regulate cellular physiology and how genome stability is maintained in the cells.
The Jammu and Kashmir government has decided to convert the DRDO-created 500 bedded Covid19 Hospital facility at Khonmoh into a fully-fledged Infectious Diseases Hospital. His will help the major hospitals from getting disturbed every time, an epidemic or a pandemic starts altering the footfalls. The new facility can emerge as a super-speciality gradually. It is a complete hospital and has well equipped intensive care units with hundreds of ventilators, high-flow oxygen on every bed and a huge bed capacity. To manage it the government recruited its manpower last year.
Jammu and Kashmir’s pace sensation, Umran Malik has finally been selected for the Indian team against South Africa in the T-20 International home series starting from June 9. He is the second player of Jammu and Kashmir after Parvez Rasool who has been selected for the Indian team for the five-match T-20 series.
Rasool received his maiden call-up for the national team in 2013 for the Zimbabwe tour but finally represented the Team India against Bangladesh in June 2014 at Mirpur. Malik, son of a modest fruit seller, was playing for IPL with Sunrisers Hyderabad. He picked up 21 wickets so far in the 13 games with his ability to bowl consistently at 95 miles per hour which caught the attention of everyone in the cricket world.