News Notes

Militancy SPURTS
FUNERAL2Encounters seem to have firmed their grip over valley once again. Recently one Lashkar-i-Toiba militant was gunned down and two policemen injured in a brief encounter in Niloora village of Litter area in Pulwama district.
The slain militant has been identified as Ashiq Hussain Lone alias Chota Rehman son of Ghulam Muhammad of Hef Shirmal, Shopian, in south Kashmir.
“We had set up a naka in Niloora village after getting specific inputs about the movement of militants in the area. Three persons riding a motorbike were asked by SOG and CRPF men to stop but they fired on the party and lobbed a grenade due to which two policemen got injured,” the police officer informed.
The forces searched every house of the two villages and the operation was on till Tuesday afternoon, as per locals. Police later called off the operation after they failed to trace the second militant said to be injured in the gunfight.
“We had to call off the night-long operation as one other militant managed to flee from the spot,” said a senior police official. “The militant was injured during the shootout and search was carried out to nab him as we thought he might not have gone too far.”
Ashiq Hussain Lone joined militancy in 2009 after he came in contact with the LeT Commander Abdul Rehman of Pakistan. He was arrested by police following his involvement in “unlawful activities” in early 2009, as per police information. “A case stands registered against him in Police Station Anantnag in south Kashmir. After his release, Ashiq rejoined the LeT cadres and was involved in threatening the panchayat representatives of Shopian,” police said.
Furthermore, Police had registered a case in police station Zainapora, Shopian, against him for threatening the panchayat members.
Amid complete shutdown, thousands of people participated in the funeral prayers of the slain militant at his native village. People raised pro-freedom and anti-India slogans.

Lodging CRUNCH!
TouristsAt the time when the Valley is booming with tourist rush, existing accommodation shortage seems to play spoilsport. Official figures reveal that there are only 25,000 rooms available in Srinagar which include hotels, guest houses and houseboats, while the demand at the peak season is more than one lakh rooms per day.
There are only 400 hotel rooms in north Kashmir’s Sonamarg resort to cater to the huge influx of tourists, as per official records. Due to the huge demand, the room charges in quality hotels in the Valley range from Rs 10,000 to Rs 50,000 in the peak season.
Similarly, the famous ski resort of Gulmarg in north Kashmir has just 1,500 rooms for tourists while tourist resort Pahalgam in south Kashmir, which is also the base camp for annual Amarnath pilgrimage has 15,000 rooms.
Kashmir has failed to fully explore its tourism potential as the state government is allegedly creating impediments in the development of infrastructure at emerging tourist destinations. Although private players are eager to invest in the tourism sector, the government reluctance and master plan impediments, restricting construction of new hotels and guest houses prove to be major hurdle in increasing the room capacity.
Mushtaq Chaya, chairman, Jammu and Kashmir Hoteliers Club, advocates that the government should encourage entrepreneurs and private players to establish new hotels and guest houses with due consideration to the environmental concerns.
“The government should earmark new areas where construction of hotels and guest houses be allowed,” he said. “Tourism fraternity is ready to invest provided that the government facilitates them.”

Beware SCRIBES!
News-Omar-AbdullahIt was a clear message to reporters to discharge professional duties with care and caution. And when chief minister Omar Abdullah said so, then it is sure going to create buzz around.
Omar asked the media to take care while reporting the situation in the Valley in order to avoid unnecessary speculation in the minds of tourists.
“While filing stories about various happenings, the reporters should take care that these are not going out of the right perception and creating unnecessary speculation in the minds of tourists intending to visit the state,” Omar said.
The chief minister was addressing a gathering after inaugurating the annual ‘Sindhu Darshan’ festival in Leh. Stating that Jammu and Kashmir is the abode of rich cultural diversity and is known world over for its scenic splendour, Omar said the mesmerising beauty of the state has always attracted tourists of wide-ranging interests.
He sought the cooperation of the media in the efforts of the government aimed at showcasing the state’s normalcy and tourist-friendly atmosphere.
He mentioned the captivating scenery of the Ladakh region saying this part of the state possesses unique attractions for natural beauty lovers. He stressed on preserving the heritage and cultural vastness of the region.
Omar said his government has initiated various measures to give a fillip to tourism and showcase state’s diverse tourist attractions and rope in tourists both from within the country and outside.
He said a Trans Himalayan Centre involving a cost of Rs. 25 crore is under execution in Leh while a Rs. 20-crore Food Craft Centre and Rs. 30-crore golf course are also being developed here.

Arrested AWARDED!
SI-Shiv-Krishan-SharmaChief Minister Omar Abdullah was about to honour a cop for his exemplary services for the state but that cop, Shiv Krishan alias Sonu was behind the bars for the same reason he was to be awarded for.
The encounter specialist police officer, Sonu was arrested along with his body guard early this month for running a militant module in Doda and here in Srinagar he was listed to be presented with Sher-e-Kashmir Police Medals for Gallantry for getting militants arrested.
Sonu, Sub-Inspector was instrumental in killing 68 militants in the Doda-Kishtwar belt. He was serving in the Special Operation Group (SOG) of J&K Police, and was arrested at Thathri in Bhadarwah for allegedly patronizing the militants to carry out grenade attack on Police Station Thathri. A case (FIR number 33 of 2013) was registered under Sections 307 RPC, 3/ (Explosive Substances Act), 7/27 (Arms Act) and 3PSS (Prevention of Sabotage and Subversion Act) against the SOG Sub Inspector at Police Station Thathri.
The killer cop has received more prestigious award earlier as well, President Medal. Recruited as SPO, he has got two out of turn promotions and was serving as SI. Sonu received injuries in his eye and a leg during his service and it is believed that some bullet splinters are trapped inside his head and brain, as claimed by his counsel, who is defending Sonu.
The gallantry medals were  awarded to 104 police personnel in recognition of different gallantry actions performed from 2002 to 2011 at various places in the State.

Separatist STAND!
Syed-Ali-GeelaniAs the reports of educated youth joining militant ranks are making chief minister Omar Abdullah to confess that he is a “worried man” over the eventuality. After Omar’s confession, it was turn of separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani, who in his usual stance said highly educated youth are joining militancy because the state government and New Delhi did not allow a peaceful political struggle in Jammu and Kashmir.
“The crushing of people’s revolution with power in 2008 and 2010 and later hanging of Mohammad Afzal Guru made the Kashmiri youth to hate the word – peaceful. They thought that New Delhi will not allow this procedure to flourish and its policies to hide the facts will continue,” Geelani said.
Geelani said the unrealistic approach of government of India regarding Kashmir had made the Kashmiri youth to launch armed struggle in 1990. “Today also because of this rigidness of New Delhi the youth is opting for same option,” he said.
Hurriyat (G) chairman viewed that Kashmiris are a mature nation who took a revolutionary step in 2008 and 2010 by respecting the changing world scenario and new international trends. Because of this step lakhs of people took to streets and through peaceful struggle gave a message to New Delhi to adopt a serious approach towards the solution of Kashmir issue. But this message was not positively responded and India tried to crush people through suppression.
“New Delhi with the help of Omar Abdullah and others tried to suppress the peaceful movement and break all such records. In 2010 only 125 youth were killed in indiscriminate firing and 3800 were disabled during that period. Cases were registered against 4800 youth, majority of which were students and their carriers were ruined. Hundreds of youth were jailed under Public Safety Act and some of them are still in jail,” he said.
Geelani alleged that after 2010 as the army and police harassed the youth their faith in any peaceful struggle got shattered.

Rising PEER
Basharat-peer-(2)One more star was added to the writing genre of Kashmir, when New York Times appointed Basharat Peer as the head of its India-specific property India Ink. Replacing Heather Timmons, Peer was appointed when The New York Times is reviewing all its blogs to decide which ones to continue or shut down, ahead of a major website redesign in forthcoming months, as indicated by a Capital New York report.
Prior to this, Peer was the Writer in residence at the Open Society Institute in New York. He was also the assistant editor of the American magazine Foreign Affairs and correspondents at Rediff and Tehelka. Besides that he has also written for publications like The Guardian, The New Yorker, Financial Times, The National, the New Statesman and Columbia Journalism Review among others and is author of the book ‘Curfewed Nights’.
The New York Times had launched India Ink in September 2011, to offer news and analysis targeting the Indians, and those who follow news about India, abroad. The blog is edited by The New York Times in India and the International Herald Tribune (IHT) in Hong Kong.
The Capital New York report also cites NYT foreign editor Joe Kahn to say that India Ink is quite significant among various New York Times blogs and has a fairly good audience, indicating that the blog will continue to stay afloat.
Pertinently India Ink has been kept outside the NYT paywall until now, although the company had termed it as an initial move during the site launch in 2011.

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