Khrew residents protests against unchecked pollution from cement factories


Pulwama: The residents of Khrew in south Kashmir’s Pulwama district Tuesday staged a protest demonstration against the pollution created by the cement factories in the area.

The protesters said factories have become main source of pollution in the areas affecting public health at large, adding that they will continue staging protest tomorrow also.
“The presence of these factories has adversely affected our health, vegetation and saffron fields,” Abdul Shaban, a resident told Rising Kashmir, adding, “Not only have we developed respiratory problems, our livelihood too has been badly affected.”
The protestersincluded a sizeable number of saffron cultivators having their fields spread around cement factories.
“We are witnessing unprecedented decrease in production since the plants came up in Khrew and Khanmoh,” said Fayaz Bhat, a farmer. “We have knocked at many doors but still we remain unheard,” he added.
At least six cement factories are functional in the area and few more are likely to come up in the area, if locals are to be believed.
Residents accused the government of playing with their lives. “We will die but not allow more factories to come up here,” residents said.
“Our water resources have fallen victim to pollution from illegal stone mining and cement factories,” said Aadil Bhat, coordinator civil society Khrew, adding, “The cement plants should be subjected to stringent pollution tests and allowed to operate after the factories adhere to the prescribed regulations with reference to public health and the world wide health guidelines of World Health Organization.”
“These units are very close to protected area of Dachigam National Park, a wildlife sanctuary and their operation, if not controlled, can cause an environmental disaster,” said an environmental expert.
Locals alleged when the factories started functioning back in 1982 here, the owners had made agreement with the residents about giving 90% of jobs to the local educated youth but today only 5%of jobs are given to locals.
 “Last year, a team of doctors arrived here and forewarned that after two decades, many local children will be suffering from cancer,” said Zahoor Ahmad Bhat, adding, “The team declared that presently 75% of locals are suffering from respiratory troubles.”
“Protests will continue till all factories implement pollution control devices,” said Aadil Bhat.
They alleged that no factory has installed high value particle samplers (HVPRs) to check pollution.
Students from 5 local schools also participated in the protests.

Muncipal employees strike begins from 25th May



 Reacting against the decision of the government to abolish two Municipal committees, a valley wide strike call on 25th May has been given by JK Urban local bodies’ employees united forum.
In its statement, President JKULBEUF Manzoor Ahmad pampori said,” The
forum has taken serious cognizance of the arbitrary decision of the
government to abolish committees of Pahalgam and Gulmarg. This will be
beginning of the state wide protests.”
The protests will be led by Abdul Qayoom Wani, President Employees
joint action committee (EJAC) and Manzoor Ahmad pampori from Tangmarg
along with hundreds of other employees.
Pampori said, “The notification issued by government is infact a
massacre on the interest of the employees of these institutions
besides ruining the hopes of thousands of families.” “These committees
are even older than Indian democracy as were formed by Maharaja in
1942 when country was yet to attain independence.”
He alleged that a serious conspiracy has been hatched by some vested
interests to ruin urban characteristics of these towns and that is the
reason recently our director has been transferred and no one was
called to replace him.
Earlier on Friday, while holding a protest by municipal employees
pahalgam, an employee tried to self immolate himself.
The government on Tuesday had ordered to abolish two oldest municipal
committees under SRO 149 vide no HUDA/LSG/ULBK/117/2015.

Anganwadi workers, helpers stage anti-government protest


SRINAGAR: A huge traffic jam was created in Lal Chowk on Tuesday when employees of Anganwadi Centres lied flat on road outside Press Enclave.

These employees were protesting under the banner of Anganwadi Workers and Helpers Association Kashmir Province.

Speaking to media, President of the association Maymoona Nazki castigated the State government and said: “Whenever any additional work of any other department gets overburdened, government increases our actual working hours which get doubled and even tripled at times but still they have not recognised us as government employees.” She added “we are not given proper wages but just meager honorarium of Rs 3600 to workers and Rs 1840 to helpers.”

The women employees urged the government that they should be given pension benefits immediately who are retiring with an ex gratia of Rs 2 lac for workers and Rs 1 lac for helpers.

“We come from a very poor family and no TA & DA is given to us for attending meetings called by officers,” said Maymoona.

They also appealed the government to fix seniority list block wise and promote helpers to supervisors on vacant posts.

4-Day training programme for lawyers, law teachers begins at CUK


Srinagar: The four-day training programme on “Natural Resources Law, Sustainable Development and Public Interest Advocacy” began at Nowgam campus of Central University of Kashmir on Thursday.

The professional development programme meant for advocates, law teachers and law officers has been organized by School of Legal Studies, CUK in collaboration with International Bar Association (IBA), Chair on Continuing Legal Education (CCLE), National Law School of India University (NLSIU) Bengaluru and Menon Institute of Legal Advocacy Training Trivandrum and Department of Law, University of Kashmir.

In his welcome address, officiating Vice Chancellor CUK, Prof Mehraj Din Mir said: “Environment is a very sensitive issue and we need to sensitize law professionals more and more about this. We will soon sign a Memorandum of Understanding with NLSIU to facilitate further research on environmental law.”

Speaking on the occasion, eminent jurist and Vice Chancellor of NLSIU, Prof Venkata Rao said: “Have we forgotten the fact that we have burrowed the nature from our ancestors…we are not the last…we have to pass it to posterity.” Prof Rao quoted Mahatma Gandhi and said, “We have not created nature, let’s not destroy it.”

Prof Rao differentiated environment from development as: “Environment is where we live and development is what we do. How can we spoil where we live with what we do?”

“As UN has already predicted if there will be a future war, it will be over water,” he said, adding,

“This war has already begun at minor level when we see a women quarrelling on street tap water.” Referring to water scarcity, Prof. Rao cited the example of Rajasthan where women in some places have to walk 15 kms to fetch water.

“This practice has caused orthopedic diseases in majority of women,” he added.

In the post-lunch session, eminent jurist Prof Madhav Menon stressed on changing the name and style of course curriculum of environment law.

“We should look at environment law not with conventional style. What is being taught by such rigid environmental law syllabus…this is not the approach where we teach environmental laws and court decisions,” he said.

Prof Menon suggested that modern societies should know how natural resources are being used “and for that firstly the name of the course should be changed from ‘environmental law’ to ‘natural resources law”.

He briefly talked about the encroachment of Jhelum River. “Encroachng space of Jhelum river and building structures on that will definitely bring floods and if such big rivers are diverted they will wash away cities,” Prof Menon said.

He cited the example of Maldives where people have to take sea water and then purify that before drinking. “Last time when the purifying industry was shut, whole water supply was closed for the country…we should not let that happen here.”

According to Dr Sheikh Showkat Hussain, Head, Department of Law, CUK, various themes proposed to be deliberated during the development programme include Environment as a Human Right, Inter-Generational Equity & Corporate Social Responsibility, Forest Laws, Biodiversity, Sustainable Development, Management of Ecological Upheavals in Third World, Water Resources Law & Management, and Environmental Dispute Settlement. A session will also be dedicated to Environmental Law Teaching & Research.

Prominent scholars Prof. R Venkata Rao, Vice-Chancellor, National Law School of India University, Bangalore, Prof. Madhav Menon, Prof. Bharat Desai, Adv Videh Upadhya, Prof. MK Ramesh and Prof. Mehraj udDin Mir, Officiating Vice-Chancellor, CUK, will be resource persons for various sessions.

The valedictory function of the programme will be held on 17 May at Department of Law, Kashmir University.

SMC in slumber as illegal constructions galore in Srinagar


Srinagar: The most unethical move by many crooked city residents after last year deluge was illegal construction of buildings taking advantage under the banner of ‘flood victims’.

In latest such illegal construction list comes a building at 47 Exchange Road. Though the building was granted permission by Srinagar Municipal Corporation under vide no 755 of 2014 on 19 March last year but the type of construction going on here is in contravention to the given permission as per the letter no SMC/Enf/42-48.
On 27th April last month, a show cause notice was served under first proviso under section 253(1) of Municipal Corporation act 2000 for construction of structure in violation of sanctioned plan by chief enforcement officer, SMC to the owner of the building Mehvish Jeelani.
But despite that, construction was not stopped by the owner forcing SMC to issue notice of demolition on 2nd May 2015 giving a time period of a week to self-demolish the structure.
 “The routine has become here…this owner also succeed in getting stay orders from the court,” said Ward officer.  “Huge money has gone onto the pockets of SMC and SDA officials without whose consent such structures don’t come up,” Showkat Ahmad, a resident alleged. Officials said that from City nerve centre of Lal Chowk to in and around Srinagar City, illegal constructions are galore and grow manifold across the City. The officials, wishing not to be named said failure of the enforcement squads to keep check on the menace have discredited the government run departments including SMC, SDA, UEED, LAWDA “Master Plan is being violated everywhere,” they said. “Eyebrows are being raised over the issuance of building permissions.” Meanwhile according to sources authorities in SMC have issued permissions whereby commercial constructions are being allowed in residential areas.
Pertinently police officials said they were watching the vandalization of the commercial hub of the city “helplessly”. “If it were one or two, we would take action under preventive laws but there are so many that it can lead to law and order problem,” they said.
Some shopkeepers accused the SMC officials of being hand in glove with the building law violators saying the floods have only provided a cover for this activity. “These shops, especially in Regal Lane,
Forest Lane and Abi Guzar Lane are temporary allotments which can be removed any time. Some of them have been converted into two-storey showrooms as recently as last year,” they said. In the other areas of the city also, houses are being constructed illegally without building permission from the authorities concerned. Several houses are coming up on lands owned by temples and temple trusts, in clear violation of court orders. Residents of Gulberg colony alleged that two government employees have constructed houses on a temple land. Recently residents  of  the  Samandar  Bagh  area complain that  in garb  of  making  a  coaching  centre a  massive hotel  has come-up in their vicinity. The residents alleged that the owner of the building first sought permission from the SDA for construction of  a Coaching centre. However in the garb of it started constructing a five storey-hotel. They said that the case was brought to the notice of JK Special Tribunal before a judicial member who heard the case on fast track basis and dismissed the appeal and let the construction go on at the spot.

Life is Easy Now

After removal of dreaded Hanwari camp in Charar-i-Sharief life is slowly bouncing back to normal. But can the freed landscape help in healing painful scars left behind over the years. Irfan Rashid reports 

Remains of dreaded Hanwari camp in Charar-i-Sharief

For 8-year-old Saba a vast open space at the end of Hanwari Mohallah in Charar-i-Sharief evokes no memories except the pleasant ones. Every day, almost like a routine, Saba along with her few friends, from a nearby school, visit this ground to practice their cricketing skills.

The ground, which overlooks almost entire Charar-i-Sharief town, is dotted with the remains of bunkers and impressions of a past that refuses to fade from the memories of people living nearby.

Saba was just 4-year-old when the bunkers housing CRPF men were removed in 2011. Her memory of the bunkers is limited to her occasional visits with her brother Tawseef, and getting toffees’ by men in uniform.

But for 22-year-old Tawseef, the calmness that Saba relates with this ground is hard earned.

Till 1995, at the peak of militancy, unlike other major towns in Valley, Charar-i-Sharief had just one army camp. The camp was stationed on the highest peak in town called Noful Teng.

But after the siege of Charar-e-Sharief in 1995 and the successful escape of Pakistani militant commander Major Mast Gul, this small shrine town changed quite fast. The siege ended in a major inferno that left most of the town gutted.

After 1995 inferno army occupied many strategic locations in and around Charar-e-Sharief to keep a close watch on people living in the town. And one of the camps that came up post 1995 inferno was dreaded Hanwari camp.

Hanwari was chosen for its strategic location. It was on top of a hillock overlooked entire town with ravine on three sides. “The bunkers were constructed in such a way that major entry points were under army’s watchful eyes,” says Tawseef who lived adjacent to the camp’s main entrance.

Tawseef was one of the lucky few who had access inside the camp. “I used to help army men procure their daily need items against a commission. They (army men) would simply call me from the gates to get things from the market,” says Tawseef.

Tawseef’s proximity with the camp was beneficial for him as he was happy to at least add to his father’s meagre income. Tawseef’s father then was a small time labourer who earned his living by making Kangris (traditional earthen pots) for sale in the local market.

But the events of a particular winter night in 2010 changed Tawseef and his perception towards army men and the supposed camaraderie, forever.

One night a loud knock at the door woke Tawseef’s family.  His father went outside to check who is at the door. “There were at least ten army men at the door. The moment my father opened the door they pounced on him and began kicking and beating him with gun butts,” recalls Tawseef. “

Only a couple of steps behind his father, Tawseef stood, shocked, unable to move. He could recognize almost all of them (army men). “They were the same guys who used to ask for favour and I thought were my friends,” says Tawseef.

Hearing cries of Tawseef’s father his friend Mushtaq, who was staying at their house that night, rushed out too. But before he could have done anything to save his friend someone hit him on the nose and dragged him back in. “He (Mushtaq Uncle) was bleeding badly. His nose was broken,” recalls Tawseef.  “I tried to follow him but one of army men caught hold of me. I didn’t resist.”

Then there was silence. “I felt hopeless, helpless and terribly alone. It continued for almost two hours,” says Tawseef.  “Then they left and our lawn was filled with neighbours. Papa put on a brave face as he was being removed from the house, carried by three men.”

A view of Charar town from Hanwari camp.

Tawseef’s father never talked about what happened that night with anybody.

After the camp was removed in 2011 and a sense of security prevailed over the area, Tawseef’s father finally revealed the happenings of that night. “I was beaten. They told me that a militant has passed through our compound,” says Tawseef’s father.  “We were tortured for an incident over which we had no control!”

After that incident Tawseef restricted his contact with the army men stationed at the camp near his house. “I always knew that they cannot be our friends. But a poor man like me has no option when it comes to helping ones family,” says Tawseef.

During his long visits to the camp Tawseef recalls how Kashmiris working in the army would try to lure him to act as informer. “I might have fallen in their trap but a friendly army man from Kolkata advised me against such a foolish step,” recalls Tawseef.

That friendly army man had told Tawseef that an informer no doubt earns good money but always ends up dead. “He told me ‘you will get yourself killed in between’,” says Tawseef.

One incident that is still fresh in Tawseef’s memory dates back to 2004. There has been a battalion change in the camp, remembers Tawseef.

“One night I came home late with my family after spending the day at a picnic spot. When we reached near our gate army men guarding the camp pointed their weapons at us,” recalls Tawseef. “They were about to shoot when I shouted: I live here, I live here. Please don’t shoot us.”

But the army men, probably drunk at that hour, instead started abusing Tawseef and his family, he recalls. “They shouted, ‘Yeh desh hamara hai saley…shaam ko jaldi andar bethna chahye’ (This is our country. You better get home early).”

Trigger Happiness

One of the painful memories attached with Hanwari camp that people of Charar-e-Sharief refuse to forget and forgive are from summer 2010 civil unrest.

It was at the peak of 2010 unrest that protests started taking place in Charar-e-Sharief town. “We saw the worst of that camp in 2010 when they killed Danish and injured Shakeel,” says Tawseef.

Danish was studying in 7th standard when he was killed by CRPF men stationed at the Hanwari camp.

Danish’s friend Faisal, who was with him that day, recalls events leading to his death vividly. “We were together that day. Our teacher had assigned us homework for which Danish was supposed to visit our home,” recalls Faisal.

On his way to Faisal’s house Danish met a small crowd of protestors heading towards the main town. When protestors reached near Hanwari camp, without any warning or provocation CRPF men fired shots towards people, recalls Tawseef.  The first shot hit Danish directly and he fell down on the ground. “He was not dead. But before people could have helped him CRPF men came out of their camp and dragged him inside,” recalls Tawseef.  “One of them (CRPF men) begins kicking him with his hard leather boots. Another one started beating him with the gun butts. He was bleeding all the time because of the bullet wound,” recalls one eyewitness.

“All the time Danish kept his notebook clutched closed to his chest,” says the eyewitness.

But that was not the end of nightmare for people who had assembled to protest against the killing of a teenager by CRPF men in Srinagar a day before.  The next shower of bullets hit Shakeel, a local, who fell on the ground instantly.

“When bullet hit me in the abdomen I thought I was dead. But when CRPF men came close to drag me inside like they did with Danish, I pretended to be dead,” recalls Shakeel.

Eyewitnesses claim no one was allowed to lift Danish and Shakeel for more than one hour despite bleeding profusely. “It was only after ambulance arrived that they allowed us to move Danish and Shakeel,” says an eyewitness.  Danish was declared brought dead by the doctors. Shakeel was shifted to Srinagar for treatment.

While Shakeel struggles to fight his nightmares, Danish’s mother still waits for her son. “She doesn’t cry as she still believes that Danish will be back someday,” says Faisal. “She would say: Su chu gomut dostas nish keam tarnea (He has gone to his friend’s house to complete his homework).

But as the time passed like other mothers of slain victims in Kashmir Danish’s mother too was made to understand that her son is dead.

A Dangerous Walk

The land on which Hanwari camp was built belonged to one local. He had leased around 20 kanals of land to the army after 1995 inferno.

It is said that the owner was initially reluctant to lease the land to army, but was finally coerced in.

After the camp was set up army started wiring land adjacent to the leased plot as well. “They systematically managed to block the only access route to adjacent field,” says Suhail Ahmad, 22, a student who lives near to the camp.

And those who still had access to their fields by taking de-tour of the camp would face regular harassment by army men stationed at the bunkers overlooking the road. “This road was the only way to reach orchards in Hapat Naad and Rakhaai,” says Suhail.

Before the present muddy road for vehicles, only horses were used to carry boxes of fruits from orchards to the main town. “They used to stop horses and would even open apple boxes,” remembers Ghulam Mohammad, 45, a horse carrier.

It was very hostile for people who would go to their fields for labour. “They would throw stones at people travelling on this road from above. I had been hit by a stone once myself,” says Amina, who hails from nearby Trajbal locality.

After the Hanwari camp came into existence movement of womenfolk to their fields got restricted. “A female could never pass that area alone unless accompanied by a male. Initially when women used to visit their farms through that area they realized that army men would whistle, shout and even harass them by passing lewd comments,” recalls Amina.

“Last time when I passed that camp area alone was in my 2nd class. One day, when my mother was on her way to our orchid, she was called out by army men to come inside the camp,” says Neelofar, who is now pursuing her final year of graduation from government degree college, Charar-i-Sharief.

But with Hanwari camp gone and the only remnants of a painful past reflected by a few sandbags that once were bunkers, children like Saba spend their time playing hide-and-seek inside the ground. On every evening, young boys would assemble inside the bunkers and chat for hours together.  And for obese women this ground is a jogger’s park!