March 2018 News

Yashwant Sinha-led Concerned Citizens' Group Says 'situation In Kashmir Has Deteriorated'

16 March 2018
The Indian Express
Mir Ehsan

Srinagar: The Concerned Citizens' Group, led by former Union minister and BJP leader Yashwant Sinha, that visited J&K has said that the situation in the Kashmir has deteriorated further and Jammu has become fragile. In its report, the group said that local politicians are trying to fan communal passion for political gains. 'It was concerned that Jammu was being communalised for narrow political gains by certain political groups and forces. In addition, the specific issues concerning the displaced community of Kashmiri Pandits as well as the refugees from West Pakistan who came to Jammu in 1947 were not being addressed adequately,' said the group that released its report. The group also believed that the situation in Jammu is fast deteriorating into a communal divide, and needed to be looked at. 'The rape and brutal murder of an eight-year-old Muslim Bakkarwal girl was being used to fan communal passions by local politicians.' The group comprised Yashwant Sinha (former Finance and External Affairs Minister), Air Vice Marshal (Retd) Kapil Kak, Sushobha Barve (Executive Secretary of Centre for Dialogue and Reconciliation) and Bharat Bhushan (journalist) visited different parts of J&K and held discussions with many groups including those affected by cross border shelling. The report said that the primary rationale for the visit was the escalation of cross-border shelling which assumed a new intensity since the beginning of this year. 'The ceasefire understanding reached between the two countries in 2003 was violated with impunity with small arms fire giving way to heavy mortar and finally, even artillery,' reads the report. The report further mentioned the escalation which resulted in a high death toll. 'The casualties in January 2018 alone equalled the figure for the entire 2017. And 2017 itself was an exceptional year for ceasefire violations, as they represented a six-fold increase compared to 2015.' The report stated that the huge collateral damage to civilians living on both sides of the border was not unsurprising. 'On the Indian side alone more than 40,000 civilians had to be evacuated, make-shift camps set up to house them at a safe distance, economic activities disrupted and schools closed in the areas adjoining the IB-LoC. Besides the loss of human lives, houses were destroyed and damaged, cattle killed and injured and local water and electricity infrastructure disrupted.' The report further mentions that despite the success of the security forces in eliminating top militant leaders in the Valley, the recruitment in the militant ranks was on the rise. 'Even highly educated youngsters choosing to pick up the gun. Militancy in the Valley also seemed to be changing qualitatively with fidayeen attacks taking place. Suicide attacks were unknown in the Kashmir Valley earlier.' The group said that the militancy in the Valley, however, also seems to have developed an autonomous raison d'etre in the absence of any political dialogue. The report states that the villages adjoining Uri had been peaceful for the last 8 to 10 years. 'This year, Uri has seen several cease-fire violations. Truth is the first casualty on the LoC when cease-fire violations take place. Each side blames the other for starting the shelling.' The report said that primary demand of the villagers in the border is that India and Pakistan should resolve this issue through an immediate dialogue. 'Time and again the villagers told the group that 'either resolve this through dialogue or through a decisive war which settles the issue once and for all.'

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