Anger, fear among people in Chinab valley’s Doda and Kishtawar

The recent firefight between militants and soldiers in Batote area along Jammu-Kishtawar road has triggered fresh bouts of fear among the local population

Anger, fear among people in Chinab valley’s Doda and Kishtawar

Gulzar Bhat

"This year it was neither Eid nor Janmasthami for us", says a band of miffed young men perching precariously on boulders near the fathomless Chinab river in Doda.

All of them declined to identify themselves in this report.

"We have to carry now I-cards with us and display them to forces at every check-post", they say. According to them, the forces stop the vehicles, at least on five locations from Doda to Kishtawar and frisk both the travellers and vehicles thoroughly.

"The situation is throwback to troubled 1990s our parents tell us", says the young group.

They say that they have heard it from their elders that forces would arbitrarily pick up villagers and torture them at their camps. Fear is palpable among people in the twin mountainous districts of Doda and Kishtawar in Jammu region.

After right wing BJP government revoked the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and split the state into two union territories—Jammu-Kashmir and Ladakh on August 5, the area was put under the stringent security cover. Like Kashmir, legions of forces were deployed in both the districts and stringent restrictions were placed on the movement of local residents for at least first two weeks.

Many residents in Doda said that initially authorities imposed curfew in both the districts and after a few days it was eased and section 144 remained in force. All communication lines remained down for 22 days.

Mobile phones, however, began ringing on August 27 while the cellular internet service like other parts of Jammu and Kashmir continues to remain shut.

There were no Eid or Janmashtami celebrations as authorities, fearing communal trouble, put in place strict restrictions.

More than a dozen religious clerics were detained in both Doda and Kishtawar districts and later let the off after they signed the bonds at police stations.

More fear after recent encounter

The recent firefight between militants and soldiers in Batote area along Jammu-Kishtawar road has triggered fresh bouts of fear among the local population.

On September 28, three Hizbul Mujahideen militants among a top commander were killed during the gun fight that lasted for nearly nine hours.

"Following the encounter, the forces increased their movement and frisk people frequently", said Abdul Rashid, a resident of Doda's Assar village.

The locals fear that any spurt in the militant activities will put them through the mill.

The killed militants, according to police sources, had forced their entry into a local resident in Batote while being chased by the forces.

"What if they tomorrow barge our homes? Who could then save us from the wrath of forces", said a 55-year-old man who claimed to have been beaten up by forces in past.

Anger among youth on internet shutdown

Many young men from both Doda and Kishtawar who met up this reporter vented their spleen on continuous internet blockade.

They say that the consistent internet shutdown had not only affected their studies but trimmed their odds of getting through the upcoming competitive exams.

Moain Baagwan, a UPSC aspirant from Tathri village in Doda district says that he was not able to stay abreast of recent developments taking place around the world due to internet clampdown.

"If you want to qualify for such exams, you must be up to speed on recent happenings. And in today's world you can't do it without internet", Moain adds.

Sachin, an engineer graduate is way upset as he could not write his exams for the position of Junior Engineer with Railway Recruitment Board.

Sachin says that due to internet blockade, he came to know late about the date of examination.

"After qualifying preliminary test, I would now beaver away at mains, but everything went down to drain", says Sachin says.

Many job aspirants said that they were hardly able to search for openings with various governments in and outside Jammu and Kashmir.

Here politics means BJP

In the twin districts of Doda and Kishtawar, authorities, according to sources, put curbs on the movement of opposition political leaders.

Sources said that political leaders of two principal opposition parties, National Conference and Congress, were either detained at their houses or not allowed to visit their constituencies.

While Khalid Najeeb Suharwardy, a prominent and respected National Conference leader has been put under house arrest since August 5, a senior Congress party leader was not allowed to go to his constituency in Doda for first few weeks.

"BJP wants one nation one party. But we will not let it happen", said a National Conference leader, who did not wish to be named.

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