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Friday, July 15, 2016

9 houses burnt down, leading entrepreneur’s orchard felled by mob in Anantnag

Expression of anger over Burhan’s killing turns into anarchy; breakdown of Govt. machinery; Police, fire brigade fail to reach burning Bamdora

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz


SRINAGAR, Jul 14: Taking advantage of the breakdown of the administrative and law and order machinery in the aftermath of Hizbul Mujahideen militant Burhan Wani’s killing, unruly mobs in Anantnag’s Bamdora village went on rampage on Thursday, setting ablaze nine residential houses and felling a leading horticulture entrepreneur’s high-density apple orchard.

Iconic militant Burhan Wani had been killed in an operation by Police and security forces on last Friday in Bamdora village, leading to mass turbulence in the valley in which 38 people got killed and over 1,600 injured. Angry crowds have also torched 25 Police installations, including 8 Police Stations and several vehicles.

Highly placed authoritative sources told STATE TIMES that at 9.00 p.m on Wednesday night, a 500-strong strong mob attacked the house at which Burhan Wani had been killed along with two other Kashmiri militants. Apparently, the house-owner was suspected to have informed Police or security forces about the militants’ presence. Sources said that the inmates had already sensed trouble and deserted the house. They have reportedly taken shelter at an undisclosed location.

Reports said that the two-storey house was razed to rubble. Fire tenders rushed to the village from Kokernag and Verinag but they were attacked by the mob and forced to return.

As nobody from Police, fire brigade or civil administration dared to visit the village, a larger crowd of 4,000 people on Thursday gathered there and set on fire eight more adjacent residential houses. Fate of the insecure inmates was not known immediately as nobody from the Government was able to reach out there.

Police officials in South Kashmir admitted that they could not reach out to Bamdora for fear of attacks from the mob and possible casualties in retaliation. They said that some personnel in civvies had been tasked to visit and report back with facts.

In Kulgam, a similar mob had on Wednesday torched the house of a prominent counter-insurgent who had worked with Army for several years. He and his family have reportedly taken shelter at an Army encampment.

Orchard destroyed by mob             

Sources said that after setting the eight residential houses on fire, the mob proceeded to the high-density apple orchard of a leading horticulture entrepreneur Khurram Shafi Mir at Bamdora with axes and petrol cans. Mir’s tractor, two huts and agriculture implements were set on fire. Thereafter, the mob felled hundreds of dwarf-sized high-density apple and pears trees and left the orchard completely devastated.

A senior Government official, wishing to be anonymous, told STATE TIMES that the authorities avoided confrontation with the mob as there was “apprehension of heavy casualties”.

Top level sources in the Government revealed to this correspondent that Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti took serious note of the anarchy and directed IGP Kashmir to personally visit Anantnag and put in place heavy deployment of Police and security forces during Thursday night so as to ensure that nobody’s life or property was harmed in Kokernag area on Friday or thereafter. Consequently, IGP Kashmir Syed Javaid Mujtaba Gilani arrived in Anantnag. He was arranging for the deployments when this report was filed around midnight.

Attempts to seek IGP’s reaction to Thursday’s devastation in Bamdora failed due to an erratic telecommunication network.

While as former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah had inaugurated and visited several times Khurram Mir’s Controlled Atmosphere Storage at Lassipora, Pulwama, former Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, current Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti and senior Ministers of her Cabinet had frequently visited his high-density orchard at Bamdora, Anantnag.

On one occasion recently, Mehbooba Mufti had proudly referred to Khurram Mir’s ambitious apple project on the floor of Legislative Assembly.

Reached over telephone, Mir told STATE TIMES that over the last three days, residents of Bamdora had said at prayers in the local mosque that the orchard should be destroyed for its owner was “close to Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti besides Ministers Haseeb Drabu and Naeem Akhtar”. He said that he requested the residents through some respected citizens that his association with Government functionaries should not be misread as his being a tool of the Government.

“We explained to them that it was a dream project for Kashmir which would become a catalyst and take the Rs 3,000-crore horticulture produce to a whopping Rs 70,000 crore a year in the next three years. We told them that it would provide employment to hundreds of local people. However, today I was told that a 4,000-strong mob swooped down on the orchard. They set on fire two huts, one tractor and other machinery and thereafter felled almost all the 7,000 high-density apple plants. They have completely taken down the orchard spread over 50 Kanals of land”, Mir said.

After his Masters in Engineering from USA, Mir had set up a CAS in Pulwama and a modern orchard in Anantnag.

Mir said that he had set up the orchard with a great ambition along with four other entrepreneurs and invested on it Rs 5 crore in the last three years. This would have been the first harvesting year. He said he was satisfied that people had on his demonstration set up similar orchards in eight other districts of Kashmir valley.

Toll reaches 38

Meanwhile, 22-year-old Irfan Ahmad Dar of Tuli-Naupora, Kulgam, who had been critically injured in Police firing, breathed his last at a hospital here. With his death, toll has reached 38 in the last 6 days. However, senior Police officials insisted that in all only 29 people had got killed in the week-long clashes.

Minor incidents of stone pelting and clashes were reported today from about a dozen spots in different districts. However, nobody was reportedly killed or injured. A Police press release said that one residential house was set on fire in Bamdora.

[Published in today's STATE TIMES]

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