‘MISSION FALAH’ | Starts clearing meadow off unexploded shells
The Army Friday said the ball with regard to evacuation of the force from this picturesque meadow is in the court of the Jammu and Kashmir government. It said it was confident that the high-level committee headed by State Chief Secretary Muhammad Iqbal Khanday would take a decision that “suits the interests of the people and the entire nation.”
Addressing media-persons here, General Officer Commanding (GoC) of Srinagar-based 15 Corps, Lt General Subrata Saha, said the government has formed the committee which is studying whether this place can be further used as a training range or not. “This is a very contemporary question. I am very hopeful that the solution would come soon,” he said, replying to a query as
to whether the army would vacate the meadow as demanded by the locals.
Pertinently, the 10-year-old lease rights granted to Army for using Tosa Maidan as firing range expired on April 18, 2014. Since then the Army is persistently making efforts to seek re-notification of the meadow spanned over 11200 hectares of land as a firing range till 2034. But the demand has evoked widespread criticism from locals who have been badly affected by the artillery exercises. Even mainstream groups have opposed the Army’s demand. On November 12, 2013, the Civil Military Liaison Conference (CMLC) chaired by Chief Minister Omar Abdullah decided that a high-level panel headed by Chief Secretary would suggest viable solution to the issue.
Replying to a question today, Saha said the government committee has taken all the stakeholders on board. “There is the Tourism department, Public Health Engineering department and all other relevant departments (which are in touch with the government). The government is looking at all the aspects and facets that require an attention before arriving at a decision,” he said. “I am very confident that they (government) will take a decision which is in the interest of the people and the security of the nation.”
The GoC said they have launched ‘Mission Falah’ to clean the entire Tosamaidan from unexploded shells. “We don’t want anything further untoward here. Firing in this place has been going on since 1964 by the army, BSF, CRPF and also by the Air Force. From 1977 to 2005, many encounters between militants and the forces took place here and many militant hideouts were busted as well,” Saha said.
The GoC stated that under “Mission Falah”, the army would clean the entire Tosamaidan from littered shells. “We will start from the peripheral areas first and then reach out to areas that have an impact of firing. This Mission should be over within three months. I hope we can do it well in time,” he said.
Saha said: “The mission will continue as long as we are satisfied that all areas have been cleaned.”
He said the army will also conduct medical camps, veterinary camps and also sports activities in the villages adjacent to Tosa Maidan. “This will be done in collaboration with the Sarpanchs, Panchs and the heads of the respective sports clubs,” he said at a function here, where Sarpanchs, Panchs and RTI activists were present.
“Besides, we will also go for a plantation drive in the area. For this, we will consult officials of the Forest department. This is our mission and we need active support of the media.”
Saha said as far as the case of Master Fayaz Ahmed, who lost his both legs when an unexploded shell went off in Tosamaidan on July 17 this year, the GoC Victor Force will adopt the boy. “He was treated in 92-base Army hospital. His schooling will be done in the Army’s Goodwill School. He will be provided all the support so that he lives a normal life,” he said.
The General said as far as providing compensation to the victims or their families is concerned, the army is “examining the demand.”
In response to a question, Saha said the army will look into the reports that young Fayaz was suffering from Post Traumatic Disorder (PTSD). “We will certainly look into this thing,” he said.
The GoC said army has a “very robust counter-infiltration grid” in place. “There are obstacles which are being covered. Lots of measures have been taken which I can’t share due to security reasons. But I can assure you that we have a very active and robust counter-infiltration grid in place,” he said. “That is the reason all the infiltration bids in the past were foiled.”
ON KERAN OPERATION
The GoC said that the operation is going on since July 31 evening. “So far, we recovered the bodies of four militants and four AK-47 rifles. It is premature to comment further. Only the recoveries will tell us as to whether it was an ex-filtration or an infiltration bid,” he said.
ON AL-QAEDA ‘THREATS’
“These questions are relevant. These are getting the attention of the highest security concerns,” Saha said while replying to a query how the army sees the reported threats of Al-Qaeda and Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
A mock drill was also conducted by the army men in the area. The explosive detection dogs were also part of the exercise. The drill, Army said, shows how explosives are searched and detected even if they are deep inside the surface.