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Migratory birds keep tryst with Kashmir

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Srinagar: A riot of colour and cackle has returned to the wetland reserves of Jammu and Kashmir with the first arrivals of thousands of migratory birds from far off lands this year.

Migratory birds from Siberia, China, the Philippines, Eastern Europe and other areas arrive here every year to spend winter months in the Kashmir Valley to ward off the extreme cold of their summer homes.

“We start receiving the first flights of the avian visitors in the first week of October. The arrivals continue till February,” Imtiyaz Lone, the Wetland Warden of Kashmir said.

“For hundreds of years, these birds have been keeping their annual tryst with the valley.

“Following the season’s change from autumn to early winter, with an almost arithmetical accuracy the migratory birds land in the Hokarsar Wetland reserve on the outskirts of Srinagar and reserves like Shallabugh, Hygam and Mirgund,” Lone added.

Already 250,000 migratory birds including mallards, common teals, gadwalls, pintails and coots, have reached the Hokarsar Wetland reserve so far this year.

Besides the reserves, migratory birds also throng the Dal Lake, the Wullar Lake and other big and small water bodies.

“We will start receiving greylag geese, wigeons, pochards, shovelers, cormorants and sheldrake ducks by the middle of next month,” the official said.

Besides the migratory birds that come to spend the entire winter in the Kashmir Valley, there are some birds of passage too.

“A bird of passage is a migratory bird like the Sandhill crane and the cormorant which arrive in the valley with the beginning of the winter and spend some time before moving down to the Indian plains.

“In the spring months, these birds of passage also spend some time in the valley before moving to their summer homes,” Lone said.

Despite giant strides in navigational technology by humans, Lone says the flight navigation skills of the migratory birds is unparalleled.

“The migratory birds fly in highly disciplined patterns. The eldest of the flock leads the flock like an experienced pilot.

“It is always the elder bird which is assigned the leadership duties during the flight because of its familiarity with the route.

“Imagine, if the leader bird falls sick or gets killed due to some reason during the migratory flight, the next in the line immediately takes over.

“It is like a co-pilot taking charge of a flight in an emergency.

“Each migratory bird species flies separately… The geese fly separately from the mallards and the common teals.

“It is because of this exclusivity of flight that we have phrases saying birds of the same feather fly together,” Lone said.

Under the existing laws of the state, bird shooting is a cognizable offence. But even then it is not uncommon to see migratory birds being sold on the sly in the Kashmir Valley.

“As far as wetland reserves are concerned, there is no question of any poaching,” Lone said.

“The problem arises because the birds leave the reserves for nocturnal feeding to other unprotected water bodies and marshes. It is then that the poachers shoot them.

“Each year, we seize weapons of poachers and charge them with poaching.”

According to Lone, the wildlife protection department is definitely understaffed, especially as far as covering unprotected water bodies and marshy lands is concerned.

Awareness to protect this fabulous legacy of Kashmir is growing fast, especially among the young.

Dozens of school children visit the Hokarsar Wetland Reserve each week to see the pageant of the migratory birds as they wade and dance in the safety of their protected environment.

“Thankfully, the younger generations of Kashmiris are not given to bird or animal hunting. They see the havoc we have wrought on ourselves by violating nature’s laws of mutually beneficial coexistence”, said Bashir Ahmad War, a retired senior veterinarian.

Lone agrees: “It is because the environment in the valley has become comparatively safer for these birds now that we have some species like the mallards whose small numbers prefer living and breeding here instead of flying back to their summer homes.”

Most wetland reserves and other water bodies continue to shrink because of the people’s greed for land in Kashmir.

The cackle of the migratory birds at night and their brilliant colours during the day beckon us to preserve this fabulous heritage.

(Sheikh Qayoom, IANS)

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Quitting Militancy by Kashmiri Footballer Regarded as ‘Brave’ by the Army

Majid Khan, a young Kashmiri footballer has given up militancy to pursue academics and passion for football, leaving the Kashmirs stunned over his decision

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Kashmiri Footballer
Kashmiri Footballer quits militancy.Pixabay.

Jammu and Kashmir, November, 17: Majid Khan, a young Kashmiri footballer whose decision to join the LeT stunned Kashmirs, has given up militancy, the Army announced on Friday, with the 20-year-old making a brief appearance at a press conference here.

Amid conflicting reports whether Majid Khan had surrendered or was caught, Major General B.S. Raju said: “The brave young man, Majid Khan, the Kashmiri footballer decided on his own to shun violence and returned to lead a normal life, pursuing his academics and passion for football.”

The Army, he said, merely facilitated his decision.

“He was neither apprehended nor did he surrender. We only facilitated his return,” Gen Raju said, providing no details about how Majid made contact with the family or the security agencies.

Majid, wearing a black Kashmiri phiran, made a brief presence before journalists. But the kashmiri footballer did not speak and was quickly escorted out of the venue by a police officer.

Gen Raju complimented his parents, especially the mother, whose persuasion he said helped the young man to change his mind.

Majid’s mother’s passionate and wailing appeal to her only son to return home went viral on social media — just like Majid’s earlier photographs showing him with an AK-47.

Gen Raju, who commands the Army’s Victor Force, which oversees all anti-military operations in southern Kashmir, urged other Kashmiri youths to also give up militancy.

“Those youths who have strayed and have committed no crime are welcome to come back and no action will be taken against them. I appeal also to those who might have committed some crime to return within the parameters of law.”

The Kashmir Valley’s police chief, Muneer Khan, said no charges would be pressed against Majid and he would be allowed to join his family.

Army sources had earlier said that Majid, a second year college student, surrendered after walking into a Rashtriya Rifles camp at Kulgam on Thursday evening. He came with his arms and ammunition.

The sources added that he was handed over to Army’s 15 Corps in Awantipora town.

There was a sense of relief among Majid’s friends and relatives when they learnt that he had crossed back — into safer hands.

Kashimiri footballer
Army appreciates Kashimiri footballer, Majid Khan’s decision to quit militancy. IANS.

“It is great to hear that he will be now serving his parents and pursuing his passion about football,” a relative who did not wish to be named told IANS.

The relative said Majid was the only son of his parents, who were shocked when they came to know that he had joined the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), which is active in the Kashmir Valley.

Meanwhile, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti tweeted: “A mother’s love prevailed. Her impassioned appeal helped in getting Majid, an aspiring kashmiri footballer, back home. Every time a youngster resorts to violence, it is his family which suffers the most.”

Former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah said: “It is a very good development. Hope he can go back to leading a normal life and not be harassed. (IANS)