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Kashmir attack: Why JKEDI was an easy target for the terrorists?

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An account by an ex-employee of JKEDI, Sarwar Kashani

Its location makes it vulnerable, more prone to being occupied by suicide attackers for a possible long-drawn gunfight, a senior police officer had once said with some foreboding about Kashmir’s entrepreneurship institute at the center of a battle between security forces and terrorists on Saturday.

The police officer’s apprehension during a casual talk with me was the first thing I immediately remembered when I heard about a group of militants had stormed into the multi-floor complex of the Jammu and Kashmir Entrepreneurship Development Institute (JKEDI), where I used to work until recently as a communication officer.

Had I not returned to journalism, I would probably have been one of the employees of the institute who were trapped inside the complex hours after the shootout began.

The institute, situated on the strategic national highway connecting Jammu and Srinagar, has three buildings – a guest house, a hostel complex and the main office building – on a large swath of 3.5-acre land on the eastern bank of Jhelum. The institute trains young boys and girls of the job-starved state to be entrepreneurs and has nearly 300 employees spread across 22 districts of the Jammu and Kashmir. Nearly 100 employees are posted in the main office near Pampore, some 12 km from Srinagar.

The road on which the institute is located connects capital Srinagar with south Kashmir. It is the lifeline not only for the local supplies, but is the only all-weather road link used by the army to reach the Srinagar-based 15 Corps headquarters that is the nerve center of the fight against militancy in the state.

The area around the building is not residential. It houses a government-owned joinery factory where wooden objects like doors, window frames, beds, chairs are made. On the other side of the road is a highly secured complex of medium and shortwave radio transmitters of Radio Kashmir, Srinagar.

There is a large slice of marshy land that separates the JKEDI complex from the Jhelum. Police previously had on many occasions proposed that the building be secured with security forces.

But the proposal was rejected as the administration of the institute was of the view that it (police presence) may scare young boys and girls from visiting it.

The police officer during the talk last summer was pointing to the location of the institute on the highway and the bushy wetland at the back of the complex – making it an easy target of militants who would also want to exploit the rush of youth into the institute.

And that is exactly what might have happened on Saturday evening as I was informed by my colleagues.

They said that three to four militants – apparently teenagers – walked inside posing as aspiring entrepreneurs before launching the attack on a security force convoy. Many of the employees had no idea what was brewing outside.

The militants, carrying heavy weaponry, then stormed inside. The attackers quickly scaled the stairs and occupied the fourth floor of the building from where they began shooting at security forces, the employees said.

In the melee, many of the employees sneaked out and ran towards the hostel complex. But many were still trapped inside before they reached the ground floor.

I could hear the gunshots over the phone as I spoke with my former colleagues. I heard them screaming over the phone. They were running for their lives before being evacuated by security forces to safer places.

I was told that a gardener was injured being hit by a bullet on one of his legs. Rest of them are safe and alive.(IANS)

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Why Anyone Should Not Miss Visiting Kashmir In Spring Season?

Floating flower markets

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Why Anyone Should Not Miss Visiting Kashmir In Spring Season?
Why Anyone Should Not Miss Visiting Kashmir In Spring Season? Pixabay

Visiting Kashmir during spring-summer is like a beautiful dream come true. This is the time when all the flowers are in full bloom, making the valley look like a paradise. Tulip plants rule the roster while cherry, peach and pear trees brim with flowers, after shedding all leaves. Flowers of wild perennial trees colour the gardens with their beautiful booms. We are fortunate (after braving those wide eyed exclamations coming from some well wishers) to descend in the picturesque valley during this year’s bloom time.

Tulip Garden, Srinagar

The taxi driver who picked us from Srinagar airport gave good news that Tulip garden had just opened for tourists the day before, a week early this year. After checking in and finishing lunch at the traditional houseboat on Nigeen Lake, we headed straight to the tulip Garden.

As we entered through the gates, it was an awesome sight to witness rows and rows of tulip plants running through the garden. Were they real? They looked like sights from picture postcards. Many of the 50 varieties of attractive tubular flowers with different colours and hues had started blooming, as though to soothe the eyes before the harsh sunrays of summer. Less snow during winter had hastened temperature rise to herald early summer. Never mind global warming and change in weather, nature’s cycle was intact to offer vivid sights to locals and tourists alike. These colourful sights have made Asia’s biggest Tulip garden, a major tourist draw of Kashmir. We learnt that the floral attraction had 1.5 million visitors in April 2017, ahead of the regular tourist season that
begins in May.

Charming flower garden in Kashmir
Charming flower garden in Kashmir. Pixabay

Tulips originated in Central Asia.

The taxi driver who picked us from Srinagar airport gave good news that Tulip garden had just opened for tourists the day before, a week early this year. After checking in and finishing lunch at the traditional houseboat on Nigeen Lake, we headed straight to the tulip Garden.

As we entered through the gates, it was an awesome sight to witness rows and rows of tulip plants running through the garden. Were they real? They looked like sights from picture postcards. Many of the 50 varieties of attractive tubular flowers with different colours and hues had started blooming, as though to soothe the eyes before the harsh sunrays of summer. Less snow during winter had hastened temperature rise to herald early summer. Never mind global warming and change in weather, nature’s cycle was intact to offer vivid sights to locals and tourists alike. These colourful sights have made Asia’s biggest Tulip garden, a major tourist draw of Kashmir. We learnt that the floral attraction had 1.5 million visitors in April 2017, ahead of the regular tourist season that
begins in May.

Tulips originated in Central Asia.

Don’t we all identify tulips with Netherlands? But surprisingly, tulips are originally wildflowers growing in Central Asia. They were first cultivated by Turks as early as 1000 AD. Tulips were imported into Holland in the 16th century. Holland sure dominates in the production of tulips with 86% share of the world market. Rich and bright coloured, tulips represent largest ornamental perennial crop of the world. Conducive climates were utilised to start the Tulip Garden in Kashmir a decade ago and it was adjudged as the second best Tulip destination of the world in 2015.

Tulips obviously dominate the 18 hectare or 360 kanals garden dedicated to floriculture with 1.25 million blooms aesthetically spread on seven hectares. These are complemented with Hyacinths, Narcissus, Daffodils, Muscara and Iris. Fruit trees like Himalayan cherry, peach and plum trees in the garden also bloom during the same time to add beauty. Alternate green patches next to long rows of tulip beds were good for us to pause, click and be mesmerised with the sights.

Tending to tulips involves meticulous planning

The gardens maintained by Department of Floriculture, Government of Jammu and Kashmir, are tended by 100 gardeners through the year for that one month to 40 days of fascinating bloom. It involves hard work and meticulous planning to cultivate these bulbous plants. Once the blooms whither by end of the May, bulbs are carefully dug, packed, marked and stored in green houses at 15 degree temperature till November.

Bulbs are replanted again in winter, aesthetically with rows of contrasting colours, which bloom again by March end or early April. Tulip Garden is opened for visitors when there are at least 25% blooms.

More flower varieties

A gardener informed us that they keep adding aesthetic themes every season. Hyacinth theme garden is a new attraction here this year, along with a water channel with jet fountains that adds to beauty and cool. 20 more staff maintains fountains, water bodies and public utilities in the garden. Plans are on to create an ornamental cherry blossoms patch along tulips for future seasons.

It’s not just flowers of tulip garden that make Srinagar a paradise, but there are other beautiful springtime blooms across the valley.

The city close to Himalayan Mountains has abundance of gardens, lakes and bridges. Shalimar, Nishat, Mughal and Ceshmashahi are some of the royal gardens developed during the raj era and are beautifully maintained. A tree bearing big pink and white flowers in Shalimar garden had created a carpet of petals underneath. Countless chinar or maple trees, pines, deodars and Kashmiri willows, some of which are hundreds of years old, add green beauty to the city all along.

 It's spring in Kashmir Blooming almond trees on the way to Yusmarg from Srinagar
It’s spring in Kashmir Blooming almond trees on the way to Yusmarg from Srinagar. flickr

Flowers of fruits

On return to our houseboat on the quiet Nigeen Lake, it was a treat to sip hot kahwa (Kashmiri green tea) in the fruit orchard next to it. Houseboats are decoratively built with traditional intricacies and provide stationary accommodations on the lake. Beautiful pink peach blooms on trees lined the path leading to the garden. Thick white blooms in the corner were those of pears. Some of those will wither out and the strong ones would grow on to be juicy fruits.

A few pink, red and white tulips were in the centre of the garden, under the intriguing umbrella tree. The yellow flower lined stems of a wild plant looked very attractive against the green background. We saw them at many other places, some beautifully lining the fences and the roads leading up the hills of the valley.

Floating flower markets

A flower boat sailed towards us while we stood in the houseboat verandah, watching sunrise at the peaks beyond the other banks of the lake. The flower vendor docked his boat next to ours and asked if we would like to buy some flowers, seeds or bulbs. We later saw many such floating flower markets at the dal lake during a shikara ride.

We drove along the tulip garden for a lunch organised by the event organisers in the botanical garden next to it. The sights of the flower beds from afar showed more blooms than the day before.

We were tempted to go back to the garden again the next day to see enhanced blooms. The tulip festival was organised for 15 days during the peak bloom season, offers fun and frolic activities alongside food carts.

Also read: Jammu and Kashmir cabinet gets five fresh additions

Fact file:

  • Spring starts in early April or by end March, depending on climatic conditions Spring starts in early April or by end March, depending on climatic conditions.
  • Tulip garden is situated within the city of Srinagar, close to Dal Lake and remains open from 9 am to 7 pm during bloom time.
  • Srinagar airport is connected to many cities in India through direct and indirect flights.