Abid Hussain

Hundreds of unexploded shells still present at Tosamaidan: Locals

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Say they should be involved in ‘sanitization drive'

Budgam, Aug 18: After a littered shell killed youth at Tosamaidan on August 12, the government said that fresh combing operation will be undertaken to clear the meadows from any unexploded shells that may still be littered there.

But the locals are not impressed; they say that like previous such drives, this time around too it would be just a PR exercise of armed forces and government if the locals are not involved in it.

According to locals, hundreds of unexploded shells are still lying in and around Tosamaidan, posing grave risk to lives of the people. They fear that forthcoming clean-up drive would be futile, unless local population is involved.

“We know the geography of the area. We can identify the places where unexploded shells are present and buried,” they say.

Ghulam Mohammad Sheikh, a local resident told ‘Kashmir Images’ that Tosamaidan can only be properly sanitized if they are allowed to participate in the mopping operation.

“If government wants to make Tosamaidan safe, then we should be allowed to be part of it. We are ready to guide army in clearing the meadows, and we won’t claim any money for it.”

Critical of the Army for not clearing the meadows fully in 2014, a group of people from adjacent villages said that the recent killing of Wajid Ahmad Ahangar due to explosion has raised lot of question over Army’s 83-day ‘Operation Falah’ to clear Tosamaidan in the year 2014.

“If only the army has cleared the meadows properly, then another life would not have been lost,” they said, adding it has now become evident that without the involvement of locals Tosamaidan can’t be cleared.

Tosamaidan Bachav Front (TBF), a body of locals and RTI activists, also have some reservations if locals are not allowed to participate in the drive.

TBF chief Dr Shaikh Ghulam Rasool told ‘Kashmir Images’ that the government should not only involve locals in sanitizing Tosamaidan, but the authorities should also clear the adjacent villages and Nallah Sukhnag.

He said that unexploded shells were seen in some villages and also on Sukhnag stream, which supplies drinking water to hundreds of areas.

“The presence of suspected objects in villages and this stream is a grave concern. We want government to create a special mechanism to clear these places.”

Notably, after the killing of youth due to explosion, visitors have stopped coming to Tosamaidan, citing presence of unexploded shells.

However, Dr Shaikh said that most of the Tosamaidan is safe for visitors. “Most of the areas including Kadal Bal, Durian, Bargah, Nunwan and lakes are safe, while only China Marg, Pahel Pathr and Sheen Mean areas are unsafe.”

About recent incident, he demanded thorough probe into the blast.

“Even when army was here, this area (where blast happened) was not in a danger zone. Before few days we were at the same place and we didn’t find any object. I don’t understand how that shell reached here,” Dr Shaikh said.

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