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Militancy victims among 400 quake orphans being rehabilitated

By M I Jehangir
December 11, 2005 17:31 IST
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Most of the 500 orphans from Jammu and Kashmir, who were being sent to the Bharatiya Jain Sangathan in Pune for rehabilitation, were victims of militancy and not the October 8 earthquake, claimed some of the children who are part of the group.

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Although the government has claimed that the children were orphaned by the earthquake that devastated Uri and Tangadhar areas, the beneficiaries said most of them were victims of militancy.    

"I am not an earthquake victim. My father was killed by militants in 1995," Shabir Ahmad, a resident of Kupwara town, told PTI as he boarded a bus at the youth hostel in Srinagar.

Shabir and his friends, all in their late teens, said their village in Kupwara was not affected by the earthquake.     

"We were told about our adoption at Pune even before the earthquake struck. Our family has been literally outcast and it is more because of safety reasons that my mother agreed to keep me away from home," Shabir said.

Sixteen-year old Riyaz Ahmad Khan belongs to Uri, which was almost flattened by the 7.4-magnitude earthquake. But even
he was not orphaned by the quake.

"I do not know how my father died. I was too young in 1992 when he passed away. My mother or anybody else in the family has not told me what happened to him," Khan said.    

Khan said out of the 235 children from Uri, who were part of the contingent, less than a dozen were earthquake orphans.

Senior administration officials refused to comment on the issue.

B B Vyas, who was divisional commissioner of Kashmir division and overall incharge of the relief operations till Saturday, said he had handed over the charge to his successor Basharat Dhar. Several attempts to contact Dhar went in vain as his personal assistants said he was leaving for Uri.

Although nearly 400 children lost one or both parents in the quake in Tangdhar sector, only 10 made it to the group of 500 from that area.

The rest of the children were drawn from  militancy-affected families.

Iftekhar Ahmad Malik, 14, from Naya Gabbra village in Tangdhar sector, said his father passed away in 1996 due to natural causes.

"I wanted to become an army officer. I was told by 'sahab'(officer) that I can join the army if I studied in Pune," Malik said.

Nearly 200 children were selected for adoption from Kupwara and other areas of the district, which were almost untouched by the devastation wreaked by the earthquake.

The shifting of the children has met with strong resentment from non-governmental organisations who have threatened to move the court on the issue.

Soon after the quake, the centre and state government said they will send 500 quake-orphans to a children home in Pune. It was also announced that Rs 5 lakh will be deposited in each oprhan's bank account.

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M I Jehangir
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