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8828Kahmir News: India revises Kashmir death toll to 47,000

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  • Zafar Khan
    Nov 22 5:50 AM
      India revises Kashmir death toll to 47,000
      Fri Nov 21, 2008 3:45pm IST


      SRINAGAR, India (Reuters) - Indian authorities revised up on Friday the death toll from nearly two decades of insurgency in Kashmir to more than 47,000 people.

      The figure does not include people who disappeared as a result of the conflict. A human rights group puts the number of missing Kashmiris at 10,000, although authorities say many of them may have vanished to join the insurgency.

      S.S. Kapur, Kashmir's chief secretary or senior most bureaucrat, said more than 20,000 civilians and 7,000 police personnel had been killed.

      "Administrative action by the state police and security forces has also seen neutralisation of 20,000 terrorists in the state," he added in a statement.

      Previously, officials had put the death toll at more than 43,000.

      Kashmir's main separatist group, the All Parties Hurriyat (Freedom) Conference, says more than 100,000 people have died since the insurgency broke out in 1989.

      (For the latest Reuters news on India see in.reuters.com, for blogs see blogs.reuters.com/in)

      Two killed, 30 hurt in fresh Kashmir protests
      3 hours ago


      SRINAGAR, India (AFP) — A second day of protests against Indian rule shook Kashmir Saturday, leaving two Muslim protesters dead and over 30 hurt, police and witnesses said, ahead of more voting in state polls.

      Police opened fire to control crowds of stone-throwing demonstrators in Baramulla town, about 55 kilometres (34 miles) north of summer capital Srinagar, killing a teenage student, a police officer said.

      The violence came on the eve of the second round of seven-stage state elections which wind up in late December.

      The demonstrators hurled stones at a cavalcade of an election candidate from India's Congress party, prompting police guards to open fire, the officer said.

      Following the death, angry youths poured onto the streets of Baramulla chanting, "We want freedom" as they carried the body of the slain student shoulder high.

      Police opened fire after the baton charge and teargas proved ineffective, killing a second protester, police said.

      "The situation in Baramulla town is tense," the officer said, requesting not to be named.

      Residents said thousands of paramilitary troops were trying to enforce a curfew in the town, although authorities say none has been officially declared.

      Srinagar and other Muslim-dominated towns have been frequently hit by strikes, protest rallies and curfews since June when some of the biggest anti-India protests erupted in the region that left nearly 50 Muslims dead in ensuing security force action.

      Authorities have detained over the past six weeks more than two dozen prominent separatists who spearheaded the protests and scores of activists to prevent demonstrations against elections being held in Indian Kashmir.

      Groups opposed to Indian rule have called for a voter boycott of the polls. However the first round of the seven-stage election saw a nearly 60 percent turnout.

      Many of the voters interviewed by AFP said they still wanted political freedom, but had voted to elect a government that would bring economic development and good management of the state.

      Heavy voting a trendsetter in Kashmir: Mufti Sayeed
      By Binoo Joshi | Friday, 21 November , 2008, 13:35


      Rajouri: The heavy turnout of voters in the first round of balloting in Jammu and Kashmir will set the trend for the rest of the staggered polls, says former Chief Minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed.

      “Definitely this is a trendsetter for the rest of the six phases,” Sayeed said while campaigning in this mountainous district of Jammu region. “I expected people to come out but not in such large numbers. It is a surprise to me as well.

      “I believe that people had strong faith in the electoral process which appears to have become stronger. After the free and fair polls of 2002 in Jammu and Kashmir, people have started believing that this assembly and its representatives can facilitate a resolution of the Kashmir issue.”

      Despite calls for boycott by Islamic separatists, 64 percent of the electorate voted on November 17 in the first round of polling in Jammu and Kashmir covering the Kashmir Valley, the Jammu region and Ladakh.

      The Muslim-majority valley saw winding queues of voters in the Bandipora, Sonawari and Gurez constituencies, surprising officials and political activists alike.

      Sayeed's Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had in fact opposed the holding of the elections at this time citing “unfavourable situation”.

      The PDP patron, who was Chief Minister from 2002 to 2005 with the backing of the Congress, was asked why the separatist election boycott call did not click?

      “People seem to be committed and have faith in the electoral process. This faith is also an outcome of free and fair elections that were conducted in year 2002,” he replied.

      64 per cent polling in J&K

      Sayeed said the current elections, which will end on December 24, would prove to be historic.

      “We are on the crossroads. If meaningful representatives are elected who can prevail upon different quarters, then we are sure to achieve a resolution of the Kashmir issue.

      “But we all, including India and Pakistan, have to move from stated positions.

      “The new assembly in this case will play a vital role. We are the stakeholders. We have great hope and are optimistic that a resolution of the Kashmir dispute will be there in another six years.”

      The former Indian home minister also felt that the voting in the first round proved that mainstream political parties were back in the limelight.

      “We want to resolve problems through democratic process as there is no other way to resolve the Kashmir issue,” he explained. “The assembly can be a facilitator for this.”

      He said that when he was the Chief Minister, “we facilitated free movement of people across the LoC (Line of Control). Now you see the atmosphere of suspicion and doubt has gone. There is hope and peace around while people are coming and going.

      “Gun is no solution and we have had a bitter experience of it. America has used it in Iraq and Afghanistan and the outcome is before everyone.”

      What more, according to him, needs to be done between India and Pakistan?

      “We have made good progress but I still feel that Pakistan should have accepted the offer for joint management after the earthquake in Kashmir in 2005 when the Indian government offered its help...

      “Again it's a great sign when the Indian Prime Minister told me that he is ready to offer help to Pakistan in its financial crisis.”

      Sayeed was asked if the vocal and violent street protests for and against the allotment of land to the Hindu Amarnath shrine had deeply polarised the Jammu region and the Kashmir Valley on religious lines.

      “Though there were attempts to communalise the issue, people have come out of it. I have told Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that the state comprises of three regions which have their own grievances and problems. All these three regions should get their share of power. There should be devolution of power. In this case regional councils are required.”

      Let's salute the people of Kashmir Valley
      Aastha Manocha
      Posted: Nov 21, 2008 at 1507 hrs IST


      Kashmir – the land of Chinars, the land of Sufism. The hideous militancy that has engulfed the valley hides the once thriving culture and long line of history that was prevalent in the beautiful valley. Kashmir is even believed to have been mentioned in the Mahabharata.

      However, now it is once again witness to the modern day Mahabharata we know as elections. The poll season brings up all kinds of sights in modern India including rallies, clashing supporters and what not.

      Just a couple of months ago, an election would have been unthinkable in the valley, it was beset by people chanting azadi and gleefully rubbishing the Indian flag. It had lead many to wonder if the Kashmiri people would ever take part in something like a democratic elections, and when the separatists too began chanting a boycott elections slogan, nobody thought that the common man in the valley would defy the prevailing force in the valley to take part in an election exercise being touted as being orchestrated by the ‘occupying Indian state’.

      So it must have been with some trepidation that India watched as the state of Jammu and Kashmir set for a seven phase election, there must have been murmurs about a rejection of elections by the people just to spite India etc. But all of that changed once the first phase of polls started.

      Perhaps, India shouldn’t have been worried so much after all, if Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti’s election rallies are anything to go by, the ordinary Kashmir is still ready to make his or her voice heard through the ballot box too. After all, guns can make a noise, but the ballot actually speaks for the people.

      Elections in Kashmir are always fraught with danger, but this time the high voter turnout surprised all. What is more, a large number of women are coming out not only to vote, but also as candidates, going door to door to campaign.

      In a state where a strict code was enforced for women after the advent of militancy this is indeed a welcome step and could be an indicator of a new phase.

      Although there are six phases of the election left, Kashmir has already reiterated its faith in the power of the ballot. The critics may continue their naysaying but we believe that actions speak louder than words. The people of Jammu and Kashmir, like the rest of their fellow countrymen, know that the development of their society lies in the day to day needs. Bijli, sadak, paani is needed as much in Kashmir as in the rest of India. The years of militancy may have succeeded in alienating Kashmir from the country but it echoes what the rest of India wants by voting for the basic needs which are demanded by every citizen regardless of whether he lives in Kashmir or Kanyakumari.

      Perhaps this is a wake up call for both the state and the central governments, those who claim to speak on behalf of the Kashmiri people need to take a long, hard look and ask themselves if they might have denied the Kashmiris their basic needs in the quest for some lofty ideal.

      It is time for introspection by the Indian state and its people too. No doubt, it has made many glaring mistakes in the past, but here is a chance to bring back normalcy to the crown of India. And who knows, if peace comes this state could be the finest in India.

      Kashmir Votes, Muslims Divided
      By Farooq A Ganai, IOL Correspondent
      Mon. Nov. 17, 2008


      BANDIPORA — A seven-phase local election started on Monday, November 17, in India-controlled Kashmir amid tight security, with Muslims divided between voting and boycotting.

      "Voting is our democratic right and we vote to choose those who represent us," Mohammed Afzal, a retired teacher, told IslamOnline.net after casting his ballot in Bandipora town.

      "We cast our vote to strengthen the democracy and develop the infrastructure of the state."

      The state government in Muslim-majority Kashmir collapsed following a controversial decision to give land in the region to a Hindu pilgrim trust.

      Voting was held Monday in ten constituencies out of the total 87 assembly segments.
      The elections are being staggered over seven phases, with the last scheduled for December 24 in Srinagar.

      "Having faced a lot of problems and lacking proper infrastructure in the district which remained neglected during previous years we wish to vote for a candidate who can at least take care of the developmental aspect of the area," said Ghulam Hassan, 44.

      Chief electoral officer B.R. Sharma said the turnout in the Muslim-dominated Kashmir Valley was more than 50 percent, with hundreds of people queuing at polling stations from the early morning.

      "We have recorded over all 55 percent of polling in ten constituencies which went to poll today," he told reporters.

      Higher voting numbers were recorded in Hindu-majority Jammu and mainly Buddhist Ladakh regions.

      The Himalayan region of Kashmir is divided into two parts and ruled by India and Pakistan, which have fought two of their three wars since the 1947 independence over the region.

      Pakistan and the UN back the right of the Kashmir people for self-determination, an option opposed by New Delhi.


      With many Muslims like Afzal and Hassan were enthusiastic about exercising their right to vote, others strongly disagreed.

      "We want a solution not elections," said Iftikhar Ahmad, a government employee.

      He said they voted in previous years with the hope that one day the Kashmir problem will be solved.

      "But all that was a waste. See how many people died during the struggle and those who become widows cannot get back their husbands," he lamented.

      Ahmad said mothers who lost their sons want a solution and are awaiting the day when the sacrifice they made will pay back.

      Mimuna, a 38-year-old woman, said elections can not return lost loved ones.

      "We denounce such elections which are forced on us."

      She said that hundreds of women are still waiting for their husbands who vanished in thin air.

      Mimuna joined an anti-election protest in Bandipora where police fired teargas and used batons to disperse the protesters.

      Six demonstrators, including two women, were hurt.

      But a defiant Mimuna said the government's use of force can’t stop Kashmiris from boycotting.

      "We are facing brutalities and killings by Indian sponsored security agencies so under such circumstances we feel that voting is meaningless for us," said Zahoor Ahmad, a student.

      He said seven youths from his village were killed by security forces while taking part in a pro-freedom demonstration.

      "To vote for the people who actually become our killers is not possible and we want freedom from such sponsored governments."

      The government has launched a massive crackdown against the leaders of all groups opposed the vote.

      "All senior leaders supporting the boycott call were either arrested and sent to jails or kept under house arrest," said Mohammed Sultan, a Bandipora resident.

      He noted that even Mirwaiz Umar Farooq who holds a very important religious post was not spared and was placed under house arrest just because he did not support the elections.

      "One can not expect freedom of rights when he is forced to vote."

      Voting begins in Indian Kashmir


      Elections in India's troubled Jammu and Kashmir state are under way amid condemnation from separatists who believe the poll will only serve to deepen New Delhi's hold over the region.

      Separatists have urged voters to boycott the ballot and polling figures available early on Monday suggested turnout was low.

      The elections come just weeks after some of the worst protests against Indian rule in the country's only Muslim state.

      The protests prompted a crackdown on separatist leaders who oppose the polls.

      More than 30 people who called for a boycott have been detained in recent days under legislation that allows police to hold people for up to two years without trial.

      The detainees were held for advocating "secession, breach of the peace and intimidating people not to vote".

      B Srinivas, a senior police official, said: "We will not allow anybody to campaign against the elections."

      Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, a key separatist leader who has been under house arrest for three days, condemned the vote.

      "You can't have free and fair elections in the presence of hundreds of thousands of occupying forces," he said.

      Security fears

      Paramilitary soldiers and police officers outnumbered voters as polling stations opened in towns north of the summer capital city Srinagar.

      The elections are being held in seven phases in Jammu and Kashmir between November 17 and December 24 - partly because of security issues.

      Police fear there will be further outbreaks of unrest, although separatist leaders say they will not use violence to enforce the boycott call.

      The boycott is expected to be widely supported, particularly in the wake of the recent demonstrations which were the largest pro-independence protests across Kashmir for two decades. At least 48 people died in the unrest, many of them shot dead by police.

      Mohammed Abdullah, a 55-year-old vegetable vendor in Srinagar, said: "I have always voted in the past elections, but the way the government suppressed the recent demonstrations has put me off and I am not participating in the elections now."


      Prem Shankar Jha, former editor of Hindustan Times and author of Kashmir 1947: The Origins of a Dispute, does not believe there will be much violence "simply because the groups are now united".

      However, he told Al Jazeera: "The government will be lucky if they get more than 10 per cent of people to come out and vote ... 15 per cent is the likely maximum turnout."

      Anti-Indian sentiment is widespread across Kashmir, where most people favour either independence or allegiance with neigbouring Pakistan.

      Jha predicts that even if the polls pass without incident, the bigger challenge will be to persuade the local population - whether they are in favour of independence or secession to Pakistan - that the election has legitimacy.

      "In a sense, they [Kashmiris] feel they have been manhandled by Delhi. It is about disempowerment, they are rebelling against that disempowerment," he said.

      The final count for the state is expected on December 28.

      The other five states due to go to the polls over the next few weeks are Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Mizoram and New Delhi.

      When Jammu's Rivers Turned Red
      By Farooq A Ganai, IOL Correspondent
      Thu. Nov. 6, 2008


      JAMMU — Haj Showkat Ali will always remember November 6, 1947, as the day his homeland Jammu valley was soaked in Muslim blood.
      "I will never forget that day," the 70-year-old man told IslamOnline.net, closing his eyes remembering the bloody scenes in flash back.

      Ali was only eight when nearly two hundred thousand Muslims were slaughtered by Hindu gangs and extremists in Jammu.

      "I was pasturing the goats by the hills near our home when my mother asked me to come quickly," he recalls.

      "Coming down the hills, I saw all the people of our village, nearly five thousands, carrying their belongings and moving out."

      That was only a few hours before the carnage began.

      "Our houses were burnt and looted by the attackers and the old aged people were beaten to death," says Ali.

      Muslims in Jammu and Kashmir observe November 6 as the Jammu Martyrs Day.

      It commemorates the killing of more than 250,000 Muslims in the region by Hindu extremists two months after the subcontinent was divided into Hindu-majority India and Muslim-majority Pakistan.

      "On the way to Pakistan, we saw bloodshed and heard people crying for help," remembers Ali whose family joined the crowds who left their village to escape the killer gangs.

      "I saw mothers dying, kids weeping and young Muslim girls rapped and then brutally killed."

      Ali's own father, brother and sister were killed by the Hindu gangs.

      "We could not save them," he remembers bitterly.

      Valley of Death

      Mukhti, a 90-year-old woman, is still haunted by the horror she witnessed 61 years ago.

      "Muslims were taken near the border and slaughtered like goats and sheep," she told IOL.

      Mukhti said while thousands of fearful Muslims were fleeing the valley, she headed for Jammu to look for her brother.

      "The river Tawi was red from blood and half-dead people crying for help," she said as her hands trembled to the memory.

      "My brother was riding a white horse whose legs turned red from the blood on the streets."

      Ali Mohd, another survivor, remembers how hundreds of Muslim girls were either killed or forced to jump into the rivers to escape being raped by the Hindus.

      "My own two daughters jumped in the river to save themselves from the attackers."

      Mohd will always remember the scenes of rivers colored by blood of Muslims slaughtered by Hindu extremists.

      "Jammu was then a valley of death."

      Still Suffering

      Experts say the massacres of November 6 and the partition two months earlier were turning points for the Muslim existence in Jammu valley.

      "The Muslim population in Jammu region was about 61% and the Hindu community was a minority," professor Zahir-Ud-Din, convener of the Jammu Muslim Coordination Committee (JMCC), told IOL.

      "After that, Hindus from other areas settled in Jammu and the demography changed."

      Zahir-Ud-Din says that thousands of fleeing Muslims left their properties behind.

      "These houses are now under the control of government's Custodian Department."

      Muslims who came back from Pakistan to reclaim their homes and properties never managed to get them back.

      Surviving Kashmir's Siberia
      By Farooq A Ganai, IOL Correspondent
      Sun. Nov. 2, 2008


      SRINAGAR — Like other residents of the small Kashmiri village of Drass, Mohammad Ali is busy making special arrangements for yet another winter in the world's second coldest populated area.
      "Our house got damaged due to the heavy snow-fall in the last winter," Ali, whose family has long lived in Drass, told IslamOnline.net.

      "This year we are planning to construct a new house," he said as he continued making piles of mud bricks for the new home.

      Lying at the heart of a valley bearing the same name on the road to Srinagar, the summer capital of India-controlled Kashmir, Drass is famous of being the world's second coldest populated place after Russia's Siberia.

      Heavy snowfalls and temperatures dipping as low as 40 degrees are part of people's winter life in the village, located at height of more than 3000 meters in the mountains.

      Just like Ali, the other villagers are busy these days fixing their muddy or wooden houses damaged by the piles of snow from last winter.

      For many, however, the most important part to fix is the kitchen, built underground or near the animal shed, where families take shelter from the chilling cold.

      "In winter we usually sleep in kitchens in order to get heat from the fire woods, chimneys and animals we keep in the ground floor downward the kitchen," explains Ali.

      Just like the rest of India-controlled Kashmir, Drass's population is predominantly Muslim.

      Kashmir is divided into two parts and ruled by India and Pakistan, which have fought two of their three wars since the 1947 independence over the Himalayan region.

      Harsh Life

      The residents of Drass also sew their own heavy woolen clothes to help them survive the winter.

      The use the cattle's dung instead of fuel for cooking and heating.

      "We collect the dung for winter as it gives heat for a long time and it is also used in the fire-pots," says Surbi Naaz, another villager.

      Life in ice-cold Drass is made harder by the lack of support from the local authorities.

      "With the absence of medical care and other facilities, it is very difficult to live in the cold," complains Sonam Nargis, a villager mother.

      "Most of the ailing people die due to lack of medical care as they fail to reach to Srinagar."

      Drass is considered one of the most backward areas of Indian-administered Kashmir.

      Every year, the local government promises arrangements to help the villagers survive winter, but never keeps them.

      Left on their own, Drass villagers usually spend the summer collecting all the essentials they would need in the winter, when they usually remain indoors.

      Men, feeling helpless to feed their families in the nonstop snowfall, usually move to surrounding regions like the district of Kargil in search for work.

      "Our husbands go to Kargil for labor in the winter," notes Nargis.

      Ali, the husband and father struggling to rebuild his family's house before the winter, appeals for authorities to pay more attention to their village.

      "There is no government aid for us despite living in the world's second inhabited coldest place."

      Kashmir rivals reopen trade route
      Tuesday, 21 October 2008


      An old trade route has reopened after 60 years across the Line of Control (LoC) that divides disputed Kashmir.

      Trucks carrying fruit, nuts and honey were flagged off by Indian officials from Salamabad in Indian-administered Kashmir under tight security.

      Lorries are expected to arrive later on Tuesday from the Pakistani side, bringing rice, rock salt and furniture.

      The opening of the trade route is part of a 2004 peace agreement between India and Pakistan, which both claim Kashmir.

      The trade link follows other confidence-building measures introduced in Kashmir in recent years, including the opening of rail and bus links.

      The governments of India and Pakistan hope that these steps will bolster the four-year-old peace agreement, which has recently come under strain.

      The South Asian rivals have fought two of their three wars over the disputed territory and have yet to tackle the core issues of the Kashmir dispute, sovereignty and control of territory.

      Tuesday's exchange of goods is seen as just as beginning, symbolically making the divide in Kashmir just a bit smaller.

      Traders hope the trade link - which will operate from both sides two times a week - will grow into something much more significant.

      Drum beating

      The BBC's Altaf Hussain says the atmosphere in Salamabad, on the Indian side of the LoC, on Tuesday morning was festive.

      Our correspondent says that the overwhelming majority of separatist groups in Indian administered Kashmir have welcomed the move - while most militants groups have not commented.

      Hundreds of people gathered to watch NN Vohra, the governor of Jammu and Kashmir state, flag off the lorries in a brief ceremony.

      Thirteen trucks, most carrying fresh fruit, began their journey towards the de facto border, accompanied by the beating of drums and singing by school children.

      "I'm very happy that trade has been renewed after six decades. But I still don't now how traders like me would get their money for their goods," trader Haji Farooq Ahmad told the BBC.

      'Highly significant'

      On the Pakistani side the atmosphere was one of equal excitement.

      Two lorries carrying goods from Pakistani-administered Kashmir crossed the LoC in Chakothi sector and entered Indian-administered Kashmir before dawn.

      The Prime Minister of Pakistani-administered Kashmir, Sardar Atique Ahmad Khan, was present to see off the lorries.

      Officials said 14 more trucks carrying rice, onions, garlic, spices, dried fruit and shoes were due to leave Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistani-administered Kashmir, for Salamabad later on Tuesday.

      Under the terms of the deal, lorry drivers from both sides are being issued single-entry permits to transport the goods.

      Drivers from the Indian side will offload their goods at Chakothi, from where they will be picked up by Pakistani lorries.

      Drivers from the Pakistani side will likewise drop their goods off at Salamabad, where they will be collected by Indian lorries.

      Trade is restricted for now to 21 items produced in the Kashmir region.

      Economists say that the reopening of the trade route is highly significant, because the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad road is an all-weather road - unlike other roads linking Srinagar with India that become cut off when it snows.

      In addition, the route offers the shortest route for Srinagar's produce to reach its markets.

      Intra-Kashmir trade was mooted in 2004 as part of the peace process between India and Pakistan.

      Analysts say trade between the two countries could reach $6bn a year if both sides ease restrictions.

      In recent weeks, Indian-administered Kashmir has seen massive protests against Indian rule.

      Some 30 people have been killed in clashes between protesters and Indian security forces in the protests.

      Years on, Quake Still Haunts Kashmiris
      By Farooq A Ganai, IOL Correspondent
      Thu. Oct. 9, 2008


      SRINAGAR — Placing his forehead on his knees, Mohammad Sultan sits outside a tent in a refugee camp remembering the good old days before a monstrous quake turned his life upside down three years ago.
      "I was residing in Kamalkote where I had my land and other property," Sultan told IslamOnline.net on the third anniversary of the tremor that devastated his village in northern Kashmir.

      "My house was completely destroyed in the disaster and we were shifted and settled here in tents with a promise of rehabilitation."

      More than 74,000 people were killed and millions displaced when a powerful quake measuring 7.6 on the Richter scale devastated northwestern Pakistan and Kashmir in October 2005.

      "We still remember the morning of October 8, when we lost every thing in few seconds," said Sultan's wife Noori.

      Three family members were killed in the quake, including their two-year-old son.

      "(He) was buried under the debris of the house as he was sleeping on second floor," she recalled chocking to the memory.

      Three years on, the family is still living in a refugee camp.

      "The government in fact allotted land and relief cheques to the affected, but to our utter surprise, we were left out," said Noori.

      Many of the victims complain of irregularities in relief distribution and many have sued the government.

      "We have been perusing the case in Court since three years but justice has not been done to us even in court," said Ghulam Mohi-ud-din Bhat.


      The victims complain that the government has failed to provide them with basics like water, food, electricity and schools.

      "Roads damaged in earthquake are still in shambles," Mukhtar Ahmed, a resident of Garkoot village, told IOL.

      "We have been left on the mercy of Almighty Allah and nobody pays attention towards our problems," he fumed.

      "The roads here are still sinking and full of ditches and pitches."

      Ahmed said the army has established a mini Hydel power project to provide them with electricity.

      "But the project went defunct after a few months and now there is no electricity here.

      "We are drinking the contaminated water of these canals."

      Three years after the quake, many school buildings are still in shambles with students forced to study in water-proof tents, tin sheds and dilapidated buildings.

      "Most of the government-run educational institutions are still functioning in open air where a single tent functions as a school building," says Nazir Hussian, a resident of Uri.

      At least 180 school buildings were completely damaged by the quake. Of these, only 20 have been rebuilt.

      "The construction work was not carried out by the government but by voluntary organizations," a villager told IOL.

      "Most of the schools are still working in the temporary sheds."

      As a result, very few students show up for classes.

      "It is quite difficult to study here but we have no other option as we come from far off villages to get education," Saida, a 12th grade student, told IOL.

      "But the sweltering heat in these sheds makes it like burning ovens and we have to brave all this.

      "Believe it, for us it is like being in hell; we feel lazy, ill and suffocating here."