In 2016, the Mehbooba Mufti led State Government opened Tosamaidan for public and it was planned to be developed as tourist destination on rural tourism development model as it could be a source of income for the common people residing near the meadow. Before the army was withdrawn from the meadow, a sanitization drive was taken on large scale to find out un-diffused bombshells. Then it was declared that Tosha Maidan is clear and safe for the common people. But we have witnessed the blast of bombshells in 2018. Now again a young boy Mohammad Asif Wani, a class 9th student, got injured recently and is in a very critical situation admitted in SKIMS, srinagar, since last five days. But yet he is not being visited by any officer of Administration or civil society member. It seems that somehow the administration wants to hide this incident so that no one can know about the happenings. We want to ask the government and administration if the Tosa Meidan was sanitized and declared free and safe for common people, then how such incidents are occurring again and how many lives more are to be lost?
Tosa Maidan had become the meadow of death. What is the reason behind that? The magnificent place in Budgam district had become a controversial site, a contest between local residents and the army in 1964 for setting up an artillery firing range with the 50 year lease which ended on 18th April 2014. The opposition to the firing range stems from the fact that in the past 55 years 64 people have been killed and many others disabled in several accidents related to unexploded shells littered on the meadow’s slopes. All the victims belong to the villages around Tosa Maidan.
For last half a century, the mesmerising meadow was a death trap, many have lost their sons, husbands, fathers. There are dozens of orphans whose mothers are struggling hard to sustain not only economically but socially also. The 85 year old Moukta lost her husband 20 years ago. Her husband Sattar Malik, a shepherd had gone to graze his cattle to Tosa Maidan in 2000. Malik couldn’t detect a motor shell lying hidden in bushes, and unwittingly stepped on it, triggering a blast. Malik was blown into pieces. In 2012 another life was lost in an unannounced shelling session at Tosha Maidan. Raja lost her husband 15 years ago to a stray shell. Noor Nawaz Raja, one more widow, lost her husband in Tosa Maidan when her he went for grazing cattle. Another widow Hajira lost her husband Bashir Ahmad in her early thirties. There are dozens of other widows living in the vicinity of this meadow. Other than death and property loss, there are scores of people in the surroundings who have lost something much more important than these properties. Aziz Malik lost his left eye, Abdul Satar Malik lost his left hand in an explosion.
Given this backdrop one would expect from the concerned authorities to seriously look into the matter and save lives form being lost. Meanwhile the boy in ICU, SKIMS deserves attention.
Sheikh Maqbool is Chief Spokesperson J&K RTI Foundation