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People at lines in front of banks

Funding to terrorists and stone-pelters in Jammu and Kashmir and smuggling of fake Indian currency notes into the country have been badly hit by the demonetisation of Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 notes, Lok Sabha was informed on Tuesday.

Minister of state for home Kiren Rijiju said there has been a big impact in attempts to pump in fake Indian currency notes (FICN) into the country and no such incident was reported ever since Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced the demonetisation decision.

“There has been big impact on FICN. Terror funding was also badly hit due to demonetisation while there is complete halt in paying money to the stone pelters in Kashmir,” he said during the Question Hour amid noisy protests by Opposition members over demonetisation issue.

Rijiju claimed that separatists in Jammu and Kashmir have a nexus with disrupting elements across the country and some of the, were in touch with militant leaders based in Pakistan. “Inputs indicate the existence of nexus/collusion of disrupting elements sponsored by neighbouring country and separatists in Kashmir,” he said.

Rijiju said some of the key separatist leaders have been noted to be in touch with militant leaders based in Pakistan and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

“They have also been believed to be receiving instructions and financial support from Pakistan establishment for such adverse activities,” he said.

The minister said necessary action is being taken against such elements in accordance with the provisions of law. Rijiju said security cover was being provided by state government based on security categorisation decided by the state security review coordination committee which includes PSOs, guards and vehicles.

A Srinagar street during the curfew
A Srinagar street during the curfew

He said the government had inputs that some of the separatists go abroad and indulge in anti-India activities and action have been initiated against such people. He said the central and state governments have been trying to improve the situation in Jammu and Kashmir and incidents of stone pelting have come down significantly in the recent past.

Meanwhile, in an attempt to rob a bank for some cash, suspected militants barged into the Jammu and Kashmir Bank branch in Central Kashmir’s Malpora village looting Rs12.45 lakh at gunpoint.

The gunmen, however, suffered a massive faux paux when they discovered Rs11 lakh of the total looted money was old currency, that have been declared obsolete post the demonetization process.

Police said four masked gunmen had entered into the Malpora branch at Charar-i-Sharief in central Kashmir’s Budgam district. Budgam police have registered a case, “ and a manhunt has been launched to nab the culprits,” said a police spokesman.

Located on the border of Budgam and Pulwama, the bank is located inside ‘hired shops’ and has never been given any proper security mechanism which police sources said might have been exploited by the gunmen for the heist. “This is a branch that has been operating from inside hired shops. There were no security cameras installed in the branch,” said Abdul Wahid Shah, Senior Superintendent of Police, Budgam.

Police sources said four masked gunmen on board a WagonR disembarked near the branch and walked right into the bank. One of them then slapped the cashier and asked him to hand over the cash. They later took the money and escaped in the same car.

Police suspect militants in the heist a first in Jammu and Kashmir since the commencement of demonetization. There was no security guard posted in the bank and the gunmen were heavily armed. Police said the masked men spoke in Kashmiri and Urdu. “Investigations have been put on fast track to track down the militants responsible for the heist,” said a police officer.

The heist comes at a time when ‘terror financers’ have been hit hard by demonetization. Sources said ‘terror finances’ have shown signs of drying up in the wake of demonetization.

Intelligence sleuths and counter terrorism cops are working overtime to gauge the effect of the demonetization on the financing of terror and unrest in the militant hit Jammu and Kashmir.

In Kashmir, there are no queues outside ATMs, and the banks are doing routine business. According to economists, bankers and traders, this calm can be attribute to “clean money”, the four-month-long shutdown, good bank coverage and 2,000 bank branches in the Valley.

After the demonetisation announcement, a rush of customers was initially observed at some banks. However, after three or four days, it was business as usual and bankers heaved a sigh of relief.

“When we see long queues on TV, we consider ourselves lucky. For the past few days, we have had normal business. Customers do not have to wait more than 10 minutes,” said a manager in the HDFC Bank branch at Residency Road. Pointing to the ATM, the manager said. “We are happy to see not more than two or three people waiting for cash.”

Economist and former head of the department of economics at Kashmir University, professor Nisar Ali, told The Indian Express that most people in Kashmir have bank accounts. “Also, due to the four-month unrest, the economy was on hold. Traders do not need cash. And, there is no black money in cash here. The black money is in real estate, so we don’t find any rush outside banks.”

Sajjad Bazaz, corporate communications head of J&K Bank, said that most people in Kashmir do not keep cash at home due to the turmoil and prefer banks. “After the notes were scrapped, cash deposits in banks increased in the state,” he said.

People exchanging money at a bank in Srinagar
People exchanging money at a bank in Srinagar

He added that J&K Bank had launched a massive awareness campaign. “Proper awareness and bank accounts in households were the main reasons why people didn’t panic.”

Shakeel Qalender, a businessman, said, “We have a workforce of around 42.5 lakh and 90 per cent of them are bank account holders. Of them, 58 per cent are related to agriculture and allied sectors and 42 per cent to public enterprises sectors.”

Since the militancy of the 1990s, there were frequent crackdowns and raids, he said. “So people started keeping money in banks.”

But the state is not free from the terrorists.  There are about 200 terrorists active in Jammu and Kashmir with 105 of them successfully entered during this year, till September, Rajya Sabha was informed on Wednesday. In a written reply, Minister of State for Home Affairs Hansraj Gangaram Ahir said 105 terrorists have infiltrated into the Indian side of the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir during the year 2016 (upto September 2016).

“As per available inputs, nearly 200 terrorists are active in the state of Jammu and Kashmir,” he said.

Ahir said the government in tandem with the state government have adopted a multi-pronged approach to contain cross-border infiltration which, interalia, include strengthening of border management and multi-tiered deployment along the international border/Line of Control, and near the ever changing infiltration routers, construction/maintenance of border fencing.

The Minister said the steps include construction of bunkers and culverts/bridges on nullahs, improved technology, weapons and equipment for security forces, improved intelligence and operations coordination, installation of border floodlight on the International Border and synerzising intelligence flow to check infiltration and proactive action against terrorists within the state.

Replying to a separate question, Kiren Rijiju, also Minister of State for Home Affairs, said the government has decided to install a modern anti-infiltration mechanisms on borders for which Rs 10 crore has been allocated for one of the projects.