Two teenage boys from PoK, against whom the NIA dropped charges of conspiracy in the Uri terror strike, were on Friday reunited with their families at the Wagah border after spending nearly six months in detention. Faisal Hussain Awan and Ahsan Khursheed had been handed over to the Jammu-based 16 Corps of the army this week after the probe agency came to the conclusion that the two had strayed into the Indian side after a tiff with their parents due to the pressure of studies. Border Security Force handed Awan and Khursheed to the Pakistan Rangers at the Wagah border, where their family members were present to greet them. ‘Extremely happy’“I am extremely happy to see my son among us. I am thankful to the governments of Pakistan and India for the safe release of my son,” Awan’s father told reporters at the Wagah border. He said the families of both the boys had suffered extreme mental pain after they were arrested in India. “The boys crossed over to the Indian side from Kashmir by mistake. Both governments must evolve some mechanism to deal with such cases on humanitarian grounds,” he said. Awan’s brother Abdul Mustafa said Awan will now go back to his school and continue studies. “At times we had lost hope to see Awan among us. We are thankful to God, both governments and the media,” he said. The Army’s unit at Uri had detained the boys and questioned them at length after the September 18 attack on its camp in which 19 personnel were killed. The NIA had said that the evidence collected in the form of statements, technical analysis of their mobile phones, seized GPS devices and other circumstantial evidence collected by the NIA “did not reveal any linkage of the suspects with the Uri attackers“. ‘Acted as guides’The Army had detained the two on September 23, barely days after the terror strike, and claimed that the two had allegedly acted as guides of the four terrorists who carried out the attack on the Uri garrison in North Kashmir. On September 18 last year, four heavily armed militants had stormed the Uri army base camp, killing 19 soldiers and injuring a few others. The NIA had taken over the investigation in the case from the state police. The two youths were arrested by the BSF and the Army in a joint operation.
The crackdown against ‘illegal’ slaughter houses in Uttar Pradesh has stumped the sports and leather industries.Not only has it hit the meat export industry and the 10 lakh people it employs, but it has also triggered waves of panic among Meerut’s cricket ball manufacturing units, Kanpur’s tanneries, the 11,000-odd shoe manufacturing units in Unnao and Hapur that operate from private residences, and the big leather export units in Agra. In Meerut, which is one of the major manufacturing hubs for sports goods in India, manufacturers say that with buffalo hide not readily available the cost of cricket balls has shot up by ₹30 to ₹40 per ball.Manufacturers worriedAnil Sachdeva, a businessman who deals in all kinds of all sports goods, said he had braced for an impact but did not expect it to be so swift. “Buffalo hide, which goes into making cricket balls, is not available because of the crackdown on slaughterhouses. Whatever little is available is priced at rates higher than usual,” said Mr. Sachdeva.“A cricket ball priced at ₹130 is being sold for ₹160. It will be a difficult time for our business if the ban continues,” he added.Anoop Singh, a contractor who supplies cricket balls to shops in Meerut’s Surajkund sports market, seconded Mr. Sachdeva. “Shortage of buffalo hide has left people like us, who manufacture cricket balls, worried. We are making do with the old stock for now, but the shortage of raw material has led to prices shooting up,” said Mr. Singh.The worst, however, is yet to come, he said. “If the slaughterhouses do not start functioning soon and the atmosphere of fear is not dispelled, then we may not be able to manufacture cricket balls at all,” he said.But all is not rosy for the few slaughterhouses that were not sealed. With cattle dealers fearing attacks from vigilantes, even legal slaughterhouses are not able to function. The non-availability of buffalo hide in the State has left the leather industry, which provides employment to nearly 25 lakh people, worried as well. Upendra Singh, president of the Agra Shoe Manufacturer Association (ASMA), argued that U.P. was the biggest provider of buffalo hide in India, which is the backbone for the leather industry. Continued non-availability of buffalo hide is expected to hit the country’s leather export business, which was valued at ₹38,396 crores in 2015-16.‘Exports to be hit’“Prices of leather goods have gone up by 15% to 50%. Raw material will become more expensive if the slaughterhouse ban continues. This, in turn, will hit the domestic market that provides shoes at reasonable rates and also affect India’s position in the international leather export market that is very competitive,” said Mr. Singh.Bharat Singh, president of the Shoe Karigar Sangh in Agra, told The Hindu over the phone that shoes would become dearer if the ban continued. “As of now, cow and buffalo hide is not easily available. Consequently, shoes are being manufactured at increased input costs,” said Mr. Singh.
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