Protests across Kashmir Valley after killing of militants by Army

Srinagar: Clashes erupted at several places in Kashmir Valley between protesters and security forces against the killing of four civilians and two militants in south Kashmir’s Shopian district on Monday. Separatists called for shutdown and the authorities imposed restrictions in several parts of the city to thwart protests in the wake of killings. Mobile and internet services were snapped in the twin districts of Shopian and Pulwama, the high-speed internet service was throttled in other parts of the Valley.

Commercial hub, Hari Singh High Street in Srinagar presents a deserted look on March 5 in view of shutdown called by Joint Resistance Leadership and restrictions imposed by authorities in several parts of the city to thwart protests in the wake of Shopian killings. Four civilians and two militants were killed in south Kashmir’s Shopian on Sunday (March 4).

Normal life across the Valley came to a grinding halt as markets presented deserted look, educational institutions and commercial establishments remained closed and public transport went off the roads. Private vehicles however, plied on the roads. All examinations for the day were cancelled and the schools that were opening on Monday after more than two-month long winter break got delayed by few days. The state government on March 5 decided to keep all schools and colleges across the Valley closed till Wednesday (March 7) as a “precautionary measure to avoid law and order situation in the Valley.” The University of Kashmir too has suspended class work for Tuesday (March 6) and postponed all the exams scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday (March 6 and 7), the spokesperson of the varsity.

Incidents of stone-pelting and protests were reported from different parts of the Valley. Clashes reportedly erupted in north Kashmir’s Bandipora district and central Kashmir’s Budgam district. Scores of youth took to streets and fought pitched battles with security forces, who in turn retaliated by firing tear smoke shells, triggering clashes, reports further added. However, refuting social media reports of stone-pelting incidents in Bandipora district, a police spokesperson here on Monday said that it has come to notice that some media houses were updating wrong information that stone pelting incidents have taken place in Papachan area and Gulshan Chowk in Bandipora district. The spokesperson added that strict action will be taken against the rumour mongers as no such incident happened in Bandipora today and the situation remained normal.

Contingents of security forces were deployed at places where authorities apprehended demonstrations. Lanes and by lanes in Srinagar’s old city were blocked by concertina wires. JKLF chief Mohammad Yasin Malik was arrested on Monday during a protest in the city-centre, Lal Chowk and later shifted to Central Jail Srinagar. Meanwhile, a couple of militants reportedly appeared at the funeral of Lashker-e-Toiba (LeT) militant Ashiq Ahmad Bhat in Rakh Kapran village and fired few shots in the air to offer him gun salute. His body, according to police, was found in an orchard in Saidpora village of Shopian, barely few kilometres from Pahnoo village wherein a militant, Aamir Ahmad Malik and four civilians were killed. Thousands of people attended funeral prayers of another militant, Malik from Harmain in Shopian. Reports said that Malik, a student of the University of Kashmir, had joined militancy in 2017.

Army spokesperson here on Sunday claimed that a militant and three Over Ground Workers (OGWs) of militants were killed in retaliatory action by Army following an attack on a Mobile Vehicle Check Post of Army’s 44 Rashtriya Rifles at Pahnoo, the villagers refuting the claim said they were civilians and not OGWs. They said that militants attacked Army vehicle in Pahnoo village on Sunday evening and the Army in retaliation killed a militant and later shot dead three civilians who were traveling in a car.

Expressing anguish over the killings, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti wrote on micro-blogging site Twitter (March 5) “Deeply distressed by more deaths of civilians caught in the crossfire in Shopian. My heartfelt condolences to the deceased’s families.” MLA Shopian Mohammad Yousuf Bhat said “no circumstances can justify civilian killings” and added that killings have “tendency to vitiate the peaceful atmosphere.” Communist leader and MLA Kulgam Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami in a statement here on the same day said that unless deterrent action is not taken against those involved in the killings, such incidents are going to be repeated. Jammu and Kashmir Pradesh Congress Committee on March 5 demanded probe into the killings. The party spokesperson, in a statement said that Army needs to clear doubts as for that the people of Shopian believe that those killed apart from militants were innocent and were killed under the garb of an encounter. National Conference Working President Omar Abdullah in a statement here on March 5 said that the Shopian incident is “yet another stark reminder of the grave and rapidly deteriorating situation in the Valley and varying accounts from the Chief Minister and the security forces on the incident are unfortunate and further perpetuate the sense of disenchantment, distrust and alienation.” He added that the state government should make public the details of the incident and the circumstances leading to it.

Hurriyat (M) chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq (March 4) termed the killings “unfortunate and unjustified”. A day later, Mirwaiz accused Army of spreading “propaganda and lies” over the civilian killings in south Kashmir. Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL) comprising of chairmen of both factions of Hurriyat Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and JKLF chief Mohammad Yasin Malik, in a joint statement here March 5, called for a march to Shopian on Wednesday (March 7). The trio said, “RSS backed PDP regime along with all pro-India politicians and political parties are directly responsible for these massacres and will have to answer for their crimes in accordance with the law of retribution.”

Jammu and Kashmir High Court Bar Association Srinagar in a statement here on March 5 strongly condemned the killing of four civilians, who, according to the Association were travelling in two vehicles at Wapnoo, Shopian and termed the same “barbaric, dastardly and inhuman.” The Association appealed to Amnesty International, Asia Watch and other human rights organizations to take stock of the situation and come to the rescue of the people of Kashmir. Kashmir Economic Alliance chairman, Mohammed Yasin Khan too appealed the international community to actively contribute towards the resolution of Kashmir issue so that the sustainable peace is restored in the subcontinent (March 5).