Since June 11, at least 17 civilians have been killed by security forces firing in Kashmir valley. Despite curfew and strict restrictions, protests against the unabated rights violations have become order of the day. Our Special Correspondent in the state analyses the prevailing situation in valley.
Unrest brewing in Kashmir valley following the civilian killings’ during past few weeks refuses to calm down and there does not seem to be any indication of normalcy limping back to the strife-torn valley at least in near future. With the killing of a newly-wed Fayaz Ahmad (26) of Baramulla in security forces’ firing on July 18, the total number of civilian killings mounted to 17 since June 11.
Fayaz was killed when security forces opened fire on mourners near DC office Baramulla. Thousands of people were agitating in the town over the alleged forced drowning of 13- year-old Faizan Ahmed Buhroo, a class 7th student by security forces. Faizan’s body was retrieved from river Jehlum.
Security guards posted near the deputy commissioner’s (DC) office Baramulla reportedly opened fire on the protestors killing Fayaz on the spot as many others were injured in the shootout. Authorities removed Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) and Deputy SP (Headquarters) as part of its damage control exercise along with yet another reshuffle in state police but evidently like before this did not yield any substantial results.
Ill-fated parents of newly-wed Fayaz suffered tragedy for the second time in a couple of years. Fayaz’s brother was drowned in river while taking a bath some two years before. Tension further mounted in Baramulla following fresh killings as authorities’ re-imposed curfew to quell protests.
Despite curfew in most parts of Srinagar, Baramulla, Sopore and Kupwara towns and large scale arrest of youth across the valley, authorities have miserably failed to curb protests and clashes. For past more than five weeks, protests and clashes against recent killings have become order of the day in valley. Interestingly a good chunk of teen-aged boys between 12-20 years. For the first time in past 15 years, Army was called in Srinagar to help police and CRPF deployed in strength bring the worsening situation under control. Defying stringent restrictions and imposition of curfew in many areas including parts of Srinagar Baramulla, Kupwara and Sopore, people held protest demonstrations against the civilian killings demanding stern action against the erring cops.
A meeting convened by Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh on June 29 directed the CRPF to exercise “maximum restraint and sensitivity” while assisting the state police in enforcing curfew regulations in the valley. Amnesty International has urged India to ensure implementation of its directives and ensure protection of the right to life under international law. The authorities have blamed the militant outfit Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) and other Kashmiri separatist groups for instigating the protestors to throw stones and engage in violence.
In an ongoing crackdown to quell the spiraling protests, police has so far arrested more than 900 persons including teenagers in different parts of the valley, most of these from sensitive areas of Baramulla, Sopore and Srinagar during past few weeks and booked at least 16 of them under the Public Safety Act (PSA).
Recent unrest in Kashmir valley started following killing of 17-year-old Tufail Ahmed Mattoo of Srinagar in security forces’ action. To prevent them from leading protest demonstrations over the killings, authorities have booked many separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani under the PSA.
Other leaders booked under PSA include Hurriyat (M) leader Zafar Akbar Bhat, Tehreek Hurriyat general secretary, Mohammad Ashraf Sehrai, senior Hurriyat (G) leaders, General Moosa, Ayaz Akbar, Bilal Siddiqui, president of high court bar association, Mian Abdul Qayoom, Bar general secretary, G N Shaheen. They have been shifted to various jails in Jammu. Hurriyat (M) leader, Nayeem Ahmad Khan, has been lodged in sub-jail Baramulla. Also other activists of Hurriyat (M) including Muzaffar Ahmad Yatoo have been booked under PSA and shifted to various jails in Jammu. Peoples League leader, Mohammad Maqbool Sofi, was also been arrested during the Sopore chalo on June 27.
Chairman Hurriyat (M) Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and other leaders including Advocate Shahid-ul-Islam and Agha Syed Al Mousvi Al Safvi have been frequently placed under house arrest from time to time. A senior advocate accused the state government of misusing the PSA. “More than 900 persons, most of them youth and also minors have been arrested during past over three weeks in the Valley. At least 16 persons have been booked under PSA. Ironically, some have been booked under serious offences including attempt to murder. Government is simply misusing the PSA and victimizing the youth especially the students,” he said.
Evading arrest, hundreds of youth have been fleeing their homes since the recent protests broke out following the killings of at least 17 civilians in the valley. The youth especially students, have been putting up with one relative or another to avoid arrest.
Police has intensified crackdown and hundreds of youth have been arrested on charges of taking part in protests and stone pelting.
Residents of the downtown areas in Srinagar are the worst victims of this nightmare where night raids have become a routine matter. Scores of marriage ceremonies in different parts of the valley have been deferred indefinitely due to the turbulence and restrictions imposed in the valley.
Media in Kashmir valley too became the victim of the turbulence and media persons the victims of security forces’ excesses. Newspapers in Kashmir resumed publication after remaining shut for four days in protest against alleged curbs on the media for reporting the happenings. Media organizations decided to resume publication after an assurance from the state government that the curfew passes issued to journalists would be duly entertained by the security agencies.
Publication of newspapers was suspended on July 8 following cancellation of curfew passes issued to media persons by the state government.
Media persons intimidated by curbs on free thought and unavailability of curfew passes held protest demonstrations against the government and suspended all newspapers for at least four days. Photojournalists and cameramen of national televisions channels were attacked by the security forces in parts of Srinagar while rendering their duties. Chief minister Omar Abdullah held a series of meetings with Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi and home minister P Chidambaram at Delhi on July 17 to discuss the prevailing situation in Kashmir and measures for restoration of peace.
By Amin Masoodi