Kashmir after Article 370: Death of a civilian, detention of youths fuel fear and loathing in Valley

  • Government spokesperson Rohit Kansal said at an earlier press conference that he was not aware of any civilian deaths

  • Locals said drones have only intensified fears that authorities are maintaining a close surveillance

  • Authorities have refused to reveal the number of detained, but media reports put the number from several hundred to a few thousand

On Saturday, Mohammad Ayoub Khan, 57, rushed out of his home during clashes between government forces and civilians at a public square at Srinagar's Braripora. He'd barely reached the public square when forces fired tear gas. His family said he fell after inhaling fumes, and was brought home by an auto driver. Moments later, he began frothing at the mouth.

Khan's family rushed him to Shri Maharja Hari Singh hospital (SMHS), but he was declared dead on arrival. His death triggered protests in several parts of Old City even as a number of youths have been detained in night raids. The Valley has remained under lockdown with both cellphones and landlines blocked and internet access suspended.  Amid the shutdown, baton and gun-wielding personnel continue to patrol the streets.

 Kashmir after Article 370: Death of a civilian, detention of youths fuel fear and loathing in Valley

Paramilitary soldiers prepare to block a road with barbed wires during security lockdown in Srinagar, Kashmir. AP

Youths have engaged in clashes with the forces at road blockades at several places to protest the revocation of Article 370. Ayoub’s brother Shabir Ahmad Khan said only a handful of people were allowed to attend the funeral. “Only 5 to 8 people were allowed to take part in the funeral. We had to take a detour to lay my brother to rest at our ancestral graveyard at Gojwara,” he said.

However, government spokesperson Rohit Kansal said at an earlier press conference that he was not aware of any civilian deaths. “We don’t have any reports of casualties. We will verify the matter,” he said. Shabir said the police took the medical reports issued by SMHS after his brother’s death. Across Srinagar for the past 16 days, youths also clashed with forces in Old City areas of Eidgah and Soura, while many were detained in Aanchar and Tankipora.

Locals of Srinagar's Aanchar chopped down trees and also used large chunks of concrete and electric poles to block entry into the area. Before Eid, thousands marched from Jenab Saheb mosque in Soura to Saidpora, where locals claimed they were fired on with pellet guns. Several were injured, they claimed.

Near Saidopora, electrician Mehrajudin Bhat, 27, was arrested from a home where he was working, said his sister Saleema Banoo. She said her brother was detained at Soura police station.  “After the protests, local youths blocked roads so that forces can’t come in. My brother is innocent. He didn’t take part in the protests,” she added.

Locals said drones have only intensified fears that authorities are “maintaining a close surveillance”. The family of 45-year-old Mohammad Altaf Kundo said he was picked up by the forces when he took their cattle to graze at Srinagar's Allie Bagh. “My brother has never taken part in protests,” said his sister Khalida. “He has a 1-year-old and a family to provide for. Everyone in this area can vouch for his innocence.”

Outside Kundo's home at Aanchar, on the shuttered shop fronts, youths expressed fear of more raids and arrests. On the walls of the Jenab Saheb mosque, posters of slain Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Muzafar Wani have been plastered. Wani was killed in a gunfight with government forces in 2016 and his death spurred months of agitation in Kashmir in which at least 76 civilians lost their lives.

In Tankipore, locals claimed forces arrested several youths. But families, fearing further arrests by authorities, refused to share details. Authorities have refused to reveal the number of detained, but media reports put the number from several hundred to a few thousand.

 

Updated Date: Aug 22, 2019 17:30:12 IST